Alien Abduction is a Special Dream Phenomenon with Anomalous Physical Effects

 Research Article 


Alien abduction is a special type of dream phenomenon with anomalous physical effects. The most influential definition was published as the UFO Abduction Syndrome in Unusual Personal Experiences (Mack et al., 1992), a booklet sent by Bigelow Holding Corporation to 100,000 mental health professionals and a basis for the literary success of abduction literature by Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack in the 1990s. Dreams and hypnosis were essential to the UFO Abduction Syndrome definition, yet no abduction researcher backing the ET hypothesis in the 1990s referenced scientific literature regarding sleep and dreams in their definitive works (see Table 1). While mainstream science argues that abduction is no more than sleep paralysis or fantasy proneness, this paper argues that it is a unique type of dream with anomalous physical effects, therefore blurs the conventional boundaries of dream and reality. This paper supports this position through several methods including a literature analysis of the UFO Abduction Syndrome authors’ references to sleep and dream science, a demonstration of similarity between dreams, abduction, and hypnosis based upon scientific findings, and a consideration of anomalous evidence used to support the UFO Abduction Syndrome hypothesis in the context of dream studies. Several common challenges and misconceptions regarding the argument are considered. This paper presents testable hypotheses with references to relevant experiment designs for scientific validity testing of the thesis that abductions are a special type of dream.


This paper is an argumentative essay intended to convince the reader that alien abductions are a special type of dreams, which may be the subject of valid science. The topic is particularly complex because of misinformation regarding UFOs, biases against consciousness-primary systems and means of knowledge, and the strangeness of the abduction experience itself (see Vallee, 1977 regarding the complexity of UFO cover-ups). Testimony and research into alien abduction is characterized by a confusion between dreams and reality, such as Peter Faust from Mack’s Abduction (1994) who claimed he first thought of his experience like a dream until Mack hypnotized him to accept the belief that space aliens kidnapped him to perform fantastic and traumatic sexual acts upon a spacecraft (OWN, 2019). It may be argued that all abduction testimony is questionable because hypnosis is essential to the UFO Abduction Syndrome definition (Mack et a., 1992) and hypnosis, or even interview techniques, may induce false memories (Oeberst et al., 2021). 

Given the confusion and strangeness of abduction, I will adopt the perspective that academic and scientific literature is representative of the abduction phenomenon in general, therefore I may limit my focus to only literature that presents references lists or bibliographies. In addition to providing citations, I will introduce and justify my use of the specific reference within the context of my argument, for example the Unusual Personal Experiences booklet is essential to the history of abduction, but is generally unavailable and unknown, therefore this essay will take time to introduce it. While some researchers suggest that abduction is beyond reason (see Mack, 1994 for apt discussion on nonduality in abduction research), I say that we may come to strong conclusions through literature arguments based in dream, sleep, hypnosis, and memory science that are set within logical arguments, which can produce scientifically testable hypotheses.

What is alien abduction? The first consideration of any literature argument is definitions. There are a wide range of ideas, hypotheses, and definitions of alien abduction. Since this argument is concerned with scientific and academic literature, we will begin with a definition of alien abduction offered in the book Varieties of Anomalous Experiences, which was first published in 2000 and updated in 2014 by the American Psychological Association (APA), therefore is perhaps the most academically grounded definition. It was edited by a team of experts including notable dream researcher Krippner and hypnosis researcher Lynn (Cardeña et al., 2014). Its chapter on abduction experiences (Appelle et al., 2014) was written by long-time experts on abduction including Appelle, who wrote a review article of abductions in 1996, Lynn, who is a prolific hypnosis researcher, and Newman, who wrote on false memory and abductions in 1996. In the chapter’s section on definitions, the 1992 UFO Abduction Syndrome in Unusual Personal Experiences was the first and only credulous definition of abduction. The chapter authors pointed out that the definition may be explained as sleep paralysis hallucinations, which Harvard researcher Clancy (2005) confirmed were essential to abductions experiences.

The Varieties of Anomalous Experiences chapter on abductions provides a map for the landscape of abduction research. The chapter identified Unusual Personal Experiences as the primary source for the original definition and prevalence rates of alien abduction. Hopkins, a modern artist turned abduction researcher and hypnosis trainer, and Jacobs, a Temple University history professor and amateur hypnotist, were identified as primary authors for the abduction hypothesis, primarily through their definition of the UFO Abduction Syndrome, which cited their earlier work like Hopkins’s 1981 Missing Time or Jacobs’s 1992 Secret Life. Mack, a Harvard professor of psychiatry, is identified as a proponent of the ET hypothesis, particularly through his 1994 Abduction. Bullard, a folklore professor, is identified as the authority on the common features of abductions due to his 1987 UFO Abductions folklore study. The chapter offers ten theories of abductions ranging from hoaxes to the ET hypothesis. All but the ET hypothesis asserted that abductions were misidentifications like hoaxes, false memory, or sleep paralysis hallucinations. 

UFO Abduction Syndrome is the influential definition of abduction

Unusual Personal Experiences published the definition of the UFO Abduction Syndrome in a booklet composed of sections written by different authors. The booklet has a foreword and afterword by Bigelow, the publisher and a funder of the text. The heart of the booklet is a survey report by the Roper Organization that presents data regarding 11 questions posed to nearly 6,000 people. The questions were hypothesized to be indicators of the UFO Abduction Syndrome, as defined and interpreted by Hopkins, Jacobs, and Westrum. Mack introduced the booklet from a clinical perspective. Carpenter, a mental health professional, added his testimony that abductions are real and that clinicians should seriously consider them. While Westrum and Carpenter have contributed to the history of abduction research, this essay will focus on Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack because of their continued research and publications on abduction.

Mack clearly provided clinical recommendations using his Harvard psychiatry and M.D. credentials. He identified nightmares as an essential symptom of the syndrome, as well as affirmed that clinicians should be educated about the syndrome so that they may be able to provide adequate care, implying that hypnosis is the recommended intervention for abduction. In this quote, Mack outlines the symptoms of the UFO Abduction Syndrome:

Above all, mental health clinicians should learn to recognize the most common symptoms and indications in the patient or client’s history that they are dealing with an abduction case. These include fears of the dark and of nightfall; nightmares, especially containing repetitive accounts of being taken by threatening figures inside a craft or enclosure; other fears or phobic symptoms (which may later prove to be related to an aspect of the abduction experience) that seem unrelated to what is otherwise known of the patient’s life; a history of small beings or a presence around the patient’s bed as a child, adolescent or adult; reports of unexplained missing time episodes; the appearance for no apparent reason of small cuts, scars or odd red spots; encounters with strange intense light, or even close-up sightings of oddly shaped craft. (p. 8).

Hopkins, Jacobs, and Westrum define the UFO Abduction Syndrome in terms of dreams and hypnosis. In their abstract, they write:

The result of an ostensible UFO abduction are symptoms akin to post-traumatic stress, with subjects reporting diffuse anxieties, disturbing dreams, sleep disturbances and imagery related to the abduction experience. UFO abduction memories may be as unacceptable to the subject or therapist, or both, so eliciting them may require additional effort. (p. 9.)

The authors then describe a typical abduction case, identifying strange dreams as the primary symptom and hypnosis the primary means of knowledge regarding the event:

These patients might also have dreams or vague remembrances of such images as hospital operating rooms, bright lights, huge-eyed alien beings, or even “impossible” animals such as very large owls or spiders. Careful questioning -especially under hypnosis -may reveal that these patients have specific memories of having been immobilized by impassive alien beings who remove them, typically from a car or home, and then transport them into a UFO. (p. 10-11).

Both Mack and the UFO Abduction Syndrome authors asserted that the abductee is a powerless victim, consistent with a naive interpretation of the sleep paralysis experience. Mack asserted that the fact an abductee could not prevent their recurrent abduction, or their children’s abduction, is a primary source of trauma (p. 7). Hopkins, Jacobs, and Westrum asserted that hypnosis may elucidate memories and awareness of abduction, but that nothing could bring about the cessation of abduction (p. 15). However, if abduction is similar in kind to recurrent nightmares and sleep paralysis, then simple interventions like education, mindful breathing, and image reversal therapy may stop abductions (see Hensen et al., 2013 or Rauf et al., 2023).

Survey of UFO Abduction Syndrome’s reference to dream and sleep literature

Our reading of the UFO Abduction Syndrome definition in Unusual Personal Experiences demonstrated that dreams, sleep, and hypnosis are essential to abduction research and the ET hypothesis. While Varieties of Anomalous Experiences indicates that the definition of the UFO Abduction Syndrome in Unusual Personal Experiences is important, its full significance may be demonstrated through several facts. First, the definition appeared to be clinical in nature because a) it was introduced by John Mack using his Harvard psychiatry credentials, b) it offered therapy recommendations, and c) it was mailed to 100,000 mental health professionals and used as the basis for conferences with professionals around the US by the Bigelow Holding Corporation. It must be noted that Bigelow later said on the Joe Rogan (PowerfulJRE, 2021) podcast that he was motivated by “silly dreams”, as he called them, from his childhood of little men in his room, which he connected to abduction research. Second, the document was used by Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack to bolster their best-selling abduction book careers, such as through Mack’s reference to the booklet in his 1994 Oprah appearance (OWN, 2019). Third, it defined abduction in terms of dreams and hypnosis in such a way to expose it to criticism regarding hypnotic false memories (Lynn and Kirsh, 1996) and sleep paralysis (Blackmore, 1996). However, it must be emphasized that criticisms of hypnosis in general and the specific assertion that UFO abductions were textbook sleep paralysis hallucinations existed in the literature before the publication of Unusual Personal Experiences in 1992, as demonstrated by Baker’s 1990 book They Call It Hypnosis. In order for the UFO Abduction Syndrome and abduction research to be considered science, its proponents need to argue against the sleep paralysis and hypnotic false memories arguments using literature or research based statements. 

Have abduction researchers referenced sleep and dream research literature as one would expect scientific and scholarly research to do? The entire premise of the ET hypothesis and the UFO Abduction Syndrome is based on the discernment that dreams and dreamlike events were “real” and not dreams. We can look at Mack’s behavior as representative of all UFO Abduction Syndrome researchers because he had the highest regarded scientific credentials. When Mack publicized his 1994 book Abduction on the Oprah Winfrey Show, he brought three experiencers to offer testimony related to strange encounters that happened around bedtime or in sleep and sometimes involved paralysis. Oprah spent most of the interview disambiguating their testimony from dreams, which provoked Mack to reference the claims published in Unusual Personal Experiences. 

We first need to define a standard of awareness one would expect of researchers in order to assess the scientific references in abduction research to dream and sleep studies. The International Association of the Study of Dreams published ethical guidelines for people who work with dreams (IASD, n.d.). The ethics guidelines indicate that practitioners should have basic knowledge of related fields like psychology or medicine and that they should keep their knowledge up to date. The guidelines expect that a practitioner is exposed to multiple systems and techniques of working with dreams, including historical and cross cultural perspectives. Practitioners should be able to demonstrate they have done significant work with their own dreams. They explicitly state that the practitioner should be acquainted with “at least some of the aboriginal and non-European traditions that view dreaming as means of communion with realms of spirit” (IASD, n.d.). Therefore, one would expect the abduction researchers to reference sleep and dream literature from medical, anthropological, or psychological journals.

I surveyed the reference list of ten books or articles that were influential in abduction research. I selected the first major abduction book from each UFO Abduction Syndrome author, like Abduction for Mack and Secret Life for Jacobs. I included a book and an article from Clancy, a skeptical researcher from Harvard who explored sleep paralysis and false memories. Similarly, I included a book and an article from Marden, who is the niece of one of the most famous abduction cases, the Hills. Marden is the only researcher who writes about the ET hypothesis and references research regarding sleep and dreams. I included Vallee and Fuller to provide a historic context. Finally, I included Shaw’s Memory Illusion (2016) because it is a recent scholarly book about false memories, although it does not specifically deal with abduction. I counted the number of times the word “dream” was mentioned to demonstrate that dreams are related to abduction research. I counted the number of references in their bibliographies or reference lists that were scholarly publications about sleep or dreams, meaning that the reference in turn included a reference list or bibliography and were published in scholarly journals or books. 

Table 1 presents the results of the literature survey of abduction researchers about dreams and sleep science. Within the credulous publications, I counted only 10 out of 313 references involving sleep or dreams. However, Marden’s 2022 article on sleep paralysis contains 8 references to sleep and dreams, therefore skews the survey of abduction research since it is so recent. Removing her article from the survey yields only two out of 301 references. Within skeptical publications, I counted 24 out of 373 references that reference sleep or dreams. It appears that around 6.5% of the skeptical research’s references involved sleep and dreams, while only around 0.5% of credulous research referenced sleep and dream literature. One reference occurred in Mack’s 1994 Abduction to Eliade’s 1957 Myths, Dreams and Mysteries, which is not representative of contemporary dream or sleep science. The other reference occurred in Marden’s Extraterrestrial Contact to Blackmore’s skeptical criticism of Unusual Personal Experiences in her 1996 Skeptical Inquirer article that suggested sleep paralysis could explain the UFO Abduction Syndrome. To be fair, I counted 4 references to publications with dream in their title in Mack’s Passport to the Cosmos bibliography, as well as multiple references to publications on out of body experience (OBE), near death experience (NDE), and shamanism, which are associated with dreams, although I did not count references to quantitative or experimental studies regarding sleep or dreams.

In summary, my survey supports the argument that abduction research is actually misidentified dream research, therefore is subject to the ethics and epistemology of dream work. The logical argument is as follows:

  1. The UFO Abduction Syndrome definition in Unusual Personal Experiences influenced all published abduction research about the ET hypothesis.
  2. It defined abduction in terms of dreams, sleep disturbances, and hypnosis.
  3. One would expect scientific and scholarly conclusions to be based upon scientific and scholarly research literature.
  4. None of the UFO Abduction Syndrome authors referenced dream studies or sleep science in their first books on the subject.
  5. Therefore, all abduction research derivative of the UFO Abduction Syndrome or its authors may be pseudoscientific dream research.

It is important to evaluate abduction claims within the context of a defined field of study, in this case, I am proposing that dream studies is the most appropriate context to study the UFO Abduction Syndrome because of the essential role of dreams in its definition. Using logic and literature to review abduction claims is necessary because each individual case or claim may appear compelling or sufficient. There are easily thousands of abduction claims, which would be impossible to individually evaluate. At this point in my research, I no longer consider abduction research to be scientific unless it references dreams studies or sleep science because dreams and sleep are essential to its definition. Additionally, I specifically look for evidence that the experiencer can discern between various phases of consciousness and is aware of multiple types of dreams, otherwise I assume that they may be unaware of dream and sleep science.

Abduction hypnosis as dream interpretation

All the UFO Abduction Syndrome researchers used hypnotically derived testimony regarding fragmentary memories that their subjects initially thought of as dreams. Faust’s testimony on Oprah in 1994 demonstrated that one of Mack’s central cases of Abduction thought of his experience like a dream until Mack hypnotized him (OWN, 2019). Hopkins noted in Missing Time that many of his subjects initially thought of their experience like a dream (1981) and even included hypnotic testimony where a subject asserted about their abduction “that it was just a bad dream” until Hopkins questioned her about drops of blood (p. 100). Similarly, Jacobs (1992) described how he began his abduction research in Secret Life with a case that was dreamlike, which said helped him learn how to distinguish fantasy from reality in the hypnotic session, although he has not provided literary evidence he was aware of dream science.

The hypnotic training of the abduction hypnotists Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack was questionable. Baker’s 1990 They Call It Hypnotism was a scholarly book with dozens of references to scientific literature relevant to hypnosis, memory, dream, and fantasy. In contrast, Hopkins, Jacobs, and Macks books on abduction do not provide scholarly references to these topics even though they provide references to UFO topics or other fields of study. Both Mack and Jacobs dedicated their books to Hopkins and received training from the artist turned hypnotist. All researchers asserted that care needed to be taken with hypnosis to avoid leading questions and to discern the reality of the testimony. They asserted that they could accurately discern reality from fantasy in hypnotic testimony because of their experience as working with abductees.

If the popular conception of UFO Abduction Syndrome and the ET hypothesis rely directly upon the hypnosis experience of Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack, what exactly was their training and education in hypnosis? According to Secret Life, Jacobs was mostly self-taught in hypnosis after an initial training with Hopkins, notably hypnotizing his first subject on his own without supervision. Likewise Mack appeared to use techniques directly from Hopkins with his Abduction (1994) subjects, then developed a modified hypnosis or light relaxation technique based upon an interpretation of Grof’s a nascent version of Holotropic Breathwork, which he described in Passport to the Cosmos (1999). 

Since none of these authors referenced scientific literature about hypnosis in their books, we must assume that Hopkins was the primary source for hypnosis education and training. Hopkins worked with a psychologist to perform hypnosis until around 1985 when he performed his own sessions (Jacobs, 1992). Clamar worked with Hopkins for two years before writing the afterword to Missing Time, in which she described her hypnosis practice. While she did not describe her training, her writing disclosed several relevant facts. First, after spending over 50 hours in hypnosis with UFO experiencers, she was unable to determine whether it was real or fantasy. Second, she could find no pathology with the experiencers. Third, she described her technique, “I began what I came to think of as the ‘build-your-own-cloud’ exercise, using standard progressive relaxation and deepening techniques to induce hypnosis” (p. 241). Her technique is similar to other hypnosis techniques that I have studied or used. Fourth, she hypothesized that missing time may be caused by the repression of traumatic events, which is relieved through hypnosis. This last fact is important because it is literary evidence that the only trained clinical hypnotherapist involved with the training of Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack seriously put forward notions congruent with the myth of repressed memory (see Loftus, 1994).

The only other fact that characterizes the abduction researchers’ hypnosis training is that every author referenced Fuller’s Interrupted Journey, which tells the story of Betty and Barney Hills’ famous abduction. The tale involved UFOs, strange dreams, and hypnosis. It established the pattern that Clamar echoed in Missing Time, which is the participation of a clinician who testified to their inability to discern fantasy from reality in the cases. Simon, the Hills’ hypnotist, testified that he thought of their hypnosis sessions like a shared dream (Robinson, 2020). The Hills and those who popularized their stories made strong discernments about its reality, even though the trained professional would not. Simon’s hypnosis experience was derived from his career as a psychiatrist for a veteran’s hospital, in which he applied “truth serums” and an aggressive form of hypnosis to provide efficient therapy for their overwhelming numbers of traumatized veterans. 

Our review of the first books of Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack demonstrated that they all used a form of hypnotic inquiry developed by Hopkins in combination with Clamar, which was inspired by Simon’s use of hypnosis with the Hills. I have provided literary evidence that the clinically trained hypnotists, Clamar and Simon, would not affirm the veridicality of the hypnotic testimony. In contrast, the first books of the abduction hypnotists all contain passages that deal with discerning reality from dreamlike memories and hypnosis sessions. The very existence of abductology as a field of research is evidence that Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack were so confident in their abilities as hypnotists and dream interpreters that they ignored the entire field of the scientific study of hypnosis and dreams in their reference lists and bibliographies. Therefore, I conclude that the hypnosis practice Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack was pseudoscientific at best and may constitute unethical dream research.

Are Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack trustworthy hypnotists? No, they are priests of high strangeness

The very existence of abductology as a science relies upon the personal capacities of Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack to discern fantasy from reality in hypnotic testimony. Mack presented Faust’s testimony, which scientists might call “sleep paralysis hallucinations” because it involved paralysis and fantastic beings around the bed associated with sleep, as evidence for the claim that space aliens kidnapped Faust from his bed to perform fantastic and trauma sexual acts. Skeptical scientists like Blackmore (1996) referenced sleep, dream, and memory science. When Oprah questioned Mack about the dreamlike nature of Faust’s testimony, Mack made arguments based upon a) claims made in Unusual Personal Experience and b) his capacity as a psychiatrist to discern reality from fantasy, delusion, or dreams. While it may exist somewhere, I have yet to find a response from any UFO Abduction Syndrome author that comments on dream, sleep, memory, or hypnosis research at similar rates as the skeptical authors. Marden is the only ET hypothesis abduction researcher who referenced scientific literature related to dreams, sleep, hypnosis, and memory (see 2022 for an essay with multiple references to dream and sleep research literature), but most of her publications happened after the implosion of abductology was announced in 2011 by skeptics (Sheaffer, 2011).

Can we trust Hopkins, Jacobs, and Mack regarding hypnosis, dreams, and memories? We must assume that they are largely uninformed about dream, sleep, hypnosis, and memory science because they do not reference scholarly publications about these topics even though they reference other topics. Additionally, controversy surrounded each researcher. Rainey’s 2011 article Priests of High Strangeness documented interactions between Jacobs, Hopkins, and their clients that clearly demonstrated both researchers could not discern fantasy from reality, violated ethics, and exhibited other problematic behavior. The testimony was so damning that skeptics announced that “abductology implodes” (Sheaffer, 2011). Mack had his own controversy that was documented in a PBS Nova program (PBS, n.d.), which told the story of Bassett who infiltrated his group and presented a fictional testimony in hypnosis to test Mack’s discernment. While it may exist, I have not yet seen an adequate response regarding Rainey’s article in defense of Hopkins, Jacobs, or, by implication, Mack. The John E Mack Institute published a blog post about the article (JEMI, 2011), along with testimony from one of Hopkins’s central cases that the ET hypothesis was not essential to her story, suggesting that even credulous abductees and ET hypothesis perspectives believe Rainey’s accusations have credibility. 

The argument against abduction hypnosis as a valid means of knowledge is compelling, based on these facts:

  • The UFO Abduction Syndrome authors do not reference scientific literature regarding dreams, hypnosis, memory, and sleep.
  • The researchers were not clinically trained in hypnosis.
  • They supported the ET hypothesis based on their self-taught and self-assessed capacity to discern reality from fantasy in hypnotic testimonies.
  • All clinical influences on the researchers refused to make the discernment that the hypnotic testimony was “real” and not dreams.
  • Rainey discredited Hopkins and Jacobs by providing documentation of their inability to discern fantasy from reality in hypnotic testimony.
  • Mack’s discernment is called into question by Bassett’s testimony on Nova.

Therefore, any conclusion based upon the hypnotic testimony or the UFO Abduction Syndrome researchers may be questioned because its means of knowledge are questionable. While I have raised significant concerns regarding the validity of the UFO Abduction Syndrome and ET hypnosis, I will ultimately argue that hypnotic testimony and the interpretations or discernment of the abduction researchers is meaningful and regards real entities and events. Rainey called the researchers “priests of high strangeness”, suggesting that they were inventing something like a religion. I argue that the characterization is apt based upon the example of dream shamanism, which is a traditional way of relating with the reality of dreams and the entities within them. Ultimately, I will argue that we may resolve all the problems and paradoxes of UFO abduction hypnosis simply by shifting our language away from “memory” and towards “dream”.

Biases regarding dreams and reality

It may be argued that the fundamental question of abduction research was: is the abduction experience real or a dream? While I am arguing against hypnosis as a valid means of memory retrieval and the abduction narrative as a veridical worldview, I must testify to the reality of the anomalous physical effects of abduction and the reality of the abduction experience. There is something very real happening with abduction that may not be reduced to simply sleep paralysis or hallucinations, which is a claim substantiated by highly strange yet compelling trace physical evidence, psychic events, corroborated witnessing, and other anomalous events. These events are so compelling that experiencers and researchers dedicate time to exploring them and telling stories about them. The compelling, yet inconclusive, nature of the evidence has been noted by Bullard, Hopkins, Jacobs, Mack, and Marden, although it was not directly addressed by the skeptical researchers who put forward the sleep paralysis explanation. 

Just as I argue that credulous researchers incorrectly understood hypnosis, so too I argue that skeptical researchers incorrectly ignored the reality and anomalous physical effects of the dream experience. Just as abduction researchers did not consider dream and sleep science because of their biased assumptions, so too skeptics ignored abduction evidence. I argue that the abduction experience is primarily a dream or psychical event involving autonomous and ontologically distinct entities (the aliens) that happens in a real and distinct spacetime (the UFO craft), which has anomalous physical effects (the evidence). Most researchers assume that reality must present itself to consciousness as a coherent event within physical spacetime, therefore they assume that the fragmentary and dreamlike memories associated with abduction are simply “unreal” screen memories that obscure the “real” memory of abduction. In contrast, I argue that those fragmentary dreams may be the ultimate reality of the UFO abduction experience by introducing the notion of dream shamanism and related biases.

Dream shamanism

If you are like most Westerners, you may assume that saying the fragmentary dreams are the ultimate reality of abduction asserts that they are unreal and unworthy of study. Many Westerners assume that dreams are just fantasies and that they may be ignored as meaningless. In contrast, I argue that dreams are as potent a reality as waking based on core principles of dream shamanism. In order to understand how fragmentary dreams of UFOs and aliens may be the deepest reality of the abduction experience, we must understand dream shamanism and two biases related to abductology.

Dream shamanism is a challenging topic to discuss because there are taboos against discussing colonization dynamics and dreams within Western cultures. The most comprehensive and succinct discussion on dream shamanism I have found was published in the APA Journal Dreaming by Laughlin and Rock in 2014. The article is called What can we learn from shamans’ dreaming?. The authors introduced the distinction between monophasic and polyphasic perspectives, which describe how a culture attributes reality to one or many phases of consciousness. Western culture is monophasic because it views only the waking phase as real. The paper noted that 90% of cultures are polyphasic because they attribute reality to multiple phases of consciousness like dreams, trance, and sleep states. The authors observed that specific types of dreams were central to the initiation and training of shamans. Social scientists have recently observed that many of the basic assumptions that science has about psychology are derived from culturally-specific, not universal, experiences (Henrich et al., 2010), which may explain how science has found limited evidence for the reality of dreams despite the fact that the majority of cultures believe in their reality. The IASD ethical guidelines for dreamwork training includes education that involves study of at least one perspective that considers dreams to be a domain of real spiritual communication (IASD, n.d.).

There are several characteristics common to all dream shamanic cultures, as noted by Laughlin and Rock (2014). First, the cultures attribute reality to dreams, observing that the shaman’s role is to journey within the real world of dreams as a means of mediation between the human and nonhuman world. Second, the cultures understand there can be significant and insignificant dreams, observing that dream interpretation is central to shamanic cultures. Finally, the cultures are open to dreams as a transpersonal experience, which includes psi and spiritual events like precognition, prophecy, miraculous healing, shared dreams, and communication with the natural world.

A common critique of Western writers on shamanism is that they are appropriating external cultures. As a way to address this concern, I have taken special effort to explore shamanic dreaming traditions within the Western culture. In particular, I work with dream incubation practices derived from the cults of Asclepius, the ancient Greek god of dreams and medicine, and the ritual magical practices of John Dee, the 16th century English scholar and arguably the most influential precedent of modern hypnosis in service to abduction. Therefore, I have grounded my arguments regarding dream shamanism in practices derived from my own cultural and ethnic heritage, as well as study and practice within several other traditions from teachers within those traditions.

Monophasic bias and the myth of repressed memory

Abduction research is particularly confusing because of unconscious dynamics involving multiple biases. No matter what the interpretation, abduction episodes were real events involving real entities with real world consequences. On the one hand, abductions are easy to explain away as sleep paralysis or false memory because the UFO Abduction Syndrome is defined in terms of textbook sleep paralysis symptoms. On the other hand, the physical evidence and multiple witness testimonies are hard to explain as side effects of known sleep or dream phenomena. Something real and unexplained happens in abduction, but it might not be as the ET hypothesis suggested.

How is it possible for skeptical and credulous researchers to look at the same testimony and come to wildly different conclusions? It appears that skeptics reference sleep, dream, and hypnosis science, while the credulous researchers do not. The difference appears to be that UFO abduction researchers may simply be ignorant about hypnosis and dreams. Yet, the popularity of the abduction myth in the 1990s and enduring belief in the ET hypothesis still needs to be explained. People still report abductions and the popularity of the UAP Disclosure narrative suggests that many people still believe in the UFO Abduction Syndrome or are influenced by it.

How is it possible for pseudoscience to be so popular and survive decades? I say that UFO Abduction Syndrome achieved its status due to two biases. First, there is the monophasic bias, which attributes reality to only the waking phase of consciousness (Laughlin and Rock, 2014). It assumes that dreams are unreal fantasies that can be ignored. Second, there is the myth of repressed memory, which assumes that memories of long-forgotten trauma may be retrieved through hypnosis or therapy (Ketcham and Loftus, 1994). Hypnotically retrieved memories often involve elements of fantastic sexual trauma (see Laycock, 2012), which have been explained in terms of the false memory syndrome by memory scientists called on to assist in criminal cases instigated because of hypnosis or questionable interview techniques (Oeberst et al., 2021).

The monophasic myth is the reason why researchers and experiencers question if their experience was a dream or reality. They assume that events may either be real and involve the waking phase of consciousness or else they are unreal and involve the dreaming phase. It would not occur to mainstream Western people that their dreams could be real with physical effects, involve real entities, offer prophecies, inspire healing, or be shared with other people. The monophasic bias makes people assume that real effects are likely caused by a physical event, not a psychological one. When the abduction researchers testified to the reality of the abduction phenomenon, they sought to affirm the reality of the fragmentary dreamlike memories of their subjects and were forced by the monophasic perspective to say that the dreams were not dreams, but real.

The myth of repressed memory is the reason why the abduction researchers believed hypnotic testimony was veridical memory. The myth is derived from psychoanalysis and suggests that traumatic memories are repressed by the mind. The basic idea is that the mind forgets traumatic events until it is ready to integrate them, which may occur through therapy. However, when the memory is repressed, the mind experiences stress, anxiety, PTSD, or other symptoms. The myth suggests that therapy, hypnosis, or just the right natural conditions may retrieve the repressed memories of long-forgotten trauma. According to the myth, when the memories are consciously accepted, the unconscious is healed from them and therefore the subject is freed from the stress, anxiety, or PTSD caused by the repressed memory. The myth was prevalent because of the immense influence of psychoanalysis, but was disproved by memory scientists like Loftus through experiments. About 60% of people in the 2020s still believe the myth including psychologists (Otgaar et al., 2019).

Examining these two biases in Mack’s history will illuminate how so many prestigious people came to believe such improbable notions as the ET hypothesis and the UFO Abduction Syndrome. The monophasic bias is obvious in his 1994 book Abduction, in which he asserted that the abduction experience was not a dream because it was real. However, by the time he published Passport to the Cosmos in 1999, he deeply considered that other phases of consciousness were real such as near-death, out of body, psychedelic, and shamanic experiences. Yet, Passport to the Cosmos still demonstrates the myth of repressed memory. Although he shifted his technique from hypnosis to “light relaxation” and a modified holotropic breathwork in order to avoid false memory criticisms, he still conceptualized the event as potentially repressed trauma that needed to be released through extraordinary or transpersonal therapy techniques.

Unless we can clearly see our biases at work when interpreting abduction testimony, we may be confused as to which phase of reality the event regards. The UFO Abduction Syndrome authors assumed real events happened in the waking phase, therefore they posited the physical existence of space aliens and UFO craft in the ET hypothesis. Consequently, UAP disclosure narratives help explain why there is no physical evidence for these beings. However, it is entirely possible that the abduction events primarily happen in the dreaming phase, with anomalous physical effects. Therefore, we do not need to posit physical bodies and craft or disclosure narratives unless we have clear and direct evidence for such things. It appears that most physical evidence for abduction is strange and inconclusive, similar to psi phenomena, and therefore may be understood as mediated through non-waking phases of consciousness.

A fundamental question about abduction testimonies is whether they are dreams or memories. When the hypnosis session produces a dream that is thought to be a memory, it is called a false memory. Skeptics of the ET hypothesis posit that abduction tales are false memories suggested by the hypnotist or researcher (Lynn and Kirsch 1996). Hypnosis is known to reliably produce fantastic or dreamlike narratives (see Barrett, 1979). Even credulous researchers like Jacobs (1992) acknowledge that hypnosis unreliably produces veridical memories and may be susceptible to false memory suggestions. The monophasic bias and the myth of repressed memory work together to make researchers assume that hypnotic testimony must be a memory in order to be real and that fantastic or imaginative things are not real. It is possible that fantastic and imaginative hypnotic testimony can be both dreamlike and real. Many problems of hypnotic testimony may be avoided if we replaced the expectation that hypnosis produces memory with the expectation that it produces dreams, while acknowledging that dreams can be real and require interpretation.

Similarity of dreams, hypnosis, and abduction

In my book Missing Time Found, I examined the similarity of dreams, abduction, and hypnosis experiences. This is a theme in literature that I have explored since writing a chapter for Consciousness and Contact Research Institute’s A Greater Reality book called Lucid Dreaming as a Contact Modality (Rekshan, 2022). This list from Missing Time Found (Rekshan, 2023) presents the literature references I use to establish the similarity of dreaming and abductions:

  1. Experiencers and their hypnotist often think of missing time like a dream see (see Mack, 1994 and Fuller, 1966).
  2. Other missing time hypotheses are based on myths about memory (see Otgaar et al., 2022) and hypnosis (see Lynn et al., 2020).
  3. Missing time is often associated with sleep paralysis, a known dream phenomenon (see Clancy, 2005 or Gackenbach, 1989).
  4. Missing time narratives and dreams both involve characteristic themes of impossible physics, fantastic characters, ecological warnings (see Guzy 2021 and Schredl et al., 2004 for dreams; see Mack, 1998, and Hernandez et al., 2018 for ET/NHI contact).
  5. Alien abductees and frequent dream recallers both are characterized by fantasy-proneness, absorption, and intuition (see Lynn and Kirsch, 1996 for abduction; see Nemeth, 2023 for dreams).
  6. REM dreams are highly bizarre (see Colace, 2003) in the same way that ET/NHI contact is highly strange (see Vallee & Davis, 2004).

In addition to these observations, I would point out two other related research papers. First, Barrett, who is a Harvard professor and prominent dream researcher, published her dissertation on hypnotic dreams, which demonstrated that hypnosis may produce similar narratives as nocturnal dreams and may be understood within a spectrum from day-dreams to nocturnal dreams (Barrett, 1978; see Pagel et al., 2001). Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that hypnosis may have produced a dream, rather than veridical memory, in response to the hypnotist’s suggestions. Second, Raguda, a popular out of body and dream researcher from Russia, demonstrated that lucid dreams may emulate alien abduction encounters and produce narratives indistinguishable from genuine abduction reports (Raduga et al., 2021). Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the initial dreamlike memories, which are central symptoms of the UFO Abduction Syndrome, may actually be dreams and not memories just as many experiencers originally testified, along with the clinicians who informed abduction hypnosis.

Prevalence rates of UFO Abduction Syndrome and exotic dreams

The authors and publisher of Unusual Personal Experiences were surprised by the high prevalence rates of the indicators for the UFO Abduction Syndrome. For instance, 18% of people have woken up paralyzed with a strange figure, 13% had missing time, and 8% said they had balls of light in their room (Mack et al., 1994). Ultimately, the authors concluded that around 2% of the population or 3.7 million Americans suffered from the UFO Abduction Syndrome. The authors and publisher took decisive action to inform 100,000 mental health professionals by mailing them the booklet and by organizing a series of conferences and lectures on abduction. 

However, the prevalence rates of the UFO Abduction Syndrome are not surprising given prevalence rates from sleep, dream, and memory science. A sample of rates from research articles include:

  • 23% of people have sensed a presence in their room, 6.5% have dreamed of an ET, and 4.5% have dreamed of a UFO (Schredl et al., 2004)
  • Dream-reality confusion is reported by 11-25% of the general population (Rassin et al., 2001)
  • Hallucinations happen at rates of 6-15% in general population (Linszen et al., 2022)
  • Sleep paralysis reported by 7.6% of general population (Sharpless and Barber, 2011)
  • Lifetime prevalence rate of schizotypy is 3.9% (Pulay et al., 2009)
  • Out of body experiences happen in around 10% of the population, once or twice in a lifetime (Blanke et al., 2004)
  • False memory researchers estimate that 15% of people susceptible to false childhood memories is a dangerously low estimate, advocating for no upper limit (Nash et al., 2017)
  • Around 8% of dreams may be categorized as exotic (precognitive, healing, visitation, lucid, etc), with around 1% categorized as visitation involving spirit or alien being (Krippner and Faith, 2001)

Western science has only recently acknowledged many dream phenomena like lucid dreaming or dream telepathy. Out of body experiences became mainstream with the publication of Monroe’s Journeys Trilogy in the 1970s. Lucid dreaming was experimentally confirmed in 1978 (Hobson, 2009). Dream telepathy was confirmed in a meta-analysis in 2015 of dream telepathy trials by Krippner at Maimonides, which were conducted before 1978 (Storm and Rock, 2015). Therefore, it is entirely possible that there are many common, yet infrequent, dream phenomena that have effects or qualities that seem unreasonable to the mainstream Western mind. If your attitude about dreams affects your recall of them (Beaulieu-Prévost and Zadra, 2005), then your attitude about anomalous dream phenomena like the UFO Abduction Syndrome may affect your recall of those experiences. 

There may be other types of spontaneous sleep/dream phenomena like OBE or sleep paralysis, which may happen to perhaps around 10% of people a few times in their lives. Given the precedents of sleep paralysis, OBE, false awakening, and other types of exotic dreams, it is reasonable to assume there are several other types of exotic dreams unknown to Western science. If it took mainstream Western culture to the 1970s to discuss OBEs and it took Western science to the 1980s to experimentally prove lucid dreaming, then it seems reasonable that there are several undiscovered types of dreams that may have been misidentified as abductions. What if abductions are a special type of dream with anomalous physical effects, which we have ignored because they were originally associated with the unreasonable ET hypothesis?

Abduction evidence as evidence for extended human abilities

Asserting that the abduction experiences are truly dreams does not explain the anomalous physical effects, consistency of reports, and other supporting evidence for abduction experiences. Acknowledging that the abduction event is primarily a dream, even if it has anomalous physical effects, enables us to focus our inquiry on a phenomena with established ethics, epistemology, and experimental methods, namely dream studies. Rather than look for aliens in UFO spacecraft, we may now look for human dreamers who have achieved some degree of lucid awareness regarding their anomalous experiences. It seems more reasonable to hypothesize that the abductee unconsciously produced the physical evidence or corroborated belief through unknown psi effects associated with uncommon dreams than to hypothesize that space aliens did it and then wiped their minds.

Although I have written against the UFO Abduction Syndrome researchers and their interpretation of hypnosis as a means of veridical memory, I argue that their research described a real encounter phenomenon with real entities, albeit primarily in another phase of consciousness. The abduction researchers’ documentation of narratives, corroborated witnessing, bodily effects, and so on may provide evidence for how dreams are real or may have anomalous physical or transpersonal effects. In other words, if abductions are dreamlike, then we may be able to use lucid dreaming and dream incubation practices to induce the psi-phenomenon related to abductions and UAP encounters. Therefore, the abduction experience may be spontaneously arising demonstrations of unconscious psionic abilities of the abductee, which may have been triggered by a shamanic interaction with real dream entities envisioned as aliens.

There are precedents for many of the abduction evidences in dream, folklore, and religious studies. An obvious example is the abduction mark, which is said to be caused by a medical procedure during the abduction, typically the extraction of genetics or an implantation of a tracking device. There are precedents for such marks in medieval witch hunting used for proof of demonic interactions (Laycock, 2012) and as evidence for connections to past lives (Stevenson, 2017). Body marks may be psychosomatically caused and have spiritual significance (Shenefelt and Shenefelt, 2014). Krippner (1994) observed several dream anomalies that pointed him towards the study of dream shamanism: shared dreaming, precognitive dreaming, and dream apports, which is the teleportation of an object from the dreaming phase into the waking and may account for metamaterials. Aboriginal lore related to fast-walking (McCaul, 2013), which is sometimes called parateleportation, provides a precedent for the teleportation effects sometimes reported with abductions. Devereaux proposed the Earth Lights hypothesis (1982), which suggested that many of the UAP lights that interacted with abductees were actually semi-conscious plasmas like ball-lighting that produced an electromagnetic effect causing dreamlike trance. Given the prevalence of balls of light reported in Unusual Personal Experiences (1982) and that experiments have indicated that geomagnetism influences success rates of dream telepathy tests (Persinger and Krippner, 1989), it may be reasonable to hypothesize that a special dream ability may be to communicate with these plasmas. Given all these precedents, it may be possible to model the abduction experience as a special type of shamanic dream with anomalous physical or parapsychological effects.

Predictions from hypothesis

In order for abductology to be seriously considered a science, it needs to reference scholarly literature and produce predictions that may be scientifically tested. Abduction proponents might say that the abduction event is not repeatable and therefore we must use other standards of validity. However, if abduction is dreamlike, then we may deduce it behaves like a special type of dream and may be worked with like other dreams. Some predictions from this hypothesis may include:

  • Recurrent abductions may be shifted like recurrent nightmares or sleep paralysis, such as through breath-work or guided imagery like Image Reversal Therapy (Hansen et al., 2013)
  • Dream induction techniques may be used to induce alien abduction experiences (Raduga et al., 2021)
  • Physical effects or documentation of telepathic communication may be produced in collaboration with alien abduction dream characters, similar to remote viewing protocols (Ibison and Hathaway, 2011)
  • If the PTSD of alien abduction is related to false memory syndrome, it may be addressed through education and interview like false memory (Oeberst et al., 2021)
  • If the PTSD of alien abduction is related to dream-reality confusion, it may be addressed through development of dream shamanic practices and dream education (see Laughlin and Rock, 2014)

The UFO Abduction Syndrome authors implied that having fragmentary dreams of aliens along with some emotions were reason to believe you were a powerless victim of space alien abduction. They predicted that abductions happened for around 2% of the population and may continue to happen for their children. However, if abductions are special types of dreams, which everyone agrees they look like, then you are not a powerless victim because there is good evidence you can shift recurrent nightmares or sleep paralysis experiences (Rauf et al., 2023).

Common challenges and misconceptions related to the thesis that abduction is a special type of dream with anomalous physical effects

There are a number of perspectives and hypotheses regarding alien abduction. One of the most powerful challenges to understanding “the phenomenon”, as alien abduction and ET/UFO encounters are euphemistically called, is that the phenomenon resolves into many other phenomena. If one makes a statement about alien abduction in public, such as asserting that hypnosis is essential to abduction, many types of ET/NHI/UFO/UAP/disclosure proponents respond with assertion that abduction is not important to the ET hypothesis and disclosure narrative because there are consciously recalled experiences, video evidence of UAPs, and congressional hearings about UAPs. This challenge may be addressed by finding clarity on definitions regarding abduction and tracing the history of abduction literature.

Abduction is not relevant to ET/NHI or UFO/UAP encounters and disclosure narratives

The most common challenge to abductology is that it is no longer relevant to contemporary discussion on NHIs or UAPs. At a surface-level perspective, it would appear that contemporary discussion on disclosure, UAP, and NHI topics typically avoid discussion on abduction. There are two news stories that define contemporary disclosure. First, the 2017 New York Times article (Cooper et al., 2021), which described a $22 million dollar government study through Bigelow Aerospace regarding UAPs and paranormal activity. Second, the 2023 Debrief article, written by two of the New York Times article reporters, Blumenthal and Kean, which introduced Grusch as a credible intelligence officer who was blowing the whistle on a secret government UAP crash retrieval and reengineering program. Grusch implied that the government possessed alien bodies and evidence there may have been physical abduction encounters. However, the fact that Bigelow is connected to contemporary disclosure and he funded and published Unusual Personal Experiences, which is the most influential and definitive study of abduction, implies that abduction is relevant. If Bigelow is a major cause of contemporary narratives, then his work with abduction must be relevant.

Dreams and hypnosis are not relevant to abduction because some memories are consciously recalled

Dreams and hypnosis are challenging for materialist and mainstream researchers to work with because of the monophasic bias, which assumes that only the waking phase of consciousness is real. Researchers seek to distance themselves and their testimony from dreams and hypnosis. For example, Mack discerned his subject’s dreamlike testimonies were real and not dreams (1994) and then invented a light relaxation exercise based on holotropic breathwork to distance his practice from the challenges of hypnosis (1999). Marden (2022) argues that the abduction experience is not a dream and that researchers who continue to propose abductions are dreamlike to be intractable skeptics. A recent scholarly survey of experiencers conducted by Edgar Mitchell’s Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial and Extraordinary Encounters (FREE) avoided the issues completely by rejecting any testimony derived from dreams or hypnosis (Hernandez et al., 2018). However, in scholarly literature, it appears that abduction informs ET/NHI encounters, which is clearly defined by the UFO Abduction Syndrome that in turn is defined by dreams and hypnosis, as demonstrated by Appelle’s 1996 and 2014 surveys of the literature..

The phenomenon is highly strange, how can dreams account for it all?

Another common criticism of my argument is that the phenomenon is highly strange and complex, so how could my hypothesis that it is a dream account for it all? For example, the Pentagon videos of UAPs, which are central to contemporary disclosure narratives, are not dreams. Likewise, many whistleblower testimonies are not dreams. Further, some experiencer testimony involves experiences that clearly happened in the day during the waking phase of consciousness, so how can dreams explain all the phenomenon?

I do not believe there is a singular phenomenon of ET contact or disclosure, rather there are many interrelated phenomena. This paper presents literary arguments about the phenomena described as the UFO Abduction Syndrome, which is arguably the most influential definition of abduction. The UFO Abduction Syndrome authors defined the syndrome in terms of dreams and hypnosis, therefore I argue that dream, sleep, memory, and hypnosis science is relevant to the phenomenon. Further, the role of Bigelow as the funder of Unusual Personal Experiences and primary contractor for government UAP research suggests that UFO Abduction Syndrome research may be a major reason why crash retrieval and disclosure narratives are arising in national press and congressional hearings.

Abduction hypnotists had flaws, but were adequate researchers

Jacobs acknowledged that hypnosis ran the risk of false memories, but discerned that he was capable of navigating the risk based upon his training by Hopkins and self-study of hypnosis. He was later embarrassingly discredited by Rainey’s 2011 article Priest of High Strangeness, which documented how he violated research integrity and could not discern between fantasy and reality. Hopkins and Mack experienced similar controversy regarding their research methods and integrity. One might argue that their methods were sound outside of the documented exceptions that inspired controversy. However, the authors presented their arguments within the context of clinical science and scholarly writing, which they explicitly wrote about and demonstrated by including reference lists. Yet, they did not include references to science regarding memory, hypnosis, or dreams except in response to prominent skeptical criticism like Loftus, Blackmore, or Klass. Therefore, unless we can find clear documentation that they are familiar with sleep, memory, hypnosis, or dream science by presenting references to their literature, then we must assume that the abduction researchers perpetuated unscientific claims regarding hypnosis, memories, and dreams. It must be noted that spiritual worldviews are unscientific, yet may be most appropriate to explaining and mediating abduction experiences as noted by both skeptical and credulous researchers (see Clancy, 2005 and Mack, 1999).

Abduction testimony is no longer relevant because it is dreamlike

I have inadvertently offended abductees because I argue that abduction is dreamlike and that hypnosis is an invalid means of veridical knowledge. While I am arguing for a skeptical perspective, I also argue for the reality of dreams and the meaning that may be derived from hypnosis or dreamwork. The monophasic bias of Western culture attributes reality to only the waking phase, so that when we say something is dreamlike, we are often saying that it is an unreal fantasy that may be ignored as inconsequential. Hence, when people first encounter my argument, they may become triggered because I am affirming a skeptical perspective that doubts their identity as an abductee or contactee. However, my statements are about how abduction experiences are real, not that they are unreal. Therefore, I argue that abduction testimonies are especially relevant because they involve anomalous physical effects, strong intuitions, and highly strange phenomena. I say that abduction testimony and its strange physical effects are the best scientific evidence that dreams are real in many ways.

Abduction events can not be physical or shared because they are dreamlike

Skeptics argue that abductions are nothing more than sleep paralysis and false memories, which I agree with. However, I observe the monophasic bias and the precedent of dream shamanism to conclude that dreams are real and may involve anomalous effects. This paper has observed several precedents for body marks, shared dreams, prophecies, and so on. I argue that the UFO Abduction Syndrome is caused by a special type of dream. It has strong characteristics like sleep paralysis, false awakening, or out of body experiences. It may involve psi phenomenon like miraculous healing or precognition. It may leave marks on the body through psychosomatic mechanisms like stigmata or simple medical conditions. I argue that the highly strange effects of an ET/NHI or UFO/UAP encounters may reveal extended human abilities or be evidence for paranormal activity. There may be many special types of dreams that happen to a large minority of people only a few times in their lives, which may take researchers time to discover and experiment with. Dream researchers do not limit their definition of dreams to nocturnal hallucinations, rather they define dreams on a spectrum of waking to sleeping (Pagel et al., 2001). Therefore, all existing abduction testimony and evidence may be direct evidence for extended human abilities like psi phenomena or exotic dreams.

The distinction between memory and dream is not important and confusing

A criticism that I have received regarding my hypothesis that abductions and hypnosis are dreamlike accuses me of “muddying the waters”. If I ultimately agree that abduction testimony and evidence is real and relevant, why do I argue that abductology is pseudoscience? The criticism observes that it is hard enough to get anyone to take abduction seriously and that calling it dreams and false memories will make the public ignore them. My justification for writing about abduction as a dream or false memory is ethical. The UFO Abduction Syndrome suggested that abductees and their children are powerless victims to fantastic sexual trauma by powerful space aliens who can control their minds, which in turn suggests that the government is hiding evidence of space alien bodies and UFO craft. It has been shown that contemplating false memories of traumatic alien abduction produces PTSD and symptoms akin to genuine trauma (McNally et al., 2004). 

Hence, I am presented with an ethical dilemma. On the one hand, if I do not argue against the ET hypothesis and the UFO Abduction Syndrome, then I perpetuate the suggestion that people are powerless victims of their dreams or nightmares and that abductees should resign themselves to abduction events while paying a hypnotist to elucidate memories they write about in their best-selling books but cannot prevent. In that view, all the shared experiences, physical evidence, and effects of the encounter must be seen as proof that aliens may invade our world to perform fantastic traumas and, further, that the government is in cahoots with them to cover it up. On the other hand, if I reject the ET hypothesis and argue against the UFO Abduction Syndrome, then I perpetuate the suggestion that people are capable of working with their dreams to shift unwanted experiences, gain insight, or mediate their relationship with the nonhuman world. In this view, all the anomalous effects of abductions are seen as evidence for the reality of dreams and extended human capacities. This view acknowledges the spectrum of experiences from nightmarish to transcendent and affirms the dreamer’s capacity to navigate their experience through mindfulness and intention.

Your position on abduction is still unclear, is it a dream or real?

I say that abduction is both dreamlike and real. Discerning whether abduction testimonies are dreams or real was a central concern of the UFO Abduction Syndrome researchers, which forced them to see the phenomenon in terms of the monophasic perspective, in turn forcing them to assert that the events were either dreams or real. Compelling physical evidence is presented alongside hypnotic abduction testimony, so there is good reason for them to believe there was a real physical cause of the evidence. Therefore, since the abduction researchers took the time to investigate the evidence and cases, unlike most skeptical researchers, they were forced to come up with hypotheses that could explain physical evidence, hence the popularity of the ET hypotheses within mainstream media.

In contrast, I observe that dreams may happen throughout the waking/sleeping spectrum and that physical effects may have nonphysical causes, like spiritual vision causing stigmata. Every single case of UFO Abduction Syndrome necessarily involves dreams by definition, while only a few cases presented strong physical evidence for the ET hypothesis. Therefore, I say that abduction is dreamlike, real, and may present physical evidence, thus qualify as real within the mainstream worldview. 


This essay presented the argument that UFO Abduction Syndrome events are primarily dreamlike and may have anomalous physical side effects. The first step of the argument was to identify the definition of the UFO Abduction Syndrome in the 1992 Unusual Personal Experiences booklet as the most influential definition. Second, the argument presented literary evidence from the booklet that abduction was defined primarily in terms of dreams and hypnosis. Third, the argument counted the number of dream references and total references within the reference list or bibliography of representative abduction literature. The survey demonstrated a) that the abduction writers cited scholarly literature, but ignored scientific literature on dreams, sleep, and hypnosis and b) that skeptical researchers found adequate references in dream, sleep, and hypnosis literature to support their arguments. Fourth, the argument found quotes from the UFO Abduction Syndrome researchers that claimed that they had the capacity to discern between dreams and reality in their hypnosis sessions and, further, that their discernment capacity was authoritative enough to establish the testimonies as veridical. Finally, I referenced documentation of researcher controversy specifically regarding their capacity of discernment. The argument concludes with the assertion that the UFO Abduction Syndrome authors performed misidentified dreamwork instead of hypnosis and therefore are primarily dealing with dreams, not memories, which may be real in the way shamanic dreaming cultures regard some dreams as real.

If abductions and related hypnosis are dreamlike, then we may apply the ethics and epistemology of dream work to the field of abductology. For example, the International Association of the Study of Dreams suggests that those who work with dreams a) respect the dreamer as the final authority regarding the significance of the dream, b) respect the dream as a multidimensional source of meaning, c) engage in personal dream practice, and d) maintain education and training related to sleep, dreams, and cross-cultural or shamanic perspectives. There are scientific and experimental methods to study dreams, sleep, and other related phenomena. There are interventions that can shift recurrent nightmares, therefore may shift unwanted abduction. While the argument necessarily sets aside the expectation that abduction hypnosis may produce veridical memories of waking phase physical interactions with aliens, it opens up the possibility that abduction hypnosis could be a potent means of shamanic dream practice. Ultimately, I hope that this argument brings abductology closer to its reality as a dream so that we may learn to control the extraordinary effects documented in the UFO Abduction Syndrome cases.


Table 1

Survey of abduction literature and dream references

TitleAuthorYearDream word countSleep dream referencesTotal references
Missing TimeHopkins198144025
Secret LifeJacobs199135035
Interrupted JourneyFowler196624500
Passport to MagoniaVallee1969170107
Unusual Personal ExperiencesMack, Hopkins, Jacobs, Carpenter, Bigelow19922506
Extraterrestrial ContactMarden201943151
Sleep Paralysis, Sexual Abuse, and Space Alien AbductionMcNally and Clancy20058726
Memory IllusionShaw20161310227
Alien Abduction or Sleep Paralysis?Marden20228812


Appelle, S., Lynn, S. J., Newman, L., & Malaktaris, A. (2014). Alien Abduction Experiences. In Cardeña, E., Lynn, S. J., & Krippner, S. (Eds.). Varieties of anomalous experience: Examining the scientific evidence. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Appelle, S. (1996). The abduction experience: A critical evaluation of theory and evidence. Journal of UFO Studies, 6, 29-78.

Baker, R. (1990). They Call It Hypnosis. Prometheus.

Barrett, D. (1979). The hypnotic dream: Its relation to nocturnal dreams and waking fantasies. Journal of abnormal Psychology, 88(5), 584.

Beaulieu-Prévost, D., & Zadra, A. (2005). Dream recall frequency and attitude towards dreams: A reinterpretation of the relation. Personality and Individual Differences, 38(4), 919-927.

Blackmore, S. (1998). Abduction by Aliens or Sleep Paralysis. Skeptical Inquirer.

Blanke, O., Landis, T., Spinelli, L., & Seeck, M. (2004). Out‐of‐body experience and autoscopy of neurological origin. Brain, 127(2), 243-258.

Blumenthal, R. & Kean, L. (2023, November 25). Intelligence officials say U.S. has retrieved craft of Non-Human Origin. The Debrief. 

Bullard, T. E. (1987). UFO abductions: The measure of a mystery. Fund for UFO Research.

Cardeña, E., Lynn, S. J., & Krippner, S. (2014). Varieties of anomalous experience: Examining the scientific evidence. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Clancy, S. A. (2005). Abducted: How people come to believe they were kidnapped by aliens. Harvard University Press.

Colace, C. (2003). Dream bizarreness reconsidered. Sleep and Hypnosis, 5, 105-128.

Cooper, H., Blumenthal, R., & Kean, L. (2021, June 25). Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s mysterious U.F.O. program. The New York Times. 

Devereux, P. (1982). Earth Lights: Towards an explanation of the UFO enigma. Turnstone.

Gackenbach, J. (1989). From lucid dreaming to pure consciousness: a conceptual framework for the OBE, UFO abduction and NDE experiences. Lucidity Letter, 8(1).

Guzy, L. (2021). Indigenous Shamanic Worldviews as Dialogical Eco-Cosmology. Lagoonscapes.

Fuller, J. (1975). The Interrupted Journey: Two Lost Hours Aboard a UFO: The Abduction of Betty and Barney Hill. Vintage.

Hansen, K., Höfling, V., Kröner-Borowik, T., Stangier, U., & Steil, R. (2013). Efficacy of psychological interventions aiming to reduce chronic nightmares: a meta-analysis. Clinical psychology review, 33(1), 146-155.

Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world?. Behavioral and brain sciences, 33(2-3), 61-83.

Hernandez, R., Davis, R., & Schild, R. (2018). A Study on Reported Contact with Non-Human Intelligence Associated with Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 32(2).

Hernandez, R., Schild, R, & Klimo, J. (2018). Beyond UFOs: The Science of Consciousness & Contact with Non Human Intelligence. FREE.

Hobson, A. (2009). The neurobiology of consciousness: Lucid dreaming wakes up. International Journal of Dream Research, 2(2), 41-44.

Hopkins, B. (1981). Missing time: A documented study of UFO abductions. Richard Marek Publishers.

Krippner, S. (1994). Waking life, dream life, and the construction of reality. Anthropology of Consciousness, 5(3), 17-23.

Krippner, S. and Faith, L. (2001). Exotic dreams: A cross-cultural study. Dreaming, 11, 73-82.

IASD. (n.d.). Ethics in Dreamwork and teaching Dreamwork – International Association for the Study of Dreams.

Ibison, M., & Hathaway, G. (2011). SETI by Entanglement. Journal of Cosmology, 14.

Jacobs, D. M. (1992). Secret life: firsthand, documented accounts of UFO abductions. Simon and Schuster.

JEMI. (2011). “The Priests of High Strangeness”: A warning about expectations. [Blog post] John E. Mack Institute. 

Laughlin, C. D., & Rock, A. J. (2014). What can we learn from shamans’ dreaming? A cross-cultural exploration. Dreaming, 24(4), 233.

Laycock, J. (2012). Carnal knowledge: The epistemology of sexual trauma in witches’ sabbaths, satanic ritual abuse, and alien abduction narratives. Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural, 1(1), 100-129.

Linszen, M. M., de Boer, J. N., Schutte, M. J., Begemann, M. J., de Vries, J., Koops, S., … & Sommer, I. E. (2022). Occurrence and phenomenology of hallucinations in the general population: A large online survey. Schizophrenia, 8(1), 41.

Loftus, E. F., & Ketcham, K. (1996). The myth of repressed memory: False memories and allegations of sexual abuse. Macmillan.

Lynn, S. J., & Kirsch, I. I. (1996). Alleged alien abductions: False memories, hypnosis, and fantasy proneness. Psychological Inquiry, 7(2), 151-155.

Lynn, S. J., Kirsch, I., Terhune, D. B., & Green, J. P. (2020). Myths and misconceptions about hypnosis and suggestion: Separating fact and fiction. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 34(6), 1253-1264.

Mack, J. E. (1994). Abduction. Scrivener.

Mack, J. E. (1999). Passport to the Cosmos. White Crow Books.

Mack, J. E., Hopkins, B., Jacobs, D. M., & Westrum, R. (1992). Unusual personal experiences: An analysis of the data from three national surveys conducted by the Roper organization. Bigelow Holding Corporation.

Marden, K. (2022). Alien abduction or sleep paralysis? [Webpage] 

Marden, K. (2019). Extraterrestrial Contact: What to do when you’ve been abducted. MUFON.

McCaul, K. (2013). Expanding the boundaries of reality: parateleportation in the Western Desert of Australia. [Blog post]. Multidimensional Evolution. 

McNally, R. J., Lasko, N. B., Clancy, S. A., Macklin, M. L., Pitman, R. K., & Orr, S. P. (2004). Psychophysiological responding during script-driven imagery in people reporting abduction by space aliens. Psychological Science, 15(7), 493-497.

Nash, R. A., Wade, K. A., Garry, M., Loftus, E. F., & Ost, J. (2017). Misrepresentations and flawed logic about the prevalence of false memories. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 31(1), 31-33.

Nemeth, G. (2023). The route to recall a dream: Theoretical considerations and methodological implications. Psychological Research, 87(4), 964-987.

Oeberst, A., Wachendörfer, M. M., Imhoff, R., & Blank, H. (2021). Rich false memories of autobiographical events can be reversed. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(13), e2026447118.

Otgaar, H., Howe, M. L., Patihis, L., Merckelbach, H., Lynn, S. J., Lilienfeld, S. O., & Loftus, E. F. (2019). The return of the repressed: The persistent and problematic claims of long-forgotten trauma. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(6), 1072-1095.

Otgaar, H., Howe, M. L., & Patihis, L. (2022). What science tells us about false and repressed memories. Memory, 30(1), 16-21.

OWN. (2019, August 18). The man who says he was abducted by aliens | The Oprah Winfrey Show | Oprah Winfrey Network [Video]. YouTube.

Pagel, J. F., Blagrove, M., Levin, R., States, B., Stickgold, B., & White, S. (2001). Definitions of dream: A paradigm for comparing field descriptive specific studies of dream. Dreaming, 11, 195-202.

PBS, (n.d.). NOVA Online/Kidnapped by UFOs/John Mack. 

Persinger, M. A., & Krippner, S. (1989). Dream ESP experiments and geomagnetic activity. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 83(2), 101-116.

PowerfulJRE. (2021, February 25). What got Robert Bigelow interested in UFO’s? [Video]. YouTube.

Pulay, A. J., Stinson, F. S., Dawson, D. A., Goldstein, R. B., Chou, S. P., Huang, B., … & Grant, B. F. (2009). Prevalence, correlates, disability, and comorbidity of DSM-IV schizotypal personality disorder: results from the wave 2 national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry, 11(2), 53-67.

Raduga, M., Shashkov, A., & Zhunusova, Z. (2021). Emulating alien and UFO encounters in REM sleep. International Journal of Dream Research, 247-256.

Rassin, E., Merckelbach, H., & Spaan, V. (2001). When dreams become a royal road to confusion: Realistic dreams, dissociation, and fantasy proneness. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 189(7), 478-481.

Rauf, B., Sharpless, B. A., Denis, D., Perach, R., Madrid-Valero, J. J., French, C. C., & Gregory, A. M. (2023). Isolated sleep paralysis: Clinical features, perception of aetiology, prevention and disruption strategies in a large international sample. Sleep medicine, 104, 105-112.

Rekshan, D. (2022). Lucid dreaming as a contact modality. In Hernandez, R., et al. (Eds). A Greater Reality. CCRI.

Rekshan, D. (2023). Missing Time Found. D-SETI Dreamwork.

Reiney, C. (2011). The Priests of High Strangeness. Paratopia. 

Robinson, J. (2020, May 28). Historic Portsmouth: Simon says ’It was a dream’. Portsmouth Herald. [News article] 

Schredl, M., Ciric, P., Götz, S., & Wittmann, L. (2004). Typical dreams: stability and gender differences. The journal of psychology, 138(6), 485-494.

Sharpless, B. A., & Barber, J. P. (2011). Lifetime prevalence rates of sleep paralysis: a systematic review. Sleep medicine reviews, 15(5), 311-315.

Shaw, J. (2016). The Memory Illusion: Why You Might Not be who You Think You are. Random House.

Sheaffer, R., (2011). Abductology Implodes. Skeptical Inquirer.

Shenefelt, P. D., & Shenefelt, D. A. (2014). Spiritual and religious aspects of skin and skin disorders. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 201-212. 

Stevenson, I. (2017). Birthmarks and birth defects corresponding to wounds on deceased persons. In Parapsychology (pp. 77-90). Routledge.

Storm, L., & Rock, A. J. (2015). Dreaming of psi: A narrative review and meta-analysis of dream-ESP studies at the Maimonides Dream Laboratory and beyond. In J. A. Davies & D. B. Pitchford (Eds.), Stanley Krippner: A life of dreams, myths, and visions: Essays on his contributions and influence (pp. 117–138). University Professors Press.

Vallee, J. (1977). UFOs: The Psychic Solution. Panther.

Vallee, J. F., & Davis, E. W. (2004). Incommensurability, Orthodoxy and the Physics of High Strangeness: a 6-layer model for anomalous phenomena. Con Ciencias.