Strieber contends that he was abducted from his cabin in upstate New York on the evening of December 26, 1985 by non-human beings. He wrote about this experience and related experiences in Communion (1987), his first non-fiction book. Although the book is perceived generally as an account of alien abduction, Strieber draws no conclusions about the identity of the alleged abductors. He refers to the beings as "the visitors", a name chosen to be as neutral as possible to entertain the possibility that they are not extraterrestrials.
Both the hardcover and paperback edition of Communion reached the number one position on The New York Times Best Seller list (non-fiction), with more than 2 million copies collectively sold. With Communion, an esoteric subject had reached the cultural mainstream, and Strieber found himself, perhaps unexpectedly, as its representative.
Following the popularity of the book, the author's account was subject to intense scrutiny and even derision. Some disparagement came from within the publishing world itself: Although published as non-fiction, the book editor of the Los Angeles Times pronounced the follow-up title, Transformation (1988), to be fiction and removed it from the non-fiction best-seller list (it nonetheless made the top 10 on the fiction side of the chart). "It's a reprehensible thing," Strieber responded. "My book is a true story ... Placing this book on the fiction list is an ugly example of exactly the kind of blind prejudice that has hurt human progress for many generations."
Over the next 24 years (since the 1987 publication of Communion), Strieber wrote four additional autobiographies detailing his experiences with the visitors: Transformation (1988), a direct follow-up; Breakthrough: The Next Step (1995), a reflection on the original events and accounts of the sporadic contact he'd subsequently experienced; The Secret School (1996), in which he examines strange memories from his childhood; and lastly, Solving the Communion Enigma: What Is to Come (2011).
In Solving the Communion Enigma, Strieber reflects on how advances in scientific understanding since his 1987 publication may shed light on what he perceived, noting, "Among other things, since I wrote Communion, science has determined that parallel universes may be physically real and that time travel may in some way be possible". The book is a consolidation of UFO sightings and related phenomena, including crop circles, alien abductions, mutilations and deaths in an attempt to discern any kind of meaningful overall pattern. Strieber concludes that the human species is being shepherded to a higher level of understanding and existence within an endless "multiverse" of matter, energy, space and time.
Other visitor-themed books of Strieber's include Majestic (1989), a novel about the Roswell UFO incident; The Communion Letters (1997, reissued in 2003), a collection of letters from readers reporting experiences similar to Strieber's; Confirmation (1998), in which Strieber reviews a variety of evidence that is suggestive of alien contact, and considers what more would be required to provide 'confirmation'; The Grays (2006) a novel in which his impressions of alien contact are presented through a fictional thriller/espionage narrative, and; Hybrids (2011) a fictional narrative that imagines human/alien hybrids being born into the modern world.
Whitley Strieber has repeatedly expressed frustration that his experiences have been taken as "alien contact" when he does not actually know what they were. Strieber has reported anomalous childhood experiences and suggested that he may have suffered some sort of early interference by intelligence or military agencies.
He was extensively tested for temporal lobe epilepsy and other brain abnormalities at his own request, but his brain was found to be functioning normally. The results of these tests were reported in his book Transformation