In the summer of 1969 David Sears, a thoughtful young man from New York City had decided to spend the weekend on Block Island, a scenic teardop of sandy cliffs and grassland off of Rhode Island’s southern coast. David was eager to return to the island he had visited when he was younger. He had a friend who had planned to join him but the friend had backed out at the last minute. David was impatient, and decided to spend the night on the island alone, making plans to meet his friends at the ferry in New Shoreham the following morning. David was determined to camp on Block Island’s rugged southern coast.
Block Island’s towering Mohegan Bluffs are on the Southern edge of the island and get their name from a terrible battle where the island’s Niantic peoples drove hundreds of invading Mohegans to their deaths in the mid 16th century. The bluffs and the rocky beach below are about a mile walk from the Southeastern corner of the island, home to the famous Southeast Light and the huge descending wooden staircase featured on every tourist postcard of the island.
David was looking to make camp at the top of the bluffs when he came upon a weather-beaten wooden lean-to, looking to him like an old Boy Scout’s tent, half-sunken into the cliffside a little more than half way up. It was nine or ten feet long and barely five feet tall. David noticed that the wooden post facing the cliff was inscribed with an indecipherable writing that reminded him of Sanskrit or a far eastern script, although now he cannot recall what it looked like. He distinctly remembers the words were well-carved, the work of a skilled hand. It grew dark, the tide came in and brought a thick fog with it.
As he settled in among the growing fog and the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach far below, he began to hear strange murmurings in the wind. At first he chalked it up to anxiety and to settle his nerves he tried to read. This being 1969 and David being a sensitive young artist, he tucked into his copy of a book by Jack Kerouac, but the author’s tales of being a forest ranger in the Pacific Northwest and encountering all kinds of strange happenings in those dark woods did little to snuff David’s growing fear. He put the book down, and that is when he began hearing the voices.
David couldn’t discern at first if he was hearing the voices of multiple people—a ghostly conversation—or one singular disembodied voice. The words he heard were not recognizable but at the same time they weren’t clearly of another language. He cannot recall where this thought came from, but he had the distinct feeling that the voice or voices were from another time. To this day he does not know how or why he felt that, but the impression that what he was hearing was from a world other than our own was undeniable. He tried to parse out the conversation or failing that, individual words but he found it to be impossible. The language was too strange, the whispered voices too ephemeral.
He heard a loud crash against the rocks below him, as if a huge stone had been smashed against the rocks. David scurried out of the tent and tried to call out to whoever or whatever was below him but it was too dark, he could discern nothing through the black and fog. Terrified, he began scrambling up the wet clay of the cliff face and unto the rubbery green flora that cover the tops of the bluff. He paused to catch his breath and was immediately bathed in a cone of blinding white light from above. The light obliterated the fog that had surrounded him, and peering up through his fingers to make sense of what was happening he saw a large, dark wing gliding a dozen feet over his head, inexplicably between him and wherever the light’s source was. In those frozen seconds his mind raced—was it a bird? Could it see him? Was it coming for him? —and then he ran. He found his way through the darkness, scrub and vines to the road and waited for what seemed like an eternity. He saw headlights, and a car driven by a few year-round Block Islanders stopped and he hopped in. When he told them what had just happened to him they were astonished, but not by his story. “Look around!” they said, “These houses are all empty, no one lives on this part of the island.” “It’s haunted…” said the other. “Why were you out here?”
In the years that passed whenever David thought about the incident on Block Island he thought about Native American myths of the Thunderbird and he thought of poltergeists, ghosts and hauntings. More recently, when telling one of his grandchildren the story, they responded that it sounded more like a UFO encounter—a dark black wing shape that slowly glides over the witness—and he is more inclined to think of it now in those terms.
A few years after the sighting David returned to the island and walked west along the beach at Mohegan Bluffs out to Black Rock Point hoping to find the lean-to and identify, in daylight, where he had tried to camp. As he rounded the rocks at Black Rock Point he observed an elderly couple, sitting on a driftwood log. He said hello to them but they said nothing and just looked serenely towards the Atlantic Ocean and the horizon beyond. He didn’t see the lean-to, but he observed some wooden debris that he thought might be its remains. He walked back east up the beach and encountering some local beach walkers he mentioned the old, silent couple he had just seen around the point. “Oh.” The local man chuckled, “You saw them too?”