Neighborhood resident spends his time researching and tracking — in some instances, on foot — the mysterious and inexplicable
Three years ago, as neighborhood resident Nick Redfern was preparing to move to Texas from England, he went on a road trip with a couple of buddies.
They packed a camper with some gear and headed out, Redfern says, to travel the “length and breadth of Britain.”
Were they three friends out for one last round of memory-making before an ocean came between them? Well, not exactly …
“We were investigating things like panthers on the loose in the British countryside, the Loch Ness monster, anything sort of remotely weird,” Redfern says.
Redfern, a 39-year-old freelance journalist, is also a paranormal investigator and UFO-ologist. In fact, he spends about half his time investigating, writing about and lecturing on what he calls “genuinely weird phenomena.”
“I’ve always had an interest in what is sort of broadly termed the unexplained,” he says. In Redfern’s work, this includes everything from UFOs to Big Foot to the spontaneous combustion of human beings.
But rather than the delusional oddball most would assume him to be, Redfern comes off as a perfectly normal guy with a perfectly normal job. He also has been able to make a living at it, writing five books published by Simon & Schuster, many of which have been bestsellers.
Redfern’s fascination with the paranormal started at a young age.
“My father used to be in the British Royal Air Force. He used to work on radar, and he was involved in several weird instances in the early 1950s involving strange objects, UFOs tracked on the mainland,” he says. “Because of the time period, people would think, ‘Oh, it must be the Russians,’ or somebody like that. So the military would have to look into it. And several pilots reported seeing strange lights in sky.
“When you hear something like this from your own father — it was just a particular tale that really opened my eyes to thinking that maybe there really are strange things going on out there,” he says. “You start to think, ‘Well, are they credible? How much truth is there to them?’
“It kind of inspired me to start looking at things open-mindedly — still in a down-to-earth fashion — but to kind of make sure I retain that open mind,” he says.
Redfern realizes he has a job that raises eyebrows.
“You do get a few strange looks when you tell people you do real-life sort of X-files stuff for a living,” he says, laughing. “I mean, I’m not your stereotypical 9-to-5 guy, so to a lot of people I have a very, very strange job. But to me, a strange job is being stuck in a traffic jam at five o’clock screaming your head off or watching the clock all day long. It depends on how you view what you do.”
He views his job as part science, part adventure, part exploration.
“I enjoy peeling away the layers of the onion to get to bottom of a story and determine where the truth lies,” he says.
For Redfern, getting to the truth might involve scouring through piles of declassified government files at The National Archives in Maryland, interviewing UFO witnesses, or piling into a camper with his buddies and loads of high-tech film equipment and traipsing through the English countryside looking for strange creatures.
That trip, he says, represented a chance to get away from “spending most of my time analyzing files.”
The book he wrote following the adventure with two paranormally curious friends, Jonathon Downes and Richard Freeman — titled “Three Men Seeking Monsters: Six Weeks in Pursuit of Werewolves, Lake Monsters, Giant Cats, Ghostly Devil Dogs, and Ape-Men” — has been faulted by some for being heavy on humor and light on science. But Redfern isn’t too bothered by such criticism.
“That’s one of things with a subject like this,” he says. “People who are into it — they get very, very serious, or come across, dare I say, a little bit geeky.
“But I always try to have fun with the subject as well,” he says. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a sense of humor about this. People do treat it as very, sort of precious, which I understand, but you need to have a sense of humor and a life away from the subject.”
Which, he stresses, he does.
“People often ask me if I consider myself a real-life equivalent of Fox Mulder (a character on the ‘X-files’ television show). But no — the guy had no life, he had no social life or girlfriend,” laughs Redfern, who’s been married to wife Dana for many years. “I’m not like that. Come 5 o’clock, my computer goes off, and I’m as normal as everybody else.”
Redfern also stresses that most paranormal cases “tend to be demystified upon investigation.”
“I don’t think anybody doubts that most UFO sightings can be explained. They’re satellites or meteorites falling to the earth, or that sort of thing,” he says. “But then you get these credible reports from pilots, who are trained to know what goes on in the sky and what should be up there, and those cases stand out a little bit more.”
For the time-being, Redfern plans to keep focusing on “mystery animals, whether it’s lake monsters or Big Foot reports.”
“The thought of strange creatures lurking in the woods captures people’s imaginations. In some respects, it kind of brings out the kid in all of us,” he says. “But to be serious, if you look around world, there are numerous locations that are not very well explored. There are smaller species of animals that are actually being found all the time. It’s some of the larger and more controversial animals and reports of sightings — that’s what really interests me. If you get into the wilderness — the big American forests on the West Coast or the jungles of Africa —it’s feasible these things could actually exist.”
Though he says he wishes he had the answer to such mysteries, in a way, he admits, he’s glad he doesn’t.
“The appeal of the mystery is what keeps it going. As much as I would like to resolve a lot of these, I’ll be first to admit that’s it the ongoing lure of the mystery that keeps people interested.
“It would be a shame to know everything,” he says. “To lose that kind of wonderment about life.”
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