The Intrigue of Alien Abductions: True Stories, Theories, and the Search for Truth

Kenneth Arnold might not be the first person to have reported “unidentified flying objects” after he saw what he thought to be some flying saucers near Mount Rainier in 1947. But the incident did mark the beginning of modern-era UFO sightings and was the first to have garnered nationwide media coverage in the post-World War II United States. Arnold was a 32-year-old private pilot when the sighting allegedly occurred and he spent the rest of his life trying to explain what exactly happened, adding the term “flying saucer” into everyday conversation. Various individuals made a similar claim in the years and decades that followed. Some involved not only mere sighting but actual physical contact, most likely alien abductions. A few of the most memorable ones include:

Alien Abductions

A Man from Venus – Desert Center, California

In his 1953 book Flying Saucers Have Landed, the Polish-American author George Adamsky detailed his encounter with an extraterrestrial creature somewhere in the Colorado Desert. As if the claim was not bold enough, he made an even more outrageous statement about having travelled with aliens on their spaceships. Adamsky described one alien as “a man from Venus” in a brown suit and had sandy brown hair. The meeting apparently involved telepathic discussion about nuclear weapons. Based on Adamsky’s account, the aliens were friendly. Other people quickly followed suit; many of them made similar claims about aliens from Venus wanting humans to stop making nuclear weapons.

Big Eye – Pascagoula River, Mississippi

On a Saturday evening in October 1973, Charles Hickson and his foreman at shipyard Calvin Parker Jr. were at a riverbank in Pascagoula after work ready to go fishing. They stayed there until dark. According to Hickson, there was suddenly a blue light flashing over them, accompanied by a buzzing sound. The two then turned around and saw a strange flying object about 30-foot long with a dome on the top. As three mysterious figures emerged, both Hickson and Parker were paralyzed and pulled toward the object.

Parker said they were floating inside the object, whereas Hickson added they were subjected to some sort of physical examination using a tool that appeared like a big eye. The next thing they knew was that they were dropped off in the exact spot at the riverbank; Hickson saw Parker standing up and screaming. Both men had a puncture wound in the arm. They told the authorities about what happened and everyone at the Pascagoula sheriff’s department office was skeptical, but the men did pass polygraph tests, which meant they probably were telling the truth.

Gray Humanoid with Large Head – Lincoln, New Hampshire

The first truly detailed and somewhat credible story of alien abduction came from Betty and Barney Hill, a couple living in New Hampshire. On the night of September 19, 1961 at around 10 p.m., they claimed to have seen mysterious flying object approaching their car as they drove through the White Mountains. They followed it for a short while and then stopped to have a closer look. Many details were lost at the beginning and the couple could only remember arriving home at 5 a.m. Such a long drive was highly unlikely unless the stopped for at least three hours during the trip, which they had not. Over the next months and years, Betty experienced recurring episodes of disturbing dreams, whereas Barney developed anxiety and ulcers.

Alien Abductions

With the help of Dr. Benjamin Simon, a neurologist and psychiatrist who specialized in hypnosis, Betty and Barney finally could make sense of the missing three-hours during the night of the incident and at least general description of the events that took place. According to the couple’s account, a saucer-like vessel approached and landed on their car before rendering them unconscious. Several gray humanoids with large heads then walked them into the vessel.

Once inside, Betty and Barney were subjected to physical examination in a room with curved walls. The gray humanoids removed the couple’s clothes, plucked some hairs, and took skin samples. Needle-tipped long wires probed their heads, spines, arms, and legs as well. Betty was also subjected to some kind of pregnancy test. Under hypnosis, they could even produce drawings of what they observed during the abduction, including the vessel and the aliens. Betty could also draw a star map shown to her when inside the vessel.


According to Richard McNally and Susan Clancy, professors of psychology at Harvard University, alien abduction stories can be attributed a phenomenon they refer to as dreaming with your eyes open. Dreams induce full-body paralysis, and the episode typically occurs when people are awakened from their dreams before the paralysis completely subsides. It is in between those two conditions that some people might experience hallucinations that involve flashing lights and unknown figures lurking around. Sleep paralysis is neither uncommon nor any sign of mental illness. However, when the paralysis and hallucination happen simultaneously, many people find the experience disturbing and try to make sense of it all, or figure out the meaning of the strange experience.

We think stories of alien abduction always deserve more scrutiny regardless of implausibility. Al Cheyne, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, also suggests the same thing as researchers at Harvard University. Based on a survey involving over 2,000 people who suffered from sleep paralysis, hundreds of them came up with various descriptions similar to those of alien abduction stories. Back in the old days, sleep paralysis might probably involve stories of witches, elves, fairies, or mythical creatures; when people no longer believe in three-headed dragons and flying broomstick, they turn to more contemporary ideas like humanoid figures and lightning-speed saucers.

Do you think there is any truth to any alien abduction story? Who has (or had) the most interesting extraterrestrial encounter ever? We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know:

What was the first documented UFO sighting?

Even before the first flights of dirigibles and airplanes took place, there had already been reports of unidentified flying objects by witnesses in northern California and Canada. Some witnesses claimed to have spotted a strange light followed by a dark-colored structure flying over Sacramento in November 1896. The light was later seen some twenty miles west in the San Francisco area. Few people thought it was an airship from another planet, but the most widespread opinion at the time suggested that the object was an actual airship built by a secret inventor. Furthermore, those who claimed to have seen the aircraft sitting on the ground also said the occupants were humans or at least human in appearance.

What is sleep paralysis?

In the most classic definition of the term, a person having an episode of sleep paralysis technically is awake. That said, there is an entire spectrum of consciousness in between being awake and being in REM sleep. Sleep paralysis exists somewhere around the spectrum.

Sleep paralysis is a condition when you are involuntarily paralyzed because the body is disconnected from the brain. The disconnection happens during REM sleep to prevent motions that may physically harm the bodies during a dream, such as jumping out of bed, kicking, punching, etc.

What is Tic Tac UFO incident?

The term “Tic Tac” UFO is derived from the testimony of retired Navy Cmdr. David Fravor in a hearing before the U.S. House Oversight Committee in July 2023 regarding a reported sighting of an unidentified flying object. During an otherwise typical training routine off the coast of Southern California on November 14, 2004, Fravor spotted an unknown flying object that he later described as looking like a Tic Tac. It remains unclear if the object was simply an unidentified aircraft or of extraterrestrial origin.

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