Ray Fowler, 80, is a curious person.
The author of 11 books on subjects ranging from UFOs to alien abductions to the theory of synchronicity, he has spent a lot of time researching what some might say are the “things that go bump in the night.”
Since his childhood, he has been fascinated by unexplained phenomena.
“I guess I’m a bit of a Renaissance man,” said Fowler. “I like to look at everything, and a lot of different things. There is almost too much out there – so much to experience.”
Fowler was born and raised in Massachusetts and is a graduate of Gordon College. He worked for the National Security Agency for a number of years as a cryptographer, which included intercepting Russian communications. Fowler then served in the United States Air Force Security Service for four years. After his military tour, he spent 25 years with Sylvania/GTE Government Systems as a task manager and senior planner for the Minuteman Missile program.
Fowler, who is married and has four children, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, is also a teacher. He has taught in adult education programs at Salem State University and Endicott College and a number of community colleges in Massachusetts. Since moving to Maine 12 years ago, he has offered classes on a regular basis through Adult Education of the Kennebunks.
Sal Gebbia, a local real estate agent from Kennebunk, took a class with Fowler last spring that examined alien abductions. He said he was impressed with the class and with Fowler.
“I really enjoyed the class and found Ray to be very thorough and knowledgeable,” said Gebbia. “The class was a real eye-opener.”
Developing an interest in astronomy as a young boy, and an accident involving his father, influenced, in very different ways, what has become Fowler’s quest to try to understand unexplained phenomena, including UFOs and near-death experiences, or NDEs.
“I was 10 years old when I went with my sister to see an exhibit of telescopes and became interested in them,” said Fowler. “When I was 12 or 13 I got one from my parents.”
Spending time looking at the sky and the stars, Fowler began wondering about all the possibilities that could exist in the universe. When he was a teenager, one of those possibilities became more real. Fowler remembers the date. He was working at a local farm, weeding parsnips, on July 4, 1947.
“I remember the long rows,” said Fowler. “The farmer put jugs of water for us at the end of the row. I was thirsty so I was working like mad, and well ahead of the other workers making my way to the water when what first looked like a parachute to me appeared in the sky. I realized it was not. It was a disc-shaped object.”
Fowler said the object hovered for a few moments and then was gone. The other workers hadn’t seen it. He assumed it was some type of experimental aircraft the government was testing. When the local newspaper reported that others had seen the disc that same day, he began to wonder. And when the U.S. Air Force started talking about the sighting of unidentified flying objects, Fowler got very interested.
For a time, Fowler’s father was a radio operator in Maine, at Acadia National Park on Otter Cliffs. He kept in communication with ships in the area, providing longitude and latitude readings. One night he was at the station alone when he received a call that a severe storm was rolling in. Fowler said his father was instructed to secure the antenna and shut everything down and get out.
“He was in the process of doing that when he got struck by lightning,” said Fowler. “As he was lying there he realized he was out of his body and that a tunnel of light was coming through the top of the station straight down through the floor. He said that three robed figures did something to him, threw something across the wires, bowed to him and went up into the light.”
Fowler said people – his son among them – thought his father was “wacky” when they heard the story.
“He tried to talk with ministers and others about his out-of-body experience,” said Fowler, “but they didn’t want to know.”
But it wasn’t until an incident after the accident that changed Fowler’s mind about his father’s experience and increased his interest in exploring such occurrences.
Buddy Furbish, the son of friends of Fowler’s parents, was a soldier during World War II. His parents became concerned when they did not hear from him and thought Fowler’s father might be able to help.
“Since my father had that out-of-body experience, they thought he might be able to see if their son was OK,” said Fowler.
His father said he would try. During a dream-like episode, Fowler’s father said, he saw Buddy on a battlefield with a bandage around his arm, carrying a little dog. He let Buddy’s parents know what he had seen.
“A short time later the Furbishes received a letter from Buddy,” said Fowler. “In the letter he told them he has suffered some shrapnel wounds. He also told them all about a little dog they (his unit) found and kept with them.”
This incident, along with his sighting of the UFO in 1947, made a meaningful impact on Fowler and fired his interest in such experiences.
“All this is connected,” said Fowler. “We see little facets of it from time to time. Real life is here, and these things happen.”
The study of the phenomenon of the near-death experience has been a significant part of Fowler’s life. Besides his father, Fowler’s cousin and a close friend have also experienced such an episode. Fowler has written a number of articles and books on the topic, including “Watchers II,” which, in part, explores the parallels between a near-death experience and alien abduction.
For Fowler, the near-death experience questions the scientific paradigm that the brain creates consciousness, which cannot exist without a functioning brain.
“The current model we have might be wrong,” he said. “People who have experienced near-death experiences report consciousness when they are clinically dead, when there is no brain activity.”
Fowler became involved with the International Association for Near-Death Studies, a nonprofit founded in 1981 with a mission to “build global understanding of near-death and near-death like experiences through research, education and support.” The association’s staff and board include members of the health care, scientific and theological professions.
For five years, Fowler was a York County group leader for the association, providing opportunities for education about near-death experiences and a forum for discussion and support for those who may have experienced the phenomenon directly or indirectly. He continues to teach courses on the subject.
The common elements reported by those experiencing a near-death experience, regardless of age, belief system or location, is what solidifies Fowler’s belief that these occurrences are genuine.
“The shared experiences are the best evidence that they are real,” said Fowler.
According to Fowler, many say they experienced a sense of peacefulness and relief from pain, the presence of others that had died previously, the feeling of traveling down a tunnel toward light or being in a light-filled space, and a review of their life during the incident.
Fowler said a number of people he has spoken to or researched said they were told that they had to return to their life, that it wasn’t time for them to die. He said that many come back with a renewed sense of purpose.
“There is impact on the lives of these people,” said Fowler. “It is a life-changing experience. People come back wanting to help others and with a feeling that love is most important in life. And they no longer fear death.”
But it can also be a difficult experience, as people who report near-death experiences are not always believed or might be laughed at or thought of as a bit, well, wacky. Countering those reactions is part of the reason Fowler teaches, researches and writes on the subject.
“I want to continue to bring it into the public mind and the scientific mind,” said Fowler. “It’s still hard for people to talk about it. They don’t want to feel stupid or be laughed at.”
While Fowler’s students appreciate and admire that the courses he teaches are fact-based and dependent on the latest research, his gentle nature and open-mindedness are what keep them coming back.
“Ray is very solid, very well-read and knowledgeable about a lot of topics,” said Eunice Sargent of Kennebunkport, who has taken a number of courses with Fowler, including several on near-death experiences. “He is precise and careful but he doesn’t force his opinions or judge the opinions of others. He gives information and allows sharing. He’s cool that way.”
Sargent added “With Ray I always know it’s going to be interesting. He is a unique person and a rare treasure.” ν