Returning from an evening’s course of class sessions, early in my studies at the Culinary Institute in upstate New York, I was driving my old Mazda truck, heading north along Route 9, which follows the Hudson River, from Hyde Park to my tiny home, a detached mother-in-law apartment in a converted house’s backyard in Rhinebeck. It was a new and transitional time in my life: I’d just some few months earlier driven this same (and something less than reliable) truck across country from Washington State and made a radical break from anything I’d ever tried before. I didn’t know if food school was a good idea, just that it was the only idea I had that was halfway coherent, and I badly needed to shake things up personally and professionally, to get out of a deep, deep rut.
The night was dark; it was sometime between 9 and 10 p.m. and either late in the autumn of 2007 or early that winter, and the road along that ten mile stretch was almost entirely unlit. Some few miles south from Rhinebeck still, I looked up to see a ball of fire arching across the highway directly overhead, heading West towards the river. It wasn’t especially high up – maybe three hundred, perhaps as far as six hundred feet above – and as I passed underneath it, I could vividly see the twinning trails of orange flame that ribboned from either side of the object and the lingering suggestion of smoke left behind it in the near-to-black sky. It seemed to have, or at least to show, no structure, no form besides that of an amorphous ball of flame. It didn’t look at all like an airplane, or any recognizable shape whatever. I had the feeling it could have been a chunk of rock, like a meteor, though I suspect it was moving too slowly for something that had fallen from outside the atmosphere; its pace through the low sky seemed almost leisurely.
The next day at school, while on break in the smoking area, I told a classmate about what I’d seen. She listened without comment, not seeming to have any response to this one way or another, but I noticed after I’d told the story that two other people standing nearby, other students whom I didn’t know, had overheard what I’d said and were looking at me with curiously intent expressions. Later on that same day I told another classmate about what happened – a woman closer to my own age than most of the other students and a longtime resident of that exact area where this had happened. “The Aerodrome is right there,” she said matter-of-factly. “You never know what you might see.” This was true enough – the Rhinebeck Aerodrome was close by. It could have been some kind of practice stunt. But for as clearly as I’d seen it, there was no aircraft there at all.
Also – and this may be more, or maybe less, to the point, as it was ultimately one of the reasons that I chose to move to that area in the first place – the specific location of my sighting is just to the other side of the Hudson from the point on the map labeled Accord, the nearest town to where Whitley Strieber had his infamous cabin in the woods, and the locus of his Communion experiences.