A letter to the editor in the Summer 1988 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer caught my eye. I

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A letter to the editor in the Summer 1988 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer caught my eye. It referred to an article called "The Aliens Among Us: Hypnotic Regression Revisited," by Dr. Robert A. Baker. In it, Baker challenged UFO abductions by coming up with several alternatives to the ET Hypothesis, including Fantasy-Prone Personalities and Hypnogogic/Hypnopompic Hallucinations. These last two are special dream states experienced upon drifting off to sleep/waking up, in which one can feel paralyzed and/or see things in their bedroom that aren't really there. Out of Body Experiences and Alien Abductions have been attributed to this phenomenon by some research psychologists. Since I received few responses to my post on the ASTRAL echo suggesting Hypnogogic/pompic phenomena as a POSSIBLE explanation for OOBEs, I thought perhaps this letter would be enlightening: ---------------------- I would like to thank Robert A. Baker for his article "The Aliens Among Us: Hypnotic Regression Revisited" (SI, Winter 1987-88). I have been plagued by hypnogogic hallucinations since childhood, but until reading this article I didn't know what they were called or even that other people had them. My typical hallucination goes something like this: I am on the verge of falling asleep. A loud ringing in my ears, sometimes accompanied by a montage of unearthly voices, signals the onset of another episode. Though I seem awake, my body is completely paralyzed. I feel my "spirit" leave my body. The next thing I know I am floating somewhere near the ceiling, looking down at myself and my wife at my side. Once free of my body, I can often control where my ethereal self goes. Sometimes I float all around the house, and on one occasion I floated through the wall and out into the yard. Occaionally I sense the presence of other beings around me. At some point I get bored or frightened by the whole thing and return to my body and go to sleep. Instead of an out-of-body experience, I sometimes have an extremely vivid auditory and/or visual hallucination. Over the years I have seen and talked to "ghosts," been visited (though not yet abducted) by aliens, seen three-dimensional heads floating by my bed, heard knocks on my door (when no one else was in the house), and was once attacked by a glowing green Doberman. These experiences seem as real as life. I have never thought of these experiences as anything more than what they certainly are: my mind playing tricks on itself. The few other people I've known who have had similar experiences were all convinced that they were, in Baker's words, "incontrovertible proof of some sort of objective or consensual reality." These otherwise rational and intelligent people also believe that Uri Geller can really bend spoons with his mind. Take one hypnogogic hallucination and one fantasy-prone individual and you have all the ingredients you need for a true believer. Based on my own experience, I believe that hypnogogic and hypnopompic hallucinations provide a rational explanation for most alien abductions, out-of-body and near-death experiences, ghosts and just about any other claim of the paranormal you care to name. Baker states that these hallucinations are a "common yet little publicized and rarely discussed phenomenon." I recommend that SI and CSICOP discuss and publicize them thoroughly in the future. James A. Stewart Coronado, CA --------------- COMMENT: Mind you, I don't think "H/HH"s can fully account for the abduction syndrome, due to the striking similarities between reports (see SNOBS.UFO, ParaNet Alpha, Library 1). But even in this area I'm open to further inquiry. I'm also not the least bit impressed with this so-called "skeptic's" remark that OOBE's are "certainly" caused by H/HHs, "based on [his] own experience." Isn't extrapolation from personal experience an unsound method of judging data? It certainly is when True Believers do it, as many declared skeptics are quick to point out. If he's that "certain," there's no use in even arguing with him. He's no longer a skeptic, he's become a cynic. However, I thought this letter was important, in that it presents an alternative, Earth-bound picture of the phenomenon from the point of view of one who has experienced it. Rarely do declared skeptics acknowledge having actual encounters with the bizarre; they choose instead to take a more detached approach. I think this mixing of subjective experience with objective evaluation is an important element in the Rationalism movement's efforts to gain credibility among the credulous. <<>> Copyright 1988 National Fringe Sciences Information Service, All Rights Reserved. Letter Copyright 1988 Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. Used with permission.


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