February 24, 2024

Allagawsh abductees still wonder what happened

Lewiston, WLBZ TV of Bangor and WCSH TV of Portland. The televised version of each story will be shown in the evening on the 6 p.m. news except for Part 1, which will be aired at noon and 11 p.m. Sunday by Vince Bevacqua.

Journalism can be a crazy business, let me tell you.

One minute you’re struggling to turn a mundane news event into deathless prose, and the next minute your editor calls you into his office and says he wants you to look into an alien abduction.

“It happened in 1976, up on Eagle Lake in the Allagash,” my editor says. He’s smirking, as if the whole thing’s a joke, but the glow in his eyes gives a different picture. “What a story! And we never wrote a word about it back then.”

Of course we didn’t write about it, I’m thinking. Just like we didn’t write about people who called the newsroom to say their phones were tapped by the KGB. But I just sat there with my mouth open.

“There’s a book about it,” the editor says. “A light beam sucks these four guys out of their canoe and into a spaceship. The aliens probe them and take … you know, samples. It’s got everything. Who knows? This could be Maine’s Roswell.”

So off I go, hunting aliens. Beam me up, Scotty.

It’s not the first time I’ve dabbled in the intergalactic. A few years ago at a gathering in Bangor I talked spaceships with a few very average Mainers. There was a psychologist there, who said she didn’t care whether spaceships existed or not. She was only concerned about the mental distress people suffer when they think they’ve seen one. A nurse’s aide, in fact, told the group he saw a UFO with pulsing red, blue and green lights hovering over East Corinth one night.

“A friend said he hoped I wasn’t going to become obsessed by this,” the young man said, sucking nervously on a cigarette. “I told him it was too late.”

Obsession. That worried me about this Allagash abduction business. What if these four guys were obsessed with their experience in the woods 22 years ago? How do you interview someone who goes on and on about things so strange that you couldn’t verify them unless you were there? And no one was there, of course, except these four guys and a few nonverbal aliens.

I finally tracked down Jack Weiner, one of the Allagash four, who lives in rural West Townshend, Vt., and works for a company that coats optical lenses. The others in the camping party back then were Jim Weiner, Jack’s twin, Charlie Foltz and Chuck Rak.

Jim is an instructor at the Computer Arts Center of the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, where the four studied together in the 1970s. Charlie is a medical illustrator at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Brockton, Mass. Chuck is a free-lance artist in West Wardsboro, Vt., and also draws caricatures at shopping malls.

Jack Weiner said on the phone he wouldn’t mind talking about the abduction, figuring the publicity might turn up someone who also saw something that night but has been afraid to speak. But an interview was out. Paramount Pictures is talking about a TV-movie deal, he said, and the four have been advised to keep a lid on it.

“We don’t even understand what the hell went on there that night,” said Jack, a pleasant-sounding, 45-year-old who characterizes himself as an ordinary guy caught up in extraordinary circumstances. “This was the 1970s, so the reaction from others was to ask what we were smoking, drinking or dropping. It’s hard for people to understand, but I don’t blame them. If someone told me a story like that, I’d say show me a picture, give me some physical evidence.”

The four have gone public, though, beginning with a 1993 book about their recollections under hypnosis of what went on in that spaceship. Called “The Allagash Abductions: Undeniable Evidence of Alien Intervention,” it was written by a UFO researcher named Raymond E. Fowler, who first met Jim Weiner at a symposium in 1988. After listening to Jim’s story of the Maine canoe trip years earlier, of the light beam that engulfed them and the two or three hours no one could account for, Fowler decided to hypnotize each of them separately and get to the bottom of the mystery.

Here’s what came out of those sessions:

It was Aug. 20, 1976, and the four young men started their two-week Maine expedition by climbing Mount Katahdin. Later, they chartered a plane and flew into Shin Pond, then canoed between Telos and Chamberlain lakes on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.

At the Mud Brook campsite about four days later, with other tenters nearby, they noticed a blazing light in the east, a light much brighter than the stars around it. With binoculars, Jim Weiner determined it was not a star but an object a few miles away, hovering 200 feet above the treetops. It blinked out, and the campers forgot it, never suspecting it would soon return to haunt their lives forever.

Two days later, the group canoed into Eagle Lake and went ashore at a remote Smith Brook campsite. That evening, after building a huge bonfire to serve as a beacon, the four slipped off in the canoe to fish. A quarter of a mile out, Chuck got the spooky feeling of being watched. He turned and saw a large, pulsing sphere of colored light hovering 200 to 300 feet above the cove’s southeast rim. It was big as a house, maybe 80 feet in diameter. Definitely not swamp gas or a weather balloon, they concluded.

Charlie, a Navy veteran, signaled an SOS with his flashlight. The fireball immediately closed in, 50 feet up, and sent out a cone-shaped beam that swept the water like a searchlight. Two of the guys paddled frantically away from the advancing beam, the others splashed with their hands, and then …

The next thing they recalled was the canoe sliding onto shore. The four stepped out, numbed and exhausted as if they’d run a marathon. They watched the pulsing fireball streak toward Mount Katahdin and then wink out among the stars. To their astonishment, the massive bonfire, which had been blazing not 20 minutes earlier, was nothing more than a bed of glowing coals.

“We were young then, and normally you’d talk all night about something like that,” Jack told me. “But we were in shock and we all just fell asleep. It wasn’t until the next day that we snapped out of it and mentioned the light we saw.”

The lost block of time remained a troubling puzzle for the next 12 years. Finally, after agreeing to Fowler’s request to undergo hypnotic regression, the four men independently pieced together the missing link: They hadn’t outrun the cone-shaped tractor beam after all.

In transcripts of their hypnotic recollections, the men variously describe being trapped inside a tube. It was a dark tube, a tube swirling with sparkling, dustlike particles, a tube that drew them up to a frightening place of hallways, chambers, gleaming machines and examining tables.

“They’re like bugs! They’ve got, ah, bug eyes,” Jim blurted under hypnosis, anxiously recalling the thin, spidery creatures in bodysuits that probed his brother’s nude body with their instruments. He watched them touch Jack’s eyes, his genitals, the hair on his legs, his toes.

The men were all naked and zombielike throughout the ordeal, moving obediently to commands issued telepathically by their examiners. Their pencil sketches in the book reveal creatures resembling the aliens of science fiction movies: the willowy arms, the elliptical, glassy eyes set wide on insect heads, the beaky mouths, the turkey-wattle necks, the nimble, four-fingered hands lacking opposing thumbs.

They poked, prodded and twisted the campers’ bodies, sometimes painfully. At one point, Chuck talked of seeing the aliens place a silvery contraption on Charlie’s chest — a thing shaped like the opera house in Sydney, Australia — and then plunging a tube into his rib cage. The men could not speak or move. They could not reach out to help one another. Eventually, the examination ended.

“We’re into — we’re going into the portal,” Chuck recalled under hypnosis.

“And then what happened?” the hypnotist asked.

“It’s like we’re going down.”

Down where?

“To the canoe.”

With the four limp campers back in place, the canoe glided toward shore with its bow high, as if nudged by an outside force. The men felt anesthetized, confused. They stood on shore and watched the fireball become a pinpoint of light in the heavens and then disappear. Their alien adventure was over.

Or was it?

Except for Charlie Foltz, each of the men has reported other alien encounters in their lives. Chuck Rak recalled a terrifying alien presence in his room when he was a boy. Jim remembered being visited in his bedroom as a child by a presence he and his brother nicknamed Harry the Ghost. Jack said, in fact, that he and his wife saw a huge UFO just a few years ago while driving on a back road in Vermont.

“And twice I’ve seen a UFO at the bottom of my driveway,” he told me in the casual, matter-of-fact tone of someone who doesn’t fret anymore about his credibility.

After the book came out, the group told the Allagash story on Joan Rivers’ talk show — a very bizarre interview, Jack said. The abduction has been featured on the TV show “Unsolved Mysteries,” and on a Japanese news broadcast. If this current deal pans out, it could be a TV movie, too. Either you believe it’s possible or you don’t, Jack said. He doesn’t judge people one way or the other.

Even Chuck Rak is unsure these days. He believes the hovering wilderness fireball was an alien craft of some kind, but suspects that his 1989 recollections about being inside the spaceship were the result of a prehypnotic suggestion.

Who knows? An international panel of scientists recently called for a study of UFO phenomena, claiming there are many intriguing reports out there that have never been seriously investigated. The Allagash four would appreciate all the help they can get.

“One day, someone will come forward with physical evidence and people will believe there’s really something out there,” Jack said just before we hung up. “Then they’ll know those Allagash guys weren’t crazy after all.”

Monday: Tall tales lie deep in Maine’s watery past

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