Thursday, January 30, 2003
Knappster: Harvard prof takes alien abduction seriously
By George Knapp
I first met Dr. John Mack in 1993 at a tiny UFO conference in the Ozarks. The publication of Dr. Mack's book about alleged alien abductions was still a year away, but the fact that a professor from the Harvard Medical School was taking the phenomena seriously was big news in the UFO field. Mack was an immediate celebrity, although he seemed to wear the mantle with some reluctance.
Mack wasn't exactly your run-of-the-mill, leather-patches-on-the-elbows, stuffy academic. He had founded the Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge Hospital, had logged 30-plus years as a board-certified psychoanalyst and even won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. He had an impeccable reputation as a man of science, but clearly had other talents and interests as well.
Of course, all that went out the window when he went nuts. Oh, he went crazy all right. In 1992, Mack was co-chair of a conference held at MIT, a conference focusing on the scientific investigation of alleged encounters with aliens. And in 1994, his landmark book Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens hit the stands, verifying the view among his colleagues that he had gone loony.
Harvard Medical School responded to the publicity about Dr. Mack's book by launching a 15-month inquiry into his professional ethics and standards. Because he was tenured, they couldn't simply fire him, but a committee of skeptical peers made his life as miserable as they could. Harvard honchos were aghast, they said, when they tuned into the Oprah Winfrey show and saw one of their professors talking about people being abducted by little green men.
"I doubt the dean had actually watched the show," Mack recalls. "I said nothing about little green men, but the nature of the administration's anxiety was apparent."
Although his Harvard colleagues had little or no familiarity with the case studies of alleged abductees, they already "knew" that none of this malarkey could be true, so they put Mack through the ringer for more than a year. He eventually had to hire famed Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz (the same legal whiz who helped represent local murder defendants Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish) to defend his integrity. In the end, Harvard backed off, and Mack continued his research.
In the beginning, Mack says, he focused on trying to prove that abductions were "really taking place in a literal, physical sense." He studied dozens of cases, ruled out psychosis or hallucinations as the root cause, and was left with some very disturbing data in the end, information that challenges our most fundamental beliefs about the nature of reality itself. It is very heavy stuff, and not everyone is ready to hear it.
"Behind the nervous efforts to discredit the encounter reality lies a deeper concern," Mack says. "This phenomena does not stand alone, but is one anomaly among many. Others include near-death experiences, spirit manifestations, shamanic journeys and others. All of these challenge our understanding of reality and suggest the presence in the universe of other intelligences that may reach into our world under particular conditions."
Mack does not adhere to the simple notion that aliens from other planets are visiting Earth in spaceships. This new reality he's been exploring goes a lot deeper than that, suggesting there are other intelligences in the world, maybe other worlds or dimensions, and that we don't know diddly about how the cosmos really operates. Not your typical "I was ravished by beautiful aliens from Venus" claptrap.
"Our understanding of reality is extremely limited, the cosmos is more mysterious than we have imagined," Mack says. "There are other intelligences all about, consciousness itself may be the primary creative force in the universe, and our knowledge of the physical world is far from complete."
This is really only a thumbnail sketch of what Dr. Mack has to say. He has dared to challenge our accepted view of reality and has already been ripped to shreds for having the audacity to speak his mind. Anyone interested in hearing his full take on the nature of reality might want to check out the International UFO Congress, set for Feb. 2-8 at the Flamingo Hotel in Laughlin. In addition to Dr. Mack, speakers of note include Budd Hopkins, whose best-selling books about alleged abductions are what got Mack interested in the first place; Jaime Maussan, a journalist who worked for Mexico's "60 Minutes" but who quit to work full time on UFO disclosure; Graham Birdsall, a British magazine publisher known for coming up with fascinating UFO videos that are tough to explain; and Jim Marrs, an investigative reporter who has written popular books about government secrecy and hidden agendas. (For further info, check out ufocongress.com)
Knappster can relate somewhat to being dubbed a UFO nutcase. There are many among us who do not welcome open and honest inquiry into matters that might upset our basic beliefs and foundations. Admittedly, much of what you see and read in the UFO field is a bunch of crap. Likewise, not everything you will hear at the Congress could be considered to be literal truth. Some if it promises to be downright wacky. But rest assured that at least some of the speakers will knock the socks off of anyone who attends with an open mind.
Names and faces
Former Gov. Mike O'Callaghan, a diehard Oakland Raiders fan, was the only pal to call up and offer condolences to Knappster concerning the Raiders' flop in the Super Bowl. (The rest called only to snicker and to ask if I had worn the wrong "lucky socks.") Governor Mike predicts the aging Raider contingent has enough talent to make one more run at the Big Game. Like many of us, O'Callaghan will remain in mourning for the next week or so. I've already taken off the black veil. ... Veteran newsman Dan Burns has told KVVU Channel 5 that he is leaving the station. No one is saying why Burns is departing, but you have to wonder if his assignment last week to interview local semi-celebs concerning the "American Idol" show had something to do with it. ... The Las Vegas Dancers Alliance has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of a local topless dancer. The Alliance alleges that Cheetah's has been discriminating against the dancer because of her involvement with the Alliance's organizing activities. That's one NLRB hearing you don't want to miss. ... A Las Vegas business executive, who asks to remain nameless, wonders why there aren't any adult clubs in town that cater to those individuals with a thing for BBW, that is, big beautiful women. According to this guy, BBW clubs are a hit in New York and elsewhere, and this particular niche commands a huge chunk of the porno market. It's hard to say whether local adult clubs are ready for such an undertaking, but seeing how thin the business is at some of the newer clubs, perhaps someone will give it a try. ... Mobster Henry Hill, whose memoirs formed the basis for the classic gangster film Goodfellas, has written a new book. The Wiseguy Cookbook: My Favorite Recipes from My Life as a Goodfella to Cooking on the Run is the formidable title, and it includes tips such as how to make "Oven Penitentiary Sauce with Sausage." To quote Homer Simpson, "mmmm, penitentiary sauce."