- You may think you have adequate insurance
against life's little surprises. Better think twice.
- Are you covered if, God forbid, you're
ever impregnated by an alien? How about if you're bitten by a vampire?
If a meteor slams into your house? If your plane is hijacked? If you're
kidnapped and held for ransom in South America, or you get appendicitis
on your wedding day? If your pet Chihuahua is raped by a stray Great Dane?
- Relax - the burgeoning insurance industry
has a plethora of paranormal policies for all that and more. You can insure
your hair (supermodels do it), your legs (Mary Hart did it), your vocal
cords (Bruce Springsteen did it), even your private parts (John Wayne Bobbitt
can only wish).
- One London-based firm alone has sold
policies against alien abduction or impregnation, werewolf metamorphosis
and even immaculate conception, which its owner drolly insists is "popular
with girls named Mary."
- California-based insurance firms specialize
in policies to cover bar mitzvah fiascoes, pet cancer and kidnappings.
- And an Internet company offers insurance
against life's greatest unpredictability. If you've purchased applicable
coverage from Worldwide Weather at www.weatherins.com, and your tropical
vacation is ruined by the wrath of a hurricane or the drizzle of persistent
rain, you'll be reimbursed.
- "Call them bizarre, the exotic -
however you want to characterize the policies. Some people need insurance
that's every bit as unique as they are," said Ted Pierce, executive
director of the San Francisco-based Surplus Line Association of California,
a trade group and quasi regulator for brokers of unusual "surplus"
insurance not available through insurance firms licensed in the state.
- The association has cleared a policy
for someone breeding birds for ostrich jerky, a policy insuring that a
man's frozen fertility remains safe in the custody of a sperm bank, and
a policy for people who fear E. coli bacteria or mad cow disease.
- Californians have insured their collections
of snuff boxes, carousel horses and taxidermy - pop icon Michael Jackson
even insured his private zoo.
- "If you can imagine it and it's
worth something," said Pierce, "somebody out there has insurance
- Indeed, thousands of earthlings have
purchased insurance against extraterrestrials.
- Alien abduction insurance
- The first firm to boldly go where no
insurer had gone before, the Florida-based UFO Abduction Insurance Co.
premiered alien abduction insurance a decade ago. It costs a mere $19.95
for a $10 million policy that provides psychiatric care and sarcasm protection,
plus a double indemnity clause "if your alien hosts regard you as
a food source."
- A successful claimant is entitled to
just $1 per year, but can collect until death or a million years, whichever
comes first. The policy's slogan: "Beam me up - I'm covered."
- The company also offers reincarnation
insurance, noting, "While it's still true you can't take it with you,
now you can leave it here and come back and get it." The $10 million
payout doubles "if you return as a lower life form."
- Applicants are rejected if they answer
yes to the questions "Do you take this seriously?" and "Were
your parents related before they married?"
- Said President Mike St. Lawrence, "We're
as serious as we can be without serving jail time."
- Not so a London-based brokerage that
began collecting serious premiums for coverage against aliens. The company
is Goodfellow, Rebecca, Ingrams and Pearson Ltd. (acronym GRIP, as in please
get one). Managing partner Simon Burgess is a tongue-in-cheek Brit who
blithely admits he would not buy such policies, but added, "I've never
been afraid of parsing the feeble-minded from their cash."
- Triangle-headed pilots
- In 1996, the firm announced it had paid
its first claim, $1.6 million, to an electrician from Enfield "kidnapped"
by triangle-headed spaceship pilots. The proof: a transparent claw left
- Suspicions mounted over the Chrismas
Eve abduction - the alleged victim was identified as one Joseph Carpenter
- and ultimately Burgess acknowledged it was a publicity stunt.
- The Heaven's Gate cult reportedly paid
$1,000 for a policy to cover its members, at $1 million per person, for
abduction, impregnation or death by aliens. When 30 cult members committed
suicide on the outskirts of San Diego, hoping to be transported to a UFO
trailing the Hale-Bopp comet, Burgess suspended sales out of fear that
fickle Yank juries might require GRIP to pay out. But eventually, Burgess
explained, "Greed got the better of us and we resumed them."
- GRIP now offers insurance against virgin
birth, ghosts, transformation into a werewolf, and coverage for unfaithful
husbands who fear "Bobbitting."
- GRIP recently debuted "erectional
protection" insurance, and Burgess said he's issued one in Bill Clinton's
name, purchased by a Republican who will "remain unnamed." Such
GRIP policies promise $1.5 million in coverage for an annual premium of
- No claims paid
- Incidentally, not one claim has ever
been paid. Said Burgess: "We're not in the business of paying claims."
- Of course most people, even Californians,
aren't paranoid enough about the supernatural or their spouses to justify
such purchases. Chances are the surplus market has something for them anyway.
- The more populist policies are for special
events. Families who spend tens of thousands of dollars planning a wedding,
bar mitzvah or quincenera often want some guarantee on their investment
in case sudden death, illness or weather forces them to postpone the event.
- More than 2,000 people last year insured
their nuptials through R.V. Nuccio and Associates Insurance Brokers in
Fawnskin, a small town in Southern California. A $600 premium will reimburse
up to $20,000 in lost expenses, plus provide liability insurance in case
a guest trips and sues.
- The policy paid off for the bride whose
little brother decided at the last minute to make her plain white gown
prettier by finger-painting it. And for the bride whose cat used her dress
to deliver a litter of kittens. And when one bride's mother, despising
the groom, exacted revenge by scraping every wedding guest's car with a
- Insurance also paid $25,000 to fly a
party back to the wedding site in Hawaii, recreate the flowers and food,
and reshoot the ceremony after the original negatives were stolen.
- "We pay out on six or seven of those
a week - I'm telling you, in many cases the bride would rather have the
wedding photos than the groom," said Nuccio.
- But brides or grooms who wish to buy
insurance against cold feet are out of luck. "That would too easily
set us up for fraud and collusion," said Nuccio. "If you're asking
the question, don't get married." Get a printer-friendly version of
- 20,000 Alien Abduction Policies Sold By Insurance
- By Kimberly Lankford
- Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine
- Some is truly bizarre, some is just kind
- Worried about being kidnapped by aliens?
- We didn't really think so. But fears
of alien abduction plague enough people that at least one insurance company
offers a policy that will pay if little green men come to take you away.
Or maybe An American Werewolf in Paris has you nervous about turning into
a hirsute creature of the night. No problem. The same company writes a
policy to guard against such a metamorphosis. You can also buy coverage
against being injured by a ghost, eaten (as opposed to abducted) by an
alien, or hit by an asteroid (hey, it could happen).
- Perhaps even weirder than the risks the
policies insure against is that so many people have purchased coverage--some
20,000 alien-abduction policies, for example, have been sold. Who buys
this stuff? "Normally, they're feeble-minded," explains Simon
Burgess, a former Lloyd's of London underwriter who is now managing director
of Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson (GRIP), the London insurance brokerage
that has tapped the Twilight Zone market.
- GRIP, which specializes in disability
coverage, has also sold about 4,000 immaculate-conception policies, which
pay if paternity is ascribed to You Know Who ("very popular with girls
called Mary," says Burgess), and 4,500 of what he calls John Wayne
Bobbitt policies, which pay if a knife-wielding wife . . . well, you remember
the story. (In case you were wondering, policies for any of the above cost
$150 a year for $1.5 million in coverage.)
- But you wanna know what's really weird?
GRIP has actually paid one alien-abduction claim, to the tune of £1
million sterling, says Burgess. He's a bit vague about the details, but
according to the Sunday Times, an electrician from London said he was taken
aboard an alien ship for about 40 minutes while looking for UFOs in Wiltshire.
Burgess admitted to the Times that the electrician was actually his business
partner, but insisted that the story was true nonetheless.
- Pick a disaster, any disaster, and there's
probably an insurance policy to cover it. Some of the policies are weird;
some are better described as offbeat--mainly because they cover very specific
risks, such as a person's singing voice (Bruce Springsteen has coverage)
or a stallion's, er, virility. Likewise, although some of the policies
are a bad buy, a few may actually be a good deal if you face risks a little
out of the ordinary.