One pervasive feature of the UFO phenomenon is that of what are called alien contactees. These are the people who have supposedly had first hand encounters with alien beings, which can take the form of meetings with the entities or more invasive alien abductions. The contactee phenomenon really runs the range. Some people come back with prophetic insights or messages from beyond our world. Others tell of humiliating, painful and terrifying medical procedures, which often scar them mentally and physically for life. Others still are entirely more bizarre in nature, and one of these is the alien contactee who claimed that he was part of an experiment to give him potent, nearly limitless psychic powers.
The man known as Ted Owens had a rather colorful life even before he gained notoriety within the paranormal and UFOlogy worlds. Born in the United States in 1920, he lived with his grandparents to escape his father’s abuse, and this is where he would learn that both of his grandparents were powerful psychics. After this he claimed that he had begun to exhibit various psychic powers as well, such as moving objects with his mind and levitating around the room on several occasions as a child. He also said that he was taught new information by an "imaginary friend," and in later years he became a gifted hypnotist who wowed people wherever he went.
These psychic abilities would become more powerful in his adult years, when he says that he gained the ability to read minds while serving in the U.S. Navy. He would end up further honing his powers throughout his years at Duke University, and later started to claim that he had the ability to control the weather as well. He said that he could invoke storms, make it rain, conjure up tornados, and direct lightning strikes. Several high-profile people, such as Philadelphia lawyer Sidney Margulies, attested that they had witnessed Owens make lightning come down from the sky on command, and his wife claimed that he routinely made rain fall on command, even during droughts. Other powers he claimed to have were the ability to predict catastrophes and to even cause them, as well as control minds and other assorted abilities. In the meantime, he was a member of Mensa with a genius IQ of 150, and in 1965 it got even weirder.
It was in 1965 that Owens, who called himself the “PK Man,” began to come forward with why his intelligence was so high and why his powers were getting so vast. According to him, he had been abducted by hyperdimensional entities, which he called “Super Intelligences” (SIs), described as looking like “small grasshoppers standing on two legs,” who had performed a sort of “psychic surgery” upon him in an experiment to “find out just how much of the PK power a human being can absorb and stand.” In other words, according to Owens they had taken his already considerable psychic abilities and magnified them exponentially, essentially turning them up to 11, and making him more or less a real-life superhero. He even had “proof” of this operation, in the form of an odd crease along the base of his skull. He was not humble about any of this either, calling himself a “UFO Prophet” and even comparing himself to the biblical Moses. In 1969 Owens would finally write a book on all of this, entitled How to Contact Space People, and then in the 1970s he began to engage in a series of ominous displays of his supposed power, which range from the odd to the absurd, and he would simultaneously sort of fly off the rails, in a way becoming more of a super villain than a super hero.
Owens had made a lot of predictions that no one really took seriously, and it did not help that in general he was largely ignored by the scientific community, who did nothing to try and test his powers and mostly just blew him off. In response to this, he began to make sinister claims that was going to create destruction on a wide scale, on many occasions having people sign affidavits of what he said in order to prove that he was right, and some of which spookily seemed to have come true. In May of 1972, he told people that he was going to cause mass lightning storms, blackouts, and accidents in the city of Cleveland, Illinois, and sure enough on that summer there was a massive freak storm that caused a city-wide blackout, numerous accidents, and three deaths by lightning strike. In October of that same year he said he was going to create an unusually warm winter in Virginia, and this came to pass. He also claimed to be behind highly bizarre weather that caused vast damage to crops in Texas in 1974, as well as myriad other droughts, floods, hurricanes, freak storms, earthquakes, fires, plane crashes and other myriad calamities all over the world throughout the 70s, many of which eerily went down as predicted. Owens was also known to accurately predict waves of UFO sightings, and claimed that he could make UFOs appear wherever and wherever he wanted.
Owens often used his supposed powers to try and earn some sort of financial gain. On several occasions he offered to make disasters go away in return for cash, such as several times when he even used his supposed powers to try and sabotage sports games, threatening disasters or team losses if he wasn’t paid. He would claim, “The SIs have increased my metal power to the point that I could watch a TV game at home and I can take tacklers and with my mind power actually fling them, with two or three times their actual weight, at the quarterback.” He on many occasions tried to blackmail teams for large amounts of money, although no one ever actually seems to have ever paid. He even used this tactic during a spell of homelessness he suffered, threatening that there would be a major war in the U.S. if he wasn’t taken off the streets and given money. This war never materialized.
Throughout all of this Owens was still mostly seen as a loon, and he was known to seek attention by relentlessly contacting publishers, newspapers, scientists, and government agencies, whoever would listen, trying to get them to take him seriously. In 1979 he began to constantly badger a military historian and news correspondent with the National Enquirer by the name of Wayne Grover, saying that he was going to spend the year providing a hardcore demonstration of his abilities on the state of Florida. It got off to a pretty rock start, to say the least, and Grover writes of this all:
My experience with Ted Owens started in 1979, when Owens contacted me at the Enquirer. He portrayed himself as "PK Man" and said he could predict events and control the world's weather. Owens claims were met with skepticism by both myself and my editor, Don Horine, and I told Owens so.
Angered, Owens responded by saying that he could prove his abilities. He also said he could produce UFOs on demand. Horine gave Owens a chance to produce UFO sightings on demand and we arranged to have him and several witnesses including a scientist meet for an all-night vigil. The bottom line was that Owens said UFOs were seen. One witness agreed, but two others said they did not see them. We did not run a story. Owens, who had wanted a forum for his predictions, was very angry and felt betrayed by the Enquirer and particularly by Don Horine, the editor.
Owens called me and made the following predictions for the year: "I will bring three June hurricanes to life and bring one right over the Enquirer. Furthermore, I will use my PK powers to destroy Don Horine's life for crossing me. He will lose his job, and his wife and he will regret the day he laughed at me."
However, according to Grover, a lot of what Owens had threatened began to actually come true. Southern Florida really suffered the worst drought it had had in 40 years, there indeed was a series of freak hurricanes, and Horine’s life was plagued by misfortune and personal problems, eventually getting fired and also having his wife leave him. Through this all, Owens continued to regularly contact Grover to make various predictions and threats, and it was soon noticed that many of these things came true beyond coincidence. Grover would say of this correspondence and its bizarreness:
Owens and I then spoke several times and he liked me enough to take me into his confidence. Over a more than five year period, Owens phoned me several times a week, usually after midnight and predicted dire events about to happen including earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados and violent events worldwide. Within two days or so, I always received the same prediction via letter, often accompanied with some strange drawing of unknown symbols and signed "PK Man." The predictions usually were about five to ten days before actual events took place. When they did, I very often heard them on the news and dozens of times told my wife, "Another coincidence for Owens." When the event took place, he copied the news stories and sent me copies. The pattern was: (1) Predict by phone, (2) Send written backup. (3) Send news clips of the event predicted. As much as I didn't want to believe Owens, the long string of coincidences went on. At one time, I estimated that - with some flexibility on the matter of timing - Owens' predictions were about 80% accurate.
It was enough to make Grover take notice and start to think that maybe there was something to it all, even going so far as to beg Owens to stop the drought and call off a hurricane that was heading towards the state. Amazingly, after this the hurricane weakened considerably. Grover says that Owens seemed to have taken a liking to him, and diverted catastrophes for him because he was the only one who believed him. Grover explains:
In September 1979, when Hurricane David was heading for West Palm Beach, I spoke to Owens about 2 a.m. the night of the approach. I told him thousands of people would be made homeless because the "manufactured" hurricane was bearing down on us. In an unusual softening, he said something like, "I don't want to hurt you or your family or others needlessly. I'll ask my SIs to turn the cane away from you. Keep watching the TV to see what happens."
By five in the morning, the local TV weatherman had the National Hurricane Center on the air with new coordinates for the storm. It had suddenly stopped moving toward West Palm and was veering northward away from us. We got fringe winds but nothing more. Owens called about seven and said, "That was for you Wayne." I didn't believe it was possible but the series of events went as Owens said they would.
I logged that information into the delusional category and didn't worry about it. In the next hurricane season, Florida was again threatened by a large storm bearing down on us and Owens called and warned me to get to high ground. I informed him them was no high ground here. "I'll move it away from you Wayne because you are the only one to believe in me," That hurricane devastated Charleston, SC the next day. During the last storm season I had contact with Owens, he told me he would keep Florida clear of "killer canes," True to his word, the hurricanes went north of us, south, turned into the open Atlantic and dissipated with sheer winds blowing their tops off.
This correspondence with Grover, which was the most contact Owens ever had with anyone directly, ended just as bizarrely as it started. After a period of going silent, in 1987 Owens suddenly contacted Grover again to inform him that he had moved to upstate New York in order for him and his family to be picked up by a UFO. After that there would be no further contact from him. Grover says of this last mysterious call:
Suddenly Owens went silent for months, then in 1987 he called me from upstate NY and said he had moved his family there to be picked up by the UFOs. He sent me several drawing his son Beau had made of vertically long, non-saucerlike UFO that were hovering over his rural home - as well as newspaper clippings reporting local UFO sightings and an affidavit to the same effect from a neighbor. There was a flurry of calls and then one last one whose contents were very strange and I choose to kept private. Suffice it to say, the predictions of that last conversation changed my life and caused me to wonder where science leaves off and the unknown begins. My wife was witness to the events that followed and shares with me the wonderment of it.
Apparently, he never made that final UFO trip, because according to official records Owens died in 1987 of sclerosis of the liver, leaving many mysteries behind. Besides Grover, there was a handful of others who believed in his abilities to some extent. Perhaps the most well-known of these was the parapsychologist Jeffrey Mishlove, who carefully studied all of Owens’ claims and predictions throughout his life, including the 1979 Florida predictions he had made and even the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. Michlove came to the conclusion that Owens was correct more often than could be accounted for by blind chance, and said of the Florida predictions:
It certainly looks as though Florida’s 1979 weather was somehow manipulated by Ted Owens. The coincidences between the psychic’s pronouncements and the resultant changes in Florida’s weather are too numerous and exact to be dismissed.
Mishlove would write a whole book on Ted Owens, entitled The PK Man: A True Story of Mind Over Matter, which is the most complete record of the man’s life. Mishlove came to the conclusion that Owens really did have incredibly potent psychic powers, which he attributed to some sort of “intelligent energy” that he was able to harness. Mishlove says there are too many things in Owens’ life that cannot be coincidence, and in the end admits that, while he cannot fully explain the phenomena, that “Science is ill-equipped to explain the phenomena reported herein.” He does temper it all with a bit of skepticism, saying that Owens was often wrong and stating, “the newspapers are full of unusual events. Every day something unusual occurs, and it is not always the result of psychokinesis.” However, for the most part Mishlove thought there was more to this, and also expressed that he was very afraid of Owens, a sentiment that is reflected by the few others who chose to actually listen to his wild stories.
In the end, there doesn't seem to be a large contingent of people who actually bought all of this, and Owens has been mostly relegated to the fringe. There are certainly skeptics who have painted him as a delusional weirdo who sought to promote himself and instill terror in his own demented way. We are left to ask, was Ted Owens a charlatan, scam artist, or mentally unstable individual? Or was there perhaps anything more to this all? Whatever the ultimate answer might be, he remains one of the most bonkers alien contactee accounts out there, for better or worse.