One of the weirdest stories I've ever heard was told by parapsychologist Peter Jordan at a speaking engagement at Ball State University, 20 years ago. His talk was great on every angle, but the real kicker was his last tale, which involved, if you can believe it, the actor Telly Savalas.
Yeah, that's right, Kojack himself. Who loves ya', baby?
Story goes (and Telly supposedly told this to everyone who would listen in the crew whenever he was on The Tonight Show or some such similar late-night chat shows in those bygone, halcyon days) that he was driving in upstate New York when his car ran out of gas. On a deserted country road. Far, far from a gas station.
Night is coming, and he knows he is going to have to walk to the nearest station he can find, which could be miles away. So he gets out of the car, dig? And he hitches up his trousers, most likely, and gets ready when, suddenly:
"Hey buddy, need a lift?"
A stunning white Caddy pulls up, seemingly out of nowhere. Behind the wheel, a tall, gangling bald man in a resplendent white suit is leaning out the window.
Savalas hesitates a moment before saying, "Yeah. Sure." And then, a little more embarrassedly: "Ran out of gas. Forgot to stop a ways back."
The man smiles. A nice gape of a grin.
"I can see that," he says, underscoring the awkward moment.
Savalas says, "Say, mister, if you could give me a lift to the nearest station, I sure would appreciate it."
The driver pauses a moment, then says:
Savalas does so.
They begin to drive. Savalas makes, right away, that there is something a little unusual about this cat. His voice is really hoarse, weird; strained and like... full of gravel.
And he keeps touching his throat. As if it hurts. Does he have cancer or something? Savalas can't guess.
Also, he isn't really saying much. But he does ask Savalas if he knows a particular ball player in the New York Yankees or some similar team (I can't remember this one particular detail myself at this point, but New York Yankees seem as likely a pick as any given the location of the story, so.).
Savalas thinks this an odd question.
"Well," says the weird driver. "He's a friend of mine."
"Oh," responds Savalas. "Okay."
Finally, they find the filling station. Savalas realizes, all of a sudden, that he is broke. Shamefacedly he turns to the man, to implore him the loan of a few bucks. Before he can say anything, though, the man has produced a five dollar bill. Without a word, he hands it to Savalas, who takes his gas can guiltily up to the pump to fill it up.
He does so, gets back in the car, and, turning to the man, says, "Hey, buddy, you've been so kind to me, I-I feel like I have to repay you."
The man replies, "Here. Here's my card. Got my number and address on it. Just mail me back the five bucks when you get ready to. Not necessary, of course. But, if you really insist..."
Savalas does insist. He takes the card. The man drives him back to his car. Then, he drives on.
It is a few days (or maybe even just the next day) when Savalas, waking up in his apartment, gets the paper and opens it up to some startling news. The ball player that the Cadillac driver had said was his "friend" had, apparently, just died. Savalas, remembering the lift he had been given, the kindness shown to him, gets the card the driver had given him and dials him up, hoping to give his condolences.
(Old-fashioned phones, you know.)
A woman answers.
"Yes. Who is this?"
"Savalas is my name. Telly Savalas. Um, is this Mrs...?"
She confirms that it, indeed, is.
"Look," he continues awkwardly. "I was stranded out in the country yesterday when your husband drove up in that great big white Caddy. Gave me a lift to the filling station. Even loaned me five bucks. Look, well, I was reading the paper this morning, and I read where that baseball player, the one he said was his friend, died all of a sudden. Real tragic. So I wanted to offer my condolences."
There is a moment of dead silence on the other end of the line.
"Hello? Ma'm, are you still there?"
"Is this some sort of sick joke, Mister? Because, if so, I am not amused."
Savalas, for all the world, can't figure out what the woman means.
"Look," says the voice on the other end. "You say my husband—white suit, white Cadillac. Bald head. Long arms and fingers. Tall, right? You say he stopped and gave you a lift to the gas station yesterday? Even loaned you five dollars?"
"Yes!" answers Savalas emphatically.
The woman breathes in a shuddering breath. Then says:
"Well, Mr. Savalas, I simply find that hard to believe. In fact, IMPOSSIBLE to believe. You see, Mr. Savalas, my husband HAS BEEN DEAD FOR FOUR YEARS."
Silence again. This, of course, is one of those defining moments in the life of an individual, when the curtains are pulled back on the work-a-day reality we "lose" ourselves in, and we step into the Twilight Zone of a world just beyond what we perceive to be the "real" one. We get a glimpse of that Cosmic Intelligence, that "Man Behind the Curtain" that is always there. As Rod Serling once intoned in an old episode of the television show Twilight Zone: "There's nothing in the dark that isn't there when the light is on."
Savalas agrees to meet the widow for dinner. She brings photographs of her late husband. He had been a traveling salesman. She confirms that he wore white suits, drove a big white Cadillac convertible. Eccentric and kind-hearted, he had, however, committed suicide. And he'd done so a full FOUR YEARS before.
Telly Savalas I remember from old anti-smoking campaign commercials in the '80s. I never watched Kojack, but I did kind of like The Dirty Dozen. (I, incidentally, have been to the graveside of Savalas's Dozen co-star, Lee Marvin, at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C., long, long years ago. But, I don't reckon that as anything more than an interesting aside.)
Some evidence Savalas may have had a persistent interest in paranormal topics is that he starred as a host of various low-rent UFO and paranormal documentaries before his death on January 22, 1994. (Or maybe they were just additional gigs for an aging actor. Who knows?)
Later, he went back out to where he had run out of gas. But, oddly, he couldn't find the filling station he had been taken to. Nor could he even find the road where his car had run out of gas; it simply WAS NOT THERE.
(Can you hear the eerie music being cued in the background?)
And, to clear up a final, strange little detail:
The man kept touching his throat, as if in pain. His voice was hoarse, choked, as Savalas remembered. Why, you may wonder.
His suicide method. You see, this man had died by SHOOTING HIMSELF IN THE NECK.
(There's a long, strange road a winding. And some of us get stranded there, and some go the other way. BUT we all end up at the same destination. In TIME.)