Have aliens really taken people into their spacecraft and experimented on them? Many say they have. Probably the first account of an alien abduction came from a New Hampshire couple named Barney and Betty Hill. On September 19, 1961, the couple was driving through a rural area in central New Hampshire when they noticed a moving light in the sky. As the object came closer, they saw that it was large and flat with multicolored lights and many rows of windows. When Barney looked at the craft through his binoculars, he reportedly saw creatures inside it, one of which appeared to be the leader. Frightened, the couple drove home. Several days after their sighting, Betty began to have nightmares about being inside the craft. Later, under hypnosis, the couple recalled having been taken into the UFO and experimented upon.
Were the Hills, and the thousands of other people who say they have been abducted since then, telling the truth? Skeptics claim the aliens with wraparound eyes that Barney described aired on an episode of "Outer Limits" just 12 days before the hypnosis session in which he described them.
But the stories of abductees are remarkably similar. Many people recall being bathed in light and feeling paralyzed. Then there is a feeling of being carried in a beam of light to a waiting alien spacecraft. They describe an examination room in which their bodies are poked, prodded and studied in various ways. Many tell of having sperm or eggs removed from their bodies and used to produce alien-human offspring, which some people claim to have met when they returned to the spacecraft at a later date.
These memories may sound like the stuff of imagination, but some researchers say alien abductees share many of the same post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms as war veterans. When they listen to audio tapes of sounds that mirror their experiences, they exhibit physical symptoms -- their palms sweat, their muscles contract and their heart rate increases, Harvard University researcher Richard McNally and his colleagues reported in the July 2004 issue of the journal Psychological Science.
Also, the timing of the abduction stories appears to coincide with the sighting of UFOs nearby. Many of the abductees are reported as missing when they claim to have been abducted, and when they return, they have strange cuts and bruises on their bodies.
Although UFO sightings have become more common in the last half-century, there have been sightings of strange flying objects recorded throughout the ages. Author Erich Von Däniken has written more than two dozen books, including "Chariots of the Gods? - Unsolved Mysteries of the Past," claiming that aliens have been visiting Earth for tens of thousands of years. The Bible, he says, is filled with references to alien visitors. He contends that they helped build the pyramids, introduced art and social order to ancient humans and even interbred with our ancestors to create our modern species.
Ancient Indian Sanskrit texts purportedly describe flying machines, called vimanas, used by the gods to fight battles in the sky. In one text, vimana construction is described (in translation):
Probably the first modern close encounter with alien spacecraft occurred on June 24, 1947. A private pilot named Kenneth Arnold was flying near Mt. Rainier in Washington state when he spotted nine, crescent-shaped flying objects. He observed the objects to be moving at well over 1,000 miles per hour, far faster than any man-made aircraft could fly at the time. One reporter writing up the event referred to the objects as "flying saucers," and the description stuck.
Since then, there have been reports of UFO sightings in England, Australia, China, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Italy, the United States and most other countries throughout the world.
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