The Hill Abduction
In September of 1961, New Hampshire couple Barney and Betty Hill were returning from a vacation to Niagara Falls. During their drive, they claimed to have muddled memories from an extraterrestrial encounter. Over the next few years, they would undergo hypnosis treatment and reveal their story, which was the first highly-publicized alien abduction story in the American zeitgeist.
February 19th, 2017 Micheal Whelan
Betty and Barney Hill are not what comes to mind when you think of a couple in the 1960s.
For one, they were an interracial couple at a time in America where that wasn't very customary.
Barney was an African American of Ethiopian heritage, who had been born in 1922 in Newport News, Virginia, as the youngest of four children. As a young man, he enlisted in the United States Army during World War II, before being honorably discharged at the end of the conflict. Afterwards, he enrolled at Temple University, and would later marry a woman named Ruby Horn, with whom he had two children.
Eventually, Barney Hill and Ruby would divorce, but Barney would find another love, who he would remarry: a white woman named Betty.
Eunice Elizabeth Barrett, usually referred to as "Betty," was a couple of years older than Barney, having been born in June of 1919, but was of a similar background: the life she had led was that of a respectable social worker, whose work left her as an esteemed member of the community. She had her Master's Degree in social sciences from the nearby University of New Hampshire, and had become the supervisor of her local child welfare department.
Barney and Betty would fall in love, and throughout the following years, would remain so. Even though their coupling would see them go through treacherous territory, as far as relationships go, no one would ever question the bond that the two had.
The two would move to Betty's native Portsmouth, New Hampshire. There, they lived about an hour north of Boston, Massachusetts, where Barney would commute to every day for work. He found a job as a postal worker, a job that he would hold onto for years.
As I stated, the two were well-regarded in their community. There wasn't a lot that was unique or "quirky" about them: Barney served as a member of the local Civil Rights Commission, at a time where race relations were a very tumultuous matter. The two might have been shielded by living in one of the most liberal areas of the United States - at the time, at least - but were very involved in the ongoing racial debate.
Barney received multiple commendations for his work with the Civil Rights movement, including being honored for his outstanding service to the community by the Governor of New Hampshire. He was even invited to the inauguration of Lyndon Johnson in 1963, just to give credence to his renown in the New England community.
Both were also active in their local chapter of the NAACP, and were pioneers in their own way, being an interracial couple.
In the years since, people have seen all of this as a point in favor of their credibility, while others have seen it as a way to disparage their allegations. The former camp see them as the type of couple that wouldn't want to draw attention to themselves, while the latter view them as a couple that could have been been beset by stress not faced by most of the population.
Regardless of your thoughts on how being an interracial couple in this era of time could have weighed upon their state of mind, it was at the dawn of Fall, in 1961, that the lives of the Hills were reaching a tipping point. From this point forward, there would be no going back to normality for either Barney or Betty.
Many articles have questioned Barney's personal health, as August bled into September of 1961.
A good handful of articles have pointed out that Barney had recently been diagnosed with an ulcer, which led to both him and Betty taking some time off of work. Unfortunately, I can't find a legitimate source for that claim, so I'd offer that knowledge with just a grain of salt.
However, the fact that Barney and Betty took a brief vacation to nearby Niagara Falls is without dispute.
Both Betty and Barney would get some time off of work, and take a brief vacation to the nearby area of Niagara Falls. Roughly 500 miles west of where they were living in Portsmouth, the Hills had decided to drive the distance to the landmark on the US-Canadian border. They took with them their dog, a Dachsund named Delsey, who you could find in many photos of the couple online.
After staying at Niagara Falls for a day or two, the couple made their way northeast to Montreal, Quebec. It was there that they stayed for another few days, the exact estimates of the trip I couldn't tell you.
But on the night of September 19th, the Hills began making their journey back to the real world. That evening, they stopped at a restaurant in Oolebrook, New Hampshire, and then got back on the road for the last leg of their trip home. Then, their idea of what was real or not was turned on its head forever.
The following is audio from Barney Hill's hypnosis tape, taken in 1964.
This audio is taken straight from that hypnosis session Barney Hill would undergo with noted psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin Simon in January of 1964. As a publisher's note, I do have to add that I edited it just a tad, taking out some of the pauses for the sake of brevity, but the audio itself is Hill's alleged subconscious mind explaining what happened on the night in-question.
According to his statements, along with what has been said by his wife, Betty, in the years since, the couple were driving along US Route 3, on their way back from Montreal. They were approaching the New Hampshire town known as Indian Head, when they spotted a bright light in the sky.
This is from an interview with Betty Hill, conducted in 1999, almost forty years later.
Betty, who had been fascinated by the stars and the heavens, along with the United States' growing fascinations with "flying saucers," began to speculate about what it may be. Barney, a former Army vet that had served in World War 2, wasn't as huge of a fan of this predicament as his wife.
According to both Betty and Barney, the craft in the sky began to follow them as they drove along the highway. They would recall passing a handful of vehicles throughout the night, but don't remember any other midnight passengers as they headed along this lone, desolate highway.
What I'm about to play for you is Barney's recollection of the same events. Regardless of your thoughts on whether or not the story is legitimate, you cannot deny that Barney was traumatized by this memory.
What you can tell, from the audio, is the different way that both Betty and Barney remember the event in question. To Betty, decades after the fact, it seems almost like a whimsical adventure. But Barney, whose hypnosis session was conducted just a couple of years after the evening of September 19th, 1961, remembers the alleged encounter with extraterrestrial life with a terrifying recollection.
For both Betty and Barney Hill, this was just the beginning of a tale that would go on to dominate the rest of their lives.
After being followed by the bright lights for miles, thirty or so by Betty's later recollections, the couple pulled over just outside of Indian Head, New Hampshire. There, they recalled encountering the inhabitants of the odd craft, whom they both considered "men" of odd variations.
However, at this point, their memory gets murky. They recalled looking at the strange men, who looked alien-like and wore odd, glossy black suits, but their memory began to fade. Beeps and shrill whistles dominated their senses, and before long, hours had passed. The couple were roughly 35 miles south of Indian Head, which had brought them closer to home, but had no idea how they had traveled the distance.
What they would find is that Betty's dress had a tear on it, and the binoculars that Barney had been holding when he encountered the odd men had been ripped from his hand, the binding torn. Apparently, both of their watches had stopped working entirely, and Betty couldn't find the blue earrings that she had been wearing.
The Hills themselves felt fine, including their dog Delsey, just hazy in what had happened to them. As they came back to themselves, the buzzing sound that had consumed them upon seeing the alien creatures faded away.
They continued their venture home in relative silence and unease. Both Barney and Betty believed that something had happened to them, but they couldn't point their finger on exactly what that was.
They both felt dirty and gross. When they pulled into their Portsmouth home, it was close to five o'clock in the morning, and there was apparently a large chunk of the evening and early morning that was now absent; having been totally vacated by their memory. They decided that the items they had had with them in the car should remain on the back porch for a few days, because Barney - the army vet - was oddly worried about radiation poisoning.
Troubling, as well, were a handful of small, circular, metallic spots on the trunk of the couple's 1957 Chevy Bel Air. These had apparently not been there beforehand, and didn't look like anything that could be caused by an accident.
Betty, who had noticed a tear on her dress, also discovered some pink powder on the surface of it. She apparently threw the dress away, but would dig it out of the trash within a few days, thinking it provided a clue.
The two would go on to take long, extensive showers. Barney recalled that he felt compelled to examine himself in the bathroom, particularly his genitals. Before they could fall asleep, the couple felt compelled to discuss what they had seen, and made some crude drawings to try and demonstrate what their memory allowed.
Fruitless, their memory not returning to them in any productive way, the two decided to go to bed. The sun was now rising, on the last day of summer, so both Betty and Barney laid down in their bed, feeling unsure of whether they were both collectively losing their minds.
That afternoon, after waking up, Betty decided to call her sister, Janet.
You see, this wasn't the first time that a member of Betty's family had claimed to have encountered a UFO. Janet had claimed to have seen one a few years beforehand, back in 1957, although the specific circumstances of that sighting aren't known publicly.
Janet referred Betty to the nearby Pease Air Force Base. Betty reluctantly followed up on her sister's advice, placing a call to the Strategic Air Command at the installation. She apparently told an investigator about the sighting of the strange craft, and then received a more earnest call back the next day from Major Paul W. Henderson, who would take the official statement from the couple. They withheld some of their outlandish thoughts, such as perhaps seeing strange, alien-like men, but reported what they had seen with the craft: the shape, how it moved, etc.
Apparently, during this conversation, Major Henderson informed the Hills about an observation the Pease Air Base radar had picked up at approximately 2:14 in the morning. Now, this has never been confirmed by anyone involved in the military, so take it with a grain of salt, but this would roughly fit in with the timeline that the Hills would establish over the next few years.
Henderson would spend the next few days with the report he was working on, full of the information that the Hills had given him. He would file the report on September 26th, four days after his conversation with Betty and Barney. The conclusion that he would reach was that the couple had misidentified the planet Jupiter, or seen some type of optical illusion caused by the planet, which was very visible on the night-in-question. However, this report would be forwarded to Project Blue Book, the United States government's organizational response to the UFO sightings that had been cropping up since the late 1940s.
During the conversation with her sister Janet on September 21st, Betty was told to check the small, circular spots left behind on their vehicle's trunk. Janet recommended bringing a compass out, and see how it reacted to the spots.
According to both Betty and Barney, the compass would react dramatically when brought in close to the metallic spots. Apparently, the compass would begin to spin chaotically when brought close to the spots, but would drop back to normality when taken just inches away.
To Barney, this was a sign that something was off. To Betty, though, this was a sign that what had happened to them was extraordinary, and perhaps even out-of-this-world.
Within the next few days, Betty began to investigate UFOs on her own time. She would travel to the nearby Portsmouth Library, and began reading up on flying saucers and the claims people had levied at them.
One of the books she discovered, titled "Flying Saucers Are Real," had been written by a former Marine Corps naval aviator named Donald Keyhoe, who had published books about UFOs and now gone to co-found NICAP, also known as the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena.
The book Betty found was based on the idea that UFOs had been visiting Earth for some time - perhaps centuries - but had now started to increase their observations based on humanity's nuclear technology. The book itself was marinated in Cold War suspicions, but held onto the belief that the United States government, or at least the leaders of the government, were aware of UFO visitations and had been actively suppressing that knowledge.
The book apparently whirled Betty into a frenzy. On the same day that Major Paul Henderson was filing his report, claiming that the Hills had simply seen an illusion of sorts, Betty was writing a letter of her own. Sent to Donald Keyhoe himself, who was now the leader of NICAP, a civilian nonprofit organization aimed at bringing to light claims of UFO activity (extraterrestrial and otherwise), the letter detailed everything that Betty and Barney could remember. This also included Barney's claims of seeing "man-like beings" aboard the strange aircraft, and noted that the couple were thinking of seeing a hypnotist to unearth any sort of mental blocks.
The letter itself was mailed to Donald Keyhoe, but was soon passed into the hands of a man named Walter N. Webb. From there, the story just keeps growing and growing and growing.
Over the next couple of weeks, the Hills began to settle back into their regular lives. Both Barney and Betty began to work again, but then Betty began to be plagued by dreams. These dreams apparently bordered on nightmares, but included details that she claimed to remember in sharp, succinct detail.
For five nights, she had these dreams. These were dreams of her and Barney being stopped by a group of beings, who took them from their car and began guiding them towards a type of spacecraft hidden in the nearby woods. Then, the dreams began to include alleged memories of experiments performed on Betty and Barney Hill.
Here's Betty's description of the encounter, taken from an interview in the 1970s.
According to Betty and the alleged memories retained within her dreams, they had been abducted by the aliens from the car, and were forced into a series of tests. Apparently, Barney went through the encounter in a comatose state, while she claims to have been awake throughout most of it. These tests were mostly physical examinations, where the aliens from Betty's dreams performed experiments on their nervous systems, with tiny little prods that grazed the skin.
As you heard, the aliens were surprised by Barney's teeth, which he had lost in World War 2, after getting hit with a shock wave from a grenade. He had been wearing dentures, which apparently intrigued the alien beings.
How Betty was able to remember this, in a series of dreams spanning five nights, is anyone's guess. Many have alleged that she recalled "remembering" these events after doing an extensive amount of research into unidentified flying objects.
But, I should note, that while sightings of flying saucers were becoming commonplace all over America - and even the world - this was one of the very first times that anyone had allegedly been abducted. If there were stories of people being abducted at the time, they weren't very well-known, at least not enough for Betty to hear about them in popular culture. Now, it's easy for us to pinpoint stories like the Hills and poke fun at it, but at the time, UFO abduction tall tales hadn't entered the American zeitgeist. Just wanted to mention that, because one of the biggest arguments against the Hills having been abducted is that they wanted publicity, but in actuality, they worked against it for at least the first few years of the story.
Now, that doesn't change the fact that Betty began to recall more of the events of their abduction the further out from the event. That is simply not how memory works, but there is still plenty left of the story to tell before I begin spouting off my opinions as gospel.
Mitchell N. Webb was a young man, who had graduated from Mount Union College in 1954 with a degree in Biology. However, he himself had a history with unidentified flying objects.
In 1951, while serving as a teenage camp counselor in Michigan, Webb had witnessed an odd-moving object flying in the sky above. He had become enamored with the subject, and by the time he graduated with a biology degree, he immediately went to work in the field of astronomy.
His tutor, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, is one of the most prominent astrophysicist and ufologist of all-time. He had served as the scientific adviser to Project Blue Book since its inception in 1952, and had even advised for its predecessors, Project Grudge and Project Sign. While serving as a scientific adviser for Blue Book, he was also working as the lead for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Optical Satellite Tracking Program.
Webb would work under Dr. Hynek from 1957 to 1958, at which time his career path was established. He would then begin working for the Charles Hayden Planetarium in Boston shortly afterwards, where he volunteered his time for NICAP, the non-profit organization co-founded by Donald Keyhoe that investigated UFO phenomenon.
It was here that Webb enters the story. He was a young aspiring astronomer that was handed the letter Betty Hill had hand-written, full of details alleging contact with an alien race, missing memories, and a promise of hypnosis to discover the supposed truth.
Webb contacted the Hills, and arranged an interview to take place in October. When they finally met, on October 21st, 1961, an entire month had transpired since the alleged UFO sighting, and Betty's memory seemed to be getting better and better with every passing day.
During this infamous interview, which spanned nearly six hours, the Hills recounted every detail imaginable. From the drive home, to the extraordinary craft flying in the sky, to Betty's recollection of their abduction, it was all detailed in Webb's NICAP report, which totaled in at over 60 pages when it was finalized in 1965.
In his reports, Webb insisted that what the Hills were saying seemed to be genuine. He noted that they had some inconsistencies when it came to specific points, such as the exact time that something happened, or the exact location they were at when they first saw the craft, that kind of stuff. However, he genuinely believed them, and took an open-mind to their story.
Also deciding to believe in the Hills' story was an old friend of Barney's, Major James MacDonald of the United States Air Force. The two had been friends for some time, and MacDonald came to the support of the Hills when other writers came to interview them for their story. At this point, the story had started to make the rounds outside of their inner circle, and had put the Hill couple "on the map," so to speak.
Mitchell N. Webb's initial report found its way to other NICAP members, who became fascinated with the case. In November, two more members of NICAP came to speak to them, interviewing them about the inconsistencies in their story. Their biggest gripe with the Hills was the block of missing time from their story - roughly three hours worth. However, the Hills agreed with them, and insisted that they wanted to learn.
This is when the idea of hypnosis began to seriously get floated to the couple, and they began to look for someone who could dislodge any memories from their subconscious.
Things began to look rather grim for poor Barney.
While Betty was in supposed anguish with the content of her dreams, Barney was struggling with demons of his own.
Having long been sober, Barney began to drink again. It had been over a decade since he had had an alcohol problem, but his growing anxiety at... something... urged him to pick up the habit once again.
He was becoming anxious, withdrawn, and some would say depressed. His work shift, which he had once enjoyed, now filled him with unease. According to Betty, he was driving an hour each way, five or six times a week, down to Boston, to work the midnight shift as a postal worker. After going through such an incredible affair while driving at night, I'm sure this commute didn't do him any favors.
Then, things took an odd turn just a few months after the supposed abduction. He began to develop a ring of warts around his genital region, which would require three minor operations to do away with. Many have theorized that, if he WAS experimented on, that this was some kind of side-effect, but others have theorized that it was entirely psychosomatic in origin.
And if that wasn't enough, health issues began to plague the man. At this point in time, he was definitely dealing with an ulcer, and developed high blood pressure in the months after September of 1961.
Needless to say, it surprises no one that Barney was forced into therapy to help cope with his ever-growing list of issues. As he began to divulge his issues to his therapists, the topic of hypnosis kept surfacing, with Barney hesitant to engage in the activity, due to his own insecurity. He was afraid of what may lie behind that door, so he chose not to open it.
Things appeared normal on the outside. Barney remained active in his local NAACP chapter and in the Governor of New Hampshire's Civil Rights Commission, and in 1963 he was invited to attend the inauguration of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
But as the months began to turn into years, he eventually couldn't hold back the tide of his trauma any more. In 1964, he and Betty began to visit Dr. Benjamin Simon, the psychiatrist who recorded the audio sessions you heard at the beginning of the episode.
Between 1962 and 1964, Betty had become more and more sure of her recollection of events. After her dreams had disappeared after roughly one week, she had used journals and hand-drawn photos to piece together what she could remember, and time-lined it into the common recollection we know today.
The multiple sessions that the Hills undertook with Dr. Simon proved fruitful, if only for Barney finally talking about what he believed happened on the night in question.
In a deep state of hypnosis, Barney began to tell the story as he remembered it.
Regardless of your thoughts on whether or not this was a true story, you cannot deny that Barney was traumatized by something. Between his testimony under hypnosis, his compounding health issues, and his reliance on substance abuse to cope with his problems, something was deeply unsettled within him.
His description of the encounter with the strange craft in the sky - and the inhabitants of it - roughly fit in with Betty's description. They had been driving along the highway when they noticed the light, and it followed them for some time. Then, they decided to get out and take a look, at which point the craft starting showing an interest in them. From there, they got back in the car and decided to drive away, but then faced a blank memory and no recollection.
The audio tapes made widely available, of Barney under hypnosis with Dr. Benjamin Simon, don't go into extensive detail about what happened after this first encounter with the alien beings. But in the decades since, Betty went on-the-record multiple times to tell the story of what happened aboard that alien craft.
Barney showed a great deal of distress during his hypnosis sessions, as you heard. But Betty seems to recall this encounter with the alien beings as a jovial one, like a pair of friends she hadn't seen in some time and remembers fondly.
However, I do think that it is important to note the differences that both Betty and Barney had in their recollection of the alien beings. This is perhaps one of the biggest marks against the pair, in terms of their testimony of the events that occurred.
Here is Barney's original description of the alien beings, which he describe as being very familiar to his past.
Barney describes the beings as looking a lot like humans, wearing uniforms that were close to that of Nazi's: black and sleek. As you heard, he even describes one of the figures as wearing a scarf, which isn't an item normally attributed to alien sightings.
And, as far as his description of the alien beings is concerned, he describes them as having very small, slanted eyes. In this hypnosis audio tape, he also goes on, at-length, about how they communicated telepathically. Both of these go directly at-odds with Betty's own description of the alien beings, which transformed over the years.
I would be remiss if I went without mentioning the potential outside influences on both Betty and Barney Hill's version of events. Up until this point, in 1964, their story hadn't yet become widely known outside of their social circle. They had been struggling with events, but hadn't started to receive widespread fame because of their claims. In March of 1963, roughly a year-and-a-half after their alleged encounter, they had spoken to their church about their claims in an effort to find peace in religion. But, unfortunately, we don't know all that was said, or whether these discussions of theirs included any mention of being abducted, or even personally encountering the alien beings.
Over the next few months, they would give some little lectures on what had happened to them, but remained relatively quiet about their claims.
And, as such, very little record can be found of their claims before this time. So we can't verify that any of the memories discovered during these hypnosis sessions weren't influenced by outside sources.
In January and February of 1964, roughly the same exact time as Betty and Barney began undergoing hypnosis with Dr. Benjamin Simon, two episodes of television aired. One was an episode of The Twilight Zone titled "Black Leather Jackets," and the other an episode of Outer Limits titled "The Bellero Shield." Both television episodes featured a storyline involving aliens encountering humans in gentle, friendly ways, and included imagery that may have made its way into Betty and Barney's imagination.
I just mention this, because I personally don't know what to think of the Hills' testimony. Many of the therapists that the pair had seen before Dr. Simon agreed that the couple had indeed gone through something dramatic. Apparently, Barney's trauma at the events that occurred on September 21st, 1961, paired with his substance abuse and subsequent health issues, put any matter of that to bed. SOMETHING happened on the night in question, it's just hard to parse if any of it was extraterrestrial in nature.
It's also important to note that Barney's description of the aliens, which he describes as looking like "Nazis," might be compounded by his lingering PTSD. While I don't know the specifics of his wartime records, he did serve in World War 2, and suffered an injury at the hands of a grenade, which required him to get dentures at an early age. Perhaps his memory of this encounter with alien beings triggered the part of his brain that was dealing with some severe undealt-with trauma.
However, I would like to include one last piece of audio of Barney, taken under hypnosis, just to showcase that while he was hiding some trauma, he was deeply in love with Betty and considered himself a happy individual. And while he was unsettled with what happened on the night in question, he wasn't a scarred individual hiding some deeper secret.
While I talk mostly about Barney's hypnosis session, it's also true that Betty herself went through the same hypnosis therapy with Dr. Benjamin Simon.
Apparently, her hypnosis was just as productive and emotional, with several sessions having to be cut short because of her fragile state at the end. Whenever Dr. Simon would broach the subject of her capture and abduction, she would begin to cry, which stands at clear contrast with how she has approached the matter in the years since.
Betty's hypnosis sessions were very similar to the dreams she had had a few years beforehand, but filled in a lot of details, such as her description of the aliens, their craft, etc. However, one of the most interesting pieces of information was taken from her claim that she saw one of the alien's maps. This map wasn't like our normal 2D planetary map, but was rather a holographic 3D star map, showcasing where the aliens were from.
Now, instead of trying to explain my thoughts on the star map, I'll just turn it over to the master of astronomy himself, Carl Sagan, who covered Betty's claims on his legendary show "Cosmos."
The map that Betty drew wasn't particularly advanced in any way, but ended up loosely matching up with the Zeta Reticuli system. This anomaly was discovered by elementary school teacher Marjorie Fish in 1968, and her theory would be expanded upon in 1969, when the Gliese Catalog was released. Until then, the information about nearby star routes wasn't widely known, so it would have been theoretically impossible for Betty to have known what she did. But like you just heard Carl Sagan say, the lines and dots she put together could have been used on any number of surrounding stars, so it's evidence that doesn't draw much of a conclusion.
However, in the years since, the star map has been the closest thing to evidence that what Betty and Barney Hill saw on the night of September 21st, 1961 was actually extraterrestrial.
After their hypnosis sessions, Dr. Benjamin Simon reached his own professional conclusion. He decided that the couple had gone through a singular psychological aberration, inspired by Betty's fantasies. He noted the differences in their accounts as proof of this conclusion, and that while there was perhaps some real trauma behind it, that the story the two had told was something from their imagination.
However, through the sessions, Barney had finally grown to accept what had happened. While before, he was prepared to defend his recollection of events and deny any kind of abduction, he had started to make peace with it. Betty, on the other hand, had long since made peace with it and begun to treat the story as we know now: friendly and joyous.
The Hills began to return to their regular lives once again. Barney was still working as a postal worker, and Betty as a social worker. Over the next year or so, things went back to normality, and the two had seemed to move on with their lives.
In September of 1965, Mitchell N. Webb finished his full-length report on the Hills. Full of details gleaned from their recorded sessions with Dr. Simon, and the testimony that they had given over the years, the report is over 60 pages long and is still available to read online.
But on October 25th, 1965, they were greeted by the front page of their newspaper, the Boston Traveler. The headline, in big bold letters, read: "UFO Chiller: Did THEY Seize Couple?" The article was about Betty and Barney, and the information the reporter obtained was taken from audio recorded during one of the Hill's lectures in 1963. Apparently the reporter, John H. Luttrell, had also learned that the couple had gone to seek hypnosis therapy with Dr. Benjamin Simon, and even got ahold of the original NICAP reports written by Mitchell N. Webb.
Despite their efforts to stay sane in the public eye, the Hills were now celebrities.
The day after the Boston Traveler published the story about the Hills, it was picked up by the United Press International, now known as the Associated Press. Now, the story of Betty and Barney was being revealed to people all around the globe, and there was nothing they could do but try and embrace it.
Before long, the pair were visited by an author, John G. Fuller, who wanted to write a book about their encounter with alien beings. They agreed to cooperate, as well as Dr. Benjamin Simon, who offered his professional insights.
The book, titled "The Interrupted Journey," was published in 1966. It details the missing chunk of time that the couple had trouble remembering, and turned them into icons among the burgeoning UFO community.
Much of the original focus on the couple was pointed on them being an interracial couple. Many have theorized that the stress of being a couple in such a time was what ultimately led to a break from reality and them concocting this story, but even Dr. Simon disagreed with that statement. While the two had been under pressure, it was most likely caused by something traumatic that happened on the evening in question, not by societal pressures. All of their therapists, family, and friends agreed: they were a happy couple, that genuinely loved one another and lived in one of the most progressive parts of the country.
Over the next few years, their popularity would continue to rise. They became well-known for their allegations, and it's what ultimately might have done Barney in. In February of 1969, just seven-and-a-half years after their original sighting, he suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage. Onset by high blood pressure and compounded by his alcoholism, Barney Hill passed away at the young age of 46, leaving behind two children from a prior marriage, and making Betty a widow at the age of 48.
It's hard to say what kind of impact the fame had upon Barney's health. Many have attributed the UFO sighting to his decline in health, but it's also been pointed out that his health issues may have started before Fall of 1961.
However, Betty herself would never remarry. She described the love that she and Barney had as something permanent, something that she would never be able to break free from. And while she may have gone into seclusion to live out the last half of her life in peace, she remained at the forefront of the UFO movement, cementing her legacy as a peculiar individual. She would attend UFO conventions, speak out in defense of UFO sightings while also tearing down stories as 'obviously false,' and would become known forever as the "Grandmother of UFOlogy."
In 1975, the book based upon the Hills' alleged abduction, "The Interrupted Journey," would get turned into a television film. Starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons, the movie was called "The UFO Incident," and aired close to fourteen years after the original sighting.
Many have gone on theorize what happened to the Hills on September 21st, 1961. While some point out flaws in the story to paint the Hills as crazy people hellbent on popularity, others point to arguments that may work in their favor. Pease Air Force Base, the nearby military installation that was originally contacted by Betty on September 22nd, DID write up a report and declare the matter closed just a few days later. However, Betty continuously claimed that the major she spoke to, Paul W. Henderson, confirmed her suspicions by saying that radar picked up something on the evening they were abducted. In some stories, I've read that the radar pinged twice: once roughly seven hours before their abduction, and once two hours after.
However, it is true that the case was forwarded to Project Blue Book, which as I stated, was a real governmental program aimed at identifying UFO activity. Also, Betty would continue to claim that the information obtained by the Air Force that night, pertaining to their abduction, had been classified and gone unreleased for decades. Obviously, I have no way to know if this is true, but it is interesting to note.
Also, I found this pretty unique: the 509th Bomb Wing, which was re-stationed to Pease Air Force Base in 1958, had previously been located in Roswell, New Mexico. In 1990, the 509th Bomb Wing was moved to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and now Missouri has become one of the biggest hotbeds for alleged UFO sightings in America.
Betty herself remained a lightingrod for controversy over the next few decades, painting herself as an icon for the UFO community. She never shied away from her claims, in fact diluting them with many more. She would continue to "see" UFOs dozens of times over the rest of her life, eventually earning herself a reputation as a crazy old lady.
Over the years, many have coined her as the driving force behind the Hills' claim of abduction. People have theorized that Barney, who was shying away from some personal trauma, was influenced by Betty's persistent claims of UFO abductions and simply went along with it. While some would call that weak-minded, it's important to note that eyewitness testimony isn't relied upon by police investigators because the mind is so easily influenced by outside sources. Perhaps Barney refused to believe Betty, but her persistent claims eventually found their way into his mind, in certain ways. It's definitely possible that the two had lived through a type of shared trauma, and had gone with Betty's imagination as a coping mechanism.
Or, perhaps, they made it all up. It's impossible to know their motivations for sure, really. Because the story is too outlandish for our minds to perceive that it actually happened the way that they claimed.
However, Betty did have a history of UFO stories. I noted earlier in the episode that her sister, Janet, had claimed to have been seen a UFO in the 1950s, and Betty seemed to have an interest in the subject before her alleged abduction. Even in the years since, her niece, Kathleen Marden, has continued to vouch for her aunt and uncle's story, publishing a book and multiple blogs online in support of their credibility.
Sadly, Betty Hill passed away of cancer in October of 2004.
Over the years, UFO believers have tried to support the story that the Hills told, and tried to back it up with evidence. The star map, pointing to Zeta Reticuli, remains the most solid piece of evidence, but even that is flawed. The dress that Betty had been wearing, which she claimed had been covered in a pink powder, was tested decades after the fact. The test results came back inconclusive, stating that the dress contained evidence of some kind of protein, none of which matched up with the Hills DNA.
The story has remained a staple among UFO supporters and skeptics, but few can deny the impact it had upon American culture. It immediately brought about dozens - if not hundreds - of copycat stories and people claiming anal probes from aliens above. There now exist markers along the New Hampshire highways where the alleged abduction happened, and a collection of the case's UFO materials reside at the University of New Hampshire, Betty's alma mater.
Regardless of the story's merit, whether aliens and UFOs were actually spotted that night, what happened to Betty and Barney Hill on September 21st, 1961 remains unresolved.
Sources and further reading
- Wikipedia: Barney and Betty Hill
- Wikipedia: Pease Air National Guard Base
- "The Hill Report" by Walter N. Webb
- NICAP - "Radar Reports Prior To Hill Case"
- "The Interrupted Journey" by John G. Fuller
- "Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience: The True Story of the World's First Documented Alien Abduction" by Stanton T. Friedman and Kathleen Marden
- Barney Hill hypnosis session with Dr. Benjamin Simon
- The Mass UFO Show - "The Lost Betty Hill Interview"
- Betty Hill interview w/ Stanton Friedman
- Skeptic Report - "The Hill Abduction"
- International Business Times - "Alien abduction of married couple 'proven' by star map they drew claims statistician"
- The UFO Casebook - "The Betty and Barney Hill Abduction"
- Yankee Skeptic - "Barney Hill and his Civil Rights Work"
- Skeptoid - "Betty and Barney Hill: The Original UFO Abduction"
- Los Angeles Times - "Betty Hill, 85; Claim of Abduction by Aliens Led to Fame"
- Week In Weird - "An Afternoon With Betty Hill, America's Most Famous Alien Abductee"