“In 1966 I was 8 years old. At sleep away summer camp (Surprise Lake near Cold Springs NY on the old Cornwallis estate). I had a strange night.”
What follows is the story of a UFO abduction, set in a time in which abductions were a rare novelty. It was reported on September 15, 2012, to the National UFO Reporting Center and posted to the NUFORC website nine days later. A few weeks ago a small New York State newspaper, The Highlands Current, reprinted a condensed version of the story as a bit of local UFO patriotism; I posted the link to my Fan Page with the query, “when was the memory recorded?” One of my readers, Mrherr Zaar, directed me to the NUFORC source with the comment, “I think it is fair to assume it was never written down anywhere before then.”
If Mrherr Zaar’s guess is correct, as I imagine it is, we’re dealing with a 46-year-old memory, of a man of 54 recalling what happened when he was a boy of 8. Not exactly evidence you can use to establish historical fact. Yet memories have their own importance, and as UFO memories approach their half-century mark they tend to blossom in strange and arresting forms. Think of Roswell. Think of the 1966 mass sighting at Westall High in Melbourne, Australia, its memories revived a little over 40 years later, which I spent most of last summer blogging about.
Here’s the memory of that “strange night,” bequeathed by the child to the man:
“After the day’s activities we returned to our bunk on a forested hillside. There was a light shinning [sic] through the window that normally was not there. My four bunk mates and I did not really think anything of it because it actually illuminated the whole cabin which was normally dark and kind of scary. It was in the woods below a place on the hill side called ‘Bald Spot’ a patch of granite where no trees grew. We figured a counselor must have set up a flood light out side. We all fell asleep.
“That night I dreamed two figures were standing over me looking down at me. On the left was a typical ‘Grey’ with almond shaped eye shades and on the right, a round headed, round faced and round eyed looking dude with a mouth stuck in the position like he was saying ‘oooo.’ The ‘Roundy Round’ had on like a sombrero that made him look Mexican. The ‘Grey’ had on a silver space suit.
“The ‘Grey’ had a long probe/rod with a round glowing orb at the end of it that he inserted into my forehead all the way to the back of my skull. They then looked at each other. The ‘Grey’ pulled the probe back out of my forehead and showed the still attached glowing orb to the ‘Roundy Round.’ They both looked at each other bewildered, like ‘I guess we got him already!’ and moved across the cabin to my sleeping bunk mates, visiting each one.”
The two aliens repeat the process with each of the other boys, but this time with the “glowing orbs” remaining in the boys’ heads. The aliens then “waited at the doorway as all my bunkmates arose like they were sleep walking, and followed them out of the cabin into an intense white light.”
The boy/man telling the story goes back to sleep, and naturally assumes this is all a dream. But “the very next evening the counselors created an unusual activity for us. They blindfolded our whole encampment (20 kids). They marched us through the early evening to a geodesic dome structure that was an indoor basketball court. This they artfully transformed into an alien space craft using aluminium [sic; is this the British spelling?] foil, crepe paper streamers, strobe lights and the creepiest rock music they could muster on a portable phonograph. We sat along the inside perimeter of the dome and the counselors who were made up and dressed up as ‘Aliens’ proceeded to abduct us.”
This stunt, by the narrator’s account, came as no surprise to him. He claims to have been “one of three volunteers that helped the counselors” with the decorations, “sworn to secrecy” about their plans. “Now after about a half an hour of this event the counselors had to call it off, as most of my bunk-mates where [sic] being frightened to tears by what was going on. Some of them actually screaming for their mothers in terror!”
The narrator assumes that everyone in camp but him, the “5 teen-aged counselors” included, were abducted by aliens the night of the mysterious light, an experience that the counselors “subconsciously reenacted” the next day. “At that time I actually felt left out, because they left me behind. In retrospect I was the lucky one.”
Few of us, I think, will share that assumption of reality. But I’m not ready to write this story off as a fabrication, either. There’s an artless sincerity about it which persuades me that it’s a fusion of real event and genuine dream, its details refracted through the burgeoning tradition of UFO abduction.
Part of the story, at least, is absolutely believable. It’s easy for me to imagine a group of teen-aged camp counselors, perhaps bored and irritated with their charges, devising for them an “entertainment” that had the effect–intended or not–of scaring them out of their wits. Easy to imagine, also, that this entertainment may have had an outer-space theme. The summer of 1966 seems a bit too early, though, for it to have been modeled after UFO abductions. John Fuller’s wildly popular Look magazine series on the Betty and Barney Hill case, which first introduced the American public to the abduction scenario, didn’t come out until October of that year.
But who’s to say that the memory of the date might not have been a year or two off? In that case, the counselors’ prank might well mark the early influence of Fuller’s articles (and his 1966 book The Interrupted Journey) on American culture. The beginning of its penetration by abduction motifs.
American culture–and the American unconscious. I can’t see any reason to doubt that the boy actually had a dream like the one he describes, although I’m naturally disposed to reverse his sequence of events and assume that the counselors’ performance came first, the dream following. His “typical ‘Grey'” may have entered his memory of the dream many years afterward, when the cover of Whitley Strieber’s Communion (1987) had given us our now standard template of what a UFO alien is supposed to look like. But the “Roundy Round,” with his circular eyes and weirdly circular mouth–and his sombrero? He seems to me wholly idiosyncratic. I’d guess he came straight from the dreamer’s personal unconscious.
All of this is speculation, of course. I can’t help wondering: do any of the others who were there have any memories of the same events? A teen-age camp counselor in 1966 (or ’67 or ’68) would be in his or her 60s today. Is there any way of tracking these people down?
Surprise Lake Camp, I discover from the Web, is still in existence. It’s 115 years old. “It was founded in 1902,” its website tells us, “by the Educational Alliance to provide a summer vacation for Jewish boys from the tenements of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In its first season, it had six tents for 25 campers and five counselors. [Almost the same as in 1966!] One of the first campers was Eddie Cantor, who, upon achieving success as an entertainer, became one of the camp’s most ardent supporters. Since then Surprise Lake Camp has served thousands of young people, many of whom have achieved prominence, among them, entertainer Neil Diamond, talk show host Larry King, actor Jerry Stiller, and former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams.” Surely there must be records of the boys/men who worked or camped there in the later 1960s. Surely it must be possible to locate at least some of them.
Not that we’ll learn from them anything about space visitors. But their memories, in conjunction with the one published by NUFORC, are likely to teach us a few things about UFOs and aliens in the American awareness–and perhaps specifically the Jewish American awareness–when the abduction tradition was in its infancy.
Which, for me, is a crucial part of what UFOlogy is all about.
by David Halperin
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