February 21, 2021

Bigfoot Stole My Laundry: High Strangeness in Connecticut

Here's an interesting and very brief story that appears in Phillip Imbrogno's 2010 book Files from the Edge: A Paranormal Investigator's Explorations into High Strangeness. Imbrogno writes:

Although most Bigfoot sightings come from credible sources, some seem really questionable. For example, in 1992 I received a call from a Connecticut woman who said that a black helicopter landed in her yard and a Bigfoot jumped out, messed up the yard, and stole her clothes hanging on the line too dry. The creature then quickly climbed back into the helicopter and took off. As strange as it sounds, I've heard even weirder reports. Such tales are not this book's focus, but they do exist!

First of all, I have to say this story is amazing. I love the idea of Bigfoot jumping out of a mysterious black helicopter just to act like a bad teenager, messing up someone's yard and stealing their laundry. Amazing! Was Bigfoot piloting the helicopter, or was someone else? Maybe there were two Bigfoots on board, one acting as pilot and one as laundry thief. I want more details.

Getty Images.

I'm not really familiar with Phillip Imbrogno, but some people in the paranormal community claim he has faked his academic credentials. You can look up the details online if you're curious. You may want to take his writings with a grain of salt, and even he says the story about Bigfoot and the helicopter is pretty questionable. 

There is a certain "mix and match" aspect to some contemporary paranormal stories that make them seem even stranger than they normally would. A Bigfoot or UFO story is anomalous by its very nature, but some of these stories are strange hybrids of multiple paranormal ideas. For example, last week's story about ZoZo was "reptoid entity + Ouija board = demon," or possibly "reptoid entity + Ouija board = alien being," depending on when it was told. 

This week's story is the same. Black helicopters have been a feature of UFO and paranormal accounts for decades, and they are often implied to be part of some unnamed government conspiracy. And of course, Bigfoot has been a staple of paranormal stories for decades. When they're mashed together they provide surprisingly entertaining results: "Bigfoot + black helicopter = missing laundry." 

I like old folklore as well as new paranormal stories, but the older folklore was much more standardized. For example, classic witch tales from across New England were all pretty similar, reflecting the shared belief system of our cultural ancestors. Ghost stories were pretty much the same as well. People are much more creative now with their stories of strange encounters. I think there's just a wider range of beliefs these days. Some people think Bigfoot is a reclusive animal, some think he's an alien, others that he's from another dimension. Apparently someone thinks he flies around in a black helicopter pulling pranks. There's a lot of variety. 

A cynic might say this is all caused by capitalism and our ever-expanding range of media outlets. Readers and viewers crave novelty, so authors and TV producers always need to find new stories to tell (and sell). People online need to post weirder and wilder stories in order to get views and likes. You saw a UFO last night or a mysterious large footprint in the snow? Old news! Tell me about black-eyed children who came out of a UFO after you bought a haunted house. Then maybe I'll read your post. Maybe. 

That's the skeptical perspective. On the other hand, humans have been experiencing strange phenomena for thousands of years, and probably will for thousands more. These experiences have always been filtered through our cultural perspectives. The ancient Greeks saw nymphs and satyrs, the Puritans saw witches and ghosts, people in the late 20th century saw UFOs and Bigfoot. As we move into the 21st century American culture is comprised of more viewpoints, and more diverse viewpoints, than ever before. We just have a larger set of cultural filters than people had in the past, so let's enjoy the weirdness that results. And of course, keep an eye on your laundry.

February 17, 2021

ZoZo the Demon in Massachusetts: Ouija Boards, UFOs, and Led Zeppelin

On September 1, 1994, Mona Kempka woke up in her bedroom in Framingham, Massachusetts. It was 3:15 a.m. She had been sound asleep but felt someone pressing on her hands. Kempka was quite surprised when she opened her eyes. 

A reptilian entity was materializing in her bedroom. It was large and covered in scales. And did I mention it was large?

Its torso put the most proficient bodybuilder to shame, its legs were like giant frog's legs only more developed muscularly, there was mist covering its face so she could not see it...

The creature had large claws on its hands. As it appeared the entire room was lit with a strange pinkish light, and the creature told Kempka repeatedly its name was "ZoZo." It didn't speak but communicated with her telepathically. And then the creature disappeared.

From the 1977 movie SPECTRE.

This terrifying encounter was not the first time Kempka had heard the name "ZoZo." She had been using a Ouija board earlier and contacted an entity that said its name was ZoZo. She had also encountered a gray alien around this time as well.

I found this story in Albert Rosales's book Humanoid Encounters: 1990 - 1994, The Others Among Us. The Humanoid Encounters series is a great source of strange stories and I highly recommend them. Rosales doesn't give a lot of context, though, so I did a little digging to learn more about ZoZo. Some of you may already know about him but he was a relatively new demon to me. 

ZoZo seems to have entered America's cultural consciousness around 2009, when an Oklahoma man named Darren Evans posted about his Ouija board experiences in an online forum called True Ghost Tales. Evans said he had contacted a demonic being named ZoZo, who liked to swear at him through the Ouija board and threatened to take Evans's girlfriends off to Hell. Evans thought it was all talk, until one night his young daughter nearly drowned in the bathtub after ZoZo threatened her during a Ouija session. She also suffered from a nearly fatal infection shortly afterwards.

From that point on, Evans's house was plagued with strange phenomena. Objects moved on their own, voices were heard in empty rooms, and lights turned themselves on and off. Evans eventually moved to Michigan, but the weird occurrences started in his new home as soon as he started to use a Ouija board again. And the board spelled out ZoZo...

In 2016, Evans wrote The Zozo Phenomena with Rosemary Ellen Guiley, and has also appeared on Ghost Adventures and other paranormal TV shows. The book's name is accurate: ZoZo did become a phenomena, and there are now thousands of videos on YouTube of people trying to contact the demon. There have also been several horror films made about him as well. Many other people on the True Ghost Tales forum have confirmed Evans's experiences and said they too have encountered ZoZo.

I am a little late to the ZoZo party, but as soon as I saw the name I immediately thought of Led Zeppelin. I grew up in the 1970s, when Led Zeppelin was one of the biggest bands in the world. They had a reputation for dabbling in the occult, and children were warned that demonic messages would be revealed if they played Led Zeppelin albums backwards. The band's fourth album, Led Zeppelin IV, featured four occult symbols on the record sleeve, one for each band member. 

Guitarist Jimmy Page's symbol was the following:

There is some truth behind the band's occult reputation. Jimmy Page became fascinated by the occult after reading Aleister Crowley's Magick in Theory and Practice when he was a teen, and he later bought Crowley's former home Boleskine House (located on the shores of Loch Ness!) with part of his Led Zeppelin fortune. He also briefly owned an occult bookstore and publishing company in London. 

Led Zeppelin fans have argued for years about the meaning of the Zoso symbol. It seems it originated in an Italian Renaissance alchemical grimoire, and probably refers to Saturn, the planetary ruler of Capricorn, Page's zodiac birth sign. It doesn't refer to a demon, and probably isn't even meant to be pronounced at all. It's simply a symbol.

Darren Evans is aware of the Led Zeppelin symbol, but he claims ZoZo has much older roots. For example, a demon named ZoZo is mentioned in 1818 French book called Le Dictionaire Infernal, and was mentioned in some other French texts in the 19th century. But some scholars claim that ZoZo is described as part of a fake possession case in Le Ditcionnaire Infernal and is not meant to be taken seriously. The name ZoZo has appeared in a few other places, including John Waters's 2000 movie Cecil B. Demented, where a character played by Maggie Gyllenhall says her father is "Zo-Zo, the three headed guard dog at the gate to hell."

The Ouija board has its origins in the 19th century, when spiritualism was sweeping across the country and Americans were eager to contact their dead loved ones, particularly those who died in the Civil War. For many years Ouija boards (also called spirit boards or talking boards) were mostly seen as a form of wholesome entertainment and a party game. For example, the couple in this Norman Rockwell painting don't seem too concerned about demons as they play with their board:

Ouija boards got a more sinister reputation in 1973, when the movie The Exorcist was released. In it, a young girl contacts a spirit named Captain Howdy using a spirit board. Although at first he seems harmless, it soon turns out that Captain Howdy is actually a Babylonian demon named Pazuzu. Oops! Ouija boards became a horror movie staple after that, and as the Satanic panic swept the country in the 1980s concerned parents warned their children against using them. This of course only made kids want them even more, and today Ouija boards are more popular than ever.

ZoZo. Zoso. Pazuzu. Led Zeppelin. The Satanic Panic. Linda Blair and Ouija boards. It's a potent mix of pop culture, the occult, and forgotten religious tidbits. You can see how the idea of a Ouija demon named ZoZo would take shape from all these different pieces, and why it would resonate. I'm not going to judge the truth or falsehood of Evans's claims, and I do think we can have powerful spiritual experiences even of things that have fairly recent origins. 

Now, back to Mona Kempka and her ZoZo sighting in Framingham, Massachusetts. Kempka said she saw the reptilian creature in 1994, years before Darren Evans had his experiences with ZoZo. Kempka discussed her sighting on a 2005 episode of World's Strangest UFO Stories, which was also several years before Evans shared his experiences. 

However, you've probably noticed she appeared on a UFO show, not a show about demons. I watched the episode, and she doesn't say the reptilian creature was a demon or that it was named ZoZo. She simply says it appeared and then disappeared, and that David Icke's theory that reptoid aliens are taking over the planet may be right. (I don't share her opinion on that.) The creature was only in her room for six seconds. She seems like a UFO believer, not someone involved in the occult. 

My guess is that Kempka's story probably changed a little over time. Rosales's Humanoid Encounters: 1990 - 1994 was not published until 2016, many years after Kempka's initial encounter with the creature and more than 10 years after she appeared on TV. She probably reevaluated her experience in light of new information, including the stories about ZoZo. I don't think she identified the musclebound reptoid as ZoZo until after Darren Evans' book came out. Does this mean she lied? 

Not necessarily. People around the world have experienced strange nighttime phenomena for millennia. If Mona Kempka lived in 17th century Massachusetts, she probably would have blamed this strange visitation on a witch. Explaining the creature as an alien visitor made sense in the late 20th century, but with our culture's current occult resurgence maybe a demonic explanation came to seem more meaningful. Maybe the concept of ZoZo made more sense to her than the concept of aliens. A skeptic might say she was just experiencing sleep paralysis or night terrors. Explanations come and go, but the experiences remain the same. 

One final note. Sadly, Mona Kempka passed away in 2015, so we'll never know more about her encounter that night in 1994. I'm glad she shared her stories. 

February 06, 2021

Bigfoot Hunters and A Glowing Light in Maine

You may have heard that an Oklahoma lawmaker wants to create a Bigfoot hunting season in his state. Justin Humphrey is the state representative for a district in Southeastern Oklahoma, an area where many people have seen the mysterious hairy hominid. 

Southeastern Oklahoma is already home to Gasquatch, a giant Sasquatch that stands outside a gas station/convenience store in the town of Idabel. In fact, the business is actually called Gasquatch. And the small town of Honobia has an annual Bigfoot festival every year which features music, food, and lectures by cryptozoologists. Honobia is surrounded by dense forests (logging is the main industry) and a local family reportedly encountered a group of Sasquatch in January of 2000. The Sasquatch stole deer carcasses from an outdoor refrigerator in an encounter called the Siege of Honobia

Photo of Gasquatch from this site

Humphrey's office was flooded with angry calls and emails after he announced his intention to create a hunting season. Bigfoot fans were outraged and assumed he was encouraging people to kill the creature. He was quick to clarify the bill's intent:

"Our goal is not to kill Bigfoot. We will make that everyone understands what we want to do is trap Bigfoot," he said. 

The bill would also create a $25,000 reward for anyone who captures the creature. 

"I have been in the woods all my life and I have not ever seen any sign of Bigfoot," Humphrey said. "I have never heard Bigfoot, but I have some people that I know that are good, solid people who I will guarantee you 100 percent have said they have had experience with Bigfoot. So, I know there are people out there that you will not convince that Bigfoot doesn't exist." (from TheHill.com)

Humphrey's main goal is to promote tourism in his part of the state. There's nothing wrong with that, but I don't think anyone is going to capture or kill Bigfoot, because Bigfoot probably isn't a physical creature. It's quite possible he's just a creature of legend or folklore, like the Easter Bunny. It's also possible he's something more ontologically tricky. 

Maybe he's a spirit of some kind, or an extradimensional being. Maybe those are just two ways of saying the same thing? The ancient Greeks might have said he was a daimon, an intermediary being between gods and men. The ancient Romans might have called him a genius loci, a spirit of a particular place like a forest. Whatever they called him, they wouldn't have tried to trap and kill him. If anything, they would have made an altar and left offerings for him. 

Bigfoot stories have always contained hints this hairy monster is more than just an animal. Witnesses report Sasquatches disappearing into thin air, tracks stopping in the middle of nowhere, and even receiving telepathic communications from the creatures. Bigfoot sightings are also associated with strange lights in the sky or UFOs, as this story from New Gloucester, Maine shows:

The main witness along with two other individuals was exploring a 60 acre sand pit when they saw an extremely bright light. They were terrified at first but decided that they would investigate. They continued walking toward the light until it led them to a section of the pit enclosed by thick trees with a small opening in the middle. At this point they saw a large upright being approximately 8 feet tall, covered with hair and piercing ice blue eyes. Frozen with fear they stood as still as possible until the creature noticed them and bolted into the trees. The witnesses then left the area. (Albert Rosales, Humanoid Encounters: 2008 - 2009: The Others Amongst Us)

This sighting supposedly occurred on October 25, 2008 at 1:27 a.m. A few take aways from this story. First, I do not recommend wandering around sand pits after dark. Monsters or not, that's a recipe for trouble. Second, normal animals are not accompanied by mysterious bright lights! I see lots of animals in my neighborhood - rabbits, raccoons, turkeys, and even coyotes. Their appearance is not heralded by unexplained lights. But here are some things whose appearance is accompanied by bright lights: ghosts, demons, divine beings, extraterrestrials, and even angels. 

Image from Amazon.

The witness and their friends were terrified when they saw the bright light, and I was reminded that angels in the Bible often say "Fear not" when they appear. I'm not saying Bigfoot is an angel, just that radiant supernatural incursions into the human world are often frightening. We've all seen bright lights before and not been afraid. But most of us haven't seen a bright light in a sandpit after midnight that leads us to a huge hairy creature. Oh, and it all happened the week before Halloween.

If this story's true, I don't think any hunters would be able to capture that Bigfoot. Even if it's not true, it still reflects what a lot of people think about Bigfoot. He's not an animal, and can't be shot or trapped. It's fine that Justin Humphrey wants to create a Bigfoot hunting season but I think there might be some disappointed hunters out there.

One last note. The day I started writing this post I got an email about some UFO sightings in Maine. One of them - a UFO abduction - supposedly happened in New Gloucester in 1973. The abduction occurred just north of the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village. This is very close to New Gloucester's sand pit, the Shaker Pit on Route 26, which presumably is where Bigfoot was seen in 2008. This might all be a coincidence, but I'm definitely not visiting that sandpit after midnight.