The UFO Iconoclast(s)

Monday, February 28, 2011


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Recent and disturbing revelations about UFO abduction researchers Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs have been made by Hopkins’ ex-wife Carol Rainey. She is concerned about the questionable quality and professionalism of the two’s work in the field. There are allegations that the two were incompetent and gullible in their investigations. This has shaken those segments of the UFO community that believe that extraterrestrials take humans into their craft (usually without human concurrence) to perform invasive “experiments” on them.

The time is appropriate to now reveal my early experience with a famed UFO abduction researcher. I am unhappy to report that I share Rainey’s concerns about such “research” in light of my discussions with this psychiatrist and abductionist. These conversations were with someone that I had hoped could apply the rigors of scholarly research to these bizarre nocturnal events that were being reported by so many at the time. This individual was the late Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Mack.

In these talks it became evident that this unquestionably great thinker was not a critical thinker. Wide-eyed and lacking true discernment, Mack was as susceptible to the suggestion that ET “takes us” as were his patients. His lack of historical perspective on UFOs was alarming. What Mack said to me left me genuinely shaken. It is with some reluctance -but without regret- that I now relate here what I know to be the truth about such abduction “research.”



John Mack was a New Yorker who came to Cambridge in 1955 and earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, specializing in adult and child psychoanalysis. Mack would later teach and research psychiatry at the same school from which he graduated. Through the years Mack would also become noted for his more non-traditional work in areas such as Holotropic Breathwork, consciousness studies and more privately with Dr. Stanislav Grof, psychedelics. Mack was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for his biography and exploration of the life of British Officer T.E. Lawrence.

Much later in his career, beginning in the early 1990s, he began a 10 year quest to study what he called “Experiencers” – those who have encounters with alien entities resulting in a spiritual or transformational experience. In 1993 Mack founded a non-profit center of study to further exploration of the abduction phenomenon which he named PEER (Program for Extraordinary Experience Research.) He maintained small offices in Cambridge and sometimes convened events at the Harvard Divinity School. After meeting Mack, for many years I received solicitation mailings from PEER.

Mack wrote extensively on the phenomenon, including the bestseller Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens as well as Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters. In September of 2004 while he was in England Mack was fatally and tragically struck by a drunken driver while walking from a friend’s home. Since his death, another non-profit arose to carry Mack’s message, “The John Mack Institute” in Boulder, CO. They acknowledge that “elements of PEER’s work may be found within many of our initiatives.”



In the early 1990s I was fortunate to meet Dr. Mack, converse with him on the phone several times and share dinner with him (with a small group of skeptics.) Living in Boston at that time, I occasionally attended the meetings of a small assembly of skeptics who were supporters of the national skeptics organization CSICOP. Much later a New England Skeptics Society was established which has no relation to this early informal group. Though I am not a “skeptic” in the common sense of the word (and am a vocal proponent of the reality of the visiting extraterrestrial) I do value the learned opinions of those who question mine.

I took the opportunity to reach out to Dr. Mack (who was in Cambridge, where our meetings were held) to invite him to meet with us to discuss his recent UFO and abduction research. The other group members had thought it a good idea and agreed to be respectful and civil in their questions of Mack. They recognized that he would be going into a potential “lion’s den” and I wanted to make sure that this did not happen.

Mack graciously accepted the invitation to meet for dinner with us at a highly-rated Asian restaurant off of “Mass Ave” in Cambridge in the early evening. The ensuing event was peppered with lively debate and Mack certainly held his own. He was not an argumentative type though and did not attempt to “convince.” And the feared “lion’s den” did not happen- everyone was on best behavior, even humorous and light-hearted at times. Of course talk got around to abductions and many of the questions and interest surrounded this topic.



It is with reluctance that I report this because Dr. Mack is not here to speak to what I am about to say. Nevertheless, this early insight into his work helps us to understand the dynamics of what was going on at the time. We all wanted answers about this strange thing called “abductions” but it became clear to me that Mack would never find them. Among other things, he was not asking the right questions.

One of the first things that Dr. Mack asked me was what I did for a living. At the time, I was in the environmental consulting industry. As he obviously knew, I also had an interest –and a belief- in “things ET.” It was then that he perked up. It was as if a light bulb went on in his head. I could sense that he felt this was somehow “profound.”

He said to me, “Do you know that concern about the environment is a recurring theme with those that tell me of their encounters? The beings tell them that they are concerned about the threats to our environment such as pollution and radiation. They are warning us that we are doing harm to Earth.” He then waited for me to respond to this, but I merely acknowledged what he said in a general way. Then he asked me if I felt that my work in the environmental field had anything potentially to do with my interest in the UFO phenomena. I replied that the two were entirely independent. I was not working in environmental advocacy or anything like that- rather I was a management consultant who happened to be working with client corporations who were major players in the environmental industry. And I told him that my interest in UFOs began very early on- and certainly well before my environmentally-related work.

He seemed very disappointed that my UFO and environmental interests were not in some way “connected.” This was the first sign or red flag to me that Mack may be “shaping” and “overly interpreting” others’ experiences. He brought it up yet again later- he simply could not seem to reconcile that I had no deeper connection to “the environment” and that my UFO experiences and interests were not related to it. I told him that though I am “eco-conscious”- my environment-friendly attitudes about this had no link to concern about aliens warning us that we are destroying our planet.

I had many “background” questions of Mack. I began by asking him about the UFO “Contactees” of the 1950s and about the New Age “Channelers” of aliens in the 1980s

Though Mack had done an outstanding and detailed historical analysis of a military figure (and even was awarded a Pulitzer for it) it became quickly obvious to me that his historical analysis of the UFO phenomenon was sadly lacking. He did not possess a command of other such alleged human-alien encounters from the past. He knew of early contactee George Adamski for instance. But names such as Daniel Fry, Truman Bethurum, Howard Menger, Wayne Aho and others apparently did not ring a bell with him.

In a similar vein to Contactees, I asked him about his thoughts on Channelers. I mentioned “Ramtha” and also I later had mentioned “Ashtar.” Neither of these seemingly “rang a bell” with him either…

Mack was investigating alien abductions and was linking human consciousness with alien encounters. For Dr. Mack to have not completed deep analysis of these before psychoanalyzing his patient “abductees” concerned me. Though we eventually got around to discussing the abduction phenomenon, his apparent lack of historical reference and perspective on such things was bothersome to me. How could an esteemed Harvard doctor be so lacking in knowledge of such essential elements of the UFO phenomenon’s past? How could he not see that the dynamics of those Contactees and Channelers provide precedent for his study of “Experiencers”?

Clearly this was a man who was just now gaining information about UFOs. Here was a man trained and working as a Professor of Psychiatry who was going to write books about UFOs. My immediate fear was that here before me stood a man of some renown who would hypnotize and regress patients to elicit memories about personal penetration by aliens! His need for more understanding about things UFO was obvious. He was a “career transition” MD who had yet to learn valuable lessons of UFO history that could have helped him in his assessment of this abduction “phenomenon.”

During another conversation I had with Dr. Mack I brought up the ever-present prospect of “hoaxing.” After all, we were in the midst of Cambridge- the quintessential “college town” with young MIT science students always devising pranks. In fact, just some years prior, MIT students has somehow placed a life-size cow figure (stolen from a steak house) atop the famous MIT Dome building on Mass Ave without being seen (where Mack and I had before had dinner.) He had to have been aware of the propensity of people to hoax. Had he ever studied this or considered it relative to those claiming abduction? Was he aware of UFO hoaxes from the past that supposedly included human-alien encounters and communication? Though he had heard of UFO /alien hoaxer Billy Meier (and offered no opinion on the authenticity of his contacts and photos) Mack had not apparently ever heard of such people as Carlos Dias or of Paul Villa when asked. I really wonder if Mack realized that some of his patients (called “Experiencers”) simply never had such an experiences because –consciously or unconsciously- they made it up!

Mack struck me as someone who was open of spirit and overly trusting. He seemed to want to find the positive in things. He believed that all things had a meaning. Because of this I could easily see how he could be easily deceived by others and indeed by himself.

Again, I was astounded at Mack’s credulity and his lack of completing essential “homework.” Dr. Mack could not see that hoaxing –making things up- was something that should always be heavily considered when considering things strange, including alien abductions. He seemed perplexed that this would happen. I was crestfallen that he had never examined the “hoaxer mentality” or that he had not done an intense study on the history of UFO hoaxing.

Incredibly, just a few years later in 1996, my fear that Mack did not understand the hoaxer dynamic came true! One of Mack’s former patients, Donna Bassett, admitted to a NOVA television documentary team in Boston that she had made up the alien and UFO encounters that she had once told Dr. Mack. She based her story on her understanding of what others had said and written about the abduction phenomenon. Mack had never suspected it. He was entirely “taken in” by the woman’s fabrication.

In the end, I realized a lot about Dr. Mack:

- He was relatively new to the world of UFOs. He was not at all well-versed in its strange and long history, and he should have been given his position and what he was seeking to accomplish.

- He was a ”researcher of the mind” yet he never examined what made a Contactee’s or a Channeler’s mind tick, or even knew much about them at all. But like abductees, they too made claims of personal mental communication and interaction with UFO entities. Someone who is studying the human mind and alien interaction should have had some background knowledge of this.

- Though a perceptive man in some ways, he was not astute enough to be aware of hoaxers, even those that were within his own midst. He seemed oddly non-committal about hoaxes and abductions when I discussed the history of hoaxes and things alien and UFO.

- He suggested to me links that did not exist between my “interest in the alien” with my work in the environment. He was “overanalyzing” me. He tried to make ‘connections” that simply were not there. He dearly wanted me to agree with him.

- He seemed to me to be far too academic and cerebral to be engaged in this type of “work.” He was not someone I felt that had ever spent a lot of time in the “real world”- and especially to be cognizant of the motivations behind some in the UFO industry. He lived and worked in the bubble of Harvard Square for far too long to understand the larger world.

- He displayed a naiveté about the intrinsic reliability of humans, what they report and why. He did not seem to be an “investigator” who vetted what others told him. He seemed compelled to assign a ‘higher meaning’ to anyone we talked about that made UFO or alien claims.



This information is not given as a condemnation of the abduction phenomenon. It is well beyond my scope to offer a determination of the causes, meanings or essential truth about alien abductions. And I do not mean this piece as a “Mack attack.” I believe that Dr. John Mack was genuine in his pursuit. He was an honest man- but he did not look at the abduction phenomenon honestly. He was a brilliant man and I share with him some of his concepts on consciousness. But I am frankly today conflicted about what I see as his clouded quest for truth.

Did he somehow encourage the fantasy-prone or those suffering false memories or paralyzing sleep disorders? Did he understand the potential for contagion within the phenomenon? Did he unwittingly enable the hoaxers and the fantasists? The delusional? The psychologically needy? Or were some of his patients indeed the “real deal?”

One thing for me is certain- though an MD, Mack did not have the proper credentials to make his “diagnosis.” For so many reasons, he should never have been offering such “treatment.”


  • Part 1 of 2:

    I think I would have to agree with Tony about most of the things he’s said here about Mack's lack of the requisite "street smarts" needed to separate the wheat from the chaff within the psychological hurricane that the subject of "alien abduction" has become over the past thirty and more years.

    As Vallee pointed out long ago, it has become a modern myth in the making, in part growing in strength due to the rise of science and subsequent secularism concurrent with and parallel to the slow decline of narrow, structured, institutional religious belief systems over time, at least since the era of the rise of the industrial age in the nineteenth century.

    Since science does not really address most people's apparent spiritual needs, new forms of belief and religion perpetually arise within society and various cultures, as they always have, similar to the development and rapid expansion, as an example, of Mormonism in particular (since the "revelations" to Joseph Smith, Jr., allegedly via the supposed contact of Smith with the "Angel Moroni" and Smith's supposed 1827 retrieval of "golden plates" from which the "Book of Mormon" was eventually derived), and which sociologically has relevance to similar sources and the repeated rise and fall of the earliest religious beliefs and concepts of “the other” descending to Earth from on high, and even today within ufology itself, in ways.

    In a newer, but comparable vein, related “new age” (and resurrected ancient beliefs, to a lesser degree), such as paganism, astrology, Raelianism, and Scientology, among others, which repurpose and transmute older ancient and Christian belief systems with a twist of ufology, SciFi, and delusional scientism tossed into this faux ecclesiastical admixture of disparate spiritual need and desire for answers to the purpose of human existence and search for the transcendent illustrate a recurring cycle of revisionist belief tied to our social and technological co-evolution.

    "‘Twas ever thus," as R. Crumb’s “Mr. Natural” was often heard to utter portentiously... 8^}

    Jacques Vallee, in his prescient book, "Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults" warned about this post-modernistic syndrome nearly 35 years ago, and now it's increasingly coming to pass, tragically.

    It was John Mack himself who, oddly, commented without deeply questioning or exploring why, that various "alien abduction" investigators who employed regressive hypnosis as a misbegotten tool to supposedly recover "suppressed memories" of the details of alleged alien abduction, in a literal sense, were discovering differing patterns, types of memories, and abduction scenarios based on who the particular "abductionologist" was that the already "primed" subject who suspected beforehand that their anomalous or perceived unusual experiences might be abduction related ended up going to see to be "treated" via regressive hypnotic techniques and leading interrogatory questioning. Perhaps, if Mack had lived long enough, he would have fully realized this, as toward the end of his life he was moving away from his focus on the “alien abduction” meta-syndrome and mythos.

    Shockingly enough, it seemed Mack did not put 2 + 2 together to realize or consider seriously that those differing "recovered memory" patterns and details most probably related to the particular confirmation biases the "abductionologist" already had and further developed over time due to psychological reinforcement and feedback cycles of belief, which were then fed into the process of interaction between these researchers and their human subjects, creating a sub-rosa form of self-fulfilling prophecy.

    By Blogger steve sawyer, at Tuesday, March 01, 2011  

  • Part 2 of 2:

    Both the researchers and subjects, in this peculiar emotional and psychological "mindmeld" of interaction and interdependence came up with the kind of scenarios and answers each in turn subliminally expected of each other beforehand. Voila! Like....magic! -- a consensus belief system was born anew.

    Sadly, would that it weren’t, however.

    Something similar happened with the MJ-12 hoax, in that Doty and Moore fed back to Friedman and Shandera, among others, what they had already concluded, with inadequate evidence but strongly believed was a scenario of a crashed saucer, and again a self-fulfilling prophecy was realized, as Friedman and the Woods, for example, still largely believe in today. Not that there might not be a genuine “control group,” of some kind, just that it certainly was not the MJ-12 fraud itself.

    Ufology abounds with examples like this, first notoriously documented in 1956 by social psychologist Leon Festinger, et al, in the book, “When Prophecy Fails,” a truly classic study of the psychological consequences of disconfirmed expectations and the resultant cognitive dissonance or conflicted splitting of belief that follows, and which I strongly recommend reading for pertinent insights about these same issues of failures of objectivity and proper peer-review, when impugned by wishful thinking and forms of delusional belief and control by appeals to misplaced authority—it’s a quite disturbing and significant work. Festinger was the person who first developed the theory of cognitive dissonance. This is, in part, the process currently unfolding in the conflict surrounding the abduction field.


    I'm not sure who it was, perhaps John B. Alexander, who once joked that if you wanted your alien abduction recovered memories to be benign in nature, ala the old contactees "space brothers" delusion, you should go get hypnotized by Dr. Leo Sprinkle (as opposed to the darkly malign scenario created by Dr. David Jacobs, for example, of alien invasion and hybridization by uncaring, omnipotent gray aliens).

    Of course, in hindsight, particularly now with the scandals of Jacobs vs. Emma Woods and the nearly equal scandal of Budd Hopkins vs. Carol Rainey, it should be clear that these syndromes largely derive from abnormal human psychology, misinterpretation, cultural contamination, and the will to believe, rather than to objectively explore the facts and empirically attempt to derive data upon which to then propose theory or hypothesis, rather than what has occurred in these examples, which is that misguided belief has first created theory and hypothesis, and which consequently drives the narrowed, self-confirming bias for selective data collection which tends to confirm the prior beliefs involved, and which is the opposite of the scientific method.

    No progress will ever be made if this all too human tendency for confirmation bias and confabulation is not properly addressed and dealt with—if anything, to continue to employ techniques such as regressive hypnosis retards and regresses any actual progress, IMHO.

    This is all a burgeoning scandal and terrible consequence, like Tony notes regarding Mack's lack of objective acumen and undue naivete, and we should all bear in mind that, as Vallee has also said, that this field has many dangers and mine/mindfields one must very carefully watch out for by challenging any presumptions or beliefs that creep in, and that it requires not just intelligence, but the employment and practices of counter-intelligence to begin to determine just what it is we may actually be dealing with in the overall field of the ontological challenge presented by the investigation of the UFO phenomenon, its related belief aspects, and human manipulation of same.

    Caveat emptor--be very judicious about what you believe and disbelieve. As Paul Kimball, and long before him, Thomas Watson of IBM, once famously said: THINK!

    Or, suffer the consequences.

    By Blogger steve sawyer, at Tuesday, March 01, 2011  

  • I believe Mack's insistence on the connection between UFOs and environmentalism is due to Laurance Rockefeller being his research-funding sugar daddy.



    By Blogger Sourcerer, at Tuesday, March 01, 2011  

  • I don't dismiss the concept of alien abduction out-of-hand, but I would agree with what others intimate here: perception is everything. The whole thing has taken on the trappings of culture and become mired in human phobias, aspirations, prejudices, and emotions. This is often evidenced when witnesses or "experts" talk (as Mack did) about the desire of extraterrestrial visitors to help up, to guide us along like some sort of intergalactic parent--or god. Steve is on the money by calling this a post-scientific quest for religion, a faith for the new millennium.

    A lot of researchers will believe or they will dismiss any given phenomenon outright. I lean toward the possibility that what is being witnessed (experienced even) might be genuine, but that the events themselves are instantly sullied by whatever baggage the percipient may carry.

    By Blogger Cullan Hudson, at Tuesday, March 01, 2011  

  • While I agree with some of your points, I don't think its fair to impugn Dr. Mack for his "academic" approach to the abduction experience.

    After all, didn't ufology get what it wanted all along in John Mack -- serious academic treatment of its subject?

    Yes, he was susceptible to contamination from the 'hoax' crowd. But I chalk his ambivalence about hoaxers up to a sensibility to postmodern critiques of science. Ufos already inhabit the jungian archetype and Roland Barthe's characterisation of a modern mythology. Why bother splitting hairs on individual cases when the whole thing is interpenetrated with cultural significance?

    I actually find his ambivalent, holistic approach to be congruent with a postmodern/post-positivist attitude to the abduction phenomenon.

    By Blogger Kristofer, at Tuesday, March 01, 2011  

  • I kinda wonder how a Psychoanalyst, like Mack, would interpret Adamski's Orthon.



    By Blogger Sourcerer, at Tuesday, March 01, 2011  

  • Don:

    You mean that androgynous being that Adamksi created?

    I'm sure Dr. Mack would have had something Freudian to say about Orthon, don't you agree?


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, March 01, 2011  

  • "You mean that androgynous being that Adamksi created?

    I'm sure Dr. Mack would have had something Freudian to say about Orthon, don't you agree?"


    I don't know if Mack could, but...let's say...a Psychoanalyst should be able to say something about it.

    "The flesh of his hand to the touch of mine was like a baby’s, very delicate in texture, but firm and warm. His hands were slender, with long tapering fingers
    like the beautiful hands of an artistic woman. In fact, in different clothing he could
    easily have passed for an unusually beautiful woman; yet he definitely was a man."

    "His hair was sandy in colour and hung in beautiful waves to his shoulders, glistening more beautifully than any woman’s I have ever seen. And I remember
    a passing thought of how Earth women would enjoy having such beautiful hair as this man had. As I said before, he wore no protection over it and it was being blown by the winds."

    Adamski,Flying Saucers Have Landed

    I don't know anything about Mack, but I am not finding it easy to accept that he was naive. People who "shape" have an agenda. I also don't think someone who isn't a "critical thinker" should be considered a "great thinker".

    To naive, shaping, "Wide-eyed and lacking true discernment", add in hypnotist, and you describe someone I would not have at my table, someone I would not let pet my dog (if she would let him, which I doubt).



    By Blogger Sourcerer, at Wednesday, March 02, 2011  

  • I too wondered about AJB's use of the phrase "great thinker". I do not think (as a far lesser thinker) that John Mack will go down in history as one of the world's, or even the US's, great thinkers.

    What does AJB have to say about the two other not-so-great thinkers in ufology - Hopkins & Jacobs?

    While on the subject, isn't it true that Adamski did not write any of his UFO books. They were all ghost written. I don't know about his SF books that preceded them.

    By Blogger cda, at Wednesday, March 02, 2011  

  • Sorry CDA,

    But Anthony Bragalia is a smart guy and knows better than to try an input anything at our blogs about the Jacobs/Hopkins controversies.

    It's not gonna happen.

    Even Errol Bruce-Knapp made the wise choice to prevent further discussion at UFO UpDates on the continuing-to-brew scandal.

    As for Adamski, so what if he had a ghost writer?

    It's the content, itself, that represents what he was promoting or believed.

    And that content is fascinating, even if contrived....


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, March 02, 2011  

  • Tony wrote: "One thing for me is certain- though an MD, Mack did not have the proper credentials to make his “diagnosis.” For so many reasons, he should never have been offering such “treatment.”"

    Mack was a credentialed psychoanalyst and, in the US, that means he was a credentialed psychiatrist, and that means he was a credentialed medical doctor. What "proper credentials" was he lacking?

    "Did he somehow encourage the fantasy-prone or those suffering false memories or paralyzing sleep disorders? Did he understand the potential for contagion within the phenomenon? Did he unwittingly enable the hoaxers and the fantasists? The delusional? The psychologically needy? Or were some of his patients indeed the “real deal?”"

    What you are alluding to is the objective hazzard of 'psychotherapy' (I mean it not in the legal meaning, but what people generally mean when they say someone is in therapy). It is the issue of transference/countertransference.
    I sometimes think that the entire development of psychotherapy -- the new methods, the theories, and methodologies -- since Freud are attempts to neutralize and dismiss the issue, or even to see their emergence as something to encourage as the therapy itself. One extreme is the therapist having sex with a patient under guise of therapeutic rationles).

    Think of the T/CT, when left unrecognized or unanalyzed as a co-dependent relationship between therapist and patient in which they both support each others illusions and assist each other in acting out. Analogize it to two people falling madly in love with each other at first sight. Melodrama and likely tragedy will surely follow.

    Psychoanalytically trained therapists are aware of this. They ought to be supervised by another analyst for this reason alone. Even the analyst to analytic supervisor will developed a T/CT.

    We are a gregarious species. The quality of our relationships depends on a specieswide tendency to T/CT. We desire it because Mother Nature encourages it.

    In the African Queen Charlie Alnutt waking with a hangover sees Rose Sayer emptying his bottles of whisky into the river. He calls her inhuman, that his weakness is just human nature. Miss Sayer replies, nature, Mr Alnutt is what we were put on this earth to overcome.

    And the T/CT is what analysts were put on this earth to analyze and interpret.

    Hobbiests, like Hopkins and Jacobs and their "cases", were just little kids playing doctor and patient. Melodrama and maybe tragedy are easily predicted.



    By Blogger Sourcerer, at Thursday, March 03, 2011  

  • Don et al….

    Psychiatry is a crock, and I speak from experience by associating with the “clan.”

    While Freud marred psychoanalysis with his dismissal of his original child seduction theory – See Jeffrey Masson’s brilliant expose [The Assault on Truth…Ballantine, NY, 1984/2003],
    Freud’s promotion of sexual urges as often problematic for humankind is transcendental, just as Jung’s theories of the archetypes and collective unconscious get to the heart of human nature.

    B.F. Skinner’s practices, while mundane, help us to understand mechanisms that produce behavior, as Vance Packard did with his essays on human motivations.

    But when all is said and done, psychiatrists are the last persons to get in the mix that “alien abduction” allegedly presents as a bona fide experience.

    Alien abduction accounts need to be addressed forensically and with the aid of neurologists, folklorists, and medical doctors. The “abduction syndrome” is not unique in essence, as you know from the literature, but it can be addressed with modern techniques of scrutiny, not the wish-fulfillments or childhood trauma promoted by psychiatry, although one can make a case for childhood molestation as possible stimuli in some cases.

    The problem with psychiatry is that it will take an experiencer (abductee) and push them into the wayward theories of neurotic behavior, when the experience may very well be stimulated by other causes. (The slotting of abductions into a sexual milieu was and is the flaw of Hopkins and Jacobs, neither qualified to go in that direction.)

    Dr. Mack was qualified to take abductions into the sexual arena that psychiatry fixates on but, as noted, psychiatry is flush with practitioners who have deep-rooted problems of their own, which they often foist on their patients, in a form of counter-transference. Dr. Mack, with whom I communicated via e-mail for a short while before his death, seemed normal to me and eminently qualified to address the abduction scenarios he discovered and sought. But did he have unconscious predilections and problems, as most psychiatrists have? Who knows?

    Assuming that abduction experiences are psychological in nature, as a premise for study, is flawed from the get-go. It encrusts an experience with a premise that hasn’t been proven by a long shot, and leads scrutiny in a false direction right off the bat.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, March 03, 2011  

  • I will only note that it is easier to question a man's "street smarts", research and conclusions when he is dead than when he is alive.

    By Blogger Larry, at Thursday, March 03, 2011  

  • Larry,

    Dr. Mack died tragically and faster than he should have, so I imagine Mr. Bragalia wouldn't have had time to critique him in a time-frame that you'd approve.

    My contact with Dr. Mack -- he wrote to ask if it was our MediaWatch that had written about his work.

    It wasn't, but we ended up having colloquies by e-mail and phone about UFOs, alien abductions, and media.

    He was charming, erudite, and not officious in any way.

    He knew his subject matter and struck me as attuned to what was going on with UFO "research" and life in general.

    His death was a great loss, in many ways. He took a stand at Harvard about acdemic freedom (the right to pursue oblique issues) and he was objectively tough about things intellectually interesting.

    As for street smarts, I'm not so sure that humanity is furthered by those who have such a prosaic acumen.

    Dr. Mack's intelligence transcended street smarts as I see it.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, March 03, 2011  

  • It would appear that Mr. Bragalia 'studied' Mr. Mack rather than engaged him. When it became clear that he (Mack) was venturing into territory he was 'unqualified' for, the correct thing to do was be blunt: "I hate to tell you this, but you're going to end up looking foolish, here's why ..."
    This reminds me of co-pilots and 1st officers who don't confront/correct pilots during emergencies, don't want to 'pull rank' and end up going down with the plane. Some frank talk would have nipped this in the bud (no pun intended)

    By Blogger jamesrav, at Thursday, March 03, 2011  

  • Rich: "Alien abduction accounts need to be addressed forensically and with the aid of neurologists, folklorists, and medical doctors."

    All psychiatrists are medical doctors. Not all psychiatrists are psychoanalysts. In the US, the first two credentials are required to obtain the training and credential to hang out a shingle that says 'Psychoanalyst'.

    I'm asking what are the "proper credentials" if Mack did not have them.

    It is not the task of the psychoanalyst to prove or disprove alien abductions or even to prove or disprove the patient really objectively was abducted by aliens or not.

    Their job is to lead the patient to come to terms with the general unhappiness of being human, and getting on with their lives.

    I don't know if Mack's relations with abductees was in psychoanalytic sessions or not.

    But assuming he could recognize his own presuppositions about the phenomenon, his training qualified him for recognizing fantasy when it presented itself whether in session or not.

    The remainder, if any, once illusion and fantasy are accounted for, is nothing a psychoanalyst is trained to address. And at that point, the therapist should give the case to a Carl Kolchak, not to hypnosis.



    By Blogger Sourcerer, at Thursday, March 03, 2011  

  • Stop putting the word "research" into quotations like that, as if there is some significant doubt that he did actual research. I mean, even if you do not believe that the research is good enough to convince you that Mack is right, it still qualifies as research. That is a jerk skeptic type of thing to do.

    By Blogger Mark, at Thursday, March 03, 2011  

  • Mark, you're just looking to raise hell.

    The quote is about UFO research, not Mack's research.

    How can we have a sensible dialogue when people can't even read correctly?


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, March 03, 2011  

  • Don:

    Psychiatrists often abdicate their medical expertise and focus on the mental machinations they imagine patients to have.

    Dr. Mack struck me as a smart guy, who could separate the wheat from the chaff, but he would have still had a predilection for the mental attributes of the abduction experience in lieu of any physical cause.

    Psychiatry gets sidetracked by what goes on, supposedly, inside the mind of patients; trauma from the past mostly.

    But there could well be a physical cause or something paranormal that has nothing to do with past events or extraterrestrial visitors.

    And then there are the military or CIA interventions, as in the Villas Boas case (and others), recounted in Nick Redfern's book, Contactees.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, March 03, 2011  

  • Anthony this is a very informative post, much appreciated. I think you have captured the essence of Mack's shortcomings in investigating the abduction phenomenon. His lack of deep research into the history of ufology (frankly surprising given his academic background, and his bookwormish persona - as his scholarly study of T E Lawrence evinces) and his credulity always
    'leaped out' of his writings, commentary and interviews on this topic.

    I also think, somewhat predictably,
    that some people here have misunderstood your pertinent criticisms of Mack as an attack on his person, when it is no such thing. Mack's humanity and sincerity are not under question, indeed he may have lacked adequate skepticism precisely because he projected his own generosity of spirit and truthfulness onto others, without adequate discretion.

    By Blogger Lawrence, at Friday, March 04, 2011  

  • Excellent essay by Anthony Bragalia!

    Mack had said in an interview (and/or one of his books) that Budd Hopkins contacted him with referals in the northeast area. Then David Jacobs did the same. These were Mack's initiators into abductionology.

    And more 'red flags' for me back in the 1990s when I read Mack's books and heard him in a few interviews.

    1. Donna Bassett, the admitted hoaxer (who, if I recall correctly told Mack, under hypnosis, that she was sitting on Castro's lap in a spaceship)purposely went into Mack's group to deceive and 'out' him and his methodology.

    Yet, I remember Mack actually saying, in an interview after she revealed what she had done; he still believed something happened to her and that she may have been an experiencer. So, it would seem, Mack may have had a bit of an ego problem in admitting he was hoaxed. Perhaps Mack was like some intellectuals - a little too sure of himself and his world view.

    2. I believe it was in Mack's second book- Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation - that he had a gaggle of experiencers in and around the Boston/northshore area who claimed to be hybrids,... were born on other planets,... had ET-souls,... were married to ETs and had hybrid childen in other worlds and on spaceships ect. Mack didn't investigate how these people lived nor looked for one iota of evidence to support their bizarre claims. He didn't order any DNA tests for example. But instead, he claimed their psychological tests were normal and they were well adjusted people. He took them at their word.

    3. Mack was on Coast to Coast AM some years ago and a caller asked his opinion of animal mutes and ufos. Mack admitted he knew nothing about it....hadn't heard of it. To be involved in ufology and not have ever heard of animal mutilations (and the ufo connection) reported by ranchers, for several decades now was very surprising.

    And that example goes straight to what Bragalia points out about Mack's lack of knowledge regarding the range of subjects in ufology, which you'd think he would have spent at least some time reading up on.

    Having written all that, as an ongoing history buff (with an undergraduate degree History), his bio of famed British officer T.E. Lawrence was brilliant and I'd highly recommend it to anyone. [So, you see, I've written something positive about Mack!;-)]

    ~ Susan

    By Blogger Brownie, at Friday, March 04, 2011  

  • I'm not sure that a lack of familiarity with the loons of the scene is really a disqualification for seriously studying the actual phenomenon. In fact I think it may have been an advantage. Interviewing ordinary people who had the experiences, seems like a good idea.

    There is no doubt that Mack was drawn to the subject in part because of the occasional expression experiencers made about concern for other life or for the environment, which overlapped with his existing interest in environmentalism. I don't think he ever said it was present in everyone, so take it as a sometimes-sort of effect. On that note, while I don't particularly like when he included quotes from people who were not regular interviewees of his (people he knew for many years), this quote from that strange Credo Mutwah guy he met once in Africa always stuck with me, and it shows that the idea was not unique to Mack, and as an idea was certainly worth philosophizing about in his books:

    "Their minds leak into your mind. Their ideals are able to
    become ours. ... It is they, sir, who have instilled into our minds
    at this time in human history a consciousness of the oneness
    of the whole world." (Credo Mutwa interviewed by Dr. John
    Mack, December 10, 1995).

    By Blogger Will Bueche, at Sunday, March 06, 2011  

  • 2.
    I want to briefly comment on a Comment which ridiculed that in Passport he wrote about people "who claimed to be hybrids,... were born on other planets,... had ET-souls,... were married to ETs and had hybrid childen in other worlds and on spaceships ect."

    In Passport, many of the people said they felt related to the beings in some way, that they felt they may have been such beings in previous lives and had agreed to help them by becoming human. No one claimed to have literally been born on another planet in this lifetime, or to physically be a hybrid (which would have different DNA, presumably, than an ordinary person). Some did describe their sexual and emotional bond to the beings who recurrently abducted them as being like a "marriage", and I recall how this sentiment affected the actual marriage of one of the gentlemen quite badly - in that his wife not only did not believe in aliens, but also felt jealousy from the profound bond he felt. But to make those feelings sound like something that could have been tested with a blood sample is wrong, and misses the point, which was an exploration of what people's gut feelings about their relationships with the beings were. They spoke about ideas that were intensely private. And seeing what they said altered to the level of "bat-boy" shows why these ideas are usually kept private; and yet you'd be hard-pressed to find experiences who haven't puzzled over the bond they feel with the beings (after they get past the terror).

    Dr. Mack didn't back off when people talked about spiritual ideas (incarnation) that arose from these experiences, which set him apart from researchers who refused to discuss this sort of thing. Granted it is speculative, and philosophical, but it also may be an important part of what the experiences are revealing.

    By Blogger Will Bueche, at Sunday, March 06, 2011  

  • 3. A brief note about Donna Bassett's claim that she hoaxed him. Brief because it hardly merits mention since he never wrote about her. She certainly had some bizarre stories, and ended up with a vendetta against him, but the facts about that are coming. Mack said she was "disturbed" but he couldn't really say more since he never got permission to, since he'd never written about her since she was atypical and he was having a hard time sorting out whether she was an abductee or someone disturbed, or both. But since his death there has been substantial documentation found (none of which is patient-related confidential material), which will expose why she claimed to have been "faking". It will be nice to have that settled.

    But was Mack gullible? I'd say yes, to an extent. He was not as discriminating as the average person in terms of knowing when to run away. This was both a terrible advantage (in that it let him be open to the subject of alien encounters) and a terrible risk, in that he would not immediately dismiss things that others would. Fortunately it never bit him in the *** like it could have, since his openness was balanced by great care when he decided what to write about. I think the only bit that made it past his more careful writing process was the inclusion of that South American hoaxer Carlos Diaz, who he included in a chapter about people from other cultures (who were not regular patients of his but who he'd met once and wanted to include some of their words for additional perspectives).

    By Blogger Will Bueche, at Sunday, March 06, 2011  

  • Personally I totally enjoyed and respected Mack's approach to the abduction experience. I think his naivety about UFO history gave him a non biased base to work from and allowed him to look at the whole abduction experience with an open mind. Having worked in the field of sexual abuse, I find many parallels in the reluctance of believability confronted by both survivors of sexual abuse and the abductees. I find the logic of the skeptics criticism of Mack strictly self serving and one sided and without merit--gary

    By Blogger mastmate, at Sunday, March 06, 2011  

  • Will Bueche wrote: "yet you'd be hard-pressed to find experiences who haven't puzzled over the bond they feel with the beings (after they get past the terror). " - - -

    Speak for yourself. As an "experiencer" who's had a few very close encounters (some shared with other people that were adversely affected as well), I'd have no problem killing one of these "aliens" or whatever they are or pretend to be, if I hadn't been immobilized by the buggers. There is no emotional bond for me.

    Will Bueche wrote: "In Passport, many of the people said they felt related to the beings in some way, that they felt they may have been such beings in previous lives and had agreed to help them by becoming human. No one claimed to have literally been born on another planet in this lifetime," - - -

    So we then must compartmentalize into 'lifetimes' if we're to have a discussion of Mack's clients in his 2nd book on the subject. How convenient for Mack and his experiencers.

    That sort of belief system derives straight out of the new age movement. You'll have to excuse me as I don't have the luxury of a belief (or experience) in past lives where I was an alien or part-alien and chose to reincarnate as a human and what not. These ideas/beliefs are nonsensical excuses!

    Follow where they bubbled up from! - the New Age movement which is filled with conmen/women and desparate followers.[the trial of James Arthur Ray of The Secret and Oprah fame is the latest in a long line of examples] Read some Shirley MacLaine books as good primers from the new age movement. Shirley believes that ufos and ets are advanced space brothers sharing love and light.

    Regarding hoaxer Donna Bassett, Will Bueche writes - "Mack said she was "disturbed" but he couldn't really say more since he never got permission to, since he'd never written about her since she was atypical and he was having a hard time sorting out whether she was an abductee or someone disturbed, or both." - - -

    Mack had no professional or legal right (within his role as an abduction researcher) to publically proclaim/diagnose Bassett as "disturbed". Mack (and to a greater degree now, his colleagues Jacobs & Hopkins) - publically diagnosing/labeling their clients who don't conform or comply with their p.o.v.(agenda) on the subject is deeply troubling.

    Mack could have been well within his rights to call Bassett a liar and deceitful, but NOT "disturbed".

    ~ Susan

    By Blogger Brownie, at Monday, March 07, 2011  

  • Thanks everybody for the many insightful replies…

    To Will Bueche: in one sense Mack’s unfamiliarity with the “loons of the scene” was an advantage- he was not influenced by them. On the other hand, had he known of the great many such “loons” that have popped in and out of Ufology over the years, he might well have avoided Bassett-like hoaxers.


    By Blogger The Einstein Fellowship, at Monday, March 07, 2011  

  • Susan-

    You comment : “Mack could have been well within his rights to call Bassett a liar and deceitful, but not ‘disturbed’” is very well taken. The post-Bassett fallout was ugly. It played out bigger in Boston than nationally. For now, I will simply say that there is a big “back story” to how Mack handled the Bassett hoax. Suffice to say, he did not handle it well nor did he handle it professionally. I will also hint here that Bassett was not the only such Mack abductee tale-teller…


    By Blogger The Einstein Fellowship, at Monday, March 07, 2011  

  • "Disturbed" is not a diagnosis (check the DSM-IV). It's a colloquial description of someone with issues. Whether those issues are on the level of a pathology or not would be something he shouldn't say. And he didn't.

    By Blogger Will Bueche, at Monday, March 07, 2011  

  • "These ideas/beliefs are nonsensical excuses!"

    Or maybe they just don't apply to you. Who ever said that everyone who was abducted was abducted for the same reasons?

    By Blogger Will Bueche, at Monday, March 07, 2011  

  • Will:

    While reviewing my stint at UFO Updates six years ago, I saw that the argument hasn't changed and that Dr. Mack was taken before his time and before he got to complete his study of the abduction phenomenon.

    In the abduction scenarios, something is happening or happened; something unique.

    No one has come to a denouement about what actually happened to you and others.

    Like the UFO phenomenon, abductions are a mystery, open to conjecture, in an attempt to find out what went on or what is going on.

    I don't expect anyone in the UFO community, as it exists, to help in the matter.

    The one person who applied a sensible or rational approach (Dr. Mack) is no more, in this earthly existence, and I don't see anyone else in place, with his credentials, to assume the task.

    Thanks for your comments, and reserve in coping with those who think they have answers, when they don't.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, March 07, 2011  

  • I'd like to add another point to the Mack discussion. Many people automatically give him credit for the Ariel School multiple close encounter case.

    Coincidentally [synchronicity?] Mack was visiting that part of Africa when it occurred. But it was actually African Ufologist Cynthia Hind[also now deceased] who was on the scene, interviewing and investigating, within two days of the event.

    For whatever reasons that event has ended up as a notch in Mack's belt[he often discussed the case in tv/radio interviews] but he actually came to the case because of Hind's generosity of sharing her work(something many researchers in the jealously guarded field of ufology and abductionology don't do).

    Scroll down a bit (after the drawings) to see Hind's report.

    Her book - 'UFOs Over Africa' is an excellent one, full of well-investigated cases using MUFON protocols (she was a member of MUFON).

    ~ Susan

    By Blogger Brownie, at Monday, March 07, 2011  

  • So you guys are like modern Witch Hunters?

    Burn the Abductee's burn them! Witchcraft, I tell ya!

    Step into the year 2013 and leave your ethnocentric belief systems behind, please.

    No one is safe from those things.

    Look bottom line...
    if you have no idea then you can either suspect, accept or hate.

    I chose suspect...because I have suspicions.

    I am very suspicious of people's motives out to debunk Dr. John Mack...what is at stake for you guys, if his work was full of merit and value for many people and made their lives more liveable and you later found out some how his findings were absolutely true...what would do for you? what would happen?

    Oh yes that world view of yours that you've spent a life time of supporting would crumble away, wouldn't it?

    Until one has experienced such an event personally...One will never ever know what it's like...never ever know and all you will have will be sciences latest greatest measuring device or theory that was better than the last theory and or whatever reason "man" is approved to hold and your good ol' personal belief system.

    Until then a lot this just sounds like negative bitter people telling other people to stop believing what they believe.

    YES believing in anything is the death of intelligence...but whats the harm to you?

    Live and let Die..Live and let Live...

    So much work, so much writing, so much time many have dedicated into proving other's experiences wrong that a few may believe or may not believe...

    like most things..isnt Life a mixed bag? Some truth some fiction?

    but beyond all that .....

    My question to all of you is ........................"why?"

    Why do you deny their experiences? Does it hurt your world view of what people should believe? Does it threaten you? Is it dangerous? really Why? It sounds like an almost evangelical wake up/ conversion away from believing in Interstellar Dimensional beings? Whats the big deal?

    What's next "Pray the Alien Away Camps?"

    Where is the Tolerance?

    Why not celebrate different and diverse world views?

    They're just beliefs systems ...we all have them... Robert Wilson Anton said best I feel....

    "Belief systems are just what they are B.S. Don't believe anyone else's fully and certainly don't believe yours fully."

    Your belief systems to someone else could be just as far fetched.

    Y-think about ethnocentric belif systems and what that means to you and the world...?

    By Blogger Solong, at Sunday, January 06, 2013  

  • "Mack had never suspected it. He was entirely 'taken in' by the woman’s fabrication."

    Dr. Mack did not write about her accounts in any of his books or papers; Mack spoke about both of these elements in a 1994 interview with Richard Cutting:

    “The assumption is that she fooled me into using her material as part of my database. The fact is I didn’t use one word she had to say in my book. Does that mean I didn’t trust her, or that I didn’t think she was telling the truth? I guess that in some intuitive way I kept a certain distance. But I don’t think that’s because she’s necessarily not an abductee. This is hard to know — it gets close to getting into what I know about her from my clinical work with her, which I’m unwilling to do. …[The other experiencers who knew her well] believe she’s an abductee who became disturbed and couldn’t deal with her experiences. I’m not saying that I believe that, but others do.”

    Excerpted from

    By Blogger Will Bueche, at Tuesday, June 04, 2013  

  • Will-

    It is laughable to think that she really was abducted but now just doesn't want to admit it to herself so she says she made it up. Ask her. She is still around. And ask the producers of NOVA who were there for her disclosure. They are still in Boston.


    By Blogger Anthony Bragalia, at Tuesday, June 04, 2013  

  • Sorry, but I believe the version of her that came before she made the unsupported claim that she was an undercover journalist. Even Time magazine, who she "came out" to, didn't believe that she was an undercover journalist (the article avoids endorsing that persona!), but they knew she had an insider's take on a situation regardless of what she was. Whether she was an abductee, as she'd told Whitley Strieber years before she met Dr. Mack, or whether she was just an unstable person who didn't know what she was, I have no idea. I've never met her, and she's been off the radar for decades now. My opinion is that she had identity problems, but heck I'm just a layman, I'm not a psychiatrist. The history of select patients turning against their doctors is hardly a new story, so I'm not sure why you doubt that is possible. But I do know she wasn't a writer, and I know from those phone call recordings (at the link) that she was angry with Dr. Mack, and I know that a writer wouldn't be sending letters to a doctor's funders trying to undercut his funding instead of actually writing an article or book. Sounds like you didn't follow the link.

    By Blogger Will Bueche, at Tuesday, June 04, 2013  

  • ...But about the Kennedy bit, yeah I don't believe that either, regardless of whether she was an alien abductee or not. That story sounds to me like she was trying to feed into what she knew Dr. Mack liked in an effort to get closer to him (Dr. Mack being well-known as a left-leaning political activist). Unseemly, is how that story feels to me.

    By Blogger Will Bueche, at Tuesday, June 04, 2013  

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