Reality Checking—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, September 2020
by: Brent Raynes
My Personal Journey into the Crazy but Fun World of UFOlogy
Its sure been a lot of water under the bridge, to put it mildly, since I first read Frank Edwards’ bestselling book Flying Saucers – Serious Business back late in 1966. Earlier in March of that year I periodically looked up into the night skies, sometimes with my dad, as the newspapers and television news were carrying a lot of interesting reports of UFOs. While Michigan was getting most of the national coverage, and where Dr. Hynek uttered those memorable words “swamp gas” at a press conference, my former home state of Maine was having its fair share of UFO reports. Undoubtedly, the most sensational one was from Bangor, where a man named John King claimed that he had fired several shots with his pistol at a domed metallic looking disc-shaped object that was almost touching the ground. He claimed that he heard his bullets actually making a ping sound on the surface of the object.
A couple blocks from my home, I was visiting a school chum one day who I learned was following those UFO stories with interest as well. He wondered if I’d be interested in helping to start up a UFO club. I quickly shot down the idea pointing out that eventually someone would one day find the answers, how there were quite a few people pursuing this - so what could a small group of wet-behind-the-ears teenagers possibly hope to contribute to solving this mystery? However, after reading Edwards’ book a few months later, my grasp on such logic and reason evaporated and by January of the following year, all of 14-years-of-age, I decided to enter the fray. I was truly gung-ho, soon creating a group called the Scientific Investigations Network on Aerial Phenomena (SINAP) and I began editing a mimeographed newsletter I decided to call Sauceritis.
If I remember correctly, after all of these years, I had read in a newspaper article, from way back [I think 1947] where some academic person [I think it was some psychologist] had compared UFO witnesses to people who were suffering a delusional mental state that he had nicknamed “sauceritis.” Eventually I upgraded the title to “Scientific Sauceritis Review,” just so my many readers [all of 30 or 40 of them perhaps] would know that I was serious and scientific about the subject. LOL!
In the very beginning, I initially followed the ufological mainstream’s “nuts and bolts” ETology Even today it’s obvious to me that at night when I peer into the starry firmament above, just as I did as a boy, life in the great out there of the universe is a very logical and highly probable reality. In fact, the universe must be teaming with life. It’s so enormous that we are like a tiny grain of sand on a beach – maybe even a mere atom or molecule on a beach would be more accurate. It seems the deeper the scientists peer out there into space the more vast and giganormous it becomes.
It didn’t take me too awfully long though for my young mind [ah yes, the imaginative, creative and flexible mindset of youth] to begin branching out into alternative vistas of speculation. Authors like Jacques Vallee and Brad Stieger had a good deal to do with my brain shift, but it was the writings of John Keel that most deeply and profoundly affected my thoughts on this controversial and, certainly for me, this very mesmerizing enigma. I found myself obsessed with it. Slowly but surely, Keel’s theories began to make more and more sense to me, and certainly sounded far more exciting and productive than cataloguing endless reports of funny erratic lights and objects reported in our skies. He described personally venturing out into the field, traveling through some 20 different states, interviewing many witnesses and researchers firsthand, in a serious attempt to better discern the true meaning and nature of this puzzling phenomenon. Keel had picked a very good time to launch such investigative work. There was a massive national UFO wave going on and the newspapers were filled with reports. He had a good deal of fresh data to begin delving into. He subscribed to newspaper clipping services, plus his newspaper and magazine articles on the subject brought him a good deal of mail from readers who were also experiencers of some truly interesting UFO incidents. He even described coming upon contact experiencers, many who hadn’t shared their experiences with anyone else before, who he called “silent contactees.” These experiencers not only often described having ongoing interactive contact with what ufologists had come to call the “ufonauts,” but the world of psychic phenomena opened up big time for these people. They were having poltergeist experiences, strange balls of light in and around their homes, and even precognitive glimpses of the future. Keel even claimed that a number of his subjects had given him accurate predictions of plane crashes and other events, convincing him that they knew the future. He even described how he would sit on hilltops during concentrated activity in West Virginia and watch the UFOs himself. Soon Keel would reveal that he was abandoning the extraterrestrial theory for one that involved what he described as the “ultraterrestrials,” intelligences from a place closer to us, a kind of “parallel world,” giving us perhaps a simpler version of quantum physics, one in which he focused more on the electromagnetic energy spectrum. To him the ultraterrestrials had much in common with the entities occultists had long called “elementals.”
I wanted in on the action. It was obvious to me that getting out into the field as Keel described was much more exciting and potentially much more productive and rewarding than sitting on my butt devouring one UFO book after another. I began writing Keel in October 1969, engaging him in pretty productive correspondence [I once got a three page single spaced type written letter from him, which this fanboy still has]. We even exchanged newsletters; my mimeographed Sauceritis for his Anomaly newsletters. I sought his advice for pursuing the work he had been doing with contactees and he suggested that I familiarize myself with the “medical and psychiatric studies of the religious cases before you tackle the UFO variation.”
“Essentially, the contactee experience is identical to religious apparition phenomenon and probably is caused by the same factors,” he further wrote. In another letter, he again emphasized the importance for me to read up on literature regarding apparitions, recommending I locate and read parapsychologist G.N.M. Tyrell’s book Theory of Apparitions, which I did.
Thanks to my mom and dad, in August 1971, we took a family trip out-of-state and because I had read briefly about a woman in Toronto, Canada, who had claimed to be a contactee [mentioned briefly in a book by Brad Steiger] we exchanged letters and made arrangements for a visit. I got to spend several hours with her and her husband and learned some about both of their stories, which only reinforced my desire to delve further into such exploration. I was born and raised in the state of Maine, so this was quite a trip my dad took just so I could meet this lady. In fact, it wasn’t the only one. One time, having read of a possible UFO landing might have occurred way over in Keene, New Hampshire, we headed over that way, and by knocking on doors and asking people questions, we located the house I needed to go to. However, by that time it was very late, so we pulled the family Saab over by a nearby pond and got a few winks, and in the morning drove up to the top of the hill, and outside stood a young lady named Marianne who recounted the whole story for me, and it was at this point that I learned of a UFO investigator in Keene who I later became good friends with, and visited him and he one time came over to visit us, and spoke to a locate reporter and went on a local radio station to share his work. Then one time I had read an article where Keel was writing about a rash of UFO sightings that had gone on in Sistersville, West Virginia. I was all excited, of course, and to my surprise, on one weekend afternoon “ride” we left Maine and ended up in Sistersville! We pulled up to a little hillside as I recall and watched the sky for a while, saw a few lightning bugs I believe, but as I later would find would happen to me often in the future, no UFO showed up. I was disappointed, naturally. But hardly discouraged.
I began saving up my money, getting a nice but used car, and planning on going on a journey across country like Keel did, but in June 1972 I got drafted [the Vietnam War was still raging] and so I served two years active duty, cruising around the world aboard a destroyer escort to Vietnam, Hong Kong, Japan, Brazil, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. A year before my military induction, I had corresponded with a lady in Jacksonville, Florida. Her name was Ramona Clark. She was a researcher and an experiencer, and she had corresponded with John Keel. Though I thought being in the military for a couple of years was going to remove me from being able to pursue my ufological interests for a spell, it hadn’t. It turned out Ramona’s husband was a Navyman and she lived on a Navy base where his and my ship became homeported…Mayport, Florida. Many evenings I could drop by and visit and talk about this stuff with her, and when the 1973 UFO flap broke out we looked into local cases together. When the Hickson and Parker UFO abduction story erupted, I flew over to New Orleans and met them just ten days after their alleged experience, visiting the site where it was supposed to have happened. Ramona introduced me to Dr. Berthold Schwarz, a respected psychiatrist who was deeply into the study of psychic phenomena and UFOs. He was also a close acquaintance with John Keel and over the years, until his passing in 2010, we shared extensive correspondence and even met in person twice.
Instead of being off course my ufological Keelian journey turned out to be more on course than off. I felt as though author Harold Sherman, a noted psychic researcher, was right on with his “like attracts like in the realm of mind” philosophy. I suspected that my obsessive and deep interest in UFOlogy was helping me rather synchronistically at times to attract the right people and circumstances I needed to better bring about my desired opportunities to continue this particular journey.
Once out of active military service, I set about initiating my road trip across the country. I spent practically the whole summer of 1975 traveling from Maine to Florida, interviewing researchers, UFO witnesses, contactees, collecting data on Bigfoot sightings, and for a couple years after that spending a week or two traveling here and there.
By November 26, 1977, I got married to a beautiful young lady in Tennessee, where I moved to. Of course, we met initially because of my interest in UFOs. She had had one spectacular sighting of a spherical object coming down from the sky at her and a friend sitting on the hood of a car next door. She said it looked bigger than a full moon. She looked up and pointed at it, at which point it reversed direction and shot back up and out of sight. While I don’t any longer just jump in a car on a whim and head out for distant destinations that way, I’ve continued my journey to this day, occasionally getting to speak at conferences, last year being an MC at Knoxville’s AlienXpo and speaking at the Mothman Festival in West Virginia, promoting my new book, John A. Keel: The Man, The Myths, and the Ongoing Mysteries, actually doing things and having new adventures better than I had previously dreamed of having. Yup, like attracts like in the realm of mind! Not just every day, but over time, if you stick to your dreams and make the effort to see them through, its pretty awesome what you can accomplish. Some things that have come to pass, back in the very beginning I could never have imagined. For example, my wife and I being invited by our dear friends Doctors Greg and Lora Little to accompany them on ARE sponsored Indian Mound Tours in states like Ohio, West Virginia, and Georgia to help facilitate Native American meditations and purifications [smudgings]. My wife Joan is of Native ancestry and her insights and knowledge and caring have been invaluable to me. Greg has been a close friend and colleague, and after meeting in 1985 he began helping me with the early beginning of this magazine, back then a newsletter entitled Para-UFOlogy Forum, of just a few pages, and in 1993 he came onboard as a co-editor and publisher, and for awhile we had magazine distributors across the country and up into Canada. But as the world more and more went to the internet for its information, so did our magazine, which by that time was Alternate Perceptions, which you’re reading now.
And as Paul Harvey would have said, now you know the rest of the story. Though space here doesn’t allow me to sprinkle in all the little details along the way, but hopefully it’s a good overview.