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Volume 40

The Skeptics UFO Newsletter

Philip J. Klass

July 1, 1996

This volume is available as a PDF file. Download »

David Jacobs Admits That “Incompetent Hypnotists” and “False Memories” Create Serious Problems For UFO-Abduction Research

UFO-abduction guru David Jacobs, acknowledging that hypnosis has been “the primary instrument for abduction memory retrieval,” admitted that “amateur and inexperienced hypnotists” inadvertently generate false memories. Speaking at a conference sponsored by The Society for Scientific Exploration (SSE) in Charlottesville, VA, on May 23, Jacobs said that “some hypnotists’ validational questioning has led to fantasies that abductees remember as ‘fact.’ Although many researchers have thought that consciously recalled abduction accounts are reliable, they are unaware that these memories can be as unreliable as those recalled with incompetent hypnosis.”

Jacobs added: “Some researchers and abductees believe that the abductors are benevolent and spiritually aware. Others have found them to be environmentally aware. Some abductees have claimed that they were abducted by American military personnel working with aliens. Unsuspecting hypnotists have failed to understand abductees’ confusion of abduction events with sexual abuse. Others have allowed abductees to think that they have led past lives.” Jacobs did not identify by name those researchers he believes are incompetent. However, Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Mack has reported that some of his subjects recall previous lives and claim that their ETs expressed concern about Earth’s environmental problems.

“As a partial result of improper technique,” Jacobs admitted, “abduction researchers have become vulnerable to charges that abductions are the result of False Memory Syndrome, and/or hypnotically suggested remembrances. The incompetent hypnotists’ erroneous data lends a measure of substance to that charge.”

Jacobs Claims His Hypnosis Technique Is Immune To These Problems

Jacobs did not describe the hypnosis technique he uses which, by implication, minimizes these difficulties. But later, during the question/answer session, Dr. Fred E. Frankel, a Harvard psychiatrist with 30 years experience in clinical hypnosis, asked Jacobs if he had reported his technique in a peer-reviewed journal. Frankel added: “I think the community would love to know what it is that you do [to avoid spurious memory recall].” Jacobs replied that he and Budd Hopkins reported their technique in a peer-reviewed publication—The Journal of UFO Studies. Dr. Frankel tactfully responded: “Wouldn't it be more appropriate to publish in journals that are read by people who do hypnosis and research in hypnosis rather than people who focus on UFOs?” Jacobs replied: “Yes—but it is the people who focus on UFOs who are doing a lot of the hypnosis work.”

Later in the day, Dr. Frankel presented a paper in which he strongly challenged the ability of hypnosis to obtain accurate memory recall. In response to a question from Jacobs, Dr. Frankel suggested that abduction researchers stop using hypnosis. “You can not expect to get the truth from a system that is itself so clouded....Hypnosis is such a confused entity. If you are trying to clear up your confusion in the area of abductions, you will do it much more effectively by leaving hypnosis aside, because there are so many unknowns.”

Jacobs admitted that “anybody can do hypnosis as long as a person [subject] wants to be hypnotized. It doesn't matter whether you have experience....Asking the right questions in the right way at the right time, that’s difficult. That takes training.” He added that “even the most amateur hypnotists are well aware of the problem of asking ‘leading questions.’ What they don’t know is what ‘leading’ is.”

Yet only a few minutes earlier Jacobs told his audience that abductees may be puzzled to recall finding themselves inside an enormous room because from the outside the UFO seemed much smaller. Jacobs explained: “In the course of investigating this case, if you ask the right questions, ultimately the room becomes small, as they realize themselves that maybe the room wasn’t as big as they thought it was originally.” Jacobs added: “This is a perceptual alteration [problem] that we are forced to deal with.”

Jacobs Admits That Abductees Confabulate, Prompted By Hypnotists

Another problem, Jacobs conceded, is that the subject’s tale of abduction under hypnosis “is a mixture of confabulation, which abductees do and they will do it routinely and all the time.... The hypnotist will assume that the account that is being related is a truthful account and then ask questions about that account...” This, Jacobs added, “subtly forces the abductee to disassociate and fantasize more information about an event that did not happen. I call it a Mutual Confirmational Fantasy.”

Jacobs candidly conceded: “Anybody—and his sister—can do abduction research through hypnosis. And since there are no standards, nobody quite knows how to do it. Therefore, we get people who believe, for example, that the military is in cahoots with the aliens [ETs]....We get people who believe this is a wonderful, happy, positive, benevolent phenomenon by beasts who come here from other planets to help mankind for the betterment of the universe... through the improper use of hypnosis by hypnotists who are obviously incompetent or naive....We have problems with psychiatrists and psychologists, certified hypnotherapists and whatever.”

Jacobs admitted that “false memories do happen....We all now recognize this is a problem for some people....The details that the ‘victims’ can relate are extraordinary. They can relate all sorts of minutia about how they were sexually abused by whatever person. They can sometimes relive these sexual abuse fantasies with great emotional assets as if this were actually happening to them. And in fact, in many cases this did not happen. False memories are usually facilitated by therapists, who are convinced that their clients have been sexually abused. Even though the client originally had no memory of it....The therapist tells the subject that if he or she thinks hard enough, they will remember the abuse....Eventually, with enough persuasion the person begins to remember what the therapist wants him/her to remember.” [SUN Question: Don't most hypnotists working in the abduction field want their subjects to recall memories of UFO abduction?]

But Jacobs Rejects “False Memory Syndrome” To Explain Abduction Tales

Despite Jacobs’ admission that detailed pseudo-memories of sexual abuse can be fostered by hypnotists, he rejects the possibility that this might explain any UFO-abduction tales. “The problem here is that this is so close [similar]—on the surface—to the abduction phenomenon that it has become inevitable and irresistible for False Memory Syndrome researchers to begin to migrate toward abductions....And as soon as they get into the abduction phenomenon, of course, there’s something that they all have in common—they don’t have the slightest idea of what they are talking about....They really don’t understand what the abduction phenomenon is,” Jacobs pontificated.

One important difference, according to Jacobs, is that sexual abuse typically occurs in childhood—many years earlier for many subjects—whereas UFO abductions typically begin in early childhood and continue throughout a person’s life. “They know things have happened to them up to two years ago, a few months ago, a few weeks ago, a few days ago, a few hours ago and—literally—a few minutes ago. This, automatically, is not False Memory Syndrome,” Jacobs said. [SUN Comment: Jacobs fails to consider an alternative explanation—that some subjects may spin such tales in the hope of achieving ego gratification by being invited to appear on national TV talk shows or be featured in an article in their local newspaper.]

Another distinguishing characteristic claimed by Jacobs: “You have corroboration of [abduction] events. You have multiple people being abducted. Of the 650 or so cases that I've investigated, probably 20% are multiple abductions—people seeing other people being abducted and may, or may not, themselves be abducted so they can corroborate them.” Jacobs claimed that investigators “have listened in on the phone as abductees have described what is happening to them at the minute, and they have been able to corroborate extraordinary sounds heard on the phone.... There’s a certain physical corroboration which of course you don’t have with the False Memory Syndrome.”

Still another problem for abduction researchers, according to Jacobs, is that ETs can intentionally implant spurious “screen memories” in an abductee’s brain. “A person is made to visualize certain things...disaster scenarios, the world blowing up, people dying in the streets—begging the abductees for help....If the person [abductee] is not aware that this is a mental procedure that is being performed on them, they get the sense that they're actually seeing this in reality and it becomes a memory for them—a memory of reality...”


Despite these many obstacles, Jacobs said “we are moving ahead and getting a tremendous amount of information about this subject....We are in fact solving the UFO problem. I think it is in the process of solution. And it is coming through [using] proper hypnosis and proper techniques.” This prompted a member of the audience later to ask if Jacobs would reveal more about his prediction that the UFO-abduction mystery might soon be solved, or at least provide a hint. 

Jacobs agreed to offer a hint: “It’s not just that people are being abducted, given a physical examination and then released—which is what we used to think happened routinely. But in fact that is not the point of abductions....[Some abductees report] they have to hold, deal with small babies. The babies are odd, kind of look like a cross between humans and non-humans. It is these babies that this phenomenon is all about. The UFO-abduction phenomenon is primarily for the purpose of the production of these babies and therein lies the key.”

Jacobs’ momentous “discovery” raises many questions which perhaps he soon will be able to answer. If abductions are to obtain ova and sperm to create hybrid creatures:

Use Of Hypnosis Prompts Pseudo-Memories Of Sexual Abuse

The results of a survey of persons who have retracted their accusations of sexual abuse was reported at the SSE conference by Dr. Harold Leif, University of Pennsylvania. Working through the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Leif reported he was able to locate several hundred “retractors,” and sent a detailed questionnaire to 100 of them. Of this number, 40 responded. Their ages ranged from 19 to 55, with an average age of 32 at the time they made their sexual abuse accusations. Half of those participating in the survey were college graduates and nearly 18% had attended graduate school. Roughly 25% characterized them-selves as “upper middle-class." 

One-quarter (25%) of the respondents said they earlier “remembered” that their sexual abuse started WHEN THEY WERE BORN OR EVEN BEFORE BIRTH. And half (50%) said it began when they were THREE MONTHS to five years old. Dr. Leif noted that tests have shown that children have no memory of events that occur before the age of two to three years.

Of the 40 participants, 93% (37) reported that their spurious memories of childhood sexual abuse arose during treatment by psychotherapists. And 83% (33) of the subjects said “that a direct suggestion was made by their therapist that they were victims of sexual abuse before memories were recovered,” according to Leif. (After “recovering” memories of sexual abuse, nearly 50% of the subjects reported an increase in the frequency of their visits to their therapist.)

Approximately 68% of the respondents reported that their therapists used hypnosis to help them recover their (spurious) recollections of sexual abuse, and nearly 78% of the subjects said their therapists used “age regression.” (Roughly 80% of the UFO-abduction reports are obtained through the use of hypnosis.)

New Affidavit By Key Roswell “Witness” Contradicts Earlier One

A recently revealed sworn statement by Jim Ragsdale, one of two key “witnesses” who made their debut in 1994 in the book “The Truth About The UFO Crash At Roswell” by Kevin Randle and Don Schmitt, contradicts an earlier Ragsdale sworn statement which he gave to Randle/Schmitt on Jan. 27, 1993. The contradictory sworn statement—dated April 15, 1995 (less than three months before Ragsdale’s death)—claims the crashed-saucer impact site was really 53 miles WEST of Roswell, not 35 miles NORTH of the city, as reported in the Randle/Schmitt book. Ragsdale’s change of “impact site” location was first disclosed by Randle at a UFO conference in Pensacola, Fla., and first reported by SUN [Jan. 1995]. Randle said that Ragsdale’s new version had emerged after signing a contract with “another organization to provide his story for monetary inducements." 

The identity of the organization—The International UFO Museum, in Roswell—and details of the financial arrangement were revealed in the July 1995 issue of SUN. Under the agreement, written by the Roswell museum’s Secretary/Treasurer, Max Littell, Ragsdale would receive 25% of the net proceeds from a planned booklet and video and the balance would go to Littell’s museum. Under the agreement, Ragsdale was to keep the location of the “new impact site” under wraps with the assurance that when it was made public by the museum it would be designated “The Jim Ragsdale Impact Site.” (Earlier, museum officials reportedly discussed the possibility of buying or acquiring tourist rights to the Randle/Schmitt “impact site” 35 miles north of Roswell, according to its owner, Miller (Hub) Corn. But he declined to sell and decided to himself offer tourist trips to the site.)

Ragsdale’s new sworn statement is contained in a handsome, recently published 42-page booklet titled "The Jim Ragsdale Story,” now being offered for sale by the International UFO Museum. Its price is $14.95. The museum also sells a video which features Ragsdale’s daughter

Judy, with only a brief appearance by ailing Ragsdale. Its price is $29.50. Both can be purchased for $40 with an additional $5 for postage/handling. Trips to the new site in a four-wheel drive vehicle are available from the husband of Littell’s niece.

Ragsdale’s Two Conflicting Sworn Statements

In Ragsdale’s original sworn statement of Jan. 27, 1993, he said: “On a night during July, 1947, I, James Ragsdale, was in the company of a woman in an area approximately forty (40) miles northwest of Roswell, New Mexico, during a severe lightning storm. I and my companion observed a bright flash and what appeared to be a bright light source moving toward the southeast. Later, at sunrise, driving in that direction, I and my companion came upon a ravine near a bluff that was covered with pieces of unusual wreckage, remains of a damaged craft and a number of smaller bodied beings outside the craft....I and my companion watched as a miliary convoy arrived and secured the area....We quickly fled the area.” [Emphasis added.]

Ragsdale’s description of a “ravine near a bluff” is an accurate description of the Randle/Schmitt "impact site” on Miller Corn’s property—which SUN’s editor has visited. The site is 35 miles north-by-northwest of Roswell. On Jan. 26, 1993, Schmitt interviewed Ragsdale (and covertly tape-recorded the interview). Because Ragsdale’s health was too poor to allow him to visit the Miller Corn ranch, Schmitt showed Ragsdale photos and asked if they looked like the “impact site” he had visited in 1947. Ragsdale responded: “That looks like the place.”

But in Ragsdale’s 1995 sworn statement, he said the UFO incident occurred while he and his friend were spending several days “in the Pine Lodge area, west of Roswell.” [The Pine Lodge area actually is west-by-northwest of Roswell.] In the new version, Ragsdale claims: “Suddenly, a tremendous flash occurred....Then the object started in our direction....The object passed through the trees not more than 60 yards from our truck....After a little bit, we took flashlights and went to the site of impact and spent considerable time looking around....When we looked into the craft, wesaw four bodies of a type we had never seen before....We decided to return to our pickup until daylight so we could better see the site....When we returned we filled two large gunny sacks with the material....It wasn’t too long after...[when] we heard what we believed was trucks and heavy equipment coming our way, so we were not there when what ever it was arrived.” [Emphasis added.]

This flatly contradicts what Ragsdale told Schmitt during his Jan. 26, 1993, interview where Ragsdale described the military convoy he allegedly saw arrive at the impact site. “ was two or three six-by-six Army trucks, a wrecker and everything...and leading the pack was a 1947 Ford car with guys in it...MPs and stuff in it.” Schmitt asked: “So you watched for a while?” Ragsdale replied: “Yeah, sure did....They cleaned everything all up. I mean cleaned it. They raked the ground and everything.” [Photos of the Ragsdale site, and reports from those who have visited it, indicate that it is unlikely that a two-wheel drive 1947 Ford could reach the site.] 

Randle/Schmidt Characterized Ragsdale As Their Star Witness

In Ragsdale’s most recent sworn statement, he says that the crashed-saucer debris that he and his lady friend took away from the site disappeared mysteriously. “Unexplained to this day is the disappearance of the material. My friend had some in her vehicle when [many months later] she was killed hitting a bridge, and it was gone when the wreckage was brought into town. My truck and trailer was [sic] stolen from my home, again with material in the truck, never to be heard from anywhere. My home was broken into, completely ransacked, and what was taken was the material, a gun and very little else of value.”

When Randle/Schmitt revealed their new “impact site” 35 miles north of Roswell in an article that appeared in the Jan./Feb. 1994 issue of International UFO Reporter (published by the Hynek Center for UFO Studies), the article concluded: “Skeptics of UFO crash stories...have clamored for one, firsthand witness to the crash of a nonterrestrial object, with bodies, who would sign an affidavit and whose story checks out. There is such a witness now in the person of 

Jim Ragsdale, who has lived in Roswell for many years and has been telling his crash story, completely at odds with the [original] press release and Brazel story, since soon after the event. Ragsdale has, indeed, signed an affidavit, and with his public accounting of what he witnessed, the case for Roswell becomes that much stronger.” [Emphasis added.]

Recently, Randle told SUN that Ragsdale has lost all credibility because of his action. However, Randle said he still believes Ragsdale’s original account was true.

Roswell Researchers Comment On “The Jim Ragsdale Story"

Max Littell, whose family-owned company produced the new booklet on Ragsdale, included comments by two prominent Roswell researchers—Stanton Friedman and Karl Pflock. (Not surprisingly, Littell did not invite Randle to comment, nor is he mentioned by name anywhere in the booklet.) Highlights of their assessments of Ragsdale’s latest version:

An endorsement for Ragsdale’s veracity in the new booklet comes from museum vice president Glenn Dennis, who claims he knew a nurse at Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) in 1947 who told him she was involved in the autopsy of three ET bodies [SUN #31/Jan. 1995; SUN #32/Mar. 1995; SUN #33/May 1995]. In Dennis’ sworn statement of Aug. 7, 1991, he claimed he saw crash debris with a “purple hue” in an ambulance parked at the base hospital. Dennis claims that this is substantiated by Ragsdale’s report that the crashed saucer was “ruby red." 

Forbes Magazine Research Challenges Ragsdale’s Impact Site Claim

A three-page feature article in the July 15 issue of Forbes, a highly respected business magazine, authored by William P. Barrett, offers new evidence to challenge Ragsdale’s veracity and his Pine Lodge impact site. The article is headlined: “UNIDENTIFIED FLYING DOLLARS” with a lead-in head: “P.T. Barnum is Alive and Apparently Living in Roswell, N.M.” [Showman Barnum is famed for his statement, “There’s a sucker born every minute."]

Barrett writes: “In good old American tradition, Roswell has turned the Unidentified Flying Object mystique into a nice business. The Roswell area now supports three UFO museums, competing UFO landing sites and a growing UFO summer festival that together are expected to draw 90,000 tourists this year. Entrepreneurial local artists and manufacturers churn out alien dolls and puppets, ceramic miniatures of crash sites, spaceship earings, UFO hats, T-shirts showing aliens spying on soldiers, and bumper stickers....City hotel-room tax revenues have risen 36% over four years. Hotel operators say up to one-fifth of their business comes from UFO seekers. By some estimates, the UFO craze pumps more than $5 million a year into this community of 50,000 which badly needs the money—median household income here being 27% below the national average.”

The Forbes article reports that Barrett located and interviewed persons whose families lived near Ragsdale’s claimed impact site to check out his story of a crashed saucer and military recovery effort. Not one of them had ever heard of a crashed saucer nearby. Nor did any of them report being interviewed by officials of the International UFO Museum to try to verify Ragsdale’s tale. Barrett quotes 82-year-old Dorothy Epps, whose family has owned the land within half a mile of the Ragsdale impact site since 1909, as saying: “It’s all a hoax.” The Forbes article includes a photo of Roswell mayor Tom Jennings posing alongside some ET dolls.

Stanton Friedman’s Cloudy Crystal Ball

Five years ago, UFO-lecturer Stanton Friedman predicted that the U.S. government probably would reveal the truth about UFOs in 1992. Friedman’s prediction was made on June 28, 1991, when he was a guest on the “For The People” radio talk show, hosted by Chuck Harder. Friedman predicted there would be an “international announcement. They will show pictures. I think that they will clearly establish that we are dealing with Alien visitors and I think they will convene an international conference of religious, economic and political leaders.”

When SUN heard a tape recording of the program, we wrote to Friedman on July 18, 1991, to offer him the chance to win $10,000 if this occurred before the end of 1993—generously offering him an additional year for his prediction to come true. But if Friedman’s prediction failed to come true by Dec. 31, 1993, he would pay us $1,000. Friedman never responded to our generous offer. SUN renews this offer and agrees to pay Friedman $10,000 if his prediction comes true before Dec. 31, 1997—five years later than his original prediction—providing he will pay us $1,000 on Jan. 1, 1998, if Friedman’s forecast (again) proves to be wrong.

French UFOlogists Criticize Government’s UFO Investigation Agency

Sharp criticism of GEPAN, the agency created by the French government in 1977 to investigate UFO reports, recently was voiced by France’s major UFO group, SOS OVNI, in its excellent bimonthly publication Phenomena (Jan.-Feb. 1996). GEPAN (Groupe d'Etude des Phenomenes Aerospatiaux Non-identifies), which operated under the prestigious French space agency CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales), initially was headed by Dr. Claude Poher, a physicist with a long-time interest in UFOs who had long pressed for a French government UFO investigation. But soon after GEPAN was created, Poher left for a several-year sail around the world and never returned to GEPAN—for reasons never made public. 

Poher was succeeded by Alain Esterle, under whose direction GEPAN investigated an alleged landing reported by a peasant in Trans-en-Provence. GEPAN’s report, published in 1983, could offer no prosaic explanation. Shortly after GEPAN gave the case a strong endorsement, Esterle departed and was succeeded by Jean-Jacques Velasco who, unlike his two predecessors, was not a professional scientist. Although many U.S. UFOlogists were impressed with the Trans-en-Provence case, top French space agency (CNES) officials were not. Velasco complained to SUN’s editor, when he visited Washington in the mid-1980s, that GEPAN’s paid staff included only himself and a part-time secretary.

Several years ago GEPAN’s name was changed to SEPRA (Service d'Expertise des Phenomenes de Rentrees Atmospheriques), and its scope was broadened to encompass reports of meteor-fireballs and reentry of satellite and rocket launcher debris. When Velasco published a book in 1993, titled “UFOs: Science In Progress,” SOS OVNI charged that “there was no science in the book, let alone progress.” The book criticized private UFO groups, such as SOS OVNI. When Velasco discovered that some UFO sightings by the military and gendarmarie were being covertly provided to SOS OVNI, he complained, and the French government directed the gendarmarie to cease providing UFO reports to private groups, according to Phenomena.

UFO Group Leader Accused Of Plot To Kill Local Government Officials

John J. Ford, chairman of the Long Island (N.Y.) UFO Network, and two associates have been charged with planning to kill three officials of Suffolk County and burn down the Republican party headquarters because they (allegedly) were covering up a UFO crash which had occurred last year at Long Island’s Pine Barrens. Ford and two associates are accused of planning to poison their victims by introducing radioactive material into their air conditioners and food. Then, it is charged, the UFOlogists hoped to seize control of the county government. 

Short Shrift

NOTE: Opinions expressed in SUN are those of its Editor—unless otherwise noted—and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he is affiliated—or his spouse. We thank Dr. Gary Posner for help in proofreading.

Philip J. Klass

Phil Klass was a UFO researcher with a background in electrical engineering. He was author of seven books on UFOs, including UFOs Explained and UFO Abductions: A Dangerous Game. He was also editor of the SUN newsletter, a UFO-related publication.