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Northwest passage (Pt. 2)

Miramax Films
The first scene in Jim Jarmusch's 1995 film "Dead Man" focuses on a steam locomotive's wheels.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Let’s just say that we are having a majorly synchromystic Monday, my friends.

When I went to the gym this morning, I had every intention of working out while watching cable news, hoping to catch additional coverage on one of the big stories over the weekend, that the Pentagon had a secret, $22 million program to study UFOs. A Navy pilot says something he saw in our skies in 2004 was likely "not from this world."

I did not see any coverage, because I got distracted. Distracted as I changed channels and noted that the TNT channel was airing a rerun of the sci-fi/horror “pop” series Supernatural, a show I recently referenced here at Dust Devil Dreams and had been meaning to watch for some time now.

But more about that in a minute. Back to the breaking UFO research story everyone is talking about …

This story, I should remind readers, was on the front page of The New York Times – and on a Sunday, no less, when readership is at its highest. And Politico and other news outlets followed suit, blowing minds along the way with revelations many were unfamiliar with … including references to (though, not named) Skinwalker Ranch, an eerie and haunted place in remote Utah that I have written about here several times over the past couple of years. Keep that “Utah” reference in mind, gang.

A view of "Skinwalker Ranch" near Vernal, Utah, referenced in NY Times article on Pentagon research into UFOs. (Wikimedia Commons)

That spooky ranch (complete with portals to other dimensions), of course, was purchased by Robert Bigelow, the Las Vegas, Nevada-based billionaire who has a deep fascination with the unknown, starting around the time he was a kid in Vegas in the 1950’s, watching atomic bomb mushroom clouds demonically rise in the distance and dreaming about all that power …

So, the Times article says a lot, but this paragraph really caught my attention:

Under Mr. Bigelow’s direction, the company modified buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that Mr. Elizondo and program contractors had said been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena. Researchers also studied people who said they had experienced physical effects from encounters with objects and examined them for physiological changes. In addition, researchers spoke to military service members who had reported sightings of strange aircraft.

That’s kind of a big, Roswell-level statement. So, what are these metal alloys? What are they from? And what of the “people” who were examined? What was learned? Is anyone talking?

In my recent Dust Devil Dreams post “Utah saints (Surrender Dorothy),” I note how when I was a child living in suburban Washington, D.C., I was fascinated with the Washington Mormon Temple, which had opened in 1974, a year-or-so before I had a spooky UFO encounter, where the Temple – which I could see from my bedroom window – was in the background, the angel Moroni blowing a trumpet forever …

Well, I also noted the railroad bridge that can be seen in the foreground as one travels on the Interstate 495 (Capital Beltway Outer Loop) and that right before the ’74 dedication, some teen pranksters, referencing the Wicked Witch of the West skywriting “Surrender Dorothy” in The Wizard of Oz, over the Emerald City, spraypainted that graffiti on the CSX railroad bridge over the Beltway, seen by many, many drivers over the years. It is not far from the Flora M. Singer Elementary School there in Montgomery County, Maryland. Singer was a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and a foreign language teacher there in the county. She died in April 2009, a few months prior to the death of Mothman Prophecies writer John Keel.

The Washington Temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kensington, Maryland. In the foreground is the CSX Train bridge that once featured graffiti reading "Surrender Dorothy." (Wikimedia Commons)

CSX Railroad bridge. Very interesting. And in light of today’s horrific crash of an Amtrak train outside of Tacoma, Washington, in the town of Dupont, on a graffiti-covered railroad bridge spanning Interstate 5. The distance between the two railroad bridges is roughly 2,800 miles.

And what should be known is that these two train behemoths - CSX and Amtrak, have been at each other's throats of late because the freight carrier (CSX) has been causing major delays for the passenger carrier (Amtrak). In fact, back on Nov. 1, 2017, travel writer Robert Simonson wrote in The New York Times about his train trip from New York to New Orleans aboard Amtrak's Crescent line, and noted that toward the end of the trip, they inched closer to New Orleans because of endless delays from freight trains holding up their passenger train.

On the other side of the continent, from the other "Washington," the Amtrak train bridge over Interstate 5 near Tacoma, Washington. (CNN)

It is unclear how many fatalities there were. No car passengers were reported to have been seriously injured or killed. And CBS is reporting that 77 people were injured on the train (part of Amtrak's "Cascades" line- this was ) and sent to area hospitals in Pierce and Thurston counties. The cause of the catastrophe is unknown at this time.

Curious juxtaposition. Note the "UFO" captured on camera by the Navy pilot ... (CNN / Dept. of Defense)

... and The Brady Bunch "UFO" created by Greg Brady to freak out his brothers in a classic, 1974 episode, likely inspired by the very real October 1973 UFO flap. And which I address in the aforementioned "Utah saints" post. (Paramount)


So, as I said earlier in this piece, I was looking for TV coverage of the UFO/Pentagon story when I stumbled across Supernatural. Well, I can catch this show - finally - and get more familiar with it, since I've referenced it. I need to familiarize myself with the show, which, being on the CW, I linked to cheesy fare. A sort of occult Dawson's Creek or One Tree Hill. Probably no good, with stilted, saccharine dialogue and lots of overacting.

And so I did give it a chance. And glad I did. And what stunned me was the scene and discussion taking place on the screen, as I had come into the show about half-way through the episode, which was titled "Abandon All Hope" and was about Kansas-based, demon-hunting brothers Dean and Sam Winchester.

In this November 2009 episode, the brothers end up going to Carthage, Missouri, site of the famous "Battle of Carthage" during the American Civil War and took place on July 5, 1861. Trapped in a building and trying to get information about Lucifer's whereabouts, Dean is on the phone with a demon-hunting pal in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (take note "Stilwell Enigma" followers - and just two months earlier, in Stilwell, Oklahoma, a woman allegedly found a dead "chupacabra" ) who, as Cinema Blend's Robin Burdge calls "research boy," tells Dean that "The Angel of Death must be brought into this world at midnight, through a place of awful carnage. Now, back during the Civil War, there was a battle in Carthage. A battle so intense, the soldiers called it the Battle of Hellhole." 

Dean asks Bobby about where exactly the "massacre" went down.

Bobby replies: "On the land of William Jasper's farm." 

William Jasper was a Revolutionary War hero and the county was named after him. The county seat of Jasper County, Mo. is Carthage, named after the ancient city on the African continent. But the battle was not that "intense" and I find no reference to it being also called the "Battle of Hellhole." It was actually also known as the Battle of Dry Creek. And only about 240 or so soldiers (40+ Union and 200+Confederate/Missouri State Guard) died. It wasn't quite a "massacre," although there were more battles and skirmishes through the length of the Civil War and Carthage was eventually burned to the ground.

What is also interesting is I reference Jasper County (and neighboring Newton County, which is all around Joplin), in my "Show-me state" post. Stull is the small community in Kansas, near Lawrence, where the protagonists in Supernatural are said to be from.

So, in September, in my Dust Devil Dreams post "Supernatural, Superman (Stull)," I wrote about my sync experience during and following running into a guy in a grocery store parking lot whose pickup featured a front license plate from Kansas - a "prop" plate ... 

As I wrote: "Essentially, the man's plate was a copy of a prop plate used on Supernatural on the series' protagonists' 1967 Chevrolet Impala. Apparently the characters, Sam and Dean Winchester, drive around, a'la Route 66, and get involved in paranormal hunting - specifically, the hunting of evil, supernatural creatures. Supposedly, though, the Winchester brothers are from Lawrence, Kansas (home of the University of Kansas), which is in Douglas County, which is denoted on Kansas license plates as "DG."

I never watched Supernatural (assuming it was pretty-boy, teenybopper fluff), although I have since discovered it has been on the air since September 12, 2005 - premiering 12 years ago next week, making it one of the longest-running live action fantasy series in TV history. Interestingly, Superman's Clark Kent grows up in Smallville, Kansas. And in the 2001-11 series Smallville, Christopher Reeve appears in several episodes and the actor Jensen Ackles (a non-denominational Christian) appears in Smallville, although he left to commit to his role as Supernatural's Dean Winchester.

In any event, I guess I have a lot of catching up to do. Oh, and regarding my mention of the old Route 66 series (which was weird in its own right), I was last in Kansas on August 21st for the "Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017." While I spent most of my time in NE Oklahoma and SW Missouri, I did find myself briefly in Baxter Springs, Kansas on Route 66, not far from the "Rainbow Bridge" and grabbing lunch at Sonic."

Anyway, as I thought of these railroad-related syncs (Arthur Stiwell, built the Kansas City Southern Railroad; the CSX Railroad bridge with "Surrender Dorothy" painted on it; and the Amtrak I-5 bridge crash in Washington state), my mind's eye was suddenly looking at the soot-covered face of actor Crispin Glover, the "fireman" as seen in Jim Jarmusch's 1995 existential film Dead Man. Didn't we meet another "fireman" in Twin Peaks: The Return?

The Fireman  ... in Twin Peaks:: The Return. (Showtime)

Although I had admittedly forgotten about this post, back in Feb. 2015, in my post "Northwest passage (Pt. 1)" I write a piece connecting Twin Peaks and Dead Man

I had intended to write a "Pt. 2" but never did. But this Washington state train crash (and Twin Peaks was initially set in Washington state, shifting to Las Vegas and other places in The Return), got me to thinking more about Dead Man and so I rewatched a bit of it. What got my attention was the actor Robert Mitchum is in it, playing the ornery owner of the Dickinson Metal Works somewhere out in the dusty, dangerous "West." That name, Mitchum, caught my attention this year, because in Twin Peaks: The Return, the two Mitchum Brothers - Bradley (Jim Belushi) and Rodney (Robert Knepper) - are distrustful of Dougie Jones (aka "Agent Cooper") - played by Kyle MacLachlan - especially when he keeps hitting the jackpot in their Las Vegas casino, the Silver Mustang. 

In fact, Rodney Mitchum holds a gun to Dougie/Cooper out in the desert and it turns out that he is merely offering them a pie, as a gift. Things swiftly turn around between the Mitchums and Dougie - they become friends and Dougie, now morphing back to ol' Agent Dale Cooper, smiles and says they have "hearts of gold." Indeed. In my September Twin Peaks-themed post, the Mitchum Brothers take top billing in "Stress test," a post that seemed to fortell the actual massacre that would take place a month-or-so later outside the Mandalay Bay casino hotel in Las Vegas. 

Bradley opens the box from Dougie, as Rodney holds a gun on Dougie in Twin Peaks: The Return. (Showtime)

In Dead Man, when William Blake (Johnny Depp) arrives by a long train ride from Cleveland, Ohio, to this remote Western outpost of "Machine," he goes to the Dickinson Metalworks to find Mr. Dickinson, who is played by Robert Mitchum, in his final role before his death in 1997. Dickinson holds a rifle to Blake, while a nearly identical portrait of Dickinson is directly behind Mitchum's character, and he is also holding a rifle - a double, a twin, a doppelganger ... a Mitchum "brother."

Robert Mitchum as "Dickinson" in Dead Man. Johnny Depp's William Blake is to the right. (Miramax)

A few scenes later, when Blake is outside a saloon, a working girl named "Thel" (Mili Avital) is kicked out onto the muddy street. Shocked, Blake looks at her and stares, and she sneers, "Why don't you just paint my portrait?"

Robert Mitchum, I noted recently, was starring in the 1958 liquor-running adventure film Thunder Road.

Again, with the guns, Mr. Mitchum! (DRM Productions)

That was the film my dad was in the middle of watching in a Virginia moviehouse when a friend leaned over and said President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. My dad blandly replied: "I guess that means Johnson is president ..."

Oddly, in light of the recent scandal involving sex criminal and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, it was his Miramax Films that funded Dead Man ... hmmm ... 

Keep in mind that Depp had been accused of being verbally and physically abusive toward his wife Amber Heard (whom he met on the set of The Rum Diary, the 2011 film based on Hunter S. Thompson's novel) and he is in financial dire straits, as well as being criticized for being in Fantastic Beasts ... 

So, here we are. 

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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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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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