One of the most enigmatic visitor experiences reported by Whitley Strieber concerned his late friend Dora Ruffner, a dancer who shared his passion for meditation and spirituality. He describes the incident in Breakthrough (1995), his third book about his encounters with the visitors.
One night in the autumn of 1987, Strieber was lying awake in bed when he began to feel the peculiar sensation that always signaled the nearness of the visitors, a sort of vibration that made his body seem lighter. Without knowing exactly why, he rose from his bed and descended quickly to the deck at the back of his cabin. He was astonished to see a vehicle of some kind parked there (the deck wasn’t strong enough to support a car). Ed Conroy, the Texas journalist who investigated Strieber’s experiences for his 1990 book Report on Communion, also encountered this strange vehicle during a visit to the cabin in 1988, though he has no conscious recollection of what happened after he entered it. Conroy would later marry Dora Ruffner.
Strieber, still in his pajamas, approached the vehicle without hesitation. An inner compulsion had been guiding all his actions up to this point, but he suddenly realized that a group of women were gathered on the deck, and they herded him into the left-hand seat in the vehicle. It was about the same size as a car, with two seats in the front and two in the back. The windows were extremely narrow. A space behind the rear seats was filled with what appeared to be black logs, like corded firewood. Between the two front seats was a spherical object made from beaten iron. Seated beside Strieber was an ordinary human man, pale and dressed all in white. He turned his face away every time Strieber tried to get a closer look at him, and did not speak.
The man piloted the vehicle by running a hand across the iron sphere. Though Strieber couldn’t sense any motion, he could see lights flying past the tiny windows, giving him the impression they were moving at great speed.
A voice, coming somewhere from behind Strieber’s head, explained what was going to happen in “stilted, archaic English.” Strieber did not see the source of the voice at any time, but he knew it was the same female visitor he had already met many times, the “ancient one” pictured on the cover of Communion. She explained that he was about to witness something involving a little girl, and ordered him not to interfere or allow himself to be seen. The girl’s mother would not be able to comfort her, she said, but another woman would do that.
Only one minute passed before the vehicle came to a stop. Strieber, stepping out of it, found himself on a somewhat familiar residential street – but it wasn’t anywhere near New York state. In the distance, he could see the Rockies. The streetlights were all out, but the moonlight provided some illumination as Strieber, the visitor, and the man in white crossed the street to a certain driveway. With a jolt, Strieber recognized the house before them as the home of his old friend, Dora, and her 5-year-old daughter. He was in Boulder, Colorado. At the same time, he realized that the “firewood” in the back of the vehicle was really a group of tiny figures. They filed out and arranged themselves in a line, moving towards Dora’s house with precise, machine-like movements. They had the appearance of trolls, with wrinkled, toadish faces. On a June 2010 broadcast of his online radio show Dreamland, Strieber said the troll entities look nearly identical to the creature in the Stephen King movie Cat’s Eye, which led him to suspect that King may have had his own visitor experiences. Lori Barnes, the friend of the Striebers who saw her dead brother near their cabin, once encountered these same beings in the ’50s. She said they were blue-skinned and quite hideous; when she commented on their ugly appearance, one of them told her, “My dear, you will look just like us someday.”
The whole crew simply walked into Dora’s house (Strieber doesn’t specify how). There was a woman Strieber didn’t know seated at the kitchen table, a blonde in her thirties. She wore ordinary clothes, a sweatshirt and a white windbreaker. Like the pale man, she appeared completely human and normal in every way, except that she didn’t acknowledge the sudden arrival of two strange men (one of them in his pajamas), an alien, and a bevy of robotic toad-trolls. She simply sat at the table with her hands folded in front of her, staring calmly at nothing in particular.
The visitor steered Strieber into Dora’s first-floor bedroom, a room he had never entered. Dora was asleep in her bed. As Strieber looked down at her, her daughter Amy began screaming from her basement bedroom, and Dora sat up. She repeatedly tried to rise from the bed, and each time her body would collide with an invisible wall that seemed to be pressing down on her like a slab. Just like the woman in the kitchen, she showed absolutely no awareness that the room was full of people and nonhuman entities.
Strieber dashed to Amy’s room, passing right by the woman at the table. Again, she showed not a flicker of awareness.
In the basement, Amy was under a strange sort of attack from another visitor. The being held a wand-like thing in one hand and was striking it repeatedly against the base of the little girl’s spine, which was glowing an unearthly red. Amy was still screaming, desperately trying to squirm out of the visitor’s grasp. It didn’t let go of her until it saw Strieber observing the scene. Strieber intuitively understood that the entity was not harming Amy, but “stiffening her spine”, imbuing it with inner strength she would need later in life.
The woman from the kitchen entered the basement then, scooped Amy into her arms, and quieted her sobs. Amy was soon asleep.
When Strieber returned to the first floor, he was rejoined by the crew. They made their way back to the waiting vehicle, got in, and arrived back at the cabin in well under a minute.
His next memory is of standing alone on his rain-wet deck. He decided to have a cup of tea and read the paper. He had no bad feelings in connection with what he had just witnessed, because he understood it to be part of a lesson the visitors were giving to humanity; a gift. Strange and unsettling as it had been, this lesson was one of “tremendous compassion and love”, he felt.
He chose not to phone Dora right away, in part because of the late hour, but also because he always experienced doubt about the reality of his encounters with the visitors as soon as they ended.
The following day, Dora phoned Strieber to tell him she had had a dream about him during the night. They didn’t discuss its content. Then Amy got on the phone to tell him a “fairy” had come to see her in the night.
About a week later, Amy’s kindergarten teacher confessed to Dora that she, too, may have had visitor experiences. Dora wasn’t alarmed by this. She didn’t accept the visitors as a physical reality, but she did accept that her friend Whitley and the teacher were dealing with a phenomenon that seemed very real to them. She mentioned to Strieber that Amy and the female teacher had formed a close bond. Strieber met this woman when he visited Boulder in April of 1988. She was a blonde in her thirties, wearing a white windbreaker.
In the eight years between his surreal visit to Boulder and the publication of Breakthrough, Strieber watched young Amy develop into a remarkably bright, spiritually-attuned child. She could read at the adult level while still in grade school, chose to become a vegetarian out of her respect for animals, and expressed complex ideas and opinions years ahead of her age. However, neither she nor her mother ever had any conscious recollection of an encounter with the visitors.
Within a few months of the incident, Dora married Ed Conroy. They had a daughter together, and the family relocated to Texas two years later, where Dora established a college yoga and dance course in San Antonio. Amy became an actress and college instructor.
Dora died in 2007, at the age of 50.