Think you were abducted by aliens? Researchers say it was a dream

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Jul 4, 2015, 1:40 PM EDT

Thousands of people have been brave enough (or crazy enough, depending on whom you ask) to come forward in the last half-century with tales of alien abductions in the dead of night. It's a widespread phenomenon, but researchers are adding fuel to the skeptic fire with claims that what you think of as a real experience was really just a "lucid dream."

Results from an experiment last fall by the Out-of-Body Experience Research Center in California show that out of 20 volunteers, 35 percent were able to have out-of-body experiences in which they encountered aliens. Lead researcher Michael Raduga said that the participants were all coached to "separate from their bodies" every time they were half-awake during the night, and some of them actually got somewhere.

But if it's true that alien encounters are the result of very vivid dreams and not actual experiences, then why are they all so similar? Why do so many people report the same kind of abduction scenarios if they're all just in their separate beds having dreams? Well, it could have something to do with how the very first "true" abduction accounts played out.

In 1957, a Brazilian writer named Joao Martis wrote a series on alien encounters for the magazine O Cruziero, then asked his readers to write in and share their own experiences with visitors from space. A young Brazilian farmer named Antonio Villas Boas shared his story with Martis, who was so impressed that he began exchanging letters with the man and even invited him to Rio de Janeiro to be studied.

Villa Boas' account is very similar to what we've come to know as the archetypal alien abduction story. He claimed he was tending the fields at night (to avoid the heat of the day) when he saw a red light overhead. He tried to get away, but alien creatures descended from a rope ladder, captured him and dragged him onto their ship. There they performed a variety of experiments on him, and even forced him to have sex with an attractive blond alien woman before dropping him back on Earth.

The story is, of course, of questionable authenticity (the detail about the rope ladder is particularly suspect), but it nevertheless helped fuel the UFO craze alongside other early abduction accounts. Since then, thousands of people have claimed to have similar experiences involving strange lights, experiments and alien ships.

Until we actually get a Close Encounters of the Third Kind moment, when we all get to stop and look at the gray men as they step off the ship, we'll keep having this debate. In the meantime, the Internet will keep filling up with abduction stories.

(Via Huffington Post and Life's Little Mysteries)