Man standing in front of car headlights.

Telly Savalas Ghostly Encounters and their Implications

This story centers around Telly Savalas (of Kojak fame) and a series of ghostly encounters he had beginning in the late 1950s.

To my knowledge, Savalas first publicly shared his experiences on a 1993 Australian TV show called The Extraordinary. After telling his story he died just a few months later in January of 1994. But the implications of this tale go beyond just him. Here is that segment…

Summary of the Encounter

After dropping his date off one evening, Telly Savalas suddenly ran out of gas on his way back home to Long Island, NY. He took the empty gas can from his car and began to make his way to a nearby White Castle fast-food restaurant to find out where the nearest gas station was. Once there, he was told that he had to walk through a wooded area in order to reach the station.

As Savalas made his way through the wooded area, he heard a high-pitched voice say “I’ll give you a ride.” When he looked up to see where the voice was coming from, there was a man waiting for him in a Cadillac and wearing an all-white suit. Savalas says that he never heard the vehicle approaching when all of a sudden it was just there. Either way, he agreed to the kind gesture and the two men took off toward the gas station together in the Cadillac.

Once they arrived the man suddenly offered, “I’ll lend you a dollar.” Even though Savalas had never asked him for any money, he still took the man up on the offer since at that moment he was in fact, broke. But Savalas promised to mail him back the money since he was embarrassed about it considering that he did have a job working for the state department back then.

After Savalas paid for the gas and filled up the container, the two of them began to make their way back to his car. That’s when the man randomly exclaimed, “I know so and so” (who Savalas mentioned was a baseball player from back then). But what was odd about it, was that they weren’t even talking about baseball at that moment.

However, Savalas asked, “Who is he?”

The man responded with “a utility infielder for the Boston Red Sox.” Savalas thought it was bizarre that he would simply mention something random like that. And, as he put it—in the spookiest voice that he ever heard.

Once they got back to his disabled car, Savalas put the gas in but they still had to push it to get it started. So, the man pushed it by himself and it started right up. Savalas thanked the man and drove off.

The following day after work, Savalas saw a headline in the then Journal American which read: SO AND SO, DEAD. The name was the same ballplayer that the guy mentioned in his spooky high-pitched voice the night before. According to Savalas’ recollection, the ballplayer was only in his twenties or so and died under very mysterious circumstances.

Savalas thought the whole thing was simply too frightening a set of coincidences so he explained it to his mother (who he lovingly referred to as “part witch”). His mother said, “Strange things do happen.”

Savalas then remembered a piece of paper that the man gave him with his info to mail him back his dollar. As Savalas glanced at the address that the man had written down that night, there was also a telephone number beside it.

So, he called the number…

Someone on the other line answered with “Jimmy’s Bar.”

Savalas asked, “Can I speak with Mr. Cullen, please?”


“Mr. Cullen.”

“Just a minute.”

A woman then got on the phone and asked him, “Who’s calling?”

Savalas asked again, “May I speak with Mr. Cullen, please?”

The woman responded, “He’s not here.”

“Well, when do you expect him?”

The woman asked again, “Who is this?”

Savalas said, “Well, I was with Mr. Cullen last night and he gave me this telephone number and said I could reach him here.”

The woman responded angrily with, “Look, you son of a b*tch, I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re talking about my husband and he has been dead for over two years,” and then promptly hung up.

Well, Savalas didn’t let it go. He said that he did get in touch with the woman again. They agreed to meet so she came all the way down from Boston to meet with him in New York.

After talking with the woman, Savalas learned that the clothes he described seeing Mr. Cullen in were the exact same clothes he was buried in.

On the piece of paper that Savalas was given that night was the signed name “James Cullen.” He matched it to a separate letter that the woman had brought with her from when Cullen was in the Army. In her letter, it was signed as “Jimmy” but Savalas says that apart from that the two signatures were identical.

When Savalas asked the woman if her husband had a high-pitched voice, she revealed that he had a deep voice like Savalas’. But apparently, he had killed himself from a gunshot to the throat—right through the voicebox.

Let’s unpack some of the concepts brought forward in this account.

Vehicle headlights are visible on a dark road.
Photo by chmyphotography on Unsplash

The Ghost of James Cullen

It would be a fairly easy explanation to say that this ghostly man in white was in fact, the ghost of James Cullen. But was it really?

Just because a ghost presents itself as someone doesn’t necessarily mean that it is who they are.

Spectral entities appear to take on various forms and can even pose as other individuals at times. So, I always caution those to be hesitant to accept the reality of what something merely appears to be at first glance.

As you will read later on, it wasn’t the last time Savalas ever encountered this ghostly individual.

Supernatural Twists

In these haunted hitchhiker stories we often hear of, it’s typically the living who ends up providing a ride to the deceased. But in this account, it’s the other way around, which I find quite fascinating.

Also, the ghostly man in white seems to stick around for a prolonged period of time instead of just simply vanishing without a trace. He not only interacted with the physical world around Savalas but also apported objects for Savalas to use as well.

In paranormal terminology, an apport is usually a material object that appears seemingly out of nowhere without an obvious source. This seems to be more common in séances or even poltergeist cases. But in the case of Savalas’ story, the man in white directly handed him cash (and presumably the piece of paper that had his info written on it too).

Interior of a classic Cadillac car.
Photo by Sam Manns on Unsplash

Seen but Not Heard

One of the things that struck me about Savalas’ encounter is that even though he saw the Cadillac that the man in white pulled up in, he never actually heard it.

This notion is eerily similar to reports I’ve received of so-called “phantom helicopters,” which seem to show up from time to time during a UFO experience.

Now helicopters seen in the vicinity of a UFO are more common than you might think, but what I’m referring to is slightly different. These are helicopters that emerge immediately after a UFO sighting or are seen in the vicinity several days later. These helicopters typically fly at an extremely low altitude and may even contain pilots or occupants that seem fixated on the witnesses themselves.

Now, of course, all this sounds like something conspiracy theorists are driven to paranoia with. But these aren’t always black helicopters nor do they behave like typical helicopters. The witnesses do not report hearing any sounds until after they take note of them. They never hear the sounds of them approaching.

But why do I call them “phantom helicopters?” Because it seems like they too just show up or they may vanish quite as suddenly.

Precognitive Aspects

Retired Col. John B. Alexander coined the term “precognitive sentient phenomena,” which I find to be a highly accurate description of how the phenomenon operates. The precognitive aspect is quite evident in how the phenomenon tends to stay one step ahead of investigators and experiencers in anticipating their thoughts and actions.

So, this begs the question—was Savalas destined to run out of gas? Was he destined to run out of money at that very moment?

Had he not run out of gas, Savalas would not have met his ghostly driver. And, had Savalas not been out of money, he would not have borrowed money from the driver, asked for the driver’s name to pay him back, got in touch with his widow, and learned about all the strange synchronicities that he did.

And, you would not be reading this very story today.

In certain types of ghostly encounters, the experiencer often feels like they were meant to receive the information that was given to them. But since the phenomenon is one step ahead of us and already knows how things are going to play out, perhaps that message is really meant to reach another audience in the end.

Perhaps this story is actually meant for you, too.

Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team.
Photo by Maxence Bouniort on Unsplash

The Baseball Player

Who was the ballplayer Savalas mentioned and what is the significance?

The man in white seemed to have foretold the death of a “utility infielder for the Boston Red Sox” as he put it in his eerie voice. After doing some research with the dates that Savalas provides, it seems highly likely that the player was Harry Agganis. He died around the same time from a sudden infection that took a turn for the worst.

Now Wikipedia says Agannis died in 1955. Savalas said his experience took place in 1958 or ’59. But in the video interview, you can see that Savalas struggled to get the exact date correct. So, we may have to leave room for a small margin of error in his recollection of the exact timeframe of events.

According to the Lynn Journal, Agganis went to the team trainer in May of 1955 and mentioned that he was playing with a pain in his side, which was quickly diagnosed as pneumonia. Agganis recovered and returned to the team a couple of weeks later to play two games in Chicago. But upon arriving in the next city on their schedule, Agganis was coughing nonstop and complaining of congestion in his chest. So, he was sent back home to a hospital in Cambridge for more tests.

But things suddenly took a turn for the worst and Agganis died in his hospital room on June 27.

“Vanished,” wrote sportswriter Austin Lake in the Record-American, “in the high noon of his vitality, poof.”

Agganis was 26. The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism. But his dying words were reported to have been, “Take care of my mother…make sure she is all right.”

Connections and Questions

How did the man in white know that Savalas would read the headline on Agganis’ death the very next day?

If I could interview Savalas before his own death, I would ask him what Harry Agganis meant to him or if he had any personal connection to the Boston Red Sox. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some sort of connection that these two men shared with one another, which they weren’t even aware of.

Both Agganis and Savalas had a Greek background, so maybe therein lies some sort of connection worth exploring, but I don’t know.

Savalas’ Follow-Up Encounter

The Extraordinary shared a follow-up video with Savalas, which is also quite remarkable. Take a look.

It turns out that years later on November 22, 1963, Savalas was playing golf with two friends—Dennis James and Merrill Heatter (nephew of Gabriel Heatter), at the El Caballero in the San Fernando Valley of California.

At the sixth hole, Savalas was getting ready to tee up when he heard the same distinct voice from Long Island call out his name, “Telly.”

When Savalas turned to look, there was a man a distance away on top of a hill who called out, “Did you hear what happened in Dallas?”

Savalas replied in a confused manner, “What?”

He turned to ask Dennis, “Did you hear that?”

Dennis did but he asked Savalas what the man had said.

“I don’t know,” Savalas replied and they moved on.

The group continued to play the seventh and eighth holes but Savalas was still disturbed since he had recognized that voice. So, they took a break inside the club to grab a bite to eat. As they ate and watched television, CBS news reporter Walter Cronkite suddenly interrupted the broadcast to make an announcement—President John F. Kennedy had just been shot in Dallas, TX.

But the CBS news bulletin was about 90 minutes after Savalas had heard the ghostly voice on top of the hill. The time he heard the voice would have been about the same time JFK had been shot.

Here we have another example of the phenomenon exhibiting precognitive behaviors.

A Deeper Meaning

What the true purpose was for this ghostly visitor to deliver startling revelations seems to be between Telly Savalas, James Cullen, Cullen’s widow, and perhaps even Harry Agganis and JFK to some extent.

If you have any additional thoughts or insight, I’d love to hear from you on it.

Savalas also mentioned to The Extraordinary that this was only half the story but he didn’t want to talk about the rest. He said, “It doesn’t end there. I wish the hell it would. But as I say, that to happen to somebody like me…I don’t comprehend.”

I had come across a recap on Reddit of the Telly Savalas story from a user named “Denver_Snuffer” (DS). Some of DS’ recollection was accurate but some of it was not. Yet in his summary, DS mentioned that the Savalas story reminded him of another experience that he encountered…

I had a similar incident in “The Disappearing farmer and barn in Idaho”. Unlike Telly, I was absolutely suicidal just before the farmer appeared, out of nowhere, and asked: “Do you need help?” I hope that the skeptics among you, will go to YouTube and watch the 6 minute 45 second video where Telly recounts his ghost story, with dramatic re-enactment. Perhaps the ghost appeared NOT for the sake of Telly, but for the sake of his wife. Perhaps she was considering suicide herself. We don’t know. Telly confirmed to the wife that the man was, still, existing in another form. Telly was chosen as the “agent” who proved to the wife that her dead husband was not burning in Hell-fire for committing suicide (as devout Catholics believe) but was out helping people. Perhaps THAT is “why” Telly had this happen to him. The man needed a “messenger” to let his wife know he was okay, without breaking Spirit-World rules about direct communication. Just a guess.

I find DS’ concept on the suicide connection intriguing but again we can only speculate. We don’t have any additional information that suggests Savalas did anything with the JFK news. Maybe I can try to locate someone close to Savalas to learn about the other incidents he had with this ghostly visitor that he wasn’t willing to talk about on camera at the time.

The phenomenon has a bizarre way of operating in our reality so anyone’s guess is as good as mine. Either way, its methods, and tactics always keep us guessing as to what it might do next. Maybe you will be the next person it chooses to take to the nearest gas station. Or to warn of an impending tragedy. Or to deliver a message to. Whatever it is, be open, but be cautious.

Did you enjoy this article? Then check out my book “The Spectrum,” which goes more in-depth with some of these ghostly encounters and what it all could mean. Click here to get it from Amazon.

The Spectrum: Glimpses of the Paranormal and Encounters with the Strange

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