The terms alien abduction or abduction phenomenon describe "subjectively real memories of being taken secretly against one’s will by apparently nonhuman entities and subjected to complex physical and psychological procedures." People claiming to have been abducted are usually called "abductees" or "experiencers." Typical claims involve being subjected to a forced medical examination that emphasizes their reproductive system. Abductees sometimes claim to have been warned against environmental abuse and the dangers of nuclear weapons. Consequently, while many of these purported encounters are described as terrifying, some have been viewed as pleasurable or transformative.
Due to a lack of any substantial physical evidence, most scientists and mental health professionals dismiss the phenomenon as "[d]eception, suggestibility (fantasy-proneness, hypnotizability, false-memory syndrome), personality, sleep phenomena, psychopathology, psychodynamics [and] environmental factors.". Skeptic Robert Sheaffer also sees similarity between the aliens depicted in early science fiction films, in particular, Invaders From Mars, and those reported to have actually abducted people.
The first alien abduction claim to be widely publicized was the Betty and Barney Hill abduction in 1961. Reports of the abduction phenomenon have been made around the world, but are most common in English speaking countries, especially the United States. The contents of the abduction narrative often seem to vary with the home culture of the alleged abductee.
Alien abductions have been the subject of conspiracy theories and science fiction storylines (notably The X-Files) which have speculated on stealth technology required if the phenomenon were real, the motivations for secrecy and that alien implants could be a possible form of physical evidence.
|CUFOS Definition of an Abductee|
|A person must be taken:|
|The beings must take the person to:|
|In this place, the person must either:|
|These experiences may be remembered:|
Mainstream scientists reject claims that the phenomenon literally occurs as reported. However, there is little doubt that many apparently stable persons who report alien abductions believe their experiences were real. As reported in the Harvard University Gazette in 1992, Dr. John Edward Mack investigated over 800 claimed abductees, and "spent countless therapeutic hours with these individuals only to find that what struck him was the 'ordinariness' of the population, including a restaurant owner, several secretaries, a prison guard, college students, a university administrator, and several homemakers ... 'The majority of abductees do not appear to be deluded, confabulating, lying, self-dramatizing, or suffering from a clear mental illness,' he maintained." "While psychopathology is indicated in some isolated alien abduction cases," Stanley Krippner et al. confirmed, "assessment by both clinical examination and standardized tests has shown that, as a group, abduction experients are not different from the general population in term of psychopathology prevalence." Other experts who have argued that abductees' mental health is no better or worse than average include psychologists John Wilson and Rima Laibow, and psychotherapist David Gotlib.
Some abduction reports are quite detailed. An entire subculture has developed around the subject, with support groups and a detailed mythos explaining the reasons for abductions: The various aliens (Greys, Reptilians, "Nordics" and so on) are said to have specific roles, origins, and motivations. Abduction claimants do not always attempt to explain the phenomenon, but some take independent research interest in it themselves, and explain the lack of greater awareness of alien abduction as the result of either extraterrestrial or governmental interest in cover-up.
Though these two cases are sometimes viewed as the earliest abductions, skeptic Peter Rogerson notes this assertion is incorrect: the Hill and Boas abductions, he contends, were only the first "canonical" abduction cases, establishing a template that later abductees and researchers would refine, but rarely deviate from. Additionally, Rogerson notes purported abductions were cited contemporaneously at least as early as 1954, and that "the growth of the abduction stories is a far more tangled affair than the 'entirely unpredisposed' official history would have us believe." (The phrase "entirely unpredisposed" appeared in folklorist Thomas E. Bullard's study of alien abduction; he argued that alien abductions as reported in the 1970s and 1980s had little precedent in folklore or fiction.)
While "alien abduction" did not achieve widespread attention until the 1960s, there were many similar stories circulating decades earlier. These early abduction-like accounts have been dubbed "paleo-abductions" by UFO researcher Jerome Clark.
- In a 1897 edition of the Stockton, California Daily Mail, Colonel H. G. Shaw claimed he and a friend were harassed by three tall, slender humanoids whose bodies were covered with a fine, downy hair who tried to kidnap the pair.
- Rogerson writes that the 1955 publication of Harold T. Wilkins's Flying Saucers Uncensored declared that Karl Hunrath and Wilbur Wilkinson, who had claimed they were contacted by aliens, had disappeared under mysterious circumstances; Wilkins reported speculation that the duo were the victims of "alleged abduction by flying saucers".