In 2009, Universal Pictures released The Fourth Kind, a thriller that follows the life of psychologist Dr. Abigail Emily “Abby” Tyler, who lives in Nome, Alaska with her husband. After he mysteriously passes away, she resolves to continue his clinical research with clients suffering from insomnia.
She begins to use hypnosis on select patients as part of their treatment. The hypnosis reveals that several of them have had very similar experiences. They each report waking up at 333 a.m. and seeing a white owl outside their window. Shortly after that, they hear violent sounds outside their room followed by someone, or something, dragging them out of their bed against their will as they scream and howl in protest. Then they black out.
These occurrences follow similar descriptions from alien abductees around the world. Many abductees report seeing animals such as owls, monkeys or raccoons outside their windows at or around 330am right before their abduction.
Marie D. Jones, a paranormal researcher, was interviewed in a video featurette provided by the film’s producer, Universal Pictures. She calls the appearance of owls a “trigger object.” She said it is a way of calming the abductees before they are taken.
She also explained the time phenomenon. “Time prompts are number sequences that show up over and over again in a person’s life, usually in the form of time,” she explained. “333am is one of the most common time prompts. It is a ‘trigger time’ for abductions to take place.”
In the film, Tyler begins to believe that these episodes are actually close encounters of the fourth kind. Alien encounters are measured on a scale developed in 1972 by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a noted astronomer and famous ufologist. He researched UFOs with the US government, working with various Air Force sponsored studies including Project Sign (1947-49), Project Grudge (1949-52) and Project Bluebook (1952-69). The levels of close encounters are:
- First Kind: Sighting- visual sightings of flying saucers, unknown aerial objects, and odd lights.
- Second Kind: Evidence- observations of UFOs and the physical evidence of them including heat, damage to train, scared and skittish animals, lost time (gaps in memory), crop circles, and paralysis.
- Third Kind: Contact- there are six levels of contact described by Hynek, from observing inside a UFO, to experiencing “intelligent communication” with aliens.
- Fourth Kind: Abduction- a human is taken aboard a UFO.
A New ‘Blair Witch’ Ruse?
Is The Fourth Kind real? In the beginning of movie, Milla Jovovich says, “I am actress Milla Jovovich, and I will be portraying Dr. Abigail Tyler. This film is a dramatization of events that occurred October 2000. Everything in this movie is supported by archive footage. Some of what you are about to see is extremely disturbing.”
The movie studio said the film was based on “archival footage” of a therapist who discovered “the most disturbing evidence of alien abduction ever documented” while conducting her hypnosis and therapy sessions. It sounds legitimate, except no one in Alaska has ever heard of Dr. Abigail Tyler. She does not appear in any records of the state Psychologist’s Association or Licensing Board.
However, there actually had been a disturbing number of disappearances in and around Nome, mostly travelers coming to and from surrounding native Inupiat and Siberian Yupik areas. Distraught friends and family were frustrated by the lack of attention from police, believing that there may be one or a group of serial killers at work.
In 2006, the Anchorage Daily News reported on the disappearances, saying, “A string of disappearances and mysterious deaths of native villagers visiting Nome was not the work of a serial killer… An FBI study of 24 missing persons and suspicious death cases assembled by Nome police said excessive alcohol consumption and the harsh winter climate were common ties in many of the cases. In 9 of the cases, where no bodies were ever found, state and local investigators said they will continue to search for new leads.”
The article began after a native named Eric Apatiki, 21, disappeared. A tribal council leader, Delbert Pungowiyi, for years had been trying to get an investigation going about various disappearances. “People disappear over there and where are the bodies going? Where are the remains going?” Pungowiyi asked the newspaper. He called Nome “a boneyard for the region because there are so many remains there that have never been found.” The FBI began their investigation in response to the growing frustrations of the native population.
The Daily News concluded that there were no abductions, and the number of missing persons and unresolved deaths is what a small town of Nome’s size would see on average. The newspaper pointed to the FBI investigation, again citing the high incidence of alcoholism and extremely rugged weather conditions.
The nonprofit group that brought the cases to the attention of the general public is not happy about the movie. They claim that it takes away from any real investigation into the disappearances. “The movie looks ridiculous,” said Kawarak, Inc. vice president Melanie Edward told the Daily News. “It’s insensitive to family members of people who have gone missing in gnome over the years.”
A few of the deaths were caused by people suffering from exposure to the cold, or from falling into the freezing waters of the Snake River. Pungowiyi told the paper that he is still under the belief that his uncle disappeared due to some criminal activity. His uncle had arrived in Nome in 1998 to buy a snowmobile. He never returned to his village of Savoonga. He said he believes that some of the deaths, including his uncle, were racially motivated, and believes that one or two people were murdering natives.
Fake News Site
Putting further doubt about the movie’s veracity is the fact that Universal Pictures was sued successfully after they created a fake news site called AlaskaNewsArchive.com. They had a fake story that was reportedly from the real-life Nome Nugget newspaper. The “news story” actually used the name of the Nome Nugget Editor, Nancy Maguire, in the byline. The Alaska Press Club, on behalf of the newspaper and Maguire, sued Universal and settled out-of-court for $20,000.
Universal admitted creating the fake online news archive. They said it was part of a “viral marketing campaign.” They even went so far as to create a fake site called AlaskaPsychiatryJournal.com, which listed a bio for Dr. Abigail Tyler and exhibited several scholarly articles she had supposedly written in medical journals on hypnotherapy, hypnotic regression and sleep problems. It was later discovered that Universal Pictures had registered the domain name a month before the movie was released. Both sites are gone now.
Nome residents are also entertained by the obvious difference between the film version of their town and reality. The film was shot in the mountainous areas of Bulgaria, New Zealand, and parts of Alaska. The town of Nome is shown nestled in among mountainous terrain. In reality, Nome is on the edge of a treeless flat expanse up against the Bering Sea in the middle of Alaska’s West Coast.
A Fib On Top of Fabrication
In the final analysis, The Fourth Kind features a therapist, who has a high probability of being fictional, and “archived footage” that is in actuality reenactments with professional actors. In addition, no one seems to be able to find any record of an Abigail Tyler having lived or worked in the Nome area.
Couldn’t they have just checked her Facebook profile?
Many people just brush the movie off as a complete fabrication. However, the producers were not interested in clear cut facts as much as profitable entertainment. It succeeded on the profit scale, pulling in $25.4 million dollars domestically on a $10 million investment. On the entertainment side, it fell a little short. IMDB.com raters peg it at 5.9 out of 10, and RottenTomatoes.com gave it a 25% rating.
The film’s tagline says, “It’s Up to You to Decide.” Abduction skeptics say that no abduction episode has ever proven true. However, no one knows for sure. As you watch The Fourth Kind while gripping the arm of your chair as tight as you can, you realize you aren’t sure yourself.
You can pick up The Fourth Kind on Blu-Ray here.