Saturday, June 28, 2008

The evil spirit of Zozubona-Fato

One of a Missionary’s duties is to convert others to whatever faith group they are commissioned from. With some groups that is the standard by which their success is measured- how many converts they made during the year. However every once in a while a Missionary will see one from their own flock convert to animism or fetishism. This is one such case from the country of Burkina Faso in which the end results were both startling and terrifying.

Mamadu was the grandson of a local Shaman who had converted to Christianity in the late 1950’s. His father was raised as a Christian and had become a church leader, helping with famine relief efforts in parts of the country plagued by drought. Mamadu was brought up in the church also but was very defiant and bullied peers that could not defend themselves. He amused himself by torturing stray dogs that would wander into the village looking for food.

As a young teenager he left his fathers house and went to the city of Bobo-Dioulasso. While there it is said he became friends with a Shaman of great power, a sorcerer who served gods that were malevolent and violent. This Shaman-Sorcerer had a group of young disciples whose goal it was to gather power by blood sacrifice and fearless acts of cruelty. These ancient gods of wrath demanded sacrifices of animals and it was rumored of humans as well. There is a small grove of trees that edge the southern road exiting Bobo-Dioulasso where travelers occasionally disappeared. Sometimes body parts would be found in a local field, but never whole bodies. It was common knowledge that the cultists which Mamadu had joined were the ones perpetrating these acts for the favor of their gods of power. But the ones who went missing were travelers from other villages and the police were too afraid to pursue any investigation. Evil would befall anyone who dared to challenge the will of the sorcerer Shaman and his followers. Mamadu’s father and many of the church elders tried to visit him, but he shunned them off shouting curses and profanities. Later strange things began to happen to those who visited him at the Shaman’s camp in Bobo. Their flocks would be attacked by strange animals during the night, slaughtering them all. Pots and other utensils would fly off tables and hit the people of the household who had dared to come to the camp. Evil spirits would frequently attack Mamadu’s father and mother in their sleep.

The local residents and police learned by experience to never cross the Shaman and his followers. But the mysterious deaths did not go unnoticed by the military government of Burkina Faso.

So one evening the compound of the Shaman was surrounded by heavily armed soldiers, and in the fighting many cultists were killed, including the leader. They found human remains mixed with vile ingredients in pots throughout the main building. Gnawed bones with human flesh still attached were found on ritualistic plates surrounding a large wooden idol covered with mud and cloth that dominated the center of the camp. Two of the cultists were wounded but still alive and taken prisoner, one of which was Mamadu. They were chained and taken to a government prison in the capitol of Ouagadougou.

During the trial, Mamadu’s own father had to testify against him, telling of his fall from grace and his increasing erratic and violent behavior. He screamed curses at his father as he testified, and this only reinforced the courts decision to find him guilty and put him to death.

In the time between the trial and execution date strange things began to happen in the Christian community of Mamadu’s former village.

Jenny, a single female missionary nurse who cared for the sick and elderly of the village awoke one night to see a naked man standing at the doorway to her bedroom. He was covered in blood and held a long knife in his right hand. She knew him. It was Mamadu.

Quickly she sat up in her bed and in a stuttering half scream she prayed aloud.

The figure darkened and faded away with a deep growling sound.

They had wondered if he had escaped and in the excitement of the moment Jenny had hallucinated. But a call to the prison from the mission let them know that he had never left his cell. In fact he was still bound in chains since he had made every attempt to either harm others or himself since the end of the trial.

But the paranormal visitation of Mamadu did not just limit itself to the Missionaries. Herdsman in the field claimed to have encountered a wild man drenched in blood who screamed at them as they came upon him while crouching in a field. This “Zozubona-Fato” (or blood crazy man in English) ran after them in the broad daylight only to fade and disappear in a smoke as it ran across a small stream. A young woman claimed she was sexually assaulted by the same apparition one night as she slept alone in her mud brick hut.

Within 7 days of his conviction Mamadu was drug out into the courtyard of the prison. He was fastened to the wall and shot by firing squad. Witnesses say he laughed as the bullets ripped through his body. But after a few well placed shots, the laughter ceased forever.

But the apparitions did not.

Three days after his death, he once again appeared to Jenny the nurse. It was dusk and she was looking out the window as the sun set in the west. A black shape appeared to come from behind a tree and started coming toward her house. It was the naked form of Mamadu, this time his skin was ashen and the blood that drenched his body came from the bullet holes made by his executioner’s guns. Once again she prayed but the figure did not disappear as before. Instead she saw it grimace and made an attempt to reach out from where it stood, as if held back by some invisible force. After a few vain attempts, it turned and walked back into the oncoming darkness.

Later that night, Mamadu’s father was walking back from a church meeting with an elder of the church. In the darkness ahead of them they saw the figure of his son walking toward them in the path. They screamed and prayed that God would take the demon away from them. It stood there for a second and attempted to say something, but all they heard was a garbled muttering as if someone was trying to speak with a mouth full of water. This seemed to frustrate it. Enraged, it ran away from them back down the path from whence it came.

The next day the church leaders gathered together in prayer in order to rid themselves of this frightful vision from beyond. As they prayed one old woman told them that God had given her a vision. They were to go into a field beyond the home of the missionary compound where Jenny had seen the specter the night before. There God would show them how to get rid of the evil that plagued them.

So as a group they traveled the few miles to the edge of the compound following the woman who said she was directed by God.

And in the middle of the field by the nurse’s home there was a tiny fetish pressed into the rock hard earth. It was a tiny wodden idol covered in mud and cloth. A miniature version of the fetish the police had found in the sorcerer’s compound. She told them they had to burn it and pray over it to release the soul of Mamadu, and God can make His final judgment of him on the last day.

They poured petrol over the fetish and praying in unison, set it ablaze. They say they heard an unearthly screaming as it went up in smoke. And many there said they thought the smoke itself attempted to take the form of a human body.

But the wind blew it into nothingness.

I was told the basics of this story from Missionaries that I visited with in Africa. I do not know how accurate all the facts are, I never witnessed any of this. But when I asked others if they had heard the story of Mamadu and the apparitions, they always gave me either a frightened look and walked away or refused to talk about it. Some younger Missionaries who were not there at the time just say it was an old folk tale.

I have no idea. But I see a lot of the fetishes stuck in the ground like the tale described when I visit Burkina Faso.

I give them a wide berth.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

UFOs over the UK

Torchwood is at it again. I do not think it's just a hit BBC TV show anymore. The fictional frequently alien visited city of Cardiff from "Torchwood" seems to be merging into the real life Cardiff with all the UFO sightings going on around the area there lately. That Captain Jack Harkness is a tricky bugger. He’s been messing with the police, messing with the military and finally messing with a poor middle class couple walking their dog. And now after all the recent UFO activity has transfixed the attention of the international press, a convenient cover story emerges. In a just released article, Lucy and Lyn Thomas report from their honeymoon in Turkey that they were the people behind the UFO incident over Cardiff on June 8, 2008. To quote from the June 25th posting from,

“It appears that the cause of the reports is due to lanterns that were launched at a wedding on the 8th of June in the Vale of Glamorgan. The story has spread like wildfire since the sighting was reported by the helicopter occupants. However due to the extensive media coverage Lucy and Lyn Thomas, who were on their honeymoon in Turkey, noticed the reports of the UFO sighting on the internet and realised that their wedding paper lanterns could have sparked the reports.”

A likely story, Captain Harkness! We can see through the Torchwood ruse! Those UFO’s look an aweful lot like Daleks in flight! What are they trying to hide? Another invasion? Just give the investigation to The Doctor, he has more experience with the Daleks and his show is always better than yours!

In all seriousness, while the Cardiff video does look like a paper lantern in flight there are other circumstances that seem to disqualify that explanation. I’ve compiled the three recent videos from the UK that have appeared online; here it is on YouTube:

The first video is the UFO sighting over Tern Hill Barracks near Shropshire at 11:00 PM on June 7th, just 2 hours later and 80 miles away the police helicopter video near Cardiff Airport which follows next. In this vid we see something that looks incredibly similar to the smaller crafts seen in the Tern Hill Barracks incident. Finally, the last video is from Bonnie Lewis who shot these similar UFOs on June 20th while walking her dog at Bromsgrove.

All these videos bear striking similarities. They all show unknown oval craft in flight emitting multicolored lights, looking almost identical at times. Are they all paper wedding lanterns in flight?

First, the Tern Hill Barracks video shows multiple objects. One of them is of distinctly larger size than the others, at least on video. Although, from their distance the real size of these objects cannot be determined. The witnesses claimed that they were rotating cubes. Again, they look vary similar to the craft witness 2 hours later in Cariff, but paper lanterns do not rotate or make abrupt course changes.

Second, reports claim that the object captured on the police helicopter’s video claim that the craft was “huge”. Paper lanterns could never be described as huge. And in all the weddings I have ever officiated at or attended the lanterns are usually released in groups. The Vale of Glamorgan where the Smiths claimed to release their lanterns is only 4 miles from the Cardiff Airport. Are we to assume that the lanterns dispersed so quickly over a 4 mile journey that the other ones were nowhere in sight? Again this does not seem plausible except under harsh wind conditions. The pilots of the police helicopter reported no such severe conditions at the time, which would be readily apparent to a helicopter occupant. And who are Lucy and Lyn Thomas, and why did they have their wedding at 1:00 in the morning? The report from the Compare Airport Parking web site claims the Wedding was on the 8th, and it would not take long for a paper lantern to fly 4 miles. Hmm.

Finally, the last video captured by Bonnie Lewis shows the same type of craft as the other two. There are some differences but we still have oval rotating flying craft with multicolored lights. Paper lanterns again? I have officiated in Weddings that were preformed on Fridays, but they were usually a hurried affair. Usually not so elaborate as to warrant the cost of a fleet of paper lanterns, but you never know. But it still does not look like paper lanterns to me. Does it to you?

Something darn cool is happening in the UK, and I hope we see more videos. Hopefully from better cameras so we can see exactly what we are viewing. But it wouldn’t be a normal UFO video if it wasn’t a little blurry would it?

But I tell you if we find out Captain Harkness is behind all this, the BBC should cancel his show.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope


On June 26th the BBC news ran an article about Lucy and Lyn Thomas. The article is here:

They had 30 lanterns that were released from 11:00pm until 2:00am. That is an average of 10 lanterns per hour. Usually at the beginning of such festivities (When the launching is open to all wedding guests whenever they wish) the couple and wedding party send off the first ones concurrently and then guests send off the others immediately after. Usually there is a great many set off within the first few minutes. I still ask, where were the other lanterns? Was this a stray one that was blown off course. Four miles is not a great distance, and on a clear night you can see them for over a mile, in my experience. I still remain skeptical because the Cardiff UFO was reported as "huge", mistakes of size will occur as the article states but more often it is when the lanterns are seen from the ground. Pilots usually draw on years of experience to judge the size of an object they encounter in flight. At least we know who the couple is and the correct date and time when the festivities occurred.

Was it a lantern? Very possible. But there are still some puzzling discrepancies to be accounted for with this particular incident, let alone the other sightings that seem to be of the same craft at different locations. But then June is the most popular time for Weddings. But I have yet to see a revolving lantern with multicolored lights.

There also seems to be a similar sighting in Mersey this week. You can see the video here:

To tell you the truth, THESE look like lanterns to me...

But I still cannot rule out a Dalek invasion. Somebody get me a Doctor!

Until we can receive detailed weather conditions for the night of June 7th, I have to refrain from calling the Cardiff incident "solved".

Updated Update!

Got the wind direction from the night of the 7th, seems the direction was right for the lanterns to reach Cardiff. To me the Cardiff incident is 98% Baloony. It is just a ruse I tell ya! A ruse! ;)

Also had an anonymous comment from someone claiming to be Mr. Thomas who said the wedding was on the afternoon of the 7th and why did I keep referring to him as Mr. Lewis. If that is you Mr. Thomas I think you are a tad confused and please write back , but as a rule I will not post anonymous messages claiming to be someone specific without some type of varification. Just not Kosher.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Faith Healing and the Lakeland 'Revival'

Be Ye Warned Christian Dogma Ahead!

Some things get me fired up. I try not to judge others for their deeds or actions, you almost always find out that they were not the bad guy; you were the bad guy for judging them in the first place. But some things are beyond reproach. What gets me fired up right now is the message reaching so many from the Christian ‘revival’ led by Todd Bentley in Lakeland, Florida.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in faith healing. The denomination that I joined after my conversion to Christianity, The Christian and Missionary Alliance has as one of its main tenants that God can heal people today just as He did in Biblical times. And while rare, it does happen. I’ve seen it. Not the type that seems to be constantly in the center ring of the sideshow that has become the Lakeland revivals though. But when people believe that God can do something and they earnestly pray for it to happen, sometimes it will happen.

Many Theologians are attacking Mr. Bentley for his message of healing, the MSNBC Field Notes article from May 29, 2008 concerning the Lakeland revival and Bentley’s methodology quotes R. Douglas Geivett, a professor at the conservative, evangelical Talbot School of Theology:

"I don’t think it fits neatly into any branch of Christianity," said Geivett. "Mr. Bentley’s worldview appears to be a mixture of New Age notions, an obsession with the paranormal, and an untutored grasp of Christian theology."

However the Bible is pretty decisive when it comes to healing. James 5:14-15 reads Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayers of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” This verse is in the context of church life and faith so there is no question that it refers to healing through faith.

In no way am I a ‘faith healer’ and when in the Christian and Missionary Alliance I felt uneasy when it came to raising this issue since I saw so many in desperation clinging to the hope of miraculous healing only to die confused and wondering what in the world they did to tick off God- since He decided to not heal them.

My mother died like that. Cancer sucks.

No matter how many people came to her bedside to anoint her with oil, no matter how persistent and heartfelt her or our prayers. She still died a death that would give any sober man nightmares.

But on the other hand there was Maddie.

She is 11 years old. My wife works with her mother as a teacher through The United Way. She has had a brain tumor for years, causing seizures in varying degree and even though benign, last year it grew to such a size that it had to be operated on. It was in a critical area and Maddie was very afraid of the procedure. So we gathered her family together in her living room one Saturday afternoon and prayed. I anointed her with oil. There was no ‘Tadaa!’ from heaven. No spectacle to watch, no flashing lights or music. We just hoped and prayed, putting her on as many prayer chains that I knew of. And a few weeks later when the doctors did a follow up X-ray the tumor had disappeared.

Did we do any special “magic”? No. Did we do anything different than what we did for my mother? No. How do I explain it?


It is not fair. It seems so arbitrary. But it is how God works. God says yes, no or wait; no matter how pressing or weighty the issue is on our heart. It is ultimately up to Him who abides in the future as He does in the present and past.

My problem with Bentley and the Lakeland message is not about healing per say, it is the side show emphasis on healing and the claims of resurrection.

Once again I must call it as the late great Peter Boyle would say as Frank Barone in “Everyone Loves Raymond”, HOLY CRAP. In other words, Theological bull dung.

Their “show” and supernatural claims that have no basis in researched fact fuels unrealistic hope in people who have so little hope to begin with. Now the fever pitch of emotion from these supernatural claims in itself might be an impetus for faith to work. But it could and usually does shatter lives. As a minister of any faith it is his or her job to give hope to the hopeless. But such showmanship does just the opposite.

Jesus himself healed people in his ministry on Earth. But as He started to miraculously heal people He would tell those who received the healing to tell no one about it (Matthew 8:4; 9:30, Luke 9:56) why? Jesus knew if word spread about the healings, his message of love and peace would soon fall by the wayside because of the torrent of those who seek supernatural healing. And sure enough as people spread the word that Jesus could heal the sick, the masses came flocking.

Believe what you will about Faith Healing. What will be the result of the Lakeland revival? Jesus wanted people to remember His message of the Love of God to all mankind that had the power to transform people through forgiveness. Forgiveness that started with God forgiving us, so we could forgive ourselves and eventually forgive others. Will people remember the spectacle of Lakeland? Sure they will, for good or ill. But will people come away from this ‘revival’ and be more empowered to love the unlovable? To reach out with compassion physically and financially to those in need worldwide even though we face personal and global economic distress? Or will a few people get rich or have promising careers because of the ‘miracles’ at Lakeland?

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-16)

We shall see.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Creature in the Black Ravine

Deep in the West African savanna of Burkina Faso near the small mud brick and sheet metal village of Koro there is a mystery.

The place is called Dafara. It is an anomaly in the flat landscape that stretches for miles in all directions. It is as if the earth collapsed here, like God punched a hole in the ground and the darkness came flooding in. The local missionaries call it “The Rocks” because the hundred meter diameter hole in the earth is edged by sharp shale cliffs. There is a single trail that leads through the dense foliage to the bottom of the ravine that gently angles down into a scene that is both other worldly and frightening.

The first thing you notice is the stench. It is a dank putrid odor of blood, bile and rotting gore that permeates the entire valley, the odor of death. The second thing you notice is the blood. At first glance it looks as if the entire floor of the ravine is covered in dark thick blood. Every rock has been used to carve the animals brought down the path for sacrifice, and it is not only covered in the thick ink of life but indistinguishable pieces of flesh and bone lay scattered about as evidence of the hecatomb butchery that befalls the victims of the sacred god. A god that dwells in the dark recesses of the watery abyss that dominates the center of the chasm.

The murky pond is roughly kidney shaped and covers an area just slightly smaller than that of an Olympic sized pool. How deep it is, no one can know since the fertility god that abides here is no idol made out of wood or stone. No, the fertility god that demands the sacrifice of highly prized livestock is a living creature. An flesh eating aquatic creature of shocking proportions living in a small lake far from any other source of fresh flowing water.

The dark creature is rumored to have grown to such enormous size not only because of its taste for raw flesh but also because of the occult forces which it allegedly wields. The villagers of Koro and the surrounding area flock here so that their infertile women may bear healthy offspring. Famine has decimated the area population and the infant mortality rate is close to 10%.

The nationals struggle to eager out the most meager of existence. Yet they offer up what sometimes is their only source of protein in order to procure the healthy birth of a child. If they do not sacrifice they risk not only the loss of their children that are still in utero, but they flirt with the chance that they themselves might become sterile and hope for any offspring will be denied them forever. They live in darkness and fear, enslaved to the power of the behemoth beneath the water of Dafara.

It is a fear that also lives in legend. You cannot go in the water of Dafara. The god will eat you alive. Such was the fate of the first Western explorer who happened upon the site in the middle of the 19th Century. It is rumored that he scoffed at the natives superstitions and dove off the cliffs into the milky water of the pool.

He never surfaced.

Days later they found his bones along the shore.

I witnessed the creature at Dafara in the summer of 1986. I was on a missionary tour in the city of Bobo Dioulasso and some of the long term missionaries wanted me to take a look at the site. As the Africans approached the waters edge they offered pieces of flesh by throwing them into the cloudy water. Silently a large hump broke the surface. It’s skin was smooth and black without any noticeable dorsal fin. The creature’s back rose out of the water until the enormity of its size could be revealed. At the time I estimated it to be the size of a large couch that was in the lobby of the missionary station where we were currently residing. It was about 7 feet long. I saw no other feature on the animal, neither eyes nor mouth- just the large hump and the splashing about of something a few inches away from it where the meat had been thrown. After it had finished a small chicken, the ebony mass submerged and we did not see it again. On the way up the path to our Rover I asked our host what exactly it was that we had just seen lurking in that murky water. He said he had no idea, he had been stationed there for almost 10 years and he had never had the opportunity to actually see anything more than what we had just beheld ourselves. “It’s some kind of fish I think. But I have never seen one that large.” If it was a fish, I asked him how in the world if got there. The nearest river, the Upper Volta was over 50 miles away. He gave me an odd look that told me he thought it was beyond any rational explanation.

What was that enormous creature in the ravines lake? Some supernatural being that offered fertility as a reward for being well fed? Or a local creature that for some reason had become trapped in this remote location and spawned a population that had grown to enormous size?

Quite honestly the only aquatic creature that can grow to even close that size is the African Catfish, Heterobrachus bidorsalis.

They are common in the areas of the Upper Volta and they do grow to a great size. Here is a picture sent to me by a Missionary friend stationed in Burkina Faso showing his kids feeding some African Catfish at a pond by the Volta:

The only problem is that the African Catfish only grows to 1.5 meters. The ones pictures above are about 4 feet long, falling in line with the average length. What I saw was enormous. The fish in the picture above pale in comparison.

Could in the distant past a group of Heterobrachus bidorsalis have found its way to the ravine through a long dried up tributary of the Upper Volta? Did the constant attention from the local cultists cause them to grow to such enormous size? Or is there more sinister forces at work deep below the surface of the lake at Dafara?

The Missionaries and locals have no idea. They just make sure to never go for a dip in the pond.

Till next time,

Pastor Swope

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Those Wacky, Tacky 'Demonologists'

Be Ye Warned:
Christian Dogma Ahead

You know I find the current trend of self made 'Demonologists' funny as Hell. I mean that in a strictly Theological sense, by the way.

To be honest, having had quite a bit experience with this area of paranormal phenomena in a trained professional Christian setting, this would be the last area that I would try to "learn as ya go". Many who call themselves Demonologists today have only the most rudimentary level of training: mostly book knowledge or having trained with someone who has had only book knowledge and have been involved with a paranormal investigation team.

You know I really dig the Sci-Fi Channel's Ghost Hunters, it is entertaining and creepy and it sure beats the poorly made movies the cable channel usually puts out. My 8 year old son and I watch it religiously (ha ha) every week and we are now sure that the old house we live in is haunted. I find the skeptical approach of Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson to be a wise approach to the paranormal. Doubt and debunk until you can have good evidence that something funky this way comes. That was how I was trained while at Seminary in relation to paranormal phenomena. Unfortunately their popularity has spawned a host of copy cat groups that have neither the training nor the ethical fortitude that the T.A.P.S. team have. Now I'm not disparaging these offshoot investigative teams as a whole, there are many among them who have had years of experience and even some good substantive training. But specifically in the area of Demonology many members of these teams are ill equipped for the task at hand. They risk harming themselves and others.

I saw such an example on a cable television show that was one of the many that try to copy the Ghost Hunters 'unscripted' reality formula. I will not name it because I am sure that there are those connected to the show who take the task seriously but what I saw really alarmed me. In most episodes the team makes many investigations and seems to almost always tie the possibility of paranormal activity to demonic activity. This conclusion is mostly done by feeling rather than substantive proof. Specifically disturbing was when confronted with a possible paranormal phenomena that might have a connection to a depressed woman, the immediate response from the lead investigator was to assume it was a case of demon possession. He went about preforming his own tests to see if he could elicit a response from whatever demonic spirit that might be infesting the young lady.

In the words of the late great Peter Boyle as Frank from the show "Everybody Loves Raymond", Holy Crap. And I mean that in a strictly Theological and scatological sense by the way.

When it comes to a possible demonic encounter rule #1 is unless there is a direct supernatural or physical manifestation that you witness with your own eyes, you should always rule out every other possibility before you assume it might be a demonic possession. I can't tell you how much harm one can do to someone with a fragile psyche or mental illness by even mentioning the possibility of demonic activity for the cause of their malady. You could cause extreme mental duress or exacerbate an existing mental condition. And you could be sued.

But it seems this practical rule of thumb is either being ignored or has never been taught to many fledgling 'Demonologists'. Not only have I observed this lack of logical inductive reasoning in knock off reality programming but also in the content of web sites of self proclaimed experts. I have also observed it in the actions of other clergy. I don't know if it's inexperience or being caught up in the excitement of the moment but many are too quick to label anything unexplained or eerie 'Demonic'.

I attended Nyack College in Rockland County NY in the early 80s. It is a sponsored and accredited Liberal Arts College of a progressive Evangelical Denomination, The Christian and Missionary Alliance. At that time there was an independent student group that people labeled the 'Ghost Busters'. They felt called to preform exorcisms whenever the need arose. I was able to sit in on a few of these 'Power Encounters' and the results were less than positive. I witnessed some bizarre things but nothing that I would qualify as paranormal. They seemed to focus on people with personal issues and those with mental illness. I sat in on three of their 'encounters'.

One was the son of a prominent minister who had a 'demon' of homosexuality. They 'cured' him by casting out the demon and he was happy that he could finally fit in with the culture of his father's fundamentalist church without the risk of being outed.

Within a month the kid was a wreck because he was sure his recurring sexual urges were actually signs that he was again possessed. He dropped out of college, forsook his family and his personal faith because he felt that God had forsaken him.

The second time I observed them I didn't stay for more than five minutes. A young man had an uncontrollable twitch during which he would make grunting sounds. I was sure it was Tourette's Syndrome and pleaded with him to not go through with the 'encounter' but rather see a physician. He really thought it was a demonic issue though and after a few minutes of their trying to cast out the demon I just had enough and left the room.

His faith in God and himself was shattered after that experience. He was in constant fear of the demonic, for the intense psychological drama of the 'exorcism' convinced him that the source of his problem truly lay in the spiritual realm and not the physical.

Next was a student who was seen to frequently walk alone in the woods of the State Park that surrounded our campus, a place where it was long rumored to be active with satanic cults and demonic forces. He exhibited odd behavior and would have uncontrollable fits of rage for no apparent reason. I asked a good friend of mine to sit in with me at the 'exorcism' and tell me what he thought of the proceedings. During the preliminary interview before the 'exorcism' the leader grilled him about his activities in the woods behind the college. He just enjoyed the peaceful night air and the serenity of the forest. They asked him if he was involved with any occult or satanic practices or rituals. Nope. They then asked him if there was anything he felt guilty about that Satan could have used to enter into his life. He said he had masturbated three weeks ago. That was it! And they exorcised the spirit of masturbation from the man. They asked him if he felt any better. "Not really" he replied. They then asked him if he had the urge to masturbate anymore. "Not right now!" He said giving the 'exorcist' a disgusted expression.

Right after the 'encounter' and when the 'exorcists' left, my friend who had observed with me went up to the evil masturbater and shook his hand. "I don't know how you do it, man. I can't go three days let alone three weeks!" I grunted an Amen in fidelity. Later that semester the student's father took him to a psychiatrist and he was diagnosed with manic depression and a chemical imbalance. With treatment he was a changed man. But he still loved to walk alone in the woods at night.

Extreme examples? You bet. I'm sure many of you reading this are aghast by this exhibit of rabid fundamentalism run amok, as well you should. I could go on-maybe not with as egregious examples as these, but just as damaging. Now some might nitpick that I am blurring Demonologists with Exorcists. However most novice 'Demonologists' that I see in the current rush to paranormal investigation try to communicate with the entities they encounter. That in and of itself falls into the realm of Exorcism, for the first job of the Exorcist is to in some way communicate with the evil spirit he wishes to evict. Without addressing the spirit, it cannot be expunged.

Of course most intelligent Demonologists would not link homosexuality, masturbation or Tourette's to demonic activity. But the point is that unless you see visible paranormal activity involved with the situation then you are being as blatantly ignorant as the examples above. Certain activity can indicate the possibility of possession, but in those cases the activity is so psychologically dominant and damaging that it is obvious something spiritual is going on. But even then, that doesn't mean it's demonic.

And what's worse, if you do proceed without concrete evidence you run the risk of actually inviting a demonic presence into your midst. Most evil spirits love attention. They are up for a party if you invite them. And like many unwanted guests they don't like to leave when the party is over. And sometimes you don't find out until much later that you have the unwelcome guest to begin with.

If you go around looking for a demon behind every bush, you will find them.

I've noticed that many who immerse themselves in Demonology often get caught up in darkness. It's an obsession that manifests itself in almost every facet of their lives. I've known people who become so paranoid that they get themselves 'tested' to see if they are under demonic influence. A professional Exorcist I trained with told me that in his 40 years of experience in dealing with these type of people over 95% of them have at least one 'demon' either residing in them or attached to them in some way. Most had multiple infestations. Paranoia reached such a fever pitch in some of my friends as they took Demonology and Exorcism classes that they even worried that their new born infants and toddlers were possessed. We have all read stories of late that show what a horrible direction that line of thinking can take you.

For when you take an inordinate amount time exploring evil, evil itself will explore you.

But when you get right down to it Demonology itself is a shaky science. I don't care who you are or what religious or world view you claim-Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Wicca, Aethiest or any other, much of what we know about demons (or angels for that matter) is just conjecture. In fact the Biblical hierarchy of Angelic and Demonic beings that many Christian and non-Christian Demonologists hold dear has classes of these beings that are taken out of context from the Biblical source itself.

I'm talking about demonic classification of Principalities and Powers.

In the New Testament the Ancient Greek word translated Principalities is Arche, a derivative of the Greek word meaning one who holds political power. A politician.

The word translated Power in almost all instances is the Greek word Exousia which holds the meaning of the authoritarian rule of government. The law.

In all instances of the use of these words together the meaning is associated with the political persecution of the Church in the 1st Century AD by the Roman Empire. (Ephesians 3:10, 6:12; Colossians 1:16, 2:15 and Titus 3:1)

The use of these words together might be comparable to the 1960s and 70s term "The Man" that was used in connection with anyone associated with political or judicial authority.

Only once in Romans 8:38 does the term Power have supernatural connotations in the original Greek and the word translated there is Dunamis which literally means miraculous power. But not evil miraculous power, in the context it likely means the supernatural 'miracles' worked by spiritual con men who in their self aggrandizing spectacle tried to glorify themselves instead of glorifying God. The 1st century's version of a Televangelist.

In fact the only time the Bible directly classifies a type of evil spirit the term is unrecognizable as such in many English versions of the Bible. In Genesis 6:4 the Hebrew word Nephilim is usually translated 'Giant' or 'Mighty Men'. But the term Nephilim is a derivative of the Hebrew word for 'fallen' giving the term Nephilim the rather different denotation of "Fallen Ones". In this context the sons of God (the term usually given to any type of angelic beings) mated with the daughters of men and their offspring were 'The Fallen Ones'. Just what that means we are left to guess, but the connotation has strong implications. (shameless plug Actually these implications are the background for the latest book I am writing, "The Ashes of Molech" my first true fiction novel)

Which is why Demonology is associated with the Occult. We truly know next to nothing of what we face. We can know how to deal with it, but what it truly is in a substantive way we can only guess. Oh you can ask the spirits themselves during an exorcism. They will tell you all sorts of things. Funny how it is usually exactly what you want to hear. But in truth we know nothing except that which has been handed down to us through Medieval tradition based on flimsy Scriptural interpretation.

Which is why I get goosebumps when I see some self made 'Demonologists' and 'Exorcists' practice their trade on unwitting victims. Not because I fear the evil beings that they could unknowingly unleash, but rather I fear the Hell that they could be subjecting their victims to. It is something I know first hand. You see many years ago I was a victim myself. I had myself 'tested' by a self made 'Exorcist'. At the time I didn't know any better but his methods amounted to nothing more than a bastardization of free association in a 'spiritual counseling session'. At the time I had no real serious spiritual problems, but afterward I was oppressed for years. It wasn't until I understood what had happened to me that I was able to be free of the spiritual harassment by demonic forces that was unleashed upon me that day.

It's something I would not wish on my worst enemy.

Interaction with the Demonic should only be done by those who know what they are doing, by those who have actually had some professional training as well as education on the subject.

Or else you never know what you might bring home.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope

Friday, June 13, 2008

The UFO landing on Presque Isle

One of the reasons I became fascinated with UFOs so early in life was because of a sighting that happened in 1966 in my home town of Erie, Pennsylvania. I was only a child at the time but the story became legend in this small town. It was investigated by officials from the State Police and Air Force and became case #10798 of Project Blue Book in which it was classified as unsolved.

But it may or may not be able to be classified as unsolved any longer.

Of course many of you know UFO sightings have become more frequent over Lake Erie in the more recent years, mostly in the area of Sandusky, Ohio. Especially of note is the Michael Lee Hill video which was shot in August of 2006.

However there was something particularly special about the 1966 sighting at Beach 6 of Presque Isle, besides its being classified as unsolved. It was a Close Encounter of the Third Kind.

Presque Isle State Park is Pennsylvania’s most frequented State Park. Its over seven miles of beaches on Lake Erie are usually jam packed through the warm summer months. It was on the hot and humid night of Sunday July 31st 1966 that six people had come from nearby Jamestown, New York to enjoy a refreshing visit to popular Beach 6 along the northern edge of the park. Those present that night were Betty Jean Klem (16), Douglas J Tibbets (18) came along with Gerald LaBelle (26) and Mrs. Anita Haifley (20) who brought along her children Sandra (2) and Sara (6 months). Somehow during the evening their car became stuck in the sand in the east end of the beach parking lot and try as they might the men could not dislodge it. Others who were leaving the park gave assistance by offering a ride to Mr. LaBelle so he could get a tow truck to free the stuck vehicle. Within a few minutes of this Park Policemen Ralph E. Clark and Robert Loeb Jr. drove by the beach and noticed the trapped car. Stopping at the car they promised that they would return to render assistance is Mr. LaBelle could not find anyone to help by the time they returned.

It was around 9:30pm when something strange happened. Mrs Klem recounts the events as recorded in the August 1, 1966 Erie Times News:

“We were sitting in the car waiting for help. We saw a star move. It got brighter. It would move fast, then dim. It came straight down. The car vibrated. I know we saw it, we had taken a walk in that area earlier. There was nothing between those trees then. All of a sudden it was just there.”

According to the witnesses the object was mushroom shaped with a narrow base rising to an oval structure. There were also lights on the back of the object. The UFO approached from the north and briefly hovered over the area before landing. Ms. Klem said a beam of light came from the craft and moved along the sand in a straight line as the craft dissapeared behind the tree line.

“It lit up the whole woods in the path. It wasn’t like a search light. There was light along the ground, along the whole path.” She said the light did not waiver but continued to extend into the woods.

About this time the patrol car with officers Clark and Loeb returned as promised to offer assistance. Immediately the light from the object extinguished. The officers approached the car and were told of the craft that landed in the woods, and Mr. Tibbets offered to show them the general area where he thought it touched down. With Douglas Tibbets leading the way, the officers followed along-leaving the two young women and the children alone in the car.

Moments later as Betty Klem sat behind the steering wheel of the car she saw something emerge from the woods that the three had just entered. She thought at first that it was an animal, but then she saw the shape and size of it. What she saw was a dark featureless gorilla shaped humanoid about six feet tall walking toward them. Although not in the initial report in an interview with Mr. LaBelle on June 12th of 2008 he recounted that the girls told him that it circled the car from a distance and then came close and clawed at the car. Screaming in utter terror Ms. Klem immediately sounded the cars horn frantically. The creature then sluggishly moved back into the brush and the UFO rose and took off with incredible speed to the north just minutes before Mr. Tibbets and officers Clark and Loeb came running to their aid. To highlight the urgency at which they arrived Mr. LaBelle was told that one of the officers actually lost his service pistol in the sand and decided to forgo the seconds it would take to recover it in order to reach the distressed women as soon as possible.

Both girls were in a state of panic, and it took them a while to calm down. Mrs. Haifley was in such shock that she refused to talk about the incident. Ms. Klem initially refused to talk about it also but after removed from the location she began to relax and told the tale. The officers noticed scratches on the car where the being had made contact, and all four insisted that they were not there before the visit to Presque Isle. The four adults and two children were taken by patrol car to the Park Ranger station where they detailed the story. According to Mr. LaBelle more heavily armed patrolmen came in to assist with the situation and they refused to let the young people go back to their car to retrieve their belongings until morning.

By 7am the following morning the State Police and United States Air Force were involved. Officers Paul Wilson and Robert Canfield investigated the area and found unusual impressions in the sand. About 350 to 400 yards away from the car two diamond shaped imprints about 18 inches wide and 6 to 8 inches deep were found 10 to 12 feet apart were discovered. In another place three impressions were found in a triangular pattern about 11 feet apart from each other. Finally officer Wilson found tracks that led in a straight line to the car. They were conical shaped, about 8 inches wide 5 to 7 inches deep and five to eight feet apart. Officer Wilson reported that he did not believe that they were footprints but seemed to have been made by some kind of heavy object or objects. Sometime during the morning Air Force investigators took a statement from Ms. Klem. Soon after the incident she was also interviewed by a Psychiatrist who affirmed that the testimony she gave about the incident seemed to be true and not due to illness or delusion.

In the days following the sighting beach 6 was filled with UFO enthusiasts waiting to catch a glimpse of what those young people saw that Sunday night, but no one else had such an experience.

I’m sure many of you have heard some version of this encounter. Various versions add or subtract various details. The memory of this incident lingers on in the small port town of Erie, Pennsylvania and every once in a while it is discussed various local media. Such is the case with this report from YouTube.

The reporter covering the Presque Isle story is Brian Sheridan, a well respected and long time television journalist in the Erie community. He is now a part time reporter for the local ABC and FOX affiliates and full time Professor of Communications at Mercyhurst College. Some of you may remember Erie’s well reported and infamous “Pizza Bomber” case a few years ago, Mr. Sheridan was the only reporter on the scene at the time and it was his report that was viewed worldwide.

Right after this report Mr. Sheridan received a phone call from a local truck driver, Mr. Kim Faulkner. He claims that this incident was nothing more that a hoax. Mr. Sheridan interviewed him and found his story to be legit. He did a follow up report “UFO at Presque Isle part 2-Solved!”

After seeing these videos I contacted Brian Sheridan and asked if he thought Kim Faulkner’s story was just a way for him to get his 15 minutes of fame. He wrote me back saying,

“…His brother confirmed the story Faulkner told. We also found the Boy's Life ad he mentioned. He was also the only one who contacted us after the first story ran who did not claim they did it as a hoax or prank. It made the most sense of anyone we talked with at the time. Other people just wanted to brag. Faulkner didn't even want to go on camera. He just called to fill me in on the story after his brother told him about the first piece we aired.”

The balloon that Mr. Faulkner launched as a child on that July night can still be purchased here:

So it seems the case is closed. We have a cause and a park policeman from the original report that seems to doubts the veracity of the sighting. Or is it? Something just didn’t sit right with me about the report. According to the report the wind carried the balloon northwest from Mr. Faulkner’s boyhood home on 1817 West 22nd street (almost at the corner of 22nd and Greengarden Avenue) a distance of almost 3 miles. Here is a visual of the path that the balloon took according to the Mr. Sheridan’s report from Mr. Faulkner. The dark blue dot is beach 6

I spent many hours in the outdoors of Erie County and frequently observed weather patterns. I could be mistaken but it seemed that during the summer months the winds primarily came from the southwest, which would have driven the balloon to the northeast-not northwest. So I went back to the newspapers of July 30 –August 1st 1966 and found that the indeed the winds off lake Erie at the time were coming from the southwest varying from 9-22 knots. I contacted local meteorologists to make sure I was not mistaken and was told unless there was some strange pattern that was not recorded then the balloon would definitely have traveled to the northeast. Here is a visual of the balloons path according to the meteorological information obtained from the records. The red is the direct path, the pink is the extremes of the possible variations of the path and the dark blue dot is again Beach 6.

Now I am by no means calling into question neither the reporting of Mr. Sheridan nor the veracity of Mr. Faulkner’s statement. But it just doesn’t seem possible that the Faulkner balloon was the source of the encounter on July 31st 1966. Leaving out the wind trajectory alone it also does not jive with the details of the report. Even given gullibility or mass hysteria, it would seem to be a far stretch that the sighting of a 9 foot children’s hot air balloon would cause the frenzy that ensued on beach 6 that hot July night. There is also the physical evidence that verified some of the witnesses’ details. Evidence classified as such by professional policemen and the United States Air Force and not just park police who usually have far less experience in such investigations. Many articles I have read about the case cast a shadow on the young people of the story, making them out to be naive teenagers out for a late night romantic interlude at a secluded location and having been caught they make up a fanciful story. Mr. LaBelle even told me he was accused of fabricating the incident by using a flashlight and playing tricks on the passengers in the car for a practical joke. But the facts show nothing of the sort. And Mr. Belle, 32 years after the fact holds to the story.

Also it is a little reported fact that the UFO was observed by more than these 5 individuals at beach 6. In the August 1st 1966 Erie Times News a side story is included with the initial report of the UFO at Presque Isle, it’s titled “Eight others see ‘UFO’ in Erie Area. These 8 individuals saw a UFO the same evening between the hours of 8pm to midnight.

Steve Lupe was on Beach 2 with a group of friends that evening and he along with 3 others spotted an object hovering near the Peninsula around 8:30pm.

French exchange students Helena Roche and Alain Orcel living at 412 Frontier Drive about a mile away from the beaches of Presque Isle saw a lighted silvery object flying low that evening.

Stephanie Mango of 4704 Homeland Ave also saw it, saying it flew silently at treetop level. It was round and it’s color undistinguishable. The object moved toward the beach and then changed course and moved toward Erie’s Bay area where it disappeared from sight.

Sue Karie, Linda Henderson, and Janice Dickey were sleeping out in the yard of the Karie household at 1012 Shenley Drive when around 11pm when they spotted the silvery object flying from south to north. She reports that “I heard a whistling sound and looked up and saw an object moving north as high as The Boston Store (about 138 ft). It was very low, and we all ran and got into the station wagon and locked the doors when we saw it.” She said at first it looked like a star but it kept fading in and out. It was round and saucer shaped and they saw if for a minute after which it disappeared.

Here is a map compiling all the locations of these additional sightings that night located by the red dots. The light blue dot is where Mr. Faulkner released his balloon and the dark blue is beach 6 for reference.

So we do not have to rely upon the testimony of those who encountered the UFO close up at beach 6 that July evening in1966. I think the evidence is irrefutable that something landed on Presque Isle that night. And it seems to have had an occupant that looked very much like a Bigfoot type hominid. What it was is as much a mystery today as it was back in the summer of 1966.

The original witnesses like many of those from the various 1960’s sightings are aging and some are no longer with us. Mr. LaBelle informed me that Douglas Tibbits passed on a few years ago and Mrs.Haifley moved out west a long time ago and had not been heard from since. Betty Jean Klem is still in the Jamestown area but does not wish to revisit the events of that night. It gave her nightmares for years after and she has decided to moved on.

There is another strange incident associated with this event. During my interview with Mr. LaBelle he lamented the fact that in every newspaper archive he has searched the initial reports of the incident turn up missing. If it is microfilm, that section omitted. If it is an actual paper the page has been ripped off. I found this curious, for when I initially searched our local library for the newspaper microfilm of July 31, 1966 I noticed that someone has written on the box containing the months collection of newspapers “July 31, 1966 missing and cannot be replaced”.


Until next time,

Pastor Swope

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Thunderbirds over Western Pennsylvania

After reading the June 4, 2008 edition of Cryptomundo where Loren Coleman highlights the recent Thunderbird sightings in the Appalachians as reported by Stan Gordon, I reflected back to an incident that happened to me a few years ago in Western Pennsylvania.

I think I saw a Thunderbird myself in July of 2001

In 2000 I started working in a local graveyard in Erie County Pennsylvania. I had left association with Denominational churches a few years prior because of the many abuses of power and people that I had seen over the years. Eventually I started my own independent non-denominational organization called Open Gate Ministerial Services to offer services that you would normally find in a church to those who did not belong to any church or religious organization. As an ordained clergyman of a small fellowship that acted as a church I preformed Weddings, Funerals, Baptism/Dedications, and other services as needed to whomever needed them. But it didn't pay well. In fact I never asked for any fee, and lot of the time I never received one. But I liked that. It was very liberating. But I still had bills to pay and knowing that I went out into the workforce to support my family while still being able to minister to others through our organization.

I ended up working at the graveyard as a gravedigger. I started off as a salesman, but I couldn't make a sale for the life of me. I'm just not the salesman type- especially cemetery sales which is harder than most. But there was an opening in the maintenance department and it payed above the average wage at the time so I jumped at the chance. Most of the time it was pretty hard work. Digging graves and burying bodies. Then there were the disinternments, taking a body out of a grave to move it to another location-the less said about those experiences the better. But then during the summer months came the times we mowed the grounds and tended the greenery. I was usually assigned to mow the grounds during in the summer and it gave me ample time enjoy the outdoors and commune with nature.

It was one of those days in July of 2001 as I mowed the 23 acres of lawn between the mausoleum and the edge of the property dominated by a line of high tension wires that I saw something very odd. Obviously frightened by the sound of the mower, a gigantic bird had just launched out of the brush 25 yards to my right. If it wasn't so large I might not have noticed it. The gigantic wings beat the air with dynamic effort and the avian was aloft and soring over the brush and past the sprawling high tension wires and the pillar that supported them. The bird was absolutely humongous and as it past the support tower I noticed that it's wingspan as it reached it's crest ran very close to the length of the towers upper supporting beam. The creature quickly rose and then glided down past the treetops of the area where where we dumped the excess dirt from digging graves and soon slipped out of sight. It was strange, as a follower of all things Fortean I had heard of Thunderbirds since Elementary school but at this time I was betwixt amazement of what I had just encountered and actually comprehending what it was. As the realization of what I had just witnessed came to fruition upon my numbed mind I remember jumping off the mower and screaming "YES!" in jubilation. I wanted to drive my mower back to the dumping ground to see if I could by chance catch another look at the strange bird that I had just beheld, to verify my adulation. But I knew that if I did so my boss (who worked us all like the Marines he once served with in Vietnam) would be very irate. Anyway, the chances of actually finding the bird in the thick woods were going to be pretty slim. So restraining myself I went back to my mowing and glowed in the satisfaction of what I had just beheld.

But what had I just seen?

It was both similar to many large birds that I had seen in the area and yet very distinct. It looked downright primitive. It had no neck, a thin and very pointed beak and a long tail that ended with what looked to be a triangle. It was completely black or dark grey from head to tail with no visible markings on it except a small bulge of plumage under the neck that stuck close to the body.

Here is a rough sketch I made of what it looked like (the grey is added as a highlight, the right wing was also the same color).

Of all the workers in the field that day I was the only one to see it, which is no surprise since the others were scattered throughout the 90 acre property doing various assignments which gave no reason to look up into the sky.

After work I took my measuring tape to the tower and measured the length of the upper support beam by comparing it to the base which was the same length- 20 feet. So I estimated the wingspan of the creature to be anywhere from 15 to 17 feet in length. The only local bird that comes to anywhere near the size of the bird that I had just spotted was the Great Blue Heron. And to tell you the truth they do look similar in many ways. Here is a photo of one just for comparison courtesy of Eric Vaandering:

The wingspan of a Great Blue Heron runs 7 feet at the most. What I had just seen was at least twice that size. I had seen Herons quite frequently since a pair would often fly over our cemetery going to and from the various wet lands that encircled our property. In fact the year before when I first took the job, I had accidentally surprised one of the pair while it fished in the creek that ran by a military memorial. I was only five feet away as it suddenly jumped out of the water in fright and quickly flew off. I don't know who was more frightened by our close encounter though, seeing such a large bird pop out of nowhere was pretty unnerving. But the avian that I saw that July in 2001 was a giant compared to the Herons that inhabited our local woodland.

So with a possible Thunderbird sighting in hand I did what any good lover of the paranormal would do, I reported it. I sent a letter to Fortean Times and they published it in the August 2001 issue No. 148. Only later did I discover that there had been another Thunderbird sighting in June of that year only 50 miles south in Greenville Pa. The similarities between the two creatures are striking. Here is a description of the encounter as described by Stan Gordon in an October 1st 2001 posting at

June 13, 2001- "A resident of the town of Greenville, PA reported seeing a large bird the size of a small airplane from his living room. Greensville is a small town that lies near the border of Ohio and about half-way between Erie and Pittsburgh. The witness, Ray (Please note, the witnesses actual name is not used as he has asked for anonymity) upon futher inquiry during a phone interview on June 15, 2001, was able to flesh out the report as. Ray described the bird as fully feathered a dark brown or black color. The back of the wings was a grayish-black. The body was not bulky and the overall appearance was not like any bird he had ever seen. As the house lies near Little Shedango Stream and the house overlooks a small pond and woodlands, Ray was extremely familiar with the birds and other wildlife in the area including bald eagles, vultures and storks.

Ray stated that the bird flew in from the South at a distance of 200-300 yards from the window and landed on a large tree beside the small pond. As it flew in he saw a shadow first and thought it was an ultra light aircraft that are used in the area by some neighbors. The bird landed and remained on the tree for 15-20 minutes, and then took off again to the South. Ray estimated that the wingspan was equivalent to some of the ultra lights he has seen in the area, around 15 feet of wingspan and upwards of 5 feet of body size.
Was it the same creature? If not then it had to be of the same species.

I worked for the cemetery for five more years after this sighting and I never saw the creature again. But I was watching the skies for it, that was for sure.

I did see a lot of other strange things at Erie County Memorial Gardens in the years I worked there but nothing could compare to my chance encounter with this unknown cryptid. The encounter was breathtaking.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Some THING in the mine killed the miners...

Like you I’ve been in quite a few situations where I have felt pretty creeped out.

I was once in a valley deep in the West African Savanna where the locals sacrificed animals to a fertility god that lived in a tiny lake. The place was almost entirely covered in blood and you could hear the pitiful wailing of the animals as they cut their throats with crude knives made out of scrap metal. That was very surreal and definitely creepy.

Then there was the time when I was in college and my best friend who was the security chief took me on a tour of the secret rooms of our campus library. You see it was a converted mansion that was used by the leader of a quasi Hindu cult in the 1920’s and 30’s. There were all kinds of secret passages, rooms filled with cult fetishes that missionaries had brought back from all over the world and a strange little room with a hidden window through which the cult leader would watch his guest as they slept without the slightest inclination on their part. It was long rumored to be haunted and we experienced our share of odd noises, fetishes flying off shelves without any cause and lights turning on and off for no reason. It was very creepy indeed.

In the early 90s I went to a large Star Trek Convention in New York City. Now I’ve been a fan of Trek since the program first aired in the 60’s, but man there were times at this convention when it was just as creepy as being in a room you were sure was filled with specters that wished you ill will. It wasn’t the costumes or the rabid geekdom that effervesced throughout the gallery that was creepy. Most of those attending were great people even though some might deem them a tad eccentric. No, it was the small percentage of fans there who you could tell were absolute nuts. You could just see it in their eyes, an aloofness that showed they were...elsewhere. Strangely it seemed a lot of them were seated at vendor’s booths.

But of all the things that gives me the creeps the feeling that something unseen is stalking you is to me the most disturbing. It’s the feeling I had as a child while swimming in the Ocean after having just seen Jaws. I had the same feeling a few years later walking through the Allegheny woods late at night after seeing The Legend of Boggy Creek, I was sure Bigfoot was hunting me through the dark woods. And while in Africa I guarded our Land Rover from thieves during the night while we traveled to a remote village. As I lay on the roof of the Rover with a short bush sword as my only defense, something walked the dark streets of the village. There was no electricity for hundreds of miles and it was a new moon. But I could hear the breathing of the creature and could make out the dark shape that moved up and down the dirt road that passed for the main street of the village. At one point it came very close to our vehicle and I could no longer see where it was. The fright that overcame me at that moment was almost overwhelming, I wanted to jump up and run for the door of the nearby hut where my companions lay sleeping but the only movement I made was to sturdy my grip on the blade in my hand. And then the creature just…disappeared. I never saw it again even though the frightful encounter guaranteed that I would not catch a wink of shut eye for the entire night. I made mention of this mysterious creature to my fellow Missionaries who had spent decades in the field and had traveled to this remote village often. They had no clue as to what it was. I thought it had the vague shape of a lion, but my friends assured me that there had been no lions in the area for almost a century. What was it? I have no idea but I’ll never forget the feeling I had that night. The feeling of being stalked by something large and unknown was an all consuming ominously creepy feeling.

It is this fear of an unseen thing that could jump out at you from seemingly nowhere that really freaks me out. And a few years ago I came across an old story on the Web that gave me the creeps in this very way. It can be found on many sites on the Internet, here is a version from The National UFO Database:

PENNSYLVANIA, DIXONVILLE - Mine inspector Glenn E. Berger reported in 1944 to his superiors that the Dixonville mine disaster which "killed" 15 men was not the result of a cave-in, but rather an attack by underground creatures capable of manipulating the earth [partial cave-ins], whose domain the miners had apparently penetrated. Most of the dead miners were not injured by falling rocks but showed signs of large claw marks, others were missing, and one survivor spoke of seeing a vicious humanoid creature that was 'not of this world' within an ancient passage that the miners had broke into. The creature somehow created a "cave-in", blocking himself and another inspector [who closed his eyes when he felt the creatures 'hot breath' on his neck] from the main passage until another rescue party began to dig through the collapse, scaring the "creature" away. source: Article by Stoney Brakefield in NEWS EXTRA, July 14, 1974

Imagine the sheer terror if this story were true. There are Humanoid like things under the Mountains of Western Pennsylvania that are both intelligent and malevolent. I have been an avid reader of all things unexplained all my life and I had never heard this tale before. It seemed to be authentic since it sites Newspaper, author and date of publication. I followed up on every site that hit on my Google search and the basics of the story remained the same, along with the sited source. But in searching nearby newspaper archives online I couldn’t find a thing about it. Not only was there not any real newspaper article that mentioned the amazing claims made by Inspector Berger after the horrible death of his coworkers, there was no evidence of the disaster itself even before the amazing revelation of it’s actual cause. Within all the Googled internet articles the mine itself was not named but it was supposedly located in the town of Dixonville which is in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Upon further research I found that the only documented mine in Dixonville was the Randolph Mine #2 which was situated off the Pennsylvania Railroad very close to the town. It had started operation in 1913 and was active at the time of this supposed disaster. Perhaps this was where the incident occurred?

Having found no really good leads on this story from the Web, I resorted to good old fashioned leg work. As we all know mining disasters devastate the local community and it is very uncommon for the accident to be forgotten. If this incident really happened, then surely there must be some tangible record of the event. Since Dixonville is a very small town and has neither newspaper nor library I started out my investigation at the nearest major town which is Indiana, Pa. I called the Indiana County Library and inquired if anyone there had ever heard of the incident and was transferred to the reference librarian. The young lady that took the question was very puzzled, she personally had never heard of the Dixonville mine disaster of 1944. But she had heard of the Sample Run Mine disaster that occurred nearby in August of 1926. There had been an explosion deep in the mine at Sample Run and four of the miners had been brought to the Dixonville hospital. There had been 57 men in the mine the day of the accident and 44 of them had perished. But since she had never heard of any accident occurring at Dixonville itself she decided to do some investigating on her own and told me she would call me back later in the afternoon.

In the meantime I also contacted the local Indiana newspaper the Indiana Gazette. I talked to Mr. Daley the newspaper’s editor. At first I just inquired about the disaster in general, afraid that informing him about the bizarre elements of the case might end our conversation abruptly. But as we talked I gradually let the fantastic story out little by little. It peaked his interest but there was a major problem, he had never heard of any paper in the area called the News Extra. Just to be sure he checked with some of the older employees of the newsroom and they too had never heard of neither the paper nor the accident. In fact the name Stoney Brakefield didn’t ring any bells with anyone in the office either. But the editor was intrigued with the story and promised to explore all avenues available to him to see if any of the tale could be validated.

Within a few hours I received calls from both the Research Librarian and Mr. Daley from the Indiana Gazette. Neither of them could find any evidence whatsoever to corroborate the validity of any aspect of the story. There was no documentation to be found from any of the local papers or news reports of an accident in a mine at Dixonville or any other local mine in 1944. No local or regional papers of the area ever went by the name News Extra. And as for the name of the reporter who broke this fantastic story Stoney Brakefield? The only record of him appears to be in the various Internet articles connected to this story.

I call shenanigans.

It’s a total fabrication. It seems to have begun surfacing paranormal and UFO web sites around 1998, and like so many unverified stories it made the rounds from site to site until it was taken as a reputable story by some. It probably seemed to have a hint of authenticity because of the inclusion of the names of what appeared to be a real newspaper and reporter. Just like so many of the fantastic stories from the more tabloid 19th century newspapers, there is no verifiable facts to back up the amazing story of the C.H.U.D. that attacked the miners at Dixonville in 1944.

Too bad. It’s a great story, even if it is a tad campy. It would be phenomenal if there were actually Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers within the coal rich mountains of Western Pennsylvania. Of course I myself would never go spelunking again.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope