Strange Phenomena

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Reaper Close at Hand

Death and Childhood

The summer I was seven in Dover Massachusetts my father was worried that I might accidentally kill some of the fireflies that I round up and kept in a jar on my bedside table at night, so he cooked up two excellent substitutes.

One was a heavy six sided light green glass pyramid. The other was a strong cardboard picture of a sly looking human skull. In the cellar Pa had a gallon of phosphorescent paint that glowed light blue, like the full moon on a cold night.

With meticulous detail he put a thick coat of the magickal paint on the skull and on the bottom of the pyramid. It took forever to dry and I was delighted beyond words with the result. I continued to enjoy fireflies, but at a distance.

I had begun to acquire a reputation in the neighborhood as a naturalist. That Autumn a neighbor, Harris Pratt, gave me a dead bat. My father fixed the wings in spread position with copper wire and pickled the bat with alcohol inside a long olive bottle. Another addition to my private museum.

The next summer Harris' daughter Nancy brought me a dead bird. I asked, but Pa said it would not pickle well and that I should bury it. Debbie Chandler, the little seven year old girl next door, and I held a funeral for the bird and buried it in a blue Maxwell House coffee can.

Kids wonder about death, and so a week later, after much soul searching, Debbie and I dug up the bird to see what changes, if any, had occurred.

There were white worms and red worms, each about three sixteenths of an inch in length. Debbie said she had heard that in some special situations connected with the army there were also blue worms.

Two years later I heard a standard childhood poem. I'm sure that there are diffrent versions:


When You Are Dead

Don't you laugh when the hearse goes by,
for you may be the next to die.
First they send you in
while your relatives sit and grin.
They wrap you up in a big white sheet
and send you down about six feet deep.
All goes well for about a week,
but then the coffin starts to leek.
The worms crawl in.
The worms crawl out.
The worms play penacle on your snout.
And one little guy who ain't so shy
crawls in your ear and out your eye.
Your blood then turns a sickening green
and oozes out like thick whipped cream.
You wrap it up in a piece of bread
and that's what you eat when you are dead.


April 19, 2006

9:53 AM


Death Very Close on Twenty Six Occasions

Nothing supernatural here. The reader may wish to skip ahead because these are all stories that happen to everybody once in a great while. I decided to write them up briefly because I feel lucky to have survived so many situations where, if anything had gone just a little bit differently, I wouldn't be here to write anything at all.

Big Fish in Florida

Three stories are all set around the time when I was eleven years old in Palm Beach Shores Florida.
One day I was in the ocean up to my neck in the water. I looked up at my father standing on the beach, which rose twenty feet above the water before leveling off to pine groves.
Pa beckoned casually for me to come out of the water. I asked what he wanted. He said he had to talk to me so I came walking out. At the point where I was ankle deep, my father pointed behind me. I turned to see seven shark fins pass exactly where I had just been twenty seconds earlier.
Another time I was snorkeling around a bunch of coral rocks. This disturbed a deadly poisonous Morey Eel who lunged at me viciously. I dodged him and retreated. The eel glared at me and went back into the rocks watching me intently with a very sour expression.
Sometime later I was snorkeling in the part of the Inter-coastal Waterway called Lake Worth and suddenly came face to face with a giant female barracuda guarding her nest. She eyeballed me like I was on the dinner menu opening and closing her mouth of huge fangs.
Was she trying to scare me with this vulgar display of cutlery? If so, it worked. I knew instinctively that I would be telling her I was prey if I retreated too obviously so I slowly swam a bit to the right, then turned and swam gently to the steps leading to the top of the seawall.
March 30, 2006
The Budliner
Long ago there was a diesel commuter train called the Budliner. It was ribbed stainless steel and ran from the far western suburbs right through Dover Massachusetts directly into downtown Boston. The autumn I turned thirteen there was a bad train accident.
Thirteen deer were crossing through a narrow place between ledges when the Budliner came swiftly out of the night and killed them all in one swoop. The townspeople sadly dug two large holes and buried all of the deer together. Clergy read words over the two unmarked graves. Later it was rumored that you could still sometimes hear the deer screams late at night.
The following summer I was walking the railroad tracks one sunny day with a good friend named Nelson Emmons. The land in Dover is very hilly. We came to a large gulf spanned by a ridge of crushed stone piled eighty feet high. It was very steep on the sides and narrow at the top. We were walking peacefully along talking when I heard a faint click on the tracks behind behind us.
I turned to see the Budliner about fifty feet behind us doing sixty miles an hour as it always does. I yelled to Nelson to jump and we slid down the rocks looking up just as the train whizzed by. It couldn't have been any closer.
We all know that deer become immobile under headlights, but I believe that even if they didn't, that in that place, at that time, they could never have escaped the silent and deadly Budliner.

April 3, 2006
10:34 AM



Cramps While Diving

One day in Sprig during  high school at Farm Pond in Sherborn, Massachusetts I had swum out to a small wooded island. As I began to swim back my entire left side, arm, and leg cramped and became completely paralyzed. I crawled ashore to massage my limbs hoping the cramps would go away. They did not.

I didn’t want to wait all day, so I took a bad risk and side stroked back to shore with my mask on my foreheads and my head above water. The longest swim of my life.


May 4, 2012

9:32 A.M




Huge Waves in North Carolina


Once in September at age fifteen I was body surfing six foot waves at Nag’s Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina - Hurricane Alley. It was around 2:00 P.M. and I was alone with nobody around. Suddenly a wave fourteen feet high reared up and broke right on me. I was smashed down into the sand under water, dragged, rolled, and tumbled along. I got up, gasping for air, and tried to get to shore, but the strong undertow dragged me back. Then came another wave, and another, and another. I don’t know how I survived this or where I got the strength, but I tried again and again until I made it to shore completely exhausted.


For some reason I forgot to write this up with the other stories in 2006. I think this was the scariest of all my experiences because I actually felt myself dying as my strength ran out. I was absolutely sure the sea was taking me forever, but there was a slight delay between waves and only this allowed me to survive.



April 11, 2012

12:45 P.M.



Insane Driver in Massachusetts

One car I drove in college was a "poor man's Porsche". Two weeks after I sold that Karmann Ghia roadster, I was driving my first rich man's Porsche, a Gray 356BS Coupe, through Wellesley Massachusetts about 4:00 PM on the way back from classes at Suffolk University.
As I started into an intersection, I looked up and saw a nutcase in a hot Chevy running the red light. He came flying up over the steep hill to my right. He was air-born just like the police chase movies filmed in San Francisco.
It was too late to stop so I trounced on the accelerator. The car surged forward and I saw the Chevy just miss me in the rear view mirror. The K Shells of the atoms in our paint jobs exchanged electrons it was so close. He was doing about sixty five. If it had been two weeks earlier and I had been in the Ghia ...
March 30, 2006
2:05 PM

More Porsche Adventures
One Rainy Night
I was doing about 85 MPH on the Massachusetts Turnpike in the 356 coming back from a night class at Suffolk. There was a truck up ahead of me going about the same speed. Suddenly a crate the size of a washing machine fell off the truck right in front of me. I swerved sharply to the right to avoid it and the car fishtailed violently in absolute silence for three hundred feet on the slippery pavement. Finally I got the old girl under control.
One Dry Night
One night I was driving a girl home from a party in the 356 doing 85 MPH into a tight uphill corner on a narrow country road. The car became air-born, but I didn't know it, so I kept turning the steering wheel to the right. When we came down, the car lurched violently to the right and fishtailed for about a hundred feet. The tires sang a frightening Toccata and Fugue in D (for Death) Major.
One Dry Day
Five years later I was driving home on Route 495 in my father's red 911T Porsche Coupe. I decided to see what she would do.
As I hit 100 MPH, a guy pulled out into the right lane ahead. I thought it would be fun to see the look on his face, but I went by so fast he was hundreds of feet behind by the time I could look into the rear-view mirror.
As I hit 130 MPH the car suddenly began to lift and pull quickly to the right. There was a problem with aerodynamics, so I slowed down promptly. The lift happened because the right front fender was buckled by an accident Pa had when some Bozo pulled out of a side street without looking.
March 30, 2006
3:57 PM
Mountain Perils

From my journal: "December 8, 1982 At 11:00 AM
Consecrate stone at top of Little Monadnock. 1:30 PM. Do another at top of Big Monadnock [Probably represents record climbing time. On way up I meet a guy in an elf green coat carrying a strange walking stick. He looks much like my father. The minute he first sees me, he falls flat on his face. For some reason I feel a little guilty about this. Shortcut straight up to summit sees me clinging with back against a sheer rock face in a strong wind. At another point I am faced with going across a crevasse by stepping on a rock which separates two huge slabs of stone. If I dislodge the one I step on, the other two will slap together squashing me like a bug. Study this a while and then do it quickly. See western red squirrel at the top]."



When the Trees Reach Out with Claws

Mt. Washington in New Hampshire has the lowest recorded temperature, and highest recorded wind speed, on Earth. You can ski Tuckerman's Ravine eleven months of the year. The weather station at the top has a huge chain anchored in stone running right over the roof. The temperature can drop sixty five degrees in fifteen minutes, The wind speed can increase one hundred miles per hour within twenty minutes.
Not including all those who disappear every year, over a hundred people have been found dead on Mt. Washington. There are stone cairns everywhere to mark where they fell. Two weeks before my adventure, two chaps were blown to their deaths right off the face of the mountain. The rangers advise you to carry so much survival equipment that you would need three porters to carry it all.
The following story of grim adventure is not that strange in itself. What is strange was the subjective feelings experienced in living it. I have simply reproduced my journal entry for that day with a little bracketed commentary.

"June 22, 1989. Executions number 7 and arrests 1600 in China.
11:30 AM. Ride Stage up Mt. Washington. Hot and hazy. 25 mile view. 51 degrees at the top. After egg salad sandwich and macaroni c 1:30 PM hike down to Lake of the Clouds favoring my left knee all the way [As a skier, beating up my knees mountain climbing is not acceptable. One must prioritize].
Leave there c 3:30 not realizing that I am heading into one of the most frightening and desperate adventures of my life. As I leave I can see my destination at a bewilderingly great distance below.
The trail proceeds for quite a while in a normal fashion. At a certain point it begins to narrow, but seeing recent footprints, I keep on, over a ridge, and down a very steep area. Trail keeps getting less like a trail. At one point my foot pokes through into a cave and I fall up to my thigh. [Very luckily this did not break or wedge my leg].
The pitch of the land takes me back toward the river. I come down a place it is impossible to get back up and am confronted with having to pass between two parallel ledges each at a 45 degree angle with rushing water below. I am very angry at the AMC at this point [for not warning me enough] and very frightened.
I gradually inch my way along slippery surface. [Using hands above and feet below avoiding the wet moss. If I fall the short distance here I will break both legs on the jagged boulders and starve to death, unless animals get me first]. Slip at one point and just barely make it through. Coughing and exhausted, I don't even bother to photograph beautiful cascades behind me - I don't want to remember this.
Climb up steep banking back into forest. No trail now. Back towards water. Come to an even worse situation. Down to a place where I can't go either down or up. [Can't go up because in descending I slid down a steep stone face catching my heels at intervals to stop me. Impossible to go back up. Can't go down because I will have to jump down fifteen feet into a pool where I will pitch forward and hit my head on boulders, get knocked out, and drown in two feet of water. Go up a short distance. Come down again. Still hopeless].
Yell for help. [Even at this point I think of the pictures I will take when the helicopter comes. Soon realize it's not going to come, and because of waning energy I will die, if I don't do something quickly]. With all my strength I do the impossibe and climb back up the rock face to safety. [As I do this it seems like everything is reaching out to snag me. Like in a German fairy tail when the trees have faces and conspire against lost children. I put away knife and camera in pack because they are being snagged].
Walk to place where I can cross river. [Beautiful cascade waterfall with pool where one would normally get naked and have a dip. Time, exhaustion, and my emotions will not allow this]. Rest and head down trying to avoid water. Land almost forces one towards the water. Krummholtz is now about six feet high and ultra dense. Slope is very steep. I can't see my feet.
Each step has a new surprise - a three foot drop, a jagged rock, a dead tree spike, a crevasse covered with primeval moss so it looks solid. This is worse than any Viet Nam movie, literally Hell on Earth, and ranks with seven or eight other things as one of the worst experiences of my life [as of the date recorded].
At one point, I fall down over a banking right in front of a dark cave. I fear meeting bears at this point. Also an encounter with bees would mean certain death. I am falling more than walking now because my strength is gone. Finally I see a flat river bank. As I head down, I see trodden path on the right and know that I will live. [Getting dark with moon rising].
After resting, move on, my knee troubling me a bit. Large lynx [c 95 Pounds] galloping across path about 60 feet ahead. [Can hear the thunder of his paws even before I see him. Manage not to have him not see me]. My imaginings turn to mountain lions at this point and where I would hunt if I were a lion - near a river bank, of course. I decide that I must put knife back on my hip. Finally make base lodge at 7 PM. Home via Whitefield and Gilman.

June 23. Lame all over from yesterday's adventure - especially in arms. Can hardly walk down stairs. Have to lay in bed for three days. Five near brushes with death in one day have given me my share of wilderness adventure for awhile on this one. I don't climb again until November 13, 1992 when I ascend Cannon Mountain to Lost Lake."
March 12, 2006
11:18 AM
Danger in the High Sierra
September 28, 1993. At 8:45 AM leave [In a big 28 foot diesel truck with load weighing many tons]. 12:15 Sparks NV. Steak at Western Village Casino. Nice blond waitress. Brakes fail [At top of Sierra. Pump to keep them operable all the way down to Penn Valley. They only become truly inoperable as I enter my driveway. Thank you, Odin]. Wildwood c 3:30 PM.



California Crustaceans

One day in Lake Wildwood I was cleaning my kitchen. As I reached around the refrigerator I squashed a Black Widow Spider with my index fingertip, but not before she stung me. I washed the finger off quickly and sucked the wound to remove poison. But not quick enough. I felt the paralysis begin to slowly run up my index finger, then to the tip of the middle finger. Then it began to travel up my arm, but started to thin out after passing the elbow. My shoulder got a bit sore and I had a headache all day.
Another day I woke up with a visitor in my bed. A small deadly light brown scorpion has been killed when I rolled over on him in my sleep.

Deadly Medicine

Two other times I nearly died, but more from medical negligence than from the ailments themselves.
While living in Lake Wildwood medical information about a tumor pressing on my optic nerve was mislaid for two months in Sacramento. This and the intervening holiday season caused a nearly fatal delay in my surgery. Two more days and I would have died.
Later in Reno I was not advised about available immunization and contracted a strain of pneumonia which made me deathly ill for months. I lost fifty pounds and nearly died. They quarantined me for five days because they thought I had tuberculosis.

March 31, 2006
9:53 AM
Late at Night Out on the Town Adventures
Count here four victories that may very well have meant death for me, if they had been defeats. Nolo Contendere.