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Posted on Sunday, October 30 - 2005

Anna Jamerson always found ways to explain away her nosebleeds, or her inability to account for periods of time, or why she woke up with her nightgown on backwards. But it wasn't until a six-month period in 1992 that she and a friend with similar symptoms starting keeping journals, researching and undergoing hypnosis. Their conclusion: They had been abducted by aliens."I remember lying on single-footed tables with beings over me," Ms. Jamerson said. "I remember them poking and prodding with various instruments and their hands and being completely terrified."The Virginia author's story will be at the center of "Mysteries of Space andSky II" tomorrow, a conference at Anne Arundel Community College.Since exchanges about alien abductions can become heated, conference organizer S.

Peter Resta, a psychology professor and practicing psychotherapist in Pasadena, said this forum is meant to be educational and friendly."I'm all for debate," Dr. Resta said. "But I've seen some exchanges that can get nasty."Other speakers will be scientists who will present history and analyses of unidentified flying objects, including Temple University professor Dr. David Jacobs' response to a recent theory that alien "abductees" are victims of only sleep paralysis.According to that theory, postulated by a Harvard psychology fellow, the brain is out of deep sleep but the body is unable tomove. As a result, victims often hallucinate, sense a presence, or feel like they are floating.Ms. Jamerson, 56, and all the other conference participants reject that theory."Everyone would like to find a dif-ferent explanation than abductions and so would I," said Ms. Jamerson, who uses the penname Anna Jamerson to protect her family. "(Sleep paralysis) doesn't explain it when I am abducted from my car. Sleep paralysis doesn't cause scars on my body."

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Posted on Thursday, October 27 - 2005

Do you have memories of being abducted by aliens and whisked away in a spaceship? You wouldn't be alone. Several thousand people worldwide claim to have had such close encounters, researchers say. But in a new study, a psychology expert at London's Goldsmiths College says these experiences are proof of the frailty of the human memory, rather than evidence of life in other galaxies. "Maybe what we're dealing with here is false memories, and not that people are actually being abducted and taken aboard spaceships," says Professor Chris French, who surveyed 19self-proclaimed alien abductees.

Several of the abductees reported being snatched from their beds or cars by alien creatures around four feet high, with spindly arms and legs and oversized heads, Professor French said. Some men said they were subjected to painful medical examinations by the aliens, during which their sperm was extracted. Many of the alien experiences could be explained by sleep paralysis, a condition in which a person is awake and aware of the surroundings but is unable to move. Sleep paralysis often leads to hallucinations and 40 per cent of people experience the state at least once in their lives, Professor French said. A rich imagination was also at play. Several of thealien abductees were already prone to fantasising and also claimed to have seen ghosts and have psychic or healing abilities. "People have very rich fantasy lives," said Professor French, who is due to present his findings at a public seminar at London's Science Museum on Wednesday. "So much so that they often mix up what's happening in their heads with what is going on in the real world."

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Posted on Monday, October 17 - 2005

Susan Clancy is sick of space aliens. The Harvard psychologist figures she has read every book and seen every movie ever made about extraterrestrials, and she has interviewed roughly 50 people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. All in the name of scientific truth, not science fiction. "I have become a reluctant scholar of alienography," Clancy said. Clancy is bracing for a fresh round of hate mail once her book, "Abducted: How People Come To Believe They Were Kidnapped By Aliens," is published by Harvard University Press later this month. Those who believe aliens are amongus haven't taken kindly to her theory that abductees have created "false memories" out of, she writes, a "blend of fantasy-proneness, memory distortion, culturally available scripts, sleep hallucinations, and scientific illiteracy."That doesn't mean Clancy thinks her subjects are crazy.

In fact, she was surprised how many of them seemed quite normal, intelligent and articulate. "Arguing weird beliefs is a very normal thing," she said in a telephone interview from Nicaragua, where she has a research job. "It's very human for us to believe in things for which there is no scientific evidence."When she arrived at Harvard in 1996, Clancy didn't set out to debunk thestories of little green men kidnapping people from their bedrooms and using them for painful experiments. Instead, she started her research on false memories by studying victims of sexual abuse. She quickly found herself the target of angry "outsiders" who accused her of trying to discredit victims. One irate letter-writer called her a "friend of pedophiles everywhere."

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Posted on Friday, October 14 - 2005

Harvard University psychology researcher Susan Clancy thinks the chances are good that you know at least one person who claims to have been abducted by aliens. And she has another surprise: The people who tell these stories aren't candidates for the funny farm. "They're not nuts," said Clancy, a postdoctoral researcher and author of a new book, the first to analyze the psychological underpinnings of abduction stories. "They're normal." Not that Clancy gives any credence to the countless tales of horny aliens, UFO-borne medical examinations and intrusive probes of nether regions. No one, she said, has actually been kidnapped by extraterrestrials. Instead, Clancypoints to other causes including sleep hallucinations, innate suggestibility and a deeply human desire to explain the world.

Pop culture plays a major role, too. These theories have been around for a while, but Clancy weaves them together in Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens to create a new, overarching explanation for alien-abduction stories, one that draws heavily on her own interviews with about 50 alleged abductees. And she throws in a new wrinkle: Despite the horrors that many abductees report enduring, including rape, they don't regret the experiences. In each case, the abduction "transformed their lives, made them feel better about themselves and the world they were living in," said Clancy, a postdoctoral fellow and one of the few American academics whostudy alien-abduction stories as a way to understand how people develop "unusual beliefs." It's impossible to know exactly how many Americans think they were abducted by aliens, although polls suggest about a quarter of us think extraterrestrials have dropped by the planet. While it's true that plenty of abductees are happy to tell their stories on the radio and the internet, Clancy said in an interview, others keep their stories to themselves because they fear being written off as crazy. Regardless of whether they broadcast their stories to the world, "they're not more likely than people who don't believe to be psychiatrically impaired," she said. In fact, the lives and occupations of abductees are often entirely ordinary. Clancy writes about her interviews with severalschoolte...

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