Thomas E. Bullard
Magonia 37, October 1990
Magonia 37, October 1990
Little did I imagine that my American Way article in Magonia 34 would provoke such an uprising of criticism as I find in Magonia 35. Peter Rogerson, Martin Kottmeyer, Hilary Evans and Dennis Stillings take aim at my article or other writings with lethal intent and often deadly effect. Surrounded from every side, like any good American I must circle the waggons and defend my scalp.
🔻The apparent stability of abduction reports poses a genuine puzzle from my perspective as a folklorist. A fixed sequence and similar content recurred far more than chance would allow among 300 cases I examined in my comparative study of published reports. (1) Growing evidence suggests that abduction reports vary more than the received literature would suggest, and how far this trend will go is an important indicator to watch. Even allowing for as much increase in variety as I have seen, the sterility of these narratives still exceeds all expectations for folklore obeying the familiar dynamics of oral literature. If these narratives are folklore in any usual sense, they manifest unique properties and stand apart as remarkably uncharacteristic.
One criticism levelled by Stillings is undeniable: ETH supporters can rationalise anything with their theory. It is flexible enough to accommodate all sorts of phenomena, and difficult to falsify. Anyone who has taken abductions seriously and found psycho-social reductions unsatisfying must trouble over this difficulty in the ETH positing.
The capacity of forms and contents to persist in tradition through time and distance is a defining characteristic of folklore. Similar jokes and legends turn up thousands of miles apart after passing among dozens of narrators along the way. Folk-tales like Cinderella recur in recognisable form all over Europe, and even the Zuni Indians tell a story about a poor but beautiful girl who acquires rich clothing through supernatural help, then loses her finery by violating a time limit. The cultural players change so that a friendly herd of turkeys replaces the fairy godmother, but the plot similarities are unmistakable. (2)
Larger patterns like the life of the hero shape the biographies of Moses and Jesus, the ‘epic of defeat’ pattern lends its form to accounts of such recent historical events as Custer’s Last Stand. (3) A recognised collection of motifs drifts in and out of folk narratives of all sorts: fictitious, told for true, even personal-experience stories. The types, themes, patterns and motifs of folk tradition become old friends to the folklorist. They peep out in different guises, adapted to their circumstances and times but always familiar; a timeless link uniting past and present in one unbroken tradition.
Stability is one hallmark of folklore, but variation is another. The mercurial alterations of folk narratives as told by the folk often slip out of mind even amongst folklorists who have often centred more on a dead, literary text than on living, functioning cultural products. (4) In scholars’ schemes of classification folktales exist as ideal types, but in reality each tale is a unique creation, drawing on recurrent plots and motifs, but arranged in an idiosyncratic and creative way by each narrator. (5) Legend characteristics are looseness of form and content unified only by a core of belief. (6) Living folklore is always fluid, and few narrators serve as mere relay stations. Each teller adds, leaves out, or modifies some part of everything he tells. Every narrative we hear reflects a more or less lengthy history of the improvements, alterations, rearrangements and embellishments of many narrators. Stability does not mean that a complex narrative endures as a monolithic whole. The stability of living oral tradition is a far more modest concept, and amounts to two or more narrative’s sharing some elements of form and content. These shared elements may loom large in the sight of whoever recognises them, but differences often far outweigh similarities.
Too much emphasis on stability and too little on variation is a common misconception fostered by the traditions of folklore scholarship. Rogerson speaks of a set pattern for stories and songs enforced by a critical audience. This ‘Law of Self-Correction’ he alludes to is respectable folkloric theory, but limited in application. Self-correction depends on an unchanging society where everyone knows the tradition and prizes it for its aesthetic value. Then the audience may correct deviations and guard the stability of the tradition, but such suppression of variation could work only locally, among groups that meet face to face. Each locality and group would differ slightly, with variation the outcome. (7)
Genres like the legend actually encourage disagreement (8). Studies of live legend-telling sessions have found that the lifeblood of these narratives is dispute, where people argue over facts and their interpretation. Consensus is foredoomed in such a situation, but the climate is ideal for variation in form and content to flourish. As a general principle in folklore it is safe to say that whatever can vary, will vary. It is even safe to say that what should not vary, probably will vary. Jokes have an exacting structure of set-up and punch line: they allow for little tampering if the humour is to succeed, yet we all know how often jokes fail. the variation may be accidental or deliberate, but it is a constant process in the narration of folklore.
Rogerson points out a false analogy when I compare long-traditional folklore with narratives spread for 20 years and largely via electronic or printed media. Folklorists have long treated the history of any tradition as a settling-down process. (9) The longer a narrative type has been around,the more it will demonstrate such classic properties of oral tradition as variation, widespread distribution and refinement of form and content so that the idiosyncratic disappears and general patterns come to the fore. Now we know that time is not the vital element. We have watched folklore in formation, seen it pass from oral tradition into the media and back out; followed the lightning spread of narratives and their equally rapid evolution from raw idea or vague rumour to polished joke or urban legend. (10)
Good narrators may serve up a well-structured story from the start. Twenty years may be 19 years and 12 months longer than a narrative needs to become fully ‘folklorized’. The dynamics of folklore apply to the new and the vintage alike. Media involvement has proved only another ‘voice’ in the process of oral transmission, a way to speed up folk processes (including variation) rather than an agent of homogenisation.
Another ‘tradition of scholarship’, to use David Hufford’s term, can explain the apparent information poverty of abduction reports noted by Stillings. He finds ordinary conversation to be information-rich whereas myth and folklore say little about contemporary human life. The folklore he is most likely referring to is the folklore presented by folklorists. They have traditionally denatured their texts, rewritten them to purge the unique or topical and emphasise those universal but faceless elements the folklorist thinks should be there. This correction process has drained the cultural life out of countless published collections.
Urban legends of poodles that explode when placed in a microwave to dry express fear of technology, accounts of earthworms in hamburgers express uncertainties about the trustworthiness of business and the safety of food
Living folklore pulses with the currents of contemporary existence. Urban legends of poodles that explode when placed in a microwave to dry express fear of technology, accounts of earthworms in hamburgers express uncertainties about the trustworthiness of business and the safety of food. (11) Jokes are immediately topical, drawing on politics, fads and mores for humour. The hopes, fears, values of narrators are embodied in their folklore. So sensitive is folklore to its cultural milieu that collectors usually meet with disappointment when they return to an area after a period of years. (12) If abductions lack a personal touch, this condition is atypical of folklore, and the reason must be sought in abductees, their experiences or the presentation of their narratives.
Scholarly tradition emphasises stability over variation in folklore when in fact variation constantly revolves the order of any narrative type. The same should be true of abductions if they are folklore. These narratives are long and complex, fantastic in context, controversial in nature, and the personal claims of individual abductees. If any kind of story should generate a luxuriant profusion of variants, this is it. What we find instead is a surprisingly unchanging narrative type. Folklore should not behave this way. My critics propose two reasons to account for this stability.
Both Rogerson and Stillings raise an important question of how selective the published sample of abduction reports may be. If the authors have selected, rewritten and homogenised these themes, we readers may read a story much less varied than the abductees actually told. I confess that the same question bothered me. I also admit that I am in a poor position to give a judicious answer. My comparative study treats published sources, so its reliability depends on their representativeness and accuracy. The only response l can offer comes from an account of the investigators of 103 high-information, high reliability cases. I found that 17 cases included Leo Sprinkle in the investigation, ten Budd Hopkins, nine Ray Fowler, five James Harder and five Ann Druffel. Two teams or individual investigators dealt with three entries each, another seven with two each, and the remaining 37 cases came from individuals or groups independent of investigators in any other entry. Six investigators are associated with 46 cases, nearly half the total, though few cases represent solo effort.
Looking at the numbers another way, the investigators differ in 51 cases. That’s quite a few hands to dabble in the pot and still serve up a consistent story. Critics may argue that investigators, hypnotists, writers, editors, and anyone else in the chain from report to publication have helped impose conformity on these texts, and they may be right. The fact is that no investigator records slavishly duplicate abductions. Sprinkle finds ‘nice guy’ aliens and also the torturers of the Casey County case: Hopkins has cruel aliens but also the friendly beings who met Virginia Horton. And so it goes – the skeleton remains the same but the flesh differs somewhat from case to case. My bottom line of doubt remains that that any group of even fifty or so individuals could maintain the coherence of such a complex narrative as the abduction story without careful and deliberate collusion.
The mystery of abductions from a folklorist’s standpoint is still the dozens of reports, alike in sequence and details. Rogerson counters that contactee yarns from the 1950′s had similarities and accounts of witches sabbats included a wealth of similar details. True up to a point, but contactee stories were highly individualistic despite some efforts by the principles to support one another’s tales.
Witches sabbats scatter considerably in events and details, despite investigators’ manuals and singularly persuasive ways of leading the witness. No, the stability of abduction reports has a qualitative peculiarity. If they are fictions or fantasies the glue holding them together is an unusual one. No matter how unrepresentative the sample of reports called abductions proves to be relative to all UFO close encounters, this subgroup stands by itself as large enough and self-coherent enough to challenge conventional interpretation.
The episodes in abduction reports and narratives from many other cultural contexts align according to a dramatic structure because this order best realises the emotional potential of the story elements
The second explanation for stability in abduction reports appears in Kottmeyer’s article, certainly one of the most effective and devastating critiques ever offered against the abduction phenomenon. He says that the reports assume the sequence they do because this sequence is the right way to tell a story. The episodes in abduction reports and narratives from many other cultural contexts align according to a dramatic structure because this order best realises the emotional potential of the story elements. When the episodes are properly played against one another for contrast and suspense, the arrangement optimises the impact of the whole.
Kottmeyer’s insights converge on folklorists’ thinking about form in urban legends (13), which manifest a cunning organisation based on dramatic structure and the withholding of key information to build suspense and spring a surprise at the end. These tales circulate in sloppy and well-structured versions, with some narrators able to pick up the bare elements and recast them into a good form, with an unconscious intuition for what makes a ‘good story’. But the same research that confirms Kottmeyer’s general principle also underscores the peculiarity of abduction reports. Just because people know how to tell a good story does not mean that they exercise their skills often or well. An examination of the variants of urban legends shows that these narratives are highly volatile, subject to frequent change and likely to fall short of their aesthetic potentials. Narrators scramble the parts, ruin the form, and settle for inartistic presentations as a matter of course. Drama remains a goal only sometimes achieved in everyday practice. In this light the stability of abductions once again rises to anomaly status, since we should expect more stories told the wrong way than we actually see.
He also assumes, and rashly I think, that everyone assigns the same emotional values to the various episodes. Even given the same elements, two story-tellers may may focus on different parts as the most important or emotion packed. One narrator’s climax becomes another’s footnote.
The idea that there is only one good way to tell a story harks back to the perception of tradition as a prison, whereas folklorists have come to regard tradition as a framework conducive to creativity. Not every creative choice is as easy or necessarily as effective as another, but good narrators make the differences work. If abductions are fictitious, narrators have different options to explore, arrangements to try and ways to dramatise them all.
Kottmeyer limits his explanations to the overall sequence of episodes, when in fact the sequencing of events within episodes complicates the abduction story even more. The ’capture’ episode and especially the actual procurement of a captive by the beings, follows a lengthy itinerary. So does the examination episode. Here too we find remarkable stability, despite so many added opportunities for variation. With so much variety among much shorter urban legends, the relative invariance of long, loose abduction narratives comes as all the greater surprise.
The bulk of Kottmeyer’s article goes to uncovering parallels between science fiction and abductions. Legitimate extraterrestrials should be independent of culture and mark a discontinuity with the past. Culturally derived stories of aliens should have cultural antecedents. In support of this principle he demonstrates with ample evidence that abduction ideas are nothing new under the sun, but are represented with considerable fidelity in the SF movies and literature to which many people have been exposed. Themes of reproductive concern and dying planets, practices like organ removal and medical examination, descriptive details such as large crania and short stature have ready examples in the movies. The comparison requires no gymnastics of the imagination. Some of the ideas are quite literally interchangeable from one medium to the other.
He details possible influences on the Hill case at greatest length, partially motivated by my claim that the Hill’s underwent their abduction ‘entirely unpredisposed’. What I intended to say was that their abduction story was new to the UFO literature, but Kottmeyer notes that Donald Keyhoe discussed short beings with kidnap on their minds in the very book Betty read shortly after the ‘interrupted journey’. Moreover Keyhoe’s assumption that aliens would visit on a scientific mission lent credibility to ideas like medical examination. While the synthesis of the abduction story may rest with the Hills, Kottmeyer makes clear beyond doubt that the pieces were already there for taking off the cultural shelf.
The derivation of the needle-in-the-navel incident from an image in Invaders from Mars strikes me as clever but unpersuasive
Not all of Kottmeyer’s identifications are equally convincing. The derivation of the needle-in-the-navel incident from an image in Invaders from Mars strikes me as clever but unpersuasive. The Invasion of the Saucer men aliens are short and big-headed, but the eyes, ears, mouth, veined cranium and general expression are all wrong. Such differences of opinion in no way detract from the overall case that abductions owe much to cultural influences.
One of the most powerful arguments involves the Kenneth Arnold sighting. Arnold described an odd form, half wedge, half disc, but it was the term ‘flying saucer’ that captivated the public imagination. People reported saucers – nice regular shapes which have so dominated reports that a concept of cultural origin seems certain to have determined the 1947 sightings. I do not intend to refute the cultural-influence explanation, since I quite agree that this force is hard at work in the UFO phenomenon. Rogerson allows that abductions may have an experiential basis, though the experience is a consequence of cultural influences. This is the way folklorists have explained extra-normal encounters: traditional beliefs raise expectations, and expectation shapes ambiguous stimuli in its own image. (14) Certainly most UFO reports fall into this category.
My intention is rather to show that cultural influence may not be the whole story, whereas primary experience or a combination of experience and influence may provide a better explanation. Folklorists have begun to bend their rigid stance of the supposedly one-way relationship of cause and effect. David Hufford’s research with ‘Old Hag’ traditions has established that sometimes experience comes first and tradition develops later as a human response to an experiential fact. This possibility is reasonable enough, but acceptance has come slowly. (15)
The prospect of facing an unusual and unfamiliar experience raises some interesting problems. How do you describe it? How do you understand it? The terms of description and conceptual structure of understanding are themselves traditions. We rely on past experiences to deal with the present, but old acquaintances break down before novelty. When nothing quite fits, we must turn to approximations and metaphors as ways to get a handle on the puzzle, however partial and slippery our grasp. Familiar terminology and classifications may not do the job, but rather than leave a phenomenon uncomprehended and ineffable, most of us opt for positive categories and communication with others even if our choices require a compromise of observational integrity.
Applying this principle to the 1947 saucers, Arnold believed that he saw experimental military aircraft and could describe what he thought they looked like without firm cultural obligations. Those who followed were not so lucky. For them the ‘flying saucer’ image set a powerful precedent. A desire to conform, eagerness to join the excitement, and the pressure of expectation influenced many people to convert vague stimuli into flying discs. What if someone saw something that was not a disc? The same pressure would come to bear on him, driving him to simplify his observation towards the `norm’, perhaps even to recast his memories in the orthodox mould. Where a stubborn individual might resist, the media would soon round off the edges of his report for him, and he would go on record as seeing a saucer in spite of himself. The fact is, we do not know for certain the proportion of saucer shapes to Arnoldesque shapes amongst 1947 reports. Ted Bloecher’s admirable study lists shapes only according to general category, so the finer points get lost. Newspaper writers mediated in most of the reports he cites, and the noise-to-signal ratio necessarily runs high among these accounts, even if a real signal exists. Given these handicaps and the consequent shortcomings of evidence, and firm conclusion that the 1947 wave is all cultural noise amounts to a leap of faith instead of a logical step.
Abductions pose a far more formidable challenge to the witness. The event is more complex, far stranger, personally threatening and viewed in a state of mental impairment according to most reports. An abductee would hardly return fluent in the language of the unknown. He would stumble to describe it and lean on every verbal or visual crutch. Even Barney Hill’s alien with wraparound eyes need not wholly be a product of influence.
If John Fuller conveys a faithful summary of the Hill’s conscious memories, then we know that the eyes troubled Barney before hypnosis and before the Outer Limits episode was aired. Is it so strange that he would grope for a handy visual simile, and grasp one from a recent TV show? I doubt it. Most of us do the same all the time, enriching our stock of expressions and humour with borrowings from the media. Even if his description bent towards the image of the television alien, this fact does not negate the reality of his basic observation. Television seems not to have planted a preoccupation with
strange eyes in his mind.
Experience seems to have taken the lead in that.
An argument along these lines may explain why no paediatrician known to Stillings has reported abductions, a puzzling situation if they are as common as ufologists claim. A child could not identify an abduction by name or describe unfamiliar sights in precise terms, and a paediatrician might not be familiar with the abduction phenomenon, or sensitive enough to connect it with a child’s clumsy approximations even if aware. A paediatrician used to hearing the whimsical yarns of children might dismiss abduction evidence without ever recognising it. Paediatricians conform to their professional traditions as well as anyone else.
If proponents of cultural influence accept that it equips the imagination to counterfeit an entire experience, they can also allow it a more limited role as modifier of real experience. An overlay of terminology or conceptual filter based on prior knowledge would channel the report to the realm of the familiar. The influence argument cuts both ways, Influence based fantasy or influence-modified experience could both account for abduction reports, and such an argument loses its edge.
Kottmeyer attempts to resolve the issue with an appeal to simplicity: is there anything in the abduction story without an antecedent in science-fiction? I would have to give a negative answer. Even if modified reality could account for the culturally derived patterns and content in reports, simplicity throws the decision to a subjective origin.
This line of reasoning is formally correct, but I distrust it because the critics have a vast reservoir of parallels from which to draw. Science fiction has generated so many images that some of them are bound to match up with abductions. In fact why limit the search to science fiction? the pool of influence grows into an ocean if we include every possible cultural source, since we can find strange, penetrating eyes among fairies, or demons that torture with sharp pointed objects in the popular vision of hell. The hunt for parallels is a search that never fails. Folklorists have overindulged from time to time, especially in the heyday of solar mythology. One caution against setting too much store in parallels came when a folklorist applied the hero pattern to the life of Abraham Lincoln, and found that Lincoln promptly dissolved into myth. (The American educational system has since achieved similar results using ignorance as the solvent) The moral (in both cases) is that too much laxity of application may look proper enough, but still leans to false results.
Stillings denounces me for such concretist statements as “fairies do not fly in spaceships or use eye-like scanning devices.” Even valid parallels do not duplicate one another exactly, so he rightly notes that I overstate the case. The point I wished to make nevertheless deserves repeating – with the terms of comparison abstracted enough, anything can look like something else. Abstraction only exacerbates a situation where many analogues are available. For comparisons to be truly persuasive they must relate homologues rather than analogues. Homologues are likenesses based on deep genetic relationships and not mere surface appearances.
Establishing homologies represents no easy task but for a start the confidence in a comparison rises when the terms are specific, complex patterns match, and near-parity of elements prevails (that is, most elements correspond and few are left over). A genuine case of cultural influence may not fulfil these stringent criteria, but they set a worthy standard for evidence. It should be clear that an argument founded on stray resemblances and abstracted patterns falls well short of this goal.
The wonder then is not that every element of the abductions story has its antecedents, but that the story-tellers use so few of the available possibilities. Science fiction aliens come in all shapes and sizes, science fiction storylines diversify well beyond any single plot. Even if the Hill report has become the guiding light for abductees, they have gone through life exposed to other ideas that would play well within an abduction framework. If the Hill’s vivid fantasy was born out of science fiction influences and little else, surely these same images have power enough to break the stranglehold of this story and stimulate other narrators to a little creative adventurousness now and then. The power of science-fiction ideas should destabilise abduction reports, or else cultural influences are not
not so influential after all.
Stillings claims that Americans start with ETH beliefs and dismiss without due consideration all explanations based on psychology, cultural influence or hypnotic confabulation. This statement stings my pride, since I thought I had given some consideration to just these issues. My comparative study of reports explored the folkloric affinities of abductions and my investigation of hypnosis inquired into its potential as a solution. (l6) In both cases I examined a great deal of evidence, and in both cases I found the subjective answers wanting. Nor do I mean to hog all the credit. Elizabeth Slater’s evaluation of abductees, June Parnell’s tests of close-encounter experients, and Rima Laibow’s studies of post-traumatic stress disorder have set the psychological study of abductees on a sound evidential footing. At the heart of the matter, American investigators have worked closely with abductees, a great many abductees, probing their stories in depth and following up on life changes and consequences.
Rogerson raises the psychological issue by citing Charles Hickson’s emergence as a contactee, and sees here an example of reality at odds with the image of normalcy promoted by ufologists. What we can say about abductee psychology is that Keul and Phillips have found evidence for mental disturbance and social dissatisfaction among close-encounter claimants. Slater found no psychopathology among the nine abductees she studied, rather a set of characteristics that could mean either fantasy-prone personalities or traumatic victimisation. Parnell found no evidence for psychopathology or above-average capacity for imagination among close-encounter witnesses, while abductees proved to be among the least imaginative subjects in her sample. (l7) The picture remains vague and inconclusive. With such evidence, is American reluctance to jump upon a psychological bandwagon surprising?
The Hickson example resurrects the problem of what is cause, what is effect in the abduction phenomenon. The possibilities that certain psychological manifestations are consequences of an experience deserves more serious consideration than my critics appear to have given. An individual with the right psychological predispositions might report contact with aliens and later undergo profound life changes akin to religious conversion, all as part of his psychological makeup. Yet it is no less reasonable to believe that an unpredisposed individual might change in drastic ways as a result of a real and deeply disturbing experience. John Rimmer’s editorial mentions Laibaw’s finding that abductees report a high incidence of childhood sexual abuse. Before jumping to any conclusion that abductions serve as screen memories for actual abuse, another clue should be noted: Abduction memories do not relate to abuse memories in the right way for a screen, since the abuse memories screen the abduction. (l8) So which is cause and which is effect? Such evidence by no means proves aliens, but it means that the problem is more convoluted that psychological proponents have acknowledged.
ETH supporters can rationalise anything with their theory. It is flexible enough to accommodate all sorts of phenomena, and difficult to falsify
One criticism levelled by Stillings is undeniable: ETH supporters can rationalise anything with their theory. It is flexible enough to accommodate all sorts of phenomena, and difficult to falsify. Anyone who has taken abductions seriously and found psycho-social reductions unsatisfying must trouble over this difficulty in the ETH positing.
At the same time psychosocial advocates set their house in little better order. I agree with Evens that European ufological investigations have been both extensive in effort and excellent in quality. I apologise for giving the inadvertent impression that I considered them anything less. However I still find the present psychosocial theories as much a Procrustean Bed as Stillings regards the efforts as American ufologists.
We can thank the psychosocial school for a surfeit of explanations, few of them developed beyond the stage of vague suggestiveness. I found that reports obtained by hypnosis similar to reports remembered spontaneously and concluded that hypnosis played little part in shaping the abduction story. Stillings questions this conclusion on the grounds that hypnotic and other altered states can occur without formal induction. He is right, but sceptics (and Stillings himself in the same article) usually advocate a facilitative and not a causal role for hypnosis in abduction making. Hypnosis enhances susceptibility to influence so a subject readily follows the lead of the hypnotist. When a hypnotist is a believer he may confabulate and abduction with the subject. Consistencies in the reports then trace to hypnotists who want to hear the same abduction story and pass their expectations along to a receptive subject. This argument suffers if people tell a similar story without benefit of leadership, which happens in the case of spontaneous recall.
If Stillings wishes highway hypnosis or some other altered-consciousness condition to account far abductions, he has an established natural phenomenon on his side, but he must still explain how natural hypnosis produces a story like other abduction stories. If a hypnotist who leads a witness is all important in one explanation, where is the leader in the other? Though one solution goes down in flames, plenty more wait in the wings. Perhaps the witness is a fantasy-prone or boundary-deficit type? If I point out that these people should tell the most varied stories instead of the most stable my opponents have fresh arguments: perhaps an over-zealous, Svengali-like investigator or a well-intentioned but fatal bias in establishing the sample of cases. Perhaps the answer lies not with research errors but with life conditions or mental states that predispose the witnesses, or the blame may lie with TV, movies, SF images; when hard pressed electro-magnetic fields from seismic events may come to the rescue.
This leaves an impression of ad hoc arguments addressed to one or another aspect of the phenomenon rather than to the whole problem. Each explanation may succeed in one area but fail in another. Too many explanations undercut the credibility of any one, and only Kottmeyer states his case in depth. Psychosocial proponents seem to take their answers too much for granted and with few exceptions fail to nurture an embryonic case to full term.
In the end abductions present a sort of orthoteny in reverse. This time we have the straight-line of consistent story given to us, and seek the points on which it rests. The field is crowded with possible alternatives; explanations pile layers deep. Somehow the line stays true. What makes the situation so striking is itself a psychosocial argument. The knowledge that comes from folklore research and demonstrates the likelihood of variation. Whether folklore sprouts from the deep psyche or takes root in cultural influences, the resulting narratives blossom with creativity and individuality within traditional frames. Personal experience accounts bear a richness of personal idiosyncrasies. Abduction reports simply mismatch other folklore in these significant respects.
I sympathise with Evens when he says that an ETH explanation for abductions is riddled with contradictions and simply does not work. Michael Swords makes a thoroughly compelling case against hybridisation, and no-one has yet solved the problem of how aliens in vast numbers can cross light years of space to reach earth then find nothing better to do than repeat the same old lab exercises. (19) If I truly believed that aliens could seize me I would spend my life in the company of a hundred other people, all armed to the teeth and ready to demonstrate to any short grey house-guests that happiness is a warm AK-47. I do not, therefore deep down I do not believe. A literal reading of abductions clashes with commonsense and learned good sense alike, but that reason in itself gives me licence to question but not to close my eyes. The evidence as I see it shows me a puzzle that I cannot solve with reference to conventional phenomena known to me, nor have the alternatives offered by psychosocial advocates proved adequate to the task. On the other hand a literal reading best fits the story line. I may not believe that abductions are real experiences, but we have no better answer for now.
After all, I was under the impression that proper young Victorians discovered ladies’ legs by experience, perhaps for a monetary consideration or otherwise, but without the need for an intermediary. In Europe as in America, experience is the best teacher.
- Bullard, Thomas E. UFO Abductions: the measure of a mystery. Fund for UFO Research, 1987.
- Thompson, Sith. Tales of the North American Indians, University Press, 1968: pp.225-231.
- Dundes, Alan. ‘The hero pattern in the life of Jesus’ in Dundes, Interpreting Folklore. Indiana University Press, 1980; Rosenberg, Bruce A. Custer and the Epic of Defeat, Penna. State Univ. Press, 1974.
- Dorson, Richard M. ‘Folklore in the Modern World’ in Dorson, ed, Folklore in the Modern World, Mouton, 1978; Hufford, David J. ‘Traditions of Disbelief’, New York Folklore 8 (1982) 47-55.
- Degh, Linda. Folklore and Society. Indiana University Press, 1969.
- Degh, Linda. Processes of Legend Formation’, Laographia 22 (1965): 8.
- Thompson, Stith. The Folktale. Univ. of California Press, 1977.
- Degh, Linda, and Andrew Vazonyl ‘The Crack on the Red Goblet or Truth and the Modern Legend’, in Dorson, Richard M. (ed.) Folklore in the Modern World.
- Degh, Linda, and Andrew Yazonyl ‘The Memorate and the proto-Memorate’, Journal of American Folklore (1974) 225-239.
- For example: Mullen, Patrick B. ‘Modern Legend and Rumor Theory’, Journal of the Folklore lnstitute 9 (1972) pp.95-109 Klintberg, Bengt, ‘Modern Migratory Legends in Oral Tradition and Daily Papers’ Arv, 37 (1981): 153-160; Grider, Sylvia, ‘The Razor Blades in the Apple Syndrome’, in Smith, Paul (ed.) Perspectives on Contemporary Legend, Univ. of Sheffield, 1984.
- Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Vanishing Hitchhiker, Norton, 1981.
- Bennett, Gillian, Traditions of Belief, Penguin (NY).
- Barns, Daniel R. ‘Interpreting Urban Legends’, Arv 40 (1984):67-78; Nicolaisen, W F H, ‘The Linguistic Structure of Legends, in Bennett, Gillian, Perspectives on Contemporary Legend, v.2. Sheffield Academic Press, 1987.
- Honko, Lauri, Memorates and the Study of Folk Beliefs’, Journal of the Folklore Institute I (1965) pp.5-19.
- Hufford, David J. The Terror that Comes in the Night, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.
- Bullard, Thomas E ‘Hypnosis and UFO Abductions: a Troubled Relationship’, Journal of UFO Studies n.s. 1 (1989}.pp.3-40
- Keul, A. and Ken Philips. ‘Assessing the Witness’ in UFOs 1947-1987, Fortean Tomes, 1987; Final Report of the Psychological Testing of UFO Abductees, Fund for UFO Research, 1984; Parnell, June O. ‘Personality Characteristics on the MMPI, IGPF and ACL of Persons who Claim UFO Experiences’, Laramie, University of Wyoming dissertation, 1986.
- Laibow, Rima E.’Dual Victims; The Abused and the Abducted’, International UFO Reporter, 14/3 May-June 1989) 4-9.
- Swords, Michael. ‘Extraterrestrial Hybridization Unlikely’, MUFON UFO Journal, 247, No, 1988, pp6-10.