The name Yaphet Kotto is not one that many may be familiar with, but if you are a fan of movies from the 1970s and 80s you will most certainly know his face. Most famous for his supporting role in the sci-fi horror Alien he has appeared in a wide range of movies and television shows, including playing the devious villain Kanaga in the James Bond film Live and Let Die, starring in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film The Running Man, Robert DeNiro’s Midnight run, and many others. Kotto already has an interesting enough life as it is, growing up as a black Jew on the streets of New York and in later life finding out that his father was in fact the Crown Prince of Cameroon, before studying acting at the Actors Mobile Theater Studio and then landing stage roles and after that his first film role in uncredited bit roles to work his way up from there to eventually become a show business legend. Yet while Kotto’s life is colorful and intriguing, what really makes it even more interesting are his many alleged experiences with UFOs and supposedly very real aliens.
Kotto’s personal accounts were not really known by any one except his immediate family, rabbi, and psychologist for years, and it was not until journalist Noel Ransome, with Vice, tracked him down for an interview that it would all come out into the open. Ransome had been merely interested in talking to the actor about his experiences making the 1979 film Alien, and although the actor typically did not give interviews he agreed, and Kotto’s talent agent Ryan Goldhar made the cryptic statement that he might like to ask him about UFOs as well. Ransome did, and Kotto would prove to be very candid talking about it all, expressing his desire to finally talk about it after all of those years, and weaving some bizarre tales indeed. According to Kotto, he has had encounters with UFOs and aliens most of his life, starting from when he was just a kid. He says:
It started when I was about nine or ten years old. I’m being grounded in the house for coming home late from school. I remember being told I couldn't go outside, so I would look out at the streets of my neighborhood in the Bronx, watching the kids play stickball. I get tired of watching and turn to leave and standing right at the edge of the doorway to my room was a figure of what we now call The Grays. When I turned around, a figure was behind me, it was at least five or six feet tall with an elongated head. It appeared, then jumped to the back of me and disappeared.He leaped out of the way like he didn’t want me to catch him. I looked down the hall and there was nobody there. I asked my grandmother if there was anybody in the house and she said, ‘No, just you and me.’ But I never forgot that. And as I got to be a teenager and an adult, I realized that, holy s***, that was an alien.
He was not sure how to classify these experiences at first, but they seemed to follow him wherever he went. When he was younger it was all very confusing for him, because he wasn’t sure how to process it all or who to turn to talk about it. On some occasions he saw UFOs, on others the aliens themselves, and he also believes that he may have been even abducted. He has explained of this and the effect it all had on him:
At one point, I remember being at my home at 6 PM. I went into my office in the garage to meditate, and I saw something. I Looked at it for about five minutes, and it was light. I was wondering why the neighbors were shining a light through the top of my garage window. So I went to talk to them. Now keep in mind, I had been sitting in that car garage for some 12 hours and I believed that I contributed to those things that were flying above my garage... I shouldn't call them things, they were aircrafts. As I got older, I understood what they were. I went through my youth, however, not knowing what I was experiencing, therefore, I didn't talk about it. I would just experience something and file it away until something larger happened. This is the thing other UFO witnesses don't talk about. Every time I moved into a house, above it at some point, there would be a circle of what looked like smoke. I'd wonder where it came from because it sure as hell didn't look like clouds. Those sightings continued for a good ten to 15 years. I've also had time loss. I have a big loss of time between some of these moments, and I'd often wonder if I was taken.
It didn’t mean anything to me back then, but looking back I thought, wait a minute brother, these guys are real. I didn’t accept it fully until I was 35-40 years old. A lot of the time I never talk about it. I was having extraterrestrial experiences from the time I was 10 years old. Weird experiences. First they took me to a psychiatrist, priest, rabbi, and no one could dispute it. Why would I be making things up at 10? I saw the damn things.
Some of his most disturbing experiences he claims happened when he was in the Philippines for work. While there he says that he had several strange incidents with UFOs, of which he says:
It was one evening in my office in the Philippines. I heard my wife and the waiters calling me to come outside in very anxious voices. So I went out and when I got there, I saw the same huge circle of smoke over the house. When I asked them what they saw, they said they saw a UFO as big as the Yankee Stadium turned upside down. They were freaking out. Two or three nights later, I saw it. The thing blotted out the entire sky. The moon and everything, it was huge. I just remember saying, "Jesus Christ." I mean I got so nervous man because you don't see something like that without being vulnerable to becoming psychologically blown away. You get scared to put it quite frankly. That messed me up for a good three or four days.
I mean we've had them follow us around. Showing up in places where I am. At one point, I was getting ready to run with my assistant in the morning around Manila in the Philippines. Got up, went outside and we hadn't gone very far when one of those aircrafts showed up. My assistant freaked out and said, "look at that!" and I said yeah and kept it moving. It followed us around and she ended up telling all her friends. The next morning, when we got ready to go out, I mentally sat down and began to disbelieve it and thought, if two show up, I'll believe. So we went out and sure enough, two of them showed up and the next day, it was three that showed up as if by request.
Kotto says he even had odd experiences while filming the movie that he is perhaps most famous for amongst mainstream audiences, Ridley Scott’s Alien. Filming occurred during the heyday of his UFO experiences, and at that point he was already very deep into UFOlogy and had had many encounters. As he made his way around the set he says he made some curious observations, of which he explains:
Now, I'll admit, there were things that I alone found on the set of Alien—the spaceship. That mechanism that Sigourney Weaver throws to put the Sulaco (fictional spacecraft) on automatic destruct. There were symbols there. Symbols that had nothing to do with the ship in the film and I kept finding these symbols. They were like Egyptian symbols and I started trying to decipher them, which I was able to do.
What in the world? This one is a headscratcher, to be sure. It is difficult to know what he means by this, he doesn’t elaborate any further in the interview, and it is at this point that some people might start to think he might be delusional, but Kotto claims that he is completely serious and has no family history of mental illness. He is also very clear about having nothing to gain from coming forward with these experiences. When Ransome suggests that some of his stories and some readers might think he is making it all up, Kotto goes on the defensive, saying:
There's no reason for me to make these claims. I never promoted any book or anything like that. I never read anyone talking about the experiences I've had. I've made 75 movies and I've done television shows. I'm known all over the world. This confession wouldn't advance me, I advance myself through my acting. Other people may do this to try to advance themselves, make it public, and then become famous. I'm already famous so what possible purpose would I have to tell these stories except how it relates to the movie Alien? This is the reason why I never talked about it after that movie because of course, they'd say, "oooh, he's trying to promote his movie." Well, I'm not promoting anything now. I've written no books and I have no movie that's about to be released. This is the time to reveal this because no one can connect it to anything that's a financial gain or form of media exposure. Now, if someone asks me if I ever experienced anything that's remotely close to an alien, I'll say "damn right I did." It's happened since I was nine years old and has continued since then. So I really don't care whether anyone thinks I'm delusional. My delusion is over. I've taken a position on that.
Kotto does not seem to really understand why he should be chosen to be so closely followed by these entities, or why they have done so for decades. However, he does think he knows the reason that they are here to begin with, and believes that they have a larger purpose to play in the future of humankind. In the end, his closing thoughts on the matter are explained thusly:
We're not alone, we're not alone in the universe. If you totally westernize the idea look at it from a supremacy viewpoint, then you'll say, everyone's imagining them when it comes to these things. We can say that, but much of the world would reject that premise. We're not alone. They aren’t going to go away and I honestly believe these species are close to making themselves known in this century, to this generation. I believe their purpose is to make sure we don’t kill ourselves. We’re losing our rivers, lakes, mountains and our caps are melting. We need to take a serious look at what we’re doing and they’re going to help us do that.
So what are we dealing with here? Is this notable actor telling the truth, or is this all delusions and tall tales? It is hard to see why the notoriously reclusive Kotto would suddenly come out of hiding to lay this all out for everyone to see, and it is hard to argue that he would have promotional or monetary motivations to do so, of which he had none. Is he just delusional or is he maybe telling the truth about these odd encounters? The fact that he is well known makes his stories more widely played, but in the end what are we to make of them? Whatever the case may be, the irony cannot be possibly lost that the actor of "Alien" has had some rather weird alien encounters of his own, and it remains a compelling oddity.