The Abduction Experience: A Testable Hypothesis

Alvin Lawson
Magonia 10, 1982
Those who believe that UFO abductions relate to alien beings, parallel universes, or other exotic origins will ultimately have to explain – along with the lack of unambiguous physical evidence – why the incidents and images reported by abductees are so similar to those reported in a variety of obviously psychological processes.

These processes or abduction analogues include drug induced hallucinations, near-death experiences, religious and metaphysical ecstasies, shamans’ trances, and particularly the revivification of trauma associated with foetal development and birth.
Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, a follower of Otto Rank with years of experience in the therapeutic use of LSD, believes that many of his patients relive their own birth trauma (BT) during LSD sessions(l):
  • In a way that is not quite clear at the present stage of research, the (subjects’) experiences seem to be related to the circumstances of the biological birth. LSD subjects frequently refer to them quite explicitly as reliving their own birth trauma. (Others) quite regularly show the cluster of physical symptoms… that can best be interpreted as a derivative of the biological birth. They also assume postures and move in complex sequences that bear a striking similarity to those of a child during the various stages of delivery.
Grof’s work is of interest to ufology because revivified Birth trauma narratives provide a remarkably extensive collection of abduction image parallels. The study of these parallels will help determine whether we should think of abductions as psychological rather than physical experiences. Also, many of Grof’s subjects report LSD fantasies centring on contact with alien entities from other worlds, or even other dimensions or parallel universes. Several have specifically described encounters with ‘flying saucers’ and science fiction adventures similar to TV’s Star Trek (2). Grof’s findings seem to show that UF0 narrative data are a common part of psychiatric therapy programmes where LSD or other hallucinogens are utilized, and are supported by other reports from cancer wards that terminal patients on certain drug therapies commonly have spontaneous abduction fantasies (3). Such data appear to contradict Berthold Schwarz’s assertions as to the absence of UFO-related fantasies in psychiatric patients (4).
Grof’s work confirms in part the results from our 1977 series of imaginary abduction experiments (5), which cast doubt on the physical reality of CE-III events, and on the reliability of abduction case data retrieved through hypnosis. The imaginary series attempted to distinguish ‘real’ CE-IIIs from hoaxes and fantasies, but concluded only that, since they utilized essentially identical imagery and events, one could never be certain. The present study emphasizes that BT data can be obtained through hypnosis as well as drugs, and proposes that the existence of BT imagery in abduction narratives provides ufologists with a criterion which can help determine false abduction reports from any that may reflect actual events.
A word on the reliability of revivified birth trauma narratives. Although Grof finds ‘perinatal’ or birth-related imagery and events to be omnipresent in human affairs (e.g. in anthropology, mythology, Gestalt and other therapies, initiation rites, and religious ceremonies of many cultures), he cautions that a ‘causal nexus’ between specific events of one’s biological birth and particular images has yet to be established. Again, Grof’s BT sessions contain non-BT data, including hallucinatory imagery, autobiographical details from later memory, and fantasized experiences [I use the term 'Birth Trauma' rather loosly to refer to the entire complex on imagery (BT, hallucinatory, remembered, imagined) under discussion, a procedure which, since it follows grof's data more closely, seems appropriate]. These psychological phenomena are related not to birth or to UFOs but to the central nervous system. But it doesn’t matter that BT sessions are not entirely factual so long as there are demonstrable BT/CE-III image parallels in the complex of psychological processes which emerge during revivification sessions.
I believe that the many parallels between abductees’ narratives and the above and other psychological processes argue that abductions also are mental rather than physical experiences. Since abduction reports show features of sequence and structure which seem consistent with major perinatal events, they therefore support the view that abductees unconsciously use components of the birth process as a matrix for a fantasized abduction experience. While there is a contemporary tendency to think of the whole UFO phenomenon in terms of the extraterrestrial or other (increasingly bizarre) hypotheses, the smaller abduction component of that phenomenon seems to me to be a psychological process. It is this view of abduction reports which will be set forth in the following pages.
I must add a note on the reliability of hypnosis. During hypnotic regression of BT subjects and alleged abductees, it is probable that data from at least three nonBT and four non-UFO sources may corrupt witnesses’ narratives. All the more reason to interpret hypnotically derived ‘evidence’ with caution.
The many imagery parallels among abduction analogues suggest that they have a common source. One of the most likely sources is the birth experience and its associated trauma, since birth is a universal phenomenon which is free from ordinary cultural influences and is, as far as we know, one of the first significant conscious events experienced by human beings. Grof describes the four perinatal stages as ‘matrices’ because he believes that each stage has major implications for later personality development and behaviour (6):

 Since BT narratives from each stage contain many abduction parallels, they merit extended discussion and analysis.
Some of the many solid abduction/birth trauma parallels are listed in the following comparative table of images and events selected from CE-III reports and subjects’ narrative descriptions of Grof°s four perinatal stages. Note that the chronologies of BTs and abductions seldom observe the same sequence. Rather, BT subjects jump back and forth from any of the four stages at will, just as abductees sometimes report experiencing their abductions in unique sequences. So while the chronology of events in abductions/BTs is not always consistent with that followed below, the similarity of imagery and incidental details is obvious.
Also, birth events are so various and idiosyncratic that no two BT narratives nor the CE-IIIs built upon them will ever be identical. This means that there will always be apparent non-patterns in abductions, an important fact for investigators to know. I have indicated the perinatal stages of all parallels below, and some representative (but by no means all) CE-III cases which demonstrate them. Note that I have included contactees and imaginary abductees along with ‘real’ cases. In addition, though most of the alleged witnesses in Budd Hopkins’s recent book, Missing Time (Marek, 1981), appear to be imaginary abductees, I have indicated them separately by the author’s surname. All three groups – regardless of the physical reality of their experiences – provide essentially the same visual imagery and events as ‘real’ CE-Ills, thus supporting the thesis that all are related to BT experiences.
In Table II below, the first column indicates the type of event reported in CEIII and abduction cases, column 2 lists a sample of such cases (referenced In appendix I), and column three refers to comparable experiences from Grof’s book Realms of the Human Unconscious, referenced by page numbers underlined.

 In addition to the above patterns, Grof’s subjects commonly report visions of deities and other creatures which can be classified in the same six distinct types which are observed in UFO entity reports. In one BT fantasy, in fact, a subject described being confronted by no fewer than five types of creatures (7): 
  • The square was surrounded by Gothic cathedral facades and from the statue niches in these facades and from the gargoyle downspouts in the eaves animals, persons, animal-human combinations, devils, spirits – all the figures that one observes in the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch – came down from the cathedrals into the square and moved in on me. 
Five of the six UFO entity classes are described here explicitly: human (‘persons’), humanoid (‘devils’), animal, exotic (‘animalhuman combinations’), and apparitional (‘spirits’),’ The sixth type, an explicit for-mulation of a robotic sensibility, occurs in another subject’s BT vision involving ‘the dehumanized, grotesque, and bizarre world of automata, robots, and mechanical gadgets’. Grof says that creature types from BT narratives seem to be identified with particular emotional stresses originating in the various experiences of development and birth. These stresses may cause the embryo/foetus to respond in distinct emotional or imaginative contexts which may, years later, be associated with individual creature types. For example, one subject felt that he had achieved, in the course of ‘good womb’ and ‘bad womb’ experiences (as Grof terms them), a sudden understanding of the genesis of demons from diverse cultures (8): 
  • The demons surrounding the peaceful Buddha figure on many Indian and Tibetan religious paintings appeared to him to be representatives of various forms of disturbances of the intrauterine existence. The subject could distinguish among them the bloody, openly aggressive, and ferocious ones, symbolizing the dangers of biological birth; the others, more insidious and lurking, represented the noxious influences in the intrauterine life.
 The ‘good womb’ and ‘bad womb’ experiences occur in the first perinatal stage and consist of alternating positive (undisturbed intrauterine life) and negative (disturbed intrauterine life) events in terms of their effect upon the foetus. Both extremes contain plentiful abduction echoes. In reliving ‘bad womb’ experiences Grof’s patients report foetal distress such as feelings of sickness, nausea and mild paranoia, which may be traceable to any of several causes such as the mother’s physical or emotional health, her ingestion of noxious substances, or attempted abortion. ‘Good womb’ revivification manifests itself in pre-birth bliss including feelings of cosmic unity, transcendence of space and time, visions of paradise, ‘oceanic’ emotions, and other parallels with mystical or ecstatic experiences. Veteran CE-Ill investigators have often observed similar extremes of emotional response from witnesses.
The dominant creature type in both BT narratives and CE-III reports is humanoid, and resembles the human foetus. Grof says that subjects ‘frequently report visions of or identification with embryos, foetuses, and newborn children. Equally common are various authentic neonatal feelings as well as behaviour’. (9) Many if not most UFO humanoids, such as those described by Betty and Barney Hill and Travis Walton, closely resemble a foetus or embryo, specifically with regard to underdeveloped facial andother anatomical features. The foetus-like UFO alien thus provides a major parallel between abduction and BT narrative data, and deserves further examination. Some commonly reported humanoid characteristics are listed below, with similar descriptive details from prenatal chronology offered for comparison (10).

Note that many of these reported humanoid qualities are more characteristic of the embryo (i.e., aged up to nine weeks) than of the foetus (nine weeks to term), suggesting that at least some matrices for the physical appearances of humanoid entities lie in early prenatal experiences. But there may be even earlier matrices. Grof describes experiences in which LSD subjects seem to undergo extreme spatial constriction so that they ‘tune in’ to the ‘consciousness’ of a particular organ or tissue of their own body, and even regress into a cellular or subcellular consciousness (11). Grof says that it is ‘commonly reported’ by such subjects that they even identify with the sperm and ovum at the time of conception (12), and sometimes describe an accelerated process of embryogenesis and foetal development (13). While Grof concedes that the authenticity of such narratives is an open question, he states that he was able to get several independent verifications of supposed embryonal and foetal experiences (14).
One cellular component, not mentioned in Grof’s data, seems potentially stunning in its UFO implications. When the fertilized human ovum is six days old and attaches itself to the wall of the uterus, the distinctly embryonic tissue inside the ovum assumes an intriguing shape: it resembles a flattened, circular plate, the basic UFO pattern, and is known as the embryonic disc. Everything that will eventually become the adult human being is present, at least potentially, in the relatively few cells of the young ovum’s embryonic disc. This stage of prenatal life is the first in which the fertilized tissue can be thought of as something integral, whole, or individual. We remember that the psychologist Carl Jung found an analogy between the shapes of ‘flying saucers’ and ‘mandalas’, which he defined as archetypal symbols of unity, wholeness and individuation (15). If Grof’s genetic memory data are valid, they could be interpreted as providing a physiological basis for Jung’s theories on archetypal imagery and his related speculations on the collective unconscious.
At any rate it is somewhat startling to realize that every human being who ever lived was – for a few hours at least – literally shaped like a UFO. With that in mind one can speculate: perhaps the embryonic disc does manifest itself as a Jungian mandala or saucer archetype in everyone’s sensibility during the embryonic stage; later it could emerge as part of a percipient’s UFO-related imagery. Thus UFO witnesses might have been predisposed to perceive saucer-shaped ‘somethings’ in the presence of whatever psycho-physical stimulus constitutes the UFO phenomenon – though what witnesses perceive may be an archetypal echo of experiential imagery from their own prenatal development.
But the developing embryo evolves through other possibly UFO-related geometric forms as early as its third week of life: it is an oval by day 14, pear-shaped by the 17th, and about day 22 the beginnings of the brain and spinal cord have formed a comparatively huge neural tube down the length of the tiny embryo. The dominance of tube or tunnel imagery in CE-IIIs (as well as other analogues) is well established, and if these speculations have merit the prevalence of tube/tunnel images may relate to one or more of several possible tube/tunnel archetypes in the birth process. In addition to the neural tube, other putative archetypes include the umbilical tubeplacenta complex and the ‘birth canal’ (i.e., cervical opening, vagina, and surrounding tissues) experienced during normal birth.
The placenta is a circular, inverted bowl-shaped organ which is connected to the foetus by the umbilical cord, a tube containing other tubes (veins and arteries) attached at the foetus’s navel. Several abductees (e.g., Hill and Andreasson) have reported pain or distress in their navel during alleged examinations (16); many others use tube/tunnel imagery to describe UFO interiors or events – some maintaining that they were ‘sucked up’ a tube (of light or other material) into the UFO. The physiological fact that body fluids are exchanged between the foetus and the UFO-shaped placenta – i.e., they are ‘sucked up’ the umbilical tube, seems significant.
The umbilical cord recalls a hitherto inexplicable image, the seemingly solid, flat-ended, retracting light beam. The umbilical cord, a solid tube descending from the placental ‘saucer’, does have a flat end at the separation point, and is a possible archetype for the mysterious but oftreported retracting beam.
An experiment in which imaginary abductions were given under hypnosis to persons born by Caesarean section provides statistical evidence that tube/tunnel imagery relates to the normal birth process. Of eight Caesarean subjects, seven used no tube/tunnel imagery in describing how they boarded or left the UFO and there were few tube images throughout their narratives. The exception, subject (10), is interesting because she was at first treated as a normal premature birth until her mother suffered a haemorrhage and a Caesarean was necessary – but the subject had experienced an hour or so of Stage II trauma in the birth canal, perhaps sufficient time for the development of tube/tunnel imagery. Note also other possible exceptions: subject (5) boarded with the aid of a snake-like rope, (8) returned via a spiral stairway, and (S described stairs unfolding from the botton of the craft. All of these suggest not tubes but apparatus dangling from the UFO’s underside – perhaps representing archetypes of the umbilical cord, which apparently can symbolize either a tube or a line as conditions permit. Again, there are several possible sources for tube-like imagery in BT events.
The following indicates the response! of eight Caesarean and two normally born imaginary abductees when questioned as to how they boarded and left the UFO.

Images of doors or passageways are nearly as plentiful as tubes in abduction reports. Most witnesses describe unorthodox doors which appear suddenly in walls or on an object’s exterior, disappearing without a trace soon after. Such doors tend to open from the centre rather than out or in, or have sliding panels. Some reports tell of doors which disintegrate or ‘explode’ just before witnesses pass through them. All these unusual doorway passages can be interpreted as suggesting another birth trauma event – the opening of the cervix. Aside from the extended time involved, cervical dilatation would be consistent with unorthodox modes of opening and closing doors. Supporting this idea is the fact that one of our ‘control’ subjects, a normal birth, responded to a suggested situation of cervical dilatation with the comment, ‘it’s like a door opening’. Surely the birth process is a more likely explanation of the many doors and tubes/tunnels in narratives such as Betty Andreasson’s (see below) than any plausible alien craft’s interior architecture.
The idea that placental, umbilical, amniotic, and other archetypal forms appear in reported UFOs, entities and related events sketched or described by witnesses is admittedly as speculative as it is unusual. It is offered not as a conclusion about the BT/ CE-III analogue but merely as an interesting possibility which seems to support the BT hypothesis but which as yet cannot be proved.
However, if abductees indeed do develop their conceptions of humanoids largely from a foetal archetype, it is reasonable to expect that the surrounding tissues and other embryonic elements can stimulate witnesses similarly. Further, foetuses have been observed firmly grasping the umbilical cord, and also touching their body and everything else in the close confines of the uterus. All normal foetuses, then, may have a sense of body image and of various tissues which probably develops from the embryonic stage onward. Thus this aspect of the BT hypothesis may have validity.
The placenta may emerge in CE-III narratives as a UFO shape and also as a backpack allegedly worn by entities. The umbilical cord suggests the tube leading from the back-pack, and it may also take the form of the retracting light beam. The amniotic sac may have an obvious analogue in the various bubbledome headgear on reported entities, and also in the many see-through or windowed UFOs described by witnesses. In this connection, while sceptics have assumed that entity back-packs derive from astronaut’s similarly bulky space-suits, the fact that NASA has no see-through space vehicles argues that images of back-packs as well as translucent UFOs are stimulated by psychological processes rather than by space technology. The most likely psychological source would be BT imagery and events. (Cf. figs. 1 – 6)

Figures 1 – 6
The placenta as a ‘craft’ image can be seen in Christian and Buddhist art (See figures 7-8). In Hildegarde of Bingen’s 12th-century depiction, the human soul is delivered to the foetus by an object from another realm; the object and its ‘delivery tube’ attached to a maternal navel is an obvious placental/umbilical archetype. In an Indian relief, a’lily’ growing on a stalk from the god Vishnu’s navel bears the infant Buddha. In both traditions one sees a placental ‘craft’ with a tube descending from it, showing that diverse cultures use BT/UFO imagery in similar ways (Figs. 7 – 8).
Figures 7 – 8
There are many possible umbilical archetypes in traditional belief, psychology, and even fiction. In hristian mythology, God impregnates the Virgin Mary with a beam from Heaven. However, the beam is actually a hollow tube through which the Holy Spirit, (usually rendered in the form of a dove) descends. Another type of divine sky-beam can be seen in paintings of a beam of breath from God to Adam. The ‘third eye’ of the Buddha is often portrayed as a beam, indicating again that beams from the sky are found world-wide. An interesting variation is described by one of Jung’s schizophrenic patients – a sun with a ‘penis’ tube hanging from it, which the patient associated with the wind (i.e., breath). Jung later found identical images in mysticism and mythology.
Beams and tubes from the skies are also found in folktales such as ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and in the tornado which whooshes Dorothy off in the The Wizard of Oz.
One fascinating implication of the placental archetype relates to the winged entities which are occasionally reported. It may be that the wings of fairies and angels, like the entities’ back-packs, relate to BT sources (cf. Figs 1 – 6). Further possible placental archetypes are suggested by the common pattern of ‘boxes’ and ‘tubes’ which are so consistently described by witnesses during recall of alleged physical examinations. Both ‘real’ and imaginary subjects describe such implements, which often probe the subject’s body or navel area. Both umbilical pain and currents of energy which probe the body are common BT data patterns – thus the boxes/tubes-BT connection . 
In order to give context to the abduction/birth trauma parallels, it is helpful to show the nature and extent of perinatal imagery in a prominent abduction case. One such case is that of Mrs Betty Andreasson of South Ashburnham, Mass., who says that at about 7.00 p.m. on 25 January 1967 she was abducted from her living room by a group of alien beings. As recalled under regressive hypnosis ten years afterwards, she said parts of her CE-III may have been witnessed by her father and 11-year-old daughter, although seven other members of the family, who allegedly were put into ‘suspended animation’, were not able to verify Betty’s story (17).
Betty says her abduction began with a bright light which flashed outside her house, shortly after which a group of 4-foot-tall beings floated through her kitchen door. They communicated with Betty, then floated her outside and into a waiting craft where she was examined, immersed in a liquid, and then seemingly taken for a journey into alien realms. At the climax of her adventure she witnessed a huge bird which spoke to her, then phoenix-like, consumed itself in flames, an event which Betty, a devout fundamentalist Christian, interpreted in religious terms. Then her captors returned her safely home. The alleged abduction had lasted about 3 hours and 40 minutes.
The Andreasson case is useful for purposes of comparative analysis because it has been laboriously investigated by a group of dedicated ufologists, the main witness is considered reliable, and the case details are representative. Further, Betty is a competent artist and was able to provide many sketches of her adventure. In short, the Andreasson CE-III is about as reliable and detailed as any abduction case we are likely to find. At the same time, it has significant implications for UFO abduction research for it contains a wealth of perinatal images and events which support a non-physical or psychological interpretation of this case and of the UFO abduction mystery generally.
The Andreasson case presents several clear birth trauma image parallels. For example, Betty’s humanoid entities were about 4 feet tall, had greyish skin, oversized heads, huge eyes, and underdeveloped noses, ears and mouths. They were typically foetal humanoids in appearance, though they behaved like apparitions in passing through solid doors and materializing at will. The leader seemed to change his facial features so that he became more foetus-like in his final meeting with Betty.
The richest event in terms of perinatal imagery occurred in what Betty described as the Cylindical Room, where she was enclosed in a clear plastic chair with a fitted cover, which her captors filled with grey fluid. She breathed through clear tubes, which fitted into her nostrils and mouth. A telepathic voice told her to close her eyes. Suddenly she felt pleasant vibrations, the fluid whirled, she was fed some sweet substance through the tube in her mouth, and she was relaxed and happy. ‘Oh! This feels good!’ she exclaimed. Floating, tranquillized, she became one with the ‘undulating fluid’. After a time the fluid was drained, she was taken out, and she realized that her head hurt.
The scene is an obvious return to the womb: the Cylindrical Room itself is only one of several womb echoes in Betty’s narrative; the transparent chair suggests the amniotic sac in which Betty floated in a foetal position; the grey fluid is the amniotic medium; the breathing and feed tubes are the umbilical cord. Swallowing of fluid is a common foetal event, and acute gustatory sensations are common in Grof’s perinatal subjects (although Grof says that sweet tastes may also originate in positive breast experiences) (18). The tranquilizing undulations and vibrations recall a reversion to a highly positive intrauterine experience. Betty’s headache may be a manifestation of the onset of another part of the remembered birth process.
It should be pointed out that Betty’s immersion in fluid is not unique to her abduction. Similar events were reported in a Brazilian CE-III and also in the Garden Grove case (19).
Betty spent much of her time on board the UFO ‘floating’ from one womblike room to another, through tunnels and on elevators or other counterparts of the birth canal. These familiar tube/tunnel images recur in several guises in Grof’s perinatal narratives: from tubes of light to columns, whirlpools, cosmic maelstroms, engulfing monsters, and holes through the earth. Betty’s tunnels varied in length but typically ended with doorways into brightly lit, dome-shaped rooms where she was undressed, examined, ‘cleansed’, or whatever. The doorways, like those in many CE-IIIs, suggest the cervical opening: usually a bare wall seems to separate with a soft ‘whoosh’ on approach and unites again afterwards, leaving no trace; a circular membrane and some mirror-like doors which Betty crashed through harmlessly recall similar ‘exploding’ doors in the Garden Grove case. There are more than a dozen doors and tunnel-like passageways in the whole of Betty’s adventure, a number sufficiently high in itself to suggest a psychological explanation of her narrative.
During Betty’s examination, which she said occurred in a bright ‘big room’, the aliens inserted needle-tipped tubes intoher nasal cavities and (as with Betty Hill) into her navel. Betty had been told that the navel probe was a test for ‘procreation’ (in the Hill case it was for pregnancy), but afterwards the aliens said that there were ‘some parts missing’. Betty had had a hysterectomy, and the fact that she integrated this personal memory into the event can be seen as a reliving of her own medical history – a common pattern in abduction narratives.
The hysterectomy is also one of several elements in Betty’s examination manifesting the bodily dismemberment motif, which is occasionally found in CE-IIIs and which is described explicitly in Stage III BT narratives (20). (Body dismemberment is also a major segment of the shamans’ trance experiences.) The needle-tipped tubes caused Betty a good deal of pain and discomfort, but Grof’s description of umbilical pain in a perinatal Stage IV narrative anticipates this part of the Andreasson abduction (21): 
  • …a specific complex of unpleasant symptoms… piercing and penetrating pains in the umbilical area, which usually radiate and are projected to the urinary bladder… or the uterus. They are accompanied by… feelings of agony and emergency, sensations of dramatic shifts within the body…
 This situation is repeated with surprising consistency in Betty’s narrative (22): 
  • I can feel them moving that thing…he’s going to put that in my navel! Oh-h-h-h. I don’t like this… I can feel them moving that thing around in my stomach or my body…Oh! He’s pushing that again.. .around, feeling things… Feels like he’s going right around my stuff inside – feeling it, or something with that needle. 
The aliens told Betty that they were ‘awakening’ something with their probing, which is symbolically consistent with the dismemberment myth – in shamans’ lore, ego death (dismemberment) precedes the rebirth of a new, reawakened self and sensibility. However, this death/rebirth experience was articulated more fully in Betty’s case by the phoenix.
Some of the Andreasson case investigators were apparently troubled by Betty’s phoenix vision, perhaps embarrassed by its religious/mythical connotations, or afraid that this and other parts of her narrative may be thought mere hallucination or fantasy. Yet to Betty, the phoenix segment was as real as any other and in some ways more significant since she interpreted it as an authentic religious experience. She heard a voice which she thought was that of God saying, ‘I have chosen you to show the world’, apparently because of her sincere faith. Though interpretations of the event as fantasy or spontaneous hallucination seem equally probable, Grof says that the phoenix image is implicit in many Stage III narratives describing a purification by fire (23): 
  • One important experience… is the encounter with consuming fire, which is perceived as having a purifying quality.. .The fire appears to destroy everything that is rotten and corrupt in the individual and prepares him for the renewing and rejuvenating experience of rebirth… A very appropriate symbol associated with the idea of the purifying fire seems to be that of the phoenix, the legendary bird who sets his nest on fire and finds his death in the flames; the heat of the fire facilitates the hatching of a new phoenix from an egg in the burning nest. 
In Betty’s vision, a familiar variant on the tale, a ‘worm’ (i.e., the fire-impervious salamander of myth) emerged from the ashes. At the same time two things seemed to be happening to her, both of which are wellestablished perinatal events: (1) she felt an intense shivering chill come over her, whereas a moment before she had complained of equally intense heat (alternating chills and hot flushes are common in Stage II narratives) (24); and (2) Betty described ‘the worst thing I’ve ever experienced… whatever that was that was going through my body – it felt like something piercing every cell in my body’. (25) Grof reports that Stage III subjects describe similar agony (26): 
  • The intensity of painful tension reaches a degree that appears to be far beyond what any human can bear… feelings of powerful currents of energy streaming through his whole body.
The evidence suggests that Betty’s phoenix owes more to BT imagery and the fact that she had read about the myth, than to a CE-III. The investigators were wise to be sceptical. Still, though her interpretation of the event was dubious, Betty’s descriptions here as throughout her experience seem truthful.
The fact is that abductees tend to tell the truth as they have experienced it, though this point is lost on professional UFO debunkers who seem obsessed by a need to ridicule the ETH and any UFO witnesses, but who show no capacity for helping us to understand the phenomenon. The substantial agreement of imagery and events among the 200 or so abductions and their parallels with BT imagery provide objective evidence that abductees generally speak truly, although actual events are something else again. In Betty’s case, the abduction was ‘real’ in that it had psychological validity for her. That fact gives investigators something quite real to go on.
It is beyond question that there are extensive similarities between perinatal imagery and UFO abduction narratives, as the presentation of parallels from both areas and an analysis of a prominent abduction have shown. It may be thought that there are reasons for these similarities which could still allow for a tenable physical hypothesis about UFO abductions, but one must then explain the similar parallels among the other abduction analogues. (.See Appendix III for visual imagery from some analogues.)
Whether or not perinatal events are the fundamental matrix for all the other analogues, it is clear that CE-III reports employ perinatal images and incidents and that abductions – whatever else they may be – are one of many possible expressions of revivified perinatal imagery and so have to do with inner rather than outer space.
There remain some apparent puzzles. Multiple witness abductions, for instance, have always seemed difficult to explain. Yet a careful reading of hypnotic transcripts indicates that most of the dual and multiple witness abductions in the literature are either incompletely investigated or lacking in independent corroboration. These cases include Betty Hill, Betty Andreasson, Hickson and Parker, Sandy Larson, Pat Roach, Judy Kendall, and the Garden Grove case (the last two I have researched personally.
The 1976 Liberty, Kentucky abduction is instructive, for it is one of the very few in which all the witnesses were extensively interviewed and hypnotically regressed. The transcripts of the three women involved reveal that each had a separate, subjective adventure rather than a consistently shared abduction experience. Thus their fascinating stories do not corroborate claims of abduction, although the probability of a shared hallucinatory close encounter of the first kind seems fairly high.
A number of multiple witness close encounters seem impressive. Cases such as the Kelly-Hopkinsville and Reverend Gill close encounters, and the first part of the Travis Walton case (a CE-II sighting of a brilliant light) typify ufology’s most formidable mysteries. Yet Allan Hendry’s discussion of identified flying objects reported as UFOs with great assurance by multiple witnesses (27) dramatizes some of the limitations of human judgement. We should be cautious about even the best cases.  If multiple witness CE-Ills exist, they may be explained by multiple hallucinations (such as folie a deux, imaginary companions, and mass hallucinations (28)), which are real if rare phenomena; and it is possible to see multiple witness CE-Ills such as the Andreasson case as hallucinatory in nature. We should remember that multiple witness testimony does not guarantee the physical reality of an event but merely its subjective psychological validity for the witnesses.
Even though we do not yet understand everything about multiple hallucinations, the probability that this obscure process plays a part in some CE-Ills seems more likely than the alternative speculations often repeated by credulous ufologists – that the similarities in imagery among abduction analogues stem either from mere chance or from the smartass aliens bent on confusing us!
Another traditional puzzle centres on physical effects CE-Ills. The problem here is not the absence of alleged physical evidence but its interpretation, for physical evidence is notoriously ambiguous – as anyone can appreciate who has followed the Turin Shroud controversy, or for that matter the century-long windmill-tilting over Darwin’s theory of evolution. The inescapable fact is that no abduction case has thus far presented unambiguous physical or physiological evidence which compels us to conclude that a UFO landed in that spot, or left that mark on the abducteeskin, or abducted that family.
I am speaking not of probabilities or possibilities but of certainties – such as the notorious ‘crashed saucers’ and Little Green Men would provide (if only they could be coaxed out of Hangar 18, or maybe Cloudland). One might object that unrealistic certainties are not necessary for theorizing about UFOs. But as a scientist/media-celebrity (and sometime UFO debunker) recently observed, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proofs; and he’s right.
We cannot yet explain what stimulates the sequence of visual imagery and events which makes up an abduction. That is the most provocative mysteryaabout CE-Ills. Our inability to explain the entire UFO abduction enigma, however, does not obscure the clear and reasonable inference that abductions are primarily a psychological phenomenon.
There are new mysteries: we do not know how perinatal images form in the foetus, nor how BT imagery is revivified with even partial accuracy during drug therapy, hypnosis, or in spontaneous waking sessions (as the few non-hypnotized abductees seem to have done). However, the readiness of hypnotized subjects to build an abduction fantasy on a base of perinatal experiences provides still another cautionary note about the use of hypnosis in UFO abductions. This caution would seem particularly necessary in investigations such as Betty Andreasson’s and the Garden Grove case (of which I have personal knowledge), where a witness was hypnotized repeatedly over several weeks by a group of investigators who were (however competent and earnest) perhaps too credulous. Repeated hypnosis sessions are suspect in that they invite elaboration and fabrication which can be encouraged by feedback questions from investigators, past and current reading by the witness, and the ego-massage situation posed by a professional investigative group and a lone abductee with a wild tale to tell to eager ears.

Summary & Conclusions

This paper has attempted to show that UFO ‘abductees’ unconsciously use major components of the birth process as a matrix for a fantasized abduction experience. Many abduction/BT parallels are obvious: the foetus, taken from warmth and comfort and subjected to prolonged distress in the birth ‘tunnel’, emerges into a strange world with bright lights, unconfined spaces, ‘entities’, an ‘examination’, and various sensory stimuli.
Similarly, ‘abductees’ are levitated through a tunnel of light into a UFO’s vast, brilliant interior where alien creatures examine and probe their bodies, often painfully. Additional parallels include such staples of CE-Ill reports as a loss of time, absurd events, womblike rooms, umbilical pain, sexual seduction, and a sense of ineffability about the experience. There are many, many others. Again, the dominant entity type described in both CE-III and BT narratives is humanoid, and closely resembles a foetus or embryo. The birth process is so idiosyncratic and various that no two CE-III narratives are ever exactly alike – though all are very similar. Thus this research successfully explains how two different abduction ‘victims’ can sometimes recall virtually identical experiences, and also accounts for minor inconsistencies among such narratives.
It is important to realize that anyone can revivify their own BT events in the presence of an appropriate stimulus (i.e., hypnosis, drugs, or apparently even the UFO phenomenon), with the revivification taking the form of a hallucination, a religious experience, a UFO abduction, or any other abduction analoque. Inasmuch as a subject’s perinatal experiences may include random data from hallucinatory, remembered, and fantasized imagery as well, it is clear that researchers should use hypnotically derived data with caution.
There remain many unanswered questions about abduction reports, but ufological research into BT revivifications as well as multiple hallucinations, fugues and similar psychological phenomena is likely to provide answers.
Three points are emphasized in this paper: First, birth-trauma imagery originates in witnesses’ perinatal history and associated psychological experiences rather than in abductions, and so the presence of BT images invalidates any CE-III narrative in part or whole. Second, BT imagery thus provides a criterion with which investigators can separate hoaxes, subjective fantasies, and other earthbound data from any putatively real abduction by alien creatures. (Henceforth, to be credible, abduction accounts may have to avoid obvious BT imagery such as bright lights, tunnels, big rooms, foetal humanoids, physical examinations, retracting beams, etc. However, few if any non-BT abduction narratives presently exist, and I suspect I know why…)
The final point is equally significant: the birth trauma hypothesis is testable. The presence or absence of BT/CE-III data parallels, and therefore the validity of the BT thesis, can be determined in a variety of ways:
 1. Abductees’ birth and medical histories can be explored through interviews with witnesses and their families. If any abductees who report Stage III-IV data such as dismemberment, head pressure, or relief were Caesareans (and thus unlikely to have experienced later perinatal phenomena), doubt would be cast on the BT theory. If no such abductees were found to be Caesareans, the BT theory would be strengthened. Further, medical histories, especially hospitalizations, can be scrutinized for poss`ble data parallels with images and eyents described during alleged examinations and related treatment by supposed aliens.
2. Abductee’s narrative reports can be searched word-by-word for BT imagery and events (as was done with the Andreasson case above). Narrative details may become relevant only after a BT analysis: one abductee saif she had to ‘turn sideways’ in order to wedge her shoulders through her UFO’s doorway (29), a possible echo of foetal rotation during birth; another witness reported being held fast by a jointed metallic ‘clamp’ which then twisted him, hurting his back (30), suggesting a forceps-aided delivery.
3. Other BT/CE-III parallels may be uncovered through hypnotic revivification of witnesses’ perinatal histories. If performed professionally and interpreted cautiously, hypnosis can provide a useful investigative tool for abduction researchers.
The birth trauma hypothesis of the origin of fallacious UFO abduction reports is one of the very few ‘falsifiable’ hypotheses which have ever been proposed about this most sensational segment of the UFO phenomenon. If ufology is ever to become a truly scientific discipline, viable hypotheses will have to be offered – and also tested. In this instance, serious and objective investigators should inform themselves about perinatal events or else use hypnotherapists or others experience in birth trauma recall. Although verifying abductees’ medical and birth histories should be relatively easy, other BT data may be more difficult to find or prove; however, the attempt should be made.
One possible additional value of such data is that a causal relationship could thus be determined between distinct events of the birth process and specific revivification imagery, something which Grof’s experiments were unable to provide.
The subject of UFO abductions is intriguing to the public for the same reason that almost any scientific body (no doubt thinking ‘funding’) is apathetic: both groups, in different ways, link abduction stories with the idea of Little Green Men. But these groups’ attitudes might reverse if abductions were identified instead only with interesting (and perhaps fundable) clinical psychological problems such as multiple hallucinations, fugues, or other altered states of consciousness. Whatever the nature of daylight discs, night-lights and other close-encounter aspects of the UFO phenomenon, abductions seem to yield to a psychological research approach.
It seems to me that, until the abduction witness’s psychology is made the main focus of investigation in CE-III cases, and the ET and other fantastic hypotheses are allowed to await whatever extraordinary proofs might be their destiny, abduction researchers won’t attract – nor will they deserve – serious and widespread scientific attention.
  1. GROF, Stanislav, M.D., Realms of the Human Unconscious (New York 1975), pp.96-98
  2. GROF, pp. 197-198
  3. I was given this information by a professional clinician with extensive experience in experimental and medical drugtherapy programmes
  4. SCHWARZ, Berthold E., ‘UFOs: Delusion or Dilemma’, Medical Times (New Jersey) 96:10 (1968) p. 967
  5. LAWSON, Alvin H., ‘Hypnosis of Imaginary UFO abductees’, in Proceedings of the First International UFO Congress (New York 1980), pp. 195-238.
  6. GROF, pp. 104-138.
  7. GROF, p. 146.
  8. GROF, p. 109.
  9. GROF, p. 98
  10. Information for this section was supplied by the following: Blechschmidt, Eric, Beginnings of Life (New York 1977); Davies, Jack, Human Developmental Anatomy (New York 1963); Moore, Keith L., The Developing Human (Philadelphia 1977); Tuchmann-Deplessis, H., et al., Illustrated Human Embryology, Vol I (New York 1972)
  11. GROF, pp.158-161 and 191-193.
  12. GROF, pp. 191 ff..
  13. GROF, pp. 192-193.
  14. GROF, p. 159
  15. JUNG, C.G., Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies (New York 1959), pp. 30 ff.
  16. FOWLER, Raymond E., The Andreasson Affair (New Jersey 1979), p. 59; and FULLER, John, The Interrupted Journey (New York 1966), pp. 195-196.
  17. FOWLER, pp. 126-128 and p. 182 18. GROF, p. 105.
  18. FOWLER, p. 180; the Garden Grove case is complex and extensive, but two references should suffice: my ‘Hypnotic Regressions of Alleged CE-III Encounters’, in Proceedings of the 1976 CUFOS Conference (Chicago 1977), pp. 141-151; and DE HERRERA, John, The Etherean Invasion (Los Alamitos, Calif., 1978)
  19. GROF, p. 142
  20. GROF, p. 141.
  21. FOWLER, p.60.
  22. GROF, p. 131.
  23. GROF, p. 121.
  24. FOWLER, p.202.
  25. GROF, p. 124.
  26. HENDRY, A., UFO Handbook (New York 1979), pp. 191 ff.
  27. See SIEGEL, R.K., ‘Hallucinations’, Scientific American (Oct. 1977), pp.132-140; SIEGEL, R.K., ‘Normal Hallucinations of Imaginary Companions’, Maclean Hospital Journal (II, 2, 1977), pp. 66-80; and SIEGEL, R.K. and WEST, L.J., eds., Hallucina tions; Behaviour, Experpience and Theory (New York 1975)
  28. DRUFFEL, A. and ROGO, S., Tujunga Canyon Contacts (New Jersey 1980), pp. 47-48
  29. HOPKINS, B., Missing Time  (New York 1981), pp. 77 ff.
CEIII Case References
  • Andreasson – FOWLER, R., The Andreasson Affair (New Jersey 1979)
  •  A.V.B. – CREIGHTON, G., in BOWEN, C., ed., The Humanoids (Chicago 1969)
  •  Contactees – A comprehensive study of contactee cases by G. Melton is in press.
  •  Garden Grove – LAWSON, A., ‘Hypnotic Regressions of Alleged CE-III Encounters’ in Proceedings of the 1976 CUFOS Conference (Chicago 1977); also, DEHERRERA, J., The Etherean Invasion (Los Alamitos, Calif., 1978)
  •  Higdon – SPRINKLE, L., in LORENZEN, C. Abducted! (New York 1977)
  •  Hill – FULLER, J., The Interrupted Journey (New York 1966)
  •  Hopkins – cf. HOPKINS, B., Missing Time (New York 1981)
  •  Imaginary – cf. LAWSON, A., ‘Hypnosis of Imaginary UFO Abductees’, in Proceedings of the First International UFO Congress (New York 1980), pp. 195-238
  •  Kendall – SLATE, B.  The Kendall Abduction’, UFO Report (Dec. 1979)
  •  Kurz – ‘The Shane Kurz’ case is described by HOLZER, H. in The Ufonauts, (Fawcett 1976)
  •  Larson – CLARK, J. in ROGO, S., ed., UFO Abductions.  (New York 1980)
  •  Liberty, Kentucky – See C. & J. LORENZEN, Abducted! (New York 1977), pp. 114-131
  •  Reverend Gill – Flying Saucer Review, Special Issue No. 4(August 1971) -
  •  Sigismonde – (Investigator’s name) in International UFO Reporter (Oct. 1977), pp. 4-7
  •  Silviera – FSR, Vol. 17, No. 6 (1972) pp. 2729
  •  South Africa – FAILL, B. in ROGO,S., ed., UFO Abductions
  •  Spaur – BLUM, R., Beyond Earth (New York 1974)
  •  Walton – WALTON, T., The Walton Experience (New York 1978)