Whitley Strieber Rallies
UFO Faithful - Rails
Against 'Denial'
By Robert Scott Martin
Staff Writer
After being honored as "UFOlogist of the Year" at this year's National UFO Conference, horror novelist turned contactee Whitley Strieber took advantage of the spotlight to berate unbelievers and captivate an audience of UFO faithful.
Strieber, who rarely makes public appearances, accepted the commemorative plaque from conference chairman Jim Moseley on Saturday night. In particular, Moseley -- a veteran of a half-century in the UFO field -- praised Strieber's role in bringing UFO phenomena to a new generation of readers.
Strieber had earned the honor -- the highest and only award given out by the National UFO Conference, or NUFOC -- "for bringing the UFO enigma to the public awareness and expanding public understanding of the Gray aliens -- such as it is -- in a tremendously enhanced way," Moseley said.
Previous winners of the award, which is bestowed annually at the national conference, include such luminaries as J. Allan Hynek, Karl Pflock, John Keel and Jenny Randles.
Strieber received the praise with a mixture of gratitude toward the UFO community and rancor toward cultural forces that have abandoned the phenomena of flying saucers and alien abduction stories to the scientific ghetto.
He noted that the last such honor he had received was a Caldecott award in 1985, and that his career had swerved quite far from the "awards track" soon thereafter as he suffered the experiences that would later become the book Communion.
Describing the UFOlogical field as "rejected knowledge," he lulled a crowd of more than 200 people -- many of whom had come to the conference solely to see him, and had ignored other speakers -- with the nuanced vowels and punched delivery of his recent radio training with UFO-radio kingpin Art Bell, on whose syndicated "Dreamland" program he now serves as permanent guest host.
Rejected knowledge
"I am a missionary for rejected knowledge," he said. "Our interest marks us as a little less well-educated a little more primitive."
"I've gone beyond the edge. I've received 300,000 letters from people with similar experiences" of being contacted, abducted and manipulated by alien "visitors," he said. "Somebody's having a close encounter right now. Somebody's seeing a UFO right now, in this very area. Somebody's getting abducted."
Strieber likened the fact that these encounters rarely reach the media mainstream except as objects of derision to a society-wide act of "denial."
"We are a culture in denial," he told the spellbound housewives, retirees and teenagers who thronged the crowd. "There is no place to fit this in the socio-emotional construct (but) the silence is becoming a desperate one. Something's going on here."
The seminal abduction case
More than any UFO encounter in the last four decades, Strieber's experience with the uncanny visitors that lurk behind the impassive masks of the now-ubiquitous "Gray aliens" has transformed the way we think about aliens and flying saucers, what they are and what they want from us.
With his 1985 work Communion, Strieber began an increasingly hermetic literary journey into mythic autobiography, relating his UFO experiences -- often harrowing, grotesque or just plain inexplicable -- to an audience that multiplied with each best-selling volume.
Taken together, the books blend existing alien lore with new wrinkles of degradation and longing for the security of metaphysical truth to paint an epic canvas of the alien as capricious, dimension-traveling scientist-trickster, slipping into windows late at night to play with the monstrous toys of human lives.
The image of the alien abductor became one of the enduring myths of the already apocalyptic 1990s, and Strieber insists that it's all true.
"The French have what they consider incontrovertible evidence of something unknown in the atmosphere flying around," he told his San Antonio audience. "There's no question the United States keeps something secret about this. I think it's the biggest secret they're keeping, and it's something wrong."
Once again, he narrated the 1985 encounter with the alien that had at first caused him to doubt his sanity, then launched into a videotape presentation of evidence accumulated since then.
"Why Do We Deny It?"
The presentation, titled "Why Do We Deny It?", began with footage that may have looked almost commonplace to an audience hungry for the spectacle and bloodletting of one more alien autopsy, one more story of sexual experimentation from beyond.
A glowing sphere lopes across the night sky over Camarillo, CA, on Thanksgiving, 1998. With a long rigid projection fixed at a skewed angle and tipped with a smaller spherical projection, it is unlikely to be a weather balloon. It teases the camera, then explodes in a blast of flaming debris.
Space shuttle video taken aboard STS-80 in 1986 reveals a bright, comet-like flash leaping from the ground near Sao Paulo into space. Later, lights and flares dance in the sky over the Amazon during a thunderstorm. None of these phenomena, Strieber said, have been identified..
A will-o-the-wisp wanders through the streets of a Latin American city in a rooftop video allegedly taken by a 9-year-old boy. "Is this a flock of geese?" Strieber asked the crowd. "I always liked that explanation."
A glowing shape in the dark that Strieber said was an alien captured on film in someone's backyard turns, then hunches away from the camera..
In an urban medical facility, a doctor digs into an ear that Strieber identified as his own in search of an implant left there by persons unknown. The object retreats from the doctor's tools, forcing the attempt to remove it to end in failure and disbelief.
After this, there was nothing left but for the screen to go black. Whether we buy into Strieber's rather sketchily introduced "evidence" or not, it certainly made for good theater -- the audience clearly bought into the rhythm, flash and mystery of the presentation. The question of whether they were watching a tent-revival miracle or a reel of saucer porn seemed somehow beside the point.
Where It Ends Up
At the end, right before the fans rose up to share a few words with the primal abductee and perhaps get an autograph or see the implant scar, Strieber explained the structure of the film.
"It starts at a distance," he said, with the lights in the sky that simply float without connection to human beings or anything else -- this is their power and their chief allure.
Then, the camera pulls in closer and closer, into the streets and backyards and doctors' offices we know.
"Closer to you, because that's where this ends up," Strieber said, adding that it should come as no surprise that the aliens now seem fascinated with the inner workings of human bodies.
"If we went to another planet and found another intelligent species," he said, "what would be our highest level of interest? Us, unless there's a higher intelligence on this planet."
Hall of mirrors
That said, it's interesting that Strieber's tour from the cosmic to the personal -- perhaps unconsciously, perhaps deliberately -- mirrored the history of UFO contact in this century.
Like Strieber's aliens, the UFO story began with sightings from afar, fleeting glimpses of distant ships and glowing objects in the sky. In the 1940s and early 1950s, researchers paid little heed to stories of landings, and not even the Air Force would consider reports of abductions as valid cases.
Then, as the years wore on and the body of UFO literature grew, the saucers themselves receded to the background of the stories, to be replaced first by landings, then by sightings of the actual aliens themselves -- the proximity of our encounters narrowed as we became accustomed to the aliens (or they became bored with us).
In time, witnesses became bold enough to engage the aliens -- which we had previously only watched from behind trees and rocks -- in increasingly extensive conversation.
And then the reports of humans being brought aboard UFOs for experimentation or picked out for long-term manipulation began to gather momentum. Simultaneously, the "alien autopsy" ascended to glory as the most visceral evidence that we are not alone in the universe.
To sum up his opinion on the aliens' motivations for toying with humans in increasingly intimate ways, Strieber said the UFO entities were most likely trying to preserve the novelty of an encounter with another intelligent race -- humanity -- as long as possible.
"If aliens were to come to this planet, they would be extremely secretive," he said. "Any race with the power to travel on such a scale would of necessity be completely knowledgeable. They would be searching the cosmos for the new, and the newest experience imaginable would be that provided by other intelligence."
No matter what the aliens are -- social constructs of millennial angst, uncanny visitors from elsewhere, extraterrestrials -- our relationship works both ways.
Who is experimenting on whom? Who is growing bored with whom?