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Close Encounters : UFO Believers--and Abductees--Say It Can Happen Here

January 06, 1994|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The 75 folding chairs were lined up in the meeting room, cookies and punch ready in the back. The club newsletter was neatly laid out by the door.

But this was no garden club meeting. Soon, three men and a woman--they looked like anyone you'd see at the shopping mall--would tell the hushed room about their abduction by aliens and being taken aboard a spacecraft.

It's another local chapter meeting of the Mutual UFO Network Inc., better known as MUFON. Gathering each month at the Cameron Center in Thousand Oaks, the group is part of an international organization that takes the business of investigating the UFO phenomenon very seriously.

These are folks who want no part of the wackier fringe elements of UFOlogy, as they call it. Yet here they are, listening to a guy from Burbank talking about aliens implanting some little gizmo in his leg.

Jesse, as he was introduced, had undergone regressive hypnosis that had, with horrifying clarity, unearthed memories of multiple abductions. The little gray beings with big heads, he said, first snatched him when he was 5. Last year, there were nine abductions and several mornings when he awoke to find strange marks and wounds on his body. But most troubling was the forced cross-breeding with female aliens.

"Can we please not talk about my children?" he choked in response to a question.

Is it possible that little gray creatures are beaming their hapless victims up to their spaceship for bizarre medical procedures?

If common sense says no, a flurry of books published over the past few years suggests otherwise. More people are coming forward with stories of abductions, which, UFO believers claim, bear amazing similarities.

The UFO phenomenon is hotter than ever. The local chapter of MUFON, started just three years ago, has swelled to about 40 members, and its meetings sometimes draw double that. And it is not unusual to see earnest postings such as the recent newspaper ad from an Ojai man looking for others with whom he might share UFO experiences.

But all the hubbub over aliens and UFOs is taking a new twist. Some mental health professionals are now insisting that regressive hypnosis reveals fantasy, not fact. They say the abductions never happened, although the memories seem frighteningly real.

Believers, clearly, think otherwise.

"Anyone who has researched it, anyone who has really done their homework--I don't know how they could say it doesn't happen," said Alice Leavy of Newbury Park, assistant director of the local chapter.

Beamed Up

Leavy, who owns a real estate appraisal business with her husband, believes that it happened a year ago in Camarillo. Since March, she and Mike Evans, director of the MUFON chapter, have been investigating the group's first big Ventura County case, and it's a doozy.

Two women turned to the group for help after months of anguish over a mysterious incident they say occurred on the Ventura Freeway on Nov. 20, 1992. (MUFON is keeping their identities confidential.)

According to MUFON's account, the women--one in her 20s, the other in her 30s--were driving north on the freeway about 9:30 p.m. when a huge, bright light appeared above and ahead of them. It was racing downward toward the car. The women were terrified that it was an airplane about to crash into them.

The next thing they knew, they were exiting the freeway in Ventura. It was close to midnight, and they had no idea what had happened to the previous 2 1/2 hours. Both women agonized for months over the missing time.

Then MUFON steered them to Yvonne Smith, a Los Angeles hypnotherapist who specializes in abduction cases. During hypnosis, they recounted a terrifying scene in which the light that blinded them was an oblong UFO the size of a football field.

According to Smith and MUFON representatives, the women told this tale:

They found themselves aboard a spacecraft. One was stripped and examined by little gray aliens with big heads and big eyes who communicated telepathically. She was peered at by another creature that resembled a praying mantis.

The other woman was guarded by one of the aliens. Before the episode ended, the aliens told the women that they would be back.

Did it really happen?

Credible Sources?

Skeptics say such abduction memories are the workings of an imagination heightened during hypnosis. Or they are subtly suggested by the hypnotherapist. Or they are hallucination-like nightmares and pieces of other memories. One critic claims that the so-called abductees are reliving the birth experience. Even MUFON members aren't unanimously supportive of the process of regressive hypnosis.

"Hypnosis turns on people's imagination--that's all it is," retired Kentucky psychologist Robert A. Baker scoffed. "It's very easy to do. I can teach anyone in five minutes."

Baker serves on the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, a self-proclaimed skeptics organization, and contends that there are natural explanations for abduction memories, UFO sightings and missing time.

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