Date: Wed Jun 01 1994 00:00:30
From: Sheppard Gordon
Subj: Mack Unconvincing
SUNDAY MATTERS: Little grey men with big dark eyes A Harvard
professor's book on aliens fails to convince Jerome Burne
THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH London
"I HAD Sex With An Alien", "Aliens Stole My Baby" - the tabloid
headlines kept up their sensational screeching inside my head. It
was uncanny. I had started reading Abduction: Human Encounters with
Aliens (Simon & Schuster, #16.99) with the firm intention of
keeping an open mind - after all, the author was Professor of
Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a Pulitzer Prize winner -
but it was as if some outside force was controlling me.
Aliens, little green men . . . this is the stuff of cartoons and
Woody Allen movies. So if Professor John Mack, prize-winning
biographer of T. E. Lawrence and a prominent member of the Boston
Psycho-analytical Society, has written a book claiming that stories
of meetings with aliens were not delusions but real experiences,
then he must have found some new and substantial evidence.
His material is certainly sensational. "A huge inter-species
breeding program has invaded our physical reality," he declares
"and is affecting the lives of millions of people." And not just in
America. After a recent five-minute slot on British breakfast
television , Mack claims 700 people rang in with abductee stories.
His evidence comes from cases such as that of Ed, a virgin
teenager who was sitting in a car with his mate chatting about
girls when it happened. Suddenly he is in a pod with a "female
entity" with a triangular-shaped head and large dark eyes who
could, he later revealed to Mack under hypnosis, "see right into
me", and so they had sex."
Another abductee, Catherine, described under hypnosis how she was
taken up a ramp by five glowing creatures into a space ship where a
foot-long metal instrument was inserted into her nostril until she
could feel something breaking inside her head.
There is, says Mack, a remarkable consistency to the stories,
which is one of the factors that has led him to believe them. Again
and again abductees report being taken by small grey beings with
huge dark eyes to some sort of space craft where they are probed in
a battery of tests that appear to relate to sexual and reproductive
Mack doesn't regard these stories as testosterone-charged sexual
fantasies, but accounts of real events with monumental implications
for the nature of science and the survival of the planet. Well,
sort of. Because although he believes these people, the location of
these adventures doesn't always play by the rules of our space-time
Catherine, for instance, wasn't wearing her contact lenses when
she was abducted, but all the details of her ordeal were pin-sharp.
Then there is the lack of any physical evidence. Despite the fact
that these aliens apparently have an obsession with sticking
instruments and probes into orifices, and despite the fact that
hundreds of thousands of Americans have supposedly been abducted,
no non-terrestrial objects have ever been found in any of them.
Appropriately for a book that earned a $250,000 advance,
Abduction comes garlanded with extensive American media coverage.
But, unsurprisingly, the tone has been sceptical. Time quotes a
writer, Donna Bassett, who, concerned that Mack was "strip-mining"
the stories of emotionally distraught people, read up on UFO
literature and went to him posing as an abductee.
She concocted an elaborate story of other-worldly encounters,
including a childhood alien friend called Jane and a meeting with
John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev on board a space ship during
the Cuban missile crisis - a revelation that made Mack so excited
he fell over. Bassett claims that Mack provided her with UFO
literature to read before the sessions, asked her leading questions
while she was hypnotised and "made it obvious what he wanted to
This is particularly damaging to Mack because therapists are
currently being challenged in the courts for implanting false
memories of early sexual abuse and many believe that therapists who
use hypnosis to uncover multiple personalities may actually be
creating them. But Mack is insistent that none of this explains the
adventures of the abductees.
"Look, I have been in psychiatry for 40 years. Believe me, I
tried all the conventional explanations and they just don't explain
what is happening. I wish they did. In the case of Bassett, other
abductees wrote to Time to point out that she was a very troubled
woman who had been a genuine abductee."
Professor Mack is obviously an intelligent and sincere man. But
his cases do not come anywhere near providing proof. As science
writer Dr Carl Sagan has said: "Extraordinary claims require
extraordinary evidence" and this isn't it.