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Portals of Strangeness

Portals of Strangeness

This article is excerpted from Darklore Volume 8, which is now available for sale from Amazon US and Amazon UK.  Darklore’s aim is to support quality researchers, so it makes sense to support Darklore. For more information on the series (including more free sample articles), visit the Darklore website.

Portals of Strangeness

Symbolism, Synchronicity, and Fortean Phenomena

Or, What Does It Mean When Weird Things Happen?

by Ray Grasse

I was just thirteen at the time, sitting with a friend on the front porch of his home, talking about the sort of things 13-year-olds normally talk about, when I noticed an odd light in the distance out of the corner of my eye. My friend noticed it, too, and we turned our heads to see a glowing disc-shaped object rising up over the trees, probably a half-mile away. It was shaped like the top half of a hamburger bun, I thought to myself, and was cream-colored, but with an iridescent green outline along its fringe. After rising up a short distance, the disc darted around in a strange way, unlike any airplane or advertising blimp I’d ever seen, before moving off and dropping out of view beneath the tree line. The entire experience lasted maybe 40 seconds in all.

We were stunned by what we’d seen, because it was so different from anything else we’d encountered before—outside of Hollywood movies, anyway. When we tried describing what we saw to our parents, our accounts were brushed off as the products of over-active youthful imaginations. I even tried calling up the nearby airport to report what we saw to find out if anyone else mentioned it. But they dismissed my story as simple misidentification.

“It was probably just a blimp with advertising lights on it, that’s all,” he assured me patronizingly.

I wasn’t sure myself what we’d seen—and to this day I’m still not. But it’s safe to say it wasn’t a blimp with advertising lights strung on it.

We’ve probably all had brushes at one point or another with something that mystifies or startles us, even if that was just an unlikely coincidence or a hunch that turned out to come true. But what about the truly odd event – like a peculiar craft darting around in the sky? Or seeing a creature that isn’t even supposed to exist? Or a rainfall of frogs from the sky, as one friend’s grandmother told me she witnessed as a child back in Indiana?

The renegade researcher Charles Fort (1874-1932) spent the better part of his life collecting such stories and compiling them into books like Lo! and Book of the Damned, inspiring countless other researchers in the process, and even a magazine commemorating his legacy—Fortean Times. Presuming we don’t simply dismiss all these strange accounts as mere hallucinations, hoaxes, or misidentifications, what are we to make of such tales?

Having studied accounts like these for decades by now, I’ve come to believe these events are profoundly significant for those experiencing them, sometimes on several levels simultaneously. There’s something strangely fitting about when and where they occur, not just for individuals but even for society at large.

What follows is my attempt to provide a framework for understanding these phenomena, specifically through the lens of synchronicity and symbolism. To some extent that involves becoming more aware of the larger network of events these phenomena are constellated within, since they inevitably seem enmeshed in larger patterns of significance.

But it also requires the added critical step of asking, What do these events mean? For as important as those webs of synchronicity are, they mean little if we don’t make the effort to dig deeper and explore the archetypal meanings involved. Said another way, Fortean phenomena may be best understood as elements within an overarching symbolic worldview.

Synchronistic world view
A Synchronistic World View

A few definitions would be helpful here. The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung defined synchronicity simply as “meaningful coincidence,” generally involving the intersection of an outer event with an inner state of mind, or as the correspondence between two outer events. You stumble across a photo of someone you haven’t heard from in 20 years, only to have them call you on the phone that same moment. Or the number 43 keeps cropping up over the course of a given day. Those are simple instances of synchronicity

But as I pointed out in The Waking Dream, synchronistic phenomena can be seen as fundamentally symbolic events. As the mystics of various cultures have expressed it, our universe is best understood as an expression of mind-stuff, more akin to our nightly dreams than the solid world of substance described by materialists. “Things here are signs,” as the ancient philosopher Plotinus put it.

From this perspective, outer events can be interpreted in much the same way as dream symbolism, revealing levels of meaning beyond their surface appearances. All phenomena interlock in a profound and intricate way that reflects the workings of a vast intelligence, or what the Buddhists refer to as Big Mind. Nothing occurs by chance, nothing is disconnected from the greater whole. Viewed in this way, synchronicities – isolated dramatic coincidences – are actually just the tip of a far greater iceberg of meaningfulness that extends not only throughout our lives but the cosmos itself.

But while all phenomena possess a certain significance, one particular kind of event has long been regarded as holding special importance, which could be summarized this way: the more unusual an event, the greater its importance as a symbol of change.

For example, overhearing the same number or name mentioned several times in a single day may be uncommon but it’s nothing especially unusual. Or seeing a woman in a polka-dot dress in church may be out of the ordinary but it’s not shockingly different.

However—seeing a dog give birth to a two-headed puppy? Now, that’s unusual! Indeed, the ancient Babylonians made a systematic study of just such oddities as part of a long-term study of omens and symbols, in hope of extracting predictable patterns from these unlikely happenings. For them, the sheer unusualness of such events was regarded as pointing to tectonic shifts in the natural order of things.

And this is where “Fortean” events come in. Because they’re about as unusual as it gets. Strange animals, rainfalls of frogs, time slips, glowing craft flying through the sky, divine apparitions—all these and more rank high on life’s Richter Scale of “high strangeness,” and hold special significance as signposts of transformation and change in our world. These are the types of events I want to focus on here.

That said, I want to suggest viewing Fortean events on at least two distinct levels: the personal and the collective.

Anomalies: Personal and Collective Significance

For those who experience them, anomalous events invariably seem to occur during times of extraordinary change – emotionally, professionally, intellectually, spiritually. When I saw that odd light in the sky, I was experiencing a major shift in my own life. Since I kept a diary at the time, I was able to go back and see what was happening for me during that period. Part of that simply involved puberty, of course; but above and beyond that, this was a period of explosive new interests for me. (This was the 60s, remember!) The appearance of that disc coincided closely with a shift taking place in my own attitudes as a result of having discovered books, articles and films about subjects beyond simply rock and roll, monster movies, and James Bond paperbacks. There was a “meaningful coincidence” between my outer and inner reality at the time, which was embodied in that strange glowing disc. That luminous visage possessed a certain futuristic quality that hinted at progressive new ideas emerging in my own life.

As an astrologer, I’ve also seen how Fortean events coincide closely with important planetary configurations taking shape in our lives when they occur. Years after my encounter with the glowing disc, for example, I was intrigued to look back and discover how my experience happened precisely as Uranus was forming a powerful relationship to my personal horoscope—a planetary energy normally associated with surprising new insights and experiences in anyone’s life. As I’ll continue to show here, understanding planetary patterns can sometimes provide a valuable key for teasing out the subtler inflections of anomalous events.

A Haunting

Different anomalous events hold distinctly different meanings. Several years after that sighting on my friend’s porch, for example, I had another strange experience while spending the night in a relative’s home, which was an older structure constructed in the late 1800s. In the middle of the night, with no external light leaking into the room at all, I awoke to see a ghostly form at the foot of my bed. The figure was misty, vaguely human in appearance, and didn’t disappear when I rubbed my eyes to clear the sleep from them—much as I’d wished that it had. When the form didn’t go away, I quickly rolled over in fright and buried my face deep in my pillow, my heart thumping wildly.


What did I see? To this day, I don’t know. What I do know – aside from the fact that it scared me half to death – is that it took place during an extremely emotional time in my life, when I was grappling with an assortment of youthful neurotic issues, including regret over a painful social situation I’d encountered just days before. (And is there anything more troubling to a teenager than a painful social situation? I think not.)

So in contrast to the unidentified light in the sky several years earlier, which coincided with radical new ideas entering my life, the ghostly encounter seemed to coincide more closely with problems I was struggling to let go of, and simply forget. Said another way, the apparent haunting occurred at a time I was feeling “haunted” myself.

Now, whether that apparition truly was a ghost is less important, since my approach here is more phenomenological in nature. I believed it was a ghost, so within my own experiential matrix at the time it held that basic meaning. In the examples we’ll be looking at here I’ll be adopting that same approach, rather than trying to judge whether the phenomena in question were objectively “real” or not. From the symbolist standpoint, there is significance to be mined either way.

So let’s turn out attention now to that broader level of symbolism, the cultural, and consider what these phenomena could mean for society at large.

Collective Significance

Just as anomalous events harbor a synchronistic meaning for individuals, they can hold significance for communities or cultures, too, much in the spirit of dream imagery but on a far grander scale.

As already mentioned, one way of approaching any anomalous event is to reflect on its symbolism. In this way, a strange light moving erratically in the sky suggests a different meaning from a ghostly apparition, say, or an alleged sea monster.

But as I hinted at in starting this essay, another key to understanding an event is through studying its context. While most of us are predisposed to see events in relative isolation, Carl Jung and others noted how ancient cultures like the Chinese employed a kind of “field thinking” which looked at events in terms of groups, and asked, What tends to happen together in time? Synchronistic thinking requires not just a gift for metaphor and symbolism but an ability to think holistically, where one perceives the larger patterns constellated around an event.

Egyptian statuetteFor example, in June 2013, an ancient Egyptian statuette on display in an English museum was found to have pivoted 180 degrees around on its base. Since museum officials had never seen that happen with this exhibit before, they were mystified and had no ready explanation. To help solve the mystery, they installed a surveillance camera to observe it over time in hope of finding the source of the movement. Indeed, time-lapse video showed the statuette shifting on its base very slowly over many hours; yet there was still no obvious cause for the shift. Some speculated it was the result of vibrations triggered by passing museum-goers, or a nearby transit train, while still others resorted to more paranormal explanations.

Whatever the reason, the sheer unusualness of the event invites us to consider its possible symbolism. What did it mean that this story became such a media sensation at that particular time? One approach is to look at the larger historical context around that period, to see if other events can help shed some light on it.

And what we find is this: several weeks later, Egypt underwent a profound transformation as mounting public pressure forced the removal of its Islamic-leaning president, Mohammed Morsi. Could it be that the “about face” of that statue in the Manchester museum was somehow a portent of the political reversal about to upset Egypt itself? For the symbolist, it was an intriguing possibility.

Decoding the Roswell Incident

Another iconic event in the annals of Fortean phenomena was the rumored crash of one or more alien spacecraft near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. According to eyewitnesses, the craft was later retrieved by the United States military and reverse-engineered by researchers to procure whatever high-tech secrets it held.

It’s important to realize from the start this wasn’t the only “otherworldly” phenomenon taking place at the time. Just two weeks earlier, on June 24th, another iconic event in Fortean lore, Kenneth Arnold’s sighting of flying discs in Washington State, occurred. And several days before that, seaman Harold Dahl claimed to have witnessed six UFOs near Maury Island in Puget Sound, Washington, and the next morning reported what would be the first documented “Men in Black” encounter.

What does it mean that so many dramatic events centering around UFOs took place in so short a time?

Roswell newspaper report
Viewed as a complex of events rather than just as isolated incidents, it’s safe to say that the winds of change were in the air. With their hints of advanced intelligences and superior technologies, a futuristic archetype was clearly at work, pointing to emerging new trends in the world.

And indeed, there were a number of historic shifts taking place during that period. Technology was advancing at a breakneck speed, especially in atomic weaponry and computer development; the CIA was set into motion that same month; and the United States Air Force became an independent governmental agency at the same time. (In fact, a B-25 bomber sent to investigate the Maury Island incident crashed on August 1st of that year – the very same day the United States Air Force came into being.) On a global scale, the sense of optimism that was emerging globally in the wake of WWII was coupled with a growing sense of anxiety about unrest in regions like China, India, and Israel.

An important key to unlocking what was happening that year can be found in the astrology of that period. Precisely when all these incidents took place, the planet Uranus was just completing its second full circuit around the zodiac from where it was when it was discovered in 1781—a “Uranus return,” as astrologers would refer to it. Symbolically, Uranus is the planet of revolution, aviation, and innovation, so a return to its zodiacal place of origin clearly signaled an amplifying of progressive trends and paradigms in the collective experience.

Because Uranus is also the planet associated with the zodiacal sign Aquarius, it’s even possible that the events of that period offer us a synchronistic “window” into the emerging Aquarian Age itself – which, depending on one’s perspective, could be cause for either jubilation or dread. Were the events of 1947 portending a future of exciting new technologies, scientific breakthroughs, or even interaction with extraterrestrial intelligences? Or were they warning us about an age of government surveillance, cover-ups, and technological tribulations? Or all of the above?

One way or another, it will be interesting to watch the next major return of Uranus to that discovery point, slated to take place in 2030-2031.

Let’s turn our attention now to one of the most iconic events in all of Fortean folklore — the filming of an alleged Bigfoot in California by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin on October 20th of 1967.

The Patterson-Gimlin “Bigfoot” Film

As the story goes, Roger and Bob were traveling on horseback through an area called Bluff Creek, when they spotted a large dark figure in a nearby creek bed. Patterson climbed down off his horse, grabbed the movie camera he had with him at the time, and proceeded to film the creature as it lumbered off into the woods.

To this day, the footage remains a source of heated debate. Yet despite repeated claims by skeptics of possible hoaxing, it’s important to point out that no one has successfully reproduced the appearance of that creature on film in a convincing way. Whatever one’s personal opinion of the footage, all parties agree that it represents a turning point in our modern fascination with this creature, and for that reason should be regarded as a synchro-Fortean event of the highest order.

Patterson-Gimlin BigfootTaking a purely symbolic approach to the footage, we could start by looking at it strictly in terms of its imagery, as though examining someone’s dream symbols. The creature in this footage is obviously wild and untamed, halfway between human and animal, straddling the threshold between civilization and nature; it is entirely naked and covered with fur, yet it stands upright and walks similar to a human. Its muscular figure conveys a sense of enormous power, yet at the same time the displays female breasts!

Viewed as a collective dream symbol, then, the appearance of this creature in 1967 can be read as signaling something primal emerging from the “wilds” of the collective unconscious, reflecting an energy that is paradoxically ancient yet new and shocking. The figure embodies great power, yet its feminine gender hints at a consciousness that is more right-brained and intuitive than anything purely aggressive or animalistic. It personifies a state of being that is midway between ordered civilization and untamed nature, betwixt abstract rationality and raw emotional impulsiveness.

With those points in mind, let’s now adopt our Chinese “field thinking” approach and see what other socio-cultural developments were taking place at the time to see if anything stands out which might illumine the symbolism suggested here. When I went back and carefully examined the historical record from that period, I came across a number of events that not only seemed relevant, but in some ways truly uncanny:

  • Two days before the Patterson-Gimlin encounter, on October 18, Disney Studios released the popular animated feature The Jungle Book. The film’s scenario revolves around a boy raised by animals in the wild, and follows his escapades as he mingles on the threshold between nature and civilization, between life in the wild and domesticated village life.
  • One day before that, on October 17th, the enormously successful musical Hair premiered on Broadway. This long-running production was embraced by fans as a celebration of freedom and Dionysian self-expression, but was slammed by more conservative critics as regressively promoting amorality and primitive values. The musical’s title itself hints at how the hippies at its core shunned the neatly groomed fashions of mainstream society in favor of wilder, more natural looks. The musical became especially controversial for a scene in which all the cast members appeared on stage fully naked.
  • ​Less than a week earlier, on October 12th, Desmond Morris’s bestselling book The Naked Ape was released, a popularized attempt to frame human nature in the context of Darwinian evolution. It suggested that we need to view humans as just one animal species among many, and attempted to explain our behaviors in light of those exhibited by our mammalian kin. The book was so titled because out of 193 species of monkey and apes, humans are the only primate that aren’t fully covered in hair.
  • Three weeks after the Patterson-Gimlin encounter, the Bible of the rock-and roll counterculture, Rolling Stone, premiered. (November 9th was the cover date on the first issue, but as is common practice in the publishing industry, it appeared on newsstands earlier.) Contrasted with publications like the ultra-conservative Wall Street Journal, with that paper’s embrace of short haircuts, business suits, and “square” values, Rolling Stone celebrated much the same ideals as the musical “Hair”—alternate lifestyles, long hair, music, and Dionysian self-expression. Though it spawned many imitators through the years, it remains an influential magazine to this day.
  • The human/primate interface was a surprisingly popular meme in all the arts throughout this period. Several months after the P-G incident, on February 8th, 1968, the first in the hugely successful Planet of the Apes film franchise premiered, centering around a society of unusually intelligent apes; while 1967 saw the peak popularity of the TV show The Monkees, showcasing a group of long-haired Beatle imitators (and whose records actually outsold both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones that year), with episodes frequently picturing the show’s actors alongside images of actual or stuffed monkeys.
  • Another way that the counter-cultural impulse of the period was making its presence felt was through the burgeoning protest movement, with ordinary citizens rallying to express their anger over governmental policies—a development some commentators described as “the awakening of a sleeping giant.” In light of that, it’s worth noting that one day after the Patterson-Gimlin encounter a historic march on Washington, D.C. took place, as tens of thousands of citizens lined the streets of the nation’s capital to protest America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. As clearly as any other event from that period, the march embodied the populist energies of the 1960’s rising to the surface in a dramatic way.1

Putting all of these pieces together, the picture that starts coming into focus is indeed one of a powerful force welling up in the collective psyche—a force simultaneously rooted in the intuitive-emotional aspects of our nature as well as our rational faculties. (After all, developments like Hair, The Jungle Book, Rolling Stone magazine, and the march on Washington weren’t simply expressions of Dioynysian abandon and unbridled anarchy, since their execution all involved considerable intelligence and organization.)

Simply take a moment to consider the 1960s, and all the other countercultural forces coming to light at the time: people were shedding their conservative fashions and adopting wilder, more uninhibited appearances. The Back-To-Nature movement was on the rise, with 1967 ushering in the “Summer of Love” and “Flower Power.” The Beatles released “Sergeant Pepper” that year. There was a general sense of heightened creativity in the air, as people from various walks of life woke up to the possibility of becoming forces for change in the world, whether as grassroots activists or celebrities and rock stars.

Jimi HendrixYet alongside that creative exhuberance was a palpable sense of danger and potential violence, as all those pent-up energies found themselves becoming unleashed, reflected not just in protest movements, big city riots, or bombings, but even in the arts. One month before the Patterson-Gimlin encounter, for instance, on September 17th, The Doors courted controversy by appearing on the Ed Sullivan show with Jim Morrison singing a drug-related lyric in defiance of Sullivan’s wishes, while that same night The Who destroyed their instruments while performing on The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour, climaxing in an unexpectedly jarring explosion of Keith Moon’s drum kit. Several months earlier, a relatively unknown musician by the name of Jimi Hendrix shocked audience members at the Monterey Pop Festival in California by dry-humping his amplifier and setting fire to his prized guitar. Wild times, indeed.

Seen in this context, the first major film appearance of an alleged Bigfoot becomes an apt symbol for the entire period. Midway between human and animal, this creature mirrored a powerful instinctual energy surging forth in the collective psyche, yet coupled with a newly awakened sense of individuality and independent thought. Remember, this wasn’t simply a beast, but an apparently intelligent one that walked upright like ourselves. Similarly, people of that time were struggling to juggle starkly polarized energies in themselves, born from that divide between our loftiest creative impulses and our primal passions.

Astrologically, the Patterson-Gimlin encounter took place during a powerful astrological alignment between the planets Uranus and Pluto—a celestial duo typically associated with revolutionary change and volatile emotions, very similar to one that occurred in France during the 1790s. As I write this now (2013), the world finds itself in the midst of yet another major configuration involving these same two planets, reconnecting this time in a 90-degree angle. Not surprisingly, we not only see signs of civil unrest in countries around the world but, curiously enough, the phenomenon of Bigfoot has reached an all-time high, with TV series, books, and pop culture references to the creature popping up seemingly everywhere. Is it possible we could even see another milestone in the Bigfoot story unfolding in the next few years? Time will tell.

Loch Ness Monster
The Loch Ness Monster

The Patterson-Gimlin incident provides a useful springboard for considering another mainstay of Fortean lore—Scotland’s legendary Loch Ness monster. While sightings of the creature actually date back centuries, modern fascination with this phenomenon began in 1933—specifically May 2nd, when journalist Alex Campbell first applied the term “monster” in an article he wrote for the Inverness Courier.

As it turned out, 1933 was a pivotal year in a number of key respects. For instance, less than six weeks before Campbell’s article was published, Adolph Hitler became formally established as dictator of Germany, on March 23rd. And just three weeks before that, on March 2nd, the world was introduced to a Fortean creature of a decidedly fictional sort, with the film premiere of King Kong.

With that in mind, the “coming out” of the Loch Ness creature in 1933 offers a surreal metaphor for the spirit of that era. Like the mid-1960s, this was a time of powerful emotional energies rising to the surface, in both constructive and destructive ways. The advent of Hitler and the premiere of King Kong during the same month synchronistically parallel one another, since both represented figures of immense power that grew out of control and terrorized civilized society, and which were ultimately destroyed themselves. In the midst of this, the Scottish leviathan surfacing into public consciousness was a portent for the turbulent times looming dead ahead. (Interestingly, 1933 was also accompanied by a tight configuration between the same two powerhouse planets—Uranus and Pluto—that connected when that other oversized primate made its screen debut for Roger Patterson in 1967.)

One Step Beyond

I’ve suggested here at least two different levels of importance to Fortean events—the personal and the collective, but I’d like to touch briefly on another possible level of significance: the universal. What does that mean? Simply, that Fortean events of the most dramatic kind may be saying something important, perhaps even revolutionary, about the nature of the universe itself. Let me explain.

In some instances, an unusual event may simply be that: an unusual event, something out of the ordinary but nothing fundamentally radical. For thousands of years people saw rocks falling from the sky, with these reports being dismissed as fanciful even by such distinguished thinkers as Thomas Jefferson. Yet scientists eventually discovered that these falling rocks were actually quite natural, and they labeled them “meteorites.” They weren’t anything paranormal or truly mysterious, in other words, just unknown and misunderstood until then. Likewise, reports of the mountain gorilla were considered anecdotal and anomalous until proof for their existence finally came to light in 1902 (during yet another configuration involving Uranus and Pluto, by the way!). In short, there are phenomena that at one time would have been considered “Fortean” but which wouldn’t be now.

But then there are Fortean events of a very different order, phenomena of such inherent mystery and high strangeness that they fly in the face of all science and logic. In this category we might include stories of “time slips” where events or individuals from other eras intersect with present-day situations; rainfalls of frogs or fish from the sky; sightings of angelic or mythical beings; or bizarre animals so fantastic they stretch credulity to the breaking point.

Rain of frogsOne example of this last category would be stories of Mothman, a large humanoid creature sporting wings and glowing red eyes which was reportedly sighted in West Virginia during the 1960s, and glimpsed on occasion in other regions as well. The fact that a man-size creature with wings could even become airborne seems patently absurd on its surface, yet scores of witnesses swear to what they saw, and their stories coincide in intriguing ways. It’s worth noting that the bulk of these sightings preceded a major tragedy in December of 1967, when the Silver Bridge collapsed into West Virginia’s Ohio River, killing 46 people; notably, though, sightings of the Mothman in that area ceased after the tragedy, inviting speculations whether the creature’s appearance may have been a portent for the impending disaster.

While I can’t speak to the objective truth of bizarre sightings like this, I confess that I‘m not inclined to dismiss them out of hand after having had an encounter with a mystery animal once myself, and which remains unexplained to me even today.

I was 29 years old at the time, and visiting a former teacher of mine from Chicago, Maureen Cleary, at her new home in Colorado where she lived with her two young girls. The four of us decided to take a drive through the nearby mountains one afternoon, following a narrow road that carried us up progressively higher, when at one point we all noticed a large black dog cross from one side of the road to the other, roughly 70 or 80 feet in front of our car. Nothing unusual in that, on the surface of things anyway (other than the presence of a dog in such a remote location). But upon reaching the other side of the road, the dog simply disappeared into the side of the mountain. Maura, myself, and her children all looked at one another in puzzlement, because it seemed as if the dog had vanished into thin air—or solid rock, as the case may be.

There was no substantial vegetation or brush in that spot, so my first sense was that it must have crawled into a hidden crevasse or gully we simply couldn’t see from our vantage point. But as we slowly drove past where the animal disappeared, it became obvious there was no place it could have gone to, since there was no crevasse or gully there, simply solid rock. Just to make sure, though, we stopped the car and got out to look around, but that only deepened the mystery. I knew what I’d seen, and Maura was an intelligent observer herself, having taught psychology during her academic days at the University of Chicago. Her two children saw the dog, too, making four witnesses to the event in all.

Black DogWhat was it? I still don’t have any good explanation for it. On a personal level, though, I detect a certain symbolic meaningfulness in the event, since it happened at a major turning point in my life when I was undergoing major emotional changes and self-reflection with my 30th birthday fast approaching. As one possibility, the theme of “crossing a road” could be interpreted as a transitional symbol, similar to the crossing of a river or a country’s borders. In fact, just one week earlier I’d hiked into the Grand Canyon and experienced a personal epiphany of sorts while crossing a footbridge suspended over the Colorado River at Canyon’s bottom. Historically, too, there is a considerably body of folklore involving apparitions or sightings of large black dogs. There are several possible ways of interpreting the event, each of which offers its own layer of nuance.

But apart from their meaning for each of us as individuals, I’ve often wondered a great deal about what events like this mean in terms of reality itself. Perhaps the essential takeaway from Fortean phenomena and events of high strangeness is simply that we don’t understand nearly as much about the universe as we thought. Our conventional world may well overlap with other dimensions and vibrational realms similar to the way radio and various electromagnetic waves surround us now—however blissfully unaware we may be of them.

In that way, Fortean events would represent tears in the fabric of reality, allowing other dimensions to bleed through into ours—a cross-pollinating of unique yet interlocking worlds. Such experiences occur at times that are special to us and filled with numinosity, or what the Greeks described as kairos, experiences of sacred time. At their most dramatic, such events display a quality of archetypal resonance and invite us to expand the boundaries of our consciousness, allowing us to catch momentary glimpses of the larger ocean of possibilities we swim within. In the end, Fortean events may represent portals into a different way of understanding our universe, and ultimately, ourselves.


1. A tip of the hat to researcher Loren Coleman for pointing out the connection between the Patterson-Gimlin event and the march on Washington, D.C. one day later.

This essay first appeared in the anthology Darklore, Vol. 8, 2014.

Ray Grasse is a writer, astrologer, and photographer living in the Chicagoland area. He is author of The Waking Dream (Quest, 1996), Signs of the Times (Hampton Roads, 2002) and most recently, Under A Sacred Sky (Wessex Astrologer, 2015). He worked for ten years on the editorial staffs of Quest Books and The Quest Magazine, and currently is associate editor of The Mountain Astrologer magazine. His website is, his photography website is

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