Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Abductology Implodes

If "Abductology" is the study of alleged UFO abductions, then it can be said that not since the sudden demise of Marxist-Leninism has any subject, real or imagined, self-destructed so suddenly and so completely as Abductology has managed just now to do.

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.) More information about the case is here: .

On his website , 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
The second punch, one I was not at all expecting, comes from Carol Rainey, the ex-wife of Budd Hopkins. Upon reading "Emma's" account, she jumped into the fray: "the trusting and vulnerable patient delivered up to Jacobs his hoped-for narrative of predatory hybrids among us— exactly what he ordered for the book he was writing.  However, it’s anything but a typical abductee’s experience: violent sexual encounters with a human/alien hybrid; a request by the good Doctor (Ph.D. in history, non-medical) to send him her panties, unwashed, so they could be tested for alien sperm; and a proposal that she wear a chastity belt with nails across the vaginal opening, which he’d locate for her from (in Jacobs words) “a sex shop that specialized in bondage/dominance, a place that I frequented quite often.” "

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 clearance 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 . Her website is at .

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.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jared Loughner, Conspiracy Fanatic

Details are slowly emerging about Jared Loughner, the accused gunman in the horrific shootings and murders in Tucson. While much political blame has been assigned, by all sides, the truth seems to be that Loughner did not belong to or sympathize with any organized or even halfway-organized political group. Unlike the Unabomber, Laughner's incoherent political screeds reveal no consistent political vision. But what they do reveal is a mind deeply steeped in conspiracy belief.

Loughner's Youtube videos (actually more like Power Point presentations accompanied by music) clearly reveal this conspiracy mindset. For example, he claims that "government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar" (  at 3:35 ) . His videos are filled with absurd and pointless syllogisms, such as
  • If B.C.E. years are unable to start then A.D.E. years are unable to begin.
  • B.C.E. years are unable to start.
  • Thus, A.D.E. years are unable to begin.
More ominous is his short video about Mind Control ( ): "I'm able to control every belief and religion by being the mind controller."

But it now appears that Loughner has been posting to at least one internet conspiracy site using the name "Erad3" (which would be an anagram of his first name if we substitute "J" for "3"). Erad3 posts some of the very same inane content that we find in the above YouTube videos, such as "infinite currency," and the pseudo-syllogistic style of both writers is clearly the same. It's virtually certain that Erad3 = Loughner (see ).

On the UFO and other conspiracy-related site "Above Top Secret," Erad3 began a long thread titled, "All aboard with the empty NASA Space Shuttles!" ( ) In it he argues not that astronauts never went to the moon, but never even went into space at all, using ridiculous "syllogisms" such as
  • If the design of the NASA Space Shuttle keeps the black body temperature of −454 °F from the outside orbit then the NASA Space Shuttle is at a temperature for human life.
  • The NASA Space Shuttle isn’t at a temperature for human life.
  • Hence, the design of the NASA Space Shuttle doesn’t keep the black body temperature of −454 °F from the outside orbit. 
To their credit, the other conspiracy aficionados on that site argued with Erad3 fiercely. His conspiracy syllogisms obviously made no sense - this wasn't even a good conspiracy story, just the delusions of some madman.  

Erad3 also started a thread claiming that the Mars Rovers likewise were faked  (
  • If NASA creates a mars rover that communicates from mars then the signal reaches from the distance of mars.
  • The signal doesn’t reach from the distance of mars.
  • Nonetheless, NASA creates a mars rover that doesn’t communicate from mars.

Space journalist and skeptic James E. Oberg brings up the possibility that this shooting may have been more than just blind anti-government anger. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who Laughner is accused of shooting, is married to NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. Oberg writes, " This raises the disturbing possibility that Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, may not have been a coincidental feature of Laughner's delusions and murderous hatred. If he really had the belief that NASA was faking its space missions, then Kelly would have been one agent of that fakery -- and perhaps in his weird world, so would his wife."

Probably that was not the only reason for Laughner's mad anger, but likely contributed to it. Proximity - simple geography - could well have been the main one. It's easier to be upset with people who are nearby that one sees than those far away that one never sees. And for someone with obsessive beliefs about government mind control, unconstitutional government acts, and NASA space conspiracies, the "power couple" of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who represents his district, and astronaut Mark Kelly, a supposed participant in a huge NASA conspiracy, would represent everything that he opposed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

"Apollo 18": The Moon Hoax Stood on its Head

I'm sure you're all familiar with claims of a "moon hoax:"  that we never went to the moon,  the Apollo program was a hoax, filmed on a movie lot, etc., etc. This has all been very ably refuted by many fine researchers - Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy, the Mythbusters, James Oberg, etc, and I won't go into the details of this nonsense. Suffice it to say that even Richard Hoagland, the promoter of the "Face on Mars" who believes every whacked-out space conspiracy you can imagine, agrees that the Apollo astronauts did indeed go to the moon.  If you want to know more about this stuff, start here:  . 

But who says there's nothing new under the sun? Now a movie called Apollo 18 suggests a new Moon Hoax, but the opposite of previous ones: not only did we go to the Moon, but we went more times than we admitted to - because we found aliens there.

The last Apollo mission was Apollo 17, launched on Dec. 7, 1972. Several more missions had been scheduled, but were canceled due to cost concerns. After Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt blasted off the surface of the moon on Dec. 15, 1972, no human has set foot on the lunar surface, or even entered lunar orbit.

The premise of this movie - admittedly science fiction, but certain to be taken as fact by many - is that there was a "secret" moon mission after Apollo 17, which encountered aliens, and (as seen in the movie trailer), even brought back one to earth, presumably dead. I guess NASA would have to have already known that aliens were there, in order to run the Apollo 18 mission secretly. Maybe Apollo 17 is supposed to have found the alien evidence, but NASA didn't tell us, and went back in secret.

The movie trailer for Apollo 18 has to be one of the lamest things I've seen in a long while. It seems to show an astronaut blasting off from the Moon in a lunar lander, with what appears to be a dead humanoid aboard. The creature's head looks vaguely Mongolian, with a mustache, but it has female breasts. I'll refrain from making the obvious crude sexual comments here, although surely many won't. Indeed, they've already started on YouTube ("space boobs!!!").

The film is supposed to represent "found footage", as in the Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, etc. I don't know if the film attempts to explain how NASA could possibly launch an additional Apollo mission in secret. How did nobody notice the massive Saturn V launch from Cape Canaveral? How did thousands of people worldwide perform their necessary support tasks (which they had done several times before, under great media scrutiny), and the news not leak out?

Well, it's entertainment even if it's lame entertainment. But after the movie premieres on April 22, let's see how many conspiracy theorists insist that the story is actually true.