The History of Academic Research on 

UFO and ET Contact Experiencers

© Kathleen Marden (Updated March 2023)



     Nearly two decades ago, I launched a research endeavor to examine the history of academic studies on what was then called “UFO abductees.” There had been a massive campaign to explain away the belief that some humans had been taken to extraterrestrial craft and interacted with non-humans. Research psychologists were offering a variety of explanations for the development of these beliefs such as false memory syndrome, delusional ideation, sleep paralysis, intentional hoaxing, and any of a number of psychological conditions. Social scientists and UFO skeptics were reinforcing the research psychologists’ findings and promoting a variety of hypotheses that might explain why some people come to believe information that science had declared impossible. I decided to use the skill set that I had acquired as a college student, to evaluate the research studies and to look for bias and variables that might have skewed the research study results.

     As a UFO investigator and the niece of Betty and Barney Hill, I had exposure to evidence that led me to believe that some UFO sighting and contact events are real. Additionally, I knew of several federally funded studies on UFOs. They indicated that credible people had close-up observations of highly advanced, structured craft that could perform in ways that seemed impossible to many scientists, especially those who were deeply invested in Newtonian physics. When they could not identify or explain  these mysterious aerial vehicles, they dismissed them as scientifically impossible.

     In 1969, Dr. Edward Condon presented his conclusions from the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects to the National Academy of Sciences Review Panel. At the inception of the study in 1967, he insisted that a favorable finding on the ET hypothesis would require an extraterrestrial spacecraft and/or the body of a being clearly not from this earth, for laboratory analysis. Photographic evidence, radar evidence and eyewitness testimony by hundreds of credible witnesses mattered not. He declared that no reports of UFOs were worthy of study by the scientific community. Furthermore, he declared “it is safe to assume that no intelligent life outside our solar system has any possibility of visiting earth anytime in the next 10,000 years.” [1]

     In the end, Dr. Condon submitted his politically biased findings to the National Academy of Sciences and they, in turn, recommended the allocation of research funds in the areas of social science and communication for the study of those who believe that UFOs are real. He garnered bitter criticism from his opponents who accused him of a cover up but the political machine prevailed.  (See Stanton Friedman & Kathleen Marden, Fact, Fiction, and Flying Saucers, Chapter 5, pp. 91-108 for additional information.)

     This paper provides an overview of the studies that have been carried out on university campuses and what academic social scientists have discovered.     

Status Inconsistency Theory 

     In the early 1970s, social scientists began to generate scholarly articles on the special personality and experiential characteristics that UFO observers have in common. The earliest article by a social scientist that I could locate, was published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in the November 6, 1970, issue of the prestigious peer reviewed journal Science.  The research paper titled “Status Inconsistency Theory and Flying Saucer Sightings,” by Donald I. Warren, (University of Michigan School of Social Work) presents statistics and social theory to postulate why there is an elevated level of belief in extraterrestrial visitation among some individuals. Warren speculates that people who have failed to achieve economic and/or occupational status, in proportion to their educational levels, feel frustrated, and as a rejection of dominant cultural values they might report UFOs. He argued that social inconsistency leads to withdrawal, defeatism, and retreat from the larger society. 

     This belief, according to Dr. Warren, is the outgrowth of feelings of disappointment because they have failed to achieve success, and this has led to a rejection of society’s dominant values. Therefore, in Warren’s opinion, UFO sightings are nothing more than a manifestation of marginalized social status and the socioeconomic disappointment that it generates.  

     Warren’s empirical analysis of UFO believers was based upon the 1966 Gallup poll information pertaining to UFOs, educational attainment, economic status, and occupational level. The Gallup Poll asked 1575 Americans “Have you, yourself, ever seen anything you thought was a flying saucer?” Five percent of all respondents replied in the affirmative.

     Warren decided to eliminate all women and Black male respondents because he believed that both groups were marginalized by society. He divided the remaining white male group into three categories: mildly status consistent, moderately status inconsistent, and sharply status inconsistent.      

     Warren’s statistical analysis found that moderately and sharply status inconsistent white males (those with low income but moderate to high educational attainment), were more likely to report they had observed at least one object that they believed was a flying saucer, the predominant term for extraterrestrial spacecraft in that period. He stated that the men with the highest level of educational attainment but the lowest income or occupational status were the most likely group to report flying saucer sightings on the poll. 

     This statement caused an uproar among some of his colleagues. They argued that if Warren had included female and African American responses, his hypothesis would have been defeated because more status consistent people than status inconsistent people filed UFO sighting reports. Also, he did not take white males’ age groupings into account. It seems obvious that male college students and retired men are two groups who register as status inconsistent. They often work at part-time jobs below their educational and occupational levels. Yet, they are preparing for successful careers or are retired from status consistent careers.

     Several letters to the editor appeared in the March 12, 1971, issue of Science, which called into question Warren’s conclusions. G.L. Cowgill, from the Anthropology Department at Brandeis University, argued that Warren’s research did not present statistically significant evidence in support of his hypothesis, adding that the strong job market would have provided jobs to the highly educated men who desired them.

     In the same section, Peter Dubno, (New York University Graduate School of Business Administration), offered a viable refutation to Warren’s conclusions. He found a very important variable that Warren had failed to consider. He countered that status inconsistent men from rural areas were more likely to report sightings than their urban counterparts. Therefore, rural residence correlates with flying saucer sightings more so than status inconsistency. Additionally, those who live in rural areas are more likely to be status inconsistent than those who reside in the city, and this is by choice not the result of their career goal shortcomings.

     In 1979, Phillis Fox (Cal. State) attempted to replicate Warren’s Status Inconsistency Theory findings but failed. It is interesting to note that, despite the sound refutation of Warren’s theory, hard-nosed skeptics cite status inconsistency as a causal factor in UFO sighting reports.  

     Although a few social scientists’ scholarly articles were published in prestigious peer reviewed journals during the 1970s (“Supernatural Beliefs of Graduate Students” Nature, 1971, “Physical Fairyland,” Nature, 1972, and “Social Intelligence about Anomalies: The Case of UFOs in Social Studies of Science," 1977), academic studies on UFO witnesses did not gain momentum until the mid-1980s.

      In 1984, Troy Zimmer (Cal. State) wrote “Social Psychological Correlates of Possible UFO Sightings” in The Journal of Social Psychology. His questions pertained to whether student volunteers or anyone they knew had ever seen a UFO, their level of interest in UFOs, and their interest in UFO related media. He queried 475 undergraduates, of which 77 had observed what they thought was a UFO, and 398 who had never seen a UFO.

     In addition to this, Zimmer obtained feedback on their belief in the occult and their attitudes in reference to a malevolent world view, cultural rejection, and personal well-being. In a separate category, his questions pertained to UFO observers’ general happiness and social adjustment as compared to non-observers.

     Zimmer discovered that belief in UFOs was not a sign of social or psychological maladjustment. Believers were no more likely than the other group to be disturbed, culturally alienated or cynical. His results reveal that UFO observers were no different than non-observers in feelings of cultural alienation, world view, and personal well-being. The only difference between the two groups is the UFO believers were slightly more likely to suspect the US Government is covering up evidence of the UFO presence, and to believe in the occult. Additionally, UFO belief correlated positively with the belief that intelligent life exists in the universe.

    In 1985, the journal Deviant Behavior published Troy Zimmer’s article, “Belief in UFOs as Alternative Reality, Cultural Rejection or Disturbed Psyche." Zimmer made an interesting point in his discussion of Phillis Fox’s (mentioned earlier) surveys of small communities regarding belief that some UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin. Fox found that exposure to UFO media (comic books, science fiction movies, magazine articles, etcetera) did not correlate to belief in UFOs and alien spacecraft. 

     It is interesting that despite these findings, exposure to UFO science fiction in the media has long been touted as an explanation for why some people develop the false belief that UFOs and UFO abductions/ET contact are real. It seems apparent that some deniers are unwilling to acknowledge information that contradicts their strongly held beliefs.

UFO Abduction Reports Surge

     Several high-profile UFO abduction reports during the 1970s (Calvin Parker, Charlie Hickson, Travis Walton, Mona Stafford, Louise Smith, and Elaine Thomas, et al.), shifted the academic research focus from the study of UFO observers to the psycho-social aspects of the belief that one has been abducted by extraterrestrials. It is important to acknowledge the fact that several of the early UFO abductions had credible evidence, including physical and circumstantial evidence, eyewitness testimony, witnesses to the craft, normal functioning on psychological tests, passed polygraph exams, and specific correlating details that were unknown to everyone except leading UFO abduction investigators. But the psychologists in this time-frame were not aware of, or did not accept the evidence. This caused the proliferation of allegations by hard-nosed skeptics that abduction investigators were shameless promoters of UFO and ET fantasies.

     This led to a mounting witch-hunt during the 1980s and 1990s. When reports emerged from individuals who believed they were taken from their homes at night, anti-UFO skeptics rushed to promote common dismissive explanations. Although many experiencers were awake at the onset of an experience, the focus was placed on people who were sleeping at the onset of the contact event. Authoritative skeptics insisted that although some people swore they were awake when ETs entered their environment, they had only misperceived their wakefulness. Perceptual difficulties became a buzzword for reports that were unacceptable to hard-nosed critics. The amorphous nature of nocturnal bedroom abductions, combined with academic psychologists’ incredulity, expanded research on anomalous sleep states and dreams, fantasy states, dissociative states, and memory processing problems.

     Additionally, skeptical psychologists, and hard-nosed skeptics, who oftentimes had no formal educational background in psychology, wrote pseudo-scholarly articles which introduced a variety of hypotheses to explain "UFO abduction" as a psychological aberration. Nearly everyone ignored the reported evidence such as witnesses to the craft and/or the non-humans, anomalous lights in the experiencers’ homes, strange patterned marks on experiencer’s bodies, burns and eye irritation without common explanation, missing time, conscious recall of part of the event, waking up hopelessly locked outside one’s house, vegetative debris on one’s bedding or embedded in windows, or traumatic stress following the alleged experience. Instead, they argued that certain psychological aberrations were leading people to the ”misguided belief” that UFOs and alien abductions are real. Loud anti-UFO/ET propagandists proclaimed that ET visitation is “impossible” and, therefore no UFO or ET has ever visited our planet or interacted with humans.

     As the pressure of evidence began to mount, major mental illness, hypnotic suggestion, sleep disorders, aberrant conditions, and a variety of personality traits were offered up as explanations for why some people believe they have been abducted. Sometimes, biased researchers were quite creative in their attempts to dismiss the reality of ET contact. Academia almost never examined the body of scientific evidence indicating that some "abductions" by extraterrestrial beings could be real. It had become a firmly established taboo punishable by ostracism by one’s academic peers.

     Despite a history of research bias, the systematic study of UFO abductees/ET contact experiencers has failed to uncover increased psychopathology among this special group. Race, religion, marital status, educational background, and scientific knowledge did not factor into their status as UFO abductees/contact experiencers. The only deviation seemed to be an increased level of trauma during childhood.  

     The failure of academic psychologists to identify serious psychological pathology in UFO abductees/contact experiencers has generated interest among some experimental psychologists in searching for alternative psychological explanations such as why some people develop false personal beliefs. Several experimental studies have attempted to delineate personality traits that separate UFO abduction/contact experiencers from non-experiencers. They have suggested boundary deficit disorder, fantasy proneness, sleep hallucinations, false memory syndrome, cultural mythos absorption, among other possibilities.     

Fantasy Prone Personality and Dissociative States     

     Personality disorders are defined as traits that cause people to think, feel, and behave in socially inappropriate ways that cause distress and problems functioning in the dominant culture. These disorders are difficult, if not impossible to alter. The disordered person may exhibit negative, hostile, needy, lying, delusional, or antisocial behavior. People with personality disorders carry these traits throughout their lifetime, but they may fluctuate in terms of symptoms and intensity.

     In this section we will explore a variety of personality disorders and the research findings relating to the personalities of self-identified "abductees," as well as additional psychological hypotheses regarding UFO abduction/ET contact.

     In 1981, Theodore X. Barber, a hypnosis critic, and Sheryl. C. Wilson (Cushing Hospital, Framingham, Massachusetts) collaborated on a study to better understand hypnotic suggestibility. They described a segment of the adult population (approximately 4%) that spends most of its time engaged in magical thinking and has the tendency to combine fantasies with real experiences. Their conclusions were based upon interviews and a screening measure for hypnotic suggestibility, with 27 female daydreamers who were excellent hypnotic subjects, and 25 who were not. They postulated that 65% of fantasy-prone individuals sometimes confuse daydreamed fantasies with reality, particularly when they pertain to conversations with loved ones.  

     They discovered that the fantasy prone women in their study had engaged in childhood imaginative play with dolls and stuffed animals that they pretended were real. Sometimes they imagined that they were someone else. The most vivid daydreamers reported that their ability to focus intensely on their imaginings grew out of a sense of loneliness or boredom during childhood. Many reported having imaginary playmates or believing in fairies or guardian angels. Wilson and Barber coined the term “fantasy prone personality” to describe a set of symptoms that these women share.

     A child development specialist might counter that is is normal for young children engage in fantasy play. It is encouraged by our culture and reinforced by caretakers. However, nearly all children mature and recognize the line of delineation between fantasy and reality.

     Although fantasy play is common in early childhood, according to Wilson and Barber, fantasy prone individuals carry this intense daydreaming pattern into adulthood. According to Wilson and Barber, fantasy prone people often reported a belief that they have psychic abilities, out of body experiences, and the ability to channel healing to others, all of which the researchers deemed impossible, even though we presently have a body of scientific evidence indicating that all these abilities are real and possible for some gifted people.

     Wilson and Barber developed the “Inventory of Childhood Memories and Imaginings,” a 52-item questionnaire, as a method of screening for hypnotic suggestibility. But somewhere along the line psychologists adopted it as a measure of fantasy proneness among UFO abductees/contact experiencers. *(Later studies indicate that hypnotic suggestibility is more an indication of one’s ability to focus, concentrate, and accept hypnotic suggestions.)

     As a result, the paranormal experiences that are common among UFO abductees/contact experiencers have been interpreted by skeptics as symptoms of fantasy proneness. If we are to accept the Wilson/Barber scale as a measure of fantasy proneness among abductees, we must first adopt the a priory belief that UFO abduction and psi phenomena are impossible, despite a massive collection of evidence to the contrary. (See Chapter 12 in Science Was Wrong by Stanton Friedman & Kathleen Marden for psi meta-analyses findings). 

     In 1989, George Ganaway, (Emory U. psychiatrist and dissociative disorders specialist), wrote how television shows, movies, and books, in combination with the influence of a hypnotist, might lead certain vulnerable individuals to believe they have been abducted by aliens when they have not. Thus, vulnerable individuals might fill in periods of amnesia with fantasy generated memories of ET contact events. He believed those with dissociative identity disorder might developed ET contact fantasies to shield themselves from memories of extreme childhood physical or sexual abuse. 

The Omega Project Studies 

     The Omega Projects, were psychological surveys of persons reporting abductions and other UFO encounters.  Kenneth Ring and Christopher J. Rosing  (U. of Connecticut 1990) conducted the first two studies. Their largest  study tested 264 participants that included four distinct groups: 1. an abductee group, 2. a near death experiencers group, 3. a control group of individuals who only expressed an interest in UFOs, and 4. a control group with an interest in near- death experiences. The participants completed a battery of personality screenings designed to assess the psychological factors that give some individuals the propensity to experience UFO "abductions" and to compare them to near-death experiencers (NDE).

     The study discovered that UFO and NDEs are similar because both groups developed increased psychic awareness, altruistic feelings, and increased spirituality as a result of their experiences. They found that both experiencer groups were no more fantasy prone than the control groups. Additionally, the abductee and NDE groups reported having childhood sensitivity to psychic phenomena, non-physical beings, and alternate realities (the ability to see into other realities or to see beings that others are not aware of.) The researchers did not interpret these experiences as signs of fantasy proneness.

     Both experiencer groups reported experiencing a higher level of childhood abuse and trauma than the control groups. There was an increased level of serious illness during childhood as well. The researchers discovered an increased level of dissociation as a coping mechanism among both experiencer groups. But it was higher in the UFO abductee group. The researchers suggested that childhood abuse (suffering) could have created the conditions for children to develop a psychological defense mechanism of splitting off from the source of the threat and tuning into other realities. The other realities hypothesis offers a safety net that separates the abused (suffering) children from the harm that is being inflicted upon them.

     The Omega Project researchers concluded their study with the following statement: “Our sample as a whole appears to regard UFOs and NDEs positively and we believe that they hold out potential benefits for humanity that we can hardly conceive of today… However, the data from the Omega Project, and especially those on beliefs and values, strongly suggest that these experiences also contain a powerful impetus for a variety of healthy and positive changes. Psychiatric categories shouldn’t obscure the transformative potential of these experiencers and, in our opinion, the positive evaluation that respondents tend to place on their experiences may show that their sometimes-traumatic impact is less important than their long-term transformative promise.” [2]  

     The Omega Study’s UFO experiencer and NDE groups reported a significantly increased level of malfunctions in electrical equipment following an experience. This has long been known as a marker of alien abduction/ET contact. It was significantly elevated in the Marden-Stoner Commonalities Study and the most recent MUFON ERT Experiencer Survey. Experiencers in both groups reported malfunctions in electrical appliances. Lights blink out when experiencers walk under them, watches, computers, store scanners, and time clocks malfunction only for the experiencers.

     Drs. Ring and Rosing conducted two Omega Project studies but the second will not be discussed in this paper. You will find additional information through an online search or in their books and articles. 

     Dr. Robert LeLieuvre, Lester Valez, and Michael Freeman spearheaded the Omega 3 project in 2010, to evaluate Ring’s and Rosing’s findings. Seventy-one abduction experiencers and fifty-one people with an interest in abduction phenomena but no abduction experience, comprised the experiential and control groups. Eight instruments from the Kenneth Ring Omega Project study and two from Persinger’s study made up the questionnaire. Thay covered physiological, psychological, and philosophical areas.

     The study found that the participants in both groups were no more fantasy prone than the general population. However, the experiential group demonstrated a greater interest in ET contact and this changed the participants’ worldviews. They became more sensitive to altered states of consciousness; reported early psi experiences; higher rates of stress; conflict and tension as adults and psycho-social tension as children; greater tendencies toward dissociation as a coping mechanism; a shift toward spiritual belief; and concerns for our planet’s ecology. These finding do not suggest that ET contact is imaginary. They suggest that ET contact experiencers undergo a transformative process that sets them apart from other population groups.

     Additional research designed to test the hypothesis that UFO abductees are fantasy prone has produced largely negative results, with only one exception. In a 1991 study, Robert E. Bartholomew (James Cook University), Keith Basterfield (UFO Research Australia), and George Howard (University of Notre Dame) discovered that 87% (N=132) of the self-reported contactees/abductees they interviewed had one or more of the major symptoms of fantasy-prone personality listed on the Wilson/Barber scale. Their findings were based upon the biographical reports of 152 self-identified contactees/abductees. No psychometric tests were employed to assess personality traits. The trait that most abductees had in common was the reporting of psychic phenomena.

     As was mentioned earlier in this paper, it is unrealistic to label psychic phenomena a fantasy. Academic studies indicate that it is real but not pervasive in the general population. Numerous scientific studies indicate that the Wilson/Barber Fantasy Prone Personality Inventory is inherently biased against psi experiencers. Wilson and Barber  declared the observation of psychic phenomena impossible but subjectively real among the fantasy prone. To the contrary, numerous scientists have obtained evidence that psychic and paraphysical phenomena are real. (See Dr. Claude Swanson’s The Synchronized Universe book series.) 

     In 1991, Mark Rodeghier (U. of Illinois), Jeff Goodpastor (Gateway Technical College) and Sandra Blatterbauer (CUFOS) conducted a study on people who met clearly defined criteria for having had a verified UFO abduction experience. They found no difference in the Inventory of Childhood Memories and Imaginings score for alleged abductees and the general population. This indicates that psychic phenomena is not limited to ET contact experiencers and NDEs.

     Nicholas Spanos, PA Cross, K. Dickson, and SC DuBreuil (Carleton University) administered an extensive battery of scales to a 19 individuals who reported observing erratically moving lights in the sky that they interpreted as UFOs, and 20 individuals who reported experiencing a close encounter with, or an abduction by non-human entities. Their results indicate that those who report UFO experiences, even missing time and telepathic communication with aliens, are no more fantasy prone than the general population. However, those with higher scores on the fantasy proneness scale reported more elaborate abduction experiences.

     In 2005, UFO skeptic Christopher French (England) administered the Wilson/Barber scale, without additional personality screenings, to 19 self-reported abductees and 19 controls. He found a significantly higher rate of “fantasy proneness” among the self-identified abductees.

     As discussed above, it is my opinion that we cannot accept the Wilson/Barber scale as an accurate measure of fantasy proneness among abductees. When research findings are inconsistent with general trends among researchers, one is advised to examine the individual's agenda and personal beliefs. We must ask why Dr. French administered only the biased Wilson/Barber scale. Was he attempting to "prove" a hypothesis with an outdated, biased psychological instrument? I have noted what appears to be systematic bias in the research findings of members of skeptical societies.  

 Boundary Deficit Disorder 

     In a 1988, Midwestern farmer, and vocal skeptic, Martin Kottmeyer drafted a scholarly paper on alien abduction and boundary deficit disorder. According to an online biographical profile he “defies the idea that anyone should hold academic credentials in order to rationally tackle cultural mysteries.” Although he is not a behavioral scientist, his article gained widespread acceptance within the community of skeptics that dismisses alien abduction as even a possibility.

     Kottmeyer’s conjecture was based upon psychiatrist Ernest Hartmann’s (Tufts University, 1984) study of college students who experience frequent nightmares. Dr. Hartmann discovered that this special group of students exhibited  difficulty differentiating between fantasy and reality, a poor sense of self, poor social adaptation with frequent feelings of rejection, suicidal tendencies, feelings of powerlessness, and unusual alertness to sights, sounds and sensations. He labeled these frequent nightmare sufferers and their constellation of symptoms “boundary deficit disorder.” Kottmeyer read Dr. Hartmann’s paper on his study and wrote his own paper speculating that boundary deficit symptoms might cause UFO abductees to mistake nightmares for reality. He did not conduct his own study to determine whether UFO abductees actually had frequent nightmares, or any of the symptoms that Dr. Hartmann described. It was a leap of faith, not a hypothesis supported by evidence.

     Kottmeyer’s article came to the attention of experimental psychologist Nicholas Spanos, PhD., who in 1993 had conducted an academic study of UFO close encounter witnesses and a control group to test Kottmeyer's hypothesis. Spanos, et. al. administered five psychometric scales to each group. Their test results revealed that the UFO close encounter witnesses exhibited a lower rate of schizophrenia, higher self-esteem, higher well-being, lower perceptual aberration, lower perception of an unfriendly world, lower aggression, and were no different than the control group in social potency. They were radically different than Dr. Hartmann’s frequent nightmare experiencers. Additional testing revealed no difference between the control and experiential groups in absorption, fantasy proneness and the tendency to engage in imaginings. The evidence leads us to conclude that Kottmeyer’s guess was incorrect, despite his hard work and support from hard-nosed skeptics.

     ***(Kottmeyer made a similar mistake when he conjectured that Barney Hill had watched a popular television show "The Outer Limits" only a few days before, under hypnosis with Dr. Benjamin Simon, he described the non-human entities he had observed through binoculars in Lincoln, NH, at midnight on the night of September 19, 1961. The fact is that Barney was not at home when the show aired and had no interest in this type of television show. He did not view this show. Kottmeyer suggests that Barney described the Bifrost man on this show. It is important to stick to the facts, not to offer speculation as if it were fact, as is common among hard-nosed skeptics.

     Barney described these figures in the windows of the craft as wearing shiny black uniforms. One appeared to be wearing a cap on his head and a scarf around his neck. From the distance this was seen, Barney might have confused the non-human's headgear for these common human articles of clothing. I have several photographs of non-humans taken through the windows of craft and while in the process of capturing humans. They are wearing headgear technology. Barney's description of the entity's face, while in hypnosis, was unlike that of the Bifrost man. Additionally, during the abduction experience, Barney saw the ET's faces close-up, so he did not have to confabulate the features on the ET's faces.)  

Sleep Paralysis & Hypnagogic/Hypnopompic Hallucinations

      For many years, academic psychologists have offered the speculation that sleep paralysis can explain why some individuals believe they have experienced nighttime abductions from their bedrooms. Some abduction experiencers have awoken paralyzed with shadowy figures standing beside their beds or hovering overhead. When they have attempted to cry out they were not able to vocalize their fright. They are locked inside paralyzed bodies, unable to speak. The only body part they had control over is their eyes. Sleep paralysis and frightening shadowy figures cause their hearts pound. They strain to breathe but have a sensation like a weight is on their chests. They are acutely aware of their surroundings. Shadows transform into frightening images and sounds intensify. Sleep paralysis experiencers struggle to break free from their dreadful predicament, and within seconds they are fully awake. There are no ETs in their environment. (You might find it interesting that the government investigators who spent time at the Skinwalker Ranch in Utah, took home so-called "hitchhikers." They suddenly awoke during the night and observed shadowy figures that were not caused by sleep paralysis.)

     An estimated thirty percent of our population experiences sleep paralysis at least once. Those who have experienced sleep paralysis think they are awake but are actually partially in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Sleep paralysis is a normal function of REM sleep because it protects us from acting out our dreams in a physical sense. But occasionally we emerge from sleep and our bodies are out of sync with our brains. When this occurs, the paralysis continues for a few seconds. We are paralyzed but can move only our eyes. 

     I have spoken with several people who have sleep paralysis but no one has confused it with ET abduction because they had a long history of sleep paralysis and could recognize it as such. Most said the weight on their chest was the most difficult part of sleep paralysis. They felt as if they were being suffocated. 

     MUFON’s Experiencer Research Team addressed this possibility in its study of 516 experiencers. The two-phase study began in 2015 and ended in 2018. Phase 1 asked the question, “Have you awakened unable to move your body or cry out?” Of the 510 survey takers who answered the question, 74% answered in the affirmative. Phase 2 of our study identified the participants who were confirmed abductees, meaning that they had the evidence, the knowledge, and the emotional content to be identified as such. We discovered that 90% of the UFO abductees had awoken paralyzed. But we did not assume that this confirmed sleep paralysis can explain the ET contact experience.

     We asked, “Have you been awake and able to move your body, but observed a non-human/ET presence and became paralyzed? Of the 507 survey takers who responded, 36% had been awake at the beginning of a UFO abduction and then were paralyzed. However, among the survey takers who had been identified as real abductees, 60% had been awake before paralysis set in.

     Despite much conjecture by academic psychologists, it is clear that many ET contact experiencers are awake when non-human entities enter their environment. They have described the environmental alterations that occur moments before they are taken to an unearthly environment. Our study indicates that sleep paralysis is not an acceptable explanation for the ET contact experience.  

     One thing is clear, sleep paralysis alone cannot explain the complex imagery described by abduction experiencers. Skeptics have offered another hypothesis for this. Some academic psychologists have conjectured that extraterrestrial entities are generated in sleep hallucinations called hypnagogic (between waking and sleeping) and hypnopompic (between sleeping and waking) sleep states. This condition affects about 5% of the US population.   

     Hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations occur when factors such as stress, extreme fatigue, medications, and mental illness cause the part of the brain that distinguishes between conscious perceptions and internally generated perceptions to misfire. This results in internally generated visions, sounds, feelings, smells or tastes. Experiencers often see colored geometric shapes or parts of objects. Others might observe the colored image of a person, monster, or animal. Sensations of floating or flying are common, along with hallucinated buzzing sounds. Hypnagogic hallucinations can be frightening. The hallucinations can last from seconds to minutes and are usually accompanied by a brief period of sleep paralysis.

     Hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations occur at a high rate of frequency among narcoleptics, who experience extreme fatigue or periods of dozing off during the day. This sleep anomaly persists throughout a lifetime and often occurs within families. Therefore, it might be genetically carried. But most sleep anomaly experiencers report they are able to differentiate between their internally generated hallucinations and reality.

     The onset of an ET contact experience, particularly when it occurs during sleep, might possibly be generated by hypnagogic and hypnopompic sleep anomalies. However, abductees suspected of having real experiences, due to the presence of conscious memory of the event, eyewitnesses, missing time, physical evidence, etcetera, report subtle but significant differences between their experiences and sleep anomalies. Sleep anomalies do not leave evidence of an intrusion into our environment. 

     A significant percentage of abduction experiencers are awake and observe a sudden beam of light entering their environment. They might hear a distinctive sound, feel a tingling sensation, and observe activity in their homes. At the onset of their experience, they might not be paralyzed. However, I have photographs of injuries experiencers sustained when they resisted being taken, so not all experiencers are paralyzed immediately. Many are able to move and cry out. Some attempt to escape, or even throw objects at the intruders, before the entities take control of their minds and bodies. 

     The experiencer observes small entities, often with glistening eyes, moving into their human environment. The occasional experiencer's partner might attempt to fight back but is quickly immobilized and returned to his or her bed, in a deep state of sleep. A wave of paralysis overtakes the ET contact experiencer and he/she is suddenly compliant. The fear state drops away and is replaced by a feeling of familiarity. I suspect that paralysis of the human is necessary for two reasons: 1. to protect the ET from harm, 2. to prevent the human from being harmed during transport into the ET's environment. 

     The human is quickly transported from his or her home to waiting craft or an unearthly environment where he or she might participate in biological and/or behavioral studies. Not all ET contact experiences require a visit to an alien environment. Only those that require technology on a craft must travel to the ET environment, such as when tissue samples are collected. Sometimes experiencers are informed by the ETs that the samples are necessary for determining the level of environmental toxicity in the human body. The experiencer might receive a warning to be cautious when consuming contaminated food or exposing oneself to environmental hazards.

     Glandular tissue might be extracted, especially after emotionally powerful experiments play out in an alien environment. Experiencers might meet with deceased family members or beloved pets. Or an experiencer might take part in a lifelike, but not real, event where they believe they have harmed or killed a loved one. The glandular tissue is extracted immediately after the experiencer feels extraordinarily distressed or delighted.

     They might receive an and education on the threat of nuclear weapons and the utter destruction they can cause. They might be shown visions or images of an apocalyptic event on our planet. Messages supporting the dire need for environmental awareness and the possibility of environmental collapse are stressed. Experiencers might be instructed to educate others on nuclear and environmental threats and how to live in a sustainable environment.

     Some are returned to their bed or another location in their home, but others end up locked outside their homes. Some have awakened in their vehicles, or even in someone else’s home. If they have been escorted outside and walked to craft, they find mud and vegetative matter in their beds. In this case, the craft might have landed or hovered inches from the ground leaving physical trace evidence.

     Some find they are no longer dressed in their own clothing or their own clothing is disarranged. A nightgown might be on backwards or earrings might be inserted backwards. If more than one person is taken, they might be returned wearing a companion’s clothing. Or they might awaken under their bed or with their feet on their pillow. The little assistant ETs make mistakes. 

     Studies indicate that psychologists are the most skeptical group of well-educated people regarding the reality of an ET presence and its interaction with humans. Most academic psychologists ignore the unique characteristics associated with ET contact experiences, including conscious recall, witnesses, and physical evidence. Instead, they proclaim that experiencers who believe they have been taken from their homes at night, are only experiencing a sleep disturbance.

     Certainly, sleep anomalies are a possible explanation for the belief that a person has been abducted when they have not been. Some people have sleep paralysis and see partial figures or geometric shapes. They awaken paralyzed and able to move only their eyes. They might observe shadowy amorphous figures and feel intensely fearful. They might experience sleep paralysis and short fantasy experiences similar to dreams during hypnagogic and hypnopompic sleep states. But the other characteristics mentioned above are missing. Sleep anomalies do not produce complex abduction experiences or leave physical evidence.

Intractable Skeptics

     Intractable skeptics have long proclaimed that UFO experts have disseminated misleading information about alien abduction, and that sleep paralysis and hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations can explain most bedroom ET contact experiences. They have no problem calling the best educated and most insightful researchers liars. They promote the idea that vulnerable individuals suspect they have been abducted because they have read books or viewed movies on the subject. They assume that abduction experiencers are helpless fantasy prone imaginers, completely without evidence, who blindly follow UFO abduction experts because they want to be part of a special group of chosen people, or because they are masochists who are fulfilling a long-suffering fantasy. These hard-nosed skeptics are deniers who have not bothered to examine the evidence.  

     Intractable skeptics have charged therapists of unethical behavior. They have alleged that when “abductees” seek the services of therapists who specialize in alien abduction, the hypnosis practitioner leads them to relive a false tale that has been suggested, in detail, by UFO abduction researchers. They say that this confabulated, false memory is then confirmed as a real event in the experiencer’s mind. Thus, a false belief becomes an obsession that needlessly alters feelings of safety and security, as well as the sense of normality.

     Although this might be true in a small number of cases, the majority of hypnosis practitioners follow ethical guidelines that prohibit them from abusing their practitioner-client relationship. They are better trained and more knowledgeable than an average certified hypnotist. Most use special techniques to reduce the possibility of confabulation. However, the possibility of confabulation is one of the characteristics of hypnosis, especially when direct questions are asked by the therapist. Lies can be told by hypnosis clients as easily as they can when the client is not in hypnosis. However, clever hypnosis practitioners can offer suggestions that will reduce the possibility of intentional fabrication. It is a matter of training and knowledge.

     Years ago, a few UFO investigators learned how to conduct hypnosis but did not become certified or participate in advanced training. They offered free hypnosis because they had not made a monetary investment in their education or a professional practice. They did not take the precautions that today’s highly trained hypnosis practitioners follow. These amateurs created problems for the professionals, and the memories of this misstep persist into the present day. At the present time, the vast majority of hypnosis practitioners who work with ET contact experiencers are highly trained, ethical, vetted professionals. 

Another Study on Experiencers

     Moving back to my discussion of academic studies on abduction experiencers, June Parnell and Leo Sprinkle (U of Wyoming, 1991), studied 225 individuals. They completed the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a screening designed to assess psychopathology, and The Sixteen Personality Factors Test (16PF), an assessment of healthy personality functioning. The participants ranged from individuals who made no claim of observing a UFO to individuals who reported observing spacecraft or UFO occupants. Some believed they had been taken aboard a spacecraft, whereas others stated they had communicated with non-human UFO occupants.

     The psychologists were primarily interested in four scales: 1. Scale F on the MMPI measures unusual attitudes, feelings, or thoughts. 2. Scale 8 on the MMRI measures divergent thinking, creativity, schizoid tendencies, and alienation. 3. Scale 9 on the MMPI measures unstable mood, flight of ideas, and psychomotor activity. 4. Factor M on the 16PF scale could indicate tendencies toward fantasy proneness, imaginative thoughts, absent-mindedness, or bohemian behavior.

     Participants who reported UFO and/or non-human occupant sightings scored within the normal range on scale F. However, those who reported they had communicated with ETs had moderately elevated scores. This group also had statistically significant scores on scale 8 for divergent thinking, creativity or schizoid tendencies, and alienation. The psychologists suggested that these elevated scores might be viewed as an endorsement of this more bizarre experience. What is most significant is that both groups scored within the normal range on scale 9 indicating they did not have mood instability, flight of ideas, and abnormal psychomotor activity. Likewise, Factor M on the 16PF scale revealed that even those who reported occupant sightings and communication with ETs, performed within the normal range on items such as mood stability, psychomotor excitement, bohemian behavior, and flight of ideas.

False Memory Syndrome 

     Elizabeth Loftus (U. of Washington) was the first person to introduce the concept of false memory syndrome. She took an interest in the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse charges, some of which were influenced by authority figures such as mental health professionals and law enforcement officers, and were not based in reality. False memory syndrome is defined as an experience where people remember events that never happened to them as if they were memories of real events. Dr. Loftus and others have conducted academic research in an attempt to identify the cause of false memory formation.

     Although the origins of false memories might have been associated with traumatic events, university ethics committees understandably prohibit academic psychologists from inducing trauma in test subjects.  Therefore, their experiments to test their hypotheses are conducted in a benign environment. One of these tests is the Semantic Word Association Test.

     The Semantic Word Association Test was developed by James Deese, Henry L. Roediger and Kathleen McDermott (Washington U.) in 1995, to fulfill this need. This test (DRM word paradigm memory) is administered by presenting semantically related word lists with as many as 192 words at a time, with 6 critical lures. A critical lure is a word associated with the related words but is not on the list of words that must be memorized. For example, the semantically related words sour, candy, sugar, bitter, good, taste, tooth, nice, honey, soda, chocolate, heart, cake, tart and pie might be presented to an experimental participant. The trick is that the critical lure (sweet) is not presented, but later appears on a word recognition list and might be mistakenly identified as one of the semantically related words.

     The difficulty for some participants comes when the words are presented orally, one list at a time, on an audio recording, at a rate of one word every three seconds. The participants are then instructed to write down all of the words they remembered hearing on the list. When all six lists have been presented, the participants are distracted with an assignment, such as having to complete a few simple math problems or a short reading assignment. This is followed by being asked to answer several questions.

     Next, the participants are given a packet containing a list of the semantically related words previously presented and some additional words, including the critical lures. They are asked to identify the words as either “known” to be on the list or “remembered” as having been orally presented. As you can imagine, it is easy to confuse the semantically related words with the critical lures and make a mistake.

     Test subjects who incorrectly recalled the critical lures were identified as having developed a false memory for the incorrect word. This result was extrapolated to suggest that complex false memories can develop in the same manner.

     Follow-up research in 1997, by David A. Gallo, Meredith J. Roberts & John G. Seamon (Wesleyan U.), found that the test could be manipulated to reduce false recall by warning subjects about the presence of false semantically related words (critical lures). However, this knowledge did not eliminate false recall altogether.

     A 1998 study by Seamon, Chun Luo & Gallo discovered that some participants misidentified the critical lure words even when presentation speed was manipulated. The problem was related to individual memory retention. Our memories are not all equal.

     False memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus and her colleagues have designed numerous experimental studies in which her participants were induced to recall false memories for an event. For example, in one study they asked test subjects to rate the likelihood that they experienced certain events during their childhood. Two weeks later, they instructed the participants to imagine that they had participated in certain fictitious events using imagination exercises. In one study, twenty-four percent of the participants developed a false memory that the imagined, perhaps implanted event had occurred. It is interesting to note that 12% of those who did not participate in the imagination exercise also developed a false memory. The suggestive material they had received from others was instrumental in constructing their false memories.  

     In 1996, researchers Saul Kassin and Katherine Kiechel (Williams College), attempted to produce false memories for an enduring event in a compliance experiment with college students. Participants were asked to type the letters they were directed to type on a computer, but not to press the ALT key because the computer would crash. A minute after the dictation began, the experimenter caused the computer to crash and feigned distress telling the student that all of the information had been lost. He/she accused the student of pressing the ALT key although they had done no such thing. Half of the students were informed by a “witness” that they had been observed pressing the ALT key and the other half were not. The students whose so-called “mistake” was confirmed by a witness were more likely to admit guilt, sign a confession, and develop a false memory for the event, than students who were not directly observed by the “witness.” Because some students formed a memory for an event that never happened, they were deemed to have developed a false memory for the event. This false memory was created because the student was influenced to be socially compliant, meaning that both an authority figure and a witness applied pressure for the student to comply with their statements. The student developed a false belief that he or she had made a mistake.

     A study at Colgate University by Rinad Beidas, on individual differences in the formation of false memories, found that high suggestibility is not related to the formation of false memories in the Semantic Word Association Test. He administered the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale 2 and the Semantic Word Association Test to his student participants, in order to assess an association between suggestibility and the Deese-Roediger-McDermott word memory paradigm. Test results revealed that there was no statistically significant correlation between false recall or false recognition on the Semantic Word Association Test.

     Beidas also examined whether students who produced false memories on an experiment using the Kassin and Kiechel model scored high on the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale 2. He found a positive correlation among participants who confessed to pressing the ALT key, but not for students who denied pressing the ALT key. The Beidas experiment results suggest that both social compliance and suggestibility are factors in the formation of false memories, but that false memories for words and complex events are different entities.

The Harvard False Memory Study on "Abductees"

     A controversial 2002 false memory study on self-reported “alien abductees” at Harvard University by Susan A. Clancy, Richard J. McNally, Daniel L. Schacter and Mark F. Lenzenweger has been vigorously contested by several researchers from the UFO community. Clancy et al. recruited participants by placing want ads in area newspapers. The advertisement for the experiential group stated that Harvard University researchers were “seeking people who may have been contacted or abducted by space aliens, to participate in a memory study.” The advertisement for a control (non-abductee) group simply stated that Harvard University researchers were “seeking people to participate in a memory study”.[3]

     According to the researchers, none of the participants met the criteria for having a confirmed alien abduction. The experimental subjects all met the criteria for sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations and all had been exposed to popular media pertaining to alien abduction. Is this beginning to sound like a biased study? One has to wonder why the researchers evaluated participants who showed no indication of having had a real “abduction” experience, only those with sleep paralysis and hypnogogic hallucinations. Perhaps they did not differentiate between a typical complex abduction from a home environment, which involves paralysis and a lengthy period of missing time and a quick sleep paralysis experience and simple sleep hallucination. But let us look at the details relating to the experiment.

     The test subjects were divided into three groups: 1. Recovered Memory (11, mean age=47.0). This group had memories of abduction that were recalled through therapy, hypnosis, or spontaneously. 2. Repressed Memory (9, mean age=40.4). This group had people who suspected they had been abducted but had no recall of the event. They reported having insomnia, a strong interest in science fiction, waking up with unexplained body marks, and other characteristics that had been publicized by skeptics. 3. Control Group (13, mean age=46.1). This group denied having been abducted by aliens. (I will refer to groups 1. and 2. as the Experiential Groups.)

     Dr. Clancy and her team hypothesized that the experiential groups would recall a higher percentage of false targets on the Deese, Roediger, McDermott semantic word test (discussed above) than the control group, suggesting that they were prone to false recall and false recognition. However, although the experiential groups had elevated  scores on false recognition, her hypothesis fell short of statistical significance on false recall. Variables such as the frequency with which rote memorization is used, fatigue, anxiety, and age are all factors in rote memorization and had an impact on the study results.     

     As noted above, the Beidus study suggests that high scores for false recognition and false recall on the DRM may not be an indication of false memory for complex events. It is also important to mention that false accusations made by authority figures and researcher’s attitudes can skew the results of an academic study.  

     All three groups completed four subjective experiences scales designed to measure PTSD, depressive symptoms, memory lapses, and hypnotic suggestibility; and four schizotypy and schizophrenia screening measures. These screenings indicated that although the experiential (abductee) groups experienced a slightly higher degree of depressive symptoms and anxiety than the control group, they were for the most part normal. It seems important to mention that many of the “abductee” participants had higher levels of creativity, vivid memory formation, open-mindedness toward psi experiences, and the ability to become absorbed in music, a movie or nature. Dr. Clancy and her colleagues interpreted these characteristics as symptoms of as fantasy proneness.

     The researchers hypothesized that the two experiential groups would score higher on the schizotypy screening measures than the control group. Schizotypal behaviors include odd or eccentric behavior, a lack of close friends outside of the family, magical thinking, excessive social anxiety associated with paranoid fears, and odd thinking and speech. Schizotypal behavior disorder (SBD) is a mild variant of schizophrenia. Multiple family studies indicate that persons with SBD and schizophrenia have a similar genetic predisposition to this major mental illness. Schizotypy falls on the lower end of the spectrum and indicates a tendency to exhibit some, but not all of the characteristics of the schizophrenia.

     The Experiential (abductee) Groups scored significantly higher on the Magical Ideation Scale and the Perceptual Aberration Scale than the control group, but not on the Referential Thinking Scale.  In order to gain a full understanding of the significance of each group’s performance on these measures, it seems worthwhile to become somewhat familiar with the questions asked. 

     The Magical Ideation Scale is a thirty-question true/false self-reported inventory. It was originally introduced as an indicator of schizotypal thinking but has been found to be indicative of thinking styles found in the average population. Individuals with high scores on this measure scored significantly higher than control groups on tests for creativity. Here is a list of some of the statements on the Magical Ideation Scale:

  • Horoscopes are right too often for it to be a coincidence.
  • If reincarnation were true, it would explain some unusual experiences I have had.
  • I sometimes have a feeling of gaining or losing energy when people look at me or touch me.
  • Some people can make me aware of them just by thinking about me.[4]

      Those who score in the 0-3 range on the Magical Ideation Scale are considered to be linear thinkers. 4-12 is normal for males and 4-15 is normal for females. All three groups were represented by one more male than female member. Scores above 16 indicate that a person exhibits schizotypal thinking. The Recovered Memory Group (6 men, 5 women) scored 10.7 (SD: 5.0) which is clearly within the normal range of thinking. The Repressed Memory Group (5 men, 4 women) scored 11.1 (SD: 5.5) which indicates that perhaps one subject scored within the schizotypal range, but all others were within the normal range. The Control Group (7 men, 6 women) did not fall within the normal mean range for men or women. They scored 3.8 (SD 3.5) indicating that some were in the linear thinking group, whereas others fell within the low normal range. 

     The researchers interpreted this information as a confirmation of their hypothesis. However, it is important to note that the mean score for the two Experiential Groups fell within the normal range and the mean score for the Control Group fell below the normal range, close to the linear thinking range. So the difference between the two groups can be explained as an abnormality in the control group. 

     The Perceptual Aberration Scale measures psychotic-like experiences such as body discontinuities and unusual scenery experiences, (e.g. “I felt that something outside of my body was part of my body.”)[5] On this thirty five question self-reporting inventory, the Recovered Memory Group’s mean score was 8.0 (SD: 7.9), The Repressed Memory Group averaged 6.6 (SD: 5.3), and the Control Group averaged 3.1 (SD 2.3). It should be noted that the mean score for this measure varies by racial groups (whites score lower than other racial groups). It also varies by gender, with white women averaging 6.7 (SD: 5.86) and white men averaging 6.64 (SD: 6.23). These findings indicate that although the recovered memory group scored higher than the repressed memory or control groups, they all fell within the average range of functioning. The scores did not support the contention that the  Experiential Groups deviated from the norm.

     The Referential Thinking Scale is a thirty-four question true/false inventory that measures ideas of reference, e.g., the idea that strangers are talking about you or that songs were written about you. The test results failed to support the research team’s hypothesis that the experimental groups would score measurably higher on this scale.

     A critical analysis of the test subjects’ scores reveals that the control group performed below the norm on various measures including the Perceptual Aberration and Magical Ideation Scales. They seemed to be a group of particularly linear thinkers. If this observation is correct, as a group they would be expected to perform better on an orally presented memory test than would non-linear thinkers.

     We know that these left-brained linear types are auditory thinkers who process information in a sequential, analytical order. They are good rote memorizers, whereas right brained Intuitives tend to see the whole picture and are not facile at rote memorization. It appears that the test subjects were of two opposite learning style types and this would obviously skew the test results. Therefore, one has to question the validity of the researcher’s conclusions. Was the study biased? If so, was it intentionally biased?

     Susan Clancy worked on an additional memory distortion research project in 2004 (see “Memory Distortion in People Reporting Abduction by Aliens”, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol. 1, No. 3, 455-461). She published a book in 2005, titled Abducted: How people come to believe they were kidnapped by aliens.” It stimulated a major uproar in the UFO community because she exhibited a major level of naivety regarding UFO abduction events and the significant level of investigation and research in this field. Her book is extraordinarily inaccurate regarding major UFO abduction events.

     In her book, Clancy conjectured that those who believe they were abducted by aliens are scientifically naive and gullible. She states that they create vivid fantasies from a toxic mix of nightmares, culturally available images, and media saturation, which are reinforced by unscrupulous hypnotists. She further asserts that experiencers of ET contact are eccentric, prone to magical thinking, and have a belief in the paranormal although it does not exist, and this creates their mixed up thinking.

     I will not take the time here to discuss all of the bias, misinformation and misrepresentation in her book, but either she is naive and misinformed regarding alien abduction phenomena or she is biased against the evidence. (See the referenced critiques by Friedman, Hopkins, Jacobs & Marden).

An Overview of the Psychological Studies  

     The only conclusion we can draw from all of the social research findings discussed so far in this paper, is that fantasy prone persons with thin boundaries, individuals who experience dissociative states high on the multiple personality disorder scale, and those who experience certain sleep anomalies such as narcolepsy, might believe they have been abducted by aliens, when they have not. If they are hypnotized by authority figures with a personal bias in favor of UFO abduction theory and asked leading questions, or if they firmly believe they have been abducted and have exposure to abduction information, they might confabulate an abduction experience. Once confabulated in hypnosis, they might have a propensity to believe that a psychological experience is a real UFO abduction. However, the following point is critically important. Responsible abduction researchers and therapists are cautioned against hypnotizing individuals who fall into this category.

     In my opinion, the minimum requirement to qualify a person for hypnosis, should be substantial evidence that the experience was not merely a hallucination or fantasy. What does the person recall? Were there witnesses? Was there evidence? Does the person have the little-known commonalities that other experiencers have reported on major studies?

The Alien Symbols Academic Studies

     In 2007, Tamara Lagrandeur, Ph.D.(McGill U., Don C, Donderi, Ph.D.(McGill U.), Stuart Appelle, Ph.D.(SUNY Brockport) and abduction researcher Budd Hopkins (Intruders Foundation), conducted a  study of alien symbols observed on ET craft. They examined whether sets of symbols observed inside an alien craft and recalled through hypnosis, exhibit consistent detailed characteristics. The academic researchers used twelve sets of symbols that Budd Hopkins had acquired the Abductee Group, who had sought his assistance. In turn, Stuart Appelle hypnotized a group of twenty-four graduate students, the Control Group, and instructed them to imagine and illustrate symbols inside an alien spacecraft. He then asked the graduate student group to draw the fantasized symbols. All symbol information was confidential in order to avoid information contamination.

     The thirty-six symbol sets, representing both groups, were scanned and then photocopied into a common format to ensure that an evaluator could not differentiate between sources. The resulting sheets were assigned a random code number for identification purposes. When this was accomplished, Tamara Lagrandeur supervised nineteen McGill University undergraduates who conducted a statistical analysis on the collection of symbols. They were evaluating multidimensional similarity and difference.

     The results confirmed that the mean scores for the Control Group and Abductee Group were significantly different on all three dimensions. The Abductee Group produced remarkably similar symbols which were distinctly different from the symbols produced by the Control Group. The research scientists concluded that the consistency of symbols seen by the Abductee Group inside alien craft could possibly mean that the reports are true.

     The researchers presented the results of their study at the Association for Psychological Science in Chicago, IL, on May 13, 2008. They later conducted a follow-up study with three groups: 1. an Abductee Group, 2. a Hypnotized Student Control Group, and 3. A Control Group who was asked to imagine what ET symbols might look like. The results of this study were the same. The Abductee Group sketched symbols that were remarkably similar but different than the two sets from the Control Groups.  

    As an aside, later, Dr. Donderi evaluated symbols that I requested from Betty Hill, if she could recall the symbols she saw in a "book" aboard an alien craft. She sketched ten symbols from memory, in August 2000. Dr. Donderi stated that Betty’s symbols were remarkably similar to the ones that had been collected by Budd Hopkins since the mid-1970s. However, Betty had never viewed the symbols in Hopkins' collection. 

 MUFON's Experience Research Team's Study on Experiencers   

     I have worked on three major studies on experiencers of contact. The Marden-Stoner Study on Abduction Experiencers was my first and had seventy-five participants. We examined possible commonalities among experiencers that are not common in the general population. You can read my paper on this study on my website. The second study was conducted by the Edgar Mitchell Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial and Extraordinary Contact (FREE). I was a member of FREE's Executive Board and worked on Phase 1 of its comprehensive study. The results are discussed in Beyond UFOs: The Science of Consciousness and Contact with Non-Human Intelligence. You will find my chapter on pages 447-487. I worked on my third comprehensive study on ET contact experiencers from 2015-2018 while I was director of MUFON’s Experiencer Research Team. Our findings were published in the MUFON 2018 International UFO Symposium Proceedings. Additionally, Dr. Donderi presented his part in the study and I presented mine at the 2018 MUFON Symposium in Cherry Hills, New Jersey.  

MUFON's Board of Directors approved our study in early 2015, and we assembled a team of researchers from the Experiencer Research Team. Members Craig Lang, MS (1956-2018); Michael Austin Melton, PhD; Denise Stoner, and I developed 118 questions for the Experiencer Survey. We used Survey Monkey, an online application that is readily available to participants and automatically calculates statistical data. Dr. Don C. Donderi (McGill U. retired) joined us for phase two of our study. 

     The greatest problem with a survey of this type is the inability to measure the psychological functioning of its participants and the veracity of the statistical data, given the opportunity for hoaxers and delusional people to participate in the study. For this reason, we developed several trick questions to identify this category of participant, so we could eliminate their fake responses. The questions were carefully worded and presented to prevent false positive or false negative responses.

     Our objective was to pinpoint a host of characteristics that experiencers have in common and to collect statistical data that would be of value to MUFON investigators, researchers, and experiencers alike. Our target group was UFO abduction and contact experiencers who retained conscious recall of the non-human entities they encountered, and at least partial memory of the procedures performed in an alien environment. This was clearly stated in the informed consent agreement. Additionally, we advised participants that they might experience increased anxiety due to the nature of the questions. They should proceed only if they had read the disclaimer and agreed to the risk of completing the survey. The Experiencer Survey was posted on MUFON’s website and I posted a link on my website in late July 2015.   

     We advertised the study in the MUFON UFO Journal, on my Facebook page, and on some of my radio interviews. MUFON’s ERT encouraged the experiencers they counseled to complete the survey if they met the criteria we had established for participation in the survey. We intentionally did not elicit participation from contactees who practiced astral travel, conscious contact with non-physical entities, remote viewing, and drug-induced contact. We were attempting to attract people who had evidence of at least one ET contact experience. 

     Our questions were straightforward and pertained to the abduction/contact experience, based upon our investigative findings, the historical findings of pioneer investigators, the psychological research findings in a variety of academic studies, and the postulates offered by prominent skeptics. The minimum target for statistical analysis was set at 500 participants. (See the full report the MUFON 2018 International Symposium Proceedings, available at MUFON.)

     Dr. Don C. Donderi administered the American Personality Inventory (API) to 188 survey participants who agreed to take part in the next phase of our survey. The API was developed by Ted Davis, a clinical social worker, and abduction researcher Budd Hopkins as an indicator of UFO Abduction Syndrome. Davis and Hopkins used the well-known psychological measure the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory as a model for the API. Dr. Donderi collaborated with them by enlisting assistance from students at McGill University, as control groups and for statistical analysis. 

     They obtained responses to 608 true/false questions from 52 self-reported abductees, and compared their responses to 75 non-abductee controls, and 26 simulators who knew the characteristics pertaining to UFO abductions, but had not had an experience themselves. Dr. Donderi and his students identified a subset of 65 questions for the standardized measure on the three groups' responses. 

     We were surprised to find that Dr. Donderi’s API analysis, on phase 2 of MUFON’s study, did not yield the anticipated results. No one fell within the Simulator or Control Group targets. This indicates that our trick questions were successful in eliminating hoaxers and fakers. All our participants had UFO Abduction Syndrome, but not all fell close to the abductee target. They were widely distributed indicating that something had changed among ET contact experiencers. For this reason, Dr. Donderi suggested that we should compare the responses of the 20 participants who had most of symptoms of UFO abduction syndrome to those who were experiencers but did not have many symptoms of UFO Abduction Syndrome. The 20 participants who scored closest to the target were identified as the “abductee Group” because they met the criteria for UFO abduction syndrome. The 20 lowest scorers were labeled the “Contactee Group,” because the majority indicated that their contact experiences were positive. However, five members of this group reported highly negative experiences.

     The Experiencer Survey participants were evenly divided between men and women as was the “Abductee Group.” However, the Contactee Group” had 14 males and 6 females. We received completed surveys from participants residing in seven different time zones around the globe. Ten ethnic groups and many mixed-race groups were represented. Age groups ranged from under 20 to over 80, but the highest percentage of the distribution was in the 40-59 range.

     We posed the question, “What age were you when you had your first experience?” The survey takers indicated that 72% were less than 20 when first contacted. It was 80% for the “Abductee Group and 70% for the “Contactees.” This is consistent with the current view of intergenerational contact and confirms the anecdotal evidence offered by many.

     Surprisingly, 6% of the Survey Takers and 15% of the “Contactees” stated that they were more than 40 years old when their first experience took place. In our final analysis, we discovered that the small group of experiencers who were over 40, at the time of their first experience, have a special set of characteristics that are not present in the abductees whose contacts began earlier in life. Their experiences were primarily negative and frequent. These wretched souls are repeatedly taken to a dreadful environment where they are physically and sexually abused or forced to train for what they believe is intergalactic war. They do not share the commonalities that other experiencers share. We do not have additional information that can assess the psychological profile of this perplexing group of primarily male individuals. We know only that they do not have UFO Abduction Syndrome and do not have the commonalities that other experiencers share.        

     We were surprised to discover that more than half (54%) of the Survey Takers believe they have been taken less than 4 times and 24% believe it was only once. A full 10% believed they had been taken more than 50 times. This was a surprise, as the common wisdom indicated that the majority of experiencers had been taken many times.

     Those with UFO Abduction Syndrome reported an elevated number of abduction experiences. Their responses are as follows: 5-9 times: 20%; 10-19 times: 15%; 20+ times: 10%; 50+ times 5%. This increased rate is indicative of what one might expect if a group of scientists were conducting a research project. Those who scored furthest away from the UFO Abduction Syndrome target, had unique responses: 45% indicated that they had been contacted only once and a surprising 15% believed they had been contacted more than 50 times. 

     With regard to the observation of UFOs, 85% of the survey takers indicated that they had conscious recall of a UFO sighting. In comparison 90% of the "Abductee Group” and 95% of the “Contactee Group” stated they had observed a UFO. We know that a UFO is an unidentified flying object and might only be a perplexing but distant light in the sky. For this reason, we wanted to know if the UFO was 500 feet or less from the witness, indicating a close encounter. 65% of the Survey Takers said they had conscious recall of observing a UFO within 500 feet of their physical location. Among the "Abductee Group” it was 70%. This increased to 85% for the Contactee Group.” The fact that the three groups observed structured craft at close range is important. Many people report distant lights in the sky, but close encounters are not as prevalent.

     Sighting a non-human intelligent entity (NHI) and retaining conscious recall of the sighting was far less prevalent yet highly statistically significant. 54% of the Survey Takers, 50% of the “Abductee Group” and 55% of the “Contactee Group” stated that they had observed an NHI entity. One of our prerequisites for participation in the survey was conscious recall of observing NHI entities, so we were surprised when only half our participants followed the written instructions.

     We were interested in the prevalence of generational contact among experiencers, as anecdotal evidence suggests that it follows family genetic lines. 50% of the Survey Takers indicated that their family members had a close encounter, and 41% had relatives that had experienced abduction/contact. Inter-generational contact is more prevalent in the “Abductee Group” with 60% reporting inter-generational close encounters and contact with NHI. Sixty percent of the “Contactee Group” said that their family members had a close encounter. However, only 30% reported inter-generational contact. 

     The most frequently cited family members who had experienced close encounters and contact, in all three groups, were the participant's mothers and fathers. Next came the experiencers' brothers and sisters. Their offspring and their grandparents were also mentioned, but in lower numbers. Could this lower percentage mean that the non-human ET entities are closing out their experimental program? Or could the experiencers be unaware that their children have been taken? Only time will tell.     

     As mentioned earlier in this paper, we posed two questions pertaining to sleep paralysis. The first question identified the characteristics of sleep paralysis that occurs in a percentage of the general population and may not be related to abduction/contact. 74% of Survey Takers, 90% of the “Abductee Group,” and 65% of the “contactee group” answered in the affirmative.

     When asked if they had been awake but then saw a nonhuman and became unable to move or cry out, 36% of the Survey Takers said "yes." The percentage of wakeful contact increased dramatically to 60% in the “Abductee Group” and dropped to 25% in the “Contactee Group.” The highly significant statistic for the “Abductee Group” could be an indication that their events are real. This an important marker for nocturnal contact in the home.    

     Many experiencers report that they can sense when contact is imminent. 48% of the Survey Takers; 60% for the “Abductee Group”; and 35% for the “Contactee Group” had this feeling. However, 90% of the “Abductee Group” reported that they hear buzzing, chirping or tinnitus sounds in their heads, as a precursor to contact. 64% experienced nervousness when this occurred and 50% felt what they described as “energy.”

     MUFON’s statistics on missing time indicated that 58% of the Survey Takers were aware of at least one period of lost time that they believed was ET contact related. Missing time was noted by 65% of the “Abductee Group.” However, only 45% of the “Contactee Group” was aware of missing time associated with ET contact. The duration of the missing time experience ranged from a few minutes to several days, and was slightly elevated at two hours among abductees. This is consistent with the findings of other researchers.      

     There has been much discussion about the demeanor of non-human ET entities. Strong emotions have come into play at both ends of the spectrum with much promotion of the evil alien and benevolent alien perspectives. Our study determined that most prevalent demeanor was “business-like” for Survey Takers (48%) and the “Abductee Group” (65%). The Contactee Group had a different opinion. Their contact experiences were “kind” and “friendly” (50%). The abductees stated that ET's demeanor varied by type, with some races being more caring than others. Less than 11% in all three groups stated they had encountered evil entities and less than 6% said they were hostile or sadistic.

     An appraisal of the statements made by highly negative contact experiencers led me to speculate that some individuals might be under the control of highly negative entities from the astral realm. (The astral realm is a theoretical plane of nonphysical existence inhabited by the ethereal bodies of humans between physical lives on Earth.) One participant’s responses indicated this. Two had memories of being trained regularly for intragalactic war. Another clearly believed he was having MILAB abductions by humans dressed in US Air Force uniforms. We discovered that shape-shifting reptilians were responsible for most highly negative contact experiences. 

     This led us to speculate that perhaps some individuals have been kidnapped by highly negative, even evil entities who feast on human fear and loathing. The small group of negative contact experiencers mentioned the use of mind control and being forced to harm others. But due to funding shortages, psychological screenings are lacking in our ability to determine the validity of these claims. MUFONs Experiencer Survey did not measure psychological functioning.   

     The bulk of the “Contactee Group” reported an elevated level of kind, friendly contact. Most felt honored and pleased by the highly spiritual, benevolent nature of their experiences. Likewise, a small but significant percentage of the “Abductee Group” had engaged in contact of a positive nature.

     Let us compare the entity types that interacted with each of the 3 experiencer groups. We first asked for descriptive details such as height, color, clothing or no clothing, clothing color, etcetera. We then listed 17 known categories of entities, leaving room for “unknown” and “other” responses. Many experiencers have reported interactions with more than one entity type, so we allowed for as many responses as the participants needed. We discovered that Greys were the most frequently reported NHI entity type. Greys in the 4’5”-5’5” height range were most frequently reported. Greys above 5’5” were next among the three groups of experiencers. Average human types were a close third for all but the “Contactee Group.” They mentioned tall non-human but humanoid whites at a higher rate, which probably accounts for the friendly demeanor of their NHI entities. Less than 25% of all three groups mentioned mantis insectoid types; less than 20% for lizard type reptilians; and less than 13% for draconian type reptilians. The “Abductee Group” mentioned hybrids (27%) at a higher rate than the other two groups, which fell below 20%. Human types of tall and short varieties came in at less than 10%, as did tall goldens, tall blues, short blues, and sasquatch types. In addition to the nonhuman entity types, several groups were listed in much smaller percentages. They include light beings, blue humanoid avians, cat-like and black cloaked beings.

     MILAB abductions were evaluated under a separate category. The Survey Takers indicated that 13% had participated in MILAB abductions. This declined to 10% for the “Abductee” and “Contactee” Groups. All groups failed to clearly identify the uniform of the human military groups and the race/s of the nonhuman entities they observed. This is somewhat troubling, primarily because conspiracy theorists have promoted the idea that “black ops” military groups are abducting humans from their homes and using mind control on them. Our findings might suggest that certain non-human entities are masquerading as human military officers, thus impugning our armed forces and feeding into conspiracy theory.  

     One form of evidence that ET contact experiencers most frequently submit to ET contact investigators is strange marks on their bodies for which they can think of no commonplace explanation. The most commonly reported marks are finger-shaped bruises, puncture wounds, and cored out circular marks, referred to as “scoop marks.”  Also mentioned were  burned or cored out triangles, blistering burns, and complex patterned designs.      

     When the three groups were asked if they would end their abduction/contact events if they could, 71% of the Survey Takers (N:479) said they would not want to end their contact events. The statistic was 75% for both the “Abductee” and “Contactee” Groups. However, a significant percentage of participants in all three groups could not make a firm decision. They offered equivocal remarks such as it is not their decision to make, they agreed to this before they were born, and they would continue if it is for the benefit of humanity and the ET entities.

     We asked a variety of questions pertaining to the health issues that have been documented in abduction cases. Overall, 53% of the survey takers indicated that they had experienced health problems they believed were related to their abduction/contact events. Sinus problems and migraine headaches, immediately following an abduction/contact experience, were the most commonly mentioned health issues faced by survey takers. Nosebleeds and eye irritation were common. As reported in the Marden-Stoner study, there is an elevated level of chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome among experiencers. The statistic was 38% in the Marden-Stoner study and higher in MUFON’s experiencer study. What is preventing the cells from utilizing glucose for energy production? This is a recent medical finding. But could this be triggered by adrenal fatigue? Freeze dried adrenal tissue is available in health food stores. 

     Many ET contact experiencers have reported being healed by non-human entities and some have submitted medical confirmation of their diagnosis and spontaneous remission following an alleged visitation. One cancer patient was healed when he sent telepathic messages to his ETs, requesting healing. Several days later, he video recorded a beautiful light blue orb slide down his bedroom wall and fly, like a morphing butterfly, across his bedroom. It hovered above his body, momentarily, as iridescent tendrils emerged. It then entered his body and healed his cancer. His medical reports confirm his statement and video. We wondered if ET healings are common among the experiencer population, so we asked our survey takers if had been healed by ETs. Only 10% of the survey takers said they had been healed by ET entities. It was significantly elevated at 45% for the “Abductee Group” but declined to 10% for the “Contactee Group.” Perhaps the NHI entities have a special interest in caring for the humans who are part of their medical science program.

     With regard to the prevalence of paranormal activity in the homes of experiencers, 61% of the Survey Takers reported seeing lighted orbs in their homes. This declined to 50% of the “Abductee Group” and 45% for the “Contactee Group.” Other paranormal events are less frequently observed but occur at a higher level than in the general population. The sensation that something unseen is walking on the bed is significantly elevated. This sensation might be caused by higher dimensional entities, who can be experienced but not observed because their atomic structure vibrates at a higher frequency than ours. 

     We asked, “Did you participate in a religious faith prior to your abduction/ contact event?” This question tested a hypothesis that has been advanced by some religious leaders that the absence of a Godly covering among experiencers has left them vulnerable to contact by the minions of Satan. We discovered that 45% of the survey takers, 55% of the abductees, and 70% of the contactees participated in a religious faith prior to contact.

     Experiencers in general indicated that they became more spiritual as a result of contact. The statistics for the three groups are as follows: Survey Takers: 69%; “Abductee Group”: 86%; “Contactee Group”: 71%. This indicates that although many adhered to existing religious doctrine, they also trended towards spiritual development, an interest in life beyond the physical, and the sacred meaning of life. This does not indicate the absence of God in their lives. For most it signifies a deeper personal relationship with God, the One, or the creator, and a slight trend away from traditional religious doctrine.  

     I believe it is important to note that MUFON discovered an increased level of near-death experiences among our Survey Takers. A surprising 44% of the Survey Takers stated they had a near death experience. The “Abductee Group’s” level increased to 55%, whereas the “Contactee Group” decreased to 35%. These findings are consistent with the Omega Project studies that noted psychic awareness, altruistic feelings, and increased spirituality among NDE and UFO experiencers.   

     My personal search for understanding has led me to theoretical physics. If it is true that experiencers undergo the process of dematerializing or phasing into another reality during the transition from our physical environment to an alien environment, it stands to reason that their soul consciousness might fragment off from their physical structure or be attached only by a thread. This fracturing is similar to what near-death experiencers describe, even though the causation might be different. If my supposition is correct, it could explain the reason why UFO and NDE groups exhibit similar characteristics.

     We asked open ended questions pertaining to warnings about future apocalyptic or disastrous events and other information that the non-humans had imparted to survey takers. The majority of survey takers had not received specific information. However, 159 had. The following is a representative sample of replies from all three groups regarding humanity’s future.

  • We must unite together in love and raise our vibration as a collective. The higher dimensions are here assisting us. We must unite together and recognize we are all connected so we can evolve and access a higher level of consciousness through the 5th dimension.
  • If we raise our level of consciousness to a higher level, we are able to achieve more. This is what they are trying to do here. We have been to this position before and we destroyed ourselves. They are fearful that we might do that again, and they will not allow it this time. They will intervene.
  • They are here to guide and assist in the development of our species and our world. They planted our seed here and they helped to develop it. They introduce things to assist in our development.
  • Humans must regain their spiritual sovereignty. Humans are of Source like them. Not sinful. 
  • We need to take responsibility for our actions and love one another.
  • They are spiritually connected and the human experience is a spiritual progression.
  • They are here to assist humanity in raising its vibrational frequency.

There were also many cautionary remarks issued with regard to our stewardship of planet Earth. Here are a few:

  • I was told that we must preserve resources and if we don't, we will experience a decrease in population.
  • We are poisoning our world and all that live on it. If we don't change the way we live as a species we all die.
  • We are destroying our planet. They will interfere with force if we continue our aggression and war.
  • Ice caps melting and endangered species dying off. It was incredibly difficult to watch.
  • I was told that ecological catastrophic events were on the horizon due to exponential effects of our neglect, abuse, or misuse.
  • I saw a barren earth. And I was told repeatedly about protecting nature and the importance of human unity.
  • We, as a race, are burning through resources faster than we can renew them. Due to our arrogance, we will seek out resources elsewhere, but because we are arrogant and ego driven we'll try to acquire them at a heavy cost to other races.
  • Humans will become extinct if they do not change their destructive and polluting ways.
  • We are poisoning our world and all that live on it. If we don't change the way we live as a species we all die.
  • We are not at the end of times; we are at the beginning of a New Age. So much cleansing needs to take place on the earth herself and in people. It's time to unite.

     Regardless of the causative factors behind their experiences and the attitudinal changes they generate, a significant number of survey takers in all three groups indicated that they have benefited from their experiences. Only a small percentage of participants indicated that they have experienced highly negative contact. Overall, ET contact experiencers have become more spiritual, more empathic, more psychic or intuitive, and less oriented toward aggression, negativity, and the acquisition of material wealth. They care for the environment and are concerned about making planet Earth a better place for all.

Final Statement

     In retrospect, we must ask why so many federally funded studies on "abductees" were completed in academic institutions. Why were the research psychologists ignorant of the massive collection of evidence regarding contact with non-human intelligent entities? Why did the National Academy of Sciences recommend funding social science studies on UFO witnesses, and later, on what was then termed "UFO Abductees?" Was it a politically motivated attempt to misinform the public? Was the risk of public hysteria driven by the Intelligence Community? Why were we part of a massive cover-up and anti-UFO propaganda campaign? Why was it vicious? There is overwhelming evidence that humankind is interacting with more than one intelligent extraterrestrial species. Historical evidence indicates that they have been among us for thousands of years. The majority of our contact experiences are benevolent. A small percentage are malevolent. Additionally, the groups who are conducting genetic experiments on human beings have generated fear and a feeling of victimization among the experiencers in their programs. These entities inform us that their concern is for our survival. They stress that our penchant for warlike behavior, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and our disregard for the protection of our environment, it paramount. They are attempting to create a more survival human, while raising human consciousness and spirituality. Life on earth will be easier, they say, when we overcome our malevolent behavioral characteristics and enter into a more benevolent  cosmic kindergarten.     

 End Notes

[1] Edward Condon, “Conclusions and Recommendations,” The Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, 28. (Discussed in Fact, Fiction, and Flying Saucers by Stanton T. Friedman and Kathleen Marden)

[2] Kenneth Ring, & C. Rosing, “The Omega Project: A psychological survey of persons reporting abductions and other UFO encounters,” Journal of UFO Studies. 2 (1990) 89.

[3] Susan A Clancy et al. “Memory Distortion in People Reporting Abduction by Aliens,” American Psychological Society, 2004. 456.

[4] Susan Clancy, Richard McNally,, “Memory Distortion in People Reporting Abduction by Aliens,” Journal of Abnormal Psychology, (Vol. III, No. 3, 2002), 457.

[5] Ibid.

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