Medium: You're from Texas
Whitley Strieber: I grew up in a neighborhood in San
Antonio called Terrell Hills.
My family was fairly
wealthy and it was an extremely quiet family. It was very
orderly. The only rule was to be home at 6 p.m. and at the
dinner table, clean and dressed, or you would probably be better
So mom and dad were
We played all kinds
of games and went all kinds of places that we shouldn't have
gone, did any number of things that no child should have done.
It was all wonderful fun.
Did you have any
experiences during those years that could be considered
There were occasional intrusions from a strange reality.
One time when I was
11, my parents suddenly said,
"We're going up
to the country house but you're going to stay here in San
They packed up my
sister and my little brother, who was then a baby, and off they
Night fell and I watched television for a while, and it got
quite dark in the house. I wanted to turn on lights. I went into
the hall and then went up to my room and when I turned on the
light in my room, I saw the window above the air conditioner -
there was a window unit in the room - had been pulled down.
That window was
closed with insulation. It wasn't meant to be opened. I was
scared because I hadn't opened it. It hadn't been open when my
So I telephoned the
country house and my mother said,
"Well, if you
think there's somebody there, call the police."
It wasn't like
calling the police in some big city.
So I called over
there and said what I was seeing and he said,
"Well, I'll come
And he stopped in the
front of the house, came up the walk with his gun in his hand,
and he was terrified. Terrified.
And he went upstairs.
I followed him and he shone his flashlight out on the roof and I
thought I saw someone. But I was a little boy, I could have just
nobody there," and he literally ran down stairs and drove
The next thing I
remember it was morning. My family came home at about 11 a.m.
That's the sort of thing that would happen. But I liked my life.
There were moments
that were very unpleasant but mostly it was wonderful.
Did you have a road map
for becoming a novelist?
I was very interested in books and literature and I was writing
like crazy when I was in college.
Then I went to the
film school in London called the London School of Film
Technique. It's now called the London Film School. England and I
were made for each other.
The English never
expect anything unusual to happen but they're also very tolerant
I ended up hanging
out in Eric Clapton's flat at the Pheasantry in London. I didn't
know him, but kids came and went in that flat all the time, and
I happened to have mutual friends who hung out there.
Eric would come and
go. He didn't care who was there. I heard a lot of cool music
played live by some very famous people and I chatted one or
twice with some big stars, but you know, I was just another kid
The way you're describing it almost makes it sound like the
London version of Warhol's Factory.
It wasn't as intense as that. There were some drugs, obviously,
but it was a milder scene than The Factory. I think I might have
been at The Factory once or twice in the early 1970's and it was
very different, much more intense.
When I moved to New
York, I hung out at Max's Kansas City. I was sort of peripheral
to that scene. Very peripheral. I briefly met Lou Reed back
Many years later, I
got to know him through mutual friends. We used to have
fabulous, completely paranoid conversations together at dinner.
What were you writing
about at the time?
I'd written two novels by then.
One called Ginger,
then a novel called Little Paradise. Then I guess I must
have been writing a book called Stranger in the Earth.
These are all trunk novels.
Any writer who says
he doesn't have trunk novels is lying.
What do you mean by "trunk
Novels that will remain forever in the trunk and will be perhaps
destroyed when death impends.
The passage in "Communion"
about how you were able to vividly recall your experience of the
encounter through remembering the scent of one of their hands is
really striking. It reminds me of Proust in a way.
Well, you know, odor is very powerful in the mind.
I kept thinking to
"If I can just
smell this, I would know if this a physical experience or
Then, because I put
that in the book, all of the debunkers started saying,
"Oh well, he has
temporal lobe epilepsy," because the sense of smell is often
affected by that.
So I took all these
tests for that and many other diseases.
There was nothing
wrong with me at all. The only thing is that the psychological
tests showed a lot of stress, which is consistent with the
experience I was having. But the physical tests were fine.
There was no sign of
neurosis or psychosis or anything in the psychological tests.
But that didn't
matter. Those people were frantic to say it didn't happen, and
it wasn't true, and I was making it up and everything.
As someone who wasn't alive when the book came out, something
that seems remarkable is that you must have known that people
were going to claim you were making it up, or at least think you
were crazy, but you stuck to your guns.
Well yeah, because something did happen. I was physically
injured and roughed up.
That doesn't happen
to you when you're having a dream. When you have a dream, you
wake up and you're the same as you were before you dreamed,
unless you fall out of bed or something, which is not what
happened to me.
And then the book was adapted into a movie starring Christopher
Walken not too long after.
There were a lot of things about it that could have been a good
bit better. I think that they had financial problems, and the
special effects aren't very effective. I think that Christopher
Walken played me like I was a complete jerk.
It must be a truly bizarre experience to be played by
Dan Aykroyd apparently wanted to play me. I think he would have
When was the last time you
had an experience with the visitors?
The visitors are still in my life.
They returned in a
big way after Annie passed away. When she was sick, they weren't
with us much, but after she passed away, two things began to
The first thing was,
it was about an hour and a half after she died that the first
there 'might be' an afterlife
A friend telephoned
"Whitley, I just
had the strangest thing happen. I heard Anne tell me to call
And I said,
"Anne died an
hour and a half ago."
Over the next few
days, it kept happening with different friends. Some knew she
had died, some didn't.
Then I remembered back in the 1990s, one day Anne had come out
of her office and said,
all has something to do with what we call death. The visitor
experience and seeing and interacting with your dead are
We made a pact that
the first one of us to die, if possible, would try to reconnect
with the other one, but not directly.
We would do it
through friends, because if Annie came back to me, I would
assume it was my imagination, and she would definitely have done
the same. The idea was, we would come back to friends, and we
didn't tell anybody about this. Not anyone, not even our son.
Suffice to say, I
learned a hell of a lot about life and death after my wife died.
What do you mean by that
- that you've learned more about life and death?
I meditate twice a night, at 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., because if I
don't, the visitors will react.
They'll start doing
things that will wake me up. They're very insistent, but usually
it's very sweet. In any case, I hardly ever see them.
In the past two
weeks, I'd say they have tugged me on the ear, blown in my face,
and kissed me to wake me up at 3 a.m. This happens routinely.
I don't know why it
happens. I don't know who "they" are. It could easily be Anne,
for all I know.
But I do know that
this meditation that I do is a powerful, strong, good, healthy
meditation, and it's damned good for me, and I'm lucky to have
them, whoever it is, is doing this, even if it's just me,
myself, in my own inner world.
I don't care whether
people believe me or not.
In your book "The
Key," you write of meeting a man you call "The Master
of the Key," who warned you about an impending climate
catastrophe, among lots of other seemingly prophetic stuff. What
The doorbell in the room rang, and I thought it was room
I hadn't realized it
was 2 a.m. So I answered the door, and this man walked in, and
walked straight across the room, and turned around, standing in
front of the window where the air conditioning was.
And, I thought,
"Holy shit, it's
There is no such
thing as a fan you want to meet after midnight.
Especially one who comes into your hotel room unannounced, I'd
My alarm bells were
blasting, let me put it that way. But then he said something
that really stopped me - he said that we were bound to the
Earth because the child who would have understood the secret of
gravity had never been born, because his parents had been killed
in the Holocaust.
And that made an
incredible amount of sense to me immediately ...
I understood that a
species that could do that to themselves maybe does not yet have
the right to leave its planet and expose others to its problems.
And that we might go extinct here, if we can't fix ourselves.
It made terrifying,
clear, and logical sense. I've had too many weird experiences in
my life to not realize, at that moment, that this is probably
one of them.
Given that you've written
a good bit about the potential deadly consequences of climate
change, do you feel vindicated in a way?
It's a horrible vindication. But yes, it is a vindication. A
dreadful, nightmarish vindication.
I would infinitely
rather be wrong. I have a 6-week-old grandson, a 10-year-old
grandson, and a 7-year-old granddaughter. All of them are so
beautiful and full of life and so eminently deserving of a
It's being stolen
from them by that train wreck, Donald Trump...
I have to tell you,
when I saw Trump say about the recent climate change report,
"I don't believe
it," I thought to myself, "That is Evil Incarnate."
Those three words
will probably cost the lives of millions of people and cause
untold amounts of suffering. We are in the last few years where
leadership might help.
It's going to be too
I'm interested in what you
think of the idea of the "Western canon," both the literary
canon as well as the canon of scientific knowledge.
Well, I have two entirely different opinions.
First of all, the
Western canon in literature is precious and very valuable and
benefits from being challenged. I think it's being challenged
now in a lot of interesting ways, in writing, and that's a good
I'm very interested
in poetry, and I'm forcing myself to go back into poetry,
especially the poetry of the early 20th century.
And with regard to science, something fascinating happened to me
recently. You know, I have this implant in my ear.
I'm sorry, an implant in
It happened in May of 1989.
About 11 p.m., some
people invaded my house in upstate New York and ended up putting
a thing in my ear using a means that is not known - there
wasn't a scar or anything.
But the thing is
there, and for many years, would occasionally turn on. My ear
would turn bright red and...
When you say "people,"
what sort of people do you mean?
It was a man and a woman, in dark clothes.
They were accompanied
by people outside; I could hear them talking. I do not know who
they were, if they were in league with aliens or if they were
some kind of military group or what.
But I do know that
the means they used to put it in my ear were unusual, because
there was no scar.
And when I tried to
get it taken out, the doctor made an incision and [the implant]
proceeded to go from the top of my ear down into my earlobe on
its own, avoiding the doctor's scalpel.
He got a corner of
it, which was analyzed. It had a metallic base with 'proteinaceous'
motile cilia attached to
it - in other words, it was a biomechanical device of
Instead of trying to get rid of it, I began to focus on
attempting to figure out what it was and whether or not I could
make use of it. I made no progress for nearly 30 years.
Then suddenly, I
noticed that when I'm writing, if I look against a white wall, I
see a slit in my eye and there are words racing through the slit
faster than I can read them.
But they are
subliminally readable by my brain, and they are reflecting and
working with my writing. The implant doesn't tell me things. But
if I think about something I want to know, it comes in funny
About two weeks ago, I said to the implant,
something that is essentially important to the new book I'm
working on but which I know nothing whatsoever about."
I proceeded to get the most important piece of information that
I have probably ever gotten, in one time, in my whole life.
The implant came back
with the number 137. It was an obsession of
Wolfgang Pauli, one of the
greatest physicists who ever lived. It led to his relationship
with Carl Jung, the psychologist.
My next book is about
the nature of ambiguity in reality, and this goes right to the
heart of it. There's something called the
fine-structure constant, which
s there a reality
beyond what we can see and feel? The fact of 137 argues that
this must be the case.
What kind of meditation do you do?
I do something called the Sensing Exercise that I learned
It's a very simple
exercise to start. I've been doing it now for over 50 years and
over time, you get to the point where you have sensation of more
than just your physical body.
It starts with an idea, that the human attention is sacred for a
very simple reason.
It is the only
attention on this planet that can be intentionally directed.
When you place your attention on your body, it causes your
nervous system to change suddenly so that you, in another level
of reality, can be seen more clearly.
I asked the visitors,
when they first came to me, why they came.
"We saw a glow."
After Annie died, she
made it clear to me that she could see me when I was sitting in
the chair doing the exercise.
That was when she
could see me and I realized that the glow they were talking
about was the glow that comes from placing the attention on
That's a beautiful
It's the truth.
Anne was the most
conscious person I have ever had direct contact with. Just as
she had lived, she made a very conscious decision to die.
She had a series of
strokes and a brain tumor that had not been fully removed. She
was losing functionality and was going to either die a painful,
difficult death, or turn into a zombie. Or she could make a
And she decided she
would stop eating and drinking. She wasn't scared, she wasn't
angry, she wasn't sad. She was just doing it, and she did it
I would have followed
her if I didn't have my son and his family. His kids are
counting on their granddad to be a bridge. They love me very
much, and I love them dearly.
So I keep on, rowing
against the current as best I can.
Would it be fair to say
you've had an influence on pop culture?
I would be very disingenuous not to say that I've had an
influence on pop culture.
unfortunately, had an influence on modern UFO folklore. I think
it's all folklore - it's something that people don't
understand, and they generate stories about it.
What I'm interested
in is the something that's there - what's behind them?
It seems like trying to
lend meaning to unexplained phenomena comes from a human
impulse, and the details are often a reflection of the
There's something behind it - there is an objective reality of
The one thing Annie
used to always say to me is that she signed on for an
interesting life, and she hit the jackpot with me. I'm usually
broke, no one will pay me for anything, publishers won't publish
me because they look down their noses at the Communion man.
I've had a lot of
trouble. But at the same time, I've also had this incredibly
It's a wonderful
experience, to be alive.