The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark - Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan (1997)

Chapter 11. The City of Grief

…how alien, alas, are the streets of the city of grief.

Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘The Tenth Elegy’ (1923)

A short summary of the argument in the preceding seven chapters appeared in Parade magazine on 7 March 1993. I was struck by how many letters it evoked, how passionate were the responses, and how much agony is associated with this strange experience whatever its true explanation might be. Alien abduction accounts provide an unexpected window into the lives of some of our fellow citizens. Some letter writers reasoned, some asserted, some harangued, some were frankly perplexed, some were deeply troubled.

The article was also widely misunderstood. A television talk-show host, Geraldo Rivera, held up a copy of Parade and announced I thought we were being visited. A Washington Post video cassette reviewer quoted me as saying there’s an abduction every few seconds, missing the ironical tone and the following sentence (‘It’s surprising more of the neighbours haven’t noticed’). My description (Chapter 6) of on rare occasions seeming to hear the voices of my dead parents - what I described as ‘a lucid recollection’ - were keynoted by Raymond Moody, in the New Age Journal and in the Introduction of his book Reunions, as evidence that we ‘survive’ death. Dr Moody has spent his life trying to find evidence of life after death. If my testimony is worth quoting, it seems clear he hasn’t found much. Many letter writers concluded that since I had worked on the possibility of extraterrestrial life, I must ‘believe’ in UFOs; or conversely that, if I was sceptical about UFOs, I must embrace the absurd belief that humans are the only intelligent beings in the Universe. There’s something about this subject unconducive to clear thinking.

Here, without further comment, is a representative sampling of my mail on the subject:

• I wonder how some of our fellow animals may describe their encounters with us. They see a large hovering object making a terrible noise above them. They begin to run and feel a sharp pain in their side. Suddenly they fall to the ground... Several man-creatures approach them carrying strange-looking instruments. They examine your sexual organs and teeth. They place a net under you and then let it take you in the air with a strange device. After all the examinations, they then clamp a strange metal object on your ear. Then, just as suddenly as they had appeared, they are gone. Eventually, muscle control returns, and a poor disoriented creature staggers off into the forest, not knowing [whether] what just transpired was a nightmare or a reality.

• I was sexually abused as a child. In my recovery I have drawn many ‘space beings’ and have felt many times I was being overpowered, held down, and the sensation of having left my body to float around the room. None of the abductee accounts really come as a surprise to someone who has dealt with childhood sexual abuse issues... Believe me, I would much rather have blamed my abuse on a space alien than have to face the truth about what happened to me with the adults I was supposed to be able to trust. It’s been driving me crazy to hear some of my friends speak of their memories that imply they have been abducted by aliens ... I keep saying to them that this is the ultimate victim role in which we as adults have no power when these little gray men come to us in our sleep! This is not real. The ultimate victim role is the one between an abusive parent and a victimized child.

• I don’t know if these people are some sort of demons, or if they really don’t exist. My daughter said she had sensors put in her body when she was small. I don’t know... We keep our doors locked and bolted and it really scares me. I don’t have the money to send her to a good doctor, and she can’t work on account of all this... My daughter is hearing a voice on a tape. These go out at night and take kids and sexually abuse them. If you don’t do as they say, someone in your family will be hurt. Who in their right mind would harm little children? They know everything that is said in the house... Somebody said long, long ago somebody put a curse on our family. If somebody did, how do you get the curse off? I know all this sounds strange and bizarre, but believe me it’s scary.

• How many human females who had the misfortune of being raped had the foresight to take from their attacker an ID card, a picture of the rapist, or anything else which could be used as evidence as to an alleged rape?

• I for one will be sleeping with my Polaroid from now on, in hopes that the next time I’m abducted I can provide the proof needed... Why should it be up to the abductees to prove what’s happening?

• I am living proof of Carl Sagan’s claim of the possibility that alien abductions occur in the minds of people suffering from sleep paralysis. They truly believe it’s real.

• In AD 2001 Starships from the 33 planets of the Interplanetary Confederation will land on earth carrying 33,000 Brothers! They are extraterrestrial teachers and scientists who will help to expand our understanding of interplanetary life, as our own earth planet will become the 33rd member of the Confederation!

• This is a grotesquely challenging arena ... I studied UFOs for over 20 years. Finally I became quite disenchanted by the cult and the cult fringe groups.

• I am a 47-year-old grandmother who has been the victim of this phenomena since early childhood. I do not - nor have I ever -accepted it at face value. I do not - nor have I ever - claimed to understand what it is ... I would gladly accept a diagnosis of schizophrenia, or some other understood pathology, in exchange for this unknown... The lack of physical evidence is, I fully agree, most frustrating for both victims and researchers. Unfortunately, the retrieval of such evidence is made extremely difficult by the manner in which the victims are abducted. Often I am removed either in my nightgown (which is later removed) or already naked. This condition makes it quite impossible to hide a camera ... I have awakened with deep gashes, puncture wounds, scooped out tissue, eye damage, bleeding from the nose and ears, burns, and finger marks and bruises which persist for days after the event. I have had all of these examined by qualified physicians but none have been satisfactorily explained. I am not into self-mutilation; these are not stigmata... Please be aware that the majority of abduct-ees claim to have had no interest in UFOs previously (I am one), have no history of childhood abuses (I am one), have no desire for publicity or notoriety (I am one), and, in fact, have gone to great lengths to avoid acknowledging any involvement whatsoever, assuming he or she is experiencing a nervous breakdown or other psychological disorder (I am one). Agreed, there are many self-proclaimed abductees (and contactees) who seek out publicity for monetary gain or to satisfy a need for attention. I would be the last to deny these people exist. What I do deny is that ALL abductees are imagining or falsifying these events to satisfy their own personal agendas.

• UFOs don’t exist. I think that requires an external energy source, and this doesn’t exist ... I have spoken with Jesus.

• The commentary on the Parade magazine is very destructive, and it enjoys scaring society, I beg you to think more openly because our intelligent beings from outer spaces do exist and they are our creators ... I too was an abductee. To be honest, these dear beings have done me more good than bad. They have saved my life... The trouble with Earth beings is that they want proof, proof, and proof!

• In the Bible it talks about terrestrial and celestial bodies. This is not to say that God is out for sexual abuse on people or that we’re crazy.

• I have been strongly telepathic for twenty-seven years now. I do not receive - I transmit... Waves are coming from outer space somewhere - beaming through my head and transmitting thoughts, words, and images into the heads of anybody within range... Images will pop into my head that I did not put there, and vanish just as suddenly. Dreams are not dreams anymore -they are more like Hollywood productions... They are smart critters and they won’t give up ... Maybe all these little guys want to do is communicate ... If I finally go psychotic from all this pressure - or have another heart attack - there goes your last sure evidence that there is life in space.

• I think I have found a plausible terrestrial scientific explanation for numerous UFO reports. [The writer then discusses ball lightning.] If you like my stuff, could you help me get it published?

• Sagan refuses to take seriously the witnesses’ reports of anything that twentieth-century science can’t explain.

• Now readers will feel free to treat abductees ... as if they are victims of nothing more than an illusion. Abductees suffer the same sort of trauma a rape victim endures, and to have their experiences rejected by those closest to them is a second victimization that leaves them without any support system. Encounters with aliens is hard enough to cope with; victims need support, not rationalizations.

• My friend Frankie wants me to bring back an ashtray or a matchbook, but I think these visitors are probably much too intelligent to smoke.

• My own feeling is that the alien abduction phenomena is little more than a dreamlike sequence vicariously retrieved from memory storage. There are no more little green men or flying saucers than there are images of those things already stored in our brains.

• When alleged scientists conspire to censor and intimidate those who endeavor to offer new insightful hypotheses on conventional theories... they no longer should be considered scientists, but merely the insecure, self-serving impostors that they apparently are ... In the same token, must we all still suppose that J. Edgar Hoover was a fine FBI director, rather than the homosexual tool of organized crime he was?

• Your conclusion that large numbers of people in this country, perhaps as many as five million, are all victims of an identical mass hallucination is asinine.

• Thanks to the Supreme Court... America is now wide open for the Eastern pagan religions, under the aegis of Satan and his demons, so now we have four-foot gray beings kidnapping Earthlings and performing all sorts of experiments on them, and are being propagated by those who are educated beyond their intelligence and should know better... Your question [‘Are We Being Visited?’] is no problem for those who know the word of God, and are born-again Christians, and are looking for our Redeemer from Heaven, to rapture us out of this world of sin, sickness, war, AIDS, crime, abortion, homosexuality, New-Age-New-World-Order indoctrination, media brainwashing, perversion and subversion in government, education, business, finance, society, religion, etc. Those who reject the Creator God of the Bible are bound to fall for the kind of fairy tales which your article tries to propagate as being truth.

• If there is no reason to take the matter of alien visitation seriously, why is it the most highly classified subject in the US government?

• Perhaps some vastly older alien race, from a relatively metal-deficient star system, is seeking to prolong its existence by taking over a younger, better world and blending with its inhabitants.

• If I were a betting man, I would give you odds that your mailbox will overflow with stories such as I just related. I suspect that the psychic [psyche] brings forth these demons and angels, lights and circles as a part of our development. They are part of our nature.

• Science has become the ‘magic that works’. The UFOlogists are heretics to be excommunicated or burned at the stake.

• [Several readers wrote to say that aliens were demons sent by Satan, who is able to cloud our minds. One proposes that the insidious Satanic purpose is to make us worried about an alien invasion, so that when Jesus and his angels appear over Jerusalem we will be frightened rather than glad.] I do hope you will not dismiss me as another religious crackpot. I am quite normal and well-known in my own little community.

• You, sir, are in a position to do one of two things: know about the abductions and be covering them up, or feel that because you have not been abducted (perhaps they are not interested in you) they do not occur.

• A treason suit [was filed] against the President and Congress of the United States over a treaty made with aliens in the early ‘40s, who had later shown themselves to be hostile... The treaty agreed to protect the secrecy of the aliens in return for some of their technology [stealth aircraft and fibre optics, another correspondent reveals].

• Some of these beings are capable of intercepting the spiritual body when it is traveling.

• I am having communication with an alien being. This communication started early in 1992. What else can I say?

• The aliens can stay a step or two ahead of the thinking of scientists, and know how to leave insufficient clues behind that would satisfy the Sagan types, until society is better prepared mentally to face up to it all ... Perhaps you share the view that what’s going on with respect to UFOs and aliens, if deemed real, would be too traumatic to think about. However... they’ve shown themselves until back some 5,000-15,000 years or more ago when they were here for extended periods, spawning the god/goddess mythology of all cultures. The bottom line is that in all that time they haven’t taken over Earth; they haven’t subjected us or wiped us out.

• Homo sapiens was genetically fashioned, created initially to be substitute laborers and domestics for the SKY-LORDS (DINGIRS/ELOHIM/ANUNN AKI).

• The explosion that people saw was hydrogen fuel from a star cruiser, the landing sight was to be Northern California... The people on that star cruiser looked like Mr Spock from the ‘Star Trek’ TV series.

• Be the reports from the fifteenth century or the twentieth, a common thread ties the reports. Individuals who have experienced sexual trauma have a great deal of difficulty understanding and coping with the trauma. The terms used to describe the [resulting] hallucinations can be incoherent and incomprehensible.

• We find we are not as intelligent as we thought although we are still stiff-necked and our greatest sin is our pride. And we do not even know we are being led to Armageddon. The star pin-pointed a single shed, moved across the sky leading wise-men to that shed, frightened shepherds with the words fear not. Its spotlight was Ezekiel’s glory of God, Paul’s light that temporarily blinded him ... It was the ship in which little men took off old Rip, the little men called brownies, fairies, elves, these ‘creations’ of creators given specific duties... The God People are not yet ready to make themselves known to us. First, Armageddon, then, after we KNOW, we can go it alone. When we are humbled, when we do not shoot them down, God will return.

• The answer to these aliens from outer-space is simple. It comes from man. Man using drugs on people. In mental institutions all over the country, there are people who have no control over their emotions and behaviour. To control these people, they are given a variety of antipsychotic drugs ... If you have been drugged often... you will begin to have what is called ‘bleedthroughs’. This will be flash images popping into your mind of strange-looking people coming up to your face. This will begin your search for the answer of what the aliens were doing to you. You will be one of the thousands of UFO abductees. People will call you crazy. The reason for the strange creatures you are seeing is because Thorazine distorts the vision of your subconscious mind... The writer was laughed at, ridiculed, had his life threatened [because of presenting these ideas].

• Hypnosis prepares the mind for the invasion of demons, devils, and little gray men. God wants us to be clothed and in our right minds... Anything your ‘little gray men’ can do, Christ can do better!

• I hope that I never feel so superior that I cannot acknowledge that Creation is not limited to myself, but encompasses the Universe and all its entities.

In 1977 an heavenly body spoke to me about an injury to my head that happened in 1968. [A letter from a man who had twenty-four separate encounters with] a silent hovering saucer-shaped vehicle [and who has in consequence] experienced an ongoing development and amplification of such mental functions as clairvoyance, telepathy, and the challenging [channelling] of universal life energy for the purpose of healing.

• Over the years I have seen and talked to ‘ghosts’, been visited (though not yet abducted) by aliens, seen three-dimensional heads floating by my bed, heard knocks on my door... These experiences seemed as real as life. I have never thought of these experiences as anything more than what they certainly are: my mind playing tricks on itself.*

[* From a letter received by The Skeptical Inquirer; courtesy, Kendrick Frazier.]

• A hallucination might account for 99%, but can it ever account for 100%?

• UFOs are ... a subject of deep fantasy which has no FACTUAL BASIS WHATSOEVER. I pray you won’t lend your credence to a hoax.

• Dr Sagan served on the Air Force committee that evaluated government investigations of UFOs, and yet he wants us to believe that there’s no substantial proof that UFOs exist. Please explain why the government needed to be evaluated.

• I’m going to lobby my Representative to try to cancel funds for this program of listening for alien signals from space, because it would be a waste of money. They’re already among us.

• The government spends millions of tax dollars for researching UFOs. The SETI project (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) would be a waste of money if the government truly believed UFOs were non-existent. I am personally excited about the SETI project because it shows that we’re moving in the right direction; towards communication with aliens, rather than being an unwilling observer.

• The succubi, which I identified more as astral rape, occurred from ‘78-’92. It was hard on a moral and seriously practicing Catholic, demoralizing, dehumanizing, and quite literally had me worried by the physical aftermath of disease effects.

• The space people are coming! They hope to remove whom they can, especially children who are the ‘seedlings’ of the next humanity generation along with their cooperating parents, grandparents and other adults, to safety before the upcoming major sunspot/planetary peak, which is just over the horizon. The Space Ship is in sight every night and close in to assist us when the Major Solar Flares do, before turbulence starts in the atmosphere. The Polar Shift is due now as it moves to its new position for the Aquarian Age... [The authors also inform me that they are] working with the Ashtar Command, where Jesus Christ meets with those aboard for instructions. Many dignitaries are present, including archangels Michael and Gabriel.

• I have extensive experience in therapeutic energy work, which involves removing grid patterns, negative memory cords, and alien implants from human bodies and their surrounding energy fields. My work is primarily utilized as an adjunctive aide to psychotherapy. My clients range from businessmen, home-makers, professional artists, therapists, and children... The alien energy is very fluid, both within the body and after it is removed, and must be contained as soon as possible. The energy grids are most often locked around the heart or in a triangular formation across the shoulders.

• I don’t know how, after such an experience, I could have just turned over and gone back to sleep.

• I believe in happy endings. I always have. Once you have seen a figure as tall as the room - with golden hair, and shining like a lighted Christmas tree, lifting up the little child beside us, how could you not? I understood the message the figure was relaying - to the little child - and it was me. We had always talked together. How else could life be bearable - in a place like this?... Unfamiliar mental states? You put your finger right on it.

• Who is really in charge of this planet?