Date: Wed Jun 01 1994 00:00:28 To: All Subj: Abductions,SleepParalysi The Alien Notion 05/
Date: Wed Jun 01 1994 00:00:28
From: Sheppard Gordon
The Alien Notion
THE WASHINGTON POST
Why do some people think they've been abducted by aliens from
Normally, being calm and rational types, we greet tales of
alien abduction with hoots, sneers and guffaws, then quickly return
to our previous work on behalf of the Zorgon Empire.
But lately the alien thing has gotten out of hand.
Alien-abduction stories have gotten a big boost with the publication
of a book by a well-known, Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard
psychiatrist, John Mack, who says he believes that these stories,
however far-fetched, are actually true. Alien abduction is also a
regular theme of allegedly nonfiction TV programs. Getting abducted
by little gray men with large eyeballs is to the '90s what disco
dancing in white suits was to the '70s.
Maybe it's all true. How can you disprove it? The aliens are
doing it secretly, remember, so the absence of footprints,
photographs or direct alien confessions merely corroborates the
scenario of a covert UFO operation.
There are probably many factors at work here. Some stories are
probably hoaxes. Some are probably the result of madness. A few may
be artifacts of therapy, the misapplication of hypnosis or the
implantation of false memories by pseudo-scientific investigators
(psychiatrists, for example). Skeptics say memory is inherently
malleable, particularly when a patient is undergoing the hypnosis
technique known as "memory regression."
"Without a doubt, inadvertent cueing also plays a major role in
UFO-abduction fantasies. The hypnotist unintentionally gives away to
the person being regressed exactly what response is wanted,"
psychologist Robert Baker has written in the Skeptical Inquirer.
There's one explanation for UFO abductions that we find
particularly intriguing. This is the theory that some abduction
fantasies are a function of a sleeping disorder called sleep
paralysis. It so happens that a key Why staffer has this very
disorder, and, indeed, the symptoms match up with some of the
symptoms of alien abduction.
The aliens usually strike at night while people are in bed; so
too does sleep paralysis. The abductees report that their first
sensation is apprehension, the sense that someone is in the room;
that is precisely what happens with sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis is a screw-up of the brain's normal
awake-asleep mechanism. Normally people lose muscle tone only when
they are asleep. But if you have sleep paralysis this loss of muscle
tone can kick in too early, before your brain is asleep, or persist
after you've woken up. It's creepy! In fact it's a lot like being
zapped with a suspended-animation ray from the Mother Ship. You have
to shake yourself out of it, no easy task. All the while you tend to
have auditory hallucinations or dreamlike thoughts, usually with
menacing overtones. In Whitley Streiber's book "Communion" he
describes waking up, being unable to move, seeing strange beings,
then, incredibly, going back to sleep. Sounds just like sleep
Our Why staffer has never imagined himself abducted. But he has
felt, during these sleep paralysis attacks, that they were being
done to him by someone else, some Other. It's all the more
frustrating then to realize, when the attack goes away, that it is
just one's own self that is doing this, that the Other is just one's
Okay, so maybe that's not as interesting an explanation for
alien abduction as the one that says aliens are really here and are
trying to beam us aboard their spacecraft so they can do unseemly
alien things to us. But you have to admit it's almost as weird.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank