Sample text for Hair of the alien : DNA and other forensic evidence for alien abductions / Bill Chalker.

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Chapter One: Shattered World

Peter Khoury's life underwent a profound change on July 12, 1988. His world was shattered by the intrusion of something he simply could not comprehend.

I couldn't scream. My mind was functioning, but I couldn't move. This is evil. I'm paralyzed. I thought, is this the devil? Nothing like this had happened to me before. This paralysis, it was physical. I felt it crawling up my body, a rush of pins and needles. I was petrified. I was overwhelmed by the thought that I would never walk again. Then I became aware that I was not alone. There were three or four ugly figures only about three to four feet tall near me. Their faces were very wrinkled and shiny dark black in color. My fear, already overwhelming, was now soaring out of control.

Peter Khoury experienced a classic alien abduction, but he is not the typical alien abductee. Born in 1964, in Lebanon, he migrated with his family to Australia in 1973. He met his future wife, Vivian, while at school in 1981. They married in 1990 and now have two children, Stephen (born in 1995) and Georgia (1998). Peter works in the building trade, where he has had his own business in cement rendering. Peter's Lebanese relations and his wife's Greek relations form a large and close family unit.

Peter is one of the legions of the abducted. A growing number of people from all walks of life, all around the world, have been confronted by the experience of being taken, overwhelmed, or assaulted by something that is intensely strange. It seems to them that they may have experienced the unbelievable and the preposterous, because the perpetrators are seemingly not your usual human beings. Some appear human, but the circumstances in which they appear are distinctly alien. Others are totally alien in both countenance and circumstances.

For most people, the alien abduction phenomenon is a ridiculous subject. It is inextricably mixed up with something else many regard as science fiction, namely the UFO mystery. But some researchers suggest that the alien abduction is actually a hidden epidemic. There may be a very large number of people who have had this experience. Many of them have come forward, reporting this disquieting experience. Most seek understanding and support. Few receive it. More often than not, the experience leaves its victims without supportive evidence. Their sense of alienation is profound.

Peter is one of those people who have been forced to live a double life. On the outside he is an ably functioning person with extensive and impressive connections to the normal world. To put it succinctly, he has a life. He is not the stereotypical alien abductee whose life has been strangled into a fragile form of alien marginalia. Indeed he seems the last sort of person whom one would expect to be coming out with such tales. But Peter has been searching like everyone else who has been affected by such experiences. He was not one to give in to the pressures of marginalization that come with the reception that such claims received from the general public, much of the UFO community, and the more committed skeptics. Peter fought to understand what had happened to him and what was still happening to him. He empathized with others that had apparently had similar experiences, but unlike most other abductees, he set about trying to make a difference.

The 1988 Encounter

Peter Khoury was twenty-four years old. He was living with his Lebanese parents and family in a Sydney suburb. He had been back home for about six months, regaining a sense of comfort with his life. Peter was like the prodigal son returning to the fold. For about six years he had lived a life he is now very happy that he left behind, a rough and dangerous life, moving with the wrong crowd of tough and belligerent people. He grew to see himself as a bit of a "hard head," "a tough guy." He had also been in a difficult relationship. Peter felt that if he had stayed in that life he might well have ended up dead, so he left that life behind and hoped to establish a better one. His family welcomed him back home and he reignited a relationship with his school sweetheart, Vivian. Life was good and heading in the right direction.

Peter was at home that quiet night. At about 11 P.M. he and his father were watching television. His brother Sam had been in Peter's room, sleeping. Sam emerged and asked Peter if he wouldn't mind watching the movie in his room so that he, Sam, could watch it in his favorite chair in the TV room. Peter didn't mind; he went to his room and lay down on the bed. What followed occurred immediately, so it is difficult to link the experience with some sort of sleep-related phenomenon, such as sleep paralysis or hypnagogic imagery.

While...lying on my bed, I felt something grab my ankles. As I felt this, a strange numbness, tingling and churning sensation crawled up through my body and right up to my head. I was paralyzed, I could not move any part of my body but for the exception of my eyes, which I could move, open or close. My brain was functioning but I could not do anything physically. I tried to call out to family members but I could not force the words out. At this stage I started to panic thinking I would not walk again. I thought I was truly paralyzed.

As the experience unfolded Peter's first thought was that this was a form of payback, a punishment for the less than satisfactory life he had led for about six years before he returned to the family fold. He thought, if he survived this, that his community would think, God's punishing him, God paid him back. What followed -- the encounter with the hooded, three- to four-foot-tall creatures with black, wrinkled faces -- changed everything.

The fear was so extreme. I'm gone! I'm dead! It's real! I was petrified and paralyzed. Irrational fears were crowding in. They were going to kill me. I could be killed. The fear level was extraordinary. I was stressing out, how could I get out of this?

I became aware of some sort of communication, seemingly telepathic, no sound made and yet I could hear the message in my mind. I was told not to worry and I would not be harmed and to relax. As I moved my eyes and looked to the left side...I made eye contact with two beings who looked so different to the others. These were thin, tall with big black eyes and a narrow chin. They were goldish-yellow in color.

Astonishingly the stress was gone immediately. The whole fear thing washed away as quickly as a light switching on. How could I be so calm after such a level of fear? My heartbeat was no longer racing. [A whole different situation was unfolding.]

Peter somehow got the impression that one of these tall figures was male, the other female. How he sensed this he doesn't know. Both had an incongruous feature beyond their incredible strangeness. Each had what looked like small, Band-Aid-size "surgical masks." The "female" figure had her little mask on, the "male" one had the mask down. The "masks" seemed to convey to Peter that these strange people were "doctors." Both were wearing whitish gowns, which may have served to reinforce the idea that these beings were "doctors." They also served to highlight the prominent part of their alien anatomy, specifically their faces.

I was so relieved. The one closest to my head communicated with me telepathically, telling me not to worry, [then, paradoxically for Peter, the entity conveyed the thought] it would be like the last time. The eyes of these tall beings were the source of remarkable feelings. I could feel the emotion through them. It was the eyes that expressed these feelings. You could see the smile in the eyes. Strangely it was like a mother would look at a child. So much love. We are not going to hurt you.

It was at this stage that I noticed a long needle-like flexible crystal tube. The being then pointed the needle to the top left side of my head and inserted it. A thing on the tip, it's gone in.

It was then that I blacked out.

The next thing I remember I was conscious. I jumped out of bed like a flash, I walked into the TV room where my dad and brother (Sam) were. I noticed they were asleep. I woke my brother up -- he looked dazed and lost. As he put it, he felt switched off. I asked him how long it had been since I went to my room. He replied about ten minutes, which was how long I thought it had been. When I left the TV room a film was just starting, yet as I spoke to my brother we realized that the TV station was (apparently) closed and at least one to two hours had passed by.

Neither his brother, who is older than Peter by ten years, nor his father had any idea what had happened. But Peter did have something to say. What he told Sam came in confused fragments and was very strange. Soon it became clear to Sam what Peter was trying to tell him. He told him of floating, apparently, of something touching his head, of people in dark hoods. Sam was initially skeptical, but then realized a good deal of time had passed -- from 10:30 or 11 P.M. to something like 2:30 A.M. -- and he began to accept that something very strange had occurred. He grew to accept what his younger brother had told him that morning. Sam was very puzzled by the fact that normally he was a very light sleeper. That he, as well as his father, had seemingly been completely "zonked out" for so long was very unusual. He had no way to explain it.

The next day Peter told Vivian, his fiancee, about the strange event.

I explained to her what had happened through the night. As I touched the spot where the needle was inserted, I discovered some dried blood under my fingernail. Vivian took a closer look and noticed a puncture hole and blood. I went to my family doctor and asked for a checkup. The doctor spotted the puncture mark instantly and commented that I must have hit my head on a nail at work. When I tried to explain what had happened, I was laughed at. I had nowhere to go for help, no one to discuss the incident with. It was frustrating to experience something so bizarre, so strange, yet so real.

Rationalizing the Bizarre

Peter was initially anxious and confused about the July 1988 episode. There were physical scars on his body, which he thought were connected to the experience. And he had a possible "biopsy"-style puncture mark on his shin. He was not aware of the world of alien abductions and struggled for understanding. His own Lebanese background and Vivian's Greek family origins provided no comfort. Family members even suggested he had encountered St. Charbel, Lebanon's first officially recognized saint, apparently because of the presence of robes. Such rationalizations provided no explanation for Peter.

Months later, while out driving, Vivian and Peter were shocked to see a gas station billboard poster that featured a tall creature very similar to the ones he had seen. The poster provided no information, just the image. How could this be? What was all this about? Peter thought. The answer came progressively over the next few days. The image they had seen on the billboard was the now familiar Strieber gray alien face. The poster was part of an extended promotional campaign for the paperback edition of Whitley Strieber's Communion. Subsequent teaser posters provided more details until the link to the book was made explicit. Peter eventually bought a copy of the book. Vivian read it first, remarking to Peter that he was not going to believe what he would read. To Vivian it was startling. The stories in this bizarre and strange book were oddly familiar. Peter had told her all about them! Upon reading Strieber's book, Peter found it was like a checklist for his own bizarre encounter. Their experiences had several significant details in common -- but just as much not in common. However, as far as Peter was concerned, he now had some sort of context to anchor his own strange experience. It was a start. It appeared that his 1988 experience was part of the UFO or alien abduction phenomenon -- whatever that was.

During his July 1988 abduction experience Peter Khoury had the strange mental communication "not to worry, it would be like the last time." Initially he had no idea what this cryptic comment meant. Nothing in his immediate past bore any resemblance to the bizarre experience that had befallen him. Then he began to reconsider a strange event that had occurred to him in his native Lebanon as a child of seven during the summer of 1971.

He and several other children (a total of six to eight) had gone up onto the flat rooftop of his neighbor's house to play, an everyday activity for them. He recalled that the heavy door leading onto the roof had to be constantly pushed open again as each child went through. Peter was the last to walk through the door. Then he looked up. Gabby, his cousin, was looking up. He then saw all his friends "frozen" like statues in front of him. Above them was a big ball, a helicopter he thought at the time. It was very close. Peter thought he could have been able to reach up and touch this strange helicopter, a silent egg-shaped craft hovering above them. Peter could make out the presence of two tall thin people inside the object, but the light was such that he could not make out much detail. Apparently, all the children were just watching or standing in silence. The children later found themselves on the ground floor after some time had elapsed, with no apparent memory of coming down off the rooftop. Peter was the only child who seemed to have a recollection of seeing the strange object and its occupants. At the time, the only context Peter had for the experience, while logically unsatisfactory, was that it was an Israeli helicopter--a very strange helicopter, at that.

In fact, like many abductees, Peter Khoury has had many strange experiences. Peter's mother told him (in July 2003) about a strange experience that occurred when he was just twenty-two days old. It was mid-May of 1964 and Peter and his mother were at home in the coastal Lebanese port town of Chekka. At about 4 A.M. she was nursing Peter in her arms. She was half asleep when she observed the figure of a man at the window. For Lebanon, this was a rather unusual looking man. Rather than a typical dark-haired Lebanese, what she saw was a blond-haired, very fair-skinned man in a long-sleeved, black turtleneck top, standing at the window. He appeared to have a long handsome face, with his rather long hair parted at the side near his ear. The man seemed to be just looking through the window at them. She had no sense of fear and cannot remember how this strange early-morning encounter ended. Enquiries were made as to whether the stranger at the window might have been a sailor from a ship in port, but ultimately there seemed to be no obvious answer and it remained for Peter's mother a puzzling memory. When he asked her about UFOs over Lebanon, she volunteered that they saw lights all the time and called them "flying plates," but everything like that was put down to the Israelis.

Another puzzling experience that involved Peter's mother occurred at the family home in Sydney, some years before the 1988 episode. She was startled to see an unknown man inside the house walking through a hall doorway into a room. She found the room empty. The men of the house were alerted and a search for the intruder was instigated. There seemed to be no conventional way to account for the presence of the man. The incident became the stuff of family legend -- a "ghost" in the house.

The house was the location of Peter Khoury's striking 1988 experience. That experience was preceded by a series of strange events. For a two-week period leading up to the "alien paralysis" incident, the residence was plagued by repeated occurrences of loud footsteps on the driveway. To Peter and his brothers, it seemed like a lot of heavy-booted men were entering the property night after night, usually in the early hours of the morning, and were coming down the driveway and seemingly passing through the closed garage area. The men of the family tried repeatedly to find the source of these heavy footsteps, but their searches always ended in frustration, with no culprits apprehended. The footsteps seemed to defy logical explanation.

These episodes ended with a striking event. Peter heard the footsteps again, but this time he was prevented from getting out to investigate. He seemed to be paralyzed on his bed, which faced the window to the driveway. He became aware that at the window was the silhouette of a man, but for someone to be in that position seemed impossible because the driveway was about eight feet lower than the window. There was no sense of fear, just concern, mainly regarding the feeling of paralysis. Peter couldn't understand what was stopping him. Suddenly the silhouette was gone and the paralysis was gone as well. About a week later the much more severe paralysis of the July 12, 1988, "alien abduction" occurred.

Sleep Paralysis?

Could Peter Khoury's July 1988 alien encounter be an example of the well-established phenomenon known as "sleep paralysis"? John O'Neill, a member of Australian Skeptics, argued that sleep paralysis could explain the paralysis Peter Khoury experienced, hallucination could explain his experience with extraterrestrials, falling asleep could explain his missing time, and "the puncture wound and scab could be from anything -- a pimple, an insect bite or anything else in approximately the right location." O'Neill accepted that Peter's experience was genuine, as he himself had had a sleep paralysis episode. But his experience was typically vague, like most sleep paralysis episodes -- "the feeling of some other entity being in the room, but [I] did not know and could not see what." That vague description falls far short of the detailed and ordered description Peter Khoury offers of his experience.

Several aspects of Peter's encounter actually defy this simplistic categorization. First of all, he was not asleep, nor had he reached the state that precedes sleep, the hypnagogic state, that often yields fleeting imagery of a hallucinatory nature. Furthermore, his experience has an ordered sequence of events that were recollected consciously; they were not vague sensory experiences of fragmented sleep. Then there are the physical marks, namely the injury to his head, where he felt the strange needle being stuck in, along with the biopsy-like mark on his leg, which certainly can't be accounted for as a classic sleep paralysis episode or as a product of the sleep/awake interface that spawns hypnagogic imagery.

Of course, night terrors, sleep paralysis, and hypnagogic (presleep) and hypnopompic (postsleep) visions do provide a rich range of sleep phenomena that might account for some abduction experiences. Hallucination specialist Professor Ronald Siegel has undertaken extensive research into these areas and describes some of it in his book Fire in the Brain. He has had his own sleep paralysis experience, which involved the classic elements of a weight on his chest and a "murky presence," with a "dusty odor," that approached his bed. It communicated with him in a strange way, "almost like English spoken backward." The "presence" then straddled his body, "folding itself along the curve of my back....There was a texture of sexual intoxication and terror in the room." Siegel began to slip into unconsciousness, but then the voice stopped and he had the sense that the "presence" slowly left the room. Siegel concluded that this episode was the product of two striking and often alarming sleep phenomena -- sleep paralysis and hypnopompic hallucination -- which was mediated by his own "images, thoughts, fantasies, memories, and dreams." A very broad cross section of the population experiences these phenomena. These experiences are not due to psychological problems, but their broad resonances with alien abduction lore require us to consider them as possible explanations.

During 2002 and 2003 research conducted at Harvard University reignited the idea of psychological mechanisms as a possible explanation for alien abduction reports. The key players in the debate were psychologists Susan Clancy and Richard McNally. "False memory creation was examined in people who reported having recovered memories of traumatic events that are unlikely to have occurred: abduction by space aliens," states the abstract to their paper, which was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. The researchers examined false recall and false recognition in three groups: "people reporting recovered memories of alien abduction, people who believe they were abducted by aliens but have no memories, and people who deny having been abducted by aliens." They concluded: "Those reporting recovered and repressed memories of alien abduction were more prone than control participants to exhibit false recall and recognition. The groups did not differ in correct recall or recognition. Hypnotic suggestibility, depressive symptoms, and schizotypic features were significant predictors of false recall and false recognition."

This research is interesting but has some severe limitations. The sample sizes used in each group were very small--11, 9, and 13 respectively. Even more critically, the profile of the "recovered memory" group is flawed. The paper states, "None of the participants interviewed reported continuous memories of alien abduction (i.e., memories of alien abduction that were never forgotten).... Memories were recovered both in therapy with the help of certain therapeutic techniques (e.g., hypnosis) and spontaneously, after reading books, watching movies, or seeing television shows depicting such episodes." In fact, there are a significant number of people reporting abductions who do not rely on hypnosis and other therapeutic techniques. Their memories are based on clearly recollected incidents for which they have no memory loss or delayed recall.

The fact that apparently hallucinatory phenomena can occur in states and situations similar to those occurring in alleged abduction experiences begs the question that the details of such experiences need to be considered carefully, rather than superficially rationalized away via token categorization. Could these experiences also be the product of psychological phenomena springing from encounters with an alien intrusion that may even be manipulated by the entities responsible for those encounters? We must exercise caution against either the simplistic acceptance of alien causation or skeptical dismissal. Such uncertainties make it all the more important to concentrate on a broad forensic approach to abduction experiences, but physical evidence, wherever possible, needs to be at the heart of these investigations.

Copyright © 2005 by Bill Chalker

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Human-alien encounters -- Australia -- Case studies.
Alien abduction -- Australia -- Case studies.
Evidence, Expert -- Australia -- Case studies.
Forensic genetics -- Australia -- Case studies.