This investigative adventure of researching a Classic Hudson Valley Alien Abduction began innocently enough in a college level Literature class in the fall of 2013. The focus of the class was studying short story fiction. In the class we had to read about 30 short stories and of course write story reports on several and write a term paper on one.
My first exposure to Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving (1783-1857) was in third grade when our teacher read the story to us. After that I had light exposure to variants of the story in cartoon and movies over the years. Until last fall I had never actually read the story.
For my term paper, I proposed to my Literature professor that Rip Van Winkle read like a modern alien abduction account. I pointed out that the Hudson valley had been a hot bed for UFO activity for decades, perhaps centuries. I explained that I was of the opinion that the Washington Irving story might be based on some older Hudson Valley folk tale or Native American story. The professor liked the term paper idea and approved my theme; little did I know that I was about to jump down the proverbial rabbit hole.
For the record, my professor checked the academic paper data base and found that no one else had written a college paper like this. Likewise, deep into my research, I learned that at least two other Ufologists had written short papers on this topic. Quick examination of their papers showed me that they had focused on the Hudson Valley locality and the Irving theme. The evidence in my research had already led me far away from the Hudson Valley.
Historically there are about a dozen myths and ancient legends of people who have gone into a deep sleep and woken up decades and even centuries later. Any of these stories might have influenced the original author.
The abduction, as it turns out, wasn’t a Hudson valley story; the story event actually happened in central Germany in the Kyffhausen hills, another hot bed for UFO activity.
Washington Irving’s story was his own American retelling, but the core story was based on a German short story, “Peter Klaus the Goatherd” by German scholar and author Johann C.C. Nachtigal (1753-1819) published in 1800. In fact Irving published his version of the story the year Nachtigal died in 1819. Nachtigal’s story is considerably shorter and to the point, about two pages. In fact it read more like an abduction account than Irving’s version did.
My actual paper is about five thousand words, much too long for this blog. It got a high grade and my professor recommended that I get it published. Here is a summary of facts from my research.
• In the Irving story: all the Knickerbocker aspects, the heck pecking wife and Revolutionary War themes were Irving’s creation and embellishments.
• Irving happily borrows Nachtigal’s account of what happens when Rip Van Winkle/Peter Klaus went into the local mountains. Once in the wilderness both characters encounter a strange person, a strange place and some other strangely dressed beings. Both stories accurately report that the beings were playing a game similar to nine pins and that Rip/Peter was pressed to work setting the pins. Eventually both characters drank an intoxicating beverage and fell into a deep sleep.
• Waking up twenty years later isn’t what it used to be: Stage shows, animated cartoons, and children’s story books for over a hundred years all show Rip Van Winkle as having aged twenty years. All classic popular depictions usually show a shriveled old man with a white beard down to his knees. This representation is not what either of the texts indicates. Both men awake up to find that their beards had grown a foot. There are no references to going gray or having undergone advanced aging.
• Barber Shop Forensics: Northern European males typically grow beard hair at about a half inch per month. For a man to grow a natural, foot long beard it would have taken 24 months.
• Missing Time: The character subject in both folk tales was abducted; he vaguely remembered working for some strange folks. When he was later returned, twenty years had passed. It’s not uncommon for abductees to experience lost time and have only vague recollections. Likewise it’s not unusual for an abductee to tell their family “…but I was only gone an hour!” When the family says, “You were gone for eight hours.”
• Einstein’s thoughts: As I read the Rip Van Winkle/Peter Klaus stories, I see a character that was with the alien visitors for twenty-four months as evidenced by the natural record of his foot long beard growth. A person who returned to Earth where twenty years had passed. Einstein’s “Theory of Special Relativity”, gives us the key to understanding how this is possible. If we travel near the speed of light. The person in the space craft ages at a slower rate than those of us back here on earth.
Closing thoughts: Of course if you are reading this you might be thinking my analysis might be a stretch but consider this: Before the 20th century, paper was a rare commodity. Likewise, reading and writing literacy was usually reserved for the wealthy.
Most accounts of amazing personal encounters by common folk were handed down via oral tradition. Only later did these folk stories eventually get written down by the likes of Mr. Irving, Herr Nachtigal and the Brothers Grimm.
Our ancient ancestors weren’t idiots; they are speaking to us through our ancient folks tales if we are willing take the time to look at these stories through modern eyes and interpretation.
Next week we’ll return to our usual format of reporting New York State UFO accounts.
Cheryl Costa would love to hear the when, where and what of your New York sighting. Email it to [email protected]. The names of witnesses will be omitted to protect their privacy.
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