Staring out the window of a plane is a magical experience, and one that never seems to lose its luster. From this vantage, we’re able to see more of the world at one time than anything our ground-eyes can ever be afforded. Within the short span of a few hours air bound, one can observe the world below as radical changes in climate, elevation, population, culture, and development pass beneath them.
The impressions left on this Earth by humanity seem indelible, especially from a great altitude. What we see as city streets, buildings, bridges, and canals in our everyday life look like etchings across a great earthen canvas when seen from high above, and here, the surface world where mankind has left these markings appears far more resilient in its vastness.
As of late, this particular Fortean wanderer has managed to spend what seems like countless hours peering out onto the Earth from the skies above, while en route to locales throughout the East Coast and the Midwest. Lake Eerie's Maumee Bay, frozen, from 36,000 feet above Toledo, Ohio, en route to Minneapolis was particularly striking, and of course, served in providing subtle, but meaningful fodder for the Fortean mind, as I sat reading Jim Steinmeyer's biography of Charles Fort, tracing the roots of the modern study of Forteana all the way back to its roots in New York City in the early 20th century.
Thus, my first destination had been New York City, which included a thirteen-hour walking tour of the Big Apple with researcher Peter Robbins, co-author of the book Left at East Gate, which dealt with the Rendlesham UFO incident. After a lengthy talk about UFOs with Peter and our mutual friend Ryan Sprague, we strolled around town as Peter--an expert historian an tour guide--educated us about as much esoterica as could be fit into a single day, ranging from the UFO connection with Laurence Rockefeller (who famously briefed Bill and Hillary Clinton on his interest in the subject in the 1990s) as we stood admiring the art inside Rockefeller Center, to origins of the art that adorned buildings like the New York Public Library and other locales famously depicted in films and other literature.
I think when most people visit New York, they have Times Square in mind, which we certainly did enjoy visiting, or they head off to ascend the Empire State Building, or maybe the Freedom Tower. There’s little question whether the latter of these remains a spot, especially for any newcomer to the Big Apple, which a sense of unease still lingers. I observed the building from a distance, where it still loomed site of the greatest terrorist act on American soil in modern time. To some degree, I doubt the place will ever not have that feeling about it; my first time seeing it happened to coincide with a long motorcade of NYPD cruisers with lights and sirens blistering. It was one of the few times in recent memory that I can recall actually having that momentary, disconcerting sense of chills kissing their way across the skin; interestingly, it would not be the only time alarms would be raised, if only for a moment, during the course of my present travels.
From New York, it was off to Minneapolis, where Phyllis Galde, editor of Fate Magazine, retrieved me from a delayed flight into MSP and hurried me along to Rascals, a burger bar in Apple Valley just outside Lakeville, Minnesota, where I was debriefed on all the latest Fortean gossip.
To date, Fate Magazine still holds the longest publication history of any magazine that deals with the subject of Forteana and the unexplained, and during the course of the next few days, I would be made privy to much of its unique history as Phyllis took me to the warehouse that stores back issues, Fortean relics and antiquities, and arguably, probably the real-life Ark of the Covenant too, had we taken time to look for it. Over the course of its publication history, the magazine has carried both the wildest tales of the strange an unusual, as well as occasional skeptical debunking of bizarre claims. Though the magazine was founded in 1948 by Ray Palmer (who operated under a pseudonym due to non-compete agreements he had at the time with Ziff Davis Publishers), Curtis and Mary Fuller would go on to serve the longest period as editors of the magazine. With his background in science, Curtis adopted the stance that, while he may not believe every story that appeared in his publication, the stories featured at least had to be written and addressed with as much credibility as possible; in many instances, sworn affidavits were requested along with the extraordinary claims submitted for publication.
I spent several days working with Phyllis and the Fate folks in Minneapolis, and then it was back to the Carolinas for a night, and then further South the next morning as my brother Caleb joined me in a five-hour trek to Brunswick, Georgia, the home of our friends Chase and Pete Kloetzke. Chase is the author of a new book called Admissible, which serves as an investigational guide for those aspiring to be researchers of the unexplained. In Brunswick, we found not only delightful discussion of the unexplained with Chase, but also delightful dining as the Kloetzkes showed us around Savannah and neighboring locales; but arguably, the most enriching experience of the week had been a VIP tour aboard the USS Alaska, a nuclear submarine docked just outside of Savannah where Pete, Chase's husband, is a Commander on duty.
We arrived at the dock just before sundown, after being shown impressive arrays of missile replicas outside the Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic, which included a massive 40,000 lb Trident missile. Then, donning our hard hats, we headed off into the Alaska, joined by Commander Kloetzke and Lieutenant Culp who was presently serving a tour aboard the vessel. For obvious reasons, no photography was allowed while on deck, but the summation of knowledge and mechanical ingenuity collected here, even for a vessel more than two decades old, remains nearly unparalleled.
The experience aboard The Alaska also stirred the promise of mystery from deep within my mind, as I recalled fondly the stories my colleague Marc D'antonio had shared with me some time ago from his time aboard a similar submersible. Marc, a professional model maker and SFX expert, had been commissioned to construct models of various submarines, which had granted him access to a trip aboard a sea-bound nuclear submarine. While aboard, he recalled overhearing a radar operator describe to his superior officer that a "fast mover" had been detected, which spurred D'antonio's curiosity as it nodded to the Cold War era reports of odd, and highly maneuverable objects dubbed "Quackers" by the Russians. At one time believed to have been some variety of marine life, the speed and erratic maneuverability these objects exhibited seemed to far too unprecedented, and if true, the reports remain as such even today, with no clearly viable explanation for their presence.
Whether by land, sea, or air, the experience of traveling arouses great questions within the mind. Some of these relate to the endurance and ingenuity of humankind, while others point to further horizons... some of which may seem to rest beyond the reaches of human thought or deed. They do for now, at least, and perhaps with the right questions, the eventual answers to the great mysteries of our existence will emerge... but in the meantime, much like the happy wanderer who learns to cherish each point along his journey into the unforeseen, part of the lasting appeal of mysteries and Forteana will remain with the uncertainty it presents to us in our daily lives.