Blogs - Paranormal
Users that have been posting for a while can create their own articles on the fly by using
our built-in blogging service. Below are the most recent entries.
Date: Sep 11, 2013 at 15:47
This page is a representation of many myths surrounding the Loch Ness Monster(s). This article was created because there still are many people that still believe in this theory.
Why I'm Doing This
The Loch Ness Monster theory is one of the most interesting ones around, and one of the very first myths that most people ever knew of. As a kid, the idea of the Loch Ness Monster sounded terrifying but at the same time very interesting, since the only evidence that was available at the time was the infamous Surgeon Photograph, which I cover later in this article. Not only that, but in the FAQ section
of Skeptic Project website, we advertise that
We are willing to discuss pretty much anything there is, conspiracies, misconceptions, and so forth, it really depends on the specific contributor writing the content.
It just feels good to not have to look at various conspiracies all the time, and look at a very fun urban legend. Let's get started.
The origin of the Loch Ness monster dates from the 6th century, by writer Andoman in his book Life Of St. Columba
. Scotland was the home of the Picts society. St Columba could not help but notice that they were burying someone in the ground, near the River Ness. When asked why, they responded that the man, while swimming, was attacked by some sort of "water monster", who dragged him under. They tried to rescue him by boat, but only managed to get to a corpse. Columba decided to see if this theory was true by having one his followers swim the entire river. Upon coming back, the beast came after him, but luckily for the follower, Columba showed the sign of the cross and told it: "Go no further. Go back at once." The monster halted, and swam away in terror.
Modern Interest with photographs
Hugh Gray's Photograph (1933)
On November 12th, 1933, Hugh Ray was walking along the loch when he saw a strange figure inside of the water. The figure rose up from the water. Ray took many pictures of the thing, and sadly only one picture turned out after being developed.
Ray has said that the four stumpy-looking objects on the bottom of the creature's body might possibly be a pair of appendages, or flippers.
Many people have called this picture a hoax or that this is a picture of a dog swimming, however, researcher Roland Watson rejects this interpretation, as seen below:
Here is his conclusion on the dog theory:
The Hugh Gray "dog" appears to be missing half of its face on the right. There is no recognisable eye or ear to fill in the complete picture. There is a splash to the right where the ear should be. I don't see how they can be accommodated in the Gray image even by my over zealous visual cortex.
The other problem is that there appears to be nothing recognizable as a stick. There is a very sharp shadow line where the creature meets the water which does not compare well with the actual dog/stick picture. The other problem is the "snout" in the Gray image is more elongated. Note that the real dog has his muzzle raised and spread out to accommodate the stick. In fact a dog will tend to raise its muzzle above the water to aid breathing. The "dog" in this picture appears to have its mouth too close to the water
He then alternatively suggests that it might just be some sort of Loch Ness.
The researcher suggests that this is the best and most accurate picture of a the Loch Ness, or at least a similar species such as a Parabodia. I've not seen any other information on this photo, and Roland Watson has proved that it is not a dog. However, this does not necessarily mean that we have a case of Loch Ness here, after all, it is a very grainy picture.
Surgeon's Photograph (1934)
This is probably the most popular photo of the Loch Ness to ever be released, just like that Patterson-Gimlin bigfoot film.
The story goes that Dr. Kenneth Wilson was simply looking over at the lake and then suddenly, saw the monster. He grabbed his camera and immediately snapped 5 pictures. Sadly only 2 of these pictures came out properly. Here's the 2nd photo:
He published the picture in a local newspaper, and Wilson, refusing to be associated with this picture, led to it being entitled the "Surgeon's Photograph"
No real study had been made of the picture until 1984, when Stewart Campbell analyzed the photo for an article in the British Journal of Photography.
Campbell concluded that the animal depicted in the photo could only be around 2-3 feet long, and that it was an otter or a marine bird, which was likely that Wilson knew about this.
However, this turned out to be wrong as well, as finally in 1994, the whole story was spilled out. Christian Spurling, age 90, confessed his entire story. Spurling had been confronted by Marmaduke Wetherell, his step father and a big shot hunter who had been ridiculed publicity in the Daily Mail
, to make a convincing serpent model. The model was made, and then attached on top of a toy submarine, and then photographed. They decided to make Wilson as the front man to this plan, since he was a Surgeon, in order to make the story seem more convincing. This was covered in the 1999 book Surgeon's Photograph: Exposed!
Dinsdale film (1960)
The .GIF provided above is a sample of what the film looks like. There also contains a nice zoom which helps us to better understand what is the object.
Tim Dinsdale an aeronautical engineer, filmed a hump crossing the water leaving a powerful wake in 1960. Dinsdale supposedly spotted the animal while hunting for it, and described the object as reddish with a blotch on its side. When he mounted his camera the object started to move and said that he shot 40 feet of film.
In 1965, the Photographic Interpretation Report - Loch Ness
analyzed the contents of this film. The report was created and produced by the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Center. This investigation gave us the conclusion that the Dinsdale film had an object that was "probably animate". It was revealed later that
"that their measurements were flawed by inaccurate height data for the camera site and inaccurate timings for the speed calculations. Their conclusion that the object was "probably animate" was based on the fact that a non-planing boat hull around 14 feet long could not achieve their calculated speed of 10 mph, but tactfully avoided the problem of how an aquatic animal could do so on the surface with a substantial part of its body above the water, for a period of several minutes."
(Link of this in the next paragraph)
In 2006, Adrian Shine, for his book Loch Ness
, (ISBN 978-0-9553115-0-5) analyzed this film. The original 16mm film roll contained lots of grain, which made studying of the image to be very difficult. However, there is a technique we can use that is called Image Stacking. A website
can explain this better than I can:
Remember that the grain in each image is random, but "real things" in the image will be in the same place (more or less) in successive frames of a movie film. The grain is termed "noise", the real things are termed "signal", and Image Stacking improves the signal to noise ratio - the "SNR". In its modern, digital, process it is done like this: A number of consecutive frames are scanned into a computer and then laid on top of each other in a program like Adobe Photoshop, with each frame made almost completely transparent. These images are assembled in "register", which means some object clearly visible is always in the same place in the new image. As more and more frames are "stacked" on top of each other the random film grain blends into a mid grey tone, but "real things" which are darker or lighter and present in all frames will build up in intensity.
Now that you know what Image Stacking is, we can now view the results obtained:
As we can see, this object really looks like some sort of boat object, not really a type of animal. It is said that the pale object at the front of the boat is the licence disc, which is usually yellow or orange and so is often the brightest part of the boat. Loch Ness Investigation says that
[It is] a similar disc on a similar boat is shown below - photo reproduced courtesy of Adrian Shine. At 9 a.m. the sun is in the south-east, directly behind Tim Dinsdale's filming location, and the licence disc would have been acting almost like a mirror.
The following is a picture of the boat and the disk, mentioned above:
Debunked!!! (To me, it all makes sense, and the explanation provided is proven.
Date: Mar 25, 2013 at 21:59
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.
Date: Mar 25, 2013 at 21:31
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.
By Muertos (2013 corrections by Clock)
In a previous blog post,
I wrote about the book Communion by Whitley Strieber, which so far as I know remains to date the best-selling book ever written on UFOs or related subjects. Strieber's central claim was that he was abducted and sexually assaulted by nonhuman beings, which he calls "visitors," on December 26, 1985 (a quarter century ago this week) and that after this experience he realized he'd been interacting with the "visitors" for most of his life. In this blog I continue the discussion of Strieber and his claims, focusing on his sequels, Transformation (1988) and Breakthrough (1995), as well as the film of Communion made in 1989.
Transformation: Strieber Jumps the Shark
As I explained in the last blog, I read Communion for the first time when I was 14 and, as a lad very interested in science fiction, aliens and UFOs, I was utterly convinced by it-at first. The more I learned about Whitley Strieber, however, and especially his weird New Age tendencies, the more skeptical I became of his claims that he had been abducted by aliens.
Transformation was the sequel. The book originally came out in the summer of 1988, but I didn't read it until the paperback version came out a year later, shortly before the Communion film was released. I was still, at this time, a genuine believer. I thought Strieber made a convincing case that he'd been interacting with aliens. When I read Transformation, though, I found it pretty hard to swallow.
Before getting into the guts of this book I want to say a few things about the edition that I have. Even though I bought it more than 20 years ago (the cover price is $4.95!), I still have the paperback. It has a wonderfully ominous image of half of an alien's face, staring up at you with a huge silver eye. Underneath the title, Transformation, is a subtitle, The Breakthrough. This becomes interesting later on, because Strieber ended up titling his third abduction book simply Breakthrough. So which book is really the "breakthrough," then-Transformation or Breakthrough? Under the words "The Breakthrough" is a movie-style tag line: "Know This: They Are Watching." In space, no one can hear you scream!
You may remember that in Communion Strieber was carefully circumspect about the nature of the "visitors." He refused to state specifically that he thought they were aliens from another planet, although this conclusion was certainly implicit from the book as a whole. He even refused to go so far as to claim they were physically real, instead posing the somewhat half-hearted notion that they might be figments of the unconscious mind (in other words, that he made them up).
In the opening words of the introduction of Transformation, Strieber abandons even this tepid neutrality. He says, "My experience has come to include too many witnesses for me to consider that it is internal to my mind." Just so we're clear, he's now on record, as of mid-1988, saying that the visitors who abducted him are physically real.
He goes on to state: "Short of actual, physical evidence, I think that I have gone as far as possible to demonstrate the reality of the visitors."
Got that? Short of actual, physical evidence. So, aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
Most of the first half of Transformation is a laundry list of increasingly bizarre visitations, easily ramping up the weirdness factor. Strieber describes the aliens faking him out by abducting his son (who is later returned to his bedroom, naturally, with no memory of being gone), appearing to him dressed like 19th century British rajahs and demanding a historical lecture on the reasons for the collapse of the British Empire, and then, most strangely, warning him that the metabolism of his body has changed and he will die if he eats chocolate. I know that sounds incredibly random, but there it is on page 67. The struggle over sweets becomes one of the main plot threads of the book. At one point Strieber describes his entire net worth vanishing from his bank account. It turns out this was merely a computer error that was duly corrected, but he's adamant that this was caused by the aliens, in retaliation for him eating a candy bar.
Much of the middle section of the book is a retread of Communion, as well as some more illuminating ideas about Strieber's past. Interestingly, he reverses himself on the claim made in Communion that he wasn't present at the Charles Whitman University of Texas bell tower massacre in Austin on August 1, 1966, and now claims he was there, although no one can remember seeing him there. He also relates more instances of the kind I pointed out in the previous blog, where his childhood friends confirmed that Strieber talked about aliens, and even being abducted by them, quite often in his youth. Again he claims not to have remembered saying things like this.
Two incidents detailed in Transformation are noteworthy, in my opinion. The first is a claim, at last, of "proof" of the visitors' existence. The second is where Strieber finally, to use a colloquial term, jumps the shark.
First, the "proof." Strieber claims that on August 27, 1986, he was sitting in his upstate New York cabin reading a book when the aliens banged on his house ten times. There were nine knocks, in three groups of three, followed by a tenth "double-knock" that sounded to him like a sort of "end of transmission" statement. He claims these knocks scared the bejeezus out of his cats, and this was how he suddenly "knew" the aliens were real. He drones on for pages about the philosophical implications of these nine knocks, and barely glosses over the fact that there were no human witnesses to this event, and aside from the fact that he couldn't duplicate the sound by banging on the outside of the house with a hammer while perched on the roof, offers no evidence that they were caused by alien visitors.
This is what passes for "proof" of alien visitation in Strieber's reality. Some funky sounds in his rural cabin and two scared cats. That's it.
The second incident crops up toward the end of the book, and apropos of nothing: Strieber describes going to bed one fall evening and then having an out-of-body experience. He floats up out of his body, goes outside, looks around a bit, touches some pine needles, and swoops back into being Whitley Strieber. (I admit, rereading this experience recently I thought of Scientology doctrine of "body thetans" and "meat bodies"). As odd as this is, and even starting to be skeptical of the Communion phenomenon by 1989, I was almost ready to accept this.
There does seem to be something happening at least in the minds of people who report out of body experiences (OBE's), and some aberration of brain chemistry is suspected to be at the root of it. (1) Strieber's treatment of the phenomenon, however, just veers too far into the realm of New Age mysticism to be believed. By the end of Transformation he's zooming around the world, outside of his body, trying to help his friends uncover hidden truths about their spiritual selves. Does this sound suspiciously like the crap Carlos Castaneda was pushing starting in the '70s? (2)
At this point I could no longer take Whitley Strieber seriously. Perhaps predictably, by the end of Transformation he's off chanting in the woods with his Wiccan friends, including one of whom he tried to contact through an OBE. Actually he spends a lot of time in the woods in this book, supposedly getting over his fear of the aliens. This is mixed with a lot of New Age platitudes, veiled references to the theories of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, lofty talk about the soul, oh and-what UFO book would be complete without this?-conspiracy theories. I'll get to the conspiracy theories in my explication of Breakthrough and Strieber's later activity, which will be in Part III of this blog.
There you have Transformation. Is it a "breakthrough?" I guess that depends on who you ask.
What's The Point?
Maybe I'm being unfair by focusing on the bizarre details of this book and not devoting enough attention to Strieber's main point, which is, as I suppose it should be, the question of why aliens are abducting him and other people and putting oozy stuff up their butts. Where is all this leading?
Strieber is not subtle about this point. In fact he beats you over the head with it, long before you even get to the OBE stuff: Strieber believes these aliens are here to "transform" human consciousness and to get us to pay attention to the spiritual realm, and the existence of the soul, instead of the material things in life. He is absolutely convinced that this is the main project of the "visitors," that they know exactly what they're doing, and that we as a human species must open ourselves up to this "transformation," or our planet goes boom. (I haven't touched on it, but there's a lot of planet-goes-boom stuff in both Communion and Transformation, much of it centering around the hole in the ozone layer, which was a hot topic back in 1989).
As a very good writer-I'll give him that much-Strieber does argue eloquently for a greater awareness of spiritual matters. Ultimately, however, his argument is unconvincing, because he never explains why these aliens have to do what he says they're doing in order to get us, the human race, to pay attention to this. He argues over and over again that our society has totally rejected the existence of the soul or the value of any sort of spiritual consciousness, but all he cites in support of this argument are generalizations about the hostility of the mainstream media and government to UFOs and aliens (and his own claims in particular). Never once does he attempt to explain why what he claims to have experienced on December 26, 1985-which he has unequivocally referred to as rape (3) -is necessary to undergo this "transformation." Trust the visitors, he says. They're such an awesomely advanced intelligence, they have to know what they're doing, so the anal probe stuff is all for a good cause.
This attitude illustrates the unresolvable dichotomy in Strieber's approach to his own claims. At first he wants you to think he's a victim. Alien abduction stories, at their root, are fundamentally victim narratives-in some sense the ultimate victim narrative, because who on Earth could have any effective defense against an alien intelligence powerful enough to get here in starships? But later, you're supposed to forget all the victim stuff, go sit chanting in the woods and let the pure good and unimpeachable spiritual motives of these alien rapists fill you with joy and understanding.
His argument about society's rejection of anything spiritual also seems not to add up. Strieber describes, especially in Communion, the very vivid and spiritual experience of growing up in a deeply devout Catholic family. It seems strange, therefore, that with that background Strieber can claim that spirituality is rejected. Catholicism has a very long and rich tradition of embracing the spiritual in the human experience; Orthodoxy, especially Greek Orthodoxy (which some argue is the most "pure" form of Christianity), does so even more, and also integrates the mysticism that's not unlike whatever Strieber seems to be seeking when he's running around in the woods with the Wiccans. What about Buddhism? The deep spiritual tenets of Islam? The mysticism of Judaism, which has emphasized a personal connection with God going back to the dawn of civilization? Most people on this planet are spiritual, and the vast majority of them do strongly believe in the existence of the soul. I do, and while I am religious now I believed in the soul even when I was a staunch atheist.
In short, to put it crudely, why do we need a bunch of rapey aliens to come down to Earth and tell us to be spiritual? Don't our priests, rabbis, imams, our Deepak Chopras, and yes, even our Gurdjieffs and Ouspenskys tell us this all the time? What does alien abduction and sexual assault possibly have to do with the inner truths of the soul? Strieber never addresses this. He merely posits an argument, that despite their awful and immoral behavior, we should somehow excuse what they did to him (and what they're doing to the rest of us), because, they're like spiritual and stuff.
Um, yeah. A "breakthrough" this isn't.
Communion, The Movie: The Aliens Kidnap Christopher Walken!
This series of blogs is mainly about the Communion books, but I have to give a few words to the movie, which is actually quite good, if obscure. I actually like the film very much, and own a copy of it on DVD. It's a great movie to watch around Halloween time because it's very scary and disturbing in an off-kilter and unusual way, so in that sense it's an excellent film. That's very different than believing its claims, though.
The success of Communion led probably inevitably to a movie. Strieber's work has gone on the silver screen before; his horror novels The Wolfen and The Howling were both turned into movies. He is credited as producer and screenwriter for the film, which was directed by his longtime friend, French-Australian director Philippe Mora.(4) It was filmed in 1988 and released the fall of the next year. It got terrible reviews (5) and was a box-office bomb, earning a paltry $1.9 million on a budget that must have been several times that.
The film version deviates significantly from the book, and also incorporates some material from Transformation as well as the first book. The first thing that's surprising about the movie is the casting. Christopher Walken, Academy Award-winner for The Deer Hunter and well known for his other roles (Annie Hall, Catch Me If You Can) plays Strieber! You can't fault Strieber for wanting an A-list actor to play him, but this is a prime example of bizarre casting. I'll get to Walken's portrayal in a moment. Lindsay Crouse, always an excellent actress, brings considerable charm, grace and stability to the role of Anne, Whitley Strieber's wife. I can say nothing of how accurate her performance is. For all the considerable mention of Anne Strieber in the books, she isn't very well fleshed out as a personality in Strieber's writing, probably to protect her privacy.
Anyway, the movie doesn't begin, as the book does, with the December 26, 1985 visitation, but instead the weird events of the previous October. It devotes a strange amount of attention to Halloween 1985, where Strieber is supposedly frightened by a child in a Halloween mask shaped like the head of a praying mantis, which he says he thinks he's seen "alive." This incident is not mentioned anywhere in the books, nor as far as I can remember does Strieber ever describe insect-like aliens.
The abduction and rape scene, told mostly in flashback, is predictably bizarre and disturbing.
If you've read the books, the differences are very subtle, but, I think, extremely telling. As I mentioned in the last blog, after the December 1985 event, Strieber didn't seek professional help until after he already began to think he'd been abducted by aliens-the movie changes this. Here, he sees an ordinary doctor, thena psychologist (played by Frances Sternhagen) who "specializes in rape cases." This is totally different than what happened in real life, where Strieber first saw an alien abduction expert, Budd Hopkins, who brought the story out under hypnosis. Important difference, yes?
The movie also only barely touches on the "it's-been-happening-my-whole-life" theme. There's one scene depicting Strieber as a child, looking up at a UFO with a bunch of other children around him, and one of them asks him, "What is it, Whit?" (This is a very creepy scene too, very well done). But there's nothing about the "chase" through Europe, the was-I-there-or-wasn't-I confusion about the Whitman massacre, or anything else of that nature. The focus of the movie is how Strieber, his wife and child deal with these bizarre experiences.
Walken's portrayal is also very interesting. From reading the books you get the impression that Strieber is a somewhat flighty intellectual. Walken, of course, plays Strieber the way he plays every other character in his movie career: an extremely intense, possibly tormented individual, very assertive, headstrong and blunt. You don't see Christopher Walken playing with a deck of tarot cards, for instance, or chanting in the woods, or dancing around Wiccan bonfires. Could you really see Christopher Walken doing any of that? Yet we know Whitley Strieber does those things. What we do see on the screen is someone who's a little...well, creepy. He walks around his apartment in a dress shirt with no pants, talks to himself in a German accent, and watches himself on videotape while he writes-while wearing a wolf mask. I've been a writer for many years. I've never watched myself on videotape while writing. I can't imagine why anyone would.
So the movie shows us, basically, the sanitized version of Communion: a Whitley Strieber who's a little weird, a little out there, but no depiction of the New Age stuff, no out-of-body experiences, nothing more than a passing mention of the your-planet-is-going-to-blow-up stuff, certainly no recognition that he was into aliens and UFOs for all of his life, and a real soft-pedal of the spiritual-transformation message. And notably we see Strieber reacting to his experience the way we expect someone would react-going to a psychiatrist and getting checked out-rather than the way he really did react, which was to get involved with a UFO abduction expert. The movie shows us one "rational" explanation after another going unavailing, until a troubled and reluctant Strieber is forced to admit the painful truth, that he was abducted by aliens and given an anal probe. Then he and his wife yell at each other a little bit and eventually decide the aliens are "the faces of God," and that we must embrace them.
This is not how it happened! This could be, however, how Whitley Strieber wants us to think it might have happened.
In Part III of this blog I'll get to Strieber's 1995 book Breakthrough (wait...I thought Transformation was the "breakthrough?") where he doubles down and goes for broke. In this book, easily the weirdest of the three, he buys a one-way ticket to the land of woo by vigorously embracing most of the classic UFO conspiracy theories, charges that the evil gubbermint is harassing him, and...I can't believe I'm going to write this...claims not only that he did a ride-along with his alien buddies while they abducted, assaulted and terrorized somebody else, but that an alien came to live with him at his house for three months. Does that mean he finally got pictures, material evidence, actual proof? Well, not exactly...
Date: Mar 22, 2013 at 16:44
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.
Today in 2010, the concept of "alien abduction" is now a cultural meme. Virtually everyone in the Western world, and probably a good chunk of the non-Western world, is familiar with the paradigm: the belief that extraterrestrials visit the Earth, occasionally kidnap unsuspecting persons, subject them to weird experiments (usually involving an anal probe or some other humiliating procedure) and set them loose again. Alien abduction is now mainstream enough to be mentioned on comedy shows like South Park and Mad TV and gag lines in blockbuster movies like Independence Day. It's one of those fringe topics that arouses intense, but usually temporary, curiosity.
It wasn't always so. The first documented claim of alien abduction, which set the blueprint for the genre, was the case of Barney and Betty Hill, a New Hampshire couple who claimed they were taken aboard a UFO and molested in September 1961. This incident became the basis for a bestselling 1966 book, The Interrupted Journey. However, the person who really propelled the idea of alien abduction into popular consciousness was former horror author Whitley Strieber, who wrote a book published in early 1987, Communion. Strieber's book was a bestseller and followed by various sequels, most notably Transformation and Breakthrough. Strieber is still active in the UFO community, and is associated with the website Unknown Country.
Strieber's basic claim was this: that on the night of December 26, 1985, exactly 25 years ago this week, he was abducted from the bedroom of his rural cabin in upstate New York by nonhuman beings, taken aboard some sort of craft, and subjected to bizarre and intrusive prodding. The obvious supposition in the opening pages of Communion is that he was raped,although Strieber did not make that claim explicitly in those words until 2009. In reflecting on this experience, Strieber decided that the creatures who assaulted him must have been trying to help him "break through" to some higher form of consciousness. The title of his book, Communion, refers both to Strieber's highly religious Catholic background and to his idea of some sort of spiritual union with the nonhuman consciousness he believes has intervened in his life.
I remember when Communion came out. I was 14 years old and very interested in UFOs. In the fall of 1986 I remember seeing a segment on a news magazine show about the book, which made the statement that Strieber's claim is credible because he was an "ordinary guy" and very trustworthy. I was excited to read the book, bought it on its first day of publication, and have read it many times in the 23 years since its publication, as well as Transformation, which came out in 1988, and Breakthrough, in 1995.
The purpose of this blog is not to offer an opinion on whether "alien abduction" as a phenomenon is real or not. Rather, I will analyze Strieber's specific claims, now nearing 25 years old, and offer some remarks on the cultural impact of Communion and its ilk.
Basic Claims: Communion
Regardless of what you think of UFOs or alien abduction, Communion is a well-written book, a fascinating story and definitely worth a read, whether you believe it's literal truth or not. Strieber begins with a perfunctory description of himself and his occupation ("From 1977 until 1983 I wrote imaginative thrillers, but in recent years I had been concentrating on much more serious fiction about peace and the environment...") and an idyllic description of his life in rural New York with his wife and son. Then, on the night in question, he describes waking up in the middle of the night and seeing a strange robot-like figure coming toward him in his bedroom. This was followed by the entry of a group of weird, small, dark-skinned creatures, who by some machination bring Strieber to a strange room where he sees various other creatures, including the tall, willow-like being with the big eyes who is depicted on the book cover. After waking up in his bedroom again, Strieber at first thinks he's seen an owl, then begins having bizarre flashbacks. He calls a noted UFO researcher, Budd Hopkins, who hypnotizes him, and under hypnosis (that's an important factor) the whole horrific story comes out.
That's not all. In various hypnosis sessions with Budd Hopkins, Strieber recalls a previous UFO abduction from October 1985, which he had apparently forgotten about, and then, most amazingly, spontaneously recalls an experience from his childhood, where he was evidently taken aboard a UFO along with (inexplicably) a whole troop of U.S. soldiers. After realizing this, Strieber begins thinking back to his past and uncovers experience after experience that he had forgotten, or at least hadn't interpreted in the context of alien abductions.
It's important to note that in the original Communion, although Strieber talks very extensively about UFOs and the UFO phenomenon in general, he deliberately avoids making the claim that he believes the beings who abducted him were in fact aliens from another planet. In fact, Strieber leaves open the possibility that they may not be physically real at all, suggesting in the lengthy philosophical essay in the last third of the book that they might be from some unknown part of the human subconscious. (He later backed off from this supposition).
For my money, the most fascinating part of the book is Chapter 4, which Strieber titles "The Sky Beneath My Feet: A Journey Through My Past." In this section Strieber ruminates about a number of odd experiences in his life. None are explained, but they're offered as tantalizing partial glimpses of what he obviously wants the reader to interpret as past abductions. To-wit:
• At age thirteen, in 1958, he claims to have built an "anti-gravity" machine in his bedroom using counter-rotating magnets. Supposedly he told a friend that "spacemen" had given him the plans, though he says he didn't remember saying this. The machine exploded and caused a fire that burned down the family house.
• A very confusing episode where Strieber says he thought he was present at the infamous 1966 University of Texas bell tower spree shooting by madman Charles Whitman, but he then claims he wasn't there, and was possibly with aliens at the time.
• A period of "missing time" in 1967 preceded by the sight of a UFO in the sky.
• A bizarre account of a "chase" across Europe, which Strieber says happened in 1968. He remembers traveling from country to country with a mysterious companion who he doesn't identify, but then hints that this too is what he calls a "screen memory" for an experience with aliens. The strong supposition-again, never explicitly stated-is that he was taken to another planet, again for reasons unknown.
• An incident, said to have happened in April 1977, where an alien voice talked to Strieber and his wife through their hi-fi stereo set, concluding with the words "I know something else about you."
I remember this chapter absolutely blew my mind when I read it in 1987. I thought, "How could you have been abducted by aliens numerous times throughout your life and not be aware of it until years later?"
Nearly 25 years later this is still a fair question. In the book, Strieber hypothesizes that the "visitors," as he calls them, are seeking some kind of rapport with the human race on a higher level of consciousness, and that they become "involved" with people over a lifetime, and also families. Why do they hide their presence, then? Well, Strieber supposes, that's how they want it.
I remember the last third of Communion bored me silly when I was 14. That's the part where Strieber tries to make sense out of the "visitors," and argues passionately that what they seek is indeed "communion" with the soul of humanity. He offers absolutely no support for this view. Every impression he has of the "visitors" is highly subjective-which, again, is supposedly how they want it. Aside from a weird cut behind his head, Strieber never claims the aliens left any marks or other physical evidence behind. He's quite up-front about this, and in fact uses it in support of the supposition that they may be "from the unconscious" or any other number of ephemeral explanations.
An "Ordinary Guy?"
As I mentioned above, one of the key points in the original promotion of the Communion book was fostering the impression that the story is believable because Strieber is an "ordinary guy" and obviously not insane. I remember this theme was repeated in every interview or mention of the book. The "About the Author" section on the original back flap goes to great pains to explain that "Whitley Strieber undertook a battery of psychological tests" and that "all test results indicated that his experiences were not caused by a known psychological or physiological disorder." The appendices of the book contain results of a lie detector test, which verifies he's telling the truth, and a statement from a psychologist saying "he is not suffering from a psychosis." All in all this is intended to be proof positive that what Strieber describes is real.
When I was 14, I thought this was an open-and-shut case. At last, we have an eyewitness account of aliens, from someone who's been examined, certified sane, and even polygraphed as truthful!
More than 20 years later, and after considerable experience in the realm of conspiracy theories, I'm no longer quite so easily persuaded. Rereading Communion with a critical eye, and after two more decades of life experience, I note the following things that shake the "ordinary guy" image that Strieber (or at least his publicists) tried to cloak him with. Some of them are very subtle. For example:
• A circumstantial case can be made that Strieber has had a lifelong interest in UFOs and paranormal phenomena. Remember that he was talking about "spacemen" as early as 1958 (though he claims not to remember such talk). Reporter Ed Conroy, who investigated Strieber and wrote a generally supportive book called Report on Communion, interviewed many of Strieber's friends from the 1950s, and many reported that he talked about spacemen and aliens very often as a child.
• Strieber admits that, at the time he was dealing with the aftermath of the first abduction, he was reading a book called Science and the UFO's by British UFOlogist Jenny Randles, which he says his brother sent to him for Christmas. (I discuss this later).
• Strieber reports a long-time association with the Gurdjieff Foundation beginning in the 1970s. This is an organization promoting the work ofG.I. Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky. These are noted "mystics" (translation: charlatans) who figure large in New Age philosophy circles.
• Strieber states toward the end of Communion that his life and philosophy has been heavily influenced by "the tarot." He says, "Please, set aside any notion of fortune-telling," and then says that he became interested in tarot about 1971 and he "came to realize that the tarot is much more than a deck of fortune-telling cards; it is a sort of philosophical machine that presents its ideas in the form of pictures rather than words."
So, instead of being an "ordinary guy," it turns out Strieber has always been interested in UFOs and aliens, believes in tarot cards, and is a follower of weird New Age mystics. Is the picture changing here?
I remember, not long after Communion came out, being home sick one day and flipping channels on the TV. I happened to come upon the Oprah Winfrey Show, which was just then (1987) being nationally syndicated. Whitley Strieber was a guest on the show. I disliked Oprah and her show every bit as much when I was 15 as I do today, but because Strieber was on and I loved Communion, I watched it. I remember being disappointed because there wasn't a single word in the show about aliens. In fact it was about witchcraft, and while I didn't remember what was being said, I remember Strieber came off looking like a kook. This was the beginning of my doubt that Communion was gospel truth.
By complete chance, while doing research on the Web related to this blog, I happened to come across a transcript of that self-same Oprah show. It was broadcast on June 24, 1987, and in it Oprah introduces Whitley Strieber as someone "who has participated in many Wiccan rituals." Here is the transcript. Incidentally, the search term that brought up this transcript was "Dora Ruffner," a longtime friend of Whitley Strieber's who is mentioned by name in Transformation and Breakthrough (more on her later). I was curious to learn her background to see if Strieber's close friends are also involved in New Age stuff. Turns out they are, or at least were in the case of Ms. Ruffner.
So, we have a guy who's had a lifelong interest in UFOs and aliens, believes in tarot cards, follows Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, takes part in Wiccan rituals, and his best friend went on the Oprah Winfrey show as a self-proclaimed "white witch."
Now, let me be clear. I'm not knocking Strieber's beliefs. I think Wicca and "witchcraft" is a perfectly reasonable religious belief. (Strieber self-identifies as a Catholic, and there's no reason to question that). Wicca is not, as the fundamentalist Christian preacher in the Oprah transcript fulminates, an evil religion of Satan worship. But it is sort of a fringe belief, meaning, it's very firmly located in the alternatives to more mainstream belief systems, and it's not a far jump from Wicca, witchcraft and New Age mysticism to the world of UFOs and aliens.
Also, let's take into account Science and the UFOs. Strieber claims it was given to him for Christmas 1985 by his brother. Think about why people give each other books as gifts. This year for Christmas I got two books, The Secret History of MI6 by Keith Jeffery and First Family by Joseph J. Ellis. These books were given to me because the person who gave them to me (my father, for the record) knows I love history. If Strieber's family members are giving him books about UFOs, before he goes public with a story of being abducted by one, isn't it reasonable to assume that Strieber's family realized he was interested in UFOs and the occult, and thought this book would be an appropriate gift based on that? Doesn't that show that Strieber was probably predisposed to this sort of material even before whatever events occurred on December 26, 1985 to make him think (honestly, it appears) that he was abducted by aliens?
It gets better. Strieber says, on page 40 of Communion, that reading an account of an alien abduction in Science and the UFOs got him thinking about whether what happened to him was an alien abduction. In fact, it was that book that caused him to call alien abduction "expert" Budd Hopkins, who brought out the abduction story under hypnosis.
Here's where I'm going with this. This is not an "ordinary guy," just like you and me. Sure, I know some people who have spiritual beliefs; I do. But do you know a lot of people who believe in tarot cards and consider "the way of the tarot" a central tenet of their life? Do you know a lot of people who are interested enough in New Age mystics to volunteer with the Gurdjieff Foundation for 20 years? Supposing you do, would it surprise you that someone with this sort of background suddenly starts talking about being abducted by aliens-especially after reading an account of such an abduction in a book?
It probably wouldn't, would it?
To illustrate where I'm going with this, let's take two hypothetical "witnesses" who claim they were abducted by aliens.
Witness #1: middle-class American man, a bank manager, reasonably religious (let's say Presbyterian), does not believe in UFOs or aliens, has never had an interest in New Age or the occult, has never known to discuss these subjects more than casual conversation when they might come up in the context of popular culture. After zero exposure to UFO materials, he claims to have been abducted by aliens and subjected to bizarre experiences. The first professional he contacts after having this experience is a psychologist. The witness remembers his experience in ordinary consciousness.
Witness #2: middle-class American man, a horror writer, reasonably religious (Catholic), has talked about UFOs all his life, claims he had contact with "spacemen" at age 13, follows New Age spiritualism, does volunteer activities toward spreading awareness of New Age theories, has taken part in many Wiccan rituals, and believes in tarot cards. After reading about an abduction claim in a UFO book, he claims to have been abducted by aliens and subjected to bizarre experiences. He openly states, however, that what happened to him may not be real but something from "the unconscious mind." The first professional (I use that term loosely) he contacts after having this experience is a UFO researcher known for alien abduction scenarios-who was mentioned in the book he read. The witness remembers his experience only under hypnosis by the UFO researcher.
Witness #1, who does not exist (at least so far as I know), would be a far more credible source of an alien abduction claim, in my view, than Witness #2.
Let me be extra clear here: I'm not saying that Strieber's claims are or must be false because he's a New Age guy with a lifelong attraction to fringe beliefs. That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that when you claim that his experiences should be regarded as credible because he's an "ordinary guy"-which was the tack used to promote Communion-the credibility decreases to the extent to which he turns out not to be an "ordinary guy." This gets us into the realm of arguing, "Okay, so what's 'ordinary?" I don't want to go there, but I think most people would agree that a follower of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, an advocate for Wicca and a believer in tarot cards is, however sincere he may be, more...unusual than he is "ordinary."
So What About That Hypnosis?
I mentioned the case of Barney and Betty Hill as a paradigm early on and I think it's apposite. If you read The Interrupted Journey you will find that the Hills' claim of alien abduction came out only after the fact, and only under hypnosis. That's also true in Strieber's case. Also, and I emphasize again, the first "professional" he called was not a psychologist, psychiatrist or other mental health professional. It was Budd Hopkins, who, as I said, Strieber admits he called after reading an abduction account and Hopkins's name in Science and the UFOs by Jenny Randles.
The bulk of Communion is devoted to Strieber bringing out his abduction claims under Hopkins's hypnosis, and later, hypnosis conducted by a bona fide scientist-but usually with Hopkins present.
Post-hypnotic suggestion is often asserted as a possible explanation for abduction claims. If nothing else, the fact that Strieber did not remember his abduction clearly until he was hypnotized by Budd Hopkins should set off alarm bells.
Who is Budd Hopkins, anyway? I did a bit of research on him, expecting to find he was a psychologist or other mental health professional. After all, his depiction in Communion certainly leads you to believe he's a doctor of something. Actually he's not. Aside from finding out he's a graduate of Oberlin College, I couldn't find anything about his background. You would think if he was a doctor or a psychologist, he'd be trumpeting it from the rooftops. He's not.
Budd Hopkins, in fact, is an artist by trade. The whole UFO thing is a sideline. He's an amateur, and hypnotizes people without any professional experience in hypnotherapy. This is the guy that Strieber turned to first?
Why not a psychologist? If I woke up in the middle of the night surrounded by weird things that looked like aliens-something I know is radically unusual, and shouldn't happen by all we understand about science-my first thought would be that there's something seriously wrong with me. I'd go to a shrink and try to find out why I was having hallucinations. If, and only if, explanations of a mental nature turned out to be unavailing, I might consider alternative hypotheses...if there was evidence to support them.
Instead, it seems Strieber turned to the alternative hypothesis first. He went to Budd Hopkins first, and then later got checked out by psychiatrists, it seems (given the way the disclaimers in Communion read) in an attempt to head off explanations other than the one he wanted to champion-that nonhuman beings were involved with him on some level. Remember, in 1987 Strieber wasn't even on record as claiming these beings were aliens, or that they even existed-he left it clearly open that the whole thing might have happened only in his head! (He later recanted this in Transformation, as we'll see in the next blog, but in early 1987 that was Strieber's position).
If you're looking for unimpeachable, slam-dunk proof that alien abduction is a literally real phenomenon, you may be disappointed in Whitley Strieber.
In Part II of this blog I'll take on Strieber's even more bizarre assertions in Transformation, the sequel to Communion that even had me, at the age of sixteen, thinking he'd finally jumped the shark. Such as the part where he starts chanting in the woods, having out-of-body experiences, and the aliens drain his bank account when he defies their warnings not to eat Snickers bars. I'm serious. He really claimed that. To be continued!