Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Long Distance Call

The phone call came one cold January evening; it was my father’s ex-fiancĂ©. They had been engaged for a short while, some time before he eventually met and married the woman who would be my mother. Dad never really talked about the personal details of the relationship, but he made it clear he didn’t think they would have been good together. Still, over the decades, she would contact my father. I don’t remember any visits from her, but my mother knew her enough to recognize her, and knew her voice on the phone.

She tried several times to get back together with my father, which of course really piqued mom, that she would have such gall, all those years later. I’m not sure when the last time was that Joanne contacted dad, but I was at least a teenager; perhaps it was even after Flo and I were married.

Dad called my mother over to the phone, and had her listen in for a few minutes. It was definitely Joanne’s voice, mom later concurred. All told, they chatted for at least twenty minutes. Shortly after the conversation ended, dad called me.

The strangest thing about the conversation with Joanne, at least so I thought at the time, was that she had been murdered six years earlier.

According to D. Scott Rogo in his book “Phone Calls from the Dead,” recipients of these calls generally appear to be “blocked” somehow from recalling that the person on the other side of the conversation has died, until the call is ended. This apparently is what happened to both of my folks.

Dad insisted it was Joanne, and said she’d spoken of things only she could have known about. Flo and I visited, and we all talked about the conversation at length. Mom shortly blanked on any details she might have remembered, but still remembers firmly that it was Joanne. At the time, dad recounted a few trivialities from the conversation, though he left out details of most of it; and when pressed, his response was disturbing. There was some part he didn’t want to speak of, and said he would talk about later. That part, he later denied remembering, or that it was in any way significant.

I brought it up a few more times, and while we occasionally chatted about how strange it all was, he always managed to evade any more discussion of the content of the conversation.

My father died of a heart attack three months after that phone call.


Later that year, I was home when I heard a gentle tapping on the front door. It rather startled me, because it was identical to my father’s unique knock; I’ve not heard it since.

When I looked outside, I saw it was the postman who had knocked. He had left a package, wrapped in brown paper, at the door.

The package was from Joanne’s mother, with whom I’d never had contact. It contained a photo of a group of soldiers–one of them was my father. There was a short note, just saying she thought I should have this.

It arrived on my birthday.

Addendum: August 29, 2020

Back in 1986, before the Internet opened up to the rest of us, computer bulletin-board systems popped up all over the country. I had come across a number of them that were dedicated to the more non-ordinary aspects of life – a couple of different approaches on all things Fortean, some centered on psychic phenomena, others on UFOs, and still more focused on categories of paranormal phenomena. I made a list of the best, and conducted and recorded phone interviews with several of the SYSOPs. Up until the bulletin boards, there weren’t any organizations the average person could contact regarding any of these phenoms, and if you happened to encounter something interesting or disturbing of such nature, you would have months to wait for any of a small handful of magazines to bring any insight into reports – or clusters – of these events. With the reporting, culling, and sharing of information in any of these lines of interest, it occurred to me that we could be on the verge of a greater understanding, if possible, of at least, whatever aspects might be empirically quantifiable. It should be possible, I thought, to quickly identify clusters, “hot spots,” and overlapping phenomena. I wrote up a proposal for an article, and sent it to Fate Magazine, with the hopes they might be excited about such possibilities.

It was disappointing when, instead of responding to my query, I received back from Fate, a rate-sheet for advertising, along with a rather snide note. I wrote back that I had no financial investment in any of the paranormal bulletin boards, and, in fact, none of the boards themselves were for-profit operations. In my research for this piece, I was impressed by not only the technical implementation of the boards and the easy access to all types of information, but the professionalism, respect and dedication of the SYSOPs I had interviewed.

With my life-long interests and experiences, I’d had high hopes for a home for some of my writings with Fate. That was dashed rather quickly when Mary Margaret Fuller, Senior Editor and wife of the founder and publisher, took umbrage to my attempt to correct her circulation manager. She made it clear that Fate viewed the bulletin boards as a crushing competition rather than as a resource of unparalleled potential.

At a loss for what to do with my piece, I tried once more. I wrote to D. Scott Rogo, who at that time wrote a regular column, “Parapsychology Today,” for Fate, and offered him my voluminous research. He politely wrote back that he wasn’t “interested in computers.” I thought that was a bit parochial tact for “Parapsychology Today.” My research went into File #13, but I kept the signed letter from Rogo.

Looking back, I notice also that Rogo’s letter was postmarked August 25, my birthday.

In one final eerie twist, back to where this circle began with Joanne and “Phone Calls from the Dead,” D. Scott Rogo himself was murdered four years later.





Twisted Dreams

For those of you (Both of you!) who read my “Synchronicity and Dark Dreams” blog from a few weeks ago, I pulled it because I had the opportunity to submit it for publication. It will appear, along with three of my photos, in the June issue of “Twisted Dreams” – I’ll put a link up at when it’s available.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Requiem for the Damned

“By the damned, I mean the excluded.” - Charles Fort.

What I photograph fits this criteria. The abandoned – a shack at the edge of a cornfield, a derelict factory, an asylum that’s home only to rats, ghosts, the memory of horror.

I find an ancient tree, etched with character, shortly before it is cut down and fed through a wood chipper. I make a study of a stone chimney standing long after its house burned away from it, or a ruined cinderblock filling station; I often find my subject just before the wrecking ball excises the scar, and all trace of memory. This is my art.

I come across abandoned domestic rubble beneath an overpass; a makeshift table, a tiny wooden chair, a mattress dragged who knows how far; a long screwdriver, stuck in the ground behind weeds – easy to grasp for self-defense. A thick folder of seemingly random newspaper clippings, hidden in an electrical box.

Factory walls and railroad cars tagged by artists, bangers or just someone who just wanted to leave his name behind after he no longer needed it.

Transient relics of our transient existence.

The abandoned. The excluded. The damned.

A fat spider I found hanging on its web in the gap between fence and gate, dangling above chain and rusted padlock guarding yet another empty factory… appears on the cover of “Requiem for the Damned,” an Anthology of Horror that goes on sale February 22, 2008.

With fiction by:

Jennifer L. Miller
Eric Enck
Jordan M. Bobe
Cassandra Lee
Dave Rex
Jessica Lynn Gardner
Kevin Lucia
John Stanton
Charlotte Emma Gledson
Jane Timm Baxter
Colin M. Maguire
Scott Harper
Matthew Alan Pierce
Stephen W. Roberts
Michael A. Beaudry

Order a copy here:
Or click on the link from my web site: