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An Alien Taxonomy

A Skeptic's Notebook

Robert Baker

Skeptical Briefs Volume 7.2, June 1997

It was inevitable. Once the concept of extraterrestrials managed to dominate every nook and cranny of the media, it was inevitable that someone would proceed to deal with them scientifically and establish a taxonomy. In a clever, somewhat tongue-in-cheek fashion, Patrick Huyghe has given us The Field Guide to Extraterrestrials: A Complete Overview of Alien Lifeforms Based on Actual Accounts and Sightings (Avon Books, Trade Paperback, 1996, 136 pp., $14.95). Aware of the fact that skeptics deny the existence of extraterrestrials, Huyghe grabs the bull by the horns at the outset and titles his introduction “What Is Real?” After a century or more of sightings and human/alien contact, Huyghe admits that such tales are, indeed, unbelievable and that although there well may be a psychological explanation for this delusion, thus far no convincing case has been made. Therefore, according to Huyghe and for the purposes of this book, it is assumed there really are such things as “ETs” and that they are “real.”

Looking at ETs historically, Huyghe notes that they are well over one hundred years old. In 1896 one Colonel Shaw and a Miss Camille Spooner reported a near abduction by alien creatures with large black eyes who stood three feet tall. Similar reports came out of England in 1901, Baltimore in 1919, Australia in 1925, and Spain in 1944. All of these cases preceded Betty and Barney Hill’s "abduction,” George Adamski’s Venusian flights, Antonio Villas Boas’s alien party in Brazil, and police officer Lonnie Zamora’s encounter with little folk in white coveralls. Following the UFO-sighting classification work of J. Allen Hynek of Project Blue Book, we received in 1987 the alien cover on Whitley Strieber’s Communion, which made the “little grays” very popular. People began to see these fellows everywhere, and there were also many variants. Some grays turned out to be five, six, and even seven feet tall instead of the usual three or four feet. Moreover, people began to report many other aliens of every shape, form, and variety, as the abductions and human/alien encounters began to proliferate and prosper publicity-wise.

Huyghe’s classification effort is not the first — both Linda Moulton Howe and Thomas Bullard made earlier efforts to deal with this alien avalanche. Huyghe, however, believes his taxonomy is the best because all of his entities are closely associated with an alien craft and a good encounter story. Huyghe states his classification doesn't pretend to be scientific but is based solely on how the aliens looked to the human observer, i.e., their phenotype. Huyghe has been able to distinguish four separate classes with several types within each class. The largest class, as one might expect, is the humanoids with five sub-types: nordics, short grays, short non-grays, giants, and nonclassics. Under the animalian category are also five types: mammalian, reptilian, amphibian, insectoid, and avian. Under robotic we find two types: the metallic and the fleshy. And in the fourth category, the exotic, we have again two types: the physical and the apparitional (ghostlike creatures).

Short stories and drawings of all the reported aliens accompany each of the classes and types. As Huyghe notes, if you are a UFO buff, you need this book: "Don't get lost in space without it!” In closing, Huyghe quotes David Jacobs who believes that only the grays are genuine, while all the rest are confabulations of the witnesses. Eddie Bullard, the folklorist and neo-skeptic, also reports that in his opinion the alien humanoid is nothing but “a malicious fairy in technological trappings.” Other folklorists, however, are not so sure.

For example, Michael Craft, staff member of the Omega Institute and a student of Tibetan, Taoist, Native American, and other magical traditions, believes that not only are the aliens very real but, “Something deep inside us appears to love or require the existence of incomprehensible beings and forces, both hostile and friendly. Whether they are there because we need them or because they need us, they are there for us. Whether or not these things are ‘real’ is another question, perhaps one without a single answer.”

In his 1996 book Alien Impact: A Comprehensive Look at the Evidence of Human/Alien Contact (St. Martin’s Press, cloth, 302 pp., $23.95), Craft assures us: “The myth of the alien is as old as humanity. Angels, elves, dragons, talking trees, demons, and trolls are the ancestors of our modern Grays, Bigfoots, Poltergeists, and Channeled spirits.” Craft became interested in aliens, it seems, because of his own strange, UFO-type encounters. Hearing stories of others over a twenty-year period has convinced Craft that “belief is the enemy.” He says, “The UFO community, and its vast literature, is a creaky house built from many different materials” — disappearances, abductions, alien animals, celestial portents, false memories, time distortions, flashbacks, and so on. The fact that the number of people who report seeing UFOs and meeting alien beings is constantly increasing and that over fifty percent of the population believes in aliens has convinced Craft that such a “belief system” is not only real and powerful but mirrors the chaos of modern civilization.

Craft then proceeds to review the entire history of human/alien contact according to reporters such as George Adamski, Billy Meier, Betty and Barney Hill, Travis Walton, Budd Hopkins, Whitley Strieber, participants in the Roper poll, David Jacobs, John Mack, as well as the infamous “men in black.” Every occult, paranormal, folkloric, or pseudoscientific phenomenon or concept — past and present — is trotted out by Craft in a maximum effort to make the reader take him seriously. These include cattle mutilations, crop circles, MJ-12, Area 51, Roswell, black helicopters, Erich von Däniken and Zacharia Sitchin and the Monuments on Mars, the Ashtar command, the Aetherius Society, Findhorn, Swedenborgism, Madame Blavatsky, channeling and science-fiction themes in Philip K. Dick’s VALIS and Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, the Shaver mystery, and more.

Craft also treats us to modern experimentation in the field of parapsychology, including the work of Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne and some of those remote-viewers who report seeing alien-powered UFOs. Digressions into the belief systems of such sober scientists as John Keel and Terence McKenna are also provided. Keel believes that God is causing people to see UFOs, and McKenna says that an energy field — “the spinning vortex is the UFO . . . UFOs are intended to confound science and reason” — causes us to see and experience UFOs.

According to Craft, what all of the UFO alien lore really means is that reality itself is changing. In Craft’s words, “[H]umanity is headed toward a drastic reordering and restructuring of what we call reality. Paradigm-shaping scientific discoveries appear almost daily just as UFO encounters seem to. Those crazy ‘confoundings’ are on the rise. Perhaps we are headed toward a casual collapse, or a reshaping of reality that ignores all the old rules, except those found in old fairy tales . . . whether we go to the stars or oblivion, UFOs — our oldest friends — are along for the ride.”

If while reading this you have been hearing a buzzing noise, don’t be alarmed. Its just my baloney detector acting up. It goes crazy now every time it hears the words alien impact or the name Michael Craft. It is truly a shame that so very many intelligent and semi-educated people have failed to receive any basic training whatsoever in the sciences. Any general familiarity with one or more of the scientific disciplines would end once and for all the writing, publication, and dissemination of such unmitigated nonsense as Craft’s Alien Impact and the dozens of other books about visitors from beyond. Illusions, delusions, hallucinations and the need to feel important and to be heard and sympathized with, as well as the human proclivity to perpetuate "terminological inexactitudes” can easily and sufficiently account for all reports of contact between humans and aliens, not to mention contact between humans and dragons, elves, demons, fairies, or Elvis. Pompous, pretentious, and contrived accounts of the “social impact” of nonexistent entities are unacceptable. Can one even conceive of writing a book titled The Social Impact of Fairies?

Despite Craft’s labors and the hysterical maunderings of Hopkins, Mack, Strieber, Jacobs, and the credulous media, valid and scientifically acceptable evidence of the existence of either aliens or alien spaceships remains unavailable and will, in all likelihood, remain so for centuries to come. Independence Day is science fiction, not science fact. True believers will, of course, think me a pawn of sinister governmental forces or part of the reactionary establishment’s plot to keep the Truth from the masses. As Chris Carter knows, the Truth is, indeed, “out there.” Like Carter, Craft has discovered that paranormal and paranoid fiction is both more entertaining and financially profitable than dull and mundane fact.

Robert Baker

Robert A. Baker is professor of psychology emeritus, University of Kentucky, Lexington.