Duane Barry and the terror of alien abduction

Tony Black takes a deeper look at the abduction psychology behind ‘Duane Barry’…

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Does anyone else feel a little bit sorry for Duane Barry? Granted, yes, he’s the guy who takes an entire travel agency hostage, shoots one guy, kills a traffic cop and, oh yeah, delivers Dana Scully to her mysterious abductors in ‘Ascension’. By all accounts, he could be seen as a bad guy, but as Darren Mooney and I discuss on the latest episode of The X-Cast, this most seminal guest character in The X-Files in all truth is one of the show’s biggest victims. It seems to be a recurring theme as we work through the show, these seeming perpetrators of paranormal violence actually being pawns in a bigger game, and perhaps Duane’s is the biggest game of all.

Because of all the victims of alien abduction over the course of The X-Files history, with the possible exception of Billy Miles, nobody gets a worse deal than Duane Barry, played so wonderfully by Steve Railsback in ‘Duane Barry’ & ‘Ascension’.

As primal modern terrors go, abduction by extra-terrestrials is hard to beat. These so-called, ‘close encounters of the fourth kind’ (there are eight kinds, in case you didn’t know, classified by famed UFOlogist J. Allen Hynek, ranging from seeing a UFO to birthing a human/alien hybrid), often either happen on a deserted road at night as a bright light appears in the sky, stopping your car dead and tractor beaming you right up into its mechanical maw, even being dragged out by little green men; or as Duane experiences (often abductees are called ‘experiencers’) being possessed by an alien impulse in the dead of night at home in bed, and literally sucked up into the night. They are the 20th-century manifestation of the monster under the bed, the unknown entity which takes you away for its own nefarious purposes… but are these experiences real or manifestations of a deeper psychology?

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Cases of possible alien abduction go back, recorded, well into the 19th century but it was truly the 1950’s and 60’s when the first popularized cases came into focus; the Antonio Vilas Boas case of 1957 and most famously, Betty & Barney Hill in 1961. Many have speculated these widely reported, terrifying cases of innocent people being experimented upon triggered the wave of reports and the entire study of modern UFOlogy which, fused alongside the post-Watergate paranoia of the 70’s, helped fuel the flames that created the pre-millennial anticipatory anxiety (as John Kenneth Muir terms it in his work and discussed on our podcast) of The X-Files. That what Duane Barry goes through in this episode, as depicted, is the direct result of a suggestive populous conditioned to believe in the abduction myth, of the extra-terrestrial menace, in the wake of two devastating World Wars in which the monsters were very human.

Yet it seems, without question, Duane is the victim of alien abduction, and later the machinations of a secret government looking to control and erase evidence of extra-terrestrial life on Earth. His horror, seen through his terrifying flashbacks to the kind of abduction surgery visited upon him, seems to be real and not entirely the result of a damaged, deluded or conditioned mind. Perhaps the same is true of all the real life ‘experiencers’ and when the day comes, the day an alien civilization becomes fact rather than theory, their own victimization may be brought into the light.

Maybe there are a few Duane Barry’s out there in the real world, right now, haunted by the inability to prove what they’ve encountered is all too close to home.

You can follow Tony on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.

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