Budd Hopkins interview by Skylaire Alfvegren
January 22nd, 2010
UFOs have been popping up again, en masse over Texas and Brazil, grounding planes in Chicago, appearing over foreign military bases; images captured by Royal Air Force employees recently made front page news in Britain’s leading daily paper.
It’s all growing more fantastic: the Vatican blessed a belief in aliens, which doesn’t, it turns out, “contradict a belief in God.” A respected former astronaut claims we’ve been lied to about the UFO subject for over 60 years. Disc-shaped and extra-terrestrial imagery are appearing once again in advertising, on television, and in movies (even Indiana Jones got in on the action).
“Don’t react to what might at first seem dubious,” cautioned veteran alien abduction researcher Budd Hopkins at the annual symposium of the Mutual UFO Network, held in San Jose, CA. A throng of about 50 investigators arrived a day early to listen to this ufological giant. Tall, snowy-haired and soft-spoken, one might not guess Hopkins to be among the world’s foremost experts on abduction phenomena—but he practically gave birth to its study.
Moving to Manhattan in 1953 after “discovering art with a capital A,” Hopkins reveled in the abstract expressionist movement of the time and “sort of immediately met the painters… de Kooning and Kline and Pollock and Rothko.” Hopkins’ art—found in the collections of, among others, the Whitney and the Guggenheim in New York, the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum in D.C., and San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art—exist light years away from what has brought the Wheeling, West Virginia-born painter, researcher, writer and hypnotherapist much of his international renown.
It began harmlessly enough: in 1975, Hopkins researched a multiple-witness UFO report with investigator Ted Bloecher. The next year, an article he penned for New York’s Village Voice caught fire and was reprinted in Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Hopkins was tormented by the experiences of others; levitating out of windows into silently hovering, lighted airships, and enduring medical examinations conducted by creatures generously described as “humanoid.” Many spoke of hours’ of irretrievable memories, which Hopkins would later dub “missing time.” To date, Hopkins can’t tally the number of frantic letters and teary phone calls he received–nor the number of hypnotic regressions he witnessed–in the early days of his research, but they number in the hundreds.
Abductions, impregnation, hybrid children, radiation sickness, near misses with civilian aircraft and undeniable evidence that something is out there—all casts the alien business in a sinister light. Unidentified Flying Objects–a loaded Air Force term which has slowly been replaced by the less sci-fi sounding “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena”—are apparently capable of disappearing at will, shutting down missile systems and stopping on a dime at speeds our Air Force can only dream of.
In our interview, Hopkins didn’t toss out a single assumption about the abductees’ origins, and only commented on their motives in passing. He stays, he says, “conservatively fixed in my area of expertise.” He admits that from his abductee research, “we don’t have much that’s pleasant or benign.” Years ago, he started the Intruders Foundation (www.intrudersfoundation.org), a non-profit organization created to document and research alien abductions and provide support for abductees.
Currently, Budd has nearly finished a multi-faceted memoir entitled, Collage: Art, Life and UFOs, while a documentary crew is examining the work of Hopkins and partner Leslie Kean, a journalist/UFO historian who organized a press conference last November intended to stir our government understanding why the phenomenon “should be made public, and why at least investigations should be made.” The press conference hosted two generals and 14 high government officials, from around the world. Kean has stated that “the U.S. is holding everyone else back.”
Skylaire Alfvegren: Harvard’s John Mack dedicated his book Abduction to “Budd Hopkins, who led the way.” For over 30 years, you’ve balanced a successful art career with the tenuous field of UFO abduction research. Interest in the UFO phenomena is incredibly cyclical. It hasn’t been as in the forefront of mass Western consciousness since the 50th anniversary Roswell incident 11 years ago.
Budd Hopkins: It’s a statement of what the public believes about the reality of UFOs, of the reality of abductions; those numbers keep going up. There have been so many new, interesting incidents—the Texas flap, of course, the O’Hare incident [where a UFO grounded planes and astonished onlookers at the Chicago airport in on November 7, 2006]—those things have certainly kept the subject in the public’s mind.
SA: In the introduction to your first book, Missing Time (1981), you referred to the abduction phenomena as an “epidemic,” claiming that 70-80% of such experiences went unreported. Do you think that figure has changed because people are more amenable to the concept now?
BH: I think it’s difficult to say. It isn’t just that people fear ridicule, which is absolutely basic to this phenomenon. Many letters I get start with a sad little statement: “I hope I’m not wasting your time,” or “there may be nothing to this, but it’s been bothering me for years and I have to talk to somebody.” And they may only remember fragments; they don’t want to believe that such a thing happened to them. I get letters and phone calls from people I can’t really do anything for because they live in distant places and I don’t have—there doesn’t exist–a really good list of therapists to refer them to.
SA: In Missing Time, you write, “I stated at the beginning of this book that the readers’ credulity would suffer perhaps unsupported stress. I made that statement just because the limits of my own belief system had been sorely strained by these unfolding cases.” So you didn’t start off as some wide-eyed believer.
BH: God, no. When I started, in ‘76, there were maybe ten or 11 known abduction cases. And in each one, people remembered a huge amount, like [Betty and Barney] Hill. They remembered the craft, the aliens in the windows… the ’73 Pascagoula, Mississippi incident where Charlie Hickson and Alvin Parker remembered being taken inside a craft, all before hypnosis. What I found out was that there were people that remembered very little, but knew that something terrible had happened to them at a certain place. They had some vague memories, which turned out to be those of classic abductions. Suddenly, a huge door opened as to how widespread this might be.
SA: Do you think an abductee’s memory lapse is the result of an unconscious blocking of traumatic experiences, or do you think its purposeful amnesia produced by the abductors?
BH: The latter operates very strongly, but the former is also true. People don’t want to remember what they do remember.
SA: In your book Intruders you quote a skeptic who said that people who take UFOs seriously are really cultists. Your response was, “cults are all beliefs and no miracles. The UFO situation is the polar opposite: all miracles and no beliefs.”
BH: Right. I had to learn to say and think about things as I went along. I had to learn, in a sense, how to conduct police style investigations. I’m ultimately self-taught. Folklore changes all the time, but these phenomena don’t change.
SA: And there’s no university degree, no handbook, for abduction researchers.
BH: This summer I’m hoping to present, at least in presentation form, a kind of mini-handbook for investigators on how to handle people who are afraid they might be abductees. What to say and not to say, and then, for those who work with hypnotists, or who are trained themselves, how to move the whole thing along, and recognize how to get around roadblocks.
SA: Did you study hypnotherapy as a response to becoming an investigator?
BH: When I first started running into abduction cases in ‘76, I hooked up with an interested psychologist, Dr. Aphrodite Clamar, and took my subjects to her. I would watch her techniques, writing notes, questions. As I’ve put it in the book, I had a seven-year apprenticeship where I didn’t do any hypnosis, but I sat in with God knows how many subjects, and other hypnotherapists, to learn how to do it myself. The major issues are how you handle the emotions of the people, how to question without leading, how to illicit information, despite a block. It’s really a question of how the whole session goes rather than how to get a person into a trance state.
SA: How have you remained so sane, while being involved in this for so long?
BH: I’ve learned to juggle lots of things. Learning to handle the media, which enjoys presenting some designated skeptic who can’t wait to blast holes through the subject. A few years ago, I appeared on Larry King Live. The subject was abductions. This woman wrote a book that claimed that all abductions were really sleep paralysis—including cases where people are driving cars! I said that there are basically two groups, two major attitudes, towards the subject: the first are the skeptics, and the second are the true believers.
SA: Where do you fall?
BH: I’m a skeptic, because I don’t know if something happened or didn’t happen, until I do my own investigation. I said, our friend here on Larry King is the true believer, because she knows in advance that no matter what anybody tells her, it didn’t happen, that it couldn’t happen.
SA: In your books and investigations, “now-familiar patterns,”–people being “frozen,” or pulled from cars, being “immobilized” or “switched off” while their companion is abducted–are repeated time and again.
BH: While writing Missing Time many of these patterns emerged. For instance, a screen memory is a false image imposed by the aliens in order to soften their actual appearance and reduce the abductee’s fear. That whole phenomenon wasn’t known until I wrote about it. I don’t know of any abduction researcher who doesn’t accept all of the patterns, but until I could collect them in the book, and understand them, they were unknown.
SA: You mention alien implants in Intruders, which was published in 1987, while Dr. Roger Leir [a southern California podiatrist who performs implant removal operations] didn’t publicize his first surgery until the ‘90s. What are your thoughts on these alleged implants?
BH: I definitely feel that implants have been placed in people. I have no idea what they’re for, or why they would’ve been put there, all without a scar!
SA: It irks me when Dr. Leir does one of these removals, and some TV show takes the object to one lab, and the one lab says, “The material components of this could have been produced terrestrially.”
BH: It’s very hard to prove a negative. And that’s Dr. Leir’s problem, once he’s removed one of these weird things, of establishing that it could NOT have been manufactured on Earth. It just needs a huge amount of intense lab work, which is unfortunately very expensive.
SA: You state that 19% of abductees studied have implants, but that the figure could be much higher, and that the indications were that “the ultimate destination for the implant was the brain.” That’s incredibly creepy.
BH: The entire business should give you an uneasy feeling. There’s no easy way to talk your self out of a metal object that shows up on an x-ray in the interior of the brain; something that couldn’t have been put there.
SA: The idea of a tracking device in the arm seems comparatively benevolent.
BH: I don’t think we have any idea what these things are for. The idea of tracking devices is so anthropomorphic. That’s the way we think about wild animals.
SA: Does it seem like there’s an increase in abductions in times of world or political crisis, or does it seem like they’ve got their own agenda entirely?
BH: I haven’t seen much evidence that they’re concerned about what’s going on. Linda Cortile was the only case that I have ever run into where there seems to be a deliberate attempt to present themselves to world leaders. [the New York housewife was allegedly levitated out of her Manhattan high rise during a series of abductions which featured complicated messages about the environment, as well as government complicity. Her story became the basis of Hopkins’ third book, Witnessed.] In some of the cases where they present imagery, where it seems to be real, the abductee is shown a beautiful, lush Earth and then it’s all burning up. That may have to do with a concern that we ought to take better care of the planet, but the problem is, is that going to be for us, or for them? But attempting to communicate with political leaders, or effect what’s going on has never been a central issue. Don’t forget that there are abductions that go back to the 1920s and all through WWII, decades before the dropping of the atomic bombs, and the murders of hundreds of thousands of people… there’s no record that aliens rescued one single baby from Auschwitz, or anything.
BH: One of the new patterns I discovered was what I call the “Mickey and Baby Ann” issue, the fact that Linda Cortile and Richard [who was intimately involved in her experiences] had been abducted together as children. Subsequently, I’ve run into a number of other cases like that. I have maybe four in the book, and these were all people who didn’t know about the original case.
SA: You’ve got abductions that date from the ‘20s, with the same elements present almost a century later. Like Susan Williams [who was paired with another child and abducted in the late ‘30s; decades later, she was abducted alone and artificially inseminated.] Such cases erode a widespread notion that the modern UFO era began with the atomic bomb and Kenneth Arnold [the pilot/UFO witness who coined the term flying “saucer” in 1947].
BH: The same patterns go way back… and the real interesting cases are in a certain way similar to each other.
SA: Why are certain individuals targeted for abduction and experimentation, and not others?
BH: We don’t know the answer. But the point is that the abductions… the removal of sperm and ova, the reproductive experiments, which result in the production of these little “babies” which are presented to their “parents” later on… I really don’t think anyone had written about that before I did. I discovered all of that in the middle ‘80s, and I think of it as the Rosetta stone of the UFO phenomena. Because what it does is explain what the whole thing is about, and why it’s covert.
SA: Were you the first researcher to use the term “hybrid”?
BH: Yes, I think that a better term would be “genetically altered beings.” We don’t know why they are being produced, but the implications aren’t good. It might happen again and again to the same person, for decades. And it might be generational. [The hybrids do] explain why abductions happen–and happen across generations–to members of the same family: you’re dealing with the same bloodline and genetic strain.
SA: Why are mid-Western housewives being abducted, as opposed to quantum physicists?
BH: The fact is that they’re taking chunks of people, literally, their flesh! They’re not only taking sex cells, they’re taking samples of flesh, or “scoop marks.” The abductors have all the brains in the world. Perhaps they lack our physical differences, our sexuality, and so forth. That’s the part they seem interested in, and maybe they’re not concerned with the person’s intelligence, as long as they’re the right physical type. They’re studying that person physically, genetically.
This is all speculation, but it seems like they can take anybody. I’ve met a NASA research scientist who is an abductee, and obviously extremely intelligent. High-ranking military, eight psychiatrists–I’ve worked with a lot of people who are very bright, incredibly gifted. But I think that the higher up the socio-economic ladder the person is, the less likely they are to come forward.
SA: That makes sense.
BH: There’s no way of knowing! [As researchers] we get those who come to us, which may not be a real sample of what’s out there in terms of abductees. I’ve worked with two MacArthur Genius grant recipients, but they didn’t want to come forward.
SA: You’ve taken measures to make sure that certain details of the abduction phenomena aren’t disclosed; like the craft symbols that some abductees have seen and written down. Your concern with the well being of these people is evident. You’re empathetic, but extremely analytical, and every chapter is a cliffhanger.
SA: In ’93, you learned of an “official investigation” into Linda’s case. I’m curious to know who or what agency might’ve conducted it.
BH: I’m not an expert on what branches of the government might be involved. I have reason to believe that the agents, Richard and Dan, were with the National Security Agency (NSA). But I don’t have any hard evidence. Obviously, somebody is doing it for the government.
SA: Later on in Witnessed, Richard’s associate states that UFOs were considered a “threat to national security,” but I don’t think that statement has ever been made publicly.
BH: They’ve tried to say the opposite, that it’s NOT a national security issue. [The U.S.A.F. commissioned, University of Colorado-penned] Condon Report [was written] mainly to determine if this was a national security issue, a safety issue, and decided it wasn’t.
SA: But during the “early days” of UFO sightings, so many U.S. pilots were shot down while trying to attack UFOs that an official ‘stand down’ policy had to be enforced.
BH: Those are subjects that I can’t speak about with any authority. There are other things, crop circles, government cover-ups, the removal of implants, crash retrievals—but abductions are enough to absorb your entire goddamned life!
SA: What do you think about the exo-politicans?
BH: I think the exo-politicans are doing enormous harm. They have this list of how many different alien races there are, which absolutely nobody knows, and they’re going to get ready when they land, and you have people like Stephen Bassett running around claiming the government’s about ready to announce disclosure, holds a press conference, and is totally lambasted. Or that [New Mexico] Governor Richardson was a CIA agent, in on the UFO thing… you can’t imagine what happens when they present that to the press, which immediately thinks of all of us—my work, everyone who’s serious—in the same way as the exo-politicians or the Ashtar Command.
SA: Media people decide they’re going to lump the kooks in with the real investigators because across-the-board derision of entire subject is the easiest way to avoid seriously investigating any of it.
BH: I was speaking at a conference in Italy, and this man had a power point presentation, and went through, I don’t know, maybe 20 different alien races. People who I knew to be total nut cases, who claimed to see some being with wings… it’d be listed as one of the races! And when it came to the people in the Hill case, he got the name wrong! He called them Betty and Barney Woods! He was ignorant of the basic material. So, this guy, like the exo-politicans, the ‘experts’ claiming there are 57 or 68 different races, there’s no evidence behind any of it, and they’re doing enormous damage. And there’s disinformation being spread: I’ve known two military who were shown different documents… one claimed there were 13 alien races visiting Earth, another, 69. It smells like disinformation.
SA: Who is abducting us? And what is their agenda?
BH: We don’t know their program, all of their techniques, we don’t really know what their goals are. Will they take over? Will they co-exist with us? They do seem to all be working together, however. It’s not one group doing A, and another doing B. It’s interesting, frightening and suspicious.
SA: Let’s talk technology. Is our technology capable of “switching” people “off,” during abductions, or rendering them invisible, as you talk about in your last book, Sight Unseen? [Wherein UFO cases are combined/contrasted with our developing technology or held up against the cutting edge of science.] JPL has already utilized adaptive camouflage, and there is talk of our capabilities to create giant holographic projections.
BH: This is all secret stuff so we really don’t know their capabilities. You’ve probably seen on television, the ray that can be emitted from a truck… it doesn’t paralyze a target or do permanent harm, but it can knock them, like, 80 feet out of the way. You just aim it at the guy, and down he goes. But despite all the talk about remote viewing, nobody has found Bin Laden! And soldiers had to stumble over Saddam Hussein. Even our smart bombs miss their targets occasionally. We don’t seem to have anything that’s anywhere near alien efficiency, with the ability to paralyze people, or control humans’ behavior by simple eye contact. We don’t have it, and I certainly hope we don’t get it very soon, either!