Monday, April 25, 2005

The Abduction Phenomenon and Hypnosis

There is perhaps no area of the UFO phenomenon more controversial than alleged alien abductions. This has been demonstrated recently in a number of intense threads at UFO Updates, including “UFO Couple Use Story to Spark Alien Abduction” (which begins at www.virtuallystrange,net/ufo/updates/2005/apr/m16-015.shtml)
and “Sakulich and the Betty & Barney Hill Case” (which begins at

My position on abductions has always been straightforward. If the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH) is valid, then it is reasonable to assume that abductions may be occurring, in a manner similar, perhaps, to the way that the European explorers used to take natives aboard their ships, or, in some cases, even back to Europe. If the ETH is not valid, then neither is the abduction phenomenon, at least as an alien-related event. In my opinion, Jerry Clark provided the most reasonable conclusion with respect to abductions when he wrote, with respect to the Hill case (the most famous of all abduction cases), “The resolution of the Hill case awaits the resolution of the UFO question itself. If UFOs do not exist, then Barney and Betty Hill did not meet with aliens. If UFOs do exist, they probably did. The evidence available to us from this incident alone provides no answers surer than these. In other words, no answers at all. For now, anyway.”

Thus, the “abduction phenomenon,” like the “UFO phenomenon,” remains unsolved (as the ETH remains unproved), and people on both sides of the issue should retain an open mind – I know I do.

What concerns me about the modern abduction phenomenon, however, is not the phenomenon itself, but rather its reliance on hypnosis as an investigative tool (although not all cases involve hypnosis, the majority certainly seem to, although exact figures are difficult to come by). Like most lawyers, I am extremely leery of any testimony obtained through hypnosis, which I regard as highly unreliable.

I’m not the only one. For example, legendary UFO researcher / author Jacques Vallee, when asked about John Mack’s work, stated that while he “respected [Mack’s] courage” he disagreed with his methods. “Usually scientists tell me that hypnosis is not the best way of helping these people. Nor is it the best way to recover memories.” (see interview at

Kevin Randle, Russ Estes and Dr. William Cone, in their landmark study The Abduction Enigma (New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1999), examine the use of hypnosis by today’s leading abduction researchers (including Mack, Budd Hopkins, John Carpenter and Richard Boylan). They concur with Vallee. “Hypnotic regression,” they write, “is a poor tool for finding the truth, it allows the subject to confabulate amazing memories and act on those memories as if they were true, and its validity is now being questioned. In fact, in many states, a witness who has been hypnotized in an attempt to learn more of an event can no longer be called as a witness. Courts, and science, recognize how easy memories and events can be reconstructed or confabulated by a clever hypnotist. Even those whose motives are a search for the truth can, and do, lead the subject into memories that are not part of reality.” (p. 338)

As Randle et al note, the law treats hypnosis with extreme caution. For example, the Crown Prosecution Service in the United Kingdom states, “Information obtained under hypnosis should always be treated with extreme caution. There is a strong likelihood that evidence obtained under hypnosis will be unreliable and inadmissible in criminal proceedings.” They note that a person under hypnosis may be subject to “cueing,” which means, “explicit or implicit suggestion by the hypnotist; something said long before the session; something that the witness just happened to be thinking about; and a fantasy of the witness.” During hypnosis, the CPS states, “these can become fixed as facts in the mind of the subject. There is no reliable means of guarding against this happening.” [emphasis added] While hypnosis may be used in “exceptional circumstances” it is “highly desirable to look for corroboration of any evidence obtained under hypnosis before allowing a prosecution to proceed.” The problem with abductions, of course, is that there is no independent corroborative evidence available. For more information, see the CPS’s website at

Perhaps most interesting were the views of Betty Hill, the original “abductee.” In an interview with The Fortean Times about her 1995 book A Common Sense Approach to UFOs (see, she slammed modern abduction researchers and their reliance on hypnosis. The entire interview is a must read for anyone interested in the abduction phenomenon, or the Hill case; however, here are some pertinent excerpts.

“The reason I wrote this book was to try to get across to people that they should stay away from hypnosis. Don’t let anybody fool around in your brain. I mean, you have problems enough to live with yourself, without other people making their contribution.”

She was then asked about why there was a similarity among the stories told to each investigator, but the stories are different from investigator to investigator (a phenomenon Randle et al discuss in detail in The Abduction Enigma).

“Because the investigators are directing them to have those fantasies,” she said. “They’re suggesting them to them. They’re very, very destructive people.” [Note: Hill, of course, had memories supposedly recovered under hypnosis, but she distinguished the “medical hypnosis” she and her husband underwent from the less rigorous techniques used today by abduction researchers such as Budd Hopkins.]

For a general primer on the pros and cons of hypnosis, see "Key Concepts in Hypnosis" by Dr. Campbell Perry, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Concordia University (Montreal), at

Does this mean that the entire abduction phenomenon is invalid, or that it is impossible that what lies behind it is extraterrestrial?


The conclusion that I proffer here is simple, and more limited in scope - that those abduction cases in which hypnosis is used as a tool to recover "lost," or "suppressed," memories, should be treated with extreme caution.

Paul Kimball


RRRGroup said...


This is as cogent and succinct a presentation of hypnosis that one might find as it relates to the UFO abduction phenomenon.


Rich Reynolds

Alfred Lehmberg said...

Hypnosis has a strange history shrouded in chicanery, humbuggery, and a little something extra one can't put a finger on. That little something extra is what keeps it around, makes it useful, and justifies a harder look by science...

Sometimes it works.

One hears the word "hypnosis" and is overcome by images of stage
personalities suggesting to people that they can be transformed
into barnyard animals, dance a grand fandango, or be compelled
to quit smoking... but the program can be more insidious than

If two thirds of the population can be effected by phenomena
that science can quantify (if not qualify) this seems to be a
ready mechanism for control by manipulative suggestions
delivered via a daily bombardment from a very tightly controlled
media - news print, radio, and television.

An individual buying in to the unceasing manipulations of the
contrived, distorted, and corrupted mainstream might even take the next step in their "control" by hypnotizing themselves! In effect, rendering themselves incapable of perceiving what is there, plainly, to be perceived, and NOT, conversely, seeing what is not there to be seen...

An illustration...

While on active duty years ago, and before I developed any
substantive interest in the ufological, I had a barbeque at my
home, one evening, with five or six joyous couples in raucous
attendance. I was standing away from the group with two other
men - one AH-64 (Apache) instructor pilot, and a fixed-wing
driver who was an Army candidate for the astronaut program. The
sun had just gone down and dusk was washing out to the blackness
of night.

There was a lull in the conversation, and one of the men looked up and said, "That's odd..." Pointing at the sky with his beer hand, we all looked up at a black strip about as wide as a
little fingernail held at arm's length and flying diagonally
through the air! As it flew, one of the men remarked that the
craft had very peculiar position lights. These lights were white
strobes that ran from wing-tip to wing-tip, and then back again... there was no evidence of the required red and green, and no flashing anti-collision light...

"Well - it's got to be something..." someone said... so, with that the object was forgotten, and all three of us returned to the party. More beer was had by all, and the party continued into the usual drunken mini-brawl that Army rotary-wing aviators USED to be famous for...

I didn't remember this occurrence again for almost a decade, and
was reminded of it only by seeing a similar object in California
after I had developed an interest in UFOs. I would suggest that
my two fellow aviators and I followed the programming hypnosis
of "polite" society and ignored a sighting that should have been
VERY interesting to two professional instructor pilots and a candidate astronaut!

But we were ~less~ than interested, and we ignored a genuine UFO as a non-event - behavior on this end that now seems
_inexplicable_ to me. We hypnotized ourselves (followed our
social programming) and rejected the unsettling enigmatic for
the comforting mundane. We ignored what our eyes were reporting
to us and replaced it with an "accepted" routine. We turned our back on the unexplained, likely occurring around us all the time (unseen), and made it fit into what we are trained to find
culturally tolerable... socially acceptable.

I've watched this process of denial (through self hypnosis) at
work twice now. At a rubber model airplane meet in Northern
California dozens of us watched a UFO fly by five times with
fewer and fewer people looking up to watch it fly with each
succeeding pass that it very queerly made! ...Tell yourself enough times that something's not there - and it's not there.

Every indication is that science believes the human brain is capable of convincing
itself to perceive what is -not- there to be perceived. I would
suggest that it can also do the inverse of that. It can also
mask what is there to be seen, as plain as shining day. We won't
pay enough attention to that - given that we have to overcome
so much programming from our myopically conflicted culture.

But we must, ultimately, if we ever expect to see anything
'really' there, at all. -:|:-

Paul Kimball said...


We must always be careful not to simply replace one type of programming (disbelief) with another (belief).

Thanks for popping by...


Terry the Censor said...

_Abduction Enigma_ is an excellent book. I'd also recommend _Sex and the Paranormal_ by UK psychologist Paul Chambers, which has a couple chapters on abductions and compares them to similar psychological phenomena. _Abductions and Aliens: What's Really Going On?_ by Canada's own Chris Rutkowski is an antidote to the Hopkins/Jacobs/Mack abduction paradigm. _Rewriting the Soul_ and _Mad Travellers_ by Ian Hacking (more CanCon!) provide excellent philosophical analyses of the social construction of analagous phenomena -- and the prominent role of hypnosis and investigator bias in creating "victims."

BTW, the CPS link above is broken. The document can be found here:

Unknown said...

sorry but none of this can explain away the consistency of the reports, its the small things, like why and how can the brain somehow reconstruct in almost ALL if not all cases that communication is telepathic or that sexual procedures insuded? how does one explain this?

Unknown said...

sorry, but care to explain how any of this can explain the consistency of report sexual experiences and telepathic communication? what brain would reconstruct such details and why?

Terry the Censor said...

Lawrence, any kidnap scenario -- alien or not -- will have certain broad similarities. Just think of the similarity of movie plots for a particular genre (there are even script-writing books that lay out all the elements).

Also, "sexual experiences" is overbroad. Would you equate Antonio Vilas Boas' wetdream romp with the rape claims of later abductees? Those "experiences" were hardly similar.

And most significantly, if you restrict yourself to a small number of like-minded investigators, you're going to get homogenous accounts. Hopkins and Jacobs actively shaped abductees accounts (as documented by Bryan and Schnabel). Their data in not reliable. I am afraid Bullard damaged his analysis by uncritically accepting their evidence.