Kevin McClure’s Abduction Watch



1- Not currently on-line
2 – September 1997  – Driving a stake in the heart of the space vampires
3 – October 1997  Protecting the universe from the scum of the Earth
4 – November 1997  — Remembering that very few wardrobes lead to Narnia
5 – December 1997  — Damning without faint praise
6 – January 1998 – Recovered memory and hypnosis special
7 – February 1998  — Knitting fog around chocolate teapots
8 / 9 – April 1998   — Difficulties with the chosen ones
10 / 11 – June 1998  – Digging up the pavement on the road to Hell
12 / 13 – August 1998  — Gulls and gullibility
14, October 1998  — The crowd of unknowing
15 – November 1998  — Alien implants, a chiropodist speaks
16-17 January 1999  — Are you sure you can’t go back to Kansas?
18 – February 1999  — Superstitious minds
19 / 20 – July 1999  – Dark ages

Recent UK Contact Reports
Jenny Randles

In an early MUFOB (number 7, Summer 1977) Jenny Randles muses on some British cases which blurred the lines between close encounter, contactee and abductee

When I first came naively onto the UFO scene some seven or eight years ago it was through the customary grounding in paperbacks, where I was continually told that UFOs were spacecraft from somewhere, even though I soon discovered the contactees themselves could never agree from where! It is probably this indoctrination in the ETH that attracts people to the subject in the first place. It is also a factor which puts them off when they find that ETH theories tend to have holes in them big enough to fly Starship Enterprise (or Capt. Kirk’s ego) through. Many others are not put off, because they just refuse to accept the truth. In this sense truth is a relative term. If Joe Soap wishes to believe in something then he does. Whether or not this is ‘true’ in a material sense does not matter it is true so far as Joe is concerned, and that is the important point’.

ETH theories tend to have holes in them big enough to fly Starship Enterprise (or Capt. Kirk’s ego) through

A similar situation seems to arise in relation to some UFO witnesses, who experience subjective events in a highly personalised manner. We have had many examples of ‘Psychic Contactees’ recently, and I feel their study is important to our awakening understanding of the phenomemnon.

A typical example is the story of Mrs Lainchbury from Little Lever, near Bolton, Greater Manchester (1) In 1964 she claims that she was first approached by a being wearing a suit of black rings. He visited her following a malfunction of his craft, which Mrs Lainchbury witnessed. In this initial visit and subsequent ones over a period of three years, the entity, joined later by three others, just materialised and dematerialised in the bedroom. Their origin was given as Pluto, which name was formed by letters in mid-air. The whole experience seems ‘unreal’ and yet the original sighting apparently left physical traces in the form of burn marks on outside paintwork which have been attested to by many witnesses. They appeared suddenly over the night when the object supposedly malfunctioned.

We must obviously ask about the above case “Did Mrs Lainchbury build this story out of a possibly genuine UFO Sighting?” The alternative, assuming she is not lying, is that the affair did happen as a ‘real’ event; the entities did appear in physical form in her bedroom. It seems to make little sense if this point is accepted to believe that they genuinely came from Pluto, where life forms of their apparent type could not exist. One might argue that they had constructed a scenario for Mrs Lainchbury – either changing to a physical form acceptable to her, or lying about their origin. The question then is, why do so? And why direct this deception at this elderly lady?

A case very similar to this concerns a Mrs H, a middle-aged housewife living in Belfast (2). She lives in an area where the current [1977] violence is at its height, and she is obviously under great pressure in raising her family. Has this led her to construct an involvement with benevolent space-beings as a personal security for her family?

Mrs H claims that in 1969 she first visited a spacecraft by being ‘lifted out of her own body’ (cf. astral projection). She was taken from her bed into a huge spacecraft where many entities in bright clothes showed her around. Since then she says she has been back many times, and has been taken all over Ireland in the craft. She has been told many things and has been asked to write a book to try and solve the sectarian strife. She has so far refrained from this; fearing reprisals on her family, but seems to be driving herself, or is being driven, towards this goal. The question which remains is whether this is a personal motivation which is taking an external form, or if there is some objective, external cause.

When the previous cases are studied in detail they do not display typical ufological factors. One might well be tempted to dismiss them as ‘irrelevant’. However it must be borne in mind that these experiences were undergone by sincere individuals who had no desire for publicity – indeed quite the reverse, One cannot furnish a simple explanation for them, although one might suspect a psychological one at the root. It is as important to remember that they are meaningful to both witnesses. By any definition they are a type of UFO report, and worthy of our attention.

We now move to a case which has many typical ufological features, but is also highly subjective. This is the case of Mr L from West Yorkshire (3). In February 1976 he claims, in similar manner to Mrs H, that he was transported from bed into a spacecraft. He he underwent a medical examination by entities which he described in terms remarkably reminiscent of those allegedly encountered by the Hills (4). The beings were indifferent, but very arrogant, claiming that the witness was “an insignificant being such as a worm”. At the close of the encounter he was left paralysed on his bed, while the entities simply disappeared.

If we consider the case in detail too many correlations with the Hills’ story emerge. There has been no evidence found to support the idea that the witness had studied this encounter to the extent needed to gain the information which overlapped. On the other hand there is medical evidence to suggest that this was a hypnogogic experience. Here we must ask how it could be that such a ‘classic’ UFO encounter may be almost entirely subjective.

Finally let us look at two cases from what appears to have been a recent British wave. To any initial view they are objective and important UFO events. But it is interesting to note that although the scene in both cases is the real world (ie outside the witnesses bedroom), and despite the incidence of more than one witness in each case, there are striking parallels with our previous ‘Psychic Contactees’.#

On September 3, 1976 an elderly woman and her eighteen year old niece saw a grounded UFO at the little village of Fencehouses, Co. Durham (5). It was a very small object, about three-and-a-half feet by five feet, with a smooth glassy surface that the older woman says she touched. On top was a small orange dome, and it was sitting on sledge-like runners of steel or chrome. The witnesses were attracted towards it and appeared to enter a hypnotic state where time stood still. They met two tiny beings with long hair, but no communication ensued. They then lost all sense of time, and the object shot upwards making a humming noise.

A more renowned case concerns Mrs Joyce Bowles and Mr Ted Pratt, who on November 14, 1976 confronted a landed UFO by the side of the Winchester bypass near Chilcomb (6). Their car swerved across the road and apparently hit an invisible barrier. A bearded entity then walked over to the car and looked in. As he did so the engine, which had stalled, started to life. The witnesses do not know how the entity or object disappeared – it was just gone. The area was examined within twenty-four hours, and despite numerous car tracks on the soft earth by the roadside there was no trace of any object having landed at the place where it was supposedly seen. The case has become even more confused since, with claims that the two witnesses were abducted onto a craft and their car teleported several miles. Additionslaly stories are now emerging of ‘psychic’ experiences by Mrs Bowles before the original event, including the appearance of ghost-like ‘spacemen’ inside her house (7).

 It is too easy to equate not thinking with having an open mind!

Quite clearly, what at first are two ‘normal’ close encounters become subjective cases of a high degree of strangeness. However one cannot adopt a straightforward hallucinatory explanation for a case involving two witnesses.

One of the prerequisites for serious involvement in ufology is an open mind. Most ufologists do not appear to have one, even some of those who think that they do. This does not mean that one is not allowed to think, it is too easy to equate not thinking with having an open mind. The rearguard action one faces from those trying desperately to defend the ETH is amazing, and yet by my own admission we cannot just discount it. Nevertheless I have long since seen it as a more remote possibility.

Until very recently my mind turned towards interdimensional ideas for the origin of UFOs. I fell in love with the Flatland analogy, where we we consider a being on a flat surface. A three dimensional object passing through the surface would only be detected at the moment it passed through the creatures two dimensional sensory field. It would be unsensed when it was above or below the surface; suddenly appear, change shape and disappear as it passed through. This seems to fit the phenomenon rather too well to be sheer coincidence and I feel that some intermixing of a dimensional scale is a probable source of some UFO phenomena.

Whatever theory is true, and it seems more likely that we do not have just one answer, it has to explain two factors. Firstly the apparent co-development of the phenomenon throughout history, since prehistoric times (8); and secondly the manner in which it reflects the social factors of the period, and is subjectively interpreted in line with these.

I hope this brief look at some of Britain’s current close encounter cases has made you think. It would be very hard to accept these as evidence of any kind of objective phenomenon. One is led towards a subjective approach. Whether this is entirely a product of ourselves in the form of an unexplained psychological or sociological factor, or whether there is some objective external force which is manipulating our experiences, I do not know. Quite possibly we never shall. At the moment I tend to favour the latter possibility as a result of some personal experiences I have recently undergone (9), but I fully recognise even this evidence is not conclusive and could still point to an internal mechanism for the phenomenon.

It is important for us to continue our studies, whatever the source. There is some hope for the ‘diehard’ objective reality believers, as there are still radar/visual, photographic, and physical trace reports which seem to point in this direction. However many more such events are shown to have perfectly normal explanations; but there is sufficient reason to believe that there could be unexplained pt~yebal phenomena at work in the generation of these repotts. Further than that I do not think we can go. There is reason to suppose that the close-encounter event as described in this article may be an entirely different phenomenon to what we normally view as the UFO. If that is true then all our verbal battling concerning ‘hardware’ versus psychological explanations may be fruitless. We could be studying two different things, and both solutions could be correct.


  1. Flying Saucer Review, 22,3.
  2. A full report on this case has been produced by the Irish UFO Research Centre.
  3. Northern UFO News, August 1976; Awareness, Autumn, 1976; BUFORA Journal, November-December, 1976.
  4. FULLER, J G. The Interrupted Journey; BOWEN, C. The Humanoids
  5. Northern UFO News, February 1977.
  6. Flying Saucer Review, 22,5.
  7. The News [precurson of Fortean Times], No. 3. for an account of poltergeist activity at Mrs Bowles home.
  8. Flying Saucer Review, 15,6


The Alien Carried Paperwork.
Martin Kottmeyer

From Magonia 84, March 2004

In March 1980, a young rural Pennsylvania couple was interviewed concerning an experience they shared aboard an alien craft. A person attending a lecture on UFOs given by Eugenie Macer-Story told her about the couple’s experiences. She travelled to their home – they had no telephone – and they cordially allowed her to tape the story of their encounters with the aliens. Frank and Alice had not contacted any UFO organisation and there was no use of hypnosis at any point preceding or during Macer-Story’s interview.

As they tell it, both of them had been interested in ESP and the supernatural prior to the events of April 1975 and Frank_ in particular, had been trying to communicate telepathicaly with UFOs. He had been seeing lights over nearby mountain peaks at least once or twice per week in the period leading up to the experience. He emphasised that one must go out and observe the sky and take nothing for granted. Every time he saw a UFO, he would try to make contact by flashlight. He said he had a drive to leave this earthly existence because he had been so depressed.

On the night of the primary experience, as Frank tells it, the couple were in bed just about to fall asleep when both were compelled to go outside. They both saw a luminous round object near an electric light pole and were sucked up into it. They floated into a circular chamber and bobbed around for a while in mid-air. Doors opened and they met beings dressed in silvery-blue suits. One, a female, led Alice away to another room, while two men staved with Frank and chatted with him about star tracks and the nature of the universe. Though he saw star charts on which he recognised the Milky Wav, the men told him there was more beyond the stars. There were other dimensions. Thee telepathicaly got him to know they come from “another sub-level dimension attached to what we call the ‘astral-plane’.” Knowing this, his mind felt expanded. His whole concept of the universe changed and that’s all they wanted to do. At least that is, with Frank. Alice, however, got a different sort of treatment.

As she tells it, both of them had fallen asleep when suddenly she felt she was sitting up. The room was very luminous. Through the door, she saw a 6-foot tall being. Next, they were both on the porch, and the ground was white like snow. On the road was a vehicle the size of a car. Samples of rocks and stuff were being picked up and put in containers. There was also a light by the side of the house and she felt being pulled up under her arms and going through a circle of light at the bottom of the craft. She remembers floating in the room, like Frank did, wondering if they were being decontaminated.

She remembers, too, being led away by the female to another room. It resembled a medical clinic and had very similar equipment. There was also desk at which the female alien later filled out papers. The female lifted her hand and Alice found herself lifted up and positioned on to a table. An instrument bearing a light came down and was run over her body. A panel on the wall showed the internal organs of her body in real-time. It was displayed in blues and purples. During the examination, she relayed telepathically concerns over her ovaries that she sought medical help about in the past. She asked if the aliens could fix them. Easily, it turned out. The alien went to the desk, filled out some forms, and then returned with a rack of instruments. One was selected, briefly tested on a thick paper, and then passed over her ovaries. It initially stung and the instrument was readjusted. A smaller energy probe was used on only one of the ovaries. After completing treatment the female made some more notes and helped Alice off the table.

Alice followed her down the hallway to an elevator that eventually led them back to the chamber where the aliens were chatting with Frank. “She was carrying papers.” Alice recalled Frank’s conversation with the aliens as including such topics as ecological balance and the fuel that runs cars. Alice was surprised that these aliens felt humans were more advanced than they realised. Humans were aware of the problems they’ve created. “Pollution will be corrected.” Her impression was that one of the aliens was religious like a priest. There was also a living star map that might have shown their base, but she couldn’t even be sure where the Milky Way was on it.

Neither Frank nor Alice recalled how they got back to the cottage. Both awoke the next day as usual, each thinking they had experienced dreams. Alice, however, had tingling in the region of her ovaries for several days. Several months later, both were surprised to learn Alice was pregnant. Her gynaecological problems had evidently been cured. At 8 months, Alice had a 45-minute missing time episode while she was watching television. After this, she knew, in her own mind, the pregnancy would be normal. She would have a girl. But, beyond a feeling that she had made a vow to remember the examination beneath the time lapse, she had no real details. Sometimes there are flashes of memory and they seemed to tice together over time. But Alice didn’t get into the matter during that interview.

This account is whittled down from Macer-Story’s article published in the Fall 1980 issue of Pursuit, the magazine of the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained. [1] It may or may not surprise some readers that this story is considered an alien abduction experience by UFO researchers. It matched the standard abduction scenario just well enough to make it into Eddie Bullard’s list of Top 50 abduction experiences. Specifically, it is No. 50 on the list. [2] That made it better than over 200 other cases on record, or put another way, better than 80% of the abductions collected by 1985. It impresses in a formal sort of way. It is ostensibly an experience shared by two, not merely a single claimant. They sought no attention; contacted no ufologist. Macer-Story came to them. There is no involvement of hypnosis.This last point is a significant virtue, since there is no chance of the testimony having been generated by the enthusiasm of an investigator. Abduction advocates, in debate, like pointing to such stories – at least in the abstract – as validating the stories retrieved under hypnotic regression since they tell essentially the same experience. [3] Or so they claim.

When you start scratching around at a story like this the sameness crumbles away without much effort. To be fair, a few bits and pieces echo other abduction cases. The star map stuff loosely resembles the Hill abduction. The examination device coming down from the ceiling echoes Pascagoula. Alice indicated that the walls were illuminated without sources like bulbs, something familiar froth the Moody case. The order of the story elements is also correctly Bullardian: capture – examination (only Alice) – conversation – theophany (only Frank) – aftermath.

The thrust of the story, however, hardly fits in with the modern portrait sketched by Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack. Alice does not have eggs harvested from her ovaries in a terrifying ordeal. A light passes over the ovaries and she is cured. There is nothing about aliens returning with a hybrid child in the intervening five years – as is regularly seen in the abductions of the 90s, Frank is spared the nonsense of the various sperm extraction procedures spoken of by other male abductees. Instead he is given a surprisingly brief lesson in metaphysics and told other dimensions exist.

They are spared the standard falsehoods about a near future cataclysm: instead, we get a message that humans will solve their problems about pollution – this seems unique not only for its lack of paternalism, but also for being right

They are also both spared the standard falsehoods about a near future cataclysm familiar to both contactee and abductee experiencers. Instead, we get a message that humans will solve their problems about pollution – this seems unique not only for its lack of paternalism, but also for being right. Most measures of pollution have improved in the last couple of decades. [4]The aliens seem closer to human norms than to Greys. Frank said they were bluish-silvery. “They had eyes, nose, and ears, but not as much of a mouth as ours.” Alice indicated the silvery-blue colour involved the suits. The fabric stretched over the top of the head (as in Schirmer’s drawing) and that prevented her from telling if they had any hair. The female sported bulb-like things over her eyes to probably protect her vision. She had small spots in the nasal area, and while there was some cartilage, the nose was not pronounced. The presence of a bosom clearly defined the one with Alice as a female. The face was a little longer and the chin was more pronounced. While we would prefer a situation where they specifically commented on the size of the head, there isn’t much ground for thinking they were looking at Greys. The bosom, minimally, is problematic given the usually genderless nature of Grey bodies. The absence of any talk of large black eyes exerting mental control on either Frank or Alice particularly distances the tale from Grey mythology.

Finally, and probably the best proof of non-Grey status. Alice affirmed they were not much different from us. “They just didn’t have a mouth.” This presents an amusing turn. It is not the fact that Frank slightly differs from Alice when he says they didn’t have as much of a mouth. It is rather that a certain ufologist berated sceptics for falsely stating the entity in the Hill case had no mouth. More precisely, in the Cosmos science series, the aliens are described as mouthless creatures. [5] Regardless of the accuracy of that criticism, how curious is it to see an alien whose look reinforces a supposedly false trait?

Next, what should we make of the presence of a desk in the alien spacecraft and the fact that the alien needs to fill forms and carry paperwork around with her down the hallways? It would be an irksome challenge to ask ufologists to search for more examples of this in their abductee databases. I doubt they would be very enthusiastic to see more examples of this for surely even they realise; first, the time spent would only emphasise how much this is not the norm; and second, it is blatantly un-futuristic. Such record-keeping should be done on, indeed preferably by, computers. The cure of the ovaries by light may be indistinguishable from magic in a way appropriate to advanced technology; the need for paperwork, assuredly, is not.

The scanning real-time display of the body’s internal organs, though a nice short glimpse into the probable future, didn’t require much imagination. A closely similar scene appeared in Star Trek – The Motion Picture (1979). Ilya lies on a table and a light tube travels under the body showing the internal organs in detail. The heart pump is shown in operation. The preferred colour in the display, as in Alice’s dream, seems to be blue. I do grant however, a good fraction of the display is in red and that was not a colour mentioned by Alice. Such real-time display of the body’s interior was nothing new to science fiction. tion. Ray Hanyhausen showed an alien looking at the skeleton of a living woman in a Selenite scientist’s examination chamber in First Men in the Moon. (1964) While more examples could probably be found if we looked, I suspect the more important point is that X-ray scanning technologies were widely known to be advancing at the time. CAT-scans, invented in 1972, first appeared in clinical settings between 1974 and 1976. The first were used only on the head, but whole body versions were available by 1976. [6]

The incongruities of the story within the larger theory of the Alien Breeding Programme are perhaps bad enough, but the case is one you probably would prefer to keep hidden away from representatives of official science. Regardless of whether or not you could force a stalemate on the issue of the case being ‘explainable’ in absolute terms, you would never win them debating the relative possibilities. Is it more probable this is real than some sort of psychologically based experience? No takers. To begin with, Frank’s volunteered statement that he was trying to contact aliens with flashlights in the prior weeks is a deadly detail that no scientist would dismiss as coincidence. The talk of telepathy is suspect and suggests literary license to subvert language issues. The revelation that the aliens come not from distant planets, but “another sub-level dimension attached to what we call the ‘astral’ plane” reeks of New Age bafflegab and links to spiritualism and the tradition of channelling aliens.

There are issues of disparate testimony. Frank and Alice tell the beginnings of the story somewhat differently. She talks of light filling the bedroom and seeing a tall figure. He doesn’t. When Alice returns from the exam, she sees Frank chatting about issues he failed to mention in his separate interview. Frank’s impression that their primary motive was to enlighten him is discordant with the events that happen to Alice, for whom the purpose seems to be study of their local environment – the rock sampling at the beginning – and study of her body. If we had only Frank’s account to work with, this would have to be treated as a contactee tale. Alice’s version is more mainstream; echoing themes found in the writings of the Lorenzens and John Fuller. Her version suggests a scientific expedition.

The cure of Alice’s barrenness by aliens, evidenced by a successful pregnancy and birth of a healthy girl, impresses to some degree. One could regard this as a physical effect. It is also disarming how it is done so casually. The aliens didn’t come to Earth with a mission to cure her, they simply do it because she’s there, she asks, so ‘why not?’ However, we have only her word that aliens are responsible. No doctor’s testimony or medical records are cited in support of it, so, by the standards of scientific investigation, we should not be totally convinced.

The couple’s initial impression that the experiences were simply – or not-so-simply – dreams, weighs heavily in any scientific assessment of the case. While the fact that Frank and Alice’s accounts match to some degree is perhaps problematic, it is harder to ignore the fact that the interview comes five years after the primary event. Over such a span, the vagaries of memory and ‘improvement’ of the story could be invoked to explain away any difficulty. The experiences may have initially been more discordant, but over time they reason away some of the differences, one deferring to the other over points of the dream they are uncertain about.Such dismissal through unproven speculation would inevitably rankle advocates of abduction reality as unfair. But stare at the alternative. Interdimensional entities bearing telepathic abilities happen to respond to the flashlight summons of a depressed man wanting to escape his earthly existence. This could never convince scientists as happening in the real world. It has more than enough clues to decide the case breaks down into a psychosocial phenomenon.



  1. Eugenic Macer-Story, “Pennsylvania Woman Healed by Alien Practitioner” Pur-suit, Fall 1980, pp. 1469.
  2. T.E. Bullard UFO Abductions: The Measure of a Mystery FFUFOR, 1987, p. 313.
  3. Example: Greg Sandow on UFO Updates, 17 February 2003: “Eddie Bullard has shown that the stories retrieved under hypnosis aren’t notably different from the stories told from conscious memories.” Luis Gonzalez discussed quality-control problems in these conscious memory cases in a subsequent posting dated 2 March 2003.
  4. Ronald Bailey, Eco-Scam: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse St. Martin’s Press, 1993, pp. 72-3, 160-1.
  5. Cosmos debuted September 28, 1980.
  6. Imaginis, “Brief History of CT” at http://imaginis.convict-scan/history.asp



America Strikes Back
Further Rumblings from Across the Atlantic
Thomas E. Bullard

From Magonia 37, October 1990

Little did I imagine that my ‘American Way’ article in Magonia 34 would provoke such an uprising of criticism as I find in Magonia 35. Peter Rogerson, Martin Kottmeyer, Hilary Evans and Dennis Stillings take aim at my article or other writings with lethal intent and often deadly effect. Surrounded from every side, like any good American I must circle the waggons and defend my scalp.

The apparent stability of abduction reports poses a genuine puzzle from my perspective as a folklorist. A fixed sequence and similar content recurred far more than chance would allow among 300 cases I examined in my comparative study of published reports. (1) Growing evidence suggests that abduction reports vary more than the received literature would suggest, and how far this trend will go is an important indicator to watch. Even allowing for as much increase in variety as I have seen, the sterility of these narratives still exceeds all expectations for folklore obeying the familiar dynamics of oral literature. If these narratives are folklore in any usual sense, they manifest unique properties and stand apart as remarkably uncharacteristic.

The capacity of forms and contents to persist in tradition through time and distance is a defining characteristic of folklore. Similar jokes and legends turn up thousands of miles apart after passing among dozens of narrators along the way. Folk-tales like Cinderella recur in recognisable form all over Europe, and even the Zuni Indians tell a story about a poor but beautiful girl who aquires rich clothing through supernatural help, then loses her finery by violating a time limit. The cultural players change so that a friendly herd of turkeys replaces the fairy godmother, but the plot similarities are unmistakable. (2)

Larger patterns like the life of the hero shape the biographies of Moses and Jesus, the ‘epic of defeat’ pattern lends its form to accounts of such recent historical events as Custer’s Last Stand. (3) A recognised collection of motifs drifts in and out of folk narratives of all sorts: fictitious, told for true, even personal-experience stories. The types, themes, patterns and motifs of folk tradition become old friends to the folklorist. They peep out in different guises, adapted to their circumstances and times but always familiar; a timeless link uniting past and present in one unbroken tradition.

Stability is one hallmark of folklore, but variation is another. The mercurial alterations of folk narratives as told by the folk often slip out of mind even amongst folklorists who have often centred more on a dead, literary text than on living, functioning cultural products. (4) In scholars’ schemes of classification folktales exist as ideal types, but in reality each tale is a unique creation, drawing on recurrent plots and motifs, but arranged in an idiosyncratic and creative way by each narrator. (5) Legend characteristics are looseness of form and content unified only by a core of belief. (6) Living folklore is always fluid, and few narrators serve as mere relay stations. Each teller adds, leaves out, or modifies some part of everything he tells. Every narrative we hear reflects a more or less lengthy history of the improvements, alterations, rearrangements and embellishments of many narrators. Stability does not mean that a complex narrative endures as a monolithic whole. The stability of living oral tradition is a far more modest concept, and amounts to two or more narrative’s sharing some elements of form and content. These shared elements may loom large in the sight of whoever recognises them, but differences often far outweigh similarities.

Too much emphasis on stability and too little on variation is a common misconception fostered by the traditions of folklore scholarship. Rogerson speaks of a set pattern for stories and songs enforced by a critical audience. This ‘Law of Self-Correction’ he alludes to is respectable folkloric theory, but limited in application. Self-correction depends on an unchanging society where everyone knows the tradition and prizes it for its aestheticvalue. Then the audience may correct deviations and guard the stability of the tradition, but such suppression of variation could work only locally, among groups that meet face to face. Each locality and group would differ slightly, with variation the outcome. (7)

Genres like the legend actually encourage disagreement (8). Studies of live legend-telling sessions have found that the lifeblood of these narratives is dispute, where people argue over facts and their interpretation. Consensus is foredoomed in such a situation, but the climate is ideal for variation in form and content to flourish. As a general principle in folklore it is safe to say that whatever can vary, will vary. It is even safe to say that what should not vary, probably will vary. Jokes have an exacting structure of set-up and punch line: they allow for little tampering if the humour is to succeed, yet we all know how often jokes fail. the variation may be accidental or deliberate, but it is a constant process in the narration of folklore.

Rogerson points out a false analogy when I compare long-traditional folklore with narratives spread for 20 years and largely via electronic or printed media. Folklorists have long treated the history of any tradition as a settling-down process. (9) The longer a narrative type has been around,the more it will demonstrate such classic properties of oral tradition as variation, widespread distribution and refinement of form and content so that the idiosyncratic disappears and general patterns come to the fore. Now we know that time is not the vital element. We have watched folklore in formation, seen it pass from oral tradition into the media and back out; followed the lightning spread of narratives and their equally rapid evolution from raw idea or vague rumour to polished joke or urban legend. (10)

Good narrators may serve up a well-structured story from the start. Twenty years may be 19 years and 12 months longer than a narrative needs to become fully ‘folklorized’. The dynamics of folklore apply to the new and the vintage alike. Media involvement has proved only another ‘voice’ in the process of oral transmission, a way to speed up folk processes (including variation) rather than an agent of homogenization.

Another ‘tradition of scholarship’, to use David Hufford’s term, can explain the apparent information poverty of abduction reports noted by Stillings. He finds ordinary conversation to be information-rich whereas myth and folklore say little about contemporary human life. The folklore he is most likely referring to is the folklore presented by folklorists. They have traditionally denatured their texts, rewritten them to purge the unique or topical and emphasise those universal but faceless elements the folklorist thinks should be there. This correction process has drained the cultural life out of countless published collections. Living folklore pulses with the currents of contemporary existence. Urban legends of poodles that explode when placed in a microwave to dry express fear of technology, accounts of earthworms in hamburgers express uncertainties about the trustworthiness of business and the safety of food. (11) Jokes are immediately topical, drawing on politics, fads and mores for humour. The hopes, fears, values of narrators are embodied in their folklore. So sensitive is folklore to its cultural milieu that collectors usually meet with disappointment when they return to an area after a period of years. (12) If abductions lack a personal touch, this condition is atypical of folklore, and the reason must be sought in abductees, their experiences or the presentation of their narratives.

Scholarly tradition emphasises stability over variation in folklore when in fact variation constantly revolves the order of any narrative type. The same should be true of abductions if they are folklore. These narratives are long and complex, fantastic in context, controversial in nature, and the personal claims of individual abductees. If any kind of story should generate a luxuriant profusion of variants, this is it. What we find instead is a surprisingly unchanging narrative type. Folklore should not behave this way. My critics propose two reasons to account for this stability.

Both Rogerson and Stiilings raise an important question of how selective the published sample of abduction reports may be. If the authors have selected, rewritten and homogenised these themes, we readers may read a story much less varied than the abductees actually told. I confess that the same question bothered me. I also admit that I am in a poor position to give a judicious answer. My comparative study treats published sources, so its reliability depends on their representitiveness and accuracy. The only response l can offer comes from an account of the investigators of 103 high-information, high reliability cases. I found that 17 cases included Leo Sprinkle in the investigation, ten Budd Hopkins, nine Ray Fowler, five James Harder and five Ann Druffel. Two teams or individual investigators dealt with three entries each, another seven with two each, and the remaining 37 cases came from individuals or groups independent of investigators in any other entry. Six investigators are associated with 46 cases, nearly half the total, though few cases represent solo effort.

Looking at the numbers another way, the investigators differ in 51 cases. That’s quite a few hands to dabble in the pot and still serve up a consistent story. Critics may argue that investigators, hypnotists, writers, editors, and anyone else in the chain from report to publication have helped impose conformity on these texts, and they may be right. The fact is that no investigator records slavishly duplicate abductions. Sprinkle finds ‘nice guy’ aliens and also the torturers of the Casey County case: Hopkins has cruel aliens but also the friendly beings who met Virginia Horton. And so it goes – the skeleton remains the same but the flesh differs somewhat from case to case. My bottom line of doubt remains that that any group of even fifty or so individuals could maintain the coherence of such a complex narrative as the abduction story without careful and deliberate collusion.

The mystery of abductions from a folklorist’s standpoint is still the dozens of reports, alike in sequence and details. Rogerson counters that contactee yarns from the 1950′s had similarities and accounts of witches sabbats included a wealth of similar details. True up to a point, but contactee stories were highly individualistic despite some efforts by the principles to support one another’s tales.

Witches sahbats scatter considerably in events and details, despite investigators’ manuals and singularly persuasive ways of leading the witness. No, the stability of abduction reports has a qualitative peculiarity. If they are fictions or fantasies the glue holding them together is an unusual one. No matter how unrepresentative the sample of reports called abductions proves to be relative to all UFO close encounters, this subgroup stands by itself as large enough and self-coherent enough to challenge conventional interpretation.

The second explanation for stability in abduction reports appears in Kottmeyer’s article, certainly one of the most effective and devastating critiques ever offered against the abduction phenomenon. He says that the reports assume the sequence they do because this sequence is the right way to tell a story. The episodes in abduction reports and narratives from many other cultural contexts align according to a dramatic structure because this order best realises the emotional potential of the story elements. When the episodes are properly played against one another for contrast and suspense, the arrangement optimizes the impact of the whole.

Kottmeyer’s insights converge on folklorists’ thinking about form in urban legends (13), which manifest a cunning organisation based on dramatic structure and the withholding of key information to build suspense and spring a surprise at the end. These tales circulate in sloppy and well-structured versions, with some narrators able to pick up the bare elements and recast them into a good form, with an unconscious intuition for what makes a ‘good story’. But the same research that confirms Kottmeyer’s general principle also underscores the peculiarity of abduction reports. Just because people know how to tell a good story does not mean that they exercise their skills often or well. An examination of the variants of urban legends shows that these narratives are highly volatile, subject to frequent change and likely to fall short of their aesthetic potentials. Narrators scramble the parts, ruin the form, and settle for inartistic presentations as a matter of course. Drama remains a goal only sometimes achieved in everyday practice. In this light the stability of abductions once again rises to anomaly status, since we should expect more stories told the wrong way than we actually see.

He also assumes, and rashly I think, that everyone assigns the same emotional values to the various episodes. Even given the same elements, two story-tellers may may focus on different parts as the most important or emotion packed. One narrator’s climax becomes another’s footnote.

The idea that there is only one good way to tell a story harks back to the perception of tradition as a prison, whereas folklorists have come to regard tradition as a framework conducive to creativity. Not every creative choice is as easy or necessarily as effective as another, but good narrators make the differences work. If abductions are fictitious, narrators have different options to explore, arrangements to try and ways to dramatize them all.

Kottmeyer limits his explanations to the overall sequence of episodes, when in fact the sequencing of events within episodes complicates the abduction story even more. The ’capture’ episode and especially the actual procurement of a captive by the beings, follows a lengthy itinerary. So does the examination episode. Here too we find remarkable stability, despite so many added opportunities for variation. With so much variety among much shorter urban legends, the relative invariance of long, loose abduction narratives comes as all the greater surprise.

The bulk of Kottmeyer’s article goes to uncovering parallels between science fiction and abductions. Legitimate extraterrestrials should be independent of culture and mark a discontinuity with the past. Culturally derived stories of aliens should have cultural antecedents. In support of this principle he demonstrates with ample evidence that abduction ideas are nothing new under the sun, but are represented with considerable fidelity in the SF movies and literature to which many people have been exposed. Themes of reproductive concern and dying planets, practices like organ removal and medical examination, descriptive details such as large crania and short stature have ready examples in the movies. The comparison requires no gymnastics of the imagination. Some of the ideas are quite literally interchangeable from one medium to the other.

He details possible influences on the Hill case at greatest length, partially motivated by my claim that the Hill’s underwent their abduction ‘entirely unpredisposed’. What I intended to say was that their abduction story was new to the UFO literature, but Kottmeyer notes that Donald Keyhoe discussed short beings with kidnap on their minds in the very book Betty read shortly after the ‘interrupted journey’. Moreover Keyhoe’s assumption that aliens would
visit on a scientific mission lent credibility to ideas like medical examination. While the synthesis of the abduction story may rest with the Hills, Kottmeyer makes clear beyond doubt that the pieces were already there for taking off the cultural shelf.

Not all of Kottmeyer’s identifications are equally convincing. The derivation of the needle-in-the-navel incident from an image in Invaders from Mars me as clever but unpersuasive. The Invasion of the Saucer men aliens are short and big-headed, but the eyes, ears, mouth, veined cranium and general expression are all wrong. Such differences of opinion in no way detract from the overall case that abductions owe much to cultural influences.

One of the most powerful arguments involves the Kenneth Arnold sighting. Arnold described an odd form, half wedge, half disc, but it was the term ‘flying saucer’ that captivated the public imagination. People reported saucers – nice regular shapes which have so dominated reports that a concept of cultural origin seems certain to have determined the 1947 sightings. I do not intend to refute the cultural-influence explanation, since I quite agree that this force is hard at work in the UFO phenomenon. Rogerson allows that abductions may have an experiential basis, though the experience is a consequence of cultural influences. This is the way folklorists have explained extra-normal encounters: traditional beliefs raise expectations, and expectation shapes ambiguous stimuli in its own image. (14) Certainly most UFO reports fall into this category.

My intention is rather to show that cultural influence may not be the whole story, whereas primary experience or a combination of experience and influence may provide a better explanation. Folklorists have begun to bend their rigid stance of the supposedly one-way relationship of cause and effect. David Hufford’s research with ‘Old Hag’ traditions has established that sometimes experience comes first and tradition develops later as a human response to an experiential fact. This possibility is reasonable enough, but acceptance has come slowly. (15)

The prospect of facing an unusual and unfamiliar experience raises some interesting problems. How do you describe it? How do you understand it? The terms of description and conceptual structure of understanding are themselves traditions. We rely on past experiences to deal with the present, but old acquaintances break down before novelty. When nothing quite fits, we must turn to approximations and metaphors as ways to get a handle on the puzzle, however partial and slippery our grasp. Familiar terminology and classifications may not do the job, but rather than leave a phenomenon uncomprehended and ineffable, most of us opt for positive categories and communication with others even if our choices require a compromise of observational integrity.

Applying this principle to the 1947 saucers, Arnold believed that he saw experimental military aircraft and could describe what he thought they looked like without firm cultural obligations. Those who followed were not so lucky. For them the ‘flying saucer’ image set a powerful precedent. A desire to conform, eagerness to join the excitement, and the pressure of expectation influenced many people to convert vague stimuli into flying discs. What if someone saw something that was not a disc? The same pressure would come to bear on him, driving him to simplify his observation towards the `norm’, perhaps even to recast his memories in the orthodox mould. Where a stubborn individual might resist, the media would soon round off the edges of his report for him, and he would go on record as seeing a saucer in spite of himself. The fact is, we do not know for certain the proportion of saucer shapes to Arnoldesque shapes amongst 1947 reports. Ted Bloecher’s admirable study lists shapes only according to general category, so the finer points get lost. Newspaper writers mediated in most of the reports he cites, and the noise-to-signal ratio necessarily runs high among these accounts, even if a real signal exists. Given these handicaps and the consequent shortcomings of evidence, and firm conclusion that the 1947 wave is all cultural noise amounts to a leap of faith instead of a logical step.

Abductions pose a far more formidable challenge to the witness. The event is more complex, far stranger, personally threatening and viewed in a state of mental impairment according to most reports. An abductee would hardly return fluent in the language of the unknown. He wouldd stumble to describe it and lean on every verbal or visual crutch. Even Barney Hill’s alien with wraparound eyes need not wholly be a product of influence. If John Fuller conveys a faithful summary of the Hill’s conscious memories, then we know that the eyes troubled Barney before hypnosis and before the Outer Limits episode was aired. Is it so strange that he would grope for a handy visual simile, and grasp one from a recent TV show? I doubt it. Most of us do the same all the time, enriching our stock of expressions and humour with borrowings from the media. Even if his description bent towards the image of the television alien, this fact does not negate the reality of his basic observation. Television seems not to have planted a preoccupation with
strange eyes in his mind.

Experience seems to have taken the lead in that.

An argument along these lines may explain why no paediatrician known to Stillings has reported abductions, a puzzling situation if they are as common as ufologists claim. A child could not identify an abduction by name or describe unfamiliar sights in precise terms, and a paediatrician might not be familiar with the abduction phenomenon, or sensitive enough to connect it with a child’s clumsy approximations even if aware. A paediatrician used to hearing the whimsical yarns of children might dismiss abduction evidence without ever recognising it. Paediatricians conform to their professional traditions as well as anyone else.

If proponents of cultural influence accept that it equips the imagination to counterfeit an entire experience, they can also allow it a more limited role as modifier of real experience. An overlay of terminology or conceptual filter based on prior knowledge would channel the report to the realm of the familiar. The influence argument cuts both ways, Influence based fantasy or influence-modified experience could both account for abduction reports, and such an argument loses its edge.

Kottmeyer attempts to resolve the issue with an appeal to simplicity: is there anything in the abduction story without an antecedent in science-fiction? I would have to give a negative answer. Even if modified reality could account for the culturally derived patterns and content in reports, simplicity throws the decision to a subjective origin.

This line of reasoning is formally correct, but I distrust it because the critics have a vast reservoir of parallels from which to draw. Science fiction has generated so many images that some of them are bound to match up with abductions. In fact why limit the search to science fiction? the pool of influence grows into an ocean if we include every possible cultural source, since we can find strange, penetrating eyes among fairies, or demons that torture with sharp pointed objects in the popular vision of hell. The hunt for parallels is a search that never fails. Folklorists have overindulged from time to time, especially in the heyday of solar mythology. One caution against setting too much store in parallels came when a folklorist applied the hero pattern to the life of Abraham Lincoln, and found that Lincoln promptly dissolved into myth. (The American educational system has since achieved similar results using ignorance as the salvent) The moral (in both cases) is that too much laxity of application may look proper enough, but still leans to false results.

Stillings denounces me for such concretist statements as “fairies do not fly in spaceships or use eye-like scanning devices.” Even valid parallels do not duplicate one another exactly, so he rightly notes that I overstate the case. The point I wished to make nevertheless deserves repeating – with the terms of comparison abstracted enough, anything can look like something else. Abstraction only exacerbates a situation where many analogues are available. For comparisons to be truly persuasive they must relate homologues rather than analogues. Homologues are likenesses based on deep genetic relationships and not mere surface appearances.

Establishing homologies reprrsents no easy task but for a start the confidence in a comparison rises when the terms are specific, complex patterns match, and near-parity of elements prevails (that is, most elements correspond and few are left over). A genuine case of cultural influence may not fulfil these stringent criteria, but they set a worthy standard for evidence. It should be clear that an argument founded on stray resemblances and abstracted patterns falls well short of this goal.

The wonder then is not that every element of the abductions story has its antecedents, but that the story-tellers use so few of the available possibilities. Science fiction aliens come in all shapes and sizes, science fiction storylines diversify well beyond any single plot. Even if the Hill report has become the guiding light for abductees, they have gone through life exposed to other ideas that would play well within an abduction framework. If the Hill’s vivid fantasy was born out of science fiction influences and little else, surely these same images have power enough to break the stranglehold of this story and stimulate other narrators to a little creative adventurousness now and then. The power of science-fiction ideas should destabilise abduction reports, or else cultural influences are not
  not so influential after all. 

Stillings claims that Americans start with ETH beliefs and dismiss without due consideration all explanations based on psychology, cultural influence or hypnotic confabulation. This statement stings my pride, since I thought I had given some consideration to just these issues. My comparative study of reports explored the folkloric affinities of abductions and my investigation of hypnosis inquired into its potential as a solution. (l6) In both cases I examined a great deal of evidence, and in both cases I found the subjective answers wanting. Nor do I mean to hog all the credit. Elizabeth Slater’s evaluation of abductees, June Parnell’s tests of close-encounter experients, and Rima Laibow’s studies of post-traumatic stress disorder have set the psychological study of abdwctees on a sound evidential footing. At the heart of the matter, American investigators have worked closely with abductees, a great many abductees, probing their stories in depth and following up on life changes and consequences.

Rogerson raises the psychological issue by citing Charles Hickson’s emergence as a contactee, and sees here an example of reality at odds with the image of normalcy promoted by ufolagists. What we can say about abductee psychology is that Keul and Phillips have found evidence for mental disturbance and social dissatisfaction among close-encounter claimants. Slater found no psychopathology among the nine abductees she studied, rather a set of characteristics that could mean either fantasy-prone personalities or traumatic victimisation. Parnell found no evidence for psychopathology or above-average capacity for imagination among close-encounter witnesses, while abductees proved to be among the least imaginative subjects in her sample. (l7) The picture remains vague and inconclusive. With such evidence, is American reluctance to jump upon a psychological bandwaggon surprising?

The Hickson example resurrects the problem of what is cause, what is effect in the abduction phenomenon. The possibilities that certain psychological manifestations are consequences of an experience deserves more serious consideration than my critics appear to have given. An individual with the right psychological predispositions might report contact with aliens and later undergo profound life changes akin to religious conversion, all as part of his psychological makeup. Yet it is no less reasonable to believe that an unpredisposed individual might change in drastic ways as a result of a real and deeply disturbing experience. John Rimmer’s editorial mentions Laibaw’s finding that abductees report a high incidence of childhood sexual abuse. Before jumping to any conclusion that abductions serve as screen memories for actual abuse, another clue should be noted: Abduction memories do not relate to abuse memories in the right way for a screen, since the abuse memories screen the abduction. (l8) So which is cause and which is effect? Such evidence by no means proves aliens, but it means that the problem is more convoluted that psychological proponents have acknowledged.

One criticism levelled by Stillings is undeniable: ETH supporters can rationalise anything with their theory. It is flexible enough to accommodate all sorts of phenomena, and difficult to falsify. Anyone who has taken abductions seriously and found psycho-social reductions unsatisfying must trouble over this difficulty in the ETH positign.

At the same time psychosocial advocates set their house in little better order. I agree with Evens that European ufological investigations have been both extensive in effort and excellent in quality. I apologise for giving the inadvertent impression that I considered them anything less. However I still find the present psychosocial theories as much a Procrustean Bed as Stillings regards the efforts as American ufologists.

We can thank the psychosocial school for a surfeit of explanations, few of them developed beyond the stage of vague suggestiveness. I found that reports obtained by hypnosis similar to reports remembered spontaneously and concluded that hypnosis played little part in shaping the abduction story. Stillings questions this conclusion on the grounds that hypnotic and other altered states can occur without formal induction. He is right, but sceptics (and Stiilings himself in the same article) usually advocate a facilitative and not a causal role for hypnosis in abduction making. Hypnosis enhances susceptibility to influence so a subject readily follows the lead of the hypnotist. When a hypnotist is a believer he may confabulate and abduction with the subject. Consistencies in the reports then trace to hypnotists who want to hear the same abduction story and pass their expectations along to a receptive subject. This argument suffers if people tell a similar story without benefit of leadership, which happens in the case of spontaneous recall.

If Stillings wishes highway hypnosis or some other altered-consciousness condition to account far abductions, he has an established natural phenomenon on his side, but he must still explain how natural hypnosis produces a story like other abduction stories. If a hypnotist who leads a witness is all important in one explanation, where is the leader in the other? Though one solution goes down in flames, plenty more wait in the wings. Perhaps the witness is a fantasy-prone or boundary-deficit type? If I point out that these people should tell the most varied stories instead of the most stable my opponents have fresh arguments: perhaps an over-zealous, Svengali-like investigator or a well-intentioned but fatal bias in establishing the sample of cases. Perhaps the answer lies not with research errors but with life conditions or mental states that predispose the witnesses, or the blame may lie with TV, movies, SF images; when hard pressed electro-magnetic fields from seismic events may come to the rescue.

This leaves an impression of ad hoc arguments addressed to one or another aspect of the phenomenom rather than to the whole problem. Each explanation may succeed in one area but fail in another. Too many explanations undercut the credibility of any one, and only Kottmeyer states his case in depth. Psychosocial proponents seem to take their answers too much for granted and with few exceptions fail to nurture an embryonic case to full term.

In the end abductions present a sort of orthoteny in reverse. This time we have the straight-line of consistent story given to us, and seek the points on which it rests. The field is crowded with possible alternatives; explanations pile layers deep. Somehow the line stays true. What makes the situation so striking is itself a psychosocial argument. The knowledge that comes from folklore research and demonstrates the likelihood of variation. Whether folklore sprouts from the deep psyche or takes root in cultural influences, the resulting narratives blossom with creativity and individuality within traditional frames. Personal experience accounts bear a richness of personal idiosyncrasies. Abduction reports simply mismatch other folklore in these significant respects.

I sympathise with Evens when he says that an ETH explanation for abductions is riddled with contradictions and simply does not work. Michael Swords makes a thoroughly compelling case against hybridisation, and no-one has yet solved the problem of how aliens in vast numbers can cross light years of space to reach earth then find nothing better to do than repeat the same old lab exercises. (19) If I truly believed that aliens could seize me I would spend my life in the company of a hundred other people, all armed to the teeth and ready to demonstrate to any short grey house-guests that happiness is a warm AK-47. I do not, therefore deep down I do not believe. A literal reading of abductions clashes with commonsense and learned good sense alike, but that reason in itself gives me licence to question but not to close my eyes. The evidence as I see it shows me a puzzle that I cannot solve with reference to conventional phenomena known to me, nor have the alternatives offered by psychosocial advocates proved adequate to the task. On the other hand a literal reading best fits the story line. I may not believe that abductions are real experiences, but we have no better answer for now.

After all, I was under the impression that proper young Victorians discovered ladies’ legs by experience, perhaps for a monetary consideration or otherwise, but without the need for an intermediary. In Europe as in America, experience is the best teacher.



  • 1. Bullard, Thomas E. UFO Abductions: the measure of a mystery. Fund for UFO Research, 1987.
  • 2. Thompson, Sith. Tales of the North American Indians, University Press, 1968: pp.225-231.
  • 3. Dundes, Alan. ‘The hero pattern in the life of Jesus’ in Dundes, Interpreting Folklore. Indiana University Press, 1980; Rosenberg, Bruce A. Custer and the Epic of Defeat, Penna. State Univ. Press, 1974.
  • 4. Dorson, Richard M. ‘Folklore in the Modern World’ in Dorson, ed, Folklore in the Modern World, Mouton, 1978; Hufford, David J. ‘Traditions of Disbelief’, New York Folklore 8 (1982) 47-55.
  • 5. Degh, Linda. Folklore and Society. Indiana University Press, 1969.
  • 6. Degh, Linda. Processes of LegendFormation’, Laographia 22 (1965): 8.
  • 7. Thompson, Stith. The Folktale. Univ. of California Press, 1977.
  • 8. Degh, Linda, and Andrew Vazonyl ‘The Crack on the Red Goblet or Truth and the Modern Legend’, in Dorson, Richard M. (ed.) Folklore in the Modern World.
  • 9. Degh, Linda, and Andrew Yazonyl ‘The Memorate and the proto-Memorate’, Journal of American Folklore (1974) 225-239.
  • 10. For example: Mullen, Patrick B. ‘Modern Legend and Rumor Theory’, Journal of the Folklore lnstitute 9 (1972) pp.95-109  Klintberg, Bengt, ‘Modern Migratory Legends in Oral Tradition and Daily Papers’ Arv, 37 (1981): 153-160; Grider, Sylvia, ‘The Razor Blades in the Apple Syndrome’, in Smith, Paul (ed.) Perspectives on Contemporary Legend, Univ. of Sheffield, 1984.
  • 11. Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Vanishing Hitchhiker, Norton, 1981.
  • 12. Bennett, Gillian, Traditions of Belief, Penguin (NY), 1987.
  • 13. BARNS, Daniel R. ‘Interpreting Urban Legends’, Arv 40 (1984):67-78; Nicolaisen, W F H, ‘The Linguistic Structure of Legends, in Bennett, Gillian, Perspectives on Contemporary Legend, v.2. Sheffield Academic Press, 1987.
  • 14. Honko, Lauri, Mernorates and the Study of Folk Beliefs’, Journal of the Folklore Institute I (1965) pp.5-19.
  • 15. Hufford, David J. The Terror that Comes in the Night, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.
  • 16. Bullard, Thomas E ‘Hypnosis and UFO Abductions: a Troubled Relationship’, Journal of UFO Studies n.s. 1 (1989}.pp.3-40
  • 17. Keul, A. and Ken Philips. ‘Assessing the Witness’ in UFOs 1947-1987, Fortean Tomes, 1987; Final Report of the Psychological Testing of UFO Abductees, Fund for UFO Research, 1984; Parnell, June O. ‘Personality Characteristics on the MMPI, IGPF and ACL of Persons who Claim UFO Experiences’, Laramie, University of Wyoming dissertation, 1986.
  • 18. Laibow, Rima E.’Dual Victims; The Abused and the Abducted’, International UFO Reporter, 14/3 May-June 1989) 4-9.
  • 19. Swords, Michael. ‘Extraterrestrial Hybridization Unlikely’, MUFON UFO Journal, 247, No, 1988, pp6-10.




Abduction Absurdities
Willy Smith

From Magonia 52, May 1995

Dr. Willy Smith discusses John Mack’s new book with a passing Devil’s Advocate:

One more book (1) about abductions has appeared, but this time with a significant difference: the author is a distinguished Harvard psychiatrist and has the background and credentials that previous dilettantes (2,3) lacked. Thus, one would expect a more precise and scientific presentation of a controversial issue, establishing a solid platform from which a rational treatment of the subject matter could be launched.

Unfortunately, that is not the case, perhaps because the topic itself is unameanable to scientific discourse. As in previous attempts, all we find is a collection of anecdotes obtained mostly by hypnotic techniques from witnesses whose personalities, occupations, training and position in our society are barely sketched. The narratives are interesting, unusual, bizarre more often than not, with an abundance of detail that, instead of increasing their ontological validity, only emphasises the absurdity and physical impossibility of what we are told.

As in previous works, not a shred of evidence is provided to substantiate the stories, even in instances where apparently corroborating information could have been obtained. As one of Mack’s critics (4) has perceptively indicated, the author is content with whatever he obtains from the witnesses in his office and does not go into the real world to validate his contentions. In fact, one has reason to doubt that he has done his literature research with enough care, when, for instance, he uncritically repeats (Ref.1, p.12) that abductions have taken place in 17 countries, among others, France, Spain and Uruguay. The truth is that only one totally discredited abduction report in France is found in the literature, that the three or four cases allegedly occurring in Spain are very dubious and that – as far as I know – no abduction has ever been reported in Uruguay. The reality is that the abduction aspect of the UFO phenomenon occurs typically and predominantly in the US, not surprisingly considering that its main advocate, former artist Elliott Budd Hopkins, is a resident of that country.

The absurdities

From the viewpoint of the hard sciences there seem to be two options mutually exclusive: either the whole abduction structure has no foundation in reality, in which case we are wasting our time, or, alternatively, the stories reflect real events, although at times they may be somewhat distorted and diffuse. We will assume that the latter is true, and see where reductio ad absurdum will lead us.

(a) Provenance: The basic tenet of Hopkins et al.’s ideas is that we are presently visited by aliens whose world is coming to an end, and who are engaged in an all-out effort to save their race from extinction by applying their more advances genetic knowledge to engineering a hybrid race that eventually will take over Earth.

Since our spatial probes have visited most of the planets able to support life in our solar system and found no indication of life, it follows that the aliens must come from exterior space, bringing into focus the difficulties of interstellar travel. The abductees describe huge crafts, sometimes of the order of hundreds of yards, with large crews of at least two types of aliens, which have to be fed and lodged. But more important, the energy requirements to displace such a craft through distances of the order of light years would be staggering. Yet, we are led to believe that more than one of those interstellar crafts prowl in our atmosphere.

What does the Devil’s Advocate say about this?


  •  i) The crew could travel in suspended cryogenic animation, thus requiring few provisions;
  • ii) fuel could be obtained by sweeping hydrogen atoms from space while travelling;
  • iii) or, the ship could transit through a white hole, except that the magnitude of the gravitational forces would make survival impossible;
  • iv) a planet threatened with final obliteration would not hesitate to use all the available resources in a last interstellar fling, or even to mount expeditions to several neighbouring stars of the right spectral type; but it would be against its interest to send all crafts to the same destination;
  • v) the aliens arrived in the solar system a long time ago (ref. 1, p. 227) establishing a base on Mars (don’t forget that alleged head there!) or on the moon, and have to travel only short distances, an easy feat that even we, with our chemical fuels, can perform.

Only (v) above has some merit, but then the expectation would be to see smaller crafts better adapted for the Earth-Moon milk run, contrary to the data. The first absurdity is thus firmly stated.

(b) The familiar aliens: Since the pioneer work of artist E B Hopkins, passing through the entertaining book of historian Dr David Jacobs, and terminating with the respectable efforts of psychiatrist John Mack MD, we have been confronted with a parade of aliens having some surprising common characteristics: i) they are overwhelmingly humanoid, exhibiting two arms, two legs, one head, two big wrap-around black eyes, and the rudiments of mouth and nostrils; and ii) they move unencumbered in the Earth’s gravitational field, without requiring breathing apparatus.

Probabilistic considerations indicate that it is quite likely that among the large number of stars which form the galaxy, many will have the correct conditions to harbour planets capable of supporting life. But life, as we know it, is possible only within a very narrow range of physical parameters, and a small percentage change, say in the value of the solar constant, would wipe out life from our planet. Consequently, humanoids as described by the abductees must come from a planet almost identical to Earth, another absurdity. Such a planet indeed can exist, but can be anywhere in the galaxy, and the question is: why would the aliens select our insignificant star in a remote galactic arm as the destination of their quest for a new home?

D.A.: If the aliens reached the solar system many millennia ago, and settled in a base on Mars or the moon (say), they had a long adoption period, and only in modern times were capable of implementing their genetic plans.

(c) Alien multiplicity: The aliens described by the witnesses studied by each researcher (Hopkins, Jacobs, Mack) might be similar in form but the three authors make quite clear that their attitudes toward the abductees are remarkably dissimilar, although their genetic efforts seem to be the same.

We can safely reject the notion of three groups of aliens from the same remote planet, but having diverse philosophies, not only because of its absurdity, but also for the fact that the aliens described to each specific researcher seem to have the same attitude in spite of the random witness selection process.

D.A.: The descriptions of the aliens seem to be similar, thus establishing a common origin, which could be even a single planet, but might equally well result from the fact that latter-day abductees have unquestionably read previous books (Hopkins, Jacobs) and have subconsciously adjusted to the pattern.

Each abduction book is the end product of the interaction of a certain group, the abductees, with one specific analyst. An exact statement of the protocol is not given, but since the hypnotic sessions were lengthy and extended over many months, the influence of the
analyst is not only expected but unavoidable. This influence is not reflected in the physical descriptions of the aliens, but in their moral and ethical attributes, mirroring the political or other bias of the authors. While Jacobs’s aliens are indifferent to issues not related to the breeding activities, in the words of one critic (5) “the abductors have the same relationship to abductees that laboratory technicians have to white rats”. Mack’s witnesses are terrified by the entities, which inflict intense physical pain and torture with sadistic unconcern.

This dichotomy is an absurdity. For if the aliens have a common provenance and a common operational goal, it would inflexibly control their behaviour in all cases. Thus, the diversified perception of the entities by their victims, not randomised but sorted out by researcher, only decreases the potential reality of the abduction experiences.



The aliens are by far more advanced than we are in biology and particularly in genetic engineering, and have no difficulties in inter-species breeding, as shown by their activities, which otherwise would be senseless. It is anthropomorphic to attribute to them our own limitations.



(d) Technical contradictions: The abduction researchers have asserted that the aliens are able to penetrate solid obstacles such as walls, (6) specifically during the initial stages of the events. There is no evidence for this except the testimony of the witnesses, but when one abductee arrives at the waiting craft, she is brought inside “through a hole in the floor”. (7) When the same victim is ready to be returned, the floor “sort of disintegrates beneath us”, (8) which is not the same as penetrating solid matter.

The main and apparently only objective of the aliens is the creation of a hybrid race, and to that effect they have mounted a vast operation to obtain sperm and ova from human victims, selected at random and transported to their ship(s) for the purpose. This implies not only a great deal of effort, but also entails a definite operational risk of detection. Yet, the same ends could be obtained by raiding a sperm bank or similar facilities where the desired items are stored without stringent security. This would be easy to accomplish by aliens capable of transversing solid walls, and yet, we don’t see any signs of such activity.

D.A.: The aliens endeavour to keep their activities covert, and the sudden disappearance of stock from a sperm bank would undoubtedly trigger an in-depth investigation. Forensic examination of the place would reveal the visit by non-human entities, something the aliens can’t afford. Besides, time is on their side, and their present method is less likely to attract attention, as so far there is no incontrovertible evidence of the abductions.

Alien visits to specific indoor spaces are sometimes a daily occurrence, as was the case with Melissa Bucknell, Dr Jacobs’s star witness. (9) An attempt was made to record the event using a TV camera, but it failed, as could be expected considering how easy it was for the aliens to circumvent the trap. It would have been a completely different story if someone had thought about doing an in-depth forensic sweep of the “scene of the crime” after the fact. Yet, absurdly, this was not done, perhaps because negative results would have been the kiss of death for abduction research.

D.A.: Indeed, immediate examination of the location of an abduction by forensic techniques could provide incontrovertible proof of an alien presence in a room But the staggering cost indeed was and is a powerful deterrent. Perhaps the Fund for UFO Research should consider setting aside the necessary resources and have them available at once if the occasion presents itself again.

(e) Craft size and multiple humans: Abduction researchers (Hopkins (10), Jacobs (11)) have repeatedly asserted that the crafts described by the witnesses are extremely large and display a constellation of lights. The huge dimensions are confirmed when the abductees tell the investigator that they were taken into gigantic rooms, with hundreds of tables where they saw other humans, “between one hundred and two hundred”, on whom procedures were being done (Mack (12)).

The absurdity of such a possibility is twofold. First, a large illuminated craft hovering over a fixed location for the duration of the procedures – which we are told is of the order of an hour or so – hardly would have escaped detection not only by the public at large but by the authorities monitoring our air space. And second, if the craft remains at a fixed place, the simultaneity of the procedures for ‘a hundred or more persons seems to demand that the abductees were taken from a limited geographical area, again an event that could hardly go unnoticed.

D.A.: The craft doesn’t have to remain stationary at a given location, but moves continuously to lift and return the abductees. If the lights are off, and the aliens have stealth technology, those motions will not be recorded by radar, and their chance of escaping detection is excellent.

The absurdity is then in the scheduling. To collect and return each abductee of necessity requires some time that, from the given narratives, one could estimate at two minutes, each individual at a different location. Thus, 100 abductees demand 200 minutes, to which a prudent man would add a transit time between stops, say another 2 minutes, for a grand total of 400 minutes, or more than 6 hours, just for the logistics of the operation. No matter how we look at it, the concurrent presence of one or two hundred abductees in a single room in an alien craft is almost a physical impossibility.

The hybrid question

According to Hopkins et al., we are being visited by one or more alien races in decline, whose purpose is to shore up their genetic pool by using the human reservoir. The abductions are aimed at obtaining sperm and ova for hybridisation processes.

Two things do not seem to fit this hypothesis. First, in the accepted view of present-day science the issue of mixed species is not fertile, and thus the resulting human-alien hybrids would not represent a definite solution for the long-term survival of the aliens. But perhaps the real purpose is different as, for instance, just to create a work force which could easily adapt to local conditions and perhaps eventually melt into the earth’s population and go undetected. This would explain the need for the continuous aggressive programme that the abduction experts believe is taking place.

The second point is just an observation. In subsequent visits to what are apparently the same craft, the abductees are often shown human-alien babies which are their own, but no mention has been made in the published material of full-grown hybrids. There are two possible explanations for this omission: the alien breeding programme is failing, and babies do not reach adulthood or, on the contrary, the programme is a success and the grown-up hybrids are shipped elsewhere to do what they were designed to do in the first place.

I am not a biologist and only offer the above suggestions for completeness, in an attempt to give sense to those relentless activities which the abductionists believe are covertly taking place in our midst.

D.A.: The aliens are by far more advanced than we are in biology and particularly in genetic engineering, and have no difficulties in inter-species breeding, as shown by their activities, which otherwise would be senseless. It is anthropomorphic to attribute to them our own limitations.

ConclusionsThe absurdities loom in spite of efforts by the Devil’s Advocate to eliminate them, a clear indication that the interpretation given by the abduction experts to the bizarre narratives of their clients must be ontologically incorrect. Until such a time when and if physical evidence of the abduction phenomenon becomes available, those events have only anecdotal value at best, although the many books on the topic, even if of dubious scientific value, make entertaining reading and are a source of revenue for their authors.


  1. MACK, John E., Abduction, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1994
  2. HOPKINS, Budd, Missing Time, New York, Marek Publishers, 1981 and Intruders, New York, Random House, 1987
  3. JACOBS, David M., Secret Life, New York, Simon & Schuster. 1992
  4. CLARK, Jerome, ‘Big (space) Brothers’, International UFO  Reporter, March/April 1994, p. 7
  5. Reference 4, p. S. col. 2
  6. Ref. 1, p. 170: “she described passing through her window, the porch and a tree” riding the beam of light.
  7. Ref. 1, p. 170
  8. Ref. 1, p. 174
  9. Ref. 3, p. 258
  10. HOPKINS, Budd, ‘The Woman on the Bridge’, MUFON UFO Journal,  298, December 1992, p. 8. Since the alleged witness (known only as Janet Klmble) “stated that it was wider than the size of the building”, an estimated diameter of 100 ft is conservative.
  11. Ref. 3, p. 82. “Abductees describe UFOs that range In size from thirty-five to hundreds of feet in diameter.”
  12. Ref. 1, p. 182. ‘Catherine’ was led naked into an enormous room “the size of an airplane hangar”.


In the Light of Experience.
Thomas E. Bullard

From Magonia 44, October 1982

In Magonia 42 Hilary Evans and Peter Rogerson take me to task as they speak out again in favour of a psychosocial explanation for UFO abductions. Their interests are friendly, but they leave me in need of saving myself from my friends, and my friends from themselves.

To begin on an agreeable note. I agree with much of what they say. Peter Rogerson is quite right to point out that variation is present in abduction narratives. The beings described are far from copies of one another, the plots and details differ as well. Yet the importance of differences depends on their proportion to the similarities, and similarities prevail throughout my sample of reports. The picture is especially clear among the 103 high information, high reliability cases. The ‘ufological filter’ through which the reports reach the literature is a serious concern, but please remember that those 103 good cases are the work of fifty different investigators or teams. the contributions of Budd Hopkins do not swamp all others. An implausibly large cadre of investigators marches in lockstep to the same tune, if they impose the similarities.

I have to disagree with Rogerson when he takes lightly the failure of abduction narrators to exploit the broad range of science-fiction ideas available today, and would have us believe that abductee narratives have about reached their limits. I would not lay any bets. Human imagination is wonderfully adaptive, and likely to defy any limits or prescribed directions set up by unimaginative scholars – assuming of course that imagination rather than experience sets the course of the abduction story.

Rogerson mentions Edith Fiore’s cases as examples of the more varied accounts that come through a less single-minded ufological filter than, say, Hopkins’s. I would point out the case of Dan in chapter 12 of Fiore’s book as a fine example of what imagination can do. Dan claims 627 abductions (give or take one or two?), and recalls a life of high adventure during his days in the Space Marines. He retired to Earth in the body of a boy, but wants to re-enter active duty now that he is once more an adult. Who says imagination is limited? His story illustrates what I would expect if abduction stories were imaginative – Flash Gordon adventures, extraterrestrial Harlequin romances and ego satisfaction tailored to individual needs of the narrators. What I see instead is largely impersonal and often unpleasant. Even the people who feel they benefit from the experience acknowledge that it is difficult, a challenge, a lesson hard to learn no matter how positive the outcome may be.

So yes, we find variety. At the same time we find a core of stability that is absent in 1950s contactee stories. That observation should alert us that abductions are not just contactee yarns with a forced entry and medical examination tacked on. Abductions are like Old Hag experiences in part, like fairy kidnap in part, like epileptic seizures in part, like 1950s space movies in part. Like many things in part, but also coherent with a uniqueness of their own. Say there were twice the usual number of murders in town last night – one with a gun, one with a knife, one with a blunt instrument, one by strangulation and six by axe and those within a one-block area. We do not need Sherlock Holmes to tell us that those six axe murders are probably related, the other four probably not. This same intuition applied to abductions advises that the coherent reports differ in a qualitative way from the largely idiosyncratic accounts.

The investigator’s dilemma is how to focus on that core phenomenon without prejudging its nature. Discrimination of evidence is a necessary evil, since the alternative is a hopelessly muddled sample. I would suggest that not every encounter is an abduction, not every abduction story is genuine, and not every genuine (whatever that may mean) abductee describes the experience in uniform or even accurate terms. Many stories can pass as ‘abductions’ through a lenient filter. Settle for a few content points as an adequate intersection and the list of ‘related’ narratives will never end. A meaningful understanding of the abduction phenomenon requires stricter criteria, specifically attention to the most unique and puzzling materials. Fifty or a hundred reports with a complexity of details but little inclination to imaginative elaboration is mystery enough. the other accounts need explaining as well, and might lend themselves to psychosocial theories already offered, but let’s not confuse an already difficult issue with obvious hoaxes, probable fantasies, or remote analogies.

Which brings us to Hilary Evans and his solution. I argue from the standpoint of a folklorist that too many abduction reports demonstrate a stubborn and unnecessary consistency to be products of the imagination pure and simple. He seems to have little use for folklorists. A century and a half of scholarship has left us with nothing but a ‘free-for-all’ of amorphous materials imposed upon by the half-baked schemes of scholars, no two of whom are in agreement. Folklorists are prone to keep their heads in books, and abstract stereotypical patterns out of a mass of individual narratives while forgetting that the stereotype is a scholarly fiction. The folklorist loses sight of the individual factor in narratives, and makes up rules about non-existent ideals.

Any candid assessment of folklore theory would have to give at least a partial nod to these criticisms. Much toil has produced few results, and scholarship has torn off in wrong directions all too often. But folklorists are not such a bad lot: some of us love dogs and children, most of us bathe regularly (once or twice a week whether we need it or not), and quite a few of us leave our books from time to time and make contact with the ‘folk’.

One thing we have learned about this ‘folk’ is that its members are seldom old goodwives in chimney corners, such as come to Evans’s mind when I speak of ordinary storytellers who forget or fumble their narrative. No. You and I are the folk. Our role as folk depends on the way we communicate, and not on our social circumstances, while our words acquire folklore status more by the channels we pass them along that by their inherent contents. Folklore needs no validation of hoary age. Jokes and urban legends spring up day by day and go the rounds.


Folklore scholars once drew arbitrary boundaries between folk, popular and mass culture, but we learned our lesson. the folk show no respect for such distinctions. What matters is how narrators use those ideas, not their ultimate origin or nature


Science fiction and forms of communal fantasy are perfectly good sources of folkloric communication, contrary to what Evans implies. Folklore scholars once drew arbitrary boundaries between folk, popular and mass culture, but we learned our lesson. the folk show no respect for such distinctions. What matters is how narrators use those ideas, not their ultimate origin or nature. As long as narrators treat the materials as folklore, they are folklore wherever they come from; old tradition, science fiction, the tabloid press, the TV set, or for that matter, direct personal experience.

The ‘rules’ I referred to certainly lack the status of natural law. Contrary to the title of Alexander Krappe’s famous book, there is no ‘science of folklore’. Folklorists cannot predict how a narrative will change with the certitude of an astronomer who predicts the return of Halley’s Comet. At the same time folklore is not entirely amorphous. If science is not a search for The Truth but, more modestly expressed, a search for order in nature, then folklore scholarship still offers pertinent help in understanding what happens to narratives in circulation. Ultimate questions of why and wherefore may raise conflicts among various schools of thought, but at a lower level of empirical inquiry folklorists have learned something about the dynamics of narratives.

Simple observation makes it clear that narratives vary. People tell the same general story in a variety of ways, whether by accident or design. Some of those old goodwives are formidable narrators who shape their stories into a fine artistic production. Most of the rest of

 us shape them according to our lesser abilities and fallibilities. In either case variation results. We expect to find it in abduction reports because our first reasonable assumption pegs them as products of imagination. The loose construction of the story and the wealth of ideas available from various cultural sources leads us to expect a great deal of variation. When we find a relative lack of it, an anomaly confronts us. An anomaly tells us that something is wrong with our assumption.#

This finding is simply interesting. It does not prove aliens or any other specific explanation, but it calls into question cultural sources working through the usual channels of borrowing and communication. This is a slender sort of conclusion, but it comes about in the right way. It comes from an application of what we know to be a problem, rather than an application of wishful thinking or doctrinaire theory.

I agree that psychosocial theorists attribute abductions to more than folklore, and draw parallels with many form of communal fantasy. I disagree with Evans when he says that folklore ‘rules’ therefore no longer apply. The folklorist’s understanding of narrative dynamics comes from studies of memory processes and the circulation of unofficial communications in society. Much of what happens to folklore as it passes from person to person also happens in the transmission of rumour and gossip, in episodes of mass hysteria, in fads and popular movements – in any human effort to formulate and convey an account of an unusual experience. What is communal fantasy anyway but the action of emotionally charged ideas on a transpersonal scale? Folklorists are at home with these processes, and share an understanding of their regularities with scholars in other disciplines.

Where we truly part company is over his explanation of abduction experiences. He identifies them as a combination of folklore, in the form of shared myth, with deep individual need. The narrator externalises those private needs in a fantasy, but shapes it according to the outlines of some familiar stereotype to give a public legitimacy. Some narrators choose the demonic possession script, others choose abduction, but the underlying cause is the same. The personal factor causes variations, the stereotype or public myth provides stability.

No one would question that a personal element goes into almost every narrative – Freud pointed out the deep motivations behind telling a mere joke, and all of us have recognised more superficial motives in ourselves, like the desire to make others laugh or outdo another narrator. Abduction narratives often engage strong emotions, and clearly express deep needs of the narrator. Yet rather than explaining the minor variations with abduction narratives, this undeniable emotional pressure simply deepens the mystery of why those variations remain so minor. This pressure should crack all containers. The individual with a need to externalise has many cultural frames to choose from, demonological or otherwise, and could choose many abduction-based scenarios to make a fantasy public. Any one of them would serve as well as another. In fact narrators in surprising numbers pick the same scenario. We do not find multiple narrators telling a Dan the Space-Marine story. The space adventurers thrill themselves with a different adventure every time, contactees have a wide range of contacts, but most abductees are stuck in a rut and repeat each other’s abductions like broken records.

Have I led everyone astray by abstracting a stereotypical pattern from the reports, when the pattern is no more than a figment of my scholarly making? I don’t think so. the pattern I found came to light case by case and detail by detail. Examination precedes conference, beings have large heads, and examination rooms have uniform lighting – how abstract can a pattern be when it simply counts specific elements, and recognises some as far more common than others? The pattern emerges because it describes what witnesses report, not because a scholar prescribes what the story ought to be. 



The psychosocial approach has more the characteristics of a faith than a serious effort to explain abductions by wrestling with the data and proposing step-by-step explanations


If anyone is guilty of illegal abstractions it is Evans when he speaks of a ‘shared myth’. The idea of an immutable pattern fixed in the collective mind and capable of shaping consistent abduction reports raises a ghost of scholarship past, and one best left buried. Fifty years ago folklorists might have sympathised with such a notion. Even then patterns like shared myth or tale type were conceived as vague influences, outlines at best, and never floating checklists. The specificity of abduction reports demands no less, if we are to understand how narrators duplicate one another’s stories in so many aspects. A recurrent abduction story that combines shared myth and personal need is a chimera, a monster of instability. Personal needs drive the story away from unity, not toward it. If folklore is so amorphous that it obeys no discernible rules, how can we have a shared myth so static in its pattern, so efficacious in its influence on one narrator after another, that it bonds complex stories together and secures them against the howling forces of variation? Inquiring minds want to know.

Psychosocial theories differ considerably in specific contents, emphasising the psychological side or the sociocultural side to explain abduction narratives. Folklorists adopt this same approach when they explain narratives of extraordinary experience as ideas drawn from tradition, or false experience provoked by tradition-based expectations. Since folklorists have long excluded any other explanation, they deserve recognition as diligent and loyal psychosocial proponents in their own right. Only thanks to David Hufford’s studies of Old Hag tradition has the experience-based narrative re-entered the folklorist’s conceptual vocabulary. He establishes that exclusive reliance on psychosocial answers inadequately accounts for reports of extraordinary encounters.

Yes, our concepts of folklore might need to change even further. Folklore may be developing in ways hitherto unknown, and abduction reports may not behave like folklore as we know and love it. As a folklorist I can take an interest in abductions on the basis of this possibility alone. But if the psychosocial approach is right, these reports must act like creations of the human imagination, be driven by human motivations and derive from human creative processes. If so, these narratives cannot differ in their dynamics from other such creations, folk narratives amongst them. If experiences count for anything, then abduction reports should vary more than they do. To deny the findings of folklore scholarship in this evaluation is to deny experience, a great deal of it by many scholars after long years of enquiry, not into books but into the practice of narrators. On what else but experience can we base our conclusions? Discount it and then we know nothing about any narratives and all theories are worthless. We might as well bring back the mating hedgehogs and mix comic relief with our bemusement.

The psychosocial theorists who dismiss the experience of folklorists offer little in its place. A communal container for an expression of individual needs sounds like a reasonable description, but it leaves too many questions about how it stabilises the narrative. 

I have shown, one element at a time, that stability exists among a sizable sample of abductions reports, and folklorists have shown that variation is rife around narratives such as folk tales and urban legends. These conclusions are limited but demonstrable. From the psychosocial camp I hear many assertions but little proof. The claim that shared myth and personal need can coexist in narratives as stable as we observe runs counter to experience or intuition, yet we must accept this claim as self-evident. I can understand why “there are probably as many PS-hypotheses as there are PS-proponents.” A failure to provide convincing demonstrations for any hypothesis leaves them all unpersuasive. The psychosocial approach has more the characteristics of a faith than a serious effort to explain abductions by wrestling with the data and proposing step-by-step explanations. Those of us who prefer reason to revelation won’t bite.

The abduction phenomena is a genuine anomaly. Whether similar strange experiences provoke similar strange stories, or personal needs somehow motivate people to select the same few story elements out of all the possibilities available to them, the problem remains provocative. Blame aliens, something akin to the Old Hag, Kenneth Ring’s imaginal realm, Jacques Vallée’s control system, an unexpected property of narrative transmission, hedgehogs or anything else. Folklore scholarship certainly cannot pick the winner. It can only point out some probable losers.

Something more than narrative processes, shared myths, media influences, or investigators leading the witness seem necessary to explain the consistency of the narratives. On the other hand experience could hold a body of narratives together, and gets my vote pending any more persuasive alternative. I am presently cataloguing reports from 1986 to the present, and I will be anxious to see if the consistencies I found in the earlier sample hold up in the latter. I will also be interested to see how widespread the genuine differences, such as descriptions of the beings or evolving episodes like the baby presentation, prove to be. The answers will follow as a consequence of evidence, not as an article of faith.

Saving sinners is a bit out of my line; nevertheless, let me step out of character and end with an exhortation to psychosocial proponents, that they do their ideas justice. I object less to the ideas themselves than to their cavalier presentation. Speculative assertions and random examples cannot substitute for consistent arguments backed with convincing evidence, and with the exception of Martin Kottmeyer, psychosocial proponents seem to disdain both. I’m slow-witted. Show me step-by-step how your explanations work, and I’m perfectly willing to believe. As matters now stand, you have accumulated a huge explanatory debt, and like the U.S. budget, the weight of that debt threatens to sink you down the tubes of history unless your repent. There’s still time, brothers.


Missing Time, Missing Links.
Dennis Stillings

From Magonia 28, January 1988

After the first day’s sessions of the fourth annual meeting of the Society for Scientific Exploration (SSE) several ufologists and I repaired to the motel bar to continue a variety of discussions begun earlier in the day.

After a few minutes it became quite clear that I was the only one present who did not accept the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) to account for certain aspects of the UFO phenomenon. I brought up a few of mu arguments against the ETH with the result that the rest of the group tended to shuffle their chairs away from me and lean in toward one another to exchange meaningful anecdotes. I got the impression that I was odd man out in a living replay of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (‘Go back to your room. Dennis, your pod is waiting for you!’)

Perhaps my reference to Lawson’s ‘birth memory’ theory [1] amountedto a kind of intellectual B.O. Lawson proposes that UFO ‘abduction’ cases are ‘…archetypal fantasies] involving belief or deception in which an individual’s birth memories play a central role’. Mentioning this theory provoked loud scoffing and snorts. (In my experience, the mere mention of Lawson’s theory has provoked, without exception, excessively emotional responses from ETHers.) I replied that name-calling would not suffice. In what way, precisely, was Lawson incorrect? f was ignored.

As I sat there in my self-induced loneliness, I heard, from the corner of my ear, references to Budd Hopkins Missing Time. I have the book, which I obtained at the last Fortean meeting in Nebraska. I decided to read it through.



Hopkins’ book is quite readable. He believes in the ETH, and his thinking clearly reflects his choice of position. One of the mainstays of the ETH rationale is that the ufonauts are so far beyond us in their advanced thinking that what to us appears as absurd [2] is merely the result of our intellectual inadequacies in the face of overwhelming mental superiority – rather like confrontations with cosmic Zen masters.

Such thinking, of course, has its analogies in religion (Q? ‘Why were the innocent children killed?’ A: We cannot understand such things. Only God, in His infinite wisdom…’) and in politics (‘You can’t question LBJ’s policies on Vietnam. He has access to special information…’). In other words, this argument might be true, but it gets us nowhere. We have to operate with the information we have – what you see is what you get.

Actually, there is a symbolic reason for the popularity of the ‘higher reason’ argument. Khidr is an important figure in Islamic mysticism. [3] He appearss in the Eighteenth Sura of the Koran, entitled ‘The Cave’. Interestingly enough for our discussion here, the entire sura is taken up with a rebirth mystery. The ‘cave’ is a place of transformation where people experience ‘missing time’. Khidr, also known as ‘the Anagel of the Face’, who is a symbol for the self, takes the form of a ’round fish lacking bones and skin’.In the legend Khidr changes from the fish form to his original form and sits on an island on a throne consisting of light. [4] Khidr indulges in ‘incomprehensible deeds’ that are meant to puzzle the observer. In the end, his mysterious behaviour is explained by him in reasonable and comprehensible terms.

Jung remarks that these “… incomprehensible deeds.. show how ego-consciousness reacts to the superior guidance of the self through the twists and turns of fate. To the initiate who is capable of transformation it is a comforting tale; to the obedient believer, an exhortation not to murmur against Allah’s incomprehensible omnipotence. Khidr symbolizes … the higher wisdom …”

The symbolism of Khidr is replete with analogies to the UFO phenomenon and to the mental states of ETH believers. One may scoff at the reasoning of those who hold to the ETH, but their attitude is one of piety and submission [5] in the face of what appears to be transcendent power and wisdom — qualities never far from foolishness and the absurd. It is even probable that the UFO phenomenon is related to the resurgence of Islam. [6]

The second linchpin of typical ETH reasoning is the ‘anthropocentric argument’. When people raise the question: ‘Why don’t the ETs land on the White House lawn and ask to see the president?’, this is anthropocentric. When the ETHer comes up with his own ‘explanation’, it is not. Let me give you just one example from Hopkins (page 218): “It is irrelevant to raise the kind of objection that goes like this: ‘If extraterrestrials are really here, why do they bother with six-year-old children when they can land publicly and talk to our presidents and our scientists?’ [7] As if Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter, or, for that matter, Carl Sagan or Robert Jastrow, must inevitably be central to their concerns. Maybe yes, but equally conceivably, maybe no. Perhaps their kind of preliminary investigation requires monitoring a wide range of people over their entire lifetimes…”

As you can see, the relatively commonsense notion of the ufonauts contacting our heads of government is considered anthropocentric and worthy_ of sarcasm, while Hopkins’ pro-ETH ‘explanation’ is not.

We have to start somewhere, and – inadequate though they may be – our own reason and experience must be applied to such problems before we go soaring off into the ozone or endless speculation. Hopkins’ book is full of this kind of double standard. There is no need to multiply examples. Suffice it to say, the logic of the matter is this: if you object to an argument because it is anthropocentric, you automatically remove the subject from discussion. All human explanations are ‘anthropocentric’, strictly speaking. Again, a useless approach.

I am convinced that, for many people, concern with the phenomena of UFOs induces a non-rational state of a typical sort. Let me give you an example. Hopkins’ book ‘documents’ several cases in which people have been abducted against their will, hypnotized, operated on, scarred for life, terrorized and subjected to the investigations of ufologists. To all this, Hopkins remarks: “For all any of us knows the whole UFO phenomenon may be ultimately, blissfully benign – there is firm evidence for this position – and so having been abducted may have turned out to be a peculiar privilege. No one knows”. Damned peculiar privilege, I’d say.

The ‘absurd’ birth memory theory

Of course the ‘birth memory theory’ is ‘absurd’. When Hopkins subjects, under hypnosis, report “The walls around the room are curved … It’s like a big oval. It has a really calming effect, being in this room … It’s almost like being hypnotized…you feel as if you could float. It’s very peaceful. And there is not a sound. Nothing. I think it’s the quietest place I was ever in. This table … grows out of the floor. And … it’s a perfect temperature, so I’m perfectly comfortable’ (page 80). And, on Page 173, “BH: You say this face had a foetus-like look? P0: Yes … sort of like an embryo … and also, I did have the impression of blood vessels…’”

And on page 139 we have the following abductee report of sensations in the UFO laboratory: “I have a visual image of soft colours, pearl-grays with some blue or mauve … but a kind of textured feeling, like leather and velvet, you know those kinds of nice, smooth comfortable textures, but I don’t have … it
could be that somebody was in a different room and talking to me but, um — it was though I was in a room by myself…”

Now, Lawson may be wrong, but his suggestion that birth memories might be involved is not absurd and deserves consideration.

The surgical skills of the ETs

The surgical skills of the ETs are poor. For all their advanced science, they seem to be unable to perform the simplest procedures without creating severe pain and anxiety. They scar patients for life, both emotionally and physically. Yet they are to be considered ‘benign’. According to Hopkins, ETs may have a ’20,000-year’ jump on us. Considering the advances we have made in less than 100 years, an uninterrupted 20,000 years of technological and spiritual progress should produce surgical techniques of the order of teleporting of tissue.

Certainly pain-free surgery should be old hat. Even we poor benighted humans can perform quite serious surgical procedures with little or no pain. The implantation of a cardiac pace-maker, for one example, can be accomplished with local anaesthesia on an outpatient basis. The stories of bleeding cuts on the bodies of abductees after the experience do not impress me. I have received cuts on many, occasions, even deep, ‘surgical’ ones, that were painless and without apparent cause. I simply assume that I came in contact with something sharp while my attention was elsewhere. On one occasion, when there was a particularly long, deep, mysterious cut in my elbow and forearm, I figured out the cause – it was not obvious, but it was not anomalous either. In the profoundly altered states in which the ‘abductees’ experience their ‘encounters’, it requires no great strain of the imagination suppose that these ‘stigmata’ are self-inflicted, either accidentally, or in such a way as to correspond to the symbolic nature of the experience.

The putative ETs have all the earmarks of human psychic components in symbolic form, which are in the proceess of manifesting in the psychic economy of a person undergoing a psychological transformation of a typical sort — perhaps that very transformation traditionally referred to as ‘rebirth’.

The ancient and collective nature of this type of experience is symbolically indicated by the uniformity of the physical appearance of the ‘ETs’ (they are quasi-instinctive). Their constant dingling around with the earth and with human (and plant and animal) bodies is symbolic of the fact that they have not attained full manifestation ‘in the flesh’ and have not as yet entered into the individual’s new adaptation to the world. The ‘ETs’ are, metaphorically speaking, testing the new, unaccustomed waters of physical existence in space and time.

Such ‘births into the body’ may be compared to the image of Christ in the manger — the cave, the abode of animals (instincts). This timeless image for the birth of a new principle in the human psyche precisely corresponds to much of the symbolism of ETHer ufological speculation, hence the ‘birth imagery’ and all the glorious crank speculations about Christ being an extraterrestrial. Since these ‘components’ come from a region where ordinary concepts of space, time, pain and death do not exist, they have no way of relating to the problems of the ‘abductee’. This is a symbolic process at the deepest level.

Anyone who finds himself a centre for this kind of attention will be in the midst of some remarkable events. That stigmata may be produced would not be too surprising.

The ‘abduction’ fantasies: dreams and ‘active imagination’

The accounts of the ‘abductees’ are replete with descriptions of the ETs silently acting out scenes without paying particular attention to the observer. This is a characteristic of dreams.

There are distortions of time and space, often accompanied by lacunae in the sequences of events. In describing his tour through the inside of a UFO, one subject remarked (page 78): ‘It’s funny, this thing didn’t look that big from the outside’. One is reminded of the Charles Finney story of the Circus of Dr Lao. The circus tent (= UFO?), from the outside, is of quite modest proportions. Inside, it becomes almost a small cosmos. Hopkins cites one of the lacunae in a sequence of events: “When he first entered the … room, hewalked towards the table. …The next moment, he was seated on the table nearly naked, and his clothes were nowhere to be seen. One can speculate either that he has repressed the disturbing experience of being stripped and lifted onto the table, or that he may have been, in fact, unconscious during that operation. (page 85)

My explanation would be that we are dealing with a dream mechanism where such sequences are quite common. I need scarcely point out the relevance of this scene to the ‘birth memory’ hypothesis. It is of special interest that the subject in this abduction case reported: ‘I feel like a frog’ (page 84). One is reminded of the foetal leg positions as well as those of the neonate. Women often refer to infants affectionately as ‘little frogs’. The subject also felt ‘physically dirty, and wanted very much to shower’ (pacge 86). Hint. hint. One of Hopkins’ subjects even says: ‘It seemed like a dream sequence. That’s what it seemed like. It seemed like a dream sequence. It didn’t quite oil come out together’. What you see is what you get. You have here a remembered dream. Let’s give the abductee some credit and take what he reports for what it is.

It should be pointed out, however, that these are not average dreams. They are archetypal dreams, or ‘big dreams’ as primitives call them. Therefore, the subjects who have these very strong and impressive dreams feel them to be different in quality from ordinary dreams. They are quite right. Another of Hopkins’ subjects puts this experience this way: “It’s almost like it’s a dream. In fact, maybe I thought it was a dream except, except – I’d never had a dream like that! … The place is like a dream…”

Dozens of examples of dreamlike qualities can be found in the accounts given by the abductees examined by Hopkins. Nevertheless. Hopkins refuses to entertain this quite obvious alternative explanation. That many people present essentially the some dream is no problem. The meaning of UFOs and ETs is archetypal and may be expected to repeat a very similar pattern.

Some of Hopkins’ subjects appear to have hit upon the technique of ‘active imagination’. This techniques [9] allows one to go into a kind of ‘waking dream’, in which an imaginary play is carried out before one’s eyes, having the same sort of autonomous character as a movie or living diorama. One of Hopkins’ subjects, giving his impressions of an ET medical examination. reports on an ‘eye-like’ device as follows (page 171): “I never have just a stationary image. but I get a sort of initial quick impression and then it starts degrading into all other kinds or things”. This is a typical subjective experience in active imagination.

The subject continues (page 175): “I was just trying this time to tell you wherever just sort of popped into my mind. It was very much just kind of a collage of impressions … There was not any kind of sequential thing … There was not any involvement, really, or the feeling I was reliving anything … rather that I was acting as an observer”. And, further on: “It was not a bright room, and, ah, I don’t recoil any brightness at all, but that’s the image my mind is creating now”. This is active imagination pure and simple.

The experience of active imagination is initiated by a sort or abaisssement du niveau mentale, a lowering or ‘relaxation’ of consciousness. Certain exterior conditions are very favourable for the production or such states. Waking through the area where one ‘abduction’ took place, Hopkins himself remarks on the ‘eerie, slumbering quality’ of the grounds (page 183). A second subject of Hopkins reports on hearing her name called in the woods [10] (page 202).

I have had this experience myself in the deep woods of Montana. The ‘unconscious is, in compensatory fashion, reaffirming the person’s identity. This reaction is brought forth from the unconscious to counteract the well-known tendency for consciousness to fragment under conditions of isolation. Such a reaction, and its strength are relative to the degree of isolation experienced and to the strength of the individual ego-consciousness. These conditions cited by Hopkins are optimal for inducing active imagination.

Once one becomes familiar with these altered states of consciousness, the ETH as supported by cases such as those presented in Missing Time loses considerable credibility. Anyone who stumbles onto this technique is very impressed by it. I know I was at first, and I spent one whole night just recording the incredibly vivid images that forced themselves on my mind. You con do active imaginations about dragons, unicorns – what have you, and you will find that they are very typical and a slight personal variation on something that can be looked up in a fairy-tale book. Nowadays we have high-tech fairy tales.

ETs: cockroaches of the cosmos, or, when the world gets the DTs we start seeing ETs

The UFO phenomenon, broadly speaking is a monstrum compositum. Within the range of UFO phenomena, we see the organic, the inorganic, psychic events, and physical traces: also myths and fairy tales. The UFO phenomenon covers the full range of meaning and aesthetic appeal from the banal and ridiculous to the highest spiritual levels. At times aspects of the phenomenon can be described as fishlike, [11] birdlike, [12] insectlike, [13] and any combination of these features. It is of no avail to try to find out which of these things the UFO is. It is all of them. The composite nature of UFO imagery indicates that it arises from the deepest layers of the collective unconscious. [14]

This does not mean it is merely psychic. At some point in the collective unconscious the psychic meets the hylic. [15] and the usual categories disappear. Somecne once said: ‘A trick, if it’s done right, doesn’t look like a trick, it looks real’. If the UFO phenomenon were exclusively psychic or exclusively physical in nature, it would not capyure our attention the way it does. It is part of ‘the message’ that the phenomenon cannot be clearly categorized. When one does clearly categorize the phenomenon, one begins to suffer from UFO-lobotomy: one loses the ability to think critically about the subject, one falls into self-contradiction, forgets contradictory data, develops quasi-theological sophistries to ‘explain’ the absurd behaviour of the UFOs — in effect, one meets his pod. In my opinion, there is no small evidence that this fate has befallen the ETHers.

If we look at the ETs with any kind of objectivity at all, we see them as buzzing, expressionless, more or less indistinguishable creatures with little or no feeling for their human victims — like large insects with rudimentary tools for probing the bodies of the abductees as the probe the ground for soil samples – leaving their peculiar insect bites and ‘traces’.We are living in stressful times, not just for us, but for the whole planet. If nature has access to our minds – and she does — would not consciousness be the most vulnerable point at which to attack and disable the species threatening the entire natural world? For the first
time, perhaps, in the history of the world, there is a universal threat of extinction. We should expect the strongest sort of evolutionary response to this emergency.

This response cannot extend over the long periods of time usually available for such changes. The changes must occur within decades. The vulnerability of consciousness makes it the prime target for fast evolutionary change, a change so rapid that it has to overload the circuits, producing a vast array of overdetermined imagery with a wide spectrum of effects. The effects produced may result in higher consciousness, but not necessarily.

When I see some of the responses to the UFO phenomenon like, for instance, the ETH, I suspect that nature may be creating false fascinosa that keep our eyes glued upward until we fall of some cliff into the sea. Then the world will once again be at peace.



  1. Alvin H, Larson, ‘UFO abductions or birth memories?’, Fate, March 1985, pp, 68-84, See also Magonia new series 10.
  2. The behaviour of UFOs and their pilots is truly a ‘dance of the absurd’, for important comments on the function of the absurd in general, see my ‘Note on
    the function of nonsense’, Archaeus, 3, 1 (summer 1985), and for observations on the ‘absurd’ in relation to UFOs, see Jacques Vallée, Messengers of Deception; UFO Contacts and Cults, Berkeley, And/Or Press 1979, passim.
  3. For a full discussion of the Khidr legend see Carl Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Collected Works, 9,1. New York, Pantheon Books, 1959, pp, 135-147.
  4. Jung’s Sufi headman of his safari through Kenya told him that Khidr might appear to Jung as a ‘pure, white light’. The headman himself reported he had dreamt of Khidr as a ‘bright white light near the door’, Ibid., p. 143.
  5. As the nuclear crisis is a backdoor reinstillation of the original ‘fear of God’, the UFO phenomena seem to be designed to reacquaint us with a wide range of other religious virtues.
  6. Undoubtedly, Islam is possessed of a new dynamism, This is negatively expressed in Khomeini but Islam, as the youngest of the world’s great religions, has its fulfilment still in the future, Jung has commented on this, and Anthony Burgess in his novel 1985 predicts an Islamic Britain by the end of the century, Wild, you say? Have you noticed our change in attitudes towards virginity pornography and alcohol?
  7. That UFOs do not manifest definitively to the organizational power structures is part at the archetypal ayth, there is no room for the, ‘principle of salvation’ in the Inn. It appears first to shepherds in the fields.
  8. See also Stanislav Grof, Realms of the Human Unconscious, New York, Viking Press. 1975, The possibility of the remembrance of the birth process, especially in connection with violence, is supported by Edward C Whitmont in his book Return of the Goddess, New York, Crossroad, 1982, pp, 17-18.
  9. For the original discussion of the concept of active imagination (term not used), see C. G. Jung, ‘The transcendent function’ in The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, Collected Works, 8. New York, Pantheon Books, 1960, pp, 57-91) Discussion of the nature and function of active imagination can be found throughout the Jungian literature.
  10. A book was written years ago on this subject: Max Lowy, Uber sine Unruhe erscheinung; die Halluzination des Anrufes mit dem eigenen Namen (ohne und mit Beachtungswahn), Separatabdruck aus den Jahrbuchen fur Psychiatrie und Neurologie, XXXIII Band, Leipzig u, Wien, Franz Deuticke, 1911. The title translates: On an Anxiety Manifestation; the hallucination of being called by one’s name without and with pathological disturbances of attention).
  11. UFOs have been seen rising from and returning to the sea, Jung discusses the UFO as fish in Flying Saucers: a modern myth of things seen in the skies, in Civilization in Transition, Collected Works, 10, New York, Pantheon Books, 1964, See also Lyall Watson’s highly suggestive ruminations on underwater lights, squid and their large eyes and ETs in his book Gifts of Unknown Things, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1976, pp, 18-37.
  12. Greta Woodrew, On a Slide of Light, New York, Macmillan, 1981 – Hawks
  13. Gerald Heard. The Riddle of the Flying Saucers, London, Carroll and Nichdlson, 1950. – Bees.
  14.  At the deepest levels of the unconscious, everything is everything
  15. The region currently under investigation by several leading quantum theorists.


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Ike and the Aliens, the Origins of Exopolitics. Curtis Peebles

ike-golfFrom Magonia 93, September 2006

In late February of 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower (left) was enjoying a golf vacation in Palm Springs, California. After dinner on Saturday, February 20, 1954, Eisenhower left the resort unexpectedly. The reporters covering his vacation learned of his absence, and an Associated Press reporter issued a news bulletin saying “Pres. Eisenhower died tonight of a heart attack in Palm Springs.” Two minutes later, the report was retracted. The following morning, Sunday, February 21, 1954, the president attended a church service, very much alive. His spokesman said that Eisenhower had seen a dentist after chipping a cap on a tooth while eating a chicken wing at dinner. [1]

It was a letter from Gerald Light to Meade Layne, director of the Borderland Sciences Research Associations that turned the incident into a flying saucer story that would still be retold a half century later. The letter was received by Layne on April 16, 1954 and read:

“My dear Friends: I have just returned from Muroc. The report is true – devastatingly true!

“I made the journey in company with Franklin Allen of the Hearst papers and Edwin Nourse of Brookings Institute (Truman’s erstwhile financial advisor) and Bishop MacIntyre (sic) of L.A. (confidential names, for the present, please.)

“When we were allowed to enter the restricted section, (after about six hours in which we were checked on every possible item, event, incident and aspect of our personal and public lives) I had the distinct feeling that the world had come to an end with fantastic realism. For I have never seen so many human beings in a state of complete collapse and confusion as they realized that their own world had indeed ended with such finality as to beggar description. The reality of the ‘otherplane’ aeroforms is now and forever removed from the realms of speculation and made a rather painful part of the consciousness of every responsible scientific and political group.

“During my two days visit I saw five separate and distinct types of aircraft being studied and handled by our air-force officials – with the assistance and permission of The Etherians! I have no words to express my reactions.

“President Eisenhower, as you may already know, was spirited over to Muroc one night during his visit to Palm Springs recently. And it is my conviction that he will ignore the terrific conflict between the various ‘authorities’ and go directly to the people via radio and television – if the impasse continues much longer. From what I could gather, an official statement to the country is being prepared for delivery about the middle of May. I will leave it to your own excellent powers of deduction to construct a fitting picture of the mental and emotional pandemonium that is now shattering the consciousness of hundreds of our scientific ‘authorities’ and all the pundits of the various specialized knowledges that make up our current physics. In some instances I could not stifle a wave of pity that arose in my own being as I watched the pathetic bewilderment of rather brilliant brains struggling to make some sort of rational explanation which would enable them to retain their familiar theories and concepts. And I thanked my own destiny for having long ago pushed me into the metaphysical woods and compelled me to find my way out. To watch strong minds cringe before totally irreconcilable aspects of ‘science’ is not a pleasant thing. I had forgotten how commonplace such things as dematerialization of ‘solid’ objects had become to my own mind. The coming and going of an etheric, or spirit, body has been so familiar to me these many years I had just forgotten that such a manifestation could snap the mental balance of a man not so conditioned. I shall never forget those forty-eight hours at Muroc!” [2]

“It has finally happened. It is now a matter of history.

Word of Light’s letter soon spread among UFO believers. Desmond Leslie mentioned the story several months later. He had visited Los Angeles during the summer of 1954. Reportedly, this included investigations in the Edwards AFB area. Leslie was interviewed by George Hunt Williamson on October 9, 1954 for Valor magazine. Leslie said that “an Air Force man” told him that the “rumored saucer at Muroc was actually there,” and that it was under guard “in Hangar 27.” He continued that “President Eisenhower had a ‘look-see’ at the craft during his Palm Springs vacation.” Leslie’s source had “seen the craft,” and also said that “on a certain day…suddenly men coming back from leave were not allowed to go back on the base and were given orders to ‘get lost.’” Leslie added that the personnel on the base that day were not allowed to leave under any circumstances.

The Roswell Incident

The rebirth of the Ike and the aliens story began with Charles Berlitz and William L. Moore’s book The Roswell Incident. Published in 1980, this did not simply revive the nearly forgotten story of a saucer crash, but eventually would give rise to the Darkside mythology and exopolitics. For all its later impact, The Roswell Incident itself was rather ‘thin.’ The book recounted the story of Maj. Jesse A. Marcel, the intelligence officer of the 509th Bomb Wing at Roswell AAF in July 1947. Marcel described the recovery of strange debris, which he described as being pieces of parchment-like material and balsa-like sticks with pink and purple “hieroglyphics.” These fragments could not be broken or burned. There were also large metal parts which could not be dented or creased. Marcel did not claim to have seen a crashed saucer or alien bodies, only the strange debris. [4]

The bulk of The Roswell Incident consisted of recollections and stories that had little or no direct connection to Marcel’s alleged experiences. Canadian radio engineer Wilbert B. Smith was one such source. He had written a Top Secret memo in November 1950 on U.S. government involvement with flying saucers. Smith said in the memo that flying saucers were the mostly highly classified subject in the U.S., even more so than the hydrogen bomb.

Berlitz and Moore also discussed an account written by Meade Layne around 1949, which was alleged to be based on information from two scientists and “a business man of high standing.” “Dr. Weidberg,” described as a physics professor from an unnamed California university, was said to have taken part in the examination of the saucer. According to Layne, the professor said it was “shaped like a turtle’s back” and had a cabin about 15 feet in diameter. Layne’s account continued:

“The bodies of six occupants were seared…and the interior of the disc had been badly damaged by intense heat. One porthole had been shattered….

“An autopsy on one body showed that it resembled a normal human body except in size. One body was seated at what appeared to be a control desk, there were a few ‘gadgets’ in front of him, and on the walls or panels characters in writing, in a language unknown to any of the investigators. They said it was unlike anything known to them, and definitely not Russian…”

He added that Dr. Weidberg had indicated that the saucer was taken by truck from the crash site to Magdalena, New Mexico. The UFO was then loaded on a special car of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad. The train’s route passed through Belen, Grants, and Gallup, New Mexico, then to Flagstaff, Arizona and continued on to Needles and Cadiz in California, before finally arriving at Muroc, where “Camp Edwards” was located. [5]

The Roswell Incident included a chapter on ‘The President and the Captured Saucer’. Berlitz and Moore claim that information about the saucer crash at Roswell was initially withheld from Eisenhower even after he became president. Berlitz and Moore further claimed that Eisenhower “was let in on the secret as one of the first of a small but carefully selected group of scientific, military, and civilian personnel from all walks of life…” The goal, Berlitz and Moore wrote, was “…possibly for the purpose of gauging from their observed reactions what the effect on the general public would likely be if such a story was released.”

Berlitz and Moore continued that “the mental confusion and near pandemonium,” described in Light’s account, resulted “…in a total victory for the forces of secrecy.” They also claimed that the individuals who were shown the saucer were silenced and plans for a public announcement were dropped. Light’s description of his experiences at “Muroc” was not judged to be a security threat, as the story would not stick if it were published. [6]

MJ-12, the Darkside, and Exopolitics


Bill Cooper promoted a conspiracy theory which, ostensibly about flying saucers, was actually a right-wing theory of world control by such organisations as Bilderburg and the Council on Foreign Relations

The publication of The Roswell Incident came at a time when the flying saucer myth was undergoing fundamental changes. During the early and mid-1980s, stories spread of crashed saucers, ‘Grays’, cattle and human mutilations, abductions, implants, creation of alien/human hybrids, alien underground bases, secret treaties between the U.S. and the aliens, technology exchanges, and of a shadowy organization called MJ-12 which was overseeing it all. [7]

This became known as the Darkside, and was defined by Milton William Cooper in his manifesto, ‘The Secret Government The Origin, Identity and Purpose of MJ-12.’ Cooper claimed his account was based on documents he had seen between 1970 and 1973 while a Navy enlisted man. This included the story of the meeting between Ike and the aliens, and the claim of a secret treaty.

According to Cooper, radio communications was established with a group of ‘large-nosed Gray aliens’. This resulted in a landing at Holloman AFB by these aliens in early 1954. During this first face-to-face meeting, a basic agreement was worked out, and arrangements made for a formal treaty. A second landing by the aliens at Edwards AFB followed in February 1954. Cooper wrote that Eisenhower arranged to be in Palm Springs on vacation. On the planned day, the president was secretly taken to Edwards, with the dental visit as a cover story. Cooper continued, “President Eisenhower met with the aliens and a formal treaty between the Alien Nation and the United States of America was signed.”

Cooper claimed that the treaty allowed the aliens to abduct a limited number of humans for the purpose of medical examination. The abductees would not be harmed, would be returned to the place they were taken from, and would have no memory of what had happened. The aliens would provide to MJ-12 a list of all the humans who were abducted. In exchange, the U.S. government would be supplied with advanced alien technology. The aliens’ existence would also be kept secret by the U.S. government, and underground bases would be built for the aliens. Cooper further claimed that the U.S. government realized by 1955 that the aliens had violated the treaty. Both humans and animals were mutilated, a full list of abducted humans was not being provided to MJ-12 by the aliens, and not all the abductees were being returned.

While on the surface Cooper was writing about flying saucers and aliens, the bulk of the text was actually Rightist conspiracy theories. This involved the Bilderburgers, which, Cooper said, controlled the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. Between them, he continued, these groups “…control the major foundations, all of the major media and publishing interests, the largest banks, all the major corporations, the upper echelons of the government, and many other vital interests.”

This conspiracy, according to Cooper, amounted to a secret world government. It was responsible for the deaths of both Secretary of Defense James Forrestal and President John F. Kennedy. It controlled the world’s drug trade, was responsible for crime in American cities, and used disinformation against UFO researchers. It created AIDS and other diseases in order to reduce the world’s population. The conspiracy had plans to round up all ‘dissenters’ and ship them off to vast concentration camps which had already been built. The enslavement of humanity would then be complete. Cooper concluded by writing, “We must force disclosure of all the facts, discover the truth and act upon the truth.” [8]

By the mid-1990s, Cooper abandoned Ufology and became a leading figure in the Militia movement. He was killed on November 6, 2001 in a shootout with Arizona police officers. [9] Cooper’s lasting contribution was the Darkside mythology, which was enshrined in popular culture by such television shows as The X-Files and Dark Skies. While the Right had been the first to embrace the Darkside, the mythology was also soon being accepted by the Left.

Ufology in the context of a Leftist political movement began in the early 1990s, against the backdrop of the collapse of communism, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War. By the start of the 21st century, this movement became known as ‘exopolitics’, This was “…the study of the key political actors, institutions and processes associated with the UFO phenomenon and the extraterrestrial hypothesis.” [10]

Several individuals emerged as the major figures in this movement. They included Steven Greer and Alfred Webre. Like Cooper, they claimed the world was actually run by a secret cabal. Greer said that this was “a committee of 200 to 300 people” involving senior U.S. government, military, and intelligence officials, ‘the Liechtenstein banking family’, the ‘Mormon corporate empire’. and ‘cells within the Vatican’. They had murdered Marilyn Monroe and former CIA director William Colby to keep them from talking, and used an ‘electromagnetic weapon’ to cause Greer and others to be stricken with cancer. [11] Greer also claimed UFO groups were controlled by the conspiracy. He said in an interview that “deep-cover black project operatives are working closely with alleged civilian researchers, journalists, and the UFO glitterati.” [12]

While Cooper had focused exclusively on an overarching conspiracy, the major figures in exopolitics also offered a messianic vision of the future once disclosure had come about. Greer said that the alien technology “would empower a new human civilization without want, poverty or environmental damage.” He continued that “there is no limit to what humanity can achieve.” [13] Webre implied that disclosure would result in a fundamental transformation of human beings. He said, “We are a nucleus of politically sensitive terrestrials who are aware that the playing field is vast…. Fundamentally the transformation starts within all of us – for we are the transformation. We are the exo-government. We are the new Universal human.” [14] 

Research Study #8

In 2003, a new figure in exopolitics emerged. This was Dr. Michael E. Salla, a researcher in residence at American University’s Center for Global Peace. He was also the director of the Peace Ambassadors Program, which the university’s web site described as a “summer program that combines study, meditative practices, and prayer ceremonies at selected Washington, D.C. sites aimed at promoting individual self-empowerment and Divine Governance in Washington, D.C.” Salla received his PhD in Government from the University of Queensland, Australia, and an MA degree in Philosophy from the University of Melbourne, Australia. He had written extensively on conflict resolution, conducted fieldwork in East Timor, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Sri Lanka, and organized international workshops on these conflicts. [15]

Salla began writing a series of papers on exopolitics in January of 2003. These seem to have attracted little interest from either the American University staff or among UFO believers. This changed with Research Study #8, dated January 28, 2004. It was titled ‘Eisenhower’s 1954 Meeting With Extraterrestrials: The Fiftieth Anniversary of America’s First Treaty With Extraterrestrials?’


Cardinal James McIntyre would have been, accordong to Salla, "an important gauge for the possible reactions from religious leaders generally, and in particular from the most influential and powerful religious institution on the planet - the Roman Catholic Church."

The paper began with Eisenhower’s disappearance, and repeated the story of Gerald Light’s letter about his visit to Muroc with the group of distinguished public figures to see the saucers. Salla mentioned that Light was an ‘elderly mystic’, but stressed the physiological reactions described in Light’s letter. Salla further argued that Light, Nourse, Cardinal McIntyre and Allen “would certainly have been plausible choices for a community delegation…”

He noted that Dr. Edwin Nourse could “provide his expertise on the possible economic impact of First Contact with extraterrestrials.” Cardinal James McIntyre would have been, according to Salla, “an important gauge for the possible reaction from religious leaders generally, and in particular from the most influential and powerful religious institution on the planet – the Roman Catholic Church.” Franklin Allen, then an 80-year-old former reporter with the Hearst Newspaper Group, was described as “…a good choice for a member of the press who could maintain confidentiality.”

Salla wrote that, “The four represented senior leaders of the religious, spiritual, economic and newspaper communities and were well advanced in age and status.” Salla mentioned the possibility that Light may have used their names “in a fabricated account of an ‘out of body’ experience,” but continued that “…there is nothing in Light’s selection that eliminates the possibility that they were plausible members of such a delegation.” Salla concluded that this provided, “…circumstantial evidence that a meeting with extraterrestrials occurred and that Eisenhower was present.”

Salla then turned to ‘testimonials’ which supported the story of Eisenhower’s meeting with the aliens. Not surprisingly, Cooper had the central role, and Salla quoted extensively from his writings. Cooper was not the only person to claim to know about the incident, however, according to Salla. Another was Dr. Michael Wolf, who claimed to have been involved with several policy-making committees dealing with the alien presence over a period of twenty-five years. He stated that the Eisenhower administration had signed a treaty with an alien race, but that this treaty had not been submitted for congressional ratification, as required by the U.S. Constitution.

A third individual was Phil Schneider, described as “a former geological engineer that was employed by corporations contracted to build underground bases.” Salla stated that his knowledge about the treaty “would have come from his familiarity with a range of compartmentalized black projects and interaction with other personnel working with extraterrestrials.” Schneider wrote:

“Back in 1954, under the Eisenhower administration, the federal government decided to circumvent the Constitution of the United States and form a treaty with alien entities. It was called the 1954 Greada Treaty, which basically made the agreement that the aliens involved could take a few cows and test their implanting techniques on a few human beings, but that they had to give details about the people involved.”

Like Cooper, Schneider also claimed that the aliens had violated the treaty. This involved the number of humans being abducted. Schneider added that “…the aliens altered the bargain until they decided they wouldn’t abide by it at all.”

Col. Phillip Corso is also among the ‘whistleblowers.’ Corso also wrote in his memoirs that the Eisenhower administration signed a treaty with the aliens. He stated: “We had negotiated a kind of surrender with them as long as we couldn’t fight them. They dictated the terms because they knew what we feared most was disclosure.” [16]

The Whole Tooth

When an academic, holding a position at a major university, publicly claims that the President of the United States signed a secret treaty with extraterrestrials, he gets noticed. Peter Carlson, a staff writer with the Washington Post was among those who noticed Salla. His article, ‘Ike and the Alien Ambassadors The Whole Tooth About the President’s Extraterrestrial Encounter’, was published on February 19, 2004, in the ‘Style Section’ of the newspaper.

In his January 28, 2004 paper, Salla had recounted the various accounts of the Eisenhower meeting with the aliens at Edwards, without reaching a conclusion about the chain of events. In a meeting with Carlson, however, he did provide a specific account. Salla told the reporter that Eisenhower’s visit to Edwards had actually been to meet with two ‘Nordics’, rather than to sign a treaty. Salla described these aliens as looking like Scandinavian humans, with white hair, pale blue eyes, and colorless lips. The Nordics communicated with Eisenhower telepathically. Salla explained. “It’s as though you’re hearing a person but they’re not speaking.”

According to Salla, the two blue-eyed aliens offered to share their advanced technology and spiritual wisdom, but only if the U.S. gave up its nuclear weapons. Salla explained, “They were afraid that we might blow up some of our nuclear technology, and apparently that does something to time and space and it impacts on extraterrestrial races on other planets.”

Although several of the earlier accounts claimed the treaty was signed during Eisenhower’s Edwards trip, Salla told Carlson a different version. Eisenhower refused the aliens’ offer, as he did not want to give up nuclear weapons. According to Salla, sometime later in 1954, the U.S. government reached an agreement with the Grays. As with Cooper and the other whistleblower’s accounts, this was an agreement which allowed the Grays to abduct humans, providing they were safely returned. Salla said that since then, the Grays have kidnapped ‘millions’ of humans.

Salla also gave an insight as to how he became interested in exopolitics. Carlson wrote, “For much of the ‘90s, Salla studied conflict resolution and tried unsuccessfully to apply that knowledge to prevent war in East Timor and the Balkans, he says. Frustrated, he began looking for an extraterrestrial connection to human misery and, he says, he found evidence of ET visitations – including the Ike encounter – on the Internet. ‘There’s a lot of stuff on the Internet,’ he says, ‘and I just went and pieced it together.’”

Carlson looked into the claims made by Salla. The lack of any records of Eisenhower having dental work in February 1954 was offered as evidence of a cover story for the trip to Edwards. Carlson contacted the Eisenhower Library, and was referred to an article by James M. Mixson published in the November 1995 issue of The Bulletin of the History of Dentistry. Mixson, who was both a dental historian and a professor at the Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, drew on the U.S. surgeon general’s records of Eisenhower’s health which were opened in 1991.

The article, titled ‘A History of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Oral Health’, noted that the president had considerable trouble with the porcelain cap on his upper left center incisor. It was first installed in July 1952, during the presidential campaign, but was chipped and repaired in December 1952. The cap was again chipped by the chicken wing on February 20, 1954. Dr. Francis A. Purcell, a local dentist, did the repair work. Mixson noted in the article that “The lack of a dental record from Purcell’s office has helped fuel belief in this UFO encounter.” The cap was chipped yet again in July 1954, when it was finally replaced with a “thin cast gold/platinum thimble crown.”

Carlson also learned that his inquiry was not the first to the Eisenhower Library about the alleged incident. Jim Leyerzapf, an archivist at the library, told him “We’ve had so many requests on that subject that we have a person who specializes in this.” Herb Pankratz was the archivist given the assignment. Leyerzapf explained, “He specializes in transportation, and we decided to add UFOs to that. He does trains, planes, automobiles – and flying saucers.”

Pankratz told Carlson that the library had fielded dozens of inquiries about the Ike and the aliens story in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He also made a sage observation: “It’s interesting how these stories have changed. Initially, the accounts claimed the President made a secret trip to Edwards Air Force Base to view the remains of aliens who crashed at Roswell, N.M., in 1947. Later stories claimed he had actually visited with live aliens.” [17]


Salla wove the same theories as Bill Cooper into a Leftist theory of 'exopolitics', anti-war movement, environmentalism, opposition to ballistic missile defences, the widespread acceptance of conspiracy theories and the post-Cold War meeting of political extremes.

Salla has maintained his belief in the reality of the Ike and the aliens story, and has referred to the alleged meeting in several subsequent papers. In one such paper, he speculated that the addition of the words ‘under God’ in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance were a result of the Edwards meeting. Salla ‘hypothesized’ that President Eisenhower and his national security advisors were told “the truth of the human origins” at the meeting. He suggests that this:

“…so unnerved Eisenhower and his team, that they reacted in an entirely predicable way. They initiated a Congressional process to revise the Pledge of Allegiance to buttress their world view which was based in a traditional religious belief that humanity’s origins were clearly associated with the divine intervention of a ‘transcendental being’ or ‘God.’ Introducing the revision of ‘under God’ into the Pledge would be a way of maintaining a human perspective which had now become a matter of U.S. national security given the knowledge the extraterrestrials claimed to possess about humanity’s true origins. [18]

Exopolitics as a Medieval Belief System

The story of Ike and the aliens began with a minor misunderstanding that resulted in an erroneous press report that President Eisenhower was dead. Gerald Light’s letter then tied the incident into claims about a crashed saucer and a government cover up. This initial story was soon expanded. Desmond Leslie added an independent eyewitness report of the saucer being under guard at Edwards. The account written by Meade Layne provided a description of the saucer and its crew, as well as the back story of how the saucer came to Edwards. Wilbert B. Smith’s memo completed the process, by supplying official confirmation.

But the flaw in the tale of Ike and the aliens is that the story rests on the unsupported accounts of questionable individuals. Light and Layne were both occultists. Leslie was the co-author of ‘Professor’ George Adamski’s 1953 book, Flying Saucers Have Landed. Williamson was one of Adamski’s followers, a witness to his November 20, 1952 contact with a man from Venus, and a contactee himself. Smith was not only a supporter of contactees such as Adamski, but also claimed in the mid-1950s to be in psychic contact with several space brothers. [19]

This flaw also exists in the story’s revival as part of the exopolitics myth. Cooper, Wolf, Schneider, and Corso have all made claims about their backgrounds and experiences which are not supported by documentary evidence. Salla acknowledged this, but just as he rationalized Light being part of the group going to see the saucers, Salla also rationalized away the lack of evidence. He claimed that government policy dealing with the leaking information about UFOs “…is to intimidate, silence, eliminate or discredit these individuals.” One such technique, Salla claimed, is “…removing all public records of former service men or corporate employees….” [20]

In medieval Europe, hearsay, myths, folklore, and legends were considered legal evidence. In witch trials, for example, a suspected witch would be thrown in a pond. If they floated, this was sufficient proof for them to be convicted by the court and executed as a witch. Such admissibility of hearsay evidence was eventually undone by the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution.

The exopolitics myth represents a return to this medieval belief system. The story of Ike and the aliens is based on the hearsay of the whistleblowers, unsupported by any evidence. Instead, like hearsay evidence and folklore in medieval times, they are to be accepted as true without question, even in the face of obvious contradictions and flaws. Exopolitics lacks any standards of evidence to judge which claims are valid and which are not. No screening of the whistleblowers is done. Rather, exopolitics writers pick and choose which of their claims are used and which are not, without any apparent logic or reason.

Just as Cooper was a major source for Salla’s account of the Ike and the alien story, so too does he provide an example of this selectivity. There are no references to some of Cooper’s other remarkable claims. He stated, for example, that there are “areas on the Moon where plant life grows and even changes color with the seasons,” and that humans “can walk upon its surface without a space suit breathing from an oxygen bottle after undergoing decompression….” The most stunning of Cooper’s claims is that the Cold War was a hoax, and that the U.S. and USSR were actually “the closest allies.” [21]

Just as in medieval times flaws were dealt with by either saying they were deceptions by Satan or ignoring them, exopolitics writers deal with flaws in the whistleblowers’ accounts in the same ways. This is shown by the differing versions of the Ike and the aliens stories told by each of the whistleblowers, how details such as location and dates changed in their accounts over time, and how Salla dealt with these flaws.

One example of this is John Lear’s original version of the treaty story, as described in a December 29, 1987 paper. Lear said that the first contact came on April 30, 1964, when three saucers landed at Holloman AFB in New Mexico. A meeting was then held between the aliens and U.S. intelligence officers. Lear added that between 1969 and 1971, a treaty was reached between MJ-12 and the aliens. As in the other whistleblowers’ accounts, Lear claimed the treaty was later violated by the aliens. [22]

Lear then gave a completely different version of the treaty story during a November 2, 2003 appearance on the radio show, “Coast to Coast.” He now said that the meeting was in 1954 at “Muroc Test Center, which is now Edwards Airforce (sic) Base.” He said that the aliens had “suggested that they could help us get rid of the Grays but Eisenhower turned down their offer because they offered no technology.” Lear also said that the aliens had told Eisenhower that they had created humans. This caused the president to have the words “under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance. [23]

Cooper’s 1989 manifesto had claimed, “The aliens explained that they had created us through hybridization….” However, Cooper said this occurred after Eisenhower met with the aliens at Edwards and the treaty was signed. [24] Further complicating matters, Cooper had also subsequently changed his story of where the landing occurred, saying it was at Homestead AFB in Florida.

In his original January 28, 2004 paper on the Ike and the aliens story, Salla noted the differences between Cooper and Lear regarding when and where the meeting took place. Salla also claimed that Lear had worked as a CIA contract pilot, and had “a close relationship with CIA Director (DCI) William Colby…” Then Salla wrote:

“The question over which account is more reliable needs to focus on the possibility Lear had deliberately introduced some inaccuracies into his account. Lear’s CIA association suggests he could have been a means of simultaneously confirming Cooper’s information on the meetings while undermining Cooper’s credibility by throwing in minor inconsistencies.” [25]

During the time that Carlson was researching his story for the Washington Post, Salla was revising his paper; posting the new text a week before the Carlson article came out. In this new version of Research Study #8, Salla notes only that “There is some discrepancy in the testimonials as to which Air force base (sic) the spurned extraterrestrials met with President Eisenhower.” He deleted the text about Lear and the CIA using false information to both support and discredit Cooper’s accounts.

Salla added a new (second-hand) account of the Eisenhower meeting at Edwards to his paper. Charles L. Suggs, a retired Marine Sergeant, claimed that his late father, Navy Commander Charles L. Suggs, had accompanied President Eisenhower and others in his party to Edwards on February 20, 1954 to meet with two Nordic aliens. According to the younger Suggs, “The spokesman” stood a number of feet from Eisenhower and refused to let him come any closer. The second alien stood on the extended ramp of a “bi-convex saucer that stood on tripod landing gear.” The aliens said that they came from another solar system, and, according to the younger Suggs’ account, asked detailed questions regarding nuclear testing. Salla concluded that Lear’s 2003 story and Suggs’ account were more accurate versions. [26]

Exopolitics seems to be a new point of departure for the flying saucer myth. The original beliefs about UFOs developed at the beginning of the Cold War. Exopolitics, in contrast, is influenced by the much later anti-war movement, environmentalism, the anti-nuclear movement, opposition to ballistic missile defenses, the wide-spread acceptance of conspiracy theories, and the post-Cold War meeting of political extremes. Lear, Cooper, and Corso are Rightists, but their claims are incorporated into a Leftist political framework.

Another influence on exopolitics is that of post-modernism. Broadly speaking, this holds that every ‘narrative’ or ‘text’ is equally valid, and there is no one ‘real’ version of history. The concept rejects any appeal to ‘truth’ or ‘reality’. An attempt to provide a complete account of events is considered ‘oppressive’. All ideas are equally valid, and all accounts are equally true. This reflects the lack of any attempt to determine which of the different versions of the Ike and the aliens story is ‘real’. The same also applies to post modernism itself, as despite being widely accepted, there is no specific meaning of the concept. This alone says much about post modernism.

A case can also be made that exopolitics is the inheritor of the contactee/occult tradition. Salla included Eduard ‘Billy’ Meier and other contactees among the sources used in a long paper titled, ‘A Report on the Motivations and Activities of Extraterrestrial Races – A Typology of the Most Significant Extraterrestrial Races Interacting with Humanity’. [27] Alfred Webre also makes references to claims by Billy Meier, specifically his ‘Talmud of Jmmanuel’ and the ‘Henoch Prophecies.’ [28]

Use of occult methods is openly accepted in exopolitics. Salla considered remote viewing to be a moderate evidentiary support for exopolitical research. Alfred Webre was more explicit, stating that “Remote Viewing IS the scientific breakthrough that has made replicable Exopolitical research into the Universe possible.” [29] Steven Greer said about remote viewing: “It’s not a belief system. It is science; it is physics, pure and simple. Humans have abilities to access levels of consciousness generally only spoken about by mystics and shamans.” [30]

What is as yet unknown is the influence that exopolitics will ultimately have on the flying saucer myth. Exopolitics may come to dominate UFO beliefs and shape the conspiratorial political ideas in the larger society. Alternately, exopolitics may prove to be nothing more than a short-lived fad. An earlier example was the idea that flying saucers were “psychic projections,” rather than alien spaceships. This concept was popular in the 1970s, but vanished with the return of the crashed saucer stories and emergence of the Darkside. What does seem likely is that believers and skeptics alike have not yet heard the last of the Ike and the aliens story.



  1. Peter Carlson, “Ike and the Alien Ambassadors The Whole Tooth About the President’s Extraterrestrial Encounter” The Washington Post (February 19, 2004), p. C1.
  2. Charles Berlitz, William L. Moore, The Roswell Incident (New York: Berkley Books, 1988), p. 131-133. James McIntyre was a Roman Catholic Cardinal in 1954.
  3. ibid, p. 135, 136. Hangars at Edwards AFB have either a three digit or a four digit designation. There was never a “Hangar 27” at the base, at any time. There was a “Building 27” at Edwards, but it was the old mess hall. All that remains of it today is the concrete slab.
  4. ibid, p. 69-75.
  5. ibid, p. 59-68, 100, 101, 103, 104, 120, 127, 128. Although Meade Layne’s account was described in The Roswell Incident as “probably” written in 1949, several of its story elements were similar to those in Frank Scully’s Behind the Flying Saucers, published in late 1950. These include the involvement of a business man, the alien bodies being burned, strange writing, and a broken porthole. This suggests a possibility that Layne’s account was derived directly or indirectly from Scully. Additionally, Muroc AFB was renamed Edwards AFB on January 5, 1950.
  6. ibid, p. 125, 126, 135.
  7. Paul Devereux, Peter Brooksmith, UFOs and Ufology; The First 50 Years (London: Blandford Books, 1997), p. 110, 111, and “MJ12: Myth Or Reality?” Just Cause (December 1985), p. 1-3.
  8. Milton William Cooper, “The Secret Government: The Origin, Identity, and Purpose of MJ-12,” dated May 23, 1989.
  9. Don Ecker, “Cooper Meets Violent End,” UFO Magazine (February/March 2002, p. 69.
  10. Dr. Michael E. Salla, “The History of Exopolitics: Evolving Political Approaches to UFOs & the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis,” Exopolitics Journal 1:1 (October 2005), p. 2.
  11. Dr. Steven Greer, “UFOs: What the Government Really Knows,” The Disclosure Project web site, This is the text of an interview of Greer in Hustler magazine’s November 2005 issue.
  12. Greer, “When Disclosure Serves Secrecy,” disclosureserves.htm, 1999.
  13. Greer, “Implications for the Environment, World Peace, World Poverty, and the Human Future,”, March 2001.
  14. Alfred Webre, “The end of terrestrial politics?” November 1, 2000,
  15. Carlson, “Ike and the Alien Ambassadors,” p. C1.
  16. Salla, ““Eisenhower’s 1954 Meeting With Extraterrestrials: The Fiftieth Anniversary of America’s First Treaty With Extraterrestrials?” January 28, 2004. The author’s copy of this paper was printed out on February 8, 2004 at 4:01 p.m. Salla revised this paper and posted a new version, dated ‘Febuary (sic) 12, 2004,’ on his web site. Unless otherwise specified, the original January version is used.
  17. Carlson, “Ike and the Alien Ambassadors,” p. C1.
  18. Salla, “What Did President Eisenhower Secretly Know that led to him supporting a Revision of the Pledge of Allegiance,”, June 15, 2004.
  19. Paul Kimball, “Canada and Flying Saucers, Vol. VI [Wilbert Smith - Competent? Credible? - Part 2]” html.
  20. Salla, ““Eisenhower’s 1954 Meeting With Extraterrestrials.”
  21. Cooper, “The Secret Government: The Origin, Identity, and Purpose of MJ-12.”
  22. John Lear, “Statement Released By: John Lear, December 29, 1987,” p. 2, 3.
  23. “John Lear Disclosure Briefing,” Coast to Cost Radio (November 2003) www.coast to Salla was apparently not aware of Lear’s 1987 claims regarding a 1964 meeting at Holloman AFB, or that Cooper had written in 1989 that the meeting was at Edwards.
  24. Cooper, “The Secret Government: The Origin, Identity, and Purpose of MJ-12.”
  25. Salla, ““Eisenhower’s 1954 Meeting With Extraterrestrials.”
  26. Salla, ““Eisenhower’s 1954 Meeting With Extraterrestrials.” February 12, 2004 version, Study-Paper-8-PF.htm. Lear’s 2003 account was apparently also the source for Salla’s later paper which claimed that “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance as a result of the meeting. The younger Suggs’ description of the white-haired, blue eyed aliens with colorless lips was used by Salla in his conversation with Carlson.
  27. Salla, “A Report on the Motivations and Activities of Extraterrestrial Races – A Typology of the Most Significant Extraterrestrial Races Interacting with Humanity,”, January 1, 2005.
  28. Weber, “The Talmud of Jmmanuel and Jesus Christ as Possible UFO Contactee,”, and “Socio-political implications of the Talmud of Jmmanuel and the Henoch Prophecies, in the context of the life work of ‘Billy’ Eduard Albert Meier,” http://exopolitics.blogs. com/exopolitics/2005/11/sociopolitical_.html.
  29. Webre, “A Vital Debate: ‘Remote Viewing as a research tool in Exopolitics,’” (Capitalizations in original text.)
  30. Harold E. Burt, “UFO Hopefuls Get CSETI’s Spin on Remote Viewing,” UFO Magazine (December 1998), p. 7.

Indexing the Machine Elves. David Sivier

From Magonia 90, November 2005

Fairy Tale Motifs in UFO Narratives

One of the most fascinating developments in folklore has been its extension to include UFOs and abduction accounts. Since the rise of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH) much of the argument surrounding them has occurred within the domain of the physical and psychological sciences, examining the question of whether or not they can be considered as visiting alien craft, or, as C.G. Jung posited instead, they are “a modern myth of things seen in the sky”. [1] It is a debate whose basis in the hard sciences is epitomised in the title of Carl Sagan’s and Thornton Page’s book, UFOs – A Scientific Debate. [2] However, scholars from the soft sciences – anthropology and sociology – and humanities, like history, have also been involved, stressing the need for the social and psychological phenomena subsumed under the UFO rubric to be investigated in their proper cultural, political-economic and historical contexts, something not always done or possible in the hard scientific discussions of UFOs. [3]

Since the 1970s however, folklorists have also been involved in the debate, treating the memorates and narratives of UFOs and alien encounters as a variety of modern folklore. Foremost amongst these researchers have been Linda Degh, whose 1977 paper, ‘UFOs and how folklorists should study them’,[4] an attempt to formulate a folkloristic approach to UFOs, and Thomas Eddie Bullard, and Peter Rojcewicz, who have been studying the phenomenon as folklore since writing their Ph.D dissertations, ‘Mysteries in the Eye of the Beholder: UFOs and their Correlates as a Folkloric Theme Past and Present’, and ‘The Boundaries of Orthodoxy: A Folkloric Look at the UFO Phenomenon’. [5]

Although this folkloric approach to UFOs appeared as early as 1950, with the publication of Howard Peckham’s paper, ‘Flying Saucers as Folklore’, the real inspiration behind this were two Fortean authors, John Keel and Jacques Vallee, and their books UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse and Passport to Magonia. [6] Central to their approach was the view that “the modem, global belief in flying saucers and their occupants is identical to an earlier belief in the fairy-faith. The entities described as the pilots of the craft are indistinguishable from the elves, sylphs, and loons of the Middle Ages.” [7] Although writing from the point of view of a believer in the objective reality of the UFO phenomenon, though not that of the ETH, Vallee made his basis in folklore clear in his book’s very subtitle: From Folklore to Flying Saucers. [8]

To demonstrate the similarities between the diminutive fairies of tradition, and the equally diminutive others of the UFO myth, Vallee cites Evans Wentz’s collection of stories of encounters with fairies from the Aran Islands. [9] The parallels and choice of source are not accidental, for one of Evans Wentz’s informants, when asked where he thought the fairies came from, replied, “they are a big race who come from the planets”. [10] The informant here, however, came not from Aran but County Sligo, and added that this was merely his own opinion. As a result of this interest in UFO encounters by academic folklorists, examination of the UFO myth has become a respectable part of academic teaching on folklore courses at a number of institutions around the world, such as at the University of Washington. A talk on UFO abduction reports was included in the module, ‘Continuity in Tradition’, during the autumn 2004 term, for example. [11]

Beyond structuralist attempts to map out the central motifs and sequence of UFO encounters, such as Eddie Bullard’s dissection of the Abduction experience and John Harney’s analysis of the motifs informing the Crash Retrieval myth , [12] is the deeper problem of whether, if UFO encounters really are fairy narratives in a postmodern, technological guise, they can be related to the classic motifs of traditional fairy narratives in Stith Thompson’s Motif-Index of Folk Literature, or E. Baughman’s similar index for British and American folklore, the Type and Motif Index of the Folktales of England and North America.

Although the relationship between fairy lore and UFO narratives is so well established among folklorists and psycho-social ufologists investigating the psychological and sociological background and possible causes of the phenomenon as to be something of a truism, comparison of such UFO narrative motifs with the indexed entries for traditional fairy lore may put such relationships into stark, unambiguous relief, and stimulate further debate into the causes of the occurrence, or transference of such traditional motifs into the new folkloric domain of UFOs. Certainly, very many of the motifs from traditional lore are present. For example, the common, CE1 sighting of a UFO as a travelling light is clearly related, if not identical to E 530.1 – Ghostlike lights. [13]

Nevertheless, there is a problem in using the Stith Thompson and E. Baughman indexes because of the changing character of the societies from which the legends were collected and their motifs catalogued. Although French scholars such as Gabriel Vicaire were exploring the notion of urban folklore as early as 1886 and a decade earlier, in practice folklore was largely collected from lower-class and relatively uneducated rural communities, considered to be static, untainted by urban sophistication, and thus likely to preserve archaic remnants of ancient lore. [14] In contrast, the new folklore of flying saucers emerged in self-consciously modern, urban, technological cultures, whose imagery of machines and high technology defined the phenomenon.

The dichotomy between the two cultures is not absolute, however. Despite the rapid expansion of towns and industry during the 19th century, parts of the United Kingdom remained largely rural into the early 20th century, and folklorists were collecting traditional material from these agricultural areas up to the 1960s, though some of the material cited in their works may date from much earlier. The same is true of the United States, of course, and the Appalachians in particular have attracted interest since the days of Child as the repository of British folk traditions in an isolated, rural American society. It should come as no surprise then, that amongst the space-suited humanoids reported in these encounters are more traditionally folkloric types, such as the ‘goblins’ that assaulted the Sutton family in Kelly-Hopkinsville, Kentucky. [15] To explore the relationship between the rural folktale types recorded in the Stith Thompson and E. Baughman indexes and their translation into the technological folktale of the UFO, a sample of the fairy and supernatural motifs recorded in the folktales of two British rural areas, Somerset and Orkney and Shetland have been selected, as roughly representative of the type of rural, British society whose legendary lore was also transplanted into the New World by the early British settlers in the 17th century.

It is possible to criticise this selection on a number of criteria. For example, it is possible that the UFO encounter narrative contains folkloric elements derived from the traditions of other areas in the United Kingdom which are strictly confined to these regions, and do not appear in those of the above samples. Furthermore, although the United States is an Anglophone country, its ethnic constitution has always been very diverse, including members of African and Asian nations, as well as other European peoples such as French, Germans, Swedes, Dutch and Spanish, as well as the indigenous First Nations. As a result, American folklore contains a diverse and culturally mixed range of motifs and imagery, complicated further by the fact that many of the early Contactees such as George King, the founder of the Aetherius Society, and George Adamski, were interested in oriental mysticism. As a result, there may be a marked oriental influence and parallels in UFO folklore, particularly the abduction experience. [16]


This painting, ‘Troll Hill’ by the 19th century Danish painter J. T. Lundby, presents an image which to the modern eye seems to combine traditional fairylore with elements from contemporary UFO accounts

In fact, it is possible to list a number of the attributes of UFOs and their occupants and the corresponding motif in traditional fairy lore. These include:

Fairies, and many UFO aliens, including the classic `Greys’, are smaller than adult men. A good example of the fairy features of some UFO entities are those reported from the Imjarvi Encounter in Finland, which were 90 cm (35″) tall and with conical, though metallic helmets: Motif F 239.4.2. [17]

The grey skin colour of the now stereotypical alien abductors is mirrored in E 422.2.3, grey as the colour of returning dead. [18] This, however, is just one example of the way traditional motifs associated with the dead have also been assimilated into modern UFO lore, and some UFO encounters are far more like traditional hauntings than encounters with flesh and blood extraterrestrial entities. A particularly good example of this is the ‘ghost that wore a spacesuit’, whose disembodied head and shoulders appeared before a British NCO at Dalakia barracks in 1968. [19] This points to another, common motif in fairylore, that amongst the fairies are human dead. [20]

Other, less common forms of the aliens also have their counterparts in traditional lore. The birdlike alien encountered by Betty Andreasson during her encounter is strikingly reminiscent of E 211.3: speaking bird. [21]

Alien behaviour too shows a marked continuity with fairy traditions. Motif F 261 – dancing fairies, can be seen in the report of two silver-suited entities dancing in the middle of the road reported by Mr. and Mrs Donathan in 1973. [22]

Related to the dancing motif are fairy rings on the grass, F 261, traditionally produced by the fairies during their revels, and to which Crop circles or `UFO nests’ can be assimilated. [23]

The courtship and marriage of particular, favoured humans by extraterrestrials, such as that of Elizabeth Klarer are similar to F 300: marriage with fairy. [24]

The secret underground bases occupied by Greys and their collaborators in government, the military and industry have their prototypes in the traditional motifs F 721.1: underground passages; and is of the same type as F 211: Fairies live in hollow knolls. [25] The location of the underground alien bases as the source of valuable secret technology can be seen as being related to N 511: treasure in ground, particularly N 512 – treasure in underground chamber; F342: Fairies give people money; and F 244: fairy treasure. [26]

This may also be assimilated to the supposed biotechnological and genetic secrets held and revealed by the Greys with the rise of the information economy and genetic prospecting in the late 20th century. The strange, animal-human hybrids, products of the aliens’ genetic engineering campaigns that populated these underground bases can be assimilated to E 423 – revenants in the form of animals, and E 291.2.1: ghost guards treasure. [27] The government’s permission of the aliens to abduct and experiment on humans in return for technological favours is of a type as B 11.10 – human beings sacrificed to dragon, particularly as the aliens receiving these victims are frequently described as reptoids. [28] The association of such artificial hybrids with the aliens recalls motifs G 225 – animals as servants of witches, and G 265.7 – witch controls actions of animals. [29]

The abduction of humans by the UFOnauts can be compared with F 322: fairies steal man’s wife; and the substitution of an android or simulacrum for the woman during her sojourn aboard the spacecraft a form of F 322.1(a) stick left as substitute for stolen woman. [30]

The hybrid children resulting from human-alien crossbreeding are a version of F 305: offspring of mortal and fairy. [31]

Episodes of missing time, or the experiences of Contactees such as Mario Restier, who was taken by people from Orion to their home world, a sojourn which lasted four months, but to him only seemed like three days, are related to F 377: Supernatural lapse of time in fairyland. [32]

Away from the benefits of alien treasure and technology given to the military and industrial complex, individual humans have also received presents of pancakes, such as those given to Joe Simonton by the 3.65m (5ft) tall occupants of the UFO he encountered at Eagle River in Wisconsin in 1961; and odd stones, like the ‘moon potatoes’ produced by Howard Menger, and to the TV presenter Clive Anderson by two Ufologists on British television. [33] These are modem counterparts of F 340: Gifts from fairies, and has obvious, though possibly superficial links with F 809 – fabulous or miraculous rocks and stones, particularly D 931: magic stone. [34]

Less benignly, the cattle mutilation phenomenon ascribed to cruel experiments by the alien visitors are clearly a version of F 366 – fairies harm cattle, though the repeated abduction of the human parents of hybrid children to hold and nurse their offspring aboard the alien can be seen as versions of type F372: Fairies take human nurse. [35]

Researchers have also explored the complex relationship and the apparent similarity between the alien abduction phenomenon and the Near Death Experience, which also raises the possibility that those alien abductions in which the abductee returns bearing a spiritual message for humanity, such as that of Kathryn Howard, are a variety of E 377: return from the dead to teach the living. [36]

Despite these similarities and continuity however, there are also profound differences, which reflect the shift from traditional, paternalistic agricultural society to the mass, industrial society of mid- and late 20” century capitalism, and changing gender roles and expectations. For example, the abducted spouse used for breeding purposes may be a husband as well as a wife, as in the notorious Villas-Boas case of 1957, while the abduction of the adult parents of both sexes to hold and nurse their alien babies reflects the disappearance of the children’s nurse as a common fixture of the middle class family in the mid-20th century. [37]

The identification of the government and big business as the beneficiary of the various Faustian pacts made with malign and predatory alien civilisations like the Greys, rather than individual people, reflects the tensions engendered in the mass society of the 20th century. Governments are seen not only as actively working against the best interests of their citizens, but also as keeping the benefits of alien contact to themselves, so that the abduction mythology in this respect almost acts as a lurid symbolic form of the Marxist theory of surplus labour, where industry and the government expropriate the fruits of working class labour for themselves.

Regarding the mechanism by which such traditional, rural lore became transferred and embodied in the imagery of the new, technological society, there are a number of conduits that may be identified as such. For example, the traditional and literary fairy story gained renewed vigour during and after the industrial revolution as a reaction to the mechanistic values of technological society, in a manner which prefigured John Rimmer’s later identification of the use of the UFO as an antitechnological symbol in the 20th century. [38]

Moreover, in popular literature and entertainment of the day, science-fictional themes could rub shoulders with ghosts and other exotic or supernatural beings in literature and on the stage. Thus, Frank L. Baum could include a Demon of Electricity amongst the fantastic characters in his novel, The Master Key, and the Edwardian stage magician, John Nevil Maskelyne, as well as the matinee demonstrations of stage magic, also staged a full-length play based on Edward Bulwer Lytton’s proto-SF novel, The Coming Race. [39] Scholars examining the appearance of the fictional aliens that populate much modern SF have pointed to the strong influence of the culturally iconic figures of traditional nursery lore about animals in defining these aliens’ characteristics, and suggested that the UFO aliens now encounters by modem Experiencers are comparative to the supernatural creatures of incubi, succubi, witches and ghouls that haunted the imagination of previous ages. [40] This is very much to be expected, as it has long been recognised by neurologists that the content of the hallucinations suffered by severe epileptics and schizophrenics are influence by the cultural and personal background of the sufferer, including traditional myths and folklore, and also literature, thus supporting the contention of researchers such as Bertrand Meheust that literary SF also plays a powerful role in the construction of UFO aliens. [41]

At the level of esoteric religion, during the 19th and early 20t’h century too an increasing number of Spiritualist, Theosophical and Masonic intellectuals and mystics began turning to outer space as the source of their mystical communications. For example, Charles Stansfield Jones, one of the most important disciples of the British occultist and self-appointed `Great Beast’, Alistair Crowley, considered that Aiwass, the entity, which communicated the Book of the Law to his mentor, was an extraterrestrial, rather than merely discarnate entity. [42] For the Theosophical writer Alice A. Bailey, writing in 1922, human evolution was directed by `intelligent forces of nature’ on the `inner planes of the Solar System’, with the `influences which produce self-consciousness in men’ relayed to Earth via Saturn from a Masonic lodge on Sirius, which focussed `the energy of thought’ from a distant cosmic centre. [43]

In the 18th century the Swedish mystic August Swedenborg visited inhabited alien worlds during his astral voyages, Allan Kardec during the compilation of his Spirits’ Book received messages from the spirit world informing him that other planets than ours were inhabited, while Sherman Denton and ‘Helene Smith’ (Catherine Elise Muller) both recounted their memories of astral journey to Mars. In 1926 the veteran psychic investigator Harry Price, sat with a medium, Mrs. St John James, who channelled messages from a Martian civilisation. [44] Thus, at a popular and elite level the extraterrestrials were linked and imagined as mystical entities, an view which may well have trickled down to influence Evans Wentz’s informant from County Sligo.

Additionally, rural tradition itself remained far more vigorous than has previously been considered. Far from being a static, timeless environment, everything changed for the rural villager during the 19th century. The railways brought greater communications, agricultural insurance meant that disease and crop or cattle failure no longer meant instant famine, while greater mechanisation and the centralisation of milk, butter and cheese production in commercial dairies rather than cottage butteries, and the replacement of a barter economy by a general store, meant that the face to face society which generated much of the tensions resulting in accusations of witchcraft simply ceased to exist. Owen Davies’ study of the persistence of the belief in witchcraft after the Witchcraft Act in 1736 has demonstrated that belief in witchcraft remained strong amongst rural Britons into the early 20th century, long after the upper and middle classes had rejected such superstition. In his analysis, the belief in witchcraft declined because there was no longer a compelling economic and social need to identify witches as the causes of misfortune. [45] Indeed, for Davies the persistence of astrology, UFO abductions and belief in psychic powers in the late 20th century forces scholars to re-evaluate the image of the past as a unique locus of irrationality and superstition.

Rather than British society moving from a state of supernatural credulity to scientific rationality, irrational beliefs have merely been translated into different forms, as many people now feel bounded by the universe, rather than the limits of the immediate parish. [46] It is a conclusion which comparison of the common motifs in traditional ghost and fairy lore, and that of the UFO myth, bears out, and is very much line with the introduction of industrial and mechanical imagery in other traditional tales during the course of the 19th century.

For example, The Steam-Loom Weaver, a comic ballad of the 1830s recounting the romance between an engine driver and a female steam loom weaver, was based on an earlier balled of 1804, when cotton weaving was a domestic industry. In this version, the heroine works in her own home, and the lusty hero is an itinerant worker who visits her in order to repair it. The mechanisation of the lovers’ respective occupations reflects the industrial society that had developed in the 30 years or so since its first publication. [47] It thus appears that fairy beliefs acted very similarly, persisting despite the lack of a compelling social need for them into the 20th century, until that need emerged in the late 1940s with the reaction against the technological horror of mechanised warfare, and for a plausible explanation, or framework for experiencing the new, enigmatic objects seen in the sky, whence they were translated into the new, legendary forms of alien contact and abduction.


  1. 1. C.G. Jung, UFOs – A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky, (Princeton, Bollingen 1991).
  2.  S. Sagan, and T. Page, eds., UFOs – A Scientific Debate, (Ithaca, Cornell University Press 1972).
  3. R. Cook, `Anthropology and UFOs: An Introduction’, Centre for Anthroufology,
  4. L. Degh, `UFOs and How to Study Them’, Fabula 18, (1977), pp. 242-8.
  5. T.E. Bullard, ‘Mysteries in the Eye of the Beholder: UFOs and their Correlates as a Folkloric theme Past and Present’, Ph. D dissertation, (Indiana, Indiana University 1982); P. Rojcewicz, The Boundaries of Orthodoxy: A Folkloric Look at the UFO Phenomenon, Ph. D. dissertation, (Indiana, University of Indiana 1984).
  6. H. Peckham, `Flying Saucers as Folklore’, Hoosier Folklore 9, (1950), pp. 103-7; J. Keel, UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse, (London, Abacus 1973); J. Vallee, Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers, (Chicago, Henry Refinery Company 1969).
  7. J. Vallee, cited in P. Cousineau, UFOs: A Manual for the Millennium, (New York, HarperCollins 1995), p. 151.
  8. Vallee, Magonia.
  9. P. Cousinea, UFOs, p. 152.
  10. E. Wentz, The Fairy Faith in the Celtic Countries, (Oxford, OUP 1911), p. 53; cited in K. Briggs, The Fairies in Tradition and Literature, (London, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1967), p. 172.
  11. Scandinavian/Comparative Lit 331: Folk Narratives at University of Washington, at http://courses.Washington.ed/folklore/Scand331.
  12. J. Harney, `UFO Crash Retrievals – A Developing Myth’, in Magonia 58, (1997), pp. 6-9.
  13. K. Palmer, The Folklore of Somerset, (London, Batsford 1976), p. 176.
  14. J.-B. Renard, ‘Old Contemporary Legends: 19th-Century French Folklore Studies Revisited’, Foaftale News 32, (1994), p. 1; ‘Folklore (the Word), in J.Simpson, and S. Roud, eds., Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore, (Oxford, OUP 2000), p. 130.
  15. ‘Kelly-Hopkinsville’ in J. Spencer, UFOs – The Definitive Casebook. Sightings, Abductions and Close Encounters, (London, Hamlyn 1991), p38; `Bulletproof Goblins’ in A. Baker, True Life Encounters: Alien Sightings, (London, Millennium 1997), pp.88-91.
  16. D. Sivier, `Paradise of the Grey Peri: A Literary Speculation on Some Oriental Elements in the Abduction Experience’, in Magonia 69, (1999), pp. 8-12.
  17. ‘Imjarvi Encounter’, in Spencer, Casebook, p. 98; E.W. Marwick, The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland, (London, B.T. Batsford 1975), p. 210.
  18. Palmer, Somerset, p. 175.
  19. ‘The Ghost that Wore a Spacesuit’, Baker, Sightings, pp. 94-5.
  20. Briggs, Fairies, pp. 58-65.
  21. Betty Andreasson’, Spencer, Casebook, p. 51; Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 209.
  22. ‘Flatter/Danathan’, Spencer, Casebook, p. 61; Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 210.
  23. Palmer, Somerset, p. 176.
  24. ‘Elizabeth Klarer’, Spencer, Casebook, pp. 146-7; J. and A. Spencer, True Life Encounters: Alien Contact, (London, Millennium 1998), pp. 93-4; Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 210.
  25. Baker, Sightings, pp. 204-19; Palmer, Somerset, p. 176; Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p.
  26. 26. Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 212; Palmer, Somerset, p. 178; Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 210; Palmer, Somerset, p. 176; Palmer, Somerset, p. 176.
  27. Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 210, Palmer, Somerset, p. 175.
  28. Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 209.
  29. Palmer, Somerset, p. 177.
  30. Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 210.
  31. Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 210.
  32. J. and C. Bord, Life Beyond Planet Earth? Man’s Contacts with Space People, (London, Grafton 1992), p. 93; Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 211.
  33. ‘Joe Simonton’s Pancakes’, Baker, Sightings, pp. 73-6, ‘Joe Simonton’ in Spencer, Casebook, p. 42; J. Keel, The Mothman Prophecies, (Lilburne, IIlumiNet Press 1991), p. 158
  34. Palmer, Somerset, p. 176; Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 209.
  35. Baker, Sightings, pp. 66-71; Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 211; J. and A. Spencer, Fifty Years of UFOs: From Distant Sightings to Close Encounters, (London, Boxtree 1997), pp. 141-2; Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 211.
  36. Baker, Sightings, pp. 268-72; Cousineau, Manual, pp. 137-9; `Kathryn Howard’, Spencer, Casebook, pp. 94-5; J. Spencer, Perspectives: A Radical Examination of the Alien Abduction Phenomenon, (London, Futura 1989), pp. 130-144; Marwick, Orkney and Shetland, p. 210.
  37. Spencer, Casebook, pp. 181-4.
  38. J. Rimmer, ‘The UFO as an Anti-Scientific Symbol’, Merseyside UFO Bulletin 2, (1969), p. 4. (Repr. Magonia 99, 2009)
  39. F.L. Baum, ‘The Master Key’, in C. Wilkins, The Mammoth Book of Classic Fantasy, (London, Robinson 1981), pp. 345-434; J. Steinmeyer, Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible, (London, William Heineman 2004), pp. 181, 184 & 185.
  40. J. Cohen, and I. Stewart, Evolving the Alien: The Science of Extraterrestrial Life – What Does an Alien Look Like, (London, Ebury Press 2002), pp. 170-186.
  41. W. G. Walter, The Neurophysiological Aspects of Hallucinations and Illusory Experience, (London, Society for Psychical Research 1960), p. 6; B. Meheust, Science Fiction et Soucoupes Volants, (Paris, Mercure de France 1978).
  42. L. Picknett, and C. Prince, The Stargate Conspiracy: Revealing the Truth behind Extraterrestrial Contact, Military Intelligence and the Mysteries of Ancient Egypt, (London, Little, Brown and Company 1999), p. 272.
  43. Picknett and Prince, Stargate, p. 280, 283.
  44. Bord, Planet Earth, pp. 179-184.
  45. Davies, O., Witchcraft, Magic and Culture 1736-1951, (Manchester, Manchester University Press 1999), p. 294.
  46. Davies, Witchcraft, p. 295.
  47. J.M. Golby, and A.W. Purdue, The Civilisation of the Crowd: Popular Culture in England 1750-1900, (Stroud, Alan Sutton Publishing 1999), p. 128.


Strange Awakenings. Keith Basterfield

MUFOB, new series 13, Winter 1978/9


Several years ago I was involved in the investigation of a close encounter which had all the ingredients of a really good case. The details were duly obtained and the reports and investigation notes were published (1), although my notes ended as follows:

Taking all available details into consideration, and given that at the moment we are unable to interview the driver, we consider that there are reasons to query this observation as a part of the phenomenon we are studying. However the details are related and documented for future reference.

This doubt in my mind was brought about by several features of the report, which to me suggested either a misinterpretation of a conventional stimulus (I suggested an old, oval-shaped caravan or dream. Firstly, let us take a look at the report to see what was described. I will italicise the points I wish to draw to your attention.

At about 3am on a day believed to be the 6th September 1973, a Miss R. had been asleep for about an hour in the passenger side of the cabin of a semi-trailer, which was travelling between Adelaide and Perth.

She relates hearing a voice telling her to wake up and look out of the window. She looked out and saw an object off to the left hand side of the road, stationary. As
the truck continued on at about 70-80 k/h she studied closely what she states was clearly visible as an egg-shaped object on the ground, illuminating the surroundings. A figure was noted walking towards an opening in the ‘egg’, with another figure to be seen inside the object. Then the glow which had been surrounding the egg died, leaving only one small white light still shining. The whole event seemed only to last for seconds, then the witness asked the driver to stop. By the time he did so, and they looked hack, the white light was the only thing visible. As the semi-trailer travelled along the road the object was on the left hand side at an estimated distance of 15 meters.

As Miss R. watched she had an end view, then a front view, and finally a view of the other end. It was on the ground, with the bottom portion hidden by scrub. Appearing oval In shape, it had openings which Miss R. said looked just like a door and window. The overall size was estimated as about 3m high by 5-6m long. The entire object was alight with a glow which seemed to come from all over and within it. This glow illuminated the ground and air, gradually fading off as distance increased from the source. She is uncertain, but feels the oval may have been semi-transparent as she thinks she followed the movement of one figure moving around inside other than by seeing through the door and window.

As soon as she noticed the object, she also became aware of the two figures. One was visible through the window from the shoulder up, and the other was walking into the object’s illumination. The latter appeared to be looking at something in its hand. It walked to the door and stepped inside, moved to the left, and appeared to talk to the figure sitting down, then reached up one hand to the back wall, and then the glow surrounding the egg died down.

This dimming of the glow was described by the witness as unlike anything she had ever seen before. The glow seemed to shrink in size until just surrounding the egg, then dimmed to nothing.

The illumination was good, something that Miss R. emphasis remained vividly in her memory between the time of the event, and her relating it to us twelve months later. She was at a loss to compare the colour and glow to anything she knew. Although her viewing time was short, she was able to notice a good deal of detail about the scene, including the two figures. They were of human height, about 190cm tall, of average build, with a neck, two arms and body like ours. There were in fact no differences with seeing a human being at that distance.

The figure which walked into the glow was wearing a one-piece, loose fitting white or silver coloured outfit which seemed to be gathered at the wrists and ankles. As far as could be seen the figure sitting down was dressed the same way.

At about 2 to 2.15 am Miss R. had felt tired and had curled up on the seat, intending to sleep for some hours. At about 5.00 am she was asleep when she ‘heard’ a male voice ‘warmly’ and softly telling her to look out of the window. In reaction to this she woke up feeling fresh, and immediately looked out of the left hand window to see the object and figures. At no stage apparently was this visible to the driver. She is adamant that it was not the driver who woke her up, as he had asked her what she was doing when she moved to look at the object. The driver did not mention seeing anything as the truck approached the spot where presumably the object should have been when Miss R. awoke. She waited for several seconds taking in all the details, and then when the glow had gone out asked the driver to stop. Her recollection as to whether they got out of the truck or not is vague. However she does recall that the driver was not particularly interested in the white glow that was visible behind them, so they drove on.

Miss R, was English and 32 years old, originally coming from East Anglia in about 1971. Since then she had spent her time travelling about Australia., just seeing the country and working in different places. At the time of the interview she was working in a town store. She said that she had read stories of UFO abductions, and that she had been determined not to stop the truck until the light went out.

This case continued to puzzle me as I researched other close encounters. Eventually I took a look at these events and made aa broad and arbitrary division between two categories – ‘accidental’ and ‘deliberate’. I made this division as I was interested in cases where the phenomenon was encountered and it broke off the event (accidentally discovered), and cases where the phenomenon seemed to instigate the event (deliberate). The deliberate cases I broke into two subcategories – (a) those where the reporter was awake at the time, and (b) those where the reporters say they were awoken to see the events. Sub-category (a) cases were found to occur at any time of the day or night, whereas (b) events tended to cluster between 0130 and 0430 hrs. Of course one would expect cases where the reported was asleep to occur between say 11 pm and 6 am, however the cases fell in a shorter time span of three hours instead of the possible seven. This I found of particular interest – why in the small hours of the morning?

In an article in MUFON Journal in December 1976, I speculated along lines similar to the above, and included the suggestion that the reporters be regressed under hypnosis and asked to relate their experience as it happened, while their brain-wave patterns were monitored. I put forward the idea, that if the brain-waves showed a predominance of Theta waves, medically associated with imagery, then the event might have been all in the mind, ie. self-generated (2).

This article was followed by another in the Bulletin of the Australian Coordinating Section of the Center for UFO Studies (3) in which David Seargent and myself pointed out that, there was a peak of certain close encounters between 1.30 and 4.30 am, and that there were six Australian cases where people had woken up and reported seeing either an object or an entity. At least two of these, Ivy Tanks (the case outlined above) and Gum Creek, both personally investigated, were puzzling because of their dream-like qualities.

In June 1978 after collecting and publishing a source catalogue of 350 Australian close encounters (4) I saw that there were quite a few cases which presented data along similar lines. Reading the literature also brought up the seemingly parallel cases of ‘Bedroom Invaders’ (5), reports where people awoke to find entities in their bedrooms. Sometimes reporters in these cases were ‘paralysed’ and could do nothing but watch.

It would seem that until now little has been done with these cases other than to document them and treat them as genuine observations of UFOs or their occupants. Some researchers have drawn attention to the similarities between this type of event and psychic experiences, but few seem to have sought a cause.

Recent reading of psychological literature shows that there is a strong possibility that our early-morong cases where reporters wake are not related to UFOs, ETH, transdimensional or ultraterrestrials or supernatural causes. In fact there is a known psychological phenomenon which seems to fit all the date in these instances.

Psychologists have long been aware of a type of imagery which is self-generated in the human mind. It is the perception of something which is not input through the normal sense organs, although it is encountered in normal healthy people in the period between sleep and wakefullness. The intermediate state between wakefulness ands leep is termed hypnogogic; and between sleep and final wakefulness is hypnopompic.

Hypnopompic images most often occur with the eyes closed, but may also happen with the eyes open in a darkened environment. Their content is visual or auditory but may also include sensations of heat or cold, small or touch. They may be reproductions of events of the day, or strange, foreign, or bizarre images which can be at times pleasing or frightening. A person has little control over their appearance, departure or content. One of the most basic auditory images is hearing one’s name being called, bringing one to one’s full senses. The most common visual image is of ‘faces in the dark’.

Very often the images are vivid and realistic, and there is an unusual clarity of detail. Durations range from a few seconds to minutes, and persons experiencing them comment on the unusual quality of the colour and lighting, using such phrases as ‘strange luminosity’.

The incidence of some kind of imagery amongst healthy individuals has been found from surveys to range from 51-77% of the population, and because of its sometimes bizarre nature it can be related to supernatural causes by some people. As an example of just how real these images can be to a normal person I will relate one such account. A young couple had a routine of the wife getting breakfast ready for her husband and then seeing him off to work. One morning she recalled getting out of bed, washing, dressing, preparing breakfast and then kissing her husband goodbye. At this point she ‘woke up’ to find her husband kissing her goodbye. She was still in bed, and had been all the time, while her husband had got up and made his own breakfast. To her the image was real, coloured and three-dimensional, and could not be distinguished from reality.

Now back to Ivy Tanks, our semi-trailer case. I would put forward the suggestion that in this case, where a woman heard her name being called, with the unusual clarity of detail the unusual colour and lighting, was actually a hypnopompic image.

In researching the literature I have found a number of such cases which have some or all the characteristics of images. Doubtless there will be many others which come to the readers’ mind (including some apparitional events) which could he ex-plained in this manner. Let us look at some of the ones I have come across.

1. JULY 1967, 0300 hrs, Palma, Spain. The daughter of Count de Ribas was awakened by an intense light coming from the patio. She saw two small figures at the window apparently speaking to each other. They had very large heads and huge eyes. The witness tried to turn on the light but it did not work. She went out and got her coat; when she returned all had vanished except for two small foot-prints outside the window. (6)

2. JULY 18, 1967,. 0130 hrs, Boardman, Ohio. The Revd A de Polo was woken by a very loud noise, “the type you hear on TV science fiction programmes”. He felt that a mental message was being conveyersd to him. He went downstairs and in the driveway was a 5ft tall figure wearing a luminous ‘space suit’. The surrounding glow made the figure very distinct. He received another ‘message’; looking up he saw the sky was strangely illuminated. When he turned his eyes to the driveway again he saw that where the figure had been was now a formless blob of light, which faded and vanished. He returned to bed and “fell asleep immediately” (7).

3. JUNE 22, 1972, 0200hrs Logrono, Spain. A 20 year old student was in bed reading when he suddenly perceived that the room seemed to grow brighter. He put his book down and saw an intensely powerful light was coming through the two shutters of his window, the window opened by itself and a luminous object entered at a height of two meters. It stopped, and the light from it was very brilliant. The student tried to sink into bed, terrified. A transistor radio which was switched on although there was no station broadcasting, emitted a high-pitched noise which he taped with a portable recorder. The object put out a beam to the radio and recorder, finally it went straight towards the window, and vanished. The student did not go to the window to look out as he was more concerned with getting a recording of the noise. Upon being questioned, he said that the radio had visibly swayed when the beam was on it; however “not a single trace was left by the passage of the object”. (8) No comment was made in the source as to whether or not the tape had recorded the noise. One presumes not, otherwise it would probably have been ten-dred as evidence.

4. OCT. 15 1973, 0500 hrs. Omro, Wisconsin, The witness was awoken by a brief, high pitched sound and his room was lit up by a bright orange-red glow. Three humanoids 4-5ft tall were seen to materialise. They had bald heads, grayish-white wrinkled skin and rounded ears, and moved mechanically. The witness passed out, then came to on the floor, propped against a wall unable to move. The entities were examining him with an oval device which showed the bones of his leg as it passed over them. He had a severe headache and passed out again. He awoke towards dawn still on the floor. The light was on and the bed sheets were folded neatly back. He reported the incident to CUFOS. There are some inconsistencies in the story, according to Webb (9).

5. OCT. 17, 1973. 0345 hrs, Pikesville, Maryland. A woman was awoken by the sound of an explosion. She heard a loud humming, walked out onto the front porch and saw a red coloured transparent object On top was a bubble with a human figure standing up (10).

6. OCT. 28, 1973. Night, Reno, Nevada. During the early hours of the morning the witness went to the window and saw three ‘very large’ saucer-shaped objects hovering across the street. A ‘ground crew’ of 10-12 figures wearing dull-glowing ‘cube-type’ uniforms were milling around as if in search of something. A very low pitched hum was heard but no barking by her or neighbours’ dogs. When two of the men approached her driveway she took alarm and returned to bed where she fell asleep immediately. There was no confirmation of anything unusual from neighbours and no traces were found (11).

7. SEPT. 1973, Ivy Tanks, South Australia. Described earlier (12).

8. FEB. 3, 1964. 0200 hrs, Gum Creek, South Australia. A lady awoke and looked out of the window; suddenly “like a movie screen descending” a figure materialised. The illumination was as bright as day. The entity was described in fine detail. He walked towards the bedroom window and the lady sank down into bed and fell asleep. There were no traces (12).

9. FEB 1976 (approx.), 2300 hrs, Hobart, Tasmania. A man and his wife had gone to bed and the wife had already gone to sleep. The man put out the light and was about to settle down in bed when he saw the doorway with the door closed appear to get darker. Three figures came through the closed door. One put his hand on the man’s leg, which went dead; another then tried to put a bag over the man’s legs under the bed-clothes. He called out to his wife and threw a cigarette lighter, cigarettes and ash tray towards her to wake her up. She startedd to put on the light whereupon the figures stepped over the bed and through the window which seemed to burst open in an orange glow. By the time she looked, there was nothing there. The objects thrown were found by her bed. (13)

10. JAN 14, 1972. 0200 hrs, Burra, South Australia. Awakening for no apparent reason a lady went to the bedroom window and immediately saw a red mushroom shaped object rising from nearby hills into the sky (14).

As can be seen, all are nocturnal events with seven reported as occurring between the hours of 1.30 and 3.35 am, and one unknown, beyond that it was between 1 and 5 a.m. Six occurred to women and four to men. In seven cases the single reporters were awoken by stimuli, while one was reading (actually fallen asleep?) and the other two are unknown.

We note throughout these cases that there is a recurrence of vivid illumination, figures materialising/dematerialising, or the reporter falling asleep imediately after the cessation of the event. Some cases could almost certainly be related to what we know of images (Ivy Tanks, Gum Creek, Boardman, Omro, Hobart) while others could be borderline cases (eg. Pikesville).

It seems that we do not have enougn information in many of these cases to provide a reason why the brain might have chosen to portray an image of entities and objects rather than pink elephants. However, I feel that a clue may lie with the Ivy Tanks reporter when she said “I think the voice woke me because he knew how much I wanted to see one of these things.” Wish fulfillment, as in dreams, could be the main factor, the person genuinely wanting to see one of these UFO things. This mechanism certainly needs clarification, and possibly the investigator in such cases could inquire into the belief patterns of the reporter, them dream and sleep patterns, etc.

I have discussed the observed properties of hypnogogic and hypnopompic images and put forward several reported encounters where I believe there is a good chance that imagery provide the explanation.

There is certainly need for much more research in this area, for if nocturnal awakenings generate what is reported as a UFO close encounter, than could possibly events where encounters are related as happening to normal, healthy people driving a car or walking along a road at night be due to images spontaneously generated within the brain? For remember, the same ‘clarity of detail’, ‘vivid illimination’ etc. occurs in most encounters. Furthermore, could ‘abductions’ be an extreme case of our night-time images? In these events seemingly impossible things occur, reporters ‘float’, see bones through skin, enter objects by unknown means,. see invisible internal illumination fittings, etc. In at least one Australian case (Frankston, 1972) a lady who lapsed into an unconscious state related she was in a chamber with no apparent means of escape and lit by a light for which there was no source, whilst still physically in the presence of two other people in a car, who saw nothing.

If this were so, then there would be very few UFO cases left to explain. One could postulate that car stop events, where an object was stated to have stopped a car, and for which we have been unable to come up with an acceptable mechanism, never really happened except in the mind of the driver. This would only leave the very small percentage of cases where two or more reporters saw an object at close range, or those cases where undeniable physical traces were found.

In summary, the subject and hypothesis of imagery in normal, healthy people causing reported close encounters with the UFO phenomenon, may provide some clues to at least a number of the cases on record to date.


  1. See Psychic Australian magazine, February 1978, and UFORSA newsletter no. 10
  2. Basterfield, Keith and Ben West, Psycholocical aspects of some recent Australian Close Encounters, MUFON Journal, 109, December 1976.
  3. Basterfield, Keith. A possible time pattern for certain close encounters. ACOS Bulletin, 10, June 1977
  4. Basterfield, Keith. A source catalogue of Australasian UFO and related reports. Privately published.
  5. Keel, John Our Haunted Planet, and Strange Creatures from Time and Space.
  6. FSR Special no. 4, p.49
  7. FSR vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 25-26
  8. FSR vol. 19, no. 2. p. 10
  9. Details of this case is taken from Webb, David, Year of the Humanoids, CUFOS, 1976.
  10. ibid
  11. ibid
  12. Personal investigation by this author
  13. Investigation by Tasmanian UFO Investigation Centre.
  14. Personal investigation by this author.

Jenny Randles has some more cases of curious awakenings HERE