The other night I went to cinema and saw the 2009 production by the young director Olatunde Osunsanmi, entitled The Fourth Kind.
The storyline brings us to the city of Nome in
where the protagonist Dr Abigail Tyler researches cases of alien abduction, until she becomes a victim herself.
Based on apparently authentic documentary material, the movie shifts between different levels of perception and leaves the viewer bewildered as to whose version of the story to believe. While the movie has to be rated as of shifting quality, the aspect that caught my attention was the startling similarity of the story with East Arabian folk tales I had come across during my own research.
The only difference was that the origins of the supernatural phenomena related in the Arabian tales were jinn – to some English readers better known as genies – and not aliens.
Quite intriguing were the different levels of interaction that both, the movie and the East Arabian folklore, were built on.
The Fourth Kind applies the scientific model of extraterrestrial close encounter categorisation, which was coined by the US astronomer, Harvard professor and ufologist J Allen Hynek.
Hynek classifies as ‘first kind encounters’ the sighting of one or more unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
A ‘second kind encounter’ would be the observation of physical associated effects, such as radiation or crop circles.
Hynek used the term ‘third kind encounter’ as the observation of an ‘animate being’ related to the earlier phenomena.
Finally, the fourth and most critical kind is the abduction of a human by these ‘animate beings’.
Unfortunately, he did not foresee any kind of peaceful coexistence upon encounter. The vague terminology ‘animate beings’ leads quite easily towards parallels found in the East Arabian folklore related to jinn, so-called jinn lore. The encounter with supernatural beings is an integral part of Islamic belief, to the extent that the belief in angels and jinn are two of the so-called six pillars of faith.
Jinn encounters seemed something quite regular, a standard component of holistic life experience, especially among the elderly women who shared with me their memories.
‘First kind’ viewings appear as either shadows, or full bodies in a variety of human, animal and incomparable jinn-specific forms.
The first and third categories of Hynek therefore seem merged in the context of jinn observation. Although flying jinn are not rare, the expectation to see flying phenomena is not as predominant as among alien spectators.
Jinn viewings also often coincide with audible characteristics – the observation of communication among different jinn – and the sensation of physical presence before and after the jinn had taken on visible characteristics.
The ‘second kind’ category appears in the movement of objects in the room, either in form of lost items, which reappear in a completely absurd location some time later, or manifested in visible movements of objects across space.
‘Fourth kind’ encounters focused on by the movie are likewise the most recalled instances that provide explanation to the supernatural in East Arabia.
I still remember vividly the explanation of my mother’s friend and neighbour, whom a jinn apparently abducted in her bathroom, more precisely in the corner of wall and ceiling of her bathroom, for several days. As she was invisible during this time, all her requests for assistance from family members remained unnoticed.
Most fascinating in my recollection is that the explanation for her disappearance, abduction by jinn, was neither shocking nor surprising to her environment. Merely a few hours after her re-appearance, everybody went back to normal life and accepted the abduction as part of a rather ordinary experience. It was suggested that the abduction was a result of her negligence to recite certain protective holy texts.
From the perspective of the abduction victims, Islam and its belief in Jinn provides an explanatory model for what remained an utmostly stressful alien mystery in Nome, Alaska. However, whether these parallels are accidental, or if the Islamic concept of supernatural beings could provide explanations to alien sightings, is a question that would need to be further explored.
Until then, I recommend watching Aladdin or Genie in the Bottle, rather than the psychologically demanding dramas of the alien abduction victims. If you happen to encounter jinns in the near future, keep in mind that Muslims who recite the last three chapters of the Quran are safe from potential abductions.