An "Interview" with Whitley Strieber

by Mac Tonnies

The following is a mildly shortened and edited version of a series of questions I asked author Whitley Strieber via a BBS he maintained briefly. His goal was to provide a forum to answer as many questions with his readers as possible. Of course, he was inundated with questions and discussions of all sorts and had to abandon the "Ask Whitley" forum.

Strieber is probably the most notable personality to emerge from the UFO culture since the famed abduction of Betty and Barney Hill. He's documented his experiences in several successful books, beginning with "Communion," which became a number-one bestseller. Strieber's weird accounts of contacts with nonhuman intelligences (he's reluctant to call them "aliens" until he can better understand the nature of his experiences) are perplexing and fairly unique among the abduction literature. His humility and willingness to question the apparent reality of his visitations were traits lacking in the "contactees" of the 1950s, who more or less divulged the secrets of the universe to anyone willing to listen.

The responses here cast an interesting light on his nonfiction. I was impressed with the quickness and sincerity of his replies.

Note: Strieber's replies are in boldface.

I was able to see author William S. Burroughs in Lawrence, KS this weekend and I asked him about the significance of the ship Marie Celeste, which was apparently found devoid of passengers. This is a recurring motif in Burroughs' art and writing. I'm aware that Burroughs stayed at your cabin once, hoping to "make contact." What was the experience like? Did either of you gain any new understandings of the phenomenon? (Specifically, do you think the Celeste's crew was "abducted"?)

Anne and Andrew and I had dinner with Burroughs in September, and we're going to try to make the celebration in Lawrence for him on Nov 26th. Never asked him the Marie Celeste question. How did he reply? He didn't see the visitors at our cabin, but one of the people with him had an unusual experience of some sort, but I don't recall what it was. Not real big. I think the world of William. He is a man who has been willing to walk the edge so that the rest of us can see how it's done.

"Communion" and "Transformation" dealt significantly with short, uniformed entities with dark blue skin and wide faces. This is hardly the stereotypical "alien," and references to the blue entities seem to fall off in "Breakthrough." Are the "blue doctors" still a component of your interaction with the visitors?

Also, how common are other people's reports of similar entities? From my own reading, your books seem to be unique in their depiction of them.

One more question: How accurately were the blue entities depicted in the film version of "Communion"?

Actually, they were pretty accurate. But I never saw them as clearly as they were depicted in the film. I don't believe that I've seen anything like that since about 1989. They are mentioned from time to time in letters, so my experience with them wasn't totally unique.

Some of the most intriguing commentary you've made about the visitors is featured in Ed Conroy's interview with you in "Report on Communion." How do you feel now about the possibility that the visitors are the product of some sort of neotany?

I'd also love to know your reactions to the "SOM1-01" operations manual featured in Stan Friedman's new book. Are the reports on alien anatomy consistent with your own encounters? (I was especially interested in the alleged "Type 1" entity, which is more or less human.) Could these be the visitors able to sometimes "walk among us," assuming that they do (i.e. Mr. Lee's bookstore encounter)?

Bruce Lee's bookstore encounter was NOT with humanoids at all. These were people like on the cover of the book, wrapped up in scarves and hats! And Bruce was NOT having me on. I have seen humans working with the visitors more than once, and people who looked human but had a very different affect. Also, regarding the "diving suit" situation: the things I saw at Dora's old place in Boulder that appeared to come alive were so strange that it is beyond my ability to characterize them at all, except it appeared to me that they were like artificial bodies that souls could inhabit at times. But what does that mean? Just that this is how my mind chose to address something that is quite probably beyond explanation.

How has the visitor experience influenced your horror writing? I found "The Forbidden Zone" uniquely harrowing and wonder if some of the otherwordly imagery stems from actual experience or personal understanding.

"The Wolfen" are the Grays. "The Hunger" are the blonds. "The Night Church" is the secret human society that mediates between the rest of us and outside intelligences. "Black Magic" is government mind control experimentation. "Catmagic" is the facing of death that starts the encounter experience, and an interpretation of the visitors in terms of fairy lore. "The Forbidden Zone" is a deep fear that they represent something from deep in unknown time, and that secret government fiddling has unleashed them on us.

To make a long story short: the way I work out my fears is in the fiction. The results of that work go into the books of fact.

(Until "Forbidden Zone," I was not conscious of this process.)

It seems as if a lot of the vistitors' [abilities] can be accounted for if they have been able to truly manipulate consciousness through technology. For example, light-speed travel could be accomplished by "faxing" a person's "soul" through space, where it could merge with a receptive physical body (kind of like telepresence, through which scientists hope to explore dangerous planetary environments).

"Postbiological" technologies like this seem to correspond to some of the visitors' apparent abilities. What you perceived as "artificial bodies" for instance, might have been exactly that.

If you haven't researched transhumanism, there are some fascinating articles on the Web I'm sure would interest you.

Sounds fascinating. Drop the link in. I'd love to take a look.

Are you aware of the research by Dr. Michael Persinger of Laurentian University? He's been able to duplicate the archetypical CE-like experience by exposing the brain to computer-controlled electromagnetic fields. Researcher and author Albert Budden wrote an excellent book expounding on Persinger's theories ("UFOs: Psychic Close Encounters--The Electromagnetic Indictment").

I'd appreciate your thoughts on this controversial interpretation of the "visitor experience."

He has been able to create a very limited version of the experience, from what I hear from one of his subjects, but not having undergone the process myself, I can't rea1lly compare it. However, I am very open to the possibility that this isn't alien contact. More than willing to see another explanation, if it is a true one.

[You] and other experiencers report aliens walking through physical structures such as walls and doors. In an interview with Ed Conroy, [you] mention the possibilty that humans may be able to duplicate the visitors' remarkable feats given enough technological progression. Betty Hill's desription of amniocentesis is often cited as an example of the visitors' apparent high technology.

Recent theoretical work suggests that even walking through walls can eventually be accomplished using earthly technologies. "Nanotechnology," the applied science of restructuring matter on the molecular/atomic level, offers one explanation for the visitors' reported ability to become "immune" to matter.

You wrote "'Nanotechnology,' the applied science of restructuring matter on the molecular/atomic level..." The visitors said to a witness back in 1985: "We rearrange atoms." So maybe we are damn well on the right track, here! Thanks for this neat post!

Evolution on a planet with high gravity isn't conistent with the frail, spindly limbs often described by abductees. Of course, no one really knows exactly what a gray's musculature is like. I think it's likely that they're more insect-like than mammalian, more machine-like than human.

Machine like: there is a machine-like quality to every physical sound or voice I have ever heard in my experience, and not just from the grays. They have all been like that. Once a man (human-looking but small) stood behind me for fifteen minutes and breathed during all that time without a single variation. Like a machine. And the "nine knocks" were delivered with a perfection of spacing that was actually startling.

Do you think the visitors employ projections or "holograms" in their interactions with people? If their communication is symbolic, as your own experience suggests, maybe elaborate simulations of some sort would be the best way to accomplish this.

There isn't really any way to know this right now. However, from what we are learning about implants, I feel that we may get a better idea of their method of communication soon.

What was the general reaction among your friends after "Communion" was published? Did you encounter any hostility/apathy or was your account taken in stride?

Shallow people left, deep people stayed. I lost no childhood friends, a lot of social friends, gained many new and wonderful friends, friends I consider holy people, because they are struggling down the abduction road, just like you and me.

The assumption that the visitors are "lifting" cigarettes doesn't imply that they're taking anything else, like food. In my opinion, their apparent activities are staged for the benefit of the witness. It's likely that their seeming preoccupation with earthly fixations is projected, and might not even have anything to do with material objects, per se. I think more in terms of holograms or induced perceptions.

I halfway suspect that they smoke. I've gotten dozens of letters from people who smell cigarette smoke when they are around. If they do smoke, it is going to freak a lot of people out totally, including me. Can you imagine finally getting to go to the mothership and discovering that the place is full of cigarette smoke? That they smoke like coneheads and they don't care about cancer? It's a nightmare, I must admit. And surely only that!

"Breakthrough" deals with small entities that don't fit the common perception of "alien vistors" (i.e. "Grays," whom you've also dealt with). For example, you referred to a smallish humanoid standing in front of you for fifteen minutes and breathing mechanically.

What is the relationship between the "bug-eyed" entities and the more human- like creatures you've described? Have you seen them interact/communicate? Are the "little men" somehow more suitable for interacting with humans on a physical basis?

The men seemed more human and interacted with me in a manner that was more comprehensible. However, I believe that the mechanical breathing was one of them, although I never saw him. God only knows what they all are, frankly.

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