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They Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves

They Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves: The History and Politics of Alien Abduction

Bridget Brown
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 247
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfpd4
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  • Book Info
    They Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves
    Book Description:

    Since its emergence in the 1960s, belief in alien abduction has saturated popular culture, with the ubiquitous image of the almond-eyed alien appearing on everything from bumper stickers to bars of soap. Drawing on interviews with alleged abductees from the New York area, Bridget Brown suggests a new way for people to think about the alien phenomenon, one that is concerned not with establishing whether aliens actually exist, but with understanding what belief in aliens in America may tell us about our changing understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. They Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves looks at how the belief in abduction by extraterrestrials is constituted by and through popular discourse and the images provided by print, film, and television. Brown contends that the abduction phenomenon is symptomatic of a period during which people have come to feel increasingly divested of the ability to know what is real or true about themselves and the world in which they live. The alien abduction phenomenon helps us think about how people who feel left out create their own stories and fashion truths that square with their own experience of the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3917-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    In the summer of 1999 Henry, one of the alleged alien abductees I interviewed for this project, invited me to attend a meeting of the SPACE (Search Project for Aspects of Close Encounters) support group for abductees and other experiencers of paranormal phenomena. Henry has been facilitating such SPACE meetings since 1992. SPACE’s Statement of Purpose, as it appears in the organization’s newsletter, theSPACE Explorer, reads:

    The support and research group gives UFO experiencers a chance to share openly in a comfortable social setting and to explore experiences on the unknown frontier of close encounters. This interactive and proactive...

  5. 1 Elusive Shreds of Memory: The Trauma and Recovery of Alien Abduction
    (pp. 21-36)

    Alien abduction expert Budd Hopkins estimates that he has worked with roughly seven hundred people, helping them to uncover the otherwise unfaceable details of their multiple abductions by aliens. Hopkins is the author of three popular books on alien abduction,Missing Time(1981),Intruders: The Incredible Visitations at Copley Woods(1987), andWitnessed: The True Story of the Brooklyn Bridge UFO Abductions(1996). He has played a central role in reinvigorating interest in the topic, manifested in the boom in accounts of abduction to emerge during the 1980s and 1990s. He now runs the Intruders Foundation, an online clearinghouse for...

  6. 2 The Invisible Epidemic: Abduction Traumatists
    (pp. 37-51)

    InMissing Time, Budd Hopkins relays the story of Virginia, an alleged abductee who recalls having a large gash in her leg as a child, a wound that bled a lot but was not especially painful. What confounds Virginia as she recalls the incident is that her family has no memory of it at all. So too does Hopkins’s subject Philip report a scar of mysterious origin. When Philip asked his mother about it, she “could not remember anything about it either.”¹ Hopkins seems perplexed by these incidents, asserting that “it is against everything we would normally expect that [Virginia...

  7. 3 Good Subjects: Submitting to the Alien
    (pp. 52-69)

    Jean is one of the hundreds of alien abductees who have turned to Budd Hopkins for help in making herself “whole again.”¹ She is a sixty-five-year-old divorced psychotherapist who shares an apartment on West Fourteenth Street, in Greenwich Village, with a colorful cockatoo that flies around us, perching occasionally on Jean, or on the rims of our drinking glasses, as we talk. Of the New York area abductees whom I interviewed, Jean veers toward the New Age end of the interpretive spectrum. What Jean shares with almost all of the abductees with whom I have spoken is a sense that...

  8. 4 My Body Is Not My Own: The Intimate Invasion of Alien Technology
    (pp. 70-82)

    While many alleged abductees shun publicity, John Velez has been quite vocal and public with his experience. During an interview with John in his home in Ozone Park, Queens, he explained that he considers himself a survivor of alien abduction who is morally compelled to “stand up and be counted,” and to let the public know that “there’s something serious going on.” This is why John agreed to be interviewed on aNovaspecial about alien abduction in 1996. Here is an excerpt from the transcript, available onNova Online:

    Nova: So you’ve probably had experiences that might have to...

  9. 5 An Ongoing and Systematic Breeding Experiment
    (pp. 83-99)

    In 1987 Budd Hopkins’s second book,Intruders: The Incredible Visitations at Copley Woods, as well as abductee Whitley Strieber’s best-selling abduction accountCommunion: A True Story, were published. These books marked the beginning of a boom in both accounts of alleged alien abduction and in popular interest in, and media coverage of, the alien abduction phenomenon. By the mid-1990s, accounts of human reproductive violation at the hands of aliens were represented in a seemingly limitless variety of cultural sites, low and high: in self-published conspiracy literature; in tabloid newspapers; in best-selling paperbacks such as those on which I focus in...

  10. 6 They Have the Secrets: Conspiracy Theory as Alternative History
    (pp. 100-120)

    Anthony is a divorced, forty-year-old child welfare worker who shares a two-family house with his grandfather in Queens. Like John, he too lives in Ozone Park, but on the more heavily trafficked, commercial thoroughfare Liberty Avenue.¹ I interviewed Anthony in his home, and he was affable and welcoming. He and I talked in his backyard, interrupted occasionally by the rumble of the elevated A train that runs parallel to the avenue. Anthony is very eager to share his thoughts and ideas about the meaning and purpose of the alien abduction phenomenon. This is in part because he has only recently...

  11. 7 This Is Worse Than Friggin’ Aliens: Conspiracy Theory and the War against Citizens
    (pp. 121-141)

    Maureen, an alleged alien abductee who lives on Long Island, is a self-described skeptic who comes across as funny and down-to-earth. She is divorced, currently employed part time in a local shop, and shares a modest home with her elderly father and teenage son in a sleepy beach community that I visited in August 1999. Maureen made us egg-salad sandwiches, which we packed up in an Igloo and took to the beach. As we walked out of her house, I admired her collection of books on alien abduction, all of which were housed above her computer in the kitchen. They...

  12. 8 Look and See What You Have Done: Abductees and the Burden of Global Consciousness
    (pp. 142-159)

    In Budd Hopkins’s most recent book,Witnessed: The True Story of the Brooklyn Bridge UFO Abductions(1996), he recounts the story of Linda Cortile who alleges to have been abducted from her Manhattan apartment in 1989. Cortile’s story involves two “police officers,” Dan and Rich, who claim to have witnessed Cortile’s abduction through the window of her high-rise Manhattan apartment. What’s more, Dan and Rich later recall that they too were abducted with Cortile on another occasion. In a plot twist that resonates with the conspiratorial stories of alien abduction discussed in my preceding chapters, it turns out that Dan...

  13. 9 You Have a Sensitivity: The Limits of Chosenness
    (pp. 160-176)

    Jean has “always been interested in spirituality” and in fact states that she came to her understanding of alien abduction through her own varied New Age practices, including channelling, past-life regression, and participation in other consciousness-raising movements. Her move to New Age beliefs—which emphasize transformation through personal growth—was prompted by her rejection of Greek Orthodoxy, the religion in which she had been raised. As Jean remembers, she left the Greek Orthodox Church during the late 1940s because it was “too tight.” It was only during the 1960s that she was able to “reconnect to her spirituality” through transcendental...

  14. 10 Reality Gets Exploded: Abductee Culture, Abductee Belief
    (pp. 177-206)

    Sitting at a SPACE meeting or at the Bordentown, N.J. UFO conference or at the Whole Live Expo, listening to conversations about human abduction by aliens, it becomes clear that alleged abductees both embrace and resist the opinions of the so-called expert researchers who have sought to define, and in some sense confine, the abduction phenomenon. Abductee accounts of abduction, while drawing on all available interpretations of the phenomenon, tend to exceed any single interpretation. People bring to their understanding of the alleged experience diverse worldly interests, personalities, and personal histories. And because so many abductees share stories and theories...

  15. Conclusion: Alien Abduction and the New Face of Terror
    (pp. 207-210)

    Debate about the legitimacy of the alien abduction phenomenon may have reached a high-water mark in 1992 with the MIT Abduction Study Conference at which numerous high-profile scientists, psychologists, and academics (not only believing “ufologists”) gathered to share research and views about possible explanations for the phenomenon, including “the ET hypothesis.” In the last few years an increasing number of skeptical treatments of the phenomenon, including some scientific investigations that attribute abduction reports to temporal-lobe disturbance and an array of sleep disorders, seem to have pushed abductees and abduction researchers more firmly into the margins of contemporary culture. While in...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 211-238)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-242)
  18. Index
    (pp. 243-246)
  19. About the Author
    (pp. 247-247)