Cover of Intimate Alien by David J. Halperin
Intimate Alien
The Hidden Story of the UFO
David J. Halperin


304 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503607088
Ebook ISBN: 9781503612129

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Finalist in the 2021 RNA Nonfiction Book Award for Religion Reporting Excellence, sponsored by the Religious News Association.

A voyage of exploration to the outer reaches of our inner lives.

UFOs are a myth, says David J. Halperin—but myths are real. The power and fascination of the UFO has nothing to do with space travel or life on other planets. It's about us, our longings and terrors, and especially the greatest terror of all: the end of our existence. This is a book about UFOs that goes beyond believing in them or debunking them and to a fresh understanding of what they tell us about ourselves as individuals, as a culture, and as a species.

In the 1960s, Halperin was a teenage UFOlogist, convinced that flying saucers were real and that it was his life's mission to solve their mystery. He would become a professor of religious studies, with traditions of heavenly journeys his specialty. With Intimate Alien, he looks back to explore what UFOs once meant to him as a boy growing up in a home haunted by death and what they still mean for millions, believers and deniers alike.

From the prehistoric Balkans to the deserts of New Mexico, from the biblical visions of Ezekiel to modern abduction encounters, Intimate Alien traces the hidden story of the UFO. It's a human story from beginning to end, no less mysterious and fantastic for its earthliness. A collective cultural dream, UFOs transport us to the outer limits of that most alien yet intimate frontier, our own inner space.

About the author

David J. Halperin taught Jewish studies in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, until his retirement in 2000. He has published five nonfiction books on Jewish mysticism and messianism, as well as the coming-of-age novel Journal of a UFO Investigator: A Novel (2011). He blogs about UFOs, religion, and related subjects at

"It takes a classical scholar to fully challenge the belief in flying saucers, and David J. Halperin is the right expert for the job. Nearly fifty years after we realized we were pursuing the same mystery, I am delighted to see he has valiantly continued on this colorful and occasionally terrifying path."

—Jacques Vallée, author of Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers

"David Halperin doesn't believe in the literal reality of flying saucers, but he understands that they needn't physically exist to teach us lessons about a culture that sees them. Part folklorist and part psychologist, Halperin reads our UFO mythos like an alienist analyzing an extended collective dream."

—Jesse Walker, author of The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory

"Whatever it is, the UFO is a real phenomenon. What David Halperin explores is how to interpret phenomena that are neither imagination nor physics but somehow both. Intimate Alien is a thoroughly fascinating dive into a third domain, a genuine twilight zone that is perpetually shimmering between mind and matter."

—Dean Radin, author of Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe

"On one level, this is a book about the UFO phenomenon. On another, this is a book about how a scholar of religion comes to be."

—Jeffrey J. Kripal, Rice University

"True believers in the UFO phenomenon are unlikely to find Halperin's book satisfying, but scholars of religion will find it quite illuminating of the ufological culture. One does not need to accept the entire Jungian scholarly apparatus to accept Halperin's clearly argued position that a collective unconscious fed the experience, memory, and mythic continuation of UFO folklore"

—Benjamin E. Zeller, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"[Intimate Alien] will hopefully contribute to a growing willingness on the part of scholars of religion and related disciplines to delve into this phenomenon, an important – if often neglected – facet of modern Western culture."

—Ethan Doyle White, Reading Religion