UFO Conjecture(s)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

UFOs as Hallucinations

Copyright 2012, InterAmerica, Inc.


It is imperative that UFO buffs read Oliver Sacks latest book, Hallucinations, as it provides support for the hypothesis that (some) UFO events can plausibly be explained as hallucinatory.

For example, Sacks’ Chapter 2 The Prisoner’s Cinema: Sensory Deprivation has this, which I think explains Kenneth Arnold’s iconic 1947 flying saucer sighting and some UFO sightings in the literature:

“Total visual deprivation is not necessary to produce hallucinations – visual monotony can have much the same effect…

Sailors have long reported seeing things (and perhaps hearing them, too) when they spent days gazing at a becalmed sea…

Soon after World War II, …visions were recognized as a special hazard for high-altitude pilots flying for hours in an empty sky [italics mine], and it is a danger for long-distance truckers focused for hours on an endless road. Pilots and truckers, those who monitor radar screens for hours on end – anyone with a visually monotonous task is susceptible to hallucinations.” [Page 34 ff.]

And here is an account from Michael Shermer, who is director of the Skeptics Society (known to many of you), which appeared in Shermer’s Scientific American column, relating a UFO abduction (yes!) he experienced, after a grueling bike marathon he participated in:


“In the wee hours of the morning of August 8, 1983, while I was traveling along a lonely rural highway approaching Haigler, Neb., a large craft with bright lights overtook me and forced me to the side of the road. Alien beings exited the craft and abducted me for 90 minutes, after which time I found myself back on the road with no memory of what transpired inside the ship….My abduction experience was triggered by sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion….I was sleepily weaving down the road when my support motor home flashed its high beams and pulled alongside, and my crew entreated me to take a sleep break. At that moment a distant memory of the 1960s television series “The Invaders” was inculcated into my waking dream. In the series, alien beings were taking over the earth by replicating actual people, but, inexplicably, retained a stiff little finger. Suddenly the members of my support crew were transmogrified into aliens. I stared intensely at their fingers and grilled them on both technical and personal matters “

After a nap Shemer recognized this as a hallucination, but at the time it seemed completely real. [age 43 ff.]

Yes, Arnold had an hallucination. Shermer? Was he actually “abducted”? His SA article didn’t provide details about his 90 minute absence, if there was a 90 minute absence.

That Shermer is a vocal debunker of the paranormal invites inquiry, about his disbeliefs and this experience, which Dr. Sacks accepts as a hallucinatory event, as Shermer believed it to be, and which is plausible to me.

I mentioned in my earlier note here about the Sacks book that Lonnie Zamora’s 1964 Socorro sighting was as he described it. It was a real sighting, of something strange, but it had elements that were hallucinatory-like: the two white cover-all beings that looked like clothing on a line, the insignia, and the blue-flame departure of the craft.

Dr. Sacks deals with hallucinations of those kinds.


In Chapter 7, Patterns: Visual Migraines, Page 128, Sacks recounts hallucinations from migraine auras:

S. A. Kinnier, in his encyclopedic Neurology, described how a friend of his, who suffered migraines regularly saw “a figure clad in white.”

And how a patient of his colleague Mark Green, during migraine attacks, had a hallucination of a worker emerging from a manhole in the street, wearing a white hard hat with an American flag painted on it. [Page 127]

Klaus Podoll and Drek Robinson, in Migraine Art, cite dozens of lexical hallucinations, one from the nineteenth–century literature:

“A patient of Hoeflmary’s saw words written in the air; a patient of Schob’s had hallucinations of letters, words, and numbers, and a patent reported by Fuller et al. ‘saw writing on the wall and when asked what it was said he was too far from it. He then walked up to the wall and was able to read it out clearly.’” [Page 128]

In Chapter 8, The Sacred Disease (epilepsy) Sacks provides examples of colored lights, spinning balls of blue, “great lights, round lights, side by side which got nearer and nearer with a jerking motion,” [Page 147]

Men in Black are copious among those who suffer from the Charles Bonnet Syndrome which is the opening chapter of the book and is a compendium of attributes that are unmistakable for possible UFO explanations.

Alien abductions are found in the Chapters on Narcolepsy (12) and Chapter 10, Delirious, offers citations that, with some emendations, could come from a litany of UFO reports in any magazine or book about the phenomenon.

If you think you’re a UFO intellectual, you will get the Sacks book and use it to fortify your non-belief in ET UFOs or to explain some classic and present-day UFO sightings which have gotten cavalier scrutiny by the bevy of UFO “researchers” who have mucked up the study of UFOs for self-aggrandizing reasons and ineptitude. (They are ill-read and ill-equipped to interview UFO witnesses, then and now.)

But the Sacks book may be a curative. (It was, for me.)