“Abducted”, the myth of alien kidnappings – – an interview with Harvard psychologist Susan Clancy

“Abducted” – – The Myth of Alien Kidnappings

an interview with Harvard psychologist Susan Clancy

November 9, 2005 – – heard on DAY TO DAY program of NPR:



Harvard University psychologist Susan Clancy is the author of the new book Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens:

(CLICK AND ENLARGE ABOVE – – https://www.amazon.com/Abducted-People-Believe-Kidnapped-Aliens/dp/067402401X)

She speaks with host Madeleine Brand her years of research and conversations with people who believe themselves victims of alien abduction.


This is DAY TO DAY. I’m Madeleine Brand.

Despite any credible scientific evidence, most Americans believe that space aliens exist.  And a substantial number of them believe that those aliens have visited this planet, and some of them believe that they were actually abducted by aliens.  They are the subject of a new book.  It’s called “Abducted: How People Come To Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens,” and it’s by Harvard psychologist Susan Clancy.  And Ms. Clancy joins me now.

Welcome to the program.

Ms. SUSAN CLANCY  (Author, “Abducted: How People Come To Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens“):

Thank you.  Thank you for having me.


So how did you get into this field of study?  I’m wondering if it raised a few eyebrows there at Harvard.


Yes. I did not get into it because I was interested in aliens or UFOs.  I actually got into it because I was interested in memory distortion and false memory creation, so how people could come to believe and then remember things that didn’t happen to them.


Well, I mean, how can you take them seriously, honestly?  I mean, is it sort of like people who say that Elvis is still alive or that the Earth is flat?  How do you — I mean, really, how do you talk to them with a straight face?


It’s actually easier than you would think.  First of all, what’s important to know is that most people who believe that they were abducted by aliens don’t have vivid memories of what happened.  They just suspect they might have been abducted based on certain experiences that they’ve had or symptoms that they’ve had that are consistent with what they’ve read about or watched on TV or seen in the movie screen, you know, about what happens to people when they’ve been abducted.


And what are some of the stories?  What do they say happened to them?


The modal subject I spoke with typically had a number of sleep experiences that they thought were strange.  For example, maybe they’ve had an episode of sleep paralysis.  Yeah, it’s essentially common.  You wake up in the middle of the night, you can’t move.  It’s a very scary experience.  It lasts for about a minute; many people have it.  And for the alien abductees I spoke with, some of them had that episode and they woke up and they thought, `Oh, my God. What was that?’  And then later on in their lives, they read something or saw something on TV and they said, `You know, what happened to me that night is a lot like what happened to Bud Hopkins’ subjects or what I saw on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”‘  Bud Hopkins is an abduction researcher who’s written a number of books about the stories that his subjects remember under hypnosis.


And with the people that you interviewed, do they have a sort of a similar story line?  Does each one have a similar tale, they were visited at night and taken up in a spaceship and experimented on?


They all talk about the same basic plot.  So aliens came down from somewhere and they abducted me from my bedroom or my car and they took me into some kind of spaceship and then they performed sexual or medical experiments.  So the plot is very similar.  However, the details vary widely depending on who you’re talking to.  So what the aliens were wearing, what exactly they looked like, what types of medical devices were used, that kind of thing, all vary greatly.


What’s with the experimentation?  Why do they all say they were sexually or physically experimented on?


Well, OK, the way I’d answer that is I’d say, first, alien abductions were depicted in the movies and on TV before people said it happened to them.  And I get challenged on this a lot because somebody will call and say, `I was abducted when I was six and I’m 81 now, and I never saw a TV show when I was six about alien abduction.’  However, what they’re omitting is that they only remembered what happened to them when they were six in hypnosis sessions later on in life.

So I just want to stress that nobody reported being abducted before they actually saw it on TV or in the movies.  So there was in the ’60s a number of episodes on “The Outer Limits” that featured aliens.  In some of them, they came to Earth and performed medical experiments.


Well, what would the people say, the people you interviewed, say when you pointed out to them some other explanations for what happened to them, some, you know, more plausible explanations like, as you say, sleep paralysis or the fact that they were steeped in popular culture?


I never encountered a positive reception to my interpretation of a story.  In fact, as is discussed in the book, on a number of occasions, people really became angry.  So I sort of left my side of the picture out.  A lot of people say, `Now that you’ve written this book, what do your subjects think?’ and I can tell you most of them that have read the book are upset.  I have to be honest with that.  And I understand why, because what’s happening in the book is I am presenting my own opinion, but I’m challenging their deeply held beliefs, beliefs that are very important to them.  And whenever you challenge someone’s beliefs, you’re bound to meet up with some animosity.

So they’re angry, and I feel terribly about it.  And, you know, you got to understand that I’m sure in their heart of hearts, they were hoping that the book or the research would emerge with me saying, `Yes, I’ve studied this and I think these accounts are plausible.’  And I just can’t do that because there is a better explanation.  But that being said, I can’t dismiss their accounts.  There’s no way to scientifically disprove the alien abduction hypothesis.


You say there are all sorts of ways that we handle distressing incidents in our lives and no shortage of people out there to help us figure it out by buying their books or something, but…




I’m wondering — you know, this is a very elaborate and consuming belief and something that these people are well aware of makes them look kind of crazy.  So I’m wondering why…




You know, why do they choose this rather than something more conventional?


I think that it is because coming to believe you’re abducted by aliens provides you, of course, with an explanation for psychological distress or problems you might have had.  But even more than that, believing that you’ve been abducted by aliens provides many of these subjects with a meaning for their entire life.  And I think that part of the alien abduction experience has been de-emphasized by abduction researchers in the past, like Bud Hopkins, who tend to focus on the more traumatogenic aspects of the experience.  I mean, it is true; it’s nightmarish, it’s horrible, they’re scary, they come in the night, they hurt you.  I mean, why would you want to think — why would you want to believe that happened to you if you didn’t have to?

But at the end of my research study, we asked very single subject: `If you could do it all over again, would you choose not to have been abducted?’  And I never had a single subject say, `I wish it didn’t happen to me.’ They all said the same thing, that science does not explain everything in the world, that there is a higher power out there and that `I was chosen.’


Well, it sounds very religious to me.


Yes. But you know what?  I am so tired of controversial topics that I think I just want to stay away entirely from the topic of religion.  All I would like to say is that in the same way that people find meaning in their religious beliefs and experiences, these people find meaning in their alien abduction beliefs and their alien abduction experiences.


Susan Clancy is the author of “Abducted: How People Come To Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens.”

And, Susan Clancy, thank you for joining us.


Thank you. It was a pleasure.


NPR’s DAY TO DAY continues, out there.  I’m Madeleine Brand.



The self-claimed abductee has an experience he or she cannot explain.

The self-claimed abductee convinces himself or herself that the experience (to them) was real.

The abductee remembers seeing at least one or two movies or TV documentaries about alien abductions recently or even years ago and comes to believe that this must be the exact same thing that must have happened.

(Some self-claimed abductees have been believers in UFOs or believers in some new paradigm or some type of a New Age thinking, to begin with.)

Soon the abductee gets some courage and takes a chance and tells about the experience to one or two trusted friends.

Soon some of their friends encourage her to write a book about it, or at least tell the story to a larger audience.

Soon the book becomes a big seller.

And sooner or later the abductee is in demand as a speaker at UFO conferences (the abductee starts feeling confident because no one will be able to contest their personal testimony because it’s coming from a sincere person and it will be extremely difficult for anyone to challenge such a sincere, personal testimony).

The abductee feels very important since he or she were “chosen” by aliens to be “selected” and therefore must be someone special.

The abductee becomes satisfied that he or she is now in some kind of an “elite” group of people and he or she is finally getting the attention from people like they never had before.

Soon the abductee starts “remembering” more in detail about their experience and begins to add a few more details that they never mentioned before.

The abductee joins a support group of “experiencers” and becomes more active in promoting their stories to listeners who attend UFO conferences or becomes a guest on Internet talk show programs.


Here is a testimony by Camille (on the Internet):

“I couldn’t help but go public.

It was too important to keep to myself.

However, when I decided aliens are demons in disguise (after praying for the answer after 17 years), it was very humbling.

I dropped the “chosen” label I had reluctantly adopted from the UFO community, and felt sudden horrible remorse and contrition for focusing on them instead of on Christ, for wasting my passion, and for being deceived.”


The “alien abduction” seems to be a deceptive phenomenon perceived and experienced as real by the abductee alone, and connivingly “staged” to the victim by malevolent extradimensional entities of unknown origin.


Now, in regards to another Harvard psychologist, John Mack:

John Mack (1929 – 2004) devoted a substantial amount of time to investigating alien abduction cases and eventually concluded that the only phenomenon in psychiatry that adequately explained the patients’ symptoms in several of the most compelling cases was posttraumatic stress disorder.  As he noted at the time, this would imply that the patient genuinely believed that the remembered frightening incident had really occurred – the position Mack came to endorse.  Mack utilized the support of Laurance Rockefeller, who also funded Mack’s non-profit organization for four consecutive years at $250,000 per year.

In response to a PSYCHOLOGY TODAY magazine article of 2003 critical of John Mack, he stated the following:


“With regard to my position on UFOs and abductions, and the criticism that I am wishy-washy and come across as confused, there is only so much that can be said.

Do I believe UFOs are real?  Yes.

Do I believe they are physically real?  Yes, sometimes.

Are abductions real?  Yes.

Are they physically real?  Yes.

But these statements must be qualified by another question:

Are they only physical?  No.”




E-mail = noriohayakawa@gmail.com

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2 thoughts on ““Abducted”, the myth of alien kidnappings – – an interview with Harvard psychologist Susan Clancy

  1. This is blasphemy.

    It happened to me, me, who is highly skeptical of all things. I refused to believe my abduction was real till the alien showed me how real it was.

    Alien does not have to be from another planet, alien can be an outside time and space intrusion to the consciousness setting off a spectral event the abductee becomes traumatized from.

    Quackademia distracts the thinking process from finding the true answers in a world of contradictions.


  2. It all depends on the definition of “alien”.
    I haven’t seen any tangible, credible, documentary evidence of a physical alien having traversed afar in a physical alien spacecraft from outer space. None.

    However, no one can disprove the existence of “non-physical” intelligent entities from another dimension intruding in ours, often interacting in our realm.


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