Excerpt from The Today Show: NBC Transcript
1 April 1997, 7:00-9:00 AM
Guests: Edgar Mitchell, Whitley Strieber
KATIE COURIC: And in a moment,the renewed discussion over UFOs. That's right after this.
MATT LAUER, co-host: There are many people who believe there are aliens and UFOs out there. And they're unhappy over the UFO references in the teachings of the Heaven's Gate cult. Whitley Strieber, for one, is concerned. He wrote of his encounter with alien beings in his 1987 book, "Communion." He says if we dismiss all these unexplained events as the demented ramblings of cult leaders, we may miss something important. Mr.Strieber, good morning to you.
Mr. WHITLEY STRIEBER ("Communion"): Good morning.
LAUER: Hey, for those who aren't real familiar with your story, give me the real brief description of what happened to you in 1985?
Mr. STRIEBER: Well, I woke up in the middle of the night in this extraordinary situation where I was no longer in my house, and I was surrounded by these strange creatures. And, of course, I thought it was a nightmare. And then the next morning was concerned that it had been so powerful, maybe it was an — an evidence of some sort of a disease, of a brain tumor or something. Was never able to find anything wrong with me. And then discovered other people who had had very similar experiences, even right around where I lived.
LAUER: So — so you had an experience, a close encounter with what you call little people.
Mr. STRIEBER: Oh, yeah.
LAUER: Why do you think a distinction should be drawn between your experience and the beliefs of the Heaven's Gate cult members?
Mr. STRIEBER: Well, because there's something very real that can't be explained. Whether or not it represents contact with aliens is unknown. I have never known what my experience actually was caused by. And what I'm trying to do is to get some serious scientific research into this so that we can answer some of these questions. People are connecting the dots that they should not connect. That's why we — we get these cults with elaborate stories about other planets and aliens and so on and so forth. We don't actually know what is going on. What we know is there's a very real mystery here.
LAUER: You talk about serious investigation, though. What impact do you think these mass suicides have had on that serious investigation?
Mr. STRIEBER: Well, I think there are two impacts. One is, I believe that a lot of people in the scientific community are probably realizing this has to be addressed seriously. The public can't stand for it to be ignored much longer. On the other hand, there is going to be a feeling that, Oh, it's just all a bunch of nonsense and we have to ignore it, because it's so — it's — it's — it's so conf — people are so confused.' If we ignore it, I think that the cult side of it is probably just going to get bigger and bigger over time.
LAUER: Right. All right. Mr. Strieber,
hang tight, because former astronaut Edgar Mitchell has a special
perspective on things out of this world. He was the sixth man
to walk on the moon. And while he dismisses Heaven's Gate cult
members as terribly misguided individuals, he too believes we
must seriously investigate the possibility of extraterrestrial
Mr. Mitchell, good morning to you.
Mr. EDGAR MITCHELL (Former Astronaut): Good morning.
LAUER: What impact do you think these cult members have had on serious investigation into this area?
Mr. MITCHELL: Well, I don't know. I think it's a little early to tell. But I agree with everything Whitley said. We'll just have to see whether it impacts them. But most serious investigators want to distance themselves from this sort of craziness. It's unfortunate these people were misguided and got off into the fringe. But very frankly, we have been dealing with that on both sides for at least 25 years. On the right side, or on one side, are the people who don't believe we went to the moon at all. And on the other side are people who said, Oh, yes you went to the moon, but you were followed by UFOs and little green men.' And neither — none of that is true.
Mr. MITCHELL: We — we — we have to have evidence here.
LAUER: So over the years, the — the perception has been by a lot of people, that the only people who see UFOs and believe in UFOs have just had a six-pack of beer and they're sitting in their pickup truck or something like this. Do you think that these cult members have now added fuel to that fire?
Mr. MITCHELL: They have. And there are, however, some very competent, serious investigators that are looking into these things. And I'm convinced, having talked with quite a number of former military people and government people, who in the course of their official duties have had reason to come across information or to have had personal experience, these folks need to be listened to, except for the fact they're afraid to talk because they are under security classification, and — and fear of penalty.
LAUER: So — so when you look at the — the group of people who've had experience in a pie graph, what percentage of those people would you call credible?
Mr. MITCHELL: Oh, somewhere down less than 2 or 3 percent, no more than that, certainly.
LAUER: Mr. Strieber, how do you — do you — how do you feel about that? Do you agree?
Mr. STRIEBER: Well, I would disagree, because — only because my perspective is different. And the people I've met are different. What happened after I wrote my first book, "Communion," was a stunning thing. We got inundated with over 200,000 letters from all around the world of people talking about this experience, that they had had it, too. And I have met a couple of thousand of those people at this point personally. And, in general, they are just very much ordinary people from ordinary walk — walks of life. I've met people here, in Australia, in Mexico, in the UK, all around the world, and they seem not to be crazy at all. That is the most extraordinary thing about it.
LAUER: Mr — Mr. Mitchell, if somebody in the next week or two goes out and sees something they truly believe is a UFO, do you think the experience of what happened in San Diego will make them keep quiet about it?
Mr. MITCHELL: Well, le — let's approach it slightly different to answer your question. I agree with what Whitley's saying. These folks actually believe what they're seeing. The question is, what is it that is really happening to them? Back to Whitley's very first question.
Mr. STRIEBER: Yes.
Mr. MITCHELL: There is something happening to them, no doubt. But there is an awful lot of planned disinformation, and there's an awful lot of nonsense and misinterpretation around this whole phenomenon.
Mr. MITCHELL: What we have to get to is what is really going on, and that was what Whitley started out his conversation with.
Mr. STRIEBER: Yes.
Mr. MITCHELL: And I agree with that. And many, many people are getting bad information, disinformation, and misinterpreting what they — what they're seeing.
LAUER: All right. And I'm going to have to bring it to an end right there. But Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Strieber, we thank you both very much for your time.
Mr. STRIEBER: Thanks for having me.
LAUER: OK. Seven forty-eight. In a moment, as advertised, a couple of rare white tiger cubs are next. You're looking at them live. And later on today, producer Ron Howard has a new movie to tell us about. What's new this spring in makeup for your eyes? We'll find out. And what to watch out for in a financial adviser. But first, this is TODAY on NBC.
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