Alison Hill is an Emmy-nominated producer, an accomplished journalist, and a regular news analyst and commentator for BBC Radio. She is a television and online producer, edits online video, directs government programming, writes articles for a website, offers media strategy sessions for authors, and is an aspiring horror novelist. She’s originally from the mountains of North Wales, and now lives in Durham, NC.
(For more about Alison, check out www.AlisonHillMedia.com.)
I met Alison two and a half years ago, when she gave a workshop entitled “Media Ready, Media Savvy”–for authors like me, who’d had little or no experience with the media and knew we’d have to face them soon. The workshop was wonderful, and I was thrilled to learn that she’s turned it into a workbook, Media Ready, Media Savvy, The Media Workbook For Authors, which I’d recommend to anyone who’s in my position or can imagine being there.
Shortly before Journal of a UFO Investigator came out, Alison filmed a marvelous trailer for it, which you can watch on Youtube.
A few weeks ago, Alison was at a book club discussion of my novel, during which I talked about the ideas about the Betty and Barney Hill abduction that I’ve set forth in the last three blog posts. Her reaction: interesting, but … Her experiences as a journalist in Wales, she told the group, suggest there’s more to abductions than I’m willing to allow.
She has something important to say. And was kind enough to write the following guest post, saying it.
Is alien abduction real? Or is it a purely psychological experience triggered by past trauma, as David Halperin suggests in his theory regarding the famous abduction story of Barney and Betty Hill in 1961?
There may never be a definitive answer to this question. No clear scientific evidence exists to fully prove or disprove this fascinating and complex phenomenon. It will probably remain a mystery, along with ghosts, the spirit world and an array of other supernatural events. We can study personal accounts of those who claim they’ve been abducted by alien beings, and either believe their stories or debunk them, at our discretion. As well as psychological trauma, these events could also be attributed to hysteria, overactive imaginations, delusion, or even the influence of movies. We can only truly know if it’s real if it happens to us, right? Everything else depends on hearsay.
But I do feel abductees deserve the benefit of the doubt. Why are we so quick to judge them negatively? Why do so many find their stories ridiculous?
Maybe this skepticism is itself fueled by fear. It could be a psychological shield. If alien abduction could be real, then we’re all in trouble. After all, these visitors from space would be technologically superior and could come get us at any time…so maybe it’s safer not to believe.
In the case of Barney Hill, David Halperin suggests that alien abduction may be a remembrance/re-enactment of the African American historical trauma. In this instance the alien exists within us. This is an interesting theory and one to be seriously considered as it makes a lot of sense when applied to the Hills’ experience. But I don’t believe there is a blanket theory that accounts for all abduction cases.
The UFO phenomenon in general seems to be centered in the United States, and the most well publicized alien abduction stories originate here also. It may be because Americans are more willing to openly discuss their bizarre experiences, as opposed to the more reticent Europeans. Or maybe this continent is more prone to “alien activity.” From my experience, I believe the former makes more sense.
In the mid-nineties I worked as an investigative journalist on a Welsh current affairs TV series. We often researched stories that never made it as program episodes for various reasons – most times due to lack of evidence or interviewees.
Over the course of a few months I researched UFO sightings and alien abductions, which was an interesting assignment and one I pursued with relish. People were more than willing to meet with me and talk about UFOs, and there were plenty of groups to call, seminars to attend, and magazines to read. There was an abundance of information. Most also agreed to do taped interviews if the need arose, and one of our greatest challenges in Wales was convincing people to share their stories on TV, especially if the subject matter was controversial or personal, which they often were. It’s a small country, after all.
When it came to abduction I hit a brick wall. It was imperative that I speak in person with alleged alien abductees, to hear their stories first hand and to see if they would be a good fit for a TV show. Were they good speakers? Articulate? Did their stories make sense? During initial visits like these, I could also determine if I thought the person was being genuine, which applied to every story we researched.
I contacted UFO organizations to inquire about alien abductees in Wales and spoke to several people who promised to put me in touch with abductees they knew, or to set up a meeting. But none of the abductees would talk to me. Not even over the phone. Why?
One man involved in alien abduction research claimed it’s because they were terrified of a repeat experience. He told me they were also afraid of being labeled as lunatics and ridiculed. He knew these people and their stories intimately, and he struck me as being honest. I’ll never forget the compassion he expressed for these unfortunate individuals. The people in his group seemed to be sincere. They were afraid of repercussions. They wanted to talk about their experiences, but not with a TV journalist. It sent chills all over me.
Subsequently I spoke with several RAF officers about UFOs and there were some interesting sightings to report. But a phone call with a former British military intelligence officer put things in perspective. About 95 percent of alien abduction claims can be easily explained and debunked, he told me. But as to that other 5 per cent – they remain unexplained. A scientific mystery. These include incidents that leave physical evidence, either marks on the skin or unidentifiable foreign objects inserted into the body. Speaking of such cases, he was very matter of fact: “we just don’t know what happened.”
Accusations of fraud and attention seeking are prevalent and may apply to some individuals, and we see evidence of this with the proliferation of reality shows where an abundance of people are willing to “bare all” in public and play up to the camera.
But this was not my experience with abductees in Wales.
Were their stories real? I don’t know, as I never had the chance to speak with them and determine that for myself. But they were definitely not charlatans or attention seekers. Instead they were terrified victims, too afraid to share their stories publicly. This reaction alone suggests to me they were genuine.
Is a person’s experience any less real if others refuse to believe them? Are the skeptics among us being a little too harsh on victims of alien abduction? What do any of us really know about this phenomenon, unless we’ve experienced it first hand, spent quality time with abductees, or many years studying the subject in detail?
Alien abductions, ghost sightings, whatever “supernatural” occurrence people love to debunk, are just as “unbelievable” as biblical stories. Yet many people accept those stories as absolute truth.
Isn’t the virgin birth scientifically impossible? Unless, of course, Mary was artificially inseminated by visiting aliens!