Growing up in the sixties was magical. Cars with fins sleeked along finely paved roads. We bounced around without seat belts and pleaded with Mom to go faster. Bubble gum cigars from the corner penny candy store. Plastic toy guns. Color television on three channels. Summer days at the neighborhood pool gobbling fried burgers on sesame seed buns, hot fries with catsup, and vanilla moon pies. Our family of 10 traveled, ate well, and was surrounded by lots of friends in the neighborhood – riding bikes, building forts, climbing trees, late night kick-the-can games. Even without friends, my seven siblings always provided good company. But nighttime soon changed my childhood feelings of complete security in a way that I was at first unable to explain.
Now this wasn’t an ordinary security problem. Ordinary was when my two older brothers, Billy and Ricky, asked if they could “borrow” my car. I was five and had this grand metal convertible. Some kids had fire engines. Others drove stodgy station wagons. I owned the cool blue convertible with pedals. Girls lined up for rides. Now my bro’s wanted to take it for a spin. Well that was fine with me. Except that they didn’t really want to ride around the block. They were eyeing its four wheels for a homemade go-cart quickly invented after watching an episode of Spanky and His Gang.
I was taken on that deal and had no idea how to get my ride running again, although I had my eyes on the three tires that secured the bottom of Dad’s wheel barrow for a while. So aside from brief moments of sibling power struggles, or getting hit by Sister Rose Mary’s flying chalk board eraser at Cathedral Grade School, life in the 20 or so block radius we traveled by foot along the side of these hills in southwestern Pennsylvania was fine and happy and believable.
The center of my universe was a three-story brick home at 111 Tremont Avenue in Greensburg. I slept in the rear second floor bedroom. Dad was always busy closing in or refinishing a piece of the house somewhere to stash the increasing kid population, but for the moment I was stuck sharing quarters with two sisters. There were three single beds in the room and mine lay near the two windows that looked out over the backyard. The bedroom door was kept closed at night. I didn’t really like the darkness and sometimes lay awake looking up at the sky as the sound of a window fan rumbled along. There was some comfort knowing Lolly and Mary, two and three years younger, were only steps away and of course Mom and Dad were right down the hall and other siblings were scattered somewhere in between.
The home was safe and secure, even with its odd history. My great grandmother Gerber had the home built earlier in the century after her second husband died. She and her son, my father’s Uncle John, lived there and I suppose Uncle John once occupied my bedroom. Grandma Gerber passed on and Uncle John grew old, and finally a younger couple moved in to tend to the aging gentleman and to keep his house. But in his failing weeks, Uncle John was moved to the local hospital and he was visited there in his final days by the couple who worked in his home. In the hospital, family legend tells us, the couple slipped a valuable ring off of the old man’s finger, then went back to his home and made off with its entire contents lock, stock, and barrel – right down to the linens – and were never heard from again. My parents purchased the house from my father’s mother just in time for my birth as the fourth of eight children. Five years later my parents stood with me in line for kindergarten registration a few blocks north at the Fourth Ward School. Greeting the teacher finally, my father looked down at Mrs. Barnhart’s finger and noticed his uncle’s ring – the same ring left to my father in his uncle’s will. Mrs. Barnhart, admitted her husband bought it for her from the thieving couple, but refused to sell the ring to my father. Dad got even by refusing to buy it a few years later when the woman’s husband called to offer it for sale. Dad thought they needed the money.
But who or what could touch me now? Not the ghost of Uncle John in search of his missing ring. Certainly not anything strange from one of the scary television shows I liked to watch – unless of course something was able to live under my bed – dragging me quickly out of a deep sleep and down into its slimy clutches. For safety reasons, I kept my hands and feet securely near the center of the bed. Why take chances?
It was the middle of the night sometime as I was sure I had fallen asleep earlier, but had now woken up. I looked quickly around the room with only the small amount of moonlight creeping in from the windows to help me out. My sisters were long asleep. Now there was a strange sound inside the room, one that I could not identify – like a low humming. As the sound grew louder, an odd feeling came over my body. I seemed to loose the ability to move. My eyes were rotating wildly trying to understand why I could not lift a leg or arm.
Movement caught my eye near the door that led out into the hallway. It appeared at first to be cloud-like in the darkness, my minding arranging this fluid vision into a swarm of air borne ants about three or four feet off of the floor. I say ants because I had no other reference to describe this scene. It was small and dark and animated. Somehow I knew something intelligent was in the room. There was more than one of them. They were coming for me. I watched. They crossed the room and approached me, surrounded me. Now I could catch quick glimpses of the them – small beings with large eyes standing on two legs, but certainly not human. I tried to get away, but they collectively picked me up and slowly moved me toward the ceiling and then across the room to the door. There was no feeling as though the creatures were actually touching me. They stood around me with their buzzing hum, but I seemed to be floating along in their power. I remember being hysterical, like I wanted to get away from them, but I could not move any muscle accept for my eyes.
The late-night visitors arrived without warning over a period of about three or four years between the ages of 5 and 9. During several of these encounters, as I lay paralyzed in bed, I watched a peculiar movement in the room at the ceiling level. If I focused on the creatures standing near my bed I could see that there were several of them, small, short, with these large eyes that caused me to think of them as giant ants. Now as I gazed at the bedroom ceiling, I saw this dark cloud-like buzzing swarm moving along – and in it was a human, lying flat on their back and floating toward the hallway door. During some of these encounters, I lay watching as several people were moved across my ceiling and always disappearing when they reached the area near the door to the hallway. I did not recognize the people in the dark, although I feared that they were my own family members. As I watched in horror I imagined that these “flying ants” were consuming the bodies they were moving – literally eating them along the way.
Then the buzzing cloud always came for me. As hard as I tried to resist, as nervous and awful as I felt, I would be lifted straight up into the air until I reached the ceiling just inches above my nose. A few moments later the movement would continue and I would float toward the hallway door. The feeling of claustrophobia wedged so close to the ceiling and an interior wall quickly faded as I soon found myself in a larger low-lit room away from my familiar home.
Much of the area was in darkness with a low light source I was unable to locate. It looked as though the lighting came from the lower parts of the outer walls and shined upwards from receptacles I could not see. I always found myself lying on a cold metallic-like table in a fashion you might find in a doctor’s examining room. Many visits ended here as far as my memory recalls and I would later find myself securely back in bed the following morning with the sunshine in my face.
During one of the visits, I recall watching as a much taller creature entered the room. I immediately sensed that the being was female. She wore a long dark robe that covered her head and she quickly approached the table I was lying on. I was somewhat calmed by her and afraid at the same time. During the visit this non-human female creature climbed up onto the table and sat on me, holding me down while she examined me. I tried again and again to get away from her, but could not regain control of my body movement. And as always, the memory would fade and I would wake in my own bed at morning light.
In the morning, it was business as usual in the Marsh household. Clean clothes were available in my dresser and scrambled eggs with bacon, toast and milk was on the table. But I could not get the horrible night out of my mind and certainly did not want it to occur again. I decided that I had to tell an adult about what was happening during the night and my mother seemed like the best ear. Mom was certainly sympathetic to my stories, but resolved the scene by explaining it away as a very bad dream.
Mom and Dad can best be described as Lucy and Ricky from I Love Lucy. Mom was a stay-at-home wife who bought whole rooms of furniture and redecorated entire floors of our home when Dad was out of town on business. I can still see Dad pausing as he walked into a room and embraced its added features. “Lucy!” Mom’s work was her home and children and she fought hard and artistically to make the changes she believed in. Dad could be a sweet guy, but like Ricky, he could also go off into a rage at any moment. Two Irish families in the neighborhood conferred and nicknamed our Dad’s Wild Bill and Terrible Ted. The names fit. But like Ricky, Dad had a soft side and could close out any episode with a kind word and a funny line.
Mom’s bad dream or nightmare theory was quick and painless and I trusted Mom to know exactly what to do. I’m sure she meant well and most likely baked me one of her famous red devils food cakes with enough sugar to ease my pain for days. Dad most likely fed me some world-ending scenario where the story concluded with “and if these dreams continue, you’ll most likely explode.” His humor was dry and edgy. The creatures that came to get me at night did not really exist, I pondered, but were merely part of an elaborate dream state most likely induced from an episode of Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Everything seemed safe now at the family dining table with my milk and eggs and all of my family members accounted for. Certainly no one had been eaten by the flying ants – not even my evil brothers who sent a shiny convertible to an early grave. Life at least for today was back to normal.
But the little creatures and the mobile insects returned again to have more rounds with me. I woke this one morning and discovered that the palms of my hands and my ankles had a blue dye on them, a dye that would not immediately rub off. I showed this to my mother and told her about the previous night’s visitation. I do not exactly remember what Mom said, although I’m sure she instructed me to keep washing. Dad most likely laughed and said it was the Blue Devil and that perhaps we should cut off my limbs. The young detective part of me decided to have a look around the bedroom and adjoining rooms to try and find the source of what I could have touched to have caused the blue dye. Even at that young age I reasoned that if Mom was correct, and there were no real creatures in the night, then I must have been sleep walking during my dream state and encountered the blue dye on my own. If I could find the dye during my sleep state, then surely I could find it as a daytime detective. I never found anything that led me to the source of that dye. Two or three days of hot bubble baths it wore off.
These late-night creature rendezvous did not occur every night as I took some small comfort knowing that I could get a good sleep most nights. I believed my mother when she explained the difference between the real world and fantasy. In dream states, she said, these horrible scenes can manifest themselves, and I should probably cut back on scary television shows for a while.
My father’s photo finishing business was doing very well during this period of my life as it expanded into a national business. Soon my family was busy overseeing the building of a much larger home on what was once called Blueberry Hill just outside of town. The new home meant a new school, new friends, and what seemed like an exciting change for the entire family. Perhaps the little creatures would not follow me to the new house, I thought briefly, and I said goodbye to the old bedroom and welcomed my new surroundings. And for a while, my evening trips to the dreary examining room stopped. I did not imagine however that they would return with a new twist.
The new good life in a neighborhood called Mountain View seemed to change me for a period. No goblins during the night. The grammar school I attended was a few short blocks away. Home building around us was happening at a rapid rate and each new home meant the possibility of new kids and more friendships. Mom and Dad took us on longer trips – New Jersey was replaced with Florida – and life was moving along well. Three days after our move into the new home I was the first to celebrate a birthday – my ninth – and my father presented me with my first movie camera.
But somewhere along the way the evening trips to alien landscapes returned. Much closer now to age 12 and well into my tenth or fifteenth Hardy Boys mystery novel, reality altered itself once again. With five bedrooms originally built into the home and a sixth and seventh added later, I was installed into my very own bedroom as the front center window on the second floor. My bedtime routine included a daily dose of reading before falling asleep with help from a nightstand lamp.
Now it is not the middle of the night and I am not feeling as though I am waking up from a sleep. I am sitting on my bed with the lights on and reading a book. But suddenly there is a creepy feeling around me. I can sense something negative and awful and bad and dark. I look up from my book and survey the room. My bedroom door is wide open. The lights are on. Mom and Dad and my siblings are right down the hall in their own bedrooms. Everything is fine. I turn back to my book and continue reading.
Like a powerful wave, the feeling comes over me again. It is a horrible distorted feeling like a looming disaster racing toward you. This time I decide to ignore it and continue reading. But as I cannot stop the feeling after a short while, I look up, and notice that the walls of my room appear as though they are drifting away from me. One by one, the four walls move away. As they move, there is a dark gap that appears between them as the walls move further away and get smaller and smaller and smaller. Finally I cannot resist the overwhelming force and the four walls finally disappear into darkness – leaving me moving my head back and forth in complete darkness and wondering what has just occurred. I have a feeling that I am now in a different place, that I have gone away from the privacy and comfort of my cozy bedroom. I am still thinking but cannot understand how I have been removed from my own bedroom and come to this dreadful place. I have little memory now from this dark area but recall a feeling of infinity in every direction like some enormous abyss surrounding me. There is also the feeling that I am being watched, observed, by some non-human entities and that they are now communicating with me telepathically as I can “think” about what they are saying to me and I can respond back to them in the same manner.
On one particular night, my position suddenly changed from how I was sitting on the bed holding a book to now standing without the book in this darkness. I was standing on something solid with the darkness of space all around me. Although I could not see what I was standing on, I had a feeling that there was a sudden drop-off only several feet away and that I should not stray from this upright position because the darkness was like a bottomless pit. But I am somehow aware that a short distance away, possibly 50 or 100 feet, there is a second platform of some kind like the one I am standing on. I cannot see this area because there is no light but somehow I am aware of it. I have a sense that there are beings in that area and that I can communicate with them by thinking. I am told that I am being tested and that they are going to throw numbers at me and that I am to catch the numbers in the order that they are thrown. I am not to drop any of the numbers that they throw. They say that if I drop numbers that they will harm my family members. They begin throwing numbers at me – literally shapes like numbers about two feet long and one foot wide. The numbers come from the opposite platform that I cannot see and come through the darkness to a point where I can reach out and grasp them. While I give dimensions of the numbers and acknowledge that I reach out and grab them, I do not recall feeling them in the sense that they are metal or paper or wood or have any weight at all. Somehow I reach out and catch the numbers in the order they are thrown, one after the other, but after a short while the movement speeds up and the numbers come to me at a faster rate. The process now seems more difficult and I have a feeling that I want to cry because I understand the seriousness of the harm they may do to my family if I drop a number.
There is no sense of ending to the drama as it closes with my memory of waking. But as the place seems different than my original encounters and the situation is altered as well, so is the return trip. Instead of waking to normalcy and sunshine, I find that I wake in different parts of my home feeling dazed, drenched in sweat, and consumed by fear. I wake once in a first floor laundry room. I wake once in a second floor bathroom. I am always huddled on the floor and am crying as I shake and look around the room trying to understand where I am at and how I got there.
One evening my mother heard strange noises and discovered me on the floor of a bathroom screaming and crying. She turned the overhead light on and looked at me. My father followed her into the room and picked me up and placed me on the toilet seat. I have little recall of the two of them in the room, but my mother quickly placed a warm and wet wash cloth over my forehead and my father asked me what happened. I could speak and continued crying. Finally after watching me calm down over several minutes, my father carried me to my bedroom and placed me into bed. I could still barely move and continued to shake. I did not want my parents to go away. But they soon disappear back to their own bedroom and left me alone to sleep. I finally drifted off.
The following morning my parents question me about what happened the previous night. I cannot tell them what happened because I do not recall. I can only describe how I was reading and that the walls seemed to move away from me and were replaced with darkness. I recall being frightened in the same way as when the little beings came during the night a few years earlier.
As with the episodes earlier in my life, these kinds of events did not happen every night. They would spring up on me at odd times and take me by surprise. But each time now I talk to my parents and tell them as much as I can about what I experienced. They continue to say that I am having nightmares and to disregard any ideas about interacting with alien beings. The creatures I meet this way are not real and they have been drawn by my own imagination. They say that I will soon grow out of it. I believe my parents and do the best I can to avoid thinking about what happened, but on those few occasions when the walls fade, I cannot help but go into the darkness.
Somewhere near my 14th birthday, my mother decided to consult a friend about what was happening to me. The old family friend listened to everything my mother had to say and offered some advice. I was told that if I went into the darkness again and had the experience that I was communicating with alien beings, that I was to make a sign of the cross and to boldly tell the creatures that I no longer wanted to visit them. Since I admitted that the experience was unlike a dream state because I felt that I could think logically during the event, I was asked to put aside my fear in the next round, face my kidnappers, and dramatically tell them to get out of my life. I listened to my mother and the advice from her friend and wondered whether or not I would be able to do just that. But I agreed that I would try.
Soon the walls parted again and I found myself in the darkness, but this time I knew that I was in a different place. I had the distinct feeling that there were two rooms or areas. I was standing in one area and there was a wall separating me from a second room. I do not recall anything about the room I was standing in except that it was dark and its boundaries shaped like a rectangle about 15 feet wide and 60 feet long. While I could not physically see my boundaries I had this telepathic feeling of its dimensions. I was told to walk into the second room and there I would have a discussion with a being. The second room was the same feeling as the first as I was surrounded by darkness but had a feeling of my boundaries. The non-human intelligent being was on the far end of the room away from me as I entered. As I walked into the room I suddenly recalled the conversion with my mother about what to say during my next encounter. I moved through the room and stopped half way at about center. While I could not see the being on the far end of the room, I had a feeling that the being could see me and that we could communicate telepathically. I looked in the direction where I thought the being was situated and made the sign of the cross and began to think about not wanting to come to this place again and not wanting to deal with them. I made the sign of the cross over and over and over again – and then suddenly I found myself back in my bed looking up at the morning light.
Many years passed along and my fears of being abducted from my sleep subsided. While I could recall vivid memories of these situations, I firmly believed that the entire series of episodes was housed in my creative mind and were merely childhood nightmares that people grew out of as they got older. But I was to have one final encounter with strange looking beings and again in a very different manner.
Gone were the little beings who came to move me during the night and my walls remained firmly in place. This time I closed my eyes one night in my 20s and went to sleep and soon drifted off into a dream. In this dream I am standing in a low-lit room similar to the original room I was taken to. I am led into this room by these very small creatures like the ones who came to my bedroom as a young child. There is no fear in this dream, but only a feeling of curiosity. I am led into this room where I see a group of chairs and just beyond what appears to be some type of curtain. I am aware that there are taller beings on the other side of the curtain and that I am to be seated as they have something to show me.
I follow the directions given telepathically by the small beings as these creatures disappear back into the area we came from. Now seated, I look at the curtain and wonder what I am going to be shown. The curtain does not cover the entire wall and there is an opening along the right side. A tall creature steps into the room looking like the creature who examined me on the cold table many years earlier. I again have the feeling that this creature is female. Walking alongside her is a child. I look at the child and wonder about it. The child looks human, but with some differences. The female telepathically speaks to me and says that she wants me to meet my child, that it is a product of both herself and myself. The child walks to me smiling and in a friendly and playful manner and stands in front of my chair. We look into each other’s eyes with wonderment. I soon wake from my dream and am peacefully in my own bed.
Story over, right? Well not so fast.
Years again pass along, two degrees, one marriage, and a kid-on-the-way later, and I find myself in upstate New York watching cable television in the living room of my first house. From this front room of our hundred-year-old Victorian frame home I tuned into what seemed like a never-ending barrage of new television shows pumping me with the latest findings in paranormal circles. People were claiming that they had been abducted by aliens from other worlds. First there was the known history on the subject, usually mention of aliens throughout history from cave drawings and speculations on Egyptian pyramids and the story of a New England couple named Betty and Barney Hill who learned about their extraordinary examinations through hypnosis. Then it was followed by interviews with those who had survived their ordeal and the specialists who were eagerly trying to confirm details. Some of the witnesses provided drawings of the beings and these were hoisted up as background art.
I stared in amazement. I listened from the edge of my seat. I began keeping notes on the various points these people were making trying to deduce what they had in common. “Honey,” I called to me wife. “I think I was abducted as a kid.”
Joyce looked me straight in the eye. “What makes you say that?” she asked.
“Because the television show says I was.”
Now I was super curious. I continued to watch the shows and bought every book I could find on the subject. In one book they even listed what these abductees have in common. I read through the list.
“Ah hah, ah hah, ah hah,” I said. “Been there. Done that.”
The curiosity with the list was some very interesting similarities between my story and what these other people were claiming. How did my story get out and why are these people copying me? The difference between us, for the moment, was that these people written about in the books and interviewed on television, all claimed that they were abducted by aliens. I had settled on fantasy and nightmare. The only difference in story, in most cases, was the fact that I could not claim as an adult that I was still terrified about being taken during the night. Some of these people were still terrified and some even claimed that the abductions continued.
For years I remained a closet alien abduction watcher and followed the stories of those willing to air them in the media. I found comfort in their stories and appreciated their boldness in coming forward. For my part, the stories would remain with me and my family as a small token of my assumed childhood fantasy. But still, the idea that I was perhaps actually and physically removed from my bed at night and taken to an alien ship was an interesting thought. Maybe I had traveled further in the universe than I thought I had. By my thinking I hadn’t gone any further than Tyiwanna, Mexico and my idea of space aliens was confined to Star Trek episodes.
Some of the overlap I had with others around the world included descriptions of two different alien beings – the short ones and the tall ones. There were other details: knowing the sex of the alien. Communicating telepathically. Being taken from my bed at night, lifted up into the room, through the wall, and into a room where a cold table awaited me. Sex with an alien and the resulting child later in life. I even shared the reality of waking up from these alien encounters with nose bleeds
But the idea that my own recollections were real never materialized in me. When I thought back about how real the situations seemed, I was still able to explain it to myself as lucid dreaming, and other small facts like no family member ever reporting me physically missing during the night. But what about the commonness between my story and all of the others? Okay, I told myself, at least follow along at the sidelines and see what research on the subject comes along.
A few more years passed and I read Abduction by Harvard psychologist John Mack. This work was impressive for me because of the university behind the author and the author’s own personal background. Another year or so later I found myself in Dr. Mack’s Cambridge office explaining my childhood recollections. I found Dr. Mack to be very open, a fine listener and willing to allow me my own hypothesis. I could not explain to this man how or why I knew, but I gathered the courage to say that despite the real qualities to my encounters, I had a personal belief that my feet never left the Earth’s soil and that I wasn’t convinced of the reality of alien intervention. I had no counter explanation to offer the good doctor. We agreed that there was overlap between my stories and what others told and that the scenes played out in what at the time seemed real. I added that as an adult, I had no problems sleeping at night and did not experience any anxiety over a possible threat of being taken again.
I wished him much luck in his research. He said he’d be seeing me again. While I wondered how the research was going, and read his second book on the subject, I never returned to visit Dr. Mack and he unfortunately passed away following a tragic accident in November 2004 while attending a conference in London.
My only paranormal take the impact of my nighttime fantasies had on my very real personal life is that I seemed to have developed during this same period an odd quality of life that I quickly discovered was not shared by those around me. Despite the unsettling way in which I was removed from normalcy and tossed into this nether world, there was an experience in the darkness – real or imagined makes no difference – of being somehow outside my body, of moving about in the universe in unknown ways, and of interacting with thinking beings telepathically. Despite where you stand on the explanation side – fact or fantasy – does not matter. The experience changed the roots of who I was and caused me to think and feel and listen in ways never imagined before the experience.
One early and very real episode played out in this way between myself and my eldest sibling, Kathleen. Now Kathleen was six years older and treated me during these youngest years of my life with much more respect than my older brothers did. I wasn’t slapped and kicked and pinned to the floor upon discovery I had committed the heinous act of playing with one of their Matchbox cars. The boys made up for their early indiscretions by allowing me to borrow their very real sports cars as a teenager. But Kathleen took me around town with her friends, cut and combed my hair, gave me treats, and played with me constantly. I trusted Kathleen and so trusted her with a very personal question.
During a very early period in my life at about age 7, I encountered a sensation on the palms of my hands that was curiously interesting. This was a feeling like an invisible sphere, something about the size of an orange, was implanted into my palms. The sphere rhythmically changes shape in a pulsating way, from egg shape to round, and seems to float as though the palm of my hand cut through its center – so that half of the orange lies at the palm of my hand and its other half on top of my hand – moving back and forth. This invisible pulsating sphere will arrive upon mentally commanding it to appear. The sphere can move from my palm up my arms and throughout my body if I will it. In each area, the sphere will pulsate, or massage the area, leaving you feeling very good. I remember thinking that was a great physical thing. It began in the palms as I was lying in bed at night and I was eventually able to mentally move it around my body. I thought at first that it was a very normal process and was used to heal the body’s aches and pains. But I had never heard another person talk about their sphere and I had never mentioned mine to another person.
Kathleen had taken me to swim at the YMCA on East Pittsburgh Street one summer afternoon. Once we left the Y and were walking down East Pittsburgh Street, I asked Kathleen about the sphere feeling. I wanted to know what it was called. She stopped along the street and looked at me and said she didn’t know what it was and had not heard of such a thing. That was my first moment where I advised myself to keep quiet about anything that made me different than the population around me.
But the sphere has never gone away.