Instead of finding stories as most reporters do, CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman uses a highly sophisticated piece of newsgathering equipment: a dart. He asks a person on the street to throw a dart at a map to help him choose where he'll go next in search of a story. Once there, he picks a subject at random from the phone book. The premise is that "everybody has a story." This time the dart throw took him to Florida.
Gilchrist County lies along the beautiful Swanee River. Not exactly the setting you'd expect for a story about conspiracy, government secrets and biblical prophecy.
And yet, that's exactly what Paul Humphries' story is about.
Humphries is a 57-year-old retired Army sergeant. He used to live in Washington, where he worked in military intelligence.
"Our motto: in God we trust, all others we monitor," recalls Humphries.
His job was to help break enemy codes, mostly during the cold war. But here's where, he admits, the story gets bizarre.
One day, Humphries decided to see what would happen if he decoded a very different kind of message from a very different kind of superpower.
He took the Book of Revelations from the Bible and decrypted the words as if it was a secret code, and he says what he learned was shocking.
He explains it in a rambling 100-page thesis published on the Internet that basically translates the Bible into an economic forecast. The forecast is dire.
"Remember, it's coming and there is not a thing you can do about it," he notes.
The "Everybody Has a Story" series is made with the promise that Steve Hartman will do a story on whoever answers the phone, no matter what they have to say. And if nothing else, Humphries proves that promise.
He is a guy who is convinced we're about to go through the worst economic depression this country has ever seen. And yet most people, even his family, don't believe it.
Humphries' son Duane came down from Virginia courtesy of CBS News to share his thoughts on why his dad would ever think to decode the Bible.
"It's almost like a brainwashing. That's exactly what the military does. Trains you to do things you ordinarily would not do in everyday life. So, what's a conspiracy theory to us is fact to him," says his son.
So real is the threat that Paul Humphries is already preparing for the depression he says will hit next summer. He plans to grow vegetables and store canned food for fear it may soon be worth more than gold.
Which is why he's also armed. "If you won't give it to them, they'll take it," Paul Humphries explains.
"It's like he can't get away from it. I dubt if he can. Like you can't get away from your arm. It's there," says his son.
And if nothing happens by July of 2000, Paul Humphries says, well, he just missed the boat: "I went to the wrong pier on the wrong day," he adds.
Maybe then he can try a simpler approach to Bible study and perhaps realize that you can get more out of it without reading so much into it.
©1999 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved
Copyright 1999 CBS. All rights reserved.