by Rick Hiebert

October 21, 2002

from Report Website

recovered through WayBackMachine Website


THE idea intelligent life exists somewhere other than on earth has a powerful hold on western culture. But whether or not stories of the archetypal "little green man" are true, accounts of people's supposed meetings with aliens reveal something compelling about the human race, if not the spacemen.


That, at least, is the theory of anthropologist Krista Henriksen of Simon Fraser University (SFU) in B.C., who recently completed a master's thesis in which she analyzed what people say aliens tell them when they visit earth.

The 32-year-old Ms. Henriksen, who is now a federal government policy analyst in St. John's, became interested in the subject when a friend's books on alien messages reminded her of medieval legends of monsters and fairy abductions. So she set about analyzing 60 accounts of alleged human-alien meetings. Today, four years later, she is skeptical about aliens' existence, but is, nevertheless, intrigued by what we humans say about visitors from outer space.

Because there are tens of thousands of stories of human-alien encounters each year, Ms. Henriksen had plenty of data from which to choose.

"It's a subculture in North America," she says. "Much of the existing popular literature says that you too could have a buried memory of meeting an alien. You just don't know it yet."

The accounts differ widely, Ms. Henriksen says, but several themes repeat themselves. Aliens say the world is in trouble - threatened by war and ecological collapse.


The person to whom the aliens speak, however, is special in some way and can, with the aliens' assistance, help save the world.

"They are communicating to people that there is meaning in life, and in their individual lives in particular," she says.

Also, aliens always talk to humans, but humans do not talk back, which implies aliens are not true explorers who want to interact with other intelligent species.

"The people who report these experiences had profound experiences of some kind," she continues. "Something happened to them. The same experiences can be interpreted in other ways. Some might interpret it as a visitation from an angel. In medieval times, they might have interpreted it as an abduction by a fairy."

Barry Beyerstein, an SFU psychology professor who is also chairman of the B.C. Society of Skeptics, agrees the subject is worth studying, but that does not mean aliens exist. It is easy to be fooled by natural and man-made phenomena in the sky, he points out.


Also, the technology necessary for road-tripping aliens to travel here from the depths of space is daunting.

"For one UFO from the nearest star, it would take the equivalent of all the energy that humans have ever used," Prof. Beyerstein says. "I would wonder why they would waste their time on a small planet by an insignificant star."

He himself has interviewed many "sincere but deluded" people who say they have encountered aliens.

"People have to make an educated guess when they have an unusual experience," the professor concludes. "Since you see UFO experiences in the media, it's a way to make sense of it in your mind."

As for the alien messages, Prof. Beyerstein says they correspond to psychological needs all people have - a need to be seen as special. In other words, people hear what they want to hear.

Moreover, the flexible nature of the alien-encounter experience allows people to fit it into their moral world view. Christians and New Agers alike seem to have their faith strengthened by the experience.


But therein lies a problem.

"The [alien] messages seem to purport peace and good will, but the problem with the messages is that they are promoting another world view, one antithetical towards traditional christianity," says William Alnor, an American writer and researcher.

The author of two books on UFOs, he suspects aliens are actually a demonic deception.

Prof. Alnor, who teaches journalism at Texas A & M University (Kingsville), thinks it peculiar that the thousands of supposedly random "alien" messages he has read always have good things to say of other faiths, yet denigrate Jesus Christ.

"They'll say Jesus and Lucifer are brothers, or that Lucifer has become a good guy now, or that Jesus was only one of many gods. None of them that I have ever seen have ever promoted the biblical idea of Jesus Christ," Prof. Alnor states.


"A lot of them will say something good about Jesus, but none of them will declare him to be God in human flesh, the historic christian message."

UFOs and aliens meet the spiritual needs of people who have been influenced by the progress of science, have believed New Age concepts and have rebelled against monotheism, especially christianity, Prof. Alnor theorizes.

"UFO-logy has kept people in confusion. It's led to people looking at all these alleged crazy signs in the sky instead of looking to the God who made the sky."

Nevertheless, Ms. Henriksen believes the religious aspects of alien messages merit further study.

"The messages that people receive seem to be highly theological," says the scholar, a United Church adherent.


"There are definite links with christian theology in particular, that you're not alone, that you have a purpose in life. The aliens are somehow quite omniscient, but don't have any hands-on abilities to make any changes. This phenomenon seems to reflect the search for meaning in western society."