What Can We Learn From Hypnosis of Imaginary Abductees?

What Can We Learn From Hypnosis of Imaginary Abductees?

The following article details an interesting experiment in which several test subjects were given artificial alien abductions via hypnosis, experiences which were then compared with “real” abductions and religious experiences. This piece, part 1 of 2, originally appeared in the November 1977 edition of the MUFON UFO Journal. The images, obviously, were not included in the original printing.

Imaginary UFO “abductions” were induced hypnotically in a group of subjects (Ss) of varied ages with no significant knowledge of UFOs. Eight situational questions comprising the majorcomponents of a “real” abduction were asked of each S. Responses indicated a wide range of imaginative invention, but an averaged comparison of the imaginary sessions with “real” abduction regressions from the literature showed no substantive differences. Many presumably obscure “patterns” from UFO literature emerged in the imaginary narratives. In addition, there was evidence that ESP-like effects were manifest during some of the hypnosis sessions. The implications of the study for future hypnotic regression of Close Encounter cases, and for abduction cases now deemed of the highest credibility, are unclear at this time.


Some remarkable abduction cases have recently been the focus of research in Southern California. Each of the cases emerged under hypnosis, and each is uniquely interesting; but together they pose questions for ufology of perhaps unparalleled seriousness and complexity. Summaries of six of these imaginary hypnotic “abductions” follow. In view of this complicated study, some observations and speculations about abduction reports are in order:


It has been supposed that a major distinction between allegedly real and imaginary witnesses is that “real” Ss usually have a vivid conscious memoryof at least part of the UFO event. However, a recent regression casts doubt on this thesis and indicates that some Ss may develop imaginary post regression conscious “memories” of a UFO encounter.

In an attempt to analyze multiple witness testimony more thoroughly, two pairs of Ss, a man and woman, and a set of identical female twins, were given simultaneous imaginary abductions. The protocol followed was identical in each case, except that the twins were asked to hold hands during their session. The Ss were able to hear each other during the hypnosis. Some contrasting details follow:


  1. Each individual had a distinct experience
  2. Male S asked to be awakened midway
  3. Female S “borrowed” exam details from male S after he was awakened
  4. After awakening, couple could not affirm they had not had a “real” abduction


  1. Both shared a near-identical experience
  2. Neither asked to be awakened
  3. No borrowing; narratives were supplemental with few differences
  4. After awakening, twins agreed their experiences were imaginary

The most significant contrast between the two is that, despite extensive discussion, the couple were unable afterwards to say whether or not they had actually experienced a CE-III. This finding shows that “real” witnesses might similarly confuse fact with fancy, a possibility which could cast doubt on the credibility of many established CE-III’s. (It may be objected that we inadvertently chose a couple who had actually experienced an abduction, though before the session neither had any conscious memory of such an event-in part or whole.)

The twins’ apparently shared experience suggests that additional hypnosis of multiple Ss will reveal much about the many psychological mysteries in “real” cases. Their seemingly identical experiences may have involved paranormal communication which, as we will see below, may be a significant aspect of all close encounters


The Hollywood version of abductees Betty and Barney Hill

Multiple-witness abduction cases have usually been dominated by one of the witnesses: one is more observant, often seems less negative in his or her emotional response to the event, and is inclined to be more cooperative and even more articulate with investigators. Betty Hill, Charles Hickson, Sandy Larson, and Elaine Thomas are good examples in their respective abduction – incidents of domination” (in this restricted sense) over their fellow witnesses. It is interesting that even the male Ss of the imaginary couple (see above) requested to be awakened, thereby indicating a less active interest in the proceedings and so deferring to his more intrigued partner. The meaning of this domination pattern is unclear, but Charles Tart’s discussionof what he terms “discrete altered states of consciousness” (or d-ASC) may have relevance to the emotionally traumatic experiences of UFO abductees:

…..one person’s illusion in a given d-ASC can sometimes be communicated to another person in the same d-ASC so that a false consensual validation results.

Exactly how one abduction witness might communicate an “illusion” to another is not known, but if it is reasonable to expect witnesses to undergo an alteration of consciousness during the excitement of a UFO encounter, the single-witness domination pattern may tell us something about the “reality” of UFO abductions. To the extent that such experiences are “real”, their sensory record may depend largely if not totally upon the sensibility of a single witness who, through some mysterious means, induces or otherwise communicates a sensory experience of an abduction to fellow witnesses.

Thus multiple-witness abductees may merely be sharing in the abduction illusions of another witness’ dominating sensibility-rather than truly participating in actual events- illusions which their memories or hynotic sessions ultimately “recall”. Of course we are left with a series of still-baffling questions, not only about reported abduction-caused physical and physiological effects, but also about why the dominant witness undergoes the “illusion” of a UFO experience in the’first place: in short, what is stimulus for the event which witnesses describeas a UFO abduction? These and other questions may lead us to wonder whether the elaborate explanations offered are any less exotic or improbable than what some witnesses evidently believe has happened to them.


Of the hundred-odd UFO abductions reported, none has been a half-way affair. Each has a wholeness or integral quality (although details and duration vary) which differs from other close encounters. Many witnesses have reported, for instance, that a CE-I or CE-II was in progress when an approaching vehicle or other interruption apparently caused the UFO to leave. Occasionally there have been CE-III’s where the entities have made a hurried departure apparently because of some human intrusion. But no partial abductions have been reported and I think that is very curious.

It could be suggested that aliens with sufficiently exquisite knowledge and control of time could well know in advance when such interruptions were going to occur, and so schedule their abductions accordingly. But this idea, aside from its ET assumptions, does not explain the persistence of reported interruptions of other kinds of close encounters, nor why only abductions should be unique in this regard.

It seems to the writer that abductions, for whatever reasons, are qualitatively distinct from other types of UFO experiences. One may speculate that their wholeness or psychologically integral nature, along with alleged mental effects such as time-lapses, amnesia, and blackouts, suggests – in the absence of unambiguous physical data – a psychic rather than a simple physical interpretation. This relative abundance of psychic effects does not seem typical of other UFO sightings and close encounters, where the ratio of physical to psychic effects is roughly reversed. But even if abductions shouldprove to be some sort of mental phenomenon, the question of why, if abductions are the ultimate in close encounter experiences, they are fundamentally different in these ways from other UFO adventures, is another in a long line of puzzlers which cannot be ignored by thoughtful researchers.


An interesting pattern in “real”abduction narratives is that details of witnesses’ personal medical histories are sometimes reflected in their alleged physical examinations by aliens on board the UFO’s. For instance, in her North Dakota abduction Sandy Larson told of having her sinuses “scraped” by her alien examiner. But she had had her sinuses operated on by an MD previously. In the Woodland, California case a woman, who was allegedly abducted with her two sisters in 1971, described how she was “catheterized” (had urine drawn from her bladder) by a grasshopper-eyed alien and his human-like female assistant; she later revealed that she had been catheterized while in a hospital. There are other examples in the literature, and it is probable that more parallels might be found if a diligent search of abductees’ personal medical records were made.

But such parallels are not limited to “real” cases; one of our imaginary abductees’ narratives involved personal medical history as well. Under hypnosis a college student told of having a large mask-like apparatus put over her face during her “examination” on board a UFO; afterward she remembered that a similar mask was used when she was given a tonsilectomy as a child.

Thus, there is an irresistible invitation to see a basis in memory and/or imagination for at least some details of  “physical examinations” during alleged UFO abductions. Further, if medical histories play a significant part in abduction narratives, there is no reason why her biographical data could not similarly emerge during other aspects of the UFO encounter tale. This does not necessarily mean that all such details are baseless; rather, it tells us that the interplay of imagination and memory may make determination of the unvarnished truth very difficult indeed.


The possibility of a significant relationship between UFO encounters and events of religious mythology such as “miracles” and “visitations” has been widely noted, and particularly by Jacques Vallee. In order to test this idea, we enlisted a student volunteer who described herself as a “reborn Christian” with a serious religious commitment. The Ss was hypnotized and told that an unspecified “divine figure” would visit with her. The data from her session suggest obvious parallels with UFO abduction narratives. A general summary of the imaginary regression follows:

  1. S sees “divine figure” floating towards her.
  2. S is fascinated by the being’s eyes.
  3. S senses “power” in being, is drawn to him.
  4. S is touched by being, feels soothed, “special”.
  5. S, being “talk” about heaven, end of world
  6. S sees being float upward “in a cloud”, and disappear.
  7. S feels positive about experience,”Glad I’ve been picked!”

One can interpret this scene as a rather routine UFO close encounter: The S saw an alien entity float towards her. She was fascinated by its eyes and she was aware of an exotic power in it. At one point she was tranquilized by its touch. They communicated telepathically about another world and about the end of this world. Finally the entity floated upward “in a cloud” and disappeared. Afterward, the S felt very special about her experience.

Similarities between religious experiences and alien abductions? The answer is simple..

There are doubtless other parallels in the S’s narrative, though these few support the hypothesis that UFO encounters and alleged miraculous religious events have a closely related or even common origin. If religious “miracles” such as allegedly occurred at Lourdes and Fatima were “real” events, either physically or psychically for the immediate witnesses, a similar case may thus be made for the “reality” (in the same restricted sense as for religious events) of UFO close encounters. To reverse the argument, if there is no relationship between the two classes of alleged phenomena, why then the substantial parallels? (Some may find the similarities unconvincing; others may object that the hypnotic protocol utilized leading questions which predetermined the desired data. I do not feel these responses have merit, though I will not take time to argue the points beyond suggesting, yet once more, that replication of each and all of our hypnosis experiments be attempted before our data are rejected.)

Supposing, then, that a case for a UFO-religious mythology’ parallel to have been made (both here and by others), vast questions remain as to the nature and meaning of the common stimuli for religious events such as Lourdes on the one hand and the Hill abduction on the other. Is a divine light thus cast on the Hills? Or, were Fatima and Lourdes caused by ET and/or psychic phenomena? The questions get curiouser and curiouser!

Part 2 available HERE.

Written by Alvin H. Lawson. Originally appeared in issue 120 of the MUFON UFO Journal, November 1977.


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