As of this writing, The Paranormalist website is a personal blog written primarily by me, John Carlson. Although I may have an occasional guest writer, I will author most of the articles on this blog for the foreseeable future. Who am I? This would seem an appropriate time for an introduction, and I think I owe you, my readers, a proper one if you are to spend any of your valuable time here on my blog.
I am a fairly unremarkable man of no particular societal standing or accomplishments, although I have been immensely blessed in numerous, more valuable ways. I was born in the mid-1960s on Long Island, NY, the third and youngest child of good and decent parents, first-generation Americans born of European immigrants.
I do not believe I can give a good account of who I am without first sharing some information about my family history and our origins. Therefore, I will include a bit of that in my little introduction. Please bear with me. I hope you won’t find it too dull.
Three of my grandparents were born overseas and immigrated to this country in the early part of the 20th century, entering through the Ellis Island immigration station in New York Harbor, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. All of them moved to the New York City borough of Brooklyn, seeking family, kin, and countrymen who had already arrived and settled in the borough’s many brownstones and tenement apartments.
My father’s parents were from the same town in Sweden, Norrköping, in the southeast of that country. They moved here sixteen years apart, however, my grandfather arriving in 1904 at age eleven, and my grandmother arriving in 1919 at age twenty-seven. They moved into a then-predominantly Scandinavian neighborhood in an area that was once considered a part of Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge area, but I think today it is called Sunset Park.
My mother’s father, Salvatore Sciortino, came here in December of 1900 with his family when he was age ten. My grandfather’s family were from the island of Sicily in Italy’s southernmost region. He and his large family (I believe he was one of ten or eleven children) moved into an area of Brooklyn known simply as “Downtown Brooklyn” at the northernmost area of that borough near the mouth of the East River. It was a neighborhood that was equal parts Irish and Italian, and as family stories tell, my grandfather learned English from his Irish friends and subsequently developed a bit of an Irish brogue. Being fair in complexion for a Sicilian and blue-eyed, he was often thought to be an Irishman when he was a young man.
My maternal grandmother was the only one of my grandparents born in the United States of America (Brooklyn, once again), her parents having immigrated from Sicily sometime in the 1880s, with the first big wave of Italian immigration to the USA. My mother’s mother’s family, the Giuliano family, were quite intelligent and accomplished. My great uncle Albert became a well-respected surgical doctor. His brother William (“Uncle Bill” — the youngest of the Giuliano’s and the one who I knew best) was a professor of English at Queens College. Uncle Freddie was an accomplished actor who acted in a Broadway play with a young Burgess Meredith. The Giuliano women were undoubtedly equally bright and talented, but in that era and in the Italian culture, women rarely stepped beyond their roles as wives and mothers.
My mother was the sixth of seven children whose family resided in a brownstone home on Baltic Street in Downtown Brooklyn. Her father was an auto mechanic who owned an auto repair shop that employed several people. He worked long hours to support his large family and my mother often told me that she rarely saw him because of the demands of his business.
My mom always described her father to me as being good-natured and kindly, and said that she loved him dearly. He died at age fifty-three in a tragic, freak workplace accident caused by the inexperience of a young employee. My mother was sixteen years old and both her brothers were fighting overseas in the Second World War when her father died of his injuries a few days later. The year was 1943.
My father’s family was smaller, only he and his younger sister, Dagney, and their mother. My fraternal grandfather died of tuberculosis when my father was only six years old, after having spent the final two years of his life being treated in a sanitorium in upstate New York. He had been mustard-gassed by the Germans while serving in the US Infantry in World War I, and he was plagued by lung problems ever afterward. When he contracted tuberculosis in his thirties the outlook was grim and ultimately he succumbed to the disease due, in part, to his already-compromised lungs.
Harald Carlson, my grandfather, was thirty-eight years old when he passed, leaving a wife and two young children. The year was 1931 and America was in the depths of the Great Depression. My father and his family knew poverty. My grandmother never remarried, and lived most of her remaining years – all but the last seven – in that same tenement apartment where my father and his sister were born.
The stories of my grandparents and parents are too long, varied, and rich to do justice to them here, but I will conclude by saying that they were typical people of that era: hard-working, uncomplaining, and joyful despite their many hardships. What they lacked in material wealth they made up in the love of family, the love of God, and their close ties to church and community. They forged ahead, carried on, and raised their children to be good people. I was fortunate to have been born to two of those children of these poor immigrants.
My mother passed away in February 2009. My father carried on without her for another three years and three months, passing on in May 2012. I miss them every day.
After the Second World War, my father took a job with Union Bag & Paper Company (later renamed “Union Camp”) in Manhattan, where he worked shortly after his discharge from the US Navy until his retirement forty-two years later. My mother was a registered nurse, as were two of her four sisters. She graduated at the top of her class from Long Island University in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, NY.
Harold Carlson and Anne Sciortino were married in 1949 and spent their first three years of marriage living in a basement apartment in the Flatbush section of their native Brooklyn. My brother was born a year and eighteen days after their wedding. My father, a tall, handsome, and genial man, was soon promoted from his position in customer service, having been tapped for a sales position in the company’s multi-wall bag division. He was assigned to selling large, industrial-grade bags to farmers for the purpose of packaging produce such as potatoes and corn.
The promotion, however, came with a proviso: He was to relocate his young family to Baltimore, Maryland in order to service the farmers in the southeastern states — a job that required him to travel frequently and far from home. Shortly after moving to Baltimore in 1952, our family grew by one more as my sister entered the world. My father’s constant traveling was a strain on them all, as my mother would often tell us, but it was necessary and they were not in a position that afforded them many alternatives. People of my parents’ era did not easily move from job to job and were grateful for what little they had.
After nearly a decade in Baltimore, my father’s company transferred him and our family back to the New York City area, much to the relief of my mother. Most of her family was still living in and around the city, and she was happy to be geographically nearby them once again. My family moved to a modest, lovely little home in Baldwin, on the south shore of Long Island. Baldwin is in Nassau County, close to the border of the New York City borough of Queens.
My parents were in their late thirties, my father close to forty when I was born. My brother is fourteen years older and my sister nearly twelve years older. The reason for the large age gap was due to the unfortunate fact that my mother had numerous miscarriages in the intervening twelve years between my sister’s birth and mine. In fact, my mother told me that her obstetrician did not expect her pregnancy with me to go to term.
Patron Saint of the Gabadost
The fact that I made it through the entire nine months of her difficult pregnancy, my mother would often say, was evidence of my stubbornness. Gabadost, she would frequently call me, an Italian slang word meaning “hard-head.” I’d say that is accurate. Hard-headed and stubborn I am, a trait that has been both a help and a hindrance throughout my life.
The other trait I possess, one of my better ones I suppose, is loyalty. I think that stubbornness and loyalty are related, two sides of the same coin, perhaps. My mother, a devout Roman Catholic (as am I), named me after her favorite apostle. St. John the Evangelist. Saint John, you may recall, was the favorite apostle of Jesus and is often referred to in the Bible as “the one who Jesus loved.” My mother had a tremendous devotion to Saint John because of this and also that he was appointed by Jesus on the cross to be son and caregiver to his Most Holy Mother, Mary. My mother had a great reverence and love for Our Lady.
What I have always loved best about Saint John the Evangelist is that he was the only Apostle to stay with Jesus until his death on the cross. He did not run in fear or deny Jesus as the other Apostles did, despite the danger of persecution by the Romans. Because of this, St. John is the Patron Saint of Loyalty. I too am deeply loyal, obstinately so. I will stand and defend my beliefs, my friends and loved ones, and occasionally myself when put to it. And I do not run from adversity and I will not allow myself to be bullied. Beyond this ends any similarity between me and the Glorious Apostle St. John or any other Saint, living or dead. [Note: Saint John is also the Patron Saint of Writers, having written five books of the Bible, including the Book of Revelation.]
Unfortunately, I have found that most blessings come with a flipside. I tend to be very slow to trust people and I don’t make friends quickly. I am easily wounded when I feel that my loyalty has been betrayed, and I can be known to carry a grudge — not an admirable trait. I am sometimes overly sensitive as well, and I am grateful for those with whom I most close — my wife Debbie, above all — for enduring my moods and loving me despite my many faults.
The start of my ‘experiences’
We lived in the house in Baldwin, Long Island, NY from 1961 to August 27th, 1968, my fourth birthday. My father’s job once again transferred him, this time to the Boston area. My parents looked in several Boston suburbs, eventually finding an older, center-hall colonial home in the lovely suburban town of Wellesley, Massachusetts.
My brother had recently graduated from high school and had planned to attend Hofstra University on Long Island, but applied to Boston College when he learned of our impending move. In September of 1968, he began his freshman year at BC and my sister entered her junior year of high school in a new town, an unwelcome and difficult situation for her.
For myself, I only remember my four-year-old brain registering excitement at having a new room and that our back yard had a swing set and jungle gym apparatus. My mother later told me that my “nightmares” (spoiler alert: they weren’t nightmares) that began immediately after we moved to this new house were caused by the “trauma” of moving to an unfamiliar setting. Again, I remember no such trauma, only excitement. At four, I had no ties to school or friendships. My only ties were to my mother’s apron strings.
It was not long after our move that I began having vivid…night terrors? Yes, I am familiar with night terrors and have read about them extensively. I know that they can seem incredibly vivid and real. I know all this, and yet…I don’t believe that is what I was experiencing. It began with the nightly appearance of short, stocky, powerfully-built humanoid creatures in my room. You can read more about these terrifying childhood experiences in my article, “Aliens? Gnomes? Boogeymen? Night Terrors?“
Many years later, I again encountered these same entities over two consecutive nights in a forest in Oregon — an incident and its implications that I will delve into extensively on this site.
A lifetime of unexplained weirdness
In 1973, my father’s company again transferred us out of state, this time to northern New Jersey. I was old enough at this point to be upset about the move. I had laid down some roots in Wellesley. I was getting along very well in school and had made good friends. Also, the nocturnal visitations by those entities were becoming less frequent and intense. That, or I was getting more used to them. They did, however, continue for the entire time that we lived in that house in Wellesley, MA.
In July of 1973, we moved to Ridgewood, NJ, a lovely suburban town, not unlike Wellesley. Ridgewood is located 20 miles outside of New York City, in Bergen County. Once again, we were back in the NYC area and closer to my mother’s family – although farther from my dad’s sister, who lived in Connecticut. My brother and sister were now in their twenties and had gone forward with their lives and did not make the move to New Jersey with us, although my brother moved in the following year for about twelve months before getting married in August of 1975. This move to New Jersey proved to be our last.
Several years later, though, my dad was offered a new position within his company. This was the first time he was given a choice, an offer, all the previous relocations being a matter of “do it or you’re fired.” This position would have been a significant promotion but would have required our family to move to the area of Tifton, Georgia. My mother’s first question was, “Are there any Catholic churches nearby?” Being in the Southern Baptist Bible Belt, the answer to her question was, “Ninety minutes away”– kind of a deal-breaker for my mom. Moreover, my parents did not want to uproot me in my early teens. It was difficult for my sister to adjust to such a move at that age, and they did not want to repeat the situation with me if they did not have to. My father’s decision was a relatively easy one, and he turned down his company’s offer.
As it turned out, the move to New Jersey was not a bad one. I missed Massachusetts, but I soon made some good friends among the neighborhood boys. Many of the friends that I made in my childhood and teen years are still my closest, something I value immensely and for which I am deeply grateful.
At the end of 1989, I met my wife and we began dating in January of 1990. We married in April of 1995 and we have two sons, both in their early twenties as of this writing. Life moves us in odd directions, but God has a plan for us all and I consider myself richly blessed. My wife Debbie and our boys are a constant reminder to me of God’s abundant grace. I couldn’t be a richer man.
Blessing or curse?
In the intervening 40 years between my childhood nightly assaults by these “bogey-men”, or interdimensional beings, or, as I am inclined to believe, demons — whatever they were/are — and the incident in Oregon, I have had a number of very strange and unexplained experiences. One of the stranger ones being a period of missing time that happened when I was in my early teens. I wrote of this in my 2010 article “Missing Time Experience?” The response to this article has been unexpected and massive. I have had hundreds — probably thousands — of blog comments and emails sent to me from people who have had similar experiences of missing time or other strange time anomalies. I have pondered the meaning, significance, and origins of these time-anomaly experiences for many years now. I am no closer to an answer, although I do have some suspicions.
Truthfully, these unexplained incidents do not happen to me on a constant basis, or even often. For the most part, I live a very normal and uneventful life with only the occasional run-in with weirdness. Nonetheless, these intermittent bouts of high strangeness have had a profound effect on my life, to such a degree that I view many things very differently than do most people.
I’m often uncertain if I am damaged goods or an enlightened soul, unsure if these experiences are a blessing or a curse. It can be an uncomfortably heavy burden to carry at times and there are very few people with whom you can share these experiences. Even those who have suffered similar occurrences are often reluctant to speak of them.
Confirmation that I am not crazy
Without a doubt, the strangest of my experiences to date was the one I alluded to previously, the reappearance of my childhood monsters.
Confirmation that those entities were not a figment of my childish imagination was provided in June of 2014 when the very same beings appeared while I was in a remote, forested area on a mountain ridge in southern Oregon. I was given further evidence of their reality by the fact that my friend, famed cryptozoologist Adam Davies, was with me and joined me in fending off these nasty little monsters over two consecutive nights.
Had I been alone, I might have convinced myself that this had been a hallucination of some sort. But two people hallucinating the same beings and experiences simultaneously? Not likely. There was also a third man and his son who also witnessed and described these beings as my friend and I saw them.
I will be delving deeply into this experience and its potential implications in future posts. Meanwhile, feel free to listen to an in-depth 2015 interview about this experience that my friend Adam and I gave on Tim Binnall’s excellent podcast, Binnall of America.
The origin and purpose of this site
Because of these strange and frightening experiences, I have a lifelong obsession with all things unexplained and otherworldly. From unknown animals to UFOs, ghosts, spirits, lost continents, hidden histories — it all fascinates me. I made a friend in our neighborhood who had similar interests in the strange and arcane, and we began a podcast in 2007 called The Paranomalists. The dot com address for “Paranormalist” was unavailable at the time (which I have since obtained), so we dropped an ‘r’ and called it the Paranomalist — as in, paranormal-anomaly.
The podcast was great fun and we were building quite a large following, but after about eighteen months the podcast went by the wayside. Or at least my part in it did. However, I owned the domain name ‘paranomalist.com’ and continued blogging under that title, as my former co-host carried on under a different show name.
During the years that I was actively contributing to The Paranomalist site, I would routinely receive dozens of emails each week from people who have had unexplained experiences. Even in the decade in which this site was largely dormant, I still received several emails each month from people wanting to share their experiences of the strange and unknown. These brave men and women who would reach out to me were highly credible in my estimation. They were often seeking answers to what happened to them or simply wanted to unburden themselves. I frequently noticed a tone of desperation and anxiety in their communications with me.
Having endured such experiences myself, I knew firsthand just how jarring they can be. One moment you feel as if you understand the universe and your place in it, and the next moment that view is utterly dismantled. It is not a pleasant feeling at all. I’m sometimes annoyed by paranormal “enthusiasts” who seek out such experiences and tell me that they wish such a thing would happen to them. Trust me, you do not. One rarely comes through these events whole and unscathed, and they can leave deep psychological and emotional scars. This pain is only exacerbated by the feeling that you cannot speak about your experience because of the fear of being ridiculed, or worse.
The primary purpose for the creation of this website is to serve as a forum for people to share their experiences, a safe and comfortable space in which they can learn and share without worry of being labeled. Because the truth of the matter is, many people have suffered strange happenings of many kinds, though they often don’t speak of it. You can trust me when I say that it is far more common than you would likely guess, and these are not simply cases of misidentification, lies, and hoaxes. It is far too easy to dismiss them all as such, but that is disingenuous and intellectually lazy.
Our lives and this reality in which we reside is far more complex and bizarre than we can possibly imagine, and we will explore these ideas within the pages of this site. I invite you with me on this journey and hope that you will join me.
Welcome then, my friends, to The Paranormalist.