I SAW A UFO
I saw a UFO once.
Well, it wasn’t really. Sometimes I call it my angel. That’s the thing about these damn things. You can never be sure.
It was a windy night – a wind that reflected my mood; a touch stormy. I was going to bed and just before retiring I looked out the bedroom window, and there, in the neighbour’s garden, I saw it. It was about a foot off the ground and was maybe two feet in diameter. I couldn’t identify it as physical. Rather, it was a sphere of hundreds of golden flashing lights.
It seemed to pulse, the lights sometimes declining, and at other times flashing intensely, and it was so beautiful, so magnificent, and I don’t have the slightest idea how long I watched it.
I was mesmerized, see. I had researched phenomena for over a decade, but at that moment, with evidence there in front of me, I was overwhelmed. It was the most beautiful, mesmeric thing I had ever seen, and as I stood there my mood washed away and I felt so totally, absolutely relaxed.
Eventually I closed the curtains and went to bed, and had the most restful sleep I can ever remember. I should have rushed downstairs, photographed it, analysed it, but no. I was hooked. I was truly the mystic that night, and proper research was far from my mind.
The next morning was different, however. I went to the site of my UFO – a front garden where building works were under way. At the exact location there was a pile of bricks, and stuck between two bricks was an empty crisp packet. My UFO was outed – a torn packet of crisps, its silver inside reflecting the lights from a nearby street light.
So it was all a con perpetrated by the great Cosmic Joker. It was not a UFO. It was a joke. So why did it have a real effect on me? Why did it transport me to another psychological place? Why did I feel so good?
The history of the UFO has been a history of people being affected by things that cannot be proved. Over three nights in March 1997, 39 members of the Higher Source computer cult took a ride on a flying saucer in the tail of comet Hale-Bopp and went to heaven. Going out for a final meal before splitting into groups, they took a cocktail of vodka and drugs; in order to hitch their ride. Aided by suffocation, they lay on their beds, draped purple over their bodies and died.
They knew they were going to heaven because their leader, Marshall Applewhite, had told them so – but when the authorities found their bodies in a mansion 20 miles north of San Diego, California, it looked more like hell.
Better known today as the Heaven’s Gate cult, Applewhite’s disciples were all highly intelligent computer wizards. With short cropped hair, they appeared to go around as if zombies, always polite, but seemingly devoid of emotion. The elderly, white haired Applewhite – a man with an obvious mania in the eyes – had been organizing cults since 1975, when he reached a crisis in his life. Accounts vary as to whether this was due to heart trouble or mental illness. What is clear is that he married the nurse who looked after him, and feeding from each other’s spiritual views, an apocalyptic mission developed. Known as Bo and Peep, once that flying saucer came along, they were hooked. They were inevitably going to die.
Applewhite and I have something in common. We were both suckered by a dream. We believed, and reacted according to our beliefs. My crisp packet was a joke; the most mundane of explanations for a phenomenon. But what it produced was incredible. I know it was not real. But were its effects real? Was I transformed for that brief moment? Did I sleep well that night?
My UFO was not real, but the effects it had on me were very real indeed. Which prompts a question: if something isn’t real, why should it have real effects on you? Or put it another way: if something unreal has real effects, can the unreal be real at some level of reality?
That question is at the heart of this book. As I descend into a study of the UFO phenomenon, I will heartlessly out the UFO as a process of psychology and sociology at work on the human mind. In nearly every case, I will show how UFOs and aliens could not possibly exist. They are not real. They do not exist. It is all to do with good old human incredulity and gullibility.
That said, we face the same question: if something unreal has real effects, can the unreal be real at some level of reality?
This is the question that must be answered. For whether we can deny the reality of UFOs or not, they DO have an effect on us. And in having an effect on us, we must pose the possibility that at some level, reality is created. In effect, for something to have an outcome, it must have a reality to begin with.
But what form of reality – of existence – are we talking about? Are we talking about real flying saucers with real aliens coming thousands of light years from some unknown planet to say hello? Or could we be talking about some form of intelligence and existence we haven’t even begun to suspect could exist?
This is the form of reality I think we could be approaching with the UFO. Within the phenomenon, I think we can identify a form of reality and communication no one has so far suggested – a form of reality and communication at the edges of the real and unreal, finding its roots in both the human condition and the planet. And the way to identify this reality is to begin by discounting everything about the UFO that has gone before. For in sceptically destroying the argument for their existence, we can take the discussion further and offer theories anew.
Equally strange is the alien abduction. The first known classic abduction event happened to 23 year old Brazilian farmer, Antonio Vilas-Boas. On 15 October 1957 he was ploughing his field when an egg-shaped UFO landed close to his tractor.
He tried to run away but was grabbed by ‘humanoids’ dressed in tight grey overalls and helmets. Communicating in barks, Vilas-Boas was taken on board the UFO where he was washed and stripped. Blood was taken from his chin and then a beautiful, naked woman came to him and he was induced to make love to her. He recalled it felt as if he was having intercourse with an animal.
Following the abduction, Vilas-Boas was examined by Dr Olavo T Fontes. The abductee was found to have been exposed to a large dose of radiation, and two small marks were found on his chin where he claimed the needle had been inserted.
One of the most famous abduction events happened to Barney and Betty Hill as they drove home from a holiday in Canada one night in September 1961. Crossing the White Mountains on their way home in New Hampshire, they observed a pancake-shaped light in the sky. Seeming to follow their car, they became convinced they were about to be captured by aliens and increased speed. They observed nothing further that night, except they noticed they had inexplicably lost several hours. Over the following nights they both experienced strange dreams of alien beings and medical examinations. Eventually they consulted a Boston psychiatrist, Dr Benjamin Simon.
Under hypnotic regression, Dr Simon traced their dreams back to their car journey. Both Barney and Betty recounted the same story of being stopped by a spacecraft on the road, taken on-board against their will and being subjected to medical examination. They described their abductors as little men with white faces and oriental eyes.
In addition, Betty Hill sketched, under hypnosis, a star chart she had seen aboard the space craft. Researcher Marjorie Fish studied the chart and came to the conclusion that it showed the alien’s home world to be in the Zeta Reticula system, drawing her own chart to argue her case.
Betty Andreasson from Massachusetts had an equally weird experience in 1967. For ten years she was plagued by memories of four foot aliens with pear-shaped heads invading her home. Finally, helped by J Allen Hynek, she came to the attention of a UFO research group who subjected her to hypnotic regression. In a number of sessions she described how, ten years before, her house had suddenly become still. Alien beings floated effortlessly through a closed kitchen door and floated her, in a semi-trance, aboard their space craft. She remembered that the members of her family were unable to help her because they had been placed in a form of suspended animation.
Aboard the space craft she had a probe inserted in her head. A deeply religious person, the effect was profound and Andreasson – a balanced individual – became convinced she had received a special message concerning the future of mankind. Her daughter also confirmed many of the facts of the case during investigation.
Britain has had its fair share of abductions, too. West Yorkshire police officer Alan Godfrey was undertaking an early morning patrol near the Pennine town of Todmorden in November 1980. Observing a rotating object in the sky, he later noticed that he had lost a few minutes of time and one of his boots was mysteriously split, as if he had been dragged along the ground.
He was later hypnotized by doctors in Manchester. Godfrey recalled that a beam of light shot out from the UFO and knocked him unconscious. He was then floated inside the UFO where he was medically examined by small robot-like entities under the supervision of a larger ‘humanoid’ alien called Yosef. Intriguingly, a black dog was also present inside the craft. Godfrey later spoke of his conviction that the object in the sky was real, but he was undecided whether the recounted abduction was of an objective reality or pure fantasy.
Alien abduction was popularized globally in the late 1980s by the publication of horror writer Whitley Strieber’s book, ‘Communion.’ Relating his experiences of a December day in 1985, he had first seen a huge light pass his bedroom window in upstate New York. Next, a small figure about three feet tall appeared in the corner of his bedroom. It was wearing a little hood and had big eyes and a slit for a mouth. This, and other creatures he later observed, appeared to be asexual. The entity approached the bed and seemed to connect with Strieber’s mind; an experience he described as ‘terrible.’ He was then carried outside into the woods and moments later he shot up into the air. His next awareness was of being in a room whereupon he was medically examined before finding himself back in his living room with no memory of the events apart from the odd disturbing dream.
One interesting trend in abductions was set by Elsie Oakensen, who was abducted from her car in Church Stowe, Northamptonshire, England, in November 1978. Seeing flashing lights, she remembered nothing more until hypnotized, when she recounted being abducted and then rejected. Later, another abduction event had occurred on the same night, close by, this time intercepting a car containing a young woman.
Why was Elsie rejected? Was it that she was too old, and unable to take part in their supposed experiments? When researchers looked for a pattern of rejection, they found it. For instance, in 1974, a hunter was abducted from Rawlins, Wyoming, and immediately sent back. He had had a vasectomy. In 1979 an elderly pianist and a young man were abducted from a car in Brazil. The pianist was told she was of no use to them, whereas the young man underwent the full alien examination. Such evidence adds to the popular idea that abductions are about genetic manipulation of the human species.
Alternatively, what are we to make of Australian mother Maureen Puddy. She was driving to visit her son in hospital near Melbourne on 5 July 1972 when a blue light followed her for 30 miles. On the night of 25 July, she was driving on the same road when her engine died and she was dragged onto a grass verge. A voice came into her head telling her the aliens meant no harm and she was to tell the media.
Eventually going to Ufologist Judith Magee, it was confirmed that there had been other sightings that night, but on 22 February 1973 things were to get stranger. A voice came to her in her home telling her to go back to the meeting place. Magee and another researcher met her on the road at 8.30pm, Maureen claiming that a figure in a gold suit had appeared in her car. It then stood outside the car, but the researchers saw nothing. Maureen then announced that she was being abducted. Seeming to go into a trance, she recounted the event to the startled researchers. Maureen Puddy never actually left the car during the abduction event.
How do we account for such experiences as these? Several academics have researched abduction events and become convinced that some strange phenomenon is at work. Principal among them was John Mack, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who became so interested in alien abduction that he set up the Programme for Extraordinary Experience Research, or PEER. This came out of a meeting with Budd Hopkins, which prompted his work with abductees.
Mack was convinced that the abduction is a revolutionary new way in which we can understand reality and our place in the universe; a kind of wake up call that we live in a multi-dimensional world. This was different to how he first viewed the events. When he first began interviewing abductees he was convinced he would find signs of mental instability. With some 200 cases examined, he conceded the abductees were generally rational and well balanced.
This lack of mental instability has led many researchers to endorse the extraterrestrial hypothesis, arguing that if abductees are generally well balanced, the only explanation is contact with real aliens. American psychologist Leo Sprinkle is one such researcher. Investigating over 200 abductions since 1967, he puts the phenomenon down to non-human, but essentially benevolent intelligences. Dr David Jacobs, a former professor of history at Temple University, claims he has isolated a specific medical procedure involved in abductions which suggest extraterrestrials are involved in a specific mission on Earth.
The leading researcher taking this view was New York artist Budd Hopkins, who first interested Dr Mack. He investigated abductions for many years; even performing his own regression hypnosis. Hopkins was particularly interested in claims by many young women. Abducted and impregnated, the women were later re-abducted and the developing foetus removed. Some were abducted a third time and shown the successfully growing hybrid child – an entity with super-intelligence. This form of alien eugenics, argued Hopkins, may not be beneficial for the victims.
Alternatively, researcher Philip Klass was sceptical of such claims, accusing researchers of distorting evidence. Take the famed Walton abduction. One night in November 1975 a light halted a truck containing a logging team in Arizona. One of them, Travis Walton, got out and walked away. Suddenly the light knocked him off his feet. The others drove off, panicked, but returning shortly after. Walton had disappeared. Five days later he was found. Hypnotized, he had been abducted and taken to a hangar containing several UFOs, whereupon he was probed.
Klass was convinced this episode is a hoax. As to other cases, he believed researchers were playing dangerous mind games with their patients. And this idea becomes more attractive when we consider the psychological phenomenon known as False Memory Syndrome, where it is argued that ‘memories’ can be placed in the mind of the hypnotized subject based on the predisposition of the therapist.
Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus from Seattle tested such claims in the 1990s. She attempted to implant the ‘memory’ of being lost in a shopping mall as a young child into the minds of volunteers. Most went on to ‘remember’ the event quite clearly, becoming convinced that it really happened to such an extent that in some cases Loftus was unable to erase the memory after the experiment.
In this scenario abduction events described by abductees may be based more upon the biases of the researcher than a true reality. Hence, Budd Hopkins’ conviction that abductees are being impregnated causes them to fantasize the event under hypnosis; perhaps helped by the well known psychological state of ‘phantom pregnancy’, where young women fantasize, and have the physical effects of, being pregnant. Here, we can see a space age interpretation of an age-old psychological state.
Folklore researcher Dr Thomas Bullard from the University of Indiana is not convinced that such abductions are purely the product of hypnosis. Conducting a massive statistical survey, he noted that some 40% of abductions do not involve hypnosis at all. Whilst not totally discounting abductions as the work of aliens, he prefers the idea that abductions constitute the formation of a specific folklore. Such an idea does, of course, echo ideas of researchers such as John Keel and Jacques Vallee, highlighted earlier. And great mileage can be had by considering the proposition.
If we refer back to the Men in Black visitations, they have many elements of age old folklore, the black clothes aping more Gothic garb, the old black car witnessed in many cases as a form of conveyance being similar to the black carriage often referred to as the celestial omnibus, transporting the dead to their afterlife. The apparent absurdity is also similar to ancient folklore and the almost gangster stereotype often displayed in the Men in Black shows a cultural influence based on film noir, as if Hollywood is impinging upon the new folklore.
The history of alien encounters also supports the folklore theory. Adamski’s aliens were from Venus, Mars and Jupiter. Science had no proof that aliens didn’t live on these planets at the time, and Hollywood depicted aliens as coming from these planets. As science accumulated facts against such close-by aliens, abductees began moving further afield also. During the 1950s, Hollywood depicted aliens as invaders. Hence, the Sutton family experiences the aliens as malevolent.
As the classic abduction event formulated during the 1960s, aliens formed into cultural stereotypes. In America they were akin to the Hollywood depictions of the big-brained, egg-headed scientist type as shown in the inaugural episode of Star Trek. In Europe, abductors were more likely to be tall and blonde haired, as if the folklore was latching itself to Norse mythology. Then, with the publication of Strieber’s ‘Communion’, abductors are more likely to ape his description, being known universally, today, as ‘greys’, the mythology bolstered and sustained by the ‘X’ Files.
Psychologist Dr Kenneth Ring sees the abduction as a purely psychological phenomenon. Better known for his work on the Near Death Experience, he sees the abduction event as sharing many characteristics of the phenomenon. He argues that the two experiences may represent a new phase of the evolution of the human mind.
Philosopher Michael Grosso takes an allied stance. To him, abductors are based upon a Child Archetype, and represent a form of radical self-healing with mankind putting itself through a form of extraordinary therapy, hence the symbolism of the medical examination prevalent in the event. In this way, we are birthing a new mythology to allow us to purify ourselves psychologically – becoming, as it were, better beings.
This idea is shown by a close look at some of Dr John Mack’s abductee cases. One of his subjects was Ed, who first realized his abductions in 1961, before the Hills. A female alien with whom he was forced to give sperm told him the planet would be destroyed if humanity didn’t sort itself out and form a proper balance with nature. Sheila began having spiritual dreams after her mother’s death. Eventually she realized she was being abducted, but found it hard to separate reality from fantasy.
Scott’s abductions were traumatic and involved paralysis. In 1992 the aliens extracted sperm. Scott began to realize he had been abducted since childhood. Jerry had very sexual abductions involving hybrid entities, but the experiences made him very spiritual by nature. Catherine also claimed to be abducted since childhood, the experiences also involving sexual practices. She described seeing hundreds of hybrid babies in tanks and other humans lying out on tables. She began to remember a previous incarnation as an ancient Egyptian painter, and understood that we’re interrelated and cannot live without each other.
The aliens became the protectors of Joe’s spiritual development. He had also been abducted since childhood, and with the birth of his son, Mark, he began to realize they were both living dual alien-human lives. Sara was a clever child who liked the paranormal, even claiming to levitate people; her abductions actively involved her in bringing the aliens together with man as an evolutionary whole. Eventually a hybrid form of life would evolve with greater spiritual awareness.
Paul also felt this togetherness between man and alien. The two had the same identity, and although his abductions involved painful procedures, he exists to show an example of love in order to transform human consciousness and save the planet.
Eva’s abductions were also part of a mission to provide global healing and harmony. Another abductee with reincarnated memories – she lived in the 13th century – the aliens were cleansing her body to allow more knowledge to come through, with alien and man involved in a melding of consciousness.
Dave’s abductions began on a visit to a powerful Native American site. His abductions were traumatic, but he became aware of a female alien who had been with him through many previous lives. Peter’s abductions involved a clear spirituality. He was part of a human-alien breeding program. He had become part alien himself, and was involved in creating a new race to save the planet from disaster.
Carlos is a painter, and his abductions change the energy structure of his body, allowing him to paint images that actively cause a need to protect the planet. Arthur was abducted from a small boy, and he was filled with a need to protect the ecology of the Earth. The aliens were instrumental in his growing sense of responsibility.
The sentiments birthed from such abductions ape, closely, the sentiments echoed by many cults. It seems to be a similar process going on, made sensational by media-friendly gurus such as George Adamski, but kept more sublime by the majority. And the experiences seem to echo ages-old mystical experiences, but with a specific space age folklore. The only difference seems to be that there are far more such experiences around today than in the past.
A less exotic theory comes from British psychologist Dr Susan Blackmore. She puts the abduction event down to ‘sleep paralysis.’ Often, when dreaming, our skeletal muscles become paralyzed. We are normally unaware of this paralysis, but can become mentally alert whilst the state persists. This can be quite frightening. Unable to move, yet retaining an element of the dream-like, fantasy-prone state, the mind can go into override and fantasize a frightening event.
Blackmore argues that this can prompt the abduction event as a pure fantasy, based upon modern science fiction enculturation. In times past the experience clung to previous cultural mythologies. Hence, people were visited by sexual vampires, or the incubus or succubus, having sex with the victim. The theory is attractive, especially as it has echoes of age old folklore and mythology similar to Bullard’s ideas.
Researcher Michael Persinger from the Laurentian University of Sudbury, Ontario, takes a physiological stance concerning the abduction and similar events. He argues that such fantasies can be triggered by excessive bursts of electrical activity in the temporal lobes of the brain, firing specific neuronal activity. In order to test his theory he constructed a soundproof room where a subject sits wearing cranial apparatus designed to place a magnetic field across the brain. Dr Blackmore visited this room for a Horizon programme on BBC2. In a related article in New Scientist on 19 November 1994, she described the experience thus:
‘Then it felt for all the world as though two hands had grabbed my shoulders and were bodily yanking me upright. I knew I was still lying in the reclining chair, but someone, or something, was pulling me up …’
She went on to describe emotions – anger, and then fear – and it is easy to see how such electrical activity could spark an alien encounter. As to how the activity could be caused, the ball of light phenomenon could, conceivably, include an electric field. Here, the initial UFO could therefore be reality, electrical effects prompting an unfolding fantasy. Alternatively, temporal lobe activity can also be triggered in response to a lack of oxygen, which itself can occur when exceptionally tired, such as at the point of awakening from sleep.
But in one vital respect the ideas of Blackmore and Persinger fail. While I accept that they could answer abduction events associated with being abducted from one’s bed, many abduction events happen in cars, with the driver continuing to control the vehicle. If sleep paralysis or neuronal activity was the answer to all abduction events, such drivers would inevitably crash. However, an answer may not be as distant – or extraordinary – as we suspect.
The first hint towards a possible answer to the abduction event involving drivers came after having my photograph taken. I noticed the flash left me with a vivid retinal image. Deciding to experiment with such images, I placed myself in a dark room and had someone take another photo of me. Concentrating hard on the image, it appeared colourful and with concentration I could make it appear solid.
Because of natural retinal movement, I could not hold the image in one place. Rather, this ‘solid’ light darted about the place in classic UFO fashion. Eventually learning to control the image, I could make it appear close up or far away, and could even get it to fly through the window. ET never stuck his head out and waved at me, but it became obvious that this retinal image could lie at the heart of UFO encounters.
Let us consider our future abductee driving his car. He has been driving at night for a long time. Tired, he begins to day dream, as we all do in such situations. A car passes, and its headlights dazzle. The retinal image is suddenly there, yet in a semi-fantasy state, it is seen, due to science fiction enculturation, as a UFO. (The reader may also wish to entertain the possibility that such a retinal image was responsible for the inaugural UFO event witnessed by Kenneth Arnold. Could it have been a multiple image created by a blinding sun reflecting from his windshield?)
What happens next? Could the mind invoke a fantasy that allowed the driver NOT to crash? We have all been reading a book when our concentration wanders away from the words to some other thought. When we again grasp attention, we have to go back to where the mind wandered. We had, in fact, continued to mechanically read the words whilst our fantasizing mind was otherwise occupied. It is therefore feasible to enact a fantasy whilst continuing to mechanically drive. Indeed, such a scenario adds further credence to the fantasy explanation by explaining how the abductee is inexplicably many miles on and time has been lost. The abductee had simply continued to drive on during the fantasy, covering distance and time. Indeed, the abduction event can even be seen to have become common in line with an increase in road traffic, furthering the credibility of this idea.
Science even offers a mind model to explain this duality of mind – the mechanical driver and the inner fantasizer – with the split-brain concept, where, it is argued, the brain has a dual function with the left cerebral hemisphere being responsible for logical function and the right for emotional and artistic function. There have been many experiments on the subject, where it has been shown that these two functions can become autonomous of each other, allowing the individual to perform mechanical, logical tasks (such as mechanically typing) whilst the mind becomes disconnected and prone to fantasy (essential to the writer in deciding what words to write as he types).
There are, of course, stumbling blocks to sleep paralysis and my above scenario for the driver’s abduction event. One such stumbling block is admirably shown by the abduction of Maria Ward, on 21 November 1990. Asleep in her bed, she was awoken just after 3am by an intense light outside her bedroom window. Running out onto the landing, all the lights went out. Suddenly a ray of light appeared and a voice said: ‘Follow the light. Next, she was lifted out of the house and remembers looking down on the trees before finding herself in a strange corridor. Three small aliens appeared then and took her into a room and placed her on a metal table, where she underwent an examination, during which she had the sensation that there was something wriggling about inside her like a worm.
So far we seem to have a straight forward abduction fantasy, but Maria awoke to be covered in bruises. This severe form of abduction is becoming more and more common as the abduction event evolves throughout society. It is estimated by some that one in fifty women in the UK have undergone such an event, most keeping quiet about it due to the possibility of ridicule. Few, it seems, are courageous enough to speak out. And it is the physical effects of the event that seem, at first, to cancel out the possibility of a phenomenon such as sleep paralysis being responsible. Or do they?
There are many psychological phenomena that are known to happen but remain apparently inexplicable. One such phenomenon is Stigmata. Usually associated with the manifestation of the bleeding wounds of Christ’s crucifixion, hundreds of cases have been documented, and the phenomenon is thought to be hysterical in nature. Further, the phenomenon is thought to ape cultural idiosyncrasies – hence, a Christian manifests Christ’s wounds as symbolic of their own suffering. And being culturally malleable, it is valid to argue that a space age form of stigmata can impinge upon the abduction fantasy.
From Maria Ward’s wounds to Antonio Vilas-Boas’ radiation burns stigmata could validate the abduction event as a particular cultural fantasy. And my initial idea that a subjective experience can manifest a degree of physical existence leads us to a possible explanation of the entire UFO phenomenon as a science fiction based cultural mythos. It is time to get to grips with the entire subject of the UFO and aliens in terms of such a scenario.