By John Soltes / Publisher /
Some people look through a microscope to learn about our world’s strangest phenomena. For Erin Ryder, star of National Geographic Channel’s new series Chasing UFOs, looking up at the sky can deliver many more answers on humanity’s largest question marks.
Set to premiere Friday, June 29, Chasing UFOs follows Ryder (as she’s called by friends), geologist Ben McGee and UFOologist James Fox as they trek around the United States and a few international locations, always interviewing eyewitnesses, gathering evidence and craning their necks to the starry skies above. Their mission: Prove or disprove unexplained UFO sightings, some made famous (Roswell, etc.) and some deeply personal to just a few people.
Throughout the summer months, Chasing UFOs promises to entice viewers who know that the “truth is out there.” Recently, Hollywood Soapbox talked with Ryder about UFO chasing and what audience members can expect on the eight-part series. Here’s Part I of that discussion (click here for Part II). Questions and answers have been slightly edited.
(At the bottom is a clip from the premiere episode.)
Did you have fun creating the first season of Chasing UFOs?
It was incredibly fun. I think anytime you get to study something as mysterious and as intriguing as UFOs, you’re going to have a lot to look into. We try to make a bit of an adventure out of it. We didn’t do it to be something too scientific. But at the same time, this is a true scientific search for extraterrestrial life.
You approach each case from a research basis.
I think that’s what sets us apart a little bit. We are really looking for some hard concrete evidence. We do have James, who is a believer, and the other side being a skeptic, and me kind of somewhere in the middle. We all want to believe. So our whole goal is to go out there and try to find something, anything, that would really help give us proof that something is out there.
Were you surprised by some of your findings?
I think every time we go out there I’m surprised. I don’t know if you can tell, I get very startled. You’ll definitely see me get spooked at night, but that’s definitely part of the fun. Throughout the series, we make some big discoveries. We don’t want to give out too many spoilers, but I will say that if you see the premiere, that I personally capture something in Texas that I really can’t explain. I’m definitely still shocked to this day and can’t explain what I captured. We actually also find some physical evidence at the Roswell crash site, which is something we would never thought we would come upon. We are all really, really excited to share it with everyone.
How did you get attached to the project?
Well, I’ve always kind of been a bit of an adventurer and explorer. I’m a compulsive traveler. So that’s what got me started on Destination Truth, which is a Syfy-based show looking at different mysteries around the world. And UFOs have kind of been in my blood since I was younger. So I kind of gravitated toward it. I grew up in the Hudson Valley, which is just north of New York City, and we actually had something that they call the Night Siege, which was thousands of witnesses observed this boomerang-shaped craft in the sky around 1982 for years. So I grew up in my own backyard, people believed that there were UFOs. So here I am, being able to combine a lot of the things that I love and that I’m intrigued by. So this has kind of always been my passion.
You fall in between a believer and skeptic. After the first season, are you still in the middle?
I will say, one day, just one day with James Fox, and you’ll have yourself questioning if there isn’t something out there. He is so brilliant and has studied this topic for so long and spoken to so many people.
Like in this season, we speak with colonels and astronauts and doctors and brigadiers. And they say that there’s something else out there. It’s hard not to think, what else could that be? So, yeah, I would say going out on the road this season, I coined the term ‘skeliever,’ but I’m definitely leaning more toward the believer. But I still want that solid proof. I do want something to push me completely over the edge to be a believer.
Is it a challenge to look at these eyewitness videos with blinking lights and not see an aircraft?
Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s what’s important is that there are a lot of things out there that are conventional objects or natural phenomena that are misidentified. But we try to concentrate on those sole fraction of the sightings, maybe the 5 or 10 percent, that can’t be written off that easily. That’s what we focus in on. But yeah you’re right, you go out there and something tends to be mysterious to you just because of the distance or the clouds or whatever it is.
You really have to be careful when looking at video evidence. That’s why we’re going out not just looking for videos or sightings. We’re going out looking at crash sites or potential debris fields, where we can collect something that we can test. Something physical would be really gratifying to collect.
How did the team select the cases for the first season?
I think what we wanted to do is do a really good cross-section of the strange sightings and phenomena in the United States, in our own backyard. And obviously Roswell is something that has captivated the imagination of young and old, and we definitely wanted to go there. There’s an abductee in Arizona, Travis Walton, his abduction is so famous they made a movie about it. And the cattle mutilations in Colorado. There’s so much going on that what we wanted to do was not just show strange sightings, saucers in the sky. We wanted to show that there are other things going on that people believe are related to extraterrestrials. If we can go there and find any trace evidence at all to prove if this is just a work of conventional means or if this is something more mysterious
Chasing UFOs premieres Friday, June 29 at 9 p.m. on National Geographic Channel. Click here for more information.