Interview-Alternate Perceptions Magazine, September 2015
An Interview with:
An Exclusive Interview with film maker Dan Drasin:
From Mothman investigations with John Keel to paranormal investigations around the world
by: Brent Raynes
Dan Drasin was born and raised in the New York City area and now resides near San Francisco. His interests are broadly scattered throughout the arts, sciences and humanities. His initial career trajectory was towards Industrial Design, but after meeting documentary film pioneers Albert Maysles, D. A. Pennebaker and Richard Leackock in the early 1960s he became their apprentice and never looked back. Following a brief, five-semester run-in with higher education at Pratt Institute, Harvard University and the New School, he began a career in independent filmmaking and media production that has now spanned over five decades. Films he has produced or photographed have earned over two dozen international awards, notably including his short 1961 documentary SUNDAY, which was widely acknowledged as one of the first social-protest films of the 1960s. SUNDAY is part of the permanent film collection at New York's Museum of Modern Art and was recently restored and preserved by the UCLA Film and Television archive.
Brent Raynes: As a young film producer back in 1967, you are mentioned in John Keel's book The Mothman Prophecies as accompanying him down to the Point Pleasant, West Virginia area to film some of the testimony and such of the Mothman and perhaps some of the UFO witnesses as well. Can you share with our readers how this all came about
Dan Drasin: I'd just had my first UFO sighting, and mentioned it to a friend who, as it happened, had just seen an ad for a talk John was giving. So I attended the talk, buttonholed him afterward, and we soon became friends.
Brent Raynes: And what sort of stories had you filmed and what were your thoughts on what was going on and being reported at that time?
Dan Drasin: Unfortunately, I never got to the point of doing any actual filming. I met a lot of witnesses in Point Pleasant (most of whom are surely deceased by now), collected a lot of information, and wrote up a proposal for the Public Broadcast Laboratory -- a weekly news/features program that ran on PBS stations. The proposal ALMOST got funded, but ended up being rejected at the last minute for reasons that were never explained.
Brent Raynes: What was it like working with John Keel?
Dan Drasin: John was a unique character, two steps ahead of the culture. He was pretty fearless and often sallied forth where angels feared to tread, though he did carry a small pistol while exploring the spooky old abandoned power plant in the TNT area, just in case the Mothman showed up unannounced!
I liked John a lot.
Brent Raynes: Did you and your film crew have any anomalous experiences yourselves that you could share?
Dan Drasin: On one of my visits I carried a simple, silent 16mm movie camera. (sound cameras were hard to come by, then). On some nights I'd drive alone into the TNT area -- never completely out of sight of the main highway! -- and sit on the hood of my car watching the sky. On one occasion, I saw a dim, diamond-shaped cluster of round, multicolored lights cross the sky, but my film wasn't sensitive enough to capture them.
One evening John and I saw a bunch of strobe-light flashes in the sky, south of PointPleasant, that seemed to come from nowhere. There was no aircraft that would have explained them.
I think John wrote in The Mothman Prophecies about the incident where he and I and Mary Hyre were up on a hill south of town one afternoon. The sky was cloudless, except for one very oddly perfect, puffy little cloud that looked as if it had escaped from a children's storybook. In the distance, we all saw something that looked like an ill-defined UFO, which proceeded to head straight for the cloud and entered it. Then, out the other side came a small, twin-engine plane, headed in the same direction. We could even hear its engines. That was quite a head scratcher.
Some weeks after my last visit to Point Pleasant, I was at home alone in my New York apartment, sitting at my desk. Suddenly, the air around me seemed to be filled with "sparkles". I can't say whether or not I actually saw them with my eyes, but it felt as if I were taking a bath in soda water. It felt good -- sort of tickled. This lasted maybe a half a minute, and then suddenly ended. A half-hour later the phone rang. It was Park McDaniel calling to let me know that Mary Hyre had passed away a half-hour earlier.
Mary, by the way, was profoundly psychic. When we first met, she immediately said she felt that we had some kind of connection -- presumably in a previous life.
Brent Raynes: More recently, and how I came to locate you, is that I see you're working on a film project dealing with mysterious electronic voice phenomena (EVP) events from around the world. How much of this goes back to your work with John Keel and those early experiences in West Virginia, I wonder?
Dan Drasin: My work with John was part of a chain of influences that actually started in my early childhood, when I experienced many precognitive dreams and was fascinated by reports of UFO sightings. During my teen years -- the 1950s -- I was a devoted listener to a late-night New York radio host named Long John Nebel, whose studio guests included many of the classic early UFO contactees, researchers, and authors of books on paranormal issues. Later I'd experienced a number of UFO sightings of my own, and in general became increasingly curious about what was going on behind the curtain of mainstream awareness. My interest in afterlife research began mainly with my exposure to the books of Robert Monroe, a businessman turned out-of-body explorer. My interest in EVP and ITC were sparked mainly from my meeting Mark Macy in Boulder, Colorado, where I lived for a few years in the early 1990s. At first I was quite skeptical about ITC, but was intrigued enough by that and other aspects of afterlife research to follow it up in the early 2000s by joining up with co-film-producer Tim Coleman. Together Tim and I traveled across the US, and to England, Scotland and Spain, shooting several documentaries about afterlife research. In 2009, we went our separate ways, with Tim going on to complete his film THE AFTERLIFE INVESTIGATIONS (which centers on the Scole Experiment), and me finishing CALLING EARTH, which I hope to complete sometime later this year.
Brent Raynes: After nearly half a century of exposure in thought and investigative activity related to unexplained occurrences, from Mothman to apparitions to the EVP experience, what might be your personal impressions and thoughts about these happenings, why we should seek to investigate them further, and what we may ultimately learn from them that may perhaps be of value to humanity?
Dan Drasin: Well, this is a huge question. But I think it comes down to our recognizing that our understandings about the true nature of life and consciousness are pretty much in their infancy and there is so much more to learn and to be. I think the main thing keeping us from participating in this greater reality is fear.
Brent Raynes: Is your documentary nearly complete?
Dan Drasin: As of August 2015 I've completed ten sequences, with two sequences still to come.
Brent Raynes: What do you hope that people will take away from it?
Dan Drasin: Above all, I hope that CALLING EARTH helps to allay individual and collective fears about what lies beyond our physical existence. I think that if we can perceive our bodies as temporary (albeit purposeful) dwellings, we'll begin to see death not as a fearful or spooky affair, but more as a gateway to limitless possibilities. EVP and ITC are important because they provide the kind of objective evidence that science needs in order to feel comfortable tiptoeing outside the box of its materialist worldview.