... the feel of the skin like a "chamois," and their smell of sickly sweet cinnamon/cloves. I remember telling them how bad they smelled.

–From a letter to Whitley Strieber, published in The Communion Letters

Abduction is rooted in my experimental scent collaboration with Saskia Wilson-Brown for my 2016 installation The Eyes Are Always There at Machine Project gallery in Los Angeles. This first version of a ufo/abduction scent was made for the gallery space itself and was one of four scents that provided a fascinating olfactory compliment to the show’s visuals.

Drawing from research for the 2016 project, perfumer Christopher Gordon and I focused on creating a carefully constructed eau de parfum. How similar is it to the first scent? Quite similar, though some of the sharper aspects present in the first were toned down significantly for this fragrance.

To my knowledge there isn’t a specific work dealing with scents associated with close encounters* and the research for this project drew from a range of sources. Of these, letters to Whitley Strieber collected in The Communion Letters contain a fair number of references to scents and are fascinating in their detail and consistency.

The scents most often described in relation to abduction experiences include:

I should note that these scents (especially yeast and cinnamon) seem to be closely associated with the “greys,” the most commonly depicted alien in popular culture. Scents associated with other reported alien types were harder to come by.

I have been asked whether anyone reporting alien encounters has smelled Abduction and if so, what do they think. The answer is “yes” and the responses from those who recall scents have ranged from “familiar” to “uncomfortably similar.” 

In closing I want to offer my sincere thanks to Saskia Wilson-Brown and Christopher Gordon for being such fantastic collaborators. These projects wouldn’t have existed without their enthusiasm, generosity and technical expertise. 

Questions and comments can be directed to me through the contact page.

Joe Merrell, 2018 


*Antonio Rullán’s paper Odors from UFOs: Deducing Odorant Chemistry and Causation from Available Data examines scents associated with physical craft.