COLD WAR KID
In the northeast Ohio summer of 1968, a 10-year-old boy saw a strange thing. The day was hot and the boy anticipated jumping into the small above-ground swimming pool assembled by his father.
Stepping across the warm lawn toward the plywood shed (also built by Father), the boy noticed something scurrying behind the red structure. What the heck is that? he wondered.
The boy paused, moved stealthily ahead, clover brushing his bare feet. Peeking around the shed’s corner, he gasped.
Not 10 feet away stood a funny-looking bird—or something. It might have been two- or three-feet tall, liquid black eyes and pointed beak gleaming in the sun.
Shocked, the boy backed off. Is that a penguin? It sure resembled one, but something about the way it glared at him felt wrong. Not to mention the gray, plump form and wings tucked tight against this.
Abruptly the thing waddled toward the boy—he turned and dashed toward the house. What is it what is it what is it?!
What it might be he didn’t know, but it scared the hell out of him. Why did it exist? What did it want?
In a swirl of fright the boy burst into the house and up the stairs into the kitchen, where his mother stood washing dishes from lunch. “My god,” she said, “what happened to you? You’re white as a sheet!”
Though he fought against it, the boy suddenly wept and clamped his mother in his arms. “I saw—I saw a monster behind the shed!”
The boy cried and cried. “Go see, go see—please!”
“Oh brother, let’s go.”
The boy shook his head. “No! Don’t make me go back. . . I can’t . . .”
“Settle down. Have a glass of water. I’ll take a look.”
After several minutes, she returned. “There’s nothing out there, honey. Tell me what you saw.”
The boy gulped water as if he hadn’t had any for days. Glass after glass to the point of nausea, his thirst would not quit.
Later, after telling his mother (and father, home now from work in Cleveland) about the bizarre creature the boy needed comforting. Though highly imaginative, he wasn’t a liar or a trickster, and his parents knew this.
“C’mon,” Dad said, “let’s go downstairs and shine those new boots of yours.”
“Okay. That sounds good.”
In the basement beside Dad’s workshop, the two set up a small shoe-polishing box. Dad took a round tin of Kiwi-brand boot polish from the rig, and the boy paled. “That’s it! That’s what I saw.”
Dad squinted in confusion. “This? The polish? What are you talking about?”
“No. The bird on the lid. It was a bird.”
Dad grinned, glanced at the fat bird on the lid and its cartoon-like form. “You couldn’t have seen that here. Not in Ohio.”
“But I did!”
“No. Kiwis don’t live in the northern hemisphere. You couldn’t have seen one in Solon.”
And there the matter ended. Or did it?
The boy could not have known that, between 1966 and 1969, a UFO “wave” was besieging America. In fact, a man in Chesterland (less than 20 miles from Solon) claimed to have observed a silver saucer hovering above his home. Nor could he have known that people in nearby Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, had run into a number of very strange “birds,” reported as being nearly eight-feet tall, plump, with straight pointed beaks. These witnesses watched the incredible entities move through a cornfield and into trees. A man’s hunting-dog, unleashed, fled yelping in fear.
Another thing unknown to the boy was that one year ago, in the quiet Ohio Valley town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, over 100 people had reported encounters with “Mothman,” an eight-foot-tall entity with bat-like wings and terrible red-glowing eyes.
Too, the boy (as well as most investigators) had never heard of the phenomenon known as “screen memory,” where witnesses of some traumatic event fantasize they saw something other than what actually occurred in order to cope with overwhelming fear and anxiety.
The boy’s frightening encounter sparked in him a life-long fascination with so-called paranormal phenomena. Before his 15th birthday he had several more mysterious things unsettle his middle-class life. These he shared with no one until much later, for all the good it (failed) to accomplish.
He matured to become a somewhat troubled, if not troublesome, man haunted by his past.
I know this case intimately, because the man is me.