New York MUFON Field Investigator
Somewhere in the Skies: A Human Approach to an Alien Phenomenon by Ryan Sprague: 212 pp. Richard Dolan Press: 2016; a bouncy, introspective journal by a UFO journalist whose obvious skill is recording hair-raising stories told by UFO witnesses and trying to make sense of it all – especially abductions. The book comes complete with an engaging Forward by UFO heavyweight Micah Hanks, and an eight-page Introduction by Sprague. No photos, no illustrations; just purely fascinating, enjoyable storytelling.
Woe: the witness stories in Somewhere in the Skies will make you rethink many aspects of the UFO phenomenon, especially the way close encounters have the power to affect and change some witnesses forever. Maybe that’s why the events occurred in the first place, the witnesses suggest to the author. Maybe the witnesses were chosen to be changed or made aware of new things about life and the world. Sprague makes us wonder how we will be affected, too, if we should see a UFO up close and personal. Then, of course, this makes us wonder about what UFOs are and how they got to planet Earth and why. Sprague is there at the ready to suggest possible reasons. Often he allows the witnesses to make the suggestions because they experienced the events. In this case, experiencing a UFO sighting or alien high strangeness is everything.
Having said that, let’s get to the bloody guts and do some squeezing, shall we?
Sprague tells us true UFO witness accounts, typically using direct quotes from the witnesses to convey events, settings and tone. Some accounts will ring familiar eerie bells to those of us who have had close encounters…or experienced even more, such as abductions…surely leading many readers to question the nature of such things as sleep paralysis and powerful dreams in which strange beings described as Grays are involved, for example. Some of the accounts will have me looking over my shoulder when I’m hiking alone in the woods, for a long time to come. Not his fault – the scary parts were the actual accounts. As the narrator, Sprague stands in the background, waiting to spring out after the story is told or during a part that needs comment, to help us be aware of the possible purpose and interesting mechanisms of the close encounters.
Sprague, a playwright in his young 30s who lives in Queens, NY, keeps his own personality to a minimum as he relates events described by witnesses or experiencers, and does this just long enough to convey the upshot of the stories he’s discussing before he forcefully jumps back into the narrative to point out how the accounts relate to bigger issues that many people face related to UFOs - like strange health problems and marks on one’s body following nightmares of creatures with big black eyes.
One fascinating line of the author’s thinking is how witnesses and experiencers change following their close encounter sightings or following more intimate interactions with creatures possibly from other worlds. Sprague has the help of direct quotes from witnesses whom he identifies by full names and the towns where they live, which is something I fully support in good reporting. He plunders our wicked imaginations into a frenzied riot with witness accounts of a three-foot-tall man standing at the edge of a field, of triangular craft with white lights at each point and sometimes a red light in the middle that hover over homes wherein there are children.
It was a triangle that one mother and daughter saw, that Sprague reports to us in one of his nearly two dozen accounts; but they saw different things, daughter seeing it as black and the mother seeing the exact same shape yet looking bright white above their home. Then again, the mother and daughter also had a difference in how they heard the craft, with the daughter hearing a terrible noise that made her cover her ears, while her mother heard only a low hum. The individuality of the experiences has the author’s full attention.
And we’re on our way… across North America, where Sprague takes us next, to a place like to Arizona, emphasizing all the while that we must pay particularly keen attention to the personal growth people sometimes feel following visits by aliens. And, indeed, this something the author should point out because it makes us wonder if aliens are here to help us or hurt us, and whether they are here only for specific people – but if so, for what reasons, genetics?
Sprague especially focuses on how the events he unravels before us - as only a skilled reporter could so (with a skilled editor behind him) - affect the people who experienced the alien visits or UFO sightings. In many cases, there was a transformation of sorts in the witnesses that led to inspiration and enthusiasm for things of life, with the individual renewing his or her perception of life anew and afresh, re-invigorating the witness with hope. Such changes thus include people becoming more spiritual or religious, for example. Another worthy bonus for some of the witnesses and experiencers was feeling like there might be something special about them because of the appearance of the UFO or the personal visit or abduction by aliens. He allows witnesses to suggest maybe the sightings that changed their lives were meant to happen as a matter of fate or divine guidance or intervention. This seems to give people who had the experiences a purpose they hadn’t felt beforehand, they related.
In a chapter towards the end of the book, one of my top favorite authors, Kathleen Marden, an investigator, researcher, writer, and Director of MUFON’s Experiencer Research Team (ERT) discusses some issues with Sprague. Marden said MUFON research shows there are twenty-three commonalities among experiencers that are not shared by non-experiencers. Wow, I thought that was telling. Perhaps that’s why Sprague pursues experiencer groups and ends up spending a weekend in a bed and breakfast with a living room full of them. It makes for interesting reading when he has a haunting experience in a bedroom, and his partner Jane simply won’t wake up to his prompts.
One trained eye is kept by Sprague on the story told by the witness at hand – and they are good stories; with the other eye watching how the experience transforms that witness’s perceptions of his or her purpose and life plan. In the background, far behind Sprague as the narrator, is the always assumed knowledge that we know the aliens are contacting humans. And that they are abducting us for their own scientific purposes. He relates a few of these types of cases. Be prepared to sleep with the lights on for a while after reading about these cases.
Through the witness stories Sprague has given dignity and respect to those who have for so long suffered ridicule because they spoke up about what they witnessed. In an email response to my query, Sprague told me he interviewed 200 people and recorded their stories, but that in the end the number dwindled down to just what could fit into the book.
Sprague has a way of telling stories – with sort of style to his narratives that might remind readers of the cool, suave confidence of cigarette-smoking Rod Serling of Twilight Zone and Night Gallery fame. Somewhere in the Skies is a well-written, well thought-out, sharply outlined (only to find out the author did not outline this book at all, but let it come together as it was happening) good read by a competent writer at the top of his game about a big human problem: aliens.
“The term, ufology, had always rubbed me the wrong way,” writes Sprague. “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.” (p. 7).
But the author is too humble. He bows as he approaches the throne of the reader with his substantial witness stories, but his head is tilted upwards always looking for aliens in the accounts, as he should, since it could be perceived that there is a war going on between us and them – not that Sprague discussed anything quite that dramatic at length. For example, he doesn’t focus much on fighting or resisting the aliens. But he lets us know that in most cases, aliens are uninvited guests on our planet. My hope is that he joins the resistance against them, and helps lead the way. Such resistance should not be limited to the underground, where I first found it, but to mainstream. I don’t know where the author would even start such a project, but it must be remembered, this is our planet, not theirs, and it is my hope in the future he will spend a little more time examining this detail so we can see what he does with it in his future books. Would be interesting.
“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,” writes Sprague.“ 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. (p.9 ).
The book starts out with a first-person narrative that’s as smooth as a seductive jazz saxophone, with the storyteller sitting in an empty bar with a bartender drinking at his side, discussing the bartender’s UFO experience. The bartender saw the famous “Phoenix lights” of March 13, 1997 – a silent craft so big that one witness described it in a James Fox video about the incident as being big enough to land airplanes on. The book ends with him in a bar also discussing a UFO case with the bartender, but a different bartender and different case.
Sprague believes he saw a triangular craft float silently over a vacation spot where he was fishing on a dock alone along the St. Lawrence River, on the New York-Canada border, when he was twelve in 1995. The author can recall a strange vibration entering his ears and running down his neck to his chest, and feeling stunned by the craft’s silence, and three white lights – one at each point of the triangle, and one larger red light in the middle of the craft.
“This experience at such a young age terrified me,” writes the author. “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.” (p.5).
Like Rod Serling, Sprague likes to let the story do the talking, but he re-emerges as the story takes a sharp turn or a new story starts or one is ending. His seems fascinated by the minds of the witnesses who tell him these accounts. He keeps asking them about changes in their perceptions of life, the world, and of themselves, what the experiences did to or for them, if anything. For example, Sprague introduces us to Joe, an art history researcher whose understanding of certain aspects of art suddenly sharpened as the result of his UFO experience.
“This seems to be a common occurrence among those who have experienced the UFO phenomenon,” writes Sprague. “Whether they be artists themselves or have no artistic abilities whatsoever, the experience somehow triggers new ideas and aspirations within them. Could this be a mere coincidence? Or could the phenomenon be opening parts of the brain that were once closed off?” (p. 20)
Early on, Sprague focuses on people – including a pilot – who had had sightings of multiple orange orbs in the skies of their hometowns. With the author as our tour guide to UFO phenomena, we go from Australia to North Carolina to see the next UFO phenomenon unfold for unsuspecting witnesses. This is particularly of interest to me because orange orbs are the UFOs most often seen over Long Island. That’s where I take witness reports as field investigator for New York MUFON. So, for me and other Long Islanders, Sprague is hitting the nail on the head with up-to-the minute reality report about what is happening right now across the world – even if some of his reports might be decades old: the orb sightings are still widespread and relevant right now.
“It was clear that the experience had left Jennifer scared,” writes Sprague of one case in Staples, Minnesota in March, 2015, “but what she told me next sparked my curiosity. “I also felt a little bit blessed.” I wanted to know what she meant by this. “I feel like I am one of few to experience something like this. For my entire life, I have rested on my back, stared up at the stars, and wondered what was out there, waiting for a sign. And I had it. For me, it was confirmation.” (p.49).
“I had always believed that we may not be alone” said Chris of Syracuse, NY about his experience in 1972. But I never expected to have proof. This event was proof enough for me.” (p.31).
I recommend buying this book - first to freshly re-evaluate the UFO phenomenon as a global problem, and second…well, for the thrill of an adventure of just a damn good read from beginning to end about a topic that concerns all MUFON members, especially field investigators. While Sprague is not a MUFON field investigator, his interviewing and writing skills of case histories are exemplary and serve as models for what is truly important about a witness report. And besides, he talks about MUFON a lot, which I like.
Get the book, support a good author, and see for yourself.