I was walking down Central Street at the Evanston Fourth of July parade, struggling to find an interesting story. As I wallowed in self-pity, a security guard stopped me and we began a conversation. I told him about my journalism summer program and my failed pursuit for a unique subject to write about. His face lit up and I turned on my recorder.
Half way into the conversation, I realized he was talking about his intergalactic work with extraterrestrial beings.
When I got back from the parade, I laughed with my friends about the encounter, brushed it off as a crazy experience and wrote about some parade performers instead.
However, when the instructors assigned us to write a feature story about an interesting person in Evanston the next day, my first thought was to write about the security guard. Luckily I’d gotten his phone number from the parade, so I called him asking to set up an interview. As night approached, I waited for him to call back, frantically searching local businesses and parks for another subject. Still, nothing seemed more intriguing than a story about a man who works with aliens.
Then my phone rang and he said he would be happy to meet me at a local coffee shop for an interview.
I walked into the shop five minutes early with sweaty palms, my adrenaline pumping. When he arrived, he unfurled a black strip of fabric with two metal circles in the center he called “transducers.” Two thin red wires connected the strip to a small black box labeled in skinny letters: NEO Neurophone.
He wrapped the strip around his head, closing his eyes for a moment before clicking different buttons along the side of the box. He said the phone allowed him to listen through his forehead, making him more open, focused and positive.
The interview lasted for more than an hour as the man talked about different planes of existence, his first encounter with extraterrestrial beings and various projects he was working on to reveal his findings. He evaded questions about his personal life and wouldn’t delve into specific details.
I felt like every question was cracking away at this barrier he had put up, and I could see the progress I was making as his answers got slightly longer and more personal. The interview ended since I had an afternoon class, but I was so intrigued by what this man had said that I set up a second interview for later that night in the lobby of the Hilton Orrington.
He walked into the lobby 20 minutes late wearing a Domino’s pizza jacket and a Giordano’s hat. He told me that he worked as a delivery man for both companies because he needed the income. When he sat down he pulled out a blue satin bag and opened it to reveal four wishbone-shaped metal rods, each with two silver or gold spheres at the top.
He called them “acutonic tuning forks” and said each were in alignment with the orbits and vibrations of different planets. He told me that in between interviews, some extraterrestrial beings and colleagues humbly suggested that he bring these forks to use on me.
I was hesitant, but I thought, if I do this for him, maybe he’ll be more open. I approved and he jumped up and stood behind me. He waved the rods around my head and I squeezed my eyes closed, desperately praying that I wouldn’t be inducted into some cult or start seeing little green men all around me.
At one point he pulled out a small white Lou Malnati’s pizza box. In black ink he had written “ZDY39QMA” on the top of the box, a code he called a “subflex vector” of which he declined to give me a direct definition.
He reached down to open the box and within its cardboard depths was no steaming slice of cheesy carbs but a piece of cardstock and a stack of tarot cards. “Pick a card, will you?” he asked as he fanned out the stack. “Interesting,” he added at my choice and put the cards away without explanation.
He closed the box and paused. “My favorite quote, Amanda, is ‘100 percent of the things you don’t try won’t happen,’” he said. “My colleague, Dr. Tuttle, asked me, ‘Why don’t you ask Amanda if she’d be willing to deliver this last pizza of the day?’ This is my last delivery to make. Maybe you’d like to do it for me? I’d be willing to let you borrow my jacket, and you can return it to me when you’re ready. All you have to do is go to the extraterrestrial base at 1400 Chicago Ave. and say you have a delivery for Valdar.”
I politely declined.
The interview had lasted about two hours when I decided it was time to wrap up. I thought I might choose to focus my story on what was behind this local pizza delivery man/security guard, so on my way out I asked him how long he worked for the pizza companies. He paused and looked at me for 30 seconds.
“Do you mean Earth years?” he asked.
When I responded “yes” as if it were a reasonable question, he answered, “A few.”
Something about his response did not sit well, so when I got back to the dorm, I decided to fact-check. I called every Domino’s and Giordano’s in Evanston and Chicago and none of them had a record of this man ever working at their company.
Ultimately this article reminded me why I love journalism. Preparing for the interview, I was terrified that I would say something that would make him stop talking to me or make the wrong choice and end up kidnapped. But finding the courage and feeling the adrenaline – that was what made it so fun.
I felt like a professional investigative journalist, fact-checking, researching and uncovering weird, untold stories. I was hooked.