Alien from alien autopsy film. [Courtesy Mutual UFO Network.]
ROSWELL ALIEN AUTOPSY FILM?
Alien from alien autopsy film. [Courtesy Mutual UFO Network.]
sentients? Others, like cosmologist Frank Tipler (1981), are convinced that extraterrestrials do not exist because if they did they would be here by now. Given that there is nothing special about the timing of human evolution, it is fairly likely that if intelligent beings evolved elsewhere, at least half of them would be ahead of us in biological evolution, which should put them far, far ahead of us scientifically and technologically, which means they would have found Earth by now.
Some people claim that not only have aliens found Earth, they crash-landed near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, and we can see what they look like on film. On August 28, 1995, the Fox network aired what has come to be known as the "Roswell Incident," which featured footage of an autopsy of what appears to be an alien body (see figure 9). The footage came from Ray Santilli, a London-based video producer who claims to have come across the black-and-white film while he was searching the U.S. Army archives for footage of Elvis (who served eighteen months in the military) for a documentary on the singer. The individual who sold him the footage (reportedly for $100,000) remains anonymous, Santilli maintains, because it is illegal to sell U.S. government property. Santilli, in turn, sold use of the footage to Fox. The U.S. Air Force has stated that the wreckage at
Roswell came from a crashed top-secret surveillance balloon—"Project Mogul"—launched to monitor Soviet nuclear testing from the upper atmosphere. Given that the cold war was heating up in 1947, it is not surprising that at the time the Air Force was reluctant to discuss the crash, but this gave rise to decades of speculation by believers in UFOs, especially those with a bent for conspiracy theories. There are, however, numerous problems with the alien autopsy film as evidence of an alien encounter.
1. Santilli needs to give a significant sample of the original autopsy film to a credible institution equipped to date film footage. So far Kodak has been given a few inches of leader which could have come off of any film. If Santilli really wants to prove that the film was shot in 1947, why has he given Kodak only a small, entirely generic portion of the footage? Kodak routinely dates film for people who bring in old cameras.
2. According to the Fox documentary, the government ordered tiny coffins for the alien bodies. First of all, a bonfire would have been more efficient than burial if the government were intent on eradicating all traces of the aliens—no record of tiny coffins, no weird skeletons to explain later. Second, why would the government, no matter how paranoid, just bury the alien bodies a few days after the crash? As one of the most important discoveries in history, surely these bodies would be studied by experts from around the world for many years to come.
3. Given the number of people who were apparently involved in the discovery, isolation, transfer, handling, filming, autopsying, preservation, and burial of the bodies, there would have had to be a massive cover-up. How could the government have concealed from the public such a spectacular event? How do you keep all these people from talking?
4. In the Fox program, many people recalled that they were cautioned, threatened, and otherwise warned about talking or writing about the fact that some debris had been found. This is not unexpected, since we now know that a project involving the utmost secrecy was being carried out and that every effort was being made to keep it secret.
5. Can anyone seriously believe that arguably the most important event in human history was filmed using a hand-held film camera, loaded with black-and-white film no less, and by a cameraman who was being jostled about so much that the camera was going in and out of focus?
6. We would not expect an alien from another planet (and thus another evolutionary sequence) to be humanoid in form. The enormous variety of life-forms here on Earth took many diverse shapes and configurations that might have displaced us, and might yet do so, but none are so nearly humanoid as this alleged alien from another planet. The chances against this happening are simply astronomical.
7. The alien in the film has six fingers and toes, yet the "original eyewitness accounts" recorded in 1947 reported aliens with four fingers and toes. Are we facing problems with the eyewitness accounts, problems with the film, problems with both, or two species of aliens?
8. The alien matches every detail called for by alien abductees, from short stature to bald head and large eyes. This look was created for a 1975 NBC movie called The UFO Incident and has been used by abductees ever since.
9. During the autopsy, the two guys in white suits show little interest in the organs. They make no attempt to measure or examine the organs and don't even turn them over. They just pull them out and plop them into a bowl, with no still-photographer or medical sketch artist present. Their suits are not radiation suits, and no radiation detectors or Geiger-Mueller counters are visible.
10. A vinyl alien would be easy to obtain from a prop warehouse, as would all the other items in the room.
11. Ed Uthman, a pathologist in Houston, Texas, made these observations (posted on the Internet, September 7, 1995):
Any pathologist involved in such a case would be obsessed with documenting the findings. He would be systematically demonstrating findings every step of the way, such as showing how the joints worked, whether the eyelids closed, etc. He should be ordering the cameraman all over the place, but instead the cameraman was totally ignored, like he wasn't there at all. The pathologist acted more like an actor in front of a camera than someone who was cooperating in a photographic documentation session.
The prosector used scissors like a tailor, not like a pathologist or surgeon. He held the scissors with thumb and forefinger, whereas pathologists and surgeons put the thumb in one scissors hole and the middle or ring finger in the other. The forefinger is used to steady the scissors further up toward the blades.
The way the initial cuts in the skin were made was a little too Hollywoodlike, too gingerly, like operating on a living patient. Autopsy cuts are deeper and faster.
12. Joachim Koch, a practicing surgeon in Germany who is a co-founder of the International Roswell Initiative, had this to say (posted on the Internet, September 12, 1995):
If a preliminary autopsy in Roswell had been performed and the final dissection (in the Santilli film) was done in another place, then sutures placed during the first autopsy should have been visible during the second autopsy shown in the film, but they were not.
Note the physical features of the "alien": extreme growth of the head, widespread eyes and deep eyesockets, a broad-based nose, increased growth of the base of the skull, a crescent-shaped skin fold at the inner upper eyelid, mongoloid axis of the eyelids, no hair between the eyebrows, lowering of the outer ear, which is small, small lips, lower jaw underdeveloped, low birth weight, short length at birth, malformations of inner organs, unproportioned growth, and poly- and/or hexadactylism (six fingers and toes). This description is not that of an alien, but of a human being who suffers from "C-syndrome," or in the American medical literature, from "Opitz trigonocephaly syndrome." Only a few cases of C-syndrome have ever been described formally, and these few died very young.
It is interesting that this film, to date the best physical evidence ever presented for the alien encounter case, is discounted by most believers. Why? They, like the skeptics, suspect a hoax and don't want to hitch themselves to a soon-to-be-falling star. Yet if this is the best they've got, what does that say for this phenomenon? Unfortunately, the lack of physical evidence matters little to true believers. They have shared anecdotes and personal experiences, and for most this is good enough.
In 1994 NBC began airing The Other Side, a New Age show that explored alien abduction claims, as well as other mysteries, miracles, and unusual phenomena. I appeared numerous times on this show as the token skeptic, but most interesting for me was their two-part program on UFOs and alien abductions. The claims made by the alien abductees were quite remarkable indeed. They state that literally millions of people have been "beamed up" to alien spacecraft, some straight out of their bedrooms through walls and ceilings. One woman said the aliens took her eggs for use in a breeding experiment but could produce no evidence for how this was done. Another said that the aliens actually implanted a human-alien hybrid in her womb and that she gave birth to the child. Where is this child now? The aliens took it back, she explained. One man pulled up his pant leg to show me scars on his legs that he said were left by the aliens. They looked like normal scars to me. Another woman said the aliens had implanted a tracking device in her head, much as biologists do to track dolphins or birds. An MRI of her head proved negative. One man explained that the aliens took his sperm. I asked him how he knew that they took his sperm, since he had said he was asleep when he was abducted. He said he knew because he had had an orgasm. I responded, "Is it possible you simply had a wet dream?" He was not amused.
After the taping of this program, about a dozen of the "abductees" were going out to dinner. Since I tend to be a fairly friendly, nonconfrontational skeptic in these situations, disdaining the shouting so desired by talk-show producers, they invited me to join them. It was enlightening. I discovered that they were neither crazy nor ignorant, as one might suspect. They were perfectly sane, rational, intelligent folks who had in common an irrational experience. They were convinced of the reality of the experience—no rational explanation I could offer, from hallucinations to lucid dreams to false memories, could convince them otherwise. One man became teary-eyed while telling me how traumatic the abduction was for him. Another woman explained that the experience had cost her a happy marriage to a wealthy television producer. I thought, "What is wrong here? There isn't a shred of evidence that any of these claims is true, yet these are normal, rational folks whose lives have been deeply affected by these experiences."
In my opinion, the alien abduction phenomenon is the product of an unusual altered state of consciousness interpreted in a cultural context replete with films, television programs, and science fiction literature about aliens and UFOs. Add to this the fact that for the past four decades we have been exploring the solar system and searching for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, and it is no wonder that people are seeing UFOs and experiencing alien encounters. Driven by mass media that revel in such tabloid-type stories, the alien abduction phenomenon is now in a positive feedback loop. The more people who have had these unusual mental experiences see and read about others who have interpreted similar incidents as abduction by aliens, the more likely it is that they will convert their own stories into their own alien abduction. The feedback loop was given a strong boost in late 1975 after millions watched NBC's The UFO Incident, a movie on Betty and Barney Hill's abduction dreams. The stereotypical alien with a large, bald head and big, elongated eyes, reported by so many abductees since 1975, was created by NBC artists for this program. The rate of information exchange took off as more and more alien abductions were reported on the news and recounted in popular books, newspapers, tabloids, and specialty publications dedicated solely to UFOs and alien abductions. As there seemed to be agreement on how the aliens looked and also on their preoccupation with human reproductive systems (usually women are sexually molested by the aliens), the feedback loop took off. Because of our fascination with the possibility of extraterrestrial life, and there is a real possibility that extraterrestrials might exist somewhere in the cosmos (a different question than their arrival here on Earth), this craze will probably wax and wane depending on what is hot in pop culture. Blockbuster films like ET
and Independence Day and television shows like Star Trek and The X-Files, as well as best-selling books like Whitley Strieber's Communion and John Mack's Abduction, continue feeding the movement.
While dining with the abductees, I found out something very revealing: not one of them recalled being abducted immediately after the experience. In fact, for most of them, many years went by before they "remembered" the experience. How was this memory recalled? Under hypnosis. As we shall see in the next chapter, memories cannot simply be "recovered" like rewinding a videotape. Memory is a complex phenomenon involving distortions, deletions, additions, and sometimes complete fabrication. Psychologists call this confabulation—mixing fantasy with reality to such an extent that it is impossible to sort them out. Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus (Loftus and Ketcham 1994) has shown how easy it is to plant a false memory in a child's mind by merely repeating a suggestion until the child incorporates it as an actual memory. Similarly, Professor Alvin Lawson put students at California State University, Long Beach, into a hypnotic state and in their altered state told them over and over that they had been abducted by aliens. When asked to fill in the details of the abduction, the students elaborated in great detail, making it up as they went along in the story (in Sagan 1996). Every parent has stories about the fantasies their children create. My daughter once described to my wife a purple dragon we saw on our hike in the local hills that day.
True, not all abduction stories are recalled only under hypnosis, but almost all alien abductions occur late at night during sleep. In addition to normal fantasies and lucid dreams, there are rare mental states known as hypnagogic hallucinations, which occur soon after falling asleep, and hypnopompic hallucinations, which happen just before waking up. In these unusual states, subjects report a variety of experiences, including floating out of their bodies, feeling paralyzed, seeing loved ones who have passed away, witnessing ghosts and poltergeists, and, yes, being abducted by aliens. Psychologist Robert A. Baker presents as typical this subject's report: "I went to bed and went to sleep and then sometime near morning something woke me up. I opened my eyes and found myself wide awake but unable to move. There, standing at the foot of my bed was my mother, wearing her favorite dress—the one we buried her in" (1987/1988, p. 157). Baker also demonstrates that Whitley Strieber's encounter with aliens (one of the more famous in abduction lore) "is a classic, textbook description of a hypnopompic hallucination, complete with awakening from a sound sleep, the strong sense of reality and of being awake, the paralysis (due to the fact that the body's neural circuits keep our muscles relaxed and help preserve our sleep), and the encounter with strange beings" (p. 157).
Harvard psychiatrist John Mack, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, gave the abduction movement a strong endorsement with his 1994 book, Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens. Here at last was a mainstream scholar from a highly respectable institution lending credence (and his reputation) to the belief in the reality of these encounters. Mack was impressed by the commonalities of the stories told by abductees—the physical description of the aliens, the sexual abuse, the metallic probes, and so on. Yet I think we can expect consistencies in the stories since so many of the abductees go to the same hypnotist, read the same alien encounter books, watch the same science fiction movies, and in many cases even know one another and belong to "encounter" groups (in both senses of the word). Given the shared mental states and social contexts, it would be surprising if there was not a core set of characteristics of the abduction experience shared by the abductees. And what are we to do with the shared absence of convincing physical evidence?
Finally, the sexual component of alien abduction experiences demands comment. It is well known among anthropologists and biologists that humans are the most sexual of all primates, if not all mammals. Unlike most animals, when it comes to sex, humans are not constrained by biological rhythms and the cycle of the seasons. We like sex almost anytime or anywhere. We are stimulated by visual sexual cues, and sex is a significant component in advertising, films, television programs, and our culture in general. You might say we are obsessed with sex. Thus, the fact that alien abduction experiences often include a sexual encounter tells us more about humans than it does about aliens. As we shall see in the next chapter, women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were often accused of (and even allegedly experienced or confessed to) having illicit sexual encounters with aliens—in this case the alien was usually Satan himself— and these women were burned as witches. In the nineteenth century, many people reported sexual encounters with ghosts and spirits at about the time that the spiritualism movement took off in England and America. And in the twentieth century, we have phenomena such as "Satanic ritual abuse," in which children and young adults are allegedly being sexually abused in cult rituals; "recovered memory syndrome," in which adult women and men are "recovering" memories of sexual abuse that allegedly occurred decades previously; and "facilitated communication," where autistic children are "communicating" through facilitators (teachers or parents) who hold the child's hand above a typewriter or computer keyboard reporting that they were sexually abused.
We can again apply Hume's maxim: is it more likely that demons, spirits, ghosts, and aliens have been and continue to sexually abuse humans or that humans are experiencing fantasies and interpreting them in the social context of their age and culture? I think it can reasonably be argued that such experiences are a very earthly phenomenon with a perfectly natural (albeit unusual) explanation. To me, the fact that humans have such experiences is at least as fascinating and mysterious as the possibility of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence.
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