Volume 2: Strange Unsolved Mysteries
It was a quiet path, but one I enjoyed. At our house in Somers, Wisconsin, we had a tuft of miniature woods, a small but dense affair that stretched about 10 yards in diameter. It hardly qualified as a forest, but the thickness of it would drop the temperature about 10 degrees when you stepped into it. I loved to run into its small opening to hide from an idiotic uncle with a tickle-fetish when he came over. The knoll sat within viewing distance of the ogre's car, and I could peer back through the brush toward the house, waiting for him to leave.
Sometimes time would go by slowly in this pensive game, but I had a couple of collections in there to keep me busy. I would often go on long walks next to the train tracks with my Dad, way too deep in his thoughts, collecting empty shot gun cells and vintage bottle caps. He let me keep them, and let me know that was okay with his crooked grin and brush of the hair. The yellow shells were hard to come by, those were the piece de resistance.
It was in this patch of woods that I stored this for inspection and organization.
In colder months, when outside wasn't an option, I'd wander into the basement. There the tool area, the rec room, and the basement were areas to stroll, think, and look. One afternoon I wandered into the rec room, adorned with ultra-thick texture paint, drop ceiling, hand-made bar and an extra bathroom. Looking around, I spotted a small paperback book that must have belonged to my older sister, Linda.
The cover struck me as creepy, but I was interested by the title, "Strange Unsolved Mysteries". It was a collection of "true-life" short stories involving hauntings, strange creatures, eerie coincidences, and ESP. It was of it's era for sure, as my Dad also had books on paranormal and extraterrestrial dealings that I'd wander through. Paperback copies of "The Late Great Planet Earth", "The Bermuda Triangle", and "Chariots of the Gods" lay about the house. This item, however, was a combo of all of them, but a Scholastic PG version for young adolescents with short attention spans.
I was stunned by these stories. This shit was real!
A small town in Texas was the locale for a strange yellow blob that scientists couldn't categorize! A plane crash avoided due to a dream! A picture drawn that was the exact visage of something someone else saw years before! Terrifying cryptids!! Good Lord, this stuff needed to be investigated! If it came from a book order in Weekly Reader, it had to be true!!
It was at that point that I began to draw an interest in Sasquatch, Loch Ness, hauntings, and shifty-eyed people. Though I was years ahead in the reading department ( I think I would go on to read "Mandingo" and "Jaws" in the third grade, "The Shining", and "Amityville" in the fourth), I was probably too young to read this stuff and infer what was needed. As a result, I took it way too seriously. Being a viewer of "In Search Of" and "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom", I began to see cryptozoological wonders in every corner, UFOs next to all stars, ...ghosts behind every click and creak.
I only saw these great mysteries in the walls of my home and the plot of our land, and the adventurous territories of my mind, enhanced by these books and television shows.
Going forward, my eyes continued to always be wide open, as all young explorers' are.