On My Personal Brushes with the Unexplained

In my years of writing about all aspects of the world of the weird I have often been asked if I myself have ever seen something I could not explain or if I have ever had my own strange experiences or encounters. I have typically always been rather vague and evasive on this point, not really giving a clear answer to this, and certainly not divulging anything of import. Until now that is. You see my answer to the question of whether I have ever had experiences with the unexplained is, in short, yes. Quite a resounding yes, in fact. I am not sure why, but I have always kept these strange experiences to myself. I suppose it is the same for many others out there, and I guess everyone has their own reasons for this. Maybe they think that no one will believe them. Maybe they think that those around them will think them to be crazy or treat them as some sort of pariah if they were to come forth with their bizarre stories. Maybe they just think these are things best left to the confines of their minds.

Now, obviously many people out there do indeed come forward with their accounts, but I suspect that there are even more who have not. I have long been one of these. This may seem strange for you to hear, considering I am a writer on these very mysteries, but I have my reasons. However, I recently had an exchange with someone on the topic of why people keep their paranormal experiences to themselves and it was quite profound, to say the least, and it made me think. I did a bit of soul searching and I decided that I would come out with my own experiences. These are things which I have never told anyone, not even my closest friends or family. They have remained caged up within me, anomalies that have sat like awkward, jagged rocks upon the landscape of my mind for far too long. They are deeply personal, and even now it feels odd to let them out and put them out there, like I should hold onto them and keep them hidden. Even now as I write this I am hesitant to let them go, wary of loosing them into the wilderness of public knowledge, but I have resolved myself to doing this, for better or worse. It just seems for some reason like it is finally time, and that this is the right thing to do. I am tired of feeling so alone with it.

I have actually had three separate occasions where I have witnessed, well, something beyond what I can explain. The first, most dramatic, and perhaps most utterly inexplicable of my experiences is actually a hard one to write about since it was so traumatic for me, still inspires fear in me, and I am still unable to really wrap my head around it even after all of these years. This happened to me when I had just turned 18 years old, just before I was to head off to college, and I had decided to take a road trip from my home town in California to Denver, Colorado to visit a friend of mine there. I did not have much money, and my parents thought it was a bit of a whimsical idea, but they let me go through with it anyway. I thought at the time that I could handle myself, and at 6’3″ and pretty muscular I suppose I have a somewhat intimidating enough presence, even then, that I foolishly thought I would not run into too many problems along the way, that no one would mess with me. Anyway, it was just to be a drive out there, after which I would stay two days and then come back. Simple. There was no real reason to think it was a particularly bad idea at the time.

Along the way, somewhere in the wilds of Nevada, it became obvious that the drive was to be a lot longer than I had expected, I had left my home too late, and I was getting tired and sleepy. If you have ever taken this drive then you might know that there are vast swaths where there is not a soul in sight for miles around. It might as well be the surface of the moon. There was really not much to see along this route, it was dark and empty, and with the endless, monotonous road ahead and the hypnotizing lane lines flickering by I caught myself nodding off at the wheel on several occasions. I did not really have the money for a hotel to stay at, I barely had enough money for food and gas, and so I decided to pull over at a highway rest area off the highway and take a nap in my car. I only planned to sleep for a couple of hours and then head off along that dark, desolate highway once more. The area was actually rather remote, with nothing around, and at the time there were no other vehicles there at that rest stop, giving it all a rather bleak and imposing atmosphere that made me wonder if it was a good idea to be there or not, but I ended up parking, putting my chair back, and falling asleep even as I turned over the idea of just continuing on my way in my head.

I awoke to a tapping on my car window. I jumped awake, and it was light enough that I at first thought it was early morning. I was somewhat startled to see a young man standing there peering in at me. He was a skinny young man who looked to be perhaps in his early twenties or late teens, not much older than myself at the time, and he was dressed normally, certainly not a vagrant or appearing particularly threatening in any noticeable way, although I immediately wondered why he was out there in the middle of nowhere and what he wanted. He then simply and calmly said “Open the door.” At this I immediately had a distinct sense of palpable menace, some undefinable feeling of threat, and was glad that I had locked the doors of my vehicle. I simply said no. He demanded again, “Open the door,” this time in almost a growl, and I soon noticed that there were two others with him lurking in the background, and that there was also a pick-up truck nearby, which I assumed to be theirs. Upon this truck was mounted a spotlight that was turned on and pointed at the ground, which was why the whole area seemed to be surprisingly illuminated. In actuality it was still the middle of the night.

Image by timmypup

This is where things get bizarre indeed. Thinking that it was just some kids screwing around, I took out a knife I had brought with me and just held it there where he could see it, which I guess was pretty stupid in retrospect, but remember I was just a dumb teenager and I thought this would maybe scare them away. It in fact had quite the opposite effect. The young man became absolutely infuriated, and let out what I can only describe as an animalistic howl or wail, quite chillingly inhuman in its intensity, as he violently shoved my car to send the vehicle quaking, and I actually felt it lift from the ground a bit. It was breathtakingly horrifying, totally out of nowhere, and was a jarring, frightening display of strength I never would have expected from a person, let alone someone with such a slim frame. It is hard to describe just the amount of alarm I felt at that moment.

This is when I noticed that the two other people with him in the background had something quite off about them. I could see that their eyes were either glowing or reflecting light like those of a cat, I don’t know which, which either way you might recognize as something that human eyes do not do. It also seemed that they were, I don’t know how to describe it, blurry? Fuzzy? Do you know how when you are watching a TV program with bad transmission and the people on the screen look jumpy and distorted? Can you imagine that? It was like that. They seemed distorted, broken, and vague, as if infused with some sort of static. It was almost as if they were tenuous, having trouble with staying in focus, staying in reality, having difficulty existing, or that they were quivering or moving to and fro at great speed. It was really very strange and although I suppose I am a decent writer I find it quite hard to fully describe in words. The next thing I knew, one of them, a girl around the same age as the man, who was now panting and scowling like a rabid dog, his visage twisted and contorted beyond the thin pane of window separating us, was suddenly just there beside him. One moment she was standing in the background some distance away, and then she just was right there in the blink of an eye. It was abrupt and disorienting to say the least. Then she also said “Open the door now.”

This is when I snapped out of my shock and started my car. I didn’t honestly didn’t think it would start, thinking that surely they must have done something to it to cripple it, and that I would be stuck there in its metal prison until they smashed their way in or someone came along to help, which was a slim possibility considering the sheer emptiness of the road and the fact that the chance that few vehicles passing by in the night would even know something was wrong was a remote possibility at best. To my genuine surprise the car did start, and I tore out of there as fast as I could. As I did so, the spotlight on the pick-up truck immediately sprung to life and swung up to home in on me, blinding in its brightness and following my car with perfect precision.

I stepped on the gas, and as I did I was shocked to see that one of them, not the original man or woman, probably the other one or  even another hiding in the shadows who I had not seen, was running along side my car. I think it is important to mention that at this point I was almost to the actual highway and steadily picking up speed, perhaps going 40 miles an hour at that moment, yet there this person was, another young man, easily pacing me as the spotlight pierced forward to track me. As he ran, barely even looking tired, he reached out to knock on my window, and it was all so totally strange and frightening that I remember I let out a scream, something that I usually do not do and which I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve done it. As I reached the highway and picked up speed he tried to keep up with me, banging on my window the whole time with increasing force, and probably made it up to around 50 miles per hour before he finally fell behind and faded into the distance. It was all absolutely mind boggling.

I just drove off as fast as I could, my foot heavy on the pedal, and although that persistent spotlight stayed on me until I was out of sight, the truck oddly did not give chase. I hauled ass until I reached an off-ramp into a populated place, and I must have sat there at a diner for about 3 hours, shaking and trembling at the whim of the adrenaline that was coursing through me. I could not keep my hands still, I must have looked a mess, and I remember the waitress asking if I was alright on numerous occasions, but I lied and said that I was just frightened because I had almost crashed out on the road. I don’t know why I didn’t tell anyone or call the police. It is probably because I didn’t think they would believe me, hell I barely believed it, and also the fact that I was eager to reach my destination and did not want to deal with the hassle, especially since I was in one piece despite my rattled state.

I never did tell my friend in Colorado about it, and indeed I have never told anyone at all about it until now. I was terrified to tell anyone about what really happened. This may all sound very dramatic, but I assure you it did happen, I am not exaggerating, and to this day it is rather traumatic to think about. I truly feel that I was not meant to make it out of there alive, and that I should have died or even worse at that rest area. My life was surely in some form of danger. I often find myself wondering how many other travelers along that desolate stretch of highway were confronted by those odd strangers, and what would have happened to me if I had opened my door as they had demanded. To this day, it gives me duress just to bring up these memories.

Adding to this is that I have never been able to figure out just what exactly happened there on that highway or just who or what it is that I encountered. It is so bizarre and inexplicable, and doesn’t even clearly fit any strange phenomena I know of. Who were those people? Were they even people at all? If not, what were they? Were they wraiths of some sort? Black Eyed Kids? Shadow people? Vampires, for Pete’s sake? What? I mean, what in the world was going on there? Who were they? I have no answers for it, and the whole incident leaves me baffled and not a little frightened to this day. Now, I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent and rational person, I was not drinking at the time, and I was not doing drugs. I would really like there to be a pat, mundane explanation for it all, but I can find none. I can’t even really find any known phenomenon out there in Forteana and the world of the weird that really fits in with what I saw. It is all completely and utterly bizarre and confounding to me.

My second experience happened years later. This was when I was in university, and I guess it was the summer of 1994. I went camping in the San Bernardino mountains, in California, with some friends to a site we had been to many times before. One of the things I liked to do, and still do, was stargazing. Indeed, I am quite interested in astronomy, and my friends and I would lie down on a ridge and just take in the night sky, wondering at what lies out there in the far reaches of our universe. The view there was amazing, stars like I never saw anywhere else, like diamond dust spread out across black velvet, and I always felt a profound sense of awe and wonder there.

On this particular evening, we were out at our usual ridge under this vast sea of stars and I spotted a tiny speck of light slowly traversing the night sky. I immediately recognized it as a satellite, or so I thought. If any of you are stargazers, you may be aware that the man-made satellites around our planet can often be seen at night in very clear conditions, and they almost look like a faint star traveling across the sky, sometimes even flickering as they spin. I pointed it out to my two friends and they watched it too. As we tracked its progress across the sky, the pinpoint of light became gradually and dramatically brighter, and began to pulsate with different colors, which is unusual for a satellite. Nevertheless, we still thought that was what it was, that is until something very strange suddenly happened.

The brightening “satellite” then suddenly streaked across the sky like a meteor, but rather than drop to earth went in a large, rapid zig zag pattern, showing extreme maneuverability, before whizzing away into the distance at an astronomical speed. This was no satellite and no meteor. My friend immediately exclaimed something like “Holy shit! Did you see that?!” We had all seen it, and none of us could explain it. We excitedly talked about it for the rest of the evening, but I have not mentioned it to anyone since. Now, if I had been alone I would have probably just written it all off as my eyes playing tricks on me, as wrong as that may feel, but the thing is that this object and its sheer speed and bizarre, erratic behavior were witnessed by all three of us, none of whom can explain it. Now it was technically a UFO, but I can’t say whether it was aliens, an experimental aircraft, or some other aerial phenomena. I simply don’t know. All I know is that it was not a satellite and not a meteor. It was really damn strange.

My last brush with the unexplained happened to me after I came to Japan, where I have lived for the past 21 years. As many of you may know, I often write about mysterious vanishings, but this is actually not always something I have had an interest in. I think what first made me intrigued with this phenomenon is that I think that I may have witnessed someone vanish into thin air, at least I think so. It’s hard to say. Let me explain.

This happened around 9 years ago in the early summer. I was out at a wilderness area not far from Tokyo, at a place which draws quite a few people to come out for a variety of outdoor activities, so this is not a remote area in the middle of nowhere, and it is actually quite crowded in the spring and summer months. Although there is camping there, for me this was just a day trip, picnicking and hiking. I was with some other people having a picnic in a large open meadow area with picnic tables and BBQ facilities, where many families were out enjoying the sunny, warm day. There were people everywhere, in fact, and we were even commenting on how crowded it was.

Near this picnic area there was a creek that meandered by and pushed against a rather steep drop, and I remember thinking that this was sort of dangerous considering how many people were milling about not too far away and how many kids were running around the general area. We were sitting quite near this drop off, practically right next to it, and I couldn’t even really enjoy my lunch because sometimes a kid would run past and I was worried that eventually someone was going to go over. I was even telling my friends that we should mention it to the officials who ran the area. It was nerve wracking.

After awhile we were going to actually pack up and be on our way, and I was sort of walking along that ridge checking it out and thinking how they needed a railing or something there. At this point I was walking back to our spot to help pack up and a young girl of around 8 years of age goes running by laughing and heading right for that creek area. I wasn’t totally alarmed at this point, as there were kids everywhere, but I kind of kept an eye on her and was wondering what her parents thought of this. As she was running full speed in that direction I sort of went over in that direction as well, and as she got closer to the danger zone I yelled out in Japanese “ki wo tsuketa hou ga ii yo!” which means “You better be careful!” At around that moment I went around a boulder and the girl ran by it on the other side, and as this was practically right on the cusp of the drop off, I was now quite concerned. Yet, when I rounded the boulder she was gone. Considering her path and speed and position, as well as the fact that she was out of sight for not even a second, she should have been right there on the other side, but she was nowhere to be seen. She had simply vanished.

Thinking that she may have fallen down the ridge, I looked down and there was nothing, no sign of her, and even if she had fallen the creek was not fast flowing enough for her to have been totally swept away in such a short span of time. Looking back towards the meadow also showed me that she was nowhere, even though if she had somehow changed course and returned she had only been out of sight for a split second and I should have seen her doing so. I was baffled, and I walked about looking around but that girl was nowhere to be found. I wondered who her parents were or where they were, but I didn’t know. I was pretty puzzled by it all, but in the end I suppose I just wrote it off as having some explanation, not really believing it myself. I just sort of assumed that the girl had somehow escaped my attention and gone off back to her family in that fraction of a second that it took me to round that boulder, even though part of me knew that it was impossible.

We stayed at that area for a little while longer and I did not see anyone in a panic or looking for someone, and then we left and I sort of put it out of my mind. That evening my mind turned back to that mysterious girl I had seen and I became more and more convinced that what I had witnessed was very strange indeed. I became sort of obsessed with it, and I actually checked the news everyday looking for anything about a missing girl in that area, thinking that if something came up I would notify authorities, but nothing did. To this day I have no idea what I saw. All I know is there is no way that that girl could have run behind that boulder and escaped my attention. She was out of sight for a fraction of a second and then absolutely nothing. Just there one moment and gone the next. I often wonder what I actually saw and if there is some family out there wondering whatever happened to their daughter. I don’t know. Was this someone vanishing? Was it a ghost? Was it just my mind playing tricks on me? I have no idea, but I believe it is at around that point that I developed a keen interest in mysterious disappearances.

Image by Joana Kruse

I do not take coming forward with these experiences lightly. These are things I have kept to myself and buried for years, and which cause me bafflement, stress, and indeed fear even now. I do not make any claim that these must be one thing or the other, only that they are remarkably odd things that have happened to me that evade any conventional explanation I can come up with. Many of you may perhaps think that I am crazy or delusional, but that is not the case at all. Maybe most will not believe me, and to that I have to say that I suppose I don’t care. Not anymore. Perhaps it is a selfish reason that I have come forward with these unusual experiences; that I am seeking some catharsis. Perhaps I think by telling these things it will encourage others to do so as well, as I am sure there are many more like me who bury their own bumps with the unexplained for a variety of reasons. I am not sure. A contact I spoke with had this to say on people who have had brushes with the unknown that they keep from others, and I felt compelled to share it here. He said:

One of the things I am trying to get at here are these experiences often have such a personal quality one is hesitant to part with them… almost as if they had been designed just for us.

Now just thinking about this, how many people don’t want to share their experience (well at least not with just anybody and often that ‘not just anybody’ becomes hardly anybody or… nobody), how it becomes a private thing, even secret- and the reasons this happens are beyond simple things like derision- I think we touch on something kind of profound…

I have had a few brushes with the unknown, I have learned to mostly keep them to myself, on the other hand I have finally kept them to myself for reasons that go quite beyond the obvious. I am not sure how clear it really is to me.

Brushes with the Unknown, like brushes with eternity, change your life. Not in the way people often think… but you have a knowledge of something everyone doesn’t seem to have and you know- it is a simple thing that knowing- things are not what they seem. Part of this kind of knowledge you cant share, you cant even be jealous of having or not having, it simply is and letting anyone know seems to some extent a pointless gesture. Doesn’t it… but then there are facets that are more easily communicated and seem to make sense to say something about… to someone that might listen… harder to find than you think at first.

I am not sure just why I kept mine secret or why I have chosen to relate these here after so long keeping them from everyone I know, or why I have chosen to do it in this way, just that it just felt for some reason like the right time to do so. This is all deeply personal for me, but they needed to be let out from the shadows of my mind, and I thought what better place than where I regularly write? Was it a good idea? Time will tell. In the end, I suppose that people like me who have seen things they cannot explain are in a difficult position. They know there is something odd about the world, something that lies past the periphery of our understanding, but they may be unsure of what that is and they live in a world where most people would like to think we have it all figured out or that everything can be explained simply. This climate has discouraged people to come forward, I think, and so they wrestle with these mysteries on their own, knowing that something is not as it seems, but unable to figure out what and unable to discuss it with anyone. They are lucky in the sense that their eyes have been opened to something more in the world we live in, yet at times doomed to remain in the limbo of never getting any further along the path to answers and dealing with this on their own. I have taken a step here, perhaps a dangerous or foolish one, to try and release myself from this limbo. If this encourages others to do the same, then all the better.