When an alien from another planet, whether one of the Little Green Men or one of The Greys or whatever, kidnaps a human. The alien generally leaves no trace of the human until it's done with it. Alien abductions do get witnessed, but the witnesses are almost always portrayed as a bit mad even when the alien abduction is real in canon.
Humans returned from alien abductions usually have had bad things happen to them. They may have had a complete physical, possibly without anesthesia. They may have a little tracker planted in them. They were most certainly probed and violated though. And even a benign alien can cause an abduction, and cause problems, if Time Travel in either direction happens. Or they have been forced to be the Chosen One.
Sometimes, if the alien is benign, the human will witness something that makes the abduction worth the trouble. If the aliens' interest is scientific research, expect them to be terrible at it: No Control Group, no reliable tranquilizers (because how else could abductees keep waking up too soon, so they can see they're in a spaceship?), and no acknowledgment that it's indiscreet to keep abducting idiots who'll rush to spill their story to the tabloids.
Malevolent aliens don't always bother to return the human. There might not be anything to return.
Before aliens from outer space became a popular concept, literature and folklore used fairy abductions, demon abductions, and gods abducting fair maidens. Many of these stories reflect sexual urges excused and resolved through the agency of an irresistible entity like a god or alien.
Compare: Aliens Steal Cattle
Anime & Manga
- Sailor Moon
- The Black Moon Clan in the Second Story Arc.
- In the anime, Crimson Rubeus captures all the Sailor Senshi except Sailor Moon, who frees them after defeating Rubeus. In a later episode, Prince Demand captures Sailor Moon and tries to brainwash her into being his bride, but Tuxedo Mask intervenes and saves her.
- In the manga, three of the Sailor Senshi (Sailors Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter) are captured by Rubeus; only Sailor Venus and Sailor Moon remain. Eventually, Sailor Moon is captured as well when she is teleported from Crystal Tokyo to Planet Nemesis. There, Demand tries to brainwash her with his "third eye", but like in the anime, he fails.
- Cromartie High School: Freddie being abducted by aliens is seen as more important than knowing the name of Hokuto's lackey.
- Hidamari Sketch: Yuno gets abducted by aliens while relaxing on the school roof... only it was All Just a Dream.
Films -- Animation
- Inverted in Daft Punk's long-form anime music video, Interstella 5555: The main characters are aliens who are kidnapped by an Earthling entertainment mogul to make pop music as part of convoluted plot for intergalactic domination, which means that, despite the inversion, it technically still is an alien abduction.
- Subverted in Happy Feet, when the skua tells young Mumble of his alien abduction.
Films -- Live-Action
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
- Intruders is arguably one of the best films on alien abduction (plus its really scary! Check out the little boy scene, during the hypnosis sessions. Most of the film deals with aliens abducting successive generations in the same families. At the end, aliens themselves reveal their reasons to the abductees.
- Alien Abduction Incident in Lake County
- In Flight of the Navigator, the protagonist wakes up 8 years after being abducted and returned to Earth, and hasn't aged at all because of time dilation caused by faster-than-light travel.
- In Independence Day, Russell Casse apparently was abducted by aliens, only nobody believed him and mocked him mercilessly about it (some even implying that his "alien abduction" was really some people who abducted him and abused him sexually) until they showed up. Of course, it's never entirely made clear if it was true, or if the aliens in the movie were even the ones who did it.
- If you accept the comics as canon, then it is, and they were.
- It Came from Outer Space (1953). The aliens abduct humans both to copy their bodies (so they can covertly steal equipment to repair their spaceship) and as hostages. They have no malevolent intent, but believe their alien appearance will lead to conflict with the primitive humans.
- Done in an unfriendly way in Fire in the Sky with examination/torture. It is worth noting that the abduction depicted in the movie is nothing like the account given by the real Travis Walton, whose story the movie is based on. In Walton's actual account, the aliens while frightening in appearance were not violent, and did not torture him.
- In The Fourth Kind, the protagonist is interviewing people who claim to have been abducted.
- In Mysterious Skin (which is also a book), Brian thinks this is what happened during a blank spot in his childhood. The truth is much, much worse.
- Subverted in Race to Witch Mountain; Two alien siblings are captured by humans.
- Marion Zimmer Bradley has played with this occasionally.
- In The Brass Dragon, the protagonist initially can't remember the last year of his life, but unexpectedly finds that he now knows a lot more about mathematics than he used to. He and his alien companions were trapped on Mars for most of that year, since they had to wait for an enemy ship to be available to ambush for transport back to Earth. They passed the time by teaching the protagonist a lot of math.
- She co-wrote Hunters of the Red Moon with her brother Paul Edwin Zimmer, in which the protagonist, who is sailing around the world alone, is kidnapped off his boat by the Mekhar (who trade in slaves, and were expecting more people to be on the boat).
- K.A. Applegate's Animorphs features the Skrit Na, a species that seems to be the basis of "The Greys." As an Andalite protagonist explains in their first appearance, the Skrit Na basically go around in their weird, saucer-shaped ships, abduct people from other planets and either do weird experiments on them or put them in zoos on their home planets. Interestingly, nobody knows why, making the Skrit Na the CloudCuckooLanders of the galaxy.
- In Christopher Buckley's novel Little Green Men, alien abductions are the work of a top-secret U.S. government agency which had been manufacturing evidence of alien activity since 1947, and didn't start doing abductions until UFO sightings, crop harvesting and cattle mutilations had lost their novelty value. The rectal probing and egg harvesting only started because the abductees seemed to demand it. Actual Little Green Men aren't used any more because of the difficulty of obtaining midgets with security clearances.
- In Diane Duane's Young Wizards series the primary motivation aliens have for abducting humans is to steal their chocolate.
- Communion by Whitley Strieber. Allegedly based on a true story; made into a movie starring Christopher Walken; helped establish jokes about rectal probes (to Strieber's dismay).
- The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein. The titular aliens have been abducting humans for years, possibly centuries, as part of the plan to conquer Earth. It turns out that the protagonist's Love Interest was abducted from a human colony on Venus as a child; this provides a key to the eventual defeat of the invasion.
- In Slaves of Spiegel by Daniel Pinkwater, Steve Nickelson is abducted by Space Pirates, who have him and everything in his Hoboken restaurant wrapped in aluminum foil, shrunk in size and taken to the planet Spiegel for the pirates' great interplanetary cook-off. Steve sends in a report to the Flying Saucer Club of Hudson County, New Jersey, who pronounce his report to be totally inauthentic since all aliens are either Little Green Men or blobby eye stalk creatures, not "fat people," and nobody has ever heard of a planet named Spiegel. When the Space Pirates then find out about Steve's assistant, Norman Bleistift, and kidnap him too.
- Although Pratchett hasn't seen fit to pull this off on Discworld (yet), one of his footnotes does poke fun at this trope, remarking that so many aliens seem to hang around isolated backwoods roads, waiting to abduct humans, that they keep screwing up and abducting one another. Oh, and Bigfoot.
- In Angry Lead Skies, Garrett's associate and housemate the Goddamn Parrot gets abducted by "silver elf" aliens, to the detective's considerable delight.
- A non-scifi variant happens in Algernon Blackwood's "The Wendigo".
- The Tumbleweed Dossier by Sugar Ray Dodge was written on the premise of "aliens abducting vampires."
- Happens to the protagonist in Ancient Baghdad in Andrey Belianin's The Thief of Baghdad, who is snatched by a Tractor Beam while running away from the sultan's guards. The guards, seeing the hateful thief taken by Saint Hyzr's Chariot, assume he's gone for good. The thief, who is actually a modern-day man transported into the past by a genie, whose spell also caused Laser-Guided Amnesia, breaks away from the short grey aliens and forces them to engage in conversation. They use their telepathy to tell him that they are agents of an interstellar union, made up of various races. They are scouting Earth before announcing their presense and integrating humanity into the galactic community. They claim they wish to eliminate racial, religious, and sexual differences among humans. When the thief hears about the latter, he decides to show the aliens why humans enjoy their sexual differences.
- Babylon 5
- Spoofed in the episode "Grail", in which the human great-grandson of an abductee demands compensation from the great-grandson of an alien abductor.
- They later did a reenactment of the torture scene from Fire in the Sky when a new race was scouting for easy invasion prospects.
- There does not seem to be any indication that the Vree have ever abducted anyone, although there is a possibility that the Roswell incident involved a crashed Vree survey ship (their ships are saucer-shaped). The more likely abduction candidates are the Streib and the Vorlons.
- The Vorlons did abduct Jack the Ripper. Presumably on the assumption that no-one would be eager to have him back.
- The Minbari abducted Sinclair and subjected him to the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique before discovering that he was Valen. Sinclair met Delenn there in those rather awkward circumstances. As far as we know he never talked about it with her even after his memory was restored.
- Soap: Poor Burt gets abducted, cloned and temporarily replaced.
- Doctor Who
- The Doctor has been known to do this by accident if a companion is recruited by them wandering into the TARDIS and him taking off before noticing. Sarah Jane Smith became a companion this way.
- The first two human companions, Barbara and Ian, stumbled aboard the TARDIS because they were worried and curious about a genius student of theirs named Susan, whose grandfather was an eccentric and unnamed doctor. When they saw that the TARDIS was bigger on the inside and saw proof that Susan and the Doctor were sufficiently advanced aliens, the Doctor felt they had seen too much and decided to abduct them. No one else liked this idea.
- Donna Noble was another accidental example, notable for being beamed on board the TARDIS while it was in flight, which the Doctor had considered completely impossible.
- Stargate SG-1
- As always, the series came up with an "explanation" fitting into its cosmology. The abductions were carried out by Loki, a rogue Asgard scientist performing genetic experiments on humans by beaming them onto his starship, temporarily replacing them with short-lived clones.
- Also, there was one episode where Thor did transport O'Neill to his ship, although its subverted in that it wasn't to do testing on O'Neill as much as request for his help (since the Replicators were attacking his planet, and it was very likely the Replicators would attack Earth next).
- The entire Milky Way galaxy is populated by descendants of ancient humans who were abducted by the Goa'uld and made to serve as slaves.
- The X-Files. Subverted in "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" where the fake alien abductors got abducted by real aliens. Probably.
- The aliens that supplied the supersuit in The Greatest American Hero do this to various people, although for benign reasons.
- UFO. Aliens from a dying world abduct humans in order to harvest them for their organs.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation did its own take of this in "Schisms", where the crew gradually realise that aliens from another dimension have been abducting and conducting sinister experiments on them, then wiping their memories and returning them to the Enterprise. Unusually for Star Trek, their actual purpose in doing so is never revealed.
- There are at least a couple of inversions in the series - where the Enterprise beams up an unsuspecting local alien (at least one from a "bronze age" society). However, there was generally a lack of probing and prodding, but they do try to erase the alien's memories of the event.
- Subverted in First Wave, where the members of the Alien Abduction Support Group are revealed to be hypnotized by aliens to recall false memories as part of an experiment. Aliens don't have starships in the series.
- In the Dark Skies series finale, Majestic-12 replaces an official who is about to be abducted by the Hive with the protagonist in order to infiltrate the mothership. Since the series was cancelled, the outcome is unknown.
- In The Chronicle, one of the main characters claims that she was abducted several times when she was a child by at least two different alien races. One of these later returns to check up on their subjects... and remove their brains.
- Played with and averted in House. A child patient is being treated due to having beliefs that he was abducted by aliens. Turns out that it was false, but not because the kid was making stuff up: He actually did believe it due to the "abduction memories" being a side-effect of his birth. He was originally supposed to have a twin brother who he absorbed in the womb.
- Mentioned in "Weird Al" Yankovic's 2014 parody, "Foil".
Myths & Legends
- Persephone's abduction myth.
- As noted in the main text, any number of legends and tales about being taken "under the hill" by elves and/or fairies.
- The story of Rip Van Winkle is a direct descendant of the fairy abduction stories.
- Changeling: The Lost, being about The Fair Folk and their victims, emphasizes the ties between Alien Abduction and the old faerie myths—some Keepers are described as androgynous, slender beings that put their victims through strange examinations involving horrifying equipment, and the Wizened in the illustrations appear to be a mixture of traditional goblins and The Greys. Of course, the book goes on to say in a sidebar that not all alien abductions in the World of Darkness may be the fault of The Fair Folk....
- In the world of Pathfinder, hapless people sometimes disappear from their homes, only to reappear sometime later with mysterious surgical scars and no recollection of what happened beyond vague nightmares of short gray-skinned creatures with bulging eyes... except instead of aliens from outer space, they've been abducted by derros, fey-like humanoids from Beneath the Earth. A Shout-Out to the literature of Richard Sharpe Shaver and his "deros", which may have inspired the idea of The Grays in the first place.
- The Dark Eldar in Warhammer 40,000 kidnap members of other races. They also have a bit of a Fair Folk motif, giving a there usage of this trope at least some of a Changeling Tale flavor. Getting kidnapped by a Dark Eldar easily falls into a Fate Worse Than Death.
- This happens to the protagonist, his girlfriend, his grandfather, and apparently half of Texas.
- Also if you listen to the radio they have also done this to Oakland (they don't specify which one) and if you look around they are planing on doing this to New York City, already got a school bus filled with kids, you watch them take an airplane, and they have abducted other human-like people from different planets. Plus with a ship that size who knows what else could be up there?
- The Sims games allow your Sims to get abducted by aliens if they spend too long stargazing. (It's a very small chance without hacks or cheats.) In The Sims 2, they can also come back pregnant with an alien baby... if they're male. Now that's extreme Anal Probing. Even if they're not pregnant, there's a possibility of them starving to death after their return if they aren't fed immediately; the aliens don't have human food, it seems.
- The Backstory of X-COM: UFO Defense includes humanity being terrorised by mass abductions, and the aliens continue mounting missions to abduct humans through the game... while it's up to you to stop them.
- The Fallout 3 add-on Mothership Zeta has the player and various wastelanders being abducted and studied aboard an alien ship. The evidence on the ship indicates that they have been doing this for centuries. In fact, one of the abductees is a Japanese samurai in full armor who proceeds to slice up his abductors with his katana. Naturally, you can't understand each other. Another is a Wild West cowboy, whose Colt comes in handy.
- Metal Gear
- In the first game, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the Colonel, shortly after Raiden manages to escape Arsenal Gear's torture room, suddenly starts telling what seems to be a typical UFO story where it is implied that he was abducted while trying to get home from work, giving the early implication that the Colonel is not who, or rather, what, he claims to be.
- The second game, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, has Sigint remarking that Zero claimed that he was abducted by Aliens once as a reason for him to suspend disbelief in regards to Snake procuring the Spirit Camo.
- In the novel within a video game, The Shocking Conspiracy on Shadow Moses, the main character once thought he was abducted by aliens.
- Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker implies that most of the UFO encounters, Alien abductions, and Cattle Mutilations were actually caused by the CIA, more specifically their rogue unit: the Peace Sentinels, and their AI weapons.
- Super Mario Bros
- Super Mario Land, where Mario had to save Princess Daisy (who made her debut here) from an evil alien who kidnapped her just so he can distract Mario while the game's real villain, Wario can succeed in his evil plans as revealed in the sequel.
- Super Mario Galaxy: Rosalina, according to her backstory was actually abducted by the Lumas because one of them thought that she was its mother. When Rosalina realizes that her real family is now long dead since her departure, she eventually becomes their leader, and even helps Mario save both Peach and the entire Mushroom Galaxy from Bowser, who at the same time did this to Peach.
- In Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten all of the generic classes have introductory cutscenes which play when you create a new one to add to your team. The cyborg class's cutscene shows a female fighter being abducted in this manner, before being Strapped to An Operating Table and undergoing Unwilling Roboticisation.
- Karate Bears were abducted once Alien Abduction.
- In Alien Dice, Chel, who's about to board a spaceship voluntarily, wonders for a moment if aliens abduct you through talking you into coming with them. Later it's revealed that humans were abducted in the past to create the Rishans but it was forbidden by the laws of The Federation.
- I Was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space. Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Happens a lot to Denver in Starfire Agency, and they never return him in the right clothes. Turns out he's a slightly damaged replicant created by the Greys
- Was done in Does Not Play Well With Others to Harrisons in the middle of the night. Worst of all, it was too loud.
- Prudence in Dangerously Chloe tried to abduct Teddy because he's a human who sees her angel wings that are supposed to be Invisible to Normals (and did already abduct a "suspicious" puppy). The other angels don't see it as a big deal. Amusingly, after Teddy and his succubi roomies are Mistaken for Aliens by Naomi, she thinks Prudence who dropped on Teddy (literally, knocking him out) was a "honest-to-goodness alien abductee", which was confirmed by their miscommunication via euphemisms ("from... you know... up there?").
- The Pilot episode of South Park, "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe." Almost a hundred episodes later the aliens abducted him again, revealing that their secret motive this whole time was to monitor Earth because it's actually a giant intergalactic reality TV show.
- The Simpsons
- This happens to Homer in a Hallowe'en special, and they say "take us to your leader" and everything...
"Stop! We have reached the limits of what rectal probing can teach us!"
- In another, they tell Marge, "Warning! Prepare to be abducted!"
- Chuck Jones put out two alien-abduction themed Looney Tunes -- Hasty Hare has Bugs captured by Marvin Martian, and Jumpin' Jupiter has a mutant-turkey alien abduct a vacationing Porky Pig in a visually awesome scene where the flying saucer burrows beneath his campsite, and carries off a whole section of ground with tent, campfire, car and all.
- One of Disney's 1950s TV shows on space featured a frenetic take on a "typical sci-fi story" where a scientist's secretary is nabbed by aliens, done by Ward Kimball in peerless '50s style.
- Played for laughs on Invader Zim, where the title character, an insane alien posing as a human, gets abducted by a pair of even-stupider aliens who think he really is human. We find out that the aliens are so stupid and ineffective at doing anything, all their victims escaped without harm.
- Parodied and shown from the aliens' point of view in the Pixar short film Lifted.
- Parodied in a special relating to an episode plot-making contest (of which the episode itself was the direct result of such a contest), where Buster's plot idea was having Buster's character trying to get aliens to come down, they do, landing on Buster's character, take Arthur's character into their ship, doing anal probing (although, as it is a kids show, Arthur's character is just shown in his underpants, although the implications were still on there), then leave Arthur behind. Also, the entire sequence was a direct Shout-Out to South Park (ironic, considering how that show was anything but kid friendly.).
- Similarly, in the episode (and book) "Arthur's Slumber Party", a subplot involved a newspaper headline mentioning that someone thought they saw a UFO. DW got obsessed with UFOs as a result, and so during the slumber party, Arthur, Brain, and Buster decided to pull a few pranks on DW by first placing one of their sleeping bags and using a cutout of an alien to cause DW to think its a real alien, and then (episode only) create a UFO contraption for DW to take pictures of until it landed via Brain's remote control.
- Hilariously implied to be what happened to D.W.'s Snowball in the episode "D.W.'s Snowball".
- Probably the most famous alleged alien abduction case was that of Betty and Barney Hill. A married couple who claimed to have been abducted by aliens in rural New Hampshire in 1961. Their claims were investigated by the government and media and became the Trope Codifier for alien abduction stories. Betty passed a lie detector and both she and her husband stuck by their claims till death.
- One of the most unusual alien abduction stories was that of American logger Travis Walton. Walton was allegedly abducted by a UFO in Arizona in 1975. His abduction was reported by several coworkers who claimed to have witnessed the event, resulting in a state-wide manhunt (and a possible homicide investigation). Walton did not reappear until five days later, claiming he had been abducted by aliens. The movie Fire In the Sky is very loosely based on the alleged abduction.
- Wild animals captured by humans, examined and tagged, then released again. From their perspective this trope might be close to Truth in Television.
- Humans captured in passing in a first contact situation with a new culture. Sometimes the scenario sounds remarkably like an alien abduction. In time gone by it was perfectly normal for explorers to grab a stray wanderer and take them back to show off like zoo specimens.