Author’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series about Dan Mitchell of Wisconsin, U.S.A., and his struggle to identify the entity that’s haunted him throughout his life – the Harlequin. (Read Part One Here)
Mitchell knows his father saw the Harlequin at least once – they were together when it happened. As Mitchell grew, the entity’s visits to his room stopped, but he knew the Harlequin hadn’t left him. In 1991, Mitchell, then 15, and his father were driving from the family’s cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin into the nearby town of Eagle River when they encountered someone on the road. “There (was) this steep hill we would drive down on our way into town,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes as we were driving, my dad would turn out the headlights on his truck as we flew down this hill. We were on our way into town one night when he did this.”
One night Mitchell’s father thought better of it and turned on the headlights and they saw someone walking up the hill. “When we got to the top of the hill in the truck, this guy was walking on the gravel road pushing a stroller,” Mitchell said. “Now, it was probably 9:30 at night, pitch black, and who would push a stroller in the pitch black?” As Mitchell’s father drove by the figure, Mitchell knew something was wrong. “I could tell this guy was hiding his face,” he said. “There was just something not right about it.” When the figure disappeared in the distance and darkness, Mitchell could feel they’d just driven by the Harlequin. “My Dad looked a little bothered by it as well,” Mitchell said. “But he didn’t say anything probably to keep me calm. I was really not wanting to go back to the cottage because it was headed that way.”
An elder god?
Many ancient cultures, such as the Hopi and Norse, tell of entities that resemble Mitchell’s Harlequin in appearance and behavior. Jack Lankhorst of Restoration, an organization designed to assist the Hopi people, has seen this entity. “Having worked with traditional Native Americans, I’ve encountered some interesting things,” he said. “The Hopi believe in a deity named Maasaw who welcomed them to this land at what is now Old Oraibi.” The Hopi consider Maasaw an all-powerful earth god responsible for the earth’s surface and of death, and Maasaw’s description is similar to Mitchell’s Harlequin. “His face has two large round eyes and a large round mouth with teeth,” Lankhorst said. ”After explaining to Hopi friends what I encountered on two different occasions they emphatically stated that it was Maasaw. However, I’m not saying that that is who (Mitchell) encountered.”
The Harlequin also resembles the prankster Loki from Norse mythology. Exorcist Rabbi Barry Albin, of Kansas City, Missouri, has encountered entities like Loki in his work and, although he does not believe the Harlequin to be Loki, he believes it is something similar. “In the last few years, I have spoken to several entities who are for lack of a better name ‘gods,’” Albin said. “They are the gods of old, the ones that the Hebrew and Christian bibles call demons. In reality, I am becoming more and more convinced that these entities are elementals.” These elementals are nearly immortal and much more powerful than humans. “They can do things that seem magical to humans,” Albin said. “In my experience with the three entities that I have dealt with, I am aware that they are proud, boastful, distressed over a lack of respect from humans, amoral, and capable of being dealt with.” But, Albin said, these “gods” also have copycats. “There is not just one Jupiter, Jove, Odin, etc., but many, one for each so-called pantheon,” he said. “The Trickster god of some American peoples is not unlike Loki of the Norse or the similar gods of African indigenous tribes.” Albin said Mitchell has probably attracted the attention of one of the copycats of Loki. “Loki often dressed as a harlequin or a court jester,” Albin said. “Court jesters are dressed in multi-colored clothes and appear as a clown. It fits more of what Loki probably does.”
Like Swope, Albin said the encounters might be attached to Mitchell’s family, and like Mitchell, Albin thinks Mitchell’s father has encountered the Harlequin. “It is not surprising things families cover up, things they don’t want to talk about,” he said. “There are many things that are hidden in families.”
The encounter in the car
Mitchell didn’t see the Harlequin again until 1994. “I ran into this same being years later,” he said. “I was driving with a few friends late at night on our way home from a party.” The young men saw a teenage girl walking in the street in front of the car, her movements strange and jerky. “We thought that maybe she was drunk,” Mitchell said. “Someone in the car thought it was a friend of theirs so we were going to pick her up and give her a ride home.” As they slowed to pull closer, the girl began to walk toward the car. As she closed to near 30 feet, Mitchell realized the person was wearing a bad wig. “My first impression was that it was a man dressed like a woman,” he said. “She looked incredibly angry and was making even jerkier movements that were almost threatening.”
One of Mitchell’s buddies whispered in fear. “Oh, my God,” the boy said. “Look at her eyes.” Mitchell knew those overly large, round eyes – they were the eyes of the Harlequin. “The guy riding shotgun with me wet his pants during the encounter,” Mitchell said. “My original thought was that he did it because he was horribly drunk, but I do remember he had sobered up pretty well by the time we even got into the car that night. It always seemed to me like an over reaction to this odd looking person outside the car.” Somebody in the car said, “floor it,” and Mitchell did, but the car didn’t move. “The car died and we were basically pulled out,” he said. “The next thing everybody remembers is being a mile down the street (back in the car) wondering how we made it there that quickly.” Everyone was terrified. “There was panic in that car,” he said. “I can tell you that every guy I dropped off that night made a mad dash to their front doors. I, unfortunately, had to drive back that way, but luckily didn’t see her again.”
He’s convinced the thing he and his friends saw that night was the Harlequin. “I got a pretty good look at her and I can tell you that it was obvious that she was trying to disguise herself,” he said. “It was the same face of perpetual shock, but this time it terrified me completely. I had the feeling that she was yelling at me for some reason. My honest impression that night was that this person was dead or simply not human.”
The Trickster character appears in cultures across the world. Although the Trickster is often depicted as an animal – the pig in Japan, fox in England and the coyote to the American Indian – the Trickster can also appear as a clown. The Trickster figure is usually selfish, gluttonous, lustful, and amoral. The Trickster also breaks the rules of nature or of the gods, and even changes genders at will. The late John Keel, author and paranormal researcher, applied the Trickster label to the entities common in UFO encounters.
Author and paranormal researcher Patricia Ress may have encountered one of these Tricksters appearing as the Harlequin while she was in graduate school. “I was at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and it was a lovely spring day,” she said. “My daughter and I were walking down the hill and as we passed a certain area, everything seemed a bit deserted.” But they soon found they were not alone. “A smallish figure, which I somehow knew was female, came up to us and mimed,” she said. The miming figure enthralled Ress’s three-year-old daughter and gave her something that tasted like fudge. “I assumed the Harlequin was one of my friends in the dramatic arts department probably catching up on her miming practice,” Ress said. “But as we continued on, when I looked back ‘she’ was gone.”
Laurie Smithmeyer of Topeka, Kansas, experienced something similar. Smithmeyer and a friend visited nearby Lawrence (home of the University of Kansas) for lunch and shopping in early 2000. “We both enjoy art and all types of cultural events so it was common for us to go hang out there, eat lunch and shop,” she said. They ate at the Free State Brewery, although they didn’t partake in Free State’s microbrews, and walked south down Massachusetts Street enjoying a late spring day.
Then they saw the woman. “We were approximately in front of an old bank that had been remade into a restaurant named Teller’s when we saw her,” Smithmeyer said. The person “seemed to be a female figure,” she said. The individual wore a short ruffled skirt, similar to a ballet tutu, and a vest that looked like a red, purple and black velvet bustier. The figure wore long gloves and tights; her hair a dark, unkempt, wild tangle. “Her clothing was oddly theatrical and reminded me of a carnival or circus in a way,” Smithmeyer said. “I recall dark eyes which may have been makeup or something. I did not get a very good look at her face at all, just a glimpse from the side.”
The figure went toward a park bench that sat across the sidewalk from the entrance to Teller’s Restaurant. “As we passed her on the sidewalk, I got the impression she was going to sit on the bench and we kept on walking,” Smithmeyer said. “As we got to the curb to cross the street, we both looked at each other and said, ‘Wow did you see that girl?’” The women both turned around to look at her and she was gone. “Gone from the bench, gone from the sidewalk, gone from the street,” Smithmeyer said. “She just disappeared. In the space of us taking three or four steps, on a bright sunny clear day, she had vanished. Not just from the bench but from the entire area.” Only a few people wandered the streets, so Smithmeyer is certain the figure couldn’t have gotten lost in a crowd. “The street is level with no changes in elevation or terrain that would make it hard to see her,” Smithmeyer said. “She was not on either side of the street. As far as we could see, she had disappeared.”
The women looked at each other and said, “Fae,” which means elf. “That was the impression we were left with,” Smithmeyer said. “We have both studied myth and folklore and are familiar with stories of the Sidhe (the elves of Ireland) and that was basically our feeling about that figure; unworldly and very strange.” Smithmeyer, who read the stories of Dan Mitchell’s Harlequin encounters at From the Shadows, thinks she and her friend saw the Harlequin. “Could this have been a Harlequin-type apparition?” she asked. “I remember the impression I had of the figure was not entirely human. She … it was just so bizarre and scary, ethereal at the same time. It is really hard to describe. The closest that comes is a fairy.”
Smithmeyer said she’s familiar with alternative cultures and this entity was not one of those. “This was way beyond anything a mere costume could be,” she said. “I have seen Goth people, street performance artists, and all kinds of role players and I am very familiar with that subculture, as is the friend that was with me. There was a quality of unearthliness about her that is hard to describe.”
Harlequin at the door
Mitchell and his family lived with his mother-in-law in a Milwaukee suburb briefly in 2009, just a few blocks from the house where he grew up – the house where he first experienced the Harlequin. When they moved in he found it was waiting for him. “I was helping my mother-in-law clean out her basement and organize a few things,” he said. “I woke up fairly early to get a head start on it before everybody started to wake up.”
Mitchell started working in the basement about 6:30 a.m. when he heard a noise from the top of the stairs. “Within the first 10 minutes of going downstairs to organize, I keep hearing a tapping noise coming from upstairs by the back door,” Mitchell said. “It sounds like someone was gently tapping the window of the back door.” At first he thought wind caused the sound, until it grew louder. “Almost instantly it goes from a tapping to some quick thuds on the door that just stop abruptly,” Mitchell said. “It sounded like someone was knocking rather desperately. I was actually pretty startled by it.”
Mitchell grabbed a piece of pipe for protection and slowly ascended the steps. “I get to the top of the stairs and notice that whoever was knocking on the door was walking away toward the alley,” he said. “I can only see this person from the back and my heart utterly sank. I knew immediately what I was looking at.” It was the Harlequin.
The entity walked from the door like a bad theater actor. It wore a blonde wig, black winter cap and reddish-pink pants, legs pulled to the knees revealing unnaturally pale skin. It also wore penny-loafers with no socks and a winter coat with ruffles sewn onto it. “For a brief second I thought maybe it was a homeless person, but there is just no way,” he said. “These things communicate they aren’t human just by their presence. I can’t describe this; you just can’t mistake it once you see it.”
The thin, sexless thing walked to the end of the sidewalk that cut through the back yard and disappeared behind the garage. “I felt like I went instantly pale,” Mitchell said. “As it turned the corner to go behind our garage I caught a very quick glimpse of the eyes, the orbits were gigantic and the face was expressionless, almost mask-like. The thin mouth almost too small for the face.”
The thumps on the door woke Mitchell’s wife and she rushed downstairs worried her husband had tripped on the stairs. She found her husband staring out the window of the back door. Mitchell’s voice quivered as he told her what he’d seen.
Coming in Part Three: Mitchell meets the Harlequin.