Passion and obsession can certainly take out a lot of time. One such person was John Shepherd from Michigan. While for many spending times away from friends in lockdowns due to the Coronavirus pandemic has become difficult, this Michigan man dedicated 30 years of his life in trying to contact aliens â from his grandma's living room.
Inspired by UFO sightings and a TV-series named The Outer Limits, Shepherd's journey began in the mid-1960s when he was still a boy. "I remember being fascinated by the idea of somehow building my own scientific instruments to explore the mysterious phenomenon that is extraterrestrial life," he said. His story was captured by British filmmaker Matthew Killip in a Netflix short film, 'John Was trying to Contact Aliens'.
Who is John Shepherd?
Shepherd grew up in rural Michigan to his grandparents after his father left when he was an infant. While with them, he was fascinated by the sci-fi stories of that time. However, instead of just believing them, he sought out to prove the theories surrounding aliens.
A self-taught electronics engineer, thus, at age 21, formed Project STRAT (Special Telemetry Research and Tracking) out of a living room. But scientific projects such as his would have needed heavy investment and he had none. He had no training either in handling such equipment.
But he scavenged parts from military surplus sales and electrical warehouse near Traverse City and continued to grow his "laboratory" at the cottage. He even erected a two-storey 150,000-volt output tower that was made from aerial lifts to use it as a giant transmitter. As his passion turned into an obsession, the living room soon filled with scientific equipment from floor to ceiling.
His equipment included giant screens for monitoring signals, low-frequency transmitter, cathode-ray tubes and dual-channel oscillators, satellite communication equipment, high-powered microwave tubes and a high-voltage transmitter accelerator. He used that equipment to send low-frequency signals millions of miles deep into space. He even used music as a medium to send signals. Ranging from jazz to reggae and Afro-pop, Shepherd tried his best to lure aliens.
His passion was, however, fully supported by his grandparents who shelled out their life-savings for him to buy equipment. Eventually, he expanded the house to accommodate more equipment and isolated himself from the community to dedicate his life into searching "whatever is out there".
"Most of what I did was self-taught, but my grandfather, who had worked as a toolmaker in Detroit, helped me with the often very precise practical stuff," he told Guardian.
Shepherd said, it was his grandmother, who shared his interest. "She definitely had a feeling for it and she brought a lot of inspiration into my life," he said.
The sparsely crowded area helped him in focusing on his quest. But even then, people would often stop by his house, seeing the lights blinking in the living room. Some even though that he had built a Russian spy system.
"Often, people passing by at night in their cars would see a bank of lights blinking in the living room and they'd pull over to stop and stare. They were wondering what was going on. I remember some people even thought we had built a Russian spy system," he said.
However, he could not achieve what he sought out to do. And after almost 30 years, his funds ran out and probably his patience too. He put everything in the storage. "I miss it. I really do, but I saved it all. It's like a collection of beautiful objects. Waiting," he said as he guided Killip through his equipment still stored.