Prepared for a UFO?
It's night, and I wait until Mom and Dad have retired to their bedroom, then I walk around the house turning off all the inside and outside lights. Living at the end of Fairway Drive, we have just a few neighbors to each side of our house. My bedroom window faces the backyard, and beyond our fence the wooded hill we call Mount Baldy, not really big enough to be a mountain. My brother Larry and I climb to the top on occasions when we feel like hiking for hours. The hillside is protected Open Space, although there's a fire road it's blocked off to all vehicles.
I put on a bathing suit and grab a towel. Our upstairs bathroom has a door that opens out to a deck and a stairway down to the backyard with a pool and a cedar hot tub. Mom designed the pool as two hexagons that are slightly offset. It looks pretty cool, but in practice two corners project into the pool, creating a narrow 'waist' that's a bit of a hazard to swimmers. I step into the hot tub, with the temperature set at 103 degrees. Many nights I stay in the tub for more than an hour. Tonight it's clear and there's no moon. It's dark, and there's a good view of the stars. I look up at the sky. Some nights I can see a satellite. My vision is better than average, 30/20. It's 1978, so there aren't too many satellites passing overhead. I like to see if I can spot them just as they rise over the horizon, so I can watch them cross the whole sky.
I soak in the tub for about ten minutes. Then, below the peak of Mount Baldy, I see lights, a horizontal, rectangular array of lights, each of the lights is about the size of the side of a train boxcar. The whole array of lights is 5 lights wide and 5 lights high. Not all the lights are lit at once. They flash on, and off, in a complex pattern, white and yellow and orange, for two seconds, then the lights are gone. From where I sit, at the end of a narrow valley, it looks as though those lights were meant to be seen by me. That bright, silent signal to me conveyed at least two meanings: we're here, and we know you're here.
I'm not quite sure how I feel or what to think about what I just saw. I calmly step out of the tub, wrap my towel, drip my way up the outdoor stairs, and go directly to my roll-top desk and write down every detail, and draw a sketch. I tell nobody.
Seeing the UFO raised the same questions again as my other paranormal experiences: What just happened? What part did I play? What does it mean? Will it happen again? What next? Is it safe to talk to anybody about it?
For more than 30 years I never told anyone about my UFO experience. Eventually I began to share my experience. One of my friends commented, “That sounds like the lights in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” I had seen the movie when it came out in 1977, but I hadn't seen it since then, so I re-watched it. Sure enough, in the scene when the UFO lands at Devils Tower, the rectangular lights look very similar to the array of lights I saw from my backyard in 1978. At that time, I didn't make the connection between my UFO sighting and the scene in Close Encounters. The similarity seems incredible, but Spielberg did his homework. For me the most salient scene in the movie is not when the humans meet the aliens, but when Roy (Richard Dreyfus) is madly piling mashed potatoes on his plate into the shape of Devils Tower, struggling to make sense of his paranormal experience, and Ronnie (Teri Garr) is mortified. My main takeaway the first time I watched Close Encounters was that your family and other people will think you're crazy, even if you're not.
To this day, I risk my reputation, and other people risk theirs, by announcing our interest in the paranormal. Not to mention our beliefs and experiences! The only solution is strength in numbers. Make the Paranormal Normal. Take the Paranormal Pledge. Talk about your paranormal experiences. You'll be quite pleasantly surprised that when you do, many people also share their experiences.
Seven years after my UFO sighting, it's 1985. I'm dropping out of University of California at Davis, smoking weed from a bong named Phil, taking a long-distance hike in the Eldorado National Forest with my girlfriend, getting her pregnant in a tent in the snow, and then working in a tofu shop, when “they” came in disguise.
I work the late-night cleanup shift at Wildwood Tofu in Fairfax, California, among shops, restaurants and a tiny nightclub where greats such as Dylan and members of the Grateful Dead used to show up unannounced to play a set. The tofu kitchen is relatively small; the walls and floor covered entirely in white tile, and filled with commercial-sized kitchen equipment including a massive vat for cooking the soy beans, numerous stainless steel tables, a three-basin sink, and a soymilk bottling station. I work by myself, often starting after midnight. The kitchen is at ground level, with the offices upstairs. The glass entry door and the windows abut the sidewalk. While I hose and scrub the whole place, the glass steams up. One night, a man stops and looks through the window, and he looks so friendly that I open the front door and invite him in.