Jacobs' Threat

David M. Jacobs. The Threat, Simon and Schuster, 1998..

This book has so far generated some derision, but little comment. Jacobs, a professor of history at Temple University in Philadelphia, has been researching UFOs since 1966, but is not a man to rush to conclusions. His 1975 book The UFO Controversy in America was a proper academic study which tried to sit on the fence, though it showed signs of falling off on the ETH side. By the late 1970s he “could no longer deny that witnesses were seeing something extraordinary and probably not from Earth”. In 1986 he performed his first hypnotic regression. Since then he has regressed over a hundred abductees, and in recent years he has come to believe he has thereby “uncovered information that allows UFO researchers to solve the UFO mystery”.

We have heard this claim many times before. Unfortunately, all of the definitive solutions to the UFO mystery have been different, and mostly mutually incompatible. Jacobs believes that aliens are unable to reproduce themselves properly, so they are abducting our women and forcing them into a breeding programme intended to create human-alien hybrids who will eventually take over the world. Huge numbers of busy aliens must be engaged therein: he estimates that more than a million Americans have been abducted, perhaps as many as five million, sometimes regularly: one woman “had as many as 100 abductions during a one-year period” (and to her distress her family and friends refused to believe her).

Their genetic science is so advanced that they can even use women who are postmenopausal or who have had hysterectomies. Some hybrids are already sufficiently like us that they can mingle with humans unnoticed for up to a few hours. As students of urban legend will have guessed, while on Earth they like to travel about in unmarked vans and black helicopters. Even if the world’s scientists wake up to The Threat, they may be too late to prevent it, since “The Change” (when “they” will start to rule openly, apparently) is coming in not more than two generations, perhaps in as little as five years.

The trouble is that this is one of those theories that, if true, should never have got into print. The ruthless aliens are supposed to have already reached the stage where they can do what they like with us, and since they monitor abductees closely (through their implants, he suggests) they must know that he has learnt their secrets: surely then they would have silenced him (or did they allow him to publish as a double bluff?). Yet Jacobs is obviously completely sincere, and so probably are his abductees. If one is to dismiss his findings, then it is worth asking how come he has apparently obtained a consistent body of evidence for something that is not real?

Firstly, at least some of these cases seem to have begun with a genuinely inexplicable event. One woman wrote to him: “In 1979 my boyfriend and I saw a UFO close up and it swooped down low towards us. All I remember was running, and then we found ourselves in our car and it was six hours later. I have thought about this incident every day of my life since then.” Unfortunately he does not tell us anything more about this woman, though one may suppose that he hypnotised her and got her to recall her abduction.

If so, he would have been making a crucial assumption. When dealing with the unknown, one ought to consider every possibility. Reports of “missing time” might, for instance, be caused by people going into trances for some reason. If so, then it would be futile to regress them, since there would be nothing lost for them to recall.

In most instances, however, the evidence that the subject might have been abducted is pretty vague, e.g. a woman who sat in on his university course “UFOs and American Society” started to feel so uncomfortable that she had to stop attending. Later they concluded that she had been abducted 13 times in 1994 alone.

In another case, a graduate student could recall having been molested by a stranger at the age of twelve. Under hypnotic regression, however, the incident turned out to have been a screen memory for “a routine abduction event”. This anecdote raises all kinds of possibilities that Jacobs doesn’t explore, not least that alien abductions might be screen memories for human sexual abuse.

Though he says he is careful not to ask leading questions, it is hard to believe that he does not put his own interpretation on events. He states that aliens purposely place “instilled memories” in the abductee’s mind: “I have had people remember figures that looked like Abraham Lincoln wearing a stovepipe hat, men wearing fedoras, angels, devils, and so forth.” A hypnotist with a different agenda might regard the angels or devils as real, but the aliens as “instilled memories”. One woman recalled being assaulted and raped, a candle pushed into her vagina, and seeing a vision of people being hacked to death in a graveyard. This could have been taken as a classic example of Satanic Abuse, but here it is interpreted as caused by hybrids intimidating her so that she would co-operate with them. Then again, some other abductionists believe that the US military is secretly working with the aliens. Not so, says Jacobs: some hybrids wear one-piece jump suits that resemble uniforms so “it is easy to mistake them for American military personnel”. One gathers that he has to set his abductees straight on this point.

What is the proof for all this? Attempts have been made to video abductees at night. “So far, no abductions have been videotaped. Rather, tapes reveal people getting up and inexplicably turning off the VCR, or unusual power outages during which the camera turns off, or the camera simply goes off mysteriously.” Jacobs is also well aware that false memory and confabulations are common, and devotes a chapter to this difficulty.

Apparently he judges the stories by their similarity. Melissa, the very first woman he regressed, described how she touched an alien’s head and “immediately felt, love, warmth, and affection emanating from him”. But she did not recall this on her second regression, and no other abductee has reported having been “required to touch an alien’s head and receive loving emotions”. Therefore he concludes that this was a false memory. It would seem from this that those things he thinks are genuine must be true because more than one abductee reports them. An example is “Mindscan”, reported by several named subjects, where an alien stares at a woman to make her sexually aroused, sometimes to the point of intense orgasm. (Does the hypnotist merely make them recall this, or actually re-undergo it?) One wonders how far the apparent consistency of these stories is actually due to the arrangement of the material. In his comments on the sessions Jacobs frequently uses special terms such as gray, hybrid, The Change, as also in his non-leading questions (”gray beings, or hybrid?”), but they do not occur in the quoted extracts from the subjects. One might even ask whether, if many people had been abducted by aliens, they would necessarily have undergone similar things?

In any case, such consistency is hardly proof of reality. It is well known to Jungian analysts that unconnected people in different parts of the world will have very similar dreams, apparently because everyone’s mind works in the same basic way. Hypnotic regression may just be tapping into the same collective unconscious. Then again, Jacobs assumes that you have to select the consistent details out from the admixture with false memories, instilled memories, and other phantasmata. This would only work if there really was a consistent body of evidence to be recovered, if all these subjects had indeed forgotten similar experiences of abduction – which is not independently proven.

I am afraid that if Jacobs is right, then nonetheless the scientific community are not going to take him seriously, so the world as we know it will be doomed. -- Reviewed by Gareth Medway. Originally published in Magonia Supplement 14, April 1999

After this review was first published on-line, the following comments were received (click 'comments' link):


Magonia said...

Emma Woods says:
January 3, 2009 at 7:29 pm (Edit)
I thought your review of ‘The Threat’ was interesting. I was one of Dr. Jacobs’ research subjects for a number of years and he did ninety-one hypnotic regressions with me. He told me that I am one of three people with whom he has done the most amount of hypnosis. We eventually parted company over a serious agreement about one of his other cases that, in my opinion, is a hoax and that he believes is genuine. (You can read an account of this on my website if you are interested at http://www.ufoalienabductee.com/david-jacobs-hybrid.html.)

In regard to my hypnosis with Dr. Jacobs, I believe that I confabulated a lot of what I remembered, even though he told me that he believed that most of what I recalled was accurate. He talked to me about the other cases he had worked on, and about a case that he was working on at the same time as mine, and I gained quite a bit of information about other people’s memories and experiences that way. He also asked me leading questions during my hypnosis sessions, and passed commentary on my memories as I was retrieving them, which I believe influenced them. I am sure there is the possibility of considerable contamination of the memories of his other research subjects as well. One possible avenue is his practice of having his research subjects transcribe each other’s hypnosis sessions for him while they are undergoing hypnosis with him themselves. Obviously, anyone who listens to another person’s hypnotic regressions at a time that they themselves are undergoing hypnosis could be influenced by what the other person remembered.

I disagree with your view of the abduction phenomenon. I think that there is a real and anomalous process at work, although I do not know what it is. However, I think that there are problems with the way the phenomenon has been researched, and that there need to be searching questions asked about the methodology, and ethics, employed in hypnosis with abductees that the general public may not be aware of.

Magonia said...


It is not easy for an abductee to speak out about problems in abduction research, because they are speaking out about the very small section of society that validates their own experiences. They can also draw fire from the defenders of the researchers concerned, which can be daunting. An abductee publicly criticizing a leading abduction researcher can feel like they are taking on Goliath. For instance, a list member posted a comment about my site on UFO Updates, a UFO research forum, with links to a page about my work with Dr. Jacobs. After another list member suggested asking Dr. Jacobs for comment, all the postings referring to my site were removed. I wrote to Errol Bruce-Knapp, the moderator about this but he did not respond. Without knowing the reason why he did this, I cannot respond. This means that people in the UFO research community who may have been interested in what I had to say are deprived of an important avenue of knowing about the existence of it. It becomes a cycle in which criticism of a leading researcher is covered up.

For myself, I was unsure whether to leave this comment, as this is a skeptical site and I wondered if it would be counter-productive to the small number of people who actually do undertake the important task of researching abduction experiences, even if they make serious mistakes sometimes. However, in the long-term I think that abduction research will only progress if it is examined openly, without mistakes being hidden. In my opinion, some of the reasons that abduction research is not reliable in the sense that mainstream research is, is because it is difficult to get access to the raw data and examine it openly, because the research is done behind closed doors without open scrutiny, and because it is difficult for the research subjects themselves to criticize the few researchers who have dared to venture into the field, for fear of undermining research in the field and of drawing a backlash from defenders of the “heroes”. Perhaps it takes more people who have personal experience of abduction research, and who have experienced the downside of it, to speak out about it. Then a rounded picture can emerge of the practices that are employed, that can be examined, and the resulting research can be more accurately gauged and improved upon.

Michael Malone says:
March 9, 2010 at 8:44 pm (Edit)
In your review you say that the good doctor claims he doesn’t ask leading questions, which begs the question of how he proved it.

I take it that he does not publish his transcripts, or make available the transcripts, of these “regressions.” That is a shame. He has a fundamental duty to do so. Unless he is purposely attempting to avoid peer review.