Dr. John Mack believes people experience life-altering scenarios. A near-death car crash, a surgery gone wrong, a brush-up with a wild animal. These moments make them question what life is about. There are, of course, other instances where these enlightening moments meet people head-on in more abstract ways- alien abductions. The issue is that no one takes them seriously. But questions still have answers. What is the essence of these abductions? What can they teach us?
John Mack, a Harvard psychiatrist, and Pulitzer Prize-winner met these questions with the same level of enthusiasm and professionalism as any other work- abductees/patients- they were all the same to him. And while the rest of the scientific community shunned the study of these strange phenomena, Mack was looking up into the clouds alongside his patients, trying to uncover the truth. That truth lead him to trouble, and the skeptics around him began to question his sanity- all because the professional psychiatrist wanted to explore his curiosities and help those who have been traumatized but an otherworldly force.
John Mack took to studying these people. At first, he wanted to understand if there was a commonality within these people’s brains that set them apart- that inclined them to believe in their abductions or inclined them to see what was not really there. However, the more he studied, and there were many that he studied (over 100 cases), Mack began to realize that the commonality was not a mental illness. Mack began to believe that the commonality was abduction, and these people were telling the truth.
Mack began to tell their stories. His book, “Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens”, published in 1994, told the in-depth story of Mack’s investigation, exploring the encounters with stark scientific methodology. Whereas the rest of the scientific community scoffed, Mack’s book laughed itself to the top of the best-seller list, garnering public attention previously unseen. Why? Because it wasn’t some family in the middle of nowhere telling this story. It was John Mack, Doctor of psychiatry- a Harvard professor.
Mack’s adventures led him to some of the world’s highest people. The Dalai Lama, Yasser Arafat, and even Oprah. In one interview on the Oprah show, Mack brought a brother and a sister who both believed they were abducted. They explained their truths on Oprah, next to Mack, and together they ensured that people listened- really listened.
While Mack was studying these occurrences, trying to make sense of this unfathomable world of abductions, his colleagues were turning their eyes towards him. Whether fueled by jealousy (of his bestselling book) or by embarrassment at his research, many others at Harvard fought back. They challenged his ability as a psychiatrist and threatened his work by launching investigations into his studies. They wanted to prove that he was too enthusiastic, too motivating, and enabled his patients in ways that were unhealthy and dangerous. Lead by a Doctor of Medicine, Arnold Relman, a secret committee investigated John Mack, looking to take his career down.
In his book, “The Believer: Alien Encounters, Hard Science, and the Passion of John Mack”, Ralph Blumenthal talks about this investigation. After a long process of interviewing Mack, a long stretch of legal prosecution, and hundreds of 1000s of dollars spent, Mack was exonerated. With no real disciplinary actions, John Mack was freed.
While many still don’t believe in abductions or UFOs, John Mack helped expand scientific research on the subject and paved the way for people to take these stories more seriously. If, for nothing else, Mack helped pave the way for science to do what science is meant to do- investigate the unknown.