Close Encounters With UFOs? : Aliens: Once the province of the tabloids, UFOs have found a place in the college curriculum. A new book by a university professor tells of abductions and bizarre sexual experiments.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; <i> Kirk is a Philadelphia free</i> -<i> lance writer. </i>

Public relations executive Karen Morgan says since she was a child she has been periodically abducted by skinny beings with oversized bald heads and big eyes who appear by her side in a glow of light.

Patti Layne, a high school teacher, says that while on an overnight camping trip when she was 15, she was lifted off the ground by a beam of light and taken aboard an unidentified flying object.

Each says she has been repeatedly kidnaped by aliens and subjected to gynecological examinations and sexual experiments. Each says she has been forced to hold “hybrid” babies the aliens said were her own children.

The stories of Morgan and Layne (not their real names) and 54 other men and women is told in “Secret Life--Firsthand Accounts of UFO Abductions,” published this month by Simon & Schuster.

The people who write on this bizarre topic are not all writing for the tabloids. “Secret Life” author David M. Jacobs is an associate professor of history at Temple University in Philadelphia.


Jacobs, who grew up in Los Angeles, has been a UFO researcher for 25 years. With Budd Hopkins, an artist and author of two books on UFO abductions, he has recently received a $200,000 private grant--Jacobs will not reveal the donor--to conduct in-depth research on accounts of abductions by aliens. (Results of their first poll, conducted by the Roper organization and released last week, are that one in every 50 adult Americans claims a UFO abduction experience.)

John E. Mack, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has a $200,000 contract from Scribner to write his own book about abductions. Mack has studied 50 people who describe being kidnaped by aliens, and, with MIT physics professor David E. Pritchard, will put on a symposium on the subject next month in Massachusetts, where as many as 150 academics are expected.

Though Mack declined to be interviewed for this article, he shows that he takes tales of UFO abductions seriously in the introduction he wrote to Jacobs’ book:

“The idea that men, women and children can be taken against their wills from their homes, cars and schoolyards by strange humanoid beings, lifted onto space craft, and subjected to intrusive and threatening procedures is so terrifying, and so shattering to our notions of what is possible in our universe, that the actuality of the phenomenon has been largely rejected out of hand . . . .

“The fact remains, however, that for 30 years, and possibly longer, thousands of individuals who appear to be sincere and of sound mind and who are seeking no personal benefit from their stories have been providing to those who will listen consistent reports of precisely such events.”

Jacobs has been fascinated by the UFO phenomenon since 1961 when a New Hampshire couple, Betty and Barney Hill, a social worker and postal employee, became the first to publicly claim to have been kidnaped by aliens. They said that while driving they were approached by a spacecraft and both lost consciousness. After months of nightmares, anxiety and insomnia, they sought a psychiatrist and said under hypnosis they remembered being abducted.

In 1973, Jacobs wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of Wisconsin on the controversy over whether UFOs exist. His first book, “The UFO Controversy in America,” was well-received in 1975.

He was hired at Temple in the mid-'70s to teach 20th-Century American history and culture, and quickly became known as the professor behind American Studies 116--"UFOs and American Society.”

To write his new book, Jacobs studied 300 abduction accounts and interviewed 57 people through hypnotic regression, a technique rarely if ever used by historians that has drawn criticism of his qualifications from the medical community.

One of the most striking results of his study, Jacobs says, is that he finds people of all ages, all races and all professions, who have never met, yet relate descriptions of abduction that are remarkably similar in detail.

Three women in his book believe that aliens have implanted fertilized eggs into their bodies. Each says she was taken into a room and placed on a stretcher-like table. Each says procedures were usually orchestrated by an alien who is taller than the rest.

Other women tell stories of fetal extraction. Women and men say there are scars, bruises and iodine-like, brown strains on their bodies after they are abducted; men say machines were attached to their bodies to collect sperm; women say they are were asked to hug strange-looking children.

Many who have never discussed their experiences with anyone, have similar accounts of how the abduction occurs (floating through windows and walls), entering the UFO (rooms and corridors filled with tables for experiments), the experiments themselves (physical, mental and reproductive procedures) and their return to Earth (usually after several hours, feeling exhausted).

“Most people find a way to cope with these incredible experiences,” says Jacobs. “Whether they know what has happened to them or not, they find a way to lead normal lives.”

Karen Morgan is one such person. A former technical writer, she runs her own public relations company and is the mother of a 22-year-old son.

Morgan, 43, says she began experiencing a profound anxiety as an adult, related to a recurring dream of having a strange being with big eyes in her room. “Even in the dream I knew it wasn’t a dream, but I put it aside, thinking that there had to be an explanation for it,” she says.

Five years ago, she began seeing a psychiatrist who told her that her anxiety had no psychological basis. Yet the anxiety continued. Morgan heard about other people who were having weird alien dreams and her sister told her about the Temple University professor she’d read about who was studying the phenomenon.

Morgan says she has told her story to few people. “People would respond with ridicule if I told them, and I would have a lot of sympathy for them,” she says during an interview at her home outside Philadelphia. “For people to believe this takes a giant leap, because there is no reason for them to believe this. If someone had come up to me with these stories, and I wasn’t an abductee, I would have thought they were psychotic.”

After extensive questioning and interviews by telephone (standard procedure for Jacobs), Morgan went to meet him. On a small sofa in a room on the third floor of the Victorian home Jacobs shares with his wife and two sons, Morgan began to recall parts of the dream she had never remembered.

Morgan underwent 26 hypnotic regressions, which she claims unearthed a lifetime of alien abductions.

At first, she says, “I thought about it all the time. I was so afraid to go to sleep that I would go for months without being able to sleep.

“And then, I don’t know how to describe this, but after six months the anxiety receded. I can’t prove that this is happening to me, but I really have no choice but to believe it. I had to integrate it into my life.”

Reviews of Jacobs’ work are mixed. Temple’s Robert Weinberg, head of the school’s American Studies program, says: “People can see through a lot of this. I mean, if aliens are looking for humans to reproduce, why not just put an ad in the paper? They’d get a million responses.”

“I find it really fascinating and very courageous for a historian to get into that,” says James Hilty, professor and chair of Temple’s history department.

Michael Zuckerman, University of Pennsylvania professor of history and popular culture, compares the abductee phenomenon to 19th-Century phrenologists, spiritual groups that claim to bring back the dead and people who are waiting for the end of the world.

“I think all of these answer to some kind of resistance to the modern, scientific, rational world, telling you that there is just a finite world out there.”

Dr. Martin Orne, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, is a leading expert on the use of hypnosis and has worked with people who say they have been kidnaped by UFOs. He is cautionary about memory obtained through hypnosis.

“There is a long history of people describing that they have been abducted by aliens, and the people who describe it tend to describe it in a similar way. But memory as such is not reliable. That is why the courts no longer allow people to testify out of hypnosis. Hypnosis facilitates the fantasy of the individual,” Orne says.

And what does Jacobs think? The 49-year-old historian says he has never been abducted by aliens or seen a UFO. But he believes they exist and that perhaps millions of people from all over the world have been abducted by aliens, primarily for reproductive purposes.

Jacobs says that one day his colleagues will uncover some form of physical evidence--a tiny mechanical device in the brain, along the nasal passage or in a woman’s reproductive organs, all places that abductees say aliens have implanted objects.

Accounts of UFOs and aliens are worth study in any case, Jacobs says in his book. “If the abductees are relating events that do, in fact, have an objective reality, then we are presented with what might be one of the most important events ever to befall mankind.

“If, on the other hand, the events do not have an objective reality and the abductees are imagining abductions, then we have discovered something of immense importance. We have found a fascinating and inexplicable new psychological and sociocultural phenomenon unlike anything ever discovered in the human psyche before.”