New UFO and paranormal radio show coming soon on East Dunbartonshire Radio!
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Strange Phenomena Investigations was founded in 1979 by Malcolm Robinson. He and Willy Devlin investigated many strange and inexplicable cases. Today, 35 years later, SPI is still going! Malcolm is now down in England, so has handed SPI over to Willy and I in his absence. Willy and I are committed to helping anyone experiencing strange phenomena, whether paranormal or UFO-related.
You can find the SPI website at the following link:
You can also find our Facebook group here:
I am due to start my own paranormal and UFO-related radio show, “The E.D. X-Files”, on East Dunbartonshire Radio. You can find the link here and I’ll also be posting up links to my shows.
Please read my two introductory articles on UFOs and alien abduction:
In my previous articles, I mention the phenomenon of alien abduction, which I believe may be related to sleep paralysis or seeing into another dimension. I don’t rule out that these two things are related.
This week I would like to concentrate on a type of alien that over 50% of reported abductees or contactees claim to have seen. These aliens are known by the title of “The Greys”, so-called due to their skin colour. There are many theories about who they are, where they come from and what they want! As well as having a grey skin tone, they are also perceived as having large heads and big, black eyes.
I am interested in the human experience. Of course, I would also like to know what on earth contactees are experiencing. It didn’t take much reading to realise that the entire alien subject has evolved a mythology of its own, based very much upon what people think rather than what they know.
Having said that, mythology is always a subject I have been fascinated by and thoroughly enjoy reading. All mythology is based on acquired knowledge of some kind. It seems that aliens are the scientific age’s version of the modern faerytale, with many similarities, including things like abduction by small beings.
One of the first reported abduction by Greys was Betty and Barney Hill, although sceptics seem to believe they describe similar aliens to those in early science-fiction. For example, in 1893, H.G. Wells wrote Man of the Year Million in which he imagined humanity transformed into a race of grey-skinned beings, stunted with large heads. In 1895, he also wrote The Time Machine in which his fictional species, Morlocks, live underground in the year 802,701 CE. Wells describes them as having large eyes and with grey fur covering their body. He also describes a symbiotic relationship between the Morlocks and the Eloi, which reflect the relationship of the working class and the upper class in society.
Again, in 1901, Wells’ book The First Men in the Moon describes Selenites (great name – Selena was the Greek goddess of the moon!) as having grey skin, big heads and large black eyes. Another writer, Gustav Sandgren described the aliens (in 1933) as short, with big, bald heads, strong, square foreheads, very small noses and mouths and weak chins. Their eyes were large and dark. Their clothes were grey. You can begin to perhaps see that this description may have been a recurring motif in early science fiction. Though, we cannot of course rule out why Wells decided to describe aliens this way… Did he have first-hand experience; hear of someone else’s close encounter or just have a very vivid writer’s imagination?
After her close encounter in 1961, Betty Hill later had dreams in which she and her husband were abducted and taken aboard a spacecraft. In these dreams, she was examined and later, after asking the alien “leader” where he was from, she was shown a star chart. Following hypnosis, under the guidance of a Doctor Benjamin Simon of Boston (a referral from Barney’s psychiatrist Doctor Stephens), Betty was given the post hypnotic suggestion that she could draw the star chart she had been shown, which she did, later drawing the chart as she remembered it. She said she was told solid lines linking stars were trade routes and dotted lines were to less-travelled stars. The map was identified as being from the view point of Zeta Reticuli, the double star. However, other theories have emerged including that it is completely random or that it’s very similar to our own solar system. Prior to the hypnosis sessions there were several sci-fi programmes in which the starring aliens were very similar to the descriptions of those given by the Hills under hypnosis. Later, Doctor Simon wrote an article about the Hills. He concluded that the case was a “singular psychological aberration”. Even so, mythologically, the Greys became known as Zeta Reticulans.
Prior to Betty and Barney Hill’s experience, Greys were also linked with the Roswell crash (1947). A number of statements, from individuals claiming to have seen unusual, bald and small humanoids being taken from the crash site, appeared in a few publications in the 1980s. These figures have since been dismissed by authorities as being test dummies.
Several later science fiction films had Greys as the starring aliens, such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Communion (1989). In the 1990s, they appeared in several TV programmes such as The X Files, Dark Skies, Stargate SG-1 (The Asgard) and Babylon 5 (The Vree).
In 1995, Ray Santilli claimed he had film of an alien autopsy. Santilli said it was one of the Roswell Greys from 1947 that was shown in the footage. Impressively filmed, he later admitted that it was a “reconstruction” of events (aka a hoax). No real evidence was found, or has ever been found.
In 2011, a film called Paul showed a Grey-like alien in the starring role. It is definitely worth watching, not only for the hilarious Simon Pegg, but also the general comical script. It really is a very enjoyable film.
As I mentioned at the start, Greys are one of the most commonly reported aliens in abduction experiences. They make up approximately 50 percent in Australia, 43 percent in the United States, 90 percent in Canada, 67 percent in Brazil, 20 percent in Continental Europe and approximately 12 percent in the United Kingdom. However, they are not always reported to actually be grey in colour. They may be grey with tinges of blue, green or purple, or a different colour entirely.
Abduction experiences are often extremely traumatic (although not always), sometimes involving sexual assault and painful, terrifying medical examinations. Regardless of your views on this subject, and regardless of the truth behind abduction experiences, there is no doubt in my mind (I say this as someone who has professional insight of trauma, stress and anxiety) that if someone has experienced a negative alien abduction phenomenon they have lived through a completely terrifying and traumatic event. Quite often it changes them and their lives forever. I do not believe they are making it up or fantasising. It is real to them, and that makes it a real event. That is a fair enough statement. What is entirely debatable is what that event actually is. This is a grey area indeed…
Many theories exist as to what Greys are, if they are not in fact aliens, and it’s important to at least consider these possibilities. It’s not easy to come to terms with something which seems completely solid and 3 dimensional, being a part of the human imagination, as Neurologist Doctor Steven Novella thinks. He poses the possibility that our imagination conjurs up an image of what we believe an intelligent being from another planet would look like. In other words, we see what we expect to see. Given the right conditions, or the right frame of mind, it is not impossible that some of these experiences are projections of our imagination. People often hate to think of this idea, but I would seriously consider it if the experience has taken place when you are in bed. It is common for people to imagine they are awake when, in fact, they have entered a certain phase of sleep – one in which unusual experiences can happen e.g. out of body/astral projection dreams and such like. These are both fascinating and incredible to experience, and certainly do not mean that you have lost your mind. However, it is experienced better if you let go of fear (both in the dream and in your life) and become empowered. One possibility, therefore, is that the Greys represent fears – perhaps of sex or medical procedures (which seem to be the two most common abduction themes).
Another theory is that the image of the Grey is based on memories of early childhood, and the perception we have of our care-givers as we try to understand the world we are introduced to as a baby. Most baby memories are lost within our amazing brains, but they must be in there somewhere, surely. Imagine you are a new born child and the first people you see are all those hospital staff. You have no idea what is going on as they poke and prod you. I think we probably all found that a bit traumatic. Does that initial trauma stay with some people?
It has also been conjectured that the physical similarities are due to the E.T.s having had some kind of evolutionary influence on primates in the distant past, i.e. the theory used in Quatermass and the Pit. In other words, when and how did we evolve from ape to man…?
There are also several theories as to why they might be visiting earth by those who believe they are alien in nature. Theories such as genetic engineering, cross-breeding/hybridisation and experimentation (i.e. humans are the Grey equivalent to lab rats) have also been put forward, as have many conspiracy theories e.g. government disinformation or mind-control experiments.
What do you think? Who are the Greys, in your opinion? Where do you think they are from, and what do you think they want….? I look forward to hearing your views on the subject. Leave a comment!
Until next time. Your friend, A.D.
Berlitz, Charles; Moore William (1980). The Roswell Incident (1st ed.). Grosset & Dunlap. ISBN 0-448-21199-8.
Bryan, C.D.B (1995). Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. ISBN 0-679-42975-1. ISBN B000I1AFBA.
Novella, Dr. Steven (2000-10). “UFOs: The Psychocultural Hypothesis”. The New England Skeptical Society. Retrieved 2010-02-02.
Malmstrom, Frederick (2005). “Close Encounters of the Facial Kind: Are UFO Alien Faces an Inborn Facial Recognition Template?”. Skeptic. The Skeptics Society. Retrieved 2008-09-18
alien abduction, Aliens, Billy Buchanan, Bonnybridge, Colin Wright, Dechmont Law, Delphi, ethylene, Falkirk, Fracking, Gary Wood, Gradrum Moss, Grangemouth, intoxicating gases, James Walker, Livingstone, Loch Ellrig, Malcolm Robinson, MOD, Nick Pope, petrochemicals, Scotland, space crafts, SPI, Strange Phenomena Investigations, UFO
UPDATED 21ST JANUARY 2015
Bonnybridge is a small Scottish town, about twenty miles north of Glasgow, just west of Falkirk. This unassuming little part of Scotland has become known as the world’s top UFO hotspot. This place has had so many occurrences of UFOs, and even reports of alien abduction, it has earned the name “The Falkirk Triangle” or “The Bonnybridge Triangle”. Every year there are approximately 300 sightings, with 1 in 3 residents claiming to have witnessed a UFO. In more recent years, things have calmed down a little.
Some of the stories do indeed sound like tall tales, possibly brought on by mass hysteria, but there are some that defy explanation and are much more disturbing in nature. Literally thousands of residents in this area of Scotland have come forward as witnesses to report what they regard as being unlike any conventional aircraft or astronomical phenomenon. If an object in the sky cannot be identified it must be classed as unidentified. Obviously. What that means takes much more research, and investigators never jump to any conclusions. However, the term “UFO” does not automatically mean alien. 95% of sightings turn out to be explainable, but there are a small amount that continue to baffle ufologists.
One of the earliest reported incidents in Scotland was in 1976, when a 10 year old girl, Karen, claimed she was abducted in woods near her home in Meigle, Fife. She said she saw strange blue creatures, before being lifted into a spacecraft and examined. The little girl grew up to be a social worker, and sticks to her story to this day.
On 9th November 1979. Forestry worker, Bob Taylor, discovered a large circular craft in woodland known as Dechmont Law, near Livingstone. As he approached it, he said that two circular objects which resembled WWII naval mines, dropped from the craft and rolled towards him. He said these objects then attached themselves to his trousers and tried to drag him towards the craft. There was an acrid smell which made him choke and then he was waking up on the ground, trousers ripped and legs cut and bruised.
Police investigated this incident, and found ladder-shaped imprints on the ground, as well as marks that backed up Bob’s story that he had been dragged along the ground. The police were unable to solve the mystery and the file remains open.
In 1989, a fire crew were attending a fire at Gradrum Moss, when a red object appeared hovering in the distance. It came towards the fire engine and then flew off west. A second object appeared. It was white and hovered above Loch Ellrig, at a distance of about twenty feet from the witnesses. It then rushed towards them before veering away at the last minute. A third object passed overhead. Strange Phenomena Investigations founder, Malcolm Robinson took on the case.
The first sighting in the Bonnybridge area was in 1992. A well-known local businessman, James Walker, was driving along the back road from Falkirk to Bonnybridge. He was stopped by a bright object hovering over the road, blocking his path. He sat and watched it for 10 minutes before it flew off at tremendous speed.
The same year, the Sloggett family were walking towards Bonnybridge when they saw a circle of light ahead of them. The light appeared to land in a nearby field. They kept walking, but were then stopped by a football-sized blue light hovering in the road in front of them. When the craft in the field appeared to open, the family began to run. One of the objects followed them. It eventually gave up, but they didn’t stop running until they reached home!
Councillor Billy Buchanan put an advert in the local paper, asking for anyone else who had seen anything to come forward. The response was astonishing. 300 people came to him with reported sightings, his phone was ringing constantly at all hours and he had sackfuls of letters from concerned residents.
Amongst the calls Buchanan received was one from Malcolm Robinson. Together the two of them organised a public meeting in the Norwood Hotel, Bonnybridge in February 1993. Councillor Buchanan recalled that he had expected about 50 people, but couldn’t have been more astonished when 400 people turned up, crammed into the room, with many more outside who couldn’t get in. Many were saying they had seen things but didn’t want to speak up for fear of ridicule. Bear in mind, this is a town of only about 6000 residents! With 300 sightings reported each year, there has now been literally thousands of reports from approximately a third of all residents.
One of Buchanan’s own sightings, I have to say, sounds to me suspiciously like a meteor shower. However, I find it interesting that the location is near a petrochemical plant and power station. This seems to be a recurring theme in many of the stories, and as a trained investigator, one has to look at every possible, likely and rational angle. At the edge of the field where Councillor Buchanan and his friends witnessed “an hour long display of rushing lights” there are three transmitter masts. A sign on the fence surrounding them reads “Warning: Strong Radio Frequency Fields Exist in Certain Areas of this Transmitting Site. If you have a cardiac pacemaker or bones repaired by metal/plastic bone implant you must report this fact to reception on your arrival”. Now, that’s a pretty strong warning….
Many other sightings have been reported from this location and it is not a new theory to suggest that electricity from the masts or balls of gas from the petrochemical plant are responsible for these experiences, perhaps enhancing objects that the observer would usually find perfectly explainable.
In an earlier article I mentioned the case of Garry Wood and Colin Wright. The former, I had the pleasure of meeting one night, at an SPI meeting in Stirling. Then again, last October (2014) at the Stirling Paranormal Festival. Their experience is quite disturbing. It was 1992. Garry and Colin were driving back along the A70 towards Tarbrax late one night. Close to the Harperrig Reservoir, the car turned a corner and in front of them, about 20 feet in the air, was a black disc. They decided the best thing would be to drive underneath it, at which point the car was showered with “silvery snowflakes”. All went dark. A few seconds later the car shuddered violently and the object had vanished. The men drove on, but when they arrived at their destination they were 90 minutes late. 90 minutes that they could not account for. A few nights later they both began having nightmares, and discovered marks on their body that they could not explain. They enlisted the help of Malcolm Robinson. Under hypnosis, an abduction story surfaced, but as a hypnotherapist – as I said before with regards to hypnotic regression – this evidence must be dismissed as there is always the possibility of false memory syndrome. This is not an evidence-based technique and is by no means a secure means of establishing truth. This, of course, was explained to the men by Robinson beforehand, but they decided to give it a try. They were regressed separately, and did recall the same information about being taken aboard the craft and examined. Having met Garry Wood, all I can say is that he believes he saw something that night. His fear and anger, when I met him approximately twenty years ago, were genuine. Nowadays, he seems much happier. I believe they did have some kind of experience that night. I don’t know what, though. I don’t blame him for his initial fear and anger. He was ridiculed to the point of silence. Both he and Colin keep out the lime-light and do not encourage publicity.
Malcolm Robinson, who investigated the A70 incident, gives a full account in this interview, which includes a reconstruction of the event. Malcolm describes the two men as “honest and sincere”. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Colin Wright, but, having met Garry Wood, I would have no hesitation in agreeing with this description of him.
Again, in 1992, Neil Malcolm ran into his house. He was traumatised, his face white. He told his brother, Craig, that whilst driving down the road an object in the sky approach him and lit up the car. The two brothers ran outside and there was a light floating above their house. Craig and other members of his family have since seen many strange lights, particularly in the area of Wester Glen.
In 1994, three cleaners on their way to work, saw five UFOs. When they got to work other colleagues reported also seeing flashing lights and orange orbs in the sky that morning.
The same year, William Bestall gave another eye-witness account of strange goings-on in the area. He kept hand-written notes of all that he witnessed. He and his wife Mabel saw what they described as a circular illuminated wheel rotating, going forward and reversing on a straight trajectory path over the high-rise flats in Camelon. Bestall was a sceptic. He attempted to think of some rational explanation, but could only come up with the possibility that the TV transmitter masts in the area might have something to do with it. In any case, the object disappeared over the horizon at a speed “far beyond the limits of any aircraft”.
Five months later, whilst visiting friends, they all saw the object again. Bestall had his friends sign that they had seen it too. Then on January 12th 1995 William got up at 5.30am to go to the bathroom. He looked out of the lounge window and immediately got Mabel to come and see what was outside. They saw a circular light spinning on the horizon, and then smaller discs going round the bigger one. They then seemed to fly off south, out of sight. The Bestalls had been reluctant to mention their sightings until a local nurse came forward with a similar report, and William decided to back her story up with his own sightings.
In 1995, Vera Prosser (then 49), her husband Myles and daughter Heather were travelling along a road just outside Falkirk, on their way to a local garage to buy a lottery ticket. They described being on the road which passed the old Rechem Plant: “We were driving along and we saw what looked like a headlamp in the field, like it was on full beam. We slowed down, and as we were looking at it, it started to come nearer”. They slowed the car right down to 10 mph as the object got closer and closer. Suddenly it was right above their car. The lights from it were blazing through the sunroof, and 13 year old Heather began screaming “Get out of here! Get out of here!”.
Vera carries on:
“I looked up through the sunroof and I could see this thick silvery wire round the bottom of this thing, all twisted together like the cables on the Forth Bridge – that’s what it made me think of, this heavy wire just above the top of the car, and all this light. It was wider than the car, and it just sat there about six feet above us, and it was pure silent, no sound at all – that’s how we knew it wasn’t an aeroplane or anything. Then suddenly it just shot off; it skiffed over the grass really, really fast and went over towards the pylons,’ continues Vera. I just put my foot down – I felt like we were going at 90 – and I was never so pleased to see streetlights as when we got to the bridges by Camelon.”
The family were extremely upset. Myles was shaking, Heather and Vera both in tears. By the time Vera got to Councillor Buchanan’s house she was very upset, but nevertheless she felt she had to report it.
In 1997, Councillor Billy Buchanan was reported to have described the story of a man he had known all his life. This anonymous man came to him with an almost unbelievable tale of an alien abduction. In tears, the man described being forced to ejaculate into some kind of substance.
In 2004, a number of locals reported a cigar-shaped craft landing on a local golf course.
In 2009, a man from Banknock was having a cigarette out his skylight when he saw what he at first thought was a star. It was bright orange. Then he saw another. Neither of them appeared to have navigation lights. Then a third appeared, and he shouted for his wife to bring the camera. He managed to capture one of the objects on film.
Nick Pope, who ran the government’s UFO project at the MOD between 1991 and 1994 believed there were something to a few of the claims, some of which were reported by police officers or pilots, and some of which were captured on radar.
With the MOD issuing a statement that “There is nothing happening in Bonnybridge that is a threat to national security.” Well, that tells me one thing. The MOD has to know what it is, to know for sure that it is no threat to national security. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work that one out.
There have been many theories over the years. Ron Halliday of Stirling University, believes that the sightings are glimpses into another dimension.
It is interesting to me that there are many chemical companies in this area. I mentioned Rechem earlier, which the Prosser family passed just before their close encounter. Rechem was a company that dealt with toxic waste.
Furthermore, close by and within the triangle is Grangemouth, which has a huge petrochemical industry. Very intriguingly, one of the things manufactured at Grangemouth is something called Ethylene. In fact, there is actually an Ethylene pipeline which runs from Grangemouth to Wilton, 250 km away in the Scottish borders.
Why is this of interest? Well, because during my time studying ancient Greek classics, one of my research subjects was magic, religion, ritual and esoteric practices of ancient civilisations. I was fascinated by the story of the Delphic Oracle, the Pythia, a succession of priestesses who figured prominently in Greek culture for over a thousand years. Plutarch (1st c CE) described how she would enter a small chamber and inhale a sweet-smelling vapour from fissures in the mountain before entering a trance. From here she would give answers to those who sought her wisdom. Other texts also mention mysterious vapours at the temple of Delphi. Findings from geological and chemical analyses support the view that she may have been inhaling ethylene gas as part of the ceremony.
In the early 2000s, Jelle Z. de Boer of Wesleyan University found, amongst other gases, ethylene trapped in a limestone stalactite deposited by an ancient spring. They found this gas in other ancient springs too, and as anyone interested in the subject will probably already know, there were many holy wells and springs in ancient times. What made them places of spirituality? It would seem intoxicating gases played a major part.
Ethylene is a potent, potentially fatal, gas. It is effective as an anaesthetic and produces euphoria as well as exciting the nervous system. It also has a sweet smell, like the gas Plutarch mentioned in his account. Clearly, as in the case of the Delphic Oracle, it can also produce visions.
I went to Delphi in 2004, and even if the vapours have long gone, there is something – just something – about that place. It feels spiritual. It feels magical. There is an atmosphere there I have never experienced anywhere else. I felt a sense of being in a very light altered state, and that was before I had researched all this. I suppose this is what others might be feeling in certain other areas of important past events e.g. in Rendlesham Forest people report feeling a weirdness to this day. It was because of how it made me feel that I decided to read more on the subject, and my findings are the inspiration for my unfinished book “Finding Delphi”.
I can’t say that ethylene is a cause of the experiences of Bonnybridge residents, but I do think it ought to be considered as one possible explanation of some of the experiences. Maybe, somewhere underground there is a leak. Maybe Ron Halliday is right. If ethylene intoxication is a possibility, perhaps it shows us a window into another dimension, as the ancient Greeks thought at Delphi. Things have calmed down from the 1990s, where they reached a peak. Perhaps a leak has been fixed. Perhaps the experiment, if there was one, is over. Who knows?
Grangemouth, incidentally, also has an Air Training Corps Squadron, 1333 (Grangemouth) Squadron (located at the TA Centre in Central Avenue), an Army Cadet Detachment (also in Central Avenue) and a Sea and Marine cadet corps at Grangemouth Docks. There is, therefore, a lot of military activity in the area – something else to consider when researching this subject. The military do seem to show up wherever there are UFOs…..
*Updated news stories on Grangemouth (1/10/14)
*Updated news stories on Falkirk objections to unconventional and risky gases being extracted in the local area (2/10/14)
Until next time. Your friend, A.D.
Dedicated to a man called Andy Y., who introduced me to this subject back in the early 1990s.
I am cutting down on the amount of blogs I write. At the moment, I can usually manage fortnightly. However, to allow me to carry on with my studies, as well as writing my books, “Hex in the City” will soon become a monthly blog. I heartily thank everyone for their continued support, which has been overwhelmingly positive. I absolutely love writing these articles and have no intention of stopping completely! Please feel free to forward any of my articles to other forums and do follow me on whichever site you like best, be that WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Tumblr. Or all of them! Take a browse round the site and read extracts from some of my books. If you like what I write about, you can find me on Amazon too!
Spiller HA, Hale JR, De Boer JZ. “The Delphic oracle: a multidisciplinary defense of the gaseous vent theory”. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 2002;40(2):189-96.
Hale JR, de Boer JZ, Chanton JP, Spiller HA. “Questioning the Delphic oracle”. Sci Am. 2003;289(2):66-73.
Broad W. “Fumes and visions were not a myth for Oracle at Delphi”. NYTimes.com. Mar 19, 2002.
Ball P. “Oracle’s secret fault found”. Nature.com. Jul 17, 2001.
Author Unknown. “Oracle of Delphi – high on ethylene?”. National Post. Jul 25, 2000.
Foster J, Lehoux D. “The delphic oracle and the ethylene-intoxication hypothesis”. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2007;45(1):85-9.
Lehoux D. “Drugs and the Delphic Oracle”. Classical World. 2007 Fall;101(1):41-56.
Alien, Aliens, Betty and Barney Hill, Close Encounters, Demons, E.T., Extra-Terrestrial, faery, fairy, Fire in the Sky, folk tales, George Adamski, gods, Independence Day, John Carpenter, mythology, Orson Welles, PTSD, Quatermass and the Pit, Roswell, sleep paralysis, Terence McKenna, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Fourth Kind, The Invasion, The Thing, Travis Walton, UFO, Vilas-Boas, War of the Worlds
In the mid-1990s, I developed an interest in the UFO and alien abduction phenomenon. I set about becoming a somewhat sceptical UFO investigator. Most of my findings led me to meteorological, astronomical or military activity as conclusions for sightings. One rainy night I got on the train to Stirling. It took about forty five minutes from Glasgow. There was a meeting of the group Strange Phenomena Investigations, in the back room of a local pub. I expected to encounter one or two strange individuals. In fact, they were all just ordinary everyday people, but interested enthusiasts of the subject. They were as keen to know what it was all about, as much as I was. I decided to listen without judgement, lest it cloud my view of what was occurring with these people. Malcolm Robinson, the founder of SPI, was there and introduced me to the group. At one point in the evening, someone began speaking about how aliens were our friends and were not here to harm us. Almost immediately another participant forcefully exploded: “How can you say that?” he cried. “You don’t know that! I have no idea what they are or what they want, but I can tell you one thing…they are not our friends!” I swallowed hard. I could tell by the look on this man’s face that he was completely serious. He said that since his encounter he and his friend, Colin, had problems with friends, family and colleagues who didn’t believe their story and his friend had not been back to work since the incident. I realised I was listening to Garry Wood speaking. He and his friend Colin Wright had reported experiencing an alien abduction on the A70, an incident which was investigated by the Ministry of Defence. They had about ninety minutes of missing time. Now, I have no idea what happened that night, but there is one thing I am completely sure of, Garry Wood certainly believed it had happened. The look on his face was that of a man disturbed, terrified and angered by the experience. You can read the full story of Garry Wood and Colin Wright here.
It’s one of the Big Questions, alongside “Why are we here?” and “Is there a God?” Another thing we are all really curious about is: Are we alone in this universe? Or, is there a remote possibility that somewhere, out there, there is another form of life. If there is, what could it possibly look like? If we were ever to encounter it, how would it behave towards us?
This is the 66th anniversary of the “Roswell Incident”. In July 1947, in Roswell, New Mexico, debris was recovered. Authorities claimed it was a top secret surveillance balloon, but conspiracy theorists have always believed the US military recovered an alien spaceship that day.
In 1995, Ray Santilli claimed to have footage of an alien autopsy being performed on one of the Roswell aliens recovered from the crash. Two years later the US Air Force released a report which said the alien bodies witnesses reported seeing were, in fact, test dummies. In 2006, Santilli admitted the autopsy film was not genuine. However, he insisted it was based on real life events. Nevertheless, there has never been any substantial proof that aliens crashed to Earth in 1947.
There were certainly alien stories prior to the Roswell incident. Orson Welles’s adaptation of War of the Worlds, a novel by H G Wells, sent many Americans into a state of mass hysteria, thinking that Marsians had invaded. Science-fiction was developing as a popular genre and many scientific discoveries were being made about space. The format of War of the World was news bulletins. With an audience already primed for war, all these things contributed to sending the public into a frenzy.
Tune into the original 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds.
Nevertheless, after the Roswell incident, the public imagination about aliens and UFOs went wild. It was round about this time that George Adamski was taking photos of flying saucers. The 1950s then saw a huge increase in sci-fi and alien movies. One of my favourites, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), gives the message that the people of Earth must live peacefully or be destroyed as a danger to other planets. The following year Adamski claimed to have met Venusian alien, Orthon, who warned him of the dangers of nuclear war. There are, of course, many criticisms of Adamski and many holes in his stories, which you can read for yourself here.
In 1957, Antônio Vilas-Boas, a Brazilian farmer claimed to have been abducted by aliens. There are other similar abduction stories, but his is the first to receive proper attention. The incident occurred when Boas was only 23 years old, working at night to avoid the hot temperatures during the day. As he was ploughing a field, near São Francisco de Sales, he was approached by what he described as a red star, which as it got closer, became recognisable as a space craft. The full story can be read here.
In 1961, widespread publicity was generated by Betty and Barney Hill, who also claimed to have been abducted by aliens in New Hampshire. The University of New Hampshire have custody of a permanent collection of Betty Hill’s notes, tapes and other items. In 2011, a state historical marker was placed at the site of the alleged encounter. Betty and Barney Hill’s story can be read in full here.
The Hill’s story is highly intriguing, yet many motifs and themes are similar to that of science-fiction being aired at that time. It is thought that these images, coupled with sleep deprivation and false memories recovered during hypnosis, were all part and parcel of the overall experience.
As a hypnotherapist myself, I can say that nowadays regression would never be used to recover memories. The likelihood of false memory syndrome would be a huge factor in discrediting the entire encounter. Any information Betty and Barney Hill gave under hypnosis should be dismissed entirely.
A few years later, attention turned to what our relationship to aliens might be. Quatermass and the Pit (1967) is an extraordinary concept of the imagination. It is a fantastic story, surrounding the discovery of an ancient Martian spacecraft in the London Underground, and the realisation that aliens have influenced human evolution and intelligence since the beginning. The spacecraft seems to stir up memories of the aliens which remain deep in the human psyche. Professor Quatermass is convinced that all our beliefs and fears of devils and such like are, in fact, tied up with these memories of our encounters with the Martians.
The term “close encounter” was coined in 1972 by Josef Allen Hynek (1910-1986) in his book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Enquiry. Hynek proposed there were three types of close encounter:
Close Encounters of the First Kind are sightings of one or more UFOs at a distance of 500 feet or less.
Close Encounters of the Second Kind are sightings of a UFO which were accompanied by physical effects such as heat, electrical interference etc.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind involve the sighting of an animated being (presumably alien but not specifically defined as such).
Other categories have since developed, including having contact, being abducted, those involving death, those involving hybrid creations and sexual encounters. There are also sub-categories to the Third Kind according to whether the perceived alien is inside or outside their UFO, there are any other witnesses, the alien is injured or captured etc. All categories can be read here.
Following this initial categorisation by Hynek, Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) explored the phenomenon. It turned out the aliens were quite nice really, and usually returned abducted children happy and uninjured. I jest. It’s actually another of my favourite films, quite unnerving in parts, but ultimately a “feel good” ending. Spielberg carried on with his view of the alien as the good guy with E.T. The Extra Terrestrial in 1982, which had everyone in love, and saying a tearful goodbye to their favourite alien, by the end of the movie.
The same year, Bill Lancaster (son of Burt) wrote the screenplay for The Thing (directed by John Carpenter), which assured us that we were in mortal peril from E.T. Here the alien is a parasite which assimilates other lifeforms and imitates them. Who can you trust? That is the Big Question this time. Someone might look like your friend, or your pet husky, but are they in fact an alien in disguise…?
By 1993, we were sticking with the alien as foe. Fire in the Sky is possibly one of the creepiest and most unnerving alien abduction stories, not least of all because it’s based on the events depicted by Travis Walton who claimed to have had a real life encounter. What actually happened that night is largely undetermined and many still believe it was one big hoax. The film is certainly an exaggeration of Walton’s own account from his book The Walton Experience.
On the evening of 5th November 1975, logger Travis Walton and his co-workers, on their way home, encounter a UFO. Travis gets out the car, is hit by a beam of light, the others take off in their car. One of them, Mike Rogers, returns to the scene later but Travis is nowhere to be found. Initially the incident is investigated as a murder enquiry. The boys take a lie-detector test, which is inconclusive and five days later Travis turns up disorientated and hysterical at a gas station. Travis initially fails his first polygraph, which is claimed to have used out-dated methods. Two subsequent ones revealed him to be telling the truth. The entire story can be read here.
Various invasion films have been made over the last ten years or so: Independence Day (1996), War of the Worlds (2005), The Invasion (2007). Then in 2009, The Fourth Kind came to cinemas. It is a mockumentary science-fiction thriller based on disappearances in Alaska. It’s a fairly good film, though not an exceptionally good advert for hypnosis (once again!), and its supposed realistic background gives the viewer plenty to think about. Similar to Quatermass, the alien life-forms are tied to an ancient civilisation. This time the Sumerians. They are bound up once more in our beliefs of supernatural beings, including God.
We do indeed live in a strange world, full of seemingly inexplicable occurrences. It would do a great injustice to both science and victims if I were to simply cast aside all accounts of alien abduction as mere hallucinations. However, the truth is often stranger than fiction and every bit as intriguing. Similar supernatural experiences have happened since practically the dawn of time and they all bear remarkable similarities to one another. Supernatural kidnappings, abductions and attacks have been reported going right back into ancient times, passed down through folklore. Faery kidnappings and alien abductions contain some terrifying parallels. Even ancient Gods, in mythology, were known to kidnap mortals. Noise of some sort often accompanies such abductions. In faery lore it might be music, in alien accounts it’s usually humming or buzzing sounds.
As someone who has experienced a very realistic encounter of a supernatural entity, during what is termed by psychologists to be sleep paralysis (with hallucination), I know what it feels like. I know, too, that most experiences happen during the sleeping state, and have been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). My experiences most often happen during stressful times. These “visitors” most often terrify us at night, be they incubus/succubus demons, fairies or aliens, and there is often a sexual element to them. There is also an association with missing time, which is reported not just in the Hills or Walton cases, but also in ancient folklore. For example, there is a Welsh folk tale of Rhys and Llewellyn who heard music when they were walking home one night. Rhys follows the music, whilst Llewellyn goes home. Months pass without Rhys being seen, until finally Llewellyn goes to the spot where they heard the music and finds Rhys dancing in a faery ring claiming to only have been there for five minutes (1). It’s also common for those who have experienced the abduction phenomenon to have marks on their bodies: faery bruising, witches marks placed by the Devil and alien needle marks, all seem to be very similar occurrences. What they actually are, is very difficult to say.
In fact, could all of these experiences be entirely natural phenomena, triggered by stress? Does stress release certain chemicals in the brain which interferes with normal functioning, causing people to experience supernatural encounters? (Stress and sleep deprivation both trigger off my own sleep paralysis, but thankfully I’m quite big on relaxation, yoga, meditation and self-hypnosis these days!). Or do we, somewhere in our psyches, have the key to communicate with other realms, as Terence McKenna has suggested, linking the ingestion of certain kinds of hallucinogenic mushrooms to the ability to see other realms which are always there anyway. Perhaps polar magnetism makes a difference – as areas in the north, such as Iceland and Scandinavian countries, seem to find the existence of faery and troll entities a completely normal part of life. Are alien encounters a more scientific equivalent, more prevalent in other parts of the world?
I leave you with this, and the thought that in the scale of the universe Earth really is very tiny indeed. In that vastness we called “space” can we really possibly be the only significant life forms….?
I’d love to hear from you if you have ever experienced any supernatural encounter…of any kind! Please leave comments below!
Your friend, A.D.
(1) Boston, James R. (1881) Wirt, Sikes, British goblins: Welsh folk lore, fairy mythology, legends and traditions, Osgood & Company, p 70-71.
A Nightmare on Elm Street, Alien, Aliens, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Black Christmas, crime, Doctor Loomis, drugs, Ellen Ripley, feminism, feminist, Final Girl, Freddy Krueger, Ghostface, Halloween, Hannibal Lecter, Horror, intelligence, Jason Voorhees, killer, knives, Laurie Strode, Leatherface, Lila, Mad, Mad Man, Madness, Michael Myers, misogynist, Nancy, Norman Bates, psychiatric illness, Psycho, Psychological, resourceful, Sam Loomis, Scream, Sex, Sidney, Sigourney Weaver, Silence of the Lambs, slasher, stabbing, strength, strong women, thriller, twists, victims, virgin, weapons
Slasher movies are a favourite with horror fans. Even if you’re not an outright horror fan, it’s likely you will have seen at least one of these in your life! The slasher has elements of thriller and crime, so can be appealing to audiences who also enjoy these genres too. In turn, some thrillers and other horrors, which are not really slashers as such, may have elements of the slasher in them.
What you may or may not realise is that there is a set of rules that come along with slasher and slasher-type horror films. During my post graduate in film and television, I had fun studying the “Final Girl” in horror. The Final Girl is a strong, independent female protagonist, the peer of the victims, but seen to be virtuous. She does not indulge in the sex and drugs that prove to be the downfall of the others. She also tends to avoid any kind of bullying. She’s just an all-round nice girl, sometimes slightly “put upon” by others who take advantage of her good nature. She is known as the Final Girl because, well, she’s the last one standing at the end of it all. The Final Girl either escapes or overcomes the threat, showing her power, strength and intelligence for whatever scrape she’s managed to land herself in.
Final Girls share many characteristics: they are often sexually unavailable or virgins who avoid any illegal or illicit activity and often, though not always, have a non-gender specific name such as Laurie (Halloween) or Sidney (Scream). The Final Girl can even be found in non-slasher horrors such as Alien, with the masculinised female character of Ellen Ripley (known only as Ripley); although, it has to be said that Alien does have many other characteristics of a slasher too.
The Final Girl is “watchful, intelligent and resourceful”. She is, pretty much, the perfect horror movie heroine. She is a character the audience can admire and she is a survivor. Many critics of the slasher might say that it is a misogynistic genre, as it often has naked and vulnerable women being overpowered by men. However, the Final Girl proves this not to be the case at all, quite the opposite. The Final Girl is a very smart and dignified character, who usually always outwits the killer in the end.
However, the character of the Final Girl has evolved over time. In Halloween Laurie’s ability was to simply remain alive until Doctor Loomis got there to save her. By the time A Nightmare on Elm Street came along the Final Girl was starting to take steps to protect herself, and defeat the threat. In the latter, Nancy is ready to take on Freddy!
Not only do Final Girls take on the killer, they also often protect young children too, showing their maternal side into the bargain. Just as there are monstrous maternal figures to be found in horror, the Final Girl is the complete opposite. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Halloween has two young children in her care that she is babysitting for, whilst Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Aliens protects Newt with the famous line: “Get away from her, you bitch!”
As time has gone by, various differences have crept into the genre to allow it to evolve, and also to create unexpected twists at the end. The first slashers had the Final Girl discover and help to capture the killer (Psycho), escape the killer until another day (Black Christmas), and finally, killing the killer, after the killer had killed all her peers, so that the Final Girl is also the Final Killer; this has further evolved so that some Final Girls turn out to have been the killer all along, although this is a little bit more unusual.
In slasher horror, usually the weapon used by the killer is a blade of some kind, hence the term ‘slasher’. It could also be argued that in, for example, Halloween, Laurie attacks Michael Myers with weapons that are phallic: a knitting needle; a coat hanger, which she fashions into a spiked object, and a knife – all intended for stabbing. In the final sequence, Laurie takes over the dominant role using very masculine weaponry.
Probably the first Final Girl appeared in Psycho (1960), in the form of Marion’s sister Lila. Lila appears with Marion’s boyfriend Sam Loomis (in Halloween a character bearing that name would also step in to save the day, as has previously been mentioned…!). Along with other conventions that were built up over time, Psycho also saw the appearance of the human monster in the shape of the serial killer. The serial killer is necessarily dangerous and frightening, an almost supernatural killing machine, usually with a severe psychiatric illness and a grudge to bear, often caused by a traumatised childhood. The Final Girl is confronted with her every nightmare in the flesh: Norman Bates, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees (well, actually, his mother…but his legend lives on regardless!), Leatherface, Freddy Krueger, Ghostface, Hannibal Lecter. Sometimes they have a supernatural side, like Michael Myers. Most often they are the scariest thing of all, real-life people! But, always, always, always, they are not just bad, they are completely and utterly insane. The Final Girl has her work cut out for her, but through it all she prevails.
Every horror fan has got their favourite Final Girl/Psychotic Maniac movies, whether slasher or not. Here are some recommendations. I don’t suppose they are really in any particular order. Silence of the Lambs and Psycho, though not slashers, have my favourite psychotic serial killer characters, whilst Alien has my favourite Final Girl – a good, strong performance from Sigourney Weaver. Black Christmas is actually, to my mind, probably one of the best and earliest of the genre. I really have no idea why I love Halloween so much. I just do. I think it’s the atmosphere, but I just can’t quite put my finger on it. Nevertheless, I have lost count of the number of times I’ve watched it – at least once a year at, yes you’ve guessed, Hallowe’en! And I just loved the twist in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.
I’ve actually written my own slasher horror movie script! If any budding film directors or production companies wish to get in touch, I’d be delighted to hear from you!
I’d also love to know about readers’ favourite slashers, psychological horrors, Final Girls and serial killing maniacs. Do feel free to post comments!
Until next week. Don’t go anywhere…I’ll be right back! Your friend, A.D.
Muir, J K (2007) A History of the Dead Teenager Decade in Horror Films of the 1980s McFarland & Co: USA (Chapter 2).