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Memorial Show for Thomas R. Adams (1945-2014) Post QUESTIONS Here:

Christopher O'Brien

Back in the Saddle Aginn
Staff member
[The Paracast will be conducting a memorial roundtable remembering the life, times & influence of Tom Adams. He was one of my most important early mentors when I began my investigation of the San Luis Valley. Between Tom and Dr. Lynn Weldon (at Adams State College) I never had to conduct much background research as both graciously provided me with box-loads of articles, files, reports and accounts that stretched back into the 1940s. We lost Tom last summer and his death was not made known to the research community until earlier this month.

So as a tribute to a true unsung giant hero of the field, Gene, myself, longtime Adams' friend and collegue, David Perkins (Linda Howe has also been invited but...) will conduct a memorial tribute show remembering one of the true pioneers of "mutology" (probably it's most important historical figure) and we'll be sharing with the Paracast audience what a true giant of the field looks, feels and sounds like. — chris]

Please post YOUR QUESTIONS here:

In the meantime, here is a heart-felt, but objective look at the man, the myth, the mentor...

The Late Great Tom Adams

Thoughts on the Passing of Thomas R. Adams (1945-2014) [to his friends and colleagues]

By David Perkins
 — Easter 2015
I know you all were shocked and saddened to learn of Tomʼs death in Paris, Texas on August 20, 2014. Iʼm still having trouble coming to grips with the heart-breaking loss of my good friend and colleague. My mind has been flooded with so many wonderful memories of Tom. One particularly vivid recollection is a journey we took to Dulce, New Mexico in April, 1978 to examine a freshly mutilated cow. I recall combing a remote dusty pasture for clues with Tom, Gary Massey, my wife Cari and State Policeman Gabe Valdez. Itʼs hard to believe that theyʼre all gone now.

Gabe was especially excited that day. “Youʼre not going to believe this one! It had to have been dropped from a pretty great distance.” he told us on the way to the site. Sure enough, the cow certainly looked “crumpled”. The poor animalʼs left front and hind legs were broken and its left horn was driven deep into its skull. Gabe kicked the cow to show how its backbone was broken. The rectum, genitals and udder had been removed with what appeared to be neat circular incisions. A small piece of the lip had been removed. “look at the clamp marks ! Iʼve never seen that before,” Gabe said, shaking his head slowly. He pointed to the hind legs slightly below the knee. We could see indentions in the hide about two inches wide and a quarter inch deep. “Ah, if only mutes could talk,” Tom muttered to no one in particular.

Tom and I had gravitated to each other in the mid-1970s. I had decided to join the chase after the Western mute blitzkrieg of 1975. Tom and Gary had first come west in 1970, when they drove from Texas to do follow-up research on the famous “Snippy the Horse” case in Colorado. In my early investigations, it didnʼt take long to become aware of Tom and Gary. Virtually every sheriff, vet or rancher I interviewed said: “You oughta get hold of them fellas from Texas.” They were clearly a step ahead of me. I soon called Tom and that call changed the course of my life.

Tom began publishing Stigmata in January, 1978. It quickly became the flagship “go-to” publication for anyone pursuing the mute mystery. As a clearinghouse for mute information, Stigmata set the bar high for integrity and thoroughness ... light on speculation and heavy on facts and solid journalism. “Consider everything. Believe nothing,” Tom was fond of saying, in the true Fortean tradition. Everyone felt comfortable quoting Stigmata, from FBI agents and US Senators to the most incredulous ufologists.

“Tom ʻn Gary” as the dynamic duo was invariably referred to, were the pioneers and leading lights in the fledgeling study that we dubbed (tongue- in-cheek) “Mutology”. We thought that being professional “mutologists” sounded a little classier than “weird people who get a kick out of looking at dead cows”. Speaking of tongue-in-cheek, Tom and Gary knew that a sense of humor was an essential attribute for any “paranormal” researcher. Without humor they felt, one could not maintain the necessary perspective to keep oneself from going completely around the bend. As anyone who knew them will attest to, they were some funny guys.

This is not to say that Tom didnʼt take his “calling” seriously. He was a voracious reader and an absolutely indefatigable researcher. Like all great investigators, Tom had an intuitive understanding of synchronicity. Seek and ye shall find. Let the unconscious mind hold sway occasionally. Connections will be made, dots will be connected and new insights will present themselves. Tom knew that research is essentially a creative process, no matter how tedious it could be at times.

Even with his own pressing work to do, Tom was exceedingly generous with his time, energy and resources. When I asked him for information on some arcane topic, he would drop what he was doing and assemble a bundle of material on the subject. Iʼd receive it in the mail in a few days. Apparently he was like that for anybody who asked for something from him.

As far as I know, Tom never did make the leap into the internet era. In the late 1990s Tom and Gary visited me at my house in Santa Fe. Our friend and fellow researcher Linda Howe had joined us for the evening. I concocted a plan to give Tom a demonstration of the wonders of world-wide web research. My hunch was that Tom could be a wizard of the internet. He was intrigued, but skeptical. He grumbled about the steep learning curve and the cost of the technology, subscription services, etc. He wasnʼt a Luddite, but definitely old-school. For him, the telephone, the U.S. mail and the Xerox machine at his job were just fine for getting the results he was after.

Tom was a first-rate intellect and probably the only person Iʼve ever known who could be said to have a “photographic memory.” His total recall of dates, places and names was truly uncanny. Tomʼs encyclopedic knowledge covered many fields, especially music. He was an aficionado of modern music and his taste was exquisite. He enjoyed scouring used record stores and yard sales for obscure items. He would then make delightful compilation tapes which he would send along to me periodically. Over time Iʼve noticed that most of my research colleagues have a strong affinity for music. Perhaps itʼs because music is a bridge to unseen worlds.

One of the things Iʼve most admired about Tom was his sense of modesty and humility. His unassuming attitude was refreshing in a field too often crowded with self-proclaimed “experts” and ego-driven self-promoters. Tom was low-key and steady. At the time he left the scene, he was regarded as one of the countryʼs foremost paranormal researchers. He wasnʼt inclined toward aggrandizement. If the situation required it, he could step up and give a brilliant speech to the masses. He preferred to work behind the scenes and slightly below the radar.

Tomʼs ideal natural habitat was the Ozark UFO conference in Eureka Springs Arkansas. Along with conference founder Lou Farish, Tom and Gary were highly instrumental in creating the unique ambiance of the legendary Lone Star Bar. To many attendees, the Lone Star hospitality suite was the beating heart of the conference, the place where lecture- weary ufologists could go to have a drink (or two) and unwind. It was a true “speak easy” where the nitty gritty information was exchanged. Tom thrived there. He liked talking with people one-on-one in a casual atmosphere. For someone so well-informed, Tom still preferred to listen rather than talk. That was the Tom Adams we knew and loved, but there was a Tom that many people didnʼt know so well.

Over the past several years, whenever Tomʼs name comes up, Iʼm almost always asked: Why did Tom drop out of the field so abruptly? What happened? My answer is that weʼll probably never know for sure. Tom was a complex, tightly-wound person who maintained a barrier between the world and his private emotional life. Iʼve heard him described as “notoriously reclusive” and similar descriptions. I didnʼt see him that way, but he did maintain strict boundaries. Some subjects of a personal nature clearly made him uncomfortable. The only reason I would venture into this uncharted territory is that whatever caused Tom to drop out may provide a major clue as to the nature of the phenomenon that he pursued so assiduously for over 30 years.

Many theories abound but I must emphasize that they are all merely speculation. Conspiracy-minded researchers see Tomʼs hasty retreat as evidence that he had been threatened and told to “back off”. Being the fearless and persistent investigator that he was, he may have gotten too close to the truth. According to this line of thought, Tom may have posed a problem for powerful interests and their agendas, be they terrestrial, alien or some combination thereof. This is the stuff of science fiction movies and spy novels, plausible but unlikely in my opinion.

Another prevalent theory is that Tom simply reached “burn out” after 30 years. Perhaps one day he came to the realization that paranormal research was a quixotic foolʼs errand. The quest and the challenge are great motivators, but ultimately one must face the possibility that some things might be simply unknowable. Itʼs a notion that I have entertained, but a hard pill to swallow for truth-seekers. Itʼs difficult to accept defeat or “calf rope” as Gary Massey used to call just giving up. Iʼd venture to say that most serious researchers have heard that little voice saying: Why are you doing this? Shouldnʼt you be doing something more productive, with a greater likelihood of success? What important things in life are you ignoring due to your “obsession”? Maybe Tom had such a moment of reckoning.

One school of thought is that Tom came face to face with something very “dark” and terrifying at the heart of the mutilation/UFO phenomenon. Evidence of cult activity has been part of the meme to this day. Altared Steaks you could say. This dark presence might even be something from another order of existence. This scenario is slightly bolstered by rumors that some of Tomʼs associates after he left the research community were apparently of the born again Christian persuasion. In my current investigations, Iʼve been surprised by the number of people Iʼve interviewed who believe that mutilations and UFOs are the work of the Devil. Itʼs worth noting that seasoned writer/researcher John Keel came to think of himself as a “demonologist” rather than a ufologist.

Knowing Tom, I canʼt help but feel that if any of the aforementioned scenarios were true, he would have been compelled to somehow get that information to his friends and colleagues. Perhaps he felt that “it” was something that everyone had to discover for themselves or that having such knowledge would endanger us. Again, pure speculation.

On a more mundane level it has often been suggested that Tomʼs “demise” began after the break-up of his marriage to Christa Tilton. To my knowledge, this was Tomʼs first and only foray into the choppy waters of romantic love. Iʼd always wondered if Tom and Christa had been legally married. Typically he was vague about it. I recently located the records and indeed, they were married on Dec. 18, 1987 and divorced on
April 22, 1991. Both records originated from Lamar Texas. For reasons unknown, Tomʼs official obituary makes no mention of the marriage... SNIP...When my wife Cari died of cancer in 1992, they hopped in Garyʼs big van (The Thang) and made the long drive from Texas to Colorado to attend her funeral and offer their support in my time of need. It was a gesture I greatly appreciated. Gary was “Gary” and Tom was the same old Tom that Iʼd known - thoughtful, considerate, kind, perceptive and funny.

Tom may have been a little worse for the wear after his marriage experience, but I saw no evidence of a larger downward spiral. He was active and vigorous in the research world throughout the 1990s. In 2000 we started work on Mute Testimony , a collected works of both of our writings and publications. We were including new material, photos, interviews, etc. Tom was enthusiastic about the project. In early 2002 I contacted him to see if he was making any progress on the preface that heʼd agreed to write. In February, 2002 I received my last communication from Tom. In a letter dated 2-21-02 Tom said: “My sincere apologies for dropping the ball. Iʼve been dropping a lot oʼ balls ... itʼs survival mode. He went on to say that “thenceforth and forthwith” I had his full authorization to be the executer of his writings and material and to use them any way I wished. I was stunned.

His parting remarks were both puzzling and chilling: “I remain optimistic that I can reconstitute (or regurgitate) myself and at some point get back in the swing of things ... I miss Colorado and the Land Oʼ Enchantment. In fact I miss the World - but I guess it will still be around when I return, hopefully more sooner than later.”

After this letter my phone calls and letters went unanswered. Old friends such as Gary, Linda Howe, Nancy Talbott and Chris OʼBrien made repeated attempts to contact Tom. Again no reply. We were finally forced to respect his obvious desire to not be contacted. As evidence of how insular Tom had become by August, 2014, it took over seven months for the research community to become aware of his passing. We might still not know had it not been for the work of intrepid investigators Kalani and Katiuska Hano Hano. Chris Coffey, one researcher that Tom did maintain contact with in his final years, hadnʼt spoken with him since early 2014. I had heard rumors via Chris OʼBrienʼs European sources in mid- 2014 that Tom “wasnʼt in the best of health”. Itʼs unclear whether at the time of his death, Tom even knew of Gary Masseyʼs apparent suicide in 2010.

So does any of this further our understanding of “what happened to Tom?” What I see is a perfect storm of factors -- paranormal battle fatigue ( the result of working for many years at a high level without a net), “grim” and extreme economic distress, a wounded heart, an invalid dying mother, possible emerging health issues and perhaps a sense that he was on a futile quest that he simply couldnʼt (emotionally or financially) afford any longer.

Iʼm not a psychologist, although I occasionally play one on TV and radio.Iʼm hesitant to float any kind of pop-psych analysis other than the factors Iʼve described. Tom was multi-dimensional, highly complex and always something of an enigma. We liked it that way. As with most of us, he had his idiosyncrasies. He was capable of making abrupt, drastic decisions with long-ranging consequences. One possible precursor incident comes to mind. Gary told me that when Tom was a young man, he took driving lessons. Some kind of incident occurred which totally humiliated him. Tom declared that day that he would never again drive a car, and he didnʼt.

Tom was a proud and sensitive man who never wanted to ask for help or “be a burden” on anyone. In the mid-1990s when Tom, Gary and I had made plans to attend The Arkansas conference, Tom backed out at the last minute. He said he couldnʼt afford it. Gary and I offered to cover his expenses. He found that prospect humiliating. He was already in debt to Gary. I sensed that he didnʼt want to face old friends and talk about his failed marriage (another humiliation). He didnʼt want to discuss being laid off from his decent job and having to go to work at the Dollar Store (yet another humiliation). Iʼm reminded of an old New Yorker cartoon titled “Lone Wolf”. The cartoon depicts a wolf with a noble expression, perched on a craggy promontory, peering out into a raging snow storm. The caption reads: Proud. Independent. Resourceful. Cold.

Tom was in a full force economic black hole by the time we started our book project. He undertook the venture thinking that the book might bring in some cash. We immediately began incurring substantial expenses (professional scanning, copying, photo editing, etc.) I offered to cover the initial expenses and be repaid out of the first profits. Again this was a humiliating idea for Tom. He felt that he had “dropped the ball” and not been able to deliver as promised.

Ultimately itʼs not about what Tom didnʼt deliver, but about what he did deliver ... 30 years of immaculate research delivered to the world at his own expense. That world isnʼt exactly beating a path to the doors of monkish scholars toiling in obscurity to claim a little more turf for human understanding. If you need money to develop some new electronic gizmo, no problem. You donʼt see many listings for “professional mutologist” in the Help Wanted sections.

I sincerely hope that I havenʼt heaped any more humiliation on Tom posthumously. That was certainly not my intention. I hoped to set the record straight to the best of my ability. Tom taught us so much in life, why wouldnʼt he also teach us in death? It does feel like a “teachable moment”. We must individually discern the moral of the story, if indeed there is one.

Tom was an American original, a pioneer and an inspiration to all who knew him. He embodied courage, dignity and integrity. Like all the great ones, there might have been just a dash of madman in the mix. He gave so much of himself and expected so little. He was definitely one of the most influential people in my life. Iʼll miss him as a guide, a mentor and a colleague. Most of all, Iʼll miss him as a loyal and trusted friend. Who knows, we may meet again in that Great Cow Pasture in the Sky.

[Thank you David for such a fine, unvarnished look at a true pioneer — chris]
Q. That was a very heavy tribute and it's permeated with a lot of sadness. I have always found the cattle mystery to be a very disturbing thing - there's such a brutality to it all. What motivated Tom and all of you to persist in such dark spaces? I imagine a strong sense of Fortean inspiration and humor must have been essential ingredients.

Other relevant reading:
Stigmata Spring 1989 : Thomas R. Adams : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Journal of the Fortean Research Center Paperbound - Ray Boeche - Google Books

Blue Planet Project - 08
I am quite familiar with the history of UFOs. However, when it comes to cattle mutilations, I am uneducated and to be honest, too jaded from the UFO subject to start analyzing this phoenomenon from scratch. In a nutshell can you explain what cattle mutilations are (or are not?). Thank you and thanks for a great show.
  1. Did Tom come to any conclusion or have any theories on the nature of the cattle mutilation mystery?
  2. Chris mentioned that there is no "one size fits all" answer. Are there specific high strangeness cases where there is an identification of a likely answer that isn't misidentified scavenger action?