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Upsetting the apple cart

NBC / Raybert Productions
Note the "Apple" on the chalkboard in the Monkees' pad.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Over the weekend, I was reminded of an ABC Weekend Special animated film series based on Barbara Brooks Wallace’s Miss Switch children’s novels. I don’t recall exactly why, but I remember they had been pretty good and entertaining fare back in the early 1980’s.

This was back when I was reading every book I could get on UFOs, The Bermuda Triangle, the supernatural and the paranormal. And those excellent, gothic-horror John Bellairs novels – written for weird kids like me. I guess not much has changed in nearly 40 years.

So, I was again reminded of Miss Switch (about two children who befriend a substitute teacher who turns out to be a witch) today, while researching the voice actor Hans Conreid. (He was “Wrongway Feldman” on Gilligan’s Island – a character that inspired a nickname I bestowed upon aerial idiot U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, from right here in Oklahoma).

Hans Conreid as "Wrongway Feldman" in Gilligan's Island. (CBS/United Artists)

It turns out that Hans Conreid had quite a lengthy career in film and television. And his final appearance - at least for his voice - was in early 1982 when ABC Weekend Special aired Miss Switch to the Rescue and Conreid did the voice of "Mordo, The Warlock."

Conreid also had a role as Mendrek the Magician in a January 1968 episode of The Monkees called “The Monkee’s PawIt is based on the 1902 W.W. Jacobs short story about a spell-ridden monkey’s paw that grants wishes, but always accompanied “with hellish consequences as punishment for tampering with fate.” (The supernatural short story has been adapted many times since it was first published 116 years ago this month).

When Mendrek is rudely fired from a nightclub after 12 years of performing magic tricks, and The Monkees are hired to play their music in his place, Mendrek secretly plots to give them the cursed monkey's paw. 

In addition, Mendrek makes a prophetic statement 50 years ago on the NBC comedy: “People don’t want to see magicians anymore. They want to see reality as it’s shown to them on television.”

Immediately after this, Monkee Micky Dolenz sees a monkey’s paw in Mendrek’s magic case. Asking about it, Mendrek says it was given to him by a “an old lama in Tibet” back when Mendrek was a young man searching for the “secrets of the unknown in far Tibet.” He recounts trying to meet the “high lama” on the highest mountain in the Himalayas (Nesmith plays the “regular” lama) and he says he had been trying to get off the mountain for “12 years.”

Twelve seems to come up a lot here.

Micky is initially horrified by the monkey’s paw, while Mike Nesmith thinks the paw is “groovy.”

Mendrek says the “regular” lama gave him a monkey’s paw, which will grant a person three wishes. But as we soon learn, Mendrek’s daughter reminds her fired father that the “Book of Mystery said (the paw) is cursed). The Monkees are tricked into buying the paw for “a quarter.”

And while Mendrek’s luck finally changes for the better, the Monkees start having a run of bad luck, as when Micky goes on stage after “wishing” he could stop talking about the paw. He of course loses his voice, with the guys noting – while standing next to a cigar-store Indian – that Micky had not talked for “12 hours.”

When they try to figure out how to get Micky to talk, they decide to teach Micky to talk, using special words and phrases, including “Apple,” “Kat,” “Hare Krishna!,” “Legalize Wisdom,” “Frodis” and “Save the Texas Prairie Chicken,” (the first three having synchomystic significance for me today – including a later part involving words beginning with the letter “M”) Mike starts off by trying to get Micky to say the word “pencil” (which is the password David Lightman’s school uses for their computer system in the 1983 film WarGames), a word that was significant for me in that when I lived in the Washington, D.C. area as a young child in the 1970’s, when we would drive past The Washington Monument I would call it “The Pencil.”

Eventually, the Monkees seek Mendrek’s help in getting Micky’s voice back (naturally, the song “Words” is used in a magic-themed Monkees romp sequence) and it is achieved by selling the paw to an obnoxious nightclub manager – the same one who treated Mendrek and the Monkees so shabbily. And yes, he gets what is coming to him.

At the very end of the episode, there are some outtakes and an interview where Peter Tork says the “hippie movement is dead” and that it has been replaced by “free men.” Tork and Davy Jones talk about how the “establishment” had already co-opted the hippie movement. In the very final scene, Tork is heard saying “the hippies are going to invent new words.” And you sense he really believes this. And yet the closing credits are littered with Kellogg’s breakfast cereal ads, as the Tork-penned hippie anthem “For Pete’s Sake” is played.

Oh, and this particular episode of The Monkees aired on NBC on Monday, January 29, 1968 – while half-way across the world in Vietnam, the infamous “Tet Offensive” is beginning, a critical turning point in the war. The following day, in Washington, D.C., the first entertainment program held at Ford’s Theatre since the April 14, 1865 assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth is held, titled Inaugural Evening at Ford’s Theatre. Among the performers are Henry Fonda, Harry Belafonte and Andy Williams.

Oh, and it was the same day the Postmaster General agreed to let "hippies" work for the Post Office. 

And just so you know, the lead actress in the play Lincoln was watching – Our American Cousin – was British stage actress Laura Keene, who played “Florence Trenchard” and who had toured, earlier in her acting career, with the assassin’s brother Edwin Booth. This comes to me as the horrific superstorm known as Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolina coast and towards Washington, D.C. The storm has prevented me from traveling to Washington to see a performance by Paul Simon, who is on his final tour.

Hurricane Florence heading into the history books. (NOAA/NASA)

Anyway, I gave a rundown of that after having a rather odd realization about something early in my life. Something that has bothered me with increasing frequency in recent years and something I referenced in my March 21, 2017 Dust Devil Dreams post “Well we all shine on …,” a post referencing not only the 1970 John Lennon song “Instant Karma!” but the Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick film that was inspired by it – The Shining.

In it, I discuss one of the theories (as suggested in the documentary Room 237) regarding the true messages in The Shining. Not only were the Apollo Moon landings faked, but Kubrick was also making a statement about the European settlers in North America who essentially led a wave of mass genocide of the native people already living here.

I wrote, in part: “Of course, as I have relayed before, one of my earliest memories, in a basement room I oddly called "The Apple Room," in our old house in Chevy Chase, Maryland (outside Washington, D.C.), I had some encounter with a Native American apparition (the Nacotchtank tribe once called the D.C. area home) ...

Now, about five years ago I happened to be visiting Washington (as I had intended to this coming weekend) and was with a good friend. I suggested we drive over to Chevy Chase and track down my old house. We eventually find it, and as we pulled up in front, another car pulls in the driveway. It’s the current owners of the house. A husband and wife and their two young children, a boy and a girl. Back in 1975-76, my sister and I were the only children my parents had at that point. It was oddly identical.

Anyway, I explain to them that I had lived there many years earlier and they are quite friendly and helpful and invite us in. I specifically want to see my old bedroom (which in 1975 had a clear view of the then-recently constructed Washington Mormon temple - “Surrender Dorothy!”) and “The Apple Room.” It was from here that I had my first UFO encounter at age 3.

The railroad bridge in front of the Washington Mormon Temple. (Wikimedia Commons)

The two children give my friend and I (two strange men to them, until that moment) a tour of the house and I see my old bedroom, which is much smaller than I remembered it – for obvious reasons. Also, many trees had grown over the past 35 years, obstructing the view.

As for “The Apple Room,” when I went down there, I felt as if I was in some sort of dreamworld. Memories flooded back. And the wife, who was a ballerina, had covered the walls with mirrors. It was far different from the space I remembered it being, largely unfinished, with a black-and-white television on which I watched The Brady Bunch and other shows of that era.

The Brady Bunch in Hawaii, Summer '72. (Paramount)

What do I remember of that room? I remember meeting someone. For years I called him “The Indian,” as in a Native American. Was this influenced by the Iron-Eyes Cody anti-pollution ads of that time? The so-called “Crying Indian?” And I do remember being bothered by pollution, as an early memory of mine is pointing out discarded tires in nearby Rock Creek and being appalled by the carelessness of my fellow human beings.

Anyway, this “apple” thing triggered something with me today. Actually, it started a day or so ago while reading the third book in Peter Levenda’s Sinister Forces series – “The Manson Secret.” The author recounts, in horrific detail at times, the “power altar” that serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer had created in his Milwaukee apartment.

In it, there were two “griffins,” statues of the mythological creature that is part lion, part eagle. And, I happen to share that as a surname. Also, Levenda talks about Dahmer's early years in Bath, Ohio. That is where a one-time writer here at Red Dirt Report lived in the late 1970's when someone she (as transgender, she was "he" at that time) thought may have been Jeffrey Dahmer tried hard to pick him up. (Read about it here). Talking to the writer earlier today, she said that around that same time, adults would not let them go camping in the woods around Bath because of reported "Satan worshipers in the woods." 

Anyway, investigators, upon finding the acid vats and body parts in the freezer, noted the altar and the griffins. It turned out that Dahmer had named the griffins – one was “Leon” and the other “Apal.” The authorities – and Levenda – could only speculate what that second name meant. Of course, when I saw that name I was stunned. That odd name rang a bell.

I remembered it was in the writings of John Keel, in his famous writings of “high strangeness” in 1966-67 and later titled The Mothman Prophecies, which I have written about before. In the story, the weirdness reaches its apex when the Silver Bridge, over the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, collapses right before Christmas of 1967.

The apple tree in my front yard. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

Also in Keel’s story, a radio personality, Jaye D. Paro, of Babylon, New York, has some very unsettling encounters with an entity called “Apal” or “Apol” or “Appell” but all pronounced “apple.” They mainly occured between May and September of 1967. Needless to say, they are very, very weird. 

It’s difficult to tell if “Apal” is good or malevolent. Allegedly he warned Paro about “Mothman” (or was it Keel?) and said that it is “a creature from under the earth which has been dormant for centuries and is now being brought up by the enemy” and that they are “taking over all of West Virginia.”

And Keel - through Jaye Paro - would submit a questionnaire to "Apol" and get all sorts of simplistic or vague answers. Check it out here.

In any event, "apple" or "Apple" has been coming up quite a bit of late. The Apple tech company rolled out some major new items today. Beatle "Paul McCartney," who once helped found Apple Corps, the company that put out the later Beatles records, reveals he and John Lennon masturbated together. Also, "Hey Jude" is 50 years old this past month, a song that was key to my early interest in rock n' roll (as I note in my forthcoming book Rock Catapult) and was released on Apple Records. 

I had an apple for breakfast yesterday (a 9/11 reference to Supertramp's Breakfast in America album). And I had apple slices at lunch, while one of my kids took apple seeds to school for a project.

So, does that mean my early memory of "The Apple Room" and this "Apol" or "Appell" or whatever is connected? Not necessarily. But it has been coming up of late and I thought I would lay out a few of my thoughts today. The apple symbolism here on Earth has a long, long history, going (allegedly) back to the Biblical "Garden of Eden." Considered a mystical or forbidden fruit, it is often linked to the obtaining of knowledge.

In the meantime, check out "Apple Carts," a pastoral folk song off of Damon Albarn's (Blur, Gorillaz) Dr Dee opera soundtrack, which I have noted multiple times since 2012 or so, after it was released and focusing on English magician of Elizabeth I's court, Dr. John Dee. Here's a link to "Angels watching over me," one of my most recent DDD sync pieces to mention Albarn and Dr Dee.

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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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