Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 34: Jul-Aug 1984

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Hostage Hallucinations

"The literature on hallucinatory experiences of hostage victims is reviewed. The phenomenology is examined in 30 case studies involving 31 persons, including exprisoners of war and victims of rape, kidnapping, terrorism, robbery, and 'UFO abductions.' The victims were subjected to conditions of isolation, visual deprivation, restraint on physical movement, physical abuse, and the threat of death. For eight victims, these conditions were sufficient to produce a progression of visual hallucinations from simple geometric images to complex memory images coupled with dissociation. The other 23 victims, subjected to similar conditions but without isolation and life-threatening stress, did not experience hallucinations. The hostage hallucinations are compared to those resulting from sensory deprivation, near fatal accidents, and other states of isolation and stress. A common mechanism of action based on entopic phenomena and CNS (central nervous system) excitation and arousal is suggested."

In a typical case, an 18-year-old female college student was kidnapped and held for ransom. She was bound, blindfolded, and denied food, water, and toilet facilities. She was periodically threatened with death. She saw dull flashes of light in front of her eyes and small animals and insects on the periphery of her visual field. Becoming hypervigilant, she heard strange sounds and whispers. Hearing loud noises, she thought her captors were coming to kill her. It was then her whole life ran off like a slide show before her eyes. The noises were the police coming to rescue her.

(Siegel, Ronald K.; "Hostage Hallucinations," Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 172:264, 1984.)

Comment. Some of the hostages experienced the tunnel hallucination so common in near-death visions. These seemingly 'built-in' or hard-wired images may be related to UFO and sea-serpent phenomena.

From Science Frontiers #34, JUL-AUG 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987