Whatever the true cause of alien abduction might be, it’s very real to the people who experience it.
A report in June 2000 said that at least 37,000 people had bought policies against being abducted by extra-terrestrials from just one London-based insurer.
And a poll undertaken in the US in 1992 suggested that as many as four million people might have been abducted by aliens.
The phenomenon often starts when the abductees are very young. Alien abduction researcher Budd Hopkins said he had come across children as young as two who reported a strange presence entering their room at night.
Many abductees report regular experiences going on decades. Former Ministry of Defence employee Hilary Porter said in 2014: “I have been an alien abductee all my life.”
She told news.com.au about the first time it happened: “I was stripped and thrown on to some sort of bed. They took a really horrible, sharp instrument and they were pressing it right the way up my body while I was screaming. I can’t remember anything after that.”
Hilary was just five years old at the time.
Interestingly, older people seem immune. Jenny Randles, former director of investigations with the British UFO Research Association, says abduction is “essentially a young person’s experience” and note that the phenomenon seems to be associated with the ability to have children.
Older people are “rejected” by the abductors and one man told researchers that the aliens told him he was no use to them because he had undergone a vasectomy.
Doctor Michael P Masters speculates that rather than being alien in origin, the pilots of UFOs might be as human as we are – but from another time. Masters calls these visitors “extratempestrials’.
“We know that we’ve had a long evolutionary history on this planet,” he says. “And we know our technology is going to be more advanced in the future.
“I think the simplest explanation, innately, is that it is us.”
British astronomer and science writer David Darling agrees, saying: “I’ve often thought that if some UFOs are ‘alien’ craft, it’s just as reasonable to suppose that they might be time machines from our own future than that they’re spacecraft from other stars.”
Dylan Stewart, the host of Paranormal Thoughts Podcast, has interviewed many abductees and says there’s definitely some distortion of the normal flow of time involves in their experiences.
He told the Daily Star: “I think these beings are somehow bending time in order to visit us, rather than actually travelling throughout the universe in real time.
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“I have reason to believe they could be travelling from a specific star system but at the same time the way in which people report them operating, the idea that they are multidimensional also makes sense.”
Dylan says that he’s “definitely on the fence” about where the aliens are from.
He adds that there is frequently a sexual dimension to the alien abduction phenomenon, saying he has interviewed one victim where her experience was “extremely invasive”.
“Without going into too much detail,” he says. “We spoke about the similarities between her experiences and sexual assault”.
The abduction of Brazilian farmer Antonio Villa Boas, one of the most famous incidents in UFO lore, involved him having sex with a “beautiful blonde woman”,
He said of the experience: “She turned to me, pointed to her belly, and smilingly pointed to the sky” – implying that she was returning to the stars to have his child.
A 2005 paper by psychiatrists Richard J McNally and Susan A Clancy links the phenomenon with repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse.
Nigel Watson, author of the UFO Investigations Manual writes that stories of alien abduction, often with a sexual dimension, date backlog before the “flying super era”.
He says they used to be blamed on demons: “In the 1980s alien abduction researchers in the USA accepted that women are routinely abducted, impregnated and then re-abducted a few weeks later for the extraction of the hybrid foetus.
“These activities explained the short-lived pregnancies experienced by female abductees,” Watson added. “As for male abductees, they either claimed to have had intercourse with an alien woman or their sperm was extracted by mechanical means by the aliens.”
Michael Persinger, a neuroscientist at Laurentian University in Canada, has suggested that increased activity in the temporal lobe of the brain might be one explanation for people believing they have been visited or abducted by aliens.
He says that magnetic fields can over-stimulate the temporal lobes, resulting in hallucinations that some people, trapped between sleep and waking, interpret as an abduction experience.
He doesn’t, however, explain where these mysterious magnetic fields might be coming from.