The Bizarre True Story Of The Brooklyn Bridge UFO Abduction

In New York City on November 30, 1989, an abduction case occurred that revolutionized how ufologists approached the subject ... or an erratic woman, in consort with a few attention-hungry and susceptible ufologists, spun out an increasingly unlikely yarn where the presence of space aliens stealing people in the night might be the least unbelievable aspect.

UFO researcher Budd Hopkins stated that "[t]he importance of this case is virtually immeasurable, as it powerfully supports both the objective reality of UFO abductions and the accuracy of regressive hypnosis as employed with this abductee," according to Joseph Stefula, Richard Butler, and George Hansen's examination, "A Critique of Budd Hopkins' Case of the UFO Abduction of Linda Napolitano."

It has been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, Omni, Paris Match, and Yhe New York Times. It was exhaustively detailed in Hopkin's book, "Witnessed: The True Story of the Brooklyn Bridge UFO Abductions," but that was only the beginning of the strangeness.

How it all started

Author Chris A. Rutkowski explained that, at 3:15 a.m., Linda Napolitano reported that she woke to see something inhuman in her bedroom. She screamed and tried to wake her husband, asleep next to her, but he would not be roused. The alleged aliens floated her out of her 12th story Brooklyn apartment through the wall, levitating her into their glowing ship — which snapped shut like a clamshell once Napolitano and the aliens were within. There, they ran the usual gamut of tests, including poking a stick up her nose that had a ball on the end, then leaving the ball.

Though the experience would be traumatizing for anyone, Napolitano was reportedly not especially distraught over what had happened. Abductions were in vogue at that time. Whitley Strieber's book of his own abductions, "Communion," had been published only a few years before. Travis Walton's experience had been common knowledge in UFO circles for over a decade — both cases of which Napolitano was likely familiar.

However, even at 3 a.m., Brooklyn is far from sleepy. There are purported, independent witnesses to the abduction. If this were true, it was the first time in the history of ufology that this happened — and possibly the last.

Linda "Cortile" Napolitano

At the time of the abduction, Linda Napolitano was a 40-something married mother of two. (She is called Linda Cortile in Budd Hopkins' book, Witnessed, but her actual surname was leaked after mild outside research, as she became a mainstay on the UFO lecture circuit.) She remembered being returned to her bed, then went back to sleep. In the morning, she called Hopkins to report what had happened.

This report is complicated by the fact that Napolitano had been deeply involved in ufology before. She had read Hopkins' book, Intruders, all about alien abduction, and had attended several sessions of his UFO support group meetings. "A Critique of Budd Hopkins' Case..." noted that, after reading the book, Napolitano "had remembered that 13 years earlier she had detected a bump next to her nose" — in other words, a clear alien implant. It was only after months of encounters with Hopkins that she had her famous experience (though she later came to believe that she had been serially abducted since she was a child).

International UFO Reporter noted that Napolitano had been a singer and model under the name Lynn Long before becoming a mother. However, she had said that she hated that experience. For those who doubt her, the fact that she ever sought a career where she was the center of attention is all they need to discount her.

Budd Hopkins

The late Budd Hopkins had published Intruders and Missing Time, established the Intruders Foundation, and made frequent media appearances before meeting Linda Napolitano. "A Critique of Budd Hopkins' Case..." noted that he had served as a witness in a hearing about the competence of a doctor who claimed he had been abducted. "Because of such strong endorsements and impressive affiliations, and because of his untiring work on behalf of abductees, Hopkins has become the single most visible figure in the UFO abduction field."

As he had already established a relationship with Napolitano through her attendance at his support group sessions, he was only too happy to hypnotize her and draw the story out of her more fully.

It was nothing unusual in the pantheon of alien abduction phenomena — taken from home, run through scientific tests that violated her, put back in her bed. As his ex-wife and former collaborator, Carol Rainey, stated in "The Priests of High Strangeness," if the case was "run-of-the-mill ... Budd seldom did more than a single hypnotic regression with people like that and rarely returned their follow-up phone calls" because "he was looking for something with a higher-octane level."

According to Skeptics UFO Newsletter, it was novel that the aliens audibly spoke to Napolitano (saying "Nobbyegg, hobbyegg. No kave kave kobbyegg no kave" — not much of a conversation), but for Hopkins, this was only a confirmation of things he had heard from many others. Yet this case would form the entirety of his book Witnessed.

Dan and Richard

In February 1991, Budd Hopkins received a letter from "Dan and Richard." According to "A Critique of Budd Hopkins' Case...", these two police officers were hiding in their car beneath FDR Drive the night of Linda Napolitano's alleged abduction. They witnessed a reddish-orange object with green lights, then figures floating out of the window, one in a nightgown. As soon as the figures were within the ship, it plunged into the East River and out of sight.

Dan and Richard felt profound guilt that they had done nothing to save this poor woman and, over a year later, wrote to Hopkins in hopes he knew what had become of her. Hopkins alerted Napolitano that she might be contacted. A few days later, she called him and said that they had paid her a visit, the reunion emotional with their relief. Richard and Dan said that they would not want to ever meet or talk to Hopkins, however. Instead, they would record a cassette tape and write letters. According to Skeptics UFO Newsletter, their letter to Hopkins stated, "Please respect the importance of our credibility at work. We just can't be identified."

Hopkins said that he did not know their last names, having only conversed with them via letters with no return addresses. According to Skeptics UFO Newsletter, Richard told Hopkins, "If, by any chance, you have a message for me, please give it to Linda."

Richard and Dan become kidnappers

In April 1991, Richard and Dan snatched Linda Napolitano off the street, according to "A Critique of Budd Hopkins' Case..." They interrogated her as to if she worked for the government or was one of the aliens and demanded that she remove her shoes. Aliens, it seemed, did not have toes.

A few months later, in October, Dan outright kidnapped Napolitano, bringing her to his beach house. According to Skeptics UFO Newsletter, in the house, she saw two framed pictures of herself — one of her kissing her son. They forced her to put on a nightgown to match the one from her abduction — though over her clothes. Then Dan tried to have sex with her. When Napolitano resisted, he tried to drown her twice before Richard stopped him. According to "A Critique of Budd Hopkins' Case..., Budd Hopkins said that she had come to him that night, "disheveled ... sand in her hair, and was traumatized by the experience. A few days after the incident, Richard mailed Hopkins photos that Dan had taken when Napolitano was running from him.

According to Skeptics UFO Newsletter, on November 22, 1991, Richard wrote that he recalled dreams about a girl from his childhood called Baby Ann. When told this, Napolitano remembered an imaginary friend, Mickey — who was Richard. This progressed into their "bonding" under the direction of aliens — sex during which Richard fathered Napolitano's son Johnny. (International UFO Reporter claims Napolitano's husband Steve hadn't read Witnessed and so didn't know about her interstellar affair.)

The third man

According to "A Critique of Budd Hopkins' Case...," Budd Hopkins had received a letter from Dan stating that they were actually security officers who had been driving "a political figure of international significance" that night. This notable also contacted Hopkins about the Third Man. Linda Napolitano was able to "repeat entire sentences from this letter, seemingly verbatim."

He was later claimed to be then-United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar. His office, according to Magonia Magazine, confirmed that he was safe home at that hour. In International UFO Reporter, Greg Sandow — composer, critic, and UFO researcher of this case — quoted de Cuellar's letter to PBS — "I cannot but strongly deny the claim that I have had an abduction experience ..."

According to Skeptics UFO Newsletter, de Cuellar had been abducted along with Napolitano, had seen her on the beach, but no one should contact him about this because the U.N. was working with aliens to end the Cold War.

On November 12, 1993, according to Skeptics UFO Newsletter, Hopkins tagged along with a reporter to meet de Cuellar. The reporter launched into questions about UFOs. De Cuellar, to their frustration, turned the conversation toward politics — evasion as good as a confession. Hopkins stated, "until he decides to go public ... he cannot have much inner peace."

Was Linda Napolitano really kidnapped?

An attempted murder ought to reported to the police, though Budd Hopkins says that the authorities were complicit in what Dan and Richard did, according to "A Critique of Budd Hopkins' Case...", so it was legal. When Linda Napolitano met with the critique's authors, Joseph Stefula and Richard Butler, a former special agent for Army Criminal Investigations and a former security police specialist for the Air Force, respectively, she asked if she had legal grounds to shoot Dan.

Is it because reporting the assaults would become a crime if it turned out she was lying? Stefula, Butler, and George Hansen — their collaborator and a paranormal author — informed Hopkins that they were prepared to request a federal investigation into government agents committing felonies. Hopkins and his associates "appeared to literally panic" and argued against this.

When Stefula, Butler, and Hansen traveled to the alleged abduction site, they discovered a guardhouse staffed 24 hours a day — none who reported even a light. They called the apartment manager, who had heard nothing from any of the other 1,600 residents of the apartment. Where Dan and Richard witnessed the abduction/were abducted was across the street from the loading docks of the New York Post. No one there had seen anything. They also asked Hopkins if he had done any of this research, but he said that he found it unnecessary.

Other witnesses

Greg Sandow of the International UFO Reporter tells of "Janet Kimball," who was driving across the Brooklyn Bridge when all cars stopped. Kimball at first assumed this was a sci-fi movie being filmed. In 1991, she wrote Budd Hopkins a letter. According to the Skeptics UFO Newsletter, Hopkins went to speak with Kimball and wanted Linda Napolitano to come. However, Napolitano refused, worried about someone else finding out who she was. When Hopkins brought up a woman floating to a UFO in conversation with Kimball, she asked, "You know her? What happened?" (Sandow claimed that Hopkins didn't tell her anything.) Kimball later told Hopkins, "I wouldn't pursue this any further Budd, I just want to drop it now."

According to Sandow, another witness, "Marilyn Kilmer," claimed that she was abducted separately with Napolitano, Napolitano's son, and Javier Perez de Cuellar — the latter whom she allegedly identified from a photo. Sandow noted that Kilmer would later no longer agree that any abduction had occurred, stating only, "Budd and Linda know the truth."

One of Napolitano's former neighbors, "Francesca," remembered an eerie light, though she wasn't sure of the date. Francesca later thought she might have been abducted — but rescinded that when her 8-year-old decided he had been as well.

Was the truth out there?

According to Skeptics UFO Newsletter, Dan and Richard confessed to having "been carrying out surveillance of [Linda Napolitano's] movements prior to their initial meeting." Yet they waited over a year to write a letter to a random ufologist instead of knocking on Linda Napolitano's door. If they were government agents, surely they would have better resources than Budd Hopkins.

Greg Sandow in International UFO Reporter noted that American agents would not be guarding the secretary-general. The U.N. has its own security. And, given that Dan had been institutionalized, should he still have security clearance and a gun? Additionally, Dan supposedly wrote a threatening note from a mental institution on the same typewriter as his usual letters that was mailed from the United Nations. Did he bring it while being committed?

Though Hopkins was wowed that Napolitano "'spontaneously' recall[ed]" her experiences under hypnosis, according to Skeptics UFO Newsletter, the most straightforward answer is that she had some part in crafting them.

Napolitano, confronted that she erroneously said she would be getting half the proceeds for Witnessed, admitted that she intentionally spread disinformation, according to "A Critique of Budd Hopkins' Case..." Seven years after her abduction in 1989, "Priests of High Strangeness" recounted that Napolitano came to Hopkins's home, telling a harrowing tale of having just escaped another kidnapping attempt with her cousin Connie. Hopkins insisted that he speak to Connie to verify. Napolitano left, and Connie called shortly after. Once it concluded, Hopkins said, "That was Linda, pretending to be her cousin Connie."

Criticism of Budd Hopkins' methods

Budd Hopkins did not seek out interviews with people who might have seen anything on the night of Linda Napolitano's abduction, instead relying on self-reporting. Carol Rainey noted that "most of these alleged witnesses had contacted Budd via letters, audiotapes, telephone calls, and drawings, although he'd never come face-to-face with any of the major players in the story."

When more skeptical researchers pointed this out and decided to pick up the slack, Hopkins reportedly became incensed and "ordered" them to stop investigating his case and his methods, according to "A Critique of Budd Hopkins' Case...", telling others that he suspected that Richard Butler and Joseph Stefula were actually government agents. He then appended that George Hansen might also be a CIA agent. As Hansen noted in "The Trickster and the Paranormal," "Ufology is a tiny field with a tenuous existence and an attack on Hopkins ... has greater repercussions than one on a comparable person in a larger field."

Rainey explains that "[t]he two best-known abduction investigators [Hopkins and David Jacobs] work almost exclusively alone ... without supervision (and are unwilling to accept any), and without any training in medicine or psychiatry or neurology."

Likewise, as stated in "A Critique of Budd Hopkins' Case...", Penelope Franklin, a colleague of Hopkins and co-investigator on this case, told Hansen that Napolitano was "absolutely justified in lying about the case," which does deflate the case's credibility.

Defending Budd Hopkins

International UFO Reporter noted that hypnosis is weak evidence, but Budd Hopkins had letters in varying styles with syntax appropriate to the writer. Someone faking all that would have to be a genius. Hopkins was explicit that Linda Napolitano had an "average" intelligence. In "Priests of High Strangeness," Carol Rainey disagreed. Napolitano may not have been well-educated, but she could spin an intricate lie when making an excuse.

According to Skeptics UFO Newsletter, Hopkins attempted to find Richard and Dan. He assumed "that they would be very easy to locate because we not only had excellent descriptions of both but also knew their real first names." However, he was unsuccessful. He concluded it was "virtually certain that Dan and Richard worked at one of our country's secret intelligence agencies and so would be nearly impossible to locate."

But credible people believed. "A Critique of Budd Hopkins' Case..." noted that "John E. Mack, M.D., a Pulitzer Prize winner and former head of the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School, has praised Hopkins' work..." Likewise, Charles Strozier, a MacArthur prize-winning historian and psychoanalyst who attended the hypnosis sessions, said that Napolitano "certainly wasn't a fraud. ... She was articulate in her feeling, and appealing in the sense that you got drawn into her story." Also attending was Gibbs Williams, a psychotherapist, who said, "The lady is for real. She really was shaking. You can't fake that." (He did clarify that Napolitano couldn't fake it unless she was "psychopathic on an extreme level. And she's no psychopath.")

Were Budd Hopkins and Linda Napolitano faking it?

If it was faked, why? Carol Rainey noted that Linda Napolitano did share in some of the profits of Witnessed (though not half). "Where I'd come from," Rainey stated, referencing her prior work with scientists, "researchers might give study participants stipends of $10 or $20 a visit, say, or bus money to and from the clinic."

Maybe it was about attention. Rainey mentioned that Napolitano claimed without evidence that she has immortal red blood cells and led people out of the World Trade Center on 9/11, barefoot over broken glass, at the psychic direction of aliens. 

As for Budd Hopkins, he got a book out of it that further cemented the importance of his groundbreaking work. Rainey admitted that she had heard him leading vulnerable experiences under hypnosis. Hopkins had an unconscious bias that he wanted to prove, even to the extent that it caused the Intruder Foundation Advisory Committee members to step down when he threw his weight behind an obvious faker.

Rainey quoted Hopkins saying, "we have never had to take anything back. ... We haven't had cases, one after another... blow up ... despite the efforts of many, many, many debunkers. ... the material ... as strange and complicated and difficult as it is — is, I believe, going to stand the test of time..."