by Paul Kimball
Jacques Vallee on "Abductionology"
April 06, 2007
In his book
Confrontations: A Scientist's Search for Alien Contact,
Jacques Vallee had some eminently sensible things to say about
research into the alien abduction phenomenon. While pointing out
that blanket dismissals like those of the late Phil Klass go too
far, he was extremely critical of the "methodology" of leading
abductionologists like Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs.
I recommend that anyone who has not read Confrontations find a copy
somewhere and read it. In the meantime, I'll provide a few
well-thought out excerpts which should resonate today more than
First, Vallee on the usefulness of lie detectors tests:
As for lie detector tests, which are routinely used by ufologists
and the media to "prove" that UFO abductees are "telling the truth,"
their effectiveness is practically nil, as a long list of scientific
references would show... A recent Harvard Medical School study has
shown that truthful people flunked polygraph tests more often than
actual liars. A possible explanation is that innocent people react
to the stress of the test, while the guilty do everything in their
power to remain calm.
Vallee went on to talk about the need to understand the overall
context of the abduction phenomenon:
There is another very important aspect to the entire abduction
problem that has never been considered seriously by American ufology,
obsessed as it is with immediate facts and first-order explanations.
By ignoring this other aspect, we reduce considerably our chances of
understanding the entire question. What I am referring to is the
simple fact that abduction stories are not specific to the UFO
phenomenon and certainly did not begin with
Betty and Barney Hill in
I pointed out in Invisible College that the structure of
abduction stories was identical to that of occult initiation
rituals. Several years before, I had shown in
Passport to Magonia
that contact with ufonauts was only a modern extension of the
age-old tradition of contact with nonhuman consciousness in the form
of angels, demons, elves, and sylphs. Such contact includes
abduction, ordeal (including surgical operations), and sexual
intercourse with the aliens.
It often leaves marks and scars on the
body and the mind, as do UFO abductions. Reaction to the publication
of these facts was curious. In the United States, many ufologists
simply denied them or ignored them. As late as 1988 Budd Hopkins
summarily rejected the Magonia data as "folklore of obviously
(pp. 159 - 160)
It should be noted that not all American ufologists ignored these
facts - Kevin Randle details them in his excellent study The
Abduction Enigma, which he co-wrote with Russ Estes and Dr. William
Cone. But Kevin is in the minority.
As noted above, Vallee discusses the problems with the use of
hypnosis (something I've talked about here in the past - see The
Alien Abduction Cult and The Abduction Phenomenon and
Hypnosis - below reports), but
does he dismiss it out of hand? No. Instead, what he does is point
out that the real problem is with the use of hypnosis by untrained ufologists like Hopkins and Jacobs who have an agenda to pursue.
Can help be provided to the traumatized witness who has experienced
a close encounter and possibly an abduction? Absolutely. He or she
should be directed to a qualified, professional hypnotherapist who
is open-minded on the question of the UFO reality and who has
reached no personal conclusion regarding the nature and origin of
And the ufologist should only be in the room at the
request of, and under the control of, the therapist. Any other
procedure, in my opinion, is unethical and unprofessional. Besides,
it runs the risk of polluting the delicate, complex abduction
database with fantastic and spurious material. It can drive UFO
research over a very dangerous cliff.
Vallee wrote this is 1990.
Alas, few in ufology listened, and
ufology was driven over that dangerous cliff, with predictable
consequences: further marginalization by the legitimate scientific
community, a withering of public interest as the stories of
abductions (and crashed flying saucers, abductionology's evil twin)
became commonplace (see below Robert Fulford on Abductions for a recent
sample of media reaction), and more often outrageous, all of which
has led to a loss, as Vallee said elsewhere, of the true "signal"
amidst the "noise", while most ufologists in the United States
either openly embraced the very things Vallee warned them against,
or through their silence signalled tacit acceptance.
Which, unfortunately, for the most part remains the status quo
The Alien Abduction Cult
January 11, 2007
I've met both David Jacobs and Budd Hopkins at
different UFO conferences. They seem like nice enough people -
witty, even charming, until you realize that they, and other "abductionologists"
like them, have spent decades spouting absolute nonsense about
"alien abductions", and in the process have caused very real trauma
to very real people (and created, by the way, a nice little cottage
industry for themselves).
Budd Hopkins has written in
Witnessed: The True Story of the Brooklyn
Bridge UFO Abductions:
"Everything I have learned in twenty
years of research into the UFO abduction phenomenon leads me to
conclude that the aliens' central purpose is not to teach us
about taking better care of the environment. Instead, all of the
evidence points to their being here to carry out a complex
breeding experiment in which they seem to be working to create a
hybrid species, a mix of human and alien characteristics."
All of the evidence?
Memories induced by hypnosis?
I've written about the usefulness of hypnosis as an investigative
technique before, particularly when it's done by self-taught
amateurs (see below: The Abduction Phenomenon and Hypnosis).
Here's the uncomfortable truth - the abductionologists, feted at UFO
conference after UFO conference, are the problem, not the solution.
It isn't little green / grey men from some other planet that are
causing pain to the people "studied" by Hopkins et al - the pain,
the damage, is being caused by the "investigators" themselves,
feeding questions, and then answers, to people who may have real
Disagree with me? That's your prerogative, of course, but before you
start wailing, and crying "foul", do me one small favor - show me
the hard evidence that supports the claims made by the
How about a photo? Let's start with that.
I mean, we have UFO photos - most fake, but some, like McMinnville,
perhaps authentic - so why not photos of an abduction?
How about witnesses to an abduction - not hypnotically regressed
ones, mind you, but independent witnesses who actually saw an
Where are they? I mean, we have myriad UFO cases with multiple
Why not abductions?
Kevin Randle, Russ Estes and William Cone got
it right in
The Abduction Enigma
when they wrote, at p. 359:
"Here's what it all comes down to.
There is not a single shred of physical evidence that alien
abductions are akin place other than the tainted testimony of
the abductees. The physical evidence to support the claims is
nonexistent. What has been offered as proof has been eliminated
through testing by objective scientists or additional research
by unbiased investigators. The scars, the missing fetus, or the
implants do not carry the proper medical documentation to make a
strong case, and in fact, suggest something else altogether."
I'll go further than Randle, Estes and
Cone, who confined their critique to stating that the
abductionologists had simply not proven their case. In my view, this
has become an Alien Abduction Cult (of personality), aided and
abetted by some in ufology who should know better. The
abductionologists themselves are beyond irresponsible - they are
dangerous, causing real pain and suffering to people who in at least
some cases no doubt need real help.
Perhaps it's high time that the proper authorities take a closer
look, not at "alien abductions", but rather at those who claim to be
investigating them, because, with one or two notable and courageous
exceptions like Kevin, "ufology" has proven itself wholly unwilling
to confront the creators and purveyors of the Alien Abduction Cult.
Meanwhile, the ultimate irony for anomalists is that, should there
really be a paranormal element to a few of these "abduction" cases,
the Alien Abduction Cult has so muddied the waters with their
bunk that it will be almost impossible to ever chart a different
The Abduction Phenomenon and Hypnosis
April 25, 2005
There is perhaps no area of the UFO phenomenon more controversial
than alleged alien abductions. This has been demonstrated recently
in a number of intense threads at UFO Updates, including “UFO
Couple Use Story to Spark Alien Abduction” and “Sakulich
and the Betty & Barney Hill Case”.
My position on abductions has always been straightforward. If the
Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH) is valid, then it is
reasonable to assume that abductions may be occurring, in a manner
similar, perhaps, to the way that the European explorers used to
take natives aboard their ships, or, in some cases, even back to
If the ETH is not valid, then neither is the abduction
phenomenon, at least as an alien-related event.
In my opinion, Jerry Clark
provided the most reasonable conclusion with respect to abductions
when he wrote, with respect to the Hill case (the most famous of all
“The resolution of the Hill case
awaits the resolution of the UFO question itself. If UFOs do not
exist, then Barney and Betty Hill did not meet with aliens. If
UFOs do exist, they probably did. The evidence available to us
from this incident alone provides no answers surer than these.
In other words, no answers at all. For now, anyway.”
Thus, the “abduction phenomenon,” like
the “UFO phenomenon,” remains unsolved (as the ETH remains
unproved), and people on both sides of the issue should retain an
open mind – I know I do.
What concerns me about the modern abduction phenomenon, however, is
not the phenomenon itself, but rather its reliance on hypnosis as an
investigative tool (although not all cases involve hypnosis, the
majority certainly seem to, although exact figures are difficult to
come by). Like most lawyers, I am extremely leery of any testimony
obtained through hypnosis, which I regard as highly unreliable.
I’m not the only one. For example, legendary UFO researcher/author
Jacques Vallee, when asked about John Mack’s work,
stated that while he “respected [Mack’s] courage” he disagreed with
“Usually scientists tell me that
hypnosis is not the best way of helping these people. Nor is it
the best way to recover memories.” (see interview at
Heretic Among Heretics)
Kevin Randle, Russ Estes
and Dr. William Cone, in their landmark study
The Abduction Enigma (1999),
examine the use of hypnosis by today’s leading abduction researchers
(including Mack, Budd Hopkins, John Carpenter and
They concur with Vallee.
“Hypnotic regression,” they write,
“is a poor tool for finding the truth, it allows the subject to
confabulate amazing memories and act on those memories as if
they were true, and its validity is now being questioned. In
fact, in many states, a witness who has been hypnotized in an
attempt to learn more of an event can no longer be called as a
Courts, and science, recognize how
easy memories and events can be reconstructed or confabulated by
a clever hypnotist. Even those whose motives are a search for
the truth can, and do, lead the subject into memories that are
not part of reality.”
As Randle et al note, the law treats
hypnosis with extreme caution. For example, the Crown Prosecution
Service (CPS) in the United Kingdom states,
“Information obtained under hypnosis
should always be treated with extreme caution. There is a strong
likelihood that evidence obtained under hypnosis will be
unreliable and inadmissible in criminal proceedings.”
They note that a person under hypnosis
may be subject to “cueing,” which means,
“explicit or implicit suggestion by
the hypnotist; something said long before the session; something
that the witness just happened to be thinking about; and a
fantasy of the witness.”
During hypnosis, the CPS states,
“these can become fixed as facts in
the mind of the subject. There is no reliable means of guarding
against this happening.” [emphasis added]
While hypnosis may be used in
“exceptional circumstances” it is “highly desirable to look for
corroboration of any evidence obtained under hypnosis before
allowing a prosecution to proceed.” The problem with abductions, of
course, is that there is no independent corroborative evidence
For more information, see the
Perhaps most interesting were the views of Betty Hill, the
original “abductee.” In
an interview with The Fortean Times
about her 1995 book
A Common Sense Approach to UFOs,
she slammed modern abduction researchers and their reliance on
hypnosis. The entire interview is a must read for anyone interested
in the abduction phenomenon, or the Hill case; however, here are
some pertinent excerpts.
“The reason I wrote this book was to
try to get across to people that they should stay away from
hypnosis. Don’t let anybody fool around in your brain. I mean,
you have problems enough to live with yourself, without other
people making their contribution.”
She was then asked about why there was a
similarity among the stories told to each investigator, but the
stories are different from investigator to investigator (a
phenomenon Randle et al discuss in detail in The Abduction Enigma).
“Because the investigators are
directing them to have those fantasies,” she said. “They’re
suggesting them to them. They’re very, very destructive people.”
[Note: Hill, of course, had
memories supposedly recovered under hypnosis, but she
distinguished the “medical hypnosis” she and her husband
underwent from the less rigorous techniques used today by
abduction researchers such as Budd Hopkins.]
For a general primer on the pros and
cons of hypnosis, see "Key
Concepts in Hypnosis" by Dr. Campbell Perry,
Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Concordia University (Montreal).
Does this mean that the entire abduction phenomenon is invalid, or
that it is impossible that what lies behind it is extraterrestrial?
The conclusion that I proffer here is simple, and more limited in
scope - that those abduction cases in which hypnosis is used as a
tool to recover "lost," or "suppressed," memories, should be treated
with extreme caution.
Robert Fulford on Abductions - Why Are Aliens
October 08, 2005
Robert Fulford is one of Canada's best and most influential
journalists, his profession since the summer of 1950, when he left
high school to work as a sports writer on The Globe and Mail.
He has since been a news reporter, literary critic, art critic,
movie critic, and editor on a variety of magazines, ranging from
Homes and Gardens to the Canadian Forum.
He was the editor of
Saturday Night for 19 years, 1968-1987, and has since been a
His books include
This Was Expo,
Best Seat in the House: Memoirs of a Lucky Man,
Accidental City: The Transformation of Toronto,
The Triumph of Narrative, the
text of the Massey Lectures he delivered on CBC radio. His column
appears in the National Post on Tuesdays in the Arts & Life section
and on Saturdays on the Op Ed page. He is an officer of the Order of
Canada and a senior fellow of Massey College.
You can check out his Web site by clicking
Imagine my surprise when I discovered (as I was enjoying today's
National Post - while trying to chase a cold away with some Tim
Horton's chicken noodle soup) that, to this sterling resume, Mr.
Fulford can now add:
"has written a column about the UFO
phenomenon that is certain to get him labeled a debunker,
klasskurtzian and a skeptibunkie."
From the National Post
Saturday, 8 October 2005, p. A19:
Why Are Aliens So Boring?
The folklore of the 20th-century produced nothing more absurd,
yet nothing more persistent, than the belief that creatures from
other worlds habitually visit Earth, kidnap a few humans and
then return them, apparently unhurt, to their homes. The alleged
human vitims later describe their experiences in what scholars
of alienography call 'abductee narratives.'
These sound like tales told by
idiots, but no one who cares about the popular imagination can
be entirely indifferent to them.
Abductees report that some aliens
say they are bringing world peace and others announce that their
mission is war. But a strikingly high percentage appear to be
carrying out a peculiar assignment, raiding the reproductive
systems of their victims to collect DNA.
'My eggs were taken,' one typical
abductee reported, and another said, 'sperm was sucked from my
penis by a machine.'
Extraterrestrials must be far
smarter than we are (they travel distances our scientists can
barely imagine) so anyone even mildly curious will wonder what
they want with a substandard planet's genetic material. That in
turn suggest another question to Susan A. Clancy, a Harvard
psychologist and the author of Abducted: How People Come to
Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens (Harvard University
Press), the latest book on this phenomenon.
Having interviewed dozens of
abductees, and found them likeable and honest, Clancy writes
about them with compassionate but sceptical understanding. She's
not like the late John Mack, a psychiatrist at the Harvard
medical school, who scandalized his colleagues by deciding that
abductions actually took place. Clancy believes her subjects
only in the sense that she believes they think they are telling
And she doesn't abandon her sense of humor.
She asks why
mentally superior aliens haven't anything better to do than hang
around North America stealing our genes.
'Why are these genius aliens so
dim?' she asks. 'After fifty years of abducting us, why are
they still taking the same bits and pieces? Don't they have
And why are aliens so boring?
often speak to abductees but they never say anything
interesting. As Clancy has noted, not one of them sounds as
engaging as an average human child. They recall those dead
people who speak from the spirit world through table-tappers and
similar mystics. The record shows that these communicants have
never uttered even one interesting sentence.
Most conversations consist of 'I saw
your Uncle Leonard.' 'How is he?' 'Fine, sends his best.'
The reason is the same in both cases. The conversations are
fictional and both abductees and spiritualists suffer from
stunted imaginations. They are capable of one delirious flight
of fancy, nothing more.
Clancy discovered that abductees share certain characteristics.
They are not crazy, but they score high on a schizotypy test,
which doesn't mean they are schizophrenic but suggest they have
a weakness for fantasy and for thinking related to magic. Most
of them believed in flying saucers before they were abducted.
In her view the aliens are entirely human creations, expressing
fairly ordinary emotional needs. Most of us don't want to be
alone and many of us yearn to believe there's something bigger
than out there - and that it cares about us. Also, we want to
feel special. 'Being abducted by aliens is a culturally shaped
manifestation of a universal human need.' Abductees express
these feelings by believing in a convenient story that can never
be proved and therefore never disproved. They may also be
terrified (and thus made to feel vulnerable) by recent
discoveries in genetics and reproductive technology.
Clancy devotes careful attention to the mother and father of the
abductee community, a New Hampshire social worker named Betty
Hill and her postal worker husband, Barney. Believing
they were abducted in 1961, they began hypnotherapy a few years
That's how Barney deeply affected American mass culture
by giving credibility to the little guys with big heads and
wraparound eyes who have since appeared in everything from
Close Encounters of the Third Kind to The X-Files.
Asked under hypnosis to draw an alien, Barney came up with a
sketch that launched a thousand myths. In fact, he was
reproducing a face he had seen 12 days earlier on a TV show,
The Outer Limits. But by the time anyone figured that out
the aliens Clancy calls 'macrocephalic space-waifs' had become
permanently lodged in mass culture.
As Clancy says,
"Betty and Barney Hill got their
ideas from books, movies and TV. From then on, people got
their ideas from books, movies, TV, and Betty and Barney
For the aggrieved (and I'm sure
there will be many), you can e-mail Mr. Fulford at
For the rest, consider this - in the
past few weeks, the National Post, one of Canada's two national
newspapers, has printed columns by two of its most respected
columnists dealing with aspects of the UFO phenomenon (the first was
Andrew Coyne's column on Paul Hellyer, see
Don't Shoot the Messenger).
This, I believe, is a result of the
Exopolitics conference held in
Toronto, which has indeed achieved more media attention for the UFO
phenomenon (one of the goals of the conference organizers) -
unfortunately, most of it has not been good. Call it the "Paul
Both Coyne and Fulford are well-read, intelligent, thoughtful,
perceptive people - they are the kind of opinion-shapers that
ufology needs to engage if it is ever to make any headway, and move
away from being a fringe pseudo-science.
I'll do my part - I'll send them each a DVD copy of Best Evidence:
Top 10 UFO Cases. I've also sent Mr. Fulford a response, which can
be found at 'Dear
But ufology should also do its part - no more conferences with
former Ministers of National Defence (or anyone else, for that
matter) citing Corso's
The Day After Roswell, please.