Summary: Interview with prominent UFO skeptic Phil Klass.
NOVA: Phil, you've been following the so-called alien abduction movement very closely, perhaps more closely than anyone. Tell us how long you've been studying this, and how much evidence you have found to date, that supports the contentions of people like John Mack and Budd Hopkins?
KLASS: ... I've been interested in and investigating and following claims of UFO abductions for almost 30 years.
NOVA: In all that time, how much hard evidence have you found?
KLASS:...In nearly 30 years of searching, investigating famous cases, I have yet to find one that cannot be explained in down-to-earth prosaic terms. Therefore, if somebody says to me, "I have been abducted by strange looking creatures that do these dreadful things to me," I'm quite confident that they could not possibly be extraterrestrials. Maybe they're mischievous Irish leprechauns; maybe they're the mischievous elves of Santa Claus; maybe they are agents of the devil -- now I don't believe in any of these. But I have not spent 30 years investigating whether the leprechauns exist. But I am quite confident that there is no scientific credible evidence to show that we've had alien visitors, let alone that they're doing these dreadful things.
NOVA: Phil, tell us about "The Phil Klass Ten Thousand Dollar Challenge," please?
KLASS: If extraterrestrials are abducting earthlings, as is claimed, then it is time to alert the federal government to defend us, for our government to join with other governments to defend this planet. To encourage those who claim to have been abducted, to report it to the FBI -- our national law enforcement agency responsible for kidnapping.
I have gone into my lifetime savings, and offer to pay 10 thousand dollars to any person who believes they've been abducted, to report it to the FBI. Let the FBI investigate it. If the FBI comes back and says, 'We believe this person's story,' I will then go into my life savings and present this check for 10 thousand dollars to that person. And thereby, we will have alerted our federal government.
We can enlist the defenses of this nation to defend our people. And if this is simply a cult where people are needlessly being manipulated, and alien abductions are fantasy, then we can free the public from worrying about a non-existent threat. So I risk my life savings for the well-being of those who claim they have been abducted. If they have, then lets defend and protect them. And if this is simply fantasy, then lets dispel it, let's push it off our plate of things to worry about.
NOVA: Budd Hopkins and alien investigators claim there's a lot of hard physical evidence from these experiences. How compelling do you find that evidence?
KLASS: The evidence, first off, is not universal and it is not compelling. Budd Hopkins likes to claim that anyone with a scar on their body, that they cannot remember how they got it -- maybe in their childhood -- that that scar was caused by aliens. Nonsense.
When I give UFO lectures, I ask people in the audience: How many of you have a scar on your body somewhere? And nearly every hand goes up. And then when I ask: Can you remember how you got the scar? Almost no hands go up. Because most of our scars and bodily injuries -- particularly the minor ones -- occur when we're children, when we are learning how to rollerskate and ride bicycles and doing the sort of things where we injure ourselves.
Missing time is supposed to be another mark of abduction. Heavens, I experience missing time every time that I look at my watch and say: My goodness, it's two p.m., I thought it was only around noon. When I go for a drive, I typically experience missing time, because I don't recall passing this bridge or passing that bridge. It is automatic. It is routine.
....So -- now it is claimed that the aliens leave implants. Fine. And a few such things have been removed from the hands or the bodies of people who allegedly were abducted. Are they micro, tiny electronic -- micro electronic devices? No. Nothing unusual about them.
And, in fact, the -- Dr. Mack has admitted that he's pretty much given up hope of coming up with a single physical artifact. Now, wait a minute. If aliens are abducting thousands or millions of Americans, and if they're putting implants in many of them. All it would take would be one little micro electronic, or one unusual device that we could say: This could not have been made on this earth. And that would be the evidence that would convince even me. But so far, they cannot come up with any scientifically credible evidence.
NOVA: Budd Hopkins presents this as very good hard physical evidence, of scoop marks, what do you think you're seeing? What's going on there?
KLASS: It's simply a small scar on the leg. I have a small scar on my leg. Many people have scars that they obtained in childhood, skating, riding bike, and they can't remember exactly how they got it.
NOVA: Now, what about this? This looks pretty compelling to me.
KLASS: This is a spiral in the nose and of (Jane Doe). And it was -- the x-ray allegedly was taken by a cousin of hers. When Budd Hopkins learned of it and said: Let's try to get that spiral out, lo and behold (Jane Doe) wakened one morning, nose bleed -- the spiral was missing. I suspect that it was some sort of a spiral device that she inserted in her own nose.
KLASS: And this is simply a fungus which is sometimes referred to as fairy rings. Because it typically grows or forms in a circle. Two hundred years ago, when farmers found this, they said -- they named it fairy rings, because they assumed that fairies came and danced around the circle at midnight. Today, Budd Hopkins says this must be where a UFO landed. Simply no evidence for that. It's simply a fungus.
NOVA: What do you mean when you say that you cannot prove a negative?
KLASS: Let me give an example. No one has ever proved, to my knowledge, that Santa Claus does not exist. And if one were to fly to the North Pole and say: Well, look, there's no toy factory there. A believer could argue: Well, Santa Clause knew you were coming and moved his operations to the South Pole. So you fly down to the South Pole. No Santa Claus factory, toy factory there. So the believer would say: Oh, he moved it back up to the North Pole. So you simply cannot prove -- one cannot prove that ghosts do not exist; one cannot prove that leprechauns too do not exist. One simply cannot prove a negative.
NOVA: What accounts for the alleged great similarity of these stories, if not true experience?
KLASS: It is claimed by the leaders of the cult, that there is great similarity in these people's stories. That is what they say when they're on television. In private, they admit that there are great differences. For example, an analysis of 95 abductees' stories in terms of what were the extraterrestrials wearing? Thirty-seven percent of the people said they were wearing capes or cloaks, like a minister. Ah, I think 28 percent said they were wearing coveralls. Ah, 20-odd percent said they were wearing jumpsuit; and 22 percent said the ET's were naked. Now, is that similar?
David Jacobs has admitted that some of the abductees -- in quotation marks -- say the creatures had three fingers; some say they had four fingers; some say they had six fingers; some say they have crab-like claws; some say they have web fingers, like a duck and so on. There -- this is the party line, that there's great similarity. But in fact, there is great difference.
Some describe the aliens as being short and bald and large-headed, big eyes and so on. Others describe them as being tall Nordic with long blond hair. Other abductees say that the ET's look like giant praying mantis like giant insects. And still others say that they look like lizards.
If that is similarity, then I suppose that somebody would say that Dolly Parton and I are quite similar. We both have one head, two eyes, one mouth, two ears, four fingers and a thumb on each hand. Similarity is like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. So if an extraterrestrial saw me standing alongside Dolly Parton, the extraterrestrial might say that I and Dolly Parton are similar. But I think the average human would say that we're quite different.
NOVA: So just give us a brief summary of what's behind -- the prosaic reasons (for) most UFO sightings.
KLASS: In my nearly 30 years of investigating UFO reports, I've found that roughly 97, 98 percent of the people who report seeing UFO's, are fundamentally intelligent honest people who have seen something -- usually at night, in darkness -- that is unfamiliar, that they cannot explain.
There are dozens of different things that can generate UFO reports: Re-entering satellites, meteor fireballs, hoax hot-air balloons. I was about to give a lecture out at Seattle, Washington, last June, around seven o'clock. And before going into the lecture auditorium, several other people were outside. And one of them said: 'What's that?' And we looked up, and here was an orange-structured shape UFO. And I said: 'I don't know what it is, maybe it's a balloon reflecting the rays of the setting sun.' And the other one, said: 'No, it's not moving.' Somebody said: 'Maybe it's a kite.' And I said: 'Oh, I've never seen a kite that high.' It seemed like it was up several thousand feet.
And we stood there, and finally, one man said: 'I think I've got binoculars in the car.' He ran to the car, got his binoculars, looked and said: 'It's a kite.' Now, if that man had not been there, had not had binoculars in the car, I would have to say to you that I had seen an object -- broad daylight -- in Seattle, that I could not identify. It didn't do anything extraordinary. It didn't abduct me, it didn't do sudden maneuvers and so on. So being able to find out what generates a UFO report takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a bit of luck. But there are many, many different trigger mechanisms that can generate UFO reports.
NOVA: So what about John Mack?
KLASS: John Mack, being a psychiatrist, puts him -- and a doctor -- in a special position, in my view. That he has an obligation, if somebody comes and reports strange experiences, as a trained psychiatrist he has an obligation to explore all possible prosaic explanations. He has an obligation to, if he thinks he has discovered a new psychiatric phenomenon, he has an obligation, I think, to conduct scientific investigations. Rigorous -- rigorous scientific methodology. And he has not done that, to the best of my knowledge.
NOVA: So, in short, how much evidence is there for UFOs -- hard evidence of alien abduction?
KLASS: There simply is no scientifically credible evidence that we have alien visitors. If there were, there would no longer be a mystery; there would no longer be a controversy. ....So even if the idea of extraterrestrial visitors is a bit far out, we've had more than 50 years to come up with artifacts, with evidence. And nobody has been able to come up with it. And in fact, Betty and Barney Hill, in 1961, who claimed they'd been aboard a flying saucer -- or they made the claim in 1966. If they had brought back a quartz watch, wristwatch, in mid '66 -- could not have made this on this earth -- and we would have looked at that and would have said: My goodness, that proves their story is true, they were on board an extraterrestrial craft. That single artifact. 'Cause a quartz watch could not have been made on this earth at any price in 1966. But in all of 50 years, nearly 50 years since UFOs were first reported or discovered or invented, nobody has come up with any credible evidence.