Was the Rip van Winkle story just an early example of alien abduction?

Re-reading this classic story – as a modern reader – I couldn’t help but notice that some elements are eerily similar to the modern-day accounts of alleged UFO abductees. There are the “little men,” lost time, the thunder-sound (coming from the other side of the mountain).

And the most striking fact for me was that he “returns” years later, where the town has aged but he has not, with the exception of growing his long white beard. Is this not what theoretically happens when beings travel at the velocities approaching the speed of light? Time “slows down” for such travelers; they themselves age at a “normal” rate relative to those they left behind who age much, much faster. Isn’t this just what our old friend Rip observed to be the case?

I submit that the folk he encountered in the Catskills were not, as rumored, the spirits of Henry Hudson’s crew of the Half Moon, but the extraterrestrial crew of a spacecraft which made thunderously loud noise when it was touching down” or “landing” in the remote mountain terrain. The crew, upon being discovered by Rip, are unsure what to do with him, and eventually drug him and take them away on their ship with them, perhaps visiting their home planet or a nearby base. It is eventually decided that this poor creature should be returned and they take him to the exact spot where he was abducted (next to his now rusted and decayed rifle), leaving Rip with the mystery he encounters and that which is told to us by Diedrich Knickerbocker, Washington Irving’s fictional chronicler.

What do you think?

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Wonderful Myth from the Catskill Mountains

When re-reading the Washington Irving story, Rip Van Winkle, for my book club’s annual ‘Short Story Month,’ I serendipitously came upon the following myth in a post-script to the on-line copy of the story I happened to read:

“The Kaatsberg, or Catskill Mountains, have always been a region full of fable. The Indians considered them the abode of spirits, who influenced the weather, spreading sunshine or clouds over the landscape, and sending good or bad hunting seasons. They were ruled by an old squaw spirit, said to be their mother. She dwelt on the highest peak of the Catskills, and had charge of the doors of day and night to open and shut them at the proper hour. She hung up the new moon in the skies, and cut up the old ones into stars. In times of drought, if properly propitiated, she would spin light summer clouds out of cobwebs and morning dew, and send them off from the crest of the mountain, flake after flake, like flakes of carded cotton, to float in the air; until, dissolved by the heat of the sun, they would fall in gentle showers, causing the grass to spring, the fruits to ripen, and the corn to grow an inch an hour. If displeased, however, she would brew up clouds black as ink, sitting in the midst of them like a bottle-bellied spider in the midst of its web; and when these clouds broke, woe betide the valleys!”

I love this!  Especially how the old squaw spirit “hung up the new moon” and ‘cut up the old ones into stars.”  What a wonderful image.

Below: Thomas Doughty’s “In the Catskills’  (I suspect the height of the mountains is somewhat exaggerated…)

Short Story Month III is shaping up nicely…

Each July my book club takes a month off from our normal reading pattern and reads a bunch of short stories.  Every club member picks a story and either sends a link to an online copy of the story, or just a copy of the story itself to the other members.  We have about 8 short stories to read for the month.  Some are short, some are long.  Some are, in fact, very short, but none are very long.  Usually, we have a total of around 100 pages to read – i.e. a much lighter “reading burden” than a normal month for us.

Thus far, members have selected the following stories for this year:

Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain

The Education of H*Y*M*A*N  K*A*P*L*A*N by Leo Rosten

The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen

The Old Woman and Her Pig by “Anonymous”

The FLowering of the Strange Orchid by H.G. Wells

The Copper Beeches by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

N by Stephen King

I think we have just one more member yet to select.  What about you?  Are you in a book club, and does your club ever read short stories?  Have you read any of the above stories?  Which do you recommend?