Ralph Blumenthal

Ralph Blumenthal, a Distinguished Lecturer at Baruch College of the City University of New York, and summer journalism instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy. He was an award-winning reporter for The New York Times from 1964 to 2009, and has written seven books on organized crime and cultural history. He led the Times metro team that won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the 1993 truck-bombing of the World Trade Center. In 2001, Blumenthal was named a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to research the progressive career and penal reforms of Warden Lewis E. Lawes, “the man who made Sing Sing sing.” The book on Warden Lawes, Miracle at Sing Sing, was published by St. Martin’s in June, 2004. During the coronavirus pandemic he contributed articles to The Times and other publications, worked from home on his Baruch Archives blog, “An Adventure in Democracy”, and given virtual talks on his new book, The Believer: Alien Encounters, Hard Science, and the Passion of John Mack.

For more than 45 years, Blumenthal led an extensive and illustrious career at The Times as Texas correspondent and Southwest Bureau Chief (2003-8); arts and culture news reporter (1994-2003); investigative and crime reporter (1971-1994); foreign correspondent (West Germany, South Vietnam, Cambodia, 1968-1971); and metro and Westchester correspondent (1964-1968). He began his journalism career as reporter/columnist for The Grand Prairie Daily News Texan in 1963. Blumenthal earned a Guggenheim Fellowship (2001), a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Alumni Award (2001), and the Nieman Foundation’s Worth Bingham Prize for distinguished investigative reporting on USAir crashes. (1994.) He was named a Townsend Harris medalist of the City College Alumni Association in 2012 and inducted into the C.C.N.Y. Communications Alumni Hall of Fame in May 2010. Since 2010 he has taught journalism in the high school summer program of Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H., and in 2010 was named a Distinguished Lecturer at Baruch College where he taught journalism and currently oversees historic collections in the Newman Library Archives. You can find his website at www.ralphblumenthal.com

Ralph Blumenthal’s talk at the festival is: “The ‘Abduction’ of John Mack: A Hero’s Journey into the Heart of Cosmic Darkness”
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John Mack certainly needs no introduction here. But I hope to illuminate his courageous psychiatric inquiry into the alien abduction phenomenon for which he arguably remains the most professionally accomplished investigator and popularizer. I’ll note the synchronicities in Dr. Mack’s journey — and my own 17-year odyssey as his biographer and member of the New York Times team who broke the UFO/Pentagon story of 2017 — and why Mack exemplifies Joseph Campbell’s mythic hero in braving a cosmic jungle more terrifying than Joseph Conrad’s nightmarish Congo.

John Mack, of course, was never himself abducted. My title is in quotes because his abduction was metaphorical. A reporter for Psychology Today once asked him, “Why did it capture you?” The question seemed absurd to Mack, and the answer obvious: “Why would it not capture anybody as the most interesting story going on the planet now?” It still is. And at the heart of this colossal mystery, of course, lies Exeter, NH.