While it is certainly true that undertaking research into the collective world of the unknown can be illuminating, stimulating and exciting, it can also be downright hazardous. Sometimes, when a person becomes immersed in an investigation to a very deep and significant degree, the phenomenon under the microscope appears to realize that it is being watched and responds in violent, and sometimes even deadly, fashion. Welcome (if that's the right word to use) to the world of what is known as psychic backlash.
A classic example comes from a good friend of mine, Jon Downes, the director of the UK-based Center for Fortean Zoology. For years, Jon deeply investigated the mystery of the Owlman of Cornwall, England - surely the closest thing the nation has to the infamous Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, USA. But there was something deeply sinister about the winged, glowing-eyed Owlman. Every time Jon dug deep into the heart of the enigma, things would go wrong - as in big time.
And here's Jon to explain more. On the subject of psychic backlash, he says: "This is a series of inexplicable and horrific outbreaks of bad luck that can overtake the hapless seeker after monstrous truth on his way to his goal."
Jon adds, on the matter of his book, The Owlman and Others: "I never believed in it until, during the months that I was working on this book, two of my pet cats died suddenly, two computers blew up, as did two cars, and my wife left me. I also encountered psychic backlash while investigating the links between crop circles and animal mutilations."
Notably, when Jon walked away from the Owlman mystery, the backlash vanished. Unfortunately, Jon didn't stay away from the Owlman puzzle. And when he once again immersed himself in the mystery, guess what came back...?
Jon explains further: "I for one should have known better. The psychic backlash that I had managed to dispel a year before returned several-fold and things at the CFZ were getting particularly bizarre. We had outbreaks of poltergeist activity as well as a horrible run of bad luck and I determined that not only was I going to have to do something to end it all, but that this time I would have no further involvement with the Owlman or any of his kin."
Indeed, having written and (in 2006) updated his The Owlman and Others book, Jon finally walked away from the world of the mysterious monster - for good. It was a lesson learned, but in a most traumatic fashion.
Then there is psychic backlash of the Men in Black variety. There's absolutely no doubt that there would be no MIB phenomenon without Albert Bender of Bridgeport, Connecticut. In the early 1950s, Bender established a UFO research group called the International Flying Saucer Bureau. All went well for several months and the IFSB's in-house journal went from strength to strength. Until, that is, Bender was hit by a backlash.
When his research was at its height, Bender had a series of chilling encounters with three, semi-spectral, shining-eyed MIB characters that literally materialized before him. When Bender failed (initially, at least) to heed their warnings to walk away from the UFO subject, his life began to suffer - as did his health. Bender was hit by pummeling, disabling migraines. He felt sick and physically weak. Paranoia set in. He developed a sudden, out of the blue, and inexplicable fear of developing cancer.
For Bender, it wasn't long before enough was well and truly enough. He quit his UFO studies, closed down the IFSB, and got married. As for the MIB, it was at that point they departed. When Bender left the UFOs alone, so the phenomenon left him alone.
Moving on to the 1990s, there is the very unsettling saga of Ray Boeche, an Anglican priest and a former state-director for MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network. In 1991, Boeche met (at Lincoln, Nebraska) with two US Department of Defense physicists working on a project to try and contact what were termed "Non-Human Entities," or NHEs. While the initial assumption on the part of the DoD team-members was that the NHEs were extraterrestrial, that view soon changed. And radically so, too.
Eventually, the project personnel concluded that far from being the aliens they purported to be, the NHEs were demonic - as in literally demonic. In other words, the DoD team concluded that the UFO phenomenon itself was born out of satanic deception, rather than alien visitation. It's a story that I tell at length in my book Final Events. But there is something else, too.
When the DoD scientists immersed themselves in the world of the NHEs, bad things began to occur. As Boeche told me, regardless of how benevolent or beneficial any of the contact they had with these entities seemed to be, it always ended up being tainted, for lack of a better term, with something that ultimately turned out to be bad. There was ultimately nothing positive from the interaction with the NHEs. Indeed, certain experimentation reportedly ended in death for some of those involved in the program.
When I interviewed Boeche a few years ago, he told me: “I have always thought that one of the most important things that John Keel ever said was that if you have kids or teenagers, this is not something to encourage them to get involved with. Keel was a pretty died-in-the-wool atheist. But he understood that, at some level, there’s something, in some sense transcendent over us, that can, if nothing else, ‘mess’ with us. And it can cause a lot of damage."
You have been warned. In the world of the paranormal, it's wise to tread very, very carefully...