By Julie Keller, Assistant Editor
Aliens. They're everywhere. Mulder and Scully try to figure 'em out on "The X-Files," Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones zapped 'em in Men in Black, and the cast of "Star Trek" has 'em taking The Enterprise to places it has never gone before. But Hollywood doesn't have a corner on the alien market. Academics worldwide are throwing their two cents in on the UFO phenomenon, most notably the topic of alien abduction. And the world is listening.
Meet the Experts
David Jacobs is a history professor at Temple U. in Philadelphia. He's also considered an expert in the field of alien abductions, with 30 years of research experience and three books on the subject. He's conducted 750 hypnotic regressions with about 140 different abductees over the past 12 years. "This is a worldwide phenomenon, and everyone is saying the same thing," he says. "There is no corner on the abduction market these people are male, female, black and white. They cross all ethnic groups, all ages, all economic lines, all political boundaries, all everything."
Jacobs isn't the only brainiac who takes this alien business seriously. In the fall of '97, academics from all around the country converged in Tarrytown, N.Y., for a conference titled, Physical Evidence Related to UFO Reports, and called for more thorough investigations of those creatures from outer space. And university scientists nationwide work in conjunction with the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Project, a research organization designed to answer the question: Are we alone in the universe?
Not according to John Mack, a Pulitzer Prize-winning psychiatrist who quit teaching at Harvard U. to run the nonprofit alien abduction organization, PEER (the Program for Extraordinary Experience Research). "I've now worked with over a hundred experiencers intensively," he says. "And in case after case after case, I've been impressed with the consistency of the story, the sincerity with which people tell their stories, the power of the feelings connected with this, the self-doubt all the appropriate responses that these people have to their experiences."
So what sort of experience are these guys talking about?
"The women say they have eggs taken from them, men have sperm taken from them this is extremely routine," says Jacobs. "Also, they're taken into a room where there are a whole bunch of odd-looking babies, and they're required to hold one of these odd babies. Abductees say they look like a combination between human and alien they call them hybrids."
Sure, it may sound like Jacobs has been watching too many "X-Files" reruns, but he's not the only one reporting a surplus of little green babies. Mack's been hearing the same thing from his patients. "First, there is a traumatic event in which a blue light or some kind of energy paralyzes the person," he says. "They feel themselves being removed from wherever they were, they are carried up on this beam of light into a craft, and they are subjected to a number of now familiar procedures, involving being stared at by alien beings who probe their bodies, complete a complex process where sperm and eggs are removed, and some sort of hybrid offspring is created, which they're brought back to see in later abductions."
Despite their stellar credentials, the speculations of Mack and Jacobs are not easily swallowed by most of academia. "There is absolutely no physical evidence that is verifiable that extraterrestrial life has ever visited earth," says Columbia U. astronomer David Helfand. "The mass hysteria is just a manifestation of social interactions and active imaginations that people have."
Although he admits the possibility of extraterrestrial life, he's steadfast in his skepticism of alien abduction. "Dismissible, I think, is the kindest word to describe this," he says.
Even Jacobs admits his alien abduction/hybrid baby evidence stands on fairly shaky ground. "You've got to remember that this is anecdotal evidence, which is pretty weak, under hypnosis, which is even weaker than that," he says. "But even with that consideration, it [the abduction testimony] falls into a certain pattern."
Take Me to Your Leader
Doubts aside, what would these aliens possibly want from us? Nothing good, according to Jacobs. He's fairly certain the aliens aren't here on a mission of goodwill or to study us. "This is some kind of colonization or integration program linked to the reproductive aspects we see in this phenomenon," he says. "They want something from us, and they are working to get it. I don't like this. I find it extremely disturbing."
But not everyone is a cynic. Just talk to DeAnza College junior and alien buff Carl Fujita. He's looking forward to a visit from little green men. "I think it would be a good thing," he says. "If someone was able to get here or communicate with us, obviously they're highly intelligent. I can't imagine a presence like that trying to take over someone's life. I can only picture them wanting to help us or enlighten us. Why would they pick on us?"
Whether the aliens are here to pick on us or not, or even if they exist at all, Hollywood's got one thing right the truth is out there. And academics are doing their damndest to find it.
Astronomer, Columbia U.
"There is absolutely no physical evidence that is verifiable that extraterrestrial life has ever visited earth."
Junior, DeAnza College
"I can only picture them wanting to help us or enlighten us. Why would they pick on us?"
Professor, Temple U.
"They want something from us, and they are working to get it."
Psychiatrist, Harvard U.
"They [abductees] feel themselves being removed from wherever they were, they're carried up on this beam of light into a craft, and they're subjected to a number of procedures."
ALIENS IN AMERICA (Cornell University Press, $15.95)
Aliens have come to America, and Hobart and William Smith Colleges professor Jodi Dean has found them. Sort of. Actually, she's written a book that analyzes aliens in pop culture. "Aliens have captured popular imagination for a number of reasons, including our increased capacity to explore space, our anxieties over technological development, our growing consciousness of ourselves as a planet and our fears for the future at the millenium," she says. Even though her book is more of a social commentary on the alien phenomenon, Dean is not quick to dismiss claims of alien abduction. "We can't ridicule these people as ignorant, ill-informed or fantasy prone they are smart, critical and interesting people with something to say," she says. "Why does this scare us? Perhaps because we recognize how fragile the criteria for truth really are." Oh, and despite the book's title, she doesn't think extraterrestrial fascination stops on American shores. "Aliens resonate with a lot of folks the world over."
ALIENS ON CAMPUS
For those of you looking for aliens on your campus, it seems like Texas is the place to be. To get ET to phone your home, enroll in "The Search for Extraterrestrial Life" at the U. of Texas, Austin. Or, for the cynics among you, try "Parapsychology: Science of Pseudo-Science" at Texas Christian U., a class that imparts a skeptics's slant on a variety of topics, ranging from UFOs to ESP. If your school offers any classes specializing in the paranormal or aliens, drop us a line at (or just channel your thoughts to) firstname.lastname@example.org.