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Friday, June 09, 2006

Phone Calls From Korendor

Joe Durwin
June 8, 2006
Advocate Weekly

“In the wee hours of the morning, when the first golden rays of the sun were probing the black veil of a cold December night for an opening through which to illuminate the world, I held my ninth radio communication with people from another planet.”

Be alerted, reader: this is not the opening line from a science fiction novel, though it would probably play well in that context. Instead, these were the words with which a Berkshires man named Bob began his account of his years of personal contact with the Korendians. It all began in July, 1961, when the then eighteen year old radio buff was browsing around the short-wave bands with his equipment, “searching for something interesting to listen t,” finally selecting a BBC station. It was not long before an irritating noise disturbed his listening, and as he attempted to identify its cause, a clear, feminine voice spoke out from his headphones “Bob, we’d like you to stay on this frequency for a while.”

The voice proceeded to introduce herself as Lin-Erri, a native of the Planet Korendor, currently speaking to him from a spacecraft several miles from Earth.

By his own account, Bob was understandably dumbfounded. He notes that he had read a couple of books and some newspaper articles on the subject of flying saucers (as had quite a substantial part of the American population by 1961), but described himself as “still somewhat skeptical of such things.” Prior to that, in a 1958 letter to the editor that appeared in the Berkshire Evening Eagle, this same young man had stated that based on his reading (which included notorious extraterrestrial contactee claimant George Adamski’s book Flying Saucers Have Landed) he was “inclined to inclined to accept for fact the existence of the extraterrestrial beings and their spacecraft.” Still, there believes in aliens, and then there’s having aliens chat you up one evening.

Lin-Erri told Bob that they had become interested in the mountains of the Berkshires, specifically in a certain unnamed material to be found there that was useful to some of their electronic devices. Lin-Erri and her companions became interested in speaking to Bob because of his interest in UFOs, as well as in “world peace and the future of mankind.” She gave him instructions on how to upgrade his equipment in order to have two-way communication with him, and from that time on Bob spoke with Lin-Erri and other Korendians frequently. Their home planet, they said, was very similar to earth, but with a higher percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere. Korendor was the third planet in the 12 planet system orbiting the star Korena, which lay about three degrees from Arcturus in the constellation Bootes, not visible from Earth with our current telescopic technology. In appearance, the Korendians were not unlike us; though typically shorter in stature, they appear similar enough to travel and work among us without notice.

Bob described his continued contacts with the Korendians in articles that were published in UFO International between 1963 and 1969. These accounts, along with some supplemental information, were later gathered into a privately printed book entitled UFO Contact From Korendor, e-book versions of which are currently still available on the internet. He describes finally meeting with representatives of the Korendian race, including Lin-Erri and others, traveling in their spacecraft and visiting their underground base in the Berkshires. His accounts included detailed descriptions of their technology, diagrams of their vehicles, and even photographs of alleged flying saucers, of which I was only able to obtain some murky Xerox’s. The majority of the material he presented consisted of transcriptions of conversations, primarily messages and social diatribes from his Korendian contacts. At times his story reads like a “100 ways Korendor is better than Earth” list. The Korendians seem to have had a very progressive platform, even for the sixties: besides denunciation of war, atomic weapons, and racial inequality, they preached a possible salvation for humanity intertwining both greater technology and greater morality, a more conscious existence free of “dangerous emotionalism.” They predicted that Communism in its current tyrannous incarnation would collapse under its own weight and that the west should try to coexist peaceably with it in the meantime. Korendians were even said to have been behind the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965, in order to prompt the U.S. to modify and upgrade its grid system.

There’s more to Bob’s story, hundreds of pages of testimony recounting his encounters with the Korendians. Later, at least two other individuals, John W. Dean and Cameron Colin Boyd, also reported contacts with the kindly folk from Korendor; Dean’s are described in his book Flying Saucers Close-up, along with what he maintains are examples of Korendian writing and vocabulary. Bob maintains to this day that he is the only Korendian contact, and that others who have made such claims are either frauds or victims of deception by forces aligned against the Korendian cause.

As to the veracity and potential significance of Bob’s own reports, different people have come to different conclusions. Gabriel Green, editor of UFO International, embraced and published his accounts, couching them with enthusiastic editorial notes. They were also championed by retired Air Force pilot turned UFO investigator Wendelle Stevens, who had them published in book form. Whitley Strieber notes that the name Lin-Erri phonetically translates into the Gaelic “body of light,” drawing parallels between the Korendians and ancient lore of the Sidhe or Faerie beings, right down to their underground realms. UFO theorist John Keel suggests that they, along other UFO beings, fairies, and so forth down through the ages are all “ultraterrestrials”, beings of sort of semi-material, daemonic dimensional reality bordering ours.

Generally speaking, though, even among the admittedly fringe pursuit of ufology, this type of “contactee” narrative, most famously associated with George Adamski, is treated with little credibility, and rarely seriously discussed in UFO circles today. One skeptic, though, ufologist Allan Grise, came to the Berkshires to visit Bob at his home, and was intrigued by what he found. A professional engineer and ham-radio buff, Grise looked at Bob’s equipment and found that “everything seemed to make sense. The circuits were all appropriate to extend the receiving range.” He also listened to some tapes purported to be of conversations with Lin-Erri, whose voice he describes as having “a singsong, melodious quality,” and whose halting speech patterns suggested someone foreign managing well in English.

Bob stayed out of the contactee scene of conventions and lecture circuits, confining his public face to his written accounts. Grise found him to be uninterested in self-promotion, volunteering little but amenable to questions. Over email exchange I found it to be similar; he was resistant to the idea of any press coverage, but was kind enough to clarify some points for me. He’s not loopy- schizophrenic, megalomaniacal, anything like that - and I’ve dealt with “UFO nuts,” believe me. As for the UFO base in the Berkshires (vague rumor of which initially lead me to Bob’s story) various internet sites identify Mt. Everett as being the site of an underground alien base, but Bob tells me he knows nothing about that. As to where exactly the base he described in his claims is located, and whether or not he still has involvement with the Korendians, Bob only jokes “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

If his story IS a fabrication, he deserves to take his rightful place alongside Orson Welles, L. Ron Hubbard, Lovecraft and other great science fiction crossover artists. I, like most people, might have a hard time endorsing the idea of such a vast extraterrestrial presence going so secretly among us. It’s not such a bad scenario, though, should it someday turn out that Bob was right all along; these Korendians seem like nice enough blokes, provided they don’t end up being rodent-eating reptiles underneath, with books on How to Serve Man.

UPDATE- 2012: A couple of years after this was published, Renaud launched a new website which contains all of his original articles, plus new accounts of encounters with the Korendians in the years since, along with extensive graphics and maps.  Check it out, and then leave a comment back here if you like, with your own thoughts on the material.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Ubiquitous Ghosts of Southern Vermont College

Thursday, May 25
BENNINGTON, Vt. - Southern Vermont College is perhaps the most populously haunted spot in southern Vermont.

If even half the accounts that have trickled out of that place are true, at times it almost seems that spectral wanderers on the Bennington campus must be just about tripping over one another, playing out their ancient, eerie pursuits in the aetherial background behind the bustling campus of the living.

The college is housed on what was originally the estate of Edward Hamlin Everett, who purchased 500 acres from the John Holden estate in 1910. Everett lived in Bennington for most of his youth, leaving in 1869 to pursue wealth farther west. He was not disappointed. He gradually purchased up all of the American Bottle Co. - and in the process of trying to cut costs on the glass fires, prospected and became the first person to strike oil in Ohio. In '86 he married Amy King, the daughter of a Newark aristocrat whose glassworks factory Everett had just acquired.

Along with homes in Newark and Washington (not to forget the chateau in Vevy, Switzerland - times were good for Edward), he built himself a marvelous summer mansion in Bennington.

Legend has it that, not long after, Amy drowned there while swimming, quite unexpectedly - some say freak accident, some suicide, some murder. According to her obituary, however, Amy King Everett died at their Washington home, in March of 1917. She had suffered from a prolonged, unnamed illness and died following a "severe operation."

In 1920, Edward remarried, this time to Grace Burnap, originally from Hopkinton, Mass. Tradition has it that the three daughters he had with Amy never cared for their father's second wife. Two of them had already married and moved before their mother's death, the third not long after - and it's believed they resented the way Everett went on to sire two more children with this new, much younger wife. When Edward died in 1929, the stage was set for a venomous and quite public legal battle.

When the will was unveiled, it bequeathed the bulk of his fortune to Grace, leaving only about one tenth of the family's enormous wealth to his three daughters from his first marriage. The daughters sued, arguing that their father had not been in his right mind when the will was signed and that his second wife, who after all was not much older than the oldest of them, had exercised undue influence on him.

What became dubbed "The Battle of Bennington Millions," or "The Second Battle of Bennington," began. It was the largest and most talked about court case in the state, launching to fame the lawyer Warren Austin, who went on to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (and they didn't give that job to just any old nut with a moustache, back then). Witnesses included Sen. Arthur Capper of Kansas and Laura Harlan, daughter of former Chief Justice John Harlan. Grace Everett herself was subjected to three continuous days of relentless grilling on the witness stand. As Joseph Citro, Vermont's most esteemed gothic author, put it, the proceedings "left the magnificent Glass and Bottle Baron of the American Industrial Revolution looking like a pitiable weakling, utterly dominated by his Lady Macbeth of a wife." The court sided with Everett's first daughters, awarding them each about a third of the fortune, with the remaining amount going to Grace and her two daughters.

Some say that great dramas and great sorrows of this sort leave a mark behind in certain places - perhaps a kind of shadow radiating in the poorly understood fabric of the physical universe, a wisp of smoke: In short, they are haunted.

Since the college first took up residence on the Everett estate in the mid 1970s, a steady stream of unexplained disturbances and mysterious figures have been sighted. Security guards whisper about doorknobs turning in empty rooms and doors that close by themselves. According to a college administrator, on one occasion in 1982, a security guard called him when he could not identify the source of some strange noises. When they finally tracked the sounds to an office on the third floor, they found that the door, which was locked from the outside and had no other entrance, had somehow been blocked from the inside by a heavy desk. In what was once the old carriage house, there've been numerous reports of doors and windows locking and unlocking by themselves and computers that snap on and off suddenly.

One of the most frequently reported phenomena is the appearance of a woman in white, roaming the main house and grounds, thought by some to be the ghost of Edward's first wife.

There might be other candidates for ghostly representation wandering the environs. In 1956, Bennington witnessed the mysterious double suicide of the Lundoffs, a reclusive older couple living right beside the former Everett estate. Clemons W. Lundoff, and his wife, Hilda, were found sitting in their parked car in the garage, having died of carbon monoxide poisoning only shortly before. Although they'd lived there for a number of years, the Lundoffs had kept to themselves and had no known friends in the area, nor relatives. The city sold their property at auction, and the motive for their suicide pact remained a mystery. However, in 1922, I discovered, he was indicted, along with six others, for war fraud, including some 500 Army contracts. This mark may go some way toward explaining the couple's reclusively - and perhaps their violent end.

There are also rumors of shadowy figures in dark hooded robes lurking around the edges of the campus at night, and students sometimes speak matter-of-factly about the Black Hooded Monk. This has become associated with the fact that before SVC, the estate was the site of St. Joseph's School, a Catholic seminary. But it reminds me of various rumors I've heard of people in hooded black robes in other locations around Bennington County.

Writer Hal Crowther gave an account of a bizarre incident he witnessed 1962, while he was attending Williams College. While in Bennington one night, he and his roommate were approached by some girls who invited them to a spot where they were blindfolded and led into a wooded area. When the blindfolds were taken off, they found themselves near a pond abutting a stone wall, surrounded by dark robed women.

As Crowther described it, "There was some chanting, not in any language I knew - and I had studied Latin. Then one woman got up on the wall, took off her robe and dived into the pond. As if it was very deep. And here's the strangest part: She didn't come up." Crowther later saw the girl alive in Bennington and was never sure what to make of the experience. Some Bennington College girls having a prank at the expense of some buttoned-down Williams boys, perhaps? Such a thing wouldn't exactly have been an historical anomaly. Nonetheless, there are a couple of local informants who've insisted to me that some sort of CULT did or does exist in the Green Mountains, conducting strange rituals in the night. My Wiccan friends don't seem to know anything about it, but who knows?

All in all, the estate is ensconced in history and mystery, a great combination for a full-flavored college experience or a gripping horror novel. Appropriately, some that believes that the Everett Mansion, along with a few other locations around the area, served to inspire Shirley Jackson's nightmarish Hill House, but that is a whole other story, for another week.