The Nature of Some Abduction Researcher Relationships
by Carol Rainey

Over the past several weeks, something significant may just have happened to the way alien abduction research will proceed (or not) in the future. Within the Internet community of people fascinated by such matters, we’ve all been struck by the strident tones and the smack-down volleys of exchanges on list serves, blogs, and emails.

Some terribly sensitive nerve has been hit by both the revelations over the David Jacobs/Emma Woods case and by my own observations about the research and ethics that I once participated in, both as a filmmaker and the former wife of premiere abduction researcher Budd Hopkins. And it’s hard to say what part of the ufological body has the more intense feelings -- those who adamantly stand by their men, David Jacobs and Budd Hopkins, or those who have been somewhat silently leery of abduction research for years and now are finally speaking out. Since it’s better politics and better gig-getting not to speak out, many of the field’s leaders avoid both camps.

Let me suggest that we might learn something from the very nature of the relationships between some abduction researchers and their subjects. We have only to look at two such pairs – Budd Hopkins and Linda Cortile versus David Jacobs and Emma Woods.

In the past week, the loudest calls have been for Emma Woods to sit down and shut up, enough already in the public forum. The boys are sick of her whining about the abuse she experienced from Jacobs. Although I now agree that a strictly public appeal for understanding is no longer serving Ms. Woods well at all, perhaps we might consider as a possibility that she's enacting a very old, tried and true biological strategy. It's engaging in a relationship that I believe, after years of observation of people having genuine anomalous experiences, sometimes occurs between the abduction researcher and the subject.

In the natural world, we call it 'parasitism', where a symbiotic relationship grows up between two different species. So we might hypothesize that the host, the abduction hypnotist, has naively induced in his research subject a type of parasitic dependency on his kindly, caring, ever-present, father-knows-best persona. He, the host, gets a great deal from this relationship and continues it as long as it's clear that he's the main beneficiary of the mutually supportive relationship that parasitism tends to be. So far, so good.

Now, let's talk about one other such relationship that I know quite directly: that of Linda Cortile and Budd Hopkins and their joint output of the book Witnessed: the True Story of the Brooklyn Bridge UFO Abductions. (Yes, it was a joint output. I have Xeroxes of the reams of purple prose generated by Cortile -- her experience, scene by scene, with pages and pages of dialogue, and presented to Hopkins for his usage.) That abduction researcher and his subject also developed an extremely close bond, with Hopkins, the host in our ongoing biological analogy, as the apparent main beneficiary.

In this case, the attached subject, Linda Cortile, also gained enormously from the relationship - socially, egoistically, artistically, emotionally, and financially. She was literally enfolded into Hopkins' world of Manhattanite Ufology.

I am not downplaying or denying the anguish Cortile went through in the first couple of years when she was trying to come to grips with her anomalous encounters, whatever they were. But ultimately, I suggest, she benefited from the entire experience as Hopkins’ celebrated abductee and her life changed for the better.

The differences between the postures exhibited by abductees Linda Cortile and Emma Woods are quite striking - possibly the reason for the displays of male animus. Cortile has been the dutiful good parasite, grooming her host, Hopkins, now for over twenty years. She has supported his every word, his every claim. They've appeared together in media interviews, at UFO conferences and on social occasions for the past two decades.

And Hopkins continues to support her even when he knows she has lied to him about the case. If Witnessed ever does make it to Hollywood, Cortile still stands to profit financially. This is working well for everybody, including the devoted followers of their leader. She confirms him: he confirms her: the followers get to keep on believing.

Ms. Woods, though, has not played the 'good parasite' who continually affirms the host. But then, Jacobs has not played the 'good host', either. Everything went topsy-turvy when the abductee stood up for herself and pointed out that, actually, it was Jacobs who had turned into the parasite. And she wasn’t feeling the magic she’d once felt in their interactions. She was feeling the damage.

The upshot of comparing these two cases seems to suggest that even when these relationships appear to be working, as with Cortile and Hopkins, they may not be working to help us know anything that is verifiable or accurate about a very real phenomenon. (See the newly posted documentary excerpt about the apparently hoaxed key witness in the Linda Case below).

It appears to many people interested in this field now that the mutually supportive 'parasitism' model that is UFO abduction research has imploded. People having these intrinsically human phenomenological experiences - which I've consistently respected - will need to find another model of inquiry into their experiences. A model that puts their own safety first, one that puts a premium on how and by what valid methods knowledge is gained and how it might be verified.


Carol Rainey


  1. Anonymous6.3.11

    Hasn't anyone around here read Running with Scissors? All Budd and Dave need is their masterbatorium.

  2. This is both fascinating and disturbing for all the obvious reasons. I think if we imagined this was about an event that had nothing to do with an abduction in the sense that it was not loaded with such strong emotional responses on either side of the court of opinion, and was a actual "court case" about an alleged generic event, the evidence speaks for itself, which is the willingness to suspend and inflate a clear case of the fabrication of evidence. The accompanying hyperbole as well as the vested unwillingness to deny other disturbing issues with abduction cases perhaps proves that a couple of bad apples spoil the bunch.

  3. Hello Ms. Rainey! a very interesting article, and i can't wait to see the rest of your documentary.

    "A model that puts their own safety first, one that puts a premium on how and by what valid methods knowledge is gained and how it might be verified." how i also hope that this becomes the motto of future research into anomalous experiences. i had a near death experience over 25 years ago - the potential for psychological, emotional, social, ontological, etc. 'explosions' after such an event is extraordinarily high. Any research into these parts of human experience cannot be taken seriously unless it's main motivation is helping experiencers to become healthy and to come to terms with these events. (has it ever occurred to any researcher that figuring out what helps experiencers may provide insight in to the nature of these events?)

    I agree that Ms. Woods' approach is probably stressful and non-productive for her - but i very much understand her commitment to making other experiencers aware of the pitfalls and dangers of many practices current in alien abduction research. don't forget that her mental health professional encouraged her to seek help from Mr. Jacobs, as she was mentally healthy and the professional had no tools to help her with her anomalous experiences. the impact of such experiences can be very difficult to deal with, and there's not much help out there.

    again, thank you Ms. Rainey for making a very helpful contribution to the ongoing dialogue about researching these events. steph

  4. My own views on the abuse of hypnotic techniques and the victims of those who use them in 'abduction research' are well known. Unfortunately, unless and until a high-profile case succeeds in claiming substantial damages from their 'abduction therapist' the entertainment (for that is what it is) will continue at the expense of the subjects.

    It also has to be said that the subjects themselves and anyone that referred them to these dabbling hypnotists should bear some part of the responsibility - who would allow the local butcher to carry out heart surgery, or refer someone to the butcher instead of a trained professional?

  5. I agree with Mr. McGonagle's sentiments. I would point out that by coming forward with her case, Miss Woods HAS taken responsibility. Mr. Jacobs had, afterall, marginalized previous complainers with the charge of "insanity."

    It would be interesting to inquire as to whether these noncompliant, "crazy", ex-patients of Mr. Jacobs were referred for treatment to Temple University Psychiatrists/Psychoanalysts and whether these conveniently crazy ex-clients were eventually hospitalized as a result of the referral.

    Was he creating symptoms only to have his University treat them?

    If Mr. Jacobs acted as an internal referral service, did he receive remuneration for said services? Doesn't it serve a double purpose? His psychiatrist friends receive the referral. He gets to say noncompliant clients are crazy.

    I'd suggest less spooky inquiries into his motivations than alien evasion are likely to be more productive.

    Miss Rainey has covered the other half of the meter. Yes, abductees return the favor and hoax researchers. The commitment to the hoaxed narrative by the researcher measures whether his is a faith-based or a scientific endeavor.

    Budd Hopkins is a religious figure.

  6. Anonymous25.2.14

    Re: "Affirming the Host" - Jacobs has always struck me as an egotistical pompous pedant, and this opinion was formed long before Carol Rainey ever knew him. He treated his research subjects like beetles to be displayed with all of their sub-intelligent attributes, (almost everyone is sub-intelligent once Jacobs compares them to himself) stuck by a pin to a cork board. He REQUIRED affirmation from them by negating and NOT INCLUDING information contrary to his personal beliefs about the phenomena - long before Emma Woods showed up. To a lesser extent, Budd Hopkins did the same, and to an even lesser extent, so did John Mack. When several of Mack's original four abductees commented that aliens were "Physical, and not an encroachment of the spiritual realm on the physical realm" he dismissed this information and kept repeating himself that he believed the phenomena could be an encroachment of the spiritual on the physical realm. He did this because he was looking to the phenomena to convince him of the life of spirit - something his own religion had failed to do for him. Did his abductee research subjects appreciate this need in him? Not really. Was this wrong of him as a researcher? Yes. A little. But it was also very human and personal bias is often present in social sciences research. When Hopkins research subjects refused to characterize themselves as rape victims who were so deceived by aliens they had no idea what their experiences were about... he often dismissed or refused to include their information. The point is this - the dynamic was NOT AT ALL a situation of "parasite on host" - "go along to get along" parasitic behavior on the part of abductees... but of selective hearing and cherry picking data on the part of researchers. And abductees, most of them in the closet, and unable to speak up for themselves to a wider audience, were not ABLE TO CONTRADICT IN PUBLIC their researchers when their researchers CONTINUOUSLY CONTRADICTED THEM IN PUBLIC. Carol Rainey was obviously not privy to the back room conversations of abductee research subjects complaining that they were not "being listened to" by their researchers, This includes Mack, the most academic and respected of the three mentioned. While outsiders may split hairs and form negative angles that are hostile to both abductees and researchers, the bulk of abductees are more likely to report that they were grateful to receive any assistance from researchers at all... and therefore less likely to complain loudly when a researcher refused to include their information in entirety as it was reported in the summation of their findings. One never wants to kick the shins of the firefighter who saves one from the burning building. The combination of wanting to maintain one's anonymity and wanting to withhold negative comments towards those who have been so helpful in a personal emergency is not parasitic behavior, it is respectful, socially aware, diplomatic, gratitude. It doesn't truly help the science... but then again, neither does researcher bias.