In August 1993, Kelly Cahill was driving home on the outskirts of Melbourne when she experienced an hour of missing time. Later, she said she was attacked by aliens.
Narre Warren is a suburb in Melbourne’s east, right on the fringe of the city. It sits at the foot of the Dandenongs, the scenic mountain range that is a popular weekend getaway for inner city residents.
Running between Narre Warren and the mountains is the Belgrave-Hallam Road; a two lane arterial route that winds past market gardens, farmland and stands of state forest.
On August 8, 1993, Kelly Cahill, a 27 year old Melbourne woman, went to the Dandenongs with her husband, to visit with some friends. They stayed for a barbeque, and took the Belgrave-Hallam Road when they headed for home.
It was late, near midnight, and the road was deserted. The trip was expected to be uneventful.
But head of them, Cahill saw something strange.
Near the roadside was a large, circular craft, hovering just off the ground. It was dark coloured, with a ring of orange lights around the circumference.
At first, she thought it was a blimp.
And then, there was a bright flash of light. Seemingly a moment later, the couple woke up in the car, they had apparently gone to sleep, now careening at high speed towards a bend in the road. They screeched to a halt in a squall of brakes and tyre squealing alarm.
While they tried to get their bearings, the realised it was suddenly an hour later. Somehow, sixty minutes had disappeared, in the blink of an eye.
Missing time often features in accounts of alien abductions.
In September 1961, Betty and Barney Hill were driving home on a country road in rural New Hampshire, late at night. Suddenly, they saw a bright light in the sky. They were unable to determine what it was, but its movement suggested it was not an aircraft.
It also appeared to be following them.
The couple did not get home until nearly dawn, which was much longer than the drive should have taken. They were confused, dirty, and Barney’s watch had stopped. When they finally began to compose themselves, they realised that they had no memory of the hours immediately after the sighting of the craft.
The Hill’s had experienced missing time.
Later, under psychoanalysis, they claimed to have had a close encounter; a spacecraft had landed on the road, stopped their car, and ‘grey beings’ had taken them inside, where they were physically examined.
The story caused a sensation in the US; it was widely reported, and the couple were interviewed by a range of publications. The publicity would directly lead to ‘Project Blue Book’; the Air Force’s official investigation of UFOs.
It was the first reported account of an alien abduction.
When she got home, Kelly Cahill realised that she had a triangular mark on her navel, that had not been there previously.
And over the next few weeks, other memories from her mysterious drive home began to surface.
She would eventually recall stopping the car when she saw the craft, and getting out with her husband to investigate. Two other cars on the road did the same. The group of onlookers then saw something incredible; a number of tall, skinny aliens, with glowing red eyes appeared in the front of the ship.
‘I felt this blow to my stomach and went flying in the air and I heard my husband say, let go of me and this male voice that said, 'I mean you no harm'.
I thought I was going to die.’
- Kelly Cahill
Cahill described the force that knocked her over as ‘like an electrical charge’. It left her feeling nauseous, and also temporarily blind.
The last thing she remembers is one of the beings grabbing her shoulder, and fighting to get out of its grasp.
And then… she was back in her car.
The paragraph’s above recount the story that Cahill subsequently took to the media.
She was interviewed by the The Age, and appeared on ‘Today Tonight’, Channel 7’s tabloid current affairs show.
Much was made of Cahill’s seeming credibility; here was a young woman with no connection to the UFO community, with no history of mental illness, a solid citizen, who appeared sincere when she claimed to have been attacked by aliens.
Her claims were investigated further by ‘Paranormal Phenomena Australia’ (PPA), a fringe group who examined UFO sightings and other unexplainable events. They returned to the encounter site with Cahill, and claimed to have detected unusual radiation and magnetic readings at the location.
They also claimed to have located the other witnesses to the event, whose testimony allegedly supported Cahill’s story.
But PPA refused to release their investigation data. The other witnesses have never been publicly named, preferring anonymity (it should be noted that ‘Kelly Cahill’ is also a pseudonym), and have never been interviewed by a mainstream news organisation.
Alien abduction stories are a fascinating part of the modern world.
From the Hill’s encounter in 1961, to the present day, tens of thousands of people have come forward to claim they were abducted by extra-terrestrials. The general outline of these stories has become so well known that they have spawned a number of tropes, popular in movies and television; missing time, lights in the sky, tall, skinny beings, sinister physical examinations.
People who believe UFOs are evidence that extra terrestrial intelligence is real, accept many of these reports at face value. If aliens are among us, why wouldn’t they conduct research on earth’s population?
This is not necessarily a fringe opinion; polls in America have shown as many as 50% of the population think aliens exist, and are visiting the earth.
But, form the opposite perspective, psychologists have interviewed countless alien abduction claimants, looking for a more scientific explanation.
‘When people believe they have had an experience of alien abduction, they have misinterpreted, distorted and conflated real and imagined events.
Mixed evidence supports the theory that fantasy-prone people engage in elaborate imaginings and often confuse fantasy with reality.
Psychologists argue that hypnosis encourages the creation and recall of detailed fantasies, or false memories.
It’s for these reasons that it’s believed alien abduction experiences may arise from a combination of personality characteristics and susceptibility to false memories.’
- Ken Drinkwater, Doctor of Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University
In 1997, Cahill wrote a book about her experience; ‘Encounter’.
Here she recounted the events of the night she saw the craft in more detail. But now, she added a strange coda.
Cahill now claimed that her experience had forged a mental link with the beings she encountered; that they communicated with her telepathically, and had warned her that a wider alien invasion was coming.
She also complained of chronic headaches, strange visions, and that a sinister black helicopter was following her, and sometimes hovering over her house.
‘Encounter’ was only released in a small print run; 20 000 copies in Australia, and 20 000 more overseas. It has never been reissued. Second hand copies of the book on ebay and Amazon go for more than $500, if you can find one.
Cahill remains an in-demand guest at UFO conferences.
In 2016, Fox studios brought ‘The X Files’ back to television.
The show had originally aired in 1993, the year of Cahill’s encounter, and instantly became a pop culture phenomenon. Initially running for 9 seasons, the show had made stars out of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, spawned two feature films, and a legion of imitators.
After a 15 year hiatus, creator Chris Carter brought it back for a limited season.
In the first episode of the new series, former FBI agent Fox Mulder (Duchovny) meets a right wing talk show host, Tad O’Malley (played by Joel McHale), with an interest in the paranormal. To test his knowledge, Mulder asks him what he knows about the Kelly Cahill case.
‘Kelly Cahill and her husband were driving home in Victoria, Australia, when a craft appeared overhead.
The Cahill's lost an hour of time and Kelly was hospitalised with severe stomach pain after discovering a triangle-shaped mark near her navel.’
There is a kind of immortality there.