The X Files. Alien. E.T.. Films and TV shows like these about extra-terrestrials are so popular and so successful that they’ve become deeply embedded in our collective culture. And for as long as we’ve been enjoying scary movies about alien lifeforms, people have been claiming that they’ve had real-life contact with other-worldly beings, often in violent and traumatic abductions.
But what should we make of these claims? How can we explain them and why are they so common?
Before we jump into these questions, here are some of the creepy first-hand accounts from people who say they’ve been abducted by aliens:
1. The Montana encounters
Sheila Young, who works as a preschool carer in Troy, Montana, says she and her family were abducted by aliens – and that it was “the most horrific experience” of her life.
The 53-year-old told me: “In the fall of 1989 me, my then husband and our three children were abducted and terrorised every night for six months. My children, who are now grown, all suffer still from PTSD from our experience.”
She explained: “We lived on eight acres in a semi-remote location in northwest Montana when our abductions began. I believe the incidents started in October, it was Fall for sure because it really negatively affected my then husband while he was hunting.
“It was the most horrific and terrorising experience I have encountered to this day. My husband and three children were playing family games in our home when my husband and I saw a streak of fire shooting across the sky. We went outside and saw whatever it was seemed to have crashed or fallen from the sky on the upper part of our land. We investigated the next day as it was too dark at that time to see anything. We did notice the tree tops seemed to be burnt but we found no evidence of anything that had fallen or crashed.
“The next evening was a normal evening for us and we put the children to bed and my husband and I turned in for the evening. Around 3am, we were awoken by bright lights coming through our entire house and we were both keenly aware that we were being watched.”
Recalling what she says was her encounter with the extra-terrestrials, Sheila added: “I have a scar where I remember being hooked to some sort of TV monitor night after night with hundreds of other humans.
“Those days and hours are etched in our memories. We did report the incidents to our pastor who came and did a house blessing, which seemed to help.”
2. The vein invasion
And Sheila’s not the only person to have shared her story. On Reddit, user SynodicOracle wrote: “I had an awful experience that I know can’t have been a nightmare because I keep getting flashbacks and feel sick with fear when I remember.
“I woke up, there were people surrounding me. Or things. I can’t remember what they looked like. I screamed and ran to my mum’s room, but she couldn’t hear me. When I pulled the cover from her head, nobody was there. Everything sort of melted around me.”
The story goes on: “There was a cannula in my hand, and there was a white fluid in a syringe. I screamed and they then put it into me through the cannula. It hurt so much, it felt like I was burning inside and I remember the pain. I almost blacked out with the pain. I felt smoke in my throat and it tasted acidic and thick.
“I pushed my way out of this tube and I ran. I kept on running. They held me down and put more of this liquid in me. The pain almost killed me. Then I blacked out and was back in my room. All night I tossed and turned in pain and I realised my voice had totally been silenced, the thick smoke in my throat muffled my voice. I screamed to them to take it out.
“I did not wake up until 16:00 in the afternoon and my mum had to wake me up since it was so late. The veins in my hand are sticking out and I feel itching and stinging pain inside my fingers. I took painkillers but nothing helped.”
3. The seven-foot alien creatures
Another Redditor, Ashjr97, also shared his experience of what he says was alien contact.
The user said: “When I was young, about four or five, I had my experience. Up until a few years ago I thought it was a dream because It was a very vague memory but throughout the years it keeps getting clearer.
“Here is what I can remember as of now: I remember me as a child. I’m on this table it was like a slab in the middle of an all-white room and the room was extremely bright. I was in an outfit that reminds me of a hospital gown and I can’t move my body or head I can only look around with my eyes.
“Suddenly the door opens, it was like an automatic door. Behind the door it is all white as well and suddenly these two people are in the door way. They were very tall (probably around seven foot or so), extremely thin, and pure black so I couldn’t make out any features.
“I’ve dealt with strange things all my life. Scars magically appearing on my body, bruises I wake up with, etc.”
So what should we think about these stories?
The idea that aliens could exist might not be as far-fetched as it first appears. Acclaimed scientist Professor Stephen Hawking is part of a $100 million project to search for signals from alien civilizations, called Breakthrough Listen. According to their website: “The Breakthrough Initiatives are a program of scientific and technological exploration, probing the big questions of life in the Universe: Are we alone? Are there habitable worlds in our galactic neighborhood? Can we make the great leap to the stars? And can we think and act together – as one world in the cosmos?”
And you can read Hawking’s lecture on the possibility of alien life here.
However, other academics have proposed much more earthly explanations for ‘alien abductions’.
In 2008, a Columbia University psychoanalyst published the paper ‘Alien Abduction: A Medical Hypothesis’ which suggested that “accidental awareness under general anesthesia” – in which a patient wakes up on the table during surgery – might lie behind stories of alien abduction, according to the Scientific American. Analyst David Forrest discussed the similarities between the traditional alien abduction scenario and people’s experience in the operating room.
Another theory that could explain stories of alien abduction is the phenomenon called ‘dreaming with your eyes wide open’. This occurs when people awaken from a dream but experience full-body paralysis, leading them to experience hallucinations like flashing lights, according to the Harvard Gazette.
Finally, stories about alien encounters could be linked to religion and people’s experience with spirituality. As historian George Basalla said in his 2006 work ‘Civilized Life in the Universe’: “The idea of the superiority of celestial beings is neither new nor scientific. It is a widespread and old belief in religious thought.”