Have you ever had a strange occurrence happen to you while you were traveling? Something that defies a total explanation or seems more than just a mere coincidence? As a travel writer, I’ve experienced the strange, the bizarre, and the unexpected when covering haunted or creepy destinations and events around the country. Well, something very bizarre happened to me when I re-visited one of my personal historical spots in Casper, Wyoming during the first night after I had arrived in town over the first weekend in June 2009.
I grew up in this central Wyoming city from 1977-1983. It’s a place that I’ve visited as a travel writer (and a number of articles about Casper have been published at Bootsnall.com), but nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened during those times. I admit that I do often feel bittersweet about visiting this place, for the city is the roots of my love for writing, where I came of age, fell in love and even felt connected to a place for the first time.
I was scheduled to speak at a People First conference the next day. People First is an advocacy group for people with disabilities, and since I have Asperger’s Syndrome, I was asked to speak about my writing experiences and how I used self-determination to become a writer.
Facing A Past Debacle
I ran and walked from my hotel to the downtown area and through my old neighborhood which is just south of downtown, curious to see what my old stomping grounds looked like, including my old elementary and high school, my old house that I lived in for more than five years, and the mom and pop grocery store on the other side of the block of where I lived where I used to buy baseball card packs like they were going out of style with my allowance.
I began heading back to the hotel, and on the way, I made a brief diversion to the northern edge of downtown to a bowling alley, where a climatic event in my early romantic history took place. In a nutshell, 30 years ago (give or take a few days), summer vacation was in full swing, and the first girl that I had really fallen for had been bowling with me and some others. At the end of the matches, her best friend came up to me to ask me if I “liked” her in that “late elementary school/early junior high” fashion. Well, I was so afraid of being rejected by my first love and was so afraid of life and its risks in general as an adolescent boy, that I didn’t answer the question and darted off to where my mom and brother were. Not taking that chance is one of the great regrets of my existence because you never forget your first love.
I was planning to talk about what happened at the bowling alley 30 years ago during my presentation to the People First crowd to contrast how far I’d come from being such a non-self-determined kid then to what I am now: engaged in a profession that I must take risks and experience constant rejections just to get published. Speaking at this conference would be the first time I ever spoke to a crowd about my writing career while being motivational, too, in effect. I wanted to look at the bowling alley again for the first time in 30 years, and take some pictures. I felt good as I approached this bowling alley even though memories were fresh in my mind about my romantic debacle from long ago.
It was a cloudy but still rather mild evening around 7:30 p.m. when I arrived in front of the bowling alley. Ironically, I was bowling around 7:30 p.m. that fateful night, too! There wasn’t that much going on around the area, and so it was rather quiet. Some people were going in and out of the bowling alley, but nothing out of the ordinary.
I was standing on the quiet street taking pictures to document my memory, trying to get a good angle of the bowling alley. Soon, I noticed a police car coming my way. I moved out of the way, but the police car didn’t go on by, but I heard it stop and its engine kept idling. Seconds later, I turned around.
The Only Thing Missing Was Rod Serling!
This police officer that looks like actor John Goodman came out and greeted me. I was a bit worried, especially when the first words out of his mouth were (the following dialogue is the gist and pretty close to the exact words exchanged)…
Police Officer: Hello, we just received a 911 call at this exact latitude and longitude (where I’m standing on the street), did you make it?
Me: No officer, I’m just taking pictures. I used to live here 25-30 years ago and have been exploring my old neighborhood including Lincoln Ave (the street where I lived at).
Police Officer: Well, have you seen anything going on here?
Me: No, nothing at all. It’s been normal. I DON’T EVEN HAVE A CELL PHONE, so I couldn’t have made the call.
Police Officer: Okay, thank you.
Me (As the police officer is walking away from me, I blurt out, remembering something my mentor has said to me before): Nothing happens by accident.
Police Officer: That’s true.
And then another police car showed up, as I finally got a second picture to my liking while the first police officer was conferring with the other cop.
Me (walking by the police car): Did the call come from the bowling alley?
Police Officer: Nope.
Me (still walking): It could by psychic phenomenon!
Police Officer: Maybe.
Much of this time, the police officer had a really puzzled look on his face, but he was very friendly throughout. And I headed back to the hotel rather freaked out!
I guess you could say that 30 years ago, my romantic heart needed “911 intervention”, but there was no one to rescue me from my pitiful self. As a 12 year old kid with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome, and getting no intervention because my condition was hardly known in 1979, I was a real mess and the incident at the bowling alley reflected it to the max. And it haunted me for a long time.
Now, 30 years later, I’m standing just outside where it happened, and a mysterious 911 call dispatches police cars to the place I’m standing at on the street (even though nothing “911-worthy” had apparently happened in the present day, and, to repeat, I don’t own a cell phone).
A Mere Coincidence?
Now, someone could’ve made a call to 911 from that spot on a cell phone before I arrived there, but even if that happened, what are the odds that such a call would be made at a spot that I’d be standing at minutes later, standing there because I was recalling this very traumatic incident when I could’ve used some “romantic 911” 30 years earlier?
Talk about getting help 30 years too late (in a symbolic sense)!!!
Is this bizarre or what? A mere coincidence? Or a divine message of some kind? The energy of past trauma activated in the present because I showed up to reflect?
Normally, when I travel, virtually all of my questions are answered via the experiences I have and the information I gather for my travel articles. But this time, I left a city with more questions than answers!
About the author:
Roy A. Barnes is a frequent contributor to Bootsnall.com and lives in southeastern Wyoming.