Considering the influx of abduction threads, perhaps it's time to be reminded of how estimates of the actual number of abductees in America have been
challenged by other experimental UK data. My interest in the phenomenon was perked by Jim Schnabel's book 'Dark White' (1994) and the Roper Poll
published in 1992 by Hopkins, Jacobs, and Westrum. The report was given to a multitude of mental health professionals, encouraging them to “be open
to the possibility that something exists or is happening to their clients which, in our traditional Western framework, cannot or should not be”. We
are talking 26 years ago, but it remains relevant.
The Poll's five so-called “Indicator Experiences" were listed as:
Skeptical Enquirer, Vol 22.3 - 1998
1) “Waking up paralysed with a sense of a strange person or presence or something else in the room” (18 percent);
2) “Feeling that you were actually flying through the air although you didn't know why or how” (10 percent);
3) “Experiencing a period of time of an hour or more, in which you were apparently lost, but you could not remember why, or where you had been”
4) “Seeing unusual lights or balls of light in a room without knowing what was causing them, or where they came from” (8 percent); and
5) “Finding puzzling scars on your body and neither you nor anyone else remembering how you received them or where you got them” (8
If four of these are fulfilled by an individual, it was deemed a strong possibility that he/she is a UFO abductee, based on Hopkins and Jacobs' study
of nearly 500 abductees over 17 years. Of 5,947 people interviewed, 2 percent qualified, leading to the controversial estimate of 3.7 million American
Now, Susan Blackmore (author of the above linked article, and pictured) performed an intriguing experiment in Bristol, England, using 126 school
children aged 8-13, and 224 first-year psychology/physiotherapy undergraduates aged 18+. The adults were tested in three large groups. Blackmore can
waffle for England and loves complex stats, so I'm breaking this down to its fundamentals.
But what was the reasoning behind her endeavour? The Roper Poll's 'genuine' abductees who fulfil the above Indicators should, in theory, have a better
knowledge of the appearance and behaviour of aliens than those who do not achieve the criteria. If this assumption is wrong, their knowledge should be
no greater than anyone else’s. As Blackmore puts it:
Knowledge of aliens should relate more closely to reading and television-watching habits than to having the indicator experiences if abductions do
not really occur.
For the children's experiment, she asked them to relax and imagine they were being read a bedtime story. They had to visualise the details of a story
called “Jackie and the Aliens,” in which an alien visits a girl in bed at night and takes her into a spacecraft, examines her on a table, and
returns her safely. Imprecise
details included a corridor leading to a room and table, alien writing, and glimpses of jars on shelves. The
adults were read a different, more mature story, obviously. When "awoken", they were all asked to remember as much as they could before being given
questionnaires with 5 multiple-choice questions about: the alien, the room
, and the table
. The children were asked about the jars'
contents, and to draw the alien writing.
There were also 6 questions based on the Roper Poll:
1) Have you ever seen a UFO?
2) Have you ever seen a ghost?
3) Have you ever been falsely awakened, ie dreaming you have woken up?
4) Have you ever felt as though you left your body and could fly around without it?
5) Have you ever seen unusual lights or balls of light in a room without knowing what was causing them, or where they came from?
6) Have you ever woken up paralyzed, that is, with the feeling that you could not move?
7) Have you ever woken up with the sense that there was a strange person or presence or something else in the room?
The last 4 questions were based on the indicator questions from the Roper Poll, but adapted slightly for the children (excluding scars or missing
time). Plus, both age groups were asked about television-watching habits. The final request by Blackmore was for everyone aside from one adult group
to draw the aliens they saw; samples of the kids' work are shown below as we tackle the actual results.
Many of the kids and adults reported most of the Experiences - eg, 83% of adults and 57% of kids claimed false awakenings; 35% and 33% for OBEs.
An 'Alien Score' from 0 to 6 was awarded for answers that swayed towards the popular stereotype, plus a 'Roper Indicator Experiences' score from 0 to
4. With me so far? If you feel nauseous, feel free to leave.
Their mean Alien score was 0.95
; the mean number of experiences was 1.51
. Their drawings were judged as either traditional “Grays”
or “Others”. 12 of them drew Grays, 87 did not, but the former achieved higher Alien scores albeit with fewer experiences, and did not watch more
television than the others. Furthermore, higher TV viewing did seem to lead to more experiences.
Their mean Alien score was 1.23
for experiences. 17 drew Grays, 103 did not. Again, the former achieved higher Alien scores but
not more experiences. Those who drew Grays watched more television, which also amplified the Alien score.
Blackmore concluded that more Roper Indicator experiences did NOT indicate more knowledge of what an alien should resemble, or what occurs during an
If real gray aliens are abducting people from Earth, and the Roper Poll is correct in associating the indicator experiences with abduction, then
we should expect such a relationship. Its absence in a relatively large sample casts doubt on these premises.
Among the adults (though not the children), there was a correlation between the amount of television they watched and their knowledge about aliens and
abductions. This suggests that the popular stereotype is obtained more from television programs than from having been abducted by real aliens.
Blackmore's sample of people reported plenty of Roper Indicator Experiences, actually higher than the Roper Poll's findings. It follows that many of
them would have been classified by Hopkins, Jacobs, and Westrum as abductees – which Blackmore suggests is unjustified.
Naturally these results do not disprove genuine abductions, but the amount of television watched does affect their view of an alien's appearance and
behaviour - far more than the number of Indicator experiences they have had. Can we therefore dismiss the estimated 3.7 million abducted Americans?
Talking of TV, one is reminded of the claim that Betty and Barney Hill's later description of their alleged abductors was influenced by an 'Outer
Limits' episode, 'The Bellero Shield' (1964). Somewhat poetically, Travis Walton was in turn alleged to have gained ideas from the timely first
transmission of B&B's own TV movie about their case, 'The Interrupted Journey' (1975).
Do you think there is any worth to the kind of experiments that Blackmore undertook, or do they perhaps patronise people who claim genuine, often very
edit on 7-12-2018 by ConfusedBrit because: (no reason given)