I’ve been following Mike Clelland’s blog Hidden Experience since 2009, the same year in which he felt ‘compelled’ to start sharing with the world, what many in his place would have chosen to keep forever away from prying eyes: Startling personal events and synchronicities, which seemed to point out to the unsettling realization that what our society calls ‘UFOs’ was somehow deeply intertwined with the thread of his life.
It’s hard to tell what made Mike’s posts so fascinating to me. A part was his disarming honesty and the fact that he was his biggest critic, not willing to fall into easy explanations for what was undoubtedly a VERY complex situation. The other reason, I guess, is that I felt some strange ‘personal connection’ with Mike and what he was going through; at some point I decided to do my best in what little I could offer to helping him in this very arduous self-examination. I was not alone, though; very rapidly Hidden Experience amassed had a very respectful following, and a community started to build around Mike and his exploration of synchronicities, as well as his borderline obsession with owls.
Inevitably, Mike started to receive an incredible amount of correspondence from people who also felt a mystical connection with owls, and wanted to share their experience to him. By now if you Google “UFOs + Owls” Mike’s blog is the FIRST link that appears in the search-list –it’s a good thing he doesn’t mind his unofficial title as ‘the owl guy’; like all of the best people in the UFO field, Mike is endowed with a healthy sense of humor (which seems to be indispensable to retaining your SANITY when dabbling with the high-strangeness of UFOs).
In the end, the progression from being a simple blogger sharing his own experiences, to becoming the biggest repository of ‘owl stories’ was the origin for The Messengers, recently published by Richard Dolan Press (by the way, it seems Mike’s work is one of the reasons why Richard started to depart from his ‘nuts and bolts’ perspective on UFOs, and began to embrace some of the ‘fringier’ aspects of the phenomenon).
I asked Mike if he was willing to engage in a small Q&A via e-mail to discuss some of the aspects to the book, and he accepted. Mind you, being a personal fan of his for such a long time, I wasn’t interested in following the typical ‘press interview’ shtick! I wanted to go deeper into what Mike went through, what he discovered (both about the mystery itself, as well as himself) and about the personal transformation he went through after completing The Messengers. As always, his heartfelt answers did not disappoint:
[RPJ] The Messengers is finally fresh off the printers, and given it’s still ranking #1 in the UFO category on Amazon, it seems to be getting a lot of deserved attention. Does it give a sense of closure to you? The end of a long journey you started back in 2009 when you felt “compelled” to start your blog Hidden Experience?
Or is it perhaps the complete opposite, and you feel like it’s just the beginning of a longer trip?
[MC] It feels like the start of a longer trip. Even after trying to untangle all the weirdness archived in the book, I am still just as amazed as I ever was. More so given that I have tried to examine this owl and UFO weirdness from so many different angles.
[RPJ] Has the sense of “urgency” and/or “purpose” that you felt when you started sharing your experiences in your blog subsided, after the completion of the book?
[MC] Actually, to a great degree, it has. There was definitely a time where this stuff just sent me into a tizzy. I would have an odd synchronicity, and I would spin my wheels trying to make sense of what had happened. That frenetic energy was helpful in a way, forcing me to really examine what was happening as well as my own denial. The sense of purpose is still there, but the urgency has been dialed down a few notches.
[RPJ] Who did you write this book for?
[MC] Well, the foundation of the book is my own experiences. I saw a lot of owls in the years when I first started looking into my own UFO experiences. This doesn’t seem like coincidence. It feels like the owls are somehow a reflection of my own self examination. So, in a very real way, I wrote the book for myself. It feels like a way to formalize my own thoughts and struggles on something that is terribly elusive. The book was self-therapy.
[RPJ] Did you manage to find the answer you were seeking (i.e. “what’s the connection, if any, between owls and the UFO phenomenon)?
[MC] The short answer is no. I am still seeking. The longer more nuanced answer would be that I came up with some themes and ideas that seemed to feel right, if they are actually correct is another thing altogether. I can say with conviction that there is a connection between owls and UFOs, but I cannot say what it is. The book explores a mystery, and it’s something that remains unsolved even after years of investigation.
[RPJ] The book is 370 pages long, and something tells me you still left quite a lot on the “cutting room floor” as it were 😉
Why did you feel the need to provide so much content?
[MC] As I was writing, I just kept getting more and more accounts, each one leading down a different avenue of thought. Amazing stories of people seeing an owl in conjunction with some UFO event. The whole thing is multifaceted in a way that left me astonished. I was cautious to leave anything out, because each bend in the path seemed to present a completely different aspect of the phenomenon. I talked this over at length with Richard Dolan, the publisher (and editor) and he felt that this subject had never really been addressed in any meaningful way, so we might as well throw everything into the soup.
[RPJ] Has your view on the UFO phenomenon changed during the process of writing The Messengers? If so, how?
[MC] Well, I feel like it’s a lot weirder than I had ever dared to imagine.
[RPJ] What’s the thing that surprised you the most during the research of the book?
[MC] I was surprised that I had tapped into such a bottomless pit of stories. Each account was amazing to me, and they just kept on coming. I was shocked at the power of what was arriving in my email inbox. If there was a theme, it would be that each and every story was rich and heartfelt in a way that leaves me humbled.
[RPJ] What was the most difficult thing you faced in the process of writing the book?
[MC] Well, the simple answer is that I wish I had made a formalized outline right at the onset. Instead I just started writing. I would talk to someone with an odd owl story and then write it up as an essay. One after another, until it became a full time job. Somewhere in the middle of the process it felt like I was drowning in the stories, and it took a lot of work to weave them together into a progression.
[RPJ] What would you say to the people who might not resonate with the theme of The Messengers –i.e. the “nuts and bolts” crowd?
[MC] I would hope that I make my point in a way that the nuts and bolts researchers would get. I use a lot of accounts of owls and UFOs that seem connected. I try to lead the reader along through a set of stories, my point being that there is some strange aspect of a larger phenomenon at play. I may lose the unadventurous along the way because I explore the very personal side to these strange experiences. There is a transformational aspect to what is reported, and this becomes a core theme to the book.
[RPJ] UFOlogy seems to be stuck in a state of stagnation that has endured for several decades. What do you feel the field needs in order to get free from its current rut?
[MC] Well, I don’t really care about UFOlogy, whatever that might even mean. What I do care about is reading and listening to dedicated individuals who are trying to untangle these mysteries. I think once a thing turns into a group (especially with an acronym title) everything gets deluded. Its easy to say that a lot of this field is in a rut, but thats true of almost everything. Listen to popular music. Nothing needs to be done except focus on the really interesting stuff, whatever that might mean to you.
My advice is to ignore the field as a whole, but concentrate on the people who are doing the hard work.
[RPJ] What’s next for you?
[MC] There is a follow up book coming out soon, with the title Stories from The Messengers. When compiling information there were a lot of longer stories that simply wouldn’t fit into the book. These accounts would have lost much of their power if they were edited down and squeezed into the chapters. There is a messy aspect to the phenomenon where some of the stories display a complexity that plays out with an eerie consistency. It is as if every odd detail is a thread, and pulling on each one leads to even more strangeness. It would have been unfair to the people who experienced these events to tell their story without including the overall wealth of details. The follow up book will feature these accounts, and it should read like a collection of short stories.