Ryan Sprague isn't your ordinary UFO investigator. The self-proclaimed "arm-chair researcher" is also a screenwriter, playwright and a co-producer of short films. His attraction to theatrics aside, Sprague is also one of the fresh faces in cryptozoology, as he's been featured on news outlets like ABC News, Fox News, and The Science Channel, and is a regular on The Travel Channel's "Mysteries at the Museum."
His 2016 non-fiction release "Somewhere In The Skies: A Human Approach to an Alien Phenomenon" was a personal page-turner full of eye witness accounts of UFO sightings that approached the subject from a more human perspective. Sprague capped off a tremendous 2016 as he was invited to speak at the International UFO Congress, which is the largest of its kind globally, a true honor for a young man in this community.
What makes Sprague and his book "Somewhere In The Skies" so likeable is the attention to personal detail; each person and each specific story is meant to feel special. He deemed it important to document these witness reports and tie together the commonalities of their experiences.
"I honestly feel that the UFO phenomenon begins and ends with the witness," Sprague said. "Without them, we have absolutely nothing to study. While a scientific study of UFOs is absolutely essential, there has to be those out there attacking this topic from every angle. UFOs can be connected to everything from hard sciences to the softer sciences. Whether through psychology, sociology, theology, or even philosophy, we continue to learn more, and raise new and exciting questions. "
For the book, Sprague made a conscience effort to not only meet, but spend time with the witnesses he featured and that connection really comes across in setting "Somewhere In The Skies" apart from its counterparts.
"I knew that if I wanted to write about the people having experiences, I had to meet them face-to- face," Sprague said." Now this was not the case for everyone in the book, but it was for a good portion of them. Sitting down with them, hearing the raw, vulnerable, uncensored versions of their stories was extremely revelatory and essential to digging as deep into the human aspect as possible."
Sometimes being an investigative journalist isn't all about the five Ws; there needs to be an element of compassion at times, which"Somewhere In The Skies" touches upon.
"When I first came up with the concept of the book, I knew I wanted to step away from the prototypical structure we see in most UFO books, " said Sprague. "There are times, dates, locations and descriptions of the anomaly witnessed. But what about the witness? We rarely take into consideration the often profound and highly impact aftermath of a UFO sighting or possible encounter with a possible non-human intelligence. So instead of depending on the who, what, and where, I wanted to focus on the who and why. How does a UFO event affect a human being? What did they believe happened, and how did it ultimately change or alter their lives and the lives of those around them? And as we search somewhere in the skies for answers, I truly believe that by keeping our feet on the ground, and focusing on the individuals having the experiences, we may find deeper answers than we ever imagined."
The human condition remains a focus in Sprague's search.
"I remember distinctly meeting a woman who had a claimed alien abduction experience, and I was cautious at first about the entire abduction phenomenon, but when I stared into her tear-filled eyes, her knee hitting the table underneath her, and her hand squeezing her husband's so tightly as he sat next to her, I knew this was something real," said Sprague. "Whatever happened to this woman, she truly believed it had happened. And that was a turning point for me. That compassion I spoke of earlier was needed now more than ever. And I sincerely hope that comes across in the book. Most who have a sighting or experience never speak of it in fear that nobody will listen. This book is my way of showing and telling them that many are willing to listen. And hopefully, feel compelled to start a wider conversation on the UFO topic."
The book also documents his travels, as it begins in a bar as Sprague has a chance meeting while partaking in one of his favorite pastimes; bourbon tasting.
"My favorite comes from a small batch in upstate New York from Clayton Distillery," said Sprague. "It's the perfect blend of smokiness and oak. They also make a sinfully good maple whiskey. Tastes just like pancakes!"
An infusion of younger voices into the UFO discussion is needed, and Sprague's sense of understanding, emotions and outside interests may prove that cryptozoology is headed in the right direction.
"I see the future of Ufology heading in many directions," Sprague said. "And while many strive for a singular scientific approach, I respectfully will be continue fighting this narrow way of approaching a highly rebellious phenomenon."
-By Mike Damante
More with Ryan Sprague:
Q:Can you explain how you got your start researching UFOs and how you became a respected and sought after name?
SPRAGUE: My UFO research actually began rather early in my life. At the age of thirteen, I interviewed a Vietnam War who was aboard a Navy Command Vessel, and along with several other offices, witnessed five orange orbs in a V-shaped formation floating over the Pacific Ocean. He reported the incident to his superiors and was immediately told to keep quiet about it and to never speak of it. I was actually the first person that he'd ever spoken to in great detail about what had happened. I wrote out a detailed sighting report and included it into a writing project in my seventh grade English class! From there, I began seeking out other people in my hometown and asking if they'd ever seen UFOs. I started compiling many local sighting reports, researching historical cases, and then found the rabbit-hole of America Online. There, I joined many forums on UFOs, sharing my information. Fast-forward many years, and I began writing for various alternative magazines and websites, eventually culminating into my own book in 2016. As for becoming a respected researcher, I learned early on that the only way to be respected in this field is to just do your work and it'll speak for itself. My mentor, Peter Robbins, taught me this. He also taught me to never be afraid to admit when you're wrong. Accept it. Correct it. Move on. He also taught me to always have compassion for those you interview, no matter you're personal beliefs on a certain claim or event. I've taken Robbins' words to heart, and I truly believe it has made me the researcher I am today.
Q:What was that experience like at the International UFO Congress?
SPRAGUE: I'd been volunteering at the IUFOC for many years prior, working backstage on the audio portion of the presentations. I absolutely loved it. I would hear every single talk given and would take extensive notes backstage as I was working. And the staff at Open Minds Production truly made me feel like family every year. After the release of my book, I was asked to speak at this past year's event, and I was so honored. It was my first time ever speaking in front of an audience about UFOs (except maybe some co-workers in the break room at my job!) so I was very nervous. But the crowd was very welcoming and receptive, and so many people came up to me throughout the week and felt compelled to tell me their stories about UFOs and encounters. It was an extremely rewarding experience where like-minded people come together to share their thoughts, theories, and information. I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything.
Q:Out of all the landmark and important books about the subject that have came out through the years, which one had the the greatest impact on you personally?
SPRAGUE: "Passport to Magonia: On UFOs, Folklore, and Parallel Worlds" by Jaques Vallee had an extremely profound impact on me. While lingering in a nuts-and-bolts purgatory for many years in my research, this book completely opened my eyes to other possibilities of what we may or may not be dealing with in terms of the UFO question and its many messy sub-categories. While focusing on more of a psychological and sociological approach in his work, Vallee continues to build upon his own theories, never stating conclusions like so many have before him. And I highly respect that. We don't have all the answers. We most likely never will. And to any author who states that they do, do yourself a favor and put the book down. Better yet... burn it. The UFO mystery, in my opinion, will never be solved. But I find the journey still worth taking, and far more rewarding then the destination.
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"Somewhere In The Skies"