Ordinary people are seeing extraordinary things in our skies. And while reports of UFOs and their possible occupants are littered with dates, times, and descriptions, they rarely focus on those who've actually experienced them. How have these dramatic and often traumatic events affected those involved? Could both the positive and negative implications, whether subtle or revelatory, further our knowledge of what exactly these phenomena represent?
Through extremely detailed testimony from highly credible witnesses, including pilots and military personnel, and insight from those in the psychological, academic, and scientific fields, Somewhere in the Skies: A Human Approach to an Alien Phenomenon, is a personal journey that also weaves together a story of stories, furiously pumping new blood into the heart of these mysteries, one inextricable experience at a time.
Below is an excerpt from Somewhere in the Skies: A Human Approach to an Alien Phenomenon.
Being the sole patron in a bar can be liberating. Then again, it can also be depressing. I embraced the former.
“What'll it be?” he asked.
Tyler, as I would soon learn his name, poured a generous dose of Kentucky goodness into a smudged glass. It was April 25th, 2013, and I was one of few patrons in this dive bar on the Lower East Side, an area of Manhattan that I didn't frequent often. But this was a special occasion and I needed something to calm my nerves. Within the hour, I was to take part in an interview about UFOs. So it didn't hurt to have a small bit of inebriated confidence.
As I took my first sip, something caught my attention above the two tiered shelf of liquor behind the bar. Hung rather haphazardly by a rusty nail was a billiards triangle rack. It dawned a smudged autograph on one side, presumably from a celebrity pool shark back when this bar actually had a table to play on. I stared up at the triangle, its shape reminding me quite vividly of how my entire interest in the UFO topic had all began.
It was 1995, and I was twelve years old. My parents and I were on a weekend getaway to the Saint Lawrence River, a lengthy body of water situated snugly between upstate New York and its northern neighbor of Canada. As I fished off a nearby dock at our motel, hoping to catch every perch and sunfish the lake had to offer, I noticed a reflection in the water of something in the pitch black above. Naturally, my gaze veered upward. I spotted three white lights in a distinct triangular formation. While I could see no solid structure, the stars were blotted out behind the formation. These lights, constant, yet pulsating, were moving over the water in complete silence. I could then make out a hazy red light in the center. It seemed to burn brighter than the lights at each point. All I remember hearing was the water hitting the dock in its natural rhythm. I could feel a low vibration behind my ears, running down my neck and into my chest. I watched in awe as this formation slowly moved north toward the Canadian border. I called for my parents to come take a look. When they finally did, all they saw was what they assumed was an airplane fade out of sight. I knew differently.
This experience at such a young age terrified me. I became obsessed, taking out book after book from the public library, researching accounts of sightings, encounters, and even abductions. I would write essays to myself about them. It was clear that whatever I saw that night stayed with me for years to come, prompting me to finally seek out others who had found themselves tangled in a UFO web. I started to interview people in my hometown. I compiled local reports. I was essentially paving my way to finally branch out and begin writing for several alternative publications on the topic. And thus, my career as a UFO journalist had ostensibly begun. And while most days consisted of interviewing others, the proverbial pen (and camera) were now being flipped onto me.
My colleague, Peter Robbins, and I were to be interviewed by a research group out of Copenhagen, Denmark. Their focus: the 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident which occurred in and around a military base in rural East Anglia, England. Over three consecutive days, personnel on the base witnessed a craft of unknown origin land in the forest that surrounded it. Witnesses also claimed that the craft had adversely affected nuclear ordinance stored in nearby bunkers. A strategic cover-up was set in motion days after the events, keeping the entire Rendlesham incident under wraps for years to follow. Robbins had co-written a British best-selling book about the incident, along with one of the key witnesses and the original whistleblower, Larry Warren. The book, Left at East Gate: A First-Hand Account of the Bentwaters-Woodbridge UFO Incident, Its Cover-Up and Investigation, remains the best-documented account of this deeply controversial case.
My involvement in the case was peripheral, consisting specifically of a stage play I was developing at the time. The play would chronicle the ten year journey it took Robbins and Warren to write the book. Robbins, also having grown up with a theatre background, embraced my endeavor with open arms. It was a match made in ufological/theatrical heaven. And I was very excited to share my own thoughts on the case.
“Brings ya down here, man?” Tyler asked.
“Being interviewed for a Danish television show,” I responded.
His ears perked. This clearly wasn't the answer he was expecting.
“What's the interview about?” he asked.
“An incident that occurred on a military base in England.”
“Heavy. What happened?”
“About eighty personnel witnessed some... strange stuff.”
He pressed on. “What was strange about it?”
I was cornered. I had no choice. What I said next would either make or break the conversation. I'd experienced this conundrum many times before, and I was ready to immediately be shrugged off.
“It was a UFO sighting.”
You could hear a pin drop. Rather impressive for lower Manhattan.
“UFOs. That's uh... that's...”
He was done. I went to take a sip from my glass when Tyler suddenly slapped his hand on the bar, a sharp echo bouncing off the empty brick walls, causing me to dribble the bourbon down the front of me.
He proceeded to throw down a coaster next to my drink, quickly rounding the bar and sat next to me.
“So are you like, a ufologist or something?”
I hadn't lost him after all.
“Journalist,” I bit back. The term, ufology, had always rubbed me the wrong way. While it was indeed a topic of study, I never considered myself knowledgeable enough to stamp the “ologist” on my forehead. At least, not yet.
“Ever heard of the Phoenix Lights?” Tyler asked.
I had indeed. I had actually written extensively about the Phoenix Lights incident in past articles. The incident occurred on Thursday, March 13th, 1997, in and around the areas of Phoenix, AZ and Sonora, Mexico. Hundreds of individuals witnessed various lights and v-shaped craft floating through the night skies. Their testimony was only strengthened when the Arizona governor at the time, Fife Symington, also came forward to say he'd witnessed the event. Not only had I written about these events, but I had personally spoken with half a dozen witnesses who were directly involved. Tyler would now make lucky number seven. He went on to describe his sighting in great detail, a rush of excitement consuming him. I watched his eyes shut tightly as he tried recalling street names, his arms flailing like helpless ribbons taped to a desk fan. His wingspan was impressive as he went on to describe the enormity of a craft, once again in a v-shaped formation, that hung silently in the Arizona sky that night. Every word seemed like a confession. Something he had pushed down so deep for so long. He began to sweat as he fell further into his own memory, living out every moment in great detail.
I couldn't help but revel in this situation. I had walked into a random bar in a random neighborhood on a random day that a random bartender happened to be working, and this happens. In his incidental questioning of why I was there, Tyler had opened the floodgates to something he most likely hadn't spoken of in years, if ever. He had sparked a conversation that many had before but rarely admit to: experiencing something beyond his control. Beyond his concept of reality. Whatever happened in Arizona that night touched the lives of thousands of people. And each and every one of those people had stories to tell.
Tyler told me to stop by the bar any time and we'd discuss his sighting in greater detail. But for now, I had to make way to my appointment. And as I left the bar that day, warm and fuzzy from the bourbon sloshing around in my empty stomach, I headed toward my destination invigorated by the serendipitous encounter that had just occurred. I walked toward the location of the interview to meet our interviewer, Frederik Uldall, and his wife, Ditte. Peter was already there, dawning his usual brown leather jacket and Indiana Jones-like hat. He smiled brightly, conversing with Frederik. After a few hugs and handshakes, we headed upstairs to begin.
As Frederik prepared the camera, I looked over at Peter. He was making small talk with Ditte, who was playing gracious host for the day. Peter let out a sincere laugh that stood out to me. And for a brief moment, I thought to myself of how rigorous it must have been for both he and Larry to spend ten years of their lives on a single book project. The passion, blind faith, and sheer determination to bring to light not only a case they felt deserved it, but the fact that they had placed the UFO phenomenon prominently in front of so many people who had never thought twice about it.
I wanted that. I wanted something that I could bring to the table that would make people think. And in that moment, as I sat in my chair, feeling like I still had so much to learn, I knew I wanted to write this book. I wanted to write it for Peter. For Tyler. And for the hundreds of people I have corresponded with throughout the years who all have stories to tell, but weren't quite sure if anyone would listen. I hope, in some small way, that this book is evidence that there are those who will listen. Who will relate. Who will think. And perhaps will feel compelled to come forward with their own experience.
Perhaps, reflecting back on that moment as Frederik pressed record on the camera, I didn't quite know how crucial it was for these stories to be told. Not for some grand revelation or epiphany of sorts. But for closure. For those who have experienced something they cannot explain and feeling as though they were alone. So many others have had similar experiences, each more bizarre than the last. And perhaps they'd find closure in knowing that most would empathize the best way they know how: by listening, reading, and acknowledging that something far more complex is happening than just lights in the sky.
After about an hour or so of on-camera conversation about Rendlesham and various other UFO-related topics, Frederik stopped recording. He shied away from the camera, staring straight at the floor. He shook his head. With a nervous laugh and a sharp Danish accent, he reacted simply with, “Unbelievable.”
And it was. Most of it. With each passing story, it never got easier to just believe. In fact, it was the complete opposite. As I ventured further and further down the rabbit hole of mystery, I would meet many different people on the way. Some would become close friends. Others would remain on the periphery, happy to tell their story, but going no further. And some would leave lasting impressions on my journalistic and personal life. And it began where most UFO sightings often did. With lights in the sky.
Ryan Sprague is a professional playwright & screenwriter in New York City. He is also an investigative journalist specializing in the topic of UFOs. He has written for numerous publications, including Open Minds Magazine, Phenomena Magazine, and UFO Truth Magazine. Speaking on the UFO topic, he has been featured on ABC News, Fox News, and The Science Channel. He is also a regular on the Travel Channel's Mysteries at the Museum. Ryan is the co-host for both the Into the Fray & UFOmodPOD podcasts. Learn more at www.somewhereintheskies.com