An "Encounter"?

One of my most recent vivid dream memories is about people standing around my bed on a stormy night in a period of time before I was to have a nervous breakdown I had in 1973. During the time when this "dream" occurred, my parents and the rest of the family were gone virtually all the time. They were certainly not in the house at Batesville, Arkansas very much. My parents were on the road to McAllen, Texas, Mexico, Oklahoma or Missouri, attempting to transact both wholesale and retail deals in all those areas. My late brother Tim generally went with them, to help at the wholesale end, while I stayed home to run what was left of the retail end. At that time Tim was working for other people as well, often doing automobile repairs, a hobby he turned into a part-time job for a time. He'd also gotten married a few months before. He and his new wife, Marcia, had their own home now. He no longer came to the house as frequently as he had before.

My older sister Sue had married some years before and now had her own home, too. My younger sisters Amy and Ann no longer lived there either, having moved to Wynn, Arkansas that summer. Ann got a job there and planned to finish high school by correspondence. Amy started to college at nearby Arkansas State University in Jonesboro that fall.

My dad was pressuring me to find my own job and not work for him in his furniture business anymore. I felt that I wasn't prepared to deal with life very well at that point, and that I didn't have many usable work skills. I was stressed about having to find a new line of work after having worked in retail business and furniture for so many years, with no real experience at anything else. Certainly, this pressure from my dad to get into something else must have been a factor in my subsequent nervous breakdown.

I'd go down to our small plaque and home decor shop and open it for a few hours a day. It was all that was left of the retail end of the business. I made next to no money and even the lighting expense became prohibitive after a time. Since virtually no revenue was coming in from the retail shop, my parents began to consider closing it down and going exclusively into wholesale.

In an effort to get into writing as a new field of work, I'd written published letters to the editor. These criticized the Vietnam war from a fiscal perspective in 1970. I'd pointed outthat the length of the war and the cost of it to other projects required an earlier end than was being projected, and one which could not be a military victory. After having dragged on for so long, such a war could not project an image of real victory for the United States. No one, not even our allies, could really believe we'd won after taking that long to win against such a tiny nation as Vietnam. And the costs of such a non- victorious "victory" were incredibly, prohibitively expensive fiscally by that time.

I'd later given my written support to George McGovern, the ERA and the women's movement in the media. Those letters had been published in Newsweek, the Arkansas Democrat and Arkansas Gazette. But I got hate mail for these published letters and articles. In response, I began to feel paranoid.

Some time during the weeks and months after I had this dream, I began to be oddly obsessed with the opinions of someone. I assumed this to be the people at the magazines I'd subscribed to, since the possibility of publication seemed an "out" for my situation. I kept thinking how "they" were saying or thinking something about me. I couldn't recall who "they" were, or what it was. But I did feel it was important, because they were important. It had involved something which was unintelligible to me being said. I could remember that there was a factor of unintelligibility to the whole situation.

I couldn't put it out of my mind. I wanted to know what "someone,'' some distant, powerful persons whose identity I couldn't readily recall or place, thought about me. I became concerned that there had been events that had occurred that I needed to know about. I wanted to know why such powerful people were so interested in me. I tried to re-analyze articles I'd read in the days and hours leading up to that night, trying to figure out whose opinion it was that I was seeking to know so badly.

It was someone with a midwestern accent. I recall this because I'd come to know a midwestern accent, having become familiar with Gloria Steinem's accent. It had been the accent I'd heard. Strieber has sounded this same theme in his book. The "people" he dealt with had what seemed to be "midwestern accents." Each time I pick up his Communion now, I find material I'd not noticed before. And each time something new clicks.

But at the time, all I recognized was that accent. So I'd thought that the "unintelligible something" might have involved Steinem or her editorial staff's opinions about my work.

Certainly, I'd been valuing their opinions, and editors are powerful people. As I kept trying to recall what position of power I was dealing with, I tried to convince myself I was worried about the opinions of someone who'd merely written something I didn't readily understand--something unintelligible to me.

With all the others in the family gone most of the time, I spent a lot of time alone in that house. At this point, I came to feel uneasy about it. But I couldn't put my finger on why. I became conscious that the house was empty a lot, and to be conscious of the fact that it was on the edge, not the center, of town. That, at night, there was virtually no traffic in the area. That our neighbors, while not invisible, were some distance away. This had never been a problem before. I'd always enjoyed the time alone.

My mother had called the afternoon before my dream from somewhere on the road in Texas. She told me that she, Dad and Tim were enroute to Laredo to transact a wholesale furniture deal. They'd be coming back home by way of Oklahoma, so they'd be gone for a couple of extra days.

A little while after her call, a thunderstorm began to brew up outside. Across from the dining room bar, at the kitchen window, I could see that it was definitely coming up a cloud. It was about ten o'clock when I decided to turn in, setting aside materials about bookkeeping and bookkeeping courses at Draughon's School of Business in Little Rock that I was using in an attempt to be the family business's bookkeeper.

I watched TV in our den or family room, which sat at a lower level than the other rooms of the house. (I'd even helped design the lighting for it, which consisted of two large round fluorescent ceiling lights). I remember watching the ten o'clock news, lying on the couch in the family room and dozing off.

At some point, I must have made the decision to go upstairs to bed. The storm came in, thunder and lightning, or some other sudden sound accompanied by a brilliant flash of light, gradually awakening me. Suddenly, the whole roof of the house above my upstairs bedroom seemed to open up.

I heard someone talking over a radio. There seemed to be something being said about a plane crash. I couldn't determine the location of the radio, or if it were a police radio or an ordinary radio. I tried to raise up, to look out the window to see what all the light was about--if it was a police car. But I couldn't move.

Suddenly, too, the house got very dark. I remember this period of time as a power failure primarily because the house did get so dark. Realizing I couldn't move and that it was totally dark, I tried to cast my eyes around.

I became aware that I wasn't alone, there in that house, in that room. There were eyes looking at me. There was someone standing around my bed. I could feel more than see them. It was a circle of people. I have no recollection of what they looked like, or even of having seen them. I recall only a feeling of stark terror at some point.

At some point, my head was held. At some point, my head was moved. At some point, some type of magnifying device was placed over my face. At some point, my lower body was examined. I could feel small things, small people or beings, milling all around, moving--running--all around my bed. They moved fast, or seemed to. But anyone could have moved faster than I was at that point in time. I was quite paralyzed.

I tried to move, tried to speak, and couldn't. The only other memory I have is that there was a "responsible" party for this group--someone to whom they "reported". At some point, this "authority" drew some kind of a conclusion about me. "His sense of balance is not good," or "his balance is not good." This is the only specific thing that was said that I can recall. This authority figure, possibly, is the only one I saw, yet I have no recollection of having seen him/it at all. I can recall only a feeling of cold, stark terror at being confronted with the existence and presence of this being.

Apparently the presence of these visitors was first signaled to me by the color white, like that of a washing machine.(1) I recall something about hoping that a white object in the corner of my eye was the washing machine. Our house had a utility room that separated the family room/den, from the living room and stairs to my upstairs bedroom. It housed our white washer and dryer. Then--and even now--when seeing such white appliances out of the corner of my eye, I feel a quick, inexplicable start.

I also recall something about whispering, in a situation where no one should have been whispering. This recollection, too, is accompanied by that feeling of spine-chilling terror recalled at a distance. During my breakdown, as I struggled to maintain my sanity, I returned to the hall closet above the hall floor furnace again and again, to see if there might be someone there, whispering. It wasn't that I really thought there was anyone there at that moment: it was more an inexplicable feeling that, somehow, something wasn't right with that closet, that someone had at one time used it to hide. I note that Strieber describes how his visitors often seemed to have already been in the room when he'd entered it, but wouldn't show themselves right away (88).Suddenly, did I see an alien, already in a room, hiding behind a door, and then closing it? Then was there darkness, with the alien moving closer? I confess this idea or image brings an unnerving feeling to me. But a powerful blocking mechanism is preventing me from recalling any details. I have the distinct impression now, however, that "they" were there, in the utility room, or in the hall or the hall closet, that night when I was "visited."

I was to re-experience this "dream," or perhaps a memory of it, when I lived on Markham Street in Little Rock in 1984. At that time, I had recently returned to Little Rock from Houston. I lived in a third (top) floor apartment, and, for a brief period of a few weeks, I was the sole tenant in the old, decrepit building. On two or three mornings there, I awakened recalling having experienced something or someone tiny running all around my bed--almost a repeat of the first dream. Something would seem to be watching me, keeping me from opening my eyes.

One particular night stands out in my memory during that time, when the downstairs main door open and closed with a loud crash three flights of stairs below me, in a building that was empty except for me, there in that top floor room. It was an eerie feeling, wondering if I were going to hear someone come climbing up those stairs--stairs that were supposedly reserved for me alone.

But then, that door, too, had supposedly been reserved for me alone, yet someone had seen fit to ignore the lock, and open and close that door. Perhaps it was the management, but I actually called down the stairs to them, specifically, to answer me, and they didn't. It hadn't been the management. But it was someone who could open locked doors without damaging the locks.

In the weeks after this initial dream, I kept trying to recall the events of that specific night on which I'd had a date with a young woman my sister Amy had introduced me to in the spring prior to her moves to Wynn and Jonesboro. I kept being unable to recall details about that night, yet felt it a crisis that I do so.

I kept trying to pin it down, and I'd focus on one article or another, trying it on to see if that was the thing that was causing this. But nothing really quite fit, and I could never quite get relief. I'd try to make myself believe it was some word or phrase in an article. I'd try to pin it down. But each time I did, the feeling would disappear, a chimera.

Finally, the stress of trying to recall this incident, trying to recall and understand this unintelligible something, became too much for me, on top of trying to land and keep a job and figure out some way to continue with school. I reached a point where I wasn't sleeping at all.

I couldn't understand why. In fact, I came to be about as bewildered by my lack of self-understanding, as by anything else. What was I trying to recall? What was I trying to understand? What was the unintelligible something that I couldn't quite recall? I tried, I obsessed and I didn't sleep. Finally, I broke down and asked for help.

I went to a psychologist for private therapy. He got an M.D. to prescribe me a medication. But I was too far along: I still didn't sleep, the obsessing was too strong.

I could no longer bear to be in my room--a place I'd normally gone to as a source of safety and haven. I could no longer bear to be in a house I'd always run to as a source of refuge. My favorite place had become a hell. Though my patterns were built around it, I could no longer bear to be in it. Whenever I was, I began to obsess, trying to recall and understand that unintelligible, un-rememberable something.

I had to get out and asked to be admitted to the State Hospital. My dad obliged. I signed myself in, in that sunny October of 1973, and underwent three months of therapy, for part of which I went to school. After that, Little Rock became my home.

Seeming correlations between nervous breakdowns and "encounters" raises questions that it might be symptom or cause of emotional disorder. According to psychologist Carl Jung, "archetypes" surface at times of emotional stress, and one could be "flying saucers."(2) Perhaps the human mind is even more mysterious and vast than we'd thought.

According to Jung, the archetypes are a physical manifestation of the electrical aspects of the human emotions. He said that the human emotions can involve that set of inherited, perhaps genetically-based memories that he called archetypes. He also said that the archetypes are common images for virtually all of humanity. If that is, indeed, the case, then we live in a world filled with powerful, hidden undercurrents of yet another order.

1. * According to Dan Wright, in a 1996 article in the MUFON UFO Journal ("Sorting Entities," June 1996, 4), the "most prevalent garment colors [for alien visitors in a recent survey of supposed abductees] . . .were: Black (25 cases), blue (21), grey (25), silver (16) and especially white (42) [of 119 cases]." Wright goes on to note that, in the study he cites, "216 separate cases of alien abduction, involving 766 regressive hypnosis sessions and attendant interviews, were analyzed for commonalities. . . [T]he author purposely tracked 68 (out of 2000+) obscure case factors contained in the project's database. None have received more than scant mention in books, magazines or TV programs, while most have never been printed or aired at all . . .The only parameters for the 68 factors were that it (a) was not at all well-known in UFO-related media, and (b) was repeated in at least four cases, but not so often as to be considered common among the 216 in the project. Actually, only nine of the 68 characteristics were reported in as many as 20 cases, the average being 11.6. There were roughly 19:1 odds, then, that any one factor with that frequency of mention would appear in a given case by chance alone . . . [A] random distribution of the 68 "odd" factors in fantasy-borne accounts would occasionally result in two or more appearing in a particular case by sheer coincidence. But what would be the chance of any two cases having several? To that end, five factors shared by two cases were arbitrarily set as the minimum standard for additional examination. And the result was startling. A total of 33 pairs of cases each contained five identical factors. . . .13 pairs of cases shared six odd factors. Further, those 13 pairs involved just 15 separate cases in total, meaning most of the factors were shared by more than just two.. .

"...[E]ight pairs of cases in the study each have eight of the 68 obscure characteristics in common. [Coincidentally, these eight pairings involved precisely eight separate cases in total.]

"Whatever the precise odds of such a high number of correlations occurring by chance alone, they are certainly astronomical. Statistically, it is far more reasonable to reach a very simple conclusion: Their experiences were real. . .".

2. *According to Mysteries of the Unexplained (227): "Jung suggested that the UFO phenomenon is a manifestation of man's'collective unconscious,' a repository of archetypal images and impressions that surface in symbols, dreams, and myths. . .He pointed out the parallels between the ancient religious symbol he called the mandala--a circular pattern representing"the idea of the universal" --and the round shape of most UFOs. Jung regarded UFOs as a psychological projection of man'shopes and fears in an uncertain world. Thus, he deprived them of physical reality,

"[UFO investigator Jacques] Vallee's ideas are similar to Jung's in many respects; but he differs by accepting the reality of UFOs in the sense that the UFO witnesses have been exposed to a real event. In the February 1978 issue of Fate, he suggests that what they experienced is some sort of change in electromagnetic energy in their immediate vicinity. This change in energy may be produced by the witness himself, internally and spontaneously, or by some external agency. In any case, says Vallee: 'What they [the witnesses] tell us is that they've seen a flying saucer [or had an encounter with aliens]. Now they may have hallucinated it under the influence of microwave radiation, or any of a number of things may have happened. The fact is that the witnesses were exposed to an event and as a result they experienced a highly complex alteration of perception which caused them to describe the object or objects that figure in their testimony.'

"Jung's and Vallee's theories seem supported by an analysis of the stories told by UFO 'abductees'. . . Although their accounts vary greatly in detail, they describe a similar chain of events. . .

"What is truly fascinating is that the same sequence of events is described by hypnotized subjects who have never had the experience of a UFO encounter but have simply been told to imagine one. This in no way denies . . .validity of . . .testimony of the "real" witnesses--rather it suggests. . . the human mind is "programmed" to think in a certain way in response to certain stimuli. Apparently any number of stimuli can produce the particular state of consciousness susceptible to UFO-like experiences. . .[including] a brush with death. . ."

"[T]his suggests. . . some common matrix in the mind that can be triggered to allow paranormal experiences of the kind involving UFOs. To what degree such experiences [are] called 'real' becomes a question of semantics. . .".

There is a skeptical view on UFOs, with high-quality research to back it. Thus, I prefer to write of "encounters," rather than UFOs. The "encounter" experience could be a reality whether UFOs are or not.

See also:

Bryan, C.D. B. Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind. New York: Knopf, 1995. 49-50; 133-9; 142-5, esp. 145; 161-2; 266-76.

Klass, Philip. UFOs Explained. New York: Random, 1975. (e.g., of several texts). Experienced researcher and skeptic, attacks all "classic" UFOs, including the "Trent photos" of 1950 (see, e.g., 178). Tour de force on general UFO skepticism.

Moore, Charles B., Ph.D., Benson Saler and Charles A. Ziegler. UFO Crash at Roswell: The Genesis of a Modern Myth. Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 1997. 13-17; 22-5; 26-9; 44-5; 58-60; 74; 76-89; 78-9, Table 1; 108-14; 170-8; 182 n.3, 4. Professor 's excellent rhetorical and literary analysis of UFOs as cultural myth.

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