By Michael H. Brown
Mysterious Strangers: Sighting At WTC Recalls Other Alleged Angel Reports
It came in the way of a secular story. There in the Journal News servicing suburbs of New York was a column about photographers who spotted a strange man near the World Trade Center on September 18. They had tried to snap pictures of him playing his trumpet in the wake of the disaster, said the newspaper, but their shutters jammed mysteriously.
One of the witnesses was a well-known photographer who goes by the name of Miklos. As reported by the newspaper, which we linked to last week, “After hearing a report about the trumpeter on WNYC radio, Miklos said, he went to Ground Zero to photograph him. In the eerie quiet of lower Manhattan, he could hear a trumpet as he approached a police barricade. About 150 yards away, Miklos says, the trumpeter stood ‘in this abandoned urban canyon, illuminated by shafts of light caused by the smoke and dust.'”
The article went on to say that Miklos raised his telephoto lens, feeling he had “an incredible image” — the photograph of a lifetime — but he couldn’t depress the shutter and so never got the shot.
Other photographers, one describing “something so special about this guy,” reported the same experience. And one man who looked into the matter, Mark Judelson, executive director of the Arts Council in Rockland County, N.Y., wondered publicly if it was an angel — in particular, the Archangel Gabriel, who is so often pictured with a trumpet.
Could it really have been an angel? And was the trumpet of major significance?
Obviously, we’ll never get to the bottom of this story — not without a photo of the stranger — but experiences with mysterious people have been circulating for years. Many such accounts mention specifically this: Gabriel’s trumpet.
And often they involve the phenomenon of mysterious “hitchhikers”: strangers who beg a ride and then vanish in the car after saying something prophetic.
We warn at the outset that such stories must be strictly discerned, for of all the deceptions, the devil coming as an “angel of light” is mentioned in just this way in Scripture (II Corinthians 11:14). Moreover, a number of prophecies, indicating certain years for certain events, have failed.
But the intrigue remains. During the 1960s, hitchhikers were being reported all the way down to Brazil. Went one story: A minister was motoring down a road to make a sick call when he spotted a young male on a stretch of uninhabited land. He picked up the man and they began to speak of Jesus. “I believe the Lord’s return is getting close,” said the preacher.
“Well, that may be sooner than you think,” the stranger replied.
And when the minister turned to look, the young man was gone.
On the New York State Thruway were accounts of a “beautiful young hippie” clad in shining white who supposedly would enter a car, buckle his seat belt in the back seat, and talk about religion. Mainly he seemed to want to know if the driver believed in the Second Coming. When drivers turned around to answer him, the hitchhiker had vanished — leaving his seatbelt fastened (according to a professor who studied this, Lydia M. Fish of the State University College of New York at Buffalo).
Perhaps you have similar accounts. Which were the good angels and which were lying wonders? Which were the “false prophets” who Jesus warned about in the very same chapter of Matthew (24:11) in which He foresaw the beginning of sorrows?
We know only that when we investigated this matter we found reports in Pennsylvania and Virginia and Maryland, in Ohio, in West Virginia. “Well, the Lord is coming soon,” one such hitchhiker, this time an old man, allegedly told Jack Mattox, a retired factory manager from Mattoon, Illinois.
That was 1979. The reports mushroomed in the 1990s. In Eureka, Missouri, a witness named Gary Ridings told me about picking up a guy with silverish hair on Highway 270 in 1993 while he was driving a pickup.
It was around the time of the Mississippi flooding.
“This fellow said, ‘The coming of the Lord is at hand,’ and when I turned to the right side — he was on the right side and I had been looking to the left — he wasn’t in the truck any longer. He was gone.”
There are hitchhiker stories from Massachusetts to California. The mystery has amassed tremendous momentum. We remain wary that some may be reheated folklore, or deceptive spirits, but many ministers and priests remain open to it and where before there had always been allusions to Christ coming “soon,” now there was a new twist: the “hitchhikers” were telling drivers that the Archangel Gabriel was bringing the trumpet to his lips.
This seemed dramatic because the trumpet in Revelation is used by angels to announce purification (8:7).
Excitement was generated on a Christian television network when a female caller recounted the story of an old shabby-looking man who was walking along the highway. As the woman picked him up (prompted by a “voice”), he suddenly looked neat and clean and said, “The Lord told you to pick me up.” Then he supposedly added: “I have a message for you: Gabriel’s trumpet is almost to his lips.”
I have heard this time again: the mysterious stranger saying that Gabriel was about to sound his horn (and I reported on it in our book, The Trumpet of Gabriel). “The Archangel Gabriel is often pictured playing his trumpet,” notes Judelson. “In Islamic tradition, Gabriel revealed the Quran to the prophet Muhammad. In Jewish tradition, Gabriel interpreted Daniel’s dreams. And in Christian tradition, Gabriel came to Mary and told her of the coming of Jesus.”
After spending time with Miklos and checking with a radio station that had received such reports, Judelson concludes that this was in fact the case.
“I choose to believe that the Archangel Gabriel came to Ground Zero on September 18, 2001, in the form of a trumpeter whose name we do not know.”
Oh, that image from Ground Zero: One can only imagine the smoke, the light, those lilting, echoing sounds.
Maybe it was really an angel; maybe it really was Gabriel — announcing now that the purification was not just coming but had already begun.