Do you have memories of being abducted by aliens and whisked away in a spaceship?
You wouldn’t be alone.
Several thousand people worldwide claim to have had such close encounters, researchers say. But in a new study, a psychology expert at London’s Goldsmiths College says these experiences are proof of the frailty of the human memory, rather than evidence of life in other galaxies.
“Maybe what we’re dealing with here is false memories, and not that people are actually being abducted and taken aboard spaceships,” says Professor Chris French, who surveyed 19 self-proclaimed alien abductees.
Several of the abductees reported being snatched from their beds or cars by alien creatures around 4 feet (120 centimeters) high, with spindly arms and legs and oversized heads, French said.
Some men said they were subjected to painful medical examinations by the aliens, during which their sperm was extracted.
Many of the alien experiences could be explained by sleep paralysis, a condition in which a person is awake and aware of the surroundings but is unable to move.
Sleep paralysis often leads to hallucinations, and 40 percent of people experience the state at least once in their lives, French said.
A rich imagination was also at play. Several of the alien abductees were already prone to fantasizing and also claimed to have seen ghosts and have psychic or healing abilities.
“People have very rich fantasy lives,” said French, who presented his findings at a public seminar at London’s Science Museum on Wednesday, “so much so that they often mix up what’s happening in their heads with what is going on in the real world.”