Ryan Sprague is, as many of the people I admire the most in this field, a man who wears several hats: He's not only a professional playwright and screenwriter, but also has a life-long passion about the UFO topic, every since he had an impactful observation of a triangular object at the tender age of 12 years old.
Mind you, he's not a UFOlogist per se (at least, he doesn't like to use the label… another thing we agree upon!). Instead he prefers to present himself before the witnesses he interviews in his investigations as a 'journalist', and that is exactly the approach he used when he decided to write 'Somewhere in the Skies': Putting the witness at the forefront and let THEM tell the story of what allegedly happened to them in their own words; without any judgement, bias, or established agenda of what it is they exactly experienced.
Believe me, if this book was only about cool or never-before-published close encounters, I wouldn't have bothered in reading it in the first place --my days of getting 'a hard on' by consuming what my friend Greg Bishop calls 'UFO Porno' are long gone. Where 'Somewhere in the Skies' stands out among the rest, though, is twofold: First, it covers THE WHOLE GAMUT of otherworldly encounters, from the blissful to the totally terrifying and with people from all walks of life --even former military personnel-- showing how the response elicited by the phenomena can be as varied as the particulars of the witness itself; some of them may see something incredible that challenges all of their preconceptions about Reality or how the world is supposed to operate, and then move on with their lives; others may end up being so totally shaken up by the experience, it completely alters the course of their lives forever. Sometimes for the better... and sometimes for the worst.
It is the 'post-scriptum' of said experiences the second and most important part Ryan's research focuses upon. Yes, studying UFOs may yield us some new revelation in Physics, or even inspire us to conceive novel propulsion systems of energy sources --which is IMO what the great majority of 'nuts-and-bolts' UFOlogists' primary goal is.. that and being FINALLY vindicated by the individuals and institutions who have scorned them for so many years; but in dealing with such an elusive phenomenon thusly, the field has reprehensibly neglected that treasure trove of information which, unlike UFOs, tend to stay closer to the ground and for longer periods of time --the witnesses themselves.
Ryan decided to meet those individuals who are often relegated as a number on a graph by the 'just-the-facts-ma'am' researchers; he contacted them either via e-mail or by meeting them in person whenever possible, to see not only WHAT they experienced when being face to face with the Unknown, or HOW the experience impacted their lives (and that those closer to them); but also WHY they believe it happened to them in the fist place: Is it merely a matter of being in the right place and the right time, or are the witnesses being SELECTED somehow for some ulterior motive which escapes our comprehension? A supposition which seems more plausible, especially when dealing with the most extreme aspects of non-human encounters which are currently referred to as 'alien abductions'.
Some of the people Ryan interviewed have had years to process what they witnessed; decades even, for a few of them. Integrating such a transcendental experience into one's life is not an easy feat, and obviously some turn out to be luckier than others (perhaps because of their particular 'safety net' of strong social and family relations). But among the wide array of testimony Ryan gathered, there spawns a single commonality: The world of these persons cracked wide open all of the sudden, and grew bigger and more incredible than they had never suspected before.
Perhaps, just perhaps, that's just the whole point of all of this.
In one way or another, many whom I’ve interviewed in the
writing of this book described the very same thing: a spiritual
experience. Something just beyond the physical realm had
struck them as they stared into the sky, trying so desperately to
process the mysterious phenomenon before them.
Throughout Ryan Sprague's text, an overall sense of optimism was palpable. Optimism when he interviewed a few brave scientists who dare to study the phenomenon seriously despite the obvious peril to their careers. Optimism when seeing how UFO witnesses and experiencers are creating support groups and online networks which help them deal with what may very well be the ultimate social closet of the XXIst century --interaction with a non-human intelligence.
But most of all, Ryan's optimism seems to spawn from a hope that, whatever the hell may be behind the UFO phenomenon, and the reasons behind its bizarre way to operate, it will nevertheless help us move forward in our collective and individual evolution.
I too confess to share that optimism. And because of that, perhaps my only big caveat with Ryan's book lies in his choice for the title. Because the true key to uncover this mystery may not reside 'somewhere in the skies.' The key may be right here, with each and every one of us.
So let us find that key, and see what doors we may unlock with it.
Addendum: In order to entice those Grailers who may still be in the middle of a rush Xmas online shopping, into adding Somewhere in the Skyes on their Amazon list, Ryan and Richard Dolan Press were kind enough to grant the Daily Grail with an exclusive excerpt. Enjoy!
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. On one side of it was a smudged autograph, 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 begun.
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 between upstate New York and 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 finally to 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 near a military base in rural East Anglia, England. Over three consecutive days, U.S. military personnel witnessed a craft of unknown origin land in the forest that surrounded their base. One witness also stated that the craft had adversely affected nuclear ordnance stored in nearby bunkers. A strategic coverup 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 whistle-
blower, 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, having a strong 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 variouslights 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 confes-
sion. 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 hap-
pens. 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.
Excerpt shared with permission by the author and Richard Dolan Press, 2016.