Tuesday, January 28, 1997
To those who have read Whitley Strieber's
fiction and nonfiction, it would come as no surprise that his
childhood was a little out of the ordinary.
Strieber is the acclaimed author of The Wolfen, The Hunger and a trio of books about what he calls abduction experiences with unknown visitors Communion, Transformation and Breakthrough.
To those he has added The Secret School: Preparation for Contact, published this month by HarperCollins.
It is a childhood memoir of sorts, a return in memory to his ninth year in San Antonio and a series of murky events that Strieber admits could be a product of his imagination but felt real.
I've always known since I was a teen-ager that there was something funny about my childhood, in the sense that I would remember riding my bike a lot at night, says Strieber during a recent interview in Las Vegas, a stop on his book tour. And I remember going down to a place called the Olmos Basin, but I couldn't remember what happened in there. I used to have recurring dreams about this, and they were scary dreams, but they were kind of fun at the same time.
As Strieber describes it in his book, he was one of several schoolchildren at the school who were taught subjects by a hooded being covering mankind's untapped hidden powers, the real meaning of our past and a future of promise.
About 18 months ago, Strieber says, he began remembering more details.
I was having a lot of close-encounter experiences, and I began to notice I had remembered some more specifics about the site where I used to go in the basin and the way it looked, Strieber says. While out with a film crew searching the basin, he found what he believes is the location of the school.
Unlike some people who believe UFO stories without a second thought, and those who dismiss such stories out of hand, Strieber acknowledges his remembered visions may not be accurate.
I don't know that the visions I've remembered are intact and pristine, from the age of 9. I would be surprised if they were. This book is an attempt to make something out of a very strange part of my past.
After finding the location of the school, Strieber began remembering more details.
I've put in enough disclaimers in the book because I've always been worried about being taken at face value. I don't think anything is very settled about what the hell has happened to people like me. I'm not so sure it's alien contact, and I'm also not very sure it's explained, at all.
While Strieber believes he had visionary experiences there, including a vivid dream of being on Mars, none of the kids he saw there some were youngsters from his school have come forth with corroborating stories.
To find out just what's going on he has had a battery of lie-detector tests and medical exams that revealed nothing abnormal Strieber has organized a study set to begin next month that will examine people's claims that they have been implanted with objects. Strieber himself believes he may have an implant in his left ear, although it could just as well be a cyst, he says.
There also is a brain scan that scientists can conduct that may be able to separate real memories from false, Strieber says.
He's closely examining videos of UFOs to determine if the images have been faked.
Within a few years, scientists will have a basis for understanding the experiences of Strieber and others like him, he says.
As can be imagined, Strieber has been called everything from insane to a publicity seeker only interested in selling books. He says he is neither.
I am not a liar. I may have an overactive imagination, that's certainly possible, Strieber says. My mother said of me that I have a big imagination, that I was prone to strange fevers (as a child) and that I was prone to bursting into tears for no apparent reason. That is the picture of a fantasy-prone child, but it's also the picture of a child who is struggling to keep a secret of some kind from his parents and is not very happy about it.
He theorizes, based on the belief that time travel is possible, that the visitors he remembers may be travelers from the future.
One thing I don't think we have is any evidence at all that there are aliens here from any particular place. It's folklore. We have no idea where they're from or what they are.
Whatever has happened to him, Strieber's life has not been the same since December 1985, when he says he had his first visitation.
What happened to me in December 1985 was an absolutely devastating experience. It changes you. You become sort of more loosely connected to this world, and it begins to seem very easy to believe that this is just a sort of way we have at looking at things and it's not the whole reality or the whole of the mind's capacity, he says.
His life and that of his wife and son have been ruined, Strieber says. At least socially. Every other person we know is painfully polite and believes I'm either a nut or a liar or simply deranged. It's painful. There's a huge gulf between my experience and my life and most of the people around me.
Strieber has been attempting to move his family from upstate New York, where he owns a cabin, back to San Antonio, because we were bothered a lot in New York by someone who was getting into the house and doing very dangerous things, like leaving open cans of gasoline in our house, getting past the alarm system. I could not feel that my family was safe.
Strieber wants to prove or disprove that there is something not yet understood behind his experiences and visions. But if it turns out to be just the work of an overactive imagination, Strieber is prepared.
I would feel relieved in one respect. And in another respect I would have the definite sense that I had fooled myself, he says and laughs.
Strieber has a sense of urgency about getting to the bottom of UFO and abduction experiences.
I'm as interested in exposing frauds as anybody. In fact, more so. If this isn't alien contact then a lot of folklore is growing up around it and folklore turns into religion very quickly. We've had plenty of religions in the past and we don't need this as the basis of a religion, believe me. In two generations it will be a religion if it's not solved. ~
© 1997 LVRJ