For those of us that engage in research, studies, investigations and writing in the realm of what broadly passes for Forteana - Ufology, Cryptozoology, ghost-hunting and much more - it's a pursuit that can be as mentally stimulating as it can be enlightening, challenging, and thought-provoking. But, there's an undeniable dark and disturbing downside to all this, too. Namely, that on not-infrequent occasions the phenomena seem to get their icy grips into the researcher, to the point where the relevant paranormal interests of the person in question mutate into full-blown unhealthy obsessions. Think I'm wrong? I suggest you read on...
In terms of UFOs, one only has to look at the weird, and somewhat tragic, case of Albert Bender. Arguably the one man who, more than any other, ushered in the era of the Men in Black, Bender, in the early-1950s, claimed an ominous visit from three black-garbed entities who essentially scared the you-know-what out of him, and led him to quit UFO research, never to return. At least, that is, aside from a brief resurfacing in the early 1960s, when Bender penned his own MIB-themed book, Flying Saucers and the Three Men.
Bender's is an odd and disturbing story that I tell in my own The Real Men in Black book. But, what stands out about Bender is how his involvement in Ufology began to adversely affect his psychological state. Bender's writings make it clear that, the more he delved into the UFO phenomenon, the more and more paranoid he became. He suspected unearthly entities were secretly watching him, that his precious UFO files had been clandestinely scanned by enigmatic entities, and that he was putting himself in great danger by following the path of a UFO investigator. Little wonder then, he finally left the scene forever, pummeled by anxiety, head-splitting migraines, hypochondria, paranoia and fears that "they" were hot on his trail.
Well, maybe "they" were indeed watching Bender. But, the mere fact that this possibility had such a devastating effect on the man is a sure sign of what can befall those who dare to enter the somewhat hazardous realm of Ufology. Very few give much thought to how deeply engrossing oneself in such a strange realm can so negatively affect them. Until it's all far, far too late, of course, and the psychological damage is well and truly done.
It's much the same - but in a radically different way - with Cryptozoology, the study of unclassified beasts such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Chupacabra. While paranoia does not appear to play a particularly significant (if, indeed, any) role in the search for unknown animals, obsession most certainly does. I won't name names, but I have seen the wives of certain Sasquatch-seekers go from valiantly putting up with the interests of their husbands - namely, taking off into the heart of deep woods just about every weekend in search of the legendary, hairy critters - to becoming overwhelmingly sick and tired of having to sit around the house on a nice, warm Saturday afternoon, while their other halves wildly race around the forests with trusty night-scope and camera in-hand.
Fortunately, my wife Dana is an understanding soul! But, more importantly, yet still on the same path, I personally recognize the overwhelming significance and healthy importance of balance, and of ensuring that a social life, home life, and family life do not suffer at the expense of paranormal pursuits. I also recognize the importance of having wide and varied interests beyond Forteana, such as (for me, anyway!) British soccer. But, that isn't always so with some. The sad reality is that the field of Forteana appears to have had far more than its fair share of broken marriages, nervous breakdowns, paranoid mindsets, and life-controlling psychological aberrations.
Is this simply because certain people may be more prone than others to becoming isolated, suspicious of every click on the telephone, and worried that black-helicopters piloted by the emotionless minions of the New World Order are soaring above their rooftops, and beaming pulverizing microwaves and subliminal messages into their already-fried brains? Or, is there something very disturbing - menacing even - about the nature of certain Fortean phenomena that somehow allows it to get its grips into the psyche of particularly vulnerable souls to a profoundly significant - but highly negative - degree?
I prefer to think it's the former. But, rather chillingly, I have seen enough lives transformed for the worse by Forteana that I have to say I strongly suspect it's the latter.
Remember this: when you go looking for the paranormal, you may find it decides to welcome you into its enigmatic fold. This may not, however, be a good thing. Ultimately, it may prove to be your worst nightmare come true. When it comes to your supernatural searches, tread very carefully, my friends. And always ensure your lives are free of the miseries of obsession and paranoia that have blighted the lives of so many who have traveled the very same road before you...