Since people have heard about the study of "imaginary
UFO abductees" (as if they were different from "real"
ones!), and are asking about them, I am posting the
following summary of a talk by Dr. Alvin Lawson, who
performed the study.
HYPNOSIS OF IMAGINARY UFO "ABDUCTEES"
(Abstract and Introduction only)
by Alvin H. Lawson
California State University,
Long Beach California, U.S.A 90840
In an attempt to evaluate objectively the claims of UFO
"abductees," imaginary abductions were induced hypnotically in a
group of volunteers who had no significant knowledge of UFOs.
Eight situational questions comprising the major components of a
typical abduction account were asked of each subject.
Although the researchers expected major dissimilarities, an
averaged comparison of data from four imaginary and four "real"
abduction narratives showed no substantive differences. Also,
extensive patterns echoing well-established details from "real"
UFO reports emerged from the "naive" subjects' imaginary
There is as yet no satisfactory explanation for the patterns
and other similarities between imaginary and "real" abductions,
But, more significantly, there are parallels between these
patterns and the "image constants" or recurrent descriptions of
form, color, and movement reported by subjects in drug-induced
hallucination experiments, and in SO-called "death" narratives,
among other mental processes. Thus there is reason to accept at
least some parts of "real" abductees' stories as accurate
reflections of what their sensory mechanisms have reported.
However, despite the many similarities, there are crucial
differences--such as alleged physical effects and multiple
witnesses--which argue that UFO abductions are separate and
distinct from imaginary and hallucinatory experiences. With these
distinctions in mind, an abduction model is proposed:
Witnesses _really perceive_ images--from whatever
source--such as bright and pulsating lights, lattice-
textured forms moving randomly in the sky, lighted
tunnels, humanoid figures, etc. These abduction
constants are combined with data from the imagination,
memory, and existing UFO data known by witnesses to
create a "real" UFO encounter. The subjective reality
of the intense hallucinatory structure convinces the
witnesses that the entire experience is a physically
real event. Subsequently they may report the "truth" as
they have experienced it, although actual occurrences
The complexities of the UFO phenomenon are affirmed by the
above model since still unexplained are many puzzling matters,
including the greatest mystery of all, the nature of the stimulus
which initiates the imagery in the witness and so triggers the
The writer prefers a dualistic UFO hypothesis. But while
there is a continuing absence of unambiguous physical evidence,
this study concludes that UFOs are--in psychological
terms--unquestionably real, and further, that non-physical UFO
research is promising.
Key-words: Abduction sequence; animals; apparitions ; "death"
narratives; drug-induced hallucinations; entities; exotic;
hallucinations; human; humanoid; hypnosis; image constants;
imaginary abductees; model abduction; "naive" subjects; patterns;
"real" abductees; robot; stimulus.
Since early 1977, sixteen volunteers have been hypnotized
and given imaginary UFO "abductions" by a clinical hypnotist
working with a group of Southern California ufologists.* The
purpose of this paper is to describe the series of experiments
and to discuss their implications for UFO research in the light
of several analogs to abduction experiences, particularly drug-
The imaginary "abductees" were volunteers from local
colleges and communities. The group was composed of ten females
and six males and ranged in age from 12 to 65. Based upon a brief
questionnaire, the oral portion of which was administered before
and again during hypnosis as a check, all subjects were judged to
be "naive"--that is, generally ignorant about UFOs and the
extensive if uneven literature about them.
The imaginary abduction study came about primarily because
of researchers' dissatisfactions with results from allegedly real
abduction case investigations. Objections included: 1) the
uncertain credibility of witnesses; 2) the ambiguous nature of
the anecdotal and other evidence supporting abduction witnesses;
and 3) unresolved questions as to the efficacy of hypnosis and/or
hypnotic procedures followed in particular cases. The researchers
be*an the study with the assumption that the imaginary
abductions would be clearly distinct from "real" cases and so
would offer some proof of the "reality" of actual abductions. But
what we found was both surprising and unsettling, and much of the
intervening time has been spent in trying to deal with the
implications of those results.
*The group included Dr. W.C, McCall, John De Herrera, and
the author. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the
1977 MUFON UFO Symposium (Scottsdale, Ariz.), and at the 1978
meeting of the American Psychological Association (Toronto).