Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Reed Case: Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind

The peculiar, harrowing case of the Reed family remains one of the most baffling instances of a Close Encounter of the 4th Kind, which was described by eminent UFOlogist Jacques Vallee as an event in which a human is abducted by a UFO or its occupants.

One September evening in 1966, 6 year-old Thomas and his little brother Matthew were in their beds at home in Sheffield, MA when Thomas spotted strange, flashing lights coming from a saucer-shaped object that was landing in their yard. Some accounts say the boys had a strange feeling and entered the hall outside their rooms in time to spy two strange figures at the top of the stairs, which they described as "ghosts."

Either way, the brothers inexplicably found themselves outside and approaching the object and its occupants.

Thomas would later describe the beings as 3 to 5 feet tall and looking "like a young, frail humans" with characteristics of insects as well. To his memory, he felt they weren't wholly organic, as if they were manufactured. He said the beings themselves glowed.

The occupants of the strange, Frisbee-like craft, which Thomas described as 15 feet tall, 60 feet round, and looking "a little beat up," took them inside and showed them images of a willow tree and a body of water on a screen. The boys don't remember much after that and they don't recall how they got back home.

This wouldn't be the only time the boys experienced a Close Encounter. The following year, Thomas and his brother spotted a bright light, pouring through their second-story bedroom window. The air grew still and heavy as the light intensified and the boys suddenly found themselves back inside the object. The pair were subjected to various medical exams during this visit. Thomas would later relate how he felt like a "walking Petri dish."

Again, there are disparate accounts. Another telling of this encounter says that only Thomas was initially taken and that Matthew ran to his mother to explain what had happened. Frantic, the boys' mother, Nancy, ran to the bedroom but was startled by a loud screeching accompanied by a door slam. When she turned back to Matthew, she was shocked to find him missing. Now both of her sons were gone and only she and her own mother, Marian, remained.

The grandmother searched the house while Nancy searched their property on horseback. Eventually, she spotted the boys as she rode along the Appalachian Trail. They were 15 feet apart on broad dirt path, staring at one another. They seemed to be in shock and not very responsive. Nancy brought the boys home and eventually they recovered from their ordeal.

Between this event and the next, the boys' mother, Nancy, would marry Howard Reed, to whom she would relate her family's history with such phenomena dating back to the early 1950s. Howard Reed was a local official at the time and he found these accounts disturbing, as they might threaten his political standing.

The third time the boys were taken came in September of 1969 as the family was driving home along Route 7 when their car suddenly stalled and coasted to a stop alongside the road. Within moments, the lights arrived from the woods beyond and the air again grew heavy and silent. A buzzing sensation swept over the occupants.

Suddenly, Thomas was no longer in the car. He found himself inside what looked like a huge hangar and he was walking toward a figure surrounded by light at the far end. Once he arrived, the figure took him along white walled, narrow corridors with equally narrow doors.

Later confirmation among Reeds though indicated that all four of them were taken this time. They recalled being in different parts of the space ship, away from one another. When they were returned to their vehicle, they were each sitting in spots in the car different from the ones from which they were abducted and their grandmother was outside the vehicle, wandering the road.

Shortly after this incident transpired, Nancy sold the farm and they family moved to Connecticut.
Over 40 eyewitnesses spotted a UFO along Route 7 that night, and a picture Thomas Reed drew of the craft now hangs in a UFO museum in Roswell, NM.

Come the 1980s, Howard Reed me Robert Bletchman, an attorney, who began to investigate the Reed's case. He collected reports, data, and testimony from witnesses and various agencies that corroborated the strange goings-on at the Reed Farm and beyond. Much of this would later be presented before a United Nations Symposium in October 1992 that looked into the veracity of these events and whether they warranted further scrutiny.

In 2006, Howard Reed began working on a book detailing his family's ordeal and the evidence gained through various investigations over the years. Unfortunately, Howard suffered a sudden death from Legionnaire's Disease. A possibly apocryphal account details that when the CDC inspected Howard's office, they found a vial containing the deadly virus secreted away in an A/C vent. Given his standing in the community, a day of remembrance was established in Howard's honor by the City of Bridgeport, CT.

The final encounter the Reed family would have with UFOs and their occupants happened to Matthew years later when he was living in Indiana. He had been driving home on night of March 30, 2009 when the lights returned. He saw an orange ball of light briefly hover over the road ahead before zooming away to the south.

His Chevy Blazer then stalled and he suddenly found himself inside a spacecraft where "everything kind of glows." There, he encountered three different types of aliens: Reptilians, the classic Gray, and some large creature with elephant-like skin. The occupants placed Reed on a table and placed a mechanism on his head that emitted sounds similar to a tuning radio.

Again, the abducted Reed was disgorged from the craft in an unknown fashion and returned to his car with only the vaguest of memories. At the time he could only recall that he was outside his Blazer with a bloody nose and mud caked on his shoes. His watch was stopped at 10:30 pm--the time when he saw the light--but the actual time was just after midnight.

When he returned home, he told his mother that he thought it was all happening again.

The instauration of these phenomena in the lives of the Reed sons rekindled the moribund accounts and brought them to the attention of law enforcement officials and high profile UFO investigators, such as those working at the behest of Aerospace billionaire Robert Bigelow. From these renewed investigations, more data was collected that attests to high amounts of radiation and exposure to magnetic fields that affected property and vehicles belonging to the Reed family. Moreover, Thomas Reed was given a polygraph test in 2010 that he passed with a score of 99.1%.

Since then, the brothers to one extent or another have been in the UFOlogy spotlight and their story has been the subject of documentaries, news reports, blogs, and podcasts. While the two maintained a distance as adults, addressing the issue more publicly as they have in recent years has brought the brothers closer than they had been in a long time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Lesser Known Folk Monsters

These beasts may not be among the most famous, but they have their followers who, despite evidence to the contrary, insist they are very real creatures worthy of fearing.

Mauthe Doog (Moddey Dhoo) - a legendary hell hound (if hell hounds can be small, black Spaniels) that haunts Peel Castle on the Isle of Mann. This mysterious animal has been reported since the 1700s walking the castle's corridors and sometimes curling up before the fire. The soldiers at the castle were wary of its presence but gave it due respect. The animal disturbed the men so much that they made a point of traveling in pairs and groups anywhere they went in the castle. It never seemed to bother them until one night when a drunken soldier boasted that he wasn't afraid of the Mauthe Doog and wandered off alone into the darkness of the castle. The dog arose from its spot in front of the fire and followed the man. Within a few minutes, the other soldiers were startled by anguished screams and cries of fear coming from the castle's dark recesses. The men raced as a group to the source of the distress and were shocked to find the drunken soldier dead.

The Snow Snake -- An internet urban legend about The Snow Snake has been making the rounds online for several years. The image of what clearly appears to be a rubber snake painted white sitting in the snow has been presented as a dangerous species of viper with a highly venomous bite. We'll just ignore the fact that snakes are cold-blooded and hibernate in the winter.

The Gumberoo -- Arising from tales told by early American lumberjacks, this beast resembles a very large, but hairless bear with a tough, shiny black hide. Legend said that bullets and arrows would not pierce its skin, but that it could be killed by fire.

Monster Turtle -- An enormous turtle is said to live in the waters of Big Blue Pond in Iowa's Clear Lake State Park near Mason City. 

The Ozark Howler -- This bear-sized horned beast is covered in shaggy black fur and emits a blood-curdling scream that is like a wolf and an elk having a drunken argument.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Legend of the Snallygaster

R. M. Hanson
The Snallygaster (a corruption of the German term Schneller Geist, which translates as quick ghost) is an American folk legend coming out of German enclaves of the east coast from around the 1730s.

Much of these are centered around central Maryland and the area around Washington DC. Legend describes this demon as a mélange of nightmarish features: dragons, reptiles, and birds with metallic beaks and razor sharp teeth--even tentacles.

The beast will dive in a sudden, silent attack from the skies to swoop up an unsuspecting victim and carry its prey off into the night. Some accounts say the Snallygaster will suck the blood from its victim like a vampire.

Throughout the region, seven-pointed stars can be seen on barns. This German tradition is a ward against bad luck and evil spirits such as the Snallygaster.

Throughout the years, the legend accreted into a morass of influences that took off in popular culture via accounts published in less-than-reputable papers. These reports included fictitious claims that the Smithsonian Institution was offering a reward for a Snallygaster hide and the President Theodore Roosevelt had plans to hunt for the beast himself.

These days, the regional beast is another entry in the list of local monsters moving merchandise like The Jersey Devil or Sasquatch. These 'Small Town Monsters' seem to be gaining popularity in recent years as legend tripping catches on as a fun, ironic antidote to the mindless and mundane activities that feed our addiction to otherwise sheltered lives spent indoors staring at our phones.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Ireland's Carriage of Death

The Cóiste Bodhar (say it like coach-a-bower) is a psychopomp of Irish folklore that appears as either a black coach or sometimes a hearse, carrying a black coffin. The coach is pulled by a team of black horses and driven by the Dullahan, a sort of Headless Horseman of Irish legend. The Dullahan drives the coach to the home of one slated for death to collect his or her soul, much as the legendary Grim Reaper does. According to legend, if the The Cóiste Bodhar is passing through, all gated roads should be opened so as to allow him swift passage through and away to somewhere--anywhere--else.

In 1806, a man lay dying while his family waited for the doctor on the stoop outside. Hearing the furious roar of a fast approaching coach, the family eagerly stood to greet the doctor. Two of the man's sons ran to open the gate but found it locked. It was never locked. This was strange. One of the sons ran back inside to find the keys, but the coach only raced on  at break-neck speed. The family was confused by this and then startled when the dark coach suddenly vanished. It wasn't the doctor who drove by at all; it was the Dullahan atop the dreaded Cóiste Bodhar. When the son came back from inside, he said he found the keys hidden beneath the innkeeper's pillow, as if he knew the sick man in his bed would surely draw the attention of The Cóiste Bodhar.

Probably it is for the best. Legend claims that anyone who opens their door to the apparition, will be splashed in the face by a basin of blood.

It is recommended that anyone who spots the coach avert his or her eyes. Making eye contact with the Dullahan could force him to stop and unexpectedly claim a new passenger.

One man, Michael Noonan, witnessed the coach while out riding and described it as completely silent even though the six black horses pulling it were galloping furiously. Noonan, knowing the legend, quickly averted his eyes and the fearsome carriage flew past him on its silent quest for souls.

On December 11, 1876, a servant working for the MacNamara family at Ennistymon House in County Clare had been walking the grounds late at night when he hear the approach of a carriage. What an odd hour to arrive, he thought. But as he peered into the darkness, the servant had the horrible realization that this was The Cóiste Bodhar. He quickly raced along the road and opened the gates leading to the home before throwing himself into the vegetation at the side of the road just in time to witness the black coach fly past. Sir Burton MacNamara was spared that night as the coach rode past the house without stopping. Unfortunately, it must have rode on to find it's quarry elsewhere: Sir Burton MacNamara died only a day later, in London.

While no one truly believes the legend anymore, the Dullahan and The Cóiste Bodhar are still something of a bogeyman that children in parts of Ireland still fear.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Monsters of the Great White North

The Mi'gmaq people dwelling in the Chaleur Bay area between Quebec and New Brunswick have legends of a beast they term the Gougou that resembles the near-invariable descriptions of Bigfoot: Hairy, bipedal, with large hands and feet.

One of the earliest written accounts comes from Samuel de Champlain in 1603. Locals told him of the Gugwes or Gougous that dwelled on an island at the southern end of the bay. The locals described the beasts as fearsome and of gigantic proportions (the tallest masts of Champlain's ships would scarcely reach the beast's waist).

Champlain then goes on to state that Sieur Prevert and his men had heard the beast as they passed through the area in search of mining opportunities. The French miners were so frightened by the terrible sound, they would hide themselves whenever they heard it.

The legend also brushes against that of the Wendigo. Cultural anthropologist and folklorist Elsie Clews Parsons wrote in 1925 of her time among the Mi'gmaq in the area of Chaleur Bay. In her work, she recounts a murderous and cannibalistic tale of a pregnant woman who was killed and consumed by such creatures that were described as very hirsute with monkey faces. The implication that cannibalism was afoot seems to establish a connection with ourselves, perhaps in how the creatures were closer to man than animal. It might also be reflective of the folkloric creatures such as the Wendigo whose evil natures are born from taboos, often cannibalism.

Similar to the accounts of dog men, such as the infamous Beast of Bray Road, another tale from the area talks about a more canine iteration of hair beasts that stalk the region. Reverend A. Fulton Johnson (1866-1940) told his son, J. Kenneth Johnson, about his days in New Brunswick. The reverend spoke of a strange beast that could be seen occasionally at the edge of the woods near their home. It was squat with long arms and entirely covered in hair. Legend in the area at the time was that these creatures were half man and half dog. Its presence was a concern for many in the area.
Are these all different creatures being described? Are there such things as Dog Men, Gougous, Wendigos, and Wood Apes? Or are we seeing the same phenomenon through very different cultural lenses?

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Darker Side of the Season

Christmas time 1980 saw a lot of UFO activity and unexplained lights reported in and around the Rendlesham Forest of Suffolk, England. Much of it centered on a RAF airbase being used by American Forces. This famous incident has become known as Britain's Roswell. More.

Right before Christmas 1998, in Del Norte County, CA, a father and his son were driving westbound Lake Earl Drive toward the intersection of Highway 101, just south of Smith River. A fresh blanket of snow covered a clear-cut swath of forest of an adjacent mountain slope. From the passenger seat, his son noticed a large biped covered in reddish-brown fur and standing approximately 7-8 feet tall. It was walking down the denuded slope, leaving tracks in the snow as it went. The creature was visible for about 400 yards as it traversed the clear-cut section of slope before disappearing in the dense forest of the other side. The pair noticed that several other cars had pulled off on the side of the road to watch the spectacle as well.

On Christmas Day in 1929, Charlie Lawson of Stokes County, NC, inexplicably shot his wife and 6 of his 7 children prior to turning the weapon on himself in the woods nearby. The final shot alerted those within earshot and police were summoned. Each of the Lawsons was found with their arms crossed and a rock under their head. The only Lawson to survive was the oldest boy, 16 year old Arthur, who had been out running errands. Theories abound as to why he would have done this. Some place blame on a head injury Charlie had suffered some months before, but a post-mortem examination ruled that out as a likely answer. Others suspected it wasn't a murder/suicide, but rather a mob hit. They believed Charlie had witnessed something he shouldn't have and he and his family paid with their lives. Still others point to an incestuous relationship between Charlie and his daughter Marie, which might have led to a pregnancy. As the situation grew out of hand, Charlie was forced to quiet all those in the know permanently. And, of course, some say the Devil made him do it. It is said that Charlie and his family still haunt the area where the farm once stood.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Soul Cakes and Soulers

An ancient tradition in the Christian church was that of baking Soul Cakes or Soulmass cakes. While largely moribund now, these small spiced cakes were typically garnished with a cross of raisins or currants and were handed out to Soulers (usually children and the poor) who, like their caroling and trick-or-treating counterparts these days, would go from door to door at Halloween and Christmas to sing and say prayers for those living in the homes. It was a common tradition in England, Ireland, and Wales from the medieval period until the early 20th century when it began to see a decline. The practice continues in isolated pockets such as Sheffield, Cheshire, Lancanshire, and Shropshire. It can also be seen in a similar fashion in Portugal and in the Philippines. According to scholars the foundation of this practice, like many Christian holiday traditions, is founded in pagan ritual. As a side note, American composer Kristen Lawrence incorporated Souling Carols into tracks on her 2009 album A Broom With A View, which offers a sophisticated take on Halloween music.


Haunted Houses and Spirit Ships ruled lore for centuries, but new times bring about new ways to encounter apparitions and unexplained phenomena. When we're looking to the skies, this almost always means UFOs, but phantom flights can also be counted among the strange things witnesses have claimed to see flying in the skies. The following are some of these tales of haunted aircraft. So, put your seat backs up and securely fasten your belts. You're in for a bump ride on a Ghost Plane.

The Ghosts of Flight 401 - On December 29,1972, Eastern Airlines Flight 401 en route from New York's JFK airport to Miami suddenly crashed into the Florida Everglades when the aircraft's autopilot malfunctioned. 101 people died. According to reports, the wreckage was salvaged and reincorporated into other Eastern Airlines planes. In time, the crews and passengers of those planes refitted with the salvage parts began to tell strange stories of unexplained, paranormal occurrences.

Lady Be Good in the Libyan desert.

Lady Be Good - The account of Flight 401 is in some ways similar to that of the Lady Be Good, a US B-24D Liberator that vanished during its first combat mission during WWII in the Spring of 1943. The Liberator had been returning to its home base in Libya following a bombing run over Naples, Italy when it vanished. For years, it was believed to have gone down somewhere over the Mediterranean. Then, on November 9, 1958, the wreck o the Lady Be Good was found by in surprisingly good condition by oil explorers from British Petroleum. While broken in half, much of it was salvageable. The crew however was missing. It would be almost two more years before their remains were discovered. It was eventually surmised that the plane was caught up in a sand storm that forced to them to fly on until they lost fuel and were forced to ditch, parachuting to the sands below and leaving the plane to crash. An account of their harrowing last days was partially recorded in a diary recovered from the pocket of co-pilot Robert Toner. In 1994, the craft was removed from the desert and taken to an airbase in Libya for examination and evaluation. Eventually, these components made their way into aviation and military museums. But some of the salvaged parts were re-incorporated into other period planes. It has been reported that these crafts have experienced strange, unexplained malfunctions. A C-54 with salvaged autosyn transmitters was forced to jettison cargo in order to safely land when the crew encountered trouble with the plane's propellers. A C-47 with the Lady's radio receiver crashed in the Mediterranean A DHC-3 Otter with one the salvaged armrests crashed into the Gulf of Sidra with hardly a trace. Among those scant bits recovered was the armrest from the Lady Be Good.

Pearl Harbor Ghost Plane - On December 8, 1942--one year and one day after the devastating attach on this base in Hawaii--US radar tracked an unknown inbound aircraft coming from somewhere to west. The pilots scrambled to intercept were surprised to discover and American P-40 with military markings, damaged landing gear, and riddled with bullet holes. According to the legend the pilots could see the bloodied form of a man slumped wearily over the ruined controls inside the cockpit. He lifted his head and smiled weakly as he waved to pilots before suddenly plummeting to the ground. The wreckage of the crashed P-40 was located, but investigators could find no signs of the mysterious pilot. Where did he go and where did his plane come from? Skeptics point to a story written in a book by WWII fighter ace Colonel Robert Lee Scott, Jr. (of the famed Flying Tigers and, later, an Air Force brigadier general) entitled Damned to Glory filled with fictional accounts of the people, places, and tall tales he collected from the war. One particular story, "Ghost Pilot," recounts a nearly identical incident. It's from this, skeptics claim, that the legend took off, especially after Reader's Digest reprinted it shortly after publication. However, it is well-noted that Scott wrote these stories based upon accounts he had heard from others. So while he might have fictionalized the narrative, he mightn't have created the key elements. Perhaps these events--in some fashion--actually happened to someone during the war.

Battle Over Britain? - In 1997, near the Sheffield Peaks in the UK, witnesses described an old single-propeller plane flying dangerously low to the ground. As it flew overhead, those in attendance were forced to duck for cover. It seemed to crash in the moors nearby, but extensive searches yielded no wreckage. During WWII many fighter planes were downed in the region of the Peaks, begging the question: Was this a ghost plane?

Also in 1997, a single engine plane went down in the waters near Westbrook, Connecticut. Again, no trace of wreckage could be found.

There were similar cases of planes crashing without any sign of wreckage throughout the 1950s in Ovando, Montana and in Dark Hollow, Pennsylvania.

One wonders what is at the heart of these sightings. Is it all just tall tales and hokum, or are these very real craft and we are simply underestimating what an enormous task it is to locate small crashed planes in the expanse of our wilderness and seas? But maybe it is exactly what it seems like: the phantom appearance of long-vanished planes returning from the ether or purposes not yet clear.

Saturday, December 8, 2018


In the autumn of 1903, respectable residents of Van Meter, Iowa began reporting a somewhat humanoid animal that gave off a foul odor as it darted through the air with incredible speed on large, leathery bat-like wings. Weirder still, the creature could seemingly emit a brilliant flash of light from its horned head.

A tool salesman, U. G. Griffith, shot at the beast as it darted over roofs in Van Meter's business district. The creature seemed unperturbed by the assault.

The following night Peter Dunn fired on the creature with similarly disappointing results. He, however, was able to take a plaster cast of its "great three-toed tracks."

On the third night, local, O. V. White, took his shot at the creature from the rooms above his hardware store as it perched atop a nearby telephone pole. Another proprietor, Sidney Gregg, who was also sleeping in his store awoke to hear the report from White's firearm and spotted the creature hopping away like a kangaroo.

The local high school teacher, who also spotted the enigma, thought it looked like some prehistoric throwback.

J. L. Platt Jr. heard a commotion coming from an abandoned coal mine.

Soon the townsfolk were armed and on the hunt for the beast, which had done nothing but fly around at night.  A monster is a monster, I guess.

When the mob gathered at the mine, they could hear an unearthly ruckus that was described to the Des Moines Daily News as "though Satan and a regiment of imps were coming forth for battle."
The creature emerged from the tunnel alongside a smaller iteration of its kind. A bright light was emitted from their heads and they flew off into the night.

When the pair returned in the morning, the townsfolk were still waiting and opened fire on them both. Once again, the creatures seemed unfazed by the attack and flew into the depths of the mine.
They were never seen again.

The denizens of Van Meter today are rather split as to whether they believe the event ever took place. Those who are old enough to have actually known some of the men involved are convinced these were sensible, sober Iowans. They wouldn't have been prone to fanciful stories or our insatiable 21st century appetite for their 15 minutes of fame.

Was it a hoax? I'd hate to be the poor fellow who thought pulling a Scooby Doo style prank on such well armed citizens was in anyway a good idea. From these accounts, it sounds like enough bullets were spent to make Bonnie and Clyde seem like they got a light peppering.

If we had that plaster cast we might have a better handle on just what was seen. A large migratory bird that locals were unaccustomed to seeing? Maybe, but we're back to all those bullets.

Maybe it was classic yellow journalism, but usually those stories were wholly fabricated. Locals in Van Meter appear to know the legend well, as if it were passed along to succeeding generations.
Whether it was all hokum or hocus pocus, the Van Meter Visitor--a long overlooked small town monster-- is quickly finding a home among more famous local legends like Bigfoot, the Mothman, and the Jersey Devil. I'm sure someone's selling a t-shirt somewhere.

Oh, to be a Kid Again: Children and Past Lives.

In his book "Return to Life," Dr. Jim Tucker, associate professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral science at the University of Virginia, reveals his insights in studying over 2500 cases of children who claim to recall past lives.

Among these cases we find Ryan, a boy who claims to be the reincarnation of Marty Martyn, a former actor and agent working in Hollywood in the middle of the last century. Ryan was able to identify his past life persona with far more specificity than other children because of the high profile nature of this individual, which meant there was a picture of him in a book that Ryan was able to point to and many details written about him that could be corroborated.

Tucker was also able to accompany the family of Cameron Macaulay as they verified his claims of a past life living on the isle of Barra in Scotland's Outer Hebrides in a Channel 5 (UK) documentary entitled Extraordinary People: The Boy Who Lived Before. This documentary also touches on the case of Gus Taylor from the US midwest who at as few as 18 months old claimed to be the reincarnation of his own grandfather.

Both boys spoke of falling through a 'hole' from their old lives into their new ones.
Other commonalities Tucker noted included the fact that in more than 70% of these cases, the decedent had passed in an untimely fashion.

Tucker believes that, through mechanisms as yet unknown, the "self" can continue on in the universe much in the same way that broadcast signals can propagate after the initial transmission and be picked up later by another device.

Are these past lives to be believed? Or are these children being goaded into such revelations by fantasy-prone or attention-seeking parents? Tucker certainly has his detractors, but short of debunking claims by refuting the accuracy of any given evidence there isn't much to argue here. It appears to be a hypothesis that seemingly can only be tested by crossing over and returning as someone else.


The Legend of Walking Sam

Legends from the Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation, which encompasses the site of the Battle at Wounded Knee (1890), tell of an entity known as 'Walking Sam,' 'Big Man,' or 'Tall Man'. A lithe, dark figure that is said to be 7 feet or more in height without any discernible facial features. But sometimes there are. The descriptions can vary wildly. Some say he has glowing red eyes; others ascribe a cloak and top hat to his overall appearance--all of which sounds more creepypasta than ancient tribal legend. And perhaps there's some truth to that. Many tales evolve over time, taking on elements aggregately with the slow assimilation of outside influences. The entity is said to be both real and spirit. Most often though it is described as evil and an a harbinger of doom.

One encounter involved a man driving along a lonesome road one night not far from Pine Ridge Reservation when he spotted a dark form teetering on the edge of the road. Thinking it was a hitch hiker, the driver pulled over to offer help. He was startled to see a tall, lanky figure in a cloak and top hat approaching his vehicle. While the figure had no discernible visage, the driver heard it demand to be let into his vehicle. Frightened, the witness quickly rolled up his window and began to speed away. The entity suddenly began banging on the side of his vehicle as he sped away into the night. Later, when recounting his horrific experience, the witness was told this was "Walking Sam, the Tall Man."

Another modern witness to strange entities around the reservation claims he was driving just outside of Eagle Butte, SD, when two glowing, translucent beings with monstrous countenances and stick like arms confronted him, each flanking an opposite side of the road. These creatures did not tower, however. They were described as only about 4 feet tall. Frighteningly, as he passed them both, one of the creatures seemed to phase Matrix-style into the passenger seat of his car and sit there for several miles before disappearing and leaving the witness in a total panic.

Some researchers point to a correlation between an uptick in suicides on the Pine Ridge Reservation and these creatures. In 2009, local teens began reporting a tall, shadowy figure that told them to kill themselves. It was believed this was "Walking Sam."

Much like many orthodox adherents to Abrahamic religions believe demonic forces are a very real threat, many here believe entities such as these are not mere folklore. In the wake of the suicides, one tribal leader made the statement that even local law enforcement is aware of this being. She described him as an evil spirit from which the police had thus far been unable to protect their people. She demanded that additional assistance be summoned from Washington to protect the Pine Ridge Reservation from Walking Sam. Yet no help came and the suicides continued to rise. Each year, it seemed more young people passed on, almost summoned to death by this dark Pied Piper. Tribal Vice President Thomas Poor Bear claimed nooses had been found swinging from trees at Porcupine, SD. When authorities came to investigate and remove the nooses, they discovered a group of teens who had gathered in preparation of a mass suicide. According to reports, Walking Sam had compelled them to do this.

Is there a dangerously compelling entity summoning these indigenous youth to end their lives or is it a folkloric manifestation of the very real despair that hovers heavy over a people who have long suffered at the hands of a system of oppression?