The question of what gave rise to my attraction to the paranormal and esoteric is one I've often pondered through the years. I'm not certain that any one particular experience is at the heart of this lifelong fascination, but I can think of several influences and events that have helped to shape my beliefs and perspective on what we think of as "reality".
I feel certain that my family background and religious upbringing has had much to do with my interest in the mysteries of life. I'm a second-generation American, with all four of my grandparents having immigrated from Europe in the early part of the 20th Century and settling in Brooklyn, New York, where my parents were born and raised.
My mother was raised in a large, devoutly Catholic, Sicilian family, while my father's parents were Swedish Lutherans. My paternal grandmother often told me of the "tomtegubben" or little people, the gnome-ish figures of Scandinavian folklore. I remember being enthralled by these stories and I became fascinated by the idea that non-human entities such as gnomes and elves could actually exist.
My brother and sister and I were brought up in the strict Catholic faith of my mother's family, and the concepts of the afterlife and the imperishable soul were ingrained into my psyche since childhood. My mother was also a very psychically intuitive person, and her experiences gave to me a firsthand testament to the fact that the universe is a much stranger place than we know or can even imagine. She often had uncannily accurate precognitive dreams, some of which I've recounted in my article My Mom, The Witch on my blog The Paranomalist. I've also inherited this sensitivity, although to a lesser degree than my mother.
A series of strange childhood events also, I'm convinced, has had a strong influence on my interest in the paranormal. Specifically, an ongoing series of powerfully vivid..."dreams" or encounters involving small, dark beings have left me with an obsession with UFOs and the idea of alternate realities. I recount these nighttime visitations in detail on my blog post, Aliens, Gnomes, Boogeymen, Night Terrors?, but in summary, these experiences -- whether they were simply nightmares or genuine visitations -- have stayed with me throughout my life.
My nighttime visitations lasted from ages four to nine and were followed by several uneventful years (at least from a "paranormal" perspective) until another bizarre event happened to me in 1978, at the age of thirteen. During a walk home from school, I experienced an odd feeling of disorientation and then a complete memory loss. When I regained my senses, I found myself in another part of town. I was still walking in the same direction (north to south) but I was a good ways north of where I'd started. Interestingly, within a minute or two of "coming to", my mother pulled up in her car in front of me and swinging open the door, anxiously said "are you alright?" Somehow, she knew exactly where to find me. I asked her why she was looking for me and how she knew to find me at this location, and she replied "a voice in my head told me to get John, he needs you." I've always felt that something significant happened to me during this period of missing time, but as of yet I cannot recall what it was. Once again, I've gone into this on my blog at www.theparanomalist.com under the article title Missing Time?
There have been numerous other incidents of high strangeness in my life, but these aforementioned episodes -- the strange "dreams" and the missing time experience -- have been the most dramatic and have had the most lasting effect on me.
Whatever other strange experiences I've had or will have in the future, I've come to believe firmly that it is a narrow-minded and arrogant point of view to believe that the world around us holds nothing more than what we can understand through our five senses. And while I'm open-minded to the stranger possibilities that the universe holds, I believe I balance this attitude with a healthy amount of skepticism as well.
It is only with an open-minded attitude, tempered with a healthy amount of skepticism that I feel will move mankind forward in gaining a true understanding of the world around him.