“THE AUTHOR WHO CLAIMED ALL WOMEN ARE ALIENS” and More Freaky True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: Have you ever noticed there seems to be something special going on with railroad tracks and Bigfoot? (Riding The Rails With Bigfoot) *** A man in Oklahoma reports a being on the side of the road that looked human – except it had the head of a snake! And the Native American population have an answer to what it is! (The Oklahoma Snakeman) *** What do you do if you are a woman in the 1800s whose husband was just tossed into prison for graverobbing? Well, if you were anything like Helen Miller neé Begbie, you might decide to continue the family business on your own. (Invasion of The Lasswade Body Snatchers) *** An author seeks out an alien abductee in order to try and get abducted himself! (An Author’s Search For Extraterrestrial Visitors)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“Riding The Rails With Bigfoot” by Loren Coleman for Cryptomundo: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/ywrrahtk
“The Oklahoman Snakeman” posted at Cryptook (link no longer available)
“Invasion of the Lasswade Body Snatchers” by Suzie for DiggingUp1800.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3pfr44xf
(BLOG POST: “Mortstones – Protecting Yourself from the Resurrection Men”: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/9341)
“An Author’s Search For Extraterrestrial Visitors” posted at Anomalien: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/bntxzb5n
(BOOK: “The Magical Universe of William S. Burroughs” by Matthew Levi Stephens: https://amzn.to/2SEYLLD)
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“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46
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STORY: RIDING THE RAILS WITH BIGFOOT==========
There is a rare story, unelaborated, the tidbit of which is currently being investigated by Strange Maine author Michelle Souliere, that tells of the finding of an “apeman” near the railroad tracks at Greenville, Maine, in 1856. It holds the promise of further intrigue.
This item has brought to mind the quite frequent place that railroads fit into such stories.
Have you ever noticed there seems to be something special going on with railroad tracks and Bigfoot?
For anyone who reads the hominological and cryptozoological literature, you will be quite familiar with the notion that railroads keep popping up in sighting accounts. Cases like the Enfield Monster of Illinois, 1973, mention the railroad tracks almost as if they are being used as the avenues of movement for the creature. In the midst of a series of Bigfoot sightings, on January 15, 1980, near Manchester, Iowa, railroad engineer Cyrii O’Brien, who was on a train at the time, saw a strange creature on all fours eating a carcass; weird six-toed tracks were found in the area later.
Rail right-of-ways are natural greenbelts for animals to employ for ease of travel. Is it any wonder that railroads are so often involved?
Railways, of course, have been used as a form of explanation, too. Various threads have been linked to the railroads in Bigfoot stories in the same fashion that the “wrecked circus train myths” were used by early news reporters to explain away unknown mystery cat sightings. Those “circus trains,” needless to say, rode the rail lines.
It will be recalled that during the “white wild man” sightings in British Columbia, in 1922, it was written at the time that “the ‘wild-men’ running at large, more or less, [have been sighted] ever since the advent of the G.T.P., [and were] supposed to have been working on the railroad construction, afterwards squatting on the wild lands abounding in this district, until they in turn become ‘wild’ themselves, according to the remoteness from supplies or from other human companions.”
The stray people became the feral or wild people who became Sasquatch, we are told. The theme has been used before.
One of the most discussed historic Bigfoot-railroad cases, of course, is the Jacko incident.
The story of Jacko – that of a small, apelike, young Sasquatch said to have been captured alive in the 1800s – is a piece of folklore that refuses to die, despite a superb investigative article published in 1975, co-authored by John Green and Sabina W. Sanderson.
The investigation into the Jacko story did not began until decades later. During the 1950s, a news reporter named Brian McKelvie became interested in the then-current stories of the Sasquatch being carried by his local British Columbian papers. McKelvie searched for older reports. What he found was the Daily British Colonist July 4, 1884, article about Jacko. The account detailed the sighting of a smallish hairy creature (“something of the gorilla type”) supposedly seen and captured near Yale, British Columbia, on June 30, 1884, and housed in a local jail.
McKelvie shared the Jacko account with researchers John Green and René Dahinden. MeKelvie told them this was the only record of the event due to a fire that had destroyed other area newspapers of the time.
In 1958, John Green found and interviewed a man (August Castle) who remembered the Jacko talk of the time, but he said his parents did not take him to the jail to see the beast. Other senior citizens remembered the talk of the creature, but no one could produce any truly good evidence for or eyewitness accounts (other than the British Colonist story) of Jacko.
The story’s appearance in Ivan T. Sanderson’s 1961 Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life propelled the Jacko incident into history.
Meanwhile, some of the older accounts are merely short references to the sightings of wild people (whatever that means).
For example, the appearance of a “black wild man” is noted in one old article as having been seen near a railroad station in 1870 at Chatawa, Mississippi. This seems similar to the Vincennes Monster (also said to look like a “black wild man”) seen near a railroad bridge in Indiana, in 1885.
But the question for today is, what happened in Greenville, Maine, in 1856?
BTW, when is an old report of a “wild man” in Maine not really in the state of Maine? When it’s an account from Maine, New York, of course.
In Robert Bartholomew’s and Paul Bartholomew’s Bigfoot: Encounters in New York & New England (2008), the authors detail “wild-man” sightings occurring between August and November 1883 at just such a location. They write that these encounters took place “in extreme south central New York near the small town of Maine on the western border of Broome County, northwest of Binghamton.”
This Maine (New York) creature was described as “low in stature, covered with hair, and running while bent close to the ground” with no forearms as its “arms ended at the elbows,” (p. 22).
Now that is one weird looking Sasquatch.
When Weird Darkness returns…
What do you do if you are a woman in the 1800s whose husband was just tossed into prison for graverobbing? Well, if you were anything like Helen Miller neé Begbie, you might decide to continue the family business on your own. (Invasion of The Lasswade Body Snatchers)
But first – a man in Oklahoma reports a being on the side of the road that looked human – except it had the head of a snake! And the Native American population have an answer to what it is! That story is up next! (The Oklahoma Snakeman)
STORY: THE OKLAHOMA SNAKEMAN==========
Adam Meirs of Kansas, Oklahoma (another in a long line of creative Okie names) had an encounter of the slithery kind in the summer of 2005.
Kansas is a small town in Delaware County, just off the Cherokee Turnpike. It has a population of 685, according to the last census. Meirs states:
“I was riding my four-wheeler at dusk behind my uncle’s house where there’s a lot of trees. Back behind his house there’s a dip that leads to a pond that he also owns and before you reach the pond there’s a turnaround point.”
It was dusk, and Meirs began to get spooked. He continues:
“I turned around and right at the dip my four-wheeler immediately shuts off. I’m trying to pull-start it, and I started getting a little more freaked out because I heard some rustling off to the side. I look over and see a human-like shadow standing off to the side, but instead of being a normal human he had a snake-like head.”
The being approached Meirs, who struggled more and more frantically to start his vehicle:
“I gave one final pull on the starter while pressing on the gas at the same time and my four-wheeler starts, and I haul out of there and go tell my friend Joe what I seen.”
Joe took the four-wheeler and returned to the site, but headed back to the house after hearing a noise that “did not seem normal”.
The most interesting thing about Meirs’s snake-headed humanoid is the resemblance it bears to the Seminole tribe’s “human snakes”, legendary malevolent creatures that lived in dens full of giant snakes. I asked Meirs if he was familiar with the legend, and he said he was not. Human snakes are either half-snake half-human or can shape shift between the two.
Human snakes aren’t the only breed of strange snake the Native Americans believe in. The Cherokee tribe tells of Ukena, giant horned reptiles that live in the water, and perhaps most interesting are the Creeks’ tie-snakes, strong, dark snakes that live in caves alongside riverbanks and are capable of pulling unsuspecting humans to a watery death.
Of the forty-six species of known snake native to Oklahoma, only a few are aquatic, and none are powerful enough to prey on humans. The Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake and the Coachwhip hold the title of OK’s largest snakes, both clocking in just shy of seven feet long.
But could there be monsters hiding in the forests and lakes, as the Native legends hold?
Snake Creek, near Tenkiller Lake, appears to have been named for good reason. Edna Stubblefield recalls in the Stubblefield memoirs that sometime in the 1890s she and her family spotted a snake at the Creek that “looked like a big old fence post” crawling across the road.
A nine-foot Burmese python turned up in a Tulsa driveway, and on October 25, 2001, another Burmese python, this one seven feet long, appeared in a Stillwater neighborhood.
While we’re on the subject of out of place reptiles, how about rampaging alligators? The official range of the American alligator is restricted to extreme Southeastern Oklahoma, particularly Choctaw and McCurtain counties, and yet they just seem to keep turning up in other parts of the state.
In August 2002 a South American caiman, of all things, was netted in Lake Tenkiller. Another caiman, this one two to four feet long, appeared in a Tulsa backyard in February 2004. And in July 2006 animal control officers spent two days trying to capture a four-foot-long alligator that appeared in the Battle Creek Golf Course in Tulsa. The gator was never caught, and apparently vanished. (Note of interest—the Battle Creek housing edition was also home to another out-of-place creature in 2005—a “mountain lion” reportedly terrorized the neighborhood, preying on household pets. It was also never caught and eventually just faded away.)
And of course the strange case of the “fugitive” gator. In the summer of 2003 a 350-pound reptile dubbed the Truck Traveling Alligator was caught in a pond, sent to a breeder, and then sent to Safari Joe’s, a wildlife sanctuary in Adair. The gator promptly vanished from its pen and reappeared in a pond just south of Interstate 44, and then turned up in yet another pond, this one behind the Big Cabin Truck Plaza, where he was finally recaptured. He was relocated to prime gator habitat in McCurtain County.
Granted, giant reptiles are nothing new to Oklahoma. The Sam Noble Museum in Norman hosts the world’s largest Apatosaurus —93 feet long—found in the Panhandle. And if that’s not big enough for you, the world’s largest dinosaur to date also once called Oklahoma home. In 1994 fossils that were first thought to be tree trunks were discovered. The “trunks” turned out to be neck bones, each four feet long. The sauropod the bones belonged to stood an estimated 60 feet and weighed 60 tons, and was dubbed Sauroposeidon—the “earthquake God lizard”.
This monster supposedly went extinct 110 million years ago, but you just never know.
STORY: INVASION OF THE LASSWADE BODY SNATCHERS==========
Ah, Lasswade, set in the beautiful countryside of Midlothian, Scotland, once with a penchant for growing strawberries and an excellence at paper making and carpet manufacture.
Who’d have thought the tranquility would come to a screeching halt in 1829.
With a rising population and the ‘Old Kirk’ closing its doors to the congregation in 1793, it is perhaps with some surprise that the site here was ever targeted at all.
But targeted it was, mainly due to the Miller woman who couldn’t keep her mouth shut and needed to make a penny or two to survive while her own grave robbing husband was serving time for snatching a cadaver back at Lanark.
Life in the rural village of Lasswade was ticking along relatively smoothly in the early 19th century and with its steadily increasing population – 3348 inhabitants in 1801, rising to 5022 forty years later – the graveyard was being suitably refreshed on a regular basis.
The ‘Old Kirk’, once dedicated to St Edwin, had been slowly turning into a ruin since 1793, when, with a congregation of over 1000, a new church was needed elsewhere in the village. The three story high belltower, used as a watch tower against resurrection men, would not fall down until 1866 when repairs to make the structure safe backfired.
Interments at the ‘Old Kirk’ still continued, as week after week the deceased of the parish would be laid to rest among the gravestones of earlier inhabitants.
The fact that Helen Miller neé Begbie was married to a resurrection man would perhaps have put her on high alert when it came to burying the parish dead. It was her husband’s livelihood after all and well, it pays to keep these things in the family.
But when her husband was imprisoned for stealing cadavers from the graveyard in Lanark, Helen’s living allowance suddenly dried up. The likes of Helen Miller didn’t get handouts from the surgeons like body snatchers wives did in London when their men were sent goal. No, she had to make her own way for the next few months and there was only one way in which she knew how.
Urged on by the fact that she also needed to fund a liquor habit, Helen came up with a plan that was about to help probably all of the resurrection men working in and around the city of Edinburgh.
Her plan was pretty straight forward, she’d tell them where and when a fresh cadaver was available and get paid for providing the information. Simple. And so it was that Helen Miller, neé Begbie turned informant.
Her first target was known counterfeiter and thief, James Gow. The 25-year-old, by all accounts, sounded as though he’d turn his hand to anything. So when Helen gave him information as to where he could find a cadaver and a fresh one at that, he wasn’t going to miss the chance of earning a quick buck.
The going rate for fresh subjects was £10, at least, that’s what Dr Knox was paying.
And so, while Burke and Hare were still quietly knocking off unsuspecting folk from the city streets in Edinburgh, James Gow grabbed his painter friend and sidekick James Hewitt and made a beeline for Lasswade.
It’s not every counterfeiter and painter that already has their own equipment for extracting cadavers as so, before leaving Edinburgh the pair paid a visit to anatomist John Lizars, offering him first refusal of the cadaver if he’d give them some money for a spade.
The criminal fraternity aren’t really known for keeping their word and so it was perhaps of little surprise when Lizars refused to help on this occasion. He was however, still interested in purchasing the cadaver once they’d got it out of the ground.
This was of little, in fact if any, help to the two James’ and so off they went to try their luck with Thomas Aitken instead, surgeon and lecturer at Surgeon’s Square.
Again they were rebuffed. There perhaps wasn’t an anatomist in the whole of Edinburgh who would be stupid enough to give a body snatcher money BEFORE seeing the corpse, but whether this was Gow’s first time at snatching or he was merely trying his luck, he was going to have to try to find his own spade.
The first cadaver that Helen let slip that had just been freshly buried was that of a female corpse. Highly prized amongst surgeons and guaranteed to bring a fair price.
Two days later, Gow and Hewitt turned up with the cadaver of Joan Swan stuffed into a sack at the backdoor of Surgeon’s Square, corpse stripped andwith their hand out waiting to be paid.
Things were finally going to plan.
More news was coming from Miller that even more cadavers were ready for snatching at Lasswade, and so the pair returned, only to be met with a scene no one had quite anticipated.
In her desperation, either for drink or some other commodious item, Miller had worked her way around a number of resurrectionists in Edinburgh, one by one, telling them of the bounty available in Lasswade.
When Gow and Hewitt returned to the site, they weren’t the only ones visiting the kirkyard.
By the time Helen has finished spreading the news of the spoils to be had on the outskirts of town, a total of eleven body snatchers and surgeons were involved in the plot to strip Lasswade clean of its dead, and amongst them was notorious Edinburgh body snatcher Andrew Merrylees.
Andrew Merrylees alias Lees, was a regular on the ‘anatomists circuit’ and at the time had dealings with Dr Knox, the anatomist who was also getting a steady supply of cadavers from murderers Burke and Hare. It was to be another nine months before their last victim Mary Docherty was to be discovered, and quite frankly, the consequences of their actions had yet to be considered.
Originally from the country, Lees was the head of a small band of resurrection men who often descended on Edinburgh’s kirkyards for its dead.
The men, and women, let’s not forget Helen Miller in this tale, were charged with violating the sepulchre of two graves in Lasswade.
Accounts mention three cadavers being sold to the anatomists that January in 1829. After a little research, I believe these to be John Braid, Joan Swan, mentioned above, and the body of an unknown child.
When the trial was finally held in July, three of those accused were immediately outlawed for not appearing, one of these included Andrew Lees.
Although there were three people who were outlawed, and the instigator of the whole affair Helen Miller wasn’t prosecuted, that still left a number of individuals still to deal with.
The anatomists involved weren’t prosecuted and the only men punished for their part in the Lasswade raids were three body snatchers by the names of Kerr, Barclay and Cameron.
John Kerr, a known resurrectionist on the streets of Edinburgh, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment with Hard Labour in the Bridewell on Calton Hill. He was to be joined for six of those months by James Barclay and George Cameron.
Having had a lucky escape at the trial in July, Gow had learnt nothing from his recent brush with the law.
One year later he was once again being accused of stealing a cadaver but this time things were about to take a slightly different turn.
Having previously made a deal to acquire a cadaver for lodgings in Old Assembly Close, tucked tight off the Royal Mile in the heart of Edinburgh City, on arrival the door was found to be locked.
Instead of returning at a later date, James Gow, together with accomplice Daniel Grant, broke down the door escalating their crime from misdemeanour.
I have read that James was transported for this crime but I don’t believe this to be true. Instead I believe he was sentenced, along with Daniel to nine month imprisonment in the Bridwell on Calton Hill.
Take a trip to Lasswade today and you’ll find remnants of its body snatching past.
Fear of a visit from these ‘ungodly men’ had brought a genuine fear into the lives of the inhabitants of Lasswade and this can be seen throughout the ‘Old Kirkyard’ today.
As you walk into the site, look up and then over to the left. The caged lair you see is in the Calderwood Enclosure, lying in the Claderwood of Polton aisle of the Old Kirk.
Its iron barred roof would have created a barrier between the body snatcher and the anatomists table. If you’re lucky, the door to the lair may be unlocked, I find these places incredibly eerie when walking inside.
Laying on the grass near what is known as the Eldin Aisle is a large lump of rock, properly referred to as a mortstone. This would have been shared amongst the parish and placed over the top of the coffin until the corpse inside was no longer useful to the anatomists.
To get a better understanding of mortstones, you might want to read an article from DiggingUp1800.com called “Mortstones: Protecting Yourself from the Resurrection Men” – you can find it in the Weird Darkness blog.
The final type of body snatching prevention is sadly no longer here for it collapsed in 1866. In the former bell tower to the original kirk was a watch house, taking up the lower floor of this three-story high structure.
It would have been there in 1829 when the site was being raided by Gow and his fellow body snatchers and it remains a mystery why no watch was on duty that January in 1829. Even Helen Miller mentioned that the coast would be clear for ‘there was no watch’ – a grave mistake indeed.
When Weird Darkness returns… an author seeks out an alien abductee in order to try and get abducted himself!
STORY: AN AUTHOR’S SEARCH FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL VISITORS==========
“I get these messages from other planets. I’m apparently some kind of agent from another planet but I haven’t got my orders clearly decoded yet.” – William S. Burroughs
In 1989, the American author William S. Burroughs (1914–1997) wrote to Whitley Strieber, a writer previously best known for his successful horror fiction, such as The Wolfen and The Hunger, about his alleged experiences of alien contact and abduction.
In his first supposedly non-fiction book, Communion (1987), and its sequel Transformation (1988), Strieber asserts that he was abducted from his cabin in upstate New York on the evening of 26 December 1985 by non-human beings.
Although the books are generally thought of as accounts of alien abduction, Strieber draws no conclusions about his alleged abductors nature, referring to them as “the visitors” – a name he chose to be as neutral as possible. Burroughs read both Strieber’s first two books on his experiences with the visitors, and wrote saying he would very much like to contact them.
Strieber’s wife, Anne, wrote back, saying they received a lot of crank letters and had to be sure he really was who he said he was. His next letter, in which Burroughs assured the Striebers, “I am indeed really me,” convinced them, and they invited him to spend the weekend at their cabin in upstate New York, where the experiences were alleged to have occurred.
Burroughs later said:
“I had a number of talks with Strieber about his experiences, and I was quite convinced that he was telling the truth. He told me this. ‘When you experience it, it is very definite, very physical, it’s not vague and it’s not like an hallucination, that they are there”.
For his part, Strieber said Burroughs was almost overly polite during his visit, but was clearly genuinely interested, and very curious about every detail of his experiences.
Although the visitors he describes do travel in what appear to be ‘nuts-and-bolts’ physical craft, which manifest very much in the classic ‘flying saucer’ mode – and as for the beings themselves, roughly humanoid, mammalian beings, wearing at one point what appear to be blue overalls – Strieber himself had not ruled out the possibility they may not be extraterrestrials at all, but rather exist in his mind.
Burroughs, himself no stranger to altered states, other realms of perception, and psychic manifestations, and a lifelong champion of Count Alfred Korzybski’s General Semantics – which opposes the so-called “Aristotelian straitjacket” of either/or thinking – could certainly concur.
Regrettably, the visitors did not choose to manifest themselves when he was around, but he remained open-minded about the possible reasons for this:
“It may mean that it was not propitious for them to come and pick me up at that particular time. It may mean that they would contact me at a later date or it may mean that they regard me as the enemy… We have no way of knowing what their motives are. They may find that my intervention is hostile to their objectives. And their objectives may not be friendly at all”.
Strieber referred to the visitors in his books also by the name “grays” – a meme which took on a life of its own, and has become very much the standard way of referring to at least one type of alien being that is apparently a regular visitor to our world: small, roughly humanoid, with a large, bald domed head, and usually large, black, wraparound eyes.
This idea and image soon found its way into Burroughs’ own personal cosmology. He continued to be fascinated by them, and in a diary-entry for 3rd February 1997, written just five months before his death, and later published posthumously as part of Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs, he wrote:
“The Grays apparently [are] Control Aliens, who have lost the ability to create, a dying race that needs blood and semen from humans. Bad folk those Grays.
“I recall that Whitley Strieber was accused of working for the Grays… Why are abductions and contacts always to mediocre or inferior minds? Why don’t they come and see ME?
“Because they don’t want to, are afraid to contact anyone with advanced spiritual awareness.
“The Grays want to make people stupider. Anyone with real perception is a danger to them. A deadly danger.”
In an official interview, David Ohle (a friend of Strieber), asked William S. Burroughs about his experiences, asking: “You went to New York a few weeks ago to see some aliens, what happened?”
Burroughs replied: “I talked to Whitley Strieber, who wrote Communion, and he invited me up to his cabin. I just read his book, Majestic, about the cover-up that followed the alleged crash of an alien ship [referring to the infamous Roswell, New Mexico case of 1947]. They recovered a body which was taken to Los Alamos for autopsy. It had no stomach. Apparently these creatures are nourished by some kind of very sophisticated photosynthesis. Chlorophyll people. They also have very large eyes and they cluster together in their space-ships, which are like hives. All this upset [then President of the United States] Truman a great deal: ‘They live in hives’. He said. ‘It makes my blood run cold. Got no stomachs and their genital organs are vestigial. Are they Communists?’ he wanted to know. My God, the dumbness, to alienate the aliens.”
The fact that the recovered alien body was allegedly taken to Los Alamos would have been a particularly portentous detail for Burroughs: it was where he had been sent to a ‘boy-scout’ style ranch school as a boy, which he had hated – and was the facility later taken over by the US military to be used as a Top Secret base for the development of the atom bomb, details that recur with ominous significance throughout a number of his works….
Later, towards the end of the same interview, Ohle asks, “Is there something out there?”, and Burroughs’ reply shows, among other things, an interesting knowledge of UFO lore:
“There’s something out there. It may be far away in Space and Time, but remember – Time itself is a human invention, as are measurements.
“Remember Betty and Barney Hill, the two people abducted by aliens in Exeter, New Hampshire? Well, the aliens noticed that Barry had false teeth… They asked about this, and Betty said, ‘Well, they’ve worn out. Age, you know. Length of time’. And the aliens said, ‘What is time? What is age?’ They had no concept of it. Time is both a human invention and a human affliction.”
In a collection of essays published in 1986 as The Adding Machine, Burroughs summed up a lifetime of musing on the intricate and mysterious relationship between the creative impulse he had explored, both as a writer and, in later years increasingly as a painter, and the mysterious ‘other’ realms of altered perceptions and expanded consciousness that he had long sought to come to terms with, characterised in terms of the impulse to get into Space – in which he contrasts the ‘nuts-and-bolts’ efforts of the Space Program, with perhaps more subtle and creative methods:
“We are not setting out to explore static pre-existing data. We are setting out to create new worlds, new beings, new models of consciousness. As Brion Gysin [painter, poet, and Burroughs’ long-term friend and collaborator] said, When they get there in their trillion dollar aqualung they may find that artists are already there.
” What you experience in dreams and out of body trips, what you glimpse in the works of writers and painters, is the promised land of Space.”
Towards the end of the 1980s, not showing any signs of slowing down and still reaching out to new forms of creative expression, Burroughs collaborated with American avant garde theatre director, Robert Wilson, on an opera called The Black Rider.
It was based on a German folktale, Der Freischütz, in a version that had come down via “English Opium Eater” Thomas De Quincey, and Burroughs wrote the libretto to accompany music by Tom Waits. Flushed by the apparent success, towards the end of 1991, Wilson approached Burroughs about a further collaboration, and Burroughs put forward an idea he was calling Paradise Lost:
“I had an idea… of an opera based on Paradise Lost, where Lucifer and the fallen angels have been the victims of an atomic attack and they’re picking themselves up out of the ruins of Hiroshima.”
Based in part on Milton’s original poem, it would also include material to do with aliens, abductions, UFOs, and in particular, the infamous crash alleged to have taken place at Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. [Although nothing came of this at the time, following Burroughs’ death, his former companion and manager – now literary executor – James Grauerholz gave the material to former Hüsker Dü drummer, Grant Hart, who used it as the basis for his 2013 album, The Argument.]
As part of the promotion and publicity for The Black Rider, Burroughs was interviewed at home in Lawrence, Kansas, on 10 June 1991, by Nicholas Zurbrugge. Asking him about his current interests and reading material, Burroughs showed the interviewer some books on Native American Indian Shamanism, then explained:
“So I’m interested in shamanism. I’m also very interested in all of these space aliens – their flying saucers, and all that… I’d just like to see some myself, that’s all. As a matter of fact, there’s been sightings in Kansas, and some out at the lake – where I have my house on the lake – but I have not been favoured.”
That same year, the writer Victor Bockris visited his old friend at home in Lawrence to talk with him for Interview magazine. During a discussion about Strieber’s alleged experiences – and how Burroughs was finding the Nineties “a very un-funny… very grim decade” – at one point Bockris was very upset about “a sense of being invaded,” and the reply shows that for William S. Burroughs, many of the old concerns about Control and possession had not gone away:
“You are no more invaded than the rest of us. When I go into my psyche, at a certain point I meet a very hostile, very strong force. It’s as definite as somebody attacking me in a bar… What you have to do is confront the possession. You can do that only when you’ve wiped out the words.”
For Burroughs, any escape into the altered state of consciousness that he saw represented by the freedom of Space would always be achieved in SILENCE. Back in the 1960s, amid the all-too-often drug-fuelled paranoia of Sci-Fi Conspiracy Theories, in which he seriously considered the possibility women were an alien species, and that, famously, “Language is a virus from Outer Space,” Burroughs had written:
“To travel in space you must leave the old verbal garbage behind: God talk, country talk, mother talk, love talk, party talk. You must learn to exist with no religion, no country, no allies. You must learn to live it alone in silence. Anyone who prays in space is not there.”
As the decades progressed, and the Space Race failed to deliver on its promise of Brave New Worlds and the High Frontier of the Stars, Burroughs’ interest waned in the possibility of ‘nuts ‘n’ bolts’ solutions to getting out of the body and off the planet.
His already longstanding interest in magic, the occult, and psychic phenomena took him further in the direction of astral projection, dream control, remote viewing, and the like, as well as actual forays into ritual magic.
During his final years in the Midwest, as well as his interest in UFOs and possible alien contacts, such as those written about by Whitley Strieber, Burroughs explored the possibilities offered by an encounter with an anthropologist neighbour who was working with a Lakota Indian Medicine Man, Black Elk, and was also initiated into the Chaos Magic order, the Illuminates of Thanateros. [All of this is detailed at length in Matthew Levi Stephen’s book, The Magical Universe of William S. Burroughs (Mandrake of Oxford, 2014.)] I’ll place a link to the book in the show notes.
Later, in the collection of Notes from his dream-journals and related musings that were published as My Education: A Book of Dreams (1995), Burroughs wrote:
“I was convinced that the aliens, or whatever they are, are a real phenomenon. The abductions, in several accounts, involved sexual contacts. Indeed, that would seem to be their purpose.”
After some consideration, Burroughs came to the opinion that the aliens – if “the visitors” were indeed beings that originated physically outside of the collective unconscious, or some other such psychic realm – were, in fact, abducting people primarily to have sex with them. He was struck by the fact that in one of Strieber’s accounts of just such a “close encounter,” the beings wanted him to get a bigger erection than the one they had somehow been able to induce in him.
In an attempt to attract them to his home in Lawrence, Kansas, Burroughs decided to let the grass grow long on his lawn, and then had somebody cut a patch of it into the shape of an erect penis – like making a crop-circle – in the hope this would attract their attention. Although Whitley Strieber continued to receive further visitations, which he would write about in subsequent works such as Breakthrough: The Next Step (1995) – and, latterly, Solving the Communion Enigma: What Is to Come (2011) – the visitors never came for William S. Burroughs.
Let’s end with a story from one of our Weirdo Family Members – this comes from Meagan Campbell:
This just happened earlier this week, and i can’t stop thinking about it. I’m sorry if I write too much, I just keep processing what happened.
I work the overnight shifts in a group home for youth with special needs. Nights are typically pretty quiet, aside from the odd snore or kid quietly singing to himself. I’ve worked in this particular house for just a couple of months now, and have noticed the sound of light footsteps often coming from upstairs if I am downstairs. When I go up to check on the residents, they are all asleep. The house can’t be more than 30 years old if I had to guess, but I’m sure all houses both old and new make noises. No big deal.
The other night while I was using the washroom on the main floor (listening to the weird darkness podcast), I was suddenly startled by a loud, strange sound directly above my head. It was as if someone was dragging furniture across the floor. I started rushing to finish up, thinking a kid was out of bed and up to aomething. But I then realized what room was right above me; another staff sleeps in a small room located directly above the main floor bathroom. Specifically, the first third or so of the sleeping room is above the bathroom, where no furniture is located. Further back in this room is a bed and a dresser. This was 5am, and I figured the staff would have no reason to be moving any furniture, let alone moving it close to the door. The sound lasted for about 10 seconds at least as I listened, perplexed. I washed my hands and crept up the stairs. The kids were asleep. No sound came from the staff’s sleeping area. The air felt heavy, and I instantly felt lightheaded. I immediately went back downstairs and tried to think of a logical explanation. It was a little bit windy out, and perhaps a branch was scraping against the side of the house. No, there aren’t any trees near the sides of the house. Nothing leaned against the side of the house. About an hour later there was some thunder and rain that lasted a short time, so I thought maybe it was just unexpected thunder. I took comfort in that, but still couldn’t shake the feeling that this sound was so loud and so close to me, and a very negative and u settling feeling came with it. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I drew a pentagram on my hand earlier in the shift with henna that another staff brought. It was upright, and I don’t even believe in the devil or demons. In my neopagan belief system, the symbol represents the elements. But I realised that the star could be perceived as being inverted so easily depending on the position of my hand. I told myself this was a silly coincidence, but I was truly disturbed.
The next day, I felt the need to make a cleansing spray to bring to work. I mixed various herbs and small crystals in a spray bottle with water that had been charged under the full moon. I envisioned a white light pouring into the bottle as I filled it. I tested the sprayer – it worked, and was ready to go. Shortly after arriving at work, I took the bottle upstairs with the intention of spirituality cleansing every room before the kids went to bed…But the bottle would not spray. I tried adjusting the nozzle, rinsing it out, shaking it…nothing would come out. Logic told me that the nozzle was clogged with herbs. My gut told me that whatever negative energy was in this house was not allowing the bottle to spray. I’d be damned if I let that stop me. I took the top off, splashed my hand with the water, and flicked it around each room and on every window and door. I said firmly but quietly in each room, “if you are not of love and light, you are not welcome here.” I still felt uneasy about the whole situation, despite the calming smell of lavender and eucalyptus all around. But it was a quiet night aside from some crazy winds that shook the house for a bit, and then all was calm. I felt much more at ease. I think that sometimes, your gut feeling is more important than logic.