Man of Mystery | Our Town | Chicago Reader

Man of Mystery 

Can Chris Fleming turn his lifelong obession with the paranormal into a career in publishing?

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By Deanna Isaacs

Three years ago Christopher Fleming was sitting around the mortgage company where he worked as a loan officer, shooting the breeze with his associates. The workday was over and the guys, a potpourri of nationalities and religions, meandered into a discussion of paranormal experiences. It began when one announced, "The weirdest thing happened to me the other night. I woke up and saw someone standing at the edge of my bed. A dark figure. I saw it glide across the room and go right through the wall." In the three-hour session that followed, the others joined in, relating their own encounters with ghosts. Fleming listened in amazement but kept his mouth shut. "If only they knew," he thought to himself.

Since early childhood, says Fleming, now 32, "I've seen the ghosts, I've seen the angels, I've seen the demons." Son of one of the toughest men ever to play in the National Hockey League, onetime Blackhawk Reggie Fleming, Chris was raised in the northwest suburbs and still lives in Hoffman Estates. His mother, a flight attendant who believed in the spirit world, was frequently gone overnight--and it was during her absences that the ghosts were most likely to appear. From the age of four, Fleming would climb into bed with his father when his mother was gone, seeking protection. But the ghosts came to his father's room too. Fleming says his dad, who would never admit fear on the ice, also wouldn't admit what was happening.

"But there was one night that made me realize my dad was seeing these things," Fleming says. "It was real quiet. I'm facing my father. I've got my back to the open side of the bed. All of a sudden something appeared at the side of the bed. It lit up the entire room. It was red orange, moving, horrific. The scream this thing emanated was the most deafening sound I've ever heard. I turn and I see this thing, and I panic--in such fear as I've never experienced in my whole life. My dad jumped off the bed, he was so terrified, and fell on the floor. I'm scrambling to get toward him because this thing's right beside me. I slide off the bed, I fall right on top of him. He's cursing, swearing up a storm, grabs me, throws me down, gets on top of me, like to protect me, and he turns on the light, going, 'What the blank was that!' He is shaking. He sits me down on the bed next to him and I'm screamin'. He's like, 'Relax, relax, relax. Maybe it was just a dream.' And I go, 'No, no, it wasn't.' And he's like, 'OK, just forget about it. Ignore it.' From then on if I slept in my dad's room I would have my back to him and I would watch the open side of the bed."

Fleming's parents divorced when he was in junior high school, about the time he says guardian angels began appearing to assure him that he was loved. He graduated from William Fremd High School in Palatine and went to Beloit College, where he played varsity football and majored in art. By the time he got to Beloit he had learned to keep his ghostly visits to himself. After college he worked for Pioneer Press newspapers, then for an advertising firm. Eventually, looking for something more lucrative, he wound up in the mortgage business.

Fleming came away from the office bull session thinking it was time to break his silence. He wanted to create a forum where people could share paranormal experiences--a discussion group or newsletter. When he consulted a friend who published a monster magazine, the friend told him to forget the newsletter and go right to a magazine. It took Fleming six months to put his first issue together. He rounded up free stories and art, did the layout himself, put the printing and shipping costs for a 2,000-copy run on his credit card, and then looked for distributors. As soon as Unknown Magazine hit the newsstands, in the spring of '97, he started hearing from people with stories to tell.

Fleming's plan was to publish quarterly, but he's found that hard to do while working another job full-time. In two years he'd put out only three issues. The fourth (a 6,000-copy run with a Blair Witch-inspired cover) is on sale this week--thanks to the retirement fund he cashed in to pay for it and the fact that he's been out of a job since September. The new issue features an interpretation of Nostradamus that claims to reveal the birthdate of the new Antichrist (February 4, 1962) and an interview with a man who says he was the victim of a U.S. government mind-control project that began when he was two years old and included an encounter with a seven-foot-tall alien lizard. Fleming's looking for an investor for the magazine and a new job in graphic design. To make contact, punch up his Web site, www.unknownmag.com, or E-mail him at chris@unknownmag. com.

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