Review of Susan Clancy’sI hadn’t had high hopes for the book Abducted: How people Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens by Dr. Susan A. Clancy. After all, the segment about abductions which featured her on Peter Jennings’s grossly-misleading “documentary” on February 24, 2005, was definitely unscientific. The focus was on sleep paralysis with no recognition being given to multiple persons being abducted at once, the fact that most abductions have taken place other than when the abductee was sleeping in bed, and that many people have recalled the details without the use of hypnosis. This despite the fact that all of these had been discussed by Budd Hopkins during his PJ interview, but never made the program. I also was not impressed with what she had to say on last July’s Larry King TV show. Still I was shocked by how much bias and prejudice she shows in the book. She should have been flunked for her gross inaccuracy in her accounts, brief though they were, of various cases about which I am well informed. Remember that her so-called research was conducted at Harvard University using government research grants and the book was published by Harvard University Press. I guess they couldn’t afford a fact checker.
How people Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens
Harvard University Press 2005
By Stanton T. Friedman
How people Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens
Harvard University Press 2005
By Stanton T. Friedman
She describes how she got into abduction research because she had been working on the false memory syndrome with regard to sexual abuse of children. There was always the problem of determining whether any abuse had ever taken place. Abductions would be much easier because “Here was a group that had ‘repressed memories,’ but the memories would be much less painful to hear about than memories of childhood sexual abuse.” No basis is given for this silly proclamation. Dr. Benjamin Simon, an outstanding psychiatrist who used medical hypnosis to help numerous shell shock war veterans regain horrifying memories and work through them, had even told Dr. James McDonald that the intensity of emotion in the Betty and Barney Hill sessions was sometimes more intense than any he had found in the military cases he had treated. I have seen the movie the Army made starring Dr. Simon about treatment of a host of anguished war veterans and their amnesia.
She goes on, “Even better, alien abductees were people who had developed memories of a traumatic event that I could be fairly certain had never occurred. A major problem with my research on false memory creation by victims of alleged sexual abuse was that it was almost impossible to determine whether they had in fact, been abused. I needed to repeat the study with a population that I could be sure had ‘recovered’ false memories.” Alien abduction seemed to fit the bill. She notes how she would use the same techniques with the abductees as with the sexual abuse people, and addressed the “corroboration issue since it was certain the event hadn’t happened.” It is hard to imagine so-called research starting out with such strong bias. Is this what passes for research at Harvard University?
Dr. Clancy describes how she got her study population. She advertised in newspapers seeking subjects “Have you been abducted by aliens?” Would she have asked for pilots or brain surgeons or persons speaking Croatian without checking their credentials?
She dumped any she thought were psychotic, for which, I suppose, we should be grateful. It isn’t clear that she accepted any subjects who claimed that they had been abducted with somebody else and not out of their beds and who hadn’t been hypnotized. She does admit her preconceptions that people thinking they had been abducted played Dungeons and Dragons as a kid, were computer programmers or sci-fi buffs and had attended Star Trek conventions. What is really crazy here, to me as a scientist, is that normally one expects somebody beginning research in a new area to do a literature search first. She couldn’t be bothered. However, she insists “I believe I have read every account of alien abduction ever published, and just about everything that social psychologists, psychoanalysts, post modernists, journalists, physicists, biologists and ex-military personal [sic] have to say about them... I’ve watched nearly every American movie and TV show ever made about aliens.” If she did, she must have been sleep-walking, as she seems to get almost everything wrong.
Here is a typical example of her gross inaccuracy. Speaking of a meeting with a number of abductees she says, “Highlight of Saturday evening was a conversation with two brothers from Manchester, New Hampshire. These men were relatively well known abductees who had written a book about their experiences. One night in the late 1960s they had been canoeing on a lake in Maine and had seen some weird lights across the water. A few years later one had fallen down an elevator shaft at work; he’d suffered brain damage, developed epilepsy and became severely depressed.” The simple fact of the matter is that there were four people involved, not two; the event took place in August, 1976, not in the 1960s. The book The Allagash Abductions was written by an experienced investigator, engineer Raymond Fowler, not by the brothers. It was based on data obtained independently from each of the four. The book is, of course, not referenced though she has 14 pages of noted references including 146 items. Her own “research” papers were each cited several times.
Clancy not only seems to consider herself a truly knowledgeable abductionist, but also an expert on UFOs in general. “So far as we know there is no evidence that aliens exist.” “You can’t disprove alien abductions. All you can do is argue that they’re improbable.” Obviously she didn’t intend this next comment to be referring to herself: “The Confirmatory bias — the tendency to seek or interpret evidence favorable to existing belief or reinterpret unfavorable evidence is ubiquitous, even among scientists.” Amen, and she provides many examples of her own tendency. “We don’t accept the alien abduction explanation because there is no external evidence to support it.” Isn’t it amazing that she never discusses physical trace cases, at least 16% of which involve reports of strange beings? She doesn’t mention the many cases in which abductees separately indicate that missing time was confirmed. She never mentions Marjorie Fish’s star map work connected with the Betty and Barney Hill case, though she does mention the case.
As might be expected, her comments are seriously in error. She says “Betty had spotted a bright star that seemed to be pursuing them. Nervous, they had turned off the main highway onto narrow mountain roads arriving home two hours later than expected.” And she claims to have read The Interrupted Journey ??? Sounds to me like she read a Parade Magazine piece, by Carl Sagan, which makes the same false claims. They had both observed the large object at close range with binoculars, for goodness sake. There was a double row of windows through which Barney recalled seeing strange beings.. without hypnosis. Starlike??? She says, “Betty was a long time believer. Betty was a fan of science fiction movies featuring aliens (she had seen Invaders from Mars ) and had already read Donald Keyhoe’s Flying Saucers Are Real .
This is more unadulterated hogwash. Betty read the book AFTER the experience, had not been a sci-fi fan, or seen the movie. Clancy says Betty and Barney were “advised to undergo hypnosis, in order to determine whether, as she firmly suspected, they had been abducted.” Their purpose was to see if the Doctor could rid Barney of his ulcers and find out what happened during the missing time. Clancy then says Barney had seen “The Bellero Shield,” an episode of the science fiction TV series The Outer Limits and that his drawing of an alien is based on what he saw. Simon had asked him about sci-fi movies. He and Betty were too busy to watch such stuff. It would be interesting to know just where Clancy’s misinformation comes from besides her fertile imagination. She certainly hadn’t read the book carefully or Terence Dickinson’s The Zeta Reticuli Incident or watched the UFO Incident on NBC or spoken with Betty or Barney or Dr. Simon or John Fuller or even Betty’s niece, Kathy Marden, very familiar with the case and possessor of Betty’s files. John Fuller’s files are at Boston University not far from Harvard. Clancy obviously hadn’t been there either. I have done all these things. An artist I know watched “The Bellero Shield” and indicated that the alien’s facial features did not match drawings made in response to Barney’s description and was about 6 feet tall or much taller than the Hill aliens.
Demonstrating both her bias and ignorance, she claims, “Betty and Barney Hill — the mom and pop of abductees — became famous in abduction history in the 1960s because, in the words of Seth Shostak, an astronomer associated with the SETI Institute, “They were more or less Mr. And Mrs. Front Porch.” An interracial couple in New England in 1961 were hardly Mr. And Mrs. Front Porch, whatever that is supposed to mean. Surely no reasonable person could consider Seth Shostak an expert on any aspect of ufology, no less abductions. I debated with him for three hours on Coast to Coast Radio (audience vote was 57% for me, 33% for him, 10% undecided) and have read many of his articles and books. He never displays any knowledge of abductions or UFOs in general. There are no references to large-scale scientific studies such as Blue Book Special Report 14, or Dr. Hynek’s The UFO Experience or the Congressional Hearings of 1968. His comments on Larry King and Peter Jennings demonstrate no knowledge at all, though they certainly demonstrate his confirmatory bias. Clancy and Shostak certainly share an affinity for “Don’t bother me with the facts, my mind is made up,” and “What the public doesn’t know, I won’t tell them,” and “Do your research by proclamation, investigation is too much trouble.”
Clancy doesn’t discuss the UFO evidence either. She almost gets into the Condon Report with this strange comment: “In 1969, the National Academy of Sciences sponsored a study of all the available evidence on UFOs. The conclusion: ‘On the basis of present knowledge, the least likely explanation of unidentified flying objects is the hypothesis of extraterrestrial visitations by intelligent beings.’ ” The fact is, this is from a brief summary by the NAS at the beginning of the 965-page Condon report. The NAS didn’t sponsor the study. The Air Force did. It was certainly not a study of all available evidence. The NAS review committee did no investigations itself — not one single case.
Clancy misrepresents the Travis Walton case, speaking disdainfully of his books claiming he was abducted two weeks after the Hill case movie and describing his experience on National TV. No mention, of course, of his being gone for five days and the initial zapping being observed by five other people, and all the rest of the investigative work done by APRO and others.
Clancy mentions Kenneth Arnold flying his “private jet.” It was very definitely a prop plane and there was a ground witness. Her clear and unambiguous bias — there are no UFOs and no aliens — is demonstrated by her comment, “Show me an alien and I’ll believe they exist.” This is scientific? She only believes in the existence of things she can see???? Surely that leaves out love, hate, neutrons, gamma rays, black holes, etc.
As might be expected, Clancy gets Roswell all wrong. She repeats garbage from Air Force disinformation expert Colonel Weaver that Jesse Marcel’s story first came out in the National Enquirer in 1978 — even though it was 1980, and after Bill Moore and I had spoken with sixty-two people about the case. I gave the late Bob Pratt, who wrote the article, Jesse’s contact information. She has the date the rancher Mac Brazel found the wreckage and the date he came into town, the date Jesse went out, and other details, all wrong.
Clancy says that The Roswell Incident claimed that “Pieces of aliens had been among the debris. This was attested to by more than seventy witnesses who had some knowledge of the event.” This is totally false; no such claim is made in the book, to which I was a major contributor. She really blasts off: “The evidence for a crashed spaceship and dead extraterrestrials was entirely anecdotal consisting of firsthand reports from people who ‘wished to remain anonymous’ and even more tenuous second and third hand reports (so-and-so told what’s-his-name who told me that such-and-such really happened thirty years ago).” This nonsense comes from a woman claiming to have read everything about UFOs and aliens. I am a physicist who has written more than eighty UFO articles and two books relating to Roswell and was a major contributor to The Roswell Incident. No, I am not referenced at all. There are lots of real people named by me and Don Berliner and Kevin Randle and Don Schmitt — none referenced — and other serious researchers as opposed to Clancy’s pseudoscientific claims. The video “Recollections of Roswell” has firsthand testimony from twenty-seven witnesses — all named.
One could write a lot more about the trash in this book and the selfserving nonsense about being objective. Not surprisingly there is a blurb on the back from Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, one of the leaders of the False Memory Syndrome cult-like group: “Abducted is an enormously brave, smart, original book.” I suppose that is true once one recognizes that most of it is Fiction masquerading as Truth.