False Memories and Imagination


By John S. Carpenter, MSW, LCSW

“…studies by the Los Angeles Police Department of over 500 traumatic crime cases revealed that verifiable data retrieved from hypnosis sessions were determined to be accurate 90% of the time - better than that of witnesses with conscious recall.”


With the release of Dr. John Mack’s book, Abduction, and his many appearances on various television specials and talk shows, the skeptical point of view had to surface with some credible explanation other than what Dr. Mack was offering. The hottest and most recent explanation going around is that of the False Memory Syndrome - which simply means that the subject is imagining his experiences through the collective effects of suggestive interviewers, hypnotic trance, subconscious needs, and information of a science fiction nature already absorbed and present in the unconscious mind.

The widely publicized False Memory Syndrome is a very real phenomenon that has been basically associated with stories of people suddenly claiming remembrances of childhood abuse after becoming involved with therapists and hypnosis. Careful investigation of such cases has usually revealed carelessness and a sloppy, suggestive approach by enthusiastic and emotionally-involved counselors. Even books contain highly suggestive remarks such as this quote found in The Courage to Heal:

“If you are unable to remember any specific instances...but still have a feeling that something abusive happened to you, then it probably did...If you think you were abused - and your life shows the symptoms, then you were!”

Subjects Not Suggestible

These kinds of careless suggestions also exist in the UFO field among eager investigators, inexperienced hypnotherapists and opinionated (therefore suggestive) UFO groups. This can and has lured avid “believers” who may have a psychological need to belong and boast an affiliation with UFO contacts. This, however, is quite different from the typical profile of the credible abductee who usually disbelieves initially, remains skeptical, private, anonymous, and uncertain. What serious researchers and qualified mental health professionals continue to report is that these subjects are not suggestible - nor can they be led in logical directions when detailing an experience. They insist on describing bizarre details which make absolutely no sense to them to the extent that they feel they must be going crazy! Yet, their reports match with an uncanny and unprecedented accuracy given the nature of the material. But it is largely assumed by the skeptical element nationwide that all abduction researchers and professionals are carelessly enthusiastic, sloppy, and highly suggestive. This is simply not true. There are a number of very careful and skillful persons doing excellent work in a quiet and serious manner. Subjects have not allowed us to lead them despite the variety of cleverly worded questions and opinionated remarks thrown at them deliberately. If the subject wanted to please the researcher, he should be led all over the place without much difficulty. But this just is not happening.

Chilling Similar Details

There have been hypnotherapists and psychologists who knew nothing about UFOs and found accounts pouring out of their clients - sometimes without the client even linking it to the UFO subject himself. Occasionally, different mental health professionals have worked with separate witnesses from the same encounter - and without comparing notes or expectations, found striking matches in specific details between the accounts of these separate witnesses from independent investigations. It is most chilling when they are able to describe what each other was doing while aboard the spacecraft at certain points in the accounts. This is what you will not find with the False Memory Syndrome because the nature of imagination does not work in such a manner that two different people would report the exact same scenario with matching details that place those  persons aboard a craft at the same point in time knowing what each other was doing. Imagination is boundless and unlimited, especially with all the various kinds of science fiction and outer space adventures in the media these days. Imagination could create vague parallels and basic themes that match in general ways, but not in the multitude of specific and minute matching details.

A 98% Percent Correlation

For example, outer space fiction on television provides us presently with a creative array of many images and possible scenarios. Regarding alien communication, think how many different types of vocal sounds, bleeps, grunts, screeches, computerized languages and tones of audible voices have been presented to us! Yet, despite that creative and pervasive influence, why do we get a better than 98% correlation among carefully collected accounts of non-verbal, non-audible communication which is essentially telepathic? Why don’t we find more interesting descriptions of spacecraft interiors instead of the usual colorless, gray, barren and drab rooms that lack wallpaper, furniture, hanging pictures, plants, or any sense of decor? Where is the imagination? How could so many people from so many different backgrounds, intellects, experiences, and ethnic influences ever begin to tell the same kind of unimaginative scenario? In fact, it is this absence of imaginative detail that is providing researchers with clearer and more predictable patterns of data.

The Club Nobody Wants to Join

With false memories of sexual abuse, an experience between humans is created - a much easier kind of story to fabricate from our own backgrounds and feelings toward relatives than one of a bizarre and confusing alien abduction by beings that we have never seen before in our lives. Even though it would be much easier to create a story of human abuse which could be accepted and believed by our society, no two sexual abuse accounts could be that alike over thousands of cases due to the simple fact that this multitude of victims cannot share the same Uncle Ed or Grampa Joe, nor the same individual backgrounds from all the diverse lives involved. General themes could be similar, but here, specific details related to family tragedies would reflect the difficult life of each individual, presented in a unique and emotionally rich tapestry of that individual’s life. Because sexual abuse victims are accepted and supported by various groups and treatment centers, it becomes more reinforcing to subconsciously manufacture what the therapist is suggesting. Abductees, on the other hand, comprise “a club that nobody would want to join or belong to - including those who are already members.” The lack of qualified help or public support along with demeaning skepticism and intolerable ridicule should theoretically extinguish such a psychological desire. Yet reports continue to flow by the thousands - reminiscent of the manner in which reporters of incest were initially discredited, disbelieved, and scorned until the sheer weight from the abundance of accounts broke the doubting backbone of society, crushing the wall of public denial with a flood of credible reports that could no longer be neatly ignored.

The False Memory Syndrome attempts to add support to its own crusade by claiming that any and all such abduction tales are additional irrefutable evidence that such a process of creating false memories exists. But that is like saying that since a twenty-dollar bill can be counterfeited, all twenty-dollar bills are fakes! It could also be said that since false memories can be constructed, no memories should be trusted. But studies by the Los Angeles Police Department of over 500 traumatic crime cases revealed that verifiable data retrieved from hypnosis sessions were determined to be accurate 90% of the time - better than that of witnesses with conscious recall. This False Memory crusade can sadly lead to doubt and ridicule of victims who are accurately recalling instances of human abuse.

Accountability and the False Memory Crusaders

As researchers we must learn what we can from the False Memory Syndrome in order to make us aware of the pitfalls and dangers of sloppy, suggestive approaches in our investigations and treatment of alleged abductees. The False Memory crusaders need to recognize that the abduction phenomenon cannot be explained nor categorized so quickly with a superficial perusal and complete disregard for careful and intelligent research. They need to be able to explain how separate participants are able to “create” such matching accounts. They need to account for the lack of imagination and diversity in alien encounters that one should expect over thousands of people. They need to explain how children can report such incidents from the night before. They need to explain how bizarre abduction tales match in intricate detail and with greater frequency than the diverse accounts of human sexual abuse of which there is more public knowledge and acceptance. They need to allow for the idea that some abduction accounts may be true. And, finally, they need to account for the massive amount of correlating and supporting evidence in the form of documented absences, ground traces, unexplained incisions and scars, photos, multiple participants, shared amnesia, independent eyewitnesses, radar tracking, radioactivity, burns, affected vegetation, conscious reports, and government documents recognizing the existence of UFOs at a highly classified level of importance and secrecy. This is indeed more than just imagination or false memories.

This article is published with the expressed written permission of John S. Carpenter exclusively for publication on

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John Carpenter

John Carpenter obtained a Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology from DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, and a master’s degree in Social Work, from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. He has had advanced training in Clinical Hypnosis in order to practice as a psychiatric therapist and hypnotherapist in Branson, Missouri. For over 32 years he has counseled people in Southwest Missouri for every kind of emotional problem imaginable.

His life-long curiosity in UFOs led to his volunteering his services for over 150 cases of possible UFO abduction. Using skillful interviewing techniques and thorough hypnotic investigation, he has collected amazing patterns of data which clearly depict a consistent and coherent scenario of extraterrestrial contact. He presented six papers at the prestigious MIT Abduction Study Conference in Boston in 1992. His published papers have brought him international recognition and speaking invitations on five continents. He has presented at conferences from Australia to England, on national and international radio, television, and film documentaries. He has created and produced 10 research DVDs since 1996.

Mr. Carpenter served as MUFON’s Director of Abduction Research from 1991 until 2000 and is a founding member of JAR: Journal For Abduction Encounter Research. John Carpenter is currently writing a book titled Invaded: Human Contact With Non-Human Beings and is available for Presentations Worldwide.

Articles by John Carpenter:


An Examination of the Aftereffects [of ET-Alien Abduction]


Review of Symptomatology [of ET-Alien Abductions]


Alien Mistakes and Humorous Evidence


Coping Responses and Credibility


“False Memories and Imagination”


Therapeutic Ideas for Coping


Educating Mental Health Care Professionals about Alien Abductions


Reptilians and Other Unmentionables













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