Alternate Perceptions Magazine, September 2023
The Death of Gary Massey
by: David Perkins
Jammin' Gary Massey
Jammin’ at the Lone Star. Gary was cool.
Editors Note: In late February of this year, soon after initiating contact with David Perkins thanks to Peter Jordan, he shared with me this heartfelt report he had written soon after the passing of noted researcher and his dear friend Gary Massey, who worked closely with another equally dedicated UFO, mute and paranormal researcher and friend, Tom Adams (who I had shared off-and-on correspondence with going all the way back to 1970, when Tom and Gary first began delving into the strange and foreboding mysteries of Colorado’s San Luis Valley and the death of a horse called Snippy. In fact, here is a link to an article I wrote up for the January issue on my early contact with Tom Adams and things he had shared: https://www.apmagazine.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1949&Itemid=53
David wrote me: “I’m sending along this piece I wrote about Gary Massey. Tom Adams and Gary were a unit of sorts. People generally referred to them as Tom ’n Gary. They were research partners and best friends for many years. To understand Tom, it’s necessary to know something about Gary. Some folks thought of Tom as the brains and Gary as the brawn. Actually, Gary was quite brilliant in his own way. I’ve never known a more ‘colorful’ person than Gary Massey.
“This is a sad story, but one that needs to be part of the record.
“I suppose that some would see the demise of Tom ’n Gary as a sort of cautionary tale about the damage caused by long-term exposure to deep weirdness. Maybe so, but I don’t see it that way. Everyone has their own path and who are we to judge? I do know that they were two of the most loyal and trusted friends I’ve ever had. I miss them …….” I had intended to interview David Perkins, but he was always busy, and I knew there were health issues. I was waiting and hoping for the right time, but sadly we ran out of time, as David passed recently, on August 20.. Details can be found in the News Links section of this issue. Also in this issue’s YouTube interview, his long-time friend and colleague Christopher O’ Brien speaks fondly of David, who was a best friend, helped him tremendously in his investigations and research, and how his passing is a great loss to the community of people who were deeply involved in looking into the cattle mutilations, UFOs, and other Fortean/paranormal mysteries.
It was my original intention to post this article along with my hoped for personal interview with David Perkins, but sadly now that is no longer possible, so with no further delay I give you David’s final words on Gary Massey:
Over the last few days since Gary's death, I have fielded a steady stream of phone calls and emails from Gary's friends wanting to know "what happened?" Almost invariably people have described their response to Gary's passing as "shocked," stunned" and "in a total state of disbelief." I share your sentiments. I still feel like I've been kicked in the stomach by a large ornery mule.
To answer your questions and set the record straight, I undertook the grim task of trying to ascertain the facts behind our dear friend Gary's flaming demise. Some people suspected foul play. Others only knew that the local newspaper, The News-Telegram, had run a terse (and misleading) obituary stating: " Gary Massey, 61, of Sulphur Springs, passed away Tues. Sept. 7, 2010, at his residence." My inquiries into the matter have led me to the inescapable conclusion that Gary's death was a well-orchestrated suicide.
I base this conclusion primarily on my own personal knowledge of Gary's "situation" and state of mind gleaned from our 30+ year friendship and several lengthy conversations with two of Gary's closest friends in Sulphur Springs,Texas; Sherry Taylor and "Bo" Bohannon. Many of you will remember Sherry from the times when she did able duty as the bartender at Gary's infamous Lone Star Bar at the Ozark UFO Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I've never met Bo, but I know that Gary held her in the highest esteem. Bo seems to fill the bill as a brassy Texas singer/guitar player. Gary had played bass in various musical ensembles with Bo over the last few years. In the recent past, Bo had evolved into Gary's closest and most trusted friend in his hometown. She described him as "like a brother" and "a member of her family." Sherry has had an on-again, off-again romantic relationship with Gary for several years. She had not seen him for the last year or so.
My eternal gratitude goes to Bo Bohannon for enduring my endless pestering about the smallest details of Gary's final days. She seemed to be determined that the local cover-up of Gary's death not be allowed to stand. From my visits to Sulphur Springs, I knew that the Masseys were a prominent and well-respected family in the area. Gary's elderly mother, Robbie, is still alive in a nursing home enduring the final ravages of Alzheimer's/dementia. The decision was made not to try to inform her of Gary's death. Gary's father, J.L., is deceased. The Massey family's financial interests included dairy farms, real estate and rental properties. According to J.L.'s wishes, upon his death, control of the family's resources was turned over to Gary's "responsible" younger brother, Brad. The two brothers had a prickly relationship, with Brad "doling out" money to Gary in small increments because of Gary's supposed profligacy. Gary's job was to do routine maintenance work on the family's rental properties and to collect rent from tenants. Although Gary didn't care to discuss it much, it seems likely that his father's vote of "no confidence" set the back-drop for unresolved self-esteem issues in Gary's life. Although I would like to avoid any post-mortem pop psychology
evaluations, it's impossible not to recognize some of the major factors which may have contributed to Gary's deadly state of mind.
As both Sherry and Bo correctly predicted, there was no news story in the local paper other than the insipid obituary. There was no mention of Gary's house which burned to the ground and no mention of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. In a small, teetotaling Christian Texas town, suicide is a family stigma, an indication of defective genes and moral turpitude. The obituary stated that "a private family burial will take place at a later date." This, of course, would give Gary's reprobate friends no opportunity to gather and pay their respects and discuss what really happened. There would be no chance for "closure." By the way, closure is a term equally loathed by Mafia families and hard-core Texans as unmanly.
According to Bo Bohannon, here's how the last three days of Gary's life unfolded. On Sunday evening Sept. 5th, Gary arrived at Bo and her mother's house in his truck somewhere around 6 PM for his usual Sunday night dinner with Bo and her 93 year-old mother, Grace. He ate dinner with the Bohannons once or twice a week. The irrepressible mother (she still drives) loved to cook and on this night she had prepared a large "supper" of pork chops, black-eyed peas and cornbread. Bo remembers that Gary had a good appetite and "ate a lot." Typically Gary would bring a couple of beers with him for his dinner visits. On this occasion he brought three Keystone beers and drank two during the course of his six-hour visit. The third beer was left in the refrigerator. Bo said Gary did not seem agitated, depressed or impaired in any way during the evening. As usual, Gary and Grace retired to watch TV after dinner. Bo alternated between watching TV with them and working at her computer. Gary and Grace liked to watch The History Channel or CSI-type crime shows. Gary was always interested in watching the news, especially the weather report.
Quite the odd couple, Gary and Grace were "very fond of each other." During the times that Bo was unavailable or out of town, Gary would drop by and do chores for Grace. He would take out the garbage, clean the cat box and feed the bird. When Grace tried to feed the bird it would bite her hand. It bit Gary's hand too "but he didn't seem to mind." Gary had his own key to the house because Grace couldn't always hear the door when he came by to check on her. Gary once told me that he called his own mother every day until she was "too far gone" and didn't understand who was calling.
At about 12:30 AM, Gary said goodnight to Bo and Grace. A few minutes later he came back in and asked Bo if she would hold a flashlight while he tried to repair a taillight on his truck. As he tried to fix the light, Bo noticed that Gary's hands were shaking quite visibly. She thought he was just tired and frustrated with the job. Assuming that the bulb had burned out, Bo offered to drive Gary to one of the all-night places where he might find a replacement. Gary declined her offer saying that he thought that the problem was with the wiring. It was a task to be tackled in the daylight. He asked Bo to give him a ride home. He was very concerned that he'd be stopped by the police for the broken taillight and he'd be cited for a DUI. Bo said that it was unlikely that he would be considered intoxicated after drinking two beers in six hours. Gary said he didn't want to take the chance. During the short ride to Gary's house, they mostly talked about the large number of cops on the interstate at that time of night. Bo dropped him off at his house at about 1 AM. Gary said: "Thanks for the ride. I'll see you tomorrow."
The next morning (Monday) Bo Heard nothing from Gary. She finally decided to call him between 3:30 and 4 PM. They chatted briefly, with each one saying that they "didn't sleep a wink" the previous night. They both thought it was "weird" and Gary thought it might have something to do with the weather changing. Gary said that since it was getting later in the day, he'd rather put off dealing with the taillight until Tuesday. He thought he might have to take the truck to a mechanic to have it fixed properly. Bo thought nothing of the delay. She called Gary "the master procrastinator."
The following day, Tuesday September 7th, Bo called Gary a little before 1 PM and asked what he wanted to do about the truck. Gary said: "I've got a few things to do. Let me call you back in an hour. When she didn't hear back from Gary in a hour, Bo called Gary again at a little after 2 PM. This time he said: "I've still got a couple of things I've got to do. Give me 15 minutes... I'll call you back."
At exactly 2:22 PM, according to her caller I.D. Gary called Bo. This time Bo detected an odd tone of voice. Gary told Bo: "I hope I didn't ruin your day. I probably will. I know you've got a rehearsal tonight. The book I borrowed from you is in my mailbox. The keys to my truck are in there too in case you need to move the truck. I've got to go. It's time for me to go." By this time Bo was becoming increasingly alarmed. She said: "Go where? Who's there? Is there somebody there? What do you mean it's time for you to go? " Gary didn't answer her. Bo continued on: “Gary, what the fuck are you talking about?" There was a moment of silence: "Bo, you know what I'm talking about. I just want you to know I love you and I'm sorry. It's time for me to go now." Gary hung up.
Bo sat in total bewilderment for a few seconds and then called Gary's number. Instead of getting the usual generic answering machine message, she got an endless busy signal. She figured that Gary had pulled the phone out of the wall. Fearing the worst, Bo called the Police Department at 2:27 PM and expressed her concern for Gary's well-being. After being routed to a 911 number she was told by the operator that both the Sheriff's Department and the Fire Department "were out on a major fire." Bo felt her heart sink. She jumped in her truck and, according to her calculations was on the interstate at 2:39 PM. After about a mile on the interstate, she could see smoke rising on the horizon in the vicinity of Gary's house. Driving at 80 mph she arrived at Gary's house at 2:45 PM.
As she pulled into Gary's driveway, to her horror, she saw the Sheriff's deputies and the firemen "mostly just standing around" and watching the dying flames of the nearly consumed house. Bo said her mind "went into a vacuum" but she does remember thinking: "Gary, I can't believe you did this. I just cannot believe you did this."
After giving the matter much thought, Bo has concluded that Gary had doused the house with gasoline and the place was already on fire when he hung up on her. How else could the police and firemen already be on their way to the fire within a couple of minutes of Gary's hanging up? Bo further surmises that Gary shot himself with his prized .38 revolver as the house turned into a fiery inferno. Bo adds: "Gary had this thing timed perfectly so I couldn't do anything about it. Nobody could do anything about it. He knew exactly what was going to happen." According to Bo, a source close to the mortician who dealt with Gary's remains "let it slip" that indeed, Gary had died from a gunshot wound. The source later said he wasn't sure about that.
Several people have asked about the fate of Gary's beloved dogs, Black Jack, Little Bit and Slow Joe. Nobody has an answer to this question. According to Bo: "Knowing Gary, I have a hunch that he shot the dogs before he shot himself." Perhaps that was what he meant when he said "I've got some things I've got to do" in that hour before his final phone call. Bo said she was going to go looking for their graves in the woods near his house. The old boy Slow Joe probably should have been mercifully put down some time ago. He was so feeble he could hardly move and had lost control of his bowel functions. Perhaps according to Gary's logic, the dogs would not have been well-treated after he was gone and most likely would have been euthanized anyway.
We should take note of a few things here. Ever the considerate gentleman, Gary's last few words were spent apologizing to Bo for the inconvenience he was causing her. Also, he wasn't assigning any blame for his condition. He wasn't saying "Goodbye cruel world, I've been treated so badly." He was simply saying "It's my time. I'm done."
In his other final act of consideration, Gary took the time to put Bo's book in his mailbox rather than letting it be destroyed. As Bo said: "Gary knew how I was about people returning my books." Even in his final living moments, Gary was more concerned with the needs and concerns of others than his own needs.
As for the returned book, Gallowglass, by Barbara Vine, from what I can gather, it is a mystery thriller with mythological overtones. Billed as a novel of "obsession and betrayal," the inside cover blurb reads: "In and out of the hospital for depression, Joe was about to throw himself in front of a commuter train ..." etc. Gary had read just about every book in Bo's library, many of them twice. Bo combed the book three times looking for a note or underlinings... nothing. Bo told me she still had a book that Gary loaned her, a heavily worn and annotated copy of William Bramley's The Gods of Eden. As many of you might recall, Bramley's thesis was that the "mass insanity" of the human species was due to alien visitors who have "conspired to dominate the human species since the beginning of time."
Although the idea that space aliens are causing mass insanity, abducting humans by the scores and mutilating cattle is far from certain in my mind, I do know that during the last couple of years Gary has been a "hurtin' puppy," as someone described him. Bo provided some distressing details about his recent living conditions. I had not visited him since he moved to his "new" house a couple of years ago. Bo described it as a "stinking hovel" and Gary himself had told me it was a "shithole." His belongings were stacked floor to ceiling, covering just about every square inch of usable space. He was embarrassed to let anyone in the door, Sherry said. She also added that the roof leaked badly. Gary's temporary solution was to cover the roof with tarps which quickly disintegrated in the Texas sun and/or blew away. The materials to fix the roof had been sitting on a trailer in Gary's yard for months.
I knew Gary had a leaky roof, but I did not know that he had been living without running water for “quite a long time." Bo said she had offered several times to help Gary fix the problem but his answer was invariably: "I don't feel like doing it now. We'll do it another time." His version of a toilet was digging a hole in the woods. Apparently, there were no dishes to wash because all Bo ever saw him eat at home was pizza. "He'd buy a couple of Little Caesar's $5.00 pizzas and make them last for several days," she told me. The Massey family had kept Mrs. Massey's former apartment functioning and Gary would go there every once in a while to wash a few clothes and take a shower.
Perpetually broke for the last five years or so, Gary would ask his friends to save their aluminum cans for him. When he had a load, he'd cash them in and use the proceeds for his gas money. As Bo charming put it: "Bless his heart, the dumb son of a bitch would spend three cents to make two." When Bo returned home after her horrific afternoon, she noticed that the camper shell on Gary's truck was full of bags of cans. She remembers thinking that Gary's bass guitar might be under the bags but she "didn't have the stomach" to go through the truck. The police showed up the next day and she gave them the keys to the truck, which they towed away. The cops asked Bo if she thought Gary was "on drugs." Bo responded: "Not that I was aware of." She told me that "Gary was too poor to be on drugs." The guitar is still missing in action.
A few other details of interest... Gary had not actually played or rehearsed with Bo's band, Blue in the Face, for about a year and a half. When asked about his personal appearance, Bo said that he had stopped shaving his head. What hair he had left was two to three inches long. Gary had let his neatly trimmed beard grow out and had only recently cut the long beard so it was a little more even. Bo also noted that "Gary needed to see a dentist." I asked Bo if Gary had said anything or showed any signs of unusual depression over the last few months. She said that sometimes when he was a little down he would talk about his extreme poverty and poor living conditions. On more than one occasion he said: "Sometimes I think the best thing I can do is check out." Bo thought this was Gary's attempt at black humor. She didn't think much about it at the time.
The last time I visited Gary in Texas, he was living in his house in the country south of town. He was in good spirits. We amused ourselves by drinking beer and staying up until the crack of dawn laughing and writing silly songs. The day would begin with one of Gary's elaborate breakfasts which took about three (agonizing) hours to prepare. It was always worth the wait. He was an excellent cook. Sherry told me that one time she dropped in on Gary to find him sitting on the couch stark naked (wearing only his cowboy hat), sipping a scotch and reading the latest copy of Martha Stewart Living magazine. "I was just looking for some new recipes," he explained. When I visited, the house was reasonably tidy. At least he knew where everything was, more or less. The kitchen and bathroom were clean and the bedding in the guest room was fresh. I quickly got used to the sounds of the trains roaring by night and day and the clanking and hissing of the gas well on the lot next door.
About six years ago, Gary called me to tell me that his property had been condemned or appropriated or whatever the energy companies in Texas do when they want your land. He had no choice but to sign a contract with a coal company who planned to strip mine the area. Gary received $87,000 and was given a year or so to get out of his house before it was bulldozed. About the time the strip-mining operation started, Gary's favorite dog Pepper disappeared. He figured she'd been eaten by coyotes. He was heartbroken. Somehow, he managed to stay in the house for four years, while the coal company strip mined around him. The plan was to have the house moved to another one of the Massey properties. Gary went through the 87K rather quickly and lost the financial ability to move the house. His world was turned upside down. As Bo told me: "Gary was pretty set in his ways. He didn't tolerate change very well."
With his big-hearted, generous nature and 87K in his pocket, Gary was quickly a target for several of his more needy "friends." Sherry told me that one such lady friend "embezzled" $16,000 from him after deviously obtaining access to his credit cards and bank account. It seemed that Gary was a soft touch for anybody that came along with a hard luck story. He wanted to believe the best about people and would give anyone the benefit of the doubt. When he was flush, Gary wanted his friends to have a good time. I remember him picking up the tab for several lavish dinners for large groups of his friends at the Eureka Springs conferences.
Although several people offered to help him move, Gary only wanted help from people who owed him money. One such friend, Oliver, the piano player in Bo's band, recalls moving Gary's TV set and antenna. Oliver offered several times to help Gary mount the antenna so he could watch TV. As usual, Gary would reply: "I don't feel like doing it now. Maybe another time." Gary loved his TV. When I was there he had a satellite dish. He liked to watch sports, current events shows and, of course, any programs having to do with the paranormal.
It almost seems that, by unpacking his belongings at the new site, fixing the roof, repairing the plumbing or getting the TV working, Gary was committing himself to being at that "stinking hovel" forever. He could not accept that reality. He hated the place. It makes sense that he would want to burn it to the ground as a final gesture.
Back in the early 1990s when Gary had another large chunk of change in his pocket, he bought a piece of property in Crestone, Colorado. He hired a friend to build him a house there. The project was a money hole which Gary attempted to supervise from Texas. He ran out of money before the house was finished and had to abandon the project. I believe he sold the land and half-finished house to the builder at a substantial loss. It was his plan to move to his Colorado dream house after his parents died.
I first met Gary and his partner Tom Adams in the mid-1970s in Colorado. They were a dynamic investigative duo, hot on the trail of the elusive cattle mutilators. The three of us quickly formed a close bond. Over the next several years we spent endless hours traveling together in Gary's big van "Thang", investigating mutilation cases, attending conferences and scanning the skies from my mountain top home in Colorado. We were the Three Musketeers of "mutology", although at times, we seemed a bit more like the Three Stooges.
When Tom Adams inexplicably retired from ufology in the late 1990s and cut off contact with Gary and the research community, Gary was crushed. Tom n' Gary had been a single entity for years. Gary did a lot of soul-searching, thinking he had done something wrong to lose Tom's friendship. The issue remained unresolved until the day Gary died.
What may have broken this camel's back, the final indignity in Gary's recent reversal of fortune, may have been his removal as proprietor of the hospitality suite at the Ozark UFO Conference. As researcher Andy Abercrombie said in an email: "I know his heart was broken by not being allowed to run 'his' establishment [The Lone Star Bar] and I strongly feel that the harsh and unjust treatment he received from the conference's new 'Committee' did nothing to improve his mental health... so much of him was tied up in that venue, his personal self-esteem and the annual re-connecting with his many friends."
Not only was Gary unceremoniously dumped after almost 20 years as the Lone Star proprietor, but his character was besmirched in the process. As Gary told me at the time: "All the stuff about me laying around drunk all the time and the fights and police and the rowdiness at the Lone Star, that is just not true." With Gary at the helm, the Lone Star reached legendary proportions. In recent years, Gary and I began trucking musical equipment to Arkansas to establish a musical venue and add another dimension to the Lone Star experience. Our little house band, The Rockin' Scientists, consisted of me, Gary, Stephen Martin and David Murphy. Good times.
As researcher Nancy Talbott summed up the Lone Star: "I am so grateful that I got to meet you guys and become part of the Lone Star fun. I know I'm not as smart, or as educated or as incredibly entertaining as any of you... and I'm not sure I hauled my weight in this fabulous situation, that I contributed in anything like a really equal manner. But I loved every moment with my whole heart - everything about it, absolutely everything. Not too many things in life you can feel this way about. I hope Gary knows (and you too) how many other people must certainly feel this way and will remember him always in this context."
Gary's true talent was making sure everybody had a good time. The Lone Star was a place where you could let your hair down, relax and enjoy the companionship of friends and colleagues from all over the world. It was where the real information got conveyed. The 20 years of yeoman service provided by Lou Farish in putting together a first-class conference, combined with the liveliness of Gary's Lone Star made for a remarkable synergy. It was definitely the most fun, interesting and informative conference I've ever been to and I've been to a lot of conferences. The group that took over the conference after Lou Farish retired obviously didn't see it that way and Gary was kicked to the curb.
Considering all the circumstances I've outlined here, I think it would be grossly inaccurate to attribute Gary's profound depression to any one factor. Several people have asked me if Gary had any kind of medical problems. If he did, he didn't tell me. He was generally way too proud and stoic to lay his problems on anybody else. Both Bo and Sherry said that he hadn't been to a doctor in at least 20 years. Perhaps the shaking hands were a symptom of some oncoming disease. Maybe he had developed other serious symptoms which indicated to him that it would be all downhill from here. It was not his style to just fade away. There would be no nursing home in his future.
Gary's stamina, especially when it came to having a good time, was herculean. He was incorrigible and seemed downright indestructible. I always had the feeling that if I hit him over his big bald head with a frying pan, he would just stand there and say: "Now why did you do that?" He never wanted the party to end and insisted on always being the last person standing.
Gary was fond of a quaint Texas custom called "calf rope." In any kind of contest, when the loser realizes he has been beaten, he had to yell "calf rope." It means "You win, I give up, I surrender." As Gary explained it, whoever had to yell "calf rope" is not ready for the big rodeo and is relegated to roping calves with the children. On many, many a night as I stood up to go to bed, Gary would say " OK... say it. Let me hear you say it." I would feebly croak "calf rope" and wander off. I never won that game once.
Well Gary, You just pulled the most dramatic and spectacular "calf rope" I've ever seen. I guess I win this one but I must say, it gives me absolutely no satisfaction. I don't think you'll be disqualified from The Big Rodeo. In the end, Gary was the only one who could bring down Gary. He lived life on his terms and, goddamit, he was gonna die on his terms.
Lest anybody has the impression that Gary wasn't a "serious" researcher, I say you're wrong. He was just as dedicated to finding the answers that we all seek as anyone. He had an agile mind and could frequently argue my side of any debate better than I could. It seemed to me that he did his basic homework on UFOs and the paranormal about 40 years ago. His tentative conclusion at that point was that these phenomena had been around at least since the beginning of recorded history. If humans hadn't figured them out by now, the chances were slim that we ever would. What was the point of being serious? If we were compelled to keep searching for answers, we might as well have a good time doing it. "Who knows, we might get lucky. Even a blind hog finds an acorn every once in a while," he would say in his best good ol' boy Texas drawl.
Gary could sniff out pretense, hypocrisy and faulty logic a mile away and was only too happy to prick those hot air balloons if they got anywhere near him. I loved his appreciation of the absurd, his jaundiced eye for the human condition and most of all, his wicked, wicked sense of humor.
With Gary, it was always "just a little bit more than the law will allow" as Waylon Jennings once described the good ol' boys. Gary was a real wild child, a singular individual, a category of one. He could never quite find a "fit" for his unique being. He blazed brightly for as long as he could before the small towns, small minds and various peckerwoods in his life were finally able to extinguish the last sparks of his rambunctious exuberance.
To me, the world will be a little less colorful, a little less vivid and a lot less interesting with Gary not in it. I know he left us all with so many fond memories that we will cherish forever. I doubt that he would want to hear this kind of maudlin schmaltz, especially coming from me.
What I do know is that I've never had a more valued, trusted and loyal friend than Gary Massey.
Thanks for all the good times, Bubba.