The Betty and Barney Hill Abduction, Part 1
When I was but a young boy, the only time anyone talked about flying saucers was after watching a movie about them, or seeing an episode of Twilight Zone, or Science Fiction Theater.
Then one morning, I was scanning over our local newspaper, and noticed about three pages deep this heading, "New Hampshire Couple Encounters UFO."
Well, needless to say, I was intrigued. In our small town paper, you just didn't see things on this type of subject.
As I began to read the article, I was astounded to see that these two people claimed to have been abducted by aliens, and taken inside the ship!
Well, that was enough for me to think, "What is this, some kind of joke?"
I thought I had heard the last of it, but I had not.
Soon, this story became an international one, and even today, is still considered one of the most believable, and certainly most researched UFO cases, except for maybe the Roswell incident. One thing about this whole subject that seems odd to me, is that it is considered within the realm of possibility that someone could see a UFO, but for someone to be taken aboard one, NO WAY.
In 1961, Barney Hill was a 39-year-old black man who worked for the US Postal Service. His wife Betty was a 41-year-old white woman, who owned a Master's Degree, and was the supervisor for the child welfare department.
The fact that the Hills were an interracial couple has been given weight by some who state that Barney was suffering stress in dealing with some public ridicule about the black and white union, which was not nearly as readily accepted in the early 1960s as it is today.
In my research into Mr. Hill's life, I can't find any reason for his stress being the cause of telling such an incredible story. What ensued after the couple went public with their story was much more stressful to him than any anti-racial remarks he may have encountered.
The story of Betty and Barney Hill begins in September 1961, in the state of New Hampshire. Barney had recently developed an ulcer, and he and his wife Betty decided to take a short vacation to Canada. The couple had visited Niagara Falls, and Montreal, and on the 19th of the month, they began their journey back home to Portsmouth.
The night was clear, with a crescent moon shining on the heavily wooded landscape that surrounded US Route 3 in the central part of New Hampshire.
At about a quarter past 10:00 PM, three miles south of the city of Lancaster, Barney noticed what appeared to be a bright star, or planet, which seemed to move erratically. Barney pointed this out to Betty, and they both began to keep track of the object.
The couple began to believe that they were watching a plane appear and disappear, as the movement of their vehicle caused the trees to come and go in obstructing their view. Later, Barney would state that he tried to convince himself that the object was a plane, but that Betty thought it to be something else - an unidentified craft of some kind.
As the two continued to the Flume, just north of North Woodstock, the object appeared to move in an odd way.
As they reached Indian Head, Barney actually stopped the car to have a look at the object with his binoculars. He saw multi-colored lights, and rows of windows on a flat-shaped object, which now seemed to be moving toward him.
As the object moved to within a hundred feet of him, he could see occupants inside. Frightened, he ran back to his car where Betty waited. They climbed inside and sped away. Soon, two hours of their lives would vanish into oblivion.
After resuming their journey home, they were not able to see the strange craft anymore. Oddly though, they heard a beeping sound. They then heard the beeping a second time, noticing that they were suddenly thirty-five miles farther down the road than a minute or two ago. They were now in Ashla.
The mood in the car was quiet as they proceeded home and went to bed. They both slept until the next afternoon. When Betty got up, she called her sister Janet, and told her what had happened. Janet told her to call nearby Pease Air Force Base, and report what she had seen.
Betty reported the incident, speaking to Major Paul W. Henderson, who told Betty; "The UFO was also confirmed by our radar." It is important to note at this point that Barney was against calling the sighting in to the base, hoping to keep it quiet.
At this time, neither Betty nor Barney recalled any abduction. Soon, however, Betty began having nightmarish dreams of her and her husband being taken aboard a craft of some kind, against their will. In a matter of weeks, two writers got wind of the story, and after interviewing the Hills, made an intensive log of the events of the night.
They discovered that there were two hours of unaccounted time in the Hill's story, even allowing for stops for the Hills, and breaks for their dog, who also had made the trip with them.
Another interesting note that I should interject here is that these "two writers," which are mentioned in almost every report of this incident, (and there are literally thousands of them), have not been named, or I cannot find their names.
However, the story is true, because their interview was attended by Major James MacDonald, a former Air Force Intelligence Officer.
Shortly after Betty began having these disturbing dreams, she wrote a letter to Major Donald Kehoe, who passed her information on to one Walter Webb, who was on the staff of the Hayden Planetarium. Webb, at the time, was a scientific advisor for the National Investigations Committee on Arial Phenomena (commonly referred to as NICAP). What he did with the report is unknown.
It was Major MacDonald who made the suggestion to the Hills that regressive hypnosis might account for the two hours of missing time. In the spring of 1962, the Hills contacted a psychiatrist about the hypnosis sessions, but decided to put it off for a time. All the while, Betty was still haunted by the dreams, and Barney's ulcer was worse, and he was again suffering from hypertension.
After dodging reporters, and doing some research on psychiatrists, the Hills made a decision to contact well-known Boston psychiatrist and neurologist, Dr. Benjamin Simon, who was one of the most respected doctors in his field.
After a couple of initial interviews, Dr. Simon's preliminary diagnosis was "anxiety syndrome," relating to the incidents of the night of September 19, 1961. His next step was to find out what those events were.
B J Booth
Dr. Simon's hypnosis sessions
Simon began hypnotizing the Hills on January 4, 1964. He hypnotized Betty and Barney several times each, and the sessions lasted until June 6, 1964. Simon conducted the sessions on Barney and Betty separately, so they could not overhear one another's recollections. At the end of each session he reinstated
Simon hypnotized Barney first. His recall of witnessing non-human figures was quite emotional, punctuated with expressions of fear, emotional outbursts and incredulity. Barney said that, due to his fear, he kept his eyes closed for much of the abduction and physical examination. Based on these early responses, Simon told Barney that he would not remember the hypnosis sessions until he was certain he could remember them without being further traumatized.
Under hypnosis (as was consistent with his conscious recall), Barney reported that the binocular strap had broken when he ran from the UFO back to his car. He recalled driving the car away from the UFO, but that afterwards he felt irresistibly compelled to pull off the road, and drive into the woods. He eventually sighted six men standing in the dirt road. The car stalled and three of the men approached the car. They told Barney to not fear them. He was still anxious, however, and he reported that the leader told Barney to close his eyes. While hypnotized, Barney said, "I felt like the eyes had pushed into my eyes."
Barney described the beings as generally similar to Betty's hypnotic, not dream recollection. The beings often stared into his eyes, said Barney, with a terrifying, mesmerizing effect. Under hypnosis, Barney said things like, "Oh, those eyes. They're there in my brain" (from his first hypnosis session) and "I was told to close my eyes because I saw two eyes coming close to mine, and I felt like the eyes had pushed into my eyes" (from his second hypnosis session) and "All I see are these eyes... I'm not even afraid that they're not connected to a body. They're just there. They're just up close to me, pressing against my eyes."
Barney related that he and Betty were taken onto the disc-shaped craft, where they were separated. He was escorted to a room by three of the men and told to lie on a small rectangular exam table. Unlike Betty, Barney's narrative of the exam was fragmented, and he continued to keep his eyes closed for most of the exam. A cup-like device was placed over his genitals. He did not experience an
though Barney thought that a
sample had been taken. The men scraped his skin, and peered in his ears and mouth. A tube or cylinder was inserted in his
. Someone felt his spine, and seemed to be counting his
While Betty reported extended conversations with the beings in English, Barney said that he heard them speaking in a mumbling language he did not understand. Betty also mentioned this detail. The few times they communicated with him, Barney said it seemed to be "thought transference"; at that time, he was unfamiliar with the word "
Both Betty and Barney stated that they hadn't observed the beings' mouths moving when they communicated in English with them.
He recalled being escorted from the ship, and taken to his car, which was now near the road rather than in the woods. In a daze, he watched the ship leave. Barney remembered a light appearing on the road, and he said, "Oh no, not again." He recalled Betty's speculation that the light might have been the moon, though the moon had in fact set several hours earlier. He also stated that he attempted to produce the code-like buzzing sounds which seemed to strike the car's trunk a second time by driving from side to side and stopping and starting the vehicle. His attempt was unsuccessful.
Under hypnosis, Betty's account was very similar to the events of her five dreams about the UFO abduction, but there were also notable differences. Under hypnosis, her capture and release were different. The technology on the craft was different. The short men had a significantly different physical appearance than the ones in her dreams. The sequential order of the abduction event was also different than in Betty's dream account. She filled in many details that were not in her dreams and contradicted some of her dream content. It is interesting that Barney's and Betty's memories in hypnotic regression were consistent but contradicted some of the information in Betty's dreams.
Betty exhibited considerable emotional distress during her capture and examination. Dr. Simon ended one session early because tears were flowing down her cheeks and she was in considerable agony.
Dr. Simon gave Betty the post hypnotic suggestion that she could sketch a copy of the "star map" that she later described as a three dimensional projection similar to a
. She hesitated, thinking she would be unable to accurately depict the three-dimensional quality of the map she says she saw on the ship. Eventually, however, she did what Simon suggested. Although she said the map had many stars, she drew only those that stood out in her memory. Her map consisted of twelve prominent stars connected by lines and three lesser ones that formed a distinctive triangle. (
) She said she was told the stars connected by solid lines formed "trade routes", whereas dashed lines were to less-traveled stars.
Dr. Simon's conclusions
After extensive hypnosis sessions, Dr. Simon concluded that Barney's recall of the UFO encounter was a fantasy inspired by Betty's dreams. Though Simon admitted this hypothesis did not explain every aspect of the experience, he thought it was the most plausible and consistent explanation. Barney rejected this idea, noting that while their memories were in some regards interlocking, there were also portions of both their narratives that were unique to each. Barney was now ready to accept that they had been abducted by the occupants of a UFO, though he never embraced it as fully as Betty did.
Though the Hills and Simon disagreed about the nature of the case, they all concurred that the hypnosis sessions were effective: the Hills were no longer tormented by anxiety about the UFO encounter.
Afterwards, Simon wrote an article about the Hills for the journal
, explaining his conclusions that the case was a singular psychological aberration.
Publicity after the hypnosis sessions
The Hills went back to their regular lives. They were willing to discuss the UFO encounter with friends, family and the occasional UFO researcher, but the Hills apparently made no effort to seek publicity.
But on October 25, 1965, a newspaper story changed everything: A
story on the
asked "UFO Chiller: Did THEY Seize Couple?"
John H. Lutrell of the
had allegedly been given an
recording of the lecture the Hills had made in Quincy Center in late 1963. Lutrell learned that the Hills had undergone hypnosis with Dr. Simon; he also obtained notes from confidential interviews the Hills had given to
. On October 26, the
picked up Lutrell's story, and the Hills earned
In 1966, writer
John G. Fuller
secured the cooperation of the Hills and Dr. Simon, and wrote the book
The Interrupted Journey
about the case. The book included a copy of Betty's sketch of the "star map". The book was a quick success, and went through several printings.
Barney died of a
on February 25, 1969, at age 46; Betty Hill died of cancer on October 17, 2004, at age 85.
Analyzing the star map
Margorie Fish interpretation of Betty Hill’s purported alien star map, with "Sol" (upper right) being the Latin name for the Sun.
In 1968, Marjorie Fish of Oak Harbor, Ohio read Fuller's
Interrupted Journey. She was an elementary school teacher and amateur astronomer. Intrigued by the "star map", Fish wondered if it might be "deciphered" to determine which
star system the UFO came from. Assuming that one of the fifteen stars on the map must represent the Earth's Sun, Fish constructed a three-dimensional model of nearby Sun-like stars using thread and beads, basing stellar distances on those published in the 1969
Gliese Star Catalogue
. Studying thousands of vantage points over several years, the only one that seemed to match the Hill map was from the viewpoint of the
double star system of
Distance information needed to match three stars, forming the distinctive triangle Hill said she remembered, was not generally available until the 1969 Gliese Catalogue came out.
Fish sent her analysis to Webb. Agreeing with her conclusions, Webb sent the map to
of the popular magazine
. Dickinson did not endorse Fish and Webb's conclusions, but for the first time in the journal's history,
invited comments and debate on a UFO report, starting with an opening article in the December 1974 issue. For about a year afterward, the opinions page of
for and against Fish's star map. Notable was an argument made by
arguing that the seeming "star map" was little more than a
alignment of chance points. In contrast, those more favorable to the map, such as Dr. David Saunders, a statistician who had been on the
Condon UFO study
, argued that unusual alignment of key Sun-like stars in a plane centered around Zeta Reticuli (first described by Fish) was statistically improbable to have happened by chance from a random group of stars in our immediate neighborhood.
, in an accompanying article said that a map devised by Charles W. Atterberg, about the same time as Fish, was an even better match to Hill's map and made more sense. The base stars,
, plus the others were also closer to the Sun than the Hill map. Fish counterargued that the base stars in the
were considered much less likely to harbor life than Zeta Reticuli and the map lacked a consistent grouping of Sun-like stars along the lined routes.
In 1993, two
enthusiasts, Joachim Koch and Hans-Jürgen Kyborg, suggested that the map depicted planets in the
, not nearby stars. The objects in the map, they said, closely match the positions of the Sun, the six inner planets and several asteroids around the time of the incident.
This would parallel other abduction accounts where witnesses claim to be shown such depictions, though admittedly often elaborate and unmistakably our own solar system.
, by John G. Fuller, details much of the Hills' claims. Excerpts of the book were published in
went on to sell many copies and greatly publicize the Hills' account. Betty's niece Kathleen Marden explored Fuller's themes along with scientist
Stanton T. Friedman
in her book
Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience
. Marden knew Betty well and had spoken with her at great length about the encounter.
Later, Betty claimed to have seen UFOs a number of times after the initial abduction, and she "became a celebrity in the UFO community."
Psychiatrists reportedly later suggested that the supposed abduction was a
brought on by the stress of being an
in early 1960s United States.
Betty discounted this suggestion, noting her relationship with Barney was happy, and their interracial marriage caused no notable problems with their friends or family. As noted in
The Interrupted Journey
, Dr. Simon thought that the Hills' marital status had nothing to do with the UFO encounter.
reports that the hypnosis sessions occurred over two years after the reported abductions, plenty of time for the couple to discuss their encounter. In a 2008 article, Dunning calls their story "merely an inventive tale from the mind of a lifelong UFO fanatic.. [and] is unsupported by any useful evidence, and is perfectly consistent with the purely natural explanation."
Dunning's statements, however, are not supported by factual information. Betty was not a lifelong UFO enthusiast. According to Barney's 1961 letter to Major Donald Keyhoe and early investigative reports, she had not read even one book about UFOs before her close encounter on September 19, 1961, nor had he.
An alien depicted on TV twelve days before the making of Hill's 'Grey' hypnosis tape
In his 1990 article "Entirely Unpredisposed", Martin Kottmeyer suggested that Barney's memories revealed under hypnosis might have been influenced by an episode of the
The Outer Limits
The Bellero Shield
", which was broadcast about two weeks before Barney's first hypnotic session. The episode featured an extraterrestrial with large eyes who says, "In all the universes, in all the unities beyond the universes, all who have eyes have eyes that speak." The report from the regression featured a scenario that was in some respects similar to the television show. In part, Kottmeyer wrote:
"Wraparound eyes are an extreme rarity in science fiction films. I know of only one instance. They appeared on the alien of an episode of an old TV series
The Outer Limits
entitled "The Bellero Shield". A person familiar with Barney's sketch in "The Interrupted Journey" and the sketch done in collaboration with the artist David Baker will find a "frisson" of "
" creeping up his spine when seeing this episode. The resemblance is much abetted by an absence of ears, hair, and nose on both aliens. Could it be by chance? Consider this: Barney first described and drew the wraparound eyes during the hypnosis session dated 22 February 1964. "The Bellero Shield" was first broadcast on "10 February 1964. Only twelve days separate the two instances. If the identification is admitted, the commonness of wraparound eyes in the abduction literature falls to cultural forces."
When a different researcher asked Betty about
The Outer Limits
, she insisted she had "never heard of it".
Kottmeyer also pointed out that some motifs in the Hills' account were present in the 1953 film,
Invaders from Mars
A careful analysis of Barney's description of the non-human entities that he observed reveals significant differences between the "Bifrost Man" and Barney's descriptive details. One must also take into account Barney's conscious recall of the entities he observed on the hovering craft. They were dressed in black, shiny uniforms and were "somehow not human".