“Barney Hill, the black man who joined together that which custom had strictly divided, died on February 25, 1969. He died without knowing that his harrowing experience, of helpless and terrified captivity in the dead and deathly hours of the night, had buried itself like some alien seed in the soul of his nation. There it would lie for years, quietly germinating.
“Some twenty years later, the seed would sprout. Scores, or perhaps hundreds, would begin to remember their own unwilled night journeys into alien craft. They would remember how they had been laid upon smooth white tables, their orifices violated by rods and needles. They had endured strange, pleasureless orgasms. They had begotten and borne children, only half human. Strange implants, the alien origin of which always managed to elude scientific verification, appeared in their bodies. The unremembered hung on relentlessly at the edges of their minds. It became their torment and their obsession.
“A professor of history at Temple University in Philadelphia, and a distinguished professor of psychiatry at Harvard, were among those who understood that in all this testimony was a real and vital truth, and that attention must be paid. Yet in the end all of them—those who had suffered, those who remembered, those who believed—were dismissed and ridiculed and forgotten. For the truth is that rejection and ridicule are the essence of the UFO, and the three men in black are even more real and vastly more important than spaceships that crash in the New Mexico desert, or tortures by perverted dwarfs in underground caverns, or mysterious red lights that swell and then erupt upon the face of the moon, flooding the scarred and pock-marked surface with blood.”
—Epilogue, Outtakes of a UFO Investigator
* * * * *
Barney Hill was the man who, with his wife Betty, became in the mid-1960s the pioneer of UFO abductions. UFOs had been whizzing through the skies for years before one of them encountered Betty and Barney in the eerie darkness of a September night in 1961. But, with one or two dubious exceptions, this flying disk was the first of its kind to engage in the kidnap of human beings.
Betty Hill was white. Her marriage to the African-American Barney, not exactly routine in small-town New England half a century ago, bore witness to the magic that “binds together / That which custom has strictly divided.” (The words are Schiller’s, put to music by Beethoven, quoted on page 174 of Outtakes of a UFO Investigator by the young Dutch woman Kristin.) Was that why fate—or the mysteries of the human unconscious—selected this courageous couple to be the first of the UFO abductees? Read my blog posts on the Hill abduction; judge for yourself.
Barney and Betty Hill were fairly significant characters in a 1500-page novel that I wrote 15 years ago, from which both the published Journal of a UFO Investigator and the Outtakes (posted here at my blog) are taken. The novel’s protagonist was a Jewish teenager named Danny Shapiro, who longed to bind together that which custom had strictly divided.
In the myth and practice of “UFOlogy,” he found a way to do it.
Danny’s experience and the wider UFO myth—rich, ramified, and compelling beyond what most non-“UFOlogists” can imagine—were twined together in my novel, mirroring each other at every stage. I set myself to tell the story of those intertwinings. And to bring the threads of the story together in the epilogue, which I quoted from at the beginning of this post.
Of course that novel was never published. 1500-page novels by unknown authors tend not to be. A long process of rethinking and trimming took place in the 15 years that followed, until my original creation morphed into the book that Viking published in 2011–at a slimmed-down 289 pages–under the title Journal of a UFO Investigator.
In that process, a host of scenes and stories wound up on the equivalent of the cutting-room floor.
Since then I’ve put up a new chapter of the Outtakes of a UFO Investigator each month. At first I thought of these chapters as just a series of stories, about the same characters as Journal of a UFO Investigator. Slowly I realized that a new novel, with its own coherence and narrative arc, was emerging. A parallel novel to Journal, overlapping it in spots. Sometimes contradicting it.
Capable of standing alone, without the Journal? I’m not sure. I’ll need a bit more distance before I can decide that one.
The ending, at any rate, is different from that of the published Journal. It’s darker, less upbeat. (Does that mean: more realistic?) In both books, Danny recovers from the shattering crisis that marks the climax of both books, climbing out from the wreckage of his UFO dreams to the pains and satisfactions of real life. But in the Outtakes the process takes much longer, and is only hinted at.
At the end of the Outtakes, Danny wanders from room to room in the empty house where he grew up. He reflects that “when you’re frozen you can thaw. …You can begin to see … begin to turn … begin to heal.” This thawing and healing is what he now feels happening. But he’s 40 years old when he feels it. It’s been a long climb out of the pit.
In Journal, Danny’s already healing the summer he graduates high school. At a graduation party he tries to kiss his first girl, Sandra Gilbert of the “long smooth coppery hair.” Sandra pulls away; she already has a boyfriend. But the attempt is what counts. Danny insists on being called “Dan,” and refuses to respond to his father until this preference is respected. Julian Margulies, the Virgil who’s guided Danny through his private UFO world—do we really have to call him an “imaginary friend”?—has become a permanent fixture of Danny’s psyche, ever guiding, ever comforting. “Whatever you write, whatever you say, whatever you think,” Julian tells Danny at the end, “will always find its way to me, if you want it to.”
This is what I would call a happy ending.
In Outtakes, by contrast, Danny’s friendship with Sandra remains strictly hands-off. And Julian has vanished forever.
I’d thought of rewriting the end of the Outtakes, to harmonize with Journal. I decided against it. These have come to be two different books, each with its own integrity. In each, Danny has experiences that have left no trace in the other. The non-fiction book on UFOs that he writes for a man named Basil plays no role in Journal, any more than Basil himself does. In Outtakes, Basil’s an important character, and Danny’s failed UFO book is an emblem for the enduring frustration of his adolescence.
I’ve written a sequel to Journal, which I’ve titled The Color of Electrum. It’s set in 1968, when Danny’s a freshman in college and the reality of this country has turned as surreal and phantasmagoric as Danny’s UFO journal. Here, too, there are inconsistencies. When I originally wrote the epilogue to the Outtakes, I had no idea Danny’s college career would be the thrilling, danger-strewn adventure it turns into in The Color of Electrum. Nor did I imagine his father’s relationship with Mrs. Meg Colton would survive for the long term, as I’d now guess it has at least a chance of doing.
I suppose I could have adjusted the final pages of Outtakes to bring them into accord with what I now know about Danny in college. I’d rather just admit I didn’t foresee any of it.
We storytellers are not always the best prophets. Even when it’s our own characters we’re prophesying about.
* * * * *
So now you have the complete Outtakes. You can access it by clicking on the picture below. Or, if you’ve been following it to this point and just want to read chapter 9 and the epilogue, the links below the picture will allow you to do that.
When you read it, I hope you’ll contact me—either here or on my Fan Page—and let me know what you think. If you have any suggestions for improvements, please let me know.
And if you think of a better title for the book than my provisional Outtakes of a UFO Investigator, please tell me that too. If I decide to adopt your suggestion, I’ll send you a complimentary copy of Journal of a UFO Investigator as a token of my gratitude. Plus a thank-you in the acknowledgments, when the book—whatever it comes to be called—comes out between hard or soft covers.
It’s a real book now. It needs a real title.
by David Halperin
Learn more about David Halperin on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/davidjhalperin
Connect to Journal of a UFO Investigator on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/JournalofaUFOInvestigator
and Find David Halperin on Google+