Reader Paul Gray of Conway responded to my recent call for Arkansans who've shared a UFO encounter. And his unusual experience years ago is as credible as they come in my view.
"You solicited readers to recount stories concerning UFO encounters; I've finally decided to share mine," he wrote.
The year was 1984. Paul and future wife Jennifer were sitting in his car within 200 yards of her home in Gonzales, La., near Baton Rouge While stargazing, they noticed two unusually bright lights hovering low on the southern horizon.
"I began repeatedly flashing my headlights at the lights since I knew they weren't stars. After two minutes, one of them began to move across the sky toward us."
The mysterious light took a direct path to his car, he said. "Once it became close enough to make out its shape, my soon-to-be wife became so frightened that she jumped from the car and ran into her parents' home.
"The craft was a huge triangle," Paul continued. "It had two white lights on the back corners with a red blinking light in the middle, and made a very low humming sound. I got out of my car as it floated over, approximately 200 feet above us. That was low enough I could clearly make out a gray smooth surface on the underside.
"As it floated over, I honestly thought I would be beamed up, as it flew directly to me before slowly disappearing behind my girlfriend's home."
Meanwhile, Jennifer had roused her parents from bed to view the second light, which never moved but remained visible for about 25 minutes until clouds moved in, blocking their view of that light.
"My experience happened at 10 p.m. sharp. I knew since that was her curfew. "The next day after work, I went to their home to explain the whole story to her family. As we were all discussing this, my sister-in-law, who works in the cafeteria at the local elementary school, joined us. She starts work every morning at 5:30 and had not spoken to anyone in our family that day.
She immediately said, "you all will never guess the story I was told today." She said a co-worker, who lived a block away, told her that the co-worker's husband's band was taking their equipment down inside their home at 10 p.m., so she took their two children to their front porch while the band members removed their instruments.
While on the porch, she said, "a giant triangle UFO floated directly over their front yard. This lady had not spoken to anyone in our family, as she had been at work all day with my sister-in-law."
In years since, Paul said he's seen several programs that claimed sightings of extremely large triangle-shaped UFOs have become common in Europe.
"One man walked into some woods and found a craft landed. Upon approaching, it suddenly lifted off and left him with severe radiation burns. Local authorities who investigated his claim found the ground at that site had been burned, thus validating his account," he said.
Thousands of Phoenix-area residents witnessed (and many photographed) a triangular UFO that floated for some time over that metropolitan area on March 13, 1997. There have been numerous reports worldwide involving triangular-shaped craft--often described as dark-hued, virtually noiseless with no visible contrails and the size of a football field or larger.
Witnesses have described them as V-shaped, arrowhead-like or triangular. David Marler, a UFO researcher and author of "Triangular UFOs: An Estimate of the Situation," claims to have reviewed more than 17,000 case files involving the craft sometimes called black triangles.
Gray says he certainly knows what he and others saw that night. "I'm an electrical engineer, and have experience with propulsion systems, specifically turbines used for power and propulsion. So I can say definitively there are no commercial vehicles of the mass that I witnessed that could float at the speed I saw, especially without discernible noise. The craft I saw emitted the barely discernible humming and a second witness only a block away saw the same thing."
This arrived from veteran Little Rock attorney Sam Perroni: "I read your article with interest. I have always been fascinated with the issue of UFOs and their sightings. Personally, I believe it is extraterrestrial as people are saying. There is no earthly explanation for observations like yours.
"You asked about personal experiences. In 1999 my wife and I were at our home in Cabo San Lucas. It was about 10 p.m. I enjoy looking at the sky there because it is so clear when it is dark that you feel you can see the universe. The Milky Way is clearly visible and you can actually watch satellites as they streak across the sky. I suggested we turn off all the lights and go stargazing.
"When we walked onto the terrace there was a full moon. After a few minutes, we observed the strangest thing I have ever seen.
"There was a ring of lights around the moon that was pulsating out. The lights would fan out and then start again. We watched this for about five minutes, and all of a sudden--poof. It was gone.
"We have talked about it many times over the years. So strange."
And in the related realm of unexplained events involving Arkansans, this for me falls into the category of a GodNod, or Guardian Angel.
Lisa Di Vita Bowman of Springdale still marvels at an experience years ago that left her feeling certain she had stepped off stage during a rehearsal in San Francisco into angelic hands.
Her story began when, as a lifelong adult professional performer, Lisa co-produced and performed in a musical revue for the San Francisco Bay area. It was an encore for her production after a successful performance weeks earlier.
"Since we hadn't done the show for a few weeks, we decided on a brush-up rehearsal at the theater one afternoon," she said.
"My rule of thumb for any run-through is to wear my show shoes that were strappy pink four-inch heels."
Lisa had finished her song, "My Funny Valentine," then walked up the riser steps at center stage and headed to stage right. "A single stage lamp was our only source of illumination," she said. "But I'd walked down those steps so many times that I confidently entered the near blackness."
She couldn't see and didn't realize those steps had been removed, which caused her to step into a three-foot drop in thin air. "The next thing I distinctly remember is hearing a bang and feeling annoyed. I shook my left hand and peered at my manicured nails. I'd broken the one on my wedding-ring finger," she continued.
"Then I glanced down and realized. Now, wait a minute! I'd exited on stage right, but landed facing stage left, standing solidly with my left foot on the floor and right foot in the air, as though I were in mid-step. My left hand rested on the riser, hence the broken nail."
In that moment, Lisa stood in silence compounded by awe and the realization that somehow, without the slightest effort or cognizance, she somehow had managed to turn a full 180 degrees in the air and land full force on only one foot in spike heels, all without a wobble. "The fall couldn't have taken longer than a split second. There hadn't been time to think, let alone magically whip around midair on my own and land in tall heels without turning an ankle.
"My frantic partner rushed to me, asking if I was okay. I told her I was fine. But she had a difficult time believing that was true."
Lisa, a self-described Christian and leader in her church, insists there was only one possible and logical conclusion for her ordeal that day, as she returned to the stage suffering only the broken nail.
"I guess under God's command, angels can bend time and space, because they certainly spun me around midair in a nanosecond and somehow set me down perfectly balanced on that one thin heel. I'm convinced the Lord protected me.
"He's always with me, even in the dark times, and I've had them. I'm still facing them. But he gives me so much joy and strength that I don't care. The divine intervention that day continues to fill me with awe all these years later."
I'm betting any number of readers have had experiences akin to what Lisa had, moments when only supernatural explanations suffice. Had one yourself?
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected]