An Interview with Dennis Morrison
An ancient village, a stone with mysterious images, and human invisibility
by Brent Raynes
Dennis Morrison, a researcher-author from Michigan, has delved extensively into ancient Native American mysteries, the paranormal, and UFOs. The author of Secret Society of the Shamans, Mr. Morrisons articles have appeared in Ancient American magazine, UFO Universe, and Inner Light. After several years of absence from this field, he has returned. Publisher Timothy Beckley kindly notified me of his recent re-appearance and suggested that I might be interested in interviewing him. I certainly was! I well remembered his very thought-provoking UFO Mock-wa-mosa article published by UFO Universe back in 1993, reposted elsewhere in this issue with permission of Mr. Morrison.
Brent Raynes: I was recently re-reading Tim Beckleys magazine UFO Universe, which was a newsstand publication for many years, and it was the fall 1993 issue that contained an article that you had written that I found very fascinating all of those years ago. Ive got another publication of Mr. Beckleys around here somewhere from back around that same time period that contained details on that mysterious stone that you came in possession of. I remember it contained pictures of the stone and such.
Dennis Morrison: With the image stone, I still have a lot of the photographs that I took originally. Good quality color photographs, and so thats something that you might be interested in.
Brent Raynes: Okay great.
To begin with Dennis, if you wouldnt care to tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in this area of exploration, please do so?
Dennis Morrison: Well it seems to me that the paranormal has always just been a periodic presence in my life since I was a child, whether you consider UFOs paranormal (which I do), haunting or whatever; its just knowing something had been there. Some people are fearful of it, but to me its just something that is there. Its part of life. Its something that has actually made life a lot more enjoyable.
I remember when I was five years old of having my first UFO sighting, with my brother and my sister from the back window of our house late one night. This part of my life goes way back, as far as I can remember. The Native American part began back when I was in college about early 1990. I was helping my dad. He was handicapped and I was making a furrow for pea in the garden and I cut my hand on what turned out to be a really beautiful spear point. Well as we worked in the yard I discovered the image stone. There were a few human remains there. Nothing extensive, but extensive pottery, and thats really where my interest in the Native American aspect came in.
Brent Raynes: From what I read, there was like a whole Indian village that was in your back yard then?
Dennis Morrison: Archeologists have for a long time said that northeast Michigan was very sparsely occupied, particularly during the late Woodland Period. Well this site that my dads backyard was a part of was a pretty extensive site that ran probably a good mile and a half along Van Etten Creek between Van Etten Lake and the Au Sable River. Judging from the prolific amount of pottery that we found there Im estimating that, at that time, there were probably 500 to 600 people living on that site.
Even pre-dating that though, Brent, there is another component to that site that goes back to the late Archaic Period, probably about four thousand years. There is a burial and that burial has about 36 individuals in it. Now certainly Michigan was sparsely populated at that time but I think a lot more populated than archeologists claimed in order to have had a burial site of that size.
Brent Raynes: Interesting. Then how did this situation evolve from there?
Dennis Morrison: As my ex-wife and I continued to do a lot of work up there back in the early 1990s, and as I had more and more things published about this particular site, which was named the Old Van Etten Creek Site, one of the Native Americans who lived there at that time, a Bonnie Ecdahl, had read a lot of my writings and got hold of a group of elders from the Mount Pleasant Reservation. They asked if they could come up and I could take them to this site and show it to them. They were interested in possibly buying the land, preserving it and sometime making an interpretive center there. Ultimately they didnt to that, but, at any rate, I agreed. So they came up this one day. There were twelve of them altogether. We met at Bonnies house. I gave a display of some of the nicer things that we had found over there and then we left for the site.
Well, I had worked this site for years and never once had it been posted no trespassing. The day that we got over there it had been posted. We were all feeling pretty bad, but I happened to remember that there was a back way that you could go around, cross a railroad bridge, and you could come up from behind, so I suggested that we go that way. So we walked in and we arrived at the foot of a 20 to 30 foot tall bluff that you look up at, and it was up there that part of the village site was during the Late Woodland, which the Late Woodland Period would have been 500 to 1400 years ago. Hap, who was the leader, said were going to do a little ceremony here, and what he did was he made a little altar at the foot of that bluff. I remember him going about gathering different leaves and bark and things and put in the center of the altar. He lit it and Ill never forget the pungent aroma that came up out of the smoke. Its just so hard to describe.
He said, Now were going to talk to the spirits that still live here. He spoke to them in the Chippewa language and in turn each of the others who were there spoke in the Native language. Then he turned to me, when they had all had their say, and asked me if I had anything that I would like to say to them. Of course, I dont speak Chippewa, but I went ahead (because I felt that they were there too), and I often felt their presence when I worked that site, so I spoke to them. I dont remember now what I said. Then he said, Okay, now I am going to put this out and were going to walk up to the top and were going to look at the village and nobody will know that were there.
I didnt think much of it at that particular time. They put it out and we proceeded to walk up that steep bluff and we got to the top and we started walking around. There were other people (maybe the landowner) that were walking through there, and I remember one walking, just about brushing up against me, and I turned and smiled and said Hello, and they just walked down like we werent there. It was in a sense almost an eerie feeling because everything had this misty glow to it and it wasnt a foggy morning or anything. But it just had this misty, unusual glow to it.
I showed them where the wigwams had been and their campfires and everything, and when we finished we went back down and it was just as simple as that it was a very unique experience. I couldnt get him to comment on what he did. Did the people see us? Well no, they didnt appear to. It really was like being invisible. I dont know what he said to the spirits and I dont know what he gathered to put onto that little stone altar that he made. But it was really a unique experience.
Brent Raynes: Oh yeah, it sounds like it was a really profound experience.
Dennis Morrison: Not being Native American but loving their culture, it meant a lot to be asked to be able to talk to the spirits there too.
Brent Raynes: I can imagine. To have an experience like that thats something that very few people get to experience really. You hear stories like that, every once and awhile, but to actually be the one to experience it thats quite something.
Ive thought often about writing that story up, but I never have.
Brent Raynes: Were you afraid to share this story before? Why now? Do you feel that people might now understand it better?
Dennis Morrison: I am not really sure, Brent. Ive thought often about writing that. Back even this past summer my son suggested that I put it down on paper, so that even if I didnt submit it someplace I should have it written down somewhere. I dont know why I never did. Other than the image stone, it was one of the most fascinating experiences that I ever had.
Brent Raynes: Now was this before the image stone turned up?
Dennis Morrison: No, that was after, and they showed a lot of interest in the stone too. In fact, they had offered to buy it, which I didnt sell it. If I had done anything I would have given it to them. Having shown them the photographs that I had and the drawings that I made they were able to identify some figures that were on it, but they werent able to identify others. Or, at least if they did, they werent able to give me an interpretation as to what the message might have been that was trying to be conveyed, if that is even the right word for it. But I always felt that it was something that was trying to be conveyed.
Brent Raynes: Okay, so could you describe your experience with this image stone? As I remember, from reading about it years ago, it didnt stay looking the same all of the time. Is that right?
Dennis Morrison: The symbols changed a lot. Now this was in my backyard, where I found that, and I found within a short proximity to it, over 1500 pottery shards, and they represented two very large pots, judging by the rim pieces. That was during the summer. Actually it was my dog that found those.
There was a very dear friend of mine. Hes now deceased. His name was Jerry Wagner. He was a local historian, archaeologist and writer. I used to take my finds over there and wed excitedly go over everything. I took the pottery with me, but the stone that I had found that turned out to be the image stone, it looked like a human face in profile, but it was pretty much just a beach worn stone that had been set on top of a pile of chert or flint flakes. And even at that, that looked like a primitive altar to me, but I took and I gathered up the pottery and some of the stone pieces that were found, and as an after thought I shoved this stone into the bag or box, and I took it over to Jerrys house. He took out the pottery and he propped the pottery up on the floor, the pieces that I had assembled, with that stone. I didnt think anything of it until, well we had talked for maybe a couple of hours about the artifacts and such, and then I started packing the things away and he picked up this stone and I remember he had such a surprised look on his face. He said, What are the symbols on here, Dennis? Why didnt you tell me about these? I said, Because there werent any there. He showed me the stone and, lo and behold, there were dark symbols that were just very slightly raised from the stone. They were not there, Brent, when I found the stone or when I packed it to take over to Jerrys house that night.
That was probably the only time that I really felt a little bit uneasy with something paranormal. I remember riding home by myself that night from his house and I had the stone out of the box on the car seat next to me and I thought, This is really weird. I thought, I might just take this stone and pitch it out. Boy if I had, I would have missed one of the most incredible experiences I had ever had because over the course of the next couple of months, I remember thinking at the time that it was almost like how the numbers will change on a digital watch. Thats how the symbols changed on there. They werent always raised. Sometimes they were dark outlines. But they were witnessed by a lot of people.
Jerry and I had actually had gone to Nelson Yoders house, over in Cummins, Michigan, He was the publisher of the Woodland Chronicle. It was a Thanksgiving Dinner. There were 14 people there. Jerry had started a conversation about the stone and I had taken it with me. So I took it in. Everybody wanted to see it and there, in front of all of those people, the symbols appeared and disappeared on it faster than I could possibly mark them down. There were human figures, you know, almost childish like stick figures. I remember one in particular that was a stick figure that had what looked like a bow and arrow. There was an amazing array of symbols.
It was active like that for a period of about three months and then it just stopped, but I had a little building that I had made out in my backyard where I displayed all of the artifacts and things that my ex-wife and I had found over the years, and I had that stone out there, and I remember so many times taking people out there and everything in that building could be dry but that stone would be dripping wet.
I had some beautiful artifacts out there that I had found, but this was just a plain looking stone that looked like a face. Invariably, people would go to that stone before they would look at any of the arrowheads, spears, axes and things. A few people, and this happened to me too, when I would pick it up you could actually feel your hands tingle. It didnt do that with everybody, but with a few people it did that.
There was a shaman lady, who came to me from Beaver Island and she felt that it was part of a shamans medicine kit. I may have to do some checking to see if I have those notes here. I do remember too that there was a James Whittal from Early Sites Research Center, some place on the East Coast, and he examined the photographs and drawings that I sent him and I remember him saying something about that it had a European connection too. But those notes Im going to have to try and look up too.
Brent Raynes: Of course, I know that were going way back down memory lane here. Its all quite fascinating.
Dennis Morrison: Ive had the feeling, with anything that Ive encountered Native American-wise, that it has been benevolent. Not that there couldnt be, but except for that one moment that I wanted to toss that stone out of the car, Ive never felt any fear in any of the encounters that Ive had.
There was one this past summer, while I was living in Tawas, Michigan, with my one son David. You spoke on the phone earlier to my step son, who by the way is 30 percent Cherokee. But anyway, David was living in Oscoda, for the summer, and about 2 or 3 times a week I would bike from Tawas to Oscoda and back, which was about 50 miles round trip and took me about five hours to do. I loved it, but the thing is U.S. 23 is the main road that runs up along Lake Huron, but theres an Old U.S. 23 thats out in the country. So I decided to take that route and youd come to a place called Tuttle Marsh and I would enter it about three miles outside of Towa and it winds through this just beautiful marshy wildlife preserve and it comes out about maybe three miles south of Oscoda. As youre going back through there, I was riding one morning and I noticed a sandy blow-out area, a sandy place with no grass and the wind just sweeps across it and keeps blowing the sand. I thought, Wow. That looks like it might be a good place to look for artifacts. I didnt really expect that I would find anything there because its quite a ways away from any streams or anything. I mean, theres a lot of marsh, but still. Anyway I went out there and I sat there and I lit up a cigarette and I started looking around me and there were all of these flint flakes and fire cracked rock and by golly there were a couple of broken arrowheads. A few days later I was telling my son Dennis about it and he wanted to go out there with me.
He has a thing about going out to Tuttle Marsh at night because its an eerie place and there are a lot of stories about strange things that have happened out there. It was a typical night that youd expect something. It was storming and lightening, and he fell asleep. We parked in a turn around, almost directly across from where this sandy blow out was and he fell asleep and I was sitting there, the rain had stopped, so again I got out of the car and lit up a cigarette. Im looking out across the marsh and the blow out and two green lights appeared. Now there is nobody back there. There are no trails back there, nothing. At first there were two balls of green light and then there was a third one. They would come in together and then they would separate, and then they would come in together and they would separate, and it was right there where that blow out area was where I found the few artifacts. I tried to wake him up, and he woke up just in time to see the last couple of seconds before they disappeared. I felt that it was probably a hunting camp of limited usage, but there was still an energy there, and I believed that it was the energy of those people that were there. It was almost like a playful type of thing going on. The lights had started coming across that sandy area towards the car. Once I woke Dennis up he wanted to get out of there. He started the car up and, you know, they were gone.
Brent Raynes: Right, and as youre telling me this I remembered something here and I looked it up in your article and about how and your fiance Kathy (now your ex-wife) had been driving a desolate stretch of Old U.S. 23 near Tuttle Marsh, Michigan and you had observed a bright flash of red light come down from the north heading south and arching down into the woods where it hung briefly before disappearing.
Dennis Morrison: Oh yeah! I had forgotten about that. That was not far from where we had seen the green lights. Now that you mention that, I remember thinking later about the Mock-wa-mosa. Chief John Nahgahgwan and his wife didnt talk to many people about the Mock-wa-mosa because people up on the reservation at Mikado, which is up by Oscoda, still believe in that, and they believe that the Mock-wa-mosa is a form of witchcraft where the practitioner takes the form of a bright ball of light, among many other forms, including a bear. I just wondered if that red ball of light that I saw could have been a Mock-wa-mosa.
Brent Raynes: You had actually done like a videotaping of this Chief John Nahgahgwan and it looked like from what I was reading you had interviewed a number of people who had had the experience of seeing this light that they connected with this spirit the Mock-wa-mosa.
Dennis Morrison: I did. I think it was John and a friend or a brother. I recall him telling me that they were walking down a path in the woods out there by Mikado Reservation and they saw the bright ball of light coming towards them. He told me that the one way to be able to render the Mock-wa-mosa powerless was to double back on it, where it had already come down a path, take a pinch of sand and put it in your cheek, and that renders them powerless. I think he said that they were actually able to put their arms around it and the individual turned from the light back into the person that it was. It was a woman. He wouldnt tell me her name because she still lives up there, but later I interviewed, for an article that I did, a lady named Mrs. Beaver, and she was a very elderly lady. She couldnt tell me how old she was but her face was so deeply etched with wrinkles and I remember her talking about the power that she had. She wouldnt say the word Mock-wa-mosa but the power that she had that she could actually go in and steal peoples souls when they were sleeping. It was an evil power and it was a power that a person had to use and it was a power that was bestowed upon them, that was not necessarily something that they wanted. But a relative who maybe was dying could bestow that power to them.
Brent Raynes: That sounds like a really awful situation to be in.
Dennis Morrison: Yeah, it could be.
Brent Raynes: This power of the Mock-wa-mosa how, for example, Im reading here how the possessor must kill at least one person per year or the power will turn on its possessor and kill him, and also how, like you just said, it was passed on to another person, kind of reminded me of a book I had read about Cherokee and Creek Indian beliefs about witchcraft. They had similar belief systems and stories.
You mentioned the bear and the owl, and I know that a lot of the Native Americans saw the owl as kind of evil, a shape shifter, and also connected with lights. Of course, with Whitley Strieber we started hearing some years back about modern abductees and the phenomenon of screen memories and how they would often see a deer or an owl or something and it would turn out to be a UFO being. I thought that some of these things that the Native Americans were telling is very similar to what the abductees today, in the UFO situation, are describing. Seeing these animal forms and its something else, plus the missing time, and the invisibility thing too. Abductees have described how they can cloak, how they can become invisible to you.
Dennis Morrison: The UFO connection to all of it I find particularly fascinating. I think that the Native American, and especially the Algonquin mythology from this area ties in very closely with it. It seems like in a lot of cases where there have been flaps of sightings here that there are a lot of what people would call Bigfoot sightings in connection with them.
Back in 1966, there was a phenomenally huge UFO flap here in Michigan, which extended out to the East Coast. I remember that Dr. Hynek had come in and investigated. There was a tremendous fear factor associated with what people were seeing and he explained it as swamp gas, but I remember just the month preceding these sightings there was a rash of Bigfoot like creature sightings in southeastern Michigan and on up to the Saginaw Valley where I was at that time.
I guess the Native Americans have, throughout the country, an association with Bigfoot or Sasquatch, and not just a primitive looking creature like that but the more evolved type beings like what you might call the grays and entities of that nature.
Brent Raynes: Yes, some of them talk about Bigfoot like he was a brother to them and then some of them talk about the Star People and such. Of course, the Hopi have the Kachinas that they say come from other worlds. There was a UFO flap out in Arizona in 1970-1, and some of the Hopi elders were saying that this was a sign.
Dennis Morrison: Speaking of the UFOs, I cant say that Ive ever been abducted, but I had talked with you about the earliest incident that I can remember. I was about 6 years old and to this day none of my brothers nor my sister will discuss what happened that night. But we lived in Bridgeport at the time and we had a large yard. My bedroom faced out into the backyard but my dad had a big garden, which incidentally he would dig up arrowheads every once and awhile in his garden. But this particular night, and it must have been very early in the morning, it was still quite dark, and I remember seeing a bright yellowish orange light through the window and the next thing I remember is my brothers and my sister and I standing at the window. I couldnt see what was making this flame, but I could see flames shooting down towards the ground and the ground being stirred up, sand and all at the base of it. Thats all that I recall. Its always stuck in my mind and I can never figure out why my brothers or my sister just refuse to even discuss it. Its almost like they have a fear of what happened.
Brent Raynes: They must have been older?
Dennis Morrison: Yes, I was the youngest. I was about 6 then.
I always thought that regressive hypnosis would be kind of interesting to see if that would bring anything back. That is, that and different experiences that Ive had with UFOs.
Brent Raynes: Could you tell us about some of your later UFO experiences?
Dennis Morrison: The period that really sticks in my mind is 1966, which Ive talked a little bit about, but I said that with the Native American things Ive experienced that there hasnt been fear associated with it. But with the UFOs, though they fascinate me, there is a deep intense fear for some reason, and in 1966 it was almost paranoia with me because every time youd turn around then on the national news theyd be talking about Michigan sightings and sightings on the East Coast, around Exeter, and there was a tremendous fear within me. I recall one evening sitting in the living room of the house. Actually my mom and dad had Peyton Place on and they were sitting there watching it. My moms chair was by the front door. It was really warm and the door was open, and I looked out kind of toward the north, not far away, was this huge green glowing oval and it just moved silently across the sky. Just silently, but self-luminous, and its what everybody was seeing.
It doesnt sound like much, but all of these years that has kind of haunted me, wondering what was inside there? What were they doing here in Michigan at that time? And why do I fear so much even thinking about that today?
There are times that I know that I was outside and I would come in and I would come in and I couldnt remember where I had been or what I had done. My mom and dad would always put it down to my being really nervous and being scared about all of these things that I was hearing. But I always felt that there was more to it than that.
I cant give a specific thing or incidents, but I remember that there being many times that I had been outside and come home and not know where I had been or what I had done. It was almost, it was an irrational paranoid fear, and it still is. Ive right now my stomach is tightening up when Im talking about what happened in 1966 and what people were seeing and what I saw.
Brent Raynes: How old would you have been in 1966 then?
Dennis Morrsion: Eleven.
I know that that doesnt sound like much, but there has to be a reason for the fear thats there.
Right after the publication of my book Secret Society of the Shamans it was a Sunday afternoon, my wife was working, and my two children and I were home. They were quite young at the time. We were sitting at the dining room table eating and there was a knock at the door. I went over and looked out the peep hole. I thought that I was seeing things because here was this heavy set lady dressed in traditional Indian clothing, the dark black hair drawn back, and across her arms what looked like an otter skin medicine bag. I remember thinking, Wow, Ive probably offended her somehow by what I wrote. But I went ahead and opened the door and she asked me, Are you Dennis Morrison? I said, Yeah. She said, Can I come in and talk to you? I felt a little bit hesitant at first, but then I thought, What the heck. I said, Yeah, come on in. She came in and I had her come over to the dining room table and we sat down. She was from Beaver Island. She claimed to be a shaman lady and that she had read my book and that she was really pleased with the book.
She sat there for a good couple of hours and she told stories to us about what it was like growing up as a child and being Native American. She brought gifts for me. She brought a bottle of cedar oil and a beaded tobacco pouch filled with this special tobacco mix that she makes from things that she gathered. But she wanted me to take her to Old Van Etten Creek so that she could see the place for herself. I couldnt go that day, but I told her how to get there and she went over there by herself and on her way back she stopped in and she just had this radiant smile when she came back which she didnt when she first came here, which made me a little bit nervous. But she came in and she said, I want you to know that the spirits at what you call Old Van Etten Creek are very happy with you and with what youre doing in bringing this knowledge to people now of what was there and who was there. She claimed she was able to talk to the spirits and she felt that there was some kind of a spiritual component in the fact that at the one spot, which is only about two city blocks in size, I had found the remains of about 1500 different pottery vessels, based on rim shards, and while the Indians in Michigan, as far as I know, never buried their people in containers, she felt that there was somehow a spiritual component to the amount of pottery that was found there and that a lot of it had been used for cremations and things like that.
She was really just a fascinating person to talk to. She sat there and sang songs in Chippewa.
Brent Raynes: It seems pretty obvious to me that you were a sincere and serious amateur archaeologist who was dedicated to conducting very accurate archaeological work. From what Ive read and what you told me, none of the Native Americans you encountered disapproved of what you had done at that time. In fact, just the opposite. They seemed interested, even wanting you to show them these places, and they seemed to convey the message from spirits that they too approved of what you were doing.
But as you know, there are many other Native Americans out there who would consider this a desecration of their ancestral grounds and that you had no right to disturb them.
So what do you perceive was the difference in your particular circumstance than what generally is to be expected in such situations?
Dennis Morrison: If I gave the impression that I had dug into burials Im sorry as I never have. I examined burials that were falling from the banks of Van Etten Creek but left those remains as they were and undisturbed except to take some photographs. It is not that I disapprove of excavation at burials, a great deal is learned from this and the Native Americans pound this drum about it being desecration. How is that so if it helps to preserve the knowledge of the ancient people who lived here? No, rather it preserves the great significance of their ancient culture. I think though it would be awesome if Native American advisers were present and participated in any such work done. Lets not forget also Brent that there are many antiquities here in the Americas that are unrelated to the Native Americans yet they seem to claim exclusive rights to American prehistory. Other races have visited here for a very long time.
I mentioned 30 some burials on Van Etten Creek. I observed some (those falling from the bank) as well as quite a few excavated by the state of Michigan at that location. To me, what the state does is indeed desecration. They come in, remove the artifacts and remains, place them in their sterile labs, and never to my knowledge ask the Native American community to participate in their studies of such remains. But then again it is very likely that the Native Americans that inhabit this area today have little connection if any with the prehistoric cultures that thrived here that long ago. These burials were estimated at over 6,000 years! Certainly though some of the ancient cultures were in part absorbed into what became the Algonquin people but the connections, in my opinion, are slim at best.
As far as village sites are concerned I am not sure about the legalities of this at present. When I did my work at the Old Van Etten Creek site all that was required was written permission from land owners to excavate on their land. I hate to sound…well unfeeling but there certainly is nothing sacred about what is found in ancient refuse piles (middens) or ancient campfires. These provide an exciting first hand account of life in the ancient past. As I examined the artifactual remains in these settings I felt a deep connection with the people who lived there, likely a deeper connection than their descendants (?) today have with them. I felt (even though I am not Native American) as though they were my people and that every shard of pottery I found or flake of flint that I examined was a special gift from them. I often felt their presence there as I did my work. Did it matter to those ancients that I was not Native American? I dont think so. Who was allowed the honor of seeing that image stone produce its amazing images? Not a Native American but me of firm and solid Anglo Saxon background.
Oh, I did mention finding human remains in my backyard and actually sent you a photograph of an arm bone. There is no reasonable explanation as to why these were there in the context that they were, which only adds to the mystery of the find in my backyard. This was not a burial. There is a significance to their being there and I dont really grasp that. A number of thoughts have been presented to me over the years, including by Native Americans. The most compelling to me is that these few bones were, along with the image stone and other relics found there, part of a shamans medicine kit. Much of the area at that site is undisturbed and under housing. I believe the answers still lay under the sands there on Cedar Lake Road on the shore of Van Etten Lake.
I have, over the years, had a reoccurring dream about one tree in particular where I was unable to excavate because it was just over our property line. There is something there no doubt and the impression I get is that it is something that may tie a lot of loose ends together. But as the fates dictate right now it seems unlikely that I will ever be able to obtain permission from the current land owners to probe that area and see what might be found.