But now we come to the biggest challenges -- and the biggest problems -- in the book. I said earlier that, in Jacobs's view, you have to ask the right questions to get accurate results when you question abductees under hypnosis. This is something he, Budd Hopkins, and John Carpenter have all maintained for many years, but neither has ever fully explained what they mean in any of their books.
   Jacobs calls this approach "competent hypnosis" -- something which, he says, John Mack doesn't practice, despite his credentials as a psychiatrist. If you don't use competent hypnosis with abductees, says Jacobs, your results will be worthless. You'll do exactly what the skeptics charge -- you'll fall into a web of confabulation and fantasies, and you won't know how to separate them from reality.
   To avoid falling into this trap, you can't take literally anything that abductees say, especially at the beginning of your work with them, or at the start of a hypnosis session. You have to question them carefully, to distinguish fact from fiction. But here, of course, we have big potential trouble. If abductees (their minds clouded by the aliens) don't accurately report what happens to them, abduction investigators have to set them straight. But what's to prevent abduction investigators from substituting stories of their own?
   Jacobs, to his credit, answers this objection. He says you just rely on logic, persistence, and common sense. To give one simple example, he cites abductees who say they meet very tall aliens, much taller than they are. Well, he asks, how do the abductees know how tall the aliens are? An investigator needs to determine that. But he or she can't ask leading questions, even something apparently harmless, like "Are you sure the aliens were tall?" That conveys a strong suggestion that the investigator doesn't believe the abductee, and invites the abductee to change the story. Instead, Jacobs will encourage the abductee to tell him more details. "Where are you," he might ask, "when you see these aliens?" Invariably, he says, abductees who describe giant aliens turn out to be lying down when they see them. They're lying on the aliens' notorious cold metal examination table, looking up at beings standing over them. So the aliens weren't tall at all; they were just seen from below. The abductees were making an honest, if befuddled, mistake, and it's easy, at least in principle, for an investigator to find out the truth.
   Multiply this example by every detail of an abduction account, and you'll have an idea of Jacobs's method, which is Budd Hopkins's, too. This draws a strong line between them and, let's say, Kevin Randle and Russ Estes, who -- in Faces of the Vistors, their new book on reported encounters with aliens -- write about 150 abductees and contactees they've interviewed. These people say they've seen a wider variety of alien types than Hopkins and Jacobs report. Jacobs, however, would reply that these people aren't remembering correctly, and that Randle and Estes are wrong to take their accounts at face value.
   The Threat presents Jacobs's reasoning (and his investigative techniques) more thoroughly than anything else I've seen in print. We need to study them. If abductees really get abducted, is it true that they don't describe their abductions accurately? Is it true that "competent hypnosis," as practiced by Hopkins, Jacobs, John Carpenter and a few others, can sort out the truth, and that any investigators who don't practice it are misleading themselves, abductees, and the rest of us? This isn't a priori unreasonable, especially since it's generally accepted (by those who accept abductions at all) that abductions take place in an altered state of consciousness. We need to study Jacobs's method before we can criticize his results.

dread alien

Though even if we end up accepting this methodology, there's one more thing to ask about The Threat. How many reports does Jacobs base his troubling conclusions on? Here the book itself is misleading. In an early chapter, Jacobs gives detailed histories of 11 abductees. It's easy to assume that these are his main sources for the data in the book, but that's only partly true. Some are, but some are not, and Jacobs also discusses reports from some 27 other people (more in total, Jacobs told me, than he quoted in Secret Life). But this important statistic is overshadowed by the initial emphasis on the 11 he singles out.
   Nor is Jacobs clear on another crucial issue. He identifies most of the abductees he quotes by their first and last names, but some, confusingly, are labeled only with a first name in quotation marks. It's natural to assume that the names in quotes are pseudonyms, and that the full names are real, which would be a shock -- never before has an abduction book revealed the true identities of so many abductees. But in a footnote to the ninth chapter we learn that all the names are pseudonyms, and that the ones in quotes are pseudonyms for the pseudonyms. They're used to further protect abductees who tell sexual stories; these people are already identified with another name, but even the pseudonym is changed when they talk about sex, to make extra sure that nobody will know who they are. This is not clear in the book; Jacobs should have explained this right at the start, and in the text, not in a footnote.
   And he shouldn't have made a tantalizing reference to a medical professional, without further explanation. On page 64, we read that a gynecologist was "baffled" by an anomalous mass detected by an ultrasound in an abductee; both he and the ultrasound team "had never seen anything quite like this before." Quotes like these are standard fare in abduction books, but here, for the first time ever, the gynecologist is named. According to the text, he's Dr. Daniel Treller, and my own instinct, as a long-time journalist, was to pick up the phone and call him. But Jacobs told me that "Treller," too, is a pseudonym. He should have said so in the book.
   Once we're past these mistakes, though, we still have to ask if enough abductees have told Jacobs about the really striking stuff -- the provocative behavior of the hybrids, or, most crucially, the aliens' intentions and the approaching culmination of their plan. Is Jacobs relying on just a few reports, or does he have more that he doesn't quote?

dread alien

I called Jacobs to ask him that. He told me that he keeps detailed files of abductee interviews, thanks to which he can state in The Threat that he's heard 400 accounts of physical exams by the aliens, and 180 stories about abductees meeting hybrid children. (The totals are greater than the number of abductees he's talked to, so some have reported more than one exam, or more than one meeting with a hybrid child.) So he could tell me that 10 people have told him about what he calls "independent hybrid activity," or in other words about meeting hybrids in ordinary earthly settings. Of these 10, he mentions six in the book. So he does have reports besides the ones he quotes.
   But when I asked him how many people had told them that hybrids or aliens had revealed details of the final plan, he didn't know, because he hasn't kept data on that. I can't fault his honesty, since he answered all my questions as fully as he could. Besides, in the book he's careful to say (in a footnote) that one abductee had taken cocaine before experiencing what she reported as a dramatic, five-day abduction, something he could have left out if he wanted to present everything only in the best light. But he couldn't supply all the information I wanted.
   And it's clear that the most dramatic reports in The Threat come from a minority of abductees. Jacobs has worked, in all, with 120 abduction experiencers, and so his accounts of hybrids on the loose come from only eight percent. Other dramatic data in the book might come from an even smaller group. Does this make it unreliable, even if we accept Jacobs's overall method?
   It's hard to say. Jacobs admits he's heard about the alien plans from only what he calls "a select group of people." But he feels sure that he can tell which abductees give reliable reports, and that it's the reliable ones who contribute the most important information in his new book. That, however, doesn't help us much. On anything as important as the future of humanity, we can't take what he says on faith (though someone should mount a detailed study of his reasons for deciding which abductees to trust).
   Jacobs does say he's never heard reports of any other alien agenda. Others, of course, say they have; there are abductees who think the aliens are friendly, and researchers who agree with them. We need to understand whether these accounts are fantasies, as Jacobs has decided, but at least he's not massaging his own data, suppressing abductee reports he disagrees with.

He notes, too, that he only hears reports of the aliens' plans by accident. He can imagine asking abductees to search their memories, but then he'd have to ask leading questions under hypnosis, which would make the information unreliable.
   And when the aliens' intentions do come up, he says, "the abductees don't know the importance of what's being said to them. They go right by it, and go on to other things. It's frustrating!" This, to me, suggests first that the abductees aren't slanting their reports or consciously making them up; if they were, wouldn't they emphasize really juicy evidence for a hostile alien invasion? Their reticence also suggest that Jacobs isn't letting his abductees know how important any given piece of information is (which might encourage them to make things up to please him). Besides -- assuming, of course, that all this is real -- the aliens and hybrids might not talk about their ultimate intentions very often. And if that's true, most abductees would never hear about them.
   We're left, in the end, with a challenge. David Jacobs, along with his colleagues Budd Hopkins and John Carpenter, says that he can sift truth from the fantasy and confabulation that clouds abductee reports. He and his colleagues say that abductees confirm each other, and that these confirmations help to prove that abductions really happen. Do we believe them? Do we believe Jacobs, when, for instance, he tells us that abductees who help the aliens with their work always say they do it wearing blue uniforms? This is a detail that was never published, to my knowledge, until Budd Hopkins printed it in Witnessed, his book about the Linda Cortile abduction case. Yet Jacobs says his abductees consistently report it.
   If we think they're doing that without being prompted (or without hearing about the blue uniforms from conversation in abductee support groups), then we're pretty well forced to say that Jacobs might be onto something. And if he is, we'd better take The Threat seriously.

    [I originally wrote this as a post on the UFO Updates e-mail list, as an answer to skeptics and ufologists who ridiculed The Threat. At Dennis Stacy's suggestion (thanks, Dennis), Walter Andrus invited me to expand it as a formal review, and published it in the MUFON Journal.]