Something weirdly this way comes: The new season of Hellier, the ground-breaking, independent paranormal series produced by Dana and Greg Newkirk, alongside their associates Karl Pfeiffer and Connor Randall, has just dropped on Amazon Prime; ready to make your Black Friday even blacker –and darker— than you would expect.
[SOME MILD SPOILERS AHEAD]
As I wrote in my previous review of season 1, the thing I appreciated the most about Hellier was that it was made for people like me –someone who is disenchanted with the tired stereotypes exploited by mainstream media when delving with unexplained phenomena: UFOs are spacecraft from other planets, ghosts are spirits from the dead, Bigfoot is an undiscovered ape hiding in the woods, yadda yadda yadda… UUUUUGH!
With Hellier, all that ‘nice and tidy’ compartmentalization (read: boring AF) is thrown out the window, and what you get is a Fortean smorgasbord in which *everything* goes: cave-dwelling creatures, UFOs and esoteric techniques to try to get in contact with them, Tarot readings, medium seances revamped with modern electronic gadgetry, the Mothman sightings, and much more; all wrapped up and connected through the mystical veil of synchronicities –uncanny coincidences which seemed specifically designed to pique the Hellier crew’s interest and to make them pursue what most would perceive as an improbable (or impossible) case.
On season 2, many of those elements are still present in the narrative, but also other ingredients are injected to spice things up: references to the ancient Green Man archetype; occult groups and disturbing allusions to human sacrifices with the collaboration of government agencies and the military; hooded cryptoterrestrials wielding wands which can immobilize their victims –not unlike the metal rods used by ufonauts during the golden age of flying saucer reports; Ley lines (or should we say Goblin lines?) connecting all the places they investigate with seemingly impossible straight lines. Compared to the seemingly innocent vibe of season 1, these latest episodes of the Hellier saga take a much more sinister turn.
If Hellier 1 was Scooby Doo, Hellier 2 feels more like Twin Peaks.
The first two new episodes start with a bit of a slow pace, showing the team reconvening after shooting season 1 to learn what each of them have learned, while perusing different threads of the yarn they’d started to untangle when they first visited Hellier in 2017. We see the group going to visit Taunia Derenberger, daughter of the famous contactee Woody Derenberguer –who once claimed to have met an enigmatic grinning man from the planet Lanulos called Indrid Cold. Taunia maintains she still receives regular visits from Cold’s family of ultraterrestrials –while staying in a nursing home– so the viewer gets a small glimpse of the bygone era of the contactees: a kitschy part of American history when seemingly ordinary citizens shared fantastic tales of meeting with the Space Brothers. Functional schizophrenics, or humans who have gotten a glimpse of ‘the other side’ and interpreted those glimpses as best they could? The audience is free to reach their own conclusions.
In episode 3 things begin to ramp up when we get a visit to one of the Meccas of American High Strangeness: Point Pleasant, West Virginia; a fulcrum of Forteana in which the team seems to be retracing the steps of their hero John Keel. Here we have a chance to observe some of the innovative –albeit controversial– investigative techniques that characterizes the Hellier case, in the form of a “God helmet” –a device that stimulates the brain using magnetic fields in order to induce altered states of consciousness akin to mystical experience. Utilizing the human mind as a ‘biosensor’ –or an ‘antenna’– is one of the most intriguing elements in the Hellier case, but given how that same idea seems to have been utilized in other paranormal studies —like the infamous Skinwalker ranch— it is worth noticing.
But it is also worth noticing that, sometimes, people in this field have a tendency to connect the dots too hard. And it’s perhaps no wonder why for a man with a Keel hammer, everything looks like a Mothman nail…
And yet, even though there’s a risk of finding connections that are not really there when you embark with a ‘synchromystic’ approach to study these sorts of things, such is the nature of this game. And if anything, you can at least force your mind to observe what’s right in front of your nose from a fresh, new perspective –e.g. The Green Man vs Indrid Cold (the “grin(ing) man”)
Season 2 also gets the addition of a new “Alien Cave Task Force” member in the form of Tyler Strand, another young paranormal investigator whose contagious enthusiasm and gung-ho attitude is both amusing as it is somewhat disturbing; he kinda fills the role of a reckless Johnny Storm to Greg Newkirk’s Reed Richards, and at one point that dynamic is more palpable when they are shown arguing on whether to go out and investigate a new lead to the case as soon as possible, as Tyler wants to, or wait instead until they’re more certain of things –“why go there?” Greg asks; “because that’s what we do!” replies Tyler.
Indeed, this series is a good example of how it is impossible to convey in simple, analytical ways what is it that drives some individuals to have an active interest in the paranormal. We can argue all we want about the need to expand knowledge and help to review our society’s take on the nature of Reality; but at the end of the day, when you feel the electric sting of a synchronicity ringing on the doorbell of your daily life unannounced, and you feel your head swooning because for one fleeting moment you get that ineffable sense of cosmic connection, the paranormal is more a matter of passion than pensive thinking. What else would Greg and Dana respond to the question on why on Earth they keep purportedly haunted objects in their house, other than “because that’s what we do”?
But if one side of the paranormal coin is marked by the sign of Passion, the other one is marked by Paranoia –and I’m talking from personal experience here, alright?. By the 4th episode we see Greg and Dana “losing their $#!t” when they receive a similar letter than the one sent by the enigmatic –and evaporated— “David Christy”, which kickstarted the Hellier adventure in the first place; only this time the level of crazy presented by “Amy” is cranked up to 11. If you stick around long enough in this field and attain a certain level of prominence, sooner or later you get one of those messages in which someone claims to have figured out the Reptilians’ secret plan to take over the world, or the Illuminati’s hangout bar; why the Newkirks chose not to throw Amy’s email into the loony bin, is because the text contained certain keywords which made them glimpse the hidden hand of the mysterious “Terry Wriste” as the puppet master who has been pulling the strings of this story all along –but to what end, exactly?
In his book Revelations, Jacques Vallee relates his awkward dealings with Bill Cooper, godfather of American paranormal paranoia. At one point during their conversation about alleged alien underground bases, the author of Behold A Pale Horse offered Vallee to take him to a cave entrance to one of these extraterrestrial lairs; to which the French researcher politely but firmly refused –“who knows what there is on these caves?” he told a drunk Cooper, who was ordering yet another Chivas Regal, “maybe dumped nuclear material.” Cooper accused Vallee’s caution as cowardice, and yet I have an unsettling feeling that Tyler Strand would have said “entrance to a secret base? Let’s go, baby WOOHOO!“
Understand that I’m not making fun of Tyler, Greg, or any of the Hellier crew. But I feel it is important to point out that there are risks involved when you decide to answer the call of the phenomenon once it starts knocking on your door. Since I’ve already brought Vallee, it would be worth bringing out some of the episodes of UFO history included in his books: In Forbidden Science vol. 2, 3 and 4 he mentions the somewhat sorry fate of Andrija Puharich, the Israeli researcher who brought Uri Geller to the United States, and got so obsessed with the ‘alien messages’ he thought he was receiving from several psychics, he decided to embark on a wild goose chase all around the world financed by a wealthy backer, Sir John Whitmore; Puharich ended up his days alone, poor and discredited, the massive alien landing warnings he received never coming to fruition.
Another more worrying example is the famous Vintem case of Brazil, in which two young electrical engineers –Miguel José Viana and Manoel Pereira da Cruz– were found dead, on top of a hill in the municipality of Niterói, near Rio de Janeiro. The two bodies were wearing crude maks made out of lead, and people close to the victims told the police the two men had gone to that remote location because “they were going to meet with extraterrestrials.”
We have to consider the possibility that the phenomenon feeds off not only of ‘fear’, as some researchers have posited, but also attention. So if you’re planning to visit the mouth of an ‘active volcano’ –or a Kentucky cave– you’d better not go wearing just some stretchy jeans and Converse sneakers. And some “do not try this at home!” warnings would also be appropriate at the beginning of each episode, while we’re at it…
But perhaps such cautionary warnings are already arriving too late. By now Hellier is turning into a viral modern myth, just as I had predicted in my review of season 1. And, perhaps… more than a myth? Unbeknownst to Dana, Greg, Karl, Connor and Tyler, maybe someone is making use of all this attention spawned by tales of cave goblins in order to perform a collective magic ritual, not unlike what Grant Morrison intended when he tried to turn his lauded comic book series The Invisibles into a giant sigil.
Is that someone Terry Wriste, Allen Greenfield (author of The Secret Cypher of the Ufonauts), Indrid Cold or some other mysterious agency? To try to find out, you can now check out the ten episodes of Hellier season 2, available on Amazon Prime. One thing that can be guaranteed in this crazy field of uncertainties and unanswerable riddles, is that the top-notch production quality of the series –coupled with an amazing soundtrack– will make for one hell(ier) of a ride!