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There are people in our community who have been abducted by extraterrestrial aliens.

This is what they report, and when you meet them you see no reason to doubt their veracity. You wouldn’t hesitate to ask them to watch your kids while you run to the store; you wouldn’t think twice about joining them for a cup of coffee; you wouldn’t see any evidence that they are a few flowers short of a full bouquet.San Diegans abducted by extraterrestrial aliens

Rose Gilbert lives in Lakeside, in a home filled with the grandmotherly comfort of overstuffed chairs and family pictures on the walls. The largest picture is of her two adult daughters. Her husband has been dead about 12 years. She likes to garden and read. “I read only good stuff,” she told me. “Facts. I don’t read fiction at all because it’s a waste of time.”

She seemed eager to get to the facts. “I was taking care of the ladies when it happened.” She had turned her home into a board-and-care residence for six elderly women. “I also had a live-in boyfriend for, like, four years. He was here at the time too. It was May 1, 1985.”

What happened? “Well, the one thing I remember was being dumped in bed or falling in bed. Anyway, I landed very heavily. And I was exhausted beyond all — I’ve never been that exhausted in my life.” This was at night? “At night, yeah, and I turned to look at the clock, a digital clock, and it said 3:10, and I said, ‘Oh well, I’ll figure this out in the morning,’ and I just went directly to sleep. The next morning I was up — I got up early because I had to take care of the ladies and fix breakfast and all, so I got up at 7:00 and I flew out of bed. I mean, when I woke up it was like the top of my head was wide open and everything was clear. I knew everything that was happening around the house, what they were doing.”

You felt good? “Yeah, and I felt like I knew everything. Everything was so clear. I knew what they were doing up there, how they were waiting for me. I just homed in on all kinds of stuff. Then I poked John and I said, ‘Boy, something really strange happened last night. I don’t know what it is, but something really strange.’ He drug himself up to go to work, and as I was getting up to go I saw my pillow at the foot of the bed, and in front of the armoire was a little brown bear, and we never had children here the night before or any time prior.” You had never seen it before? “Never. And I picked it up, and I don’t know, it was like an energy from it or something, and I threw it to John, and he didn’t want it either. He threw it back and we played hot potato with the dumb bear. And I said, ‘Well, I gotta go fix breakfast, and I’ll just give this bear to Helen Leonard.’ She was one of the ladies I had at the time. So I went up and I went directly to Helen Leonard’s room, which was at the end of the hallway, and I gave her the bear, and she looked at it and frowned at me. I mean, she actually gave me a dirty look. And I said, ‘Oh well, she takes anything, she’ll take the bear.’ So I left it with her and I started breakfast. I was making bacon and eggs, and you know, bacon is noisy.

“And in the living room, Helen Johnson said, ‘Rose, something really weird happened last night.’ I said, ‘What? I can’t hear you.’ So I shut it off, and I went in the living room and said, ‘Start over again.’ I was ready to hear, knew something had happened.

“She says, ‘Well, I was coming down the hall last night to have a cup of coffee’ — which she did, like, three or four times a night — ‘and I saw this pink glow through the patio door, and I went and stood by the door, but I really didn’t see anything, except a rose glow, a rose glow in the sky.’ So she watched that for a while. I asked her how long, and she said, ‘I don’t know, maybe about three minutes, and then I went and had my coffee.’ So that was what she had to tell me.

“Then I get back to frying my bacon, and I heard a heavy-duty thunk on the wall — bang! — and I went and looked and there’s the brown bear. Helen Leonard had taken the bear and thrown it into the opposite wall.” This was a stuffed toy? “Yeah, like a little stuffed bear about that big [she held her hands about eight inches apart]. And she hit the wall with it. And I said, ‘I guess she doesn’t want the bear.’

“So anyway, I thought, ‘Boy, this is getting stranger and stranger.’ So I take that stupid bear and I brought it downstairs and I put it in a manila envelope and I left it there.

“And John headed to work. He didn’t know nothing, of course. He said, ‘I didn’t hear nothing, I didn’t see nothing.’ Well, I don’t know either, because I had no idea what might have happened at that point. The rest of the day was really strange. I did everything I usually did. I went in the garden and tried to work, and all of a sudden, finding myself standing there, just standing there, wondering what had happened! For two weeks it was like that. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I didn’t know what it was. I kept bugging John; I told my kids.”

Years before, Rose had studied with two hypnotists named Bill and Carol. She had taken classes from them, and she had learned that things “can be brought up.” So she sought them out, hoping they could help her. “Well, I’m going crazy here. This is driving me nuts. So I went to Carol and told her, ‘I don’t know what happened, but I need to know.’ So she hypnotized me. She taped it. Two tapes. She always kept one for herself and gave me one. When I got all done I said, ‘Are you sure that I was hypnotized?’ I mean, the things that came out were so far out, I was not sure it was reality. She says, ‘Oh yeah, I could tell by your breathing.’ She knew. So I have the tape. I could either give it to you or tell you the story.”

Why don’t you tell me the story. “Okay. It lasted about an hour and ten minutes. The trip, or whatever it was. The thing I remember, when I started to talk about it on tape, was that I saw these two beings come in. They were hooded with a kind of grayish white robe. Real thick material. But you couldn’t see their faces or their hands.” How tall were they? “Not that tall. They were maybe five ten.

“Then they asked me to come with them. And I didn’t want to. I was terrified. I didn’t know what the heck was going on. And they insisted and insisted, and pretty soon that worked, and I picked up my pillow and I put it in front of me and I walked across the bed. I didn’t get out of bed or go around, but I walked directly across the bed to them. So I get to the foot of the bed and each one took an elbow, and my pillow dropped straight out in front of me, and that’s how the pillow got there.

“When they picked me up I started to cry. Well, in hypnosis even the tears started to come down. Because they weren’t human, they were metal. And when they picked me up, all my weight was on my elbows and that hurt like hell. I’m resting on metal, and I’m crying. Well, they realized that somehow, and the pain went away, and we took off. I don’t know how we went through the door — and I can show you where — I think we went all abreast, we would have had to, and I think right through the wall. So we went out, and they weren’t walking, they were gliding. They were off the floor, and so was I when they picked me up.”

Were you afraid? “At that point, I wasn’t anything anymore. I wasn’t afraid. No emotion. It was, like, ‘Yep, I’m going.’ I had lost the fear. I guess they took that away. So off we went, and then, as we headed up I saw the rose glow; I saw the glow from the craft. And that was indeed rose. It was a real bright, bright color. And we went up in it, the door opened.” You saw the craft? Can you describe it? “Well, just a craft, like a big saucer. As soon as I had got hypnotized, I went in the back yard and I tried to remember the size and we figured around 36 feet.

“So I went in. They took me straight to a cylinder. And as I was going in, I was aware of other people in cylinders along the wall, and I was also aware of whoever was running the show. They were white-garbed, like they were wearing lab coats. There were three, maybe four, of them on one side.” What did they look like? “I don’t know if I was made not to see or what, but that didn’t register. To me, it was a humanoid-type, you know.

“The cylinders were small, and they bring you directly — at least they brought me — directly to it, they opened the door, and it was all like a big Plexiglas container. And just a little seat. They turn you in there. It’s obvious you sit down. And then I looked up and this thing, like a telephone cord, came down, with a little cap that sat on my head. Once that was there I couldn’t move my head.” You said you saw other people in the cylinders? Other humans? “Yeah, yeah. I was pretty sure I recognized one lady. She was an Avon lady that lived on the next street. I never did approach her with that, because I felt, you know, it’s hard: unless somebody else is hypnotized too, you don’t know what happened. She probably would have never known.

“But once I got in there I couldn’t turn my head any direction. All I could see was peripheral vision and straight ahead. And straight ahead was the whole workings of the ship, the magnetic thing that causes it to go up and down and whatever. There was also a little rail around the edge. It’s to keep people from falling into the screen. There was this big screen in the middle. So when it took off you could see the earth there, you know, as you went up. And the funny part is that we were put in capsules. This is the part I don’t understand and never figured out. But I was watching and wondering and thinking all this time, you know, and once you took off, all the colors would change. It would change from rose to other colors.”

Did you have a sense that the craft was taking off? “The only sense I had was that I could see that we were leaving, but I couldn’t really feel anything.” But you saw the earth? “You saw the earth down there. The higher you go, the more you saw. Cities, with lights. We went up really high, but we never went to any mother ship or anything like that, because we went up and then we came back. It was like an hour and ten minutes, apparently. And these other people, the ones I could see, there was this one woman in a black nightgown and she had long black hair. Then there was teenagers, and I suspect they had probably been in a car. Two of them were picked up. And a guy that looked like he was ready to go fishing. Those are the only ones I could really see. And, uh, it’s just like I’m watching it now. Thinking about, will I get home? Will I see my kids again? Will I see everybody again? Yet, I kind of felt I would. I wondered about the thing on my head. And I wondered a lot of things. I wondered why we were in a capsule. Because, to me, that was antiquated. From what I had read about different ships, they’re not like that.”

You had read things about this before? “Oh yeah, I had studied it for some time.” What do you mean, you had studied it? “Different books and things about experiences. I’d read a lot. But it was all old stuff. There was only one other book that had this same kind of capsule that the person was in, and that was called The Andreasson Affair. It was a lady on the East Coast that is still in contact, but when she first started out, that’s what she was in.”

When you were in the capsule, did you at that time think it was antiquated? “Yes, I did, because I had read different things about ships people were taken in, and they were taken in large ships and they were examined and all that, and this didn’t seem to be anything like that. To be in a capsule means you have to be taken care of specially. It just wasn’t new. Anyway, when I was being removed to go back home again, these same two came and wanted to take me out, and I was the first one to leave, it seemed like, because the others were all there. And I said, ‘Well, I want to talk to somebody’ — ’course I didn’t say this, I was thinking it — and I wasn’t going to leave until I talked with someone. So these two guys went off and they got this other guy. Well, this big guy comes in, and he was gorgeous, you know? Really nice-looking man. I had asked them to bring me somebody that I could talk to so I could find out the purpose of this, because I realized we hadn’t gone to any mother ship. Why did we just go out there and come back, you know? I was all ready for something more exciting.

“He said, ‘Do you know anything about the rapture?’ I said, ‘The Bible rapture?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I read about that in the Bible. In the end times, Jesus would take people off the earth, “the remnants” they called them.’ Right then and there I was shown a picture of the earth — I suppose the end times, because it was all in flames. Fire, fire, fire. And I started to cry. It was like a really depressing thought that this was going to happen to our earth, you know? I cried and sobbed, and finally he took it all away.

“And in its place was another picture of a sphere, a big round sphere up high in the sky somewhere. I could see the water and the fish and the soil and the deer and whatever else and people and homes, and I surmised at the time that it might be about four and half miles around. Then it was taken away, and those two pictures were the only two things I saw.

“And I asked him about the sphere, and he said, ‘Well’ — he didn’t get into the end-time thing, because that was pretty obvious — ‘during that period they would be taking people and that would be the rapture, and there are thousands of spaceships out there in the ionosphere, and they’re all just waiting. They’re helping at this particular time to keep the earth in balance. But he said that there’s just so much that they can do. They will be there to sort of pick up the pieces, you know. To pick up what’s left, and that’s what the remnant is, the rapture, and they will put certain people in spaceships and some they will put in these spheres, and he said there will be a training period, to retrain the thought of our population. Like we war, we’re a warring bunch of people. We’re killing each other, and it’s just so unlike other races. They may kill others, but they don’t kill their own. So anyway, that was the whole thing, to retrain the minds so that they would not do that again. And then to put them back on earth, you know, after the cleansing.”

You felt they wanted to communicate this with you? “Yeah. This particular way they will remove the people. And I just kind of homed in on ‘Gee, that’s the way Jesus was taken too.’ I mean, you know, people don’t just go flying around! Not when you are on earth and are part of this earth. It says He was taken up in a cloud. A lot of these spaceships are in clouds, and I personally have seen one not far from here that was in a cloud. Two and a half hours I watched it. It was just gigantic. And I knew, but I could not see the spaceship. All I could see was the cloud. And all of a sudden it was gone, just like that. Clouds don’t dissipate that quickly.

“Then I got back. I was taken back and dumped unceremoniously in bed. I was pretty tired after going through all that, so I looked at the time and it was 4:10. So when I was hypnotized, I relived it all to the exact minute.”

What about the bear? “For some reason, it never got discussed. But I talked to my boyfriend about it a lot, bringing it up and bringing it up, and he said, ‘For God’s sake, go to the encyclopedia. Check in there.’ So I went to the encyclopedia and I checked all that out and there was the Big Bear and the Little Bear, which is Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, and I said, ‘Well, maybe that’s it. Maybe the little bear is a sign of where they came from.’ That’s all I’ve come up with. But I’ve gone to some UFO conventions and been on some panels, and I’ve taken the bear, and there were some ladies that said, ‘Wow! This bear has some healing power. You ought to use it for healing.’ But I’ve never used it for anything. I stuck it back in the bag and put it in the closet. And at this time I don’t even know where it is.” You never had scientists look at it? “I started to take it completely apart, but I took it apart to the point where there was a weird shell in there. Nothing like the nuts I’ve seen.” You didn’t have anyone analyze it? “Well, I just didn’t want it out of my sight. People take things, and you never get them back.”

When you were in the capsule, did you think they were doing any kind of experiment on you? “The only thing I thought they might be doing is putting information in. I didn’t think they would be taking much out [she laughed], but with the little cap, the more I thought about it, they were actually putting something there that would be utilized later on.”

When I asked Rose if she felt she had been chosen for a reason, she said, “No, not especially.” But then she told me about two childhood experiences, at the ages of five and nine, in which she had somehow lost time, didn’t know what happened to her. Three years ago, at the urging of a friend, she was hypnotized again and discovered that those were earlier abductions. “I was whisked up, and then I was shown a lot of really neat stuff. The history of the earth in the beginning, and on through quite a ways into the future. It was fascinating. I couldn’t even begin to talk about it or explain, but it was beautiful, really incredible. I can’t even tell you who was on board that time. All I can tell you is that I was taken from room to room as I was shown different things about the history of the earth.”

In the course of our conversation I’d learned that Rose had been interested in UFOs for some time, even before her experience in 1985. She confirmed that she had been going to UFO conventions “for a long, long time.” When did you start attending? “In the ’70s. I can’t afford to go to all of that. It’s expensive. I went to two in San Diego.” So you’ve had an interest in these things for quite a while? “Oh, I’ve always had an interest. I’ll tell you when it started. In 1958 I was working at the University of North Dakota, typing theses for professors, and one of them was debunking UFOs. I was reading his stuff and I was freaking out. Whoa, this is really good stuff! It was about abduction cases, and that piqued my interest. I had never had any inkling about anything like that. I had a deep inner wanting to know about all of that, but I was never put in front of it, you know. And then I started reading different things. I didn’t try that hard at the time. I was only 18. It was only after I was married that I started to really get into it.”

How have your family and friends reacted to this? “My folks were really good. I told my mom and dad right away. Who else you going to talk to? They shook their heads, but they believed me. And then the harder part was your friends. You really can’t talk to your friends. They think you’ve gone over the hill. So I never really discussed it, except with friends from the UFO society.” What about your daughters? “Well, they know, but I won’t get into it with them. You don’t rehash. You tell ’em once and that’s it, and they take it for what it is.” Does it make you feel lonely? “A little bit, but not a lot. There’s a multitude of people in the UFO organization. There’s psychiatrists, people that have written books that are psychologists that help people who have had these experiences. And mine wasn’t so bad that I needed to deal with anything. So I never really required psychiatric care.”

I met John Vasquez at the Chevron station on Sweetwater Road in National City, his place of employment. We sat at a table in a large, busy office with three executive-sized desks. The others in the room, including his boss, seemed to know his story and understand why I was there, and their friendly nonchalance made me think they had grown used to John’s being interviewed. Indeed, I was not his first contact with the media: he has appeared on television and radio and has even written a book about his unusual experiences.

He has been at this Chevron station for three years. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife and 24-year-old son — and attempting to understand exactly what happened that fateful July in 1977.

He was a private in the U.S. Army, stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. On the day he arrived, his battalion was ordered to stand in formation at 7:30 in the evening. “We stood out there about half an hour,” he said, “till about 8:10. It got dark. A guy in front of me said, ‘What’s that?’ I didn’t pay no attention. I just kept waiting for the captain to come out from this building, the CO’s building, and walk up to this podium and make a speech. Well, before he came out, the guy in front of me said, ‘What’s that up there?’ Curiosity got the best of me, you know, so I looked up. I said, ‘What? What? All I see is stars.’ And the guy turned around and pointed to the right-hand side and said, ‘Watch that.’ Okay, it was just a star. Then, all of a sudden, it just kept moving. It just gradually came across the sky. It moved away, and came back. Moved away again, and came back. Strange sight. It was really weird. It’s like it had a purpose. Kind of gliding across.

“That’s when we were told to stand at attention. We were not supposed to move. But I kind of glanced up, and it was gone. That’s when the captain started walking out of the building. He walked up to this podium, and he was starting a speech about our training course and things like that. Then I heard this rushing noise. Well, I’m not supposed to move, but I kind of leaned backward and I could see this bright light coming down this dirt, and I thought it was a jeep or a truck, right? But I saw some of Charlie Company’s men breaking out, running. And others were standing still. So what is it? I kind of leaned forward to take a look at this thing. By now it’s really close to us. At tree-line level, right? And I thought, ‘It’s gotta be a truck. It’s so high.’ And I was going to say something to the guy standing in front of me. But he was asleep.”

Asleep? Lying on the ground? “No, no. Standing up. His eyes were closed and he was looking downward. I was going to say something to this guy, right? I leaned backwards, and I don’t know what happened, but I guess I became unconscious. I don’t know how long, but when I came to, I was looking at my feet. My boots. And I couldn’t move. My partner, the guy standing next to me, was running, and I noticed that a lot of the other guys were standing still and others were running. They were running toward the tree line and others were sort of diving under a two-foot-high crawl space under the barracks.”

They were running away from the light? “Yeah, they were all running. Some were still in standing formation. I told my buddy to come back and help me ’cause I couldn’t move. I guess I was scared, or something. And he came back and pulled me from where I was standing. I jumped, and I started to run, right? And I’m asking him, ‘What’s going on?’ He screamed back at me, ‘Take cover, take cover!’ So we started running. And I wanted to see the captain, where he was, and we both ran to where the captain was. He was behind his podium. He was asleep. And I yelled. I know he could have heard me. Everybody standing there could have heard me. I yelled real loud and he didn’t wake up. Sound asleep.”

He’s got a whole company of guys running every which way, and he’s standing there sound asleep? “He’s got people standing there in formation, and others are running, diving underneath barracks. When I looked at my partner, Allen, he was turned around, looking at something. His face was all pale. His eyes were bulging out. His jaw was wide open. I grabbed him and shook him hard and said, ‘Don’t look at it! Run! Take cover!’ So we started to run.”

How many guys were running? “Maybe 20 percent. The others were just frozen. Each company had 300 guys, and there were four companies — Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta companies. And after dinner, you’ve the kitchen crew, supply. About 1300 in all.”

John and Allen eventually got underneath a barrack with Jones, Hacket, and Martinez. They started arguing and cursing at each other, afraid and not knowing what to do. They thought it was a Russian invasion. As they were discussing how to get their M-16s and live ammunition, they heard loud screaming coming from the men who were still in formation. They were high-pitched screams, and the men were calling out, “Mommy!”

In his book, Incident at Fort Benning (Santa Barbara: Timeless Voyager Press, 2000), coauthored with Bruce Stephen Holms, John says that “out of nowhere, a huge luminous ball of light appeared lighting up the entire building. The light was so intense, you could see the beams of the wooden building from the other side. It moved very slowly around the building as if searching for someone or something. It moved smoothly like a large balloon gliding or floating.”

John and the others were still in the crawl space under the barrack, and as the light approached, they retreated into the center of the building for cover. But the light stopped at the front of the building they were under, and everything was lit as if it were daylight.

John heard a female voice say, “It’s okay, don’t be afraid…come out.” When he asked his buddies if anyone else heard it, no one responded, and they began to crawl away from him. Then he felt a pressure on the left side of his forehead, and once again the voice summoned him.

“I needed to go out there,” John said. “The light was so intense I had to look down at the ground in order to keep my bearings. Even my cap could not protect my eyes from the intensity of the light. I crossed over a concrete section and finally reached the grass where I stood up. When I turned to the left, the light covered me completely. I detected a small figure scurrying on my left and then moving back into the light where I couldn’t see it. In an attempt to see what it was, I lifted my hand up to shield my eyes. At that moment, something hit or tapped my left shoulder and I went down. I heard Hacket call out my name. It looked like he was reaching for me, so I reached for him and that was all I remember.”

John didn’t remember any of this until April 19, 1989. He had a horrific nightmare, and it was so real he was convinced it was more than a dream. The next morning he began to focus on it, and slowly the events of that July night came back to him. Eventually, he was hypnotized and interrogated by Budd Hopkins, a well-known abduction investigator (whose name seems to surface in many of these cases), and this enabled John to recover what had happened during the time he was unconscious.

In his book he writes,

I looked to the side as I was being lifted into the light high up in the black sky. There were many of us going up at the same time. We had a sort-of blanket or cover over us as we went up. We were all being lifted into the bright light…this doorway in the sky. What happened next, as I remember, was that two beings approached me from my left, hurriedly completed some task, turned in unison, and quickly left. I don’t know why they left so quickly, but at the same time, I was ordered to keep my eyes closed.

Then I heard the same female voice that spoke to me while in the crawl space under the building. She asked, “Do you remember?”

I responded, “Remember what?” I felt her deep concern while I was receiving a physical examination. When the examination appeared to be complete, I opened my eyes. I immediately fixed my gaze on a small insignia on the wall. Under the insignia was a symbol that looked like a heartbeat or vital sign. The room was a large curved dome that seemed to go around in a circle. It was filled with rows of people laying on metal-looking, floating tables or slabs. Two beings stood on either side of each slab. They appeared to be examining each person much the same way a doctor conducts a physical examination. This was all I remember before she said, “Go to sleep!” And I did.

When I became conscious again, I was looking at a male being. I didn’t want to look in his eyes because he frightened me. I even told him that he was scaring me and I didn’t want to look at him. His almond-shaped eyes scared me. He demanded that I look into his eyes even though I didn’t want to.… He explained that it would be helpful if I would cooperate. When I looked into his eyes, three images came to me as if I was watching a big television screen. The first one was a picture of myself standing by the ocean looking up into a blue sky. The second image was a planet that I assumed was earth being destroyed. The land and the oceans were going up into the atmosphere followed by eruptions of orange volcanic clouds. The last image was of the face of a humanoid. It was pasty white with no eyebrows, no eyelashes, a head-dressing of some sort, small mouth, and a straight nose. The eyes looked like liquid mercury.

Then I lost consciousness for an undetermined amount of time. When I became aware again, I was standing back in formation at the base with everyone else. However, Allen and I were now standing in the fourth line of the formation. I was absolutely positive that before this bizarre incident occurred we were standing at attention in the second line.

When I looked across, I could see Sergeant T with his parade uniform on…all neat and pressed except that he had urinated in his pants. The Sergeant looked down at his wet pants, cursed, and walked away. At that time, Drill Sergeant N ordered us to go back to our barracks.

The Captain never gave his speech!

I decided to check the time. My watch recorded 7:40 PM. I asked someone else what time they had and the response was 3:30 AM! Another soldier had 4:45 AM! All the watches had been stopped at different times.

At the barracks most of the soldiers became disoriented, some began vomiting, others were unable to keep their balance, literally falling down on the ground. On the way to the barracks, I fell down but managed to get up again.

This is just the beginning of John’s story. The next several weeks were filled with confusing incidents — troops chasing each other over a restricted area, fighting with live ammunition, experiencing a time-space warp, encountering a giant eel, and battling another UFO, which fired light balls that burned human skin.

When order was finally restored, John and the other soldiers were sitting in a big circle waiting for directions. What were you told to do? I asked him. “Well, we were ordered to go back to the barracks and give all the M-16s back. And within a week we had this female lieutenant come around our First Battalion post. We were saying, ‘What’s she doing around here?’ She was a little petite woman about five feet tall. She had about six drill sergeants that we’d never seen before. These guys were like ex-football players. Every place she went, they were there. Nobody messed with them. We didn’t know who she was and what she was all about until a day or two later. We got the word she was a psychiatrist. And she was talking to everybody.”

Individually? “Yeah. That night we heard a scream. I told Hacket, ‘Go see what’s going on in the captain’s building.’ He went over there, right? Came back and said there’s two drill sergeants — those big guys — and that female lieutenant, and they’ve got Sergeant Turner on the couch, laying down, screaming.

“Nobody wanted to talk with her.” You were afraid of her? “She was a psychiatrist. What’s this all about, you know? I saw someone walking with her, and she turned around and said, ‘Leave.’ He just left. The same guy I had been hanging out with the whole month, real close, and he just turns around and walks off without saying anything! I saluted, right? And all of a sudden she grabs my left hand. She pulled it closer, and she said, ‘I’m going to hate myself for doing this,’ and I got a sharp jab right here [he pointed to the side of his hand]. Then I’m under. Drug-induced hypnosis. Asking me all kinds of questions about my background, my family, and everything. And then she said, ‘You’re going to forget all of this, everything. The only way to help yourself is to let go of the memory of past events.’ She had her fingers on my head, at my temples, and continued to tell me I was going to forget everything. It hurt. And when I came to, I couldn’t remember who she was or how I got into that room. She said, ‘Continue on, soldier.’ ”

So John continued on, eventually being discharged from the military in 1979. He didn’t remember anything until his nightmare in 1989. As things came back to him, through concentrating on images and seeking psychological counseling and submitting to hypnosis, he pieced the story together.

Prior to 1989, had you read any of the UFO literature? Did you have any interest in this sort of thing? “No, never.”

Naturally, he wanted to confirm the story. But that proved difficult. His psychologist suggested he begin with Congressman Cunningham, which he did. When he received documentation of his military service from the National Personnel Records Center, there was no indication of his participation in Delta Company, First Battalion, First Infantry. None. When he followed up with this, he was told he was not there, not even as a temporary assignment. “I said, ‘That’s crazy! I was there!’ I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to call the VA Hospital and get my medical records, which I did through the congressman’s office, and there it is — Delta Company, First Battalion, First Infantry. I was there.”

An appendix to John’s book has 80 pages of correspondence he has had with governmental agencies. Much of what motivates him is a desire to find someone — anyone — who remembers those strange events at Fort Benning. “I’m still trying to find my friends. Am I the key to unlocking their repressed memories?”

Looking back on it all, what do you think happened? “Two things. One, it was a military test, a psychological test. It was in our gravy. Some kind of hallucinogenic drug. Mass hallucination, mass hysteria, right? The second one, it was real. An abduction, some unusual event that we don’t understand.”

R.F. has been a beautician for 40 years. She lives in a pleasant condo in Imperial Beach, with books and a framed print by Picasso and pictures of various spiritual masters on the wall. She has two children, one a daughter with Down’s syndrome who lives with her.

Would you share with me your story? “Okay. I don’t think I was really conscious of it for a long time. I guess in my 30s I started going into these spiritual things and it opened up a door and I started remembering things. I didn’t believe them at first./ I never wanted to believe it was true. But I did have memory, and my sister had memory too. It started off — the first I had a real conscious memory — I had to take my sister over to the park. I grew up in Imperial Beach, and I was about four or five, and I was supposed to take care of my sister and not leave her. We got over to the park, and a UFO came down. And even at that time I knew I could see it and not everybody could.”

You knew what it was? “Yes, and I knew they were my friends. I was dying to go rushing over, run in there, and yet my sister wouldn’t go. So, uh, probably what they did is freeze her. You know, I had really mixed feelings about leaving my little sister and going out there, but I went.”

You were conscious of this at the time, or was this something you later remembered? “At the time, yeah, I was conscious of it, but I put it on the back burner. If nobody believes you, you stop telling people. My sister was a couple years younger than me, and she remembers it too. When I got back she was fine. They can manipulate time, so you can go up there and have lots of time. And I remember thinking of being very fond of them. Are you familiar with the UFO literature?”

I’ve done some reading to prepare for our conversation, but assume I know nothing. Explain it all to me. “Okay. They looked to me to be about five five, five six. A little bit taller than other people experience them. They have big heads, but they have a little more of the human-looking faces.” Would you call them humanoid? “They were humanoid. Two hands, you know, but they only had four fingers. They were a little bit different.” What about the face? “The face had a big bald head, and a sort of ridge here in the front [she pointed to her forehead], and smaller down here [she pointed to her lower face], but not as small or pronounced as public culture has it. Sort of like children or small people. Until I became a teenager I was very fond of them.”

Before we get to when you were a teenager, tell me more about the first experience. What happened? “They let me run around the ship.” The ship? “It was a round craft. Not too big. You know, it was like magic. You’d be in this little craft and then you’d go someplace else, and then you’d be in a bigger place. And then all you would see is a room, a cold-looking room. Steel, bluish-looking. It was interesting that furniture could sort of move for you. And they would do examinations, and it didn’t seem to bother me then.”

What kind of examinations? “Just physical. Everything. It didn’t seem to bother me then.” Are you talking about the first time in the park? “I’m sure that wasn’t the first time, but that was the first time I consciously remember going with them.” You had a sense of already knowing them? “Yeah.”

Could you communicate with them? “Just mental. But they do have a language. They taught me to read. Sort of an oriental-looking language. To this day I pick up a magazine and I go from the back to the front. [She demonstrated by taking a magazine from the coffee table.]

“They seem to always do an examination.” What kind of examination? “Well, they can make you go out, so I didn’t pay too much attention. They just looked you over everywhere. I think when you’re young they put you out. But I remember real clearly that I was getting examined and they were telling me about hair. ‘You know why you people have hair…’ And on and on. It was really interesting. I can’t remember all the things about it. I think we had some heavy-duty conversations.

“And when I was 14 they got a little more personal, and there was the…uh…they were making test-tube babies, I guess. They were farming ova, and then I didn’t like them too much. They were taking my eggs. I would carry these little children for a few months.” In your uterus? “Yes. In fact, I wasn’t having sexual relationships. I stayed with a girlfriend a lot, and the neighbors told her, ‘Well, look at her, she’s pregnant, of course she’s pregnant.’ But I only carried them for a while, but I have to say that I miscarried all the time.”

You were conscious of this? “When I was with them, I knew. But when I came back I would forget it.” They were fertilizing your eggs somehow. Were they doing this in test tubes, or was this through some kind of sexual activity? “No, it wasn’t sexual activity.” Did you know why they were doing this? “I believed that they were dying out. That they had come from a history very much like ours, and they needed children that could live in a different environment. I had always assumed that maybe they were going to live on earth. I’m not sure if that was possible.” Did this seem experimental? “Yes, because the children didn’t last very long. One thing, they didn’t get the nurturing that they needed. They’re slow learners. They don’t have the same sort of emotional makeup that humans do. They’re not totally devoid of feelings, but they don’t react the same way. They’re much more scientific, much more curious. They used to frustrate me, because this was what they told me: until they all get it, they don’t get it. They did learn that for babies to survive, they needed to have affection, mothering, needed to be touched and have that kind of connection. They clone themselves, I think. It’s much more mechanical. And they did learn. They did start bringing people up.

“I had a sense of having a close relationship with my first daughter. They don’t consider themselves daughters. But they were interested. And I got to name her.” The first one that came from you? “Yeah. I named her Xandra. Where I got that name, I have no idea.” You said “her.” You sensed that these beings were male or female? “Yes, they definitely had male and female energy.”

Were other humans there? “Oh, yeah. There were so many different groups that were working on different levels at different times. I’ve come to believe there’s probably thousands. At the time, I would see people. As I got older, I would comfort people in this ship, or this big room. Sometimes they would have big rooms where there were a lot of people in various stages of physical experimentation, surgery, or just fear. Once in a while they could just freak out. And I know at times they brought me there to comfort. A woman was freaking out because they were taking her baby, you know.

“And I can remember a lot of this stuff came pouring out of me when — remember in the news when they started doing the surrogate parenting? I got very upset, railing at everybody, saying, ‘This isn’t right!’ And then finally it clicked and the story came to me. That’s how you remember a lot of those types of…the real emotional parts.”

You have an experience, but then your life carries on and you’re not consciously aware of the experience, but then something happens that opens a door in your memory? “That’s right. And sometimes you don’t feel good. And then there were a few odd incidents of missing time. But because they were so good at manipulating time you wouldn’t miss much of it.” When you speak of not feeling well, what do you mean? “You’re really disoriented, really kind of not all there. I remember feeling really weird once, like I wasn’t in my body. It disorients you, is what it does.” But it’s not until later that you put it together? “Yeah.

“I remember the last time I felt impregnated was only ten years ago, and I’m 60. By that time I had no attachment to them, and I can remember being taken there…” Taken where? “Taken to the spaceship. That’s where they live. They have little scout ships that come down, but they also have this big mother ship. And I think that’s their home. I don’t know that they have a planet. They were from Zeta Reticuli. It’s a planet that has two suns, in a different place. Different solar system. They are the ones who are doing most of the experimenting. They’re a curious people. They’re neutral.” Neutral? “You know, there are some people here who are positive beings, and some people who live on the earth that are very negative. But these beings were considered neutral. They weren’t angels or devils.”

Did you believe that your eggs were making a lot of beings? “Twenty-three. Somehow I kept count. I was journaling at the time. One time…the oldest one had died, but she lived to be about 20-some.” Did you have contact with your offspring? “Yes. I’ll tell you this little meeting I remember. This was about 15 years ago. I was there and it was like I was getting a gold watch for my good work. The ones that were alive showed up. And they were all little people, and there were a few of them that had little whiffs of hair sticking up, and they looked at each other. I looked at one of them and said, ‘Oh, you’ve got my hair!’ and you know, we enjoyed it. It was a pleasurable thing. Not too chatty, not too talky. But they were curious about me and I was curious about them. Some of them I connected with on a heart level more than I did with others.” Do you have grandchildren? “I doubt that.”

Tell me more about what the ETs looked like. “They had big round heads, slender bodies, slender fingers, four fingers — well, three fingers and a thumb. But there were lots of different types. It’s foggy, but I know there are Lizard People. There are Dinosaur People. I was always aware they had sunglasses on. And they wore bodysuits. It’s a highly advanced material, hard to cut, hard to move. They didn’t wear costumes or anything. I have seen emblems on them.”

Did you tell your husband about these experiences? “Not my first husband. I did tell my second husband about them.” You didn’t tell your first husband? “I tested him.” How long were you married to him? “About five years. I was used to people saying, ‘Oh, you think you know.’ I didn’t say too much to anybody.” So you were divorced from your first husband, and then you remarried. You did talk to this person? “Yes. He didn’t think I was lying. Nobody’s ever thought I lied. I’m not a liar. They look at me, like, well, maybe you’re crazy. Very patronizing. My husband teased me, but he was never mean about it. He knew I wasn’t lying, and I think it scared him, so he didn’t really want to hear much about it. I did see him up there one time.” Did he acknowledge it? “No. I got to where I was like protecting people, because they were all so horrified. Especially my family. It just scared the hell out of them. It tends to run through bloodlines. I saw my son taken.” What were they doing with him? “They were doing something medical.” As his mother, how did you feel about that? “I didn’t like it. That’s when I really started getting freaky about the whole thing. Then I realized my daughter was being taken, and it made me angry. She has a lot of the symptoms.” Such as? “She used to have nightlights, but now she has lights on constantly. Sometimes she sleeps sitting up.”

Do aliens prefer people who have a psychic permeability or openness, or is it just that people like this can remember it more often? “Well, the second part is true, I know.” But do people who have these experiences tend to be spiritual? “No, not really. What happens is that it makes you open. It makes you psychic, it makes you sensitive, and you learn how to communicate telepathically. After an abduction, you’re much more sensitive.”

Do you have any idea how many times this has happened to you? “To tell you the truth, I think hundreds.” When was the last time? “Not long ago. About six months ago. I read a book called Zetatalk, which purports to tell their side of things, and in it, they were claiming that next May all hell was going to break loose. And it felt like a big, fat lie to me, a manipulation. They do that sometimes. So I really called them, and the next night I went through the disorientation, the weird stuff. I called them on it. I said, ‘I want to see you!’ ” And they responded? You were abducted? “I was gone. I encountered them and we talked about it. There’s a place where you can go, like a court. It wasn’t necessarily their spaceship. It sounds like Star Trek, and it is, a lot of it is, but things that people have seen on Star Trek were channeled to them.” So things on Star Trek are pretty accurate? “Yep. And there are some creatures in science fiction movies like Stargate, that’s what some of them look like. So it’s seeping into our consciousness in different ways. I do think that in the next 20 years we’ll accept it.”

Do you have any sense of the future? Do you think they are trying to take over this planet? “No, I don’t feel that. I don’t. They’re trying to make a stronger breed of people that can live in different places. I think they’re kind of content, too, to live in their spaceship cities.” You say they’re from a planet, but they live in these… “Their planet was destroyed.” How was it destroyed? “Like we’re doing. You know, polluting, poisoning. They were materialistic and egotistical. They poisoned their planet. They are now trying to reclaim their humanity. The reason earth is so interesting to so many different ETs is because we have all the genes from so many different beings. In our case they took different types of ape men. It isn’t like we crawled out of the ocean. They take something and then they increase their intelligence. Evolution is partially true. It’s evolution with help. All of us are probably a mixture of different kinds of ETs and primates.

“There really is a protection over the earth right now that we won’t have much longer if we start going into space.” What’s the protection? “It’s a federation. It keeps too many people from coming in and out. There are federations in charge of keeping us from blowing ourselves up. There is a court, a much more fair court than ours.” That dispenses universal justice? “Yes.

“They can make bodies galore. They have little people running around all over the place. They’re trying to get their humanity back. Part of the love. The real key to life is emotion, and they lost a lot of their emotion. The ability to love and reproduce, and all this stuff goes together. They reproduce, but they don’t mate. At one time they could mate, but they can’t now. The key to that is the emotion. They’re very shallow.” They have no sexual desire? “Yeah. They want that back. They don’t really want to be as passionate as people, you know, having riots and things like that. They want to keep their mental intellect, but they realize they’ve gone too far.

“I mean, you don’t want this to be true. You want to be normal. But damn it, you’re not. You want to be like everybody else. You want to be able to mock and make fun of people that look at UFOs.” Have you ever sought counseling for this? “Yeah, I went through a lot of counseling. I went to psychologists, hypnotists. I had some issues with childhood too, so I just kind of did both at the same time.”

What kind of issues with childhood? “Well, with my mother and father.” They had conflict between them? “Yeah, they were divorced. And I was abused.” Sexually abused? “By my father. And this tends to crop up a lot.” What do you mean? “Well, I’ve read statistics where they say that, you know, in fact, people use it to, I don’t think it’s that common, but, uh, with UFO abductees, but some psychologists will try to turn it into some big fantasy that you’ve had in order to escape from the world. But I don’t think that’s true. But yes, my mother and father divorced when I was five.”

When you think about these things, what’s the dominant emotion you have? “I have mixed feelings. Basically, I kind of like them. I empathize with their plight. I know that from a soul level I volunteered to be born to my mother, you know. I volunteered to be born for this project. I think I participated in a universal experiment.”

Were Rose and John and R.F. really abducted by extraterrestrial aliens? I put this question to Mel Podell, San Diego section director of the Mutual UFO Network, an organization with 3000 members worldwide. Podell, a retired aerospace chemist, has had an interest in UFOs for most of his life, having seen a UFO in Charlotte, North Carolina, when he was a teenager. Although he has had no personal experience with abduction, he definitely believes in the possibility.

“Many of these abductions,” he told me, “can be ascribed to hallucinations, nightmares, psychological conditions, but since there have been so many of them worldwide, I believe that a certain number are genuine. I like to think they are for a reason, to obtain knowledge, that maybe it’s going to help the universe. I don’t know. Maybe they have cosmological meaning.”

Podell, a scientist by training and profession, seemed the right person to query about something that had been troubling me: Doesn’t it seem odd, I asked him, that beings who are so advanced in terms of physics that they can travel at the speed of light, and who have such power that they can manipulate time and induce amnesia, are nevertheless conducting extremely primitive biological experiments on humans? If they have the ability to get here, why can’t they figure out a way to reproduce themselves without resorting to stealing a woman’s ova?

Podell agreed this sounded like an inconsistency, and he said the point has been made many times. “However,” he continued, “some individuals are strong in one area and weak in other areas, and to me, in my mind, it’s possible that a civilization could be strong in one area and weak in another area. You can have an Einstein, but I hear he couldn’t even do his taxes. It may sound strange, but to me it’s a possibility.”

Before we finished our conversation Podell said, “One doesn’t know all the answers. I just try to keep an open mind myself.”

I, too, try to keep an open mind. Reality is infinitely more complex, layered with more mysteries, than any of us comprehend. But keeping an open mind, it seems to me, means being open to the complexity of the mind itself, being willing to acknowledge the potential power not just of outer space but of inner space. Within every person are great depths, often unconscious, and in these depths live needs and desires with power enough to shape perceptions and interpret experiences. Unresolved pain and desire for healing, jagged brokenness and hunger for wholeness, unbearable loneliness and yearning for community, undeniable mortality and longing for transcendence — these things and more create a highly combustible fuel that can rocket a person well beyond the gravitational pull of the “normal.”

Near the end of his life, Carl Jung became fascinated with UFO sightings. He believed they possessed significance and merited considerable reflection. According to Anthony Stevens, Jung “concluded that UFOs were a modern myth, a compensation by the collective unconscious for our rational scepticism and our need for symbols of wholeness in a deeply divided world” (On Jung, Penguin, 1991). By “myth” Jung did not mean to trivialize the matter but rather to invest it with great significance. Myths are necessary for psychological health, Jung believed; we create them to help us understand ourselves and find a necessary meaning for our existence.

Is it insignificant, for example, that UFOs and the spaceships seen by abductees are circular in shape, the ancient symbol of wholeness? And is it inconsequential that the abductors are extraterrestrial, from a transcendent realm? Is it not possible that the experiences of Rose and John and R.F. are truly real — real in the sense of being actual, concrete manifestations of a deeply religious longing in the human heart?

Stephen Spielberg has been so fascinated with abduction stories that he produced the recently aired TV series Taken. In an interview with the New York Times, he spoke of his obsession: “It’s the whole idea of what does it mean to be abducted. I think it’s really a giving over to a superior power, the kind that takes responsibility away from us and takes over our lives.”

A friend of mine says abduction stories simply come from our desire for narrative, an inherent need we all have for “and then this happened.” She may be right. But I would take it a step further: if we want to see ourselves as part of a narrative, it may be because a story implies a beginning and an end and a coherent connection of the events in between — and all this implies meaning. Is my life part of something larger than the daily thus-and-so-ness I must grind my way through? Is it going anywhere?

So Rose is drawn to tales of UFOs and abductions, reading books and attending conferences and talking with fellow believers. This becomes an interpretative myth, a narrative in which she finds herself. Is it surprising that one night she is taken up into a great light — a rose light? Rose becomes herself, as it were, and that helps her become more than herself. As she rises, the light changes “from rose to other colors.” Rose both discovers herself and transcends herself.

And is it coincidental that R.F. was first abducted at the age of five — at the time her parents were divorcing? Who can doubt that she would want to run from family fragmentation into symbolic wholeness, from the pain of this world to salvation from the heavens? Who can doubt that the violation of her body from an abusive father could readily be incorporated into a meaningful myth, a story in which she surrenders to omnipotent powers and in which the violation of her body serves cosmic purposes of healing? When, toward the end of our conversation, R.F. told me of her sexual abuse, her sentences broke, became fragmented, as if they couldn’t carry the load of meaning that she herself understood.

I’m not suggesting that the stories of abduction, for Rose and R.F., are evidences of lost sanity. Quite the contrary. I think the stories are a means of maintaining sanity in a confusing and painful world. They provide a mythological framework, a way to cope with the often unbearable weight of being human.

But what about John Vasquez? His story seems different from Rose’s or R.F.’s. It doesn’t as much provide an explanation as call for an explanation; it doesn’t sew things together as much as tear them apart. Certainly the incident at Fort Benning has provided John with an identity, even given him a minor notoriety. Perhaps it is nothing more than this; perhaps he, too, is finding meaning in a larger myth. But in his case this seems a less satisfactory answer. His confusion is utterly convincing. As you talk to him, you get the feeling he would be relieved to learn that the Army had put something in the gravy that night.

So what happened? Was he part of some sort of psychological testing? Or was he part of some unexplained collision of worlds during that summer of 1977?

As Mel Podell said, “One doesn’t know all the answers.”

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