Friday, March 13, 2009

Return to Newfield

The Newfield and Ithaca, NY areas played a major role in one of my earliest blog entries. You may recall that, as a teenage UFO researcher in the mid-sixties, I not only became aware of alleged UFO activity in those areas, but was also contacted by and remained in touch with an Air Force intelligence officer who came to town and maintained (in my opinion) a peculiar interest in both the sightings and some apparently dishonest civilian "investigators." Things became even stranger when representatives of the Colorado University UFO study apparently snuck into town, hoping, unsuccessfully it seems, to stay out of the publicity spotlight. When all was said and done, I was left with few answers and enduring confusion.

In the years since, from time to time I learned of other Newfield/Ithaca mid-sixties UFO activity, and I know there are other stories out there yet to be told, though most will never surface merely because of time's passage. I don't know what to think, previously or now.
A few days ago, however, I received a very interesting personal account of some unusual occurrences involving a man named Mark, who was then a teenager in 1960s/1970s Newfield, and he kindly allows me now to share his experiences with you below. If UFO events are involved here, the experiences seem almost peripheral to everything else -- nevertheless, as we have seen time and again, the literature is not unfamiliar with accounts of UFO sightings which seem related to other phenomena. What does it all mean? Again, I don't know. As the title of a song by The Moody Blues suggested years ago, "Isn't Life Strange?" Mark's account (I seem to hear from a lot of people named Mark. . .), intact except for a minor edit I made here and there, is as follows, and I thank him profoundly for sharing a little more of Newfield's strange history with us than we previously knew:

"I was born in 1963 in Ithaca, NY. My father was VP for a large national insurance company, and was a retired restaurateur who operated several Home Dairy Co Cafeterias in Rochester and Olean, NY in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. My mother was a cook and bookkeeper for the family restaurant during those years and was a homemaker when I was born. We lived on Ridgecrest Road in Ithaca when I was born. At six months of age my parents, my sister Pam and sister Susan and my brother Bob moved into a new home at 1005 Hector Street with my mother’s mother, Mama Ruthie. This house was, according to my sisters, 'haunted,' and my father believed that a construction worker was either badly injured or died at the site when the house was being built, but I never researched his claim – although Dad did know the contractor, so there must be a grain of truth in that story (Dad was pretty much pragmatic in his views).

"We lived there from 1963 until 1968, when my father lost his construction business investments and we lost our home. My folks purchased a large old farmhouse on Route 13 (3087 Elmira Road), close to the Tompkins County line in Ponie Hollow, a hamlet of Newfield, NY. My sisters, in the meantime, had married and moved out on their own by 1967. My brother was 10 years older then myself – he and my grandmother and parents moved into the old farmhouse in the early spring of 1968.

"My first experience with the 'unusual,' that I can remember, was at a very young age, about four or five years old. I could 'hear' what others were going to say before they spoke and would tell them; it was like a game to me, I thought it was fun. My mother was not sure what to make of it and my father said others were just playing along…in preschool I was teased because I made other kids cry – not intending to, it really upset me and I thought I was doing something wrong, so I kept these 'incidents' to myself. I also could see 'things' that others could not see, and used vocabulary I was unfamiliar with, and thought it was 'funny' – as I don’t think I understood what was going on. And I still am not certain I ever will.

"There were photos taken at Christmas in the mid-60s where there are colored streamers all over the photos of me, and they appeared on the negatives as well, although others taken at the same time were fine…my mother has looked for these for years and cannot find them… as of yet – but I am certain they are among her things. When we moved into our home in Newfield I thought it was 'noisy' and I kept seeing people that appeared like hazy images, and they talked to me, but their mouths never moved. I learned things from them, like in the barn a man died and he did not like kids, so I should not go in there alone. Also would tell me things like when my mom would pull up to the house, etc. I don’t recall now what these spirits or ghosts were saying, and I don’t think I fully understood at the time it was occurring, either – I just knew these things and associated them with the images I’d see. My grandmother would later tell me that she would 'test' me and tell me things from her childhood and mix the story up, and I would tell her that it didn’t happen that way, and would tell her in detail what happened.

"She said she had a great aunt, Auntie Shelton, who was a wealthy secretary who worked for some time for the senior J.P. Morgan in NY City and lived on Madison Avenue for years. She was a collector of ancient and antique objects, and was very interested in metaphysics – she would read tea leaves and read cards for Wall Street business contacts for the Morgan firm, and for the senior Morgan himself. She told me that intuitiveness ran in the family, and that I was special.

"She was always very supportive of me, and was also my first piano teacher when I was six years old. At the age of four I began to play piano, and by the age of six I was picking out pieces by ear. By twelve I was playing by memory and also by ear…I would 'compose' most of the music all of the time…I heard it in my head – like a radio, but in perfect pitch, and not like regular 'music,' but much more beautiful, like many choirs composed of beautiful sounds; I still have this ability and play regularly.

"The most significant instance was a 'dream' I had, more like a vision…I viewed myself and my family traveling to NY City to see my sister Susan, and her family, about 1972, and I saw us leaving on a sunny morning, and that a storm would come out of nowhere, and the rain would force Dad to get off the Thruway and we would go to a gas station and then drive down an alley where he would park, near a restaurant that backed onto the alley, and there would be a large woman behind a long bar as we entered the restaurant, and she’d be the only one in the place when we got there. I later told my mother in detail…she listened and told me to forget about it and go play. According to her, it was later that summer we took a trip to NY City to see my sister and family, and this vision I had occurred in detail exactly like I had described…I also narrated what would happen along the way, to my father’s dislike…it made him very uneasy…this was only one of many instances I experienced as a child and young boy.

"I loved to hike in the local woods and explore the two local creeks, one was a gorge behind our home…and also liked to explore around the old foundations of homes that were long ago abandoned in the 1800s…I collected old bottles and artifacts like arrowheads…animals such as deer and rabbits, and squirrels and once a raccoon, and birds as well, would come to me and let me pet them or touch them…I loved the outdoors more then anything. I also would see the 'tree people' as I called them. They were tall human-like figures that were like shadows and blended into the trees and foliage as I walked in the forest, I knew they were not harmful, and sort of watched over the forest and animals…and me. There were other nature 'spirits' that I familiarized myself with.

"In about 1969 or 1970 my father would invite friends from church and work out to the house to watch the evening and night 'lights' in the sky…these small brilliant lights usually began with one light in the sky, and then two to three would appear and were a bright white or sometimes were orange/red in color…he could not explain it, and neighbors just ignored it mostly…he never could figure that out, but said most were probably not educated in flight or flying, and that he was once a pilot for the Army Air Force in WWII and then for Curtis-Wright as a test pilot following the war. He had friends out to see these lights to try to figure them out. No one ever did.

"Then one evening my brother and I were in the driveway, I was riding my bike and had stopped to see what he was looking at over the hill in front of our home…then all of the sudden this ball of light came toward us very rapidly He later said he thought it was a ball of lightning, but as it came overhead it slowed down nearly to a stop and there was no heat, or sound – but it left over our heads so fast we did not see until it was over the back hill – instantly over the back hill (in the back of the house), and it grew in brightness and size and disappeared over the hill…near one of the old foundations I used to explore.
"My brother was more shaken then myself, and went and got my father’s .22 rifle and we hiked up the hill in the middle of the night, but we did not see or hear anything unusual, other then darkness and a quietness that seemed to fill the woods; we did not venture into the valley between the hills where a creek ran beyond the old dirt road.

"Many times we heard strange sounds at night on the roof, and one night we heard what sounded like our cat - at first - walking on the old tin roof over the kitchen. We were in my brother’s bedroom which had two windows that faced the back yard and hill, and was above the tin roof. It got so loud it scared us, and my brother went to the window to see, and there was nothing there…we could not account for the loud and menacing thuds on the roof… we would also see lights in the field behind the house at night, like search lights from the sky, but they appeared out of nowhere…this was all before 1973.
"Then, about 1975, when I was 12, I would drive my mother’s old Plymouth around the perimeter of the back field – to the consternation of the farmer who owned it. One late evening, about a half-hour after dark in the summer, the car stalled in the very back of the field at the foot of the middle hill (as we called it)…I could not start the car, and was afraid my dad would get mad at me for driving the car past dark…I remember like yesterday – in between cranks, I noticed that it was dead silent outside, and that was something I had seldom experienced before that. I looked up through the windshield, and could see what looked like a bunch of small lights in the night sky…I opened the door and got out and looked up and it took and minute to focus, and then I saw the outline of a huge aircraft of some kind, it was slightly lighter then the night sky, but was dark and had a shimmer to it, and literally took up the entire sky over me and the hill as far as I could see…there were all these lights of different sizes and colors inside this thing, and I could make out images, but they were very shadow-like, and then I started feeling a tingling feeling, like goose-bumps all over myself…then my hair felt like it was standing on end…I ran home as fast as I could…and kept saying to myself in silence, 'I want to go home, please let me get home…'

"I ran into the house and grabbed my mom and got her to go outside, onto the back porch …it was gone, but she remarked about the silence and stillness in the air, and just about the same time she said the fields came alive with the sound of crickets and then a wind came up and then died down fairly quick…she walked out to the car with me and it started right up…she rode home with me…I never drove the car around the perimeter after that.

"My father took a position in Los Angeles in the late spring of 1977, and called home to tell my mother that she was to put the house up for sale, and pack up…we had to be in Los Angeles by September. My father flew home in late August to sign the papers for the 'new' owners – the descendent of the man who built the house about 1830 was the fellow who bought the place. The house had an artesian spring that ran through the basement from the side of one of the stone walls down to the floor and across about ½ the floor to a hole in the floor that was no larger than a half-dollar…my father had a friend from Cornell come and look at it in about 1969 or 1970 and he said it was nothing to be worried about as far as stability, especially since the house had been there for so long…but he ascertained it was about 40-50 feet deep and then opened up to a large underground aquifer of some kind.

"We had many experiences in that house with cupboards being emptied of contents at night. Usually our folks blamed it on us as playing a joke…not so. And only once did we hear noise coming from the kitchen while we were upstairs – we could hear and see through the register in the floor, so we looked down to see if we could see anything, but couldn’t -- and by the time we got downstairs all the cupboards had their doors opened, even the ones down low.

"After Dad finalized the sale, he was talking to our neighbor, an elderly man about 75 who was like a grandpa to me for many years. He told Dad that his uncle or great-uncle had been killed in the barn…the story went something like…the fellow was in the hayloft and had sent down the rope with the hay hook and his brother downstairs yelled to take it up and the hook slipped and went right through his neck and into his head and killed him…he died in the barn…as a kid he hated to go into the barn as everyone thought it was haunted! I was so surprised, as this old man never told me anything about the barn, just that he was not too fond of it…that was all he ever said to me…and I never told anyone about my experience regarding the barn years before, and my general dislike of the place.

"Years ago, after we moved to California, my mother gave me a magazine – I have it someplace -- that reports on a sighting or crash near where we lived in Newfield, and the local “witch,” 'Pud' was her name, apparently had an experience with the incident…my mother kept it because they knew her from before the time when I was born, and according to Mother, 'Pud' left her husband and family and moved to the country and ran a tavern which I think was called the Seabring Inn at the time…my folks knew her before the divorce, etc. 'Pud' even wrote columns for the Newfield News for a time in the 1970s – I remember seeing them, as my mom would read them, usually they were about gardening and such things.

"California was a culture shock to a 14-year-old, but I adjusted…and pursued my music and artistic interests, as well as receiving a bachelor of science degree eventually. I am now retired and live with my wife, who is a nurse and instructor at a local college, and three of our five children, my elderly mother -- and my sister, Pam who lost her husband last January – five cats, two dogs, two birds, a snake called Hiss and a gecko! I am currently working on a book project and composing music for the piano, and doing some local performances/benefits. I collect books and have restored two collector cars from the 1950s."

Friday, March 6, 2009

"Here's A Strange"

Famed radio commentator Paul Harvey died a few days ago at age 90. I'm not sure it would have been a surprise, had he signed off earlier at age 80, 70, 50 or 32 1/2. Did the late Coral Lorenzen not warn me after her husband Jim's death that when a spouse dies the other often follows soon thereafter (as did she)? Harvey's wife passed on last year, so Coral's advice waxed impeccable.
Paul Harvey turned out his folksy radio news shtick for decades. Those daily nationally broadcast sessions offered his faithful audience a thumbnail of current events, from the serious to the silly. Some of his material exuded the odor of absurd tabloid stuff, probably intended to keep us listening, while other items were obviously reported solely because he wished to add his personal editorial comments. Harvey transported to our current day the voice and inflections of radio's golden era, a time never to be heard again, served up with a cacophony of bad news, good news, funny news and just news news. One thinks of Walter Winchell and Jimmy Fiddler and Hedda Hopper and a bevy of other radio voices preceding them whose familiar talents built the radio broadcast industry word by word, tear by tear, laugh by laugh.
Yes, Harvey also pitched some questionables over the years, and his familiar commercials for eyesight enhancements and health supplements irritated some in the medical field (for instance, Dr. Dean Edell, "America's doctor" of the radio, who occasionally refers to Paul Harvey sarcastically as "Dr. Harvey"), but hawking such products seems always to have been the norm for national radio broadcasts, especially back in the early days of radio soaps.
I wouldn't be gushing so about Paul Harvey, were it not for his ability to at least report about the weird things, the borderline probability of seemingly wild improbables. One can just imagine the hush settling momentarily over his national audience, every time he turned an adjective into a noun and alerted his listeners of something different with three little words out of place enough to give us a little chill: "Here's a strange."
Often, that "strange" involved a UFO sighting, and long after the radio days of Frank Edwards and Long John Nebel, Paul Harvey remained as a national daytime radio voice to bother with such matters, considered too obscure, crazy or beneath them by other daylight radio hosts with a long reach.
By now, some of you surely believe that the only UFO incident I care about is the alleged Hickson-Parker abduction. This is not true, but the incident does matter in the flow of things. Paul Harvey and his people recognized its importance, too, because soon after Natalie Chambers of the Associated Press revealed to the world a few years ago the names of new witnesses who quite possibly watched the large UFO swoop down where the two men were fishing, Paul Harvey repeated the story.
On a Friday broadcast, he tipped listeners off, inviting them back the next day for his Saturday session, and when Saturday's 15-minute broadcast hit the nation he spent much of it recounting the Hickson-Parker saga, discussing its new former Navy witness who came forward with even more names of those who watched an absolutely bizarre craft cruising low in the sky, descending near the Pascagoula River at the same approximate time as the abduction.
Harvey told the story, plain and direct, conjuring no laugh factor because there was no laugh factor. Like the title of Paul Harvey's other popular national radio show, the Hickson-Parker update was indeed "the rest of the story," and we hope that the additional credibility and attention paper-clipped to Chambers' report by Harvey endures, along with his broadcast legacy.