16 February 1999

Host: John Hockenberry

Guests: Budd Hopkins , Dr. John Mack , Joe Nickell , Whitley Strieber


Host: John HockenberryJOHN HOCKENBERRY: As always with UFOs, the question remains, how do you prove that they exist, or to ask it a little differently, how do you prove that they don't? Questions raised by tomorrow's two hour NBC special Confirmation: the Hard Evidence of Aliens Among Us?

Joining me now are several of the experts from that program. In Boston, Dr. John Mack, the Harvard psychiatrist who has studied abductees and believes their stories. In San Antonio, Texas, best-selling author Whitley Strieber who claims he was abducted by aliens in 1985, and whose book is the basis for tomorrow night's program, solidly broadcast in sweeps. In Buffalo, Joe Nickell of the Skeptical Inquirer magazine joins us; Joe, the name says it all. Joe and I have talked before. And here with me in New York is UFO researcher Budd Hopkins.

Good evening everyone, thanks for joining us tonight. Mr. Strieber first of all, do you actually have that implant still in your head?

Guest: Whitley StrieberWHITLEY STRIEBER: Well I've got something in my ear that has…gonna be pretty hard to explain. There was an effort made to take it out in October and it was fixed very tightly in a certain part of my ear. The doctor assumed it was a cyst. But when he touched it with a scalpel, it moved about an inch and a half to another part of my ear.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: And you are convinced this is an alien implant in your ear?

WHITLEY STRIEBER: Nah, I don't know what it is. All I can tell you about it is that when he nicked a part of it off as it moved away, we took that to a biology laboratory and they found that it was basically made of collagen but filled with tiny microscopic crystals which they believe were of calcium carbonate, but they didn't have enough to be sure. So far, we haven't been able to come up with a disease that would explain it's existence.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Well before we conclude that it was an alien implant, and I understand you have not concluded that…


JOHN HOCKENBERRY: …tell me the story about what you believe to have been an alien abduction, and what exactly happened to you, how did it feel and how did it leave you?

WHITLEY STRIEBER: Well, this happened in 1985. I was a writer then, I had written some very imaginative novels, horror novels, and gone off that and was writing, had just finished a book about the environment, when I woke up in the middle of the night, it was a lot of noise, and I opened my eyes and I found myself in this absurd situation with all these strange little creatures around me. It seemed like a nightmare, the problem was I couldn't wake up again. I was, I screamed, I heard a mechanical voice saying, “What can we do to help you stop screaming?". It ended with them sticking a needle in the side of my head and me waking up the next morning in bed, and saying to my wife, “Uh, did you notice anything odd last night?” And she said no. And I thought, “Oh dear, I've lost it. It's a brain tumor, or a stroke or a psychotic break.” A short time later I went to the doctor and I took quite a number of tests without result. My brother had given me a book about close encounter experiences. I read it, and in it, it mentioned Budd Hopkins.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: He's my guest right here.

WHITLEY STRIEBER: Right. And I went to Budd and I told him my story and he said, “Well, it's an abduction.” And I didn't say that to him at the time, but I didn't know quite what to make of the whole thing. He introduced me to other people who'd had the same experience and for better or for worse, I could easily at that point have thought about jumping off of a bridge. It was a dreadful thing. It was more vivid than real life. Because it was so terrifying.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Alright, I want to get back to some of the details and some of the impressions that remain very much alive in your brain over that particular event, but Dr. John Mack, how do you conclude, listening to Mr. Strieber, and Mr. Hopkins here, that this is legitimate and not just some sort of fantasy, some sort of elaboration or maybe a bad dream?

Guest: Dr. John MackDR. JOHN MACK: I approach this whole matter as a clinician. And I began to see these so-called abductees in 1990, and I've seen two hundred or more in this country and in other countries around the world. And I evaluate what they say from a clinical standpoint, in other words, are these people that are of sound mind, are they talking about something with appropriate feeling? Do they have some other reason to be saying this? Is this the product of some sort of mental illness, does it sound like fantasy or dream? And in the great number of cases, the great percentage of cases that come to me, what the people are talking about sounds entirely like something that's really happened, except for one problem. Which is, that in our view of the world, these are not possible.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: So how do you explain that? Budd?

BUDD HOPKINS: How do I explain…

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: It's not possible, we don't actually have aliens here to invite onto the program to explain why they're abducting all these people, so how do we get from the point of “crazy story” to “you believe this is a pattern"?

Guest: Budd HopkinsBUDD HOPKINS: Ok, uh, the first thing is, is there any accompanying physical evidence that would suggest this was not just a crazy story. And just to give an example of the kind of thing that can happen, if somebody has an abduction experience that he remembers or she remembers, that person may be with five, six, seven, eight other people who remember the same thing in the same kind of detail. That's not common with mental conditions of any sort. Then let's say the people have described the thing landing outside a certain house where they were staying. We go outside and find the tree branches have been snapped off from the top down, as if something came straight down. The ground at the same time has been baked to a depth of five or six inches to an almost rock-like hardness in a big circle the same size as the object. You can then take soil and do all kinds of tests with it, to see if any known process could have effected that particular…

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: But, but, there may be no known process, but is that conclusive that this must have been aliens?

BUDD HOPKINS: Here's the point. The evidence I assure you is there. I never use the word proof. I didn't say, incidentally, to Whitley as it was said, “You had an abduction.” I never know for sure whether somebody had an abduction or not.


BUDD HOPKINS: No, I have not.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Would you like to?

BUDD HOPKINS: No, I certainly would not.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: You wouldn't like to?

BUDD HOPKINS: No. But this is the basic point. I don't use the word proof. I say that the evidence, when one looks into it, is massive. Physical evidence and evidence of every sort. This is going on. And proof is how much evidence it takes to persuade somebody that something's true. There are…fifteen percent of the American people I understand don't believe the Holocaust happened. Hasn't been “proved” to them.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Alright, let's look at this picture here. You brought this in, this is a picture of something you say that was on the body of an individual?


JOHN HOCKENBERRY: After an abduction?

BUDD HOPKINS: After a remembered abduction experience, yes.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Now I say, crazy tattoo. You say no?

BUDD HOPKINS: Well it was only there for about three weeks, then it was gone. Yeah. You have to look into each case on it's own terms. John, if this is going on, it's the biggest story in all of human history. Not to spend the time to look into it is maybe to really be whistling in the dark .

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Ok, Joe Nickell, how do you take the argument that this is the most important story and that we really need to spend more time studying it rather than less?

Guest: Joe NickellJOE NICKELL: Well John, I think we shouldn't dismiss it out of hand. It certainly is a remarkable story, and I've changed my view on it. I originally like a lot of people dismissed these reports as either crazy people or hoaxes. I now think that more likely an explanation is that people are having some type of fantasy experience. Whitley Strieber for example describes almost a perfect classic waking dream. That is, you wake up, and you think you're awake and you're still in a twilight zone between waking and sleeping. And people will insist, “Yes but I wasn't dreaming, it was real.” And that's an experience that in many of these cases we've seen, a classic description. “I woke up and I saw aliens.” And then in some cases I think the people are going under hypnosis, which I have described elsewhere on the NBC special as the Yellow Brick Road to fantasyland. Some people who are highly imaginative people can in fact imagine things and they seem very real to them and they can spin very elaborate fantasies.


DR. JOHN MACK: John, may I respond to that?

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Go right ahead.

DR. JOHN MACK: This doesn't operate like a fantasy at all. From a clinical standpoint a fantasy is a very personal, very individual matter. In this situation you have people all over this country and now increasingly we're getting reports from all over the world, that describe a highly detailed complex narrative of being in their bed at home, or being in a car, and then as Whitley described, there's a bright light, they are paralyzed, they are moved, floated as they say through a wall into a craft. It's a highly detailed description of what goes on there, and these descriptions are very similar from one person to another, they're not very individual, and there is nothing that suggests that this is something that they have made up. And what the details…

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Although doesn't the fact that all the stories are so similar suggest that they might have gotten it from the same source?

JOE NICKELL: John, you're exactly right. There's no doubt that people are well aware of these stories, they now know what the aliens are supposed to look like…


DR. JOHN MACK: No, wait, these stories - Wait a minute. Stop. These stories that Budd Hopkins is getting, that I'm getting, these were being told to us long before the media even had the beginning notion of the details of this narrative.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Alright Dr. Mack, hold onto that thought Dr. Mack, when we come back - we're going to take a short break - when we come back, more on who the aliens actually are and what they perhaps, at least according to these stories, might want from us. Don't go away.


J"...the big eyes is the part I would swear to."OHN HOCKENBERRY: Continuing now with our look at aliens and abductions. Here's what the interstellar beings allegedly look like, in tomorrow's NBC special Confirmation: the Evidence of Aliens Among Us?They seem almost familiar there. They're based on descriptions of people like Whitley Strieber here, who claim to have seen them. What I want to know is, why do the aliens always seem to look like this? Are they from the same planet, is this a species, have the movies created a stereotype? Whitley?

WHITLEY STRIEBER: Well you know what I remember, first of all, when this first happened to me in '85, I had been interested in UFOs when I was a little boy. I had not thought about this, I had never been aware of the alien side of it at all. So, what I saw were these big black eyes and long thin faces, and they were sort of slow and then very abrupt movements, like insects. But I'm telling you right now, it didn't feel like a dream at the time. So vivid.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Right, and it was these guys, it was these faces you saw, these big eyes and kind of thing?

WHITLEY STRIEBER: That's, that's…the big eyes is the part I would swear to. That's what I really remember.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Now here's a question. So they were poking at you, kind of moving you around and stuff. Did they appear to be more interested in like your foot or in your head or in your hand or your ear?

WHITLEY STRIEBER: No, no, they stuck a needle in the side of my head, and I said “You're going to ruin a beautiful mind” when they did that. And they did it anyway. It was devastating. I think, you know and it's true by the way what Budd Hopkins said, he did not say to me “You were abducted.” He handled it in a very kindly and supportive way, which is one of the reasons I got through the whole thing afterwards.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Ok, Dr. Mack, you said something very interesting before the break, that this is happening all over the world. I mean a lot of people in the United States have the impression that aliens only land in the USA, and probably only in New Mexico. Um, but this is a phenomenon all over the world?

DR. JOHN MACK: I can't say all over the world, I've worked with people in England, in France, in Germany, and Australia, in Brazil, in South Africa, among indigenous people, among Native Americans, among, with a Zulu man in South Africa. And apparently, something like this is occurring in many different countries. To discover whether it's going on all over the world we'd need people to meet with folks in many, many other countries.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: But it's not just trailer parks in, you know, in Nebraska, right?

DR. JOHN MACK: No, I mean that's one of the reasons that we were interested in trying to find out what was going on in other countries, because the argument could be made, “Well, this is some kind of high tech aerospace fantasy peculiar to America,” or other advanced technology countries. But it doesn't appear to be the case.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Budd, if you and I were aliens exploring interstellar space and we landed on a planet and we wanted to make contact of some sort, we'd set up a booth! I mean we'd say, “We are the humans, we are here!” We wouldn't be secretive about it. Why would…

WHITLEY STRIEBER: No, that's not true. That's wrong. I want to break in here…


WHITLEY STRIEBER: …because in 1977 in the science magazine Science, one of the prestigious journals of science…

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Quickly, quickly, we're going to go to a break.

WHITLEY STRIEBER: …there was an article about this. And the two scientists writing it said if aliens came here, almost inevitably, they would be extremely secretive if only because we would do the same thing if we went to another planet. [1]

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Alright. Alright, we have to take a short break here. When we continue, why are aliens visiting us in secret? Why don't they just come out and introduce themselves, and go on Oprah? That and more, right after this.


JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Back now, thinking about friends from other galaxies including some pictures you'll see again on tomorrow's NBC special. Take a look at this. Countless people in Phoenix saw these slow moving lights two years ago, and what they say was the V-shaped UFO that shined them. These pictures have never really been explained. The air force and the FAA reported no unusual activity that night, either extraterrestrial or terrestrial. So, what was it? You say of course, probably part of this pattern. Let me, cause this is a short break, Whitley, I want to ask you and Budd this question. I'm a perfectly normal regular guy with a TV show on cable, right? Let's say tomorrow I'm abducted. I have this experience that you've described, that Budd here knows about, that Dr. Mack knows about. What advice do you have for me to preserve my sanity and the rest of my career, if I want to tell people about this?

WHITLEY STRIEBER: To preserve the rest of your career, don't tell anyone about it.


WHITLEY STRIEBER: To preserve your sanity, go to a good, licensed professional who's willing to give you an ear. And talk to him. Budd put me in touch with a doctor who was just invaluable to me, Dr. Donald Klein, and you need that at a time like that.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Dr. Mack, are the stories that are told to you, do they cross sort of socioeconomic classes? Do you get people from various groups talking, and are certain groups more likely to talk than others?

DR. JOHN MACK: It seems to have a kind of democracy about it. There doesn't seem to be any particular group, color, socioeconomic group, country… I wanted to pick up something you said earlier, and caution against a certain kind of thinking when you were talking about “why don't they set up a booth?” There's a certain structure of thought that I think is not helpful with this, which goes like this: If the aliens are X, why don't they do Y? In other words, we apply our way of thinking. It's kind of like My Fair Lady, “why can't a woman be more like a man?” kind of thing. And I don't think we'll learn about that, with that kind of approach. Having said that, I think that when you work with somebody clinically, you enter the mystery of it. This is, we're looking at a mystery here, at a great mystery. We don't know where this comes from, we don't know its source. We can only try to have the honesty to look at it and move into it. When you do that with somebody, you say, like Budd was saying earlier, “it's not an abduction, I don't know what it is, but there's something happening, you're not crazy, let's look at it together, I know it's frightening, let's hold the fear together.” It goes, that goes a very, very long way.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: We've got Budd and Joe chomping at the bit here, Joe, go ahead. You haven't talked for awhile.

JOE NICKELL: Well John, I think that my advice to people would be to stay away from the abduction gurus, because they're fostering all of this. People have a waking dream, and instead of somebody telling them they were having a waking dream, the first thing you know they're in the hands of an amateur hypnotist who's telling them that they've been abducted. We've had phenomena like this for a long time. In the middle ages people woke up and had experiences of incubuses and succubuses. In the Victorian era, they woke up and saw ghosts standing by their bedsides. I've personally talked to people who've had waking dreams of vampires…

DR. JOHN MACK: Look, I don't want to be discourteous, but you're simply ignoring everything else that's been said in the way of evidence about this. The fact that the stories are consistent, the fact that there's physical evidence, the fact that clinically these people do not…


JOHN HOCKENBERRY: We're going to take one short break. Back in a moment with more on the prospect of alien abductions. Don't go away for our final segment. We'll be right back.


JOHN HOCKENBERRY: You know, in thinking about these alien abductions you wonder when the biology experiment is going to be done. Budd, in our final segment, can we say there's an abduction every three days? Every six days, every four months, every two seconds?

BUDD HOPKINS: I would guess that they're extremely frequent. Extremely frequent. I mean to say several a day is not, just based on my own experience…

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Several a day?

BUDD HOPKINS: It could happen. That's you know, around the country.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: It could happen, a lot could happen. I mean we've just been through the impeachment. Go ahead.

BUDD HOPKINS: But one thing I want to say about, this is apropos of Joe Nickell, what we need here is not ridicule, and not some sort of diatribe against this, but we need is investigation.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Alright, well we need to invite you back. Whitley, let me give you some of the final thoughts here, and I want to go to Joe before the end. Go ahead quickly.

WHITLEY STRIEBER: Alright. My last thought is this. We've received over 300,000 letters. Hypnosis is a non-issue. The vast majority of these people have not been hypnotized. And the fascinating reality about these letters is a very large minority, I can't say more than half, but around that, are multiple witness experiences, where more than one person has this happen at the same time. This is no ordinary experience and it's certainly not a waking dream.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Alright. Dr. Mack, will you come back if we do this again?

DR. JOHN MACK: Indeed.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Alright, Joe, final thoughts, quickly.

NICKELL: Uh John, I think just keep being skeptical, because skeptics are not being abducted.

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Alright. Unfortunately, we're out of time. Many thanks to Dr. John Mack, Whitley Strieber, Joe Nickell and Budd Hopkins.

[1]: T. B. H. Kuiper and Michael Morris, Searching for Extraterrestrial Civilizations, Science, April 1977

Hockenberry 16 February 1999
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