Thursday, May 16, 2019

Memory, Blog: The Fake Alien Abduction Show



Although my family had Cable TV when I was a kid we didn't always have all those really cool Cable channels. You know, the ones you still had to pay extra for? Do you remember that magic little black box the Cable company would provide you with to de-scramble the premium stuff? Yeah, we didn't have that. That is until I was in my teens.

Pure magic!

That glorious box provided me with more channels than I could even imagine. Sure, compared to today's standards it was a paltry serving, but to teenage me I was mind-blown. I now had access to a wide assortment of channels including TBS, which was chock-full of movies and all the Saved By The Bell re-runs I could handle, Family Channel, with loads of great Disney cartoons, Kids' WB, which fed my already unhealthy Batman: The Animated Series obsession, and UPN, which had pretty much nothing that I cared about.

On one fateful evening in the winter of 1998 I was channel surfing (man, I miss that) and I came across this schlocky "news report"-style show on UPN called Real Vampires... Exposed! It was basically a walk through the underground vampire scene in the 90s, where those so inclined wore a lot of black leather, drank each other's blood in neon-lit bars, and listened to industrial techno. I was half-interested in this show, but it was during this broadcast that an ad appeared for a new alien show that would be on within the hour!


You see UPN was claiming that they had acquired footage of a real-life alien abduction caught on home video and that they had experts analyze the tape. They were going to show the whole thing that night (January 20th, 1998 to be exact) and let you, the viewer, be the judge if it was real or not. The show was called Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County.

I was a pretty TV savvy kid and I had my finger on the pulse of the comings-and-goings of the all the major networks, but I had always just passed by UPN, which in my mind only had episode after episode of Moesha. As my luck would have it I landed on the channel just before it began airing Alien Abduction and my excitement (and trepidation) was brimming.

I grabbed a blank tape out of the entertainment console, popped it into the VCR, and set the show to record, even though I had no intent on waiting until the next day to watch it. I was glued to the TV set for what would become one of the most spine-tingling television events I ever witnessed.

I just want to start by saying that airing Alien Abduction with Real Vampires... Exposed! (which aired in lieu of an episode of Moesha, I kid you not) one after the other could not have been an accident. The network execs were trying to create the illusion to the viewer that this alien video was the real deal without coming right out and saying it.


There was a lot of controversy surrounding this little one hour special. There are those who would compare it to the War of the Worlds radio broadcast by Orson Welles in 1938, although I think that's rather extreme. This was some seriously campy TV on a cable specialty channel.

That said, the presentation was setup to lead the viewer in the belief that this tape was legitimate. The producers had actual "experts" in the fields of ufology, like physicist Stanton Friedman* and famous skeptic Michael Shermer, speak to the tape (or "a" tape, more on that at a later date) to lend credence to its authenticity. Couple that with it airing back-to-back with a show exposing "real life vampires" and there were all sorts of folks who thought this tape was the real deal.

One viewing of the segments of the tape, however, and your innate "these are actors" Spidey-sense will tingle. It also didn't help that actress Emmanuelle Chriqui, who at this point had at least one film and several TV acting credits under her belt, was clearly one of the members of the "family". Then at the end of the show the credits roll and you can see that the MacPherson family were casted and the whole thing was a film by director Dean Alioto.

I never thought the tape or the show was real, of course, but I will be damned if I didn't love it. Like most alien shows, I watched this for the scares and it delivered! For me it was like a little mini horror movie. Even to this day the scenes with the aliens in them raise the hairs on the back of my neck. I used to watch that tape recording I made of the show every year or so and it always had the same affect. Unfortunately, that tape is lost to time. *sniff*

Now you would think with the bad acting and credit roll that anyone watching this show would immediately understand that this was just a TV ratings stunt, but the controversy surrounding Alien Abduction actually started long before this UPN special. This was not Dean Alioto's first brush with alien conspiracy, but I think I'll save that story for another day.

Hope you enjoyed!,
R

*Stanton Friedman sadly passed away May 13th, 2019 at the age of 84. He lent his research and opinions to countless UFO-related features of the years, so I just wanted to say rest in peace, Dr. Friedman.