The real estate boom in Lower Manhattan’s Soho District had taken off like a rocket by the mid seventies with a wave of loft and building renovation, a growing number of which I was part of. During those years I paid most of my bills with money earned working on and in these old buildings and was proud of the blue collar credential it earned me. The majority of the jobs were undertaken off the books with all-artist crews working together for X number of days or weeks, being paid in cash, then returning to their real work until it was time to find another construction job. I was a framing carpenter, hung wall board, refinished floors and painted galleries, shops and residences. I also tore stuff out and smashed things up when the job called for it. I was proud of it all and the life I had created for myself. And when it changed, it changed overnight.
One afternoon in February 1975 a significant childhood memory returned to me and in no uncertain terms. It led to my sister Helen first telling me about her very conscious memories of what I would now categorize as a classic UFO abduction experience. At the time however I would have had no idea how to classify it. The memory I’d recalled was of UFO sighting that had occurred fourteen years earlier and something we had never discussed. Helen remembered the day well, and with no prompting other than the approximate time, the weather, and about where we had been standing at the time, she shared a memory virtually identical to my own.
Incredible. I was vindicated, at least in my own mind. But Helen’s heartfelt abduction account shocked me more than anything she’d ever said and I simply did not want to believe it. It was crazy. It had to be. But there was no denying that we shared the memory of seeing five silvery white disc shaped objects in the sky above the house across the street. Maybe it sounded crazy, but it sure seemed to have happened to my sister. She was never one to ‘spin stories’ or tell lies and why start now, and of all things, with a tale like this? I could only conclude that she was doing her best to share this memory in as accurate manner as possible.
Overnight my life took an extremely abrupt turn. I went from actively pursuing my dream of being a painter and living a life immersed in New York City’s art world, to someone obsessed with trying to learn what they could about the UFO phenomenon in general and what had happened to their sister in specific. In the mid nineteen seventies the serious study of UFO related abductions was in its pre-infancy and absent from television news magazines, talk shows and documentaries; in short, a non-entity in the public consciousness.
There is no hard fast rule governing how individuals address (or not) their memories of sightings or actual experiences. Perhaps it was the fact that as artists Helen and I already saw ourselves as outsiders, but we were equally unconcerned with how the matter might impact on our artistic careers, and Helen was not shy about speaking with friends, family and fellow musicians about any of it. I was now finding and reading UFO books at a lively rate as disc shapes quickly came to dominate my paintings, drawings and miniature sculptures.
Most of my artist friends were either represented by galleries or art dealers or aspired too be. I was in the aspired to be category. Some months prior I’d received a studio visit from a particularly up-and-coming art dealer. Mary was considering my work for her first gallery (located in her living room) and I really wanted her to represent me. She liked some of my work enough to schedule a follow-up visit for half a year hence, which, as it happened, fell within the first few months of my UFO mania. Mary’s second studio visit was anything but a success. As professionally as possible, she told me that she was uncomfortable with my sudden, and for her, disturbing shift in artistic direction, and in so many words, state of mental well being. The factors determining my decision were a mystery to her and one she was not interested in pursuing, something I certainly respected. She regretted how things had turned out and wished me good luck. It was an incredibly embarrassing afternoon but served to shake me out of my disc shaped fixation, to some degree in any case. I was obsessed and knew it. But how best to channel my now pervasive interest?
Then, early in early 1976 the New York weekly The Village Voice published a surprisingly serious and particularly well written account of a UFO incident that had occurred a year earlier and just across the Hudson River in New Jersey. This was the first major newspaper article I’d read on UFOs since becoming involved, and on a relatively current case at that. I had no way of knowing it was the writer’s first article on the subject, but was surprised and intrigued to learn that he was a painter as well. But this painter could really write.
The article was excellent from beginning to end, as un-sensational and well reasoned a narrative as anyone could have written about a close encounter with a landed object of undetermined origin and accompanying beings. By the time I’d finished reading it, the main thing I wanted to do was contact and meet the man responsible for it. There was only one “Budd Hopkins” in the city directory and I phoned him that afternoon. He was kind enough to let me rattle on for a few minutes and wanted to know what kind of painting I did. He was also interested in hearing more about Helen’s and my sighting and her other memories. That was how I was first invited to come by and did so a few afternoons later.
Visiting Budd’s home for the first time was a wonderful experience. The second floor of the nondescript gray building on West Sixteenth Street opened into a loft type apartment with sculptures, paintings and drawings almost everywhere you looked, some by world famous artists. There was an outstanding library in the front room dominated by books of art, books about art, and books about artists. Budd lived there with his wife, the art historian April Kingsley, their young daughter Grace and their psycho-cat Bootsie. Down the stairs and through a twisting hallway, then down and up two sets of stairs lay his large, open studio filled with paintings and sculptures. A bank of north facing windows looked down from the studio’s second story, the preference of most serious painters. I considered myself a serious painter and as such was also something of a culture snob. Budd’s work was rooted in the sensibilities of an earlier generation than my more minimal creations. Nonetheless I liked his painting and sculpture more than I though I would. With no one else home we ended up sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and talking about art, life and UFOs. It was the first of many such conversations and the first of hundreds of visits to the Hopkins home and studio.
In 1977 I called Budd with a proposition. The School of Visual Arts was always on the lookout for interesting speakers, and had invited us to make a presentation to the student body about UFOs. He agreed and we gave our first presentations together on the stage of SVA’s Twenty Third Street auditorium. We remained in regular contact during the next years, a time which saw UFO researchers continuing to focus their collective attention on the alleged objects, this while Budd Hopkins had quietly commenced his study of the intelligences behind the phenomenon, and the pattern of behavior which was beginning to emerge was disturbing beyond description.
His 1981 book “Missing Time” was the result of this revolutionary study and established Budd as the leading figure in this fledgling area of investigation. Readers who knew, remembered or suspected that they had had experiences similar to those described in “Missing Time” began to call and write - for advice, for an appointment, or for a sympathetic person to speak with: this was someone who would actually listen to their accounts and fears without automatically dismissing them as delusional or worse. Budd was now meeting with as many of these people as possible, even to the extent that his personal, family and studio time became less and less his own.
I began working for Budd in the 1980s and my assignments changed from day to day depending on what needed attention. They included everything from straightening up in the studio, fielding phone calls, taking messages and running errands, filing and logging in the growing number of audiocassettes of interviews and every hypnotic regression he conducted. My responsibilities grew to include fact checking, proof reading, help on certain investigations, reading and responding to letters, meeting and interviewing possible abductees, attending most support group meetings and witnessing specific hypnotic regressions. I took my responsibilities seriously and was deeply moved by the accounts and histories of many of the people I met through Budd.
In late 1989 I was working in the office/studio when a woman named Linda first visited to discuss her fragmented but conscious memories of her lifelong abduction experiences. I assisted Budd throughout the long investigation which followed and “Witnessed: The True Story of the Brooklyn Bridge UFO Abductions” was published in 1996. In my opinion it remains the best written and most compelling account of a multiply witnessed UFO abduction. Linda, I’m glad to report, remains a close friend all these years later.
Great creativity and ferocious curiosity can lead to a decidedly split career, and for any who suspect Budd entered the field of UFO investigation motivated by financial gain, think again. Out of the more than seven hundred individuals who underwent hypnotic regression with him - many of whom were regressed on numerous occasions - he never once asked a single one of them for any sort of payment. Then there were the hundreds of individuals he gave uncounted hours to at conferences, at his home, or during visits to their homes.
The hypnotic regressions I was asked to witness were at Budd’s request or that of the subject or both, but always with the subject’s full approval. As a beginning practitioner, Budd worked under the watchful eye of the respected hypnotherapist Aprhrodite Clamar for seven long years - then under the guidance of other professional hypnotherapists as well. His patience, sensitivity and concern for his subjects’ well being were constants in his work process, and it was not unusual for him to take up to half an hour to make sure that the subject was as relaxed as possible and fully under before asking them a first question. Transcripts of some of these sessions are included in his books and are very worth reading.
My late sister Helen for one struggled with her anger and fear over what had been done to her by the intelligences behind the abduction phenomenon. She benefitted tremendously from her regressive hypnosis with Budd, as well as from the many support group meetings she attended. Helen had no interest in making a lifestyle out of her awareness of what had happened to her, and at a certain point struck out on her own to continue following her star as a singer songwriter. Budd’s tastes in music ran from the big bands to jazz to the classical, but in good faith did not extend much beyond 1960. His deep affection for Helen and pride in her successes was no secret to me - as was the level of distain he maintained toward the newest wave of the New York music scene which at the time was dominated by Punk bands. But even if difficult to imagine, there he’d be in the late night audience at the notorious CBGBS music club at more than one of my sister’s riotous, earsplitting shows, always with a smile on his face and I expect a splitting pain in his head. Talk about above and beyond. My family and I always appreciated the unique assistance he gave Helen and credit it as a major contribution to her ability to live the incredibly full life that she did.
So many memories, but let me close on this note. If humanity is not extinguished by some natural or manmade cataclysm, there may well come a time when school children and college students studying the history of the late Twentieth and early Twenty First Centuries learn about that tiny but dedicated cadre of individuals, like Hopkins, Jacobs and Mack, who adjusted the trajectory of their otherwise comfortable and satisfying lives and careers to sacrifice more than most of us can imagine in order to study and learn about the presence which has invaded the day to day lives of uncounted numbers of people who live with the ongoing reality of UFO abduction. The names and work of these investigators will live on long after those of their detractors have been forgotten. So thank you Budd. For your friendship and good company these many years, for the things I learned from you, for the good and difficult times I had the privilege of sharing with you, and for your pioneering efforts to establish an area of study which has already made a difference in the way many of us are coming to understand our place in the universe - and the place and behavior of others who inhabit this universe along with us.