About eleven years ago a woman shared an interesting story with me. Late one June night she was walking along University Ave., a little after 10 PM and near 300 South when she saw a “gigantic black manta-ray” flying across the Provo sky. “This thing was four-hundred feet in the air, coming from the South-East and flying North-West. It had a fourteen-foot wingspan and its body and tail were probably twenty-five feet long. It flew directly over the Provo City Tabernacle (Now a Temple) eventually disappearing into the night sky.”
I didn’t put much credence into this sighting, but I decided to share it on my ghost tour anyway, The Original Provo Utah Ghost Tour with Danny B Stewart. It was a lark, plus there are similar stories of strange flying beings found all over the world, but this was a rarity for Utah a one-time event, or so I thought… In 2013 another woman presented me with an almost identical story, she saw something, in June of 2011, that was the same size, shape, and was flying the same trajectory. It even appeared around the same time as the other one.
Years passed, local “ghost” and “beastie” stories were told, and I began to grow tired of telling the Manta-Ray story. I was about to retire it from my ghost tour completely. But in September of 2018, I was standing in front of the Provo temple, giving one of my tours, actually talking about said-beastie, when one of the attendees began to look a little bewildered, almost… Worried. My girlfriend and assistant Tara approached him and he says to her… “I saw it!” “Just recently!” “This Year!” He saw something much like the “Manta-Ray” climbing on the side of the old tower of the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. (I’m paraphrasing here and basing this on what Tara told me he relayed to her.) It was big and black in color, climbing on the side of the building like a bat would climb on the side of a barn door. It climbed to the top of the tower, leaped-off and flew into the night towards the north-west. I have tried to get more information from this gentleman, but he has been reluctant to share anything further.
Funnily enough, another person came forward a month later with another sighting or a “flying-ray” although this sighting was not in relation to the Provo beastie, Again, I was giving a tour and talking about the “Ray” when I saw a young man whispering (in amazement) to his girlfriend. I approached him as we were walking to the next ghostly-location and he told me he has seen something exactly like I had described while he was surfing in California. He said, “It was huge and soaring in and out of the clouds!” There was an overcast. He watched for over fifteen minutes as it would appear and disappear within the clouds until it flew out of his sight. He had never told anyone about what he had seen because he was afraid people would make fun of him. He also had nothing to base what he had seen on.
This is the case for many people who have experienced extraordinary events or have had sightings of what can only be described as “Ghosts” or “Monsters.” People all over the world are seeing and encountering things that have no place in their historical or mythological memory banks to fit in. So they sit on them.
Nevertheless, if these people are to be believed and if they did indeed see some kind of large flying animal above the Provo Utah sky then we have another beautiful cryptozoological mystery on our hands.
Update from Danny Stewart – 2-24-2020
August of 2019, I was in the midst of an appointment with my ear nose and throat doctor at the Utah Valley Hospital (Formally Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.) for a pre-surgery appointment. While we were talking my doctor asked me what I did for a living. I explained to him what I do and he asked me to share one of my favorite stories, so I told him about the “Manta-Ray.” Naturally he thought it was extremely interesting, especially since my story directly related to some much needed light he was about to shed upon the mystery.
Sometime before they razed the old hospital, construction workers discovered a large colony of bats living in the crawl spaces at the top level of the old hospital towers. Apparently for years, hospital employees and patrons had been seeing a large group of bats flying to and from the top of the hospital towers at night, always/either from the South East to the North West, stopping at the tower, or leaving the tower and flying North West… The same trajectory as the Giant Flying Manta Ray!!
This revelation hit me like a ton of bricks! Of course!! “This is what people have been seeing for all these years!” “This is beautiful!” I said to out loud very giddily. I asked my doctor if I could use this information and he said of course, as long as he could remain anonymous, and so here we are!
You see… This is true cryptozoology! This is how it’s supposed to work! We aren’t always looking for a literal dinosaur in the lake, or in this case a “Monster” Manta-Ray soaring through the skies of Provo Utah! In this case people were seeing a colony of bats flying ‘to a fro’ and sometimes these bats took the shape of what people thought was a Giant Flying Manta Ray! I love that I am both the father and the unraveler of this piece of local folklore and even though we now know what this critter is/was it doesn’t make the story any less important to folklore.
Danny B. Stewart is a Researcher, performance artist, teacher, lecturer, and professional storyteller and
he hasn’t seen the Giant Flying Manta-Ray yet, but whenever he’s in Provo, he’s always looking up.