Twenty years ago, Abductology was riding high, led by its Troika of Dr. John Mack, a respected Harvard psychiatrist, Budd Hopkins, artist and amateur hypnotist, and Dr. David Jacobs, onetime UFO historian turned abduction guru. The earliest reported UFO abductions in the U.S. - Betty and Barney Hill in 1961, and a trickle of others including Travis Walton in 1975 - typically involved going outside to some lonely and deserted spot at night, where one allegedly encountered aliens, and was kidnapped. It was Hopkins who severed that connection completely in his cases of the early 1980s. No longer was it necessary to be outside in some scary place at night for a UFO abduction to occur: in the new Hopkins-style abductions, the aliens would come right into your bedroom and snatch you up, often passing through solid walls in the process. "Mommy, there's a monster under my bed." "No, Dear, that's just a Gray alien, that has been stalking and abducting the women of our family for several generations. It won't hurt you."
So "credible" did Abductology become, not only did CBS-TV produce a 1992 prime time mini-series based on Hopkins' writings, but there was even an "Abduction Study Conference" at MIT in 1992, sponsored by Dr. David Pritchard of the physics department. So confident were the Abductologists that they were ready for Prime Time, they invited journalists, academics, and even skeptics (I attended for CSICOP). However, they went to extraordinary lengths using "non-disclosure forms" to control how the conference was reported (yet violated it themselves under the principle of "sovereign immunity").
The conference, however, did not unfold as smoothly as its organizers planned. Many academics, even those inclined toward UFO or paranormal belief, objected mightily to the loose "methods" of the Troika. In one of Budd Hopkin's talks, he described a survey he did of children showing them pictures of unusual things to see which they were familiar with, to tell if they might have been abducted. He was met by an avalanche of objections: you didn't normalize, you didn't validate, etc. In other words, his survey was worthless. Chastened, Hopkins said something like "I'm sorry, I'm just an artist and I don't understand all that technical stuff. I thank you guys. That's why we invited you here, to help us." Not long afterward, Mack was speaking and described some sort of test or evaluation he was doing with his subjects. He ran into similar objections. I was waiting for Mack to say, "I'm sorry, I'm just a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard University, and I don't understand all that technical stuff." But he did not.
So what happened recently that has left Abductology for dead? In a deadly one-two punch, a woman who was one of Jacobs' subjects is publicly accusing him of unprofessional conduct, and has recordings to back herself up. This was followed by Hopkins' ex-wife spilling the beans about his extreme loosey-goosey "investigative" methods, and showing him absurdly credulous in accepting subjects' obvious fabrications, in fact sometimes actually complicit in helping cover them up!
For some time now, the matter has been simmering of a woman who uses the alias "Emma Woods." She was a hypnotic subject of David Jacobs from 2004 to 2007, all of which took place over the telephone. She has written, and circulated widely within UFOlogy, long and detailed accounts of her complaint against Jacobs. I did not have time to read all of the details of her accusations, but assuming she can document everything she says, Jacobs appears in a sorry light, indeed. This also seems to involve a rivalry-at-a-distance between Emma and another woman in Jacobs' circle, making the matter sound even more unprofessional. She accuses Jacobs of telling her, during hypnosis sessions, that she suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). She also accuses him of "planting" false memories in her of evil aliens abducting her, raping her, and even trying to kill her. She says she felt sick every time she saw the ocean because she "remembered" an alien hybrid holding her head under water. In 2006 Jacobs wrote to her in an email, "I am in a rather severe crisis with the aliens. I will be talking to them tonight about my future and what they will or will not do to me." The alien hybrids were using the other woman's Instant Messenger to communicate with Jacobs (but of course she did not type the messages, they did). Since Jacobs is still living, the aliens obviously didn't kill him. Apparently he reached an agreement with them: he would agree to check their on-line messages frequently, and they agreed not to abduct him and implant a tracking chip. Problem solved.
"Emma Woods" is now considering legal action against Temple University, Jacobs' employer. (Jacobs has no training in medicine or hypnosis - he is a historian.) Her website is at http://www.ufoalienabductee.com/ .
On his website http://www.ufoabduction.com/ , Jacobs has a response to the "defamation campaign" against him. Referring to "Emma" as "Alice," Jacobs says that she appears to suffer from "Borderline Personality Disorder," and that she has been experiencing an "emotional breakdown."
|Carol Rainey and Budd Hopkins|
An experienced documentary filmmaker in the medical field, Rainey soon realized that "what Hopkins and Jacobs claim as 'the powerful evidence' for alien abductions and hybrids among us is based primarily on the powerful, hypnotic repetition of their own proclamations—and the public’s gullibility in believing whatever unfounded theories these star paranormal investigators punt down the field." She became increasingly skeptical of one of Hopkins' star abductees, James Mortellaro. "Several things about this case were making me increasingly uneasy. It wasn’t just the pills and the pistol [he always kept in his boot]. Or the fact that none of Jim’s claims had been checked or verified. Among his more mundane statements, Jim Mortellaro had earlier told Budd that he had two Ph.D.s (Really? That’s impressive, the skeptical wife thinks from behind the camera. From which universities?) and that he’d been “the Marketing Director for Hitachi” before retiring early. (Really? Was that Regional, National or International Marketing Director?)". But Budd wasn't curious. Later, Hopkins received several phone messages from individuals who called to confirm key portions of Mortellaro's story. Hopkins may have been fooled by them but Rainey wasn't: "I’ve spent twenty-plus years in post-production suites, with the editor or the mixer altering voices up, down, and sideays,” she told her husband. “It’s certainly not rocket science and Jim knows electronics. Listen, that’s his syntax, that’s the way he says ‘very concerned’and drops his ‘gs’on certain words.” But instead of becoming suspicious of his "abductee," Hopkins became angry with his wife.
Rainey assisted her husband in the editing of his book on the famous abduction story of Linda "Cortile": "It was highly dramatic, paced like a thriller— full of otherworldly treachery, forbidden love, UFOs over Manhattan, twenty-two witnesses, a heroine whose red blood cells were immortal, lusty and dangerous Secret Service agents, a Prince from afar, gifts of many fur coats, chases on foot, more forbidden love, an X-rayed alien implant, Linda’s abduction into a spacecraft accompanied by an important world leader, her abduction into a spacecraft with other members of Budd’s abductee support group, and her abduction into a spacecraft accompanied by a famous Mafia don. Then, later, as the story continued to unfold (long after the book’s publication), Linda’s presence in the lobby of the World Trade Center when the planes hit and her bloody, barefoot escape over shards of glass. Although…not all of those events reported above by Linda Cortile had been selected by Budd for inclusion in the book. I knew about them, but they weren’t in the book." The fact that the book had been titled The Brooklyn Bridge Abductions did nothing to enhance its credibility. This story already produced a huge stink in UFOlogy during the 1990s when some UFOlogists tried to independently confirm some of Linda's wild tales, and came up with nothing. Worse yet, Hopkins "continued to tout the major significance of the case long after he knew that Linda had lied to him on multiple occasions," according to Rainey.
Another thing we learn from Rainey is that Leslie Kean, the author of the best-selling book UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go On the Record is "Budd’s new protege, advisor, and all-round organizer" ( see my review of her book in the Skeptical Inquirer, March/April 2011). Now we begin to understand why Kean is so impervious to any facts that contradict her published position: she likely learned this modus operandi from Hopkins. Rainey notes, "In our house, the words “debunkers” and “skeptics” were used very much in the way that devout Christians use the words “unbelievers” and “the unsaved.” "
"The two best-known abduction investigators, Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs, work almost exclusively alone (separately, although with extensive telephone exchanges), without supervision (and are unwilling to accept any), and without any training in medicine or psychiatry or neurology. A bit of comparative religion, anthropolgy, and folklore under the belt wouldn’t hurt, either, in dealing with these difficult-to-interpret human experiences. They’re not required to get authorization for their experimentation on human beings from an
Institutional Review Board (IRB), a clearnce that’s required of every legitimate institutional researcher in the country. It’s peer review of a proposed study using human subjects, it’s strict, and researchers are required to report back to the IRB with their findings. None of this applies to UFO researchers." Carol Rainey's long and revealing article is at http://www.paratopia.net/paratopia_magazine/mag_preview_final.pdf . Her website is at http://www.carolrainey.com/home.html .
In hindsight, this outcome was inevitable. As anyone who ever tried to have a rational conversation with either Hopkins or Jacobs can attest, the two men are extraordinarily smug, self-righteous, even pig-headed. They are correct, you are wrong, and probably stupid as well: it's as simple as that. (I never got a chance to chat with Mack, apart from a quick "hello, how are you?" in passing. The circles he moved in were far too rarefied for me to enter.) In their own circles, each is a god, more or less, and one doesn't question superior beings. There's truth in the old Biblical saying, "pride goeth before a fall." When someone smugly thinks he is invariably correct no matter how foolish his pronouncements (somehow Sylvia Browne comes to mind), sooner or later the Foolish Factor will grow so large that even many of his sycophants won't be able to ignore it.
Wither Abductology? John Mack was struck by a car and killed in 2004. Budd Hopkins has been publicly humiliated by the shocking expose of his foolishness written by his ex-wife. As for David Jacobs, if there were a contest for "stupidest and most humiliating statements," he would be a strong contender. No doubt UFO abduction claims will trickle on for a while, but it's clear that Abductology, as practiced by the Troika in its heyday, is now considered even by many pro-UFOlogists to be an embarrassing chapter in the history of UFOs that should be forgotten as quickly as possible.