‘Encounters’ (2023) Episode 2 Recap & Review: What happened To Dr. Mack John?

The second episode of Encounters has shown a clear segmentation between the believers and the non-believers. Director Yon Motskin has done a great job in creating a documentary based on lots of evidence and testimonies. Both sides of the coin of the strange aerial occurrences have been presented, but it is completely up to us whether to believe or not. The original series enlightened us with a lot of real-life evidence on aliens similar to documentaries like The Real Possibility of Mapping Alien Planets, First Contact: An Alien Encounter, and There Was Nobody Here We Knew, among others. The real-life people and their testimonies are what make the 50-minute episode profoundly credible.


Spoilers Ahead

Are the Believers Insane?

If we do not understand something, we have no right to question its existence either! There are a lot of believers who have claimed to have seen UFOs and aliens around them in various parts of the world; we definitely cannot negate them all! Ralph Blumenthal, an ex-reporter for the New York Times, talks about the ridicule that he had to face for writing articles on the extraterrestrial phenomenon. He also states that the US government has made it a policy since the 1950s to mock people believing in the existence of extraterrestrial phenomena. This raises the question of whether the government has been trying to silence the believers on purpose for years now.


In the year 2017, there were a plethora of articles that provided exposure to a secret pentagon program that had been investigating ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon’ (UAPs). There were more than 62 children at the Ariel School who reported a UFO sighting in 1994. Were they all insane? Were they all making up the stories? We do not really know what they saw, and it could have just been a figment of their imagination, and of course, children lie all the time! We could negate their experiences as children but how could so many children come up with the same story? This definitely triggers something within us that nudges us to believe in UFO sightings.

The previous interviews of the children of Ariel School and their modern-day statements match till date. They have not been able to believe something otherwise, as they have faith in whatever they have experienced. The trauma and mockery that they had to go through have remained with them. They haven’t been able to heal from the trauma of having their experiences dismissed and being deemed mentally unstable. Even the teachers, who were supposed to be their protectors, had refused to believe them at that point.


All the witnesses had testified to similar statements that the aliens were dressed in black and had big eyes with big, oval heads. They were trying to communicate with the children through a form of telepathy and were trying to convey the message that humans are destroying nature and that that has to stop. So many children witnessing such an occurrence should have been evidence enough, but the government obviously prefers hushing things up by labelling believers as insane. However, one of the former students, Dallyn, has a different opinion and states that they didn’t see any UFOs that day. He says that he spread a false rumor that day and made everyone believe that the rock was a spaceship. He also claims that his classmates have been stuck in the lie and have not been able to break out of it. Is it possible that Dallyn is lying under some external threat? I think it is a possibility, because not all the other students except him could have possibly been lying.

What happened to Dr. Mack John?

Also known as the ‘psychiatrist who wanted to believe’, Dr. Mack John was a staunch believer of the people who had the sightings. He was a renowned psychiatrist who had won the Pulitzer Prize and was a professor at Harvard University. He had taken up 100 people who claimed to have sighted the UFOs and aliens as a part of his experiment. He was later charged with malpractice by Harvard for confusing his patients further and not providing them proper medications. His career was at stake, but being a believer, he had the courage to stand by his patients. He said that the people were becoming suicidal and depressed because nobody was ready to listen to them.


Many patients had also testified in his favor during the trial, saying that if it were not for him, they would have committed suicide or gone astray. Eric Macleish, the attorney who was to deal with this case, was also initially of the belief that Dr. John needed mental help but later changed his opinions about him when he understood his viewpoints. Paul McHugh, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, was of the opinion that Dr. John was delusional and had embarrassed his profession in the process. The criticisms that he had to face for simply expressing his opinions and believing in his patients were insane! However, that did not stop him, and he had once gone to Zimbabwe to interact with the children of the school who had the sightings.

Dr. John’s indomitable spirit ensured that his belief didn’t waver. He had been to many live shows and interviews where he faced several kinds of questions and embarrassing situations, but that did not discourage him. He wanted to believe in the people he treated, and he took all the blows that came to him patiently. He became a source of hope for all the believers across the world. He was prosecuted by Harvard University for malpractice, but because of the support of the people, the decision to debar him was withdrawn later. After ten years of interviewing the children in Zimbabwe, Dr. John is reported to have met with a fatal accident and to have died on the spot. He was a messiah for some people, for whom his death has been a mystery or a piece of a puzzle that has been troubling their minds.

Final Words

Witch-hunting has been a part of our society since times immemorial, as humans are allergic to people who seem to know something beyond their own understanding. Dr. John has been a victim of a similar witch hunt. I am a believer and would respect the opinions of others at any point in my life. Why is it so difficult to respect the opinions of others and not question their thoughts or label them as crazies? I have found some iota of truth in the words of the witnesses, making me believe in them. All 62 children of the Ariel school could not have been lying together. The paintings of the UFO and the aliens by most of the children, along with their descriptions, were similar, which makes them credible to a great extent.

The conflict of believing and not believing is never-ending, and it is never likely to have a definite resolution. The concept of aliens and UFOs still remains a mystery to us. The beauty of the documentary would lie in the different interpretations that different people might have after watching it. Some may choose to believe the testimonies, while others may just negate them. However, it is wonderful that the episode does not impose any of its opinions on us!


Debjyoti Dey
Debjyoti Dey
Debjyoti’s obsession with creativity and travel fervor has helped her branch out into the entertainment genre. Her love for psychological thrillers helps her get a daily dose of adrenaline. A regular caricature of the films and its characters is what keeps her going!

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The beauty of the documentary would lie in the different interpretations that different people might have after watching it'Encounters' (2023) Episode 2 Recap & Review: What happened To Dr. Mack John?