I always wondered what happened to Jack and his weather rocks. Now I know.
He's posing as a weatherman in Idaho Falls. Or maybe he's just controlling a weatherman in Idaho Falls, it's hard to know when it comes to conspiracy theories.
Jack was an old hermit I met about 20 years ago when I was a reporter in Las Vegas. He came along about the same time I was dealing with a preacher named Yahnne Baptist (he pronounced it such that it sounded like "John the Baptist"). Yahnne drove a large white Cadillac with an Elvis hood ornament and claimed to have a congregation. I also dealt regularly with an old man who was knee deep in a local zoning fight and who seemed like just another down-and-out alcoholic — until he invited me over to his house and showed me the original Goya he had hanging in his basement.
Then there was Neil, the strange little man who seemed to have inside knowledge of every murder committed in the city that summer and who said Miami Herald reporter and mystery author Edna Buchanan could vouch for his sleuthing skills. I called her and she told me to watch out, Neil just might be a killer himself.
So I was used to eccentric people. And my position as a night police reporter, the low end of the newspaper's totem pole, made me a magnet for the type of folks who liked to hang around reporters, hoping for a little notoriety or a glimpse of some action.
But Jack was one of a kind. He was persistent, confident and, in an odd sort of way, convincing.
And he controlled the world's weather.
He never really explained in detail how he did this. It had something to do with crystals and ordinary rocks. The crystals controlled the jet streams and the rocks were there to modulate the frequencies. He said he had set these up strategically across the continent, and he could change weather patterns by moving them.
Periodically, he would come into the newsroom to tell me to be prepared for a major weather event that would occur soon somewhere in the world. He never was terribly specific about where or when. But, sure enough, a weather event would occur, and he would come around again to claim credit.
Once, he agreed to lend me one of the rocks. I took it home and casually set it atop my dresser. A few days later a series of freak tornadoes hit Ohio. I got a frantic call from Jack. "Where have you put that rock?" he shouted. "You're messing everything up!"
Finally, Jack became convinced that wealthy interests ("I can't give you many details, but does the name 'Rothschild' mean anything to you?") were stealing his rocks and orchestrating weather catastrophes around the world to further their own financial interests.
His last call to me came on the afternoon following some hurricane in a far-away land. The wealthy interests, he said, didn't know what they were doing, and we were all in for some wild and unpredictable times ahead.
I must admit, the intervening 20 years have been, at times, wild and unpredictable. But that's how it is with a lot of conspiracies. Put them in a certain light and they seem capable of explaining a lot of stuff. Put them under an ordinary light and they seem dull and foolish.
Which leads me to Idaho Falls television weatherman and meteorologist Scott Stevens.
Stevens gained a measure of notoriety last week when a local paper, and then the Associated Press, reported on his belief that Japan's Yakuza mafia and Aum Shinrikyo used a Russian-made, Soviet-era device to create Hurricane Katrina and aim it at New Orleans. The idea was to get back at us for dropping that atomic bomb on Hiroshima all those years ago.
It turns out the Soviets were working on weather control back in the '70s. Today, the rogue Japanese groups are continuing the project with help from the KGB. Stevens' Web site is, not surprisingly, filled with charts and graphs and evidence from what sound like credible sources. It's hard to find a conspiracy site that isn't.
It's also hard to find one that doesn't also assume either a conspiracy of silence among mainstream scientists, or a widespread blind-sheep attitude by educated people who are afraid to depart from the accepted theories of the day.
I suppose people have believed these types of theories for as long as mankind has been around. They help some people make sense of a world in which they feel powerless. But they also waste a lot of time and energy.
For my part, I keep wondering why the Soviet Union couldn't win the Cold War with a weapon like that, or why the Japanese mafia would be more concerned about avenging Hiroshima than about finding ways to enrich itself.
I like Jack's story better. At least wealthy investors would be motivated to give us some sunny skies.
Jay Evensen is editorial page editor of the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: email@example.com