By Timothy Green Beckley
I first met David Bowie during his original tour of the United States when he had adopted the stage persona of “Ziggy Stardust,” a sort of lost-in-space androgynous alien, complete with cosmic makeup and a painted lightning bolt zigzagging across his face down to his naked chest.
Before venturing across the pond, Bowie had caused quite a sensation in the British press not only because of his outlandish – to some – image of a rock and roller from Mars, but also because of his independent and very liberal sexual lifestyle.
Bowie was introduced to me at the RCA studios in Manhattan by Walli Elmlark, a bedazzling young lady who wrote a regular column for “Circus Magazine.” “Circus” was a sort of heavy metal version of “Rolling Stone” that was printed on glossy paper with color photos of pop star favorites who were emerging on the then-burgeoning glam and glitter rock scenes.
As usual, at the time I was wearing several hats. I was promoting a number of local rockbands who never quite “made it,” editing the widely distributed “UFO Review” (the world’s only official flying saucer newspaper), and running the New York School Of Occult Arts and Sciences, among the first metaphysical centers in the country where you could take classes in anything from astral projection to hypnosis to witchcraft. Which is how I came to be acquainted with Walli Elmlark. As I originally wrote in “UFOs Among The Stars – Close Encounters of The Famous” (Global Communications), Walli was known widely as the White Witch Of New York. Because of her contacts in the music industry, she had established quite an eclectic clientele for whom she would offer spiritual guidance and occasional good luck or love spells, but always of a positive nature. She didn’t dabble in black magick or even gris gris (a New Orleans form of “gray magick” that incorporates poppets and the use of talismans kept in a personal mojo bag). Walli was lively, imaginative, energetic, well spoken, and quite attractive in her flowing white garments complete with fashionable silver moon adornments. Oh did I forget to mention long black hair, complete with dyed green streak highlights? Indeed, Wallie made a very bold fashion and occult statement wherever she went.
BOWIE – THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH
Early in life, Bowie had established his interest in all matters extraterrestrial. As a Brit teenager, David had helped edit a flying saucer newsletter. He admitted to me that he loved science fiction and was fascinated with life in space and the possibility that quite a few cosmic visitors had ended up on our earthly shores.
During a conversation, Bowie had gone out on a limb revealing that he had once had a close encounter. In the book “Laugh Gnostic,” author Peter Koening paraphrases what Bowie said: “A friend and I were traveling in the English countryside when we both noticed a strange object hovering above a field. From then on, I have come to take this phenomenon seriously. I believe that what I saw was not the actual object but a projection of my own mind trying to make sense of this quantum topological doorway into dimensions beyond our own. It’s as if our dimension is but one among an infinite number of others.”
In the February 1975 issue of the long defunct “CREEM Magazine,” Bowie seems to admit to a reporter that he might have an implant or metal inside his body. It’s hard to define his exact feeling on this, but this is the quote attributed to him by Bruno Stein, the writer who conducted the interview:
“Well, it turned out David was in luck. If he went to a little town in Missouri at a certain time, he would be able to see in a seemingly empty field a fully equipped flying saucer repair shop at work.
“It was one of those fascinating things you learn at a Bowie soiree. This evening the gathering was rather intimate. There was Corinne, David’s charming personal secretary, who ducked out early due to exhaustion (although another participant gossiped that she had someone interesting waiting for her in her hotel room). “I used to work for two guys who put out a UFO magazine in England,” he told the flying saucer man. “About six years ago. And I made sightings six, seven times a night for about a year when I was in the observatory. We had regular cruises that came over. We knew the 6.15 was coming in and would meet up with another one. And they would be stationary for about half an hour, and then after verifying what they’d been doing that day, they’d shoot off.
“But, I mean, it’s what you do with the information. We never used to tell anybody. It was beautifully dissipated when it got to the media. Media control is still based in the main on cultural manipulation. It’s just so easy to do. When you set up one set of objectives toward the public and you’ve given them a certain definition for each code word, you hit them with the various code words and they’re not going to believe anything if you don’t want them to…”
From his performances, you could tell that nothing was too “non-establishment” for David. He incorporated time machines and space capsules into his act and wrote “A Space Oddity” and talked about how a “Starman” would like to come and visit us, “but he thinks he’d blow our minds.” His appeared in the motion picture “The Man Who Fell To Earth,” which has become a classic. In concert, Bowie was radiant and his fans were floating on a cloud, but behind the scenes an ominous specter was forming from which the master of time and space would quickly need some righteous assistance in order to escape a wall of paranoia that was building around him.
AND ALONG COMES MR. SCRATCH
Like many rockers before and after, David had taken a liking to the good life. You know the old adage: sex, drugs and rock and roll. Well, on top of this, add a heap of consciousness expansion and an interest in the occult and you will have the prevalent influences on what might have seemed like Bowie’s immortal being.
But paranoia soon struck in the form of the ole nemesis “nose candy,” commonly known as cocaine. With the help of Bowie himself and some close associates at the time, Marc Spitz details in “Bowie: A Biography” (Crown) how David was living in L.A. just a few houses away from the estate where Charlie Manson’s gang had terribly mutilated Sharon Tate and her friends in a ritualistic murder. Bowie had taken to doing blow regularly and was getting more and more desperate and paranoid with each passing day.
In a number of shocking revelations, biographer Marc Spitz explains precisely what was transpiring in the pop singer’s troubled life: “While planning the follow-up to ‘Young Americans,’ Bowie would sit in the house with a pile of high-quality cocaine atop the glass coffee table, a sketch pad and a stack of books. ‘Psychic Self Defense’ (Dion Fortune) was his favorite. Its author describes the book as a ‘safeguard for protecting yourself against paranormal malevolence.’
“Using this and more arcane books on witchcraft, white magic and its malevolent counterpart, black magic, as rough guides to his own rapidly fragmenting psyche, Bowie began drawing protective pentagrams on every surface.”
Bowie told the author, “I’d stay up for weeks. Even people like Keith Richards were floored by it. And there were pieces of me all over the floor. I paid with the worst manic depression of my life. My psyche went through the roof; it just fractured into pieces. I was hallucinating 24 hours a day.”
Spitz adds, “Increasingly Bowie was convinced there were witches after his semen. They were intent on using it to make a child to sacrifice to the devil, essentially the plot to Roman Polanski’s 1968 supernatural classic ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’”
Seeing that he was in desperate need, poet and songwriter Cherry Vanilla hooked Bowie up with Walli Elmlark, who Spitz describes as a “Manhattan-based intellectual…who taught classes at the New York School of Occult Arts and Sciences, then located on Fourteenth Street, just north of Greenwich Village.” (As mentioned previously, I was the director of the school, which began in the mid-1960s and thrived for more than a decade promoting lectures and classes by the who’s who of paranormal and UFO experts of that era, including Cleve Backster, Stanley Krippner, Jim Moseley, John Keel – and, of course, Walli Elmlark, the White Witch of New York.)
As added confirmation of the madness David was trying to cope with, ex-wife Angie Bowie reveals even more details of his fascination and dabbling into the occult in her own personal remembrance, “Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side With David Bowie.”
“There was a beautiful Art Deco house on six acres, an exquisite site property and a terrific value at just $300,000, but he took one look at a detail I hadn’t noticed, a hexagram painted on the floor of a circular room by the previous owner, Gypsy Rose Lee.
“A great deal of coddling and reassurance got us through that crisis, and I went and found the Doheny Drive house. Built in the late fifties or early sixties, it was a white cube surrounding an indoor swimming pool. David liked the place, but I thought it was too small to meet our needs for very long, and I wasn’t crazy about the pool. In my experience, indoor pools are always a problem.
“This one was no exception, albeit not in any of the usual ways. Its drawback was one I hadn’t encountered before and haven’t seen or heard of since: Satan lived in it. With his own eyes, David said, he’d seen HIM rising up out of the water one night.”
Feeling demonic forces moving in, David felt strongly that he needed an exorcism and asked that his newfound friend, white witch Walli Elmlark, be called upon to lend her assistance to remove the evil from his surroundings.
“A Greek Orthodox Church in L.A. would have done it for us (there was a priest available for such a service, the people had told me), but David wouldn’t have it. No strangers allowed, he said. So there we stood, with just Walli’s instructions and a few hundred dollars’ worth of books, talismans, and assorted items from Hollywood’s comprehensive selection of fine occult emporia.
“There he (David Bowie) was, then, primed and ready. The proper books and doodads were arranged on a big old-fashioned lectern. The incantation began, and although I had no idea what was being said or what language it was being said in, I couldn’t stop a weird cold feeling rising up in me as David droned on and on.
“There’s no easy or elegant way to say this, so I’ll just say it straight. At a certain point in the ritual, the pool began to bubble. It bubbled vigorously (perhaps ‘thrashed’ is a better term) in a manner inconsistent with any explanation involving air filters or the like.”
The rock and roll couple watched in amazement. Angie says she tried to be flippant – “‘Well, dear, aren’t you clever? It seems to be working. Something’s making a move, don’t you think?’ – but I couldn’t keep it up. It was very, very strange; even after my recent experiences I was having trouble accepting what my eyes were seeing.”
Angie said that she would peek through the glass doors which lead to the pool every so often and was dumbfounded by what she saw.
“On the bottom of the pool was a large shadow, or stain, which had not been there before the ritual began. It was in the shape of a beast of the underworld; it reminded me of those twisted, tormented gargoyles screaming silently from the spires of medieval cathedrals. It was ugly, shocking, malevolent; it frightened me.
“I backed away from it, feeling very strange, went through the doorway, and told David what I’d seen, trying to be nonchalant but not doing very well. He turned white but eventually became revived enough to spend the rest of the night doing coke. He wouldn’t go near the pool, though.
“I still don’t know what to think about that night. It runs directly counter to my pragmatism and my everyday faith in the integrity of the ‘normal’ world, and it confuses me greatly. What troubles me the most is that if you were to call that stain the mark of Satan, I don’t see how I could argue with you.
“David, of course, insisted that we move from the house as quickly as possible, and we did that, but I’ve heard from reliable sources (Michael Lipman for one, the property’s real estate agent) that subsequent tenants haven’t been able to remove the shadow. Even though the pool has been painted over a number of times, the shadow has always come back.”
Several years went by and Walli met an untimely passing. She could not remove the demons in her own life, even though she had a dramatic and positive impact on almost everyone she came in contact with. Besides teaching at the School Of Occult Arts And Sciences, Walli teamed up with the likes of T. Rex’s Marc Bolan (whom she nicknamed the Wizzard) and King Crimson’s guitarist, Robert Fripp. The trio went off to merry old England to record a spoken word album Though “The Cosmic Children” has never been released, the soundtrack was years ahead of its time, centering on those special souls who Walli believed had reincarnated on Earth from “elsewhere” at a very important time in the human evolutionary process to pass on the light to others who were destined to change the world through music, literature and an emerging New Age philosophy. The recording is out there somewhere – perhaps safely in the vault of Robert Fripp – who, hopefully, if he reads this, will contact me and allow us to do a limited pressing for those who would truly find this effort transformational.
Walli and I worked for a number of years on several projects and even co-authored a book together. Out of print for decades, once in a while I still run across a copy of “Rock Raps of the Seventies” offered on e-bay or elsewhere at an exorbitant price.
Somehow, I can’t deny the possibility that Walli looks down from time to time and perhaps sings along with David Bowie as he performs all over the world in concert. Long recovered from drugs and the dark aspects of occultism, he is now raising a family and going on with his chosen task. And perhaps, before you know it, his “Starman” song may take on a reality all its own if the predicted disclosure about UFOs and extraterrestrials ever comes about in our lifetime.
Over the years we had heard unsubstantiated rumors that Bowie was intrigued by an incident where a UFO was said to have crashed in the desert. We were never able to pin anything down about this incident until we found out that it was actually scribed by Bowie’s original publicist and a longtime friend of ours, Cherry Vanilla, who was in his hotel suite when the story came over the TV. Writing under Bowie’s name, this is what the fiery redhead is quoting as having been said under Bowie’s name in “Mirabelle,” a sort of diary published by Bowie’s camp.
“I heard the most incredible thing the other day that I must tell you about, and I promise every single word of it is true! I was in Detroit, where I was due to do a concert, and before the show I was sitting in my hotel room listening to the radio.
“Suddenly, the newsman interrupted the regular program with the news that a spaceship had been found in the desert – an alien spaceship about six feet wide and thirty feet long – and inside were three alien beings. The three creatures were killed on impact when the spaceship plummeted to Earth, but they were taken to a hospital to be examined anyway. These people looked like human beings but were much smaller and, when they were examined, it was discovered that their vital organs were like human beings too! The catch is that their brains were found to be much farther advanced! Wow!
“As soon as the newscast was over, I got all the band and my back-up singers together and had them ring up radio and TV stations all over the country to see if they had all got the report. About half the stations said they had and half denied it. So, it really is quite a mystery. No one knows what’s happened to the spaceship or the spacemen at this point, and it seems that someone is trying to cover up the whole matter completely!”
And so it goes. And while Bowie has given up his Ziggy Stardust roots he does not seem to have abandoned his interest in UFOs and the Star People which have been such an influence on his career.