February 20, 2012

The Occupant

Life on Earth is sometimes so strange that there’s no need to imagine what sorts of things might exist in other parts of the universe. But when someone says, “I saw them,” and we get that glimpse beyond our own little world, it can be a profound affirmation of the resiliency and ingenuity of life and evolution. Sometimes, however, it can be a terrifying reminder that although they may look very different, people are the same everywhere.

Rebecca was a helicopter pilot working out of San Jose in the late ‘90s. “If you ever heard the traffic report on the radio,” she says, “that was me in my chopper, over the freeway.”

Rebecca loved her job and the sense of freedom that flying affords. “Of course, being above the traffic and not in the traffic was a great way to spend the day,” Rebecca tells me.

There was one particular day, however, when Rebecca’s job made her feel very afraid and very vulnerable. It was late in the year and as the evening traffic wound down, the sun set. “A big shadow was creeping up from the east,” Rebecca recalls, “and soon all the lights way down below me came on.”

Rebecca was waiting to give her final radio report before heading home. “I was over 280, west of San Jose,” Rebecca remembers, “when I saw this real bright light off to the north.”

To Rebecca’s north lay San Francisco International Airport and numerous regional airports. Rebecca assumed that she was seeing some plane off its flight path. As she continued to hover over the freeway, the light grew brighter as if it was heading straight towards her.

“I thought some idiot was way too low and coming right at me,” Rebecca tells me. “So, I got out of the way.”

Rebecca moved off to north west, well out of any plane’s path. To her surprise, however, the light turned in her direction. “It changed direction faster than a plane could,” Rebecca says. “So I thought it must be another chopper, maybe Coast Guard.”

Rebecca was now positioned between the light and the Pacific Ocean, so she moved south this time in order to let what she thought was a Coast Guard helicopter head out to sea. As she did, the light turned again toward her.

“That was when I really thought about the light and how it looked,” Rebecca tells me. Rebecca realized the light was not like any plane or helicopter she had ever seen. “The light wasn’t like a spotlight, or running lights, it was more like a big bright furnace, like a fire in the sky.”

All Rebecca could do was to wait and watch as the light came closer. As it grew more and more defined, Rebecca grew more and more concerned.

“It’s coming at me, getting closer and closer,” Rebecca remembers, “and I keep thinking it must be right in front of me and then it still gets closer. I realized this thing was gigantic.”

Rebecca estimates that the strange object was at least three football fields in length. It nearly filled the helicopter’s canopy, blocking the view of the freeway, the city, and the hills beyond.

“I thought it was one big light, but it was made up of lots of little lights,” Rebecca recalls, “like looking at a thousand headlights all coming at me.”

The lights finally stopped as they got as close to Rebecca’s helicopter as they could. Rebecca could now see that the lights were part of what she could only call a space craft.

“I don’t know how to describe it because it’s like it didn’t fit the specs for something that should be flying. It was just crazy.” Rebecca tells me. “It’s like whoever designed this thing didn’t have two arms and two eyes, wasn’t human.”

The strange craft sat motionless in the air while Rebecca’s helicopter bobbed. Rebecca didn’t know what to expect: the object’s movements were aggressive, but now she found herself overawed by its presence and unable to respond.

“It was like looking into a giant eye,” Rebecca remembers, “like a giant insect eye and it was staring right back.”

Suddenly the lights just in front of Rebecca’s helicopter began to dim. They quickly seemed to slide away, leaving a black patch almost in the strange object’s center.

Another light appeared, this one much softer than before. Rebecca could not see the source of the light, only that it defined a deep rectangular space. She suddenly realized that she was looking at a window or a porthole lit from the inside.

Rebecca noticed that the silhouette of the window’s lower edge was uneven. The light inside was growing brighter and she saw that the bottom of the window was filled with faces, faces that were all staring right at her.

“They were weird-looking with big black eyes,” Rebecca recalls, “but they were unmistakably children, human kids.”

Nearly two dozen children peeked at Rebecca from the bottom of the craft’s window. They stared with blank, black eyes but Rebecca could read nothing in their expressionless faces.

“They seemed like normal kids, except for the eyes,” Rebecca remembers. “They were different – different skin colors, different heights – but they all had black hair.”

The stand-off continued for only a few moments before the interior light began to dim. As it did, Rebecca saw something that she could never forget.

Behind the children, another figure approached the window. Rebecca understood the craft’s impossible design because now she could see the creature that had built it.

“It came up and at first I didn’t know I was even looking at a living thing,” Rebecca recalls. “It was tall and purple and kind of barrel-shaped with a weird starfish-like head, I guess. And it had wings like combs or fans behind it.”

Rebecca cannot say if what she saw was an animal or a plant or something that belonged to another, unknown category. It towered over the children and waved a set of branching tentacles in the air.

The interior light quickly went out and Rebecca stared into darkness. Her sense of position was overwhelmed but she suddenly realized that the craft was moving again. “It was coming right at me again,” Rebecca says. “It was about to smack right into me.”

As Rebecca braced for the impact, she saw the lights of the strange craft pass around her helicopter without damage. “It’s like I passed right through it,” Rebecca remembers. “Like it wasn’t solid, it was just light.”

The lights passed and receded in the distance. Rebecca was left alone in the dark in her helicopter. As she looked around to get her bearings, she discovered that she was no longer above the freeway outside of San Jose but some miles distant, over the Pacific Ocean.

“I got back home quick,” Rebecca tells me. “I almost got fired ‘cause I never did the traffic report.” Rebecca’s supervisor would later tell her that repeated calls to her helicopter went unanswered and even a radar check by the local airport came up empty.

What did Rebecca see? If it was a UFO, where did it come from? If it did come from another planet, why was carrying human children? Were these children kidnapped or were they produced by some other means? The answers to these questions are unsettling at best, unutterable at worst. The only thing we can be sure of is that, although visitors to our planet may be disturbing to behold, they share with humanity some very inhuman qualities.


  1. They sound like the creatures in HP Lovecraft's 'At the Mountains of Madness.'

  2. In his reports, Lovecraft called them Elder Things, and I think you're right to note the similarities. Lovecraft also reported that the Elder Things were extinct, but I think he was wrong.


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