Majestic Mt. Shasta, a 14,162-foot dormant volcano on the southern edge… (For The Times, Tim Shisler )
Reporting from Mount Shasta, Calif. — Locals didn't find the ads, posted at the laundromat or running in the SuperSaver, to be strange at all.
A number of people, in fact, reached out to Brian Wallenstein the "researcher looking to gather stories and information" for a book on Bigfoot and UFO sightings.
A woman named Rudi emailed to report that she'd seen a bright disc hovering above Mt. Shasta. She attached a photo from a ski resort snow cam that showed a luminous speck. (Credible, Wallenstein thought.)
A man named Larry recounted his own research — including telepathic communication with "them" — conducted in preparation for the day extraterrestrials would reveal themselves to earthlings. (Too out there, Wallenstein decided.)
People pulled him aside to share anecdotes of mystery lights and star gates, or to whisper the names of neighbors and brothers with tales to tell.
Secondhand accounts flowed in: about the forest ranger who casually spoke of spotting a Bigfoot east of McCloud, and the deer-hunting couple from Weed who came across a bright chrome vessel on a dark mountain road.
"Their stories will die if I don't do this," Wallenstein, a 56-year-old computer technician and self-published children's author, said recently from his home here, a 21/2-acre sanctuary of sorts for the six cats who serve as his muses.
Mt. Shasta, a 14,162-foot peak often tinged in pink alpenglow and topped by lens-shaped clouds, long has elicited awe. When John Muir first caught sight of it, "I was fifty miles away, afoot, alone and weary," he wrote in 1874, "yet all of my blood turned to wine and I have not been weary since."
A tale written a few years later by a teenager from Yreka, just northwest of the mountain — a story of advanced beings living in a crystal city beneath the mountain — cemented Shasta's otherworldly reputation.
The mountain has been touted as the site of an energy vortex that allows passage into the metaphysical dimension; the birthplace of a spiritual foundation whose adherents believe they can ascend to the eternal realm; and a hot spot for UFOs that hide in the clouds and enter the mountain's core through mystery "portals."
Newer to the repertoire are sightings of Bigfoot (the word serves as both singular and plural, like fish and sheep), believed by some to conceal themselves by passing into a fifth dimension.
"Mt. Shasta has always had a spiritual drawing, but it's getting more and more popular," said Karen Anderson, a supervisor in the town's visitors bureau, who estimated that a fourth of the area's tourists come for that reason.
To assist seekers from around the globe, the bureau's website includes a list of energy healers. Shops carry crystals for the "spiritual pilgrim." Drop-in channeling sessions are held each Sunday at a spiritual center. Guides lead soul-cleansing treks up the mountain in all seasons.
Among them is Ashalyn, as she is known. Her Shasta Vortex Tours also offers spiritual journeys into Telos, the sparkling refuge said to lie beneath the mountain, inhabited by lanky beings who fled the sinking continent of Lemuria 12,000 years ago.
Pins on a map in Ashalyn's office mark her customers' home countries: Japan's cluster is the densest, as Mt. Fuji is thought to be Shasta's sister sacred mountain. Russia, Latin America and China show more recent activity.
Although nonbelievers abound here — as Anderson said, "We're a normal town. We have a hospital. We have a grocery store" — a number of them have seen things they can't explain.
In 2008, the Mount Shasta Herald reported that five people claimed to have witnessed a jellyfish-like craft that hovered noiselessly over neighboring McCloud, with what appeared to be a fire raging inside it.
"I really don't believe in flying saucers," lifelong resident Dick Cary told the newspaper, "but I do know that something weird was happening."
With its hot springs and glaciers, the dormant volcano at the southern edge of the Cascade Range has always been sacred to Native Americans, some of whom view it as central to their creation myth.
But it was the Yreka teenager, Frederick Spencer Oliver, who blew the mystical door wide open in the 1880s when he claimed that an ancient native of Lemuria had used him as a "channel" to write a manuscript that described a buried city with walls "polished as by jewelers, though excavated by giants."
Residents who say they speak for the inhabitants of that underground realm have since multiplied.
Oliver "was the earliest channel in this area," said historian William Miesse, who put together a vast bibliography of primary sources on the mountain and its lore for the College of the Siskiyous.
"Now," Miesse said, "you can hardly miss a channel walking down Main Street."
In a 1932 Los Angeles Times Magazine article, Edward Lanser wrote of seeing Mt. Shasta "ablaze with a strange reddish-green light" from the window of his Oregon-bound train. "Lemurians," a fellow passenger confided.