Remembering Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County

I’m a fan of the found footage genre. The genre gets a lot of sh*t from people, but honestly, I think some of these movies are scarier than the “splatter” or “serial killer” movies that are currently released. Anyway, I’m prepping for an appearance on the awesome podcast, The Bloke Show, in which we are going to discuss found footage films so I was trying to think of the first examples of found footage movies I remember seeing. Obviously, Blair Witch Project popped in my head first, but that wasn’t it. I remember seeing something else first.  I have a vivid memory of it, especially the ending.  But I’ll get to that.

In January 1998, the UPN Network aired the special presentation; Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County.

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I don’t remember how or why I watched it, but I did. It was presented very similarly as the Alien Autopsy footage, ie it was promoted as being real.  I know we get things like this all the time now, but in 1998, this was, if not unheard of, it was not common.

One thing I want to say to put this in context.  This special is, for lack of a better word, “trope-y”.  It has all the hallmarks of found footage and cheesy horror movies.  However, many of the found footage tropes hadn’t really been established at this time.  This special aired over a year before The Blair Witch Project was released in theaters.  In actuality, the special was a remake of an independent movie called UFO Abduction from 1989.  So in a sense, it was creating a lot of these tropes we now find so prevalent.  And the special created a sort of sensation and controversy when it aired because many people didn’t get that it was fiction. There really was no context for something like this before.  So, just keep that in mind as we go through it.

So, I was recently able to watch this thing again and I simply have to talk about it.  The beginning of the special had several talking head “experts” discuss what you are about to see.

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Experts like the uber cool, black shirted video EFX editor who, while sitting next to a powered down computer monitor, explains that the things you’ll see in the upcoming video couldn’t be done with the consumer video technology available (well of course not, UPN created the effects). And the “former government agent” who can’t be shown on camera because of the stuff he’s “seen”.  I love how they actually give him a fake name, “Al James”.  Why?

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UPN also brought in a nuclear physicist awesomely named Stanton Friedman to help explain “electromagnetic interference” for whenever the footage gets all static-y or to explain to us how this footage is the most important scientific discovery of the millennium (which hadn’t actually happened yet).  Or the “certified” hypnotherapist to explain what everyone is “feeling” during the video.  Lots of heavy hitters in this segment.  To balance out these experts who are clearly actors we have actual alien abductees discuss their experiences as well in sequences which are even more staged and less believable than the “experts”.

So, the footage is setup by these experts.  A young man named Tommy McPherson is filming Thanksgiving dinner with his new video camera.

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It starts off with normal family stuff. Lots of goofing off and bickering. Really boring as balls. I don’t want you to seek this out and waste your time watching it so I’m going to show you the good parts. The alien parts. And then the ending which for some reason had a big impact on me. So, to begin, the power goes out in the McPherson house. Some of “the men” go out to check the fuse box and see a giant explosion in the distance. Of course, they go check it out and find, in the distance, an alien ship. And a few aliens come out of the ship.  The guys keep far back from the action so Tommy has to zoom in on the aliens with his camera.

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The aliens spot the guys in the distance and shoot a “laser” towards them. I created an animated GIF for you to see that this incident looks just as ridiculous in the footage as it sounds when I describe it. Below is what it looked like in the “footage”.  The alien is blasting the cow on the ground with a laser, stops, looks up at the camera and shoots it WAY to the left of the camera.  And, of course, the footage is replete with static from “electromagnetism” (Thanks, Stanton).

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So the men go home and freak out with the women. At first, lots of non-believers. Then lots of crying. Then, on cue, everyone gets nosebleeds.

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Men pull out the shotguns and threaten to shoot pretty much EVERYTHING IN SIGHT. We have the experts at this point jumping in to explain that the nosebleeds “could” be caused by alien cranial implants. Especially when everyone starts getting really hot and saying that their skin is burning up.

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I’m a former CIA agent, not a porn director trying to earn extra money. Honest.

The experts pretty much agreed this means that the aliens have “tagged” these people with probes and their physiology is adjusting to the implant.  Of course it is.

Next, we get the “glowing balls of light” phenomenon that we all know so well.

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Clearly NOT a special effect.

We then get everyone climbing up in the attic because they heard footsteps. All the regular lights and sounds of these types of movies that we know now, but in 1998 hadn’t really been established yet.  Car batteries are melted.  Rooms are discovered trashed.  The men shoot holes in walls and doors.  We also get a few more alien close calls on video, but nothing good until the very end.

So lots of chaos ensues.  Some people are lost.  Tommy ends the video with a confessional in his room worrying that the current survivors aren’t going to make it out of this encounter.  He then gets up, grabs the camera and pans the room and we see this.

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That is what freaked me out. That quick shot of an alien that is now clearly going to “have his way” with young Tommy. This ending has stuck with me all these years and while I forgot all about this little special I never forgot the room pan and the alien behind the door.  While now I see it’s not quite as creepy as I remembered it in my head, back in 1998, when the found footage genre was knew, and we weren’t quite as jaded as a society, it just creeped me out.  And I’ve carried it with me to this day.  And to finally come face-to-face with this special again has been a fun trip down memory lane especially because I can now see where my fascination with the found footage genre began.

And that fascination would only increase when The Blair Witch Project was released a little over a year later.

A quick adendum to the story of this special.  I was searching around the Internet and found out that there was an alternate ending to this special that was added later on.  It looks like they cut out the alien behind the door finale and the footage continues on to the downstairs where Tommy starts playing cards with the few survivors.  Suddenly, in a much less effective climax, the aliens actually walk into the house and subdue the humans with what appears to be psionic powers and then the footage fades to static.  Not quite as creepy or effective and if that had been the ending I saw I may not have the fondness for this type of stuff that I do now.

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2 Responses to “Remembering Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County”

  1. Yea, that alien behind the door is creepy. Actually, anything behind a door at night scares the heck out of me.
    I like these actual footage specials. Have you seen the mermaid one? I jumped when the mermaid footage was finally showed at the end…lol. And the eye witness accounts just add that extra oomph.

  2. I made the mistake of watching this alone in my apartment when it came out; that last scene made for a very long, sleepless night, even though there were several telltale signs that this was made up. Even seeing it just now gave me the willies.

    Just an FYI: Awesomely named nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman is, indeed, a real nuclear physicist & a UFO researcher of some note; he was actually kind of duped into being in this special, laboring under the illusion that this was real found footage.

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