The Intruders' Foundation
May 2000 I took part in the Intruders Foundation UFO Abduction Conference in New
York. In terms of the data put
forward and the quality of the presentations I believe it was the best such
event that I’ve ever attended. I
was pleased to have been invited to speak, not least because I’d planned to go
to Intruders Foundation’s first such one-day conference last year, as a
spectator, but had been unable to attend. Quite
apart from my desire to go to what promised to be a fascinating conference, the
trip presented an opportunity to catch up with friends such as Peter Robbins and
purpose of this article is to give an overview of the conference, bringing the
data presented to a wider audience, and provoking some debate.
Clearly I can only give a brief overview of the material covered, but in
doing so I shall refer to various books and websites where further relevant
information can be found.
of the other reasons for my writing this article is because I want to highlight
what I believe is a growing gulf between American abduction research and that
being carried out here in Britain. Putting
it bluntly, we are lagging behind. One ufologist who should know better recently made a glib
comment about US abduction cases, implying there was a media circus, with
abductees trying to outdo each other with ever more fantastic stories.
This was ill-informed and unhelpful, and served only to illustrate how
unfamiliar the ufologist concerned must have been with the work being done by
Intruders Foundation and John Mack’s PEER organisation.
I’m not for a moment claiming that all US abduction cases are genuine. Clearly there will be hoaxers and cultists, just as there are
in all branches of ufology, throughout the world.
But this shouldn’t blind ufologists to the fact that there is a real
phenomenon here, and that it deserves more attention in the UK than it is
of this is meant to be critical. There
are many British investigators who have done excellent work on abductions, long
before I was involved with ufology. The
likes of Jenny Randles, John Spencer, Hilary Evans, Peter Hough and the late Ken
Phillips have all made major contributions to the subject.
But alien abduction research still has a comparatively low profile in the
UK, and there is a large body of knowledge that American researchers have
amassed, with which their British counterparts are generally unfamiliar.
This is all the more surprising given that much of it has been in the
public domain for several years. A
comprehensive range of such material appears in Alien
Discussions - the unabridged version of the proceedings of the Abduction
Study Conference held at MIT in 1992. If
you’re interested in the alien abduction phenomenon this book is highly
recommended. If you work with
abductees it’s essential.
also clear that American abduction research is better organised than in Britain
in the way that it’s able to meet the needs of abductees.
Aside from the one-on-one counselling done by myself and a handful of
other researchers, there are few support groups in the UK - although the Witness
Support Group set up by Ken Phillips and now run by James Millen is a good
example of an effective group run by abductees for abductees. Britain also lacks
the extensive and well-organised network of psychiatrists, psychologists,
counsellors and hypnotherapists that exists in America to serve the needs of
abductees and to facilitate the work of investigators.
Foundation is the organisation set up by Budd Hopkins to study the alien
abduction phenomenon and help abductees come to terms with their experiences.
The Intruders Foundation staffers were knowledgeable, dedicated and
hard-working, and the conference could not have gone ahead without their
sterling efforts. Held at the New
York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows, the somewhat misleading title on the
programme read “Emerging Science and the UFO Phenomenon”.
In reality, however, there was to be little discussion of UFOs - the
focus of the day was to be the alien abduction phenomenon.
focused a conference is an unusual concept.
I had only attended one such event before, back in April 1995 when the
Society for Psychical Research held a study day on abductions.
Jenny Randles, John Rimmer, Kevin McClure and Dr Susan Blackmore
valiantly attempted to come to grips with a subject that was woefully
marginalised even within ufology. Ultimately,
the day proved inconclusive and was dominated by theoretical discussion, as
opposed to any meaningful examination of the testimony of abductees themselves.
a brief introduction by moderator Greg Sandow, I took the podium and delivered
the first lecture of the day. After
a brief explanation of my background, talking about my official UFO research and
investigations at the Ministry of Defence, I moved on to discuss abductions.
I wanted to give people a perspective on the type of abduction cases that
I’ve investigated in the UK, with a view to assessing whether there were
fundamental differences between British and American cases, or whether cultural
and methodological factors were responsible for perceived differences.
I discussed the fact that British people seemed generally more reluctant
than Americans to seek therapy or to discuss any situation in which they had
been disempowered. This, coupled
with the fact that British researchers (myself included) are more wary of
regression hypnosis than their US counterparts, results in a mistaken impression
that there aren’t many abduction cases in the UK, and that they aren’t as
multifaceted as American cases.
an attempt to correct some mistaken impressions about UK abduction cases, I read
from a selection of accounts given to me by British abductees.
I chose just half a dozen cases from the last six months, and illustrated
that there was actually considerable commonality in the motifs reported: missing
time, paralysing rays of light, and sightings of the sorts of entities popularly
dubbed the Greys. In other words,
when cultural and methodological factors are taken into account, it appears that
the core phenomenon is standard and cross-cultural, exactly as one would expect
if one was looking at a real phenomenon.
also mentioned a developing trend that I’ve noticed with British abductees,
who are beginning to assert themselves more, writing detailed accounts of their
experiences, starting newsletters and no longer allowing themselves to be
eclipsed by researchers. This may
be a reaction to the fact that too few British ufologists are prepared to work
with abductees, but it may also reflect their disillusionment with those that
do. Another possibility is that
it’s a positive response to the abduction experiences (despite the trauma), as
those involved find that a more proactive response is profoundly cathartic.
I firmly believe that getting more involved in ufology offers abductees
the opportunity to re-empower themselves.
finished by floating a few ideas on how our understanding of the phenomenon
might be taken forward: more psychological profiling of abductees; DNA
profiling; research into any similarities in bloodgroups; even (subject to legal
and moral considerations) covert surveillance of abductees.
Further details on my own research and investigation into the alien
abduction phenomenon can be found in my book, The
next speaker was to have been Debbie Jordan-Kauble, central figure in Budd
Hopkins’ book Intruders, and
co-author (with Kathy Mitchell) of Abducted!.
But Debbie had pulled out and her place had been taken by Anna Jamerson,
an abductee who is quite well known in America but less familiar to British
ufologists. Immediately before her
presentation she told me that she was feeling quite nervous, but she needn’t
have worried, because she went on to deliver what I think is the most powerful
and moving account that I’ve ever heard from an abductee speaking at a
conference. For all the undoubted
expertise of investigators like Budd Hopkins and John Mack, nothing can compare
with the testimony of the abductees themselves, who are all too often eclipsed
by investigators. This was certainly not the case here.
gave a detailed summary of what for her had been a lifetime of experiences.
It was often the little observations that proved the most interesting,
such as her genuine belief that burning Whitley Strieber’s book Communion
was an entirely logical response to the image of the alien on the front cover.
She described how her meeting with Beth Collings stirred up strange
emotions as the two women began to suspect that they’d met before.
Her voice choking with emotion she described how Beth had drawn an emblem
from a school uniform worn by a girl with an English accent that she recalled
from her childhood experiences. What
Anna hadn’t told Beth was that she had attended school in England - the emblem
matched that of her uniform.
described having seen a variety of entities, all of whom she’d given names
that detailed either their appearance or their role. These included “the bald cats”, “the escort service”,
“the security force”, “the babysitter” and “Doc”.
She described the way in which she and Beth were abducted from separate
locations when they were children, and placed together, possibly in an attempt
to see how they would interact socially (for more information on this concept
see chapters 16, 17 and 18 of Budd Hopkins’ book Witnessed, dealing with Linda Cortile’s case).
She described playing various games that involved using her mind to
manipulate objects, and elaborated on the view that the purpose of much of this
was psychological study of friendships and relationships.
But everything was being manipulated: “It’s like our emotions are not
our own”, she explained.
finished with a plea not to believe the aliens when they made claims about being
here to save the world from a disaster. “They
are not good guys,” she said. “They
are not here for us; they are here for their own purposes”.
Further details of Anna and Beth’s experiences can be found in their
book Connections, published by Wild
seems to me that there are three possibilities with regard to Anna’s
testimony. Sceptics might suggest
that she was making it all up, but I’ve noticed that people who make such
accusations have seldom met any abductees, let alone worked with any.
If people like Anna are making up these complex, multifaceted experiences
and reporting them consistently over several years, their acting skills should
be earning them big money in Hollywood. It
should also be remembered that abductees who speak out have little to gain and
much to lose: the risk of adverse reaction from families, friends and employers
is a strong factor here, and many of those who do speak out use pseudonyms for
this reason. People like Anna are
not attention-seekers after their fifteen minutes of fame, and those who do go
public (and only a tiny fraction of those abductees I’ve worked with have
expressed any interest in such a course of action) do so with a quiet dignity
not found in the attention-seeker. The
second possibility is that Anna and her like are suffering from a collective
delusion of fantastic depth and breadth. There
is simply no psychological or psychiatric evidence to support such a theory.
The third possibility is that people like Anna are describing, to the
best of their ability, events that have actually taken place.
I favour the third view.
next speaker was Dr John Mack, the Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical
School whose outspoken and courageous belief in the reality of the abduction
phenomenon shook the academic establishment to its core in the early 1990s.
One of Mack’s telling points was a throwaway line about sleep paralysis
- often trotted out by sceptics as an explanation for abduction accounts.
He commented that this theory was generally put forward by people with no
academic expertise in the area, and he went on to state that in his experience
as a psychiatrist, such an idea was simply not compatible with the data.
of Mack’s asides dealt with his 1994 TV appearance in Britain, with Richard
and Judy. He mentioned that during
and after the show some six hundred calls had been taken, many of which were
from people reporting encounters with Greys.
This neatly reinforced a point that I’d made in my talk, namely that if
you were prepared to go looking, there was no shortage of abduction cases in
wondered why it was, given the volume of data that has been amassed, that the
abduction phenomenon wasn’t a bigger story than it is.
He saw evidence of an individual and collective cultural resistance to
the idea, caused by a “Western material worldview”.
He commented on the arrogance of this belief system, pointing out that no
previous culture has ever put itself at the peak of the intelligence hierarchy
in the cosmos. Mack explained that
given this worldview, alien abductions would represent a Narcissistic blow of
unimaginable proportions, and went on to say that the ego would do anything to
defend itself against such an attack. This
defence takes the form of denial.
criticised the level of personal attacks within ufology, and also expressed the
interesting view that researchers should not be afraid to inject a little humour
into their work. He then proceeded
to list a hilarious “top ten reasons why you suspect you’ve been abducted by
aliens”, which had the audience (abductees included) in fits of laughter.
These ranged from “you went to sleep in Manhattan and woke up in a
cornfield in Illinois” through to “you just realised you’ve accumulated
thirty billion frequent flier miles”.
of Mack’s most interesting points was when he asked what happens when reliable
witnesses aren’t believed. Citing
the examples of parent/child and teacher/student relationships, Mack speculated
that the whole basis of our social structure would be in danger of collapse if
trust is absent from these most fundamental relationships.
This thought-provoking comment certainly poses some interesting questions
with regard to the consistent, detailed and cross-cultural testimony of
thousands of abductees from all around the world.
of Mack’s interesting observations concerned the assessment of what actually
takes place during an abduction. One
popular view is that a medical/surgical procedure is central to many cases.
Mack urged caution with such literal interpretations, pointing out that
while many abductees report activities similar to our medical/surgical
procedures, that’s all we can say: it may be like our procedures, but it may
be something altogether different. Budd
Hopkins has previously made a similar point, pointing out the absurdity of any
sceptical objections which contain phrases such as “well, that’s just not
the sort of thing that real aliens would do”.
The truth is that we don’t know what happens during an abduction, or
why, and despite what may seem like reasoned deductions, we don’t know
anything about the mindset or agenda of the abductors.
All we can do is try to relate the features of abduction reports to some
familiar, terrestrial activity. In
doing so, we may be wide of the mark.
Mack addressed the issue of regression hypnosis, the use of which has been
possibly the single biggest source of disagreement when debating the abduction
phenomenon. As a professor of
psychiatry of world renown, Mack’s informed comments on this sensitive area
should be listened to by believers and sceptics alike, and should carry great
weight. Mack’s view is that if
regression hypnosis is used responsibly in examining accounts of alien
abduction, it can be a valuable tool, both diagnostically and therapeutically.
an aside, I had earlier corrected the impression that regression hypnosis is not
used in any British abduction cases. That’s
incorrect: people like Nicola Dexter and Dr Francesca Rossetti have been using
this technique for some time. What
we do have, is the BUFORA moratorium on the use of hypnosis, introduced in 1988.
There may also be nervousness over the potential for legal action if any
abductees feel that hypnosis implanted false memories or induced mental illness;
although he was acquitted in a 1998 court case, Paul McKenna was sued for £250,000
by a man who claimed that his acute schizophrenia was caused by a stage hypnosis
act. It is right that we should be
cautious about using hypnosis, but without it, trying to get to the bottom of
any abduction case can be painfully slow (because so many of the memories do
seem to be either repressed by the mind, or suppressed by external factors).
So far as British ufology is concerned, there may be merit in a cautious
reassessment of hypnotic regression, especially given the expert views of mental
health professionals like John Mack.
next speaker was Budd Hopkins, whose contribution to our understanding of the
alien abduction phenomenon is second to none.
Hopkins is the founder of Intruders Foundation, but was also responsible
for introducing many of today’s best researchers to the subject in the first
place - most famously John Mack himself, who when first told about Hopkins and
the abductees expressed the opinion that both they and he must be crazy.
His dedication is phenomenal, but it’s his compassion that most endears
him to abductees and researchers alike. The
respect that he commands and the affection in which he is held was amply
demonstrated by the rapturous reception that he received on taking to the stage.
began his talk with a moving tribute to Helen Wheels, who died tragically
earlier this year. Helen - Peter
Robbins’ sister - was a talented singer and songwriter who conveyed material
about UFOs and abductions both on her album covers and in her music (e.g. The
Saucer Song). Helen was an
abductee herself and details of her experiences can be found in chapter nine of
Michael Mannion’s book, Project
talk focused on the alien abduction strategies that are applied to different
stages of human development, describing how the treatment meted out during
abductions varies at different ages. In
doing so, he cited numerous examples from some of the several thousand cases
that he’s investigated in his twenty five years of research into the alien
abduction phenomenon. He mentioned
two fascinating cases where babies screamed and cried until the mothers removed
their dark glasses, speculating that the sunglasses had reminded the babies of
the large, black eyes so often described as being the most noticeable feature of
the aliens. He also mentioned cases
where babies incapable of no more than the most basic movement had been found
outside their cribs (I too have a case where this has happened).
went on to address issues of trust and empowerment. How can very young children develop trust if abductions are
not prevented by parents? How will
the child know whether the next person to enter the room will be a parent or
something more sinister? How can
children feel confident in developing movement skills if they are confronted
with situations in which they are paralysed?
a child becomes verbal and mobile, Budd noted that the tactics employed during
abductions changed. Abductors may
tell children that they love them, that they are their real parents, and that
they come from the stars. But this
is deception, he believes, with any warm feelings induced being the result of
conditioning designed solely to make the subject easy to control.
then assessed the consequences of these actions, pointing out that as adult
reactions stem from childhood experiences, there may be adverse effects in later
life if normal development is side-tracked. This harm, Budd believed, was “collateral damage” that
was not so much intended as consequential.
He went on to give examples of this harm.
As a child, the abductee may be a loner with few friends and little
interest in sport, and as an adult there may be lack of purpose, confusion, lack
of confidence, difficulties in holding down a job or a relationship, and
development of obsessions, fears and phobias.
This is by no means a universal truth, but it ties in with my own
research, where abductees I’ve worked with tend to have more difficulties in
personal relationships than non-abductees, and hold down jobs less prestigious
than might be expected, given their intelligence. This last point is very interesting, and ties in with
research done by Ken Phillips and Dr Alex Keul, who examined over one hundred
close encounter reports in a so-called “Anamnesis Project” carried out
between 1981 and 1992, finding evidence of this “status inconsistency”.
on from this point about harm, John Mack has asked why the abductees who he’s
met turn out so well. Budd Hopkins
believes that those who make the decision to explore their experiences are not
the average abductees, but those with a better ego strength.
As a personal observation, I don’t think we should underestimate the
role that chance plays here: abductees who happen to see documentaries or
articles that lead them to someone like Hopkins or Mack will be given
opportunities for catharsis that are not available to those abductees who
comparisons that have been drawn between alien abductions and paranormal
phenomena, Budd offered the amusing observation that “out-of-body experiences
often turn out to be out-of-the-house experiences”.
Maccabee was late for his allotted slot because of transportation difficulties,
and when he finally delivered his necessarily shortened presentation, he was let
down by the tracking on the video equipment. Notwithstanding these glitches, he gave a detailed analysis
of the famous McMinville photographs, taken fifty years ago.
But his most interesting material - and certainly the most relevant to
the theme of the conference - related to his work with Ed Walters of Gulf Breeze
fame. A more detailed account of
this can be found in the book that Bruce and Ed co-authored, UFOs
Are Real: Here’s The Proof.
final part of the day involved a panel discussion featuring the speakers,
moderator Greg Sandow and two other abductees, Karen and Steve, who both gave
accounts of some of their experiences. This
was linked to comments and questions from the audience, and for me the only
disappointment was that Budd Hopkins and John Mack didn’t take the opportunity
- which did arise from a question - to discuss their differing views over the
alien agenda and the issue of whether the experiences are positive or negative
(Contrary to popular belief, Mack does acknowledge the traumatic nature of
abductions, though as he says in his latest book Passport
to the Cosmos, he is more inclined to think that trauma among abductees
stems from “the shattering of their beliefs about the nature of reality”.
Both Hopkins and Mack may well say, with some justification, that there
is much upon which they agree. This
is undoubtedly true, and given the politics of ufology I can well understand the
desire to present a united front. But
although it’s a comparatively minor criticism, I did wonder whether this was
an opportunity lost.
interesting aspect of the conference was that it hardly touched on the question
of whether governments are covering-up information on abductions.
I found this refreshing, and while this is undoubtedly an important issue
on which many ufologists and abductees have strong views, I’ve sometimes found
that the more a conference concentrates on cover-ups and conspiracies, the less
it tends to focus on the testimony of UFO witnesses and abductees.
interesting point about the conference was that speakers steered clear of
dogmatic assertions about the true nature of the phenomenon.
Again, all of us will have our own favourite theories, but as Budd
Hopkins has pointed out, debates
about the true nature of UFO occupants (extraterrestrials, angels, demons, time
travellers, interdimensionals etc.) can be unproductive.
They may be interesting, but the issue is currently unsolvable.
As ever, the primary aim of those investigators who work with abductees
must be to help them come to terms with their experiences, not to use them as
supporting evidence for their own favourite theories.
the quality of this conference, the attendance was comparatively poor.
There were probably no more than one hundred and fifty people present.
I struggled to understand why this was the case.
The price may have been a factor: $105 for non-members of Intruders
Foundation who hadn’t booked in advance seemed very steep, especially when the
sheer size of America means that those living outside the immediate area would
have to have added the price of an aircraft journey and a hotel room.
Ironically, the fact that the conference was so focused may also have
kept the numbers down: it was great for the specialists, but probably of lesser
interest to generalists looking not just for information on abductions, but also
for material on UFOs, crop circles or cattle mutilations.
however, the impact of the conference will go far beyond those there on the day.
There were various media representatives present and all of the speakers
gave a number of interviews. Various
comments on the conference have already appeared on the Internet, and audio
tapes of the presentations are available from the Intruders Foundation.
Check out their website at www.intrudersfoundation.org for details of
these tapes, together with more general information about the organisation and
mentioned at the beginning of this article, some of the concepts mentioned in
this account may be unfamiliar to British readers, and some of the material may
strike such people as too bizarre to be taken seriously. I used to think like
that, and was worried that discussing abduction cases would undermine the
progress I was making at the Ministry of Defence, where I was gradually changing
a few people’s minds about UFOs, by pursuing a scientific approach to
investigations - attempting to correlate sightings with radar data, liaising with
air defence experts and arranging for proper analysis of photographs and videos.
But one of the most important things I’ve learnt about ufology is that
investigators should go where the data takes them and not ignore cases that
don’t fit their personal worldview. Abduction
reports, it seems to me, represent the cutting edge of ufology.
Consider UFOs as merely a means of transportation, designed to get from
one place to another. The key
issues - as this conference so clearly demonstrated - relate to the UFO
occupants, and their ongoing and mysterious relationship with humanity.