By Lucien Greaves
This article, an interview with Emma Woods, alien abduction retractor, was originally posted on Greaves' Patreon.
In the course of my research into the "recovered memory" controversy, I attended support groups for people who alleged to have been in physical contact with traveling extraterrestrials on Earth, and I spoke with many of the alleged Abductees themselves. Alien abduction is a troubling topic for those who make favorable claims for the veracity of recovered memories in the face of evidence that most, if not all, such "memories" are tainted by confabulation or entirely manufactured. Often, this question is brushed aside as irrelevant by those who defend therapies that seek to reveal inferred repressed memories on the grounds that the reality of such memories are inconsequential to the healing process: if the client believes such things happened, it is the therapists role to validate and work with the narrative given. This makes two false assumptions: 1) that the therapy itself played no role in the elements of confabulation, and 2) that the confabulations don't exacerbate and/or compound whatever preexisting problems their were, but are merely an expression of those preexisting problems. In reality, false memories of trauma can be truly traumatic for those who hold them. Harvard Research Psychologist Richard McNally and his team found, in a test that measured psychophysiological responding to script-driven imagery administered to those who claimed traumatic recovered memories of alien abduction, that the "memories" of ET abuse were no less traumatic to those who held and believed them than real traumatic memories of verifiable events held by victims of PTSD.
The pseudonymous "Emma Woods" is a woman who came to believe, falsely, that she was abducted by extraterrestrials in the course of engaging in hypnotic regression sessions with Dr. David Jacobs, a then-professor of history at Temple University and popular author regarding the abduction phenomenon.
LG: I have that it was back in 1993 that you first consulted a therapist regarding “anomalous experiences”. What type of anomalous experiences were these?
EW: I had experiences all through my life. A range of things. Some of them were the sort of classic [extraterrestrial] abduction-type experiences, although I don’t think that that’s necessarily the explanation for them...
LG: So, sleep paralysis -- that type of thing?
EW: No. I don’t think so. I know that you probably have a much more skeptical view than I do. My own view of it is there is a real phenomenon there, but that we don’t really understand what causes it, and I don’t necessarily think that the alien abduction theory is the right one. I just think that it’s probably a type of human experience that people have had right through the ages, but we haven’t really grasped what causes it. So that’s sort of where I’m coming from. And I have had experiences along those lines that I can’t really explain, but I’ve had them all my life -- since I was a child. I didn’t really find out about the abduction phenomenon until I was in my late teens, I think. I didn’t realize my experiences fit the pattern of those types of experience until I was in my thirties. That’s how that progressed.
LG: So where you’re at now is that it’s not necessarily alien abduction, but you don’t feel it’s necessarily entirely internal, or psychological, either?
EW: Yeah. I think there are definitely internal and psychological aspects to it. I think there has to be because we perceive it through our own psychology, and I suspect that whatever it is that [causes this phenomenon] does interact with our psychology, but where the boundaries are, I have no idea. That’s just a theory, anyway. The bottom-line is: I really don’t know.
LG: So you worked about 10 years with a therapist beginning in 1993. It seems apparent that he must have shared this opinion that something was going on outside of you that wasn’t a psychological phenomenon, even though he was working with you in his capacity as a therapist. Am I right?
EW: He came to that view. He approached it from a completely neutral standpoint. I think initially he was just listening to me. I think over time he came to the view that there was a phenomenon there. He didn’t understand what it was, and he took a completely neutral view of it. He suggested I record my experiences as a way to give him my understanding of them so that I could process them better. That was actually how I started to look into my own experiences in a more systematic way. Even now he still has a completely neutral view on it.
LG: It was him who referred you to Dr. David Jacobs at Temple University?
LG: Because he was retiring as a therapist. So this was a means of referring you to an on-going therapist -- ?
EW: No. By the time he had come to think that there was something going on that we don’t understand, he contacted David, because David was an academic attached to a University. David had on his website a page for therapists. He said that he could provide information to therapists to help them with their clients. My therapist actually emailed him and asked him where he could send him information to help him with my case because he thought he was contacting an academic researcher who would give reliable information to help him. I think that was about 6 months before my therapist retired. Then David responded to my therapist that he’d helped many therapists around the world. He sent over a questionnaire and some notes. Then David sent over his phone number at home, said I could call him at home. Which I did. Then David started to communicate with me. Then my therapist retired. So most the communication from then on was between David and myself, my therapist was much more in the background.
LG: But your therapist must have already felt that you had probably been abducted by aliens to have contacted Dr. Jacobs at all.
EW: No. I don’t think he did. I think he thought that there was a phenomenon that we don’t understand, and that David was working with that phenomenon, and that therefore he might have useful information, but he didn’t accept David’s view on it at all, and he was always very clear that he didn’t have an opinion. And that was fine with me because I had the same view. I was interested to talk to David, because I knew had talked to lots of people like myself. I could tell when I spoke to him that he knew a lot about the experiences, but I didn’t accept his theory either. I just thought of it as a theory. I separated out the two things, and I think my therapist did the same.
LG: Okay. To my mind, Dr. David Jacobs is historian -- a Dr. of History at Temple [University] -- but also only known as an extraterrestrial abduction researcher. I don’t know him for any other anomalous experience research. But what type of screening did Dr. Jacobs do before accepting you were abducted by aliens?
EW: He initially said that my experiences sounded like the classic experiences he’d heard thousands of times before from abductees. He said to me that the only way to know for sure is if I had hypnosis. I had no concept that he’d ever conduct hypnosis with me because we don’t live in the same country. I just thought, well, that’s not going to happen. I was keeping a record or my experiences and he was really interested in that, and he said that he would help me with that, and he gave me feedback on it. We communicated for a couple of years, and I sent him part of my record. He didn’t do any other screening apart from asking me about my experiences and reading the record that I was keeping about them. He basically told me that they were the classic experiences but that the only way that I would know for sure is if I had hypnosis.
LG: There’s this idea of the “classic experience” with the alien Greys, which I only had a vague idea about until I attended some abductee sessions and listened to them talk, and I was rather surprised how actually diverse the classic abduction is and how many different types of experiences people were reporting. There was nothing uniform about it. So, I was wondering, what is really the “classic abduction” in the case of Dr. Jacobs?
EW: I absolutely agree with that, and I think David singles out a few types of experience if he thinks those are the classic ones, and he ignores the rest of it. In my case, I think he did something similar in that he -- he didn’t stop me from talking about things that didn’t fit his theory, but he definitely focused on specific things. [...] I agree think there’s a lot more diversity...
LG: I met some of the hypnotherapists that work with abductees, and there are different camps of thought within them. Some seem to feel that the aliens are completely peaceful and loving and trying to help humans, and there are a few that feel that there is something sinister afoot. From what I know about Dr. Jacobs, I think his aliens are the sinister type.
EW: Yeah. Exactly. When I started communicating with him, I didn’t have a view -- I didn’t expect necessarily that it was aliens. I kept that agnostic view of it right up until I started having hypnosis. Once I started having hypnosis... I didn’t realize how much it was going to affect me. It really affected me. Once I started being hypnotized, I started to take on his view that it was a very negative, fearful thing. Before that, it wasn’t. I was distressed by the fact that I had these experiences and I couldn’t talk about them or understand them, but I didn’t have that very fearful view of it that David promotes with people. But, yeah, he definitely does promote that really, really strongly, and all through the hypnosis [he promotes that view] as well.
LG: So the hypnosis was very effective in ingraining that narrative into your mind?
EW: Yes. Very much. He told me before I had hypnosis that I would be completely in control. That I would be conscious and would know exactly what is going on. He said it was possible to confabulate false memories, but that he prided himself on being able to tell what was confabulation. That I could basically trust him to sift it out, and that he’d tell me if I was confabulating. I realized I was very hypnotize-able when I started because I went into [a trance state quickly] and it quite surprised me. But I didn’t really understand that I didn’t really have the same critical faculties while I was hypnotized. I thought that I was thinking normally. Later -- quite a few years after my first session with him, I listened to the recordings. I was just absolutely amazed at how I was accepting things that I would never, ever normally accept. I don’t think that people who are very hypnotize-able, and who go to him, are really informed of how you totally lose control in a way that you can’t recognize.
LG: In these hypnotic sessions, how did he suggest these things to you? How did you come to confabulate memories of sinister abductions?
EW: He basically lectured me all through the hypnosis sessions. He told me what to expect. He talked to me, told me what other research subjects remembered. He told me his thoughts and views on it. He just talked to me all through the sessions while I was hypnotized. It just went straight into my subconscious. Then I just began to remember things along those lines. And my hypnotic memories are quite different from my conscious memories. I remember whole worlds sort of opened up for me. I had all these memories. They fit right in with his theories... Now that I’ve listened to the tapes, I can see the development -- I would remember things after he’d suggested it to me. I can see how he had created that whole body of memory in me that’s just [false]. It isn’t real. In fact, it still feels real now.
LG: So you feel that your false memories are perhaps even more vivid and emotive than your actual continuous memory?
EW: No, but they are quite similar. They are distressing to me because a lot of them are pretty awful memories. I’m, at the moment, still trying to process them. I’ve tried various ways to deal with it. I haven’t been successful so far. Still trying to do that now. At the moment I’m going for walks in places where I remembered horrible things happening to me under hypnosis. I’m trying to go to places so I can desensitize myself to it because I have a very strong reaction when I go past those places. They are [suggested] memories. They just feel quite similar to my real memories, except that they don’t have the same continuity. They are kind of more isolated.
LG: You signed a Temple University [Human Subjects] consent form before undergoing these hypnotic sessions with Dr. Jacobs.
LG: On this, it says that he was gathering an oral history, not that this was a type of therapy.
EW: It said on the form that I was going to be participating in scholarly historical research. It had a phone number that I could call for more information about my rights. He very much presented it to me as though I was going to be a research subject of Temple University, and that the research was being done under the university. When I later filed complaints with them, the Office for Human Research Protection [OHRP] did investigate my complaint, though they refused to accept that [Temple was] responsible for it. They basically didn’t investigate it, in my opinion. They just covered it up. Then I later filed complaints with the US Department of Health and Human Services office for human research protection who oversees Temple University in that regard. At that stage, Temple University began to change, and they made a case saying that he was just conducting an oral history, not research. I think they did it because they didn’t want the OHRP to investigate it, and the OHRP doesn’t investigate oral history. So I think they reached for that at that point.
LG: That does sound like a stretch to me. I can’t say that I know the standards, but it sounds odd to me that any oral history would be collected under hypnosis.
EW: David very much acted as a therapist and as a researcher. I don’t think it fits the criteria of oral history at all. At some point this year I’m going to be asking the OHRP to review that, and making the case that he was actually conducting research. I’m not sure how that will go, but that’s something I’m going to try.
LG: I think you can point to some of his own writings that describe this as both therapy and research.
EW: Yeah. Absolutely.
LG: How many sessions did you undergo with him, about?
EW: I had 87 sessions, and in those sessions he did 91 hypnotic regressions. And they were altering my life. I think the youngest [memory] was when from I was about 5, right up to when I was in my early forties.
LG: And this was in the course of about 2 years?
EW: They were about every 2 weeks. Sometimes there was a slightly longer gap, but generally it was once a fortnight. They were several hours long each. The average was about 5 hours long each. Some were over 6 hours, some about 4 hours -- something like that. So, long sessions. LG: Despite the discontinuity of some of your false memories, did you develop a consistent narrative at least of the phenomena that you were experiencing? EW: It became embedded into my own real memories from my life, because he would take an event that I had conscious memory of, then I would remember the start of that event... In the middle, I think, there would be a great big long confabulated hypnotic memory, and then it would taper back out into the end of my conscious memory. So he embedded it right through my life. It took on a kind of story. I think the fact that it was meshed in with real memories and real events may be why it feels quite real, and it’s made it hard to -- I can’t tell myself it’s false and have it just go away. I know it’s false, but it’s still there. I think that’s partly why [I’ve not fully overcome the false memories] -- because it was mixed in with real memories. The narrative that came out of it was just his classic story: that I had been abducted by aliens into a UFO from the time that I was a small child -- that since I was a small child, I had been introduced to hybrid children and played with them -- that I’d had lots of medical procedures done on me, lots of psychological procedures -- that throughout my adolescence and adulthood I was being continuously abducted -- I was having gynecological procedures done on me -- that I was engaged in sexual activities with hybrids, that I’d been forced to engage in sexual activities with other abductees... Just his whole scenario that he writes about in his book... I just remembered that for myself, all through my life.
LG: There’s a whole other camp in recovered memory in which people are coerced into believing satanic abuse narratives. They are remarkably similar and both take on these sexual overtones, which I begin to think tell us more about the therapist than anything else. Dr. Jacobs went so far as to ask you for unwashed panties...?
EW: In my opinion, he behaved quite inappropriately.