“Ariel Phenomenon” documentary filmmaker releases a statement

AUGUST 2017 – The filmmaker who is developing a documentary about the extraordinary events at the Ariel School has released a statement that we’d like to share:

Randy Nickerson, Filmmaker, String Theory Films

Now with seeing somewhat the light of day on this extensive project, it brings me back to the beginning when I first received the BetaCam footage from the Dr John Mack family members. After seeing this footage, I could understand what Mack saw in the testimony of these children and the events around the Ariel School sightings. That was in 2007. This film was supposed to be just a DVD project with John Mack’s material for online sales but I had so many questions that his interviews did not answer. That began the quest to find the school in 2008. I was told it had burnt down, that it no longer existed, and then I found the name of the reporter who helped out John Mack in 1994. She informed me the school was still there and so were some of the original teachers. I booked the flight to South Africa within days. Landed in Johannesburg, South Africa and was shuttled to where I was staying. There was an armed guard with an M4 in front of the 12 foot wall that surrounded the building. I was definitely not in Kansas anymore. Went into Zimbabwe a week later with a reporter with warnings from our US State Department not to do so. Zimbabwe was in civil unrest due to the elections and the dictatorships actions against its own people. People were starving. It left an impression on me that changed me fundamentally. To be in Zimbabwe covering a story and there being another big story happening at the same time, was overwhelming. I stayed in a shack about 7 miles from the Ariel school with no electricity, no hot water. I had to charge batteries and do everything from generator power when it was running. It was a humbling and I had to buck up and face the music in ways that I was not prepared for.

Seeing the school for the first time was a moment I will never forget and meeting the teachers and those that were there in 1994 was fascinating. The school and the Head Mistress were so gracious and accommodating given the circumstances that they were under.

The Headmistress shared with me photos, drawings, and the story of the 1994 incident.

My question was “Do you really believe it happened?” Her and the 2 other teachers I spoke with and interviewed were convinced that it did. I walked the playground for days and the site where the witnesses said this silver disc was. I met with parents of the some of the children and people from Ruwa that also witnessed unusual things in the sky the day before. A paramedic who met with some of the children who were traumatized after the event. It became more and more apparent that there was an incredible story here.

I noticed on a tiled brick wall and on the walkway were the names of the children that attended Ariel School in 1994. That was the moment when I said to myself, I can find them. I didn’t know how but I was determined to do it. A woman in Johannesburg helped me set up a Facebook page. It was the advent of Facebook and social media that made it possible to find these now adult kids.

It was in 2008 that I interviewed the first witness who was in grade 7 in 1994.It began a long journey of tracking people down.It was not my intention to be an investigative reporter but that is what I had to become in order to tell this story. Locating the BBC reporter who was first on scene was a big moment. I had been looking for him for years and when I heard from him, out of the blue, I flew to England to interview him. He had kept everything from covering that event in 94. Every piece of video and even his paper scratch notes, I found other reporters and investigators had done the same thing. Whatever happened there was important enough for people to make a special place in their homes to save everything from that time.

I would find that these children were scattered all across the globe now due to the situation in Zimbabwe.

Funds were an issue and the credits will be filled with so many people who helped me. Getting to these kids was difficult. It took time, lots of effort and I was learning how to make a feature documentary all at the same time. It was gorilla film making at its core.

I had made several short films with the longest being 18 minutes but a feature documentary was an entirely different animal. The further I went and the more I found out about this story, the more I was convinced that this had to be a done properly no matter what.

There is so much more to this story, John Mack’s story, and the whole issue of life outside this planet. As I get closer to the end of this film I can finally start to talk about the journey and all the things I have kept close to the chest for so long. I look forward to that time and it is near. Thank God! It is indeed time to tell the story and bring the facts around this event to screen.

In Memory of Richmond Mayo-Smith

September 3, 2015 — We are sadly overdue in honoring John Mack’s friend and colleague, renowned educator Richmond Mayo-Smith, who died at the age of 92 in Boston on January 10th, 2015. Ever the thoughtful teacher, Richmond wrote some thoughts that were shared at his own memorial service.

“Life is more beautiful than I ever imagined.
Life on earth is a school.
Don’t be confused by what you have been taught,
rather close your eyes and listen deeply to your
inner resonance. There you come to know what is
true. Everyone must be courageous to follow a
deeper calling than societies’ prescription.
I am no longer worried, for I now see a deeper

Richmond’s complete remarks are available here (click for pdf, 4 pages)

We can do little more at this moment than say that Richmond was among the wisest people who John knew.

Those of us who met Richmond through John’s work would all say that it was a privilege and honor.

Dr. John Mack’s book Passport to the Cosmos to be released in Italian in January 2016

For our Italian readers, an announcement regarding the first-ever Italian translation of Passport to the Cosmos by John E. Mack, M.D..

Coming in January 2016: Dr. John Mack’s book, Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters, in Italian!

Venexia Editrice says: “It is with great pleasure that Venexia presents a new series of books devoted to ufology. Many of our readers have asked us to explain this choice, as most know our publishing house for its selection of texts about esotericism and spirituality rather than for other topics. Here’s a quick response.

The mysteries of the universe are endless. We don’t know what may be occurring; if there may exist extraterrestrial beings who inhabit our galaxy, creatures who may dwell in a multiverse, entities who may be close to us yet whom our senses prevent us from perceiving, or who knows what else. All we can be sure of at this time is that something is going on that is at once psychic, mythical, imaginary and tangible. Too many people have had experiences with unfamiliar beings for the phenomenon of UFOs to be ignored and – most importantly from our perspective – all are transformed with the certitude that the way we interpret the world is limited, if not downright harmful to life on Earth.

Venexia is happy to offer its readers important books that deal with these topics, such as Passport to the Cosmos by John E. Mack, a Harvard psychiatry professor, Pulitzer Prize-winner and highest authority on the phenomenon of abductions by alien beings. In all these books, the personal experiences and professional research lead towards a renewed sense of the sacred and of reverence for nature that can make us reflect upon, and be delighted by, possibilities of extraordinary beauty.”

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Dr. John Mack’s Abduction returns to print in new edition using the author’s preferred text

November 2014 — The revised edition of Abduction, Dr. John Mack’s first book on the subject of alien encounters, is now available as an ebook from major retailers. A trade paperback will be released in late December or early January the first or second quarter of 2015.

Abduction was originally published on April 20, 1994. Though Abduction has remained in print for twenty years this is the first time since 1997 that the author’s revised edition has been available. There are subtle changes in the phrasing of many sentences throughout. More significantly, “in order to improve the book’s readability,” Dr. Mack wrote, “the historical and cross-cultural sections have been moved to the back, and the opening sections that contain my introduction and first reactions to learning about the abduction phenomenon have been streamlined.”

Abduction was the first of two books the acclaimed Harvard professor of psychiatry would write on the subject of “human transformation and alien encounters”.

Dr. Mack, who died in September 2004 at the age of 74, spent most of his illustrious career examining how a sense of “connection” develops across cultures and between individuals, and how these connections alter people’s worldviews. His best known book on this theme was the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Prince of Our Disorder, a biography of British officer T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”).

His interest in the “connection” that was reported between humans and aliens, and how that too transformed people’s worldviews, was an unexpected — if natural — continuation of his lifelong exploration of this theme.

Though largely a collection of case studies, less philosophically-oriented than Passport to the Cosmos (published several years later), Abduction began Dr. Mack’s consideration of the possibility that the relationship between humans and the so-called aliens may have benefits for both species, rather than being purely exploitative of humans as many at the time believed.

Publisher’s Weekly noted, “Where Mack’s report differs is in its emphasis on the purported spiritual aspects of the abduction experience. Many of his patients reported deep personal growth and heightened awareness of human destructiveness and of Earth’s ecological crisis. Some abductees seemed to relive past lives during therapy sessions; others became open to contact with spirit-entities; still others said they possessed a ‘dual identity’ as both alien and human. Unlike Hopkins and Jacobs, who tend to view such phenomena with skepticism … Mack wishfully embraces them as signs that a higher intelligence is attempting to intervene in humanities destructive course. Whether that intelligence involves extra-terrestrial humanoids or multidimensional spirits is a question Mack leaves open. His searching inquiry is among the most credible and thought-provoking of this genre.”

This return to print of Dr. Mack’s preferred edition of Abduction has been made possible by the John E. Mack Archives working hand-in-hand with Simon & Schuster. To prepare this version, the pages of a rare 1997 trade paperback were torn from its binding and scanned. Errors were manually corrected and the book was newly typeset. The preface, which had already been revised in 1995, has been further expanded by ten new paragraphs written in February 1997, sourced from the archives. All earlier editions of Abduction are now retired.

A commemorative edition of Passport to the Cosmos remains available from White Crow Publishing. This edition includes illustrations and photographs. Insights about the relationship between spiritual and physical energy; trauma’s role in transformation; information about the ecological crisis facing the planet; the possibility that human beings are participating in the creation of some sort of interdimensional hybrid race; and the expansion of human consciousness and our spiritual reawakening are the matters this book includes. More than a sequel to Abduction, this is Dr. Mack’s definitive statement on alien encounters and the state of humanity.

William Shatner writing novel inspired by John Mack’s research into alien encounters

May 7, 2014 — Actor and novelist William Shatner told Larry King (on Larry King Now, April 23, 2014) that he is writing a science fiction novel inspired in part by the research of the late Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Mack.

Shatner told King, “[Mack’s] conclusion was UFOs are on another plane, another reality… So do UFOs exist? It depends on what you mean by ‘exist’!”

Shatner had recently learned about Mack’s research from a discussion with producer Denise David Williams, who is developing a motion picture based on the career of Dr. John Mack.

Dr. Mack’s explorations of his patients’ alien encounters earned him the scorn of his Harvard peers, and the admiration of thousands of “experiencers”.

Shatner’s fiction will not be able to do more than skim the edges of Mack’s own story since Mack’s Life Story Rights are held by producer Williams.

John E. Mack Institute ends association with Xperiencers television program

September 10, 2013 — The John E. Mack Institute (JEMI) is pleased to have offered guidance during the development of the Xperiencers television program. Our year-long affiliation with the production has concluded. As the program moves into production without our collaboration we wish it well. We’d particularly like to thank the co-producer with whom we worked most, who has since left the production, for her efforts to bring a refined tone to the program.

We believe there is much to be learned from extraordinary experiences; the experiences commonly referred to as “alien encounters” seem to reveal opportunities for humanity to expand beyond its current precarious state of affairs in bold and dramatic ways – opportunities that many (including the late Dr. John Mack) have feared we will fail to take. Presenting material of such import with the respect and sensitivity it deserves is an exceptionally difficult prospect, and one that we cannot yet say if this program, absent our collaboration, will achieve.

For updates on the program, please visit X Marks the Spot’s Xperiencers.com.

Vanity Fair feature article about Harvard’s Dr. John Mack is now online

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.


  1. 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.

  3. 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.

  5. 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.

Xperiencers Series in Development

October 12, 2012 – The John E. Mack Institute (JEMI) is pleased to announce an alignment between a television production company and JEMI for the creation of a television series that will explore the meaning of alien encounter experiences via open-minded interviews with experiencers.

The board of JEMI believes the proposed series, currently in development under the title “Xperiencers”, is in line with the research Dr. Mack conducted under the PEER project at JEMI (the Program for Extraordinary Experience Research) in the 1990s and early ’00s; the series will continue his efforts to give voice to the diversity of men and women whose lives have been affected by extraordinary experiences.

An excerpt from the Xperiencers.com’s website:

An unspoken bond is shared between “experiencers” (those who have had extraordinary experiences with apparently alien beings).

Sometimes when experiencers are brought together, there is an unexplained sense of recognition, and insights about their experiences flow more freely than when they are isolated from one another.

Therefore, our intention is to bring experiencers together and to record their insights. Each person may have a piece of a larger puzzle that, when assembled, could present a more complete picture of this phenomenon.

Our team members themselves have lived through extraordinary experiences. Each has been propelled by the initial shockwave to question their life goals, religious beliefs, relationships, and even their own sanity. We remember the late Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Mack, who felt that once we learn to move past the fear, these encounters can be the most amazing events a human can experience.

Our Xperiencers Team understands how it feels to be labeled “crazy” as perspectives shift and personalities transform. Having set down safely on the other side of this difficult process, our team is able to listen with empathy and understanding to others who are now going through, or have gone through, the same transformation.

We are not psychiatrists or therapists. Our goal is simply to amass the best insights from men and women around the world who have experienced these paradoxically invasive and enlightening events. It is our hope that each participant may feel some peace and release from having been able to share their most valuable insight with us.

We make no judgement about whether these events are caused by “aliens” in any sense of the word. We only know that these events are real to those who experience them, and we hope that together, in connection with one another, we may come closer to the truth.

More info to come as the series takes shape.

Visit X Marks the Spot’s Xperiencers.com for additional information.

Disclaimer: The John E. Mack Institute’s association with X Marks the Spot Entertainment is limited to branding related to the production of the Xperiencers television series; JEMI is not responsible for and does not necessarily endorse the opinions or activities of X Marks the Spot Entertainment personnel.

Budd Hopkins

August 21, 2011 – Budd Hopkins has died.

Budd Hopkins

On January 10, 1990, Budd Hopkins inscribed these words to John Mack, then a nascent inquirer into the subject of alien encounters:

“For John, with every good wish to a future – I hope – colleague.”

Today, Sunday August 21, 2011, we remember a pioneer of the alien encounter phenomenon, with every good wish in return.

Budd Hopkins, June 15, 1931 – August 21, 2011.

Link to statement on Hopkins’ site:
Statement from Leslie Kean:
“I’m very sad to announce that Budd Hopkins died today, August 21, at 1:35 pm. Budd had been under hospice care for about three weeks, at his home in New York. The combination of liver cancer and pneumonia led to his death. His daughter Grace Hopkins-Lisle and I were with him almost continuously during these past weeks. He was not in any pain throughout any of the process, and he received the best possible care and loving support from those closest to him. Today he gradually slipped away, and simply quietly stopped breathing. He died peacefully and without any struggle, with Grace, Grace’s husband Andrew, and me by his side. Thanks to all of you for being such strong supporters of this extraordinary man, who has contributed so much to our lives, in so many different ways.
– Leslie Kean”

“The Priests of High Strangeness”: A Warning About Expectations

January 15, 2011

In “The Priests of High Strangeness”, an essay by Carol Rainey published in the premiere issue of Paratopia (Jan 2011), the author asserts that “The sensational cases published in [Budd] Hopkins’ Intruders and Witnessed, in [David] Jacobs’ Secret Life and The Threat… are not the norm for abduction experiences.”

She suggests that Hopkins, her husband of ten years, was too easily lured by stories that bear little resemblance to typical alien encounters. The cloak and dagger story of Linda Cortile, allegedly abducted from her New York apartment on a beam of light in full view of a United Nations ambassador, is one of several cases which she notes Hopkins promoted even as discrediting evidence piled up. An allegation that David Jacobs’ objectivity has been compromised by paranoia is also referenced.

We thought some may wonder whether this article discredits experiencers and alien encounter experiences in general. We do not feel that it is meant to.

Rather, it is a criticism of researchers being lured by their own expectations of what the alien encounter experience is, and what sort of cases promise “proof” — when the reality could be that the nature of alien encounters is far stranger than one may expect, and may by its very nature not be able to provide a familiar kind of proof.

Click here for PDF of Carol Rainey essay | Alternate link

Addendum: Discussion born of this essay has included statements from one of Hopkins’ earliest interview subjects, Deb Kauble (“Kathie Davis” in Hopkins’ book Intruders). She asserts the reality of what happened to her, while emphasizing the need not to use terms or definitions that assume we know the nature of the experiences, contesting (for example) the use of the term “spaceship” (“I saw something. I don’t know what it was”) and, sharing her disdain for the term “abduction” (a term which Dr. Mack tried to de-emphasize in his later work).

Jeremy Vaeni describes the discussion underway now as the “deconstruction” of “what we claimed to know” in a new essay titled “Reflections on 2 Journeys: Where Do We Go From Here?”. While Vaeni at times goes too far (he offhandly tries to dismiss the theme of sexual/reproductive elements of the encounters for no given reason other than the implication that Deb Kauble may have stated her case differently), the essay is well worth reading for its central point.

Read Jeremy Vaeni essay as archived on archive.org

Translating the word “Experiencer” into other languages

December 10, 2010

Nuance of meaning retained with newly invented word

Recently an Italian website, www.altrogiornale.org, contacted the John E. Mack Institute for permission to translate some of Dr. John Mack’s articles. With consent from the John E. Mack Archives LLC, permission was granted.

We asked what word they would use for “experiencer”.

“Experiencer” is, after all, a sort of invented word in English, which Dr. Mack popularized when he applied it to people who have reported experiences that appear to be “alien encounters” but for which another explanation may exist. It has become an important word in the lexicon of alien encounter research, so needed some careful attention.

“Experiencer” is a deliberately vague term meaning “one who has experienced something”, which in its vagueness allows for many possible interpretations of what exactly may be the nature of the experiences. That same vagueness needed to be retained in any translated form.

We asked a librarian what resources existed for getting the finer sense of word meanings in Italian, and she turned us to this site, http://www.woxikon.com/english-italian/experience.php , which suggested that “esperienza” can carry the meanings of knowledge / mental sensation / skill. Sounded about right, and the word was a good sound-alike.

So we initially proposed “esperienzer” (esperienza with an “er” substituted at the end), without knowing if adding an “er” to the end of a word in Italian turns something into a noun like it does in English. (As in “one who travels” becoming “traveler”.) The translator replied that “esperienzanti” may be what we were seeking. (As anticipated, Italian does not place an “er” at the end.)

“‘Esperienzanti’ is like ‘those who are experiencing something’“, he wrote. “I think this word does not exist,” he noted, “but I like the idea. I can use it.”

Later discussions and feedback from dual-language speakers led us to a final decision in which we’ve opted for a term that suggests “one who experiences a particular state”:

“Experiencers” and “experiencer” in Italian will henceforth be:
“esperienti” (plural),
“esperiente” (singular)
…at least in articles by the late Dr. John Mack. We hope it catches on.

A similar effort is underway for French translations.The translation of “Experiencer” into French was much easier. An existing, though rarely-used, term with nearly the same meaning was easily chosen – experienceur – and a corresponding website launched.

We are always looking for volunteers to translate more articles. Please contact us if you’d like to translate even a single article.

Update: American-based Italian researcher Paola Harris confirmed that there has not yet been an Italian term for “experiencer” invented yet, so we are truly pioneering the use of this new term. Harris added that a word similar to the English word “contactee” is most often used in alien encounter literature — “Contattisti, or Contattati …mostly Contattisti”.

This feedback affirmed, for us, the need for a new word. “Contactee” carries the implication that a person has been contacted by an outside agency, and that is the sort of pre-loading of meaning that the term “experiencer” is meant to avoid. By being more broad, “experiencer” allows for many interpretations.

An interesting historical note: The neutrality “experiencer” was designed to possess has instead developed into a positive emphasis, even as it retains as an open question what the experiences are. As it is typically applied to those who believe they can learn something of value from their experiences, or who may feel there is an element of cooperation or active participation in the experiences, a factional dispute arose with those who prefer to identify themselves as “victims” or “abductees”. Those who disagree with the more positive ideas or possibilities may resent “experiencers” for failing to validate their sense of victimization. This dispute is ironic in light of the fact that “experiencers” also report “abductions”; they simply do not define themselves by that particular experience.

RELATED NOTE: Foreign publishers interested in translating Dr. Mack’s book Passport to the Cosmos, please contact us.