Thousands or millions of Americans believe they have been abducted by aliens. In a typical case, an abductee recounts lying in bed one night when an eerie feeling overcomes him, and alien beings appear out of nowhere. The extraterrestrials transport him to a spacecraft and subject him to a series of physical and psychological tests. After what seems like hours, he is returned to his bedroom unharmed, and finds that the whole ordeal transpired in minutes.
Abductees think their traumatic experiences were real. However, most psychologists think abductions are lucid dreams or hallucinations, triggered by an awareness of other people’s similar experiences. One recent experiment, in which participants trained in lucid dreaming techniques were able to dream up vivid alien encounters, supports this hypothesis. But if each perceived abduction is just the latest in a series of hallucinations, what was it that triggered that first dream or delusion? How was the alien abduction story born?
Paranormal investigators say it all started in the 1940s and ’50s. The Space Age was upon us, and sci-fi literature was soaring in popularity with human-alien encounters a recurring theme. In July 1946, “Planet Comics” ran a strip in which aliens used a luminous tractor beam to kidnap a voluptuous female earthling, whom they called Specimen 9. They tell her the abduction is part of “Project Survival,” and as they steer their spaceship toward what looks like Saturn, the leader remarks, “Now home. And if you find our methods ruthless, Specimen 9, it is because our needs are desperate.”
Likewise, in 1954, a comic strip appearing in the British Tabloid the Daily Express detailed the alien abduction of a Royal Air Force pilot. Dozens of other abduction stories graced the pages of sci-fi novels and comic books.