I remember August of 1976 very well. That summer, the northern lights in Aroostook County, Maine were vibrant, nearly alive in their sheer command of the summer night sky. Ribbons of light rippled across the entire sky from north to south.The Sun was at one of the high points its cycle. That was the summer I spent lying on the ground by the fire, watching the stars and studying the universe in the relative comfort of my backyard. Little did I know that four friends visiting my northern land would experience something akin to high strangeness in the backwaters of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway not more than one hundred miles from where I lay, taking in the infinite. Their experiences, if they can be believed, are laid out in several venues, from an episode of Unsolved Mysteries to a new children’s book published last year (2014) by author Cathie Pelletier called “The Summer Experiment“.
What I am referring to is known in UFO circles as “The Allagash Abductions”. It is a classic in the literature and is often cited as one of the most completely documented cases of alien contact and experimentation on humans ever presented to the public. The fact that the events that allegedly transpired nearly forty years ago are still intriguing to so many makes it perfect food for thought on a summer evening, like tonight…
Let’s travel back in time. It is the evening of August 20, 1976. Four young art students from Boston, Massachusetts are taking a break in the northern forest of the Allagash River on the tip of northern Maine. Their names are Jack and Jim Weiner, Charlie Foltz, and Chuck Rak. Specifically, they are camping on the edge of Eagle Lake. It is nearly dark. They have set a rather large fire at the edge of the lake near the shore and their plan is to do a little night fishing from their canoes. The fire would mark the spot of their campsite, otherwise they might become disoriented in the deep darkness that befalls the night in far northern Maine.
Almost immediately after starting to fish, Chuck Rak spied a large bright sphere of colored light hovering motionless and soundless over the water of Eagle Lake, about 300 feet above the southeastern rim of the cove. Chuck shouted to his friends who also witnessed what they describe as a huge oval glowing object. They describe it as being split into four quarters, almost like a gyroscope. The four quadrants of light glowed with an oscillating motion around the equator and from pole to pole. It was as though the object was made of some metallic liquid.
It is at this point that Charlie Folt claims he did something very odd indeed, something that most people would not have done, given the circumstances. He picks up his flashlight and begins rhymically flashing it at the object in the sky. Why he does this, he does not say. Almost immediately, the object stops pulsating and begins to move toward Charlie’s canoe. A ray or tube of light issues forth from the glowing object and hits the surface of the water. Then, the beam begins to seek out the canoe, hunting it. The four art students begin to panic and paddle madly toward the shore and their bonfire. I can’t help but wonder why the bonfire and the shore might in any way seem safer than where they were. I also wonder if art students might or might not be experimenting with substances in the relative obscurity of far northern Maine that might make them believe they were seeing a large pulsating multi-colored glowing ball.
They make it to the shore. They stand at the water’s edge near the fire and they watch the object slowly move away and disappear. Twin brothers Jim and Jack Weiner recall how frightened they were, paddling with every ounce of strength they had until suddenly, they found themselves safely on the shore. They saw a light beam not more than one hundred feet from where they stood and then they saw the object leave. For along while, the four young men simply stood there in silence.
They began to notice lost time. “When we left to go fishing,” Jim claims, “we set very large logs on the fire to burn for a good two to three hours. The entire experience seemed to last, at the most, no more than fifteen or twenty minutes. Yet the fire was completed burned down to red coals.” It was a puzzle, something that had no explanation. The fishing trip ended and the three went their separate ways. Weird things happen, but life tends to go on.
Flash forward thirteen years. Jim Weiner suffers a head injury which triggers something called tempero-limbic epilepsy, also known as temporal lobe epilepsy. This kind of epilepsy is characterized by many seemingly unprovoked seizures that originate in the temproal lobe of the brain. Sensory changes often accompany the seizures, i.e., smelling odors that are there. One of the other common side effects of temporal lobe epilepsy is the disturbance of memory, either causing the sufferer to be unable to recall things he or she should, or causing memories that are not real or are confused.
Jim slowly begins to recall events of that night. He claims that he remembers waking at night to see creatures gathering in his bedroom around his bed while he lay in paralysis, a common experience often reported by UFO abductees. More to the point, he seemed to be able to remember what really happened that night when they lost time and the fire burned low on the shore.
Many articles discussing the famous incident claim that Jim’s doctors did what almost any good physician would never have done, given the circumstances: he told Jim to contact a UFO reseacher in the Boston area. This might seem reasonable to some people. To others, maybe not so much. Jim made his way to a UFO convention and found someone who he thought might be able to help him with his memories. That researcher was high-school English teacher and amateur hypnotist, Anthony Constantino.
Then, of course, hypnosis was used. It usually is. The faith so many people place in hypnosis is often a blind one without realizing that false memories or the power of suggestion may lead the person under hypnosis to claim almost anything. That, combined with the fact that Jim was suffering temporal lobe epilepsy, makes the whole session suspect and its veracity questionable. Once Jim began to recall the events of the night of August 20, 1976 under hypnosis, the other three people on Eagle Lake that night agreed to undergo hypnosis, as well.
They collectively recall riding the beam of light into the craft. They were examined ‘medically’ using strange equipment. Samples of bodily fluids were gathered by strange gray beings and of course, all four men were naked. After the ‘aliens’ were satisfied with their probing and prying, they made the four men get dressed and let them ride the beam of light back down to their canoes. To add to the high strangeness of the story, during the UFO researcher’s examination of the events of that night, Jack Weiner and his wife Mary claimed that were abducted from their home in Townshend, Vermont. As proof, Jack offered the bottom of his feet, burned by his new abduction.
Time passed once more. The four men, friends since their college years, maintained their belief in the events of that night recalled by hypnosis. A book was written about their story. They appeared on The Joan Rivers Show. NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries broadcast their story to millions.
It is strange that all four people remembered roughly the strange thing. Or is it? What really happened on Eagle Lake on the night of August 20th? The element of hypnosis and the addition of temporal lobe epilepsy makes the entire story suspect. The idea that all four men remembered the same thing might also have something to do with the power of suggestion and the tendency to tell the amateur hypnotist the kind of things he wanted to hear. Did the other three men know of Jim’s recollections under hypnosis before they too underwent a session and did they suddenly ‘remember’ or did they simply use the information already in their minds from Jim’s account? In fact, besides the viewing of the original light in the sky, hypnosis seems to be the only evidence that the Allagash abductions ever occured.
And that really is too bad. I would love to say that this case is beyond reproach. I want to believe as much as the next person, but I require more than the words of four remembering something under hypnosis years and years after the events supposedly occurred. I am quite sure these are good men who truly believe the events as recalled under hypnosis. I do love their story, though, because I remember the lights of that summer, too. My own memory, unhindered by hypnosis, remembers the Aurora Borealis, the Milky Way and the mystery that it offers must satisfy my taste for now.
Photo Credit – Lewiston Sun Journal