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Reality Checking—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, November 2017

Keel, Jadoo, and Clifton?
Clifton, Tennessee.
Is it an unrecognized “window” location?

by: Brent Raynes

I've been told that back around the late 1920s, a farmer and his wife and kids were outside when what they said was a winged angel flew into their rural farm lives! “My great grandmother and her children were down past the house at the barn working in the garden,” a descendent described to me. “She turned back to see what the kids were making over and she saw it. It was an angel. It looked like a human. It was full sized, dressed in a flowing type garment. It had wings and long golden tresses that were curly and very shinny. It was beautiful and bright. The angel was fluttering in the air about head high. She said that it came so close to them that they could see its fingernails and toe nails. It had no shoes on. My great grandfather turned and ran toward the house to get the gun and my great grandmother said, 'Stop, you can't shoot it, because it is a heavenly being.' She said they went on about their business and left it alone. They were not afraid of it.”

Across the Tennessee River from there, not too far, is a small unincorporated area called Point Pleasant. How's that for a coincidence?

Not far from the “angel” site, my daughter Chandra and I, back in 1995, were interviewing a family who lived just off of highway 128, a short distance outside Clifton city limits. A teenaged girl (we'll call her Jean) was telling us about how she and her sister (we'll call her Carol) were followed along highway 128 one night, perhaps back in December 1992, sometime around 8 p.m. The object was triangular with lights on it, flying low overhead. They could view it through the sun roof of their car. When they slowed the car the object slowed down and when they sped up, so did the object. A conversation with her sister confirmed the same story. She said it was “real big,” as large as the parent's double-wide trailer, where we were interviewing several family members at the time, and she said that she had never seen anything like it before. They said that after awhile it suddenly tilted and took off at a tremendous speed and disappeared from sight.

The family seemed to have a fairly active history of psychic occurrences. In and around the property that they lived on at the time of our interview there had been a number of strange episodes, some of it fairly recent (ie., a knock on the door, a voice saying “it's me,” but there was no one in sight; one instance where a voice was heard by Jean that sounded like her father's voice calling her name, but again no one was there; Jean's sister Carol also saw the father on the side of the driveway one day, facing the woods, only to discover later that he wasn't even on the property when this happened!)

Years earlier, the family lived in a house that was closer to town which they also said was definitely “haunted.” Another daughter described once seeing the kitchen cabinet doors open by themselves and tupperware lids fly out. The mother recalled the time that she had seen the apparition of a figure in a white dress. One time the sound of something being “dragged across the hardwood floor” was heard, yet nobody was there to cause it.

Clifton is a sleepy little rivertown, located along the Tennessee River. Not much goes on there. If it wasn't for two prisons, one state and one private, and barge jobs on the river, employment opportunities there would be very dismal.

Black Magic?

May 22, 2010. Not far from the property just discussed, that was located off of highway 128, there are two small homes located a short distance from each other on a narrow gravel road. We learned that for years strange things had gone on at both houses. One of them, a small three bedroom brick house, that hadn't been occupied in a couple years, former tenants described for us a variety of compelling paranormal-type experiences that they had had there. We even learned of a relative who spent a honeymoon night in the house with his new wife. The next morning he heard his grandfather's voice calling them for breakfast. Apparently the voice seemed to be coming from the carport. He lived just up the road a short distance (we'll call it house #2). When they visited the grandfather he denied that he had called for them. “He said that scared them so bad I don't think they ever stayed there again,” we were told. The mother, whom I had known for a number of years and knew to be very reliable, had her daughter, who was 30 at the time, and her son who was 27, at the house also so that we could ask them all questions about the unusual things that they had experienced in years past. There were unexplained “voices,” different inexplicable sounds, a bedroom door knob turning without anyone physically visible to be doing so, and a bedroom lamp that would come on by itself in the middle of the night.

Whatever was there we found it to be intelligent and quite interactive. Our small group of investigators, consisting again of my daughter and me, plus my wife Joan, and paranormal investigators Sandy Nichols, and Bret Oldham (and his then wife Gina) all from up around the Nashville area. We got a lot of unexplained “voices” on both handheld digital recorders and “voices” that came through Bret's “ghost box” (which was a small compact digital radio with a scanner that operates non-stop when activated). The team was amazed at the evidence our investigation had netted. We had recorded a male voice saying “John Keel”, at least twice, and when Bret asked Keel what was causing the sound people had been hearing there for years, coming from the woods nearby, a sound like someone striking a tree trunk with something several times (something commonly reported in areas where Bigfoot is allegedly seen), a voice stated “a monster.” I later gave Bret examples of where Keel would, instead of writing or saying Bigfoot, he'd indeed often use the word “monster.” In fact, I showed Bret the very first letter that I had ever gotten from Keel, back in October 1969, where he wrote: “Operation Trojan Horse is still not scheduled and is not likely to appear until the fall of 1970. I have written another book, an encyclopedia of 'monsters,' which will appear in paperback next spring.” While many of the accounts in that so-called monster encyclopedia were about Bigfoot sightings, it did include lake serpents, like Scotland's Nessie, and of course Mothman, and a good number of other weird beasties. The book was entitled Strange Creatures From Time and Space, and in the very first sentence of chapter 1, it reads: “No matter where you live on this planet, someone within two hundred miles of your home has had a direct confrontation with a frightening apparition or inexplicable 'monster.'”

I returned again to the site on August 24, 2013, concentrating solely on house #2 this time. I again met with and interviewed the mother and her daughter and son. The daughter was now living in this house with her husband and their two children. We reviewed many of the unusual stories that had been discussed on the initial investigation, while many new and intriging details emerged as well. As before, I heard about how they often (especially the son) would wake up at exactly 3:33 a.m. The mother even mentioned how her son and his wife had “spent the night with us last night and I woke up this morning at 3:33.” The son said he could be in another time zone, like happened to him in Jacksonville, Florida, and he kept waking up at 3:33 there too. But what really disturbed him was the “black creature.” His sister urged him to, “Tell him about your demon.” This was something that had very much disturbed him. “Every time its happened I've woke up at exactly 3:33,” he reluctantly began. “It's probably about five times that it has happened. It's been some kind of black creature. It doesn't speak a language that I would be able to understand but I can understand what it's saying in my head. It's kind of a sleep paralysis type of thing. I know exactly where I'm at and what room I'm in. I remember asking it before, 'What do you want?' And it was saying, 'I want you.' I said, 'Why are you here?' And it said, 'I'm here always. I'm always with you.'”

“And I woke up exactly 3:33,” he recalled regarding one particular instance. “I was scared to death and I remember looking at the wall where my rifle was at and it started laughing at me and told me to get up and get my gun and then I woke up at 3:33 that time too.”

“It's got a really deep voice,” he added. “It was just like a really nasty, deep, creepy voice from what I remember. It was just like a black, completely dark, no features to it whatsoever. Everytime it has happened it seemed like a sleep paralysis. I'm not really asleep. It seems very realistic. It doesn't seem like a dream at all. Everytime it's happened I've been laying in bed and it's been in my face – within inches of my face – standing next to the doorway or something.” Then, after the paralysis state, it's gone.

The young man offered one possible explanation for the reoccurring 3:33 time. “About two and a half years ago, I was in a bad car wreck where three people had died,” he told me in 2010. He and another young man survived. “We came out completely unscathed after a vehicle had run up on top of our car and flipped on top of us,” he added. “The day of (her son's) accident I did have a strong urge to pray,” his mother told me. She was driving in her car at the time. “I didn't pull over. I just prayed as I was driving.” Premonitions were part of her family history. “My mama said that the day her father died that she saw him in a dream standing at the foot of her bed and he was dressed in all white,” she stated. “Also my grandmother told me that the day her brother passed away that she was sitting on her front porch and saw him walking across the field coming toward her house.”

Later, the son read some newspaper articles about the accident he had survived and read where it happened and noticed that it reportedly occurred around 3:30 p.m. “Maybe my wreck was at 3:33 and it's something that subconsciously was burned into my mind,” he wondered. “I really don't know.”

In one of those episodes, he saw a small shadowy figure walk past his bedroom door. A clothes basket fell out onto the floor that was sitting on top of a cedar chest. He got up to see what his 5-year-old daughter was up to, because it was about her size, but he found her in bed sound asleep.

During our first visit, the young man even described how he and two friends were hunting down by the Tennessee River and came upon a tall upright walking black haired figure, that he estimated might have been some six feet tall, slowly walking away from them across a field. It was a pretty good distance away. They looked at it through the scope of a rifle. Something was said about shooting it, but though it seemed crazy to think some tall man might be walking around in a field dressed in a gorilla costume or something, they didn't want to take the chance. This happened sometime back around 1997-1998.

“Daddy was into like black magic,” the daughter suddenly volunteered. “He would cast spells on people,” They showed me a board with a circle on it, with a place for yes and no responses, with a pendulum with a key and some coins. I was told that he had used an oujia board and that he even made something like voodoo dolls.

“I don't even like to talk about that,” the mother sighed.

Into the fire...

A man who had lived in house #2 had passed away before our investigation. He had been something of an international sensation back in 1969. In fact, none other than John Keel’s very dear former friend and colleague the Scottish born zoologist and Bigfoot researcher Ivan T. Sanderson wrote about this 40-year-old man at the time named W.J. Baker and how he had been severely burned by a mysterious underground fire at the Perry Davis farm in Clifton. (An article by Sanderson was published on this and other odd and unexplained fiery events in FATE magazine’s January 1978 edition; taken from his book Investigating the Unexplained, 1972). Some years back (1992) I spoke with Flora Mae Davis, a former columnist for the local Wayne County News, who broke the first story on this incident in that newspaper back on August 1, 1969. It later went all over the world, carried by UPI, appeared in the Stars and Stripes, and in foreign newspapers.

The ground had simply collapsed underneath Mr. Baker. He was very badly burned as he sank down almost to his knees. Ms. Davis told me, “When he returned [home] he took off his shoes and socks and the skin came off his feet with them. He had scalded his feet.” He was immediately hospitalized and almost lost one of his legs.

Locally the story caused quite a bit of excitement. Ms. Davis said that some people thought it was a sign from hell! One lady wrote a letter with Bible passages. “And some people thought, even some people around here, said ‘Oh, that thing didn’t land on the moon. It landed right out there on the Davis farm.’ There was all kinds of speculation.”

Some people wrote constructive and reasonable letters describing how soft coal at strip mining sites had been known to burn underground in a similar way. Incredibly Ms. Davis told me that the fire burned for about seven years! “Now this is my theory,” she said. “The year before, I think it was in August, there was a minor earthquake in this area. Our farm is around this area where this thing caught on fire. There are wet water springs and they’d seep this oily stuff and I’ve had this idea that there’s some type of oil or something. I’ve got this idea that this minor quake shifted the rocks. There’s an open fault through here and it created the bend in the river.”

She said she had read a lot of literature on the subject, and added that she had talked her theory over with geologists who she said might be correct. Ms. Davis pointed out that across the river from her farm, between World War I and II, there was a lot of oil prospecting going on. So there was oil, but they didn’t feel it would profit them enough to go further with it.

Ms. Davis added that there was an old iron furnace on this farm that had been destroyed at the beginning of the Civil War when Union gun boats shelled this site and others while cruising down the Tennessee River. She said that back during the Mexican War this furnace had been used to make cannon balls. Back in those days the property had been owned by one Solomon H. Baker who Ms. Davis described as having had about 100 slaves, a brick kiln, iron furnace, and a tannery. She believed that he used charcoal to fire the furnace. She said that they used to cut hardwood logs and stacked them upright in deep ditches or against a bank and then piled dirt around them and set them on fire and they then burned them underground. She said they had controlled burning that produced the charcoal. “There was enough charcoal out there to have furnished all of the charcoal grills in the country for years if we had realized it,” Ms. Davis stated. “This charcoal was what burned.”

“There was no smoke,” she added. “That was the weirdest thing.” She described how most of the time you wouldn’t see it, that you’d have to stand back and look at it and then, like seeing heat waves over a paved highway on a hot summer day, that’s what it resembled. “It looked like that,” she said. “Occasionally you’d see a blue flame.”

“The heat was so intense. You’d go out there one day and there would be this big tree maybe. The leaves would all be wilted. You’d go out there two or three days later and the tree would be laid down. It would have fallen. The roots would have been burned out from under it. …Then you’d go out there and finally after maybe a week or two there would just be a hole. You could just see the ash where that tree had burned.” She said the area was about an acre in size, and appeared to be pretty much a circular area in shape.

Remember Keel's friend Ivan Sanderson wrote about the peculiar underground fire at Clifton, Tennessee. Keel liked “monsters,” spooky paranormal occurrences, UFOs, and black magic (another type of fire!). “I have a theory about all this,” he told Bob Rickard in an interview for Fortean Times magazine (No. 65, Oct-Nov 1992). “Most anomalous phenomena are in fact demonstrations of Black Magic powers or something intended for just one or two people. It doesn't make any sense to the rest of us.”

Hmm. Just another example of Keel's famous “tongue-in-cheek” style of humor? Or was he actually trying to get across a valid point about the phenomenon to his interviewer?

I believe that he chose this particular analogy because it genuinely did serve well to illustrate his point as it related to his own background experiences going back to his early travels through foreign countries in the far east in the 1950s.

A little over a month after the Clifton investigation, the same investigative team was gathered together to conduct a “ghost box” session at Sandy Nichols's home in Thompsons Station. As the date was July 3, 2010, the one year anniversary of John Keel's passing, I requested that we see about communicating with John during the session. Well, it was a night that convinced even my skeptical self as we heard (and recorded) “John Keel” come through, and Bret's request for information on Bigfoot was met with “Smuck Bigfoot, see?” Then, at one point, I asked what John Keel could tell us about Jadoo, the black magic he had heard so often and so much about while trekking through Egypt, Iraqi, India and Tibet back in the 1950s and described in his book, Mysteries of the Orient: Jadoo (1957). “Jadoo, eh?” we heard a strong male voice reply! I immediately responded yes, what can you tell us, and heard a rambling reply starting off with “Into the fire, into the fire,” and then the words faded out. Eventually a brief snippet saying “teach me outside.”

As I reflected on it later, although we couldn't tell for sure what that voice was saying overall, “teach me outside” seemed like Keel's preferred mode of learning as opposed to being a book worm. Now don't get me wrong, he was certainly very proficient at cracking open lots and lots of books and pouring through their contents, doing a ton of research when required, but his real passion, at an early age, as he confessed in Jadoo, was a “taste for travel,” to “go around the world, to see India and get a first-hand look at the celebrated feats of the fakirs, to explore the Himalayas, to investigate the fire-walkers of the Pacific Islands.”

On September 28, 2012, the mother from our Clifton case described at length in the paragraphs above, came by our house in Waynesboro and my wife Joan and I conducted a “ghost box” session with her. She wanted to see if we could communicate with her deceased father, and we did record what sounded like his name coming through. Though we didn't ask for him, we got “John Keel” coming through too, who I hadn't heard from in awhile. But, alas, the oddest thing that came through was when I asked the father, “What do you do on the other side? Do you go back to school?” And suddenly we heard “Jadoo.”

From “the other side” had John Keel taken a personal interest in our Clifton case? It certainly contained a mix of elements that had long been some of Keel's favorite mysteries – and remember, after all, part of the story had also been of interest to his dear friend and colleague Ivan T. Sanderson, once upon a time.

Or perhaps it was all just a long stretched out series of meaningful seeming coincidences – good 'ol Jungian synchronicities.

Friday, June 02, 2023