Date: Sun Feb 20 1994 16:29:52 To: ALL Subj: Sagan on Abductees UFO - WHAT'S REALLY GOING

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Date: Sun Feb 20 1994 16:29:52 From: Sheppard Gordon To: ALL Subj: Sagan on Abductees UFO ------------------------------- WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON? by Carl Sagan PARADE MAGAZINE, 3/7/93 It's still dark out. You're lying in bed, fully awake - but, you discover, you're utterly paralyzed. You sense someone in the room. You try to cry out. But you cannot. Several small gray beings less than 4 feet tall are standing at the foot of your bed. Their heads are pear-shaped and bald, and large for their bodies. Their eyes are enormous, their faces expressionless and identical. They wear tunics and boots. You hope this is only a dream, but as nearly as you can tell it's really happening. They lift you up, and, eerily, they and you slip through the wall of your bedroom and float out into the air, rising high toward a metallic, saucer-shaped aircraft. There, you are escorted into a medical examining room. A larger but similar being - evidently some sort of physician - takes over. What follows is even more terrifying. Your body is probed with special machines, especially your sexual parts. If you're a man, they may take sperm samples; if you're a woman, they may implant semen or remove ova or fetuses. They may force you to have sex. Afterward, you may be ushered into a different room where hybrid babies, partly human, and partly these creatures, stare back at you. You may be given an admonition about human misbehavior, especially in despoiling the environment; scenes of future devastation are displayed. Finally, these cheerless gray emissaries usher you out of the spacecraft and ooze you back through the walls into your bed. By the time you're able to move and talk, they're gone. You may not remember the incident right away; you might find some period of time unaccountably missing. Because all of this seems so bizarre, you're concerned about your sanity; naturally, you're reluctant to talk to anyone about it. At the same time, the experience is so disturbing that it's hard to keep bottled up forever. It all pours out when you hear similar accounts, or when you're under hypnosis with a sympathetic therapist, or even when you see a picture of an "alien" in one of the many popular magazines and books on UFOs. In a recent Roper poll of nearly 6,000 American adults, specially commissioned by those who accept the alien abduction story at face value, 18% reported sometimes waking up paralyzed, aware of one or more strange beings in the room. Something like 13% reported odd episodes of missing time, and 10% claimed to have flown through the air without mechanical assistance. From these results, the poll's sponsors concluded that 2% of all Americans have been abducted, many repeatedly, by beings from other worlds. If aliens are not partial to Americans, the number for the whole planet would be more than 100 million people. This means an abduction every several seconds. It's surprising that more of the neighbors haven't noticed. What's going on here? Could all these people be mistaken, or lying, or hallucinating the same or a very similar story? When you talk with them, most seem very sincere, although in the grip of powerful emotions. A few psychiatrists who have examined them find no more evidence of psychopathology than in the rest of us. But could there really be a massive alien invasion, repugnant medical procedures performed on millions of innocent men, women and children, and humans apparently used as breeding stock over many decades - and all this not generally known and dealt with by responsible media and the governments sworn to protect the lives and well-being of their citizens? Why should beings so advanced in physics and engineering - crossing vast interstellar distances, walking like ghosts through walls - be so backward when it comes to biology? Why go to all the trouble of repeated sexual encounters between aliens and humans? Why not steal a few egg and sperm cells, read the full genetic code and then manufacture as many genetic variations as you like? Even we humans - who cannot quickly cross interstellar space or slither through walls - are able to clone cells. The preoccupation with reproduction in these accounts raises a warning flag - especially considering the uneasy balance between sexual freedom and repression that has always characterized the human condition, and the fact that we live in a time fraught with numerous ghastly accounts, both true and false, of childhood sexual abuse. The pollsters never actually asked whether their subjects had been abducted by aliens; they ___DEDUCED___ it: Those who've ever awakened sensing strange presences around them, ever unaccountably seemed to fly through the air, and so on, have THEREFORE been abducted by aliens. The conclusion - that millions of American have been abducted - seems extremely doubtful. Still, at least hundreds of people, believing they have been abducted, have sought out sympathetic therapists or joined abductee support groups. So which is more likely - that we're undergoing a massive but generally overlooked invasion by alien sexual abusers, or that people are experiencing some internal mental state they do not understand? Admittedly, we're very ignorant about both extraterrestrial beings, if any, and about human psychology. But if these really were the only two alternatives, which would you pick? It's curious that emotions can run so high on a matter in which we know so little. After all, either hypothesis - extraterrestrial invasion or an epidemic of hallucinations - teaches us something we certainly ought to know about. Maybe the reason for such strong feelings is that both alternatives have extremely unpleasant implications. The first alien abduction story in the modern era began with Betty and Barney Hill, a New Hampshire couple - she a social worker and he a Post Office employee. During a late night drive in 1961 through the White mountains of New Hampshire, Betty spotted a bright starlike UFO that seemed to follow them. Because Barney feared it might harm them, they left the main highway for narrow mountain roads. They arrived home two hours later than they had expected. The experience prompted Betty to read a book claiming that UFOs were spaceships from other worlds. Soon after, she had a repetitive nightmare in which she and Barney were abducted and taken aboard the UFO. Barney overheard her describing this dream to friends and volunteer UFO investigators. Several years later, Barney's psychiatrist referred him to a Boston hypnotherapist, Benjamin Simon, M.D. Betty came to be hypnotized as well. Under hypnosis they separately described a memory of their trip home - of seeing a UFO, watching it land on the highway and being taken partly immobilized into the UFO, where little humanoid creatures subjected them to unconventional medical examinations. I was glad to have an opportunity to spend several hours with Mr. and Mrs. Hill, and with Dr. Simon. There was no mistaking the earnestness and sincerity of Betty and Barney, and their mixed feelings about becoming public figures under such bizarre circumstances. With the Hills' permission, Dr. Simon played for me some of the audiotape of their sessions under hypnosis. By far my most striking impression was the absolute terror in Barney's voice as he described - relived would be a better word - the encounter. Simon rejected the notion that they were lying. So what's left? The Hills, said the psychiatrist, had experienced a species of "dream." In 1894 THE INTERNATIONAL CENSUS OF WAKING HALLUCINATIONS was published in London. From that time to this, repeated surveys have shown that 10% to 25% of ordinary, functioning people have experienced at least once a vivid hallucination - hearing a voice, usually, or seeing a form when there's no one there. In some cases there are profound religious experiences. (Probably a dozen times since their deaths I've heard my mother or father, in an ordinary, conversational tone of voice, calling my name. They had called my name often during my life with them. I still miss them so much that it doesn't seem strange to me that my brain will occasionally retrieve a kind of lucid recollection of their voices.) Such hallucinations may occur to perfectly normal people. But there are circumstances in which they can be elicited by a campfire at night, or under great stress, or by prolonged fasting or sleeplessness, or sensory deprivation, or through hallucinogens such as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, hashish or alcohol. These hallucinations have a vivid and palpable reality. Hallucinations are common. If you have one, it doesn't mean you're crazy. Indeed, they are sought out in many cultures. We would surely be missing something important about our own nature if we refused to face up to the fact that hallucinations are part of being human. But none of this makes hallucinations real. Most of us remember being frightened at the age of 3 or so by real-seeming but wholly imaginary "monsters." If we're capable of conjuring up monsters in childhood, why shouldn't some of us, at least on occasion, be able to imagine similar things as adults? There's a common, although insufficiently well known, psychological syndrome very much like alien abduction: Many people have experienced sleep paralysis. On falling asleep or when waking up - just for a few seconds, or maybe for longer periods - you seem to be paralyzed and acutely anxious. You may feel a weight on your chest, your heartbeat is quick, your breathing labored. You may experience auditory or visual hallucinations - of people, demons, ghosts, animals or birds. In the right setting the experience can have "the full force and impact of reality," according to Dr. Robert Baker, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky. Sometimes there's a marked sexual component to the hallucination. Baker has forcefully argued that these common sleep disturbances are behind many if not most of the alien abduction accounts. (He and others suggest that some abduction claims are also made by fantasy-prone individuals or hoaxers seeking fame and fortune.) Even if no known hallucinations were to fit the alien abduction pattern, it's certain that humans commonly hallucinate. There's considerable doubt about whether extraterrestrials exist and frequently visit our planet. We may argue about details, but the one category of explanation seems much better supported than the other. The main reservation you might then have is: Why do so many people report _THIS PARTICULAR_ set of hallucinations? Why little gray beings and flying saucers and sexual molestation? Demons, the early Church Fathers taught, come down from heaven and have unlawful sexual congress with women. St. Augustine believed witches were the offspring of these forbidden unions. In his famous Bull of 1484, Pope Innocent VIII declared: "It has come to Our ears that members of both sexes do not avoid to have intercourse with evil angels, incubi, and succubi, and that by their sorceries, and by their incantations, charms, and conjurations, they suffocate, extinguish, and cause to perish the births of women," as well as cause sundry other calamities. With this Bull, Innocent initiated the systematic accusation, torture, and execution of countless "witches" all over Europe. Two inquisitors appointed by Innocent declared: "Devils...busy themselves by interfering with the normal process of normal copulation and conception, by obtaining human semen, and themselves transferring it. The offspring of these demonic unions are also, when they grow up, visited by devils - although not all witches are created this way. And witches were well known to fly through the air. There is no spaceship, but most of the essential elements of the alien abduction story are here. In 1645, a Cornish teenager, Anne Jeffries, was found groggy and crumpled on the floor. much later, she recalled being attacked by little men, carried paralyzed to a castle in the air, seduced and returned home. she called the little men fairies. They returned to torment her. The next year she was arrested for witchcraft. Fairies traditionally have magical powers and can cause paralysis by the merest touch. The ordinary passage of time is slowed in fairyland. Fairies have sex with humans and carry off babies from their cradles. If Anne Jeffries had known about aliens rather than fairies, and UFOs rather than castles in the air, would her story have been distinguishable from the one "abductees" tell? Is it possible that people in all times and places occasionally experience vivid, realistic hallucinations, often with sexual content - with the details filled in by the prevailing cultural idioms, sucked out of the Zeitgeist? When everyone knows that gods regularly come down to Earth, we hallucinate gods; when everyone knows about demons, it's incubi and succubi; when fairies are widely believed, we see fairies; when the old myths fade and we begin thinking that aliens are plausible, then that's where our hypnogogic imagery tends. Snatches of songs or foreign languages, images and stories we witnessed in our childhood can be accurately recalled decades later without any conscious memory of the source. In our everyday life, we effortlessly incorporate cultural motifs and norms and make them seem our own. Today, aliens are the subject of innumerable science-fiction stories and novels. UFOs are a regular feature of weekly newspapers dedicated to falsification and mystification. One of the highest-grossing motion pictures of all time is about aliens very much like those described by abductees. Alien abduction stories were comparatively rare until 1987, when a purported firsthand account with a haunting cover painting of an "alien" became a best-seller. It is striking how similar many of the abduction accounts are now, and how little we hear about incubi and fairies. But it might not be altogether surprising that, in our time and society, short, gray aliens with breeding programs on their minds are what we mainly reach for when we must describe these hallucinations. No one would be happier than I would if we had real evidence of extraterrestrial life. But the issue comes down to the quality of the evidence. Proponents of alien abductions do not ask us to believe on faith, but rather on the strength of their evidence. Surely it is our duty to examine the purported evidence closely and skeptically. _NO_ anecdotal claim - no matter how sincere, no matter how deeply felt, no matter how exemplary the lives of the attesting citizens - carries much weight on so important a question. As with the older UFO cases, anecdotal accounts are subject to irreducible error. This is not a criticism of those who claim abductions or of those who investigate them. It is merely a statement of human fallibility. Where is the physical evidence? Some abductees allege that aliens stole fetuses from their wombs. This is something that would surely cause a stir among gynecologists, midwives, and obstetrical nurses, especially in an age of heightened feminist awareness. But not a SINGLE MEDICAL RECORD has been produced substantiating such claims. Some abductees say that tiny metallic implants were inserted into their bodies - high up in their nostrils, for example. But no such implants have been confirmed by physicists or chemists as being of unearthly manufacture. No abductee has filched a page from the captain's logbook or a strange examining instrument, or taken an authentic photograph of the interior of the ship or come back with detailed scientific information not hithero known on Earth. These failures tell us something. If indeed the bulk of the alien abduction accounts are really about hallucinations, don't we have before us a matter of supreme importance - touching on our limitations, the ease with which we may be misled, the fashioning of our beliefs and perhaps even the origins of our religions? There is genuine scientific paydirt in UFOs and alien abductions - but it is, I think, of distinctly terrestrial origin.


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