Met an alien yet? Your chances of encountering a real live Martian
seem to have improved dramatically since 1970, when a mere 300 encounters were reported
around the world. Today, with tens of thousands of alien encounters being reported each
year, its hard not to feel overlooked if you havent yet heard a mutant
Never fear: Krista Henriksen is here, and she has
a pretty good grasp of what the aliens are telling people. Henriksen, now working in St.
Johns, Newfoundland, recently earned her masters degree in anthropology from SFU.
For her thesis, Alien Encounters: A close analysis of personal accounts of
extraterrestrial experiences, Henrikson interpreted the written stories of 60 men and
women who claim to have met with alien life forms.
Although Henriksen says she is "personally highly skeptical" that aliens have
been in touch with earthlings, her research "suggested that aliens bring a pretty
standard message of hope and goodwill. There are four key themes to their messages. The
first is that the person receiving the message is in some way chosen or specialthey
have a purpose in life. Second is the message that that person is not alone; someone cares
for them. Third is the idea that the world is at risk, but the recipient has the power to
affect change. And finally, there are few aliens who bring malevolent messages, but they
are definitely in the minority."
As an undergraduate archaeology student at the University of Alberta, Henriksen minored in
religious studies, and developed "an intense interest in faith and belief
systems." Her interest in aliens was sparked during a summer road trip with a friend
who was reading about a particular group of highly sociable aliens known as Pleiadians.
"From an academic point of view, its easy to dismiss marginal or fringe groups
like the people who believe theyve been abducted by aliens," says Henriksen.
"Its much more work to try to understand where they are coming from, what
motivates them. But thats what anthropology is all about: studying those who
arent us so that we are better able to understand ourselves."
Henriksen believes the "whole phenomenon is a direct reflection of the search for
meaning in western society." She notes that along with the increase in reported alien
encounters, "there has been a correspondent explosion in new religious movements in
North America." She sees a "direct link" between alien believers and the
followers of New Age and evangelical Christians: "they are all vibrant communities,
deeply committed and vocal, with an active web presence, and frequent opportunities for
A member of the United Church of Canada herself, Henriksen says she prefers her
"religion old, tried and true, with a solid theological foundation and a long
history." Still, she was impressed by the faith evident in the stories of alien
contact: "I think its just another way of making sense of pain and loneliness.
Everyone wants to find to the place where they belong." Even if it is in outer space.