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On approach

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report / Pheasantry Films
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Earlier this week I was with some family members enjoying lunch when we decided to pop in the Vintage Stock store next door and see if there were any treasures worth picking up.

On the way to the back of the store, where the music is stocked, I walked past the DVD’s. As I walked, an image grabbed my attention – the cover of the 1989 Philippe Mora film Communion, with its inconic and unsettling “gray alien” image. Perhaps it was that all-too-familiar face that reached out and grabbed my conscious mind. After all, the 1987 Whitley Strieber account in his book Communion has stayed with me all these years. All of Strieber’s writings have hit me on a level I never fully understood.

Standing there, a bit bewildered, I looked at the DVD. Picked it up and held it. I already had this DVD, although I wasn’t sure where it was. And this was not used. It was full price. And yet I felt compelled to buy it – and watch it that very day, which I did.

And I have to say that I was taken aback by the imagery, which Mora captures in a film starring Christopher Walken as Whitley Strieber and Lindsay Crouse as Anne Strieber, the couple at the center of this enduring mystery, as portrayed in his book which recounts what can be best described as a frightening encounter with the unknown (portrayed as something akin to a classic “alien abduction”).

The opening shots are of New York City at night, with a specific focus on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Knowing what we know now, as we race to the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – just a little over two years from now – it gives one pause. And, in fact, Mora’s camera pauses, as if an unseen craft is slowing down to take in the majestic view of these two steel pillars towering over Manhattan. Like an airplane on approach to JFK. You know what I mean? But that airspace is off limits. OFF LIMITS!

It is eerie, as the opening credits roll, as it were. And just as the denizens of the Black Lodge write "Let's rock" on the dirty windshield of Agent Chet Desmond's car in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992); the most famous line to emerge from the horrors of September 11, 2001 was the colloquial phrase "Let's roll!" said to have been said by United Airlines Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer when terrorists were said to have taken control of the aircraft. And before it crashed, and the passengers learned that two other airliners had been crashed, he told his fellow passengers to help ... "Are you ready? Okay. Let's roll!" What's weird is that the Velvet Underground "Rock & Roll" keeps going over and over in my head.

With a score by Mora’s longtime friend from his “Swinging Sixties” London days, guitarist Eric Clapton, the film Communion is, well, different. It is a film of its time (late 1980’s) and Walken is in excellent, method-actor form here. He is Whitley Strieber, troubled soul with writer’s block in New York. And a December 1985 trip to the family cabin in upstate New York changes his life forever. Or, it was the experience that he actually recalled, as the "visitors" have been lurking in the shadows pretty much all of his life.

Crouse, who does a nice job as Whitley's concerned wife Anne, would later play a key role in the alien invasion film (complete with scenes at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory!) The Arrival, with Charlie Sheen, an actor whose troubled life makes one question what is really going on.

Of particular interest is a short (1:52) Clapton composition titled “Approach to White Light.” It appears on a CD featuring the music on Communion and the 1994 film Roswell: The UFO Cover-Up I found that fascinating in light of the "white light" conversations that keep popping up in my life. Seriously. Siriusly.

On February 13, 2015 I wrote a Dust Devil Dreams post titled “Astral plane crash” where I talk about everything from 90’s industrial-rock act Machines of Loving Grace; the 1954 Bikini Atoll H-bomb test in the Marshall Islands; Charles Manson; The Beach Boys; Sharon Tate; Roman Polanski; JFK assassination; King/Kill 33; and this bit about Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground and how the band’s 1968 album White Light/White Heat was inspired by the writings of  Theosophist Alice Bailey’s 1934 book A Treatise on White Magic, a book, which, in part, advises control of the astral body by a “direct method of relaxation, concentration, stillness and flushing the entire personality with pure White Light, with instructions on how to ‘call down a stream of pure White Light.’”

Well, today I stumbled across a Medium article titled "He was supposed to be the next Stephen King. Then the aliens came." Published 10 days ago and conducted by interviewer Drew Millard, Strieber talks about all manner of issues, including growing up in San Antonio, Texas and strange things that happened to him. He even talks about his time in London, in 1968, where he was rubbing shoulders with guys like Eric Clapton! The same guy who was pals with Philippe Mora, both of whom would be involved in the Communion film project 30 years ago!

Said Strieber: "I ended up hanging out in Eric Clapton’s flat at the Pheasantry in London. I didn’t know him, but kids came and went in that flat all the time, and I happened to have mutual friends who hung out there. Eric would come and go. He didn’t care who was there. I heard a lot of cool music played live by some very famous people and I chatted one or twice with some big stars, but you know, I was just another kid hanging out."

Right. No mention of the Process. The strange trips to Spain or Italy ... or the catacombs beneath the Vatican. But who really knows, right? 

So, as if directed to ask the question, Millard asks Strieber (who has a new book coming out) if this experience in London was like hanging out with Andy Warhol at The Factory, where Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground were the house band. Here’s what Strieber says: “It wasn’t as intense as that. There were some drugs, obviously, but it was a milder scene than The Factory. I think I might have been at The Factory once or twice in the early 1970’s and it was very different, much more intense. When I moved to New York, I hung out at Max’s Kansas City. I was sort of peripheral to that scene. Very peripheral. I briefly met Lou Reed back then. Many years later, I got to know him through mutual friends. We used to have fabulous, completely paranoid conversations together at dinner.

One can only imagine!

SO HELP ME

Paranoid conversations brings up the research of John A. Keel, at least in my mind. Between 1966 and 1970, things were pretty wild and hairy for Keel, a writer who stumbled upon the Mothman mystery in West Virginia, one of the most gripping tales in 20th century paranormal history, as evidenced by his book The Mothman Prophecies, which was made into a film of the same name in 2002.

Anyway, I picked up one of those Keel titles being published by New Saucerian (not sure what sort of deal they got to do that), this one title The Big Blackout: A True Tale of Ultraterrestrial Terror. It is one of the most disquieting, bizarre and mind-blowing stories I've ever read, and I've read a few over the years. And while I won't get too far in the weeds with the details (if that's what you would call them, one of Keel's contacts of interest, one Jaye Paro, a woman from Long Island who was a radio personality in Babylon, New York and who was caught in the web of conspiracy and high weirdness that UFO-haunted "Summer of Love" of 1967. Except for Keel, Paro and others, "love" did not play a role.

I just read The Big Blackout, and in light of the "white light" conversation, I found Keel's entry for August 25, 1967 of interest in that Paro had been contacted by "ultraterrestrials" or something to go to the Lucis Trust Library at the United Nations adn look for the "middle chapter of the 32nd book on the first shelf." Well, Keel went himself went and found the book, dealing with color perception (no title given) and "the middle chapter was about colors beyond the visible spectrum." 

Keel also asked to borrow a book by the aforementioned Alice Bailey. This one was titled The Externalization of Hierarchy.Keel writes: "This is part of a set that - so help me - details the whole bloody mystery in occult terms." Now, for a guy like Keel to say this, well, is saying something. He seems genuinely baffled and distressed in writing that line. But beyond mentioning the Lucis Trust as being a "genuine outlet for contactees," Keel says little more on the matter. And that's something I keep noticing in all of this: when confronted with this seemingly mind-blowing information, the person, be it Whitley Strieber or Lou Reed or John Keel, well, they only go so far. I will note that there is a link to all those names - New York!

Before I forget, something that really was remarkable to me, after all this Communion business and Strieber-related synchromystic weirdness - I was thumbing through a stack of unread books on my office table here at Red Dirt Report. Lots and lots of books I had not yet had a chance to read. And one of them, I had forgotten I had, was Prisoner of Infinity by Jasun Horsley, a British writer and researcher now living in Canada. It turns out that Horsley's exceedingly important book, published last year, delves very deeply into the Communion enigma and its implications. It's as if Horsley is picking up where the late John Keel failed to go. In fact, I don't really know what John Keel even thought about the 1980s-2000s-era alien abduction reports, etc. 

But Horsley is a guy who has quite literally seen it all and done it all. And yet now, around the age of 50 (we're roughly the same age), he seems compelled to look back and try to make sense of all the things in his life. The connections, synchronicities, and so forth. And in his case - as in mine - Whitley Strieber seems to be looming. I get that. Horsley, in the introduction, warns readers that some of the material therein may "trigger" them, and I get that. I am only now starting to piece things in my past back  together and so far, I am more than a little troubled by what I seem to be discovering.

I will have a review of Prisoner of Infinity in the near future. In the meantime, I will be taking notes, making observations and reporting back to you all, dear readers of Dust Devil Dreams.

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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