Reality Checking—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, November 2019
by: Brent Raynes
A Headless Ghost, a Tall Shadow Figure, and More
Hopefully everyone survived yet another Halloween, when ancient pagan tradition claims the “veil between the worlds” becomes thinner. True or not, in addition to trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, pumpkin smashing and pumpkin pie, along with a variety of other fun and mischievous activities [particularly for the kiddies], people often think about the supernatural, about what lurks beyond the veil. This time of the year people I suspect are a little more curious than usual about such spooky subjects as ghosts, poltergeists, hauntings – even watching horror movies with blood curdling twists and turns – often though with the most outrageous storylines and plots – zombies, Jason, Freddy Kruger, Dracula, and plenty more.
Needless to say, science fiction and horror flicks provide a very distorted lens through which to discern the reality of such subject matter. For me, I’ve studied the unexplained, reports of ghosts, poltergeists, hauntings, and much more, going on 53 years now. My interest and curiosity with such material is a year-round preoccupation. I find it all quite fascinating.
Just a few days ago, my wife Joan and I were talking with a mother and daughter, both known as responsible, respected, and level-headed long-time Waynesboro area residents, who shared with us several truly hair-raising experiences that they had had in their country home. Though I’ve long been intrigued with reports of unexplained phenomena, headless specter stories, that reminds one of Washington Irving’s headless horseman in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” seem relatively rare. Nonetheless, this mother matter-of-factly shared, with every appearance of sincerity, how one afternoon she was on the phone in her home when a grey smoke colored figure, who just happened to be headless, came within a mere foot of her! Soon afterwards, the mysterious form moved away, disappearing into a nearby wall.
The daughter had herself claimed a number of startling encounters. One evening, back during her high school days, as she was watching television, the power went out. She quickly located a flashlight. “Something told me to shine my light down the hallway,” she recalled. “When I did, I saw a shadow of a tall man walking down the hallway toward me. There was no face. I knew that there was no light behind me to cast my shadow and there was nothing in front of the flashlight to cast a shadow.” At that point, she ran outside where her father and brother had been working on something.
During the time she was in college, a friend came to spend the night. This friend spent the night in her bedroom while she slept on the couch in the TV room. “My friend was sitting up in bed reading,” she recalled. “He heard something like a wagon and team of horses crashing into the wall where his head was. Then he heard it at the other wall. He came and woke me up asking if I had heard the noises. Mom woke up to find out what was going on.” The daughter returned to the TV room and laid down on the couch while her mother and friend retired to the kitchen discussing what had occurred. Then she noticed the family Doberman was acting funny, sitting between the kitchen and the dining room, raising a paw in the air, as though pawing at something she couldn’t see, while making a yawning or growling type sound. She got up and approached a doorway located between the dining room and TV room to investigate. Then something very unusual happened. “The lamp that was on the wall came on without anyone touching it and ALL the kitchen cabinet doors flew open all at the same time,” she added. “While I was still in college, I was at home during the day by myself. I felt like something was following behind me from room to room. I went into the bathroom. I didn’t have to turn any lights on because it was daytime. I had been told to say, ‘What in the Name of Jesus Christ do you want?’ if I ever felt an evil spirit. So, I looked into the mirror and said that. As soon as I did, one of the bathroom light bulbs beside the mirror busted and was shattered into pieces.”
While this family have had a number of scary experiences in their home, a few other episodes have had a more positive type of vibe to them. For example, the mother said one day she heard her deceased mother’s voice call her name, feeling a pleasant and comforting presence. “There was one time that I woke up seeing my dad standing by my bedside after he died,” the daughter recalled. “He was standing there looking down at me crying. I got up and checked mom and my son to make sure they were alright. I also checked the house to make sure everything was okay and checked the doors to make sure they were locked. That next day, mom had a heart attack.” Fortunately, the mother survived her cardiac event and continues to lead a productive life.
The earliest episode the family remembers was when the daughter was in elementary school. “Something woke Mom up and told her to check on me in the middle of the night. When she checked, she found that the bed sheet was wrapped around my neck like a noose. She said that if I had rolled over, it would have choked me.” “The next time that I remember was when I was around 9 or 10 years old,” the daughter added. “I had a nightmare of ice cold hands on my ankles. Then I started screaming. Mom, Dad, and my brother woke up and ran into my bedroom to see what was wrong. After I told them, they pulled back the cover to show me that it was just a nightmare and that everything was okay. But, what they found was red marks around both of my ankles where someone or something had grabbed a hold of them.”
Experience has shown me that no matter where one lives, curious occurrences happen – unexplained apparitions, unusual noises, premonitions – not everything has a simple and clear-cut explanation to it. Science knows much but there are some areas that it has yet to fully and satisfactorily address.
As regular readers of my column should recall, back on the weekend of August 17 and 18, Katina Kyle of Mysterious Radio podcast launched her first UFO conference, called Alien Xpo [www.alienxpo.com], held at Knoxville’s Convention Center. It was a major and very successful event, Tennessee’s first big UFO conference, with such notable presenters as Travis Walton, Kathleen Marden, Rey Hernandez, Rev. Michael Carter, Stephen Bassett, Angelia Sheer, Ken Johnston, Mary Joyce, Thom Reed, Mike Bara, Andrew Gaugh, and…oh yeah, me! I even got to MC, which was a first for me. Katina is working on a second conference for next August, and she already has Nick Pope and Peter Robbins scheduled for presentations at the UT Conference Center to be held on Saturday, March 14th. However, you won’t be able to pay your way in at the door. Advance payment and registration is necessary for this event. It’s certainly great to see such events now occurring here in Tennessee, and more recently I attended one in Music City Nashville, held at the Studio Instrument Rental [SIR] building on Cherry Avenue. At this one, talks covered UFOs, ghosts, Bigfoot, faerie lore, changelings, the occult, faith and politics, the persistence of the flat earth theory, and much more. Plus, being Music City of course, musicians took to the stage toward the end. I was impressed how in spite of speakers and attendees who held opinions and beliefs that were in sharp contrast and opposition to one another, everyone nonetheless seemed genuinely friendly toward each other – there seemed a real comradery among everyone present.
“The conference was put on by the Conspirinormal Podcast,” Adam Sayne of Nashville explained. “I’m one of the hosts of that podcast along with my co-host Serfiel Stevenson. The speakers and presenters at the conference were Joshua Cutchin, Tim Binnall, Timothy Renner, Joe Dimare, Mark Anthony Wyatt, Guy Malone, and Zack Hunt. The topics covered spanned anywhere from UFOs, Ghosts, Bigfoot, and even the Rapture.”
“Doing a conference is something that I always had wanted to do. I’ve attended many of them in the last fifteen years and they were a huge influence on me from the beginning. Through attending various paranormal and other types of conferences I met all sorts of different people with all kinds of different perspectives on these strange topics that have interested me. My podcast Conspirinormal is a direct outgrowth of attending these events. I wanted to bring the different worlds of Conspiracy theory and the paranormal together and discuss these topics on my show.”
“Strange Realities was born out of a desire to bring a more personal and social approach similar to the one I laid out on my show. A few years ago, I began to consider doing a conference but some events in my life precluded such a possibility at that time. In April, Serfiel and I decided to pull the trigger on getting this event started. We had a different venue in mind at the time but that space closed down so we used some connections to rent out the excellent SIR studio space. Through some connections and friendships that I had made through the “Where Did the Road Go” podcast I was able to pull in both Joshua Cutchin and Timothy Renner. In April I told Josh that I was thinking of doing a conference in October and he said to count him in. I was also able to establish contact with Tim Binnall at the same time and pulled him into the conference as well and he became a great source of advice through the process. In 2017, we attended and helped with Guy Malone’s conference in Roswell, New Mexico, so I knew whatever I did would include him as well.” “I am hoping that our event was able to influence others to start their own podcasts or to even have the courage to start their own events in their local areas. There are many great minds that you may not even know are even around you that can speak with great authority on their research. I made it a goal to bring people together at Strange Realities 2019 to network and it’s my great hope that the attendees came away inspired to start their own journey just as I did so many years ago. Strange Realities 2019 was all about us contributing to that inspiration. We are already formulating what Strange Realities 2020 will be. Stay tuned…”
Joshua Cutchin, as Adam just mentioned, was one of the speakers at Strange Realities. A resident of Georgia, he is the author of three works he describes as speculative non-fiction, all published by Anomalist Books, that were entitled A Trojan Feast, The Brimstone Deceit, and Thieves in the Night. In addition, he has also penned entries for Robbie Graham's UFOs: Reframing the Debate and David Weatherly's Wood Knocks: Volume III. Joshua has appeared on a wide variety of paranormal programs discussing his work, including Coast to Coast AM, Mysterious Universe, Binnall of America, Expanded Perspectives, Radio Misterioso, and the Gralien Report. Joshua has been invited to speak at the annual ParaMania un-conference, the International Fortean Organization's 2016 and 2019 FortFests, 2019's X-Filers United conference, and 2019's ConCarolinas.
Clearly, no stranger to such gatherings, Joshua exclaimed, "The inaugural Strange Realities Conference was by far one of the best-organized events I've ever had the pleasure of attending. For the conference to be in its first year made it all the more impressive. Conferences only get better after the first year, and with this strong of an initial execution, next year should be even more incredible!”
Joshua also co-presented a talk with Timothy Renner, which was very intriguing and thought-provoking, entitled “High Strangeness and Folklore in Bigfoot Sightings.” These two are most aware of the paranormal elements that may emerge in such cases and have a book related to this talk coming out in December. I’m definitely looking forward to that! I also grabbed up an autographed copy of Timothy’s book Bigfoot in Pennsylvania: A History of Wild-Men, Gorillas, and Other Hairy Monsters in the Keystone State (2017), stories from the 1830s throug
h the 1920s, in the days before words like Bigfoot and Sasquatch were part of our vocabulary. “It was an honor to share the stage with so many individuals I admire, and I am grateful to have had the chance to present my work analyzing the intersectionality between faerie lore and modern alien abduction accounts. From my point of view, there are simply too many similarities between the two to discount—it seems as though most aspects of alien abductions have an analogue in faerie folklore, and vice versa. Particularly compelling (and the central topic of my presentation) are comparisons between faerie changelings and human-alien hybrids."
“I was honored to speak at the inaugural Strange Realities Conference in Nashville alongside a tremendous group of researchers,” declared Tim Binnall, a news editor for Coast to Coast AM and a host of Binnall of America. “Adam Sayne and Serfiel Stevenson did a fantastic job organizing the event which featured an array of interesting and unique perspectives on the strange and unusual. My presentation focused on the history of the much-maligned Flat Earth theory, which dates back to around 1830, and the various characters who promoted the controversial idea over the ensuing years.”
“The inspiration from this talk came from my job as the news editor for Coast to Coast AM, where I was struck by just how popular the Flat Earth theory had become in recent years. Wondering where this wild conspiracy theory had come from led me down a rabbit hole of research wherein I found all sorts of colorful figures who, throughout the last two centuries, were the proverbial face of the Flat Earth for their time. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this rich history is how the concept, despite being repeatedly discredited by scientists, still manages to capture the imagination of each successive generation who discovers the Flat Earth theory for themselves.”
“Another important point that I stressed in both my presentation as well as in speaking to people at the event was that the Strange Realities Conference embodied the notion that anyone can become a participant in the paranormal. Be it by writing a book, starting a podcast, or simply joining in on conversations among researchers online, the transition from audience member with a passion for the subject to contributor in the field is a very short step should one wish to make it.”
Mark Anthony Wyatt
“It was my first proper conference presentation, although I had done a few pub talks in the UK., and a presentation to the Prairie-land Paranormal Group in Springfield, Illinois.,” British author, folklorist, and researcher Mark Anthony Wyatt, author of Weird World and The Spirit of Cornwall: A haunted legacy, Vol. 1 & II, explained to me. “I had been a little nervous, but figured that I knew more about my own topic than anybody in the room so I'd just got on with it. Ha, ha! The audience was a knowledgeable but easy going bunch, so it was enjoyable, and once I was in to my stride all nerves settled. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to all the other speakers. They were all very professional, and I learnt a lot from all of them, both in terms of content and presentation techniques. It would probably be unfair to single anybody out for more praise than their fellow presenters, but life isn't fair, so I will. It doesn't much matter as others will have their own favorite topics/presenters, so it all evens out in the long term.”
“Being British, a society where religion does not play a big part in our lives (except in Northern Ireland, of course) I found it interesting to listen to the debates by the Christian element. It was an eye-opener on American society, and I learnt much, but ultimately I went there for the paranormal content, not to listen to people talking about Jesus. No offence intended! For me, the most interesting presenters were Tim, Timothy, Josh and Joe, who all gave great presentations. Zach was very professional, but the topic, although I understood it, and admired his position on politics, was not for me. Guy put over a great talk too, everybody did, but I wasn't convinced by his arguments. For me, there were loose ends that were not addressed regarding the progeria kids/mannequins [this regarding his Roswell speculations, Project Paperclip, etc. – editor], and I had heard of similar cases in Wales (investigated by a friend of mine) which left too many question marks.”
Guy Malone, the Guy that Mark was referring to, had also written a number of Biblically-based articles, had a website called alienresistance.org and alienstranger.com, believed that instead of ETs we are dealing with “fallen angels” and that an alien abduction experience “can be terminated in the name of Jesus Christ.” Zack Hunt, a Nashville based writer, speaker, and blogger spoke on the “intersection of faith and politics,” how religious beliefs can overlap and affect political beliefs for many people, and to me was a grounded presentation on the need for critical discernment – how we should be on our guard from being manipulated via our religious leanings.
“As for my presentation, I had many personal issues in the weeks leading up to the conference to deal with. A flat to sell in the UK, contents to move, long distance travel across the 'pond,' then jet-lag, followed by a 5 hour trip to Nashville within days, oh, and preparing a talk too! But hey, no excuses from me, I did my best, but I KNOW I could have done far better if I had done at least one run through to practice it first. On the plus side, I now have the basis of an interesting talk to work with in the future. Speaking of which, I have just received an invite to speak at a conference in Cornwall next autumn. I feel like I have made some lovely new friends, thanks to Adam and Serfiel arranging this wonderful event, and it will get even better as the years move on. Well done to them both, and ALL of their amazing team. You did a GREAT job!”
“I was approached by a few people later who told me they enjoyed the talk, so I'm grateful for that. My talk 'Smoke, Fire and Alchemy: the blurring of fact and fiction in Cornwall' was perhaps on the fringe of the fringe (!) but when I go to a conference I like to be stretched too, to hear different perspectives, angles I perhaps hadn't previously considered. One lad told me he found my talk the most interesting of all. I asked him what his interests were, and he told me, 'Oh, the paranormal, literature and music.' It was like talking to a younger version of me. I think it's important to have a wide range of topics. Something for everyone. Well done again to Adam and Serfiel!”
Adam has had me already now on his Conspirinormal podcast and I’m looking forward to interviewing him and others I have now met at his conference for my online magazine Alternate Perceptions. He’s also promised me a speaking spot on next years Strange Realities. Looking forward to it!
How about you?