Looking a holiday gift for the woo-woo in your life that has everything?
Considering purchasing something truly useful for your friend: Alien Abduction Insurance.
I'm not making this up. British Insurance of Colchester, Essex, England has policies available for £100 per year for £1,000,000 of coverage. (This is the same company that insured three sisters in Inverness, Scotland in 2006 against a virgin birth; evidently the three were afraid that one of them might be responsible for the Second Coming of Christ.) Several American companies offer policies for similar rate/payout ratios. It's reputed that noted wingnut Shirley MacLaine has purchased such a policy, although if she did get abducted a lot of the skeptics I know would be willing to pay the aliens to keep her.
If that's a little expensive for your tastes, a Florida insurance company, the St. Lawrence Agency, will send you a handsome certificate certifying your coverage of $10 million for a one-time payment of only $7.95. Not only are you insured against alien abduction by this policy, your outpatient medical expenses (for recovering from the effects of the abduction) are covered, and you are guaranteed double indemnity if your visit to the spacecraft resulted in any half-human, half-alien children, or if (heaven forbid) the aliens come back insisting on conjugal visits.
While the St. Lawrence Agency's offer is clearly meant as a joke, the rest of these guys are apparently serious. In fact, the London brokerage Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson once offered a policy (now discontinued) that was remarkably like the St. Lawrence Agency one, with the addition that men could also insure themselves against impregnation -- because, after all, you never know what those crafty aliens might be capable of. And the GRIP policy was entirely legally binding and authentic. Which brings up a few questions:
First: Are the people who purchase these policies insane? Or what?
Second, this seems like an awfully good deal for the insurance company, doesn't it? You pay them $100/year for your million-dollar coverage, and in return, they do... nothing. If you get abducted by aliens, you would have to prove to the insurance company that it had happened in order to get a payout -- and consider the number of people who have successfully proved alien abductions thus far in the history of humanity (and that was when a million bucks wasn't on the line).
Third, I wonder how they calculated the premium? Insurance companies hire people called actuaries, whose job it is to assess the overall risk of the company having to pay out, and then fix the premiums at a level that would allow the company to cover their expenses (including payouts) and still turn a profit. So: the higher the risk of payout, the higher the premium. That's why smokers pay more for life insurance, for example. But how do you assess the risk for something that has never happened, and which (to all appearances) won't ever happen? My guess is the actuaries just stayed up late one night discussing it, and after a few martinis they said, "Screw it, let's just charge 'em a hundred dollars yearly per million and call it good."
And last: what happens if the aliens decide not to return you to Earth? Clearly you would be owed the payout, but you wouldn't be around to collect it. This seems like an unfortunate loophole in the policy. However, since it's unlikely that the aliens would honor Earthling currency, I don't suppose that having large quantities of dollars (or pounds, or euros, or whatever) would do you much good in any case, up there on the spacecraft.
So, there you are. I'd go with the St. Lawrence Agency, myself. It's cheaper, comes with a lovely certificate (suitable for framing), and seems to look at the whole thing in the proper light. If anyone is looking for a gift for me for the holidays, let me just specify that I'd like my beneficiary to be my dog, Doolin. It may seem harsh of me to bypass my wife, but I've long suspected that Doolin is an alien herself. She is hands-down the weirdest dog I've ever known, and gives every evidence of being an extraterrestrial life form who is attempting to impersonate a dog and still can't quite manage to make it look authentic. So it's only fitting that she should get the money. I'm sure she'll share with Carol and our other dog, Grendel, although I suspect the cats will have to fend for themselves.