Alien abduction -- the stuff of science fiction novels, movies, television and, many claim, real life.
Whether or not you believe the stories of people who say they've been spirited out of their cars on lonely country roads or lifted out of their beds while sleeping or zapped into a spaceship in front of several eyewitnesses, the tales are told by enough people to at least take a close look at this phenomenon.
"I believe there's a lot of idiosyncrasies going on in people, generally. I don't like to try to figure out why people are saying what they say. I take them for face value. I'm a listener and they are storytellers and I'm fascinated by the story," said photographer Steven Hirsch.
Hirsch, a New York City-based artist, specializes in photographing and interviewing people who are sometimes categorized as "fringe" members of culture. His work has appeared in Newsweek, Time, and The New York Times, among others. Hirsch's photographs have also been included in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the Library of Congress.
For a project he calls Little Sticky Legs, Hirsch interviewed people who claim to have been part of the alien-abduction experience.
"Are these people telling me the truth? I don't know," Hirsch told The Huffington Post.
One of the difficulties in trying to study alien kidnapping stories is that the people who make these reports fear they will be ridiculed. Nevertheless, many have come forward with recollections that are bizarre and often disturbing.
In Hirsch's photographic collection, which includes drawings made by each subject, they are identified only by first names.
"I don't know if they're against using their real or full names," he said. "I only use their first names to protect their anonymity. It's my choice."
Here are some who claim they've been abducted, with their own drawings of the event:
When I was in my thirties, I found out from my father about a government experiment that I was part of in which they were using other alien DNA to create me. I also have been on the ships most of my life off and on. I've had lots of contacts. ... I was being taken. I've been taken on ships quite a bit. I've met Salamander beings and I've met Greys. I've also met the Blue Arcturians which are incredible. They all have their own personalities and their own purposes. ... I've also met the Cat People that are from Sirius. I've actually seen people that can shape shift from human looking to Reptilians. As far as the abductions, I've had numerous of them where they've shown me around various ships. ... They've also explained ... why they're here and how they're here to help humanity.
I was on a mother ship. I was walking along a gantry and I was looking down to my left and my right and a little Grey had my hand and I could see different types of spacecraft all below. I could see different human looking people and aliens coming and going on these crafts. The Grey brought me into a little room, the door slid open and he just told me in my mind, "Sit here and wait, I'll be back." ... Then he brought me to another bigger room. It was an auditorium with stadium seating. There was a podium down at the bottom and he led me to a seat and all around me were some humans ... but there was a lot of all different types of alien beings. Next thing I'm leaving. I'm telling them, "I want to stay ... I belong." And they said, "No, it's not your time. You have to help save this planet Earth." That's all I remember.
These beings call themselves pure light beings and they were a collective of beings that were here to assist humanity. And they came through with this message ... about shifting conscious for humankind at this time. They would be doing things to my aura or to my energy and I could feel them. I could see visual images of them activating something in my conscious. ... They're helping us in our evolutionary process and all of these events that are happening, that people are experiencing such as abductions are to help us evolve as a species. Our actual DNA is being shifted so our physical bodies are actually becoming lighter in frequency and they're helping us to do this.
I was lying breathing deep and fast to the powerful evocative music and there I was. My consciousness was in the middle of this huge dome like structure. The inside of the structure was white and then there were coves in it that were big enough for people to sit in meditation and they were sitting cross legged. Some of them wore white robes. Some of them had long hair. They were all humanoid. There were some I couldn't quite tell what they were. But I got the feeling they were a type of human. Some of them were huge. Some of them were small and they were all in their coves and it was all part of this huge dome and the atmosphere in this place was absolutely beautiful. It was golden light and the background was white, like it was whitewashed and it was a place of meditating on peace and love.
In the summer of 1961 when I was twelve years old, I was at my girlfriends house and we were playing and her father yelled for us to come outside, he wanted us to see something. When we walked outside we immediately saw a giant silver craft. It was silently hovering above a tree. It had red, green and white lights that I thought at the time were rotating but I realize they were pulsating. Someone called the police. ... And then there was a car coming down the road. There was a tree here and a craft here and a car coming down the road and as it got right underneath the craft, a beam of light came out of the bottom and it went right to the roof of the car and as soon as it touched the car the car was totally immobilized. I just remember screaming and being excited and jumping up and down. ... And at the end of the first regression I remember seeing that my body was rumbling, was a word I never used. My body was rumbling and waving to the low hum of the craft and that was the end of the first regression. In the second regression, I actually remember being aboard and a procedure that was performed on me.
These beings came into my room. We walked through the wall out into the woods and there were two deer in suspended animation and then this, as I learned these were Zetas, I didn't know what they were called at the time brought me over to this tree. We sat down, he was drawing in the dirt; the earth and the moon and then all these lines way over to the far end of the patch of dirt and that told me that was where they were from. ... And the next thing I know I see myself on a ship and the stain glass window started off being what looked like a window out into space and it was looking at the earth and the moon but then it turned to the stain glass window and every time the colors changed I got zapped with energy.
December 1995 I landed on Johnson atoll which is an island eight hundred miles southwest in the pacific ocean and I was a civilian working for the military and when I landed there a man came over and said, "You've landed on a joint US military ET base." And I said, "Oh really?" So a year later in 1996 I was sleeping in my bed and suddenly I'm being carried by six of the traditional ET's with the large heads and large eyes. There are there military on either side walking and I'm screaming bloody murder. ... And the Grey on the right hand side the one that was carrying my foot said, "Go ahead and scream all you want.You're in an energy field and no one could hear you."
These doors open. This ramp goes down and I follow this guy out, down this ramp. I was standing on dirt and I was wondering where I was at. And right in the sky to my left was a huge moon like body and in the immediate background was Saturn. And I could see hundreds and hundreds of rings. And I said, "Where am I?" and he said, "You're on one of the moons of Saturn." I said, "Why did you bring me here?" And he said, "Because these two moons are going opposite directions. They get to a certain point and they revolve around each other and go back the opposite direction. I just wanted you to see that." Well the thing is after he showed it to me, they took me back in, he knocked me out and when I woke up the next morning I was in my bed.
I have had experiences since I was a child. I had a series of dreams which was sort of unusual for a seven or eight year old child, which in my forties began to unravel into experiences with Reptilians and that eventually culminated with showing them my child. ... He's Reptilian. You know. He's not human. He's sort of golden. Reptilian kind of head. Sort of mottled skin. Kind of of more claw like hands and feet. A Reptilian. Not human like me. ... I've had a lot of experiences with Reptilians. Some of them not very nice. But the ones from my childhood were all pretty ok. They never hurt me or did anything to frighten me or anything like that until much later.
All my life I've had visions which I could never control. I was originally abducted when I was sixteen years old. I was lifted up in the air. There was no gravity. I was lifted straight up and eventually I basically turned this way on my back and getting into a spaceship. It was a small spaceship, round. It was basically like a vertical opening. Rectangular shape. I didn't see any doors and as I was basically brought into the spacecraft, I saw about seven tall Grey aliens with small mouths and big eyes, black. I was in that position and I wasn't really feeling any fear. I wasn't scared.
"In 1996, I was sleeping in my bed and suddenly I'm being carried by six of the traditional ETs with the large heads and large eyes ... and I'm screaming bloody murder," recalled Janet.
"This is so unreal. Why isn't anybody rescuing me," Janet continued in her description of being kidnapped by short, grey-colored alien beings. "And the Grey on the right hand side -- the one that was carrying my foot -- said, 'Go ahead and scream all you want. You're in an energy field and no one could hear you.'"
And there's also...
Cynthia: "When I was in my thirties, I found out from my father the truth about a government experiment that I was part of in which they were using other alien DNA to create me..."
Sasha: "Some of them wore white robes. Some of them had long hair. They were all humanoid. There were some I couldn't quite tell what they were..."
Nancy: "They performed a laparoscopy on me. In 1961 in the medical field there [was] no laparoscopy. They explained to me that they wanted to see inside..."
Bruce: "I was standing on dirt and I was wondering where I was at. And right in the sky to my left was a huge moon-like body and in the immediate background was Saturn. And I could see hundreds and hundreds of rings. And I said, 'Where am I?' And he said, 'You're on one of the moons of Saturn.'"
That's how so many of these stories unfold, with a hapless human victim traumatized as he or she believes aliens have taken them against their will and brought them to what appears like an examination room where they are subject to various types of body probing.
The scenario generally ends with the kidnappers bringing their human targets back to the place where the drama started. The victims' memories are also conveniently wiped clean of the close encounter until regression hypnosis later brings them back to the conscious surface.
Prior to shooting portraits of alleged alien abductees, Hirsch put his camera's focus on things like the homes of registered sex offenders, tattooed nomads in a Manhattan park, and people offering what he calls "courthouse confessions."
"In many cases, a lot of the projects that I do are people telling me stories that are jaw-dropping, and whether they be criminals or drug addicts, the stories are amazing," he said.
Alien abduction reports were kickstarted in the early 1960s with the story of Betty and Barney Hill.
Watch this video of the Betty and Barney Hill abduction story:
In 1961, they were driving through the White Mountains of New Hampshire when they spotted a large, lighted object in the sky following them and then rapidly descending toward their car.
The Hills' account of being kidnapped by alien beings and subjected to physical examinations on board a UFO was the first widely publicized story of its kind because of the high credibility of the couple. It also marked the first time that the idea of alien abduction began to seep into the American culture.
Hirsch is still on the lookout for more individuals to photograph and collect ET kidnapping stories from.
"These stories, you have to either be a believer or not a believer. And I refuse to say whether I am or not, because it's not really important to what I do," he said.