“So then they roll me over on my back, and the examiner has a long needle in his hand. And I see the needle. And it’s bigger than any needle that I’ve ever seen.” So testifies Betty Hill, of her experience inside a flying saucer near Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, in 1961. Betty and her husband, Barney Hill, are the earliest known victims of alien abduction, and the 1966 bestseller The Interrupted Journey describes how they recalled the event under hypnosis. Their story includes nude medical exams and invasive probing—an alien abduction scenario many of us recognize from the TV shows and movies of the past 50 years.
But in 2008 a Columbia University psychoanalyst published “Alien Abduction: A Medical Hypothesis” which suggested that what is known as “accidental awareness under general anesthesia”—in which a patient awakens on the table during surgery—might lie behind stories of alien abduction. The analyst, David V. Forrest, noted the similarity of the classic alien abduction scenario—bug-eyed greenish humanoids surrounding the subject as she lies on an examining table under a bright light—to the operating room situation, where surgeons in scrubs and masks hover over the patient and enter her body with tools. Asked if being probed by aliens felt like his prior tonsillectomy, Barney Hill agreed: “Like that, but my eyes are closed, and I only have mental pictures. And I am not in pain. And I can feel a slight feeling. My groin feels cold.” . . .