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Messages from ‘Star Families’—in the ET Language

Investigative Files

Joe Nickell

Skeptical Briefs Volume 23.1, Spring 2013

Cassandra Vanzant calls herself an “extraterrestrial communicator,” among other things. I appeared with her on CBS’s Anderson, hosted by journalist Anderson Cooper. (The show aired on April 24, 2012.) Vanzant claims to be in communication with alien intelligences whose messages she allegedly receives telepathically and then “translates.” She informed Anderson that he, too, had a star family, the “Lamarians” living in “the fourth dimension.” (See Nickell 2012.)

New Age Contactee

Vanzant’s claims are legion. At one time or another (sometimes under the pseudonym “Cheryl Hill”) she has acted as a tarot-card reader and instructor, ghost hunter, spiritualist medium, angel communicant, ordained minister (nondenominational), professional psychic (although she failed to foresee a serious car accident in which she was a passenger), and of course, telepathic “Master Alien Communicator” (“About the author” 2012; “About me” 2012; Vanzant 2012a).

When an amused Anderson Cooper asked his TV audience how many believed Vanzant’s claimed ability to communicate with aliens, a single person raised her hand. The audience was right to be skeptical. Ms. Vanzant is only the most recent embodiment of the contactee, a person who purports to be in repeated communication with extraterrestrials.

Contactees emerged in the early 1950s, following an influx of flying saucer reports. The Space Brothers were supposedly making themselves known to a select group of chosen persons (who thus function rather like the prophets in religions of yore) to spread their supposedly advanced wisdom to mere Earthlings. The contactees tended to be mystical folk of a type we would today call New Agers, embracing Eastern “mystery” religions, notably Hinduism, as well as Western Messianic traditions (Story 2001, 134). Today, contactees have been largely supplanted by abductees who themselves now also frequently serve as alleged cosmic messengers (Nickell 2007, 255–56).


Revealingly, like many other claimed extraterrestrial communicants (Nickell 2007, 251–58), Ms. Vanzant has several of the traits associated with a fantasy-prone personality. Such a person is sane and normal but with an unusual ability to fantasize, according to a pioneering study by Wilson and Barber (1983).

For example, Vanzant has ostensible imaginary friends (“Artoli” and “Mada­scrat”), claims to receive special messages from higher beings (not only extraterrestrials but also angels and spirit guides), purports to have psychic powers and fortunetelling abilities, reports having had an out-of-body/near-death experience (NDE), and so on, as well as appearing to generally have a rich fantasy life (Vanzant 2012a; see also her website,

Describing her near-death experience Van­zant (2012a) recalls floating up to the hospital roof and onward, “toward the stars.” She soon entered a “green tunnel,” then found herself “surrounded by angels, extraterrestrials, and spirit guides,” each of whom gave her a message. The experience, she says, “started my quest.” (The NDE—although only a hallucination produced by an altered brain state—is often life-transforming for the experiencer [Blackmore 1996].)

The ET Tongue

Vanzant (2012a) purportedly “channels” her clients’ star families, first speaking to them in the “ET language” (“Twinkle” 2012). This is basically a form of glossolalia or “speaking in tongues,” like that mentioned in the Bible as “an unknown tongue” and “the tongues of . . . angels” (1 Corinthians 13:1; 14:2–9). It is practiced by Pentecostals and others. Linguistic studies show that glossolalia is typically “psychobabble”—nonsense syllables used as pseudolanguage (Nickell 1993, 103–109). In this respect, Vanzant seems to be following in the footsteps of psychic-medium Helene Smith who, in 1894, claimed to have visited the planet Mars in a trance, describing flora and fauna, houses, cars, and other artifacts of civilization, even supposedly bringing back the Martian language—although it proved syntactically to be like French (Baker and Nickell 1992, 199).

In any event, after speaking in the supposed ET family tongue, Vanzant (2012a) then provides “translations.” Here is one of her purportedly channeled “Star Family Messages”—this one “From the Counsel [sic] for Arbitrary Enlightenment”:

We of the Counsel wish to come to you to speak of the pertinent subjects that are randomly designed to complicate the matters of enlightenment or ascension on this Earth plane. Know that we are here to help you discover and put to rest the speculations of what is this and what is that, and when will this occur and when will that occur. Seek not that which you have heard or read about from others, for everyone on this earthly plane has their [sic] own truths. When you see the illusion of what is being perpetrated against the whole of the human race, then you will see clearer that which is the clearest of all—this truth is you and in you [and so on]. (“Twinkle” 2012)


I studied Vanzant’s “translations,” finding them to be rife with New Age clichés. In the passage just quoted, examples are “on this earthly plane” and the reference to people having “their own truths.” Further on in the message, we find such additional familiar expressions as “the truth shall set you free” (a biblical quotation!), “your inner-wisdom,” “existed on a different plane,” “a parallel dimension,” “God, in His infinite wisdom,” “a higher realm,” “the Other World,” etc. (“Twinkle” 2012). Not surprisingly, Van­zant herself also talks like this, referring to “the energy we all came from,” “we’re all connected,” “on the right path,” “using me as a channel,” and so on (Vanzant 2012a). The ET texts seem indistinguishable from her own New Age speech.1

Her meetings with those seeking star-family messages seem like a cross between a prayer session (she asks subjects to close their eyes), a séance (she supposedly channels an invisible, otherworldly entity), and a fortuneteller’s reading (she offers suggestions and expectations for the future). In short, they are just what one would expect from a fantasizer with Vanzant’s background.

Interestingly, given that the star family messages are all in “the same language,” I find it suspicious that opening passages of messages addressed to two different people—both translated as “We come to you . . .”—are composed of entirely different sound sequences.2 Of course, this is just what we would expect if Vanzant were indeed only producing psychobabble. (She politely declined my request to provide both a written text and translation of the same “message” [Vanzant 2012b].) In light of the evidence, skepticism of Vanzant’s claims is warranted.


I am grateful to Ed Beck, who did considerable online research for this article and helped in various other ways.


1. Of course the “messages” are sometimes in a heightened form compared to her ordinary speech, just as Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” has a more elevated diction than his routine letters.

2. See Vanzant 2012a (backstage clips from Anderson).


About the Author. 2012. Ad for Cassandra Vanzant’s 2012: Coming Out of the Coma. Online at; accessed May 18, 2012.

About Me—Cheryl Hill. 2012. Online at; accessed May 18, 2012.

Baker, Robert A., and Joe Nickell. 1992. Missing Pieces: How to Investigate Ghosts, UFOs, Psychics, & Other Mysteries. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.

Blackmore, Susan. 1996. Near-Death Experiences, in Stein 1996, 425–440.

I Was Abducted by Aliens. 2012. Anderson show episode, CBS, aired April 24 (includes on-air statements, other taped portions, online clips, personal communications, etc.).

Nickell, Joe. 1993. Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions & Healing Cures. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

———. 2007. Adventures in Paranormal Investigation. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

———. 2012. States of mind: Some perceived ET encounters. Skeptical Inquirer 36(6) (November/December): 12–15.

Stein, Gordon, ed. 1996. The Encyclopedia of the Para­normal. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Story, Ronald D., ed. 2001. The Encyclopedia of Extra­terrestrial Encounters. New York: New Amer­ican Library.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star—A Channeled Message by Cassandra Vanzant. 2012. Online at; accessed May 15, 2012.

Vanzant, Cassandra. 2012a. In “I Was Abducted” 2012.

———. 2012b. Personal communication, May 22.

Wilson, Sheryl C., and Theodore X. Barber. 1983. The Fantasy-Prone Personality. In A.A. Sheikh, ed., Imagery: Current Theory, Research and Application. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Joe Nickell

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Joe Nickell, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and "Investigative Files" Columnist for Skeptical Inquirer. A former stage magician, private investigator, and teacher, he is author of numerous books, including Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1998), Pen, Ink and Evidence (2003), Unsolved History (2005) and Adventures in Paranormal Investigation (2007). He has appeared in many television documentaries and has been profiled in The New Yorker and on NBC's Today Show. His personal website is at