[John Velez is an outspoken abductee who works closely with researcher Budd Hopkins. The "alien" encounters John has described to his family, along with the recent Heaven's Gate suicides, prompted Newsday journalist Paul Vitello to write an anguished essay on what it's like for those "outside" the UFO contact experience to care about someone who "believes in UFOs." CNI News thanks Paul Vitello and Newsday for permission to reprint this text. Thanks also to John Velez for permission to reprint his introductory comments. John can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org]
John Velez writes:
Paul Vitello is a Pulitzer Prize winning news journalist. He also happens to be my wife's cousin and someone I have been very close to for almost thirty years. He called me on Saturday [March 29] and asked me if it was okay to talk about our relationship within the context of an article about the suicides in San Diego.
[His] article... provides some insight into the complexities that are introduced into relationships when a family member proclaims that they are being abducted by aliens. My family loves me, and it has been as difficult for them as it has been for me. I mention this for the benefit of those who labor under the false illusion that the only reason people "go public" is for "attention" or 15 minutes of fame.
Not true. The price that I (we) have paid, (and continue to pay) for living up to the higher dictates of my (our) conscience is not something easily assessed. It has cost me, and my loved ones, dearly. All for the sake of telling the truth.
IT'S A STRUGGLE, STAYING GROUNDED
By Paul Vitello
Sunday, March 30, 1997
Copyright Newsday 1997. Used with permission.
Someone I know became convinced recently that he was abducted by aliens from outer space.
I have known him since I was a teenager. Besides being a smart and cheerful man, he is as kind as St. Francis of Assisi and as funny as a late-night comedian. People who know him smile at the mention of his name.
But when he gets started on this abduction story, it is not cheerful or funny; it is scary. The first time he told it to me, we were standing in the middle of a backyard party, with people all around, and a warm evening breeze in the air -- and I suddenly felt my skin turn cold.
It was not just because the story he told was chilling, or because I could see the fear in his face as he described new scars on his body and on those of others like him who have been abducted, or as he bravely told of his decision to help "researchers" collect military radar and videotape evidence of the many recent visitations on earth by extraterrestrials.
I felt clammy, mostly, at seeing a person I thought I knew transformed before my very eyes into someone I couldn't really ever know.
If he hadn't actually been taken by the aliens, he might as well have been: He sees the central reality of his life as an alien abduction; I see it as his having a good and healthy life in America. Therein is what they call in Washington an informational disconnect.
There is a leap -- and I don't know in what direction, or how far -- between my friend's story of abduction and the story related posthumously by the 39 members of the so-called Heaven's Gate cult, who committed suicide [in late March] outside San Diego in order to return to their "Father's Kingdom." They saw themselves, apparently, as some kind of angels sent to help transport us to the next stage of our evolution.
My buddy has not cut himself off from family and friends, as they did. He enjoys the pleasures of this Earth, which they apparently did not.
He has designed Web sites, as they did, and he is in his 40s, like many of them were; but otherwise he doesn't seem to share a lot with these people who timed their deaths so they could hop a ride on an alien space vehicle they presumed to be floating in the tail of the comet Hale-Bopp.
One of them said in a video prepared for viewing after their deaths: "Maybe they're crazy, for all I know. But I don't have any choice but to go for it because I've been on this planet for 31 years and there's nothing here for me."
My friend, by contrast, likes it here. He is terrified of what the Heaven's Gaters were willing to die for: being taken away.
In the end though, I guess, what makes him really different is that I happen to know him. I have worried about him. I have stood close enough to see that his grip on his "reality" is every bit as white-knuckled as my grip on mine. I would miss him if he went away to space.
What he has in common with the Heaven's Gaters is that he believes in this alien stuff. And I wish he didn't.
You don't have to know someone who thinks he's an alien-abductee to know and be worried about -- and increasingly impatient with -- the vast and growing number of people who believe there are extraterrestrials among us, or extraterrestrials coming soon, or who believe in angels, or the power of crystals, or the veracity of mediums and psychics, or the imminence of the apocalypse.
They are not all crazy, though some are. Some argue that the early Christians were considered a cult, too. The majority seem able to avoid sharing their excitement with people they know are beyond convincing.
It is a big business. Every third village and every second shopping mall has a store where you can buy the crystals, the pyramids, the angel-o-meters, the Tarot cards, and the books that explain how to use them all. Magazines on the racks in these stores have articles ranging from the relatively benign ("8 Ways to Make Your Kitchen a Sacred Space") to the relatively looney ("A New Look at the Pyramids on Mars"), with lots of communications in between from our brethren in outer space:
"I have come here at the behest of our beloved Creator, whom you know as Sananda," says one un-bylined alien writing in the September issue of a magazine called SEDONA Journal of EMERGENCE! "We have a different name for him, but it would be not pronounced in your language, for you do not have the same intonation as we do . . . " And ya da ya da ya da.
The editor of a magazine called Angel Times issued a statement to Reuters news service casting doubt on the claim of the Heaven's Gate people to be angels. "My position is that God's angels can materialize in human form to deliver a message or for your protection as a guardian angel. But then they dematerialize instantly," said Linda Vephula, the editor-in-chief. Therefore, they were not angels, she said.
The experts say it is anxiety about the millennium.
At the turn of the last century, the same kind of anxiety triggered a huge interest in paranormal phenomena. Literary figures such as Henry James and Arthur Conan Doyle were believers, as were large segments of the British upper class.
What we are going through now is a turn-of-the-century -- times 10 -- with the Internet churning people's anxieties.
"I counsel a lot of young people, and I have to tell them to slow down, to keep their feet on the ground. They're ready to, you know, get to the next level," said Daniel Akner, a professional psychic and believer in extraterrestrials who manages a New Age store called Instant Karma, in Rockville Centre.
"But, just prior to these suicides, I have to tell you, I was thinking that Hale-Bopp is a sign, a clarion call. My sense is that these people [who killed themselves] were not a cult. They were spiritual pioneers. It might seem far out. It is difficult to judge, but time will tell."
A huge, gray, pet rabbit named Sybil hopped in and sat at Akner's feet, like the March Hare, while he continued to talk: about the past lives he has lived in Egypt and Victorian England; about aliens who are on Earth already in many forms, including the salesman who came into his store three years ago -- "both his eyes were reflecting a white light" -- and about many other strange and amazing things that he and too many other people have recently come to believe in.
Buddy, if you read this, I am still not one of them; and this is not a signal from the vast night sky. It is just me, getting curiouser and worrieder.
Original file name: CNI - Abduction.Vitello
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