On December 26, 1985, Strieber reportedly had an experience in which he thought he was abducted from his cabin in upstate New York by non-human beings of some kind. He wrote about these experiences in his first non-fiction book, Communion (1987). Communion is generally interpreted as a claim of alien abduction, but Strieber says that he draws no firm conclusions about the nature or source of his experience. He refers to the beings as ''the visitors,'' a name chosen to be as neutral as possible, and leaves open the possibility that they are not extraterrestrials and even that they exist only in his mind. He has repeatedly expressed his frustration with what he feels are fantastic claims incorrectly attributed to him.
Communion was a Number 1 New York Times bestseller in the Non-Fiction category. Strieber went on to write three more autobiographical books about his experiences with the visitors, Transformation (1988), Breakthrough (1995), and The Secret School (1996). Each was commercially less successful than the last, with Transformation the only other title besides Communion to make the New York Times bestseller list.
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), despite its misleading title, does not propose that there has been 'confirmation' of UFOs or abductions, but rather analyzes the evidence that was available at that time and discusses what more would be required to provide 'confirmation'. A 2006 novel, The Grays, presented his impressions of alien contact through a fictional narrative.
Strieber wrote the screenplay for the 1989 movie Communion, directed by Philippe Mora and starring Christopher Walken as Whitley Strieber. The movie covers material from both Communion and Transformation and introduces some new themes not present in the books.