Dearest Miss Bronwen,
I never had the opportunity to finish telling you about the men in black, and grey as well, and I knew you would spend the rest of your life wondering about them.
You know the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen on Mount Misery? This winter when I hiked up there alone during the snow – you know how I hate going up that hill at the best of times. But when I got to the top and was going down the trail I found I was following a footprint. A single footprint. Somehow, a one legged person had made it up there, and without benefit of cane or crutch. For as long as I cared to follow it there was that single footprint. I still can’t explain that one …
Walking in the woods at night is creepy enough. There’s nothing more terrifying and lethal than nature itself. The supernatural gives an otherworldly kind of fear to the journey. But add in the fear of abduction and that brings a sense of reality to your fears.
It’s not unusual for a remote, wooded place to take on the reputation of being dangerous. It likely started with mothers warning their kids away from places like that, the mommy lies.
My personal theory is horror movies of the late sixties and early seventies gave people something new to fear. Abduction by occult groups. That a TV movie, Satan’s School For Girls could account for a rise in reports of devil worshippers should come as no surprise. After the popularity of UFO flicks in the fifties, reports of those rose as well.
Mount Misery became a place afflicted with devil worshippers. That term of course means nothing. Actual Satanist are harmless. People stoned out of their gourds pretending to worship some evil being are another matter altogether. But you don’t find a lot of examples of this in the annals of crime. Even Manson after all, had political motives.
Devil worshippers need blood and Mount Misery has a legendary history of cattle mutilations, going way back. I can find no historical trace of this, just online anecdotes. So with devil worshippers in the mind, these mutilations become attached to them with the advent of the internet.
But go further back and it’s UFOs to blame, government secrecy, and perhaps, alien secrecy.
The birth of the Mothman and Men in Black
If the legends of the Mothman and Men in Black have a father, it is John Keel. Keel’s history as an author began in the 1950s with a book on the mysteries of India. Returning to the states he became immersed in the study of UFOs and all things paranormal.
Keel was a prolific writer who wasn’t blessed with particularly lofty ideals. A hack in other words. As a screenwriter he claimed to have written scripts for Get Smart, The Monkees, and Lost in Space. And as a writer of pulp fiction, among countless others, he wrote an article titled “Are You A Repressed Sex Fiend?”
As you might guess, after reading the article I realized the obvious. I’m not repressed.
Wikipedia states that “Keel popularized the term “Men in Black” in an article for the men’s adventure magazine Saga.”
Perhaps that was part of his appeal. Equal parts UFO hunter and Raymond Chandler, his writing is easy to read and he has a knack for keeping you turning the pages. He tells a compelling story too.
In the article Mothman: An Exposé, Ed Grabianowski puts it succinctly, “He crafted a far-flung, imaginative tale of government conspiracy, beings from other dimensions, creepy men in black trying to suppress Mothman witnesses, with Mothman flying above it all as an avatar of disaster and tragedy.”
And it worked not only in West Virginia, where most of the book takes place, but on Mount Misery as well.
By 1967 he had abandoned the idea that UFOs were extraterrestrials, and instead began forming a construct that they were a form of invisible intelligence that manifests itself in whatever manner the visitee happens to believe. His concept, which isn’t easy to understand and even harder to explain, attempts to tie everything from fairies to vampires to the mysterious sightings on Mt. Misery to this invisible intelligence. He came up with the term “utlraterrestrials,” and pushed forth the idea that they are actually of this world, but an advanced civilization living here among us.
Now to me, the concept that Melville could be a hotbed of an advanced civilization seems a bit of a reach, though the bacon cheeseburger at the Sweet Hollow Diner is indeed out of this world.
And yet in “The Mothman Prophecies, that’s just what Keel describes. “An elderly woman who lived alone in a house near the summit of Mount Misery, the highest point on Long Island, had received a visit from this quartet in early April 1967, immediately after a severe rainstorm.
“They had high cheekbones and very red faces, like a bad sunburn,” she told me. “They were very polite but they said my land belonged to their tribe and they were going to get it back. What frightened me was their feet. They didn’t have a car … they must have walked up that muddy hill … but their shoes Were spotlessly clean. There was no trace of mud or water where they walked in my house.”
That same week another visitor came to Mount Misery. This was a woman with striking white hair who claimed to represent a local newspaper. She carried a book “like a big ledger” and asked the witness a number of personal questions about her family background. When I later checked ‘with the newspaper I found they employed no one of that description.
The local Mount Misery expert was Miss Jaye P. Paro, a radio personality then with station WBAB in Babylon, New York. Miss Paro is a dark-haired, dark-eyed young lady with a soft,
haunting voice. At that time she conducted an interview show, largely devoted to the historical and psychic lore of the region.”
Paro feeds Keel inspiration from the radio waves
As a popular DJ with listeners tuning in for the latest on UFOs and other Long Island mysteries, she found herself inundated with tips from callers.
Paro told Keel that through one of those tips, she had made contact with two aliens named Apol and Agar.
He recorded in his notes … “During the week of Sept. 3rd. Jaye encountered an old man wandering around Mt. Misery. She talked with him and found him very frightened. He knew all about the house and was terrified of the people. He said they were going to kill him and his wife. He was a contactee but had ‘talked’ and now he fears being taken.”
“Later, when Jaye met him again his face was all black and blue. He said they had beaten him up. Every night, he says, something disappears from his home (he lives on Mt. Misery, near the school). Tables, sewing machines, furniture, etc. are gone when he and his wife wake up in the morning. He believes that when everything has vanished from the house, then he and his wife will go too.”
And from his notes of September 29, 1967, a Friday … “Early this evening Jaye visited the Mt. Misery base and found six terrestrials there. … At one point, one of the communication devices suddenly went on and
a voice delivered a message to Appell and the others. The Aliens became upset over this message and told Jaye that it meant that the moth man was coming to Long Island soon.
I have the unhappy feeling that some new trouble is brewing out there.”
And then on February 22, “Bewildered neckers reported strange activity in broad daylight around the mount. Cars, mostly old models, going down the dirt roads and disappearing. Tim’na went to investigate. Found the area inundated with dogs of all sizes and kinds. Hundreds of dogs along the roads. They seemed to be just milling around. Did not run out into the road as dogs normally would do.”
“Tim’na went back later that deg and all the dogs were gone. She also reported seeing cars of people in trance-like states. She did not attempt to speak to any of them.”
A more recent UFO siting on Mount Misery
There are a considerable number of direct UFO reports in the area, which seem to me to be pretty reputable. Even if we don’t know what they saw, as the Long Island sky is full of moving lights.
Emily Binder, 64 reported that she saw a triangular UFO with a bright light on each tip, moving towards Mount Misery in 2017.
Ms Binder went on to say “I sat in my car at the stop sign and just watched the UFO,” says Blinder, a retired insurance customer service representative who admits feeling uneasy whenever she is near Mount Misery because, like a lot of people, she believes the woods are haunted. “Then I followed it as best I could, but it moved off to Mount Misery and was gone.”
Blinder describes the craft she saw for at least 30 seconds as having “no exhaust signature nor wings — and was silent.”
My own introduction to Mount Misery and Sweet Hollow Road came from a coworker, who told me about some odd occurrences up there in the mid seventies.
He used to drive those two roads with friends, the ideal roads to smoke a joint. It was isolated, never any cops and creepier than hell.
He told me they were cruising up there one night, and they’d just lit the joint, came around the curve and was confronted with the United States military. He said the rumor was it had something to do with a UFO crash in the woods on Mount Misery, it stayed closed off for a few days and they had to toss the joint out the window.
The official explanation he later heard was that they were National Guard training sessions. But he swears it wasn’t National Guard blocking the road.
One of the bands he played on his eight track while he cruised the roads was Blue Oyster Cult. What he didn’t know was their guitarist, Buck Dharma was living in the area and had just written Don’t Fear The Reaper here. He had the music for another song, but no lyrics till their manager, Sandy Pearlman brought him these:
I hear music, daylight disc
Three men in black said, dont report this
Ascension, and thats all they said
Sickness now, the hours dread …
Dead leaves always give up motion
I no longer feel emotion
Where prophecy fails, the falling notion
Dont report this, agents of fortune
He’s found the awful truth, Balthazar
He’s found the saucer news.
That song, E.T.I., along with Reaper appeared on their breakout album, Agents of Fortune in 1976. The lyrics are thought to describe the discovery of a UFO crash site and the government coverup that follows.
Facts can be a poor substitute for faith, or how my eyes opened
“Mount Misery is the tallest point on Long Island and a place where several towns intersect. “
I had been hiking in the West Hills and in the Mount Misery area for over a year, and I was sitting on top of Jayne’s Hill, the highest point on Long Island. It used to be called High Hill, and even an outsider like myself knows that fact. There’s even a marker at the top, a tribute to Walt Whitman.
That’s when it hit me. How did Bill Knell and John Keel before him both get this wrong?
Bill Knell is another of the authorities on Mount Misery. Mainly by virtue of being one of the first people on the internet to talk about it. His website went down years ago, so you can’t even see his research. Just quotes on other sites. That makes the tale even more mysterious.
I point this out because it’s important when discussing things like UFOs, Men in Black and the paranormal in general, to take into consideration the reliability of the source. Most of the evidence is hearsay at best, often many generations old in its telling.
Online, the problem is even worse.
There is no Mount Misery per se, just a road with that name that travels over a number of hills. None of them are Jayne’s Hill.
Bill Knell took from Keel, and it’s my guess neither of them ever walked to the top of Jayne’s Hill. And might never have driven down Mt. Misery Road either.
So if Knell fails on even basic geography what does that say for the rest of Knell’s story, and Keel’s before him?
Keel’s source on Mount Misery, Jaye P. Paro, came to his attention as the author of an article on the area which was published in Beyond magazine in July 1969
So I have to admit that I’m a bit skeptical about Beyond and other magazines which were popular in the sixties, that tried to pull off folklore, storytelling and downright fiction as fact. Also, much of Keel’s work has been thrown into question by people who have investigated his writings, and noticed that certain tales seem to change over time with his telling of them, and he eventually confessed he was simply a hack writer, trying to make a buck.
Keel wasn’t the first to write about the Mothman. That was Gray Barker, who predated Keel with the Men in Black in the article They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, published in The Silver Bridge in 1970.
Keel and Barker were rivals at first, which then degenerated into what Ed Grabianowski reports as “the two authors accusing each other of being androids in league with the MiBs.”
The two eventually made up and in a letter written by Barker to Keel, the author claimed they were just “taking the piss” out of the public. “The kookie books are about all that I can sell these days. I lost the ‘sensible’ subscribers … long ago, so I get a kick out of letting it reflect the utter mental illness of the field.”
The men in black stories are so poorly documented, and so strange as to be laughable. The representative of an advanced race who writes to Keel can’t seem to master, or even be proficient at basic spelling. Keel’s experts and witnesses, and Knell’s as well since he seems to draw exclusively from Keel, have all seem to have disappeared without a trace, and when you do find references to them the reference invariably leads back to Keel. He does refer to articles in various magazines, most of which he had connections with, with the same lack of integrity as Beyond magazine. Of course, that the sources have disappeared is only further proof for those who see a conspiracy in keeping this evidence surpressed. And who knows? Perhaps they’re right. But unless the government or the M.I.B.s themselves open up the archives, we’ll never know.
Sitting there on top of Jayne’s Hill with the sun going down, I realized I’d been had. The tales of the Mothman, the tragic tales of the asylums, the secret military hospital the Men in Black and UFO sightings were all likely a good story, well told by writers adept at spinning a tale which would hook a certain cult of readers.
I was just one of countless people who had hiked these trails looking for answers to mysteries that didn’t even exist. Those that did were misplaced, misremembered and often didn’t even happen here.
So why as I walked back down the hill into the shadows of the trees, did I still feel afraid?
How did Mount Misery become infamous?
I remember the mid to late sixties, when a lot of these stories seem to have sprung up. The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits had just gone off the air, but had made an impression on popular culture. Godzilla and his son, Ghidorah, Mothra and others were rampaging through the cinema, and of course there was the whole space program and the race to the moon, along with the underlying fear of the Ruskies getting up there and putting nuclear weapons in space.
Rural areas are often beset by strange lights in the skies and strange creatures on the ground. The area where I grew up had its own shaggy haired, bigfoot style monster, and I can recall mysterious lights in the skies one evening that kept the local police force quite busy. I remember one afternoon as a child, looking up into the sky, and I swear this is true, saw a rocket directly above me. Which might not be so odd after all, as there have been rumors that my area of southern Illinois was home to nuclear missile silos, which might have been used for testing. In short, there were odd things afoot for real, and when a populace is already stimulated to believe in such things, it doesn’t take much to set them off.
The internet is good at whipping people up into hysteria, even if in this case it’s a virtual hysteria. The more people talk about it, the more information there is to find on the subject. The more information, the more it seems legitimate.
And when the original source material is either lost or obscure, it just deepens the mystery, and makes it harder to see what the intent of the author was.
It’s my guess Keel and Paro knew that most people saw through their stories, but read them for their entertainment value. Mount Misery was an ideal subject as few people on Long Island even knew where it was. There was no reason to go there, unless you lived nearby.
But go there they do, a couple generations or more now. We go looking for a thrill, or a chill. We’re drawn to a mystery we’re pretty much convinced is based on bullshit, but it’s a lovely day in the woods at least.
That’s bullshit too. There is a aura of menace in the West Hills. Some go there and don’t feel a thing, but a lot of people pick up on that feeling of gloom so often reported. The first few times I went I didn’t know anything about the place, but my reaction at times bordered on terror. It’s an interesting woods, with twisting laurel trees and moss covered rocks edging the trails, but not a particularly happy place. It feels too ancient for that.
A walk through the forest of Mount Misery at night will certainly do that. And perhaps if you go, you’ll see something that can’t be explained. There’s certainly enough circumstantial and anecdotal evidence to suggest that something strange has gone on in this area for a long time. But like the flying object of the same name, whatever extraterrestrial or ultraterrestial life lurks on Mount Misery will for now remain, unidentified.
I took my kid and my niece up there late one afternoon, to watch the sun set over the hills. Now my kid was probably seven or eight, and he knew most of the stories. My niece was older and like me, interested in history and mystery. We have to solve things whenever we can.
Of course as it grew darker, my kid was more concerned with the man who walks in the woods with a basket of human heads than MiBs. So we started down the hill.
But somehow I got turned around, and we found ourselves on a trail I’d never been on. It was summer, the mosquitoes had bred prodigiously and they were hungry. We were tasty. The sun had disappeared before we started down. It was now too dark to see the trail.
Now a rational mind will tell you if you go either east or west, or south even, you’re going to hit a road pretty soon. But try telling that to a scared eight year old when the trail refuses to run any direction for any length of time.
In the dark even I started to panic. Till finally the trail started climbing again, and I knew once we got to the top it would be easy to find our way back down again.
Even though one couldn’t help but imagine we were being led back to the top for a reason.
A year or so later I got an email from a reader asking for a tour of Mount Misery. At night. I checked out her social media accounts and she seemed sane enough. Plus she did mention paying. We agreed to meet at the Sweet Hollow Diner the following night.
She showed up driving a BMW, with her college age daughter in tow. We went inside, had one of those cheeseburgers you were always going on about, and she asked if I wanted to go there tonight.
She had, she said, a joint as well.
Obviously I agreed that this was the perfect night and we made our way up to the parking lot on top, and started walking. I think she got one hit in, her daughter two before the fear hit them. It does get damned dark up there, even on that broad, open trail. Perhaps that made it even more terrifying, to see that vast expanse of forest where it shouldn’t be, there in the middle of modern day Melville, with two of the busiest highways on Long Island cutting through in the distance, and still invisible from here.
For in the woods on Mount Misery at night, the present fades away and you find yourself in the past. Even if you don’t believe the legends, you can feel something up there that you just don’t feel other places.
It’s my guess that people have been feeling it there since before Europeans set food on Long Island.
There are more stories of course, but those will have to wait for a later, better day.
Till then I hope this finds you and yours very well, and I remain …