Albany, NY- “It’s like a vein of blue light in the wall,” says 62 year old Vanda Lehman. “I saw it out of the corner of my eye after I heard the whisper, then I turned to look at it and it was just…gone.”
Reports similar to Vanda’s have been trickling in over the past few months, largely within the southeast section of Albany known to residents as Normansville.
Thus far, over a dozen residents have claimed to witness the phenomenon, prompting the creation of a Facebook page for witnesses and the curious lookers-on. Accounts vary slightly, but the core details remain quite stable across tellings. The strange, hushed, and indecipherable voice is heard often accompanied by the smell of ozone. This is followed by cracks of light in a nearby wall which are seen, always in the periphery. Of the 14 reported cases, none have reported the persistence of this apparition on direct sight. And each sighting has been placed around dusk.
“Much like the so-called ‘possessions’ leading to the Salem Witch Trials and the more recent hysterical glossolalia outbreak in Rochester, we find that particular regions can become seized of mass hallucinations and epidemic, abnormal behavior, “ says Humbert Finkel, professor emeritus of Social Psychology at the University of Potsdam. He continues, “human minds process reality socially in a way that is often overlooked. And in particularly fraught socio-economic or times of cultural upheaval, communities can become hothouse environments for the spread of collective delusions.”
I interviewed another witness who had managed to shed some additional light on her experience. Sitting at her kitchen table, Lorna Kirch, a musician and tutor of 30 years, played an audio file from her laptop. Upon pressing play the speakers emitted a strange whisper, apparently Lorna’s. After the second or two length clip, Lorna explains. “Given my musical training,” she begins, “I have a pretty good auditory memory. It have to remember musical phrases and pitches all the time. So, when I heard the noise just before seeing the light, it stuck right in my mind. Especially because it sounds vocal. I couldn’t make sense of it at first, after saying it to myself over and over. It’s a difficult series of sounds to produce.”
“After thinking about it some, it occurred to me that I’d encountered a sound like that. It sounded like backmasking.”
“I used to really like Judas Priest, back in my day,” she added, impishly. “Anyway, look what happens when you reverse the sound.”
With this, Lorna clicked a few buttons in her audio software. When she hit play, the results were jarring. Clear as day, the words “Simeon Simon” hissed from the computer.
“Now, I’m certain that this name would be meaningless to you. But I recognized it immediately. My mother used to tell me stories at bedtime. Mostly nonsense that she improvised on the spot. She was a terribly clever woman and the stories were very entertaining. She dreaded me asking for one, because I liked them so much that I usually refused to go to sleep after. They wound me right up.”
She looked off into the distance for a few quiet seconds, adding “it’s been so long since I’d heard that name.”
I have approached faculty at the Institute’s Shadow Canon Studies Department to follow up about Lorna’s account, but have not been successful in getting my interview requests granted.