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Abruptly alone, 38 and between jobs, Schafer says she turned inward.
She did not find a desire to take up a long-lost hobby or enroll in classes at a community college or learn Tae Bo.
What Schafer found was a desire to become further acquainted with the extraterrestrial beings whom she says have visited her since birth. The next year, during the Phoenix Lights incident, she says she had an incident of contact that prompted her to write her book and "go public." (Despite widespread media concurrence that a 1998 New Times article debunked the Phoenix Lights sighting, Schafer and others in the Phoenix UFO community continue to believe it was an alien flyby.)
"[The Phoenix Lights] was a deliberate display to wake up people and to get people like me to step forward," Schafer says. "Do you think I would have come forward even three years ago? I'm a very bright woman, I'm not stupid. And even now I'm not so sure [I've made the right choice]."
Schafer explains this during a meeting with a reporter at a coffee shop. After several unsuccessful attempts to get the server's attention, Schafer quips, "You can see how difficult it is just to communicate with members of our own species."
It's these sort of self-effacing comments that make Schafer difficult to peg. She's witty and articulate, delivering every word with care and firm eye contact. She records press interviews to prevent being misquoted and drives a convertible black BMW between her intuitive counseling sessions at a rented office and her South Mountain home. She stresses that she doesn't consider herself part of the "UFO community."
When asked why aliens would choose her to be a student of their galactic teachings, Schafer rattles off her qualifications -- a bachelor's degree in nursing, a master's in business administration and undergraduate studies in anthropology.
"I'm a credible representative, and my professional background has allowed me to understand a lot more of the experiences that have happened to me," she says. "I have medical, biological, psychological and anatomical [training]. I have the systems and organization experience from the business background, and then my early years of anthropology studies have given me understanding of cultures and civilizations."
Since her book was published last year, she's sold 2,500 copies and has prophesied her message at UFO conferences and on Art Bell's syndicated radio show devoted to all things paranormal. Schafer understands that many find her claims suspect, and says she also considers herself a skeptic.
"It's like if you've never had an orgasm and you tried to explain it to somebody," she says. "If you've never had that experience, you either accept it as real, deny it, or say 'maybe.'"
One of the first people Schafer spoke to about her experiences was longtime friend and former co-worker Lisa Bryant.
"We did not like each other at first," recalls Bryant, now a clinical director for the Maricopa Medical Society. "[Schafer] was very rigid, everything had to be proved and written down -- a by-the-book kind of person. So I had to just believe her experiences were true. She's never lied to me."
Bryant adds that Schafer is an extremely private person and feels her experiences must be very real to her if she's risking ridicule.
"I worked with her every day, closely, and it was months into her divorce before anybody knew anything was going on," Bryant says. "That's how private she is. I think she feels that she needs to share this for the good of all people."
Schafer's businesslike presence is so confident and grounded, and her presentation is so detailed, that it's easy to see why fans would pick up Confessions of an Intergalactic Anthropologist and give Schafer's tale the benefit of the doubt.
But then you read it.
Schafer's book is a first-person account of years of communication with an assortment of alien beings right out of the cantina scene in Star Wars. Unlike fact-heavy alien-abduction accounts such as Whitley Strieber's Communion, where the author tries to accumulate substantive evidence to prove one or two paranormal experiences, Schafer's encounters are presented at face value.
In the first half of the book, Schafer details her adventures in interstellar and interdimensional travel, how aliens have amassed in her bedroom. She relates how an otherworldly being once communicated through her cat.
And then the book gets weird.
The second half is devoted to the teachings of the "Others," which Schafer says were recorded during channeling sessions. The teachings are all in rhyme.
I remembered the days in Egypt, ahh, yea
when they tinkered with man from the beginning day
for here was I to restart the race once more, and we again begin the days of lore
One reader posted this review of Schafer's book on Amazon.com: "This woman is a coo-coo [sic] clock. She presumes to be some kind of prophet just because she says so. To think that an intelligent alien race would communicate with her through third-grade nursery rhymes is ludicrous."
Schafer says she contacted Amazon and had the review removed by insisting it was inaccurate; that no reader who actually read her book could have reached such a conclusion.