After hearing us on Whitley Strieber’s Dreamland, Carol McElheney wrote us about a baffling experience she had in 2002. It seems to involve probabilities in Riverside, California, a place she had once lived and knew well.
“In 2002 I went to Perris CA for a herding trial with my dog Tycho. We were staying in Hemet in a hotel. It was raining really hard even as we arrived in the area on Friday evening. As we were dropping down the hill into the valley, I thought about visiting my grandparents’ graves; just then the smell of cigar smoke filled my car. Memories of my Grandpa.
“Each day’s trial only took a few minutes, so Saturday I decided to visit Riverside. It was still raining really hard, to the point of interfering with visibility. I got to Riverside (15 min away) and went to where the cemetery was supposed to be, and found an empty weedy lot surrounded by chain link.
“I had a paper map (no cell phones back then) and drove around for a minute, looking. No cemetery. I had been there quite a few times to put flowers on my grandparents’ graves, but now it did not exist. Next I tried to find my Grandma’s house. The street and numbers were there but the big Tudor house with the tall trees was gone. It was a bunch of newer houses. The numbers fit, but the street looked nothing like I remembered. There were tall trees there, so I can’t see how they could have torn down Grandma’s house, cut down her trees, and built those houses and put in mature trees on a paved street with sidewalks. My aunt’s house was gone. The whole terrain was altered.
“Next I decided to look at MY old house. I lived on a cul-de-sac so certainly I’d see something familiar. Nope. Numbers were right but my old craftsman bungalow was gone, replaced with another old house. All this time it was raining really hard. On a Saturday, early afternoon, I did not see another car or human being out and about. Even with the rain, someone would be out shopping, you’d think. I had the feeling that if I got out of my vehicle I’d disappear forever.
“I decided I’d seen enough. I took Magnolia Blvd to University to get back to the freeway to return to Hemet. University Ave used to be a vibrant boulevard catering to UCR students; bookstores, restaurants, pubs, coffee shops. Now it was a boarded up ghetto mess with graffiti all over. Nobody to be seen but very creepy.
“I made it back to my hotel safe and sound; I had never felt so safe as I did when my room card worked and I saw my stuff in my room, all normal.
“In 2010 my Dad passed away and we buried his ashes next to his parents in the cemetery I couldn’t find. It was where it was supposed to be. My cousin was there and she said Grandma’s house and her old house are still standing.”
I asked Carol how long the experience lasted and for any other details she could recall:
“I’d estimate this experience lasted about two hours. I spent a lot of time looking for the cemetery, thinking I was lost. Ditto my Grandma’s house, but by then I had an inkling something odd was going on. I did have my dog with me, but it wasn’t unusual for him to ride quietly with me. I just knew that I’d better not stop and get out.
“Later I heard about Whitley’s similar experiences, getting off the freeway using a nonexistent exit that led to a strange neighborhood. The only thing about this version of Riverside that was really odd was University Ave; the way it was spray painted and blighted, but it had been a while since I’d been there and I figured it might have fallen on hard times. But no cemetery? What did they do with the bodies?
“Another odd thing about this was the rain. I had never seen it rain so hard and so steadily with no wind. Not a soul was out and about, driving or on foot on a Saturday. You’d think someone would be running an errand. Weird.”