This book is a very important compilation of cases and facts which any successful theory of abductions will somehow have to explain. It deserves to be much more widely read and studied than is likely to happen. To the general reader, perhaps the most important message is that one can be abducted anywhere, just as easily in Britain as in Upstate New York. To the specialist it provides a display of some of the complex patterns hidden within the abduction phenomenon.
It is not clear that these patterns are quite consistent with the easy answers sometimes put forward by some of the contributors to Magonia. Of course, some of this confusing complexity may be an illusory by-product of the inclusion in one category of phenomena that don't really belong together - missing time cases, entity cases, contacts, various types of abductions. Yet the pattern of resemblances among these would still remain to be explained.
I will proceed by giving a quick summary of some of the main points of the book, adding comments from my own perspective as I go along. It opens with some old cases - from as far back as 1803 and 1912 - with modern features, alongside some modern cases with old or even mythological features. There follows some remarks on the SF connection pointed out by Méheust, with the interesting suggestion that films, novels and music may constitute some kind of 'back-door contacts'. To these I could add that the classical strange doors can also be found in SF stories from the 1920s and 1930s by such authors as Robert E Howard and Clark Ashton Smith of Weird Tales, and the story on which the film The Day the Earth Stood Still was based. Yet, many of these were little read, and contained many features that don't appear in abductions. Not mentioned are other films that from my own perspective are even more relevant, such as The Never Ending Story, and The Land of Faraway.
The core of the book is the display of cases and common features in chapters 5, 6, and 7. Chapter 5 is devoted to 29 British cases. Notable features include the prevalence of visions of coming disasters, which appears several times in the book. There is the strange drink often given to abductees, which I remember from my own experience. And the bizarre Appleton case includes a sample of alleged alien skin that resembled the skin of an animal, a detail unpleasantly reminiscent of some of the sensational rumours currently circulating among US ufologists. And note the case on page 60, where a car was found in a muddy field but left no tracks.
A word should be addressed to the question on page 158 as to why there seem to be few abduction reports amongst non-Caucasians. There is a good chance that this is primarily a selection effect due to cultural biases. For example, several of Budd Hopkins's cases have involved Blacks, but they are not publicly known. Probably many Blacks perceive UFOs as an area pre-empted by Whites, and fear that their input may not be welcome. Unfortunately, this may not be totally unjustified; some white news editors, police officers, etc, may take reports from black witnesses less seriously.
On page 172 there is a case involving a device placed to the forehead of an abductee. I found this particularly striking, as I remember it from one of my own experiences, back in 1948. It seems to be rare in UFO literature, though interestingly it appears in one of Whitley Strieber's novels, The Night Church.
Of much current interest is the discussion on pages 175-6 and 180-3 of the way the phenomenon seems to try to present itself as involving two alien races. While the true significance of this feature is not at all clear, speculation about conflicts between the 'Nordics' and the 'Greys' are raging in many circles of US ufology. Usually the 'Grays' are seen as hostile, or at least as amoral predators. But as Hopkins has pointed out, the supposed enemies are often described as seeming to work together. Clearly, one should avoid jumping to conclusions in the face of a phenomenon as confusing as this one.
In Chapter 8 Randles briefly summarises the results of Eddie Bullard's massive two volume study, probably the most important work done on the phenomenon to date. Any adequate theory must account for the patterns he has found, such as the coherence in the order of the component events of the abduction, and 'doorway amnesia'. The latter feature is very nicely illustrated by the very important 1980 US abduction of 'Megan Elliott', which I helped to investigate, and which is not in Randles's book. Megan recalled most of her experience consciously, except for a few moments around the entry into the object, and a longer time around the departure from it. These had to be recovered under hypnosis, which otherwise did little more than confirm her conscious recollections. just why these particular components should be singled out for amnesia is not at all clear.
Hypnosis is a dirty word in some circles, but as Randles points out, something like 20% to 30% of all cases involve no hypnosis. Yet there is little if any systematic differences between them and those recalled mostly or entirely under hypnosis. "It is simply not tenable to claim the hypnotic state as a cause for the abduction experience", she concludes (p.190).
In fact one could go much further in this direction. It is often charged that abductees are merely responding to leading questions from the hypnotist. Quite the contrary; in many cases the subject stubbornly resists following the lead of the therapist, even under considerable pressure. This is particularly prominent, for example, in the second phase of the Andreasson case, and I remember it very vividly in my own. I have seen a paper, recently drawn up by a practising psychiatrist, which cites this feature and others, including the occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder which is only known to follow externally-induced trauma. It would be easy to interpret these points as evidence for the objective reality of abductions.
Similarly, in her final chapter, Randles cites the study carried out by Hopkins and Clamar in which psychologist Elizabeth Slater concluded that "there is no apparent psychological explanation" (p.208). An interesting experiment carried out by Randles herself is reported on pp. 204-5, and leads to similar conclusions.
In default of a psychological explanation. it is perhaps too easy to fall back on the ETH, mainly because, as Randles remarks, "this is the guise in which the abductors appear" (p.213). Not all Americans who lean towards the ETH are hypnotised by loyalty to Keyhoe. Indeed, for myself, the theory is tempting exactly because the beings told me they were from outer space!
During a long experience in 1946 I was taken into a sort of auditorium, where scenes were shown on a wall of what the beings claimed to be their own world - a devastated planet, where the cities were burnt cut wrecks and rivers of lava flowed everywhere.
No explanation was offered for all this destruction. "We have had to go out into space to search for places were there was the kind of life that could help us," came the lecture, telepathically. "Earth was one of the places we found", (Implication: there were others.) Much of this went over my head, since, at the age of five, I knew nothing of stars and planets.
Immediately I became obsessed with space and science in an attempt to make sense of what I had been shown and told. (Perhaps this awakening to science was akin to the artistic awakenings pointed out by Randles - a different kind of experience from many others with horrific consequences.) I was also left with a lifelong obsession with UFOs, trying to make sense of my experience. I have read all I can in search of answers.
Did I find my answers in this book? Randles tries hard. At the end of the book, after a brief look at the enigmatic links to OOBEs and NDEs, she proposes a 'best guess' which looks as if it might have been inspired by Chocky. Unfortunately, this theory presupposes that abductees will be returned to their starting places - contrary to the cases on pages 60 and 137 of this very book, not to mention the Megan Elliott case, and others amongst Hopkins cases and elsewhere.
So I still, don't know what abductions are. I only know that, though they may feel strange compared to everyday experience, they do not thereby feel any less real. -- Reviewed by 'Daryl Collins' 'Daryl Collins' is the pseudonym of an American correspondent who has undergone an abduction experience in childhood. He does not, at this stage, wish his name to be published. His identity is known to Magonia editors.