John Keel and his pursuit of “Funny Lightning Bolts”
by: Brent Raynes
“I would always ask the police my usual list of peculiar questions. I still do this, and they always act astonished. One of my questions was, ‘Has anyone been killed by lightning here lately?’ This doesn’t happen very often. It happens [only] 800 times a year worldwide. But whenever I asked this to police where they were having a lot of UFO sightings, their mouths would drop and they’d say, ‘My God, how’d you know? Just last week somebody got killed by a lightning bolt.’ It’s a very unusual occurrence. In one town in Ohio, I arrived at the police station just as they were bringing in a body that had been killed by a lightning bolt. This was an odd link. There was something electrical going on in these towns.”
Way back in 1970, I knew Keel had been interested in lightning deaths, but I didn’t know about this being one of his “peculiar questions” asked of police officials in his travels around the country and of how often these lightning deaths were coming up at UFO flap sites that he was investigating. I simply knew that he was interested as back in his non-scheduled newsletter Anomaly (No. 4, July 1970) provided free of charge to fellow investigators and researchers, he wrote of a case I had provided him details. His report, in part, was as follows:
“We continue to receive reports of strange coincidences involving our funny lightning bolts… The latest comes from researcher Brent Raynes… On the afternoon of Wednesday, June 3, 1970, Mr. Earl Whitney was found dead on the grounds of the Augusta, Maine Country Club, apparently the victim of a stray lightning bolt during a thunderstorm that day. According to the Daily Kennebec Journal (Augusta, Maine), ‘said Whitney suffered a cardiac arrest at the time he was hit by lightning.’ His body was found near a clump of trees off the ninth green around 3 p.m.
Mr. Whitney was 52, a WW II veteran and a deputy sheriff. He reported seeing UFOs on a number of occasions in the past.” My friend Jim Carey and I had been questioning Whitney about his alleged encounters. He even claimed that he and a woman back in the fall of 1945, outside an airport in Waterville, Maine, had observed the landing of a craft that resembled two aluminum pie plates attached lip to lip, with a dark band around the center. He said that this was around 11-11:30 p.m., that the UFO had two bright spots lights on the underside, that it landed on four landing legs, remained on the ground for 5-10 minutes, and that afterwards he found impressions on the ground left by the four legs. Years later, Whitney claimed that he and two others, in November 1965, at a Maine fish hatchery, observed a bright white disc-shaped object with a small blue dome-like structure on top, with lights rotating around the center, take off from a field. He claimed that it was silent, moved off and out of sight toward the north. Sighting lasted an estimated 30 minutes. This happened around 4-4:30 p.m.
Keel thought that it was potentially “quite significant” that Mr. Whitney had died on a Wednesday as he had done a statistical study that showed that UFO activity for some reason peaked on Wednesdays. A few years ago, I was visiting online the Florida Lightning Information Center, where I learned that more people die from lightning strikes in Florida than in any other state. I also read this: “Not surprising, most people were killed in the months of May through September. What is quite surprising though, is a majority of people are killed on Wednesday (as compared to other days). Also, the weekends did not show that much of a difference from the rest of the days in the week.”
I once wrote Keel asking what the status was on what had become known as Florida’s “Key West Incident,” a high-strangeness event wherein a teenaged couple claimed that they had been both struck by a powerful and mysterious beam of light that resulted in significant psychological and physiological effects and aftereffects, some of which sounds similar to what is known in metaphysics as kundalini (including dramatic upswings in intelligence). In a letter dated May 27, 1970, Keel replied: “There has been no additional information on the Key West Incident. The investigator, Joseph Ule, had a narrow escape last spring when a bolt of lightning destroyed his study as he was typing a report to me. I haven’t heard from him since.” In a report reprinted in Saucer Scoop magazine (Vol. 4, #3, June 69), from my dear late friend Ramona Clark’s former Caper News, there appeared an article written by Ule on this case entitled “The Force Field In The Sky.” The incident in question happened on the night of Wednesday, January 1, 1969. Together in the front seat of a stationwagon, behind a supermarket, the couple was, according to Ule’s article, “suddenly startled by a hollow, deep, penetrating sound from topside, as though it came through a vast, long tunnel. …This caused them to look up….came down a rain of apparently concentrated hail, slow-moving, small needle-like pieces, which hit a compact area of the windshield, and front portion of the roof of the car….They both started to feel a sense of sudden warmth and the sensation of complete weightlessness as they felt an uncontrollable force tug at their solar plexus and travel upwards through their chests and into their heads to the top of their brains. They could not move. Tingling warm electric shudders and waves coursed throughout their whole bodies and an enormous sense of complete blankness came over them as their eyes were guided upwards without any apparent volition of their own – and riveted upon a brilliant, silver hued object, way out in the immensity of space.”
“They at once clasped hands and felt a ‘deep freeze’ chill, like dry ice, and the inability to let go, just as intensely cold objects will glue to the skin and resist all efforts toward removal without tearing the skin. When this condition vanished, they bolted out of the car, looked all around but neither saw or heard anything.” The male teenager, named Manuel Lopex, claimed that when they first heard the “deep hollow sound,” that he had tried unsuccessfully to start the car, but it refused to go. “An inspection of the stationwagon showed small pittings on the windshield and the front portion of the roof caused by the ‘hail,’” Ule wrote. “Both Manuel’s hands and Kay’s hands showed the effects of their attempt to unclasp their hands. On Manuel’s right thumb tip and Kay’s left thumb, were cuts that bled.” An editor’s note read: We wish to express our appreciation to Pat Parks of the Key West Citizen for her help and cooperation in obtaining this report from Mr. Joseph Ule. The first publication of this unusual happening was written by Pat in her column for the Key West (Fla.) Citizen. Mr. Ule reports to us that on three occasions his neighbors witnessed UFOs over his house. He was asleep at the time.”
Reportedly a middle aged couple came forward and revealed: “We were on Fleming Key at the precise time the paper said this thing occurred. [about 2 ½ miles north of the Food Fair store] We were very startled to see the hazy beam out of space directed to the area where this supermarket is located. The beam was hazy and the source of it was brilliant and it seemed to broaden slightly as it rayed earthwards. Also there were two civilian employees of the Navy with us; they were very perturbed when they saw what we saw and wanted to leave immediately. They did not like this and some of the other things they had observed at night on this lonely and uninhabited big Key. They said they were going to ask the Navy officials to transfer them to another job.” Ule was going to follow-up and interview this couple himself, but it is not known if he did or did not before the lightning episode, which may have terminated his interest in pursuing this investigation any further.
On May 3rd, Mr. Ule did revisit Manuel. “He did not appear too willing to talk and he had a sort of knowing and far away look in his eyes,” Ule noted in a report to John Keel. “He was very restless and something seemed to be crowding him. Upon casually questioning him I discovered that he had done much, much better in school and was especially interested in electronics and math. In fact, his mother had already told me that he had been recommended for a scholarship. He told me he was highly elated about Kay. She had never been more than an E and F student and that now she was receiving A’s and B’s.”
This is another area of inquiry that intrigued Keel: highly gifted children who had undergone strange experiences.
Keel, who had been on the look out for “funny lightning” incidents, would no doubt have enjoyed this odd little tidbit I just found posted on a lightning site online (www.sky-fire.tv/index/cgi/lightning.html/#florida), where a variety of questions people had about lightning were answered.
Do we understand everything about atmospheric electricity? Based on the following story from the truly weird department, apparently not. In 1991, two young girls near Bristol, England were playing frisbee. Suddenly the disk was hurled back at one of the girls by some unseen force. Then both were enveloped in some sort of “yellow bubble.” They received slight electric shocks, were thrown to the ground, and had problems breathing. Eventually they freed themselves from their capture and ran home, quite terrified by their experience.
Hmmm. I wonder if any UFOs were in the neighborhood at that time as well? I wonder if these two girls underwent any significant psychological or physiological changes afterwards? Over the years, I have come across instances where Native Americans were struck by lightning and reportedly underwent dramatic spiritual and psychic changes in their lives. Others have associated being shocked by lightning with the acquisition of psychic ability afterwards as well.