The Dan Schneider Interview 10: Brad Steiger (first posted 4/8/08)
I don’t have the gift to see myself as others see me.
Judging from my emails, my identification runs from hero to heretic, from
trailblazer to trouble maker, from weirdo to wizard.
I have been asked for my general philosophy on life, science, and the
cosmos so often that I have fashioned a kind of credo which I will share with
I believe humankind is part of a larger community of intelligences, a
complex hierarchy of powers and principalities, a potentially rich kingdom of
interrelated species, both physical and nonphysical.
I believe that humankind’s one truly essential factor is its
spirituality. The artificial concepts to which we have given the designation of
sciences are no truer than dreams, visions, and inspirations.
The quest for absolute proof or objective truth may always be meaningless
and unattainable when it seeks to define and limit our Soul, which I believe is
eternal, evolving higher, seeking to return to the Source from whence it came.
I believe that technology plays a far smaller role in the lives of
nations than the spirit, for the essence of humankind is its intellect and its
Soul. Machines, associations,
political parties, and trade balances are but transitory realities that must
ultimately wither, decay, and come to nothing.
The only lasting truths are Soul, imagination, and inspiration.
DS: Let me state my overall thesis, if you will. While I am of a
rational bent, I have had experiences that one might term Fortean, or
supernatural, and I’ll detail some later. However, as someone with a creative
mind, I tend to find that most explanations for such phenomena are likely
internally generated- products of the creativity that many folk who have no
artistic bent are unable to recognize as coming from themselves, rather than
being externally generated, as the human mind is notoriously unreliable as a
recorder of events. Just ask any police detective. Similarly, I have had some
friends, also artists, who have had similar experiences, although they would
term them mystic.
So, my first question is this: do you blindly accept all claims of the
paranormal- i.e.- claims of possession, seeing a lake monster, alien abduction,
etc. Or, do you simply report and let readers decide?
BS: Basically, I take the same positions
that you have on the illustrations that you gave above.
A large share of phenomena which is labeled paranormal is a product of
imagination and is internally generated. I
always advise young researchers that their greatest asset and their greatest
enemy can be their creativity and their imaginations.
I do not blindly accept
anyone’s claim about anything mundane and the ordinary, to say nothing of the
paranormal and the extraordinary. I do not care personally about anyone’s
choice of religion, politics, or preference for a make of automobile.
And I never argue about any of the above—or anything else.
I will discuss a subject
that I find mildly interesting for hours, but I never argue—especially with
someone who knows he has the truth. Someone
who claims he or she has the one true faith or the one true path to God is like
hearing someone claim that they have the one true food.
As you might suppose,
because of the nature of most of my books, many people seem to think that they
can tell me any tale and find me gullible.
My friend, after well over 50 years in this field, I have heard it all.
I am probably the least likely audience for their remarkable encounter.
I do endeavor always to be
courteous, however, and I do listen to a person’s sighting of a UFO, a
Bigfoot, or a ghost. In most
instances, I find these to be an individual mystical experience, perhaps very
meaningful and even life-altering to the person affected, but not of a great
deal of importance to the harvest of the tribal corn crop.
In other words, the experience—if it seems genuine—may only have been
intended for the individual who witnessed it.
Also, what happens when you come across known and proven charlatans like
Uri Geller, who now has a new U.S. television
show? Or the many frauds who try to contact the dead? Don’t the
Gellers just make it less likely for real science to even look at such claims?
Do you recognize Geller as a fraud, and if not, does not that put a hit on your
To bestow or to remove credibility is such a subjective process. It is all a
matter of perspective. If I announced right now that I am a firm believer in the
Rapture, I would gain a great deal of credibility with some of your readers and
lose some with others. Loss or gain
of credibility by association with others is even more subjective.
If I worried about people questioning my credibility because of someone
else in the field having his or her credibility questioned, then I should have
remained a high school English teacher.
There will always be individuals who trespass by deceiving others.
Because some less than scrupulous individuals lie when they claim to see
ghosts or UFOs and others assure grieving widows that they can speak to their
dead husbands, I cannot fear that their perfidy affects my credibility. As
Goethe commented, if everyone swept his own doorstep, the whole world would be
clean. I concentrate on my own
Getting back to Geller, I am certainly not an apologist for the man, but
I don’t know any court of law that has decreed that he is a fraud.
Some individuals hold that opinion.
Others do not.
I met Uri shortly after he came to the United States.
At that time I saw him demonstrate what I believed to be genuine
paranormal abilities. If he had
continued to conduct convincing paranormal
demonstrations for small groups of researchers, he could have made a much
greater contribution to the field of psychical research. I understand that doing
test after test in the laboratory can become extremely tedious and boring for
the subject being examined, but whenever individuals with psi abilities turn
“pro” and seek to force a sporadic ability into a show biz format, they are,
in my opinion, seeking to convert something akin to a lightning flash into a
steady electrical current. And they are setting themselves up for a fall.
Psychic abilities cannot be turned on and off like a light switch.
Sometimes you have it; sometimes you don’t.
But when you sell out theaters and lecture halls on the claim that you
can produce psychic powers on demand, you have made a contract, a promise, that
you will produce these ephemeral talents every night.
Only stage magicians, skilled performers who admit that they are
deceivers, can do that. When psychics throw in a little legerdemain to
supplement or to help “turn on” their abilities rather than admitting that
their talents are delicate and mostly unpredictable, that’s when the Amazing
Alfred will be sitting in the front row, catch them at it, and gleefully expose
them, thereby converting his former obscurity as a nightclub magician into a
world famous debunker.
I have been privileged to have sat in séance circles with some of the
greatest mediums in the field. Most
of them were wise enough not to schedule a circle when they did not feel the
“spirits” were willing. However,
if they had charged exorbitant fees and had placed themselves into situations
where they had to “perform” and had been forced to fake a little phenomena
to warm things up, they would soon have lost their credibility.
The numerous famous mediums of today have made themselves into superstars
by the power of their personalities and their ability to become experts at
editing of their filmed sessions also make their hits appear much more on target
by eliminating their many failed attempts.
The questionable techniques of the mediumistic superstars do not dent my
credibility and my careful analysis of the paranormal.
And even if some critic should make the accusation that I have been
deceived by an alleged alien from outer space, a mystical monk, or a
5,000-year-old guru, before I don sackcloth and ashes, my accusers would have to
convince me why I should even care about their opinion.
A few years ago I reviewed a film called What The #$*! Do We
Know? It was a film
made by the cultic followers of a blond woman named JZ Knight, who’s claimed
for decades that she channels the spirit of a 35,000 year old warrior from
Atlantis named Ramtha. It was an utterly silly movie that reinforced to the
general public, yet again, that believers in things immaterial all seem to be
nuts. Is this why belief in psi and the like always condescended to? What are
your views on such claims?
Not everyone found the movie silly.
I have spoken with most of the interviewees in that film and consider
them very decent individuals with interesting viewpoints—and that includes J.Z.
I am not threatened by people espousing beliefs and theories that may be
somewhat different from mine. None
of these men and women, as I recall, preached genocide, bigotry, or condemned
others for their beliefs. None of them said the viewers of the film would go to
hell if they didn’t agree with them.
So far, I’ve mentioned some terms. So, please, if you would, clarify what some
of these terms mean, and how they differ: psi, paranormal, mystic, unexplained,
supernatural, Fortean, metaphysical.
Some mean pretty much the same thing.
“Psi” seems a more contemporary term for psychic phenomena;
“paranormal” (which I have been credited with originating, but I don’t
think I was the first) is another collective for all things psychic;
“mystic” carries more of a spiritual dimension; “unexplained” implies
the hope that one day the event will be understood. “Supernatural” appears to be a loaded term in the Bible
Belt, synonymous with Satanic worship. To
me, the term includes something not yet understood, currently beyond the
ordinary. Fortean implies a mindset
that observes the strange and unknown and recognizes that we really do not
understand a great deal about how our world really works.
Metaphysical carries more the connotation of that which is currently
unexplained by contemporary physics and blends a touch of the mystical along
with the mystery.
I mention the word Fortean,
which is an eponym- a thing named after a person; in this case Charles Hoy Fort.
Who was the man, and what is his import in things unexplained?
Charles Hoy Fort was a writer who haunted libraries and newspaper morgues
clipping stories of events that he deemed “damned” by science.
He collected accounts of fish falls from clear skies, people with the
same name disappearing in mysterious ways, individuals appearing from elsewhere
to walk strange city streets in confusion.
Fort once offered the unsettling observation that we humans may be
someone else’s property. Quite obviously, he affected greatly writers such as
John A. Keel, Jerome Clark, myself and many others.
Many artists seem to deny their own creativity, pawning it off on God, or
some other force or demiurge. I call this the Divine
Inspiration Fallacy. There is no Muse. For better or worse, it’s
all me, or you, or any artist. Comments on its existence, origins, verity?
Interestingly, Plato remarked that all good poets, epic as well as lyric,
do not compose their poems by art, but by possession.
He believed that there was no invention in the poet until he has been
inspired and out of his senses, and the mind is no longer in him.
“Not by art does the poet sing, but by power divine.”
I work too hard to deny my own creative contributions, but at times it
seems that I have become aware of some other intelligence or level of
intelligence providing me with a helpful thought or two.
I ask this re: creativity, because, having been a long time subscriber to Fate
where you are a regular contributor and editor, and having read at least a dozen
or more of your books, over the years, I find your writing style generally to be
one of reportage, with little embellishment, in terms of florid writing or
affected dialogue. Do you consider yourself, then, primarily a journalist, or
more of a storyteller?
BS: In my early books I
attempted to be an objective journalist, but now I would say that I combine the
elements of a storyteller to maintain the interest and fascination of the
reader. It depends completely on
the nature of the project, however. When
Sherry and I wrote Conspiracies and Secret Societies and the three-volume
Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and the Unexplained, our editors would
not permit the slightest digression into speculative journalism.
The facts and nothing but. We
have been pleased that every single review of C and SS has praised our
objectivity when nearly all other books on that topic are promoting one
particular theory or point of view.
Along with Fate magazine, I also subscribe to Discover,
Natural History, and National Geographic. Some wonder why I include Fate
in my subscriptions, but, it is a great source for mythic information. No other
magazine comes close to charting the pulse of myth aborning than it does. What
are your feelings on that publication, and how did you get involved with them?
BS: When I was twelve years
old, there was nowhere else to go to find the “true stories of the strange and
the unknown” that I was seeking. I
found the magazine then and I have stayed with FATE ever since.
I am proud of my contributing editor status today, but nothing could
match the thrill that I experienced when I sold my first article to them.
magazine, I think that beliefs in the unexplained are sort of the seat of
religion and mythos. The Gilgamesh epic
mixes both with art. I even wrote a book on the Enkidu character from that
mythos. In fact, I tend to agree with some cultural commentators that the
UFO lore of the last sixty or so years is possibly the birth of the first
technological based religion in human history, with a new pantheon replacing
that of the Olympians, Valhallans, and Trinity. What are your thoughts on these
BS: Since those elements you mention are essential to the themes of my
books Gods of Aquarius: UFOS
and the Transformation of Man
and The Fellowship, I
would agree with you. I began
espousing this position in the late 1960s and early ‘70s.
By the way, the sequel to one of my most successful books, Mysteries
of Time and Space, would have been called The Gilgamesh Factor.
When I interviewed the National Book Award winning novelist Charles
Johnson, he stated:
What I love about [Rod]
Serling, the prolific Ray Bradbury, the pulp writers of the ‘30s who pounded
away at their typewriters for less than a penny a word until their fingers bled
(an anecdote I read about the primary pulp writer for the “Shadow” stories),
and my friends today who are pop writers, is that they are, first and foremost, storytellers.
Bradbury didn’t even bother to call himself a “writer.” For all my
emphasis on “literary art,” I was weaned on the work of pop (and pulp)
storytellers, those heroes who could whip out a new story as quickly as medieval
troubadours---journeymen all---traveling from one town to the next. (Just as I
try to do every year for Seattle’s “Bedtime stories” event.) Here’s
Johnson Rule About Writing: “All great art entertains, but all
entertainment is not art.” No
matter what we say about the greatest writers---Homer, Shakespeare, the Beowulf
poet, Dickens---they knew, as John Gardner once said, everything about
entertainment and the powerful depiction of character and event. Some of our pop
writers are better at this---plot---than our so-called literary writers, for
whom plot is a word that makes them tremble. But plot is the writer’s
equivalent to the philosopher’s argument (Gardner). All the technique and
craft exercises I’ve given my students are for one purpose: namely to give
them the means to deliver the baby undamaged when the fiction gods drop onto
their laps a rousing, great, imaginative story.
You seem to follow that dictum re: the tales you spin in regards
to whatever subject it is you are reporting on. In that sense, you seem to be a
premier pulp writer, in the best sense of the term. Do you agree with
BS: As long as you stress “in the best sense of the term.”
Before we take the deep plunge into your specialty, let’s talk about Brad
Steiger, the man. Many of your fans may know what interests you, but few know
that much about you. First off, your website
has yours and your wife’s name. She was a well known model some years back,
and has joined you in your life’s pursuit. Who is she? How did you meet? When
did you marry? Is it a first marriage?
BS: Many years before we met, Sherry was
the most popular model in the Denver area, and her agents were convinced that
she could become one of the most successful in the nation.
After a nationwide search, she was chosen as The Marlboro Girl,
but she turned down the opportunity to become an icon because she believed
smoking was harmful to peoples’ health. Actually,
Sherry turned down more jobs than she accepted (including being a Playmate of
the Month) because her goal had never been to become a famous model. Fate
just seemed to bring in the jobs to provide the money that she needed to
continue to assemble the elements for what she believed to be her true
mission—the establishment of a nonprofit school to teach people
body-mind-spirit interconnectedness with a spiritual, rather than a
denominational, dogmatic emphasis.
Later, when she was the
creative director of an advertising agency, she met Norman Lear, who was so
taken with her sense of purpose and mission, that he asked her to star in a
motion picture whose main character was a woman who seemed to be a composite of
all the facets and attributes that Sherry embodied. Sherry declined because her
Butterfly Center for Transformation was about to be launched in Virginia Beach.
Although she had no more
aspired to become an actress than she had wished to become a model, she did
appear in a couple movie of the week specials, and a number of her posters
received rather wide circulation, It was amusing to us when we began our lecture
tours that men would approach her insisting that they remembered her as one of
the Bond Girls or that they had the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue in which
she appeared. Sherry would try to
convince her fans that she had done neither of those shoots, but we usually just
got the wink, wink, nudge, nudge looks in response.
In 1981, Sherry and I met
when she stopped by my office in Phoenix on her way to London to acquire funding
for her One Foundation. Her purpose
in meeting me was to invite me to participate in the publishing arm of the
foundation. To say that I was
impressed with this lovely woman who had a mission similar to my own is to put
it mildly. Our ideas and concepts were so closely aligned, I can honestly say
that I felt as attracted to her on the spiritual level as on the physical. But I
thought that because of a number of seemingly insurmountable circumstances I
would probably never see her again.
In October of 1986, I
received an invitation from the director of a Holistic research group to attend
an evening lecture. The
well-intentioned sponsor of the event was a close friend who knew that I had
separated from my second wife and that I rarely left my apartment. I hadn't
given a firm commitment about whether or not I would attend the event, but since
the metaphysical center was only a short distance from my apartment, I decided
at the last minute to go.
Just before the evening's
proceedings were to begin, an attractive blond lady asked if the seat next to me
was taken. I told her that she was welcome to sit down. After only a few
moments, she turned to me, introduced herself as Mary-Caroline, and told me that
she brought me greetings from our very dear mutual friend, Sherry Hansen.
It had been five years
since I had met Sherry, and I was astonished to learn that she was in Phoenix.
According to the cheery blond, she and Sherry took a class together, and
when she mentioned to Sherry that she would be seeing me that night at a
lecture, Sherry had said to be certain to say hello to me and to give me her
I was suddenly so
intrigued to learn that Sherry was in Phoenix that my normally rational
journalist's mind did not pause to wonder how this woman, who was meeting me for
the first time, could possibly have known that she would see me at the lecture
that evening--especially since I myself had not known until minutes before the
presentation began that I would be there.
After the lecture, I
returned to my apartment, paged through the Phoenix telephone book, and found
the listing for Sherry Hansen. It took me two weeks to muster the courage to
call her, and another four months of remarkable telephone conversations before I
asked her out on a late-night coffee date.
Early in 1987, Sherry and
I established a business and research association. One afternoon, I received a
call from Mary-Caroline, who suggested that she might be able to help get
financing for a film project on which I was working. As we chatted, I thanked her for connecting me with a good
friend of hers.
Mary-Caroline asked who. When I
told her Sherry Hansen, there were several moments of silence. Finally,
Mary-Caroline said that she didn’t know anyone named Sherry Hansen.
I was stunned. "Of
course you do. The night that we met, you told me that you were bringing me
greetings from our mutual dear friend, Sherry Hansen.”
repeated that she was certain that she didn’t know anyone by that name.
I persisted:. "You
told me that the two of you were taking a class together. Sherry asked you to
say hello to me, to give me her love."
"Brad, I really do
not know anyone named Sherry Hansen,” Mary Caroline said, becoming annoyed,
“so I could not have promised her that I would bring you greetings from her.
Secondly, I have taught classes in the Phoenix area, but I have never taken a
class from anyone in Phoenix."
After I said good-bye to
Mary-Caroline, I decided that I would solve the mystery of why she had denied
knowing Sherry, and I called Sherry at her office.
"I just had a call
from your friend Mary-Caroline," I told her.
"My friend, who?”
Don’t tell you don’t remember. An attractive, tall blond lady. You took a
class with her in Phoenix just a few months ago."
Sherry was firm in her
response that she did not know anyone named Mary-Caroline.
said, deciding to admit something that I never before revealed, “It was
because you asked Mary-Caroline to greet me at the lecture that I even knew you
were in Phoenix. It was because of her relaying your message and your wishes of
love that I called you."
"That is most
interesting, Brad,” Sherry responded, “because I do not know anyone by the
name of Mary-Caroline--and I know nothing about her meeting you at any
And then it became clear to me. My Guardian Angel or Spirit Teacher had
temporarily “borrowed” Mary-Caroline’s consciousness and spoken through
her in order to bring Sherry and me together.
We were married in the summer of 1987.
A couple of years later, when we were lecturing in New York City, we
entered a Chinese restaurant, and I was surprised to see Mary-Caroline having
dinner with a companion. I decided
that I would test once and for all if the two women really had known each other
previously. Within moments, it was very clear that neither of them had met
before that evening.
DS: That’s a great anecdote, and it’s little fortuities like this
that I feel make up the basis of the best stories- as well as something sorely
lacking in today’s fiction, be it in print or on the silver screen. Now,
Sherry is an ordained minister. In what religion? I am irreligious, yet, to me,
were I to believe in a god, it seems polytheism is more rational than
monotheism, and a much more likely set of circumstances than a single font or
being, however minuscule the chance I would give even polytheism of being true.
Are you religious? If so, the same religion as she is? Also, what links do you
see between mythos and religion? Is myth merely expired religion, and religion
BS: Each evening at bedtime, we read selections from numerous sacred
tests, including the Dhammapada of Buddhism, the New Testament of Christianity,
the Qur’an of Islam, the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita of Hinduism, the Torah of
Judaism, the Confucian Analects, and the Adi Granth of Sikhism.
In addition, we will read from several Native American teachers, such as
Black Elk, and a number of African tribes.
I am attracted very much to Hinduism, and both Sherry and I admire the
efforts of Paramhansa Yogananda to combine elements of Christianity and Hinduism
in his Self Realization Fellowship.
Sherry attended the Lutheran
School of Theology in Chicago when the Lutherans were not yet quite ready to
make the leap for female clergy. She
was later placed on staff, but was ordained Mission Baptist, a denomination that
had already accepted women pastors. She
is no longer a pastor with a congregation, and we share the same spiritual
Neither of us would lay
claim to being religious, but we strive to become more spiritual in our every
thought, word, and deed.
I am a Emersonian
transcendentalist. Perhaps, as
Martin Gardner, the prolific science writer and founder of the modern skeptical
movement, described his beliefs, I am also a Mysterian.
Gardner, the author of Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science
surprised your friend Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine, when
he told him that he believed in God, that he sometimes prayed and worshipped,
and that he hoped for life after death.
As a transcendentalist/Mysterian,
I share Gardner’s belief that “there are certain things I regard as ultimate
mysteries. Free will is one of
those. Another is time…I don’t
think we have the slightest idea what time is…The same thing is true with
space. Time and space are the
ultimate mysteries.” [Skeptic, Vol. 5 No. 2 1997]
I am also very much a “Jamesian,”
and I could not have been more pleased when certain critics compared my Revelation:
The Divine Fire to William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience.
A quote from James that guides me throughout all my research is not to be
found in his groundbreaking book, but in a letter to a friend that Dr. Walter
Houston Clark shared with me: “The mother sea and fountainhead of all
religions lie in the mystical experiences of the individual, taking the word
mystical in a very wide sense. All
theologies and ecclesiasticisms are secondary growths superimposed.”
Here’s another aspect of what makes for good fiction- coincidences; or, as
believers might say- synchronicities. In just that last passage you mentioned
Black Elk, and the book Black
is an old fave of mine, written by the neglected writer and poet John G.
Neihardt- a man I’d loved to have gotten for the DSI. Then, you mentioned
Sherry’s connection to the Lutheran School of Theology, and a few years ago I
worked for a company that makes alumni directories, and I recall that several
Lutheran seminary schools and religious colleges were our clients, and I got
paid to speak with folk of their lives, beliefs, and so on; although I would
have loved to have stumbled upon Sherry to call up. I also have been a fan of
Martin Gardner’s, for differing reasons, and then you mentioned Michael
Shermer, who declined a DSI after I, basically, did not agree with all of his
own beliefs, politically nor socially. But, I digress. Let me return to a query:
are you an agnostic, or atheist? Capital A ‘strong’ atheist or lower a
‘weak’ atheist? After I reviewed a film by a former Fundy, I got into this
argument with two
atheists who were as dogmatic as any theist. I finally got them to
admit that a) there were atheists who claimed there ‘could be’ no gods and
b) they could never disprove such an immaterial claim. While I disagree with
Stephen Jay Gould’s NOMA posit (Non-Overlapping Magisteria) for science and
religion, I find such dogma to be counter-productive to rationalism, for there
goes, as you might claim, the ‘upper moral hand’ of the argument. Comments?
BS: I think I already
answered these queries. I might be
a Gnostic, but surely not an agnostic. And
there are no atheists in the grim foxholes of freelance writers.
You must believe in that Great Editor in the Sky who will smile upon your
manuscript to give you enough hope to continue to survive in what is a lonely
craft, primarily considered a weird way to make a living and is not considered
real work by anyone who labors nine to five.
Any kind of dogma is
counterproductive, whether in science or religion. Remember the old bumper sticker: A dog’s Ma is a Bitch.
DS: Similar to NOMA, I see a connection between art and science, as
different approaches that use different ends of the same method- i.e.- science
uses creativity in service to discovery, while art uses discovery in service to
creation. Do you see any connections between science and religion, science and
art, as those that I mention?
BS: You see, I perceive connections between everything.
When I was eleven, I suffered a near-death experience.
I could see my body below me, but my spirit, my essential self, seemed to
be an orange-colored sphere moving toward a beautiful light.
I became aware that I was dying, and I felt a twinge of regret over being
separated from family and friends. At
that time I was shown a series of brilliant geometric patterns or designs that
seemed somehow to be alive. It was
as if I was being shown an interconnectedness to all things in the universe.
For decades, whenever I
would try to picture the cosmic geometric patterns and try to remember
consciously what they had taught me, I would literally blank out, due to the
frustration of attempting to find an appropriate vocabulary to describe them.
It was not until 1987 when Sherry was led to incorporate fractal geometry
in her multimedia seminar “The Sacred Geometry of Life” that I viewed in
those patterns a close approximation to what I had seen in my near-death
DS: Have you any thoughts on such more modern religions, often
considered cults, such as Scientology- started by sci fi writer L. Ron Hubbard,
on a bet? How about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons? Both have been
plagued, like the Roman Catholic Church, with rampant charges of sexual abuse of
children. And Mormonism’s main text, The
Book Of Mormon, has often been linked to plagiarism
claims of several earlier novels and other religious works. You’ve written of
cults before. Any comments? And, have you ever written of more New Age cults,
like Est or Lifespring?
I can’t think of any that I haven’t written about.
Conspiracies and Secret Societies covers most of the ones that you
have heard about. I constantly
receive information about some incredible ones taking form as we speak. You’ll have to wait for a new book.
DS: Re: New Age beliefs; let me mention four Oprah Winfrey level New
Age charlatans: Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, and Deepak
Chopra. What do you feel about these folk? And what, if anything, makes them
different from a Pat Robertson?
I would advise you to work a bit on your people skills.
One need not label another who has a point of view, belief, or philosophy
different from his as a charlatan.
In my opinion the above-mentioned individuals are simply recycling Norman
Vincent Peale, Napoleon Hill, Ernest Holmes, Mary Baker Eddy and all the other
positive thinkers and exponents of visualize and it shall be so…think, and you
shall be rich. It is all basic
metaphysics 101. Every time some new enlightened New Age writer comes out with
another “Secret,” I become even more exasperated.
Under the pretense of being highly spiritual, these teachings all
emphasize achieving material goods and wealth.
thinking is wonderful and will certainly lead to a happier and longer life.
Just don’t believe that any angel, benevolent being, or even Jesus
wants you to be rich in material things. That is magical thinking, not mystical
or spiritual thinking. There just
isn’t enough wealth floating around for everyone to be a
millionaire—especially without working for it.
You are probably not going to be rich, so get over it.
Be like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof—go back to milking your cows and
working in your fields.
DS: Let us turn to mainstream religion. The first mention of Jesus
Christ, in a historic manner, was decades after his claimed death. There is
absolutely nothing contemporaneous about the figure having been recorded, even
though he was considered Public Enemy Number One. Yet, there are still bills of
sale, real estate transactions, court documents, from that area of the globe,
that predate the claimed existence of Jesus. It seems not only was Christ not a
deity, but there is not a shred of credible evidence that he was even a real,
historic figure, yet even the major news outlets refer to Christ as if he was
historically real, the way Napoleon was. Do you believe there was a Jesus of
Nazareth, or do you see the manifest parallels to many other prior mythic gods?
BS: Okay, Dan, we got it.
Jesus is not all right by you. You
were starting to sound like an unforgiving altar boy who found out that he had
been lighting the wrong priest’s candles.
Because of my interest in
history, anthropology, mythology, I came to peace with rants such as yours when
I was about 17 (that would be 1953). Sometimes,
when I am feeling like the Grinch, I distribute the details of the Christmas
story—the virgin birth, the star overhead, the angels on high--and then point
out that those same familiar ritualistic aspects apply to about a dozen other
messianic figures, from Egypt forward. And
finally, at the end of the list, I mention that the legend that we attribute as
so unique to Jesus was ancient long before he came upon the scene.
If Jesus of Nazareth was born to a poor carpenter, I doubt if all the
traditional trappings of the mythic messiahs, such as the Kings of the Orient,
the angels, and the shepherds and the talking animals were there to greet the
babe and his startled parents.
Now I think that one could
do a whole lot worse than to follow the teachings of The Way taught by whoever
this conscientious rabbi might have been. Among
his teachings that I find the most meaningful are the ones that emphasize taking
personal responsibility for our own actions, the ones that bid us not to judge
others, nor to throw the first stone at others that we decide are wrong or
“sinful,” and the ones that urge us to recognize that we can find the
Kingdom of God within us and that we can see the face of God in the eyes of our
I rather suspect that there
might have been a Jesus of Nazareth, who told everyone that they were all
children of God. I don’t believe
that he declared himself to be the only child of God, and I don’t believe that
after spending all the years of his mission emphasizing one’s personal
responsibility for one’s own deeds or misdeeds that he would offer himself as
a sacrifice to atone for everyone else’s sin and let everyone else off the
hook. The motive for his
crucifixion—if, indeed it took place—would have a denial of the central
focus of his teachings, and at the same time, and a rebirth of human sacrifice
to appease an angry God.
And now, Dan, once again, I
have raised my credibility with some of your readers and lowered it with others.
DS: Me, an altar boy? Surely you jest. But, back to your wife; aside
from ministry, she was also a nurse and model. The two of you have also worked
on a number of books together. Surely, there have had to be disagreements on the
format of a book, or on the validity of material to be included. Give me a
couple of examples of where the two of you have had opposing views on a supposed
case you investigated, and how were they resolved?
BS: Why would you want to marry someone with whom you would argue?
We are with each other 24/7.
We work in a tiny office with our chairs back to back.
It is a tribute to our love and respect for one another that we do not
fight. Someone once observed that
we are not the classic soul mates. We
are the same soul expressing itself in two bodies.
Let me dig in even a little deeper. I’ve
read your hometown is Fort Dodge, Iowa, and you were born on February 19, 1936.
Correct? Your earliest memories must have been of the Second World War.
Did any of your relatives serve in it? As mentioned, a couple of years ago I had
a job that required me interviewing many types of people- from seminarians to
military veterans, and it was one of the most interesting experiences of my
life. Did you get to watch any of last year’s PBS documentary by Ken Burns, The
Any thoughts or were any memories rekindled?
BS: I grew up on a farm near a little village named Bode, population at
that time, 523. I was born in Ft. Dodge Lutheran Hospital in the blizzard of
1936. It was a month before Mom and
I could come home to the farm.
Of course the War has left
many profound memories. Two of my
cousins went into the Navy. One of
my uncles was a tailgunner, who was shot down over Germany and wounded by rifle
fire as he parachuted. He spent the
rest of the war in a prison camp and was ill-treated, because he was of a German
family who had immigrated to the US from Russia.
Another uncle took part in the Normandy Beach landing and participated in
freeing the victims of the concentration camp. My cousin across the road was
shot through the lungs while reaching for an apple in France and was kept alive
by his Buddy from Brooklyn who shoved a scarf into the gaping hole in his chest.
My cousin-in-law who was based in England, was an Ace in his P-51, and is
listed in the aviation histories as the first fighter pilot (or one of the
first) to shoot down a Nazi jet. Our
young hired man on the farm was killed by a sniper on a faraway Pacific island.
In my child’s mind, he was the most handsome, kind, and gentle of
individuals. We sat in church and
had funeral rites for his photograph, because his body could not be sent home.
It seemed a regular thing for a classmate to be called out of the room and to
return crying that his or her brother had been killed in action.
The entire nation
participated in that war. We
brought our dimes to school to buy stamps toward a war bond. When we went to the
movies, the feature would be interrupted by the house lights turned on and
ushers passing among the patrons to collect money for war bonds. Everything was
rationed. Detroit stopped making
new cars. Women went to work in airplane and munitions factories.
My aunt brought home a .50 caliber slug for me as a souvenir. As a
farmer, Dad was asked to grow new crops, such as soybeans, flax, and hemp.
Even though we raised pork and beef, at maturity the animals were sent
off to the war effort and we ate Spam and eggs just like the rest of the nation.
We did not watch our soldiers being killed on newsreels, and then be told
that everything was going just fine. We
were not told by our leaders that if we must worry about something, we should be
concerned about the drug problems of some young misguided actors instead of the
fate of our brothers, fathers, uncles, and cousins who were dying faraway from
home. Sherry is amazed when we come back for Memorial Day and she reads the
honor roll of those who served and gave their lives. As she always remarks, so many young men from such a small
In looking through your lengthy bibliography, the only title I could see with
any military connection was the 1990 book, The
Philadelphia Experiment And Other UFO Conspiracies. I’m surprised you have not
done a book on war experiences, for the extreme conditions one encounters there
has been a fertile ground for everything from gremlins to ghost army sighting to
claims of time slips to, obviously, NDEs (Near Death Experiences). Is a book in
the works on that fertile subject matter?
BS: I think with your analytical skills you may ascertain my feeling
toward war in the above answer. But I have included chapters about military NDEs
and interactions with angels during wartime in many books.
No book is in the works about war.
Re: the Philadelphia Experiment mythos. Like the Book Of Mormon, that myth is
also based, partly, it seems, on plagiarized material from a potboiler novel
by by George E. Burger and Neil R. Simpson. This was from Charles Berlitz’s
titular book on the matter. What are your views on that ‘case,’ and Carlos
No, my The Allende Letters: New UFO Breakthrough with Joan Whritenour
came out 10 years before Burger and Simpson wrote Thin Air.
You almost have to stand in line to be the first to plagiarize these
The Philadelphia Experiment is either a myth or mystery that
will not die. People just want to believe it.
DS: As a child, were you always interested in the paranormal? Were
you raised religiously? Or did you simply love patterns?
BS: I grew up in a haunted
house with thumps, bumps, doors opening and closing, and men and women walking
around all night in period costume. It was only about thirty years ago that I
learned that our house was built on the original site of the stagecoach stop.
That may certainly have had something to do with the night noises.
My sister and I always went to Sunday School, and then, when I was around
9 or 10, our family began going regularly to church.
At that time I became extremely pious.
I really tried to live in imitation of Christ.
Beginning in eighth grade through my senior year in high school, I served
as the narrator of the annual Christmas pageant.
I really tried to make my Lutheranism work.
This set up tremendous inner conflicts.
When I had my near-death
experience at age 11, I was suffused with a sense of mission that I was to
testify to others that we are something other than physical beings, that there
is a dimension that lies beyond our five senses, and that within each of us is
all that is necessary to unlock life’s mysteries. For a time, I thought that I might be able to achieve this
within the framework of the Lutheran Church.
As I sat in the pew with my family, I would become physically ill as I
realized that I could no longer accept the beliefs that I would have to espouse.
I would have to excuse myself during the service and go to the restroom.
At last I realized that I
could not accomplish what I believed to be my mission within the framework of
denominationalism. I wanted to tear down walls of dogma that separated us from
one another. I did not wish to
build new barriers that would deny us a sense of our Oneness.
DS: What did you want to be when you grew up- a baseball player, a
general? Who were your childhood heroes and why? Were you raised a farmboy, or
did you eventually move to a larger community?
BS: My heroes have always been cowboys.
At least the romanticized version of the lone wolf individual who is
completely self-sufficient. My
great hero was my father—strong as an ox, but completely nonjudgmental and
accepting of others for what they were, not what others said they were. I will
always remember walking with him as a young boy outside of a tavern.
A man staggered out drunk vomited, and collapsed on the sidewalk.
I asked Dad if that man was not truly a disgusting individual.
Dad just looked down on me and said quietly, “There but for the grace
of God go I.” Now I knew that Dad
never in his whole life even sipped at a beer, so it took me a while to grasp
his meaning, but I remind myself of those whenever I begin to feel superior to
another “lesser” than I.
I must also name the mystic warriors, such as Crazy Horse, Tecumseh,
Chief Seattle, Chief Joseph as my heroes.
But I have never wanted to
be anything other than a writer. Seriously, ever since I was a small boy I have
always had the image of my being a writer firmly imprinted in my mind.
I saw myself coming to a small print shop in either England or New
England in perhaps Victorian attire, opening the door, and going in the office
to work late into the night on my new book.
I wrote my first book when I
was seven. It was written on
wide-lined notebook paper and was illustrated.
I can’t remember the plotline too well, but it was about two rabbits
surviving a winter storm. It
probably owed a great deal to Winnie the Pooh, but I remember how
accomplished I felt with that first manuscript.
I really fell in love with
comic books at that time. I came
down with scarlet fever, and Dad bought a bunch of Classics Illustrated.
I resolved to become a comic book writer/artist.
Every available moment away from farm chores, I was drawing strips on the
old desk that I had inherited from my paternal grandfather.
By the time I was in eighth grade, my teacher was so impressed that he
took a number of my strips to a friend of his in Des Moines who was associated
with their syndicate. Although the
professional was not as impressed as my teacher had been by the quality of my
strips, the fact that my work was shown to someone beyond the borders of our
little village meant a great deal to me.
I was always a farmboy. We
never took vacations. There was
always work to catch up on. Perhaps because Dad was just a competitive athlete,
we always had to be the first ones to plant, weed, and harvest the oats, the
corn, the beans. Once we had
finished first of all the neighbor, we helped them catch up.
Then, while they went on two-week vacations to Yellowstone Park or
Florida, we stayed home and looked after their livestock while they were gone.
Once, when I was about
fifteen, we spent two days at my great-aunt’s lake cabin in Minnesota, but I
don’t count that as a vacation because we went home by way of North Dakota to
help my aunt and uncle get in their wheat crop.
I slept in the bunkhouse with the hands and was teased by the men who
wanted to see if an Iowa boy could work as hard as a Dakota fieldhand.
But we did go to movies.
Our little theater had three change of bills each week.
Wednesday and Thursday, probably a noir mystery.
Friday and Saturday, an action double-feature, and Sunday, Monday,
Tuesday, a class A movie. We
didn’t take vacations, but we didn’t miss a single movie.
DS: Your dad’s saying reminds me of my own Great Depression
Era-raised dad’s best quote: ‘I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a
man who had no feet.’ What sort of child were you- a loner or center of
attention? Did you get good grades? Were you a mama’s boy or a rebel?
BS: When you sit on a tractor seat for ten hours a day alone in a field,
you learn to become entertained with your own thoughts.
But I also put on puppet shows and magic shows at school assemblies. My
sister would be the “complete stranger” from the audience who would come
forward to assist me.
Because I began reading a
wide variety of subject matter at a very early age, I got good grades.
Doesn’t every boy want to
be a mama’s boy? Until it is time
to rebel, that is. Which in Iowa
farmland means when you get your driver’s license.
DS: Any siblings? What paths in life have they followed? Do they
share your views on life, the unexplained, etc.? Did you have an ‘unusual’
experience, or more, when a child that set you on your career path?
BS: I have one
sister, who became a teacher of special kids.
She was Special Olympics Coach of the Year a few years back.
They kept her on staff two years after mandatory retirement because of
her irreplaceable expertise. She
grew up in the same environment that I did.
We have both had life-long sleeping problems.
Only a few months ago did we finally decide that our problem may have its
origin in our childhood spent in that home where we were awakened several times
a night by some strange face staring at us or by some loud thudding or
scratching sound in or near our beds.
I’ve read that you have two sons, three daughters, and six grandchildren. What
paths have they followed in life? What are their interests and careers? Are any
of them writers?
The daughters have all taught English. One in Arizona; one in Japan; and one in
Italy. The two older girls have
been talking about collaborating on a novel.
The young girl has just been named the local director of Habitat for
Humanity. She is now pregnant with
a soul who shall be our eighth granddaughter.
One grandson, eight granddaughters.
older son has his degree in English but elected to teach his passion, skiing,
which he has done for over 30 years at ski resorts in Colorado. He also owns a
mountain bike shop. Our younger son is an expert on food and wine who conducts
seminars all over the world. He
writes columns for several food and beverage magazines, has a television program
in Canada, another in New York, and has a book under contract.
DS: What of your parents? What were their professions? Did they
encourage your pursuit of writing, or investigation?
My parents were farmers, and they wanted me to be a teacher.
My dad was a superb athlete who had a large collection of trophies and
medals. He would have been a pro baseball player but he got beaned
just before the team got on the bus for training camp and he spent time in the
hospital with a concussion while the others warmed up for the season.
He took that as an omen and went back to the farm.
I am certain that I disappointed him in that I was no athlete, but he
never showed it. He had begun training with me about as soon as I could walk.
But then I had the accident when I was 11, and that ended my athletic
My mother was a great storyteller, and she loved to sing and dance.
I think her secret dream was to be in a Busby Berkeley musical. She was also of a very mystical bent, and I believe in
retrospect that she could have become a spirit medium if that had been her wish.
She had a number of visions and visitations, some of which even left
behind physical evidence. My father, who believed only that which he could apprehend
through his five senses, was always tolerant of her visions.
DS: What was your youth like, both at home and in terms of
socializing with other children? Often children who are isolated learn to focus
on patterns. Were you a born raconteur?
I guess I was a born raconteur. Like
most immigrants, every farm as far as the eye could see was worked by a
relative. Until I went to school,
the only kids I knew were my cousins. Even
then, we all worked together, played together, celebrated holidays together.
Because they were family, my cousins were very supportive of me and my
strangeness. They believed in me.
They even believed in my puppets and my magic shows.
They believed me when I saw ghosts around us, whether they could see them
or not. The trouble was, apart from
my family, I was extremely shy. In later years, when I was lecturing and
conducting seminars across the States and the Provinces, I had to create a stage
persona, as if I were an actor playing Brad Steiger.
When I married Sherry, she loved the real shy, reserved, emotional,
nerdish me and life became less strenuous.
Through the magic of the Internet, I still email many of my cousins
several times a week and I still draw strength from their support.
What sort of books did you read? I read science books, by and large, as well as
atlases, The How, Why And
Wonder Books, bios of
scientists, dinosaur books, books on astronomy. Name some of your favorite
books- now and as a child. Were they Hardy Boys mysteries or pulp fiction? Name
some books you think among the best ever published- be they in the Fortean
realm, or just plain old novels. One of the best books in a Fortean vein is
Jacques Vallee’s Passport
To Magonia. I think it’s
a seminal book that bridges rationalism and mythos. Any thoughts on that work?
I read history books. My
grandmother had the complete set of Ridpath’s History of the World and
that got me hooked. Grandma was the
town librarian, but a good share of the books were originally from her personal
library. She still had a library
just about as large as the public one at her home.
She was proud that we appeared to be related to Thor Heyerdahl, and she
had me read Kon-Tiki, then Ceram’s Gods, Graves, and Scholars. In no time, I was as hooked on anthropology and archaeology
as I was on history—and who could deny that they are not intimately related.
She had all the National Geographics back to Ben Franklin’s printing press.
I joined the History Book of the Month Club when I was 15.
I read primarily historical novels, Slaughter, Yerby, Costain, and later
on, Vardis Fisher’s Testament of Man series.
I read very few novels until I was of college age.
I was taken with the Mountain Men, the early explorers, and works like de
Voto’s Across the Wide Missouri. I
can remember skimming a couple of Hardy Boys and a Carolyn Keene mystery, but
looking through Grandma’s collection of original Matthew Brady Civil War
photos held a greater fascination for me. Grandma
also had some forbidden books about religion that she did not place in the town
library, such as The Apocrypha, the lost books of the Bible, and volumes
about other religions.
At that time were hardly any books available on psychical research, but Grandma ordered them for me, adding the stern warning to stay balanced and not to be swallowed up by the supernatural. I entered college as a history major and an art minor. It was my dream to write historical novels and to illustrate them. Once I was a famous writer, I would reveal my fascination with the paranormal, ala A. C. Doyle.
I touched upon religion earlier, and from some of your titles, that factor in
your life could likely be surmised. So, let’s hit that other sore spot,
politics. To what extent has politics affected your career? What are your views
on politics and who are your heroes, if any?
BS: If there is any area of human endeavor about
which I am cynical, it is politics. I
do not neglect it, of course. I
follow all current events very closely. My
political heroes would be Jonathan Swift, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas
Do you belong to any party, and what are your views on such current politicized
matters as euthanasia, abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research? Given
that you have reported on such things as beliefs in reincarnation, three of
those four topics can be seen as intimately tied to, or obstructing, the
transmogrification of souls. If these beliefs have an effect on ‘real world’
matters, such as politics, do you ever feel hamstrung by such beliefs? And how
do you reconcile one area of your life with another?
I have remained a
political Independent since I was able to vote. I have never been hamstrung by
any of my opinions. I cannot see
how people can believe that their philosophy need conflict with any of the other
things that they are.
Why can’t a scientist believe in God?
If it works for him, he can still believe that bacteria exists, that one
thinks with the head, not the heart, and the atomic structure of the universe
will remain the same.
We are each trying to find a way to work with a reality that makes sense
to us. We are trying to blend
Newtonian physics with the physics of Einstein and mix it all together with
hyperspace and hypertime and twelve other dimensions and wonder still if we dare
to eat a peach.
Of course, your beliefs in supernature are not the only thing that could affect
a political decision; there are other matters of ethos. What are your opinions
on such things as global warming, or the war in Iraq? Do you look to a
candidate’s opinions on conservation, global warming, etc., when voting? If
not, why not?
BS: I listen to everyone’s opinions. I have found
that by reciting the candidates’ opinions and a couple of dollars I can buy a
cup of coffee anywhere. If any elected candidate actually keeps his/her
promises, we will know that our Sodom and Gomorrah has been spared.
God has found two or three righteous people.
One final point re: your beliefs. Recently, your book titles have dealt with
things revolving about pets- dogs, cats, even horses, and ‘miraculous’
things associated with them. Where do you stand on animal rights? I would think
you’d likely be for them. If so, how strong are your views on such? Are you a
supporter of PETA? Do you support testing bans on dangerous chemicals used on
animals- especially cosmetics products, wherein no human lives can be endangered
by the cessation of such tests?
We are appalled by any mistreatment of animals—chemical testing, dogfights,
rooster fights, bull fights. We
must learn to respect all living things if we are to survive with dignity as a
I doubt if I could live for
any length of time without a dog. Fortunately,
my wife and children feel the same. We are all dog owners.
Dogs are our connection with nature and the Earth Mother.
I don’t mean to exclude cats. I
have been owned by some very unique felines. And some people get that connection
with horses, cattle, birds, and reptiles. We
are all children of the Great Mystery. The
Great Spirit blew the same breath of life into all of Its creations.
DS: Do you prefer preaching to the choir or engaging dialectic? Is
the tradeoff in acceptance worth the energy wasted in such a tiring pursuit?
Have you ever had any one hear you speak, who then was ‘converted’ to
whatever belief or mystery you were discoursing on?
I engaged in intense dialectic for many years and found it a supreme waste of
time and energy. As you well
phrased it, “a tiring pursuit.”
I am not a missionary; I am not trying to convert anyone.
I am simply sharing ideas about which I am excited.
If others share that excitement, then I am pleased.
If they do not, then have a nice day, chum.
DS: Let me toss out that old question: if you could sit down and
break bread for an evening with folks from the past- scientists, explorers,
writers, or not, which folk would you most like to engage with, and why?
Ralph Waldo Emerson, so I could discuss transcendentalism; Goethe, because I
consider him one of my spiritual mentors; Mark Twain, because I share very much
his opinions and sense of humor; William Shakespeare, so I could ask him if face
to face if he really wrote all those plays; Jesus of Nazareth, so I could ask
how much the various translators distorted his words; Mary Magdalene, so I could
ask her if she doesn’t feel better now that the Vatican has finally corrected
their misogynistic mistake that she was the whore for whom Jesus challenged the
mob to throw the first stone. William
James, Fredric W.H. Myers, Rudolf Steiner, and Sir William Crookes would also be
on my list. I would also invite
Mario Lanza and request that he sing Serenade from The Student Prince.
And of course Sherry to sit at my side.
DS: Ok, let us switch gears to your fame as an investigator of things
paranormal, supernatural, Fortean, psi, etc. I love patterns, thus I’ve long
been interested in statistics, baseball, poetry, art, criminology, serial
killing, genocide, history, etc. I recall, when a young teen, going to a magic
show, and proudly exposing all the magician’s tricks, although I had no
training. I just rationally figured out how they were done. But, I failed at
exposing one, and still feel burned by that failure, because the magician seemed
to revel in stumping me once out of a dozen other tricks I exposed. When did you
get interested in things beyond the pale, and does it relate to pattern seeking?
I honestly cannot remember when I didn’t feel this way.
From the earliest years of my career, people would write to ask how I
ever thought of comparing this to that or how did I ever find that such related
to such. Sherry is the same. All
of her life, she, too, has seen associations everywhere in everything.
We call it “seeing the big picture.”
Everything is interconnected.
DS: To what degree are you a true believer in the many things you
write of, and to what degree do you feel you are impartial. And, five decades
into any endeavor, can you still be impartial? Do you get jaded? Are there signs
in a ‘case’ that tell you, ‘Fraud,’ ‘charlatan,’ or
‘possibly….’? Give me some examples of hoaxes and things you feel genuine
in the world of the unexplained.
BS: The paranormal is not my religion, my faith, so to speak, so I am not
a true believer in anything. I
accept certain things because of my experience with them.
I never get jaded and I
remain enthusiastic. I do not claim
to be invincible, but it usually doesn’t take me very long to determine if
someone is lying, hoaxing, or fantasizing.
I was a bit surprised to see noted debunker, and editor of Skeptic
Michael Shermer, had an article in the November, 2007 issue of Fate
magazine. That publication seems antithetical to Skeptic.
It was about investing in SETI. In the December, 2007 issue of Discover magazine, there is an interview
with Canadian astronomer David Charbonneau, who plans to search for earth-like
worlds around other stars. Is this not a more sane approach than SETI? After
all, even the Drake Equation cannot predict if radio astronomy would be a viable
way any aliens would communicate, but a biological signature in an atmosphere is
far more convincing, no?
Yes, I believe a biological signature is more convincing than interpreting a lot
I mentioned Michael Shermer, and, as I mentioned earlier, he was scheduled to be
interviewed for the DSI in January of 2008, but backed out after I gave his
latest book a mixed review.
It was the second time in four years that he backed out of an interview, and
left me in the lurch, when I did not kowtow to his own set of beliefs, which I
considered to be as dogmatic re: economics as any believer in a deity or
extraterrestrial. The first was for an audio interview, and after a phone call,
in which I tried to remain unbiased, he backed out. Aside from not living up to
his word, I find such actions to be childish and hypocritical, especially
considering that he has made a career out of zinging people, rightly or wrongly,
for what he considers dogmatic beliefs. Similarly, I once got into an online
argument with a couple of atheists
who were as blindly dogmatic as Pat Robertson or some Islamic extremist. Have
you found it to be the case that many of the so-called ‘rationalists’ and ‘free
thinkers’ are such in name only, that their rationality rarely extends
beyond their own dogmas, and that, in essence, they are simply mirror images of
the very people whose opposing dogmas they disdain?
Oh, absolutely. You hit the
nail right on the head. The will to
disbelieve is as strong as the will to believe.
How do you generally get along with the debunking crowd, skeptics like Michael
Shermer or James Randi? Do they tend to see you as an enemy, or someone ‘not
all there’? Or does it vary with the individual? And how about the most
reviled UFO debunker of recent years, the late Philip Klass? Did you have any
run-ins with him, or was he one of those folks able to argue against an idea,
but not ad hominem?
I really don’t think about them at all.
Everyone has his or her place in the universal scheme of things.
Let me toss out some other names, and if you could, give me your brief
impressions, pro or con, of these individuals, and to what extent any of their
work has affected your own: Frank Edwards.
I have been publishing since 1956, and I have never uttered a negative word (in
print) against any of my fellow researchers, so I shall not start now.
Frank Edwards affected my early work because publishers wanted my books
to be presented in that same short chapter format with little narrative.
He is British and
seems quite bright. I have admired
a number of his books.
I have been friends with the same group of fellow researchers that I first met
in the 60s. Among them are Jerry
Clark, Loren Coleman, Timothy Green Beckley, Gene Steinberg, T. Allen Greenfield
remain good allies in exploring the strange and unknown.
He is French, and he has written a number of books that are worth reviewing.
Much of his early research was truly groundbreaking. Keel and I used to be in
steady communication, and we would get together whenever I went to New York.
J. Allen Hynek. And what of The
Hynek Report and Project
Sherry was Hynek’s
publicist/manager at the time of his death. He was a wonderful gentleman and a true scientist.
I always felt kind of guilty that my Project Blue Book came out
before his version. I reminded him,
though, that he was the hero of my edition as well.
Never knew him.
I became famous in my small community because Berlitz quoted me in his Bermuda
Triangle. No one got it that he
could quote me because I had written about the mystery before he did.
Prophet without honor in his own country, you know.
I had probably written 70 books by then, but Berlitz quoted me in his
bestseller, so at last my neighbors had some idea of what it was that I did up
in my office 18 hours a day.
I don’t think Budd and I would agree on too many aspects of the abduction
phenomena, but we recognize that fact and always treat one another as gentlemen.
I don’t read too
many novels, but I did read Streiber’s Wolfen and thought it was a well
done werewolf book with a unique spin.
Erich Von Däniken.
Along with Josef Blumrich, Erich and I were the featured speakers at the first
international conference on Ancient Astronauts held in Chicago in 1973. In 1993,
Sherry accompanied me to join Erich and many other authors and lecturers at the
Twentieth Anniversary of the Ancient Astronaut Society held in Las Vegas.
Another good friend, a fine researcher, and a very good writer.
She’s English and has written some good stuff.
I never met Sagan, but there is a strange urban legend going around that
one night after we had both supposedly lectured at a college, the two of us and
a crowd of folks went to an all night restaurant where Sagan and I engaged in a
lively debate about UFOs. According
to the story, I wiped up the floor with Sagan, blunted every argument that he
could muster. This debate never happened, for, as I said, I never met Sagan.
But I have encountered people all over the country who will come up to me
after a lecture and recount details of the Great Debate, swearing that they were
present that night. They accept my
denial as an expression of modesty.
That’s another great anecdote, Brad. There is this Top
Ten Supernatural Monsters of all time, from an opinion poll of researchers
into the unexplained. Do you agree with the list, and can you briefly
extrapolate on the monsters?
Bigfoot and Mothman (tie)
6) Flying Serpents/Thunderbird
7) Springheeled Jack
8) Living Dinosaurs (Mokele Mbembe)
9) The Flatwoods Monster
The Dover Demon
Well, surely you know that is the list that I assembled for an issue of Fate
magazine. I conducted the survey by polling cryptozoologists and
paranomalists of note.
is also known as Sasquatch, a very blend of gorilla and human.
is the creature first written about in Keel’s book about the mysterious
events which occurred around the collapse of Silver Bridge at Point
Pleasant, West Virginia on December 15, 1967.
Jersey Devil, an abominable creature, has been haunting New Jersey since
monsters, such as Nessie of Loch Ness, are usually described as reptilian
creatures with long necks and horselike heads.
is a vampire like being that sucks the blood of livestock and other animals.
are among the traditional shapeshifters that have haunted humans for
are incredibly large flying creatures, often described as resembling
Jack startled London in Victorian times with his skill as a flying Peeping
sincere individuals have claimed to have sighted living dinosaurs in remote
regions of Africa.
The Flatwoods Monster was associated with an early UFO
sighting. No little green man
was he, but a large creature with a noxious odor.
Dover Demon is also associated with a UFO, though some say the bizarre
creature has long been seen in the area and is associated with devil worship
from Colonial days.
I was surprised to see the Mothman
rated so highly. Also, Nessie seems far more popular to the masses than the
Jersey Devil. Hell, even fans of the pro hockey team, the New Jersey Devils,
don’t necessarily understand the team’s name. And would not Mokele Mbembe be
a lake monster? And the Dover Demon was not really monstrous, was it? And
Springheeled Jack, I thought, was considered a human, or alien?
BS: Your opinions and
responses are duly noted. I’ll be
certain to include you in next year’s survey.
Unexplained phenomena tend to go in waves. As example, in the 1950s, there was
the Contactee Era of Ufology, whereas, since the 1980s its been the Abductee
Era. The turn of the 20th Century saw the Great Airship sightings.
Before that there was Spiritualism, and soon after the Arthur Conan Doyle
Cottingley Fairy hoax. The 1970s saw the rise of both the Devil’s and Bermuda
Triangles. That decade also saw the rise of Uri Geller and mentalism. The 1960s
saw Von Däniken’s Ancient Astronaut claims wax, then wane. The Face On Mars
was all the rage, then died. Hairy bipeds were big in the 1970s, especially
after the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film of 1967, but now seem to have been
displaced by chupacabras in the public imagination. Lake monsters arrived with
the Loch Ness Surgeon’s
Photo of 1934, but even
Nessie has seen better days. And crop circles are perhaps the latest example of
a craze to emerge, although that seems to be on the wane. Perhaps the only
‘wave’ still cresting is the Roswell mythos. Given these seemingly similar
trends, does this not suggest a cultural source for such claims, rather than
evidentiary claims, since almost none exists?
Everything moves in cycles, from horror films to hemlines.
I think the cultural source is most reflected in the rise and fall of the
interest in Spiritualism in times of great national stress.
DS: Let me turn to UFOs. Granted that an extraterrestrial
civilization that could transcend the speed of light would be centuries or eons
ahead of us, surely no culture could be error-proof. So, via Occam’s Razor,
why has not a single of the several million who claim to be abducted, not
brought back a single hard piece of non-earthly evidence?
BS: I don’t believe the abduction phenomenon as I understand it has
anything to do with extraterrestrial civilizations. I began expressing that point of view in the mid-1970s.
Perhaps the majority of so-called alien abductions are out-of-body
experiences. I think in some
instances we are speaking of some kind of initiation of the spirit.
At any rate, whether one attributes these night terrors to fairies and
elves or extraterrestrials, the same unknown entities have been practicing this
nasty little trick or treat on our species for centuries and have become quite
expert at it.
I hold to the
multidimensional explanation for the UFO mystery that I have championed for some
40 years now. That is not to say,
of course, that there may not be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.
(As Eric Idle has it, we should hope so, because there’s bugger all
down on Earth.) But I believe what
we generally refer to as the UFO mystery is terrestrial in origin.
It may have been extraterrestrial 250 million years ago, but it is
DS: That said, there have been some startling videos of what seem to
be non-human craft, from places as diverse as the American Southwest, Mexico
City, South America, Africa, Russia, and China; and these are not the famed
hubcaps and smudges of yore. Is this evidence that can be substantiated, or does
this merely prove that computer technology has advanced to such a degree that
even amateurs can fool the gullible?
BS: With the advancements in
technology, one has to be extremely cautious with any photograph.
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
I send photos to four highly skilled photographic experts who would love
to find a genuine UFO picture as much as I.
We fare better with ghost photos.
The last decade has seen the discovery of other stars with planets (called
exoplanets), numbering about 250- but mostly all are gas planets. In an essay I
wrote a few years back, called The
Day, I try to posit what human
reaction will be to such a discovery of an earthlike planet. Since such is
likely to occur in the next quarter century, what are your views? I think that
if an earthlike atmosphere is detected, it’ll only be a matter of time before
a space race begins to get to and exploit it. Do you?
If an earthlike atmosphere is discovered on a planet and humans have the
technological means to reach it, it will most certainly be exploited.
What if intelligent life exists there?
Let’s hope we learned something from the Western expansion of the
United States and the systematic elimination of less advanced civilizations.
If the intelligent life should prove to be superior to us, let us hope
that we have learned some basic rules of etiquette and how to get along and not
antagonize our new cosmic neighbors.
And while I’m at it, what are your thoughts on the aforementioned famed Drake
Equation (named after Frank Drake), which is posited as a method of guessing the
number of intelligent civilizations in the galaxy? If you think it’s a good
approach, and believe that there are likely civilizations out there, then does
the Fermi Paradox (Where are those
civilizations, and why haven’t they come here?) become an anthropocentric
tautology? After all, why would they really give a damn about us?
BS: They wouldn’t—unless
they seeded us here.
DS: And, does this not obviate the claims of Abductees, that they are
part of a sexual experiment to save alien races? I mean, there would be no
genetic match- unless the Panspermia proved true. And, if a race could travel
FTL, would not they be able to manipulate their own genetic markers, or the
equivalent matter they have? They’d also likely not be humanoid (much less
human fetal) in appearance, and attempts to interbreed would be wasteful, not to
mention the fact that, if they are sophisticated enough to transcend light
speed, why couldn’t they solve their own problems, sans primitives like us?
Any interstellar spacefaring race would likely be as far above us as we are a
bee hive. No?
In Evolution From Space, Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe
state that life on Earth may have stemmed from microgenetic fragments from outer
space which were just exactly the right size to ride on the light waves of
stars. The two British scientists
speculate that Earth received life with the fundamental biochemical problems
already solved. The source of such solutions was an Intelligence whose
purpose was to spread life in an elegant way.
This Intelligence may be a series of question marks or God, but the
scientists insist that the new evidence points clearly and decisively to a
cosmic origin of life on Earth.
What’s your opinion of Pulitzer Prize winning biographer, psychiatrist Dr.
John Mack, who basically saw his reputation go in the crapper when he
became an acolyte for Abductee claims?
BS: I always wanted to warn
him to keep his day job and leave such research to those of us who no longer had
to worry about tenure.
DS: I simply cannot believe millions of people are being kidnapped
with no signs. And the movement from Contactees to Abductees, to me, suggests a
human cultural trend, not an extraterrestrial one. What do you think will be the
next development of the UFO saga?
I can’t believe it, either. Our
biologists and zoologists don’t need to examine the entire herd to identify a
buffalo. Three or four should do
it-- unless they are inoculating or somehow altering or monitoring each
And let me ask this: if like a Whitley Streiber, a famed writer, like Harry
Potter author JK Rowling,
or a media superstar like Brad Pitt or Oprah Winfrey, declared that he/she had
witnessed or experienced some new sort of ‘seminal’ UFO pattern, how long do
you think it would take for millions of Abductees to now claim that they, too,
had had an experience like that of Rowling? After all, the Abductee phenomenon
did not get rolling until the Betty and Barney Hill case became famous after
John G. Fuller’s 1966 book, Interrupted
Journey, and especially
after the telemovie, The
UFO Incident, broadcast in
1975. Even as late as the early 1970s, the Gray aliens were not the majority of
reported beings. To me, this is clear evidence of cultural leakage. Do you see the UFO issue, thus,
as an internally generated psychological problem- from whatever neuroses through
mass hysteria, possibly the same ones that cause people to see ghosts, the
Virgin Mary, or hairy bipeds? Or do you hold out a possibility of reality for at
least some of the claims? Thoughts?
You’ve already answered your question. That bug-eyed insect-like
creature that appeared on the cover of Streiber’s Communion set the new
image for extraterrestrial invaders and abductors.
When I began criss-crossing the U.S. and Canada interviewing contactees
in the 1960s, the attractive, golden-haired Space Brothers and Sisters were the
most popular visitors. In addition,
however, there were the smallish entities (never green though, in actual
reports), the truly monstrous creatures, and nondescript, glowing blobs.
It is my opinion that this multidimensional intelligence is basically a
shapeshifter that will assume whatever form is most comprehensible to the
percipient. The shape, then, may be
formed by the percipient’s religious, cultural, and technological biases.
My basic problem with the whole UFO mythos is that it is so clearly terracentric.
I.e.- in the 1950s, we had The
Day The Earth Stood Still scenarios.
UFOs were seen, and usually it was Nordic looking humanoids who came to save the
earth and its inhabitants from themselves. Or they were horde-like Reptilians
out to enslave the earth. These extremes both clearly reflected Cold War
paranoia. Then, by the mid 1970s, that mythos had been replaced by the Abductee
phenomenon- started by the Hill claims, and propounded by writers such as Budd
Hopkins and Whitley Streiber. This has been so successful that the ‘Gray’
archetype- a small gray being with black bug-eyes that wants to perform sexual
experiments or acts on captured humans, has become almost mainstream. Yet,
clearly, this is so influenced by the Sexual Revolution that Freudians most be
getting erections of vindication over many of the Master’s old claims.
The Day the Earth Stood Still established the template for contactees for
the next several decades. Recently,
I wrote an article detailing the influence of motion pictures on the UFO
movement (“How UFOs Lost Their Innocence at the Movies”) which is currently
enjoying wide circulation on the Internet.
As always, with some individuals my credibility soared, with others it
lowered, depending as always on their perspective and their personal prejudices.
What of temporal lobe epilepsy, and related brain disorders, and the fact that
they seem to produce many similar effects that the claimed external encounters
with angels, aliens, and godlets do?
Excessive use of alcohol and drugs can also bring about such transient
and generally useless visions. I
advise against all of the above.
What of alien life forms? Pop culture deems all intelligent alien life as being
humanoid. Not just the Star Trek and Star Wars models, but even the Alien
from the titular film series is still humanoid. Yet, I’ve read of life posits
in gas planets- such as Carl Sagan’s claim for Jovian life, on neutron stars,
Panspermia posits spores that wander the cosmos in clouds, and even Star Trek came up with a thing called The
Crystalline Entity. Could the SETI money spent there more wisely be spent
studying the possibility that UFOs are real? After all, both ventures seem to
have equally slim chances of success.
I’ve already indicated my attraction to the Panspermia hypothesis. If the original cells of life on this planet came from outer
space, then the memory of being “star stuff” which evolved to humankind
could be as much a part of our being as is the memory of having been a dragon in
Eden. It would be a natural thing
for us to anthropomorphize other sentient beings.
We do that with the animals in our cartoons, so there is nothing to
inhibit us from so doing to aliens. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny—they
are all little humans with human emotions.
I have a strong feeling, as I indicated before, that none of the UFO
contactees have ever seen the Visitors as they really appear to each other in
their cosmic dressing rooms, only as they wish to be seen by human percipients.
Do human beings assume they know too much about big things? By that I refer to
such concepts of Deep
as geologist James Hutton elucidated, or even to such throwaway terms as a light year? After all, a light year is
almost 6 trillion miles- not million nor billion, but trillion! If my math is correct, that’s about 12 million round
trips to the moon and back. Yet, Star
and Star Wars make interstellar travel seem
like a lark. Is there a disconnect between reality and the grand? And does this
make the UFO scenario highly unlikely? Or at least the extraterrestrial
hypothesis for UFOs?
It is doubtful that the human mind can truly comprehend such distances.
It is easier to tell our stories with Han Solo and Luke Skywalker
spinning off on an adventure in their spacecraft just as Harrison Ford and
Ronnie Howard did in their hotrods in American Graffiti.
DS: I mentioned Panspermia- the idea that life (especially in the
form of spores) can exist in outer space, and has seeded life on many worlds. Do
you think this feasible? If so, would that open up the possibility that maybe
the Abductee mythos has credence, in that those little Grays could be distant
cousins to humanity? Or at least terrestrial life?
BS: Yes, I have indicated in certain of my previous answers, that I am
enthusiastic about the theory of panspermia. Twenty years after Francis Crick
and James Watson precipitated a biological revolution with their discovery of
DNA, the master molecule that contains the genetic code, Dr. Crick startled the
conventional even more when he suggested that the seeds of life on Earth may
have been sent here in a rocket launched from some faraway planet by creatures
very much like ourselves.
Dr. Crick theorized that bacteria would probably be best for such a
seeding process. Bacteria are small
and can be frozen for long periods of time—and they can survive in adverse
conditions that would kill more advanced life forms.
individuals have suggested that there is a consciousness of some sort that
exists in each living cell. There
are scientists who theorize that that a certain stage of our development the
individual cells and cell units that collected into our various body parts all
had consciousness, that they deliberately formed groupings which evolved into a
single unit with a unique life function and a collective sense of oneness.
According to some grand design, these millions of cells formed
specialized organs, glands, muscles, bones, and so forth which maintained a
cooperative energy flow. The aggregate of their cooperation became a human body, a
oneness, an All. To a single cell,
however, the All may be “God.”
Let me turn to conspiracies, a subject you’ve trod through a number of times.
I once parallaxed the
JFK Assassination with UFO Abduction conspiracies, and it’s still a
well-read essay of mine. Any thoughts on conspiracists- be they on the JFK
Assassination, the Roswell Incident, the 9/11 theories, etc.?
I really don’t think any but the broadest of generalizations are really
possible about any group or groups of people, but I think we might observe that
for many conspiracists their theories are one way to make sense of things that
have happened and are one way to feel as though they have some sense of control
over things. Conspiracy theories
insist that nothing happens by accident, nothing is as it seems, and that there
is some kind of order in the world—even if that order is controlled by the
forces of evil.
DS: Why are conspiracists so one dimensional in their thoughts? As
example, to use the JFK Assassination, and the ideas of whether Oswald acted
alone, or was part of a conspiracy. Putting aside the facts, and arguing over
them, I believe that’s a false choice. Oswald could have acted alone, yet
there could have also been a conspiracy. His claims of being a patsy may have
been true. Suppose he told others of his plan, in a fit of macho braggadocio,
and then some of the slimy people he hung around with shadowed him, and had
assassins in place, should Oswald miss. Oswald shoots the ‘magic bullet,’
then there’s a frontal kill shot by another of the gunmen Oswald was unaware
of, and Oswald panics, flees, kills the cop, and looks guilty as hell. Yes, he
planned and shot at Kennedy. Even hit the President, and Governor Connally. But,
technically, he did not kill JFK. This seems plausible, yet combines both
extremes, yet extremism seems to be the rule these days- be it politics or more
offbeat subjects like the unexplained. Why do you think that is?
I am not certain I understand your characterization of conspiracies being “one
dimensional.” We found them often
based upon a kernel of truth, then smothered with a dozen or so internal
paradoxes. As to why there are so
many extremist viewpoints, our nation has been divided since the Vietnam War,
and ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the American public has
tended to distrust its government and to believe that their government lies to
them. The tragedy of 9-11 and the
ill-fated Iraq war with its vanishing WMDs have only intensified this distrust.
Speaking of which, I often tell people I believe in the unexplained, but not the
unexplainable- be it for my one person, humanity, or that which can be known.
One’s limits do not define reality. Yet, this seems to be the basis for so
much bad thought in the ‘free market of ideas’. The former, it seems to me, is an ever
decreasing quantum, whereas the latter is mere evidence of current limitations
to human thought. Thoughts? Also, do you feel there is a middle ground between
the real and unreal, perhaps the irreal?
I like to quote Swedenborg on this one: “Our
lives may be the little free space at the confluence of giant higher and lower
spiritual hierarchies. Man freely poised between good and evil, may be under the
influence of cosmic forces that he usually doesn’t know exist. Man, though thinking he chooses, may be the resultant of
How about monsters, like chupacabras, lake monsters, or hairy bipeds? Does not
every passing year make it less and less likely that such creatures are to be
found? And, like UFOs, they seem so intimately tied to frankly Freudian or
similar explanations. So many studies have been done that show how bad human
observation is. After all, if many women cannot even correctly identify a man
who rapes them, that sets a pretty high bar of proof re: things paranormal. No?
Again, I am of the opinion that these entities are mostly the inhabitants of
other dimensions that stumble into our own world from time to time.
Are there any Fortean phenomena that seem promising as real world realities? I
say this because, back in 1973, when I was a child, I recall going to the roof
of a friend’s apartment house to look through his telescope at Comet Kohoutek.
It was overcast and drizzling, so the comet was not seen. However, we
encountered what I later found out was ball lightning- a few dozen glowing
globes of light that danced before us and seemed to mirror our features- not
unlike the famed scene in James Cameron’s film The Abyss, where alien-controlled water
mimics human features. However, in 1973, ball lightning was a ‘scientific
impossibility.’ By the early 1990s it was a proven fact. Surely there are
other such ‘impossibilities’ that will ‘realize.’ What are the best
current candidates? Crop circles? Ghosts? Astrology,
lake monsters, hairy bipeds, visions of the Virgin Mary (BVMs), like the Our
Lady of Fatima incident in 1917, in Portugal, Out of Body Experiences (OBEs),
Near Death Experiences (NDEs), wee folk, fairies, or UFOs?
All these things are real to the percipient.
All may be teaching devices. The
percipient may not be able to prove their reality to anyone but himself or to
another who is supposed to hear it. They
may all be metaphors for suddenly comprehending knowledge that man is not alone
in the universe.
In mind of ball lightning’s being now proven, I recall the fact that many
scientific theories are disbelieved at first, then grudgingly accepted, then
become dogma, then are tossed out. This is basically the posit Thomas Kuhn makes
Structure Of Scientific Revolutions. Do you agree?
Someone once said that science should be like the street system of New
York City: Always under repair; ostensibly always improving itself and always
being made better.
Science is supposedly rational, but like any endeavor, it can be done poorly,
especially when science comes up with ad
hoc solutions to things not fully understood yet. Dark matter is the current
king of this trend, although string theory and superstrings were hot a decade or
so ago. While I am not an expert on physics, I am an expert with words, and
reading between the lines, and in doing so, it seems to me that much of what is
accepted these days is on thin ice. What I mean is that the seeming excess
measured gravity about galaxies, which has led to the idea of dark matter, has
also been posited as being caused by the unseen presence of other cosmos next to
ours. Some call this the multiverse theory. I prefer a term like omniverse,
for multiverse implies universes quite like ours whereas omniverse invites
differing forms of cosmoses. But, whatever the term is, the growing evidence
seems to be heading toward an invalidation of the Big Bang, which will reduce
the cosmic background radiation detected as stemming from a mere (lower case)
big bang. However, some see the idea of multiple universes as a possible
explanation for many of the ‘shadow creatures’, etc. that they claim pop in
and out of existence- from the Mothman to the Dover Demon, and even what are
thought of as ET’s. To what extent do you scan current scientific ideas on
quantum physics, etc., to see if they offer any explanations for things
currently beyond scientific ken?
As I have written in Shadow World, use whatever term feels right for
you—multiple universes, omniverse, multiverse.
The two greatest mysteries facing science are what is consciousness and
what is time? Martin Gardner also
added free will.
A bit of the philosopher in you, eh? I recently reviewed an independent film,
based upon Edwin Abbott’s Flatland.
While the film was not that good, the novella it was based on is still a
classic. If there are other universes, is it likely that some of them will have
multiple dimensions? And just how could 3D creatures like humans exist in such a
cosmos? Could this sort of idea be a scientific explanation for such Fortean
claims for ghosts or mysterious disappearances or otherworldly creatures?
I am not familiar with the book or the film.
There is also the cyclical theory of universes and that each present
universe is a child of the preceding one. That
would certainly provide all kinds of wiggle room for all kinds of phenomena.
DS: I asked of your political and religious opinions earlier but now
let me turn to a current tempest in a teapot- Creationism and the Intelligent
Design folk. Whereas folk who claim to see ghosts or monsters or aliens may or
may not be harmless kooks, I think folk who actively try to supplant science
with their own religion are far more dangerous. What are your opinions on ID?
BS: The supporters of Intelligent Design appear to be well-intentioned
individuals seeking to preserve what they believe to be a mainstay of their
faith. I went to a college where the Bible professors believed that the world
was only a few thousand years old. When
I asked about the remains of Neanderthal, I was told bluntly that these were
misshapen humans with bone disease. At
the same time, the school had a crack science department.
Overall, I believe commonsense school boards will prevail.
Eventually, even to the diehard ID folk, evolution will not appear to
represent a threat to God
On the other hand, human evolution has so many holes in it that one can
hardly object if it is taught as theory, not as fact.
Since archeology is my hobby and one of my prime interest areas, I keep
close track on all new discoveries and new entries on the ladder of the
evolution of our species.
While Creationism taught in
public schools might certainly be interpreted as a violation of our laws of
separation of Church and State, Intelligent Design could be presented in a
manner that shouldn’t offend any but the most dogmatic in their beliefs,
scientific or religious. Sir John
Eccles, winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1963, declared his research
into the human brain led him to conclude that evolution alone cannot explain the
human species’ self-awareness. He
became increasingly convinced that there must have been the intervention of some
transcendent agency in the infusion of a soul/mind into humankind.
He maintained, as do many others, that the brain and the mind are
separate entities which interact, but it is only the brain that is the product
of genetic evolution.
DS: One of the key underpinnings of Intelligent Design is the claim
that there is a limit to knowledge. By that, they do not mean that an
individual- you nor I, have limits, which is manifest. They mean that there are
certain things that are unknowable by the scientific method, or any other
method. I disagree, as stated above. Do you agree, even if you disagree with
their conclusion that this limit is, in effect, the boundary that defines a
Sir John, who strongly affirms that he is an evolutionist, insists that
evolution is not the final story. He
states that although the genetic code and natural selection can explain a great
deal, evolution doesn’t explain how the “I” in each of us, how our
self-awareness came to exist.
Many thoughtful individuals have questioned the probability that our
species waited around until evolution constructed the right brain for us.
Perhaps, those scientists suggest, the brain is a computer and we are the
programmers of our individual computers. Each
of us is born with this marvelous structure that evolution and genetic coding
have wrought, but the mind/soul is a unique creation that is ours for life.
It is us. With it, we can
experience, remember, create, imagine.
DS: Aside from people simply misunderstanding how science works- as
in Creationism and its offshoots, there are people within science, who
do not really understand science, and seemingly do not know how to wield
the scientific method- i.e.- there is a rich tradition of crackpottery in
astronomy, from Richard Hoagland and the Face on Mars, to the Immanuel
Velikovsky and his claims of Venus emerging as a comet from Jupiter, to the
ancient astronaut claims of Erich Von Däniken. Have you written on any of these
topics? You have written of conspiracies, as mentioned, so what of the claim
that NASA blew up satellites sent to Mars, or even the one that NASA faked the
I love collecting stories of those individuals that you label
“crackpots” (Again, Dan, try working a bit on those people skills).
I began collecting such accounts of crackpots and conspiracists when I
was about twelve or thirteen. Perhaps
rather than denigrating all of them and their theories in one sweep of
judgmental tar and feathers, we should label them as persons who march to
different drummers. After all, some of those individuals you castigate as
crackpots, may be right. Throughout
history, think of how many crackpots changed our world, even with such simple
theories as the world might be round rather than flat.
DS: On a related score, just when does a claimant trespass reality or
believability in your eyes? And just how many hoaxers have you encountered
and/or exposed? What was the most egregious example- a fake healer, someone who
was ripping people off of money- like the many phony psychic hotlines?
When a claimant trespasses consensual reality, I cut him some slack.
We all, in one way or another, create our own reality.
When his claims appear to exploit individuals, to prey on human weakness,
to demean ethnic or social minorities, and to elevate his own teachings as
containing the one, true revelation, I simply do not write about him.
When I (we) do write about hoaxers, fake healers, and false prophets in
such books as the Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and the Unexplained or
Conspiracies and Secret Societies, the culprits are clearly labeled as
DS: Let me digress on to human perception, and its fallibility.
People have a tendency to recall times when a coincidence occurs- such as
thinking of an old girlfriend, then having someone mention her, while forgetting
all the times when they think of something, and no seeming synchronistic
after-event occurs. Some take this as an in to why people believe in irrational
things. Do you? I agree, and think that we may be evolutionarily hard-wired to
link things together. This is also why some saw the face of a man on a
mountainside’s rocky outcropping in New Hampshire (the Old Man of the
Mountain, which no longer exists), or the similar aforementioned Face on Mars.
BS: Numerous psychological tests have demonstrated that the brain is hard-wired to find patterns and to make associations when none may truly exist.
Let me now quote from an essay I did on Harold
Bloom: ‘….the human
mind has 3 types of intellect. #1 is the Functionary- all of us have it- it is
the basic intelligence that IQ tests purport to measure, & it operates on a
fairly simple add & subtract basis. #2 is the Creationary- only about 1% of
the population has it in any measurable quantity- artists, discoverers, leaders
& scientists have this. It is the ability to see beyond the Functionary,
& also to see more deeply- especially where pattern recognition is
concerned. And also to be able to lead observers with their art. Think of it as
Functionary2 . #3 is the Visionary- perhaps only 1% of the
Creationary have this in measurable amounts- or 1 in 10,000 people. These are
the GREAT artists, etc. It is the ability to see farther than the Creationary,
not only see patterns but to make good predictive & productive use of them,
to help with creative leaps of illogic (Keats’ Negative Capability), &
also not just lead an observer, but impose will on an observer with their art.
Think of it as Creationary2 , or Functionary3
are your thoughts on this?
I agree. It appears to be a very
thoughtful essay. Of course I
consider myself a creative, somewhat visionary, writer.
When I interviewed Steven
Pinker, he seemed to feel IQ was good at predicting success in life-
at least socially, academically, and career-wise. But my 3 Intellects posit is
something I don’t think he fully got the point of. That is that creativity is
wholly ‘outside’ the axis of IQ. In other words, there could be someone with
an IQ of 180, and a Functionary Mind, vs. someone with a 120 IQ, and while the
180 may be better suited for test taking, the 120 IQ, with a Creationary or
Visionary Mind, will be able to understand concepts at a deeper level. IQ
measures narrow problem solving, but is utterly useless in regards to
creativity. To use an analogy: think of vision tests. The person with 20/20
person may see better and more clearly than the 20/50 person, in normal light.
But the 20/50 person can turn on X-ray vision. While the vision is not clearer
than 20/20 it does see something the 20/20 will never see. Any thoughts?
I am very skeptical of
any test that claims to measure intelligence.
Any teacher who has cared the least bit for his students’ welfare has
observed how inaccurate and unfair such tests can be.
I do agree with your statement that creativity is wholly outside the axis
of IQ and that the creative and visionary mind will be able to understand
various concepts at a much deeper level.
DS: Let me now try to tie in my ideas on creativity with things Fortean,
as well as tying in creativity with memory. There has long been a link in the
arts made between creativity and depression, or even mental illness. I’ve
always thought this is a false correlation, for while a greatly creative person
may get depressed in being able to feel and express things a normal person
cannot, there is a difference in scale between them and a person simply prone to
depression. Yes, they may be as blue as an artist, but their utter lack of real
creativity severs them from the artist. On the other hand, since most people
(99.9% plus) are uncreative in the sense that they lack the talent to convey
their urges, these urges are expressed via dreams, and often through hypnogogic
and/or hypnopompic states. After all, most encounters with angels, aliens,
succubi, monsters, etc. occur in the dark or dusk, the
Twilight Zone of reality
and consciousness, with the silence known as the
Oz Effect. Is it not
likely that most of these occurrences are not external realities, but inner
projections of an emotional reality that cannot be expressed effectively via
writing, painting, or some other creative endeavor? Thus, someone with a yen to
tell a tale, but lacking all writerly skill, may sublimate that drive into a
tale of alien abduction, succubi sex, or an encounter with a hairy biped? They
are not liars, nor even mentally nor physically ill- as in temporal lobe
disorders, but simply folk with a desire to express something but no
individuating talent to do so, which explains why all alien abductions are so
mind-numbingly repetitious and dull, or why so many encounters with wee folk fit
into culturally acceptable narratives that have stood for centuries. Thoughts?
I have written quite a bit on creativity and the paranormal.
Whether one becomes a writer, a poet, a painter, or a medium may depend
upon the expression of creativity that initially presents itself as a reward
mechanism. There is also little question about the hypnogogic and
hypnopomic states being fertile ground for visionary experiences.
DS: Let me give you two examples, of many, from my life that I think
illustrate my claim, except that as someone with natal and aborning creativity,
my tales show my creativity even within a Fortean context. When I was 6, in
1971, I drowned in a lake in New Hampshire, during summer vacation. I recall an
out of body experience, looking up at my body floating in the water, as ‘I’
was below. I could see the sunlight above ‘me.’ But, I did not go floating
toward the light, etc. All of a sudden, I was yanked up on to a floating buoy,
and there was silence- the
Oz Effect. But, there were
not angels I saw, but two children- a boy and a girl, with Chinese looking faces
and a greenish tint to their skin. For brevity’s sake, I had an
‘adventure’ with them that, a decade or more later, I found out was quite
like the tale of The
Green Children Of Woolpit legend. Given that I have read of
variations of this tale set in different centuries and different countries- and
the first one was set in Spain, in a book by Adi-Kent Thomas Jeffrey I read in
my late teens, it seems to me a perfect meld of two classic psi experiences
creatively woven together, with additional creative elements all my own. Let me
give you a second experience, from that same summer. It occurred when I saw my
first murder. And since I’ve seen many other killings, untinged by the weird,
it makes me feel that my initial experience was a way for a young child to
creatively deal with violence beyond
reckoning. I witnessed a murder, but it had odd Oz Effect-like elements, and
after I saw it, I felt the killers had followed me back to my home, and peered
at me. The victim was a typical Italian looking guy, and the ‘hit’ was,
aside from the weird touches, standard. But, the killers were somehow not human-
in many ways resembling some accounts I’ve later read of Men In Black. But,
again, this was 1971, and the MIB phenomenon was not what it is now- nor was
even a show like Leonard Nimoy’s old In Search Of… series on,
so I was somehow creative and/or prescient in a way a non-creative kid would not
have been. Yet, and here is an important factor- as I’ve aged, these
experiences have lessened as my real creativity has emerged, grown, and become
great. To me, these are clear markers of a connection between the human mind,
creative or not, and psi phenomena. Any thoughts?
I think you are definitely creative. How
much was prescient or plucked out of the conversations and observations of
others is difficult to determine.
You get some idea now of the difficult task of being a paranormal
investigator. I had written a great
deal about the Men in Black phenomenon by 1967.
John A. Keel had coined the term even earlier.
I had written about the Green Children of Woolpit in 1966. Perhaps you
had never heard of these things in 1971, but maybe someone around you had.
Let’s take you out of the equation. When someone comes up to me after a
lecture—or writes to me in an email—and tells me a story which includes
elements of Bigfoot, UFOs, Men In Black, succubi, and an out-of-body
experience—and swears to me that he has never heard or read of any such things
in his entire life, do I take him at his word?
Maybe he has been locked away with the Children of Woolpit somewhere
apart from consensual reality for a few decades.
Or maybe he has heard bits and pieces of these things and events when he
was very small and has now incorporated them into his own pseudomemories.
Or maybe he’s putting me on. Each
time someone provides me with a paranormal report, I must take all of these
various possibilities into account.
With all the paranormal programming on television on nearly every cable
channel, few people now claim that they’ve never heard of a poltergeist or a
UFO. But it was not that long ago
when people would come up to me claiming wide-eyed innocence and complete
ignorance in matters of the paranormal. They
either had very creative minds or they had come up with what they thought was a
creative way of getting attention.
Your final observation that in many cases children who experience the
paranormal when very young will translate these encounters into creative outlets
such as painting, poetry, dance, writing, or music as they grow older appears to
Of all the books and essays you have written, which have had the most impact- in
terms of public reaction, and which have had the most resonance to people on the other side: the rationalists and
scientists? Have their been any essays in which you have posited things that
you’ve later had to say, ‘Whoops!’? What were they, and how big
were the gaffes?
BS: The books that have brought the most reaction
would probably be Mysteries of Time and Space, Revelation: The Divine
Fire, Worlds Before Our Own, Gods of Aquarius: UFOs and the
Transformation of Man, Medicine Power, Project Bluebook, and Atlantis
DS: What are your best books, in terms of writing, research? What are
your worst? Can you name three of each?
BS: To the books named above in the “best
category,” I would add Christmas Miracles and Animal Miracles
(with Sherry), Shadow World, Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and
Haunted Places, the three-volme Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and the
Unexplained, and Conspiracies and Secret Societies: The Complete Dossier
(both with Sherry). I hope that I
never write a book that would embarrass me.
What is the most famous book, best book, favorite book, and most controversial
book you’ve written, and why?
consider the books already named as some of my “best” books.
The most controversial was Worlds Before Our Own, a book about the
prehistory of Earth and its inhabitants. While
reviewers actually called for it to be burned when it was first released in
1978, the book has been embraced in its 2007 republication by Anomalist and
received enthusiastic reviews in Canada, Poland, Germany, Australia, Spain,
Portugal, and the United States. The
book was just a bit ahead of its time.
Let’s turn away from Forteana. You’ve also written some bios- of people as
diverse as athlete Jim Thorpe, entertainer Judy Garland, singer Johnny Cash, and
your bio of Rudolph Valentino became a film in 1977. Which of these folk was the
most fascinating to research and write of?
BS: Valentino, because of my love of early Hollywood
and my passion for film. Interestingly,
one of my aunts was performing on Broadway in a Sigmund Romberg operetta when
the Great Lover died. She attended
the public viewing and was able to describe that incredible scene.
Even more interesting, according to her family there is a great deal of
evidence that Sherry may be Valentino’s granddaughter.
I’ve read that you published your first article on the unexplained in 1956.
How many articles have you written, including your 1970-1973 weekly newspaper
column, The Strange World Of Brad Steiger?
stopped counting. It would have to
be well over 2,000.
DS: You’ve also written under the pseudonym Eric Norman. How many
books have you written under that name, and why did you create it?
BS: That is a sad story. One of my publishers suggested it as way of dealing with my
prolific output so that I would not be competing with myself.
As I am certain you are aware, many authors have done this.
A writer friend of mine thought that Eric Norman was such a neat name
that he appropriated it without my permission and caused a great deal of
confusion in the annals of Forteana and the paranormal when he began writing
book after book under that name.
You’ve also written books on true crime. What is the difference between the
true crime crowd and the paranormal one? Are there conventions for those
interested in the true crime genre, as in the supernatural genre? Ann Rule, of
course, is one of the big names there. Any thoughts on her or the genre?
BS: Although I am a true crime and law and order buff
and my books in that genre did very well, I decided not to continue in this
field. Quite frankly, I found that
I didn’t have the stomach for projecting myself into the mind of a murderer
for an extended period of time. I had done it often when writing short stories,
but to sustain that mindset for weeks would not be a good thing for a writer
such as myself who tries always to look on the bright side of life.
Patterns also dominate criminology. Did your research into, say, organized crime
or serial killers help you in understanding patterns in unexplained phenomena?
If so, how?
BS: When I was about to graduate from college, the
dean called me into his office and said that he had used his influence to obtain
scholarships at two different law schools for me.
I could take my pick. As a
wise guy 20-year-old, I said that there wasn’t room for both F. Lee Bailey and
me in criminal law, and since Bailey got there ahead of me, there was no way I
could see myself being the kind of lawyer who filed tax returns for people.
since regretted my arrogance on that day, but I have never regretted my decision
to undertake my mission as a writer of mysteries and miracles.
On the other hand, I think I could have made an excellent profiler,
because, as you say, crimes and criminals do follow patterns, whether they are
aware of them or not.
And what of terrorism? Since that has exploded onto the scene since 9/11, are
there any plans to do a book on terror plots or leaders? Any thoughts on the
aftermath of 9/11, President Bush, and the two ongoing wars in Iraq and
BS: Our younger son would have been attending a
brunch at the top of the city restaurant at the World Trade Center if he
hadn’t taken a few more minutes to walk his dog.
To push Fate even farther, he had just taken the red-eye from San
Francisco back to NYC on Flight 93. He
was probably getting off the plane as the terrorists were about to board.
such a terrible event touches your reality, but spares the lives of your dear
ones, it brings the terror home to you and forces you to realize how blessed
your family was. At the same time,
you feel sorrow and compassion for those families who lost their beloved ones to
the horror of that day and to the carnage of the wars that resulted from it.
no books on terrorism or the aftermath of the wars in the Middle East.
We do plan to continue writing about the Oneness of all humankind and the
necessity for all to learn to walk the pathways of peace.
Another example of anecdotal synchronicity. Re: 9/11, I feel that the very fact
that a few guys with box cutters could mastermind and execute such a horrific
crime seriously undermines much conspiracist theorizing. After all, if the
government is filled with such bumblers, who ignore such evidence of a plot,
then get all the WMD info wrong, can one really expect them to keep secrets as
deep and long lasting as the Roswell Incident and Area 51?
BS: Well, they kept the Stealth secret for a long
time and had UFO researchers who managed to spot the craft convinced that a new
spaceship had just arrived from Alpha Centuri.
And they kept Project Paperclip mostly secret for decades until after the
Moon landing. It was the German
scientists smuggled into the U.S. before the smoke had cleared from WWII who
were probably responsible for creating thousands of “UFO sightings” with
their prototypical craft.
Also, since you’ve researched conspiracies, what do you think of all the 9/11
conspiracy nonsense? And what do you think of as the most intriguing conspiracy
of all time- the JFK Assassination, 9/11, CIA or KGB plots, or something else-
such as claims of secret societies- Freemasons, Illuminati, etc.? And how many
of these ‘secret society’ ideas are just masques for Anti-Semitism?
Who really killed Lincoln is just as intriguing as JFK’s murder—and the
mystery has been running longer. Many
secret societies are, indeed, masques for anti-Semitism.
DS: You’ve also written fiction, such as novels like The
Hypnotist, and The
Chindi. Both of those, however, were years ago. Are you simply too involved
with the mysteries in the real world, or did you tire of genre writing?
I acquired an agent in 1965 because of my short stories in the mystery field and
my membership in Mystery Writers of America. I love writing short stories.
They are my favorite form of literary expression.
I have always adhered to Poe’s theory of fiction that it must be brief
and focus on achieving an emotional response in the reader.
But who publishes short stories today?
Yes, to your question, I am too involved exploring the mysteries in the
real world to return to writing fiction, especially novels.
DS: A while back, you emailed me this, re: the recent death of Norman
From: Brad Steiger <email@example.com>
Date: Nov 10, 2007 1:51 PM
Subject: Norman Mailer, rest in peace
To: Undisclosed List
Norman Mailer passed away
today at 84.
colorful Mr. Mailer won my allegiance when we appeared with a number of other
guests on the Irv Kupcinet Show. For many years, Kup had the
television program of record in Chicago, and he attracted all the top stars.
In later forays on the program, I would meet Peter Bogdanovich, Cybil Shepherd,
Trini Lopez, Flip Wilson, and many others.
In 1968, I was touring for
my book Sex And The Supernatural.
Admittedly, the title was pretty shocking for the time, but in my
opinion my thesis was solid in stating that so much of paranormal phenomena
swirled around the onset of puberty, as well as sexual frustration, repression,
and marital adjustment, i.e., the poltergeist and other mysteries.
The panel assembled for that program, which included Mailer and others
who shall remain nameless, were either attacking me for my horrid and
scandalous theories or having great sport with my beliefs and making jokes
at my expense.
Mailer had sat in silence
throughout, and finally Kup, the moderator, asked him his opinion.
The novelist dressed
smartly in a three-piece suit and looking every inch the bestselling author and
man of letters, smiled and said that he found my theory fascinating, compelling,
and just as soon as the program ended, he was heading for the nearest bookstore
and buying a copy.
Immediately upon his
positive assessment, I was vindicated, and the panel moved on to other topics.
Since that time, I learned
of Mailer’s fascination with the paranormal. Recently, as some of you
may know, he has written a great deal about life after death, God, and
In 1970, Sherry met Mailer
at a party on Long Island at the home of a friend, a former priest, who was
[with] one of New York's largest advertising firms. Once Mailer learned of
Sherry's spiritual beliefs and explorations, they had many discussions about the
realm of spirit. Sherry became highly respectful of the novelist and found
that they had many shared beliefs.
Norman Mailer, rest in
Let me ask you to extrapolate on Mailer, and any other connections
you had to him, as well as any other well known writers or celebrities you’ve
encountered. Are most gracious, or most hostile, to you and your ideas, career,
etc.? And who were some of those unnamed panelists?
I have absolutely nothing to add.
As I said, I met Mailer once and he was gracious to me.
I honestly don’t remember any of the other panelists except one: Irene
Hughes. She was so upset and so
indignant that I could never have foreseen on that day that we would become good
friends and conduct numerous paranormal investigations together.
DS: Let me end this interview by asking what big things that are
still unknown that you want answered before your life ends? Do you think that
these unanswered questions can be answered in your lifetime? If not, why not?
And, are you doing anything to elicit these answers? Also, if you could have
irrefutable proof of just one paranormal thing, what would it be- ghosts,
Maybe there are no final answers. Maybe
all those things you name are cosmic educational toys to provoke us to greater
research of the unknown and to keep pulling us into the future.
Do you believe most claims of the paranormal or Fortean are hoaxes, genuine, or
misperceptions? And what percentage are truly intriguing to you?
I believe most of the reports that we receive are genuine or sincere
misinterpretations. Hoaxes, with the exception of the new digital photographic
ones, are relatively easy to spot.
DS: Finally, what is in store, in the next year or two, for you and
Sherry, in terms of books and your work?
Sherry and I have contracts for three more books in our miracle series.
An Anglo-American company is working on translating a number of my books
to dramatic and colorful DVDs. I
have contracts for another ghost book and another monster tome.
And then there is the excitement of so many of my older books finding new
life for a new generation.
DS: Thanks for this discourse, and let me allow you a closing
statement, on whatever you like.
This is the longest interview I have ever given.
Recently, I have received requests from fans asking me to write my
autobiography. I think I could just send them copies of this interview.
It occurred to me that some passages from Starborn, a book Sherry
and I wrote in 1992, would convey some thoughts which I think would be
appropriate with which to conclude this interview.
In his book, Wholeness and the Implicate Order,
physicist David Bohm of the University of London expresses his concern that our
modern view of the world has become fragmented, not only in the sciences, but in
the execution of our daily lives. In
science’s desire to segregate our universe into stars and atoms, it has
separated us from nature. In
humankind’s prejudice of dividing itself into races, nations, political
parties, and economic classes, it has fragmented us from an underlying wholeness
with each other.
Today, many scientists have begun to agree with the truth that mystics
have been preaching for centuries: At some level of the universe there is a
remarkable energy that blends and interconnects each of us to the other—and to
all living things on the planet. On
some level of consciousness, every living cell is in communication with every
other living cell.
In order to develop a workable analogy of such a concept of the Oneness
of all things, certain scientists have found the hologram to be an apt
illustration. Just as the DNA in
each cell of the body contains the blueprint for the entire physical structure,
so does every part of a hologram contain all the information about the whole.
Split a hologram in half, shine a laser through it, and the whole object
is reconstituted in three-dimensions. The
human brain appears to be holographic in the manner in which it stores memory.
Destroy one part of the brain, and the memory survives in others.
Let us postulate that the entire universe may be a single hologram and
that information about all of it is encapsulated in each part of it.
And that includes us human beings. We
may all be unfolded images of aspects which exist in a higher reality.
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