Hair today, gone tomorrow

Bill Chalker. Hair of the Alien: DNA and Other Forensic Evidence of Alien Abduction. Paraview Pocket books, 2005.

This is what purports to be the full story of Peter Khoury [left, with Bill Chalker] and his alleged alien hair. Peter Khoury is an Australian abductee who claimed that while off work with a head injury received during an assault at work, he came home after driving his wife to work one day in July 1992 and fell asleep.

He was woken up with a strange naked blonde woman crouching on his chest, and another Asian-looking woman in the room. The blonde dragged his head towards her breast, whereupon he bit her nipple off, which didn't seem to hurt her, but miffed the two so much that they promptly vanished. All of this seems to have taken place in some kind of out of the body experience in which Khoury viewed himself from outside. Feeling that something rubbery was in his mouth, Khoury got up for a drink of water, after which he went to the toilet, found urinating painful. Unrolling his foreskin he found a hair tightly wrapped around his penis. He carefully removed this and placed in a plastic sachet bag in his office.

He seems to have kept this sample for years, telling some people about it in late August 1992 and Bill Chalker, whom he had known since 1993, about this incident almost exactly four years later in July 1996 . At some time in 1998 Chalker came into contact with an 'invisible college' of biochemists, and in late 1998 and early 1999 they undertook a study of the mitochondrial MTDNA.

These results have proved to be controversial, but the one absolute certainty which emerged, assuming that the analysis was valid, was that this was not alien. There was not a trace of exotic organic compound which was not quite DNA, or even DNA having no genetic relationship to any terrestrial organism. No, what this examination showed was that the hair was human. What was unusual about it was that a blonde, apparently European, hair had a MTDNA profile of a minority Chinese line. The so called expert biochemists make much of this, arguing that the possessor of such a profile must be a dark haired Mongolian Chinese. This doesn't follow at all, MTDNA only traces one genealogical line, that of your mother's mother's mother's mother's mother, back many generations.
Now it is not unknown for someone with one European parent and one Asian to have fair hair. If the last Chinese ancestor was say a 4-times-great-grandmother, there she would be contributing 1/64th of the gene line. If all your other 4-times-great-grandparents were fair haired, then odds on so are you. Of course the last Chinese ancestor could have been a 6, 8, 10, 20, 30, 50 greats-grandmother, still her MtDNA would be preserved though her genes were making next to no general contribution.

For example though both Princess Diana and her son Prince William are both fair, there are grounds for believing their (MT)DNA will be Indian!

To add to the confusion the 'invisible college' claimed later to have undertaken a second test. Whereas the first test was taken from the hair shaft, this next was done on a sample from the soft hair root. This is claimed to show MtDNA from an Irish/Gaelic/Basque background. Clearly people can't have two mothers so there is something very dodgy here. Explanations might include that this is a composite hair from a wig made of human hair, that one or both samples are contaminated, that the root sample is actually nuclear and not MtDNA, that there is something wrong with the whole study procedure. Only if all these were eliminated would more exotic possibilities, such as a very rare example of leaked paternal MtDNA (of which a case has been reported in the medical literature), or someone with a hair transplant.

If the actual MtDNA sample is indeed Irish, Scots or whatever and the Asian profile is due to contamination or misreading, then the mystery disappears, as there are plenty of Australians with such a background. The presence of Asian strains in MtDNA and y chromosomes from people in Scandinavia has also been reported.

Of course one way to clarify all of this is for the hair to be independently tested. There are a growing number of laboratories which undertake DNA genealogy who would be just the organisations to do this. Independent study of the procedures used by the 'invisible college' would also be needed.

The reader might wonder what to make of all this. Initially, like most people I had assumed that the claim was that the hair was a pubic hair acquired during sexual intercourse, and that if that was demonstrated Khoury's story might be a confused memory of a real sexual encounter, possibly with prostitutes. This raised the predictable howl of protest when I raised it on UFO UpDates. This is becoming rather academic however, for also on updates I got from Chalker the revelation that this was assumed to a head hair (much easier to come by than a pubic one), they really hadn't eliminated a hair from wig, and most astonishing of all they had not conducted any tests to determine whether this was female or male hair!

A revelation in this book makes this even more academic, because it now transpires that in about April- May 1992 Khoury had told another version of his story to two Australian ufologists, in this case the event dated back to about November 1991, the Asian woman was the one straddling him etc. Faced with this, Chalker twists all ways to try and avoid the obvious conclusion, eventually suggesting that this is a separate event which Khoury had somehow forgotten.

At this point we should perhaps have a little time line:
  1. November 1991 : First date of the claimed meeting with the two women.
  2. November 1991: PK turns up at the inaugural meeting of UFOR(NSW). He tells about an alleged 1988 abduction (which seems to be a classic example of sleep paralysis) He becomes their abduction expert but finds them sceptical.
  3. March 17, 1992: His sister in law is murdered, allegedly by a lover who committed suicide.
  4. c. Mid April 1992: He gives an interview about alleged 1991 experience.
  5. May 13, 1992 : He receives severe head injuries in a brawl at work (he was a construction worker).
  6. July 23, 1992: Second date for encounter with women, and allegedly finds hair.
  7. August 13, 1992: He allegedly tells wife about the incident.
  8. September 1992: He tells Jamie Leonard, a colleague in the UFO group.
  9. October 1992: Budd Hopkins visits Khoury and Leonard set up a support group.
  10. Feb 28, 1993: He tells support group about hair, gets little support.
  11. c. April 1993: Leonard leaves support group, claiming unhealthy dynamics, Khoury resigns a a year later.
The reader will note it is at this point that Khoury enters the orbit of Bill Chalker, though it is not for another three years until he reveals the story about the hair and that this is not analysed until 1998/9 .

One of the arguments which believers in Khoury come up with is how to explain how this hair got wrapped around Khoury's penis. There is no real reason to answer this, because there is no actual evidence that this hair was ever there, only Khoury's assertion that it was. There seems little actual proof that the supposed hair seen by Leonard in 1992 was the same as that analysed in 1998/9, there is simply no unbroken provenance at all. It looks as though Khoury changed his story to fit round a sample he got hold of. There might be some evidence that this really is a composite, because Khoury's story included a reference to a second smaller hair, maybe a backup story if inconsistencies were found in the story, which due to the credulity of the investigators was never needed?

The most generous interpretation of this story might be that Khoury had some sort of genuine extraordinary experiences centred around sleep paralysis and hypnopompic hallucinations and had got hold of the hair to provide evidence against his critics in the local UFO group. I am not entirely convinced that this is necessarily the whole story however.

Despite Chalker's claim that he has the backing of an 'invisible college' of credentialed and published scientists, evidence for this is hard to come by. The so called scientific report is an absurd document. Clearly there are parts which are of a technical nature I'm not qualified to comment on, but the strange use of language, the lack of understanding of the difference between MT and nuclear DNA, and above all the ridiculous anti-evolutionary posturing and ancient astronaut style speculation are suggestive of someone either fundamentally ignorant, or someone pursuing some personal agenda.

At first thought, this looks like a classical creationist agenda, but I am not sure that a fundamentalist Christian would endorse the actual details. It looks more like some curious UFO related cult; the interest in genetics and aliens seeding humans sounds rather like the Raelians, while the ancient astronaut speculations suggest the Sitchinists. This will remain speculation so long as these people hide behind anonymity. It seems reasonable to work on the assumption that those who hide behind anonymity are those with something to hide.

Needless to say any suggestion that stories like this need to be rigorously and critically investigated using the techniques of private detectives or investigative reporters meets with the expected howls of derision by Chalker and fellow ufologists whose childlike credulity over this case are painful to behold. In this subject failure to work under the maxims believe nothing, trust no-one and keep your wallet tightly shut can only lead to absurdity.

I have not comment on the other wonder stories with which this book is padded out, because they add nothing much to the corpus of wonder stories we already possess. One story however of a contactee cum-abductee from 1971, would, if the notes made about it could be proved to come from 1971 show how contactees were transforming themselves into abductees and that some of the modern motifs of baby-farming were present at an earlier time.


No comments: