In the 1996 blockbuster motion picture Independence Day, hostile
aliens come to Earth hell-bent on death and destruction. Resourceful
humans band together, defeat the common enemy, and save Earth. This
Hollywood scenario is not new—it has dominated screen versions of
alien contact since 1951 with the release of The Thing, in which a
single alien wreaks havoc on a group of humans.
A more peaceful version of alien contact has also become a cultural
staple. From 1951 and The Day the Earth Stood Still to 1977 and
Close Encounters of the Third Kind, benign aliens have come to Earth
to help humans. In this scenario, the aliens offer world leaders,
scientists, and media representatives their assistance and
cooperation. There is mutual respect: The humans expect to learn
from the aliens' technological advancement, and the aliens expect to
help the humans live in peace and cooperatively build a better
Still another vision of alien intervention in human life is the idea
that they are coming to save specially chosen individuals from a
rapidly approaching cataclysm. Cult groups who believe this have
existed since the early 1950s.1 Members of the
Heaven's Gate cult in
1997 were so convinced that a UFO would save them from the
apocalypse and carry them to a higher physical and spiritual realm
that thirty-nine members committed suicide to facilitate their
rescue and transportation.
A careful examination of the UFO abduction phenomenon shows us that
contact has, in fact, occurred—but it bears no relationship to these
scenarios. There has been no public meeting, no involvement of
leadership, no press coverage. There has, as yet, been no
assistance, no cooperation, no war, no death, and no apocalypse. The
contact has been on the aliens' terms—and in secret.
I never imagined such a scenario in 1966 when I first started to
the UFO phenomenon. Nor did I imagine that I would spend so
many years of my adult life involved with the subject. I never
imagined that I would have to tell my children not to talk about my
research at their school because they could be unmercifully teased.
I never dreamed that my wife would learn not to mention my interests
at her workplace because her employer might think she was married to
a madman, and that could hurt her career. When I talk about the
subject to my colleagues in the academic community, I know they
think that my intellectual abilities are seriously impaired. I find
myself intertwined with a subject that I have learned to dislike and
even to fear.
I am first and foremost a professor of history specializing in
twentieth-century America. I think, read, and teach about the past,
but the study of the UFO phenomenon has thrust me into speculation
about the future. The study of history proves that predicting events
is an extremely unreliable and usually futile task. Yet, ironically,
I now find myself in the uncomfortable position of trying to divine
My research began in one of the leading bastions of historical
inquiry—the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin,
where I was a graduate student. My major professor was the legendary
Merle Curti, who founded the field of intellectual history. When
Curti retired, I studied under Paul Conkin, who applied stringent
analytical procedures and evidentiary criteria to every research
topic. I immersed myself in the study of UFOs and received my Ph.D.
under Conkin's direction.
My doctoral dissertation focused on the
controversy over unidentified flying objects in America from the
perspective of intellectual, social, and military history. In
researching this topic, I spent weeks at Maxwell Air Force Base and
the Library of Congress, reading government documents about UFOs. I
traveled the country to interview some of the most important
civilian and military UFO researchers.
In 1975, Indiana University
Press published an expanded version of my dissertation as The UFO
Controversy in America.2
My early research concentrated on sightings of UFOs. My working
hypothesis was that if careful analysis of the sightings showed that
UFOs were extraterrestrial, it would be the most important
scientific discovery of all time. On the other hand, if analysis
concluded that the objects were simply misidentification of
conventional phenomena and the products of overwrought human
imagination, the phenomenon would be relegated to the history of
popular culture. It was one or the other. To conceive of UFOs as
representing a potential alien takeover was to be either impossibly
prescient or foolish. I was neither.
Thus, I joined the other researchers whose objective it was to
determine if witnesses were sighting anomalous, artificially
constructed, and intelligently controlled vehicles. We scrutinized
photos, motion picture footage, radar traces, soil samples, and
other residue purportedly generated by UFOs. Collectively we amassed
hundreds of thousands of sighting reports from around the world. We
worked out a methodology to determine if witnesses were credible. I
became a field investigator for the now defunct Aerial Phenomena
Research Organization, interviewing puzzled witnesses, knocking on
doors searching for others, and publishing the results of my
investigations in UFO journals.
By the early 1970s, the UFO research community had collected so many
sighting reports that we found ourselves with an uncomfortably huge
database. We knew the time of a UFO sighting, its duration,
movements, color changes, and number of witnesses, as well as the
object's effects upon the environment, automobiles, electrical
equipment, animals, and humans. Each of these reports were carefully
investigated and documented; in many cases, there were multiple
witnesses to lend credence to the evidence.
The leading UFO
researcher of his time, J. Allen Hynek, called this enormous body of
information and reports an "embarrassment of riches."
Of course, there were internal debates over specific cases and
fierce arguments with debunkers, but these could not discredit the
legitimacy of the phenomenon. By the late 1970s, the evidence for
UFOs as a truly anomalous phenomenon was so massive that I, along
with most UFO researchers, could no longer deny that witnesses were
seeing something extraordinary and probably not from Earth.
As part of our research, we of course thought about the
ramifications of contact between humans and alien species. We
theorized about how such contact might affect religion, government
institutions, and the place of humans in the universe, but we
devoted little thought to whether direct contact was already taking
place, or whether the UFO occupants had hostile intentions. There
seemed to be little reason to think along those lines. The UFOs
behaved as if they wanted to keep their distance from us. They
avoided contact on a formal level. They were not making mass
landings. They would fly about for a few seconds or minutes and then
vanish. Their apparent "shyness" suggested neutrality, or at least
non-hostility, toward humans.
Nevertheless, curiosity and questions about the motivation of the
aliens remained just beneath the surface of UFO research. But
because there was so little information, most researchers did not
spend a lot of time in useless speculation. And the more we learned
about the occupants of UFOs, the more difficult it was to understand
their motivation. The UFO and occupant reports that began to
increase in number in the 1960s and 1970s were truly bizarre. The
objects chased cars, disappeared in midair, and left marks on
people; they operated in secret for no apparent reason.
Witnesses sometimes said that they saw
UFO "occupants" outside the UFOs. Occasionally they reported coming
across humanoids (the word "alien" being too dramatic and fringy)
near a landed UFO who would paralyze the hapless humans and then
inspect them. The humanoids were also seen "repairing" a UFO or
digging in the ground; sometimes they appeared to be looking over
the terrain, or collecting plants. Some of the occupants' activity
was consistent with the hypothesis that they were curious about
earthly flora and fauna. At other times they engaged in more
baffling behavior. For example, they would pay no attention to a
witness, or they would suddenly appear holding a small box in front
of a witness and then disappear.
The accounts of these activities were a challenge to researchers who
tried to make sense of them. Our mindset was not, however, that the
humanoids had any hostile intentions— in fact, they appeared to be
examining, surveying, and gaining knowledge.
When abductions were first reported, as in 1961 with
the Barney and
Betty Hill case, they seemed to fit into the hypothesis that the
aliens were primarily curious. Yet, although Barney and Betty Hill
were not typical of the notorious 1950s "contactee" charlatans who
tried to make money off their tall tales, one could never be sure
whether they had invented their story.
As other abduction reports surfaced, UFO researchers were suspicious
about the possibility of fabrication. It was easy for me to be
skeptical. Most abductees had little to present in the way of
evidence for the reality of their experiences. Unlike some UFO
sighters, they had no photos, no radar traces, no movies, and
usually no other witnesses. Their accounts were hypnotically
retrieved, which was an obvious impediment to believability.
Because of the extreme nature of the abductees' claims, I stood on
the sidelines while our knowledge about the phenomenon began to
mount. The Barney and Betty Hill case was typical. They encountered
the now "standard" gray aliens who communicated telepathically, gave
the Hills an "examination," and seemed interested in human
reproduction. Afterward, the Hills experienced a form of amnesia,
and their memories of the incident had to be recovered with the use
of hypnosis. The Hill case was serialized in a major weekly
magazine, was the subject of a best-selling book, and became the
best-known abduction case in history.3
There was an even earlier abduction, which happened to Antonio
Villas Boas in Brazil in 1957. Villas Boas, who was home for
vacation from college, was abducted while riding a tractor on his
father's ranch. He was made to have sexual intercourse with a
strange but almost-human-looking female. This case was too
embarrassing and bizarre for researchers to take seriously, and it
was not published until 1966, the same year the public learned about
Only a few other cases came to light during the mid-1960s and early
1970s. One was the Pascagoula case of 1973, in which two men said
they were abducted as they fished on the banks of the Pascagoula
River in Mississippi. During the abduction, aliens "floated" them
into an object and a football-shaped machine was passed over their
bodies as if it were examining them. The two men seemed traumatized
by the event, and one did not talk about it in public for many
Another case occurred in 1975. Travis Walton was abducted and
physically missing from his normal environment for five days.
Moments before his abduction, six witnesses had seen Walton knocked
over by a ball of light emanating from a UFO. The witnesses fled in
panic, and when they returned a short time later, Walton was gone.
I read about these abductions and was not impressed. Debunkers had
stated (incorrectly) that Walton had wanted to be abducted, making
the entire event suspicious. Furthermore, the Pascagoula aliens did
not match the descriptions given by other abductees.
In 1976, I
confidently, and erroneously, told J. Allen Hynek that I thought the
highly publicized Pascagoula and Travis Walton cases were most
probably hoaxes because they did not seem to fit our knowledge of
the phenomenon. Besides, they just did not feel right. I thought the
chances that these cases were hoaxes far outweighed the chances that
the claimants were actually kidnapped by aliens from another planet.
In 1976, I interviewed Betty Hill, who told me something that had
been kept out of public accounts—the beings had taken a sperm sample
from Barney. I found this fascinating. It not only reinforced the
rising number of accounts of alien interest in reproduction, but if
the Hills' story had been psychologically generated, why concoct
something with the express intention of not telling it to anyone?
my mind, the abduction mystery was deepening and becoming more
complex. However, I still concentrated on the sightings paradigm in
which I had become fairly expert. Sightings, although still
considered illegitimate by the general public, were safe and
comfortable. The growing number of credible witnesses, radar
contacts, photos, films, and physical effects gave us a solid
evidentiary base on which to rely. Abductions, in spite of my
interest, still lacked the evidence that I required for
I was skeptical of veteran UFO researcher Ray Fowler's 1979 study of abductee
Betty Andreasson. The case demonstrated that the aliens
could mentally control people from a distance: They "switched
off"—rendered unconscious or immobile—people who were in
Andreasson's house while they abducted her and her daughter. This
case also illustrated a physical manipulation of matter that,
according to other reports, the aliens routinely performed. They
came directly through the wall of the house to accomplish the
And, during the abduction, Betty Andreasson saw puzzling
and inexplicable images of strange places and bizarre animals. But I
remained doubtful and believed that the images she saw, and perhaps
the entire abduction, were generated from her mind.4
By 1980, most of the abduction accounts were beginning to display
patterns of similarity: paralysis, physical examinations, telepathy,
amnesia, and little gray beings with large black eyes. Many of these
reports told of a continued alien interest in human reproduction. I
had read some of the abduction literature, but I was not persuaded
to give up my focus on sightings. The abductees could be lying, or
they could have serious psychological problems.
Then, in 1981 Budd Hopkins published Missing Time, a study in which
he examined seven abductees and found that a person could be taken
many times during the course of his or her life and might have
"screen memories" that masked other abduction events. Hopkins
discovered telltale scars on abductees, which they incurred during
the abduction, and his work confirmed the beings' interest in
reproduction. His book gave UFO researchers the first systematic
comparison of abductee experiences and showed that the phenomenon
could be studied on a society-wide basis.5
A year later, in 1982, TraceyTorme, a mutual friend of Budd
and mine, brought the two of us together. I visited Hopkins at his
vacation home on Cape Cod and learned more about what he was doing.
I noted how cautious and conservative he was. He had been developing
patterns in his research that were hard to ignore. The abductees he
worked with were serious, sober people genuinely concerned about
what had happened to them. I became intrigued.
After my meetings with Hopkins, I called Hynek and told him that I
thought Hopkins was on to something important. Hynek warned me to
stay away from the abduction cases because they were eccentric and
led us off the main path of sighting analysis. I disagreed and told
him that I thought Hopkins's research seemed solid. Hynek reiterated
his warning, trying to steer me back to the "correct" course of
research. Abduction reports were too bizarre for him; he could not
subject them to the kind of scientific analysis that he could use
for sighting reports.
Although I had adopted a stance similar to Hynek's for over fifteen
years, this time I had to follow the evidence. I had begun to
understand that if abductions were actually happening, they could be
the key to the UFO mystery because they allowed us to enter inside
the UFOs. They gave us knowledge that examining the out-sides of the
objects had never provided. I decided that I would begin to study
these cases myself so that I could carefully weigh the evidence. To
do this research, I would have to learn hypnosis.
I conducted my first hypnotic regression in August 1986.
By 1992 I
had conducted more than three hundred hypnotic regressions and had
discovered that analyzing abductee accounts was not easy. Asking the
right questions and separating reality from fantasy was difficult
and even treacherous; false memories and confabulation could lead
researchers and abductees into a never-never land of wishful
thinking and fantasy.
In 1992, I published the first segment of my research results as
Secret Life: Firsthand Accounts of UFO Abductions. In it I
delineated the structure of a typical abduction and the variety of
mental procedures performed on abductees. I also described a
multiplicity of hitherto unknown physical and reproductive
procedures and was able to re-create minute-by-minute a typical
abduction experience from beginning to end.6
From my research, I could add to Hopkins's findings on the aliens'
reproductive procedures of ova harvesting and fetal extraction. We
both found that the aliens required abductees to interact physically
with odd-looking babies and toddlers, whom the abductees generally
said resembled a combination of human and alien—hybrids. By
uncovering these elements of the abduction phenomenon, Hopkins
discovered one of the central aspects of why the beings are here.7
Having analyzed my own research on the aliens' reproductive
procedures, I knew when they were taking eggs or sperm. I could
identify when a fetus was extracted or implanted in an abductee. To
all appearances, the aliens were engaged in some sort of breeding
program. But the ultimate reasons for their physical and
reproductive procedures remained a mystery.
The mental procedures were even more baffling. Aliens almost always
stared into an abductee's eyes at a distance of a few inches or less
and seemed thereby to elicit love, fear, and anger. Some of these "Mindscan"
procedures could provoke intense sexual arousal in both men and
women. By staring into people's eyes, the beings could cause them to
see prearranged scenarios and "movies" in their minds. At that time
I had no idea how and why this took place. Now I think I understand
I was also puzzled about why abductees were subjected to strange
staging and testing procedures in which they acted out a scenario
with aliens or found that they could operate complex devices or
perform tasks they do not remember having learned. These procedures
seemed unrelated to the breeding program.
The aliens themselves were enigmatic. I did not know' whether they
ate or slept, or had any kind of life outside the abduction context.
The same was true of the hybrid babies, toddlers, adolescents, and
adults; their lives were a mystery. One thing was certain—the aliens
were engaging in a tremendous number of abductions. A national poll
by the Roper Organization in 1991 revealed the possibility of an
abduction program far more extensive than we had ever imagined.
Our continuing UFO research raised many other questions. For
example, abduction researcher Karla Turner reported in 1993 that
some abductees claimed the American military was abducting them in
cooperation with the aliens.8
In 1994 Harvard professor John Mack
discussed what was apparently an alien interest in the earth's
environment.9 Abductees increasingly claimed that hybrid adults were
involved with their abductions. Budd Hopkins found that aliens were
pairing young abductees for long-term relationships.10
matters, although the abduction phenomenon was traumatic for most
abductees, many found spiritual enlightenment and an expansion of
As if these issues were not complex enough, until recently I did not
have even provisional answers to the most important questions:
is the purpose of the breeding program?
What constitutes alien
authority and society?
Why are they operating in secrecy?
the magnitude of the abduction program?
What is the purpose of
For the first twenty years of my research, I thought
that we would never have the answers to the fundamental questions of
alien motivation and intentions. All that has changed now. In the
past ten years, I have gathered information that I feel certain
answers these questions satisfactorily.
In my most recent research, I have uncovered information that allows
UFO researchers to solve the UFO mystery—at least the questions that
will have the greatest impact upon us. I have put many pieces of the
puzzle together. I have focused the picture, and I do not like what
I see. For the first time in over thirty years of researching the
UFO phenomenon, I am frightened of it. Understanding has not led to
a feeling of contribution or accomplishment. Rather, it has led to
profound apprehension for the future.
The abduction phenomenon is
far more ominous than I had thought. Optimism is not the appropriate
response to the evidence, all of which strongly suggests that the
alien agenda is primarily beneficial for them and not for us.
I know why the aliens are here—and what
the human consequences will be if their mission is successful.
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