Date: Tue Apr 26 1994 19:34:00 To: All Subj: Mack Hoaxed, Criticized UFO - E.T., phone Har

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Date: Tue Apr 26 1994 19:34:00 From: Sheppard Gordon To: All Subj: Mack Hoaxed, Criticized UFO ------------------------------- E.T., phone Harvard: Dr. John Mack could use the help as critics rip his research on alien abductions 04/21/94 THE BOSTON GLOBE CAMBRIDGE -- The big Mack attack has just begun. And no one has heard from the little people yet. The aliens, that is. "Abduction," the much-publicized book by Harvard psychiatrist John Mack about extraterrestrial visitations, had barely touched down in bookstores this week before it came under heavy groundfire from critics of both Mack's methodology and his UFO-friendly mindset. Time magazine fired the loudest shot in a report that one "experiencer" on whom Mack practiced hypnotic regression therapy, Donna Bassett, says she faked tales of her encounters with space aliens -- and that Mack not only believed the stories but also failed to obtain consent forms from his research subjects. Mack has seen or treated more than 100 abductees since 1991, most of whom say they are victims of sexual or genetic experimentation by their captors. "Abduction" contains detailed case studies on 13 of those patients. Bassett also charges Mack with billing insurance companies improperly for therapy sessions that were actually research. Furthermore, the Time story, written by veteran investigative reporter James Willwerth, suggests that Mack's work is riddled with scientific improprieties, including supplying patients with accounts of other abduction experiences before hypnotizing them. For Mack, a tenured Harvard professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, these attacks on his credibility have hit a raw nerve. Mack is in the launch phase of an all-out publicity blitzkrieg ("Oprah" "48 Hours," People, Larry King) that includes network TV interviews with several of his research subjects. These people are clearly emotionally and psychologically vulnerable, whatever the underlying cause might be. And so, to a degree, is Mack, whose credentials far outweigh those of any previous investigator publicly aligned with the abduction-recovery movement. Yes, Mack says, he anticipated the mainstream media would have difficulty swallowing his conclusion that these abduction reports are reality-based. Skeptical criticism of his work is to be expected, he says, even welcomed. Moreover, Mack harbors few illusions that anyone hung up on Western scientific rationalism will cede much ground to him in this debate. Mack himself calls abductions a "great mystery" that defy proof, one way or another. Or logic. Only reluctantly did he come to believe in them himself, Mack says. But this latest flurry hits below the professional belt, the clinician contends. "Why do they pick the most destructive part of the story and focus on that? " Mack asks. "One or two disaffected persons come forward. Why don't they look into her background? It surprises me they {Time} would go so far to discredit me when they claim to be seriously interested in the phenomenon." Mack insists he is bound by doctor-patient confidentiality not to discuss in any detail his work with Bassett, a researcher now living in North Carolina. He will say, however, that he dealt with Bassett "in good faith" and that if he gave her any UFO-related articles to read, it was only to satisfy her own curiosity about the abduction experience. "People can be angry for all sorts of reasons," he maintains. "I doubt the writer checked out her background." Mack also says that while he did bill third-party insurers for some therapy sessions, he kept none of the money for himself. The total amount, he says, which he estimates to be between $2,000 and $3,000, went to a now-defunct support group known as Group for Research and Aid to Last year, Mack founded The Program for Extraordinary Experience Research (PEER) to oversee his abduction research. PEER in turn is overseen by, and funded through, the Center for Psychology and Social Change, a nonprofit organization co-founded by Mack in 1983 to facilitate scholarly research into topics such as human psychology and the nuclear arms race. According to Karen Wesolowski of PEER, billing and consent procedures changed once Mack stopped treating incoming abductees as private psychiatric patients. At that point, she says, PEER mailed out consent forms to all of Mack's abductee patients, current and former. Most, though not all, signed the forms, she maintains. Meanwhile, Mack stopped billing insurers in order to be "absolutely scrupulous" about the clinical division between research and therapy. As for his methodology, Mack calls it "very legitimate" to raise questions about how he has gone about recovering memories of alien encounters. In "Helping Abductees," a 1992 article in the International UFO Reporter, Mack noted that he "had little training in hypnosis as a psychiatric resident and had virtually to teach myself." He credits pioneering investigator Budd Hopkins with helping him refine his techniques. Hopkins, a visual artist, has written two popular books on the abduction phenomenon, "Missing Time" and "Intruders." On numerous occasions, Mack continues, sitting in his cramped office located behind Cambridge Hospital, other therapists and researchers have been present to observe -- and validate -- the relived trauma that subjects experience under hypnosis. Tapes of these sessions leave little doubt that their emotional suffering is real, not invented. "It's conceivable somebody could dupe me, of course," Mack says, referring to Bassett, "but I've had a lot of clinical experience. And this {Time} article says I'm damaging people. Where is the evidence for that?" Furthermore, he asks, "How could I possibly keep everybody happy? There are bound to be one or two disaffected people. That's what I object to, the focus on them. It ignores the dozens and dozens of people I've helped." Time reporter Willwerth is more skeptical. He dismisses Mack's complaints about lack of background checking as nonsense. A specialist in health-research abuse, Willwerth says he thoroughly reviewed both Bassett's charges and the supporting evidence, while Time's lawyers in turn thoroughly vetted his piece. "The bottom line is, there was no informed consent going on," says the writer. "We checked this out 13 ways from Sunday." Bassett first met Mack in September 1992 and underwent three "regression" sessions with him over the next four months. She says reading other articles by Mack about abductions "told me exactly what he was looking for" when she pretended to be hypnotized. She also maintains that real harm may have been done to at least some of his research subjects, who have been stripped of other psychological support systems. "This isn't about UFOs," Bassett insists, speaking by phone from her home in North Carolina. "This is a way to hide human experimentation that's been undertaken for a personal political agenda." That agenda, contends Bassett, is reflected in the message Mack cliams to have distilled from patients' encounters with aliens: that the planet is threatened by ecological destruction, that earthlings must wake up before the destruction goes too far and that human-alien cross-breeding may be the only way to save a doomed race. Mack would hardly quibble with that assessment of the message, only with how the messenger -- himself -- is being treated by opponents like Bassett. "Contrary to what some critics say," says Mack, "I was surprised by the message of earth's destruction." Mack does admit, though, that colleagues warned him long ago that he would open himself up to professional criticism -- if not outright ridicule -- by pursuing abduction research. Still, he insists, he has no regrets. "I have this innocent confidence that if you do your work in a comprehensive and objective way," he says, "it stands on its own. "I'm not worried the attacks will silence me. What I worry about is giving support to the wonderful abductees and others who are helping this process. I don't want to disappoint them." @ART CAPTION:"It's conceivable somebody could dupe me, of course," says Harvard psychiatrist John Mack of the research subject who claims she invented stories of alien abduction.


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