Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Alien abduction claims explained [seriously!]
Harvard Gazette ^ | 9/22/05 | William J. Cromie

Posted on 10/17/2005 8:14:55 PM PDT by Enchante

Alien abduction claims explained: Sleep paralysis, false memories involved

Many of the people who believe they have been abducted by aliens are bombarding Susan Clancy with hate e-mails and phone calls. The Harvard researcher, who has spent five years listening to the stories of some 50 abductees, has described her (and their) experiences in a new book to be published in October.

Clancy, 36, likes most of these people. "They are definitely not crazy," she says. But they do have "a tendency to fantasize and to hold unusual beliefs and ideas. They believe not only in alien abductions, but also in things like UFOs, ESP, astrology, tarot, channeling, auras, and crystal therapy. They also have in common a rash of disturbing experiences for which they are seeking an explanation. For them, alien abduction is the best fit."

As you might guess, the people behind all that hate mail and the phone calls don't buy that. They were there, she wasn't, they insist.

In her book, "Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens," to be published by the Harvard University Press, Clancy describes a typical reaction. "Can you believe the nerve of that girl (Clancy)," one abductee says. "She comes to me, like, 'Oh, I believe you've been abducted! Let me interview you to learn more.... Oh, what really happened [she says] is sleep paralysis.' Riiight! How the - - does she know? Did it happen to her? There was something in the room that night! I was spinning. I blacked out ... it was terrifying.... I wasn't sleeping. I was taken. I was violated, ripped apart - literally, figuratively, metaphorically, whatever you want to call it. Does she know what that's like?"

Paralyzing dreams

Abduction stories are strikingly similar. Victims wake up and find themselves paralyzed, unable to move or cry out for help. They see flashing lights and hear buzzing sounds. Electric sensations zing through their bodies, which may rise up in levitation. Aliens with wrap-around eyes, gray or green skin, lacking hair or noses, approach. The abductee's heart pounds violently. There's lots of probing in the alien ship. Instruments are inserted in their noses, navels, or other orifices. It's painful. Sometimes sexual intercourse occurs.

Then it's over, after seconds or minutes. The intruders vanish. Victims are back in their own beds and can move again.

Clancy, Richard McNally, a professor of psychology at Harvard, and other researchers tie such horrifying happenings to sleep paralysis, a condition where the usual separation between sleep and wakefulness gets out of synchronization.

When you dream, you are paralyzed. It's a natural adaptation to prevent people from lashing out, jumping out of bed, walking into doors or windows, and otherwise injuring themselves. But it's possible to wake up while still paralyzed.

"We can find ourselves hallucinating sights, sounds, and bodily sensations," Clancy says. "They seem real but they're actually the product of our imagination." One researcher describes it as "dreaming with your eyes wide open."

Bizarre effects aside, sleep paralysis is as normal as hiccups. It's not a sign of mental illness. About 25 percent of people around the world have experienced it, and about 5 percent get the whole show of sight, sound, tactile hallucinations, and abduction.

Some of these people become completely absorbed by what happened and seek an explanation of it. That can lead them into a grab bag of different techniques well known to those with a rich fantasy life and a distaste for scientific explanations.

Such techniques include hypnosis, guided imagery, regression, and relaxation therapies. "These all work in roughly the same way," Clancy comments. "The therapist lulls the abductee into a suggestive state, in which normal reality constraints are relaxed, and then asks the person to vividly image things that might have happened." Or might not have happened.

Hypnosis, she says, "is a bad way to refresh your memories. Not only that, it renders you susceptible to creating memories of things that never happened, things that were suggested to you or that you just imagined. If you (or your therapist) have pre-existing beliefs or expectations, you're liable to recall experiences that fit with these beliefs, rather than events that actually happened."

False memories

Clancy knows all about false memories; they got her into studying abductees in the first place. When she arrived at Harvard to work on a Ph.D. in 1996, she was fascinated by the political, legal, and social impacts of people who suddenly recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse. Using standard laboratory tests, she found that women who reported recovering such memories were more likely to remember things that never happened than women who always remembered such abuse.

That result, however, does not prove whether or not the woman with recovered memories had actually been sexually abused. Clancy then got the idea that she could get a better scientific grip on false memories by studying people who recovered memories of events that could not, in her mind, have possibly happened, i.e., being abducted by aliens.

"Boy, was I naïve," she says in retrospect. "You can't disprove alien abductions. All you can do is show that evidence is insufficient to justify the belief, and try to understand why people have those beliefs."

On the way to doing this, she, McNally, and their colleagues made some tantalizing discoveries. Measurements of sweating, heart rate, and brain waves showed that those claiming to be abductees show the same symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome as combat veterans. The researchers did not, however, conclude that the abductees had experienced combat-type trauma. Rather, they believe, it is the emotional significance of a memory, whether it is true or not, that causes sweaty hands and rapid heartbeats.

Earlier this year, Clancy and McNally reported on another study that found those who recalled childhood sexual abuse or abduction by aliens experience higher rates of sleep paralysis than those who do not make such claims. Strikingly, the first group also scored high on underlying traits of fantasy proneness, paranormal interests and experiences, and inability to relate socially to others.

Add to this mixture a recurring interest in aliens expressed in books, in movies, and on television, as well as true discoveries of more than 150 planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy. Overwhelmed by this hurricane of sleep paralysis, false memories, and fantasy, some people seek explanations and succor in ghosts, reincarnations, and multiple personalities. Others find that alien abductions provide answers and peace of mind, says Clancy.

"It probably doesn't matter much to the abductees whether they are right or wrong," she comments. "They simply feel better because of what they believe."

Clancy is finished with space abduction studies. She now works in Central America, teaching, continuing research on trauma and memories, and writing a book on recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse. You can bet that book will bring another high wave of hate mail.

TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: alienabduction; klass; liberals; ufoabductions
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-44 next last
This is a serious article - and if you think of the words, thoughts, and behaviors of a lot of the more outraged people on the left as analogous to (not the same as, analogous to) the people who believe they have experienced "alien abduction" then you will have an idea of how terrifying the political world appears to them. They are not literally insane or 'crazy' but they sure seem like it sometimes. I think the symptoms described by this researcher for the "alien abduction" claims need to be compared with the behavior of liberals, the far left, and certainly "" and similar groups. Consider the possibility that a lot of the more activist people on the left have suffered various forms of mental anguish and trauma, some in response to real-world events and some in response to their imagined outrages of neo-con conspiracies to take over the world, etc.
1 posted on 10/17/2005 8:14:57 PM PDT by Enchante
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Enchante

An this is one of our esteem institutions of higher learning? Sometimes I'm glad I never finished that degree!AWB

2 posted on 10/17/2005 8:16:29 PM PDT by Americanwolfsbrother (Don't hate on someone for using their mind.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Enchante

So-called alien abductions are really a Cold War disinformation campaign by the US govt. intended to spook the soviets into believing we had access to alien technology. Christopher Buckley explained it all in "Little Green Men."

3 posted on 10/17/2005 8:22:03 PM PDT by Dumb_Ox (Be not Afraid. "Perfect love drives out fear.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Americanwolfsbrother

I found it interesting, actually, since there are all these claims of supposed "alien abduction" and now someone seems to have a plausible quasi-scientific explanation for physiological and psychological experiences that could lead someone to form such ridiculous beliefs.

4 posted on 10/17/2005 8:22:54 PM PDT by Enchante (Bill Clinton: "I did not have sex with any of the skeletons in my closet!")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Enchante

Thanks. I'm glad you posted this. I had never heard of sleep paralysis, but have experienced it. In my case I didn't think I was being abducted. I thought I was dying.

5 posted on 10/17/2005 8:24:09 PM PDT by rkhampton
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Enchante

"This is a serious article'

but your comparison to move-on is quite funny, and perhaps true!

6 posted on 10/17/2005 8:25:31 PM PDT by seastay
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: seastay

When I was first reading the article I kept thinking of Cindy Sheehan and her far-left pals..... they make me think that even if they haven't experienced alien abduction they are sure trying to convince the rest of us that they have been abducted by space aliens and returned to our world as zombies..........

7 posted on 10/17/2005 8:31:12 PM PDT by Enchante (Bill Clinton: "I did not have sex with any of the skeletons in my closet!")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Enchante

The first indication that Clancy really doesn't known much about what she seeked to dismiss, is that she now ventures into studying her past recovery of childhood sexual abuse.

One might also claim that anybody who alleges they had been victims of childhood sexual abuse, were simply suffering from a mental condition. Now consider the person who actually believes that, then discovers they are pregnant. Such evidence would tend to give the victim good justification that their experience was more than a vivid imagination.

Likewise in the realm of 'alien abductions', there are experiences reported that are endemic of spiritual warfare where physcial and soulish domains are also involved.

I suspect there are probably a fair shar or maybe even a great share of false reports for any number of psychological reasons, but those who dismiss all such reports also will dismiss a considerable amount of truthfully reported experience, which isn't necessarily good for nothing.

8 posted on 10/17/2005 8:34:01 PM PDT by Cvengr (<;^))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Enchante

I have had times before of sleep like paralysis but it had nothing to do with the types of complex hallucinations of abductions...more on the line of staring at the wall and seeing shapes from the shades or believing I am checking the time to wake up when in fact I am not even moving.

There is a connection indeed between UFO theory and hate of America. The third world use it to revive hate of colonialism, While liberals talk about the US stealing technology from aliens so we can dominate the world, what not.

You may be onto something, however, as fantasies of alien abductions and being treated with detachment by beings would go hand in hand with materialist separatist liberal lonely people, experiences similar to rape of children. It's akin to the German Nazi fantasies of Jews abducting nice arian women etc. It may lay from a foundation of minds obsessed with bodily integrity, purity and cleanliness. I mean, when you are upset someone treated you like an object, as all those stories corroborate with that same exact unromantic theme, there is a correlation with a society of sexual filth and its associate fantasies of treating the other as a submissive object. Liberals and their attractions to detached and guiltless social "scientific" theories and experiments in college with drugs and what not go hand in hand with the projection of the way these aliens treat them.

UFOs thus become a religion, abduction the baptism experience, and the religion is based in satanic like superficial powers and treatment of people as objects in complete opposite to the spirit of togetherness, compassion and consciousness of God for us.

9 posted on 10/17/2005 8:40:03 PM PDT by JudgemAll (Condemn me, make me naked and kill me, or be silent for ever on my gun ownership and law enforcement)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Dumb_Ox

Little Green Men. Hysterical book. A fast read and very funny.

10 posted on 10/17/2005 8:42:16 PM PDT by ladyjane
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Cvengr

Not sure why you think the researcher dismisses all reports of recovered sexual abuse? The article suggests some reason for skepticism, that such 'recovered' memories are less reliable than memories of those who have always known and remembered their abuse. But I didn't see where Clancy gives any indication that she is trying to dismiss all possibility of such recovered memories; so far she's just saying that there may be other explanations and that the process in which such memories are 'recovered' may (sometimes, often?) corrupt said 'memories'.

Anyway, I believe (though I claim no expertise) that a lot of the "recovered memory" movement has been found to be unreliable and some wrongful convictions have been overturned?? That doesn't mean that no one ever experiences such trauma that memories can be deeply suppressed..... I really don't know.

11 posted on 10/17/2005 8:42:49 PM PDT by Enchante (Bill Clinton: "I did not have sex with any of the skeletons in my closet!")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Enchante

Maybe Susan Clancy is an alien.

12 posted on 10/17/2005 8:47:22 PM PDT by fat city ("The nation that controls magnetism controls the world.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Enchante
Hypnopompic and hypnagogic hallucinations, right as you're falling asleep or waking up, are very common. This is also almost certainly where medieval stories of succubi and incubi originated.

I've never been "adbudcted" but I have seen fleeting but extremely realistic hypnopompic or hypnagogic hallucinations on occasion. Many people have, but most won't talk about it.

They're really no big deal. But they're the kind of things that keep George Noory in business.

13 posted on 10/17/2005 8:52:43 PM PDT by JCEccles
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Enchante

Well, I knew that aliens were taking American jobs, but now they're taking Americans?

14 posted on 10/17/2005 8:55:12 PM PDT by hispanarepublicana (No amnesty needed...My ancestors proudly served. [remodel of an old '70s bumper sticker])
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Enchante
I got 'abducted' by an alien once. Her name was Consuela.

And oooooooh the experiments she performed on me!

15 posted on 10/17/2005 8:58:36 PM PDT by uglybiker (Cogito Ergo Spud -- I think, therefore I yam)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Cvengr
Likewise in the realm of 'alien abductions', there are experiences reported that are endemic of spiritual warfare where physcial and soulish domains are also involved.

Actually, this is the theory that I adhere to. No, I don't believe that aliens are "probing" us on a regular basis. I do believe in demons and spiritual attack.

Many people on this thread and "pooh-poohing" the whole alien abduction idea as a leftist delusional paranoia, but how is this different than the many of us on the right who believe in angels and demons?

The more pragmatic FReepers can deny it all they want, but there is some weird crap out there.

16 posted on 10/17/2005 9:03:11 PM PDT by Marie (After 6 years of planning and working for the goal, I am now a TEXAN!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Marie
I do believe in demons and spiritual attack.

I talked to someone not long ago who believed that becoming too engrossed in a video game, for instance, could "open you up" to a demonic attach. Since you are a believer, what is your opinion? What makes one vulnerable to a demonic or spiritual attack?

17 posted on 10/17/2005 9:05:57 PM PDT by hispanarepublicana (No amnesty needed...My ancestors proudly served. [remodel of an old '70s bumper sticker])
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: JCEccles
...I have seen fleeting but extremely realistic hypnopompic or hypnagogic hallucinations on occasion.

I've seen hippopotami upon waking too. I always wondered if these were alien beasts, simple memories of my trips to the zoo as a kid, or basic hallucinations, as you report.

18 posted on 10/17/2005 9:08:19 PM PDT by bluefish (Holding out for worthy tagline...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: bluefish
That isn't an odd hypnopompic hallucination at all.

Some studies report that as many as 40 percent of all people experience hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations from time to time. Those who have experienced them can testify how startlingly realistic (three dimensional, accurate coloration) they can be. The last hypnagogic hallucination I had was of a haggard old man with long fingers (they must have been about eight inches long) standing next to my bed. The image persisted for no more than about a half a second. I quickly realized what it was, rolled over, and was asleep within ten minutes.

Although it didn't particularly bother me, I casually told my son and his wife about it the next day. My daughter-in-law was completely freaked out. I felt bad for telling her.

19 posted on 10/17/2005 9:19:17 PM PDT by JCEccles
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: Enchante
On October 24, 1989, Louis Farrakhan stated that he had a vision of being abducted in 1985 by an invisible pilot in a UFO and carried up on a beam of light to a "human built planet" known as the "Mother Wheel." There the voice of Elijah Muhammad informed him that the president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, under the direction of Gen. Colin Powell, were planning a war, which Farrakhan said he later came to realize was "a war against the black people of America, the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan." "I saw a city in the sky," Farrakhan said, after which the UFO "brought me back to Earth and dropped me off near Washington; over to Tyson Corners and Fifth Street I make The Announcement."
20 posted on 10/17/2005 9:21:11 PM PDT by badpacifist
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-44 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson