Yet another morphing anecdote in the works of Whitley Strieber.
Later that day [December 29, 1986] we were driving through a nearby town when a voice told me to stop at the house of a friend, glass artist Gilda Strutz. Another car, driven by a tall and imposing bearded man of about thirty, pulled up at the same time. We all went in to see Gilda together. The man turned out to be another friend of hers, Barry Maddock. Communion hadn't been published and neither of them knew anything at all about it.We chatted for a while and I soon found myself talking about the owls we had been seeing.Barry was surprised to hear this because he had had a very unusual dream the night before about an owl. He proceeded to describe what sounded to me like a screen memory for a visitor experience. He had been asleep in a house where he was house-sitting until the new owners moved in. Suddenly he was awakened by what sounded like somebody kicking a baseboard heater. He got up because the house was new and he'd helped build it. He knew that the heating system shouldn't be doing that.He walked into the living room. The first thing he saw was a pair of huge, dark eyes. When he later saw the cover of Communion he was amazed by the similarity. At the time, he had the bizarre impression that an enormous gray owl with big, black eyes was in the room. The owl took him into a large, vaulted chamber that reminded him of the Sydney Opera House. There it turned into a bird of paradise.
I bet that Maddock said the place was the Sydney Opera House, and "reminded him" is Strieber's own interpretation.
He remembered sitting beside a small man who seemed to him like a gnome or a gremlin. His impression was that this man was good-natured. He didn't remember anything about the man's appearance, except that he was "dark."The next morning Barry had what he said was an extremely strange feeling. He seemed "loose" in his body. He was also suffering from "missing time" in that he could remember getting up and going into the living room, then having the vivid dream. The trouble was, he could not recall going back to bed before he had the dream. The sort of confusion that Barry described fitted very well with my own initial conscious reactions to the visitors. He also noticed a small raised mark on his neck. He didn't think to mention it at the time, and I didn't see it, but his description, given later, suggested that it was similar to the one I had found on my own neck on the morning of December 24.The dream had frightened him badly.I resolved to get to know him better to find out if anything more would emerge from his mind. On the morning of December 30 we went hiking together deep into the woods and we talked. He turned out to be one of the most fearless people I had ever met. [. . .] The more he spoke about his dream, however, the more he revealed deep fear. It seemed to me that he was aching to say he thought the dream was real, but dared not do so because of its content.I found that the house at which he was sitting was quite near my own place.
The Super Natural (2016)
While I was writing Communion, I began questioning people in the immediate area regarding odd things they may have seen. As yet, I was not aware of all the strange sightings across the Hudson in Duchess County, which would become famous as the Hudson Valley UFO sightings. There were many stories, but one told by a carpenter in the process of finishing a house on our private road is particularly relevant to this part of my narrative.
In the Transformation version, the house had already been finished.
This was the first of two incidents that, to me, added up to a sort of communication. I have learned, over the years, to see the actions of our visitors as a sort of illustrative language, communication built out of images and events. For example, a consistent image that witnesses connect with them is that of the owl. It has played an enormous role in my own experience of them, in fact. If you study the habits and capabilities of the owl carefully, you find yourself studying the capabilities of the visitors. They are creatures of the night, they are stealthy, silent, and use surprise. Like owls, which can use their extraordinary ears to hear prey scrambling under snow, they have extraordinary means of detection. Like owls, they are predators. [. . .]
I include the above paragraph in this excerpt because it deals with the theme of owls. In Transformation, the reason Maddock tells Strieber his story is that Strieber had been talking about owls and his own dream had involved an owl -- but in the Super Natural version of the story, there is no owl!
The incident involving the carpenter occurred during the fall of 1986. He had been hurrying to complete construction before winter arrived, and had ended up in a situation where he had no way to take his tools out at nightfall. He didn’t want to leave them in the unlocked house, so he decided to sleep there, on the floor.
Transformation gives the date of this incident as December 28, 1986, well after winter had arrived. The carpenter, Barry Maddock, slept in the house because he was house-sitting for the owners, not because he was unable to take his tools out.
Later, he found himself awake and looking straight at a short man who was standing a few feet away. It was too dark to determine any color, but he was short and squat. The carpenter experienced a wave of intense fear, whereupon the man changed before his eyes into a bird of paradise and then disappeared.
In the Transformation version, he did not see anything immediately after waking up. Rather, he heard a noise, walked into the living room, and there saw an enormous owl, and it was this owl that turned into a bird or paradise. There is no mention of the bird's disappearing. In Transformation, he apparently saw the small man after, or at the same time as, the bird of paradise, and the man was sitting next to him rather than standing a few feet away.
This is not something Strieber experienced himself, but something that was reported to him by Maddock in 1986. Since Maddock agreed to have his name used in Transformation, we can assume that the account in that book matches what he remembered of his experience at that time. The changes evident in the Super Natural version can only be distortions.
Naturally, it is hardly to be expected that Strieber would remember in clear and accurate detail someone else's dream as it had been reported to him 30 years before. He had written about it before, though, and could easily have looked it up in Transformation or in the notes he used to write that book. That he did not bother to do so can only mean that he was (wrongly) confident that he still remembered the incident clearly. This phenomenon -- inordinate confidence in memories which are in fact seriously distorted -- has obvious implications for Strieber's autobiographical work as a whole, particularly for The Secret School, which was written more than 40 years after the events it recounts.