This One's a Keeper

by Martin Kottmeyer

Late in the evening of November 19, 1980, a man and woman were driving home to Longmont, Colorado, and had a strange experience. An intense beam of blue light locked onto their car. A noise as loud as a jet engine at takeoff but similar to the whish-whish of a bull whip accompanied the light. The radio filled with static and faded out. The headlights on the car dimmed. The rear wheels of the station-wagon left the pavement as the car lifted up at an angle. Then, abruptly, sound and light ceased and they were rolling along at 50 m.p.h. Checking their watches they discovered over an hour had vanished from their lives. Though, technically, they had not actually seen a UFO, nobody could doubt one was present. The resemblance to Neary's railroad crossing encounter in Spielberg's blockbuster Close Encounters of the Third Kind leaps out at you.

Stopping at a gas station to pick up some cigarettes, the husband found his equilibrium was messed up and walked straight into a door jamb. The attendant looked at him like he was drunk. Subsequently, his wife found a rectangular shape on her abdomen and had a vivid dream of a strange craft in a field and an unusual, charismatic man or entity who communicated without speaking. She later contracted an extremely severe case of streptococcal pneumonia which nearly killed her.

The man asked around about who to discuss all this with and ended up with Richard Sigismond, a social psychologist with a developed technique in regressive hypnosis. Linda Howe acted as a technical assistant. Three hypnosis sessions ensued with the man and a story emerged to fill in the missing time. The car had not, of course, just been lifted halfway, but taken wholly into the UFO. A heavy mist with an electrical smell reminiscent of a missile base the man once worked in surrounded him and his wife.

He met a gray-skinned, big-bald-headed humanoid wearing a shiny gold uniform of unusual design. It had very long fingers. The inside of the craft had glowing walls with arches that radiated orange on their outside edges. The man was restrained by silver bands on his arms and found himself lying naked on a table. A light floated overhead. His wife was similarly naked but was standing in a zombie-like state, “switched off” in contemporary UFO parlance. The entity stripped his mind, but put it all back and more. He was given certain abilities. “Knowledge! The man gave me something,” he remarked. He now knew “there are more dimensions…things co-existing…” He had a new power to go into himself, but it was a strength that he resisted wanting to develop. He had too many responsibilities as it was.

Torn by conflicts involving this responsibility and his conservative conditioning to “regard UFO people as fringe people,” the man bowed out and subsequently moved on, leaving no forwarding address or phone number. The hope that his wife might be eventually hypnotized to give corroborative testimony had been put aside because of the severity of her illness at the time. Now it was completely eliminated. This left the case with an ambiguous status, as the investigators were the first to admit.

The case of the Longmont couple's alien abduction was still thought interesting enough to write up and publish. They were given the pseudonyms of Michael and Mary and an account appeared in the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) International UFO Reporter (Volume 7, #5, September/October 1982, pp. 9-15) with a forward by J. Allen Hynek asserting the instructive value of the case despite its frustrating denouement. It was reprinted verbatim in Flying Saucer Review a year later (Volume 29, #2, December 1983, pp. 21-26) and demonstrates the case had a cachet to it. The reprint drew a letter from Paul Johnson, a British investigator, who asserted two unnamed couples were attacked by a whish-whish noise the very evening as the Longmont abduction over in Norfolk county in England, an area full of military airfields. Nothing is said of bright light or other Longmont-type effects, however.

A capsule account of the Longmont abduction appeared in Richard Hall's Uninvited Guests (Aurora, 1988, pp. 311-312). Still better, in Bullard's exhaustive survey of pre-1985 abductions, the case's match to standard patterns not only got it into his list of top 50 cases but got it a ranking of #16. This places it well above such classics as Antonio Villas Boas, Herb Schirmer, Pascagoula, and Travis Walton. Beyond this, however, the case has languished in obscurity. Most works never cite it, even those that aspire to a measure of historical comprehensiveness like those by Jenny Randles and Peter Brookesmith.

Most UFO buffs would have a hard time trying to recall the case, but a few might recognize one thing about it. The man in the Longmont abduction was an art instructor and he produced some charcoal sketches of his encounter. His drawing of the humanoid he encountered is memorable and has been reproduced. In a few respects, it seems like your standard Gray. The head is bald and larger than normal. There are no ears. The long fingers seemed to Sigismond very similar to an autopsy drawing of a Gray's hand in Len Stringfield's retrievalist file.

Yet it is also quite different. The eyes are way too small and undistinctive. The neck should be long and thin, but probably isn't. A layered ornamental collar, something never reported before or since, surrounds it. The nose is not vestigial and seems peculiarly folded or wrinkled or slitted like gills. It wears clothes, and they are loose-fitting rather than skin-tight. Sigismond did not remark on these departures from type. In fairness, the type in part did not yet exist as we now describe it. Yet such departures are clearly a problem now. Do they prove the case is flawed, or the current image of Grays?

Some additional information should help you answer part of this question. On December 5, 1964, an episode of a science fiction/horror anthology series called The Outer Limits aired, which offers a necessary clue. Its title was “Keeper of the Purple Twilight.” The episode has been described as a wild potpourri of science fiction stereotypes: neurotic mad scientist, death rays, emotionless aliens, and a threat of invasion. The erstwhile villain of the piece is a big-domed alien named Ikar. He swaps minds with a frustrated scientist working on a disintegrator weapon. The faces of the aliens consist of a big set of horizontally aligned gills with a pair of eyes wedged in it. Photos of Ikar and his alien storm-troopers were widely used in promoting the series. Set those photos next to the Longmont humanoid and the similarities seem hard to dismiss.

The gills or folds in combo with the big-bald-head immediately evoke the sense of a resemblance. The Longmont version is conventionalized to be sure, the folds covering less of the face, but they are so unusual that no other alien even comes to mind as close. We soon notice the very long fingers shared by both. The outfits are both loose-fitting jumpsuits with a cummerbund about the waist. The suits are single-colored and patternless with no zippers or buttons in evidence. Both show a ridge around the wrist. The shape of the brow above the eyes also matches well.

It needs to be granted the match is imperfect in some interesting respects. Ikar has no ceremonial collar, albeit one might regard the bunching of fabric around the neck as a potential jump-off point for the elaboration. Ikar has pointy ears in contrast to the earless Longmont alien. Understandable that the post-Star Trek Longmont artists might want to suppress embarrassing allusions to Spock that the pre-Star Trek make-up artist could not foresee. The eyes are small and completely black in the Longmont alien while Ikar's eyes are whitish and faintly goofy. The Longmont alien's jumpsuit has ridges around the elbows and knees; Ikar's doesn't. The differences seem deliberate improvements rather than haphazard.

Part of the plot of the Longmont abduction may also have been derived from the Outer Limits episode. The conflicted protagonist of “Keeper of the Purple Twilight” trades off his emotions to acquire the knowledge and ability to complete the equations necessary to finish his science project. The Longmont artist's sense that his mind was taken and knowledge added hinges on the same magical assumptions about alien mind powers that underpin “Keeper.” It is not identical to the extent that emotions are not traded off in the Longmont abduction, but with such exotica, coincidence would still be hard to argue.

With a fictional source revealed as an influence on the imagery and plot of this case, the departures from type are readily understood. The case is flawed. It will inevitably be wondered if the fault is methodological -- hypnosis? cryptamnesia? -- or witness-centered -- a hoax? delusion? The presenting claim of being in a car partially lifted off the road while rolling at 50 m.p.h. as a brilliant light and tremendous noise assaults two witnesses' senses seems solidly immune from prosaic explanation. It is either pure fiction or an alien close encounter. Sigismond gives no evidence of looking for corroborative witnesses. A tremendous noise and brilliant light could hardly have escaped attention over a significant area if the encounter was real. No claims of validating physical evidence are offered. The fact that the witness pulled out with no forwarding address some time after the wife became deathly ill looks suspiciously like it was an aborted hoax, the husband either having the fear of God thrown into him by the unexpected calamity or unwilling to try to pull it off alone. If some want to regard that as too facile a judgment, be warned that the flaw an artifact of hypnosis and memory. Skeptics would probably enjoy that conclusion more, but sincerely it seems irrelevant here. The drawing seems more a conscious than unconscious invention in my opinion.

Ufologists will reject this and blame the presence of cultural material as a red herring. Deeper probing would have got Sigismond the true image of the present Gray. The methods of the time, the investigative assumptions, were more primitive. The tricky corollary, however, is this: how does the hypno-ufologist ever know when he has gone deep enough? Sigismond mentioned no doubts and nobody at the time complained that the image looked dubious. Are present investigators stopping at a layer where cultural assumptions stop or just where they stop recognizing them? Does deeper really mean truer? Or is it an extra chance to get a story straight?

Tough questions admittedly face ufologists accepting that a hoax is involved here. Do they just throw it away? Yet it got into Bullard's Top 50 because of how well it fitted in with the main patterns of the abduction phenomenon. There must be lessons here both needless to articulate and still to be learned. You won't finish the jigsaw puzzle if you start throwing pieces away. This one is a keeper.

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