Monday, March 28, 2005

Alien Abduction and Leading the Witness

Recently there has been a discussion on UFO Updates about alien abduction. In the course of that discussion some of the myths were laid out for us all to see. It’s time, to challenge these once again, I did with Russ Estes and Bill Cone, Ph.D. in The Abduction Enigma (TOR Books, 1999). I will mention that the book offended a large number of people in the UFO field, but only because they refused to understand the message of that books.

One of those who disagreed with the message, wrote, "How anybody can claim that abductions rest with omplicated sleep disorders is beyond me. There are literally hundreds of cases where the people aren't in bed, but are driving, walking etc. There are loads of cases where more than one person is abducted at a time. Now will we hear about a new contagious disease.. sleep paralysis that occurs when people are driving or doing other non horizontal activities?"

The answer to this is that few are claiming that sleep paralysis answers all abduction cases. It does explain some. Besides, there is a type of sleep paralysis that does, in fact, affect people who are wide awake and involved in other "non horizontal activities." It’s called cataplexy and before anyone runs off to look it up, I will point out that it is always associated with narcolepsy. No one, as far as I can tell, has ever done any research into the number of abduction witnesses who are also narcoleptic (though I will speculate that the number is quite small).

The point is that some abductions, but by no means all, can be explained by sleep disorders.He also wrote, "I have seen no examples that sleep paralysis has produced accounts just like abductions any more than magnetic fields have."

Well, then let’s take a look around and see if we can find some examples for you. First is Pat Roach, the Utah woman who said that she and a number of her children had been abducted. She said that she awakened, believed there had been an intruder in the house, then called the police. Over the next two years she became convinced that the intruders had been alien creatures. It was after reading another abduction account in a magazine that Roach made contact with me through that magazine and because of the article I had written.

It is quite clear to me that Roach was led into her more detailed descriptions by Dr. James Harder who was looking for some validation of the Hill abduction. It is also clear that Roach took cues from the magazine article I had written about another abduction. Her descriptions of the interior of the craft, for example, mirrored those in that article.

Between sessions, Harder discussed with Roach other abduction cases. Just before the session in which Roach revealed that she had been "medically" examined on the craft, Harder told her about Betty Hill’s examination on board a craft. Harder’s leading questions took her into other arenas.

So, this would seem to be a case in which sleep paralysis had produced an abduction account, helped along by the witness reading the literature that was available and by a researcher who fed her additional information between the sessions. Harder, I believe, had the best of intentions, attempting to calm the witness with his stories of other abductions, but all he did was contaminate the case.

Oh yes… this was a multiple witness abduction. The genesis was the adult’s episode of sleep paralysis and then two years of discussing this with her children until some of them believed they had been abducted.

Budd Hopkins describes the case of "Philip Osborne. Osborne. had seen an NBC UFO special and one night after that awoke, paralyzed. This experience reminded him of another similar experience he’d while he was in college. He awoke in both cases unable to move or call for help. In the latter case, he felt there was some kind of presence in the room with him. I might point out that in about 80 percent of sleep paralysis cases, the victim believes there is something in the room with them.

During the hypnotic regression, Osborne gave few answers that took them in the direction of an abduction experience. According to what Hopkins wrote, Osborne told them that he "had more or less refused to describe the imagery or events that seemed ‘too pat,’ too close to what he and we might have expected in a UFO encounter."

And, during the discussion after the session Osborne told Hopkins that "I would see something and I would to myself in effect, ‘Well, that’s what I’m supposed to see.’"
The point here is that a case can be made that Osborne experienced, not alien abduction, but classic sleep paralysis. It was under the close questioning of hypnotic regression that details were added to make it into an abduction.

Finally, the Roper Poll, about alien abduction and commissioned by Robert Bigelow, had a fatal flaw in it. The five critical questions, those designed to identify abductees by examining their experiences, could also point to sleep paralysis. There was no mechanism in the survey to differentiate between sleep paralysis and abduction. Someone answering the questions on the survey, who had not been abducted, but who had experienced sleep paralysis would also answer these five critical questions in the positive. There is no way to know if the answers reflect alien abduction or sleep paralysis.
The Roach abduction shows leading of the witness, much of it outside the hypnotic regression sessions. The Osborne abductionsuggests that Hopkins led him into an abduction, though I believe that Hopkins was unaware of this. Suggesting that there is more to the story, even after the witness has said he or she remembers nothing else, leads to this. The suggestion that the aliens had erected mental roadblocks can also be interpreted to mean that the hypnotist, unsatisfied with the answers, keeps asking the same questions until he or she receives the answers desired.

Remember Edith Fiore, interviewing a client about a past life, told the woman, who was unable to recall anything, to "make it up." While this was not an alien abduction, it was in a session using hypnosis to retrieve "lost" or suppressed memories. So we do have some evidence of leading the witness and we have some evidence that not all sessions are benign.

But even David Jacobs was aware of the problem with hypnotic regression and wrote about them in The Threat. Jacobs wrote, "When the unskilled hypnotists regress an abductee, they fail to situate him in the event’s minute-by-minute chronology. Without links to a temporal sequence, the abductee can interpret events without the facts necessary to guide his thoughts which leads to confabulation and other memory problems."

Lest you wish to argue that he does not include the big name researchers in this, Jacobs writes, "While Mack does not lead the witness in the classic meaning, he embraces the ‘positive’ therapeutic technique that leads to mutual confirmational fantasies and easily steers the abductee into dissociative channeled pathways… it represents the antitheses of scientific research – to uncover facts… John Mack accepts ‘recollections’ at face value." Which is, in fact saying that Mack leads his "experiencers".

Jacobs also shows us that he leads the witness. He believes that the abductions are a negative event. He wrote of Pam Martin (a name he invented) and told us, "As a result of her UFO experiences, Pam had come to believe over the years that she was leading a ‘charmed’ life with ‘guardian angels’ helping her overcome life’s difficulties…. After one particularly vivid abduction experience, she decided the aliens were wonderful beings…"

Jacobs later wrote, "I have had over thirty sessions with Pam, and during that time she has come to have a less romantic idea about what has happened to her. She was initially disappointed that what she remembered under hypnosis [conducted by Jacobs] were not the pleasant experiences she had imagined, but she now accepts the [Jacob’s] reality of what has been happening to her."

What he has just told us is that an abductee came to him with one set of beliefs and left with another. It is a reality that differs with the one suggested by John Mack. It can be said here that Jacobs led Pam to his negative interpretation of her abduction experience.

And John Mack said the same thing. He said, "It seems to me that Jacobs, Hopkins and Nyman may pull out of there experiencers what they want to see." (See Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind by C.D.B. Bryan, p. 271 hardback edition).

That’s just a polite way of saying that they lead their abductees to a specific type of abduction. But the point is, there is ample evidence that researchers, no matter how careful and no matter how competent, have lead their witnesses in the direction they want to go. To move research forward, we must be willing to admit this.


RRRGroup said...


As I noted at UFO UpDates, by going to the National Library of Medicine (and signing in), one can find a slew of papers outlining "sleep disorders" of various kinds, all complex but some actually duplicating UFO abduction events, yet many of these from eras past -- the Medieval period for instance and one in fiction, Moby Dick, which by changing the whaling aspect to the alien aspect one would think they are reading an account from the present UFO literature.

Taking into account the enormous amount of material extant about bizarre intrusions into the lives of sleepers and non-sleepers, famous and not so famous persons, one can only come away with the conclusion that "abductions" today are the same
as those from yesteryears, with the demons, hags, or spirits replaced by aliens from other worlds.

Rich Reynolds

Kyle said...

Kevin -

When the best tool you have to examine a human mind is another human mind, the limitations and potential for suggestion make truly objective treatment little more than a pipedream. Intent is not required.

I am unable to embrace classic nocturnal alien abduction as a "real" phenomenon when the details so markedly agree with an extremely long history of night terrors, sleep paralysis, old hags, Succubus, etc.

Thorough, informative post!


Kyle said...

Rich -

I couldn't agree more. I would add that since details of many abduction cases are now public knowledge, it is now impossible to determine if ANY nocturnal abductions reflect reality, whether though being exposed to abduction literature, or being "led" by the therapist...or both.

It is a shame that these patient session details were not kept confidential...except for medical professionals.

There would be no articles, papers, and documentaries in the public media to "pre-contaminate" potential victims.

But of course there are no lucrative book deals for sensational information that isn't available. :)


Don Maor said...

well, in this article:

of the cufos site there is an article analizing the differences between negative and positive abduction researchers.

In my point of view, the study shows that there are not such a great differences. Leading the witness seemn't to yeild too much trouble in the descrption of abductions.

Unknown said...

I do believe that leading is a problem in abduction research but I would argue that it doesn't take away from the reality of the phenomena. Yes, undoubtedly there are people walking around right now who believe they've been abducted by aliens when in fact they haven't. But when I look at cases like Betty and Barney Hill, Parker and Hickson, Jim and Jack Weiner, and Kelly Cahill I can come to no other conclusion than some alien abduction cases are real. All of the cases mentioned above involved multiple witnesses which makes them easier to believe but if even one of those are true then some of these single participant cases must also be true. As far as I know you still believe the Roswell case is evidence of an alien event. To me that case obviously isn't and I find it striking that you place more value on that obvious non-event than you do the abduction phenomena.

L K Tucker said...

I want to suggest that you look at Subliminal Distraction as a possible cause of the remembered cases of abduction.

Barney Hill was a postal worker and had a problem with psychosomatic illness before they took the trip to Canada. The Post Office does not provide Cubicle Level Protection. Barney could have easily been exposed while performing work inside the Post Office before his route.

The psychosomatic illnesses suggest he was being exposed.

His alien sketch was very close to the Outer Limits alien on the Bellero Shield episode. It aired a week or two before Barney drew his version.

I don't think Barney or Betty lied. SD exposure is subliminal. The victim is never aware that anything is happening to them.

My site only investigates alien abduction as it relates to Subliminal Distraction. Those who report abductions are not lying. They believe they had the experience in the same way a paranoid psychotic believes others are trying to harm him or her. (The Virginia Tech shooter had created the "special circumstances" for SD exposure. We all saw his paranoid psychotic rant.)

I have suggested that the information on my site be used to eliminate those abduction stories that can be explained by panic type attacks and the dissociative mental breaks Subliminal Distraction causes.

Why waste energy on a case that will eventually be proved to be confabulation after a Subliminal Distraction mental episode.

I have exchanged emails with some of the foremost experts in the UFO abduction field. They just can't understand or refuse to comment.

VisionAndPsychosis.Net is a private psychology project on the Internet.