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UFO Abduction:

The True Story Behind Alien

Abduction: Incident in Lake County

     "The uncut footage you are about to see contains the most important evidence yet made public regarding this phenomenon..."

--  You Be the Judge   




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Best Bet:

Sights &
 Axiom Films

A Hoax
 Eric Van Heese

Tommy Giavocchini

 Jason Van Heese

Patrick Kelley

 Ma Van Heese

Shirley McCalla

 Renee Reynolds

Stacey Shulman

 Jamie Van Heese

Christine Staples

 Michelle Van Heese

Laura Thomas

 Michael Van Heese

Dean Alito

 Alien #1

Kay Parten

 Alien #2

Ginny Kleker

 Alien #3

Rose Schneider

EDITOR'S NOTE: Several months after publishing the write up of Alien Abduction: Incident at Lake County, I was contacted by the man who was behind it all itching to share his story. It will probably make more sense if you follow the linkage above and read the after-action report first, but, eh, it's not all that critical as we get to the truth behind this elaborate hoax. Both of them.

After publishing the review of Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County, it quickly became the bane of my existence as I was flooded with e-mails that were about 50/50 split between those desperate to get their hands on a copy and the personal drubbing by the tinfoil-hat crowd over my failure to believe in its authenticity. Nearly lost amongst all that trash-able correspondence was this note from a man claiming to be behind the production:

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Hey guys, 

Yes, I noticed the similarities between Signs and Alien Abduction as well. Especially the country house location, single parent, daughter, alien going into the second story window, etc... Unfortunately, I didn't make the coin M. Night did! Yes, Alien Abduction came out a year before Blair Witch, but my original version UFO Abduction was made and distributed in 1989.  I have to admit, I am shocked at the somewhat nefarious cult following my UPN movie has had. I just wanted to make the most realistic UFO abduction movie I've ever seen. How UPN/Dick Clark took the project from me and re-cut it, adding poor Stanton's interview, is beyond me but that's only part of a very strange story.

-- Dean Alioto       

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To which I replied:

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Thank you very much for writing in.  Like I said in the review, the actual footage itself was pretty good and I enjoyed it. It was all the extra stuff that they added on, except for poor Stanton, that was laughable. Are UFO Abduction and Alien Abduction: ILC the same film, or is the second a remake bastardized by UPN?  If you'd care to elaborate on the rest of the "strange story" I'm all ears.

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Mr. Alioto replied and was gracious enough to let me publish his response on the website. So here we go, the true story behind the infamous abduction video.

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Hey Chad, 

Here is the whole unedited strange story of how my 1989 $6,500 video entitled UFO Abduction became the UPN special, Alien Abduction: Incident In Lake County... 

...In 1988 I was headed for my 25th birthday and I had not yet made my first feature film -- this 25th year mark is crucial for most filmmakers as it was the age that, Orson Wells, Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg all had made their first films by.  Unlike them, I had a budget that equaled the size of craft service for a day on a studio feature film.  One night after reading the latest books on the UFO phenomenon (Communion, Missing Time, and the books of Jacques Vale), I came up with the idea of making the most realistic movie on UFO abduction ever made. The best part of the idea was that it could be done for my miniscule budget.  I wrote an outline of twenty action beats based on the claimed abduction experience. I hired a group of skilled improve actors, except for myself who played the 16 year old shooting the video, and shot the direct-to-video movie in one night, in one continuous take, on 8mm video.  The guy who created the UFO craft and aliens has since gone on to be the production designer for the recent live-action Scooby-Doo films -- Bill Boes.

Here's where things get "strange".  The video actually got distributed. However, a few months later the distribution company burned to the ground. I lost my 1 inch master tape and all of my artwork, leaving me with my original tapes and a 3/4 inch copy.  I figured, "Oh, well -- time to move on" and forgot about my first attempt at a feature film.  Five years later, 1994, I begin getting calls from Unsolved Mysteries, Hard Copy, and a show called Encounters.  They all want to know if I knew who had found some mysterious UFO tape that had been passed around the UFO community for the past five years. The tape, without a title or credits, was believed by many people to be real footage of an alien abduction. 

When I finally stopped laughing and told them no one had found the tape, that I had made it and own the rights, they told me what my little video had been up to.  Apparently, someone -- much more crafty than myself -- had made an edited bootleg copy of my video and injected it into the UFO community, hyping it all the way to the 1993 International UFO Congress Convention where it brought the house down. A Lieutenant Colonel with 40 years military intelligence, who was on the panel at the convention, determined right there that the tape was real!  When I tried to ascertain how all this happened no one was able to find "patient zero" -- the person who bootlegged the tape.  I was aware that a few sample copies were made in 1989 by the distributor, before the company was burned, and that these copies were sent out to a few mom and pop video stores around the country. That's was it. 

After I was interviewed on Encounters (by the same guy that would go on to produce Alien Autopsy), and the local news, Mr. American Bandstand, Dick Clark, would enter into this strange story.  In 1995 I got hired to direct on a crime reenactment series called US Customs: Classified.  There, I became friends with Paul Chitlik, the head writer.  Paul had heard me mention the tape once and insisted I let him see the video.  After I finally got around to showing it to him (I delayed giving it to him because, at the time, I was a little too embarrassed to show him something that wasn't as slick as my current directing samples), he told me he could get us a made-for-TV movie deal with the video. I laughed at him and flippantly said "Yeah, okay, Paul. I want a story by credit, you can write the teleplay, I'll direct it, and we can produce it together." He said okay and a week later we had a deal at Dick Clark to remake my little first feature.  A year and a half later of turn-around nightmares at Showtime we ended up at UPN. 

This time around I had a $1.2 million dollar budget and the guys from The X-Files were creating our space ship and aliens. Like in my original, we used little kids to play the aliens. We shot the remake in Vancouver in a week -- the first ever made-for-TV movie shot in 5 days. We did twenty-minute takes and floated three weather balloons with lights in them above the house set so I could shoot 360 degrees without seeing a light. I directed the whole movie from a small remote camera monitor in a room in the back of the house. I gave camera directions to the cameraman and the actors followed preset precise blocking movements, like a play. I have to admit it was a blast. We came in $300,000 under budget and left feeling like we had created the most original alien story since Orson Welles' version of H.G. Well's' War Of The Worlds. Then the you-know-what hit the fan.  

While we were up in Canada making our movie, Paramount replaced all of the big execs at UPN. This sucks especially hard if you're a creator of a show that the new execs didn't green light. It is the ritual of all new execs to piss on the tree they didn't plant.  I heard from the head of TV movies guy that the first big exec screening of Alien Abduction (which still had the imaginative title of The McPherson Tapes) was the worst screening of his career. The big boys were actually throwing food at the screen! A decision was reached by Dick Clark productions and UPN to dump Paul and I and bring in someone else to cut the movie down to one-hour and add several new interviews, one of them was poor Stanton Friedman.  They ended up having to pay myself and Paul union damages for cutting us out. However, the worst thing they did was to remove the commercial bumper tags which were to read, "The program you are watching is fictional", like the ones used on the CBS movie Special Bulletin.  This caused much outrage in the UFO community and even incited a nation wide boycott of UPN. 

The last laugh would be enjoyed by myself however. The show aired and became the highest rated show ever for UPN's Tuesday primetime  slot. Their website, which normally receives 10,000 hits a day, got 300,000 hits during the hour that the show aired. It was a hit!  When they  put back more of my abduction footage for the second showing they pulled in more great numbers and ended up with 1.3 million website hits!  Another satisfying note is that my two-hour TV movie version was the one that was distributed in Europe.  It has amassed quite a following and I still, five years later, get occasional e-mails from places like Denmark, asking about the movie. The original UFO Abduction has gone on to air on a Japanese Unsolved Mysteries type show and won them the best primetime network ratings for the week, even beating out ER.  

The original, which I still own the rights to, is for sale and can be purchased through my e-mail address.  Lastly, if you can believe it, I am developing another UFO feature. Go figure. My large fan base, which I have unintentionally amassed, has taught me to respect the work I have done and continue to try and make projects that stir, excite, and cause people to wonder... 

...Hope you enjoyed my "strange" but very true tale.  You are free, should you wish, to publish any part of this e-mail for the purposes of your website. Take care.

-- Dean Alioto            

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And thank you, Dean, for sharing all of that with us. There you go, folks; the true story behind Alien Abduction: Incident at Lake County

In the interim since this was first published, I managed to finally track down and watch UFO Abduction; and while it basically followed the exact same plot (here, the family is gathered for a birthday party), and still fairly dubious, I found it to be slightly more effective than the remake in that so much of the UFO abduction tropes, where everything was thrown except for an anal probe, were not over-stuffed into it quite so bluntly. However, this means more time is spent on the family dynamics of the highly dysfunctional Van Heese's; and if this adds more realism or distracts I'll leave for you to judge. For those interested, poke around YouTube if you'd like to see for yourselves. Beyond that, Boils and Ghouls, keep watching the skies...

UFO Abduction (1989) Axiom Films / EP: Joseph Togneri  / P: Dean Alioto / AP: Trish Moreno / D: Dean Alioto / W: Dean Alioto / C: Dean Alioto / E: Dean Alioto / S: Tommy Giavocchini, Patrick Kelley, Shirley McCalla, Stacey Shulman, Christine Staples

Originally Posted: 09/27/02 :: Rehashed: 02/02/14

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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