Alien abduction -- the stuff of science fiction novels, movies, television and, many claim, real life.
Whether or not you believe the stories of people who say they've been spirited out of their cars on lonely country roads or lifted out of their beds while sleeping or zapped into a spaceship in front of several eyewitnesses, the tales are told by enough people to at least take a close look at this phenomenon.
"I believe there's a lot of idiosyncrasies going on in people, generally. I don't like to try to figure out why people are saying what they say. I take them for face value. I'm a listener and they are storytellers and I'm fascinated by the story," said photographer Steven Hirsch.
Hirsch, a New York City-based artist, specializes in photographing and interviewing people who are sometimes categorized as "fringe" members of culture. His work has been featured in Newsweek, Time, and The New York Times, among others. Hirsch's photographs have also been included in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the Library of Congress.
For a project he calls Little Sticky Legs, Hirsch interviewed people who claim to have been part of the alien-abduction experience.
"Are these people telling me the truth? I don't know," Hirsch told The Huffington Post.
One of the difficulties in trying to study alien kidnapping stories is that the people who make these reports fear they will be ridiculed. Nevertheless, many have come forward with recollections that are bizarre and often disturbing.
In Hirsch's photographic collection, which includes drawings made by each subject, they are identified only by first names.
"I don't know if they're against using their real or full names," he said. "I only use their first names to protect their anonymity. It's my choice."
Here are some who claim they've been abducted, with their own drawings of the event:
"In 1996, I was sleeping in my bed and suddenly I'm being carried by six of the traditional ETs with the large heads and large eyes ... and I'm screaming bloody murder," recalled Janet.
"This is so unreal. Why isn't anybody rescuing me," Janet continued in her description of being kidnapped by short, grey-colored alien beings. "And the Grey on the right hand side -- the one that was carrying my foot -- said, 'Go ahead and scream all you want. You're in an energy field and no one could hear you.'"
And there's also...
Cynthia: "When I was in my thirties, I found out from my father the truth about a government experiment that I was part of in which they were using other alien DNA to create me..."
Sasha: "Some of them wore white robes. Some of them had long hair. They were all humanoid. There were some I couldn't quite tell what they were..."
Nancy: "They performed a laparoscopy on me. In 1961 in the medical field there [was] no laparoscopy. They explained to me that they wanted to see inside..."
Bruce: "I was standing on dirt and I was wondering where I was at. And right in the sky to my left was a huge moon-like body and in the immediate background was Saturn. And I could see hundreds and hundreds of rings. And I said, 'Where am I?' And he said, 'You're on one of the moons of Saturn.'"
That's how so many of these stories unfold, with a hapless human victim traumatized as he or she believes aliens have taken them against their will and brought them to what appears like an examination room where they are subject to various types of body probing.
The scenario generally ends with the kidnappers bringing their human targets back to the place where the drama started. The victims' memories are also conveniently wiped clean of the close encounter until regression hypnosis later brings them back to the conscious surface.
Prior to shooting portraits of alleged alien abductees, Hirsch put his camera's focus on things like the homes of registered sex offenders, tattooed nomads in a Manhattan park, and people offering what he calls "courthouse confessions."
"In many cases, a lot of the projects that I do are people telling me stories that are jaw-dropping, and whether they be criminals or drug addicts, the stories are amazing," he said.
Alien abduction reports were kickstarted in the early 1960s with the story of Betty and Barney Hill.
Watch this video of the Betty and Barney Hill abduction story:
In 1961, they were driving through the White Mountains of New Hampshire when they spotted a large, lighted object in the sky following them and then rapidly descending toward their car.
The Hills' account of being kidnapped by alien beings and subjected to physical examinations on board a UFO was the first widely publicized story of its kind because of the high credibility of the couple. It also marked the first time that the idea of alien abduction began to seep into the American culture.
Hirsch is still on the lookout for more individuals to photograph and collect ET kidnapping stories from.
"These stories, you have to either be a believer or not a believer. And I refuse to say whether I am or not, because it's not really important to what I do," he said.
The truth is stranger than fiction. Step into the world of weird news. Learn more