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An Afternoon with Dr. Jacobs

Over the past 26 issues of The Triangle, I’ve written a lot about, to be blunt, crazy things I read about in books. Well, mark your calendars, because today is a first: I actually attended a lecture about UFOs and alien abductions this past Sunday, and I’ve written a review for you.

The lecture was put on as part of the Library of Philadelphia’s summer series and featured Dr David Jacobs, a professor of history from Temple University. He’s been researching the UFO phenomenon for 30 years, to which I tip my hat and say “well, you’ve got me beat.” The lecture focused more on abductions than on other facets of the subject, and left me, in the words of Strongbad, “creeped out!”


Dr. David Jacobs, UFO Enthusiast extraordinaire.

The lecture started with a discussion of the basics, went through a pile of slides drawn by actual UFO abductees, and then moved on to discuss exactly what it all means. The gist of it was this: UFOs don’t abduct people at random. There’s a method to their madness, and many sightings that seem odd or result in “missing time” are actually abductions. It seems that the abductions focus specifically on reproductive research, with most if not all abductees having sperm or eggs taken from them, seeing tanks holding alien fetuses floating in liquid, being asked whether they can “tell the difference between you and us” and so on.

According to Dr. Jacobs, the evidence points in one direction: the human/alien hybrids. Whoever it is that is organizing the abductions is engineering a race of half-human, half-alien things and are going to, perhaps, integrate them into our society. Got a case of the jibblies yet? Well, perhaps they’re premature: some of the things that Dr. Jacobs said struck me as odd, some struck me as incorrect, and some struck me as easily explained through other means.

The first occurred when he referred to the Betty and Barney Hill abduction story as a “great case.” Three weeks ago I wrote about this very case, earning myself a giant pile of hate mail. However, I also got some mail from people that told me things I had not included in my article. For instance, not only did Betty Hill lead followers out to a field where she claimed to see a UFO that was invisible to everyone but her, but she also claimed her cat could fly. For those of you unsure what I am talking about, let me summarize it: Betty Hill was at least a little crazy, and she convinced her husband that the two had been abducted one night. For his part, the husband fabricated a portion of his account of the abduction based on an episode of The Outer Limits that he’d seen. Maybe they really were abducted, and the inconsistencies and revisions to their stories, to say nothing of Betty Hill’s eccentric claims, have an explanation. I’m just saying that to hear someone say the story was a model case puts me rather heavily on guard.

The second thing that makes me doubt the claims that hybrid monsters are coming to integrate themselves into our society was when Dr. Jacobs said that, to some extent, all of these stories are similar, and they must be true because no such story is a part of popular culture (which would lead to people just making it up based on, say, an episode of The Outer Limits.) But here’s the thing: do you remember a TV show called The X-Files? About 9 seasons, maybe 4 that are worth watching? There was also a movie, comic books, and a huge Internet following? This story of hybrid integration was the plot to the show, to the letter. I’m not claiming that all abductees saw an episode or two and then started thinking that it had happened to them; I’m just saying that it’s a possibility.

Also, on some of the other slides were things that can be readily explained with references to pop culture. One showed a tall alien with a big forehead wearing a cape of some sort. The focus of the slide wasn’t on him, but rather on the little alien next to him, but it should be noted that this large alien looked exactly like J’Onn, one of Superman’s friends. Unless I’m mistaken, he’s sometimes referred to as Superman Green, and has appeared in the comic books and various comic-inspired cartoon shows. And the accounts of seeing rooms filled with vats containing bodies floating in liquid? That’s one of the most famous TV moments of the 1990s, from an episode of The X-Files called The Erlenmeyer Flask, the final episode of season one and an absolute classic. Agent Mulder breaks into a warehouse and sees hundreds of clear tanks containing human/alien hybrids floating in liquid. The question: was this episode written to sound like abduction accounts, or are abduction accounts patterned after seeing the episode? You know me, and you know what I’d say to that.

Again, is this a smoking gun with which the abductees have been fatally wounded? Of course not. But it should be noted.

Dr. Jacobs made the claim, one universally accepted in the UFO enthusiast community, that abductees are likely to have children that become abductees. Though they may live normal lives, the paranormal is always there: whether they are repeatedly abducted, have problems with ghosts, claim psychic or paranormal abilities, or whatever, it’s a common claim from abductees that either weird things constantly happen to them or that they have superpowers. Dr Jacobs takes the view that this is an effect of UFO involvement in their lives: obviously, their homes are not haunted, but they’re mistaking the effects of the UFOs as ghostly activity. Either that, or their memories have been altered slightly. The aliens (or whoever) are interested in individuals and are willing to stay with them for quite some time; in fact, they continue to abduct the offspring of that person.

My response to this has no evidence going for it other than common sense (as opposed to Dr. Jacobs’ claims, which is backed up by “credible witnesses.”) When I lived on a farm in Kentucky, my father told me that a child-eating alligator lived in the pond out back because he didn’t want me going to the pond and drowning. I’ve always had the memory of once seeing the alligator, and a few years ago when I mentioned this to my dad, he told me it was just a story that he made up to keep me away from danger. Yet that memory is still relatively clear; replace the word “alligator” with “space people” and you’ve got a pretty large problem for the UFO enthusiast community. Crazy people raise crazy children, and a child that is reared hearing stories of alien kidnappers is almost certain to fabricate or at least take for granted the truth of such stories themselves. All that the children of abductees reporting abductions prove is that children are gullible, and that if you start young enough you can convince anyone of anything.

Dr. Jacobs’ research relies heavily on regression hypnosis, a technique that is, at best, questionable. This was spelled out perfectly during the lecture: he showed a picture of an alien drawn by an abductee. The alien is wearing, of all the crazy-ass things, a hooded sweatshirt. Laughing, Dr. Jacobs referred to it as confabulation, the product of being improperly hypnotized. Apparently, when you’re not hypnotized properly, you make up crazy things. The UFO enthusiast will readily admit that things such as sweatshirt-wearing aliens are made up; it is my contention that so are aliens of the non-sweatshirt wearing variety.

Dr. Jacobs claims that secrecy is the number one most important thing to this vast abduction plot. Yet aliens kidnap women, implant a hybrid fetus in her, return her to society, and then nine or ten weeks later re-abduct her to harvest the hybrid fetus. Does this make sense? Why would they risk the abductee regaining her memory and telling everyone about her experience? When posed this question, Dr. Jacobs said that since no one really believes in UFOs, even if she regains her memory and tells the world her story, it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans because no one will take her seriously. Maybe so, but still: it’s got to be easier just to lock her in a closet for 10 weeks or something, harvest the baby, and then dump the body in the sea. That’s what I’d do, if I were into begetting monsters. Then again, I’m sort of a jerk. Perhaps they have some sort of ethical or moral policy that keeps them from committing murder, but since they have no problem kidnapping people and stuffing them full of aliens…well, suffice it to say that I doubt it.

I am obligated to mention that Dr. Jacobs gave a list of some of the things that happen to alien abductees that spooked me pretty badly because some of them have happened to me. On the other hand, they were vague enough that they’ve probably happened to everyone now and then.

Dr. Jacobs has 30 years of experience in this field, and I certainly mean no disrespect. At the same time, I hope that others who listen to his theories give my theories equal time; it is my unwavering belief that everything he attributes to the paranormal has a social, psychological, or common-sense explanation.

Be seeing you.

Since first writing this article, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Jacobs and interview him. 'Interview' is probably not the right word, since my interview style is terribly unrefined; it was more as though he talked at me for an hour or two. I have to say that he's an extremely nice guy, and as much as I disagree with his interpretation of events, I do so without malice or bitterness. I also concede the fairly obvious fact that he's been doing this three or four decades longer than I, and is surely better informed.

First Published in The Triangle, 13 May 2005