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Written by Heather Dixon
                                           THE DEBATES CONTINUE:

In his best selling book, The Emperor’s New Mind, Roger Penrose, the British Physicist, looks at the vast panorama of modern science and asserts that for all its power and richness, this knowledge could not possibly account for the ultimate mystery of existence...the human consciousness.

In this article, I would like to focus on the more extraordinary reports, which within BUFORA, are known as ‘high strangeness reports’

Reports of this nature  to BUFORA  have  increased during the last couple of years and I believe the dynamics that lie behind these reports  are worthy of appraising in considering the huge complexities that are involved with reports that appear, on the surface, to be quite astonishing in the way these narratives are reported by witnesses.

In order to encapsulate the essence of these reports, maybe the term extraordinary human experiences is appropriate, which brings me to the thought that it is somewhat puzzling, as to why these experiences are reported to a UFO organisation, as there is sometimes no actual UFO sighting, but the feeling from the witness that these experiences are extraterrestrial in nature and origin.

Reports of high strangeness experiences include claims of being ‘abducted’ from the bedroom; missing time during a car journey where unusual time discrepancies are reported; encounters with UFOs/entities of unknown origin and claims of physiological effects or ‘implants’ that  witnesses believe are linked to their close encounters.

Let us begin by taking a look at the last twenty years of high strangeness reports and how they have evolved over these years. There are many unsubstantiated theories and ideas as to the nature of these experiences, not shared by the scientific community, unsurprisingly!

The nineties generated a huge amount of these experiences being reported to BUFORA and to many other UFO organisations both in the UK and across the world. These high strangeness reports accounted for eight percent of all sighting reports to BUFORA during the early and mid-nineties.  This percentage was extremely high for the more exotic reported encounters and I suspect there were many contributing factors to the idea and beliefs  that a percentage of people were being ‘abducted’ by aliens against their will.  These factors included extensive interest by the media, resulting in many programmes and documentaries addressing these incredible claims.  UFO magazines and books were saturating the market, in addition to the very popular X-Files series and various other sci-fi movies and television programmes. In addition, UFO conferences were at an all time high over many parts of the UK.

It is my opinion that Whitley Strieber’s book ‘Communion’ was one of the books that was instrumental in creating a new dimension to the ever evolving stories from the contactees and experiencers of the sixties and seventies.  His book, published in 1987 was important both in its content being billed as Whitley Strieber’s true experiences of encounters with aliens and because the illustration on the front cover of the  grey alien was to become familiar on an international scale as the UFO focus reached a crescendo.

Enmeshed within all of this were various ‘abduction’ researchers, who conducted regression hypnosis in order to elicit ‘the truth’ of these reported experiences...more on this later in this article using an extract from an interview that I did with Judy Jafaar, a clinical hypnotherapist  and past  BUFORA Accredited Investigator and researcher of many years standing.  This interview appeared as an article in Strange Times magazine and although conducted many years ago now, it is just as relevant today as it was then.

The Nineties generated many vigorous and vociferous debates particularly between UK and American researchers on the problems that were crucially significant in the whole alien abduction and hypnosis debates.  During that time the use of hypnosis was far more prevalent by American investigators resulting in many ‘abduction’ narratives as the UFO landscape became more complex and enmeshed with stories of a bizarre alien agenda and more and more conspiracies surrounded these stories. Witness support groups were created and belief systems were reinforced unfortunately, ensuring that there was no room for rigorous debate or responsibility by some in the UFO community who not only shared the idea that people were actually being abducted by an alien species, but their own beliefs validated those of the witness.  Therefore an objective and robust scientific element was not part of identifying the causes or problems that may have been involved with these subjective experiences.

During the nineties’ fascination with UFOs, many people had subconsciously downloaded a huge amount of alien type visual imagery and because it became so familiar to them, anomalous events and experiences were sometimes perceived as being connected to extraterrestrial visitation.  It was certainly the case within BUFORA during those years that mysterious incidents, which at one time would have been interpreted as ghosts, visions and paranormal events, became extraterrestrial visitors, as UFOs and aliens became a ‘reality’ and a very real possibility for some people to describe and define unknown experiences. The folklore and mythology of the little people, goblins, elves and fairies evolved into our modern day culture to become the ‘grey aliens’ who were capturing us behind closed doors and on lonely roads without our consent.

As we progressed to the Millennium high strangeness reports began to diminish at quite a rapid level, which was fascinating in considering the many possible reasons for this.  Certainly the media’s interest in the subject began to wane as did all the UFO magazines, movies, television sci-fi, books and articles.  UFO Conferences, which had existed at an all time high in the nineties, became very limited as numbers of attendees declined.  And so the visual UFO/alien imagery started to fade from the consciousness of the public as they turned to other more practical matters and absorbed the more worrying matters of 9/11, the Iraq War, Afghanistan and terrorist activity on our streets in addition to the shenanigans of governments and politics.

High strangeness reports were still received but they were rare and did not necessarily follow the motifs of the seventies, eighties and nineties where witnesses had reported  missing time during car journeys and claims of abduction from bedrooms at night, in addition to ‘men in black’, alien experimentation, alien/human hybrids  and all manner of extraordinary scenarios which were reinforced by very powerful visual models of the ‘alien’ features and anatomy that were so accessible during the nineties.

However, since 2010 BUFORA has experienced a rise in high strangeness reports and, although there had been a slight increase during 2008, the last two years, and particularly 2011/2012 have seen these cases increase fairly dramatically.  They have not reached the proportions of the nineties, but nevertheless it is curious how much they have increased since early last year and it would be even more significant to understand the underlying reasons for these compelling reports.

Reports received recently include perceived bedroom visitations/abduction, alien implants, missing time on car journeys and people reporting UFO encounters up close and in some cases also report a history of unusual and anomalous incidents within their lives including paranormal events.

It is my opinion that there will be several possibilities for the increase in witnesses contacting BUFORA and other UFO organisations with these curious narratives and there is no doubt that recent media interest in the subject has raised the UFO profile, triggered to a degree by the release of further batches of UFO files.  In addition to this, the internet has spawned tens of thousands of UFO sites over the years addressing every aspect of the UFO subject from alien abduction to cover-ups and conspiracies and nonsensical theories and ideas about alien agendas. This leads to the problem of some of the media treating the subject in a lightweight manner and thereby misinforming the public at large of the very real and relevant questions that should be addressed in order for viewers and readers to understand the central issues at the core of these reports.  In addition there have been thousands of photographs and footage of alleged UFOs uploaded on to ‘You tube’ leading to the idea that our skies are rather crowded with visitors from beyond!  What has to be remembered is that most of these internet photographs and video footage of  ‘UFOs’ have not been evaluated  and are often uploaded on to the internet without any supporting information as to the background of the photographer, camera information,  and what the person actually observed with the naked eye.

Reported UFO high strangeness cases may or may not be connected to our understanding of UFO phenomena as we try to decipher the confusing aspects of the UFO landscape and what maybe involved in exploring the real issues of this subject, by understanding that the UFO subject does not lie in isolation, but is multi-faceted embracing some scientific disciplines, religion, mythology and folklore, physics and the human consciousness and its unexplored potential. Its structures are not made up of one component, but many components, each of which need to be understood in order to gather together an overview of the much bigger picture; in so doing we can go forward to explore and gain a more coherent understanding of the complex fabric at the essence of the UFO phenomenon. Within all of these UFO components lies a critical and central core....HUMAN BELIEFS, MEMORY AND PERCEPTION and indeed the nature of reality itself.

Therefore, let us focus on memory, human perception, beliefs and regression hypnosis in order to pull all of these parts together, as they are all pieces of the jigsaw puzzle within the scenario of a cognitive understanding and real insight into the nature of high strangeness experiences.

Contrary to popular belief, memory is far more inaccurate than we understand, particularly in the case of high strangeness experiences or traumatic events.  To illustrate this, let us have a look at some quotes from several scientific articles on memory:
An extract from the British Journal of Psychiatry on the psychology of memory states:

‘It is popularly believed that memory operates as a video recorder with events being recorded and stored, awaiting recovery essentially as they were laid down. Memory is, however, a much more complex and less efficient process. Bartlett showed that biographical memory is essentially a re-constructive process in which only some elements of past experience are stored and are retrievable. Far from being recovered unchanged, he demonstrated that memories may be reconstructed and elaborated by all kinds of subsequent influences.’

It is apparent that we need to understand the functions of memory and memory retrieval with much more clarity in order to be conversant with the fallibility of accurate memory retrieval, specifically in relation to an understanding of these inexplicable experiences.

In an article in Scientific American in 1997 Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington states:

Researchers are showing how suggestion and imagination can create 'memories 'of events that did not actually occur"...

In an article from the International Journal of Peer Commentary and Review, Elizabeth F. Loftus and Steven E. Clark, comment:

It is not surprising that the number of abduction stories has increased at an exponential rate as the abduction myth is weaved ever deeper into our cultural fabric.

On the question of hypnosis they write...

Decades of research on hypnotically induced memory reveal that hypnosis does not result in increased memory accuracy but merely increased output. Hypnotically induced testimony has been ruled inadmissible in most courts, because it greatly increases the witness's vulnerability to suggestion and because it based on a false theory of memory.

It is becoming increasingly evident within the medical literature on recovered and false memories that there are huge problems with using hypnosis to elicit an accurate and objective truth about high strangeness experiences. There is also the possibility that this could cause psychological harm to the witness and there have been a couple of cases reported to BUFORA over the years where regression hypnosis has indeed caused major problems for the witness when used by other UFO groups. This is why the BUFORA NIC holds a continuing moratorium on its use by all investigators. This has been in effect since 1988 and was pioneered by Jenny Randles and the BUFORA National Investigation Committee.

To summarise on the above, our beliefs and convictions are a powerful and persuasive influence on how we perceive curious events and experiences that we do not understand.  It is part of human nature to need to try to comprehend and interpret these experiences, often using the visual imagery and models with which we are familiar in order to decode and try to identify the nature of these experiences.   In addition to this, our beliefs about the UFO subject can often be part of our interpretation, which adds to the already strange narrative that we are trying to fathom.  Beliefs are a very natural part of what it means to be human; we all have beliefs one way or another and these beliefs can sometimes be very positive; for example, a belief in our ability to achieve our goals;  our religious faith, which is a belief in the idea of an external force or ‘being’, such as angels or  God, who will protect us and support us in times of great distress or trauma.

The problem with extreme patterns of beliefs and the idea of extraterrestrial visitations is the way in which this affects our ability to be really objective about a strange experience.  Sometimes we can unwittingly choose to make this experience fit in with our UFO/alien beliefs and ideas, so that the experience can become distorted in how we recall it, particularly in relation to all the representations of the UFO subject through the media, internet and various books and magazines.  These can have a great impact on how we ‘remember’ extraordinary human experiences and how we edit this memory each time we go into our memory banks to ‘relive’ this experience.

Another crucial issue connected to some of these high strangeness cases is sleep paralysis combined with hypnagogic hallucinations.  These hallucinations are the altered state of consciousness from sleeping to waking – and from being awake to drifting off to sleep. During this altered state as the brain prepares us to sleep or to awake, some witnesses have reported experiences that they interpret as being alien in nature and very, very real.  Below is a link from ‘The Psychologist’ by Professor Chris French and  Julia Santomauro entitled ‘Terror in the Night’  which will give the reader a real insight into the nature of sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations and how utterly real these ‘hallucinations’ can be which, when aligned with powerful personal beliefs in alien visitation and familiar alien imagery, we can absolutely believe that we were involved in an alien encounter.
Eleven years ago I had a conversation with Judy Jaafar who was an Accredited Investigator and researcher with BUFORA for nearly twenty years. In this interview she talked with me about her personal perspective and thoughts on the UFO subject and mysterious and extraordinary phenomena.  This interview first appeared in Strange Times Magazine in September of 2001.

Judy is a qualified clinical hypnotherapist and psychotherapist and below is an extract from this article addressing the problems and issues relating to hypnosis and memory.  Her comments and thoughts are just as relevant today as they were eleven years ago.

HD: Judy, during our conversation you mentioned memory and the very controversial issues with memory retrieval. As an experienced therapist in Clinical Hypnosis, you are acutely aware of the problems concerning memory and the way it works. This is very important in the area of claims of alien abduction and the way regression hypnosis has been used in many cases to elicit an objective truth about these experiences. This is of course at the cutting edge of the tremendous problems in the area of abduction issues that have been creating continuing debates with the United States and the UK for some time now. I would be very interested in your thoughts in this area.

JJ: In my reading over the years, particularly into alien abduction accounts from American researchers, I have always felt very uncomfortable when I was reading the transcripts of hypnotic regressions.  I always suspected that in some way this wasn’t right. It was a gut feeling I had that this was not the correct thing to do and what really bothered me about regression hypnosis was that the witness does not understand anything about hypnosis. It is a very powerful tool and can be dangerous when used irresponsibly, and no matter what fantasy a witness might come up with during hypnosis, it has to be remembered that under a hypnotic trance state, your capacity for imagination and fantasy is probably doubled or trebled.

So whatever experience they describe, during hypnosis  as far as the abduction scenario is concerned, and when a recording or transcript is taken, this has now become a real event for them, irrespective of whether it actually happened or not.  It is now real  - and that really bothered me because I felt that we were dealing with someone’s mental health - for the rest of their lives.  Because they’ve been hypnotised, they really believe that they must be telling the absolute truth because they have this peculiar notion that hypnosis is like a truth drug, but it certainly isn’t!

They feel that this must have really happened to them the way they imagined it under hypnotism, and that is a huge responsibility for their therapist to take on and it is not one that I would ever want.  These were my feelings about it before I ever studied hypnosis and obviously it has been a bone of contention in ufological circles for years now.  BUFORA holds a moratorium on the use of hypnosis and we have had problems from other groups about this, so I decided, purely out of curiosity and a desire to know and in order to make an informed judgement, that I would go and study hypnosis myself and find out what this is all about, and I’m afraid that every concern I had about hypnosis has been confirmed during this course.

The literature about hypnosis has been around for a very long time and it was modern hypnosis that was pioneered during the latter part of the nineteenth century by some French doctors working in Paris. They were medical doctors, medically as well as psychologically qualified, and they took up hypnosis as an experiment to find out what it was all about, and what they found out still stands today. Someone who is under hypnosis is highly suggestible, highly imaginative and, something which is conveniently forgotten nowadays in hypnosis study, highly telepathic. Experiments were conducted that proved beyond a doubt, that certain subjects were highly telepathic under hypnosis, much more so than in a normal conscious state. No-one really knows how hypnosis works, but there are actually eight different theories to explain it and not one of them actually explains it completely, but there will be a part with which you can identify.  A hypnotic trance is a strange situation.

One thing that I’ve learned, which is actually very interesting, is the problem of memory retrieval under hypnosis.  Memory as we understand it at the moment is deemed to be part of the unconscious mind, not the conscious mind, and when you experience anything, the first avenue of experience is your sensory memory, which takes in all the data on the spot, immediately.  It is then passed very quickly into your short term memory where it is processed and if this is emotionally significant enough for you to remember it, to bring it out at a later date, it is then processed and coded into your long-term memory.  Now long-term memory is a function of the unconscious mind, not of the logical, analytical, conscious mind. The unconscious does not work in language, logic, reason, rationality - that is the conscious mind.  The unconscious works in symbols and metaphors and images, which is therefore a non-verbal recording.  Symbols, metaphors, emotions and perceptions; most people don’t know that every single emotion you have comes from your unconscious mind and is not a product of your mental analysis of anything. That is why emotions are so hard to deal with; you can’t shut them off or turn them on, because they are part of your unconscious mind. Memory also resides here in your unconscious mind, so you have to understand that anything that you are memorising, (apart from what we call conscious learning, where you have to memorise information say for an exam, that is a conscious process) or anything you are picking up perception-wise, feelings-wise, in your day-to-day life, will bypass your conscious mind totally, and go straight into the unconscious memory banks.

The only way you can retrieve that memory is to go into the unconscious and pull it out, but you cannot converse in logical language with the unconscious mind. It will bring forth something that is a metaphor for what you are actually looking for, so therefore when you are retrieving memories from your long term memory, it will be coming back as a series of perceptions, images, feelings and emotions. It is very contextual and very dependent on how it is being coded in the first place.  How you are going to retrieve it depends on all of these things. It is not a cut and dried process, unlike going to a video cabinet in your house and thinking ‘ah that is the video I want to look at again’, and pulling it out and it still remains the same as when it was recorded.  This does not happen with memory - not at all.  Once it has been processed and then coded, the decoding process is very complicated and will not make you re-live an event.  It will give you a feeling of an event and it will concentrate mainly on your feelings at that time, not on the actual objective, chronological order of things that were happening.  It will pull that out of your memory as a feeling, an emotion, and a perception and this is where we come to the really sticky stuff about regression hypnosis.

You take someone back for example to ‘missing time’ where they have no conscious memory of any event, so therefore the analytical, logical, judgemental process cannot be brought to bear on the situation. Immediately the witness has to delve into their unconscious mind, which as I have explained is actually an emotional storage house, but their retrieved memory that they may then come up with, is based on their emotional feelings when they are being put under hypnosis.  If they are fearful that they have been abducted by aliens because they have ‘missing time’ and they have read about ‘aliens’ and ‘missing time’ that fear will then present in whatever memory they can come up with then and if they are afraid, they will have a fearful memory of an event in their past because they actually have no logical conscious memory of anything. They go directly to the unconscious mind, which is a wonderful, dreamlike fantasy factory.  It is so important in our lives, we need to be able to do this otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it.  It sorts out all of your emotions, it is not like a filing cabinet, it is not an archive - it is an emotional repository to access every day of our lives; to keep our mental health balance.  And this is what you are sending your witness into, totally unprepared, they don’t know what they are looking for except that they feel they have been abducted by aliens otherwise they wouldn’t be with a ufologist in the first place.  This is very obvious and they have already made up their mind that this is what must have occurred and you go into your unconscious with that conscious thought in your head and it is very likely that you will come up with a scenario where that is exactly what happened, because that is what you are expecting.  Your mind will accommodate you beautifully and it goes into psycho-drama mode filling in the spaces, confabulating, giving you meaning where there was no meaning before.  But the meaning is a purely emotional, psychological meaning.  The meaning has no need necessarily to have any objective content at all.
HD:  What are you saying here exactly, Judy, that an event did actually occur during this ‘missing time’ in order for a person to perceive that they had an anomalous experience?

JJ:  The witness will present with some kind of conscious memory of an event that has led them to believe that something strange has happened to them in a ‘missing time’ period and consequently they will seek out a ufologist or a paranormal researcher, so you know that they are coming to you with a specific mindset and this is very important to understand.

Missing time itself can be a product of many things and the most obvious thing is a total misperception of the passage of time.  It happens to us in our daily lives every day where we go into a trance state several times a day, day-dreaming, reverie, as we are falling asleep, sleep itself being the deepest trance state possible and this happens to us naturally every single day of our lives.  For example, you can be sitting watching a television programme and you go into a reverie state and although you are still there in that room and the television is still on and part of your mind is actually paying attention to the television, the main part of your mind has drifted off and is doing something else and it is not aware of the passage of time, because the unconscious mind works without time altogether.  There doesn’t seem to be a time constraint with the unconscious mind, it seems to exist without linear time and you would look at your watch and think that half an hour has passed and you realise you have missed the television programme, but you don’t automatically think that you must have been abducted by aliens.  You know that you were still physically there; it’s just that your mind was somewhere else. This is an example of how often this happens to us, but if you have an event like seeing a light in the sky, which you find to be anomalous, it may well not be at all; it doesn’t matter whether it’s really anomalous or not. If you decide in your mind that the light is inexplicable, this may then trigger an emotional state of fear, of puzzlement, of wonder, where you will then go into an internal drama in your mind.

(Note from HD – A case recorded by Jenny Randles illustrates Judy’s comments above.  A husband found his wife at the back door of their house in the early hours of the morning totally captivated by a ‘light in the sky’.  She felt this powerful connection with this light and was drawn to it as though there was communication between her and this light in the sky.  The light was an extremely brilliant VENUS.  That FACT did not influence her belief within her unconscious mind that this was a ‘UFO’ communicating with her).

Another possible reason for missing time, which I first became aware of several years ago, is the idea that the electrical function of the brain can be disrupted by something in the environment and this is now being widely discussed by a number of serious researchers.

I think this explanation may account for a significant percentage of cases that have been reported as UFO related ‘missing time’ which in fact were not at all.  The UFO relation is a spurious connection that has been made to explain the missing time, where actually the ‘missing time’ may well be related to an electromagnetic anomaly and the environment that the witness has to pass through.  It could be of geomagnetic origin, it could be to do with high-tech installation structures in the environment, causing malfunction in the brain.  It could also be to do with anomalous electromagnetic fields, which are actually very interesting and which Jenny Randles has covered well in her  book, ‘Time Storms’, and this in fact was my evaluation of the first case I ever submitted to BUFORA, and this was exactly what I thought had happened.  However, the witnesses overlaid their own ideas about being abducted by aliens, but in fact they never saw an alien or a UFO of any kind, but because twenty minutes of their lives time had gone haywire, they presumed that this must be the case and that they had been abducted by aliens. This is a very real problem that we have in research now.   (See link below of the case Judy refers to on the BUFORA website under Strange Places, which documents several high strangeness cases.

The idea of alien abduction has become so pervasive in our society that people are using it to account for all sorts of things that can be explained in much more logical scientific terms.

Given an understanding of the physiology of the brain, that is probably one of the main reasons for time slips and time anomalies as an electromagnetic interaction.  Let’s face it, we are an electrical chemical organism and for all sorts of reasons, it would be very foolish of us to overlook the fact that we are living in an electromagnetic environment. So it seems logical to assume that a person’s individual electromagnetic field or biological field has the capacity at times in their lives to interact with a much larger environmental field and when two of these fields come together there will be electrical changes within the body. Therefore this could account for some episodes of missing time.

GHD:  Would you say that this could be quite large percentages of cases in terms of your own investigation?

JJ:   Yes, I would think this is a possibility in many cases particularly when you look at where ‘missing time’ reports come from; if you go out in the field, which many investigators actually do not do, and survey the environment, you may find that there is a scientific explanation for interrupted brain activity, which a psychologist would call a fugue state where you have no memory of what you were doing at the time. Not because you weren’t there or not doing anything, but because the electrical signals in the brain were scrambled, memory is not able to be processed or recorded and you are left with a blank space. So, if the memory has not been processed or encoded, it is not there and no amount of regression hypnosis will ever bring back a memory that has never been deposited. Imaginative confabulation will take over.

HD:  What part does hypnosis play in traumatic episodes, where it is used as a therapeutic tool to help someone come to terms with a trauma of some kind?

JJ:  We have to make a very clear distinction here between regression to a memory for therapeutic practises and regression to a memory for the purpose of eliciting some kind of truth about the event. These are two very different things. In therapeutic hypnosis, memory is a key to just about everything in someone’s life as it is your emotional and perceptive repository for your whole life. This is how you remember your life, through your emotions. When therapy is being conducted with someone, who has a memory of a bad event or trauma of some kind, there is a standard technique used by therapists called ‘memory manipulation’ or ‘memory substitution.’ This is very effective, in fact frighteningly effective, where you can take someone back to a memory that has been disturbing for them, causing them to be neurotic, or anxious, or depressed. You can take them back to this memory and take them into it and then involve them in what is called psycho-drama, and this is all under hypnosis where it works very well. You can actually get a person to return to that event and play it a different way, where their role then changes and they become more empowered and where they become a protagonist rather than a victim in the event and they can feel better about the way they handled the event in the past.

This is carried out surprisingly easily and you can actually substitute a new memory for an old one to make that person able to cope and their life better. You can manipulate the memory to enable them to remember anything they want to remember and erase the old memory and at the end of a session like this you can actually give a post-hypnotic suggestion to make them forget that the process has taken place, that they have substituted a memory and actually forget that they have been hypnotised at all and when they leave the therapy room they will have no memory of ever having done this. This particular method is used in severe trauma cases like rape, sexual assault, post traumatic stress disorder, war veterans etc. and this is frighteningly effective and if we apply this to regression hypnosis in general, it is so easy to manipulate and change people’s memories. This worries me because if they wish to change their perceptions and feelings about an event, can this in some larger way affect the actual reality of the event itself? We are coming into what is real and what is not real here, which is another subject altogether. I find this very worrying, that therapists can do this so easily. When they’re doing it in a therapy situation, it maybe the only way they can go in order to help someone. In some ways this does justify the means, but certainly not during an investigation process, where it is so obvious to me how easy it is to change somebody’s perception of an event and you’re going to use that then as a tool to establish an objective truth?  This is not on at all. 

The more I have studied hypnosis, the more I am in agreement with the moratorium that BUFORA holds on the use of hypnosis. I do not believe this should ever be lifted. In addition you have to understand something about memory; in a natural process where memory is shunted to dead ends, shall we say, in the brain, where they are left and they are forgotten, this is a natural process and is a healing process. Your mind cannot possibly contain every single sensory memory that you ever had. It would go into overload, so it selects what it needs to remember and forgets what it doesn’t and when you keep asking a witness time and again about their experience, when you keep hypnotically regressing them, when you keep pursuing them, you are not allowing the natural process of forgetfulness to happen, which is a therapeutic process in itself and this doesn’t happen with witnesses and I think this is terribly wrong, because you are not allowing memory to work in its proper way.

HD:  Judy you have given an in-depth and informative response to the great controversy about use of hypnosis and the complex problems with memory.  What is your feeling as a researcher and investigator into high strangeness cases, which sometime involve claims of UFO encounters and alien abduction, do you feel that there is a possibility that these could take place in a physical reality or do you feel that these are totally internally generated for a variety of reasons including the comprehensive reasons given above and notwithstanding the powerful imagery that is available everywhere and which has been downloaded into our consciousness and therefore we try to explain perceived unknown experiences by using the imagery surrounding us.  What else do you feel could be happening and what role has our interpretation of these experiences played through the ages?  Do you believe that there could be a real and external phenomenon occurring?

JJ:  This is the million-dollar question.  As for real three-dimensional, nuts and bolts craft coming from other planetary systems, I cannot possibly close my mind to that because I would be guilty of not having an open mind.  It would come lowest on my list of probabilities and I feel it is extremely unlikely.  I think that we are dealing with something infinitely more interesting than that, from my point of view anyway, as I am coming from a psychological study of human behaviour.  I have a feeling, only my opinion, that this is a real external phenomenon in some respects.  I think it is a symbiotic phenomenon in that it cannot exist without us because the catalyst for the manifestation of this phenomenon is the human consciousness.  I think whatever force or energy is there, it has been with us all the way along.  It has interacted with humanity since our records began.  I don’t necessarily think that our cultural beliefs create the phenomenon.  I think possibly that the phenomenon lends itself to our cultural beliefs.  I liken it to an on-going drama where you have a play that is endless and the actors go off-stage, change costumes, put on a different mask and come back on again; although you realise that you have seen that person before, they have a different face.  That is how I look at this because although it is hard to know how much is generated from us and how much is generated from the outside, I do believe there is an interaction here.  I don’t believe it is wholly internally generated, but each part manipulates the other, it is a strangely symbiotic relationship.  We need it and it needs us, without us it wouldn’t exist and perhaps without it we wouldn’t be able to access the depth of creativity or imagination, transcending the ability to be something greater than some of our parts.  We need it to catalyse that and it needs us to exist, a bit in the way I think of God, not that I’m suggesting that this is God.   I think this phenomenon is playing with us, the reason for which I am not quite sure, but it seems in some cases quite scary and quite malevolent and in other ways it seems to be benevolent and beneficent.

How much this comes down to the perception of the person involved in the interaction is open to question.  Whether it is exactly intrinsically good or bad, I don’t know, it may be totally neutral and it maybe there for some kind of evolutionary purpose, the thing that drives us on to greater things, something that opens our minds to possibilities that we would never have dreamt of before and it is the thing that causes insight and revelation in our human consciousness and it’s actually there in some way and intrinsically a part of our world.  I don’t think it’s ever been a part of any other world; it’s a part of our world and our existence and may even be a part of our biological existence where I think that lots of things that are termed paranormal nowadays, will in the future, be quite clearly seen to be a function of the human brain and mind.....

Concluding Thoughts:
What are we to conclude about the on-going debates on high strangeness experiences reported to UFO organisations, and their perceived link to alien abduction?  What proof is there to definitely and scientifically show that any of these experiences are actually taking place in our physical reality?  The answer, at this time, is that there is no definitive proof in the form of empirical evidence; there are only many strange anecdotal stories from around the world.  Artefacts, claims of implants and physiological effects linked to alien encounters have never been scientifically proven, without any doubt, to be of alien origin...yet.  What do these extraordinary human experiences mean and what do they tell us about ourselves....and the possibility of an external intelligence or force.

From my own personal perspective and during over twenty years of UFO investigation and research into high strangeness cases reported to BUFORA, it has been a journey of immense exploration for me in trying to comprehend where the ‘reality’ of these experiences lie; understanding that ordinary people are reporting experiences that are compelling and sometimes quite staggering in their content. These mysterious reports led me on a quest to examine the depth and breadth of the whole story including the background and individual characteristics of the people who report experiences like this.

I had many questions; were these people different in some way or were these experiences random - but the first priority when high strangeness experiences are reported, is to recognise how crucial it is that all possibilities are taken into account with robust investigation. Because it is the case that there is no empirical evidence to back up their experiences in any way, then what is left are the people who report them.  This is not to diminish their experiences on any level at all but BUFORA is a research organisation and we are here to listen, support and document these experiences in a rigorous and detached manner.  By conducting investigation in this way is how BUFORA and other responsible UFO organisations and individual researchers have led the way forward in attempting to understand experiences like this which are perceived as up close and personal encounters with some form of alien presence.  Therefore it is absolutely essential that investigators recognise the many problems that may have contributed to an experience that has sometimes been unsettling and traumatic for the witness.  To reiterate on the above there are many factors that may have influenced a person’s interpretation of their experience, which include sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations, powerful electromagnetic fields which can ‘scramble’ the brain into having memories of events that never actually occurred as discussed by Judy Jaafar during my interview with her.  Add strong beliefs, inaccurate memory and hypnosis and it is the case that the scene can be set for a witness to recall a very strange scenario of encounters with extraterrestrial entities and their ‘vehicles’.

In a clinical and scientific report from the Journal of Abnormal Psychology  in 2002 entitled ‘Memory Distortion in People Reporting Abduction by Aliens’ the beginning of the article states the following:

False memory creation was examined in people who reported having recovered memories of traumatic events that are unlikely to have occurred: abduction by space aliens. A variant of the Deese/Roediger-McDermott paradigm was used to examine false recall and false recognition in three groups: people reporting recovered memories of alien abduction, people who believe they were abducted by aliens but have no memories, and people who deny having been abducted by aliens.

Those reporting recovered and repressed memories of alien abduction were more prone than control participants to exhibit false recall and recognition.  The groups did not differ in correct recall or recognition.  Hypnotic suggestibility, depressive symptoms and schizotypic features were significant predictors of false recall and false recognition.

Below is a link to the full article:
Let us take this one step at a time as there are many factors involved, some of which have been discussed earlier in this article.  Without doubt hypnosis, memory and beliefs can be a major contributing factor to how a witness perceives an unknown and sometimes frightening experience and this will hugely affect their interpretation as to what has occurred.  We have all had unusual experiences and events in our lives that we cannot place within the normal framework and it is the case that many of us move on and feel that it is just something we cannot explain.  Sometimes we feel maybe we were mistaken and the experience was not quite how we recall it; sometimes we feel that there are just some things do not have a rational explanation within the parameters of our understanding.  If we believe in the idea that extraordinary human experiences  are connected to an influence outside of our physical range we may connect it to being religious or paranormal in nature and that we are not meant to understand it or be able to find an explanation  and that there are mysteries within our lives which will remain unanswered.

However, some of us need to examine in detail the nature of our experiences and this takes us on a journey of exploration in trying to put together the pieces of our fragmented  experience in order to put it into context within our lives.  The problem is when we cannot get it into context because it appears to lie so far outside of our life experiences.  It is at this juncture that a percentage of experiencers follow the road of research via the internet, UFO and paranormal groups, articles, books, documentaries and support groups in order to define and comprehend what happened to them.   All of these ‘agencies’ will influence the experiencer’s   beliefs and memories of what occurred: this is very normal, after all as we gather information in order to understand something, that landscape extends our thinking and understanding and adds even more parts to the puzzle.  The problem is that so much of the information we absorb is not based on scientific principles and fact, it is often based on rumour, speculation and interpretation creating more inconsistencies in giving meaning and understanding to an individual experience.

Another problem, and one that is very controversial, in people who report extraterrestrial encounters, are psychological disorders and various types of medication used to support and treat these conditions. Although the percentage is very low for reports like these, nevertheless, they need to be addressed as they are a part of the equation.  Over the years BUFORA have received calls and email from those who are suffering from some form of psychological problem.  This is a fragile area for inclusion in this article, but it is the case that there have been reports from those who, sadly, have suffered from some form of  mental health illness and, in even rarer cases, head injuries, and  I have personally investigated a couple of cases where there have been serious head injuries due to an accident.  Therefore their perception of an extraordinary human experience can be highly influenced by their condition and/or medication, sometimes reinforcing their belief that they have been in a close encounter with alien beings.  This is NOT to say that if a mental health problem is present, this person has NOT had a truly extraordinary experience, but that the added impetus of this and medication may influence how they report their experience.

Once we understand that the witness could be suffering from a mental health condition, and if that is confirmed by the witness which it sometimes is, then it is outside of the remit of a BUFORA investigator  and they cannot become involved in reinforcing the witness’s perception of their experience  because we are not clinicians  and our primary responsibility is to the well being and emotional health of the witness.  It is indeed utterly irresponsible for any investigator to continue investigation where issues like this are involved; BUFORA is a research organisation and although we offer support to witnesses, it is essential that we also offer objective and credible  explanations for what their experience may mean in order to  allow them to make some sense of what they have felt has been a strange and sometimes frightening incident.

Within the high strangeness cases that I have personally investigated over many,  years, there have been a small percentage that have been truly unusual where the people concerned have been reliable, objective and ready to accept a rational explanation to explain what has occurred to them.  These were people who had no particular interest in the subject of UFOs or anomalous phenomena who were ordinary people who experienced extraordinary events.  What is particularly important in these cases are that the people concerned had not only experienced several anomalous incidents during their lives, but these experiences changed their life perspective and changed them as people.  Some became more sensitive and more creative; some became extremely intuitive and developed an ability to ‘read’ other people in the form of telepathy. Some developed a powerful artistic ability in the form of poetry, art and creative writing:   They changed from operating their lives at a superficial level to deep inner reflection and gaining deep insight and empathy into critical issues concerning the environment and humanity.

To illustrate this, I would like to quote from a letter to me from ‘Steve Robbins’ (pseudonym) when he explained how his remarkable experiences had changed who he was.

'These experiences have changed my life, but it wasn't one blinding flash type overnight wonder, indeed it has been much more subtle, a slow realisation process.  My life is lived now to the full; I watch little TV or read newspapers.  There just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day for what I need to do'.  My attitude towards people and confrontational situations has changed.  I believe for the better.  I will go out of my way to help people, I follow my intuition totally; as long as it feels right it will be right and this is something in which I now have complete faith.  I personally have no fear of death and having lost that fear, I can now live my life: to be free of the fear of death means that I can now appreciate life, as just a current phase of eternity’.

With regard to having intimate access to the thoughts of people he has just met he says....

'This is something I can do with such ease that it still astounds me to this day, but I try to leave it switched off to overcome feelings of guilt and intrusion.’

To sum up his feelings on his sighting and the subsequent events he says...
'I keep my sanity by believing in myself...I believe in what happened, I will never be able to explain it, but at least I can now accept it.'

In relation to the above words from Steve, during an investigation many years ago with a journalist who had an unusual UFO experience, she revealed that she had also had a near death experience and the changes in her after the NDE were very similar to those of Steve, particularly being able to telepathically access the thoughts of people. She explained that this experience had changed her and the way she interacted with others wanting to help and show kindness rather than just dismissing them.  She also developed an acute ability to sense negative or ruthless thoughts from people, which she found disturbing.  This case is documented on the BUFORA website in the article ‘Theatre of Echoes’

Link to the ‘Steve Robbins’ case on the BUFORA website below:
In my experience of investigation and research into high strangeness reports, these feelings and dramatic life changes are highly significant and worthy of in-depth  research particularly in the area of witnesses’ history of various anomalous experiences throughout their lives such as near death experiences, ghosts, visions, precognitive dreams, claims of after-death communication etc.  The links between UFO/alien encounters and paranormal events appear to be interlinked and it is these links that challenge our understanding of human experiences and how our beliefs, perception and memory influence the way we feel, report and interpret these unexpected and perplexing events in our lives.

These experiences can change the life of a witness, sometimes resulting in a deeply spiritual transformation within them.  During the eighties, the late Ken Phillips of BUFORA together with Dr. Alex Keul of the University of Salzburg initiated an extremely important project to study and understand the life history of witnesses who undergo these extraordinary human experiences. Sadly because of Ken’s sudden death in the nineties this research project was put on hold. The project was known as ‘The Anamnesis Project’ and, I am delighted  to say that this is now being reactivated by BUFORA Research Coordinator, Tony Eccles, in collaboration with Dr. Alex Keul.  Tony will also be discussing the anamnesis project during his presentation at BUFORA’s forthcoming conference this month.

It is my opinion that this project lies at the centre of a significant journey for researchers to begin to clarify the nature of these high strangeness experiences and, more crucially, the witnesses who report them.  These experiences can only be addressed as being in the category of high strangeness reports after rigorous investigation to discount the possibilities of why these experiences occurred in the first place, as discussed within this article.  When we have then defined a percentage of strange experiences that appear to have no rational explanation, we are still at the crossroads of why experiences like this occur and even though they are subjective experiences, could there be any  ‘reality’ to them outside our understanding of physical reality.  There are questions that are deeply significant to these   human experiences that lie on the edge of our understanding and our physical world.

In order to develop a real insight into  high strangeness cases we need to define the ‘footprints’  of those who report them,  and ask questions that will inform and expand our thinking on the nature of consciousness and whether these remarkable experiences are part of a vast array of purely human experiences and the extensive unexplored potential of the human consciousness - or whether there is a real connection  to ‘something else’ stranger than we could ever  imagine; and the existence of otherworld realities enmeshed within our physical realities that some of us touch upon during out lives. Are they real and does this subjective world of profound images and experiences mean that it is not real; or is this a gateway that is opened to us from those other realities?

However we perceive and define extraordinary human experiences is possibly immaterial; what IS of extreme significance is whether these experiences will remain unexplained or whether the  mysteries are about US and our quest and desire to feel that we are not alone and that there is some influence beyond our capacity to fully explain.

Let us begin that journey of meticulous and painstaking enquiry into those reports that appear to defy a complete and rational explanation even after the most uncompromising and stringent investigation and research.

Heather Dixon

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