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Crashing symbols

MGM / Dell Books
JoBeth Williams as Diane Freeling in "Poltergeist" (1982). In this scene she is reading Carl Jung's "Man and His Symbols."
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OKLAHOMA CITY – On page 237 of the book Man and His Symbols, which Carl G. Jung edited and contributed to, in the section titled “The Process of Individuation” by Marie-Louise von Franz, we learn that “(W)hat we all know theoretically – that every thing depends on the individual - becomes through dreams a palpable fact that everyone can experience for himself.”

The renowned Swiss Jungian psychologist and scholar continues, writing that “Sometimes we have a strong feeling that the Great Man wants something from us and has set us very special tasks. Our response to this experience can help us to acquire the strength to swim against the stream of collective prejudice by taking our own soul seriously into account.

Indeed. von Franz, a Christian, who wrote books about alchemy, symbolism and the psyche, was devoted to Jung and his understanding of synchronicity, or the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related and yet have no discernible causal connection.

This I know all too well. Synchronicity is a major part of my life, now that I have a somewhat better understanding of what it is and how it can be useful in connecting human beings and helping individuals - as von Franz discovered in her copious sync research from the 1930s to the 1980s – attain wholeness and emotional balance. Now that is something I think all of us are seeking.


The Buddha sagely said so long ago that “just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” Now, he did not say it would be easy.

Back to Jung’s Man and His Symbols book. I read the nearly 400 pages of the book, released in the early 1960’s, and shortly after Jung’s death in 1961, while on a family trip to Washington, D.C. Now, if there is a city in the United States with more symbols than Washington, I don’t know what it is.

I lived in the Washington area as a child in the 1970’s. Whenever we drove past the obelisk that is the Washington Monument I would excitedly say, “Look Mom, the Pencil!” Indeed. After all, it is essentially a modern-day example (19th century, anyway) of phallic architecture stretching back to the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans who “celebrated phallic festivals and built a shrine with an erect phallus to honor Hermes, messenger of the gods.”

Joseph L. Henderson, who was also a American Jungian psychologist (and who lived to the ripe old age of 103, passing away in 2007) also contributed to Man and His Symbols and wrote of Hermes that the Greek god “is a Trickster, in a different role as a messenger, a god of the cross-roads, and finally the leader of souls to and from the underworld. His phallus therefore penetrates from the known into the unknown world, seeking a spiritual message of deliverance and healing.” In the ancient world, a “stone herm” would be placed at the “crossroads” acting as "soul-guide" to the next world.

Hermes, in Egyptian mythology, was known as the ibis-headed god Thoth, with his bird form giving him a “transcendent” quality. George P. Hansen has much, much more information on the subject of the Trickster in his remarkable 2001 book The Trickster and the Paranormal, a book I suspect movie director Mark Pellington read while making the film The Mothman Prophecies. The book, which I just read, came highly recommended to me by some friends of mine in southwest Missouri while researching Trickster activity along the 94 degrees west line of longitude. (Check out Gordon White's Rune Soup interview with George P. Hansen here).

I suspect the Trickster follows the person and appears in the form that is most familiar to the culture they are originally a part of. Writer and abductee Whitley Strieber talks of "kobolds," cobalt-blue-colored trolls who seem not unlike the "Woodsmen" from the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks: The Return. These kobolds Strieber talks about in the book Super Natural, that he wrote with Jeffrey Kripal, explains that like Hermes, "they facilitate the journey of souls." Strieber, being of Germanic background, is visited by "kobolds," it would seem, since they are part of Germanic folklore.

In any event, this notion of the “crossroads,” that liminal space between our world and the next world and guarded by Hermes or the African “Legba” (associated with the Mississippi crossroads of Robert Johnson fame), has been coming up quite a bit and with my interest in dreams, Jungian psychology and synchromysticism, is all the more interesting as I dig into it. Recall my visit to the crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi and the electrical/railroad link and the experience I had, as noted in "Last train to Clarksdale." 

The electrical phenomenon that has followed me, since then, has been ... curious.

Speaking of which … a few weeks back I was tearing up some newspaper to use for a fire I was building in my backyard chiminea. As I ripped up pieces of the October 29, 2018 edition of The Oklahoman, a cutline to an image on one page caught my eye, it read: “Did you know the movie ‘Poltergeist’ had an Oklahoma connection?” It was accompanied by a headline which read “Grandpa blamed for electrical tricks.” Now, that was very interesting. Rather than feeding it to the flames, I tore it out and kept it, to reference later.

In the piece, written by contributing writer and archivist Mary Phillips, she notes that a 1957 poltergeist encounter by a Tulsa family was shared in The Oklahoman back at that time, as an Associated Press story, which actually first appeared in the Tulsa Tribune. It begins: “Mr. and Mrs. C.A,. Wilkinson and their 12-year-old daughter packed their belongings Friday and moved out of the house they claim is ‘haunted’ by an electrical phenomenon.”

The wife told the reporter: “I’m about to crack up,” due to the weird events.

It’s a pretty wild story, as the Tulsa family witnesses electrical plugs blowing up, a vacuum cleaner aimlessly going around the house, refrigerator motor to blow up repeatedly, and a clock being knocked from its perch on a shelf six times. Their $1,300 electric organ was also damaged in the process.

The husband goes so far as to remove a metal fence in the yard of their home because he believed it caused a “magnetic field,” resulting in the weirdness.

A group of 1950’s-era “ghost hunters” with the American Society for Psychical Research went to the Tulsa home to check out the “spell” plaguing the Wilkinson home.

The adolescent daughter, Shirley Wilkinson, is said to have placed blame on her dead grandfather, and that gramps was “stealing her fingerprints.” She said that she would “talk” to her dead grandfather and ask him to stop causing so much mayhem in their home. The story does not say if the Wilkinsons were successful in getting the poltergeist activity to stop.

And what of the 1982 Steven Spielberg-penned Poltergeist film? As some may recall, the mother in the film, Diane Freeling (played by Houston, Texas native JoBeth Williams, who turns 70 on Thursday) is smoking pot in bed with her husband Steve (Craig T. Nelson) and reading Jung's Man and His Symbols. Curiously, two years earlier, in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, right before ghostly/weird activity begins in the Overlook Hotel, we see a copy of Jung's The Red Book on the desk of Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson). That book was not widely available until 2009. 


Oh, and "coincidentally," a clip of the 1943 MGM film A Guy Named Joe is playing on the TV in the Freeling's bedroom, and the scene shown features the aforementioned Barry Nelson in a scene with Spencer Tracy where he informs his war buddy that he is either dead or crazy. Nelson's character reassures Joe that he is not crazy ... 

Well, on October 25, 2013, I wrote a Dust Devil Dreams post titled “Fantasy football at the time-loop hotel.” The photo I use with the post is of Washington Redskins football player Doug Williams, who is shown playing in a scene in the 2001 film Donnie Darko, which I discuss at greater length in the post.

What is weird is that while Donnie Darko emphasizes a "time loop" and discusses time travel (and is set in 1988), in Poltergeist (about a home built on a former cemetery which is attacked by "demonic ghosts"), the young girl, Carol Anne, is seemingly doomed due to the mention of a future (1988) Super Bowl game which would be taking place, in the same city (San Diego), where the Super Bowl is taking place between the Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos. Score? 42-10. Heather O'Rourke (who had a fraternal twin brother who was stillborn) would die a day after that Super Bowl game.

I wrote: “In the 1982 thriller/horror film Poltergeist, a truly chilling prediction is made via a prop poster on the bedroom wall of Carol Anne, played by blonde-haired child actor Heather O’Rourke.

The poster reads: 1988 Superbowl XXII. As notes, there is no mention of the events in the film being set in the future (remember, this is 1982). This poster is fairly prominent in a couple of scenes and in retrospect seems rather odd.

And what makes it’s placement in Carol Anne’s room is that the little girl, Heather O’Rourke, would get deathly ill on January 31, 1988 in San Diego, California – while Super Bowl XXII was actually taking place between the Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos.

The score? Redskins 42, Broncos, 10.

Washington’s quarterback, Doug Williams (who once played for the Oklahoma Outlaws in the mid-1980’s), was the first African-American quarterback to ever start in an NFL league championship game, let alone a Super Bowl, according to Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, across town, Heather O’Rourke is becoming violently ill and is rushed to the hospital, where she dies the following day, on February 1, 1988, just months before the release of Poltergeist III.

Who decided that Super Bowl XXII poster was supposed to go on the wall of that bedroom? Did someone know Heather was doomed to die just six years later? Is there something to the alleged curse surrounding the Poltergeist series of films, involving angry ghosts?

A very sad, sad story. And I have yet to see an explanation offered from MGM as to what that Super Bowl poster was indicating. Did someone involved with the production have foreknowledge of O'Rourke's death in 1988?

The famous catchphrase that Carol Anne utters when a ghostly hand emerges from the static on the TV screen in her home: “They’re here.” 


And in my last Dust Devil Dreams post, “Corn, no stalks,” I noted a staticky TV and a boy of 10 or so, with glasses on, staring out from the screen. It was very creepy and seemed to be the psychic boy with alien DNA named Gibson Andrew Praise (Jeff Gulka) in the original run of The X-Files.

Back to Man and His Symbols, von Franz writes: “In creating the concept of synchronicity, Dr. Jung sketched a way in which we might penetrate deeper into the inter-relation of psyche and matter.”

What I found interesting, is that in von Franz's 1968 essay, included in her book Psyche and Matter, in an essay titled "Symbols of the Unus Mundus" ("unus mundus" being Latin for "one world" and describing th econcept of "an underlying unified reality from which everything emerges and to which everything returns"), first argued that the mathematical structure of DNA is analogous to that of the I Ching, citing the I Ching's importance in this notable essay.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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

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