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Interview-Alternate Perceptions Magazine, December 2015

An Interview with:
Steve Ward:
Keel, Mothman, and One Man’s Ufological Journey
Part 3

by: Brent Raynes

Steve Ward: I haven't had all that much in the way of personal experiences. There are a couple of things that are worth mentioning, but for the most part I am the guy that seems, for whatever reason, to not be an experiencer. I have seen a couple of strange lights in the sky but nothing definitive. I've never seen a ghost or apparition. John Keel seemed to think that a certain percentage of individuals were able to see naturally beyond normal human perception and that they were the ones that were prone to experiencing the paranormal. He coined the term "superspectrum" which he discussed in several of his books, most notably "The Eight Tower." About two thirds of "The Eighth Tower" was culled from parts of "The Mothman Prophecies."  The editors of "Prophecies" deleted about half of  the original manuscript and Keel was able to work it into another book which became "The Eighth Tower."  

Keel said that the superspectrum was a hypothetical spectrum "(which) is the source of all paranormal manifestations." Those people that were naturally tuned to this "wider" spectrum, for whatever reason, were the same people that at certain times might experience UFO's, ghosts, cryptids, and other paranormal manifestations. In fact, a person that saw a UFO, Keel claimed, wasn't only likely to be a repeater and have other sightings, but it was also possible that they might experience other types of paranormal activity. Charles Fort wrote in "Lo! More Strange Events": "One measures a circle beginning anywhere."  --- a quote that Keel used in his writings more than once. Both Keel and Fort thought that all these things were in some way connected. 

I went to the Waverly Hills Sanatorium a couple of years ago with a ghost hunting group from Michigan. Waverly has one of the best reputations as a haunted place and I thought that my chances of encountering something were pretty high. I was wrong. I was investigating until 4 AM and the only thing that might have been an anomalous incident occurred when I was standing in the morgue. It was pitch dark and I was with a small group of people that were positioned on the other side of the room from where I was. Suddenly, I felt what seemed like two fingers brush across the very top of my head. That was it. It could have been a bug. So much for tracking down disembodied spirits. And so much for being tuned to the superspectrum. 

I have made a couple of solo trips into the TNT area. I will tell you about my second excursion first.

I drove down by myself to Point Pleasant a few years ago on a mild January and stayed at a motel on the other side of the Ohio River. It was probably about 9 PM when I drove over to Potters Creek Rd. I was armed with a video camera, digital recorder (duct taped to my flashlight) and a pair of 3rd generation night vision goggles. Night vision requires at least some ambient light to operate and because there was nearly a full moon overhead, the entire landscape was bathed in light to the point where it almost looked like I was out there in the daytime. I could see deep into the woods because the trees had long ago lost their leaves and, of course, nothing had been growing for months. Because of an earlier investigation in the TNT area, the thought of shadow people briefly crossed my mind (I'll tell that story later) and I made sure not to dwell on that creepy subject. I looked like a "real" paranormal investigator.

My plan was simply to walk down road #6 and enter each of the first three igloos. I had my video camera and my digital recorder running. It was dead quiet as I walked into Igloo #1. I was greeted by an astonishing sight. On the inside wall of the concrete bunker directly across from me was an image of the Mothman.  Some uncredited artist with at least some talent had been responsible for this particular rendition of the winged Garuda, but that wasn't the astonishing part. Unfortunately, sometime later another "artist" who happened by, decided to add a few artistic touches to the original. The 2nd artist made Mothman's sexual proclivity somewhat ambiguous. It wasn't for the faint of heart and the image won't be described here.   

I moved down to Igloo #2 and stepped inside. There is very little ambient light inside the bunkers so the night vision goggles don't work very well on normal setting. I had to click the switch over to the 3rd position, to activate the IR illuminator. It operates like an infra-red flashlight. I scanned the inside of the structure. There was nothing to see. The 3rd igloo was as far as I was going to go. The brush would get very thick up ahead and there was a creek that cut across the path that would have been unwise to try to cross at night. The brush was also very thick around #3 and it was going to be difficult to get through it to the door of the igloo. As I approached the igloo, the last thing I expected to hear jarred my senses. Here I was alone in the TNT in the dark and I actually heard the beating of wings.  Whatever the source was, it was right next to me and very loud.

John Keel had reported that several of the original Mothman witnesses had heard the creature give off a sound that sounded something like a squeaky fan belt. What I heard wasn't even remotely like that. And it wasn't anything like the cool sound effect that John and Tim Frick use at the Mothman festival.

Imagine Daffy Duck and Donald Duck having a verbal dispute. That's pretty much what the noise I heard sounded like. I didn't see the bird whose place of rest I had disturbed. He left in a hurry. Later, after I arrived home, I had my wife listen to the recording I captured on my recorder as she is an avid birdwatcher and is able to identify many bird calls.  She informed me that I had met and angered some type of heron. I guess I wasn't going to fill Keel's shoes that night. He encountered things like "the zone of fear" in the TNT.  I encountered an angry bird.

  My experiences in this realm are fairly limited. I think at this point I will go back a few years and talk about some of the things that people I have known have experienced, as well as my part in those situations. Some of the people that were in the second UFO group that I was involved with had some interesting things happen to them. I will be using pseudonyms for all of the principals in the story I am about to tell.

Ray was really freaking out. I was over at his house one evening and he was telling me about the strange things that he and his wife Sally were experiencing on her brothers farm out in rural Western Michigan. Ray and I talked late into the night and after awhile I admit I was getting a little freaked out myself about some of the things I was hearing. This goes back a few decades so some of the events are a little fuzzy.

First off all, our de facto leader of our unofficial group Lewis, had been chasing down rumors that the Michigan State Police had been pursuing UFO's up and down Route M-66 not too far from the farm around that time. Lewis was high up in security at a major car maker in SE Michigan and was pursuing a degree in psychology. Ray told me about other rumors (none confirmed) about some animal attacks in the area near his brother in laws property that he had heard about that had resulted in some neighboring farmers livestock being harmed and the culprit hadn't been identified. These were apparently not like the classic animal mutilations that started occurring out West at that time in the mid '70's, but these were animals that had been attacked by some kind of predator. I will call the farm, Blake farm.

There was an incident that occurred on the farm one weekend that really unnerved Ray and Sally. They were out riding horses on the property when Sally's horse suddenly reared up reacting to some kind of danger. Sally told Ray that she had seen something rush past her on her left. She didn't get a clear view of it but only glimpsed it out of the corner of her eye. The impression was that it was something like a "white bigfoot". That blew me away. Sally wasn't able to get a good look at whatever it was because it had moved so incredibly fast. Ray and Sally really weren't sure what had happened. They didn't know if it was something real or had possibly been a false impression and purely imaginary.  Something however, scared the hell out of the horse but thankfully nobody was hurt. After this, they both experienced what they described as kind of a feeling of dread. Whatever it was, the negative feeling followed them home.  Ray and I decided to go out as soon as we were able and take a look at the area and see if we could uncover anything that might shed light on the mysteries of Blake farm. 

   We arrived there on a beautiful fall weekend. Sally's brother Sam was a solid family man who not only worked his farm but had a job at a local factory in town. He and his wife Sharon had three young children. Because of all the alleged weirdness that seemed to be going on in the area I had to wonder if any of the family members were experiencing any classic abduction type phenomena. I knew from the research of John Keel and Jacques Vallee that while some investigators considered certain categories of paranormal phenomena to be completely unconnected, Keel and Vallee, in their respective books, “Trojan Horse" and "Magonia" demonstrated to my mind that the opposite was true. UFO abductees were sometimes surrounded by the same type of weirdness that was alleged to have been happening on the farm. The Blake family may have fit a profile that might suggest that more was going on below the surface. As a guest in their home, I wasn't really in a position where I could pursue that kind of inquiry and I didn't feel comfortable bringing it up.

Saturday morning Ray and I explored the entire property and found absolutely nothing. I guess I didn't really expect to find any unusual footprints or alien spacecraft landing traces. Neither of us experienced anything like a negative feeling or atmosphere. We did hear a loud thumping noise that we couldn't identify off in the woods --- but that was only because we were a couple of city boys. I had never heard of a ruffed grouse and didn't know that it could beat its wings and make such a racket. Fortunately, being the "expert" paranormal investigators that we were we quickly decided that it wasn't a mysterious cryptid or that we were in any imminent danger. It was just some kind of animal we couldn't identify. Nevertheless, we decided to name the "thing" or whatever was occurring on the farm as the "Thump-a-wanger." 

Our night investigation yielded nothing as well. None of the rumors about the police chasing saucers and something attacking livestock turned out to have any substance. At least nothing that we could track down. In time, Ray would decide that most of what had happened was probably just an overactive imagination or mild hysteria even though they would never figure out what might have spooked the horse. --- But there was at least one thing that happened during that time period that definitely represented something unknown. And there is also a postscript to the story.

One night we were in the house and were talking to Ray's brother in law, Charlie. Ray described what Charlie had seen one night in the darkness out in the field behind his house. He saw a large bluish light that came down slowly over the field and hovered there without a sound. Charlie confirmed the incident. When I asked him about it he said somewhat abruptly, "Yeah I saw it -- but I don't believe in flying saucers!!" A hard nosed no nonsense skeptic admitting that something really strange had invaded his property and he had seen it with his own eyes. He wasn't interested in discussing it further. Ray said that Charlie didn't watch the unexplained light for long. He simply ignored it hoping it would go away and eventually it did..

It wasn't until years later that I discovered that Sally was very psychic. I had no idea. In later years, she would become a professional psychic with a large clientele. Her sensitivity may have been responsible for the way in which she experienced some of the events on the farm. There is no way to know.

Long after everything quieted down on the farm from strange lights to wild rumors  --- probably about a year or two later, Ray was out on the Blake property with his Celestron refracting telescope. At one point, when he was peering through the lens he saw what appeared to be a disk shaped object moving low along the horizon. He didn't think that it could in any way be a conventional aircraft. It was near sunset and before long the object disappeared into the haze. 

I never got a chance to return to Blake farm and never heard anything more about any unusual incidents there. The strange light at least was real and unexplained.. Although many of the claims as it turned out, probably had little substance, something anomalous had occurred there all those years ago. I always wondered if the family ever had anything else happen on their land, or if everything simply reverted to normal. I haven't seen or heard from Ray & Sally for many years.    

Our nameless UFO group met on Saturday mornings over large quantities of coffee and fresh pastry at Ray's house for a wide open discussion of UFO's and the paranormal. As I mentioned before, Lewis was high up in security at a major car manufacturer. Ray was on the ground floor of his own computer company. Marshall (not his real name) was Lewis's brother in law and a psychologist. I hadn't quite found my "professional" footing just yet  -- it would be a couple more years before I would join the Navy.

Marshall and I discussed some of the things that UFO investigators were supposed to have been involved in that triggered a Man in Black type experience. The dark suited strangers would allegedly come to the door of a UFO witness or investigator and tell him or her to stay silent about their UFO sighting or experience. The visit may have also been generated because of the type of UFO research that the investigator was involved in. For example, Albert Bender (Flying Saucers & The Three Men) and John Stuart (The UFO Warning) both claimed that they had discovered that UFO's were coming from the direction of Antarctica, either from a base there or even from inside the planet (shades of the Shaver mystery). Their discovery of the origin of the "saucers" was, they believed, the main reason that they had come to the notice of the Men in Black. Marshall and I wondered if someone emulated their research (independent of the possibility that the claims were specious) if MIB-type phenomena might result. If so, would it be something primarily psychological, paranormal, or physical --- or some combination thereof. Keel had made the point that many of the experiences that people had relating to UFO or MIB type encounters were likely illusory although the cause seemed to originate outside of the individual. Keel used the term "ultraterrestrial" as a literary device to allude to the cosmic mechanism or intelligence behind the UFO manifestations. In "The Mothman Prophecies" he suggested that some of the strange MIB encounters were not actual physical interactions even though the experience was very real to the individual involved. In "Prophecies" he warned that "belief is the enemy."    

On October 20th, 1975 we all sat in Lewis's living room to watch the made for TV movie "The UFO Incident". It was based on John Fuller's book, "The Interrupted Journey," which, of course, chronicled the Betty and Barney Hill abduction. I remember that several of us recorded the movie audio on cassette recorders --- no VHS or DVRs in those days. James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons were flawless in their roles as Barney and Betty. Years later, when the Hill's voice transcripts were released, it became evident that the actors must have had access to the recordings to prepare for their roles because when they spoke their lines it sounded exactly like the original recording sessions that Betty and Barney Hill conducted under hypnosis with Dr. Benjamin Simon right down to Betty's New England accent. The film was very well done and still holds up.  

Later that fall, Lewis, Calvin, Boyd (not their real names) and I were interviewed on a little radio station in Ionia, Michigan, just West of nowhere and deep into farm country. Lewis had made the connection with a local radio talk show personality and set up the interview. I have been interviewed fairly recently on Tim Beckley's "Exploring the Bizarre"  and Tim Swartz's  "The Outer Edge" programs, but my first foray into radio was 39 years earlier in a tiny studio in a small brick building surrounded by cornfields.

The subject of Keel's research came up before we were to do the show. Some wanted to dive deep into the lore of the Men in Black and the weirder aspects of the UFO mystery as presented in Keel's writings. I thought that it was a bad idea to dive into the dark side of ufology taking into consideration the listenership of the station. The audience would, I was sure, be made up of people who knew little on the subject of UFO's, much less John Keel and his ultraterrestrials and the sneaky Men in Black. So I did what I could to steer the conversation away from some of the scarier UFO encounters that had been written about by Keel. It wasn't going to be your typical farm report.

The interviewer (whose name I can't remember) did the best he could but he didn't know much about the subject of UFO's even in a general sense. We also suffered through wall to wall Christmas commercials as we were nearing the holidays. One man that called in proceeded to explain every UFO sighting as being caused by temperature inversions. When a layer of cool air lies underneath a layer of warm air, it can cause an atmospheric condition that refracts light so that objects on the ground appear to be projected upward. He had witnessed such a condition and took up a lot of time explaining what he had seen. As the clock was ticking, I finally said, "Well, some of these UFO's have landed." He was shocked and he said incredulously, "You mean these things have COME DOWN??!!" That was enough for him. He immediately hung up.

I'm afraid that we didn't do too much that day to advance the field of ufology but a couple of interesting things did happen. One was the fact that the show didn't record. We were all supposed to get a cassette copy of the program, but it came out completely blank. While electronic interference and electrical glitches were known to occur to investigators like Keel and others and weren't terribly uncommon, I suspect that in our case, someone simply hit the wrong button. Nothing that we discussed would have risen to the level of an "MIB alert" and wouldn't have required the UFO silencers to pay us a visit --- unless they were really bored.

After the show was over another phone call came in and I decided to field it. The caller described having seen a silent helicopter flying low over a corn field in broad daylight somewhere in Ionia County not very long before we did the program. I had read some of Keel's articles on phantom planes and helicopters but didn't really know what to make of this report. I also believe that the connection between silent helicopters and animal mutilations were not yet well established in the literature  -- at least I wasn't aware of it at that time. I think that it was to be a little later that the paranoia regarding black silent helicopters would kick in and become part of the standard conspiracy narrative.

   ----  And then Boyd had his Men in Black encounters.........        

Wednesday, May 31, 2023