In my book, Silver Screen Saucers: Sorting Fact from Fantasy in Hollywood’s UFO Movies, I devote an entire chapter to Hollywood’s historical engagement with the concept of alien abduction. The chapter documents the evolution of UFO abduction movies over six decades; it also features interviews with selected abductees (or “experiencers”), eliciting their personal perspectives on Hollywood’s depictions of a phenomenon that, to them, is closer to science fact than science fiction. One of the experiencers I interviewed is a gentleman named Peter Faust, who came to prominence in the mid-1990s following the publication of the bestselling book, Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens, which was written by Harvard psychiatrist John Mack and devotes an entire chapter to Peter’s story. Peter was one of Mack’s early patients and appeared alongside the Pulitzer Prize-winning author in a 1994 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Peter claims his experiences trace back to his youth, and his first conscious recollection of them came in 1988 at the age of 33. John Mack would later invite Peter to participate in his group therapy sessions, and it was through these, and also through hypnosis, that he began to find the missing pieces of his puzzle.
During our interview, I asked Peter if his experiences are ongoing. He replied that, although their physical component has ceased, the effect of his experiences, both physical and mental, continues to be felt in his daily life. In this sense, he said, his experience is ongoing and will likely never end. When I asked him if he misses what he perceived to be his direct interactions with otherworldly intelligences, he told me:
“When you come back from that experience and go back into ordinary reality, trying to pay the mortgage and the bills and plan for retirement, you know, just back into human existence, there’s a gap there. You’ve reached a state of bliss, you’ve had contact with the divine, or whatever you want to call it, and thereafter there’s always a part of you that thinks ‘those are my people, those are my tribe, that’s my real home,’ and there’s a sense of longing for that, because you’ve had that taste of it. So in that regard I miss it. But I don’t focus on it because I have to live in this world. I think that’s what’s hard for many people who’ve had the contact experience.”
Here follows my full interview with Peter Faust…
RG: UFOs and Hollywood – what are your immediate thoughts?
PF: It seems to me that Hollywood has a history of sensationalizing the phenomenon and consistently presenting it as traumatic – that the beings are malevolent, and that there’s a threat of invasion.
RG: What’s your emotional state while watching abduction-themed entertainment products? Do they provoke in you a visceral reaction, or are you able to view them with detachment?
PF: They absolutely elicit a visceral reaction in me of the initial trauma and the disbelief that I felt at the time. It has been very difficult for me to watch these films without being triggered, so I avoid most of them, although I have seen a few over the years. The last one I saw was The Fourth Kind (2009).
Aside from trauma, the other reaction I have is “This is not the whole story.” It’s disheartening that Hollywood leaves its exploration of the phenomenon at the level of trauma, invasion, and abuse, and that it hasn’t moved into the next level, which I personally have experienced, where these intelligences are trying to break through our consciousness and have a communion with us, a conversation with us, and are trying to impart a message to us.
RG: To what extent are your own experiences reflected in these products?
PF: I would say the initial aspects – the sense of “this can’t be happening,” “am I going crazy?, who do I trust, who do I tell?” The obsessional aspect of it – Close Encounters of the Third Kind captured that well. The complete shattering of one’s belief system and a feeling of alienation, of going crazy, of losing your mind, and the effect that it has on your family and loved ones.
RG: After becoming aware of your experiences in adulthood did you find yourself drawn to UFO-themed entertainment media in the hope of finding answers?
PF: When I first went to Dr. Mack with my experiences in my 30s, he immediately said to me “Please don’t read any material or watch any films on this subject, and don’t talk to anybody else, so that our regression hypnosis sessions are not tainted by an overlay of what you’ve read or seen in the media.” So I did not look at any of these films or read anything on this topic until 1995 or 1996 after John’s book had come out.
RG: Are there any film or TV depictions of the experiencer phenomenon you’ve found to be particularly truthful or authentic?
PF: I would say that there isn’t one film that I can remember that depicts all of it, although I would say there are elements in all these movies that reflect parts of the experience. Certainly Close Encounters of the Third Kind reflected the obsessional tone of it. Communion reflected another tone, and I would say that Taken reflected the feeling and importance of the individual recognizing their experiences and then finding others who have experienced the same. In that show there was a recognition among the characters that they were not alone in their experiences, that they were not isolated, that they were part of a collective experience, whereas in Communion it was more isolated to the individual.
Another movie, Knowing, was good in the sense that it depicted a consciousness trying to reach us and show us that there are worrying events occurring that they’re aware of, and they’re trying to connect with us. It shows an individual following the threads and coming to the point where he has actual contact with these beings.
RG: What facets of the experiencer phenomenon would you like to see filmmakers explore more in the future?
PF: What I would love to see Hollywood explore more is the arc of one person, or several people’s lives, who seem to not be connected, and who individually go through the process of horror and disbelief and then move through that to acceptance, then moving to a more mutual contact with the beings to discover their true intent. I don’t want to see any more straight horror films on this subject. I think the general public is ready for a film that depicts people waking up, having the experience, following the experience, people no longer traumatized by the experience, and then moving toward something larger and more profound.
A movie more along the lines of Contact. That film took it to the next level. None of the existing films show the transformation that happens for the individual. I think the subject as a whole is challenging Hollywood to explore the next arc of this ongoing story, which is ‘how will the collective consciousness of humanity respond to this larger reality?’ So in this sense, Contact, Knowing, and even Interstellar are the only films I can think of which depict a higher intelligence trying to communicate a message to us that’s to our benefit, but their methods of communication are mysterious and sometimes scary. Contact and Interstellar actually show us going out into space to meet these higher intelligences, whereas in the 1950s movies, the aliens came to us. But now we’re starting to have the technology to be able to go out there and meet them, and Hollywood is starting to depict that – that we can decipher their communication, we can decipher that they’re trying to connect with us, and that they’re actually trying to help us.
RG: What do you feel is the overall cultural effect of UFO-themed movies?
PF: It’s been a slow process of disclosure over sixty years using the mediums of our time, the mediums of communication, which are film and television. And I think ultimately humanity is being prepared for contact.
RG: Is this disclosure a planned political strategy, or is it a natural cultural process?
PF: Yes, it’s cultural. If we take a step back and put conspiracy theories to one side, I fundamentally believe that there is a collective form of preparation going on through mass media; we’re preparing ourselves for the possibility of contact. The media in any of its forms, from the town crier, to the newspaper, to the radio, to film and television, to the Internet, has always been a way for consciousness to expand; for humanity to broaden its view.
RG: So, you feel that Hollywood has part to play in this process of awakening and acceptance? That Hollywood wields enough power as a medium to influence what people will think, and ultimately do?
PF: Absolutely, because all the seeds of our imagination are planted through film and television at this point in our history, and through the media more broadly. And if the seeds are “don’t react with terror,” “don’t react with fear,” “don’t react with a SWAT team,” then we’ll be more predisposed to that.
Tens-of-thousands of individuals the world over continue to report physical and/or mental interactions with otherworldly intelligences. Regardless of one’s personal perspective on this phenomenon, it is clear that, but for a few exceptions, Hollywood’s treatment of the subject has been crude and simplistic. All of the UFO experiencers I’ve spoken with over the years share the view that the entertainment industry should move beyond the genre trappings of sci-fi and horror, past even the explicitly “alien,” and focus instead on the “human;” on the frequently reported psychologically and spiritually transformative aspects of these experiences—whatever they may represent—at both individual and collective levels.