Passing Out of Sight: A Chronicle of Strange Disappearances
By Scott Corrales © 2015 for INEXPLICATA
Marcus Garvey, the renowned Jamaican political activist and journalist, once observed that a nation or community without any notion of its history and its past was equivalent to a rootless tree. Much the same can be said for the pursuit of the paranormal, where scholarship is relegated to a dusty metaphorical shelf and only the new is cherished, perhaps for its immediate commercial appeal. But the silent books and periodicals in the stacks have much to tell us.
So it is that in the age of instant communications, Snapchat, WhatsApp and other tokens of modernity, looking at old information in print form seems distinctly quaint. But it is these older sources of knowledge – indelible, printed on yellowing paper that may or may not withstand the test of time – that may hold the key to many mysteries we face today, or if not, at least provide useful background material for contemporary situations.
Perhaps it is safe to say that in the past four years or so, no subject has commanded as much attention as the mysterious disappearances investigated by David Paulides in a series of remarkable books, the Missing 411 collection. While originally focused on cases of missing persons in U.S. national parks and forests, even the area immediately outside these government-owned preserves, Paulides expanded his area of inquiry to other countries and even other situations, namely urban disappearances involving college-aged young men.
Looking through a 1977 issue of SAGA UFO Magazine
, specifically Jerome Clark’s Saucer Central U.S.A. column, we can find some interesting information about a disappearance from long ago.
Clark kicks off his column by saying: “One of the strangest UFO occupant encounters of recent months is reported to have taken place near Echo Lake, Colorado, on the evening of June 9, 1976. The alleged witness, 38-year-old Michael Lusignan, is a patent examiner from Arlington, Virginia, who at the time was vacationing in the Colorado mountains and had gotten lost.” While Paulides has wisely avoided taking a stand on the nature of the forces responsible for the mysterious disappearances, Clark did not hesitate to associate the possible cause of the disappearance as being related to the UFO phenomenon.
He goes on to tell his readers that Lusignan’s wife contacted the authorities when the man had not returned to the city of Denver by the agreed time. A search party from the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Department sallied forth at the break of dawn – a force in excess of thirty men with four tracking dogs. For the next forty-eight hours, the environs of Echo Lake and Mt. Evans were diligently combed, with air support subsequently provided by a police helicopter and a military airplane. No trace of Lusignan was found, and the search was called off.
A week later, a pair of cyclists who had stopped at a scenic lookout over the lake heard a man calling for help: it was Michael Lusignan, at the bottom of the seven hundred foot lookout. The tourists alerted the authorities and rescue was promptly initiated. This is where the missing persons story turns a twist into the twilight zone.
During the ambulance ride, Lusignan informed the Sheriff that “on 10 p.m. Wednesday he had seen two rectangular UFOs silently land on nearby Vance Creek. Thinking they were helicopters sent to rescue him, he walked over to them and attempted to talk to the crew.” But the man soon realized that his would-be rescuers were far from what he expected. He said that the strangers “did not speak English” and that they “whispered to each other in some unintelligible language.” More distressing was the fact that their eyes were spaced differently from humans; their attire was colorful, reminding Lusignan of the hues found in Indian and gypsy dress.
He was surprised that their number – over a dozen, perhaps even two - included men, women and children of both sexes, but he made no remarks as to their respective ages. They appeared to be setting up camp. “They forced Lusignan to move to another campsite,” writes Clark, “and during the night he heard horses and dogs. The next day, when he awoke, the peculiar visitors were gone.”
Some of the irregularities that David Paulides has observed in missing persons cases appear in this event, such as the fact that Lusignan actually heard the Clear Creek County rescue crew, but had inexplicably moved away from the men and their dogs rather than toward them. Suggesting that the man could have been suffering from disorientation or even temporary insanity, Clark notes that the animal noises Lusignan associated with the “gypsy” campsite could have indeed been associated with the rescuers and their own animal helpers.
An Assemblage of Oddities
Readers of John Keel’s Our Haunted Planet
and The Mothman Prophecies
are familiar with the presence of entities resembling the stereotypical image of “gypsies”, although it is unlikely that these are true Romanies, but rather the enigmatic ultraterrestrials whose presence has been noted at several key moments in world history, and some less important ones as well. The “black Cadillacs” associated with the Men-in-Black have also been seen to transport these beings, described as having “stately, dark-skinned, pointed faces with Oriental features,” (Keel, Our Haunted Planet, p.109), but their facial features are significantly different from the individuals with “eyes set apart” in the Lusignan case.
Similar situations have been noted in disappearances at Puerto Rico’s El Yunque in the Caribbean National Rainforest. In 1986, Angel Bernard and his son, were lost for 4 days after wandering off one of the area’s many trails, coming across strange landmarks such as bottomless pits, not normally a feature of the rainforest, pools of quicksand, and the most distressing feature – the skeleton of a hapless, unknown person who never emerged from under El Yunque’s shroud of mystery. Angel Bernard added another interesting note – while the moment they became lost in the rainforest was four o’clock in the afternoon, “there was a sudden, abnormal nightfall” at that time – a feature that has been observed in high-strangeness experiences associated with alien abductions. The elder Bernard encountered a red-eyed, human-looking being surrounded by what he first thought were children, only to see them vanish a lightning speed. Their peals of laughter made him realize that some paranormal force was a work; it prompted him to tell his son that amid their precarious situation, they were also facing forces against which only the deity could ward them. Four days later, they found themselves on another trail on the far side of El Yunque rainforest, with no idea of how their wandering could have led them to that location.
Cynthia Hind, the late UFO researcher from Africa, wrote of an incident involving a deputy minister in the Zimbabwean government. The man became lost on the slopes of that country’s Mount Nyangani with two companions. According to the deputy minister, he and his companions walked aimlessly in a state of confusion, feeling neither thirst nor hunger, all the while seeing and waving frantically at the elements of the rescue team, who did not appear able to see them at all. Apparently, certain blood sacrifices were offered to the tutelary deities of the mountain, which enabled the three men to "re-enter" our normal space-time continuum.
The vanishings on Mount Nyangani are not relegated to dusty bookshelves, either. An article by Phyllis Mbanje was featured in Zimbabwe's The Standard
in May 2015. She writes: "Frivolous but seemingly convincing claims have been thrown around, with the latest saying that the missing people might actually be alive somewhere," a statement that dovetails with Cynthia Hind's own work.
The journalist goes on to say that Mushonga Sunyama, a tribal leader, stated that there is a trance medium in neighboring Mozambique who was able to see that the hapless missing persons are inded alive, and that performing certain prescribed rituals will be necessary. Sunyama is quoted as saying: "The spirit medium, Barauro, has told us that the missing people can be found if certain ceremonies are done. [The missing people] were simply blown away by the wind and are wandering somewhere up the mountain."
The fact is that Zayd and Neelam Dada, residents of Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, had gone hiking with friends to explore the spellbinding natural formation. The friends were content with their tour, but Zayd wanted to go back, joining the ranks of the disappeared. "International search experts alongside traditional leaders, the Zimbabwe National Army, Air Force of Zimbabwe [...] all combed the treacherous mountain, but there was no sign of Zayd. He had simply vanished like other before him."
Even more startling is the story of Thomas Gaisford, a student who became lost on Nyangani in November 2014, but lived to tell the tale. Despite warnings aimed at making him desist, Gaisford climbed the mountain. "For 10 dreadful hours, he battled not only against losing his wit, but the strange creatures that crawled on the mountain."
The Silk King Vanishes
Malaysia's verdant Cameron Highlands has its own tale of mysterious disappearances to tell. In 1967, Jim Thompson, the American who single-handedly revitalized the silk industry of Thailand in the 1950s, faded into thin air after going for casual walk in the jungles on Easter Sunday, 1967. A foolhardy undertaking for anyone else, but Thompson had served with the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) during World War 2, recruited by the legendary William Donovan himself.
Thompson's sudden disappearance triggered a massive search, albeit a fruitless one. Undaunted, the searchers soon turned to paranormal means. Employees from his company prayed in front of a white piece of fabric, lit by candles and the burning embers of joss sticks, hoping for a vision on the white surface that would inform them of Thompson's whereabouts. When this method did not work, a spirit medium reported that Thompson was alive, but under the influence evil presences. The medium went into a trance, reporting an hour later that Thompson was in the jungle, still in the thrall of evil spirits. Hidden in a tree, Thompson had supposedly been able to see the rescue parties, going unnoticed, unable to contact them.
A book by Edward De Souza on the Thompson mystery adds the following: "A number of Thais were of the conviction that Jim could have - knowingly or unknowingly, positioned a newly acquired image in an entirely wrong section of his house. This act of carelessness, they sensed, could have brought about much sorrow and anguish to the idol in question. To teach him a good lesson, the spirit made him go round in circles. Being stubborn, he chose not to repent. It was because of this, they reasoned, that he has continued to remain disorientated all this while."
By this reasoning, then, Thompson is still walking in circles, unaware of the passing of time, under the control of unseen forces…
A Pilot goes Missing
Thanks to an article penned by researcher Eduardo Mendoza we learn of a mysterious disappearance of aviator Peter Jacoby, who flew his small aircraft out of Sierra de las Minas in Guatemala toward an airstrip at El Murciélago in the northeastern part of the Central American nation. He was engaged in what could best be described as an "air taxi" service, ferrying passengers to and from distant locations over the jungle canopy. According to records, while crossing the Las Minas mountain range, one of the tallest in the country, he radioed: "I heading down to the lake..."
That was the last that was ever heard from Peter Jacoby.
Guatemalan civil aviation officials ordered a number of search flights to locate the missing flyer, expecting to find wreckage. Operations were suspended after a week of sorties, prompting the missing man's wife and family to take to the airwaves and ask for popular support. Another experienced pilot, Roberto Ayala, offered to conduct a further flight, availing himself of the latest camera gear available at the time, which Eduardo Lopez describes as a Sony DXC 1600. Thus equipped. Ayala followed Jacoby's flight path, recording everything as he went, descending to the lake mentioned in the final communication and then on to the El Murciélago airstrip.
"Putting our lives in jeopardy with Ayala's daredevil flying," explains Lopez, "we secured two hours of video footage. The mountain canyons were clearly captured on tape, which was analyzed minute by minute. The outcome: negative! Peter Jacoby vanished forever and his whereabouts remain unknown twenty-six years later." (Written in 2008).
Theories for the plane's disappearance range from mechanical issues to possible stowaway who killed the pilot to commandeer the aircraft for the drug trade. Some more unorthodox theories suggest that "the private plane vanished, swallowed by supernatural forces of the space-time continuum" and "the vehicle was abducted by beings from outer space."
As a postscript, the author adds the disappearance of an Ecurieul V3 helicopter that departed from La Aurora International Airport on November 18, 2007 , also heading toward the Department of Izabal, on a mission to locate water deposits. The last signal received from the helicopter was over Sierra de las Minas, precisely as it made its descent over Lake Izabal. The pilots, Jorge Reyes and Guillermo Rivera, had clean police records and the suggestion that they had absconded with the aircraft was promptly dismissed. Eduardo López makes an interesting comment to this: “Civil Aviation kept the disappearance a secret – an incomprehensible, hermetic and perhaps strange approach. It was only pressure from the missing pilots’ relatives and the company they flew that caused a search to be intensified. It was believed that the helicopter had fallen into Central America’s second largest lake, but wreckage would have been in evidence, and not a scrap was ever found.
Does some sort of time-space distortion exist over the section of the mountain range overlooking the placid waters of Lake Izabal? It is anyone’s guess.