Interview with Whitley Strieber

Since you published Communion, you have been among the most controversial of all authors. How do you react to that?
My career became controversial when I published Communion, about a strange experience I had in December of 1985. The book was not about alien contact, it was about an unexplained experience. But when it became a bestseller, it was co-opted by both UFO believers and skeptics and sucked into their debate. The UFO believers asserted that I was saying that I was abducted by aliens. The skeptics said that I must be a liar.

I was helpless to prevent what became an enormous false controversy. My position was clearly stated in the book, which is that I don't know what happened, only that it was very intense, very physical in that it left me with diagnosable injuries, and it was unexplained.

That remains my position to this day.
Given all the controversy, do you still have an audience?
I have a much smaller audience than I once did. Years and years of debunking and laughter have greatly diminished my reach and the impact of my work. Readers will certainly buy the books of a controversial author, but not of an author who is being laughed at. That they will not do.

From the airing of the Southpark pilot, "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe" in 1997 to a December, 2017 edition of NPR's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" in which host Peter Sagal made anal probe jokes in reaction to the US Navy's official release of a sequence of UFO video, my 1985 rape has remained a source of humor. This keeps people away from my work.

It's extremely unfortunate, because since the Communion experience and my effort to re-engage with whatever had caused it by returning again and again in the night to the place in the woods of upstate New York where it happened, I have developed an absolutely unique relationship with whatever it is that is causing the vast outpouring of abduction and close encounter testimony. "They" are in my life right now, 30 years later, as an intimate and deeply engaged presence.

This is certainly the first time that anything like this has happened and not been immediately shoehorned into some sort of mythological or folkloric belief by the person to whom it was happening. They have gone from being a terrifying presence in my life to one for which I am deeply grateful and which enriches me every single day of my life.

I turned toward the unknown instead of running away from it and have information of incalculable value to offer as a result. That is the story of my life. And I was scorned and derided for it, and my struggle was laughed at. That, also, is my story.
You're considered a laughingstock by many. Why is that?
That's right, I'm called the "rectal probe man" because of the way I described the rape that was part of the Communion event. I was embarrassed at the time to call it a rape, but that's what it was. It took me 25 years even to use that word with my wife. It is, of course, insensitive to laugh at a person who has been raped, but I am a special case in that most of the people who do this assume that Communion was a lie and therefore that it's okay to kick me around.

It was not a lie. The events happened. As as to the rape, it left so much physical damage that I am in pain to this day from it.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My most recent book is the Afterlife Revolution. I wrote it with my wife Anne--after her death. How did that come about, and in a world that mostly denies even the existence of the soul, how can it be true?

In the mid nineties, she discovered as she was reading thousands of letters from other close encounter witnesses, that close encounters of the third kind and encounters with dead friends and relatives went hand in hand. And, in fact, this was also reported by Lorie Barnes, Raven Dana and others who had close encounters in our upstate New York cabin. It happened to me, in fact, on the night of December 26, 1985.

We worked out a plan of afterlife communication. The first of us to die would contact friends who had no idea of our plan, and only then contact the loved one. Not two hours after Anne died, I got the first call from such a friend, Belle Fuller, who said to me, "Whitley, the strangest thing just happened. I heard Anne telling me to call you. Is she all right?" (She knew that Anne was ill.) I said to her, "Belle, Anne died an hour and a half ago."

This kept happening, and finally I realized that Anne was carrying out our plan. The Afterlife Revolution is the result, and stands at the only book ever written by collaborators between the worlds of the living and the dead, with any sort of corroborating evidence to it.

Witnesses are named in the book. Esteemed afterlife investigator Dr. Gary Schwartz was so convinced by what he personally witnessed that he wrote a foreword for it. It stands in direct opposition to the common assumption that there is no soul. In fact, it suggests that the soul is the one thing about us that really matters.
Published 2018-03-19.
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