Shirley A. Coyne says she was only 9 when she was first abducted. "It was the first abduction that we know of. We haven't regressed me any farther than that. I was taken from my bed by two little beings who were two and a half, three feet tall. They came into my bedroom, took me through the living room ... It was like we were floating, not walking. I had no control. They took me aboard this craft and gave me an examination."

The examination was "very painful. They did all kinds of little experiments on me. They took a sample from my leg. I have a scar on my thigh where they took a sample of tissue. They did something to my back and and other things I'd rather not talk about."

Now Coyne, 47, is a Michigan housewife with two children, three grandchildren and a husband, George, who is retired. As they stood talking with other UFO enthusiasts at the Mutual UFO Network Inc.'s 18th-annual International Symposium on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, held at American University this weekend, they seemed pleasant, articulate and as sane as any Midwest American couple.

Their experiences seemed a little unusual, is all.

"We're skeptical," she said.

"The first thing we try to do is try to disprove it," he said.

But facts are facts, they said.

Shirley said she was abducted again at ages 16, 17 and 20. She has learned this by being "regressed" through hypnosis, which enabled her to remember the metallic, walnut-shaped spacecraft with flashing lights and the little grayish-white beings with "very very large" eyes. Also she remembers "my mother kneeling at the window in my brother's bedroom and she had a gun up to her shoulder and the gun was pointing out the window."

"She said she was shooting at three 10-year-old boys dressed in white," said George.

"This is the only way my mother could deal with it because she's a very religious person," said Shirley.

The couple "got active in the field" of ufology in 1983, said George, when there were four UFO sightings in their neighborhood. "The first one came up from the lake area," he said, as he and Shirley were driving home at 1 a.m. It was the size of a boxcar and had headlights. "When I saw 'em I slowed the car. It started going parallel to us, just over the houses."

But they were not afraid.

"No, we were not," said George. "I wanted to communicate with it. I wanted to get a message to them. I threw my mind into a blank so I'd be receptive to anything they wanted to send. I'm sure they received my thoughts: 'Come to me. Where are you from? Where are you going?' "

But there was no response from the UFO. It paced them a quarter mile down the road, then disappeared.

Abduction research is one of the big developments in ufology that was widely discussed among the 450 fervent believers who attended the weekend symposium. "Taking a close look at the abduction phenomenon gave us our first insight into the motivations of the intelligence behind UFOs," said David M. Jacobs, a history professor at Temple University who is considered the leading UFO historian in America, in his address to the group. "It was as if a door had opened and we were able to look inside the phenomenon ... of extraterrestrial life, motivations, intentions and activities ... We may be on the threshold of momentous discoveries."

Jacobs said there are well over 100 cases being studied. "In the past, UFO researchers were extremely suspicious" of such stories, "but now there are so many cases of intelligent, nonpublicity-seeking people that we are forced to think that something exceedingly unusual is happening."

Most abductees have submitted to psychological testing that shows they are sane, he said. It also often shows the symptoms of a deeply traumatic experience. He said the abductees "tell specific, definite stories with a consistency of detail that is stunning." While most have to be "regressed" through hypnosis, some have direct conscious memories of their experiences.

Other top ufologists also take the phenomenon seriously. "Some people are being abducted by aliens for purposes decided upon by the aliens," said Stanton T. Friedman, the most popular UFO lecturer in the country. And writer William L. Moore galvanized the group with a story about what he said may be a top secret government document -- a relatively new discovery -- that mentions four alien corpses found near Roswell, N.M., in 1947.

"There are two possibilities on abductions," said Moore. "Either they're real as reported and we are dealing with something out of this world, or we are dealing with an entirely unrecognized form of psychosis."

Budd Hopkins, author of "Intruders," a new book about abductions, said the stories are "intrinsically almost impossible to consider true {because of} the inability of the human mind to accept the intrinsically unbelievable." But he said he has interviewed 140 "completely credible" people who claim abduction experiences, including three PhDs, a New York City police officer and a government lawyer.

"All the evidence is totally persuasive to me that it's totally true," he said.

At a press conference kicking off the symposium, Hopkins said that during abductions the aliens generally took sperm and ova samples from the humans, then sought to mix "their cells and our cells" in "an ongoing breeding experiment." He said it appeared they were seeking to produce "a hybrid species."

"They haven't been flying around here for years just idly," he said.

The "ova retrieval process" described by women abductees, Hopkins said, has involved a needle inserted into the abdomen.

Why, someone asked, would these superior aliens want to meld with inferior humans?

"We're bigger," Friedman interjected before Hopkins could answer.

Then Hopkins said sensibly, "There's no way we can answer that question for the aliens. All I can say is they have their reasons."

"Something is really flying around out there, and it's about time we began to pay serious attention to it," said Bruce Maccabee, a Navy research physicist and chairman of the Washington-based Fund for UFO Research, which hosted the symposium.

There were a number of foreign experts on hand for the weekend, and a Polish journalist at the press conference asked about the internationalist implications of the ufological movement.

Friedman answered that a "planetary orientation" or an "earthly orientation ... instead of nationalism is the best way to avoid nuclear war."

Maccabee said that the Soviets hadn't responded to inquiries.

"We tried," he said with a shrug.

During a break, Hopkins was standing in a hallway talking with Charles Hickson, one of the two abductees involved in the famous 1973 Pascagoula, Miss., case. Hickson, a steelworker, was fishing off a pier toward dusk when, he says, a craft hovered down behind him and some aliens took him in for a physical.

"He's suffered," Hopkins said of Hickson. "Everybody does. One feels frightened, helpless. You look at that face, it's not the face of a hoaxer."

And indeed, Hickson's heavily lined face had a sad, sincere expression that seemed to say he has seen a lot. He smoked a Winston and talked in a deep Mississippi drawl.

Did he ever think he was nuts?

"I wondered about it a few times, I sure did," Hickson said. He said of his fishing buddy, "he's still not himself. He's had two, three nervous breakdowns." But Hickson cowrote a book on his experience, "UFO: Contact at Pascagoula," and has recently produced a home video, "In Touch." He's working on another book based on subsequent abduction experiences.

As the two discussed various cases, George Early, a stringer for a Hartford, Conn., radio station, broke in with this question for Hopkins:

"Any possibility of embedment?"

Hopkins explained that in many cases, the aliens put "a little needle that has a tiny ball on the end up the nostril. It hurts like hell. Then it comes out with no little ball on the end." Or, he said, it may happen the other way around.

"It's as if they put 'em in and take 'em out," he said. "We are going to find one of these things one of these days. And that's going to be the smoking gun."

The other big topic in ufology these days is whether there is a "cosmic Watergate" going on. Many experts at the symposium said they think the government knows plenty about UFOs and is hiding it. The government was once intensely interested in the subject, and through the Air Force's Project Blue Book collected reports of sightings and investigated them. Blue Book was ended in 1969 with the official conclusion that no UFO was found to be a national security threat, or of extraterrestrial origin.

Moore, coauthor with Charles Berlitz of the 1980 book "The Roswell Incident," told a sensational story in his Saturday night dinner speech.

The story goes back to July 7, 1947, when the U.S. Army Air Forces announced that a "flying disc" had been found on a ranch in New Mexico. Officials later said the "disc" was just scraps from a weather balloon, but Moore, studying the incident over several years and interviewing dozens of witnesses, concluded it was in fact a flying saucer.

His book became a classic in the UFO field.

Then, in December 1984, Jaime Shandera, a free-lance television producer working with Moore, received in the mail from an anonymous source pictures of what purported to be a top secret briefing document, dated Nov. 18, 1952, and marked "EYES ONLY," for President-elect Eisenhower.

The document, which Moore has released to the press, describes a top secret intelligence operation called "Majestic-12," apparently established by President Truman in 1947 to study UFOs and manned by, among others, then Secretary of Defense James Forrestal and Gen. Nathan F. Twining.

The document details the Roswell flying saucer crash and says that, "On 07 July, 1947, a secret operation was begun to assure recovery of the wreckage of this object for scientific study. During the course of this operation, aerial reconnaissance discovered that four small human-like beings had apparently ejected from the craft at some point before it exploded ... All four were dead and badly decomposed ... A special scientific team took charge of removing these bodies for study."

The document goes on to say that "although these creatures are human-like in appearance, the biological and evolutionary processes responsible for their development has apparently been quite different from those observed or postulated in homo-sapiens ... Since it is virtually certain that these craft do not originate in any country on earth, considerable speculation has centered around what their point of origin might be and how they get here. Mars was and remains a possibility."

"You can imagine our reaction," Moore told the group. "Is it real? Because if it is, then it's the most fantastic thing that's surfaced in the UFO world, ever. If it's not, then what's going on? Is it a joke?"

Moore said that he and Shandera spent more than two years studying the document -- names, dates, writing style, typefaces -- and found that "nothing seemed inconsistent." Moore thinks the document is either "an official reality or an official fabrication ... Maybe somebody was out to embarrass us."

Moore said that "if I didn't feel it was real, I wouldn't put it out to the press." He added that "obviously if I was out to exploit it for greenbacks, I'd go do a book." But he said he decided, instead, to put the document out publicly in hopes that "others will come forward" to authenticate it.

Then Moore teased his audience with news that "the document is not all we have. We have some additional information we have not released and which is at this time in a rather delicate phase of our continuing investigation."

This information, he said, is "videotape material" that is "very startling ... almost incredible ... Where it will lead, we don't know ... Maybe we are on the edge of a new awareness of what human life is about and where we stand on the ladder of the universe."

Philip J. Klass, former avionics editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology, was admittedly the "skunk at the garden party." The author of "UFOs: The Public Deceived" now makes a career of debunking the ufologists.

Wearing a smile and with his tape recorder held high, Klass appeared to be enjoying himself.

"I believe every UFO case can be explained in prosaic and earthly terms," he said.

As for the Majestic-12 document, Klass said he's sure it's a hoax. Ike, he said, was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on July 7, 1947, and it is inconceivable he wouldn't have known about and remembered four alien bodies.

"If Bill Moore had asked someone to write a document to confirm his Roswell book, this would be it," said Klass. "Moore is a very cagey guy."