If you go out in the woods
Your father's gone a-hunting
He's deep in the forest so wild
And he cannot take his wife with him
He cannot take his child - Leonard Cohen
Near Cisco Grove, California on the night of September 5, 1964 Donald Schrum, a 27-year old employee of a local missile production plant became separated from his two bow-and-arrow hunting companions. As dusk approached he took shelter in a tree, lashing himself to a branch with his belt. After settling in, Schrum - identified only as "Mr S" in the files of the US Air Force's Project Blue Book - saw three objects in the darkening sky, a rotating and protruding light afixed to each that emitted "cooing" noises. Mr S thought they were rescue helicopters, searching for him, so he climbed down the tree and set signal fires. It was then, he realized they were not helicopters.
They were three somethings, [I can find no description of the appearance, other than "strange looking" and "different than anything he'd seen before"], shining beams of bright white lights, and they were circling his location. As he watched them descend, from beneath two of them, two smaller objects were delivered to the ground. Soon after he lost sight of them, he heard a loud crashing in the underbrush, and frightened, climbed to the lower branches of a tall pine tree.
Dr J Allen Hynek picks up the story, in The Hynek UFO Report:
He thereupon witnessed two humanlike individuals approaching his signal fires. They were garbed in silbery collarless suits, had unusual protruding eyes, and communicated to one another via an unintelligible cooing noise. According to Mr S., they were trying to dislodge him from his tree position when a third "alien," described by Mr S. as a "robot," appeared on the scene. Mr S. fired some arrows at the "robot" but failed to distract or divert any of the strange individuals. [Another account reports that when he finally hit the robot, "there was an arc flash and the robot was knocked backwards."] Then he tried lighting parts of his clothing on fire and throwing it at them to frighten them away. The individuals had violent reactions, and at the same time their craft began to ascend upwards, emitting a vapor which caused him to black out.
Schrum regained consciousness in the early dawn, found his companions and told them what had happened. Later, he told his father-in-law, who persuaded him to talk to authorities. Hynek mentions that the Air Force report notes "Mr S" appeared "stable and consistent in telling his story," though it explained the alleged sighting as "psychological." The Air Force kept the tape of Schrum's narrative, as well as one of the arrows he had fired at the robot.
The story of a bow-and-arrow hunter, held at bay high in a tree, setting flame to parts of his clothing and tossing them down onto the heads of his assailants until he was half-naked, passing out because of strange fumes emitted by "aliens," is certainly hard to believe, unless one considers it within the framework of the whole parade of stories similar to it.
It's a story that belongs to traditional folklore: the hunter who wanders off into strange woods and experiences enchantment. To our degraded understanding, enchantment sounds cute and quaint and precious, when it can be as frightening as a fairy tale.
Hynek's book was published in 1977 and I read his account of the Schrum case for the first time last Thursday, and what it most recalled for me was the "chupa" flap of the early 1980s, centered upon the small, remote town of Parnarama in northern Brazil. Jacques Vallee researched the cases, travelling to Parnarama to interview witnesses and survivors (at least five people were said to have died from close encounters), and the results were published in his 1990 book Confrontations.
(By the way, last Spring, Jeremy of Fantastic Planet wrote a terrific piece entitled Ultradimensional Terror and You which used the chupas as a springboard into an exploration of the Twin Peaks mythology as a "ready-made semiotic set within which to discuss the possibility of ultradimensional entities invading our 'Reality' and essentially having their way with us.")
Vallee writes that the chupas were usually described as small "boxlike UFOs equipped with powerful light beams" which flew over "the wooded areas and the river valleys at night. All of the victims in Parnarama were deer hunters who had climbed into trees during the night, as is frequently the case in that part of Brazil." Unless someone in Parnarama had gotten hold of The Hynek UFO Report, and the people conspired to punk Vallee and others, I find that an interesting fact.
In most cases, the chupas flew above the treetops and shone their beams toward the earth. They were said to make a humming sound, "like a refrigerator or a transformer," and did not appear large enough to contain a human pilot.
The hunting technique used in the region is unique: the hunters climb ten to fifteen feet into the trees, then spend the night in a hammock waiting for deer or other game. They take a flashlight with them to spot the animals.
A theory among local people is that the chupas are attracted by the flashlights, come over the hammocks, and strike the victims with their concentrated beam. However, I found little consistency in the descriptions of the beam itself. One witness compared it to an electric arc. On an interview tape another witness said he remembered a "bad smell" like an electrical odor (ozone)? and saw a blinding light, with pulsating colors inside....
Several people reported being exposed to the chupas in late 1982 as they were lying in their tree hammocks.... They had lost their previous vitality. A 43-year old man who "used to be afraid of nothing" now lives in constant fear. He is "scared of things that are not part of my experience."
After being struck by a chupa beam, victim Dionizio General "came rolling down the hill. For the following three days he was insane with teror; then he died." Another, Abel Boro, screamed as the light engulfed him. A friend ran to the Boro house to get his family, but Abel was dead, his body white, by the time they arrived. (It might be presumed that the isolated locals would leap to the explanation that chupas were spirits of the woods, but Vallee notes a local rumour that chupas were "American prototypes" stealing their blood.)
What are some points of congruity between the Schrum incident and the "chupas," and what might they suggest?
- The victims were hunters who bedded down in tall trees
- Schrum's UFOs and the chupas behaved as though drawn by fire and flashlight
- They emitted strong beams of light and similar sounds (a "cooing" and a "humming")
- Their actions appear intended to terrorize, even to death
- The extraterrestrial hypothesis again offers the least satisfying explanation
One more hunter's story, this from Patrick Harpur's Daimonic Reality.
Carl Higdon, a 40-year old mechanic, was hunting elk in Wyoming's Medicine Bow National Park on October 25, 1974, when he decided to try a part of the woods little explored by hunters. Higdon came upon a group of five elk, and put his gun to his shoulder and fired.
Something strange happened. The sound of the shot was curiously muffled and the bullet seemed to travel so slowly that Carl was able to watch it in flight. It fell to earth some 15 to 20 meters in front of him. It was completely crushed. Amazed, Carl picked up the bullet and put it in his pocket. Then, turning at the sound of a branch cracking, he saw a very tall man standing about 20 meters away in the shade of a birch. This man, or whatever he was, had yellow skin, bristling straw-colored hair, and was wearing a black costume.
He approached Carl and said, surprisingly, "How you doin'?" - to which Carl replied: "Pretty good." "Are you hungry" asked the stranger. "Yeah. A little," said Carl. The man tossed him a package containing four pills, telling him to take one, which would last him for four days. Carl did take one, whereupon the man asked if Carl would like to go with him. "I guess," said Carl, and for the first time he saw a transparent illuminated "cubicle."
Carl embarked, noticing two other figures clad in black and five elk in a cage. They travelled to what the stranger called his "planet," but Carl was not allowed to leave the vehicle. Returning to the forest, Carl was dropped out of the cubicle onto rocky ground, near an unknown cow trail. He followed it, and came to a truck stuck in the mud, and used its CB radio to call for help. It turned out to be his own pick-up, which he had not recognized. When police arrived they found him "distraught, red-eyed, tearful, and (like the medieval near-death visionary, Alberic, who could not remember his mother) unable even to recognize his wife, who had come with them. He could only repeat the story of the pills and the men in black."
A wild tale, and like all such tales, impossible to verify. Yet his bullet was in his pocket where he'd placed it, folded like a glove. And to ask But was it real? is likely to miss the point. Fungus the Bogeyman returned to a home and family after a good night's scare. To what, and to whom, do these entities return? Does the yellow man in the black uniform ever say "Honey, I'm home?" Are there factories assembling the bizarre and ungainly robots of Schrum's and many others accounts? Why is there so little standardization of craft, and why are there so many different kinds of entities? Religion and occult lore have more to say in this regard than exopolitics, because these things are manifesting themselves for us.
Higdon might not have been terrorized, but he was drained, left a blubbering mess, like so many who encounter the Other. The Otherworld, too, has those who play good cop/bad cop. So long as they feed.
By the way, Professor Pan has an excellent post on the attempted manipulation of UFO manifestations, including a fascinating anecdote of his own apparent summoning.