Chapter 13

A Trace of Memory


A serious, too-much ignored, aspect of paranormal investigation is the (mis)use of regressive hypnosis. While I have no interest in naming those who have used–continue to use–this profoundly potent “therapy,” I feel remiss in having not mentioned it during the writing of this blog, which will in 2014 see print publication.

To narrow the beam of my intent, I will address the use of hypnosis in cases of so-called alien abduction. Nowhere else have the authoritative tools of psychotherapy been so recklessly employed (“authoritative” being the key term). Hypnosis is without doubt a useful method in more mundane pursuits, such as in forensic psychology and its value in solving crimes wherein victims’ memory is blurred by trauma. I don’t claim to know the source of “alien” abductions, and will dispense with the quotes. It is unarguable that something’s happening, but there exist accounts dating back to the Sumerian genesis of the written word. Abductions are nothing new, but this reality, in post-post modern times, has been hijacked by swindlers, mongers of the fast buck, and even well-meaning paranormal investigators.

The late, lamented, John A. Keel (author of OPERATION TROJAN HORSE, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, and many others) used hypnosis in some of his more confounding cases. I don’t know if Keel was the first paranormal investigator to do so, but I’m fairly certain. Keel was a gifted magician, something that’s always nipped at me, but I don’t think he used this to deceive anyone. He was genuinely haunted, and disturbed personally, by the so-called Mothman events in Point Pleasant, West Viriginia during 1966-1967. Much of what follows I owe to my friend Doug Skinner (at, Keel’s best friend for the last decade or so of his life. Prior to my education in the operations and trade-craft of intelligence agencies, I viewed the Mothman/UFO/Men-in-Black events as genuinely across-the-board paranormal. I was wrong.

While the actual entity sightings–over 100 reports in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and elsewhere–are hard to gauge, they at least were given by people with no vested interest in talking about them. These accounts, best documented in Keel’s THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO MYSTERIOUS BEINGS, chronicle not only the bare facts, but their effect. I fear Keel’s editors took more than their share of editorial license (“Dammit, Keel–we can’t publish this…it’s crazy!).

They had, of course, no problem with under-paying Keel, who’d done the heavy-lifting and suffered for it. But they did publish the core facts, as given. Who can claim knowledge of what such experience does to witnesses’ lives? And it matters not one jot if any were hoaxes–the people there were hammered by genuine terror and its lacerating echo through their lives. If even 1% of the 100 or so (many undoubtedly–as with UFO sightings–went unreported) were real, that ought to tell us something.

Keel, knowing the power of hypnosis, however was not prepared for what happened during some sessions with witnesses. From FATE, September 2007: “Several contactees (people who thought they had met the flying-saucer occupants) had emerged and I was hypnotizing them and studying them carefully. I found these people had two levels of memory. The first level, the surface level, recalled under hypnosis a fascinating adventure, usually of being taken aboard a wonderful flying saucer. But the hidden level, which was difficult to get at and usually took several hypnotic sessions before it could be reached, rejected the false memory (confabulation) and painted a different picture. Most of these contactees had been transported to a van or house where they were subjected to brain-washing techniques and injected with an unknown substance. Then they were given a confabulation to remember and were released. But no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t find out who was doing this. The whole contactee syndrome was a fraud, but the contactees were innocent victims. Why was anyone going to all the trouble to create these contactees? Many people in West Virginia told me of seeing strange, unmarked vans cruising the back roads at night.”

One cannot help wonder, after learning more, why the Point Pleasant events and all they entail occurred during a particularly toxic period in Cold War tension. Keel, in THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, gives the barest hint of this. Later investigations (most from Andy Colvin who, say what you will, has unearthed telling–even shocking–information) opened a smudged window onto what very well, at least in part, might have been a sub-project in the CIA’s infamous MK-ULTRA campaign to figure methods of complete control of the human mind.

A 1977 congressional hearing blew the doors off MK-ULTRA, to a point. Briefly: experimental use of drugs, deception, disinformation, and even torture against American citizens in the guise of national security. The bulk of these files were destroyed, due to “a burgeoning paper problem.” One wonders what nefarious operations will remain forever unacknowledged. Point Pleasant, with its proximity to Washington, D.C., and the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping concern in Green Bank, West Virginia, and nearby Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio (possible test-point for classified aircraft) might have served as the optimal test-ground for psychological black-ops.

As noted by the late Jim Keith, and by Colvin, the Mothman events might have started with genuine paranormal chaos, but was noticed and exploited by those with an interest in testing new trade-craft hidden behind–perhaps mimicking–the unprecedented anomalies, perhaps with an eye toward using them against foreign threats. As insane and paranoid as this might sound, keep in mind that the possibility of nuclear attack against America was utmost in the minds of those tasked to protect us.

As Keel noted in THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, UFOs could be observed nearly every night after 8:00PM in Point Pleasant. They always approached from the south and moved north. The vehicles were described, mostly but not always, as the classic “flying saucer,” with fierce, prismatic lighting, and silent. Was military technology of the time capable of such a display? Yes.  Some of these might even have been low-observable dirigibles–blimps. This would account for their hovering, and silence. It is a stretch, but not much. This cannot explain the more bizarre reports of spontaneous trance, transient voice phenomena (often heard through television and telephone), and of course the entity sightings.

I think Keel was aware of more than he would–or could–share with readers. He was a driven, culturally sophisticated (read his 1957 study, JADOO, if in doubt) intellectual, yet humble and able to meet and converse with people from all walks of life. I have visited Point Pleasant many times, broken bread with those still living who were afflicted and otherwise affected not only by the paranormal events, but who lost loved ones on the Silver Bridge collapse of 15 December 1967–13 months after the first Mothman sighting. All speak highly of Mr. Keel and his gentle, considerate concern. A far cry from some recent investigators and their manipulative, narcissistic posturings.

However unsatisfying, I leave you with the words of John Alva Keel: “The situation is infinitely more complex than any of these interesting but simplistic explanations. If UFOs are real, and if they are extraterrestrial, then all of the patterns indicate they are totally hostile. If this is the case, then the proper government procedure would be to set up a false PR front to deal with the random reports and lull the public while a secret agency made a real effort to cope with the problem. If they are not real but are only part of the wild, wild world of psychic phenomena and chimeras, then there is nothing that can be done and no amount of investigating can be expected to be fruitful. So it is a no-win dilemma for the civilian saucer sleuth with a straitjacket as the reward.”




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