- History of the abduction phenomenon
As noted below, the
Antonio Villas Boascase (1957) and the Hill abduction (1961) were the first cases of UFO abduction to earn widespread attention.
Though these two cases are sometimes viewed as the earliest abductions, skeptic Peter Rogersoncite web | url = http://www.magonia.demon.co.uk/arc/90/revis01.html | title = magonia.demon.co.uk | accessdate = 2007-08-10 | publisher = ] notes this assertion is incorrect: the Hill and Boas abductions, he contends, were only the first "canonical" abduction cases, establishing a template that later abductees and researchers would refine, but rarely deviate from. Additionally, Rogerson notes purported abductions were cited contemporaneously at least as early as 1954, and that "the growth of the abduction stories is a far more tangled affair than the 'entirely unpredisposed' official history would have us believe." (The phrase "entirely unpredisposed" appeared in folklorist
Thomas E. Bullard's study of alien abduction; he argued that alien abductions as reported in the 1970s and 1980s had little precedent in folklore or fiction.) See "external links" for all four parts of Rogerson's article.
While "alien abduction" did not achieve widespread attention until the 1960s, there were many similar stories circulating decades earlier. These early abduction-like accounts have been dubbed "paleo-abductions" by UFO researcher
Jerome Clark. cite web | url = http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2004/mar/m19-002.shtml | title = virtuallystrange.net | accessdate = 2007-08-10 | publisher = ] This same two-part article ( [http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2004/mar/m19-001.shtml part 1] and [http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2004/mar/m19-002.shtml part 2] ) makes note of many paleo-abductions, some of which were reported well before the 1957 Antonio Villas Boascase earned much attention, or even before the UFO report claimed in 1947 by pilot Kenneth Arnoldthat first generated widespread interest in UFOs:
* There was at least one case of attempted abduction reported in conjunction with the
mystery airships of the late 1800s. Colonel H. G. Shaw's account was published in the Stockton, California"Daily Mail" in 1897: Shaw claimed that he and a friend were harassed by three tall, slender humanoids whose bodies were covered with a fine, downy hair. The beings tried to accost or kidnap Shaw and his friend, who were able to fight them off. [ [http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2004/mar/m19-001.shtml]
* In his 1923 book, "
New Lands", American writer Charles Fortspeculated that extraterrestrial beings might have kidnapped humans: "One supposes that if extra-mundane vessels have sometimes come close to this earth, then sailing away, terrestrial aëronauts may have occasionally left this earth, or may have been seized and carried away from this earth."cite web | url = http://www.resologist.net/lands224.htm | title = resologist.net | accessdate = 2007-08-10 | publisher = ]
* The 1951 case of Fred Reagan, which was publicized by "
Flying Saucer Review" in the late 1960s based on news clippings from 1952. Bizarre even by alien abduction standards, Reagan claimed to have been piloting his small airplane, which was struck by a UFO; the occupants (who resembled metallic stalks of asparagus) apologised, and tried to cure Reagan's cancer. Reagan reportedly died of a brain disorder not long after the alleged UFO encounter.
* In 1954, "
Paris Match" printed a story said to have occurred in 1921, when the anonymous writer was a child. The writer claimed to have been snatched by two tall "men" who wore helmets and "diving suits" and who took the boy to an "oddly shaped tank" before being released. Rogerson calls this story "the earliest known abduction survivor report."
* A 1958 letter to
NICAPasserted that two U.S. Army soldiers witnessed two bright red lights near their base. The soldiers had a strange sense of dissociation, and found themselves in a new location, with no memory of how they arrived there.
* Rogerson writes that the 1955 publication of Harold T. Wilkins's "Flying Saucers Uncensored" declared that two
contactees, (Karl Hunrath and Wilbur Wilkinson) had disappeared under mysterious circumstances; Wilkins reported speculation that the duo were the victims of "alleged abduction by flying saucers".
* The so-called Shaver Mystery of the 1940s has some similarities to later abduction accounts, as well, with sinister beings said to be kidnapping and torturing people. Rogerson writes that John Robinson (a friend of ufology gadfly
Jim Moseley) made a 1957 appearance on John Nebel's popular overnight radio program to tell "a dramatically spooky, if not very plausible, abduction tale" related to the Shaver Mystery: Robinson claimed that a friend of his had been held captive by the evil Deros beneath the Earth, and to have been the victim of a sort of mind controlvia small "earphones"; Rogerson writes that "in this unlikely tale that we first encounter the implants ... and other abductionist staples."
contactees of the 1950s claimed to have contacted aliens, and the substance of contactee narratives are often regarded as quite different from alien abduction accounts.
However, Rogerson contends that it is often difficult to determine the division between contactees and abductees, with classification sometimes seeming arbitrary.
Two landmark cases
Allegedly genuine stories of kidnap by extraterrestrials goes back at least to the mid-1950s, with the
Antonio Villas Boascase (which didn't receive much attention until several years later).
Widespread publicity was generated by the
Betty and Barney Hill abductioncase of 1961 (again not widely known until several years afterwards), culminating in a made for television film broadcast in 1975 (starring James Earl Jonesand Estelle Parsons) dramatizing the events. The Hill incident was probably the prototypical abduction case, and was perhaps the first in which:
* The beings that later became widely known as the
Greys(who also went on to become the most common type of extraterrestrial to feature in abduction reports) were encountered.
* The beings explicitly identified an extraterrestrial origin (the star
Zeta Reticuliwas later suspected as their point of origin.)
Neither the contactees nor these early abduction accounts, however, saw much attention from
ufology, then still largely reluctant to consider close encounters of the third kind, where occupants of UFOs are allegedly interacted with.
Undoubtedly, the Barney and Betty Hill case is one of, if not the most famous case of purported abduction ever. Barney and Betty were driving home on a road free from other cars late one night. They both saw an odd light coming at them from above. They then blacked out and found themselves back on the road, driving. The only thing odd was it was two hours later than when they had seen the light. They both went to psychologists and hypnotists. They learned of the Grey on board the ship that had abducted them. See Barney and Betty Hill for more depth.
R. Leo Sprinkle(a University of Wyomingpsychologist) became interested in the abduction phenomenon in the 1960s. For some years, he was probably the only academic figure devoting any time to studying or researching abduction accounts. Sprinkle became convinced of the phenomenon's actuality, and was perhaps the first to suggest a link between abductions and cattle mutilation. Eventually Sprinkle came to believe that he had been abducted by aliens in his youth; he was forced from his job in 1989. (Bryan, 145fn) Budd Hopkins—a painter and sculptor by profession—had been interested in UFOs for some years. In the 1970s he became interested in abduction reports, and began using hypnosisin order to extract more details of dimly remembered events. Hopkins soon became a figurehead of the growing abductee subculture. (Schnabel 1994)
The 1980s brought a major degree of mainstream attention to the subject. Works by
Budd Hopkins, Whitley Strieber, David M. Jacobsand John Mack presented alien abduction as a genuine phenomenon. (Schnabel 1994) Also of note in the 1980s was the publication of folklorist Dr. Thomas E. Bullard's comparative analysis of nearly 300 alleged abductees. The mid and late 1980s saw the involvement of two esteemed academic figures: Harvard psychiatrist John Mack and historian David M. Jacobs.
With Hopkins, Jacobs and Mack, several shifts occurred in the nature of the abduction narratives. There had been earlier abduction reports (the Hills being the best known), but they were believed to be few and far between, and saw rather little attention from
ufology(and even less attention from mainstream professionals or academics). Jacobs and Hopkins argued that alien abduction was far more common than earlier suspected; they estimate that tens of thousands (or more) North Americans had been taken by unexplained beings. (Schnabel 1994)
Furthermore, Jacobs and Hopkins argued that there was an elaborate scheme underway, that the aliens were attempting a program to create human–alien hybrids, though the motives for this scheme were unknown. There were anecdotal reports of phantom pregnancy related to UFO encounters at least as early as the 1960s, but
Budd Hopkinsand especially David M. Jacobswere instrumental in popularizing the idea of widespread, systematic interbreeding efforts on the part of the alien intruders. Despite the relative paucity of corroborative evidence, Jacobs presents this scenario as not only plausible, but self-evident. Hopkins and Jacobs have also been criticized for selective citation of abductee interviews, favoring those which support their hypothesis of extraterrestrial intervention.
The involvement of Jacobs and Mack marked something of a sea change in the abduction studies. Their efforts were controversial (both men saw some degree of damage to their professional reputations), but to other observers, Jacobs and Mack brought a degree of respectability to the subject.
Matheson writes that "if Jacobs's credentials were impressive," then those of
Harvardpsychiatrist John Edward Mackmight seem "impeccable" in comparison. (Matheson, 251) Mack was a well known, highly esteemed psychiatrist, author of over 150 scientific articles and winner of the Pulitzer Prizefor his biography of T. E. Lawrence. Mack became interested in the phenomenon in the late 1980s, interviewing dozens of people, and eventually writing two books on the subject.
Mack was somewhat more guarded in his investigations and interpretations of the abduction phenomenon than the earlier researchers. Matheson writes that "On balance, Mack does present as fair-minded an account as has been encountered to date, at least as these abduction narratives go." (Matheson, 251) Furthermore, Mack notes when alternative interpretations are viable; throughout "Abduction", his first book on the subject, he allows and even considers likely that alien abductions are a new type of visionary experience.
Matheson notes that unlike earlier abduction researchers, Mack is generally quite cautious in his interpretations of physical evidence and corroborative testimony. He places little value in the scars and scratches often attributed to alien "medical" exams, and argues that trying to prove the actuality of alleged "implants" placed in abductees is largely a futile effort.
Mack argued that the abduction phenomenon might be the beginning of a major
paradigm shiftin human consciousness, or "a kind of fourth blow to our collective egoism, following those of Copernicus, Darwin and Freud." (Bryan, 270) Mack also noted that, after an initial period of terror and confusion (a phase he dubbed "ontological shock"), many abductees ultimately regard their experiences more positively, saying that their experiences broadened their consciousness.
In June 1992, Mack co-organized a five-day conference at MIT to discuss and debate the abduction phenomenon.cite web | url = http://www.cufos.org/abduct_P1.html | title = cufos.org | access date = 2007-08-10 | publisher = ] The conference attracted a wide range of professionals, representing a variety of perspectives. (In response to this conference, Mack and Jacobs were awarded an
Ig Nobel Prizein 1993).
C. D. Bryanattended the conference, initially intending to gather information for a short humorous article for The New Yorker. While attending the conference, however, Bryan's view of the subject changed, and he wrote a serious, open-minded book on the phenomenon, additionally interviewing many abductees, skeptics, and proponents.
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