A Response to Critics
Originally contributed to the MUFON UFO Journal, No. 242, JUNE 1988
I am writing in part in response to your brief mention in the March issue of the interview I did with Twilight Zone magazine and in part to react to my critics within the UFO community.
First, I think that we all have to accept that there will be subtle debunking efforts like the TZ piece. By adroit editing and the liberal use of exclamation points the interviewer made me seem as off the wall as possible. I was not given the chance to see the interview beforehand, and every effort was expended on distorting my rather mild statements as much as possible.
There are things about the TZ interview that bear comment. In it I stated that I don't necessarily think I was abducted aboard a spacecraft by extraterrestrials ... Omitted was the phrase, but I'd be very surprised if I wasn't. The sentence "Something else may have happened — I'm not sure what" should have read "Something else may have happened, but if it did I'm not sure what it could have been."
I do not know exactly what the interviewer had on tape. The fact remains that he did not extend to me the courtesy that was promised, which was a chance to correct the transcription. Since he was at that time a friend, I did not speak into the tape recorder with my usual care. I assumed that I was getting another crack at the typescript.
If anybody cares what I really think, read the interview in the latest issue of UFO (formerly California UFO) It is definitive.
There is a terrific strain in my relationship with the UFO community, and I don't wish to make any secret of it. I am still contributing to the Fund for UFO Research, primarily because of my respect for Bruce Maccabee, but my relationships with many UFO researchers are not good. This is why:
1. Too many UFO researchers believe the Budd Hopkins abduction scenario, assuming it to be holy writ. It is quite possibly part of what is happening, but it isn't the whole story. I have received literally thousands of narratives from people who have never been hypnotized and never been near a UFO researcher. If even a small percentage of their stories are true, then the Hopkins scenario cannot be the whole answer. I suspect that it is deeply distorted but I cannot yet prove that.
2. There seems to be a real desire for the phenomenon to be a visit from another planet by nuts-and-bolts craft piloted by people pretty much like us, just less emotional, smarter and meaner. (Is that possible??) That isn't satisfactory to me. Something much more complex is happening.
3. There are a large number of researchers out there hypnotizing people. But these researchers have no mental health credentials. That worries me. What's worse, they mostly seem to believe the Hopkins scenario, which is very frightening. I believe that much abduction research is actually unintentional brainwashing and accidental imposition of narratives on hypnosis. Its effect is to leave already troubled people in much worse shape. I feel that it's only a matter of time before somebody is hurt, either driven psychotic or to suicide, and I feel that is very unfortunate.
4. Running through the community there is a real undercurrent of jealous hatred of me that I find frightening but not surprising. It emerges out of the inescapable fact that many people have spent their lives at this, and I have come along and in a few months made more money than they have ever dreamed of while in the process of stealing their thunder. This is the truth, and I don't know of anything I can do to make them feel better.
5. There is also a lot of fear that I will discredit the carefully constructed reputation of the abductees as a sober lot telling a consistent and
believable story. I may indeed do this. I intend to report my perceptions accurately and my frequent befuddlement and confusion with total candor. I am not interested in whether or not I am believed. I am interested in telling the truth as best I can.
People are also going to have to realize that I am a highly imaginative person, and that the combination of this fact plus the extraordinary strangeness of what is happening to me means that I am bound to distort my perceptions from time to time.
I feel that it is my responsibility to tell the truth as best I can, even if I must admit to a lot of confusion about my past and a lot of unsureness about what is really happening during visitor encounters in the present. There is confusion. Inevitably.
I am also a very acute observer, so the distortions may not be all that great. As a matter of fact, I suspect that the believable, understandable, neatly constructed narrative of the typical abduction scenario emerging out of UFO researchers' hypnosis efforts is more distorted than the stranger tales. It seems to me that it is more a reflection of the expectations of researchers and subjects than of reality.
There has been a great deal of Strieber bashing in the past year. I would ask people to reflect on the service I performed in publishing Communion before they vent their frustrations on me. I did not steal my success, I earned it, and have the right to be treated with respect. My book did more for the cause of the UFO community than anything that has happened in the past quarter century.
As far as the accuracy and veracity of my story are concerned, I would direct readers to look at the illustration of the bedroom visitor from the Gulf Breeze case that appears on page 8 of the March, 1988 MUFON Journal, and then read the description of the first visitor I saw on the night of December 26, 1985. It is obvious that Ed and I saw the same thing. It is also noteworthy that both Ed and I were armed at the time we saw the shielded visitors. He also reported an odor with a cinnamon undertone connected with the visitors, as did his wife. I also smelled this smell when I was taken.
Ed has reported that he knew almost nothing about Communion when he had his experience. The interactions he has described with the visitors (the pictures they have shown him in his mind) represent to me a coherent communication. I understand the meaning of what he was shown. I doubt that I will ever be able to communicate my understanding to him. Unless he does understand correctly, it would surprise me to see his experience deepen. And the chance for face-to-face contact and confirmation that is obviously there will be lost.
It is sad that he will inevitably be exposed to abduction researchers who will hypnotize him into believing some version of the typical abduction scenario. And the truth of what is happening will be lost in an artificially constructed narrative, which may or may not have any relationship to reality.
The UFO community might be on the right track. But there has been a failure both of objectivity and observation. Things are stranger than you
realize, or want to believe. Stranger, more terrible ... also more beautiful.
© 1988 Whitley Strieber