Estimated reading time — 19 minutes
The Rodderson Experiments
By Henry Parkissel
Hey, everyone, it’s Henry from Oddity Watch, formerly known as MagaScream. I would like to preface this article by addressing our recent name change, which was done because people thought that “Maga-“ in “MagaScream” was an acronym for “Make America Great Again.” In actuality, it was intended to be a pun on the word “magazine”. When we first decided to start this paranormal journalism company, we bounced around ideas and landed on, ”The magazine that’ll make you scream- MagaScream!” We are not politically charged in any way. We simply want to report the paranormal and supernatural. Be thankful we went with Oddity Watch because our other choices were Corn on the Macabre and The TEXTorcist.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’m here again with another paranormal anomaly that we’re going to explore. In my last article I took you all down to Southern Indiana where we talked about an eerie mimic that is seemingly a woman cut in half. I did tease that I may be covering the Yosemite Crawling Hawk for my next article, however I feel that this story (or stories, rather) that I’m about to cover will be a nice buffer before we tackle the macabre story of the Yosemite Crawling Hawk. So, you may be asking yourself, ”Henry, where the hell are you taking me this time? the answer is: Mason County in Washington State!
That’s right, we’re getting into some rainy weather so put on your galoshes and strap in as we get deep down into the Rodderson Experiments. We’re leaving the Cryptozoology field today and stepping into the Ufology world. Now, some key things to note before we cover our first story is that there are no UFO’s in the Rodderson Experiments, but rather USO’s (Unidentified Submerged Objects). They also seem to be totally disconnected and unrelated aside from a USO sighting taking place the same day an experiment was conducted.
Now, there’s truly no best place to start than the beginning. In 1979 there was a sleepy town called Pennyspring, named so because prospectors thought the land showed promise of copper. This town was roughly 15 miles away from Hood Canal with a population of a whopping 417 people. They didn’t have much industry in this town and everyone was on edge with talks of a paper mill possibly being built in the near future. The fear was with an expanding city that offered more jobs, more people would come to the town and soon they would be surrounded by strangers. Since this was 1979, the Satanic Panic was slowly on the rise and to the people of Pennyspring, a stranger was almost certainly a devil worshipper. Most of the town folk made a living off of game and fish and were perfectly happy the way things were. One of these people was Jerry Rodderson.
Jerry Rodderson wasn’t a Pennyspring native but he had lived there with his wife, Chloe, for nearly 17 years. He would go off hunting with his brother-in-law, Fern Bellview. Fern was one of the local butchers as well so any game they got, Fern would butcher it, sell the meat and they would split the profit down the middle. Needless to say, Fern knew Jerry extremely well which is an important thing to remember later on. On a cold November morning Jerry and Fern went out hunting, but since it was so damn cold, they decided they would stay in the warm truck and just shoot deer from the windows.
Fern describes sitting in the truck as quiet, but a normal, comfortable kind of quiet. Fern said he was scanning the tree line for any movement when he felt Jerry looking at him. The comforting silence became unnatural and eerie. Fern says he turned around to face Jerry and instantly knew something was wrong with him. According to Fern, Jerry’s right eye became lazy and drifted upward while his left seemed to look just past Fern. Here is the conversation that followed:
Fern- “Hey, man… You okay?”
Jerry- “Hello, man. I am okay.”
Fern- “You sure you don’t just want me to take you to the hospital? You don’t look so good.”
Jerry- “I am okay. How are you? Do you feel stressed or scared?”
Fern- “No, I can’t say I do. I’m a little worried about you, but I ain’t scared.”
Jerry- “Good. If I attempted to bite your face, would you be frightened?”
Fern- “Uh… yeah. I would, Jerry.”
Jerry took off his left, leather glove and proceeded to bite all of his own fingers off. Fern described Jerry as calm while biting, bracing his own wrist to steady it while he snapped his finger bones in half. The sound of a wet crunch and the smell of sweet copper has caused many sleepless nights for Fern. Once all fingers were bitten off and the truck cab was littered with blood spatters, Jerry smiled. He opened his mouth and four fingers rolled off of his tongue and fell on to the floor board with a moist thud. Jerry continued to smile. Fern, reeled back and in a state of shock, had no idea what to say.
Jerry- “How do you feel now? Are you frightened?”
Fern nodded his head
Jerry- “How do you feel now? Are you frightened?”
Fern doesn’t respond
Jerry- “Please answer the question either with either ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ How do you feel now? Are you frightened?”
Jerry- “Why? I have not injured you in any way, only myself. I am also calm and displaying a non-threatening facial expression.”
Fern- “I- I guess I just wasn’t expecting that. I don’t know what to do. Blood makes me queasy.”
Jerry- “A violent deviation from normal circumstances makes you feel as if you have no control in a situation and the sight of blood is innately unpleasant to you. Is this a proper analysis?”
Jerry- “Thank you.”
Jerry’s eyes return to normal and he begins screaming in agony. Fern races to the hospital and luckily makes it in time before Jerry died of blood loss. Fern gave the doctors the four fingers on the floor board of his truck. When asked where the thumb was Fern said he didn’t know. The doctors were not able to successfully reattach his fingers. Later that night, one of the nurses walked past Jerry’s hospital bed only to find him leaning over the side with a puddle of red-orange vomit splattered on the ground. In the puddle of vomit, was Jerry’s missing thumb.
Over the course of a few years, rumor spread that Jerry Rodderson was a devil worshipper and he was possessed at the time. You may think this would have been just a stain on his character, but it ultimately sent him to prison for a few years. An eye-witness incorrectly identified Jerry of raping a 59-year-old woman even though Jerry was out of state at the time. Jerry was given a retrial after new, indisputable evidence surfaced which linked the woman’s nephew as the rapist. Five years after his release from prison, Jerry killed (this will be elaborated upon later in the article) himself in the midst of the Satanic Panic. His suicide letter was one sentence: The [whistling] won’t stop.
I spoke to Fern about the whole incident, and he said there were two details that a lot of people seem to leave out whenever they re-tell the story. The first detail is that while driving down by the canal on his way to the hospital, he saw something. A big something. Fern describes what he saw as a dark, egg-like thing speeding just below the surface of the water, matching the speed of his truck when he slowed down and sped up. Fern said he must have been driving 120 miles trying to get away from this thing because “something didn’t feel right.” Fern told me that adrenaline and fear filled his body, which left him shaking and nauseous. The Egg eventually dove deep down into the canal and disappeared, but Fern said just before it did, he heard some sort of strange melody. A sort of chime with five distinct notes.
When he said that, Fern got up from his recliner and shuffled to his piano. His fingers naturally shook from old age, but they trembled a little more when he brought his fingers up to the middle C part of the piano. I’m not much of a music guy and it would be embarrassing for me to act like I knew what I was talking about. However, Fern played a lower sounding note, followed by three higher sounding notes and then returned to the original lower note. I asked Fern if he kept in touch with Jerry or talked about what happened after he got out of the hospital, to which Fern put a finger up to me and said, “I’m getting to that, just hold on.” I shut up and let Fern finish his story. After Jerry got out of the hospital, Fern and his sister, Chloe, were very supportive and helped Jerry try to return to some sense of normalcy.
One late night after a family barbecue, Fern and Jerry sat out back sipping on a beer, looking at the stars when Fern asked him if he remembered doing what he did. Jerry said he did, and he could feel the whole thing, but he just couldn’t control his body. Fern asked him what he thinks may have caused it, to which Jerry said, “I don’t know, but the entire time I was under, all I could hear was a whistling. It drowned out all my thoughts, it’s all I could focus on. The whistling got so loud, louder than anything I’ve ever heard; and that’s saying something considering I worked on a flight-line in the Army.” Then, Jerry whistled what he heard in his head and Fern instantly recognized it as the tune he heard from the Egg.
Many “experiments” happened where people who were abducted (or possessed, however, I prefer to say abducted in this instance) mention the same whistling in their heads during the abduction. When asked to whistle the tune it’s almost exactly the same melody that Fern had heard from the Egg. Sadly, though, Fern’s story is the only one that mentions the Egg making the odd tune and that’s the only true connection we have between the experiments and the Egg except for same day sightings.
Now, it’s hard to pin down exactly what the experiments are trying to prove or disprove but it does seem like whatever’s behind this is collecting data on human behavior, emotions and reactions. If Pennyspring were still a town (most of the homes and businesses foreclosed and is essentially just a sporadic string of stores sitting on the side of a highway,) you could have talked to anyone and they would have some sort of story about people acting strange.
Some of the older people blamed the abnormal behavior on the rise of Satanism in the country, so much so that a man named Al Harris ran for sheriff promising that he, with the help of the mayor, would “exorcise Pennyspring.” Harris won in a landslide. The fear only doubled when the paper mill actually did come to town and brought at least a hundred other people with it. This paper mill was integrated, essentially meaning it had a pulp mill on site as well. I don’t know if you have ever driven through a town with a paper mill, but it does not have a very pleasant smell, at all. To me, it kind of has a rancid sewage aroma.
The town was now a hub of strange activity, horrible odors and distrust. People kept to themselves and only really spoke to each other when necessary. Which is why the next few strange cases stuck out in people’s minds. I spoke to a bartender that lives in a town called Cedar Point, which used to be 24 miles north of Pennyspring. She managed a bar in Pennyspring called “Critters”, which was the stage for one of these experiments.
The bartender, April, says every night a man would come in soaking wet, regardless if it had been raining or not. The strange man dressed plainly, she said, but he would walk down to the end of the bar in the exact same path and then immediately turn around and walk out. April said if someone was in his way he would stop, wait for the person to move and then finish his walk. She went on to say that the man made no attempt to talk to anyone and would ignore anyone who would try to talk to him.
However, the one night he didn’t come in, a woman walked in instead. April said she had a huge, tireless smile on her face with eyes that seemed misaligned and vacant. The woman walked the same path as the man did, but on her way back she stopped and stared at a regular, Cody Jebson, who was sitting at the bar. “She didn’t look like she was staring at anything in particular, but her eyes were sort of in the direction of Cody. She started talking to him and she had this weird, soothing voice. I don’t know. I just didn’t like it.” The following is the interaction between the woman and Cody, from what April could remember:
Cody: Can I help you?
Woman: You look like you have kids.
Cody: Uh, well I do.
Woman: Am I pleasant to you?
Cody: I suppose.
Woman: Do you ever become sexually aroused from the thought of eating one of your children?
Cody: EXCUSE ME!?
Woman: Do you ever have sexual fantasies in which you boil one of your children alive and eat their meat right off their bones?
Cody: You better fucking leave me alone right now. I ain’t afraid to hit a woman.
Woman: I have incited rage in you despite my pleasant demeanor and voice. Why?
Cody: This is your last chance to fucking go.
At this time the woman’s face distorts into a cartoonish, snarling, grimace. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a snub-nosed revolver, pointing it at Cody. His eyes widen and his face drains of all color.
Woman: You have very handsome eyes. You are handsome. You are kind. I admire you.
Cody: W-what? I… Please don’t shoot… I have money… Please…
Woman: Before, you did not care about my pleasant voice and demeanor. Instead you focused on what I was saying. Now, you do not care what I am saying; you are focused on my demeanor. Why is this?
Cody, at a loss for words, shrugs.
Woman: Before, you did not care about my pleasant voice and demeanor. Instead you focused on what I was saying. Now, you do not care what I am saying; you are focused on my demeanor. Why is this?
Cody: I- I don’t know… I really don’t… Just… Please put the gun away…
The woman stood quietly, staring in Cody’s direction. Then, she pressed the gun under her chin and pulled the trigger. No bang followed, only a click. The woman fell backwards onto the floor. April called the authorities and told them what happened. They rushed the woman to the hospital.
The woman was later identified as Frida Hernandez, who had been missing from her home in Northern California for approximately three months when she walked into the bar. The gun she was carrying was unloaded at the time, but when she dry-fired it under her chin, she became comatose. She died while in her coma a little over a decade later. Toxicology reports said that Frida had no narcotics or alcohol in her system, but she was heavily dehydrated.
Her clothes were covered in a white, flakey substance which was later revealed to be salt. Law enforcement said this was probably from the canal, which they did a sweep of to see if they could find an abandoned car or anything that might explain her abhorrent behavior or why she went missing. They didn’t find anything like that, but April said that one of the officers (who was a regular at Critter’s) said he saw a strange object floating above the canal, which dove into the cold water a few seconds later. The other officer heard the splash and saw what looked like a whale break the surface of the water slightly and dive back down. After that, the Hernandez case was taken over by the FBI.
While in her coma, Frida amassed a group of protestors demanding the doctors to remove her feeding tube. They said the hospital was keeping an agent of the devil alive when the lord already passed his divine judgement. The nurses said every once in a while, Frida would weakly hum some sort of strange tune. This kept giving medical staff false hope that she was exiting her comatose state. Nurses also claimed to have seen Frida walking past doorways in the middle of the night, but when they looked out into the hallway, no one was there. They would go to her room and see she was still there. It’s impossible to say if the humming the nurses heard was the same tune as what Fern and Jerry heard, but I’d put money down saying it was.
I asked around Cedar Point if anyone had worked, or knew anyone who had worked at the paper mill in Pennyspring. I didn’t have any luck, but they told me to drive about 16 miles southeast to a town named “Finch”. There, I had better luck on the paper mill story, but in a completely different way. I talked to six different people separately who told me the same story with a few different details. They all claim that they went to apply for a job at the paper mill, but there were no cars outside. When they knocked on the door of the office buildings adjacent to the paper mill, they saw there was no furniture inside. Furthermore, they claim the building looked brand new despite being a few years old. They looked into the actual mill and essentially saw the same thing: brand new equipment that had not been used.
Needless to say it was a little odd that the town of Pennyspring smelled like it had a paper mill, yet, it looked as if it had never been used. I spoke to one man, Gary Hunter, who told me this story:
I never wanted to work at the mill. But, I was fresh out of college and my late wife and I had a baby on the way, so, I figured it would be the best place to go since they’d be hiring. I went to the mill, which was close to the canal, and was hoping I could just get a job temporarily until I found something better. I had heard that the mill was empty but I didn’t really believe that, I mean, who would build an entire mill and leave it empty? It just didn’t make sense to me. When I pulled up I saw cars in the lot, which I thought was promising.
I got out of my car and was heading towards the offices when I heard someone call out from behind me. I turned around and saw this cock-eyed fella who was just drenched head to toe. I asked him if he was alright and he said “Yes, I just came from the canal. Are you here for a job?” I told him yes and he said to go into the mill and wait with the others. I shrugged and went in where I saw about 10 or 15 people just standing around. We must have waited for about 30 minutes before that fella came into the mill. He said “The owners of this mill have let me lease it for today to do a study. If you’re interested, you can walk out of here with 500 dollars each.” Well, it wasn’t what I had hoped for but I thought ‘why the hell not?’
We agree and he tells us to go to the back of the mill. We head back and there’s this small hallway with two doors, he tells us to go in the first one. Once we’re inside we hear the door lock. Now, I’m starting to get nervous because I heard there were, you know, Satanists in the area and I thought I got mixed up in something bad. Which I did. We were in a weird room with a huge window, looking out into a room with a metal chair and table; kind of like an interrogation room. Except there was a record player on the table.
We see the cock-eyed fella enter the other room with a tote bag and he just starts talking off all of his clothes. He took everything off but his shoes and socks. A couple of us are snickering and the women are blushing. Then, he puts a record on and this weird music starts playing. It was very repetitive, must have had only four or five notes that just kept repeating. He had the volume up uncomfortably loud.
The man opened his bag and pulled out a carrot, which he ate extremely slow. We all looked at each other wondering if anyone else is seeing this. I start wondering ‘what kind of study is this?’ Once he’s done with the carrot he reached into his bag and pulled out another carrot. This time, he would chew then spit out the carrot. Chew then spit, chew then spit. He did this until it was completely gone and his chest was just covered in orange, chunky slime. I thought that was weird, but it was alright since it was supposed to be a study, ya know?
He reached back in his bag again and pulled out a pack of gum, scissors and a mason jar. He set the mason jar and scissors off to the side. He unwrapped each piece of gum, separated the gum and the wrappers and organized them all. He put each piece of gum in his mouth individually and chewed. He took the massive wad of gum out of his mouth and placed it on the table, smoothing it out like it was clay. Once it was flat like a plate, he put the wrappers in his mouth and swallowed them whole.
He grabbed the scissors and started to cut locks of his own hair off. He placed each lock on the gum-plate and I thought to myself ‘Oh, no… he ain’t gonna…’ and then he did. He folded the gum covered in a pile of his hair up like a taco and started to eat it. It was painful to watch and I could feel myself cringe. Everyone else was getting very uncomfortable, too. Once he choked down the whole thing he stood up, and I had almost forgotten he was also nude from the waist-down. He asked us how we felt so far, some of us said we felt fine but some of the others were just too weirded out. He said they can leave if they want, but he’d only pay them a hundred dollars each. They took the money and left.
The guy sat back down in his chair and brought out a second mason jar that was filled with this thick, red liquid. It had pink chunks floating in it, too. He grabbed the first, empty mason jar and proceeded to- uh- well, he threw up in it. He filled it about a quarter of the way. It was orange with blue chunks of gum and hair floating in it. Well, he- uh- he took a sip from the red mason jar, then he took a sip from the one he threw up in. I almost hurled, myself. He asked us again how we felt and again a few decided to leave, which he paid about $250.
I saw only about four people including myself were left, but the others seemed absent. Their faces didn’t have any emotion and they were humming that song playing on the record. He got back in his chair and he said this was the last part. He grabbed those scissors again, stood up and grabbed his pecker, which I couldn’t take anymore. I left and didn’t even bother asking for money. I don’t know what he did but I kind of got the idea of what he was going to do.
I asked Gary if he reported this incident to the police, which apparently he did. The police said they walked into a blood bath. There were blood spatters all over the floor and walls. On the table were the two mason jars, which the police tested and had found the red mason jar was filled with deer blood and offal. They found a man dead next to the canal. He was nude aside from socks and shoes, he had patches of hair missing and was castrated. The FBI took the case thinking it may be tied to the Hernandez case. Through their investigation the FBI learned that the man was Eddie Sumter, who had gone missing from Seattle two weeks earlier. The three people who had stayed in the mill when Gary left were reported missing and their clothes were found next to Sumter’s body.
Now, you may be thinking that Sumter died from blood loss right? Well, sadly you’d be wrong. The official coroner’s report stated that while he was losing a lot of blood, they actually found that his lungs were filled with salt water. You know what else they found? His penis was in his stomach.
I asked Gary if he knew what happened to the record, which may have seemed like an odd question after everything he had just told me. He said he didn’t know, but the melody still pops in his head every once in a while. He said when it does pop in his head, it becomes so loud that he can’t even think and there have been a few times he tore up pieces of aluminum foil and ate it. He said this has caused some G.I. issues, but he simply can’t help it. When the melody is in his head, he described it like climbing in the backseat of his own body. He was apprehensive about whistling the melody for me, but when he did it was a perfect match to what Fern played on the piano.
Back in the 80’s and early 90’s people were almost certain this was Satanism, but now people have begun shifting their theories and credit the behavior to other-worldly beings such as aliens or possibly even time travel. If we knew what the Egg was or had any other information on it then we could go in a certain direction with these theories. Unfortunately, the Egg has very little sightings and each sighting greatly differs between each other. Hell, Fern is the only one who said it was an Egg, no one else refers to it as such.
One thing that is consistent, however, is it’s large and it’s a very dark object. Some interesting stories do float around the Hood Canal area, though, describing this object. One fisherman said it was a disc covered in black eyes that claimed to be the new God of this realm. Another person claimed it wasn’t an object at all, but rather an absolute emptiness in space. One woman said she saw a sphere rise out of the water and unfurl itself into a giant, beautiful mermaid with a black tail. She said the mermaid coaxed her to come into the water so she could suckle on its breasts.
It seems that the farther away we get from the Satanic Panic the more people perceive the whole chain of events differently. But a very consistent element in all of this is the melody. We know that the melody is the cause for most of these people to do what they do and that being exposed to it for long periods of time seem to make you more susceptible. Also, it seems that the melody is a permanent part of the person, like a stain on the mind. There are probably a number of questions that you want to ask but here are two that I can answer indefinitely: If the melody is a stain on the mind, how did it affect Jerry Rodderson initially and never affect him again? Why are these called the Rodderson experiments and not the Hood Canal experiments?
Well, lucky for you I can answer these questions at relatively the same time. Remember how I said Jerry Rodderson committed suicide and his suicide letter was him saying he wants the whistling to stop? Well, some Rodderson Experiment truth hunters subscribe to a theory that Jerry Rodderson never actually killed himself. Yes, a note was found saying “The whistling won’t stop”, but it clearly doesn’t state he committed suicide. Additionally, a body was never found. In the eyes of the town Jerry was a devil worshipper who vanished, so good riddance. Sheriff Harris is actually the one who decided not to look for Jerry after his disappearance. He didn’t even ask Chloe or Fern about his disappearance; instead he told them he committed suicide.
The theory goes that Jerry fought the call of the Egg every day, but eventually couldn’t fight anymore. In his last hazy moments of coherency, Jerry wrote down “The whistling won’t stop” and surrendered himself. But, the theory wouldn’t exist without eye witness accounts disputing the death of Jerry Rodderson. The year is 1998 and the town of Pennyspring died along with the Satanic Panic. Most of the residents either moved to Cedar Point or Finch and were living a suburban lifestyle. One resident in particular was Gloria Gaye. She moved to a cul-de-sac named BlueJay Way in Finch.
It was a mildly warm day in June and Gloria had just finished baking an apple pie that she was going to take to a potluck three doors down when she heard a knock at the door. Gloria wiped her hands off on her apron and shuffled to the door, assuming it was Beth from three doors down wondering if she was done baking yet. When Gloria answered the door she saw a taller man with a head of gray, wispy hair under a bower’s hat with his back facing Gloria. “Can I help you?” She asked. The man, not turning around to face Gloria, admired her home- specifically how all of the walls met at 90 degree angles. Unsure of what to say, Gloria simply said “thank you”. The man then walked away down the cul-de-sac. As he walked away, Gloria noticed he had no fingers on his left hand. At the potluck she described the strange encounter, to which a man said the only person he had ever known to be missing all of his left fingers was Jerry Rodderson.
A few nights later Gloria would wake up to the sound of her beagle barking. When Gloria got out of her bed she saw the man with his back turned to her standing in her lawn. Gloria went to call the police but by the time she untangled the phone cord and walked back to the window, the man was gone. Over the course of the next few weeks people wondered where Gloria had gone, as she hadn’t been outside or to church in a while. It wouldn’t be until the police found her malnourished, dehydrated and on the brink of death that anyone would have guessed that she was in any danger. When Gloria recovered in the hospital, she told the police that a man with no fingers on his left hand kidnapped her and stuffed her in a crate. He asked her continuously “Why do you hate this? You live in a home filled with 90 degree angles, why does this bother you?” She described the man as genuinely curious, which frightened her to say she didn’t think he was intentionally being malicious.
The most haunting thing to her though, was how he would whistle the same tune over and over again. Gloria recovered just fine with the help of her friends, family and congregation. The police initially thought this may be a hate crime since Gloria was the only black woman on BlueJay Way. They ruled this theory out since the nature of the crime seemed to lean towards mental illness.
The police checked to see if there were any missing persons with mental illness in the county, or anyone who fit the description but this came to a dead end. The police then checked to see if there was anyone with a criminal record that fit the man’s description, but this also yielded no answers. Eventually, the police just put out an advisory and told people if they saw this man to call the police immediately. This was the last case that generated a police record, but it didn’t take long for the myth of Jerry Rodderson to spread over Mason County.
People talked about the fingerless man who was possessed by aliens and experimented on his community to relearn what humanity was. Many people have a story about being approached by Rodderson, his back completely turned to them and asking uncomfortable, strange questions. These word of mouth stories began to grow in popularity and eventually all of the previous experiments were completely accredited to Rodderson, thus these strange events being named the Rodderson Experiments.
That, my friends, is a brief overview of the Rodderson Experiments. There are more experiments that I haven’t gone over, but if you go to our new podcast called Oddity Watch we will be going over more experiments such as a mother burning her own hand in front of her daughter to see if the child would save her mother. While you’re exploring our podcast please check out last week’s episode about the Pale Mantis! Thank you for reading and we’ll see you next time!