Date: Tue Apr 26 1994 19:34:00
From: Sheppard Gordon
Subj: Mack Makes Weak Case
`ABDUCTION' MAKES WEAK UFO CASE
Dr. John E. Mack (Scribner's, $22; 426 pages)
Let me say up front that I really want to believe. I read every
account of UFO sightings I can.
As a child growing up in New Jersey, I spent Saturdays in the
third row of the State Theater, jawing jujubes while watching "The
Angry Red Planet," "Forbidden Planet" and "Them!"
Eighteen years ago, my wife and I made a pact: we would never
tease one another about seeing a flying saucer. After all, people
who see UFOs might just as well walk around with a sign on their
backs proclaiming "Crackpot." It would help if your spouse at least
So I really, really want to believe.
But despite his credentials, and the scholarly approach of
"Abduction," I still don't believe Harvard psychiatrist John E.
Mack's 13 tales of alien intervention.
Mack, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for "A Prince of Our
Disorder," a biography of T.E. Lawrence, has investigated more than
75 cases of alleged alien abduction. He offers the stories of 13
people who clearly believe they have been visited by
extraterrestrials. Mack also seems to believe. The language
throughout "Abduction" gives the subjects the benefit of the doubt,
referring to them as "experiencers" and noting matter-of-factly
that "children have experienced being taken from school yards," and
"abduction encounters begin most commonly in homes or when
abductees are driving automobiles. One woman was taken from a
snowmobile on a winter's day."
Unfortunately, he offers no proof.
Mack says we shouldn't get hung up on physical evidence or even
eyewitness corroboration of other-worldly abductions. The abduction
phenomenon, he says, might take place on another level of
consciousness. That's why it might seem like a dream, or not be
recalled at all without hypnosis.
So how does Mack determine if someone is pulling his leg?
"My criterion for including or crediting an observation by an
abductee is simply whether what has been reported was felt to be
real by the experiencer and was communicated sincerely and
authentically to me," he reports in his typically stilted academese.
Unfortunately, on those grounds, I'd have to also believe in
the Loch Ness monster, which, given recent revelations of a faked
photograph of Lessie, is inviting the crackpot designation.
Mack understands my need for a picture, a fingerprint (tentacle
print?) . . . something.
"I do not expect that the material presented in this book will
have much impact on the minds of those who believe that the laws of
physics as encompassed by the Newtonian/Einsteinian system are the
full definition of reality," he writes. "I hope, however, that the
data contained here is of sufficient power and solidity to enable
those who are open to expanding their view of possible realities to
consider that the world might contain forces and intelligences of
which we have hardly allowed ourselves to dream."
Trouble is, doc, I dream about those intelligences all the
time. I keep a candle in the window, just in case E.T. wants to
visit. I'm about as open-minded on this subject as you can be. But
13 interviews, earnest as they may be, are not enough to make me a
believer. And if you haven't sold me, I don't think you're going to
sell many others.