I am not Muertos and I do not know him. I am simply reposting these articles because I had found them on the Internet Wayback Machine. Do not contact me when it comes to this blog, I am not its author and my views are not necessarily his. REPEAT: I AM NOT MUERTOS.
In the two previous blogs in this series Part 1 (http://paranormal.skepticproject.com/blog/50/muertos-blog-communion-at-25-whitley-striebers-alien-claims-re-examined-part-i/)
and part II (http://paranormal.skepticproject.com/blog/51/muertos-blog-communion-and-sequels-25-years-on-whitley-striebers-alien-claims-re-examined-part-ii/)
I examined Communion and Transformation, the books written by horror author Whitley Strieber in which he claimed that he has been abducted by aliens repeatedly for most of his life. Communion came out in 1987 and began with the claim that Strieber was abducted from his New York cabin on December 26, 1985, which was 25 years ago this week. From there his claims evolved to include the following: (i) the beings that abducted him, which he initially declined to state were objectively real, actually are physical reality; (ii) that these "visitors" are conducting a large-scale program of "contact" with the human race; (iii) that the point of this "contact" is to transform human consciousness and get us to pay attention to spiritual matters; and (iv) that there are a number of weird side effects of "contact," such as the ability to have out of body experiences (OBEs).
In this blog, the last of this series, I'm going to deal with Strieber's 1995 book Breakthrough, which completes the alien abduction trilogy. As I warned at the end of the last blog, Breakthrough is easily the strangest of the bunch. If you were finding your disbelief tough to suspend through Communion and Transformation, get ready for a serious ride.
Breakthrough: The Next Step?
I read Breakthrough many years after I stopped believing in the literal truth of Strieber's claims. It wasn't published until 1995, by which time I was in law school, and I don't even remember the book coming out-I found it in a used bookstore some years later and thought it might be interesting, given how fascinated I was by the first two books when I was a teenager.
As I did with Transformation, I want to spend a few words describing the book itself, its presentation and packaging. I'm working off the first Harper Collins paperback edition that came out in June 1996. First of all there's the title. Transformation, published in 1988, had the subtitle "The Breakthrough." Now here we have a whole book called Breakthrough. So, which is the real "breakthrough?" Was the first "breakthrough" a fake-out, or what? I'm reminded of the Friday the 13th sequels, where they kept saying this one was the "Final Chapter" only to be followed by another sequel a year or so later. If Strieber keeps coming out with these "breakthroughs," the credibility of each successive one declines.
The tag line on the cover reads, in large letters, "THEY ARE HERE..." Underneath that, in smaller letters, it says, "...With A Message of Hope."
Next there's the tag lines, excerpted from reviews of the hardback edition, right inside the cover. Some paper called Kirkus Reviews which I've never heard of says, "Highly convincing evidence of a government cover-up regarding UFO's." This telegraphs immediately that Breakthrough is going to contain conspiracy theories. The last of four quotes, from the Dixon, ILTelegraph, says, "Compelling proof of the existence of extraterrestrials here on earth."
This is all marketing, not content, but I think it's very telling. In Communion, Strieber bent over backwards (or gave the appearance of doing so) to not come to a firm conclusion about what he thought the "visitors" were. He didn't even assert absolutely that they were real! Remember, he did not do that until an experience he described in Transformation-a series of banging noises on the side of his house that frightened his cats-supposedly convinced him that the "visitors" existed anywhere outside his head. Sure, the implication was there that he thought they were aliens from another planet, and it's undeniable that he at least considered this a possibility given all the talk of UFOs in both books. Now here he is eight years later with a book that is unequivocally and undeniably targeting itself at an audience of people who want to believe in UFOs. From reading the cover, the tag lines and the review excerpts, which you can do in thirty seconds, the target audience for this book knows:
• Strieber is going to assert that the "visitors" are in fact aliens from another planet.
• Strieber is going to accuse the evil gubbermint of covering it up. (Hint: the word "Roswell" will appear somewhere in this book!)
• Strieber is going to present "proof" that aliens are here on Earth.
• The aliens he's going to talk about are benevolent and friendly.
The last point is the most important, and I'll eventually discuss it at length. But it's very clear, even without yet getting into the contents of the book, that Breakthrough presents the standard-issue trifecta of UFO cult literature: (i) supposed "proof" of aliens and their presence; (ii) identification of the aliens as benevolent; and (iii) anti-government conspiracy theories. It's telling that Communion, far and away the best-selling of Strieber's three alien abduction books, has none of these elements, at least none that are unequivocal. In fact I think the reason Communion was able to cross over to a mainstream audience was because it wasn't standard UFO cult literature. But by the third book in the series, he's obviously preaching to the choir.
OK, let's get into the guts of the book.
Strieber's "Proof": A Knock-Knock Joke.
Much of Breakthrough, especially the beginning, is very repetitive. Strieber recaps his life dealing with the visitors. He insists again that they're here to transform our consciousness. He says they're contacting thousands of people everywhere. He whines that no one believes him and says that only those who are "committed to denial" can deny the reality of his experiences. Then he finally gets to the "proof" promised in the critical write-up.
Here it is: more knocking. He recounts an incident that he says occurred in Glenrock, Wyoming on February 27, 1988 and reported in a local newspaper where (according to the paper, which he quotes) "strange, unexplained noises interrupted the slumber of many Glenrock residents early Sunday morning." Some people in Glenrock reported weird knocking noises in three groups of three. Since this resembled the banging Strieber claims to have heard on his own house 18 months previously-and he thinks the fact that it was exactly 18 months previously is significant-this, to him, is absolute undeniable proof that everything he claims about aliens is real.
Strieber is further convinced by a letter he got in 1994 from a resident of Glenrock. This person claims to have read Transformation five times, and only then, re-reading the part in that book about the knocking on Strieber's house, suddenly remembered that he too heard nine knocks in February 1988. Strieber says, "Since the claims he made in the letter are already supported by published news reports, they cannot be disputed." This statement alone reveals that Strieber's threshold for "proof" of alien visitation is disastrously low.
He goes a step further. I am going to quote a section of Breakthrough, which the copyright page of the book says I may do for purposes of a critical review, which this blog clearly is. Here's Strieber's comment after his lengthy explication of the Glenrock knock-knock joke:
"It would seem to me that there are serious moral issues involved at this point in upholding denial, especially if the act itself is an impediment to contact. Every human being alive has a right to meet the visitors that is as fundamental as the right to breathe, and those who knowingly contrive to spread denial, confusion, and fear must be violating a moral law of singular importance."
Did you get that? If you don't believe that weird knocking noises in the middle of the night proves Whitley Strieber's elaborate mythology of alien abduction, you're not only wrong-you're violating a moral law!
The believers out there will probably say, "Well, if you don't think the knocks were done by aliens, how do you explain them?" Strieber himself sneers at conventional explanations, such as mine subsidence, and dismisses them out of hand, predicting that "various officials" (who?) "will be brought forward" to say that the knocks are conventional phenomena. (Strange that he phrases this in future tense, considering the knocks were already 7 years in the past at the time Breakthrough was published). This is again indicia of a complete lack of critical thinking.
Think about it. Something bangs on your house in the middle of the night in a highly unusual manner, waking you up. You have no idea what it is. Which do you think is more likely?
1. Something unusual but conventional: mine subsidence, earth tremors, hailstones, sonic booms, or even something exotic but explainable like ball lightning.
2. Alien beings from another planet who are abducting people and trying to get us to "break through" to a higher level of consciousness.
Anyone who jumps immediately to conclusion #2 is not being rational. This is unfortunately a trap that UFO skeptics fall into as easily as believers-by letting the argument be framed in terms of, "Well, if you can't explain it, then it's more likely that it really was a UFO!" As if there are only two choices: either I can explain the knocks on the houses in Glenrock, WY in February 1988 right here, right now in terms of conventional phenomena, and if I can't that means they are proof of alien visitation. Either-or, 50-50, black or white, no middle ground. Skeptics who immediately begin assuring us that it must be mine subsidence or earth tremors miss the point that the believers' explanation does not get any more likely if you fail to explain the phenomena right now.
So, I'll say this about the Glenrock knock-knock joke. I have no idea what it was. Maybe it was earth tremors or mine subsidence. But what I amextremely confident of is that whatever caused it is conventional and explainable-even if highly unusual. Jumping to the conclusion that, since I don't know what caused the Glenrock knock-knock, it must have been Whitley Strieber's aliens, is completely asinine.
Yet this is exactly the kind of "reasoning" Strieber wants you, the reader, to engage in. Get used to it-it gets worse.
An Alien Ride-Along: ET Moonlights as a Cat Burglar.
Now that Strieber has "proved" that aliens exist and tarred the "deniers" as immoral, it's time for high adventure-or at least some breaking and entering. Strieber claims he thought really hard about wanting to know more about these aliens. Since they can read his mind (naturally), of course they obliged him. In Chapter 4, he makes the absolutely jaw-dropping claim that the aliens took him with them in their spaceship when they zoomed off to abduct someone else-sort of the extraterrestrial equivalent of a "ride-along" you see on Cops or other reality shows.
Strieber describes seeing a strange vehicle about the size of a car sitting on the deck behind his house. He goes inside, finds himself with some aliens, and then suddenly the "car" is whisked away to Boulder, Colorado, where Strieber and the ET's get out and proceed to conduct a home invasion and assault on one of Strieber's close friends, a woman named Dora Ruffner, and her young daughter.
I am not making this up. The description is absolutely horrific. Strieber and the aliens go into Ms. Ruffner's house and scare the bejeezus out of her. He describes holding her down with some sort of slab and preventing her from going to help her daughter. She and the daughter scream and scream, as you expect someone would if a bunch of weird aliens suddenly showed up in your bedroom in the middle of the night. One of the aliens injects something into the girl's spine-which is, unequivocally, a physical assault and battery. Then they all get back into the "car" and Strieber is magically transported home.
I simply couldn't believe my eyes when I read this part. Strieber drones on for pages about how "transformative" this experience later proves to be for Ms. Ruffner and the daughter. In Chapter 5 he conducts a long interview with her where they talk in glowing spiritual terms about how smart and wonderful the daughter turns out to be, supposedly as a result of this attack. But what he claims to have taken part in is a home invasion and a physical assault! On one of his best friends and her young daughter. Does anyone else find this as horribly wrong and twisted as I do?
Incidentally, for her part, Ms. Ruffner claims not to remember the experience at all, though she did call Strieber the next day. (Oh yeah, that's proof). She claims in Chapter 5 "it was a time when I was waking up a lot at night." But she doesn't remember waking up and seeing aliens or Strieber, fortunately.
Strieber himself seems to realize his claims are reaching the breaking point. In one of the few moments of rationality he has in the entire book, he says (emphasis added):
"I may have described my trip to Dora's house not because it actually happened...but because I have no other way to express the meaning of the experience except as a physical journey. Then again, it is also true that I don't relish becoming identified with trips in flying saucers. Obviously, this is going to make me yet another kind of fool when it is published. Maybe the best thing is to just face the truth: I don't know what happened, but something certainly did."
Oh, OK. So the assault and battery of his best friend and a six-year-old girl is perfectly okay because didn't really happen. Wait, what does that mean? He just made it up? He just dreamed going with aliens and breaking into an innocent woman's house? Which means-what, he's not telling the truth after all?
From this point on Breakthrough develops like a train crash in slow motion: you're horrified and don't know why you're still looking at it, but you're so stunned you can't look away either.
The Striebers Take In a Boarder
Most of the rest of the book is filler until we come to the ultimate clanger: in chapter 15, after many more "miraculous" experiences with these felonious beings, Strieber describes one of the "visitors" coming to live with him at his house.
Again, as the assault n' battery ride-along, this comes about as a result of a request that Strieber thinks about real hard. The aliens again read his mind, realize he wants to know more about them, so they send one of their own to go live with him at his cabin for a few months. Of course he never actually sees this alien. Apparently it doesn't eat much, because it never comes down to breakfast with the family. Strieber just finds the bed in the guest room often unmade and says that he tries to get a look at him but "he would not allow that." An alien lives with him for something like three months, and is even in the house when Strieber claims to have (human) houseguests, but there's no sighting, no photographs, and no physical evidence.
Oh, wait, there is physical evidence-at least until Strieber destroys it. Strieber claims the purpose of his alien roommate is to do some sort of "spiritual work," the exact nature of which I'm unclear on. Since the alien is often in the library, and isn't very talkative, Strieber decides they should "communicate" by trading books. He says (emphasis added):
"I asked him [the alien] to indicate a book that was really important to the work we were doing together. Soon he placed three small, white candies-just ordinary little candies, half-sucked-in front of Life Between Life by Dr. Joel Whitton and Joe Fisher. I sucked the remains of the candies and read the book, which was about what existence might be like for souls destined to reincarnate..."
Let's break this down. Strieber has an extraterrestrial being living in his house with him. The being can't be seen directly. It won't talk. It won't allow itself to be photographed. Strieber won't bundle it in the car and take it to a science lab to have it examined. But the alien partially sucks a couple of hard candies and puts them on a bookshelf.
If this scenario actually happened, those three hard candies could be the most important artifacts in the history of science. They are actual, physical, empirical proof of extraterrestrial life! Assuming an alien couldn't partially digest a piece of candy (wait, I thought he didn't eat human food?) without some sort of saliva, here are three artifacts that have biological material from an intelligent extraterrestrial being on them-alien DNA. Why didn't Strieber take these three candies to a science lab immediately? Especially if he's frustrated that people don't believe that nine knocks on some houses in Glenrock, WY prove that aliens exist, here is a God-given chance to prove his claims 100% in an absolutely undeniable scientific manner. Even if nobody believed his story about how the candies got that way in the first place, if an analysis was done on them and it proved there was DNA on the candies that matched no human configuration, as you'd expect, would it not prove that Strieber was in contact with some form of being totally different than anything discovered before-which would be a long step toward verifying the veracity of his claims?
What's astonishing is that this doesn't even seem to occur to Whitley Strieber. Does he take the candies to a science lab? No-he eats them himself, and sits there reading some New Age woo book on reincarnation! He just destroyed the best evidence that we could have of extraterrestrial visitation! Does this make any sense?
Incidentally, I looked up Life Between Life on Amazon, just curious about what Strieber and his alien roommate thought was "really important" to their mysterious "work." Here it is. It's written by a Toronto psychiatrist who delves into peoples' supposed past lives by drawing out their stories under hypnosis. Hmm, does that sound eerily familiar?
Why Don't We All Have Alien Roommates? Because of a Government Conspiracy, Of Course!
Since he can't possibly top the claim of living with an alien and deliberately destroying evidence of aliens' existence on Earth, Strieber spends the last quarter of Breakthrough (thank God it's almost over!) trolling through typical UFO/alien conspiracy theories. He flirted with them in both Communion and Transformation, but in Breakthrough he finally doubles down. According to Strieber, the U.S. government has known about the existence of the "visitors" since at least the 1940s. How do they know? Yup, you guessed it: Roswell. Breakthrough hashes over the Roswell conspiracy for the ten zillionth time, adding nothing of substance to the story you know by heart: a flying saucer crashed in the New Mexico desert in 1947, an alien was recovered, possibly alive, and the gubbermint has been using alien technology they got from the saucer ever since to build secret weapons that never seem to get out of the research and development phase and actually, you know, get used.
Strangely for a writer who spends a lot of time making the case that alien abduction has been going on since ancient times-he even hints in Transformation that ancient Gaelic may have been developed by aliens-it may seem surprising that Strieber accepts unquestioningly the usual postwar UFO mythology, that large-scale visitation began with the famous 1947 sighting of flying saucers over Mt. Rainier, (1) and which was part of a "wave" of attempted "contact" in the summer of 1947. According to Strieber, this was the "visitors" trying to use official channels to make contact, but the gubbermint ruined it by saying things like, you know, there's no evidence these things actually exist. So the "visitors" got sick of dealing with government bureaucrats and instead started invading people's houses in the middle of the night. And anally raping them. What the gubbermint has done since 1947, according to Strieber, is to employ disinformation techniques ("disinformation" is another conspiracy theorist buzzword) to reinforce official denial on the one hand, and on the other hand to spin interpretation of abduction reports so that they resemble a "good versus evil" dynamic that deliberately mimicked the U.S.-vs-USSR Cold War mentality.
What's the evidence for this bizarre conspiracy theory? A document he was emailed in 1993 and later found on an Internet newsgroup in 1994, which he reproduces in an appendix at the end of the book. Strieber claims it's a list of "coded file locations of super-secret UFO information in the Defense Department computer system." Oh, and the gubbermint is now trailing him and opening his mail. Of course.
The icing on this ancient re-hashed cake of UFO conspiracy theories is a passionate rant (Chapter 18) on, get ready for this, the "face on Mars." (2) He got into this in 1984, before he claimed to have been abducted by UFOs. (That was when he was pretending to be an "ordinary guy," remember?) For an entire chapter Strieber raves about how NASA and the gubbermint is covering up the "face," which is nothing more than a rock that appeared, (3) in one poor low-resolution photograph taken of the Martian surface in 1976, to be a humanoid face that must have been put there by an intelligent civilization. The face was debunked long ago, but Breakthrough was published before the 2006 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter photo proved that it was a trick of light and that in real life it's obviously a natural formation. I don't know whether Strieber has retracted his conspiracy claims about the face being covered up, but many conspiracy theorists do believe in it-predictably they think the 2001 and 2006 photos of the face have been Photoshopped by NASA.
So that's where we wind up. Roswell and conspiracy theories so old they make 9/11 Twoofer tropes look fresh by comparison. This is all Breakthrough has to offer.
The Mythos of the "Good" Alien
What's not that surprising about Breakthrough is Strieber's unshakable certainty, and his relentless repetition, of his conclusion that the aliens who abducted and raped him are actually good. The cover clues you in on this with the tag line "With A Message of Hope." The message, of course, is this: trust the aliens, open your life to them, don't object when they break into your home in the middle of the night, rape you and physically assault your children. They're here for our own good. They want to open our consciousness. After all, they seem to believe in reincarnation and other New Age theories, so they must be benevolent.
Interestingly, Strieber approaches the subject of "good" aliens by trotting out the myth that humanity and popular culture reacts to the idea of aliens in a knee-jerk way by assuming automatically that they must be evil invaders. He cites the movies The Day The Earth Stood Still and E.T. as counter-examples of "a productive view," but it's clear that he thinks most people assume aliens are evil. This is a common trope in UFO literature, meant to make those who want to greet visiting aliens with friendship into wise far-seeing peacemakers, in contrast to the evil gubbermint who just wants to shoot them down.
In fact, having observed the UFO and conspiracy underground for several years, the opposite is true. People are usually desperate to believe that aliens are benevolent. There's a whole mythology out there about aliens who want to expand our consciousness and in some cases literally rescue humanity from the forces of evil-which are often another faction of aliens. The "Planetary Activation Organization" championed by veteran weirdo Sheldan Nidle is a paradigm example. There are conspiracy nuts out there who believe in bad aliens, David Icke being the most prominent, but there's a lot more people out there who want to commune with the space brothers than those who want to eradicate them. If you write a book or make a DVD purporting to "prove" that aliens are real, and that they are here to help us, I guarantee you'll sell some books and DVDs. There are lots of eager buyers out there salivating for this sort of material.
So is that why Whitley Strieber made these claims? Money? I'm not sure, but I don't think it's that simple. I think he believes on some level that these things happened to him, but I also think his veiled references along the lines of "maybe it didn't literally happen" show that he might be a little uncomfortable at asserting the literal truth of every word he's written since 1987. There are better ways to make a living than writing UFO books. With that said, I do think that Strieber has parlayed his association with aliens and UFOs into a fairly comfortable lifestyle and a good amount of notoriety. His alien abduction claims got him involved with UFO/conspiracy radio host Art Bell, which eventually led to a gig writing the global warming disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow.
Now Strieber's starting to get into the whole 2012 thing,(5) which should keep him relevant for a while longer, at least in woo circles. (He doesn't predict the world will end, which is at least a fresh approach in New Age circles). He'll crop up again every couple of years with another claim or opinion, most likely, and he might do some more books. On some level society needs such people. I don't literally believe he was abducted by aliens, but I do enjoy checking out his website once in a while, just to see what the woo crowd is flapping their gums about these days.
When Whitley Strieber truly entered public consciousness with Communion, he was supposedly an "ordinary guy" who was willing to come forward to tell an extraordinary story about encounters with nonhuman beings. Supposedly, at least according to his publicists, this made his story more trustworthy. As I showed, in fact Whitley Strieber is and always has been firmly rooted in New Age sensibilities, from tarot cards to Ouspensky, which at least in my view makes his claims about involvement with aliens much less surprising. Over the course of three books he went from this "ordinary guy with an extraordinary story" to churning crap about OBEs, higher consciousness, government conspiracies, faces on Mars and reincarnation. If you happen to believe that alien abduction is a literally real phenomenon, it's probably likely that you could find a slightly more credible witness than Whitley Strieber.
This ends my examination of Strieber's alien books. I may in future do another blog about him, as I've been very curious about a book he wrote in 2001 called The Key which is very difficult to find; in it he supposedly made a lot of predictions about future world events and I'm curious how wrong, er, I mean accurate they turned out to be. But until then, watch the skies and don't let the aliens take you in the middle of the night. If an alien doesappear in your bedroom, just ask him to provide you with incontrovertible physical proof of his existence. He should disappear pretty quickly and probably won't bother you again.