Otto was an old man, my grandmother’s boyfriend. He had a heart condition and the doctor gave him six months to live. Six months goes by and he’s still alive. The doctor tells him that it was amazing that he had made it through those six months and that he was really living on borrowed time. The doctor tells him again that he has six months to live. This went on for eight years. He ended up living with his sister-in-law. One night they were watching David Letterman on TV and just after midnight, there came a knock on the door. His sister-in-law gets up and she couldn’t figure out who would be coming to her door so late in the evening. So she went to the door and there was no-one there. When she went back to the living-room, Otto was dead in his chair.

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I grew up in Virginia, in a Christian family. We went to church regularly. One Saturday I went shopping with my parents and my sister. When we were done shopping, we walked out of the store, across the parking lot and got into our car. I got on my seatbelt and just before my father pulled out of the parking space, I looked to my right, out of the car window, and in the car next to us was the devil. It wasn’t anyone in a costume or anything like that but the actual devil, himself, and he was looking right at me. I was so terrified, I didn’t say a word about it to anyone. I was worried that they would think I was crazy. Many years later, I finally mentioned this to my sister. To my surprise, she told me that she had seen him, too, that same day and at the same time. She was so frightened that she had never mentioned it to anyone either.

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I decided to be homeless for a while, about five years ago, while I was in college. I realized that I couldn’t do it where I was living, because I would see people I knew, so I decided to hitch-hike to New Orleans. It took me a week to get to New Orleans. My last ride getting into New Orleans was with this truck-driver and he asked me where I wanted to get dropped off. I said ‘anywhere.’ He said ‘you can’t do that.’ I had no idea at the time that New Orleans had one of the highest crime rates. He encouraged me to go to a shelter, which I did. Over the next few weeks I became good friends with these vagabonds. They really shifted my perception as far as homeless culture in general. People who are homeless are not necessarily hobo’s or bums but people who choose to live that way because they don’t want to be part of this rat race. Weeks went by and I began to forget that I wasn’t homeless, that I was doing this just for the experience of it. That whole Maslo’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ and taking that last one out (security), began to affect me. I never knew where I would sleep from one night to the next and sometimes I’d find myself in a shelter with a couple hundred other people. I met so many interesting people and had so many unlikely conversations. It was an amazing experience. It really did shape my perspective on the world, more than anything else at the time. What it lead to was, one night I was sleeping outside, which isn’t as romantic as it sounds. I was in New Orleans and lots of things down there are bigger than normal, including the bugs, and sleeping outside that night was like ‘Chinese water torture.’ Every ten minutes I was getting bitten by something else. I couldn’t sleep, so I started wandering the streets and ended up in the French Quarter. There was an open courtyard that seemed to beckon me. In the moment I thought I was walking into a movie. It was so surreal. There was a guy who had his arms woven through the bars of a gate to hold himself up because he was so drunk; he was drooling and it looked like this strange, crucifixion scene. There was this odd-looking lady in a gypsy cart, petting this large cat, laughing at another guy. Everywhere I looked was another, little, strange scene. All these little vignettes were offset by this one, black, Moses-lookin’ man, with a beard down to his knees, underneath a street-lamp, screaming through his harmonica. I never heard anything sound like that before and I was mesmerized. I drifted towards him like a bug to light. Once I got there, he just kept going and I sat there watching for a long time. Finally, he stopped with the harmonica. He started talking to me. I had never said a word to this guy, so he didn't know anything about me. He starts speaking to me in fluent prose. Everything is rhyming and weaving in and out beautifully. He starts telling me stories of Jesse James and telling me stories about himself and how he used to play the broomsticks with Bob Dylan and all these crazy things. I’m not really sure what to make of it. Then he starts telling me about myself. I’m from up north and my Dad’s a pastor, that my favorite book is “On The Road”, all of which are true. He kept going and he was very specific and up until this point I had never really believed anything like this could happen, that anyone that you never met could really tell you about yourself, until it happened to me. There is no way this was happening without this guy tapping into something beyond… He keeps going and I fall into this trance, almost, just listening to him, wishing I could be recording him. I got over that thought and realized that I just had to soak in as much as possible. Finally, he stops talking and it is daylight. It feels as though days have gone by but it was probably just a couple of hours. I’m still in shock because he has told me not just where I am coming from but where I am going to and all of these intimate, specific things about myself. Finally, at the end of it all, he says “The whole reason I was standing out here tonight was to tell you this message I’ve just told you. And the whole reason that you’re here, is to hear this message. Now your mission in New Orleans is done.” I had had no previous intentions of ending my homeless experience or of leaving New Orleans. But once that guy told me that my mission was over, I thought “O.K.” so I left. I had been panhandling for a couple of weeks and had about $80, enough to get a bus ticket back to Muncie, Indiana, where I was going to college. So I bought a ticket, got on the bus, fell asleep for two days and woke up back in Muncie. I got back to the house where I had been living with my room-mates. They were talking about all their normal stuff but now everything they said sounded so frivolous compared to the experience I had over the last several weeks, living on the street. I escaped to the roof and was just sitting there, thinking about everybody back there in New Orleans and all that I had learned. The next day I got up and went to the computer lab and I learned that Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans. It was all over the news. It really blew my mind. I thought of all my street friends in New Orleans and wondered how they might survive. My experience on the streets in New Orleans changed the way I look at the world. I’ll never again be the person I was before New Orleans. And I am glad.

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A few years ago I was in Ladd’s Addition (a section of the city of Portland, OR) riding my bicycle on the road that comes up from the Hawthorne District and meets up at the roundabout. I was waiting at a stop sign with my foot on the curb. There was an apple tree off to the right, up in someone’s yard. It was late in the summer and I looked up and saw all these apples in the tree.  I was hungry and I thought those apples looked pretty good. I wished I had one to eat. Within seconds of my thinking that, I heard an apple falling down through the branches of the tree. It fell into some bushes. I couldn’t see it for a moment, then it rolled out of the bushes, down the yard, across the sidewalk and came to a stop right at my foot.  I was amazed. Every year I go back and try to eat an apple from that tree.

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I went out to Breitenbush Hot Springs to visit a friend who lives out there. We were talking and I remarked how incredible the big earthquake was that they had in Japan. She said “What are you talking about?” I told her there had been a 9.2 earthquake in Japan. She said she hadn’t heard about it. I have an earthquake app on my phone and it tells me whenever there is a big earthquake and it came up and notified me that there had been a 9.2 earthquake in Japan. I thought that an earthquake that size would cause a tsunami and you would hear about it on the news, but I searched the news and found nothing about it. I thought that was very odd. Two days later, Japan had the big earthquake. My girlfriend asked me how I knew about the earthquake two days before it happened? I said “I’m telling you, it came up on the app. I saw it on the app.” I've gone back several times to look for that notice and I can’t find it, which is strange because the app saves all the prior notices.

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I was driving my car with a friend and telling him about a scary movie I had seen the night before. There was a scene where a man is holding up a deck of cards and pulling cards out of the deck one by one while a woman is guessing which card has just been pulled. The woman starts by getting each card wrong but soon, she starts getting every single card right. At one point her voice gets very deep and scary and her eyes look crazy and she says “Jack of Spades” and at that moment you see that she is possessed by a demon. It scared the hell out of me. Right as I got to that point in the story, we got to where we were going and I parked my car. As I got out of the car, I looked down on the ground and there is a very small playing card, face down, that I was partially stepping on. I bent down, picked it up and turned it over. It was the Jack of Spades!

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There was going to be a meteor shower that evening so some friends and I decided to go to the mountains and camp overnight so we could see them. I spent the whole night just lying on my back in my sleeping bag, watching the beauty of the sky all night long. I was fully dressed and I was wearing a necklace with stones and a large medallion that was special to me. When I saw that the sky was getting light in the pre-dawn, I got out of my sleeping bag and stood facing east, wanting to greet the sunrise. I was holding my hands, palms up, at about waist-level, waiting to receive the beauty of the sunrise. Suddenly, my necklace fell from around my neck and into my open hands. “Darn!” I thought. This was my favorite necklace and somehow it had broken. But when I held the necklace up to see where it had broken, not only was it not broken but the clasp was still locked.

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In Burlington, Connecticut, there is a very old cemetery commonly known as The Green Lady Cemetery. According to local folklore, long ago a woman was murdered by her husband and she was buried in this cemetery in the woods. Some of our high-school friends would go to the cemetery at night, using it as a secluded place to make out in their cars. Several kids reported seeing a ghostly, semi-transparent woman in an eerie green mist of light, walking among the gravestones. One summer night, my friend Chris and I decided to go to the cemetery to check it out for ourselves. Chris had a motorcycle and I rode on the back of it. We were driving down the dirt road in the woods, approaching the cemetery when, as soon as we passed the old stone wall that marked the boundary of the cemetery, the motorcycle stalled out and died. The lights on the bike wouldn't work anymore either. Chris tried to re-start it several times but it wouldn’t start again. No matter, we were close enough, so we just walked it the last couple hundred feet and parked it. Walking into the cemetery with our flashlights, we began to examine and read the headstones, some of which went back nearly 200 years. I found one old stone with a memorable inscription. It said: “Here, come brethren dear, whose union has been my fervent prayer. Hold fast the truth, instruct the youth, and thus for death prepare. All you who read these lines take heed, while you have life and breath. Seek Christ the Way, His calls obey, and thus prepare for death.” As the night grew later, it also grew cooler and soon there was a mist creeping into the cemetery from the surrounding, swampy woods. We decided that the mist was sort of creepy so we wanted to get out of there. We went back to the motorcycle, where Chris tried over and over again, unsuccessfully, to start it. Still, none of the lights on the bike would work. We were becoming a bit panicked that his usually reliable motorcycle was having such unexplainable trouble. Finally we decided to push the motorcycle down the dirt road – anything to get away from that cemetery. Every 50 feet or so, Chris would try to start the bike again, but it just wouldn’t start. As soon as we got the bike just past the stone wall boundary of the cemetery, Chris tried again and the motorcycle started right up and all the lights worked with no problem. I jumped on the back and we got out of there as fast as we could!

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It was around 1:00 a.m. and I was sitting cross-legged on the bed in the guest bedroom of my sister’s house in rural Maine. I was reading. My sister was in the downstairs bedroom, sleeping. We were the only people in the house. At one point, I saw something out of the corner of my eye and looked up to see “Bug”, my sister’s very large cat, in the doorway of the bedroom, staring intently into the air over my right shoulder. I didn’t bother looking. “Crazy cat”, I thought. Then I saw some motion to my right and I looked and there in the air, about three feet from my face, was this thing, made of all clear water, about the size and shape of a loaf of bread, and it was wiggling through the air. It was going at roughly a 45-degree angle and it wriggled down to the floor. Then it wiggled along the floor straight to the open doorway where the cat was sitting. (I am guessing that it had intelligence and intent as it seemed to know where it was going, though I saw no facial or other features at all, it was just this clear water.) The cat’s eyes were huge as it watched it intently. Finally, the cat had to stand and step aside to let it pass by. The water creature wriggled out into the unlit hallway and, after a moment, the cat took off after it. I was stunned! What was I supposed to do? Follow it? Try to touch it? Go out into the hall and then go downstairs and wake my sister? What was the protocol for such a situation? I was dumbfounded. So I sat and waited and waited, wondering what in the world had I just seen? Maybe twenty minutes later, bored of waiting, I went back to reading my book. A few minutes later, some motion caught my eye and this thing came wiggling back in through the doorway along the floor, making a bee-line towards the bed, just below where I was sitting. The cat came from the hallway, sat in the doorway and watched this thing, wide-eyed. The creature wiggled straight under the bed and then the cat took off like a shot after it. I wondered if there would be some sort of fight between the two but there was just silence. I wondered if I should get off the bed and crouch down and look under the bed but I didn’t really want to put my feet on the floor. I waited and waited and finally got very tired so I got under the blankets and fell asleep with the light on. I didn’t see that thing in the morning or ever again.

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Hitch-hiking is tough business, at best. Hitch-hiking with next to no money is tougher still, requiring a philosophical outlook and a spiritual faith. In 1998, I hitch-hiked from the City of Arcata, in Humboldt County, California to Maine to visit my family. I had four dollars and change in my pocket. On the first day of the journey, having made it part-way through Humboldt County, south on Highway 101, standing along the side of the road, I suddenly had a vision. I saw a patch of ground. It was grassy, with a particular-looking type of grass. In the grass was a rolled-up $10 bill. While the grass was very clear to see, the $10 bill was a bit blurry. There were four one-dollar bills rolled up within the $10 bill. I couldn’t see them, but I knew this with certainty. Then the vision ended as suddenly as it had begun. For the next few days, as I slowly made my way across the country, every time I was dropped off from a ride, I looked at the ground to see if this was the grass from the vision. In every place, the grass looked different, so I didn’t look for the money. After a few days, I was dropped off at a spot in southern Indiana. There it was! This was the spot! This was the grass from my vision! But who really believes in visions? I didn’t. It must have been just some weird mind glitch that I experienced. So I ignored it. This was an area with lots of traffic – a good place for a hitch-hiker to stand, with plenty of room for a car to pull over, but no-one did. Hour after hour went by. I got caught in two downpours. I walked to a truck stop and found a truck driver who promised he would give me a ride if I went back to the highway entrance and waited for him there. He never showed up. Eventually, six hours passed. This was, by far, the longest I had waited for a ride during this trip. I wondered what could be wrong? Finally, I decided that the problem was that I wasn’t honoring the vision. So I went back to the exact spot where I had seen the grass that had been in my vision. I vowed to find the money and started to look around through the grass. Within about three minutes, I found the money. The rolled-up $10 bill was blurry because it had apparently survived a winter and had sand from the snow plows partially covering it. I picked it up and unrolled it and inside were the four one-dollar bills! I put the money in my pocket and went back to hitch-hiking. I got a ride out of there within twenty minutes.

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