In 1992, an otherworldly stranger stalked me across Europe.
Have you ever found yourself in a stressful or dangerous situation and had a complete stranger offer assistance? As if they’d been placed there, by fate, or impossible coincidence, miraculously timed to step in and help … And then, just as mysteriously, disappeared?
Maybe looking back it seems like the Universe was using this ordinary person as a divine messenger for you — an ordinary vessel, but with a supernatural role and unbelievable timing.
But have you ever experienced this phenomenon in such a way it left you wondering if these helpful strangers were even human beings at all?
Stranger Angels - Part 1
Stranger Angels - Part 2
The Paranormal Memoirs
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Have you ever found yourself in a stressful or dangerous situation and had a complete stranger offer assistance?
As if they’d been placed there, by fate, or impossible coincidence, miraculously timed to step in and help…And then, just as mysteriously, disappear?
Maybe looking back it seems like the Universe was using this ordinary person as a divine messenger for you. An ordinary vessel, but with a supernatural role and unbelievable timing.
But have you ever experienced this phenomenon in such a way it left you wondering if these helpful strangers were even human beings at all?
My name is Slade Roberson.
For over ten years, I’ve been a professional intuitive counselor and the author of the blog Shift Your Spirits, where I try to write about spirituality with fewer hearts and flowers than most New Age blather.
I also mentor emerging intuitives, psychics, and healers in a program called Automatic Intuition.
Now a quick FYI before we go further — I’ve added a new feature to the show.
For years now, before I send out a blog post, I try to tune in and listen for something that will speak directly to you, that will serve as a message. Like an oracle.
And I get email replies, every week, with tons of you saying the post was a direct answer to a question you had.
This is a really popular phenomenon - for both of us - and I want to bring that to the podcast…
At the very end of this episode, after my final links and credits, I have a channeled message for you.
Be thinking about a question or concern you have. It may be answered by the show itself. But hold it in your mind and I’ll come back on at the end and leave you with something extra…
Back to the show.
Today, I want to share one of my own experiences with what I call stranger angels… (although I would never have used that terminology at the time…)
In January 1992, when I was twenty-two years old, I traveled to Europe.
I flew to London with a small group of friends and stayed for a few days before splitting off from them to go meet up with another friend Allison who was waiting for me in Paris. We had arranged to connect at a specific hotel between the Latin Quarter of the 5th Arrondissement and the 13th Arrondissement on a Saturday morning — but the only trains I could take required that I arrive either half a day early or half a day late. So, I opted to travel in the wee hours of Friday night/ really early Saturday morning which would put me in Paris at 1 am.
We were going to share a room, but I figured I could splurge and check into my own room for one night at the same hotel and sleep for awhile until Allison woke up.
I only had a little bit of British cash when I left London, but I wasn’t concerned — all the train stations I’d ever been to in large cities like New York and London were always bustling with activity at all hours, even in the middle of the night. So I figured I could go to a money exchange when I arrived in Paris and turn in some American traveler’s checks for francs.
After the Channel boat crossing, which was actually pretty crowded, there were only four other people in the car on the train with me — two girls from New Jersey, Joanna and Julie, an Australian guy who eventually introduced himself as James, and a nondescript man in a khaki-colored trench coat who remained several rows away, never joined in our conversation, but nevertheless seemed to always be staring and closely watching us whenever I glanced over at him.
The Jersey girls made entertaining companions, they were chatty and easy to be with; James from Australia was shy and although he moved closer to sit near us, he mostly just listened to the conversation.
I was unprepared when I arrived at the Gare du Nord train station in Paris to find it an absolute ghost town — every kiosk, cafe, ticket booth, and bank was dark, locked up with those roll-down gates like you see on the front of mall stores when they’re closed. This was a Friday night in Paris; I thought there would be people everywhere.
The Jersey girls yelled a cheery goodbye and snatched one of the only waiting taxis, and James melted away into the streets with the small crowd who exited our train from other cars.
I wandered around in an awkward circle, looking for signs of activity, and quickly realizing I was not going to find any. This was a really ill-planned arrival. I had been so comfortable in London — I was traveling with friends from the US; staying in the apartment of British nationals; there was no language barrier; not to mention a kind of “past-life” familiarity that was at least partially supported by recognizable landmarks from years of studying English literature.
Now I was alone in an abandoned metropolis with just enough high school French to read signs and grunt nouns and adjectives and to possibly butcher a verb conjugation or two, in a pinch. I was an obvious tourist carrying everything I had in an enormous pack; an easy target for a mugging.
I was actually thankful there was a freezing fog everywhere to ensure the streets were emptier than they might otherwise have been. There was only one other person anywhere nearby that I could appeal to for directions.
And he was watching me.
The man in the khaki-colored trench coat, who had been staring at me on the train, was lingering, lurking at a casual distance.
At least he was a familiar face, and if he had just arrived from England then chances were good he spoke my language.
Feeling like a child who’d lost his mom in the mall, I walked up to him and began babbling about my circumstances — where I was trying to get to in the city, where I might find a money exchange… Why was Paris of all places shut down like this on a Friday night?
I felt no sense of danger from him. Honestly, I suspected he might be cruising me, and I was more than willing to play along with that a little bit in exchange for crucial information. I was confident I could politely fend off any sexual advances, if that was his motive.
As I talked to him, I realized there was something vaguely off about him. In the back of my mind I was cataloguing the details of his manner and appearance.
He introduced himself simply as “Uh… John” and something about the way he said it sounded like a lie made up on the spot.
When he spoke, his voice was soft and polite, yet he made no facial expressions. He was absolutely emotionless. He spoke English, yet I could detect no traceable accent — it wasn’t British, or American, or Australian.
I can picture his face clearly and I would immediately recognize him if he walked into the room right now— but I can’t really describe much about him that would be identifiable or unique.
His eyes were an unusual icy blue, but other than that…
He could have been thirty… or he could have been forty or even fifty.
His hair might have been a dirty blond… or maybe a light brown, or even silvery-gray.
He was dressed from head to toe in monochrome — his pants and shirt were the same colorless beige. Only his shoes were a different color (and I noticed that, despite the cold, he wasn't wearing any socks).
His clothes had creases in them, as if they had been taken directly out of packages. I felt like if I could have checked inside his collar I’d find price tags still attached. It reminded me of when I’d worked in retail stores, the way the body forms we dressed for the window displays appeared before the clothes had been steamed.
That was it — he looked like a living mannequin.
He looked too new, too perfect — yet totally unremarkable.
He had absolutely no body hair — zero - no stubble, no shadow, no hair on his wrists — not even the faint down that a woman or a child might have.
He gave off an anonymous perfume that smelled exactly like… unscented dryer sheets. Even his breath was like a warm load of clean towels.
John was… supernaturally ordinary.
He offered to informally exchange the small handful of British pocket money I had on me — I handed him what amounted to less than five bucks, and turning away from me for a moment (probably to keep me from seeing into his wallet, I suppose) he produced a bill that, although still a modest amount, was at least quadruple the value of what I’d given him.
“But it’s not enough for a taxi all the way from here,” he said. “You’ll need to walk quite a way first, as far as you can.”
Using a rail map posted on a wall for reference, he showed me where I was and where I was headed. “Once you are in view of Notre Dame, or come to the Seine, you should be close enough to hail a driver to take you the rest of the way to your exact destination”
He hesitated for a second and then offered to walk with me.
I told him that wouldn’t be necessary — I appreciated his kindness but I anticipated it might be more difficult to get rid of him later if I needed to. Before we parted ways outside the station he also warned me about the dangers of walking through this part of Paris in the middle of the night.
He ominously advised me to “Be invisible,”
As far as ensuring that my path was relatively deserted, the weather was probably a blessing; but the grace of the cover it provided me came at a price — it was miserably freezing cold. The moisture in the air was just light enough to remain a dense fog, but it soaked me as well as any steady drizzle might have…
It was a long, harrowing (shitty) night.
I would need another thousand words here to itemize the petty trials of that night’s walk. My feet were blistered and swollen for days… I could not get warm the entire week that I spent in Paris… But to simplify the story, I can’t recall many times that I have felt that physically vulnerable.
Had I been a crow, I could’ve kept moving directly south, but the streets were a crooked, uncooperative labyrinth that required constant course correction.
I expended a lot of energy “being invisible” as I had been instructed. I encountered very few people — a handful of prostitutes propositioned me from the caves of doorways and shopfront awnings; I constantly crossed and recrossed streets to avoid anyone on the sidewalk; I ducked into phone booths from time to time to collect myself and maintain my bubble of cloaked energy.
It didn't take me long to realize that John was following me. He remained a block or two behind me, and stopped when I stopped.
Who has nowhere to be and nothing better to do than to follow me through the streets of Paris at 3 am in the middle of January? A serial killer? But I have to admit maybe I was a little comforted by his strange yet at least somewhat familiar presence over the alternative of being completely alone.
Hours later — after walking and walking for hours — I spotted the recognizable architecture of Notre Dame. Soon after that, I was across the Seine and in the Latin Quarter. Thinking surely I was close enough to afford a cab the rest of the way, I stopped a driver and spluttered my destination.
He laughed at me and pointed — to the street I was seeking, which was about a few hundred feet away.
I walked up and down that street for another hour — not only was the hotel not there, the very street number itself did not exist. After pacing back and forth and carefully tracking the building numbers to convince myself I wasn’t hallucinating, I was literally in tears. In frustration, I sat on a bench and surrendered to having arrived at being finally and totally lost.
That’s when I saw John again, across a square formed by a jumbled intersection of streets. I was just pissed off enough and desperate enough at this point to walk right up to him and demand to know why in the Hell he was stalking me.
He disappeared down a side street that looked like an alley and I followed him. But it wasn’t an alley at all — It was an improbable, completely eccentric continuation of the street I had been pacing up and down. The numbers picked up and continued.
No sign of John, but there was the hotel.
That Monday, a few days later, I was with my traveling companion Allison and her friend Natalie. We were walking from the Champs-Elysees headed to the Eiffel Tower when someone waved at me from the window of a restaurant.
It was Jersey Joanna and Julie, smiling and waving excitedly at me. it was such an unexpected joy, the unlikely synchronicity of seeing these familiar faces.There were two men sitting with the girls who turned around to see who they were waving at. One of them was James the Australian guy — and I thought Wow! They ran into him again too? That’s kind of cool. What are the chances? And then I made eye contact with the Other guy.
It was John.
Why would he be with them? They never even spoke on the train…
Allison was like “Do you know those people?” She was looking at me like — How is it even possible that you would just run into someone Here?
I was kind of too overwhelmed in the moment just trying to process the coincidence to explain how huge it actually was, so I just said. “Yeah. They came over with me on the train from London.”
But that wasn’t the last time I saw John while I was in Europe.
I saw him again, a few weeks later, on the day I was mugged at gun point in Amsterdam.
My time in Paris was… difficult. I felt stressed, distracted, uneasy, but also mute and invisible.
I’m someone who talks a lot, but because my roommate Allison was fluent in French, she did all my talking for me. Her friend Natalie was a French national, and although I’m sure they didn’t purposefully exclude me, they chattered away with me along as a silent third wheel, just listening, catching only about fifty percent of what they said.
They dragged me through two full days of the Louvre… Madonna-and-Child, Madonna-and-Child, Madonna-and-Child — “Oh, look, the Mona Lisa; neato” — Madonna-and-Child, Madonna-and-Child… Endless palatial corridors of Madonna-and-Child.
I felt like I was stuck in some virtual reality walk-through of a really tedious Art History textbook. I told Allison “If I don’t see something painted after 1890, I’m going to lose my mind.” So I ducked out and went for some amazing (much needed) inspiration from the modern art collection at the Pompidou Centre — without the girls.
When Allison and I were finally alone in our room that night and she switched back to English, my voice came out thick from lack of use.
And when we spoke, we bickered.
She kept asking me. “What are you looking at?”
I was standing by the window — again — peering out through a gap in the curtains, not really conscious of what I was doing or that it was even noticeable until she pointed it out.
She accused me of acting paranoid, day after day — constantly looking back behind us when we were walking, checking and re-checking the lock on the door, and lurking near the window watching the street.
She said “You’re making me nervous. It’s like we’re being followed.”
I couldn’t explain myself so I let her believe I was just being a pill; that I was miserable being in Paris with her. (Which I kinda was.)
I told her I was going to cut my stay short and go to Amsterdam alone. She didn’t protest; I’m sure she was relieved to spend her remaining days with Natalie without having to be my translator.
Maybe France simply did not agree with me.
Arriving in Amsterdam I immediately regained the better mood and sense of comfort I’d had when I began my trip in the UK. I met a couple my age from San Francisco, Marty and David, who were staying in my hotel. They had been in Amsterdam for most of the previous week, their last three days coincided with my first three; they were able to show me around to all the “best” places nearby they’d discovered to hang out and eat, reasonably inexpensive ones that weren’t such tourist traps. We went out to some great clubs every night and, best of all, I could participate fully in conversation again. I had exactly the kind of traveling experience I had hoped to have.
I became attached to Marty and David pretty quickly, and when they departed, their absence was palpable. I had little expectation of achieving that same sense of joy or meeting other strangers I could click with so effortlessly.
Truly, my intuition said “Might as well go ahead and leave” — but there were a few sites I wanted to see while I had the chance and they seemed appropriate for that lonely, invisible state I had fallen back into.
The first day on my own, I went to the Anne Frank House (a profound adventure that deserves its own story sometime) and then I came back to my hotel room and watched the flocks of thousands of birds that would wheel out into the sky each evening at dusk above the Centraal Station just across the canal from my window, moving together like an enormous tornado or a computer-animated coming swarm in a killer bee movie. They would hover in a shifting cloud for close to half an hour, as if they knew they were performing for an audience.
The next day I chose to walk across town to the Van Gogh Museum. It was a fortunate serendipity on some levels — there was a special temporary traveling exhibit on Mackintosh Art Nouveau, which is absolutely my favorite art history design period ever. The entire upstairs of the museum was converted into complete rooms that replicated Art Nouveau interiors, and there was a small movie theater playing a documentary on the period. Although there were a half-dozen other people in the theater with me, I felt like the installation existed at that time and place just for me — like I had successfully manifested it… and I had more of these intense past-life memories that had made my time in England feel so electric.
When the credits scrolled across the screen and the lights came on, I pulled myself up with a satisfied sigh and headed reluctantly toward the exit.
I’m sure if you’d been there watching me, you would have seen the smile on my face MELT when I saw …. JOHN sitting in the back row.
Part of me was like Are you kidding me?
But my physical response was fear — I didn’t even look at him, I just kind of weirdly acted like I hadn’t seen him — like you do when you see someone you don’t want to run into— and I just fled the museum.
The wind that channeled between the buildings was the only thing that kept me from running all the way back to my hotel — I would round a corner and find the signs and traffic lights swinging wildly, and I’d have to lean into the force of the wind as if I was hiking uphill. It created that horrible sensation you have when you’re being hunted in dreams, your body stuck in slow motion, your limbs lagging behind the directions of your mind.
It’s easy for me now to look back and wonder about the questions that must have been going through my mind — Who is this guy? Why would he be following me like this? Is he a stalker, a serial killer — maybe he’s some kind of cop who mistakenly thinks I’m a serial killer? Why would anyone want to tail me? And you know How is it even possible that he can keep up with me from one city to the next?
At the time — honestly — I did not care. I wasn’t thinking anything except "I want to go home.” I hurried from the museum as if the United States was just a few miles away, and if I could move fast enough and push myself, I might reach it before I ran out of breath.
I’d been abroad for about a month at that point — maybe I just wasn’t as “worldly” as I would’ve fancied myself to be; maybe all these enormous gray winter cities were smoothing away the edges of my personality… maybe I was just incredibly homesick and this was what that felt like.
But more than anything, I felt threatened. I felt unsafe. I felt like I was in danger… and the stranger behind me, who I couldn’t seem to shake, corresponded with this atmosphere of fear.
Fear often turns into anger (especially for me) and the anger gets directed at the person you blame for making you feel afraid. (Regardless if that’s appropriate or not)
But at some I wasn’t just running away anymore, I was also fuming, and I knew it was building up ( and like, God help him if he actually caught up to me) – which, I kinda wanted to happen. I may have looked like I was moving away from him, but I was really marching toward the break where I would turn around and just RAGE.
I heard a voice in my head (a man’s voice, not my own) say:
You are powerful.
And I answered back: I AM powerful.
You are protected, the voice said.
And that slowed me down a little bit.
You are fine, the voice assured me.
Now, I was out of breath. There was a stitch in my side. I’d dropped into a slower pace of determined, sustainable endurance, and the words I was hearing rearranged themselves in a sing-song affirmation in time to my foot falls:
I am powerful, I’m protected, I am fine /
I am powerful, I’m protected, I am fine /
It became a mantra, a chant that helped me maintain my speed, it pulled me along, but also calmed me, put me into an altered state.
I came face to face with this man with dreadlocks who was standing right in my path. I ducked to the side to go around him and he matched the movement in what seemed like one of those awkward “Excuse me, after you” kind of dances
But Dreadlocks wasn’t trying to pass me, he was shadowing me, mirroring me, “guarding” me like a basketball player. When I just stopped, he walked right into me as if he were going to embrace me with one arm and shake my hand with the other.
He grabbed me and held me close him, and shoved a gun against my belly. At least, a pocket full of something meant to feel like the nose of a handgun.
“Money,” he said to me in English. “Come on.”
Two things flip my switch:
being assaulted or bullied
being in the presence of someone I care about who is being assaulted or bullied
When I was in my twenties, I had virtually no ability to manage defensive anger and my temper turned on and up in one direction – full-on, unbridled, absolutely ape shit. No warning, no ratcheting up by degrees… And it came with a loud, hateful, free-style narration. My Daddy used to say that I had The Kind of Lip That Will Get You Killed in The Wrong Circumstances. My friends in college were amused by my tongue-lashings and called this aspect of my personality “Julia Sugarbaker.”
I doubt Dreadlocks would have ever predicted the manner in which I responded. He had no way of knowing just how pumped up on anger and fear I already was. I probably looked like someone running away, which his instincts identified as prey – but what he ran right into was Royally Pissed.
When my words came out, I screamed them, berating the pedestrians who passively walking by as much as my mugger, and on some level, I was screaming at John.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me. You’re going to mug me, in broad daylight, two o’clock in the afternoon, in the middle of the damn street? And you expect me to believe you’ve got a gun and you’re going to shoot me with it in front of all these people for spare change? You know, it’s no shock to me that every fucking piece of shit would-be thug in America actually does carry a gun because our whole society prides itself on the fact, but in the Netherlands, man, really? That’s a pretty big deal for you to be carrying here, isn’t it? I mean, you’re either a serious hard core criminal or you’re faking it. You’re obviously small time, because why else would you be holding me up for a handful of cash that won’t even buy you a cup of coffee? What is that in your pocket anyway, a plastic cigarette lighter?”
Dreadlocks glanced around nervously at the crowd I was drawing and said under his breath “Man, cool down. Just give me some money, that’s all I want.”
I shoved my hand into my pocket and pulled out some Dutch coins and the crumpled, sweaty French bill that John had given me that night at the Gare du Nord. I’d never spent it. I had continued to carry it around like a talisman. I was even a little bit pissed to be giving up something I’d come to think of as a souvenir.
Dreadlocks-man held out his hand between us and I slammed the money onto his palm, slapping it hard enough that the coins leapt and pinged off a grate in the sidewalk. He held onto the French bill, looked at it quickly, and shook his head like he was disappointed with me.
“Man, come on,” he said, as if he were trying to say “I can’t do anything with this…”
“No? Cause you said all you wanted was money; that’s all I got; that’s all you’re getting. Would you rather have some traveler’s checks you can’t possibly exchange without an ID and a really good forgery? If so, you’ll need to walk me back to my hotel and let me get them out of my room safe for ya, you wanna do that?”
He looked at the French bill again like he was trying to decide whether or not to just give it back to me. “Come on,“ he pleaded one more time.
I saw him look over my shoulder and his eyes re-focused. I knew exactly who he was looking at. In a much lower, confidential, whisper I said to him. “You see that man behind me, the one in the trench coat? …Yeah, I can see that you do… You’ll notice I also don’t even need to look because I know he’s back there. He’s been following me for two weeks. He’s some kind of cop, or some kind of detective, I don’t know who or what he is, but he’s watching me, and now he’s watching you too. You just got that guy for a witness.”
It really wasn’t a bluff; and maybe the authenticity of my confession gave it power. At any rate, the doubt and confusion played out quickly. The Dreadlocks guy backed away slowly at first, clearly keeping his eyes on John, and then he turned and ran.
I was so jacked up on the adrenalin of the situation, I swiveled around with the full intention of finally laying into this “stranger” John who was following me. I was mad enough to punch him.
Of course he was there, just as I knew he would be, keeping to his minimum fifty-foot distance.
John just opened his hands and held out his palms, slightly shaking his head. He grinned with a kind of lop-sided, regretful smile. He looked, more than anything, sad and… apologetic. As if to say, “Sorry that it had to be like this.”
And then he just walked away, back in the direction we’d come from. He was just swallowed by the crowd.
I’ve attempted to relate this story without interpretation, because at the time it happened, and for many years after, it was just an odd mystery that became one of those “the time I was held up at gun point” stories.
Knowing what I speak about and write about these days, of course, you’re gonna infer some paranormal or spiritual significance...
Honestly, it may not even compare that well to the more profound angelic intervention stories you might have heard — it just happens to be one that happened to me. And I’m sharing it with you because it’s an event that came up again a decade later.
This is just a Prologue.
In 2002, ten years later, I met a man named Jesse — who somehow already knew these events had happened to me — and he’s the one told me What It All Meant.
So... thanks for listening and stay tuned to the next episode of the Shift Your Spirits podcast…
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BEFORE I GO
I promised to leave you a message in answer to a concern or question you may have.
So take a moment to think about that—hold it in your mind or speak it out loud—I’ll pause for just a few seconds….right…NOW
Your situation needs some forgiveness. You need to let go of any past anger you’re holding onto. It’s holding you back. You either need to forgive someone else…OR
You need to forgive yourself...
For placing unrealistic expectations on this situation.
I'LL TALK TO YOU LATER