Friday, June 25, 2010

Excerpt 5 - The Vanishing – Raising the Curtain on the Controllers

1993 was a pivotal year. Some might call it ‘the beginning of the end’. Among other things, it was the year my faith in the truth of the UFO phenomenon, was shaken. I had so fervently researched all the ufo subjects under the sun, and thought myself a bit of an expert in the ‘genre’.

I had read just about everything out there from Charles Berlitz ‘The Philadelphia Experiment’, to Whitley Strieber’s ‘Communion’…and consumed so many strange tales that doubt inevitably surfaced. Familiarity breeds contempt they say.

Perhaps I had matured, and my interests became more sophisticated? Still, I allowed some room for doubt, the margin of error, or .0001 of a chance that I was wrong. I needed convincing, pretty quickly, that the constant repeating of the folklore, the strange tales from that nice fellow Timothy Good, the contactees, the abductees, they were telling the truth, and yes there are ‘Aliens Among Us’.

One way to access the truth would be to locate the source; find people who had experienced the weird things first hand. Joining a local group of ‘enthusiasts’ would be the next step on the route to the ultimate reveal.

TV being the intrusive brain-washing medium that it is, no one could escape the announcement that finally the UK would be catching up with the US. Our newspapers had snippets of the storyline and premise. There were adverts everywhere, a major event was coming, to queue the public about this ‘breakthrough program’. Everyone was dying to see… The X-Files!

After the Bristol and Sheffield conferences, we were eager to hunt down a local group and maybe experience the weird stuff for ourselves. ‘Is there anyone out there?’ To the north of Bristol is the suburb of Southmead, and the location of a ‘Ufo Spotters’ group. Right up our alley!

I hate to say it but all the stereo-types you’d expect frequented this group. There was a geeky–balding middle-aged guy in a brown suit and steel-rim glasses, there were a bunch of students who always wore black jeans and Motorhead T-shirts, a flowery-dressed housewife, a bearded old man that didn’t speak, and me, my brother, and his friend Jason. The leader of the group was a guy called Martin or Matthew (it was confusing because people called him both names, which seemed weird to us)!

We met weekly at Martin/Matthew’s house on the Southmead Road. It wasn’t the best venue, but it was free. The place was filthy, and very sparse. The only room that seemed lived in was the lounge. There were torn white lacy curtains that had seen better days, a TV, and a sofa which smelled of cigarettes. The toilet had no lights, and the kitchen was damp, mould had taken over the walls. The window on the back door was blacked out with paint. It seemed to us that the house wasn’t really being used very often.

The alarm-bells should have been ringing when I asked Martin/Matthew why he hadn’t emptied the sink for two weeks. He replied that he’s just divorced his wife and couldn’t face clearing up.

The truth was, with all the damp and dirt, with all the appearance of a recent fire brigade visit, the state of the house was nothing compared to our anticipation of watching the premier of The X-files, and of Martin/Matthew telling us about his 'amazing' personal ufo encounter!

Early on, the group had decided to borrow a mini-van belonging to the father of one of the students. We were going to drive to Avebury, and camp-out in a field, and watch a crop-circle being formed. Personally I had my doubts that Aliens had anything to do with them, but I was definitely up for adventure if we could organise it.

Before this, I wanted to hear Martin/Matthew’s story. We all settled down in the lounge eagerly awaiting his talk. He recounted how one morning he’d woken up early and gone to make a coffee, he’d pulled the curtains open, and peered out of the kitchen window. He noticed that, instead of the sun rising, darkness was overtaking the house. He continued to explain that he'd rushed out, into the garden, and looked up to see a huge black triangular shaped ufo passing silently over his house and the neighbourhood.

We listened intently but thought it was basically a load of rubbish. I could have easily made this story up, and what proof would I have. What proof did Martin/Matthew have? His reply to our disbelief was to tell us that he knew what he was seeing was a ufo because he actually worked at Filton (British Aerospace) and was told by a colleague that they had one, which was sent over by the Americans for research in the British lab!

Okay, we thought. Why didn’t you mention this to us before? You work in a secret British Military establishment, with military equipment? On seeing the plane, you immediately believe that it is a Ufo and not secret military aircraft? Did no one see the irony of this? Martin/Matthew seemed to get annoyed at our questioning of him.

My brother being the smart one said, ‘This is bullshit, don’t ever bring me to one of these meetings again!’ and insisted on leaving. Jason and I were still on the fence, or rather on the edge of the sticky sofa, wandering how to get out of going to Avebury to look for crop-circle making aliens!

We’d decided the following week would be our last. Someone should speak to Martin/Matthew and the others; tell them that we wanted out of the group. The filton connection was fishy. Apart from this, I remembered seeing the geeky–balding middle-aged guy in a brown suit and steel-rim glasses somewhere before. Was he at the Sheffield Conference?

Jason and I arrived outside Martin/Mathew’s house. Ringing the doorbell we immediately noticed no lights in the lounge. Was there another episode of The X-Files and we were missing it? Banging on the front door a couple more times, it became obvious that no one was in. Bit strange we thought. Nobody called us to say the meeting had been cancelled.

Walking around to the back of the house, near the side entrance and path to the garden, Jason pulled himself up onto the ledge of an open window. He peered through the curtains, into the hallway. It was dark, but he could see into the lounge… it was empty, no sofa.

We decided to enter the back garden, and peer in through the kitchen window. We looked closely and could just make out that the kitchen was empty too, no table or chairs. ‘He’s gone!’ Jason proclaimed. ‘What do you mean gone?’ I asked in disbelief. ‘He’s scarpered!’

The following morning I called the number I had for Martin/Matthew… it was disconnected. I called the number for the flowery-dressed housewife, the number didn’t exist. I failed to obtain contact details of the geeky–balding middle-aged guy in a brown suit and steel-rim glasses, or the silent bearded man. The students didn’t have a number. So the entire group just vanished into thin air… thin, murky, damp smelling air!

...to be continued

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Excerpt 3 - Fire in the Sky – Hollywood and the Highly Suggestible

In the early 90s, there was a spate of crop-circle formations in the west-country. Prompted to subscribe to ‘The Cereologist’ magazine, I was left unconvinced of duo ‘Doug and Dave’s revelations that they were behind the entire phenomenon, with a piece of rope and a stick.

Crop circles had been recorded in the area for over a hundred years, and continued unabated, like clock-work, every May to September. I knew there had to be more to it. I had seen one in a field along the highway from Reading driving into London, and I knew that a design like the one I’d seen (key shaped) needed at least seven or eight people with ropes and sticks!

Big news hit in 1993, as strange lights in the sky over Bristol caused people to come out into the streets with camcorders and binoculars for a peek at the fantastic. Some even running up and down the hills on the outskirts of the city, to look at a crop circle that had appeared in the most unusual place.

This particular year was memorable in the history of Ufology. I won’t delve into it all here; you can easily read about it online. It was a turning point year in engineering public opinion to believe the possibility of extraterrestrial visitation, as well as other strange phenomena. One of the most successful tools was the television programme, ‘The X-Files’ which aired in this year.

To aid the public, and anyone curious and bored enough to spend a week-end finding out about the weird paranormal things that take place all around us, conferences are always the best place to start. Bristol held such an event in 1993 and boasted illustrious guests flown in especially for the occasion, some with Hollywood connections.

Prior to the release of the movie ‘Fire in the Sky’, starring D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, Peter Berg, and making his big screen come-back, James Garner, the screenwriter (Tracy Torme) and Ufo researchers from the USA, turned up at the obscure Bristol conference to talk about the real story behind the film. Quite a coup for the supposed low-key west-country event.

This conference was special for showing the very first clips of the film, a recorded interview with the real-life protagonist Travis Walton, and helping guest speakers link up with Bristol residents and talk about their ‘mutual experiences’. Naturally we had to be there to witness it all.

As it was our first conference, we were astonished at the quite weird combination forming before our eyes, realising just how ‘fashionable’ the paranormal was. Outside of the lecture hall were book-stands to buy the latest publications, and representatives of clubs and associations that anyone could join. There was also a lot of interesting conversation taking place in the foyer.

As my friends and I sat to drink coca-cola and survey our surroundings, we accidently on-purpose overhear the talk amongst guests and attendees. One woman is explaining to a prominent researcher how a ufo hovered at her bedroom window and she found herself floating out into the night sky to be taken aboard a ship. A man spoke of prophetic dreams and encounters with ‘visitors’.

We returned to the lecture to hear of locals that saw UFOs over the city that appeared to ‘lose time’ and perhaps were abducted by aliens. We watched clips of a Belgian black-triangle shaped Ufo on a shaky projector screen, and were in awe at photographs from Pensacola, Florida, of UFOs hovering over the sea!

Thinking back, it was pure brainwashing, as very little sceptical resistance was demonstrated by anyone. Questions to the speakers were all designed to reinforce the images we were exposed to. ‘What should we do next, after this conference?’ we mused. ‘I know, why don’t we join a local club?’

We ventured out of the lecture hall, towards the club stands, determined to get involved with one of these paranormal groups, to see for ourselves the truth of the phenomena. Not sure at this point whether a humble piece of rope and a stick would be levy enough to get us into the inner circle, we joined them none-the-less.
…to be continued

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Excerpt 2 - The Aurora Project and British Telecom

I always liked sitting at that small, round, corner table in the restaurant, with greasy salt and vinegar pots, sugar bowl, white serviettes, and a small blue glass ashtray.

The transistor radio buzzed away quietly on a shelf fixed next to an old barber shop mirror, left untouched since the early days, now a permanent fixture on the fish and chip shop wall.

Still it was a cosy nook, and gave the impression of there being a secret door just around the corner. In fact there was a narrow mahogany-finished door, but it led to the very unimpressive toilet!

In the late 80s, I remember sitting at that table, attempting to sketch something, while listening to the Top 20 music charts, and suddenly having a ‘eureka’ moment. I decided to go to the library to research UFOs. Can’t really explain why… back-masking, subliminal messaging, who knows!

When I was younger, I use to read the girls comic ‘Misty’, which sometimes came with a free gift. The female equivalent of Marvel’s ‘Silver Surfer’, except it was all about the occult, primarily witches. Kind of odd marketing to 9-year-olds don’t you think?

Anyway, now in my teens and seeking more sophisticated entertainment, off I went to the library to discover the anomalous phenomena that seemed very exciting to me at that age. Music and movies was just not enough.

Before the explosion of the Internet, when people use to write letters to each other, and sometimes use a Wang Word-Perfect-Processor machine at college, because it was hi-tech, there were books in libraries! My local had a small section right at the back, at the bottom shelves, below the obsolete geography texts.

I loved discovering all the strange, and down-right freaky stories, of aliens among us, cigar-shaped ufos, men in black, angel-hair, abductions, and hybrid-babies. As well as premonitions, poltergeists, near-death-experiences, lay-lines, ball-lightening, cryptozoology, cattle mutilations, visions of the Virgin Mary, time-travellers, the hollow-earth, the Bermuda Triangle, and Atlantis!

The library books were my first-class ticket to a world of the fantastic. Trusty comic ‘Misty’ was nothing compared to the writings of Erich von Daniken and Billy Meier! I bought cheap, old, and obscure books, and later I would consume the words of Timothy Good, Jacques Vallee, and Stanton Friedman.

While my friends watched Madonna videos, I couldn’t wait to see ‘Aliens’ and ‘Predator’. Buying a monthly magazine at times, which helped locate clubs and associations, and how to subscribe to fringe publications, or attend wacky conferences, I had more extreme culture at my finger tips.

One fringe publication was a small booklet, sometimes handwritten, from a Warrington and Fleetwood ufo researcher named Jenny Randles, a member of ‘BUFORA’ (British UFO Research Association). It would document sightings and report on research and news. I was a fan because I couldn’t afford magazines of the likes of ‘Flying Saucer Review’.

One Friday morning our local newspaper, ‘The Mercury’, ran a tiny article on a ufo sighting. This was a rare occasion when something strange made the news in our area. Remember, we lived over half an hour away from the regional capital Bristol, and Filton, the home of ‘British Aerospace Systems’, and now ‘Advanced Technology Centre’.

The newspaper reported that a flying-triangle was seen over the area, and most probably was the (still secret) Aurora Hypersonic Spy-plane. Jenny Randles encouraged people to write to her publication about stories, so I did just that. I cut out the piece and sent it to her. She acknowledged me in the next issue, much to my delight!

Then a strange thing happened. Precisely a month after I mailed the clipping the phone began to ring. Each time someone in the house would answer the phone, all they would hear from the other end was a couple of clicks, then silence. After about a month of weekly hang-ups, my mother, not a person to be messed with, decided to find out what was going on.

She waited for the call, it came. As soon as the line went dead she called the BT (British Telecom) operator. A young man answered and she asked about the call she’d just received. ‘Could you please check what happened?’ she asked the young man. ‘I think they could be in trouble, they’ve been trying to call me today, and just now the line went dead!’

So the operator asked her to hold while he checked the line, something that they don’t do anymore. After about thirty seconds he came back to her. ‘I’m not supposed to tell you this, but you should know, I’ve checked the number.’ ‘Who was it?’ asked my mother. The young man replied quickly, ‘It’s an M.O.D. number, that’s all I can tell you.’ and he promptly hung up.

Our phone continued to ring, and the ‘Ministry of Defence’ continued to hang up. My mother didn’t understand why they would be calling our fish and chip shop, soon to be a café-restaurant, and not speak, just make clicking sounds.

I never mentioned my letter to Jenny Randles and the Aurora Project, but I had a sneaky suspicion that my enthusiasm for Ufology had put our family on a black-list somewhere. Could we buy our way out with a free hair-cut, some fish and chips, and a cup of Earl Grey tea?

to be continued…

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Excerpt 1 - Aleister Crowley Was Here... And So Was Darth Vader!

In the late 50s, my father, a very fashionable ‘teddy boy’, sporting winkle picker boots and quiff, use to frequent Soho hot-spots, such as ‘The Heaven and Hell club’ with Tommy Steele. Every morning you would find them in the local greasy-spoon cafe, where a Kray twin would often pop in to ask if anyone had seen his brother. Renting a noisy flat, where Barbara Windsor lived upstairs, my father soon decided that it was time to settle down.

The swinging 60s were kicking in, and after a fateful day of a missed dental appointment, the wrong double-decker bus, and an electrical failure on the London Underground, boy eventually met girl!

My mother, fresh off the ship from the island, a good-wholesome factory girl, was all too happy to oblige. And so they wed in Camden Town, London, and settled in the west country, in a nice seaside town in Somerset. It was near his family, far away from the London scene, perfect to start a new life and a family of their own.

A lot of people will admit that living with your in-laws can be difficult at times; brothers and sisters can cause a lot of agro for a newlywed couple. Luckily, in this old holiday resort, once the favourite destination of King George III, with its promenades and late Victorian terrace houses, many empty properties were just waiting to be filled.

(As Nia Vardalos, of ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ fame demonstrated; getting away from the family can be near on impossible.)

The house next door had been renovated. As had the entire row of two hundred year old terraces. They were now coffee shops, cafes, restaurants and a club; with a special room at the back converted into an illegal gambling joint, where a select few got to blow their income every night on bad poker-face bluffs.

My parents bought the house next to my aunt and uncle, and turned it into a barber shop, so my father could ply his trade, while my mother took care of the children. The rooms upstairs were small, with stone fireplaces that had been boarded-up decades before and their history forgotten.

A few years passed, and enough money was collected to buy a proper home in the suburbs, leaving the barber shop’s upstairs rooms empty once more. This wasn’t to last as the family fell on hard times, thanks to the poker joint’s persistence to wreak havoc on the bank accounts of the neighbourhood.

Us kids, now a little older, were not happy as we moved back to the upstairs rooms of the shop. We hated the idea as we’d gotten use to wide-open spaces of the Somerset countryside. Now stuck in the town, bustling with tourists, made us depressed, but it wasn’t until later that we would see the advantages it bestowed.

The old Italian lady that lived across the street, Mrs. Rose, helped us unpack. I looked out of the ancient sash-window, my angst was obvious. She whispered to me, ‘A Witch use to live here’. A little stunned I gave her my attention, wanting to hear more of the Witch.

Perhaps this was the excuse we needed, to persuade our parents not to make us stay in the old house again. She continued, ‘A very famous Witch stayed here – I don’t know what happened to her but everyone knew she was a Witch!’ I thought Mrs Rose had finally lost it and dismissed her comments. Perhaps she could see we were depressed about moving back and made up the story to excite us.

Time passed, the barber shop was not profitable anymore, and had been renovated again, now it was to be a fish and chip shop. The poker joint had been closed by the police, and a Ladbrokes (bookmakers) replaced it, along with a disco, and sweet shop.

The bustling seaside town had new attractions. Plenty of famous faces would frequently visit; there was a ‘Play House’ theatre where the Beatles had once performed while still unknown. It now housed celebrity acts from the TV, famous comedians, and actors. We got to see VIPs all the time.

One particular evening was memorable, when I popped into the chip shop and my father started signalling me with his eyebrows to look over at a customer sitting in the corner.

‘Why are you making that weird face?’ I asked. He replied in a hushed tone, ‘Do you see that man over there, do you know who he is?’ I looked but noticed nothing unusual except that he appeared to be a tall guy. He was sitting at the very tiny round table we used to have for customers who wanted to eat their fish and chips with a cup of tea in a quiet corner. He also looked kind of angry.

My father egged me on, ‘That’s Darth Vader! Go over and ask him for his autograph, go on!’
‘That’s not Darth Vader!’ I replied brashly. ‘Oh yes it is, I’ve just been talking to him, maybe you shouldn’t go and ask for an autograph actually, he said he hates kids, had enough of them after doing the Green Cross Code, they won’t leave him alone, poor man.’

In the corner of the fish and chip shop sat David Prowse MBE, the West-country born actor that played the body of ‘Darth Vader’ in the Star Wars movies (not the voice, James Earl Jones). David was quite famous in the U.K. for doing a children’s government sponsored commercial on how to cross the road safely, and was thus known as ‘The Green Cross Code Man’.

Darth Vader noticed that we were discussing him and quickly finished his tea. He left with a wave and a nod of appreciation to my father. I had no time to ask for anything, and I was quite afraid. It turned out to be HIM; the Supreme Commander of the Galactic Empire!

The town continues to welcome famous guests, the Queen and Princess Diana visited a couple of times. Its history is long and varied. The area played a big part in a secret war time operation to prepare the D-Day landings. There is quite a lot of secret history as it turns out.

The first transatlantic telegraph cable, (the Internet of its time) linking the Americas to Europe was brought to shore from Nova Scotia, via Ireland (1884), to a connector around the corner from the fish and chip shop. There still stands a metal box, which has the remnants of the old telecommunication system, on the sea front, next to the ice cream shop, but its closed to the public.

I love history and mystery too. After moving out, spending the summer in a trailer-park, and then into the old house once more, (gambling - an incurable disease), I remembered the old Italian lady’s whisper of, ‘A Witch use to live here’.

Now older, I decided to put an end to the scary thoughts that plagued me. Doing a little research to see what famous witches had once lived in the town, in the houses on my street. What I discovered amazed me, but didn’t ease my fears much.

There were a few spiritualists with links to the town, but only one ‘famous witch’ that was known to have stayed in the area prior to the 60s, to have lived there for a while, much earlier, around the 30s. Her name was ‘Violet Mary Firth’. She was most commonly known in British occult circles as ‘Dion Fortune’.

This famous witch spent some of 1937/1938 in the town writing her Wicca book ‘The Sea Priestess’, she was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founder of the Fraternity of the Inner Light, and close friend and (some say) lover of one Aleister Crowley. He visited her often, and probably the Golden Dawn's 'Isis Temple', which was established in the town, before it was disbanded.

There may be proof of this lying in a safety-deposit box in Barclays Bank. My mother had recently walked over there, together with a kitchen assistant from the fish and chip shop, which has now been renovated to a café and restaurant, carrying the five or so box-files of paperwork dating back nearly two hundred years.

There are literally thousands of documents. They were required by the family solicitor; deeds, maps, contracts, and letters of sale, for the old house bought in the 60s. So much paperwork, some of it torn and unreadable, documenting the history of the property, stored away like the secrets of the town, the solicitor none-the-wiser.

I cannot prove unequivocally that Crowley stayed in my childhood home, without going through the entire safety deposit box, a daunting task that requires authority and a key to gain access, and probably some blood. I can only speculate, knowing that a ‘famous Witch use to live here’, and it may have been Dion Fortune.

There are times when I contemplate scribbling on the wall, ‘Aleister Crowley Was Here, And So Was Darth Vader!’ Perhaps it would act as a warning of sorts, for those who would witness events just a few years later.

to be continued…

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Prologue - Hi - Strangeness!

Today my car was stopped by a motorcycle cop, as I crossed paths with the Pope.

I was in my Honda, the Pope in the backseat of a police-flanked black Mercedes, Vatican flag flying on the bonnet. While they escorted him to the Presidential Palace, I attempted to dodge traffic on my way to work, late for my new job at the abortion clinic. Irony has always played a big part in my life. I reflected on the bizarreness of the moment.

The bizarre and unusual dominates my life these days. But thinking about it, I realise that this is no new phenomenon, I’ve encountered the weird and fantastic throughout my life, and seeing the Pope at the traffic lights was nothing compared to recollections of my past, my brushes with the rich, famous, and infamous, and the incredible way life pulls me in unexpected directions.

It’s difficult to know where to begin. Contemplating the task of randomly documenting some of these strange events is not easy. To relieve the pressure I’ve started to write a list of some of the topics I may cover.

This is autobiographical, a memoir if you like. It’s the truth of how I remember things, looking back at those interesting times of ‘high-strangeness’.

I could suggest that you use my stories as light relief, perhaps as an antidote to the shocking revelations you encounter as you delve into the mindboggling world of synchronicity and synchromysticism.


N.B. People who don’t know me think that I make this stuff up… my friends know me well, and so they know it’s the strange undeniable truth!