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UFOs in the daily Press:

When the anthropologist deals with "the aliens:"

This article was published in the newspaper Canoe, Canada, on September 29, 2002.

Alien Message One Of Hope And Goodwill, Says Anthropologist

VANCOUVER (CP) -- Forget the probes. Don't worry about an invasion.

Aliens are actually quite affable, according to a recent university study.

When extraterrestrials abduct earthlings, they often share with them a message of hope, according to anthropologist Krista Henriksen. "They tell people they're not alone, that they're special, they're chosen for a purpose," said Henriksen, who studied the personal accounts of 60 men and women who claimed to have had close encounters.

Most of them recounted being told there are profound, terrible problems with the world but that they had been chosen to do something about it.

"Sometimes they have malevolent messages, manipulative, nasty messages. But that was, by far, the minority," Henriksen said from her new home in St. John's.

"Most often extraterrestrials were bringing messages of goodwill."

Henriksen recently earned her master's degree in anthropology from Simon Fraser University with the study, Alien Encounters: A close analysis of personal accounts of extraterrestrial experiences.

Although she is "highly skeptical" that aliens have ever abducted anyone, it's important to study the phenomenon, she said. It's easy to dismiss fringe groups like those who believe they've been abducted, she said, but studying them gives us a better understanding of who we are.

The increase in reports of UFO encounters (10 per cent of the Canadian population believes they have seen one according to some studies) parallels an increase in new religious movements.

"People are searching for meaning in all sorts of places that generally aren't mainstream religious places, they're more independent places," Henriksen said. "This could be one of them."

Chris Rutkowski, research co-ordinator of Ufology Research of Manitoba, said there were 375 reports of UFO sightings in Canada in 2001. For some, such encounters are a religious experience.

"Whether they're 'real' or not, is another matter entirely," he said in an interview from Winnipeg.

Tens of thousands of such encounters are reported annually in North America.

Most of the stories, which are posted on a Web site for Citizens Against UFO Secrecy, describe the alien abductors -- all human-like with feet, fingers and eyes -- as researchers, according to Henriksen.

They are "interested in us, and not necessarily in taking us over," she said.

Henriksen, who has studied religion, said that, while not a religion, the belief in extraterrestrial life is certainly a spiritual experience for those who report encounters.

"People are having profound experiences, whatever the experiences are," she said.

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This page was last updated on October 4, 2002.