Thinks ramp up beyond reason with a UFO sighting, and an angelic presence in my apartment.
Instantly after that short prayer, my room, for the first time in ten years, filled with a darker and more evil presence than I had ever experienced even in my teens. It was so strong and powerful it felt like a bubble enveloped my apartment and like all noise outside had been stopped. My heartbeat rose and goosebumps stood up on my entire body. This thing was enraged at me with the deepest level of hate I have ever felt in my life. I was frozen in place. I had completely forgotten about this presence for over ten years, and now, in one moment, it was back. I pulled the covers near my head and squinted my eyes I was honestly so afraid it would show its face or kill me.
I begged and begged and begged God to take this thing away. Just to protect me. At that moment I felt a small light inside me get lit, like I was feeling or seeing with a third eye. A little white light, like a small candle of flame. From it I felt a voice say “I will protect you.”
I had not touched a Bible seriously in ages, other than to debunk some stupid Christians.
What I was experiencing did not really fit any particular theological scheme or story I had heard before. Either I was absolutely crazy and this was all in my head, or all this stuff that many religions have been talking about has some truth to it. For the next couple of months, I could not go back to my apartment without feeling the heavy oppressive weight of that dark presence. When awake or sleeping.
I began researching paranormal and spiritual things again, trying to piece together all I was experiencing. Ghosts and haunted houses? Evil presences? In addition, I went back to my therapist and told him about all of this. The first time I told my therapist about the ghost experience, his camera which he uses to make clips for training actually turned off while I was telling the story. Coincidence? Probably. But at this point things were too weird to make a judgment call. Stuff like this began happening nearly daily.
To be sure, my life was radically shifting toward the supernatural and the only piece of verifiable external evidence was a single little female voice in an apartment from a year before. If that voice could not be confirmed, I was obviously losing my mind. So to verify my memory, I did the only sane thing I could do: I contacted Rick. What I wanted to do was have him recount back to me what happened in that AirBnB the day I was there. And I wanted to make sure that I did not “prompt” him with any memories, so I would not mention details. To this day I still have the initial messages on LinkedIn. We played phone tag for two or three weeks.
While I waited for Rick to get back to me my third supernatural event occurred. After sharing the ghost story the first time in Ibiza, I had begun to test it out on others. My motivations for sharing it were mixed. On the one hand, it was a super fun story that tended to stump people. On the other hand, I was hoping someone would be able to come up with a natural explanation for what happened that fit all the facts I knew. Of the half a dozen people I told, nobody had come up with an even reasonable conclusion other than I had been pranked. Many people, realizing I was opening up, responded by telling a crazy story of their own. I learned about ghosts slamming doors and whispering in ears, of premonitions of in-family deaths and tragedies, and more. And these stories were coming from secular Swedes. Were Swedes, in an attempt to maintain their image as happy atheists, hiding their own spiritual stories?
I grew up with a friend who I will call Jared on the same street back in Wichita and - coincidentally - we both moved to Sweden within about two weeks of each other without even planning it. He was mostly agnostic, probably leaning atheist, when we arrived in Sweden. We would occasionally meet for beers or ultimate frisbee.
April 22, 2019 (from a photo I took that day) in the beautiful spring weather of Stockholm, we decided to go to a park called Rålambshovs. During our visit, Jared asked what was going on and somehow that turned into a discussion about my ghost experience since I was in the habit of bringing it up now. Like everyone else, he was skeptical but confused. He suggested it was probably a prank, and I said that maybe it was but I was going to talk to Rick soon to get that cleared up.
While we sat there on the grass in the absolutely beautiful summer day in an almost cloudless sky, I looked up and saw a tiny, disc-shaped object high up in the brilliant blue atmosphere moving faster than the many airliners that buzzed around. It had no contrail as all the other planes did.
“What is that?” I said as I pointed upwards.
Jared looked up, saw it, and said he did not know.
“Look, there are two of them!”
There were two disc-shaped tiny objects super high in the atmosphere moving in formation. As we watched we joked that this was why people always had blurry videos of them. There was absolutely no way we could zoom our phone cameras in enough to see them, as we could barely keep our eyes focused on them. Jared made a comment he was having a hard time distinguishing them from eye floaters, and I agreed. They were super tiny and super far away. They flew across the sky incredibly rapidly for about 10 seconds and then out of view. Jared made some comments about them being a government black-ops project. We shared a few text messages later about them which I still have to this day.
About 5 minutes after the two UFOs disappeared, I took the following photo of an airplane with a rare shadow underneath it called a contrail shadow. I want to be clear, this part is a natural phenomena but is insanely rare to catch from such an exact position on the ground. I put this photo here, taken on April 22, 2019 as evidence of the type of sky conditions when we saw the two UFOs. I got a distinct impression when seeing this that heaven was telling me that my life would be like this airplane, destined through a tunnel already set in front of me.
Note: this is NOT the UFO, but a picture I took a few minutes after of a shadow contrail.
My experiences at home with a demonic presence were terrifying still and I began to watch a lot of YouTube videos of people experiencing the paranormal. At this point I was reversing that portion of the process that drove me to atheism. However, when I was 23 and beginning to doubt, I studied these topics to find solid evidence for the paranormal and could not find it. But this time I began my study knowing I had some evidence but searching to find an explanation! Wanting to begin with the great intellectual masters rather than some religious nuts, I read a lot by Carl Jung, who as a founder of psychotherapy, feuded with Freud about whether paranormal events should be included into their treatments of patients.
Carl Jung experienced profound premonitions and unexplainable poltergeist phenomena which rarely made it into school literature. He wrote about a story of a walnut table that exploded next to his mother, of a knife in a cupboard that shattered into pieces on its own, and of his children having the bedsheets ripped off their beds when he was going through the spiritual transformation that lead to his writing of the famous Red Book. He tells stories of patients in insane asylums that knew things they could not have possibly had access to, and of how it was well known at the time that clocks would stop when a person connected with them died. He tells how native people would often explain that when white men infiltrated a new region the native dreams and visions would stop. And he also explained how a loud thumping noise scared Freud - twice - when they were debating the supernatural in psychology. I highly recommend reading about these things on your own in Jung’s works - particularly in the book Memories, Dreams, Reflections. How had I missed stories like these during my earlier search and even if I did see them, how had I completely neglected them?
One night I found a video of a woman who hosted a YouTube channel about makeup and fashion. She had one video where she tells about a haunted house her family moved into when she was a little girl. There was a dark presence that would come into the hallway at night outside her door and stand in front of her parents room. As if confirming her suspicions, every time this happened, their dog would growl at it. One night the apparition laid down next to her in bed and when she moved out of terror as it slid behind her neck, the duvet was ripped from her bed and flung across the room and landed on the television. She screamed. Her dad came into the room as she trembled in fear on her bed. Her family had an emergency meeting the next day where they all admitted strange things were happening but nobody had spoken up because everyone was in denial. The parents requested a priest come into the house, perform some rites, and the strangeness died down after that. She said since that day no more experiences like that ever happened. And here she was, all these years later, doing a YouTube channel on fashion and makeup. She only had the one video about the paranormal and seemed genuinely terrified, just like I was.
A common pattern I discovered about people who experience the paranormal, whether dark or light, is the fear. People who experience these things tell them as if the thing that happened could easily happen again. Locality plays a part in most paranormal stories. People experience the paranormal only in certain locations or with certain objects. For example, consider the strange happenings of Skinwalker Ranch or of cattle mutilations. One final important piece of information seems to be that much paranormal activity seems to be centered on an individual but affects everyone in their vicinity. I will leave it to the reader to do their own research. Needless to say the confusion, the lies, the grifters, and the fakery surrounding these events often tends to stifle any belief in them. It is no wonder so many people just keep quiet about their own experiences.
Needless to say, these stories from other people made me more uneasy. Still skeptical, I acknowledged their inconsistency as a solid piece of evidence that they were all rubbish and based in imagination. Maybe aliens existed, but aliens and ghosts and Jesus at the same time? This was too much. But now I had two rubbish experiences of my own! And the more I acknowledged these experiences the more something seemed to get angry. Having dual confirmation of a similar poltergeist phenomena from Jung nearly 100 years before and a young girl in the 1990s of sheets being ripped off of beds, I became very afraid the sheet were also going to be ripped off my bed when the dark presence was strongest.
The dark presence was mostly around when I was going to sleep but I often could feel it about 10 meters from my apartment door as I walked home. To this point, I had not told anybody about the dark presence because I wanted to make sure people would not think I was insane until I had some better evidence.
The following weekend, I finally had a chance to talk to Rick. After no small struggle trying to find a working audio connection, we began talking. I took notes, best I could, because I did not want to forget anything.
There were only three possible outcomes to this conversation. First, if Rick did not recall events at the AirBnB exactly as I did, then my memory was faulty and I definitely was hearing voices and needed to take medication. Second, if Rick admitted he was playing a prank by imitating a woman’s voice somehow, then everything I was experiencing was based on a joke and hallucinations. But, third, if Rick just naturally shared what was in my memory but from his perspective, then my life was about to change forever.
This latter option was the one I wanted the least. Being mentally ill would be the easiest pill to swallow.
Rick started the conversation by asking why I wanted to chat. I meekly told him that I had been thinking about the day in the AirBnB where we both had the weird experience and wanted him to recount what he remembered from his perspective.
He recalled that I came down the stairs and went into the bathroom to take a shower while he was working. Then he heard the “whooshing” sound in front of the door and I responded to it. Then I turned off the shower, and I spoke to it again. When I came out, Rick remembered me speaking first: “who wanted into the bathroom” or something like that. That last part was a minor detail that was different than my story and surprisingly this actually made his portion of the story more believable.
Asking him lots of questions, I pieced together our two perspectives and they were incredibly congruent after an entire year. I could not help but think about how hard it must have been for early Christians to piece together their stories too.
After confirming every major detail without me prompting him, Rick became solemn. He told me he had thought of that day many times since. He had even spoken to the owner - who was a family friend of his - and asked more about it. She told him of numerous other strange stories in the house that he did not know about until after our experience with the woman’s voice. Apparently the owner’s son had some experience in one of the rooms of the house as a child that was so shocking that, as an adult, he refused to go into that room. The owner’s daughter seemed to be the center point of most of the experiences. A woman who was a medium refused to even go into the house because it overwhelmed her so much.
At this point I was just hunched in my bed, humbled into silence. This was not the answer I wanted.
Rick again repeated that he was a Christian and he asked me if I knew what a “word of knowledge” was. He said that he thought whatever the voice told me in that bathroom was a “special message to you and I was the witness”. Then he asked me what the voice said because he had forgotten what I told him. When I said it only said “Excuse me, sir?” he had no explanation. He told me that only I would know what the message meant. I did not want to admit it, but I now knew what the voice meant. This was the spiritual realm gently and politely, twice, asking me to acknowledge its existence. The story of Samuel in the Bible flashed before my mind more than once. In the Biblical story Samuel thinks the voice he hears twice is actually Eli, but it turns out to be an angel (angel in Greek simply means "messenger" and was a term used of messengers or emissaries for royalty).
Rick and I spoke for an hour and forty minutes. He told me a story about his strange experiences sharing God with the late owner of Gore-Tek’s wife before she died. At one point, she pulled Rick aside and matter-of-factly told him that “I think I am a Christian now”. She died shortly after. Rick was an evangelist, and here he was evangelizing an atheist he had met only once before outside a bathroom in an AirBnB in London.
Rick tells me that he had often experienced a dark presence hovering over him and that while he is not the best Christian, his faith “is as strong as Billy Graham’s”. I told him that I have experienced something similar to a dark presence and thought maybe it was sleep paralysis but I had confirmed in my case it was not. Without prompting, Rick says “Josh, you do not need to be afraid, it is not like it is going to rip the sheets off your bed or something.”
This was real. All of this was real. How did Rick know about my fear about the sheets being ripped off my bed? I had not told him! This pattern of synchronous communication and alignment of events across time became the norm.
After we finished the call, the hateful presence rose in front of me for the last time. For the hundredth time I pulled the covers toward my head, terrified to completely open my eyes, squinting at the darkness for fear of seeing a face. But then I felt a new presence enter the room. It was white and pure, it rose up in front of the darkness, and was equally terrifying. It split into two bright white forms, about three meters tall, and the two of them moved to either end of my apartment. It is hard to explain this unless you have experienced it, it is as if you are seeing a colorful presence but not with your physical eyes - like an aura. It was ghostly and brilliant and the air was thick and charged. Goosebumps covered my body, my heartbeat was raised, and I was so terrified these creatures would show themselves. Deep in my soul, a still small voice told me “Josh, you need this protection”. The darkness went away but I felt a heavy commotion in my spirit.
When most people share stories of experiencing the presence of angels, I am skeptical for a different reason now. The terror I felt in the presence of angels was, lighter and more cheerful, but it was still terror. I felt unholy, evil, selfish, and dirty. They were awesome. I felt as if my heart was laid bare and I was completely unworthy. Now I know why the saints used to bow to the angels until the angels would raise them to their feet and tell them to worship God instead. “Do not let me see your face or I will die” I begged, and I felt them gently agree. Unlike the dark presence they seemed to want me to be comfortable. Later I would read a Catholic priest explain that this is well known in the Catholic church that angels like us to be comfortable and not to scare us with their presence if possible.
I still thought at this point that maybe all that was happening was in my head, but I had no idea what to do about it other than watch and pray. I knew I needed to figure out what the message they had for me was. Why did I need protection? What was this dark presence going to do? It felt as if I was being guided down a tunnel; as if I was being driven forward into a direction that I could not resist - just like that airplane.
As an act of faith, I really only had one tangible thing to do next. Rick suggested I read a book about Padre Pio, the Catholic Saint from Italy during World War 2 who was one of the most extraordinary spiritual characters of the 20th century.
“Great”, I thought as I internally rolled my spiritual eyes. “None of this is helping me yet.”
Somehow I was bouncing from an Episcopalian and a female ghost voice in an apartment, to seeing two UFOs with my childhood friend, to experiencing angels in my apartment, and now I am supposed to read about a Catholic Saint who had supposedly had the stigmata in the 1940s? How on God’s green earth was I ever supposed to make sense of this mess?
During this time I was praying fervently, from the bottom of my heart, that even if I was the only person who could possibly understand what was going on in the universe that God and these angels or whatever they were would reveal it to me. I would rather die than not find the truth. What the heck was going on?
I read the story about Padre Pio with my skeptic hat on (the book is Padre Pio: the Stigmatist), but out of faith that the angels would not have lead me to Rick if they did not want me to listen. As I read, I imagined all the fraud and lies that must have backed his ministry and the stigmata. I read about confirmed report after confirmed report of Pio’s healings and prophecies. Padre Pio supposedly began his early ministry with incredible dark spirits attacking him. He also told stories of how the angels would sometimes protect him and he spoke about his angels as real beings that were nearby. The realization that the dark entity in my life hated me so much compelled me to do anything I possibly could to avoid doing what it wanted, just like Pio did.
Near the end of the book after all the healing stories there is a short selection of Padre Pio’s writings. These were actually more interesting to me than the miracles. The reason is that Padre Pio’s heart seemed pure and honest. Would a man who loved Jesus and the angels this much make it all up? Then I read this:
“The Devil is like a mad dog tied by a chain. Beyond the length of the chain he cannot catch hold of anyone. And you, therefore, keep your distance. If you get too close you will be caught. Remember, the Devil has only one door with which to enter into our soul: our will. There are no secret or hidden doors. No sin is a true sin if we have not willfully consented.” ~ Padre Pio
I dropped the book with my jaw open. In one pure moment, God linked this simple paragraph to my dream from the darkest point of my teens.