Q&A: Strieber Sounds Off
UFO Magazine, Sept/Oct 1993, Vol. 8, No. 5
by Sean Casteel

Three years after closing down his abductee support group called Communion Foundation and beginning his self-imposed exile from the UFO community, the immensely popular fiction novelist talked to UFO about his feelings in regard to ufologists and abduction investigators, as well as his continuing daily struggle with the encounter experience. Strieber is particularly upset about the discrimination he claims he has suffered since the publication of his number-one best-seller, Communion, in 1987, a supposedly non-fiction account of his own alien abduction experiences. What he has to say on all these subjects follows in a UFO exclusive.


Q What are your hopes for your new novel, The Forbidden Zone?

None at all. I never really think about it. People will read it, I would think. My hopes for it are finished in the sense that I have done it. I've done the best I could, so that's that. I guess when I started writing it, maybe I hoped it would be different than it was, but it just turned out the way it is.

Q Are your abduction experiences also an influence on this novel, like you said they were with earlier novels like The Wolfen and The Hunger?

I think that when they were subliminal, they were more of an influence on me they are now. And the reason for that is that I'm pretty much in control of those memories now. So when they come into my work, it's intentional. In the past, when it wasn't maybe in some senses it was more revealing. It's interesting to me that I wrote so many things in the past - for instance, the wolfen, the way they're described in the book and the way they act, seem to fit sort of one's impres- sion of this so-called abduction experience. And in the next one, The Hunger, there seems to be another sort of “being” involved, similar to the so-called blondes. I've never really been able to believe that they were all that sweet.

Q The “Nordics,” you mean?

Yeah, whatever they call them. I've never encountered anything in my whole experience that was pleasant or angelic in any way. It's always been very difficult and very scary and, as often as not, dangerous. I've made it into a transformative experience for myself because I had to. Because I had nothing else to do. There's nothing that can be done about it. It's just there. You can't stop it, you can't start it, you can't control it. So, either you make something out of it for yourself, or you let it drive you crazy. Those are really your only choices. I choose not to be driven crazy. But it's not an easy experience and it's not a pleasant experience. I guess that's why I'm a horror novelist.

Q Because of the unhappiness you've been subject to?

The pressure. I wouldn't even describe it as unhappiness, because it's too interesting an experience. But the pressure that you live under is tremendous. I've had this in my life all the time now for seven years. It has not gone away. It has not gotten less. In fact, it's gotten bigger and more complicated. I had the Visitors with me for six days last summer, and it was really hard. I came out of it, and I'm surprised I did come out of it. Very, very difficult. I don't talk about it publicly now, and I won't say anything about what happened to me, because it's useless. It's a waste of time. It only adds to the emotional burden. The so-called UFO investigators do nothing but hurt. They don't help.

Q You said in your final Communion Foundation newsletter that “the so-called ufologists are probably the cruellest, nastiest, craziest people I have ever encountered.”

That was my perception of them, yes. And as a group. I'm not saying, “Oh, there was only one or two people.” As a group. Because I have a file about eight inches thick of statements made about me, false quotations - there's even audiotapes that have been made with somebody. It's very scratchy, but they sound like my voice. Enough like my voice to pass, I guess. I've heard them. They're insane. They're absolutely appalling. They were made for the purpose of destroying my credibility and making me seem to be a madman. They've been passed around privately in the UFO community for years. They're fallacious. I never said any of these things. I never made the tapes. I never even spoke to the people who I'm alleged to have spoken to on the tapes! That kind of thing is sick.
     And what's sickest is that no one in the community who has heard these tapes has ever called me up and asked me whether or not it was true. They've all assumed that anything they hear must be true. And that's absolutely false thinking. That opens people up to being deceived. And I think the way the community responded to me was just dreadful, horrible. What wasn't absolutely designed to hurt me and make me feel bad about myself and to weaken the minds of me and everybody else who's ever had this experience was simply wrongheaded. So, if it wasn't culpably wrong, it was wrongheaded.

Q Don't you think ufologists are providing at least some decent research and support regarding the abduction phenomenon?

There are very few people even peripherally associated with the UFO community and with the so-called investigators, most of whom are rank amateurs at what they do and show it, who ever said or did anything reasonably sensible about the abduction experience or did anythmg positive to help the people who've had these experiences. Certainly (this applies to) these people running around hypnotizing people into believing they've been involved in this highly structured sort of “alien scientists” deal, where they've been taken in the little ship and put on a table and diddled with by what I would think by now must be incredibly stupid aliens who've been allegedly doing this same abduction thing for 25 years.
People who hypnotize people into believing that experience cause 99 percent of what actually happens to just be hidden behind a screen of false memories. And the person never even begins to get a hold of it. This thing that's happening to us - I don't even buy into the idea this is necessarily abduction by aliens, by the way - is hard and it's awful. It needs to be worked through very carefully by skilled, open-minded professionals. By that, I mean psychiatrists and psychologists, (who can) help a person cope with this.
     The frank truth is, there isn't anybody to do that. There are no professionals who know what they're doing. God knows, I've talked to dozens and dozens of them. And the psychologists and the psychiatrists, with few exceptions, are not even really trying.
     The UFO investigators are way off. I mean, hypnotizing people into believing they've been abducted by alien scientists who are interested in stealing genetic material is stupid. There's no evidence of that. There's only anecdotal evidence, and the anecdotes come from a self-verifying circle of so-called (hypnotically-retrieved) memories which probably aren't memories at all. Without any direct evidence of that kind of thing, it's a fantasy to believe it has anything to do with reality at all. The whole thing is a fantasy.

Q At this point in your life, do you think the abduction experiences you went through conceivably could work out to be a positive experience? I remember that was your initial determination.

Well, I had to, because if I hadn't thought that in the beginning, I certainly would have blown my brains out. There's no question about that at all. And if I had not made myself find something about my experience that could be made into a positive thing, I couldn't have lived. it would have meant I was living in hell, and there was no escape from it. First of all, there's nothing to be done to stop this experience. The social structures that surround it, by which I mean the UFO community, insure that the people in it will never get the advantage of having legitimate science look into it and see what's really happening. Meaning that it is, in effect, incurable. And totally misunderstood. Having had this experience and declared yourself as having had it means that you will spend the rest of your life being discriminated against just like a black in the South in 1925. I am just as discriminated against. My civil rights and my personal rights are as consistently abused as if I didn't have them. I'm treated like a madman was treated in the 18th century.
     My son, for example, was so discriminated against in the school he went to by the teachers and the administration, even though he's an honor shtdent, that we had to finally move him to another school where they don't realize who I am. The discrimination I experience is really just across the board. From the literary community, where I used to be a member - now I'm not even welcome at meetings. My life has been threatened half a dozen times since I wrote Communion. My family has been threatened. Things have been sabotaged. Oil was poured down our wells up in our little country house. We had to move finally from our cabin to another house because the cabin had become the focus of things like - we'd wake up in the morning and find a man just standing out in the road with a rifle in his hands. Not doing anything but just standing out there. That kind of threat was constant. But appeals I've made to writer's organizations have gone completely unanswered. No one cares. I will say that when there's been police involvement, it's all been very professional.

Q Is there anything else you want to add?

Well, this is the first time I've touched the UFO community at all in years. And I'll be very interested to see what happens this time. I've had so much of this experience and such an intimate involvement with it all and so many really extraordinary things have happened in the past six years. I really have a very thorough knowledge of what has actually happened with the government, for example. But it's fascinating to read the “UFO” speculations about that. And they never mention the names of the true companies that are really involved in it. They don't know the names of the people who run the thing. And they've always been going down the wrong trails in that area.
     With regard to experiences, I think that if I wasn't such an enemy of that community, in such an adversarial relationship with that community, so afflicted by so mwch lying and so much confusion, my experiences could be very useful in illuminating the problem. With Communion I have actually elevated and increased people's ability to handle this experience tremendously all over the world.
     You should see some of the thousands and thousands of letters we get. Nearly a thousand letters a month, from people who have been enriched by the book and whose encounter experiences are richer because of what have read in that book. The rest of the UFO community has never accomplished anything like that. And I feel that I should be treated with, first of all, more respect, and second, taken more seriously by the community. Instead of these stupid mind games they played with me. The community as a group must learn to respond to me in a more meaningful and sensible way. I don't expect a continuity of reaction. There should be a lot of diversity. But it shouldn't be based on lies, innuendo, rumors, and in many cases, purposely incorrect interpretations of what I say.

Q Such as?

Most specifically, to characterize (the attitudes) as either black or white. “Strieber believes the aliens are good, and Budd Hopkins believes they're evil.” That kind of thing is so moronic. Both of us are struggling with this and are having a tremendous amount of difficulty in different ways. We don't have the same take on it. But he's struggling just as much as I am. I've seen him just I as misinterpreted as I've been.
     This is the most complex experience that anyone has ever had. The totality of the encounter experience is incredibly complex. It is shaded with dozens of different layers of meaning. To try to make it into something black or white and to divide people according to this black or white issue about whether or not the so-called aliens are good or bad is to fail to even begin to see what's going on. So, as far as I'm concerned, the UFO community, which revolves around this black or white interpretation, literally has no idea of what's going on. They haven't even begun. The true encounter experience is a form of rape, basically. And I think because there is no viable cultural infrastructure to support the people it happens to and to control the ones who are doing it, (abductees) have to help themselves and make it into a transformative experience. Just as if a woman was raped and is just laughed at by her friends and family. That happens. She ends up in the same situation I was in. Two choices. Either she makes the rape encounter into something she can live with, she makes it something that strengthens her soul, or she falls into despair. I did both.

Q How did you cope with that?

I went through three years, from middle 1989 to the middle of last year, where I was so deeply depressed that nothing, no drug that the psychiatrist tried on me, nothing, would get me out of it. I was almost inert. Really, terribly depressed. Then I had a Visitor encounter which was as usual unspeakably terrifying. You know, encountering them in a slightly dreamlike state for three seconds or three minutes is bad enough. But when you are face to face with them alone and it's not a dream and you're wide awake and you're wearing your clothes and you see them the way they really look, you cannot imagine how terrible it is. I've come away from this experience convinced of one thing: if there aren't demons out there, there might as well be. Because these guys are indistinguishable from demons. Indistinguishable. To see them, to look into their eyes, is to be less. Forever. It hurts you, it takes from you, forever. Because then you know that it exists. And that makes you less. And then you have to try somehow to build on the scar tissue. Just like the lady who's raped and laughed at. Build on the scar tissue. That's all you can do.
     This society is monstrously inhumane to people who have the encounter experience. The number of us who are so spiritually superb as Betty Luca, who can really make this encounter fly, is tiny. Most of us are down here in the muck struggling with it. That's why Betty was such an inspiration to me. When I was at the depths of my depression, one of the things I did was read Betty's interviews and listen to her tapes, just to hear the sound of her voice when she was talking. I would I look at the drawings she sent me. and it helped me a lot. Betty's experiences are the thing you grab onto while you are sinking.
     I want to tell you about one experience. I want people to know something about what happens to me, about what I live with, what's going on. This is not the worst experience. It isn't nearly the worst experience. But it is certainly way up there in terms of off the wall. This is about three or four years ago. Driving along Route 17, which is a big, populated strip of shopping malls in New Jersey. Taking a kid to meet his father at a diner, and then the kid's going to get taken on into New York City, bringing him back from the country. So, I've got a 12-year-old in my car. We get to a divided highway and in the direction we're going in, the diner's on the other side of the road. So you have to cross the highway on an overpass to get to the diner. We get to the overpass, and I can see his father's truck is sitting there at the diner, I can see his father is actually standing beside the tnuck, although as it turned out he didn't see us, which was forhunate.
     We go off the exit to the overpass. Suddenly, the boy screams. And he screams for a very good reason. Because we are all of a sudden in this vehicle - we're in another world. We're no longer on Route 17. We're no longer beside the shopping mall. Instead, we're on a long, almost totally empty concrete highway. Pristine. Beautiful, with thick woods all around it. With no shuddering, no feeling of change; just suddenly, that's where we are. He screams when he sees this change. And for fully 20, 30 seconds, we're yelling back and trying to figure out where we are. We come to an exit on the highway. I take the exit. And as soon as I get off the highway I begin to realize something terrible has happpened, We slow down. The boy tries to jump out of the car, and I grab him. I stop the car and calm him down. I tell him we're going to find our way back.
     We go off into this neighborhood and there are wide, incredibly quiet streets, the sun is shining, there are lots of trees and very green foliage. It's like a very expensive neighborhood would be, only the houses are all very similar. They look like they're made of sandstone; they're tan. They have no roof, they're just flat. They have no windows. And they have carved in the sandstone elaborate serpentine reliefs. They look utterly unlike houses I've ever seen in this world. And yet we are there, the two of us, in a jeep. And what's most appalling, and what makes me sick to my stomach with fear, is that I have another man's child with me. How am I going to get this child back out?
     There's never a question as to whether or not we're seeing the real world. It is entirely indistinguishable from the real world. We both see it independently. We both initiated our observing it independently. I make a couple of other turns, just at random. What I was actually trying to do was find the highway again.
     Then I see what looks like, sort of in the foliage, an entrance ramp. I take that ramp, and just as suddenly as we got into the thing, we're on another road. Twenty miles from where we were a few seconds before. So I have to drive back the 20 miles to the diner. I give the boy to his father and say good-bye. The boy of course immediately tells his father the whole story. They spend the rest of the afternoon searching for this mysterious road, and they never have found it.
     About two weeks later I go back and look for it. Alone, I might add. I never find it. We've never seen it again. That's the sort of thing that happens to me fairly frequently. That's what I live with. In other words, I live in a situation where I don't just suspect that what we perceive as reality is not real. I know it for certain. This is not real. This is something that looks real, that seems real, but it's only part of the story. ~

Q&A: Strieber Sounds Off
© 1993 UFO Magazine