In these pages some five months ago, you were introduced to the phenomenon of Rods. Unidentified Flying Rods, to be exact. Unexplainable, tubelike things perhaps hundreds of feet long of unknown origin that allegedly course through our skies so fast as to be barely perceptible to the human eye.
But not to the eyes of one local human named Jeff Ferris. For it was Ferris, stunt skateboarder by trade, who videotaped Rod after Rod shooting over his Tempe backyard in broad daylight. Were they a new form of organism? Were they bizarre bursts of mutant energy? Or were they something else altogether, perhaps something . . . from outer space?
Ferris, along with Jose Escamilla, a Colorado-based filmmaker and Rod enthusiast, released a video compilation of their filmed sightings titled Rods: Mysterious Objects Among Us.
Skeptics claimed the footage was faked. Computer-generated, they said, or maybe those dark, mysterious shapes zipping across the screen were insects, even birds, whose paths produced a Rodlike effect when viewed through slow-motion video.
But Ferris was undaunted. He claimed in no uncertain terms that what you saw was what he taped. There was no trickery. No computer high jinks. Certainly, Ferris seemed to be a normal, average young man, not some desperate, polyester-clad nut case going on about how annoying it was to have his conversations monitored via a complex sensory device implanted in his brain by the Pleadians. No, he was not like that at all.
Many events have happened in the five months since we last heard from Ferris--Madonna gave birth, a zoo gorilla saved a baby boy, the guy who invented the Hokey Pokey died--and though the Rod controversy has not mushroomed into an international story, Ferris continues to push for answers.
Last Sunday morning found Ferris sitting in his apartment, gathering his Rod thoughts, his Rod words and his Rod videos, preparing to bring his Rod case to the Cosmic Awareness, UFO & New Age Expo later that day at the Mesa Holiday Inn. For since you last read of Rods, things have happened; new sightings, new footage. Ferris is still eager to spread the word, whatever that may be, so I decided to pay him a visit.
While his Rodumentary Rods: Mysterious Objects Among Us has not been exactly flying off the shelves, Ferris is excited by another Rod-related video that he has discovered.
Braveheart--Mel Gibson: A Film Maker's Passion is the name of this tape, a short documentary on the making of the Oscar-winning film Braveheart. But it is so much more than that. Especially if you possess the Rod-spotting capabilities of Ferris. There is one scene of Gibson standing there in his ancient Scotsman outfit, bullhorn and script in hand, against a brilliant blue sky. But if you play it back in slow motion, you see that Mel has a co-star in this particular shot. A Rod, plain as, well, plain as Rods get, flies by in the corner of the screen.
Ferris shows me this a couple times, and reveals that he has discovered even more Rod guest appearances, all just by chance.
"I've found some feature films that I've rented just to watch and noticed Rods," he states. "There's a film called Blue in the Face with Harvey Keitel, there's one in that in the beginning. A white Rod."
(I forgot to tell you that Rods also come in white.)
"And in Mighty Aphrodite, the Woody Allen movie. There's about three in that. In the scenes in the Greek Theater, there're three different sightings. One where it comes up in the corner, and a couple that just go right across. White ones."
To the naysayers that have accused Ferris of doctoring footage, he now scoffs, tape in hand.
"I didn't have anything to do with filming this stuff. And this is captured on actual film. This isn't video, this isn't low-quality camcorder stuff."
I suggest that he might examine historical footage for Rods, such as the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination, which is usually in slow motion every time you see it anyway. Ferris lights up. "Oh, yeah. That'd be good."
Like ingrown hairs, Rods can turn up anywhere. Ferris relates a recent sighting "in an area called Conyers, Georgia, where this woman supposedly speaks to the Virgin Mary."
"Thousands of people gather at her home, and she comes out like the pope to deliver the messages," he offers excitedly. "And there was a Mexican TV station there that was filming this a few months ago, and up in the sky there was a cloud formation that looked like a cross. And witnessed by hundreds of people was something that flew through the clouds, and it was captured on their cameras."
And that "something" was this: Rods.
It's apparently so easy to capture Rods on video that Ferris did it by accident a couple months ago.
"I was skating on a backyard ramp and I set the camera up on a stool," he offers. "When I played the tape, there was [a Rod] that I got that comes over the top of the ramp and goes in between our heads and down past the camera. Also, in reviewing some old footage, I found about four other Rod clips from this area over at the corner of Curry and College."
What with all this Rod material, there are plans in the works for a sequel video to Rods: Mysterious Objects Among Us. It will be called Rods: New Evidence.
It'll be out there. Look for it.
I ask Ferris if he has any further clues as to what the Rods really are.
"Well, there's a couple of theories," he says. "There was a show on PBS called Scientific American Frontiers, and it was about these scientists in Italy that captured magnetic monifolds on computer film--that was their term for bursts of energy coming from a mountain. They match identical to what a Rod is."
They may look the same, but Ferris doesn't buy any Italian monifold theories.
"I still think that the Rods are alive. I think it's something real, something organic, not magnetic energy," he says excitedly. "But there are a lot of connections like that. The fact that in a lot of the footage there are power lines that these fly around, that's a connection. The fact that these are videotaped in areas of high UFO activity, that's a connection. But at least these things show there is something here, and I still want to stay away from the fact that these are aliens. I don't think it's something that comes from another world."
As a matter of fact, a large percentage of the thin, elusive buggers seem to come from right here in Tempe. Ferris agrees.
"All the footage I've taken has been in Tempe. I don't know what the heck's going on with Tempe."
It's almost time to leave for the Cosmic Awareness Expo, and Ferris begins to pack his briefcase. I wonder what he hopes to achieve there.
"I think people are fascinated by something they can see, rather than hearing someone just tell about a UFO sighting. And I'm not going to be working with a very jaded audience. I think everyone in the audience is going into it saying that, yes, there are weird things going on out there. I want to tell people how they can set their cameras and what to do, how anyone can be a part of it. That's what's kind of cool about Rods. Not everybody can go out and tape a UFO; this is a little bit different."
Here's a riddle:
When is a Holiday Inn lobby not a Holiday Inn lobby?
When it is filled with the Cosmic Awareness, UFO & New Age Expo, that's when.
That may not actually be a riddle, but it's a good way to segue into part two of this Rod juggernaut, wherein Ferris confronts his public. But first, let's take a look at what is available to attendees of this conference.
It's impressive, yet pretty much your run-of-the-mill, paranormal midway. You can buy a tee shirt, decal, hat, key chain, painting, etc., with a small gray on it. What the smiley face was to the '70s, the small gray is to the '90s.
You can buy books like The Smokey God and Inner Earth Mysteries, Overlords of Atlantis and the Great Pyramid, or Man-Made UFO's 1944-1994: 50 Years of Suppression. You can buy videos like Preparing for Contact and The Truth About Crop Circles.
You can lie down on a table and get massaged back through "every initiation you've ever been through" in ten minutes, for only $15. You can sign up for an upcoming potluck sponsored by the Blue Rose Ministry where aliens are expected to attend. Or you can get your cards read. Smell that incense.
And there are lectures, of course. The big draws of the 40 speakers at this weekendlong function are a retired Army command sergeant major, whatever that is, who (using his "Cosmic Top Secret" clearance) allegedly saw sensitive military documents detailing autopsies on 12 aliens that crashed in Germany. There is also a guy who is the son of the military official who found some strange objects in a field just outside of a small desert town. Called Roswell! That's right, dad let junior go through his collection of weird metal shards before the government stepped in to cover up possibly one of the biggest events of the late '40s, and now he's telling all.
But I am here for Ferris, for the Rods. Now it is time.
If you can imagine a choir made up of the kind of people who flock to UFO/New Age/Cosmic Awareness gatherings, then Ferris is preaching to it. There are about 30 seekers sitting in this pink Holiday Inn conference room, and Ferris is up at the podium. Confident, assured, well-groomed. He has 25 minutes to make his point.
"The best way to describe them is if you are driving down the road and see something out of the corner of your eye . . . that was a Rod," he's telling the audience. Folks seem fairly rapt. They stare forward, frowning in concentration.
Ferris becomes cryptic. "My definite opinion is that these have been here all along. I don't think we discovered them, I think we just happened to notice them."
He pops in a video, unfortunately displayed on a TV screen that would be about the right size for a small den. Still, we can make out the Rods in the slo-mo, moving through the sky. A woman behind me exhales loudly. A man in front of me says, "Curious!" Someone in back coughs.
Ferris puts in the Braveheart tape, which he is unable to play in slow motion. He points to the sky behind Mel's head.
"You're gonna see it--oh! There it went!"
He rewinds for another pass.
"Okay, it'll be right here. There it goes."
That Rod sure is fast. It's almost invisible. I feel like standing up to testify. "Yes--I saw the Braveheart Rods at Jeff's house! Believe me, they're there!" I would say, but I don't. Ferris winds up his talk, urging the audience to join in the search.
"I think you'll be surprised when you leave here. Today or tomorrow, you may start to see things," he says before stepping down.
Success! People approach Ferris, asking Rod questions, begging to be educated. Robert thinks Rods could be ectoplasm. He is going to fire up his camcorder and go Rod spotting as soon as he gets back home to Cincinnati. Tom from a local chapter of the Mutual UFO Network is interested, but astutely thinks they "need more analysis."
Not everyone is awed by Rods. Geoffrey, a man wearing crystal earrings, is back at the water cooler, and is more interested in telling me about the "spiritual journey" he is on, which will soon take him to Sedona. Geoffrey is from Milwaukee.
But it's all in a day's paranormal expo work for our man Ferris. He makes no money off this, and while possibly discovering life forms previously unknown to man may sound like an exciting hobby, Ferris doesn't let it go to his head.
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"You got to kind of keep your feet on the ground, you can't get too overwhelmed by this stuff," he tells me. "You can get poor really quickly." And still I wonder. Rods . . . what is this whole weird thing?
"If anything," says Ferris, "that's exactly what it is. Something weird."
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