(Blogger's note: Yes, this is much longer than it should be but I wanted to cover the topic as completely as possible. I found Budd Hopkins' response to Carol Rainey's article to be little more than an attack. It provide little in the way of fact but quite a bit of opinion. I hope I have not followed that lead, but have rebutted his arguments in a dispassionate way, using fact rather than opinion. At any rate, here is my take on this argument... and let me say, this debate has been a long time coming.)
I have been very reluctant to enter this fight because I have great empathy for Budd Hopkins who is very ill. I had empathy for Phil Klass when he was ill. But I disagree with many of the conclusions that both men drew based on their research techniques.
But as Lee said at Gettysburg, "The enemy is here. I did not want this fight, but the fight is here." So, with reluctance, I enter the fight because I don’t like the way part of it has been conducted.
I read Carol Rainey’s article and am aware of the old adage that the true test of another’s intelligence is how much he or she agrees with you. I have thought, based on my investigations, my research, and my discussions with many others, that the answers for alien abduction did not lie in the stars, but here on Earth. I found terrestrial explanations that were far more satisfying than a group of aliens abducting humans to perform genetic experiments that would have been crude a half century ago.
And now I have read Hopkins’ response ("Deconstructing the Debunkers: A Response,") to Rainey’s article and found it to more in line with a smear and less with a discussion of the scientific merit the abduction phenomenon. He reduced the discussion to his beliefs in UFO debunking, erecting strawmen to knock down but providing little in the way of objective evidence for his point of view.
He suggested that Rainey, and others he labels as debunkers, believe that nearly all abductees are liars who are participating in elaborate hoaxes, though I saw nothing in Rainey’s article to suggest that. Hopkins explains the complexity of attempting to keep all the lies straight during convoluted investigations, but never mentions that these alleged liars have the assistance of the researchers to help them keep the story consistent and in developing corroborative details.
What do I mean?
Just look at the transcripts as published in the various books by abduction researchers. You see the same questions asked again and again until the correct answer is supplied... and often those old mistakes in the story are ignored and forgotten. In other words, it is the researcher who is supplying much of that corroborative detail, helping to keep the complex story straight and selecting only those parts that confirm their preconceived notions.
What do I mean?
John Mack mentioned during a video taped interview with Russ Estes (which I mention here only because abduction researchers often claim that we had never interviewed them), that he found a curious matching of researcher and abductee.
Let me explain. In C.D.B. Bryan’s book about the MIT Abduction conference (Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind, 270 – 271), Bryan quoted Mack as saying, "And there’s another dimension to this, which Budd Hopkins and Dave Jacobs and I argue about all the time which is I’m struck by the fact that there seems to be a kind of matching of the investigator with the experiencer. So what may be the archetypal structure of an abduction to Dave Jacobs may not be the uniform experience of, say, Joe Nyman or John Mack or someone else. And the experiencers seem to pick out the investigator who will fit their experience."
He then adds, after agreeing he might have that backwards, that "It seems to me that Jacobs, Hopkins, and Nyman [another abduction researcher] may pull out of their experiencers what they want to see."
And right there we have the indictment that there is implantation of the researchers belief structures on those claiming alien abduction. For some reason Mack doesn’t see that he had just explained why there is an agreement from abductee to abductee in a researcher’s investigations and an agreement with a particular investigator’s belief structure. He or she is pulling out what they want to see.
That suggests that the abductees are not liars. Sure, we can point to a couple of cases in which it eventually became clear that the witness was being less than honest. After I had reported on the Susan Ramstead case, I had an opportunity to review the evidence with her and soon learned that she had been making it all up. She had read the necessary books on abduction so that she knew what to say and how to say it.
She was the exception though. Few people who claim abduction are lying about the experience. It is more likely that they have had some sort of an experience and through their own research or their contacts with abduction researchers come to believe that aliens are involved.
Nowhere has any of us suggested that the majority of abductees are liars. In fact I argued the point with Philip Klass. He wanted the abductees to take lie detector tests. I said it would do no good because the majority believed what they were saying. Didn’t mean it was grounded in reality, only that they believed they were telling the truth.
As noted, Mack understood this and he recognized that there was an implantation of ideas by the researcher. Maybe it is time to mention Richard Boylan who had two clients come to him who believed they had been ritually abused by Satan worshipers. They came to him confused and when they left, there were even more confused because Boylan told them that Satanists were not responsible... it was alien creatures. Here is a blatant example of the abduction researcher implanting his own belief structure on his clients.
So none of us are saying that all the abductees are lying, as Hopkins repeats in his attack. Mistaken... led... duped... hypnotized, but not lying. We realize that there is often some sort of a precipitating incident. In many cases this is sleep paralysis.
Yes, I know what the response is going to be. Many abductees were not asleep when the abduction allegedly happened. They were wide awake. If I wanted to be flippant, I would point out that cataplexy, which is basically sleep paralysis while wide awake, might answer this... But cataplexy is always associated with narcolepsy and as far as I know, no one has tested abductees to learn if narcolepsy is a problem with them. (For more information see: J. Hoed, E.A. Lucas and W.C. Dement, "Hallucinatory Experiences During Cataplexy in Patients with Narcolepsy," American Journal of Psychiatry, 136 (1979) 1210 – 11; E. Kahn, A. Edwards K. Grabowski, N. Roese , D.M. Jones and J. Fine, "Psycho-physiological Study of Nightmares and Night Terrors: Mental Content and Recall of Stage four Night Terrors, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (1974) 174 – 88, and David Hufford, The Terror That Comes in the Night, 1982.)
The real point is that the symptoms of sleep paralysis mirror those of alien abduction and no one, in the last decade and a half, since we raised the issue, has attempted to develop a protocol that separates cases of sleep paralysis from alien abduction. Kathleen Marden did tell me that abductees report the events in color but victims of sleep paralysis report the case in black and white. If true, meaning, if confirmed, then we are making progress.
But I don’t want to argue the merits of sleep paralysis versus the possibility of alien abduction. Instead I want to look at Hopkins’ attack and where it slipped off the rails. That would be in his recitation of the Santa Rosa crash/retrieval.
I will say that if nothing else, we now have a great deal of additional information about this event, and anything that does that can’t be all bad. I will also note that with much gnashing of teeth we are still left with a single witness case that has no corroborating information and that makes it very weak.
Hopkins makes it clear that the only real witness is likeable woman he called Beanie, though there were hints to other witnesses. She mentions the name of the state trooper who was on the scene. He might have been the man who covered the alien bodies with sheets but he was certainly there to witness part of this. He would be a wonderful corroborative witness because he was a state trooper, well known to Beanie. He was a man called, "Dutch."
Hopkins wrote, "This detail was, of course, extremely important, because the last person a hoaxer wants to locate is a ‘designated witness’ who says, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. What incident?’"
And that sounds very good and logical, except it isn’t necessarily true. Gerald Anderson who, as a five-year-old child, said he had seen the crashed alien ship and the bodies of the flight crew on the Plains of San Agustin and even provided the name of one of the witnesses. He said that Adrian Buskirk was the archaeologist who had been there.
The name was actually Winfred Buskirk who was clearly the man Anderson described and who was, in fact, alive, to say that he wasn’t there. He had been on the Apache Indian reservation during the summer of 1947 and even had pictures to prove it. So, was Anderson’s tale rejected? No, Buskirk was labeled a liar and a government agent of some sort. Anderson’s discredited tale is still believed even after he admitted to forging documents and after Buskirk refuted his claims.
Hopkins noted that hoaxers "of anything, when the subject of possible witnesses arises, will say something like, ‘I don’t remember him exactly but I think he might have had... blonde hair... I don’t remember his name.’"
And yet when Robert Willingham was inventing his tale of a crashed UFO, named many names. Now, it is true that every name he supplied turned out to be a dead friend, but it also gave us a place to begin looking for corroboration. So, despite Hopkin’s stark claim, this is not borne out by other cases.
What disturbed me most about this new data on Santa Rosa was Hopkins’ attack on Walter Webb. For those who don’t know, Webb has been investigating abduction cases before Budd Hopkins even believed that UFOs were extraterrestrial. But Hopkins dismisses Webb, writing, "Essentially Walt was an astronomer, not someone with extensive experience in working face to face with people like Beanie and I was right to be concerned."
He then goes on to say, "He [Webb] came in quickly [to a house where there were addition witnesses], bearing his equipment, and immediately asked the widow for a table so that he could put his instrument in the center of what he hastily improvised as a kind of circle so that he could record everyone. Since I had not yet mentioned tape recording any of the family, or asked permission, one can imagine the family’s shocked response."
Hopkins then reports, "If Walter Webb had set off a small cherry bomb in the room he couldn’t have caused more of a disruption."
The interview in question was with the widow of the ambulance driver and not the widow of the recently deceased state trooper. Careful reading of Hopkins’ "Response," makes that clear. So this is a woman who had no direct knowledge of the UFO crash or the recovery of the bodies. In other words, a second-hand witness at best.
Jerry (Jerome) Clark, in his massive The UFO Encyclopedia of UFOs (2nd Edition) wrote about Walter Webb. "One of ufology’s most respected investigators... Webb spent 32 years of his working life at the Charles Hayden Planetarium at Boston’s Museum of Science as a senior lecturer, assistant director and operations manager... As a scientific advisor to the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), Webb investigated the classic Hill abduction case..."
This doesn’t sound like a guy who has no people skills and who just bursts into a room setting up equipment without a thought about the impact of that on those already in the room. Why would Hopkins make any such claims? Could it be that Webb suggested that the Beanie case was not one worth further research? That it was single witness with no corroboration?
I’ll note something else that struck me here. Hopkins wrote that they had visited with the widow and developed a warm relationship. He, with Beanie, visited her to talk about the possible UFO crash. According to Hopkins, this mystery woman (I say this only because Hopkins provides no name... and given the way some people do operate in the UFO field, he is probably justified in sparing her some of those communications), said that she had done all the paperwork for the local ambulance that would include the trip tickets and billing. She explained to Hopkins that on this visit to Santa Rosa they were never paid to pick up the bodies and "what’s more, she recalled that her trip book had a number of consecutive pages missing around the same time."
Great. The documentation is conveniently missing. But I see nothing to suggest that Hopkins asked to see that trip book or attempt to verify the information. The trip book with the missing pages would, after a fashion, provide some corroboration for the tale. Yes, I know that people lose paperwork and this would have been nearly fifty years ago... but as near as I can tell, he never asked about it.
What all this tells me is that there is but a single witness here. The ambulance driver’s widow suggests there is missing paperwork from the time frame but nothing that actually proves this. The trooper is dead and his brother, who was a sheriff, never heard the story. There is absolutely nothing except the tale told by Beanie and the vague memories of the widow who was not involved.
So, the only defense of this rather poor crash/retrieval story is an attack on Walter Webb because it is clear that Rainey’s reporting of Webb’s attitudes is accurate. I verified this with Webb, who told me that it was "essentially correct."
Rather than providing us with a coherent response that includes evidence that can be verified by others, Hopkins, instead, labels Rainey as a debunker who has fixed opinions and no amount of evidence will sway her opinion. In reality, Hopkins offers no evidence that alien abduction is real but more of the same anecdotal evidence that has failed to convince science that here is something that demands further research. All attempts to provide the physical evidence has failed to this point. There is always some reason why it can’t be offered or why it has disappeared.
When challenged, the abduction researchers retreat to a line suggesting that they have interviewed hundreds of witnesses, conducted hundreds of investigations including dozens of hypnotic regression sessions. They tell us that hypnotic regression is a solid research tool but the majority of the scientific evidence refutes this. Hypnosis might be a valuable therapeutic tool, but is not useful in gathering evidence. There are simply too many ways to lead the subject.
In fact, as Russ Estes, Bill Cone and I suggested more than a decade and a half ago, we need to move beyond the case studies in abduction research. We need to gather some useful evidence that can be analyzed but every attempt to provide that additional evidence has failed. The implants cannot be proven to be of alien manufacture. The electronic surveillance always fails for a variety of reasons. The photographs don’t turn out. The DNA analysis is either never attempted or fails to provide the corroboration. All we have, in the end, are the stories told by those claiming abduction and those attempting to investigate it.
Hopkins, unable to prove that alien abduction is real, or that he has solid evidence to prove his case must show that Rainey is wrong in her various assertions and attacks her as a debunker. Hopkins knows, just as anyone around this field knows, that labeling someone a debunker is a quick way to refute what he or she says without having to provide evidence that he or she is wrong. If a debunker said it, then it must not be true.
The title of his paper, "Deconstructing the Debunkers: A Response," tells us all we really need to know about the paper. Hopkins isn’t going to deal with the issues raised by Rainey in her article, or by others who have preceded her. He is going use the debunker brush to smear her arguments so he doesn’t have to answer them.
Going back to the Santa Rosa crash, Hopkins wrote, "In her paper she dismisses the [ambulance driver’s] widow’s testimony in this way: ‘When pressed, she seemed to vaguely recall that the Air Force had indeed once stripped the ambulance clean and taken the billable trip ticket, as Beanie claimed.’ Ms. Rainey is good with adverbs: note the word ‘vaguely.’ But she also wields verbs as well: ‘when pressed’ I assume that what she is trying to get across is the idea that since she believes there was never an Air Force visit to the ambulance and no missing trip ticket, (facts Beanie had only learned from the widow) she is claiming that Beanie somehow forced the old lady to join her hoax by accepting her – Beanie’s – lies and then passing them on to me."
But, of course this analysis is not accurate. I’m not sure how you prove that the trip ticket is missing, but that isn’t a fact. There is no evidence that the Air Force stripped the ambulance. And under close questioning, asking about missing trip tickets may certainly produce a positive response but doesn’t prove the Air Force was responsible or that alien bodies were involved.
Hopkins then defends the use of hypnosis and challenges the rest of us to "...go back to my books if you wish, and good luck in finding any mistakes or leading moments you’d like to quote against me."
Ok, challenge accepted.
First, let’s look at an interview conducted by Jerry Clark, editor of the CUFOS International UFO Reporter ("Conversations with Budd Hopkins," Nov/Dec 1988, 4 – 12). Hopkins told Clark, "The first point is, of course, that we have 20 to 30 percent of the abduction accounts recalled without resort to hypnosis."
Clark was pursuing the idea that hypnosis could lead to confabulation, suggesting that abduction reports were similar to past life regressions in that they both emerged under hypnosis. The subject, for example, entered into the session believing in past life and under hypnosis, told of a past life that was rich in detail.
Hopkins told Clark, "A person enters a past-life regression out of a desire to believe in reincarnation. He's entered a situation - allowed himself to be hypnotized - for that reason alone."
Yet in reading what Hopkins wrote about Steve Kilburn in Missing Time, we find the same thing is true. The whole investigation of Kilburn's experience came out of UFO research. Ted Bloecher brought him around because of his fear of the stretch of highway, but Hopkins had noted the "pattern" of victims being taken from deserted highways. During the discussion that preceded the hypnosis, Kilburn said, "It was a very dark road, that was for sure, and it did occur to me as I was driving that this is the kind of place that something like that (a UFO encounter) should happen."
What that says, simply, is that Kilburn had entered the situation, expecting some sort of a UFO encounter. They had discussed it before the hypnosis began. And they found a UFO event. This was a point that seemed to be lost on Hopkins, though he had already demonstrated that he understood it when he was describing the past life regression therapy.
Hopkins in that same interview with Clark, also said that stories of reincarnation are pleasant, but tales of alien abduction are "at least unpleasant and sometimes horrifying, something where the person has every reason to feel terrified, humiliated and upset about the whole experience. Who would want something like that? Yet the stories emerge nonetheless."
Hopkins is suggesting that the tales must be true because the victims of alien abduction would not make up horrifying tales. They must be true, because, as John Mack has said repeatedly, "This is not a club that anyone would want to join."
But these arguments are based on the logic of those making them. There is no evidence that such is the case. When the victim appears at the therapist's office, or at Hopkins' group meetings, he or she expects to find an alien abduction and they do. The relative pleasantness of the experiences is irrelevant to those telling them.
And the parallel to reincarnation can be drawn even further. Although Hopkins suggests the tales of reincarnation are pleasant, often they are not. In one case, a woman afraid of the water learned during a hypnotic probing of a past life that she had been killed by an alligator as she jumped into a river.
Hardly a pleasant experience.
Hopkins has spent the years since the Kilburn case interviewing others who claim abduction. During the Clark interview, he pointed out that he had a number of psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists who had come to him to explore segments of missing time with hypnosis. If these people, and their clients, aren't already "programmed" to believe in an abduction, then why search out Hopkins for assistance? Wouldn't anyone versed in hypnosis be able to help them learn what happened during this supposed missing time? Aren't each of them "primed" for an abduction, just as those who go to a reincarnation specialist are "primed" for learning about a past life.
Even that testimony in these sessions is somewhat contradictory. In Hopkins' own work there is evidence that the subjects do not easily accept the notion of abduction. Hopkins reports the tale of a man he called Philip Osborne. Hopkins wrote, "I noticed his interest in the subject had a particular edge to it. It was almost as if he accepted too much, too easily." Hopkins believed "that someone with a hidden traumatic UFO experience might later on be unconsciously drawn to the subject."
Osborne called Hopkins after an NBC UFO documentary and said that he had been struck by Kilburn's remark that anyone could be the victim of abduction. Osborne had been searching his memory for anything in his past that would indicate some sort of strange experience. Then, one night after the NBC program, Osborne awoke in the middle the night, paralyzed. He could not move, turn his head or call for help. The experience was over quickly, but it reminded him of another, similar event that happened while he was in college. That earlier event had one other, important addition. He felt a presence in the room with him.
Hopkins, along with others, met Osborne a few days later to explore these events using hypnosis. During the initial hypnotic regression, Osborne gave only a few answers that seemed to direct them toward an abduction experience. According to Hopkins, Osborne told them that he "had more or less refused to describe imagery or events that seemed 'too pat,' too close to what he and we might have expected in a UFO encounter."
During the discussion after the hypnosis, Osborne told Hopkins that "I would see something and I would say to myself in effect, 'Well, that's what I'm supposed to see.'"
And, in a second hypnotic regression session held a few days later, while under hypnosis, Osborne said, "I'm not sure I see it... I think it's my imagination... It's gone now."
Osborne, it seems, had recognized one of the problems with abduction research, had communicated it to Hopkins, and then had it ignored. Osborne was wondering if the "memories" he was seeing under hypnosis were real. Hopkins believed they were so took no notice of Osborne's concern. Hopkins, as he noted in his response to Rainey, believes in the reliability of hypnosis as a method for uncovering the truth. I, however, see those statements by Osborne as extremely important in attempting to understand alien abduction.
Osborne's initial experiences are also classic forms of sleep paralysis. Even the belief that an entity is in the room happens in about eighty percent of the cases of sleep paralysis. This simple explanation is all too often ignored by UFO researchers.
The point, I think is made. Here were Hopkins own words, from one of this books, telling us a story that Hopkins refused to hear. Both these examples seem to suggest leading the witness to the point where a fear of a stretch of highway, and an episode of sleep paralysis turns into an alien abduction and there is just no physical evidence to take us there. Just the hypnosis used to question the witnesses about their experiences.
So, here’s the dirty little secret about abduction research. All the evidence is anecdotal. There is no real physical evidence. Oh sure, they talk of implants, but when those have been removed and analyzed, there is nothing to suggest an extraterrestrial technology.
Here’s the second dirty little secret. Contrary to what Hopkins believes, or David Jacobs believes, hypnosis isn’t a good research tool. Oh sure, Hopkins talks about a "peer reviewed book" about hypnosis, published by a university press, but the editor is David Jacobs. Do you really believe that any paper suggesting that hypnosis might not be the best investigative technique would have made it into that book? Wouldn’t a better source for objective opinion by the various psychological journals that have studied hypnosis? (See, for example, "Scientific Status of Refreshing Recollection by the Use of Hypnosis, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 34, 1 (1986) 1 –12; Robert A. Baker, "Hypnosis, Memory and Incidental Memory, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 25, 4 (1983) 253 – 300; Eddie Bullard, "Hypnosis No ‘Truth Serum’," UFO 4,2 (1989) 31 –35: J.H. Conn, "Is Hypnosis Really Dangerous?" International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 20 (1972) 61 – 69; M. Garry and E. Loftus, "Pseudo-memories without Hypnosis," International Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 42, 4 (1994) 363 – 78; K. Grabowski, N. Roese and M. Thomas, "The Role of Expectancy in Hypnotic Hypermnesia: A Brief Communication," International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 39 4 (1991) 193 - 7, to name just a few)
As Hopkins said, this has now gone on much longer than I intended. However, I wanted to address issues raised in his response, and I hope I did it without calling into question his personal integrity or motives the way he went after Carol Rainey and even Walter Webb.
What all this tells me is that after a decade and a half, others are beginning to raise the issues that Estes, Cone and I did in The Abduction Enigma. I think it’s about time, and I sincerely hope that the discussion can say on a level of reviewing the evidence, or lack thereof, rather than descending into the cult of personality as it too often does. We have a chance here. Let’s not let it get away. Again.