Reality Checking

with Brent Raynes

Tennessee’s Vanishing Skyscraper back in 1906??

Respected Canadian paranormal researcher and writer W. Ritchie Benedict, who often does book reviews for us and from time to time contributes paranormal data, recently sent us a xeroxed newsclipping from the Winnipeg Free Press. Dated April 12, 1941, and entitled Strange Mysteries Never Solved, the feature, written by one Edgar D. Smith, described unsolved and mysterious events. True events, we’re led to believe. But are they?

Naturally, since I reside in Tennessee, Mr. Benedict assumed that perhaps I might be able to look into the unsolved case from this state and perhaps get back with him with new details. Well, to begin with, I ran into trouble right off the bat. The alleged event is described in the newspaper account as having happened in Dyersville, Tenn., but my encyclopedia and a check with Yahoo.Com failed in locating such a city. So then I assumed that perhaps the newspaper had misspelled the name. There is a Dyersburg. I’ve even been there on a number of occasions. It seemed possible that this might be the actual location of the story, provided it was indeed true.

Here’s what Smith wrote:

“Do you think you could make a good detective? If so, I’ll tell you how to pick up a reward for approximately $20,000. But I warn you, the best ‘dicks’ have thus far failed. All you have to do is solve the amazing disappearance of a skyscraper. Yes–a skyscraper!” “Thirty-five years ago, in Dyersville, Tennessee, two police officers affirmed that late at night they had both been struck down by an invisible blow. When they came to they found that the city’s largest building, sixteen storeys high and covering almost a thousand square yards had vanished. Investigation proved that an earthquake could not have been responsible.

“Workers, digging on the hard ground, now bare as any other vacant lot, were unable, furthermore, to discover any trace of the building’s foundations!

“The only theory put forth about this is that the citizens of Dyersville were mass hypnotized into thinking that there was a skyscraper in their city and were suddenly de-hypnotized. But such an explanation is fantastic. The skyscraper had vanished like a dry bubble, leaving no trace, not even of the structure’s foundations.”

Vanished indeed! Hell, I can’t even locate the city! And a skyscraper in Tennessee back around 1906? Had to be a pretty good sized community!

Not to be a prematurely discouraged “dick” I contacted Dyersburg’s State Gazette newspaper. Reporter Bill Hiles responded in an email, “I’ve never heard this story before in my nearly 20 years in Dyersburg. It seems dubious because the tallest buildings in Dyersburg are and have been six stories. Also I can’t believe someone would not have told me of such a thing. I’ve never heard of Dyersville, Tenn., though you are right that it could just be a mistake in telling this tale.”

Perhaps the tale was intended as an April Fools prank? After all, it was published in April. Back in the early 1980s, a Tennessee newspaper had published an interesting sounding story about a cat with wing-like appendages. At the time, I had a newspaper column in my local paper and did occasional free-lance features for others on unexplained happenings, so I contacted this editor for more particulars. The editor then admitted that the story had actually originated in another state, but figuring that readers would be more interested if it had happened in Tennessee, changed the location!

I was dumb-founded! To me, accuracy and truthfulness is important in this kind of work, but certainly not everyone shares that perspective. For too many in the news media, stories of unexplained events are simply a periodic human interest side-bar. Nothing to be taken too seriously. So it’s considered okay by some to be a little sloppy in your reporting so long as you can entertain your readers. [Hmmm. Now there’s an original thought!] After all, these tales are all nonsense anyway, right? So why not have a little fun, eh?

Since newspaper accounts are often how us researchers and investigators get our clues, gather our information, and track down our stories and sources, we must always remain on our guard and cautious about the information we initially gather and examine. Everything should be subject to further scrutiny and examination (and cross-examination never hurts either).


There’s been quite a bit of excitement lately over claims that a great deal of video data of UFOs has been downloaded from live satellite links. England’s UFO Magazine recently (01-07-03) interviewed a Mike Murray, one of the founders of EUROSETI, who describes hundreds of UFO- like images taken from two satellites over the past two years. To view a selection of these images and an interview of Mr. Murray, go to: Meanwhile, officials of the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), claim that NASA and ESA scientists have identified these so-called “flying saucers” as planets, meteors, asteroids, data and software flaws, imaging artifacts, pixel faults. Nothing mysterious at all, they say. The SOHO team stated in late January, “In recent days, we’ve been receiving so many questions and claims that we’d like to set the record straight. We’ve never seen anything that even suggests that there are UFOs ‘out there.’” (Source: [Special thanks to Giorgio Piacenza for first alerting us to this intriguing news item] Reincarnation and UFO Contactees

Belief in reincarnation seems significantly elevated among UFO contactees. According to Wyoming psychologist Dr. R. Leo Sprinkle, in a study of 228 people (122 of whom were UFO experiencers and 106 of whom were not), 35 (33%) of non-experiencers expressed a belief in reincarnation whereas 91 (75%) of experiencers expressed a belief in reincarnation. But in a staggering statistical breakdown of more than 20,000 people, noted researcher-author Brad Steiger (who has been distributing a questionnaire since 1967) found that 67% fully believed in reincarnation, even believed that they had prior life memories, and even more incredible that 78% of those surveyed believed that they have even lived a prior existence on another planet or in another dimension.

Dr. Sprinkle points out that contactees emphasize a model of science that not only includes the conventional mechanical and materialistic elements of reality, but also the study of metaphysics and mysticism. He speculates that perhaps we’re being forced to recognize a science that demands the exploration of human consciousness and spiritual evolution. Meanwhile, Steiger also reported that from the entity accounts of some 20,000 experiencers in his survey, 37% felt that they had encountered some kind of Light Being, similar to an angel or some other higher intelligence. Some 50% of those surveyed claimed to be convinced that they even had a personal guardian angel or spirit guide. Furthermore, Steiger even wondered if angelic contact and UFO alien contact were in fact one and the same thing! The Columbia Tragedy and Reports of Unexplained Lights

Whitley Strieber’s Unknown Country ( carried an intriguing report in the wake of the Columbia tragedy. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, an amateur astronomer (who wished not to be identified) was positioned on a San Francisco hillside with his tripod mounted Nikon-880 digital camera for the purpose of photographing the shuttle Columbia as it re-entered the earth’s atmosphere. Reportedly he captured an image of something besides the shuttle. This was about 5:53 a.m., February 1, approx. seven minutes before the shuttle broke up over Texas. Apparently five pictures were taken. The amateur astronomer saw nothing himself at the time he was photographing the shuttle’s passage overhead, but the developed images showed something unusual. “They clearly record an electrical discharge like a lightning bolt flashing past,” he stated. David Perlman, a science editor for the Chronicle, described the photographic evidence thusly: “They show a bright scraggly flash of orange light tinged with pale purple, and shaped somewhat like a deformed L. The flash appears to cross the Columbia’s dim contrail, and at that precise point, the contrail abruptly brightens and appears thicker and somewhat twisted as if it were wobbling.”

Three days later, the Chronicle described how former shuttle astronaut Tammy Jernigan visited the home of the astronomer to examine the digital images and question him about the event, leaving with the camera and pictures that were to be transported by jet to Houston for NASA’s further evaluation. The astronomer stated that he would not release the pictures publically until NASA had an opportunity to examine and analyze them first.

Speculations as to the cause for the unusual images: A slight jiggle of the camera as it took time exposure image(s) [said to have been 4 to 6 seconds]? There was a coronal mass ejection from the sun reaching earth around the same time that the shuttle was entering the earth’s atmosphere. Could this have affected the shuttle’s sensitive electronic equipment, like its autopilot? Was it an explosion connected with the shuttle?

In addition, the National UFO Reporting Center ( received a call from a man near Atkins, Texas, claiming that he and his 8-year-old grandson, outside that morning watching for the shuttle, allegedly observed a “bright green light” that ran parallel with the shuttle prior to its explosion. They first saw the shuttle in the sky toward the northwest, and about two seconds after this they saw the “green, self-luminous object” move in toward the shuttle from the southwest it seemed.

“We now know that pieces of tile were being ripped off Columbia over the west coast, and of course that would be most people’s explanation for the green light,” this man later wrote. “I wish I could rationalize the light away with the tile theory. I’ve tried. But I can’t get my mind around this thing for several reasons. Why was it at such a great distance from Columbia? Why was it closing the gap between itself and the shuttle? What could have come off Columbia at that point that would burn such a bright, unremitting green? And most importantly, why wasn’t the green object leaving a smoke trail?”