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Other World News Tonight

Tonight, here in America, the ABC television network broadcast one of Peter Jenning's occasionally scheduled two-hour specials. Tonight's subject: "UFOs: Seeing Is Believing".

Before I go any further, let me set forth my views on this subject. I do believe there is other life in the universe. I think there is a reasonable chance it is intelligent. I think (for all the usual reasons of economics and physics) that the probability of representatives of alien civilizations actually traveling here is vanishingly small. I think it is remotely possible that a civilization unimaginably more advanced than ours (a million years ahead of us was one metric mentioned in the show) could actually have a technology that would make it possible for them to more or less economically travel from their home world to ours. I mostly think that because it seems to me that to think otherwise is to be intellectually dishonest. We know a lot of stuff, but we don't know everything we will know a million years from now, assuming we survive that long.

However, assuming arguendo that representatives of alien civilizations are traveling to our world, I cannot conceive of any plausible circumstances under which a race of beings that advanced would find it necessary to kidnap various members of our species, conduct probing experiments into various body orifices, surreptitiously impregnate them with slug-babies or what-all, and so forth. Well, I suppose it's possible that some rogue coven of alien pervs at one point made off with some of the Normal Aliens technology and are now traveling between the stars diddling the hoo-haws of lesser beings. But, you know, if we're going to go down that road, I think I'd probably have to give up on all my notions of the Majesty of the Cosmos and all that. Just, you know, give me the URL for the Cosmic Sexual Predators Clearinghouse and I'll call it a go.

Proceeding on, my brother relates to me his experience of seeing a UFO, but I don't believe he saw an alien spacecraft.

And finally, I have never seen anything that I would consider to be a serious candidate for an alien spacecraft.

I think that's about it. Oh, wait, one more thing: I don't think there's anybody on the planet who wants more than I do for it all to be true. But I don't believe it, and I probably will never believe it's true until they land in, oh, I dunno... I should think Yankee Stadium would be a good place, assuming the Saucer will fit. That's certainly where I'd land were I Them. Crowd control built right into the landing site. Keep out all the souvenir hounds. And then when you got ready to greet the Gathered Peoples of the Planet Urf, you could squeeze in 50-60,000 of them easy. Broadcast facilities right there. And when you got ready to hand over the Cure for Cancer or what-all, maybe you could toss it to the Secretary General of the United Nations as he squats behind home plate in catcher's gear. It's Opening Day!

Well, anyway. I digress.

What I wanted to say was that I did, in fact, learn something new and interesting while watching Peter's extravaganza tonight. They were interviewing a bunch of people relating their experiences of being abducted and probed and all that. Okay, whatever. I don't mean to be unsympathetic, but whatever. Anyway, they then talked to some Harvard psychiatrists who said they'd been researching this and that based on their research they had noticed a great many of the events and circumstances described by these people resembled, to a remarkable degree, a relatively common phenomenon known as "sleep paralysis". Google on the phrase if you are interested. There are tons of links, and, yes, it does seem to be a relatively common phenomenon.

But here's the thing. As the researchers described it, I realized, "Oh, my gawd. I have that."

It never occurred to me that it actually had a name, or that it had been documented in the literature or anything. I always just thought of it as "not being able to wake up out of a dream". In fact, come to think of it, I've heard other people describe it that way as well, so my description of it might not even be original to me. It just seemed, you know, one of the many weird things that sometimes happens to people when they go to sleepy-night-night-land. Which, I find out tonight, that's apparently precisely what it is.

But even more interesting than that was how, when I thought back on some of my "sleep paralysis" episodes, I could really see how if my mind had been oriented in a slightly different direction, I might have thought something weird and terrible and alien had been happening to me.

Apparently sleep paralysis strikes when you wake up "by mistake" while you are in REM sleep. I guess when you are in REM mode your body is, in fact, paralyzed. The theory is if it wasn't paralyzed you'd be thrashing around all night in response to your dream storylines and you'd never get any rest, let alone any overnight guests of your preferred sex. So anyway, you are lying there completely paralyzed, and you wake up and you're like: "WTF??!! I can't move!!"

The researchers said, and this is certainly true in my case, you will often feel like there is some sort of threatening presence nearby (left over from the dream or what, I don't know). Anyway, that's almost always the way it is with me. I feel like Some Entity, very threatening, is approaching me in my bed and I feel like I have to escape, or strike out at The Entity to protect myself from it, but I can't move a muscle. It's terrifying for a few moments, but then I gradually realize that I'm waking up from some particularly annoying bit of effed up sleep and that I ought to just chill. The Mysteriously Approaching Entity dissipates, mist-like, and I can feel myself beginning to calm down. After a few moments, I'm relaxed, able to move, still a bit wired and, it has to be admitted, a bit psyched at how much fun the experience was now that it's over. (I love scary movies, see.) Afterwards, I almost always drift back down into some very calming and restful sleep.

Yeah, I could see, if my mind was oriented in a slightly different way, how I could feel like I'd somehow been immobilized by this Mysterious Entity for whatever nefarious purpose it might have in mind for me. But it never occurred to me that anybody ever thought it was anything other than what I thought it was.

Guess maybe I should sleep with more people. Obviously my sample has been too small.

Update: Our old pal Avedon over there to The Sideshow doesn't like scary movies as much as I do. All is forgiven, however, on account of her reminding me of the Fortean Times, and telling me some stuff about Tom Monteleone,  and teaching me that sleeping on your back will give you nightmares. This I didn't know.


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I'm fast coming to the conclusion that no civilization anywhere survives long enough to get to the technological level you're talking about. I think they get this far and then fall back into the sludge.

I'm looking at the way we've refused to advance beyond fossil fuel dependence and I think by the time enough people are willing to admit where this is going, we will be freezing in the dark and what we've got will fail.

I'd like to believe there are races out there among the stars that are smarter than we are, but I don't see how they get there without having to go through the stage of being as stupid as we are.

OK, I'm in a bad mood. There are days when I believe in the ability of humans to advance, but this just doesn't happen to be one of them.

What you need is some nice abducting and anal probing by a race of alien beings. That will cheer you up. Set you back on to the road to recovery.

That said, I'm not sure I disagree with your gloomy prognostications. Still, I hope things aren't so bad that everything collapses before your or I croak. That means we can still keep trying and then when we do shuffle off this mortal coil, we can still have hope for the future of mankind. Which means I'll just be pissed off I'm not around to Travel The Stars, but hey. What can you do?

Um, that sleep paralysis thing? It's one of the symptoms of Narcolepsy. Teresa has written about it a lot.

I think that in some cases the Menacing Presence could be real, particularly when it does the orifice probing thing. It's just more comfortable to believe that it was evil aliens rather than Dad.

I agree with Andras Corbin Arthen's theory that modern "alien abductees" had a real experience (and by real I mean real-to-them), and that we don't know what it is, but that the close resemblance to being "taken by the Elves" long ago should not be discounted. I think certain people have things happen to them - whether these things happen to their brains alone or to their whole bodies I don't know - and that they formulate them afterwards according to their beliefs and prejudices.

I agree with you that superadvanced alien visitors are unlikely culprits, however. Sad as it is. I mean, there may be a gigantic galactic civilization, who knows? The question is, why would they visit US, way out here on the rim where the stars are far apart? What possible use could we be to them?

Which points to another reason people like to believe this stuff. If the aliens come all that way, to the Docks of Boon, Milky Way, just to visit us humans, well then we humans must be important.

Sorry. We aren't. Not on the scale required. Flyspecks and less than flyspecks.

Hmm. Apparently I need some anal probing, too. In fact I know I do!

Yeah, I read that it was a symptom of narcolepsy, but since I am blessed not to have any of the other symptoms of that difficult problem, I hadn't really paid attention to it much. As I said, I've always just thought of it as "not being able to wake up from a dream".

And also yeah, I think for the people who interpret whatever is happening to them as being abducted by aliens might have other serious things going on. Whatever else you might say about them, they do seem to be in genuine and deep pain. I'm in no position, nor do I have the right, to explain to them what their problems are. All I can say is that I consider the explanation they've arrived at to be extremely unlikely.

People who say they were abducted never seem to address one question that they really ought to address. To wit, "why are these aliens doing this to you?"

It's not enough to just ask that question. You have to actually try to think out what the answer might be. Come up with theories and then ask yourself if any of those answers make sense. Think about why an alien race with a technology sufficiently advanced such that they can manage interstellar travel... why would a race that advanced have need of secretly kidnapping people in the middle of the night and performing strange experiments on them. Why would they do that? Is there any sensible answer?

It's not good enough to just ask the question. You have to try to answer it such that such behavior would actually begin to approach making sense. If you can't do that, then it seems to me that you have to at least consider the possibility that something else is going on. And if that's the case, maybe you aren't so helpless in the face of all your genuine pain. Maybe there actually is something you can do to make it all go away.

Recall that the whole point of the alien abduction motif on the "X-Files" was to try to figure out why all of this stuff was going on. If the explanation the "X-Files" came up with makes sense to you, well, then... there really isn't much more to be said.

But if it didn't make sense to you, if it just seemed to you like a plot-line in a spooky T.V. show, well then... get crackin' on your own explanations. If you can't make any of them make any real sense, then maybe there is some way you can make the pain go away someday.

Reminds me of an old Kids In The Hall skit.

That's perfect.

"Oh, great plan! Do you realize how many people Intergalactic Anal-Probing employs?"

Great Leader wants everyone to visit Mike Hoye's link above. Great Leader has his reasons.

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