At midnight on Thursday, May 9th, 2013, VANITY FAIR posts its online feature article about Harvard Psychiatry Professor and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Dr. John Mack, written by NY Times investigative journalist Ralph Blumenthal.
The article recounts Dr. Mack’s defense of alien abductees and the personal and academic price he paid for it.
Leslie Keane, New York Times bestselling author, says “Ralph Blumenthal has written an intelligent and insightful story; the best treatment on John Mack I have ever read.”
It is also the first public announcement of a partnership between Denise David Williams’ MakeMagic Productions and Robert Redford’s Wildwood Enterprises for the production of a major motion picture based on Dr. Mack’s extraordinary story. (Update: John Mack’s story rights have since returned to the Mack estate.)
- The Vanity Fair article initially describes “Elisabeth and Mark Before and After Death: The Power of a Field of Love” as an unpublished manuscript (“He left behind another unpublished manuscript, with another mystery he was seeking to unravel, a secret as dark as death itself”), before later correctly identifying this as a book proposal, not a manuscript. The materials for this project in actuality consist of a dozen-page single-spaced outline (the book proposal) and many interviews Dr. Mack conducted with friends and family of the late Dr. Elisabeth Targ.
- The article fails to examine the Donna Bassett incident critically. The article presents her as a “Boston writer” who later told Time magazine that she “was a double agent out to expose Mack’s U.F.O. cult” through her “hoax”.
However, neither Vanity Fair nor Time magazine presented any evidence that she was an undercover writer as she claimed. Materials from Mack’s archives (excerpted below) were provided to the writer of the Vanity Fair piece that suggest her motives were personal.
The most damaging claim that she brought to Time magazine – as Time reporter James Willwerth credulously accepted and reported – was of a “lack of therapy following [the] traumatic hypnosis sessions”.
But it seems that Bassett had in fact been advised to seek regular therapy, and took offense at the way in which the advice was presented, and may have been disappointed that Dr. Mack himself was not the resource to which she was being directed.
A colleague of Dr. Mack’s explained that at a meeting with Ed Bassett and Donna Bassett, “I felt over my head and asked if it would be helpful to her to see a psychologist regularly who has an understanding of the phenomenon. This was exactly the wrong thing to say. She felt I was calling her crazy and that I was abandoning her just when she’d started to open up to me.”
In March of 1994 she made her claim to Willwerth that she was an undercover writer whose false persona had not been directed into the therapy she felt she would have needed had her persona been real.
- The concluding paragraph of the Vanity Fair article misrepresents a possible after-life communication from Dr. Mack. “It’s not what we thought”, is the message he is said to have related. The Vanity Fair article implies this was about alien encounters. The message was shared with his former assistant Roberta Colasanti by a psychic. Colasanti would like to clarify that “It’s not what we thought” was in regards to our sense of what death is. It was the second of two messages that two different psychics told her were being directed to her from the late Dr. Mack on the subject of life-after-life.