Travelogues of the Damned: Experiences at ECETI Ranch, Part 1

ECETI Ranch may be the sort of place that needs little to no introduction. Ranch owner and mystic James Gilliland has spoken much and well over numerous media to describe the history of his involvement with the place and the sort of thing that tends to happen on its grounds – and especially in the skies over them – at Trout Lake, Washington. I’d first heard Gilliland over Coast To Coast AM, then later on the podcasts of Whitley Strieber and William Henry. Because Trout Lake – which is not exactly in my backyard, but neither is it so far from it – was only a short jog off the I-84 that I’d begun migrating seasonally between the Puget Sound and Utah, and the ranch is open to visitors, there seemed no good reason not to stop in and see if I couldn’t invite something more into my life by way of contact experience, or at the very least, experience of some sort or another. That seemed to be the point.

It was at the end of the ski season in the springtime of 2010 and my seasonal job in Park City had wrapped up when I booked a room for myself along the return drive to Washington. I didn’t know what to expect. I knew at least not to hope for too much – it seemed unlikely that any astoundingly weird craft or beings should appear on order. And anyhow, I wasn’t looking for Spielbergian special effects and spectacle. What I wanted most of all was to enrich the mostly quiet thing that I’ve lived with for so long: this sense of something other, never so far off  – this being of depth, this inversion of or vast expansion from the human, insofar as I’ve come to know the experience of being human – and that I’ve always felt or imagined myself in some manner tied up with. What I worried about was that I might wander into some or another cultic sensibility, some all-too-human network for escapist fantasy, a sick support in mutual delusion. What’s more, I’m very aware of my own sometimes timorous grasp on the conditions of the actual, or on myself for that matter, knowing that if presented with an idea – or more especially, a charismatic personality – compelling enough, that I can lose my balance, I can loose my mind, I can became too easily subsumed within the stronger field of another’s belief, if it should be aligned closely enough to what I already intuitively feel to be true. This is a danger for anyone. And yet, such a sensitivity, a willing or unwilling lack of a coherent self, is perhaps necessary to truly experience another thing, to get past the assumptions that one inherently makes, and thus to enter into a different point of view. The danger of this is less to believe wrongly than to become empty, to be no one for a time, and thus to become another’s emotional tool.

When I arrived at the ranch, I was greeted by a very friendly young woman and a barking dog. The dog’s name I’ve since had repeated to me several times, though I’ve never been able to remember it. A slightly aloof, small, patchwork mutt, we did at least have a chance to converse a little, later on, the dog and I, and we seemed to work out some arrangement where it was not necessary for it to bark any further at me. The woman showed me to a room in the guest house – a building which, comfortable enough, seemed to have grown, room by room, organically out of stray materials as they had become available. For the same price as any number of bleak roadside motels that I’d stayed in, I was certainly not complaining. What the building may have lacked in finish, it more than made up for in personality.

As it was only then that ECETI had opened up again to guests after a long winter, I was as yet the only person in the detached guest house, and had the run of ranch to myself. It was still fairly early in the day. I really had nothing to do, no plan, no work that I’d brought with me. I was told that if conditions were right for it in the evening, there would be a sky-watch in the field after dark, in the “Field of Dreams”. Until then, I was on my own, so wandered about the grounds. I crossed and walked the perimeter of the field. I ran across James as he worked at setting a wooden frame into the ground near the newly-constructed meeting hall – something to do with the septic system he explained – so I introduced myself. He seemed genial enough, and complained about the hoops the county was making him jump through to stay open (legal hassles that would only get a hundred times worse in the months to come) – and then his next words to me were that he had seen, in a vision, the roads and the trees that line the roads sway and buckle and shake like waves, as though the ground were water, and that this was most likely the great earthquake to come. It seemed to me, even me, an odd way to introduce oneself. I later read in James’ autobiography “The Ultimate Soul Journey” of how he’d had similar visions leading up to the devastating San Francisco earthquake of October 1989 while living in the area, of how he’d felt compelled to tell people about it and take precautions, his visions ultimately proving predictive and beneficial, if not lifesaving, to those who’d listened. Given that context, his comments made a certain sense, but at the time they put me off slightly – I’ve been hearing from local channelers and the like their similar predictions of the imminent destruction of Seattle by earthquake for more than two decades, and it has as yet failed to happen (I believe I said as much to James) and though I would be foolish to say that it can’t happen – in fact it almost certainly someday will – I’m also not about to spend my life in a state of eternal disaster preparedness either.

I returned to my room for a short, midafternoon nap. As the day wore on, more people arrived: those on staff who’d been away for the winter, more guests also. I found myself in a state of strange familiarity with one of the staff, a dark-haired woman close to my own age with whom I found conversation easy. In time, as guests came and were shown to their rooms, I was mistaken for staff myself. When asked how long I’d been there for, I answered, “Maybe four hours,” and was stared at in blank disbelief. I took it as fortuitous that I seemed to belong; either that or a testament to my powers of camouflage.

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