The Intruders' Foundation


 

On 6 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 Linda Cortile.

 The 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.

 One 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 currently receiving.

 None 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.

 It’s 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.

Intruders 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.

So 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.

After 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.  

In 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.

I 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.

I 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 Uninvited.

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.  

Anna 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.

Anna 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.

Anna 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 Flower Press.

It 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.

The 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.

Another 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 Britain.

Mack 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.

Mack 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”.

One 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.

Another 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.

Crucially, 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.

As 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. John Mack has founded a research organisation called PEER (Program for Extraordinary Experience Research). 

The 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.

Budd 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 Mindshift.

Budd’s 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).

Budd 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?

Once 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.

Budd 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”.

Following 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 don’t.

Addressing 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”.

Bruce 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.

The 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.

An 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.

Another 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.

Despite 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.

Ultimately, 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 their work.

As I 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.

 


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