Family and the Phenomenon
It was simple. UFOs were aliens, and the paranormal was probably bullshit. How wrong I was.
I think I was about 8 or 9 years old when I found out I was adopted.
I remember it being a shock, obviously. I remember crying and being confused. It turned out that the people I had called Mom and Dad my whole life were really my biological aunt and uncle, and my sisters were now my biological cousins.
I was able to make sense of the information rationally, or at least I’d like to think so. After the initial shaking up of the world I thought I knew, nothing in my daily life changed on the surface. The people that I call my Mom, Dad, and sisters are who I’ve always considered to be my immediate family, and still do to this day. That is who they are, and that is what I will always call them, both in my life and for the rest of this story.
As much as I was able to process this in a basic way, little did I know that deep down a feeling of imposter syndrome would start to bubble up as I started high school. We lived in an affluent town in northern New Jersey. As much as I would eventually complain about how hard my teenage life was, we grew up very privileged.
I met my biological mother once during this time when we were out in California on a family vacation. I remember it being somewhat uncomfortable, but not weird enough to make me question my current family situation. She and my biological father had substance issues and were unable to care for me, so my parents gained custody in a messy legal battle. Moving forward I basically considered her to be my aunt, as if she and my mom had switched roles. It made sense to me at the time.
I had a girlfriend in freshman year that I really liked, but she dumped me about a week after I got braces. She started dating a guy in his junior year not long after that. This is when the feelings of being unwanted and not belonging started to gain traction in my daily life. This led to many different instances of substance use and acting out.
A lot of dark things happened during the second half of my freshman year and well into my sophomore year. There was finally a breaking point for my parents, and they decided to send me to a wilderness therapy program based in Provo, Utah.
I remember being dropped into the middle of the wilderness with ten other “troubled teens.” At first, I felt despair and wrote my parents every day asking them to let me come home. We hiked miles upon miles per day, partook in group therapy, and completed checklists of wilderness activities similar to how scouts earn their badges. I eventually gave up on feeling sorry for myself and bought into the program.
Two months later I had worked my way up to the highest rank possible called “Buffalo.” I was told I would be graduating soon and that my parents would be coming out to camp for a few nights before I left. I had a day before they arrived to get ready and set up camp. I now had my own personal campsite away from the other kids.
After setting up my tent and cooking dinner by the fire, something in the sky caught my attention. It was a bright white light which I thought was a star at first. I then realized it was too big to be a star and felt a wave of unease sweep over me. I stared at it for about a minute trying to understand what I was seeing. For a few seconds it seemed to grow in size, and then just shot off to the left and disappeared completely.
I went to bed that night trying to push it out of my mind. I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell anyone and jeopardize my completion of the program, as irrational as that thought might have been. I remember not sleeping well and being pretty tired the next day when my parents showed up. Regardless, it was great to see them and show them how much I had accomplished in the past few months.
After dinner that night we sat by the campfire, and mom told me they had decided that it would be best if I attended a therapeutic boarding school. I was disappointed about not going home, but they convinced me it would be the best path forward. My primary therapist had gotten me a spot at one of the most sought-after schools in the business because of my accomplishments during my stay in the woods. I agreed, thinking it would be good to get away from the old influences and friends that I had gotten into trouble with previously.
The “troubled teen” industry has gotten a bad reputation, and deservedly so. The strategy of the staff at the school was to break you down before building you back up. Processing traumatic events is essential to moving forward in life, but forcing people into it by constantly berating them with their darkest secrets in a group therapy session is extremely irresponsible, to say the least.
I was able to take some lessons away after graduation, but a lot of my peers weren’t so lucky. Many had an even harder time adjusting to the real world after that experience. I lost several friends in the years after to overdoses and suicide.
Although the negative memories of my time at the school are numerous, there were a few positive aspects. The friendships I made during the year and a half that I spent there were some of the deepest emotional connections I have ever formed in my life. My best friend Jack and I bonded early on, and although we rarely see each other we still check in all the time.
I graduated high school early due to the school’s rolling enrollment schedule and spent a semester part-time at a local college back in New Jersey. That fall I transferred to a music school on Long Island where I met my future roommate, Mark, during freshman year. We got an apartment together the summer before sophomore year.
During that summer we both worked at Zumiez, a mall-based skateboarding apparel store. Our co-worker was throwing a party one night and we agreed to stop by for a while. We probably had a few beers and a couple hits of weed, but we were pretty much sober by the time we left as we both had class the next morning.
I remember us being the only ones on the road driving back from Smithtown on the Sunken Meadow Parkway. All of a sudden, a gray disc-shaped object appeared with a bright green ring encircling it. The green color was almost so bright you couldn’t make out the metallic part of the craft. I can’t say how close it was to us, but it felt like it was about 500 feet above the ground.
The craft appeared to be spinning and moving slowly as it made its way from the top of the windshield down to the middle, where it hovered in the same place for a few seconds before flashing and shooting off into the night sky at an impossible speed.
We both looked at each other and at the exact same time asked, “What the fuck was that?”
We talked about it many times over the following year. We started getting stoned and watching Ancient Aliens often, looking up YouTube videos, all the stuff a college student would normally do after having a sighting like that.
We also started seeing the number 109 everywhere. Our address was 109. We lived off Route 109. It seemed like every time we looked at the clock, the time was 1:09. This happened so often that it became a running inside joke between us. It was totally bizarre.
Unfortunately, I was unable to finish school due to financial and other personal difficulties. A year later, I was diagnosed with ADD which I think contributed greatly to my academic struggles. I got a job in the corporate world and lived with my friends back in New Jersey (think of the Comedy Central show Workaholics), partied all the time, and didn’t really think about UFOs again for a while. I’m sure I told the story a bunch of times to people while knocking back drinks, but no conversation of substance ever really came from it.
I had been having infrequent contact with my Uncle Bob around that time. He is the brother of my biological father, who passed in his forties and I have never met. Bob lived in a very affluent neighborhood in Southern California and I had always dreamed of living on the west coast. He had said several times I could come out and stay with him whenever I wanted and look for a job there. I eventually took him up on the offer, which my parents were not too happy about. I had lived there for the first two years of my life before child services put me into my parent’s care.
Jack offered to accompany me on my drive across the country, as we hadn’t seen each other in years, and figured it would be a fun experience. For the most part, it was until we started running out of money. This lead us to driving late into the night to try and get to La Jolla as soon as possible.
We were somewhere outside of Phoenix when Jack yelled “Dude!” at the same time I saw something move from the corner of my eye. I was driving so I was focused on the road, but my eyes quickly shot over to where Jack was pointing.
It was almost the same exact craft I had seen years earlier on Long Island, metallic with the green outer edge. This time, however, it turned white and shot off almost as soon as my eyes could focus on it. Jack had obviously had a longer look at the object and appeared visibly shaken. We talked about aliens for pretty much the rest of the drive and arrived in San Diego at around 6 AM.
I learned a lot about my biological family during that time. My biological father, Roger, was a competitive surfer. He was a popular member the Pump House Gang, a group of young surfers in La Jolla infamous for their massive parties and outrageous antics. They were the subject of Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book of essays of the same name.
Bob and Roger’s mother, my biological grandmother, was named Nancy. She had moved to San Diego from Britain with my biological grandfather and they eventually split up. Nancy’s household was the center of the party culture in La Jolla back in those days. Bob still lives at the house, and I ended up staying with him in my earliest childhood home for about a little less than a year.
It turns out that Nancy was a renowned medium in the area, known as the “White Witch of La Jolla” and was a member of the Theosophical Society. She performed countless seances in the living room where I had spent most of my time playing during the first two years of my life. I obviously have no idea if I witnessed any of these, or anything supernatural in general at that age. I do know for sure, however, that the energy in that house is much different than any other place I can remember.
Bob has had many of his own sightings he told me about during my time with him. One incident involved a craft hovering above the house for 5 minutes before shooting off. He filed a report with MUFON, and apparently two men in suits showed up at his front stoop and tried to ask him questions about it. He shut the door in their faces, but saw them again in a car down the street about a week later.
His other sighting happened when he was sailing off the San Diego coast in 1979. A tic tac-shaped object zipped right over his boat at an insane speed, leaving him with the impression that the behavior of the craft was intentional. There is no doubt in his mind that these things are intelligently controlled.
I experienced numerous episodes of high strangeness during my time as an adult staying at the house. Multiple times I saw apparitions; ghost-like shadowy figures in the doorway to my room and at the top of the stairs. Things would not be where I had originally left them just hours earlier. I mostly shrugged it off as a figment of my imagination, or maybe I’d had one too many beverages the evening before. At that point, UFOs and the paranormal were completely separate phenomena in my mind.
It was simple. UFOs were aliens, and the paranormal was probably bullshit.
How wrong I was.
About a month before I decided to leave and head back to New Jersey, something happened that I have a really hard time describing in any logical, sensible way. This is part of the reason I haven’t told anyone before now. I’m going to sound like I’ve lost my mind, but this experience is just as real as anything I can remember.
One night, as I was looking at fantasy football stats before bed, I started to hear a faint beeping noise. It sounded almost exactly like a fire alarm, only it wasn’t coming from inside the house. At first I figured it was a neighbor’s alarm going off but it kept getting louder and louder. As soon as I started getting up to look out the window it became piercing. Then the something came through the wall.
It was smooth and metallic. The largest part of it was about the size of a dinner plate, but it was thicker. I hate to say it, but it was basically shaped like the top half of a flying saucer. It was floating horizontally, with a red light blinking and a type of lens that looked like it was used to take in video or just observe. It looked like it was on a stand of some sort, but the whole thing was just floating slowly by me. The “disk” part of the object was swiveling back and forth as if it was taking in the surroundings. The movements it made were reminiscent of R2D2 from Star Wars. It hovered about five feet off the ground.
The beeping stopped as soon as it came through the wall. I was frozen and couldn’t move. It seemed to ignore me, or at least it gave off that impression as it floated past me and out my bedroom door. I was involuntarily motionless for about a minute after it left the room, until one of my uncle’s friends who was staying the night came in and asked me if I’d heard the beeping. He thought it was the fire alarm too. I said I had heard it, but it stopped and I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know what else to say.
After returning to New Jersey, I got my old job back and eventually met my future wife. Then the 2017 New York Times article came out and I have been learning as much as I can about the topic ever since.
This phenomenon is wide-ranging, to say the least. My most impactful experiences materialized when I was digging into the history of my biological family. By doing so, I finally realized that I had been exactly where I was supposed to be the whole time.
The UFO subject can be a very personal journey.
At least that’s been the case for me.
Note: Names have been changed from the original draft for privacy.
Edit 12/20/2022: I finally realized the best description of the disk that came through the wall is best described as a “steampunk” version of R2D2. It was a longer, thinner, silver version of R2D2’s “head” in this picture.
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