Jake once told his daughter that if she Googled “quiet resignation,” she’d find a picture of him.
“I don’t know about the ‘quiet’ part,” she teased him.
Jake battled depression before his divorce. It had just gotten worse since. He barely slept. He saw a doctor, ate pills, jogged, lifted weights. He quit caffeine and sugar. Nothing worked, not even increasing amounts of vodka.
Every night after watching the sky for hours, Jake would finally go to bed. He’d lie awake reading a book – often a Cormac McCarthy novel to suit his dark, dreary mood – or listening to the radio on the nightstand, hoping to doze off for a few hours. He’d tuned in to music, sports and news; lately he had tried a nationally syndicated call-in show that solicits reports about aliens, ghosts and monsters. Jake realized the creepy tales he heard on “Coast to Coast AM” probably did more harm than good for his insomnia.
“Now we go to Fort Wayne, Indiana,” the show host said on a recent night.
The caller said he was Zach, a student at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne and a member of a local astronomy club. The club on Saturdays sets up telescopes at Fox Island County Park southwest of Fort Wayne to study stars and planets.
Zach described strange blue lights that danced over Fox Island one evening. The Indiana Tech student had never seen anything in the sky that bounced around like these lights. They were low in the air, just above a tree line; he’d seen them with the unaided eye as he was packing up his telescope to leave the park, long after everyone else in the club had departed.
Jake turned up the volume on his nightstand radio. He’d never heard anybody from Fort Wayne call the show.
“I think I might have been the last person in the park that night,” Zach told his invisible audience. “I was wondering if anybody else has seen lights like those.”
People responded from around the country, telling about flashes and orbs in space they’d been seeing – in Carlsbad, Calif.; Tucson, Ariz.; Pittsburgh; and a week’s worth of strange lights over Lake Erie in Cleveland.
A woman calling herself Marian came on the line to say that she, too, was from Fort Wayne, and while she hadn’t seen anything – she was blind, she noted – she had been hearing static, beeps and buzzes on the single-frequency radio provided to her by Northeast Indiana Radio Reading Service. The noise was especially bothersome on the night the Indiana Tech student saw the lights over Fox Island.
Jake turned up the volume more. The NEIRRS station was in an office park on the other side of Smith Field from his house.
Marian told the radio show she had complained to NEIRRS about the static. What could be causing it? Could she obtain another receiver?
“The station manager said she didn’t know whether that would help,” Marian reported. “The reading service had gotten other reports of static from listeners on that night and at other times, and so far none of the receivers had been at fault.”
NEIRRS staff members had inspected their broadcasting equipment and studio gear, Marian said. Everything worked as it should. They checked with the commercial radio station that carries the reading service subchannel; no problems there, either.
“People are seeing blue lights in the sky and they are hearing weird beeps and buzzes on their special radio receivers,” the show host said curiously. “What in the world is going on in Fort Wayne, Indiana?”
The blind caller continued: The only thing the NEIRRS manager could think of was signal interference coming from aircraft at the nearby airport, Smith Field. The manager would check with airport officials, she had told Marian.
“There’s also a radio telescope at the nearby high school,” Marian told her audience. “Maybe it is receiving signals that are leaking into my radio frequency. Or maybe the static is from the Fox Island lights, whatever they are.”
Jake didn’t sleep a wink that night.