For years, mankind has looked up to the stars and questioned the existence of other lifeforms, alien planets, and the possible threat of extra-terrestrial invasions.
Many people believe that UFO sightings are a modern phenomenon, but there have been reports of strange objects floating through the sky as far back as the Middle Ages.
True believers in UFOs and aliens claim to have photographic and video evidence, but one famous piece of alleged evidence actually turned out to be nothing more than a found footage film.
Back in 1989, an aspiring young filmmaker called Dean Alioto decided to try and create his first movie. Alioto would later reveal in interviews with 3B Theater and Found Footage Critic that he had a real interest in UFO sightings and alien encounters, and he took inspiration from these stories to create a sci-fi movie with a difference.
Without much of a budget to work with and rather basic equipment, Alioto decided to make a film about an alien abduction and stage it to look just like real life.
Alioto decided to create a “found footage” film. At the time, this genre was barely in its infancy and wouldn’t really take off for another decade, with the release of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, but it was a smart way for a young filmmaker like Alioto to make a realistic movie with limited means and very little cash.
He gave his film the title UFO Abduction and based it around a family called the Van Heeses, who end up embroiled in a terrifying battle with aggressive alien beings.
The story begins with footage from the birthday party of the family’s daughter, Michelle. The party gets interrupted when the power goes out inside the house, and strange lights start to appear in the sky.
When some of the family members head out to investigate, they encounter a UFO and its alien occupants. The family end up taking refuge in their home and trying to fight off the aliens with shotguns, but are ultimately all abducted.
Had the film seen a proper release, it might have become a cult hit and enjoyed a little success, but the warehouse responsible for its direct-to-video distribution ended up burning down. The master print of the movie was destroyed in the fire, and it seemed like UFO Abduction was doomed to never be seen or heard of again. Alioto decided to move on, but a few years later, his movie would make a very strange comeback.
In 1992, a bootleg copy of the film started to circulate around UFO conspiracy theory groups and was known under a new title of The McPherson Tape.
The new copy had been altered to remove all the credits so there was actually no clear visual indication that the whole thing was fake, and rumors started to spread that the tape depicted a real-life alien abduction. Since the whole found footage genre hadn’t taken off at the time and very few people had ever seen UFO Abduction, the rumors gained a lot of weight.
The fact that Alioto had based the whole story on alleged alien encounters and abductions he’d read about it in magazines or head about on TV also helped to make the movie seem genuine, especially in the eyes of those who were eagerly searching for any kind of proof of alien existence. For a little while, the story kept running and the footage was even picked up by major media outlets all around the world.
Eventually, Alioto heard about what was going on and came out to reveal that the footage was all fake and had been altered from the film he once made. In his interview with 3B Theater, Alioto revealed that some people continued to believe the tape was real, even after his announcement, especially after a Lieutenant Colonel saw the McPherson footage at the 1993 International UFO Congress Convention and claimed it to be real.
The strange story of UFO Abduction actually led to the film gaining a big cult following in the 1990s, with many new viewers still seeking out the film to this day.
The interest and hype generated by the strange tale also helped Alioto create a remake of his film, released in 1998 under the title Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County. Once again, there was controversy over this film as many people once more believed it to be real, further demonstrating Alioto’s innate flair for making realistic found footage movies.