In the history of the alien abduction phenomena, none is more prominent than the first major recorded event, surrounding the story of the Betty & Barney Hill Abduction. This event chronicling a married couples encounter with a UFO and subsequent abduction by its occupants changed the landscape of UFOlogy forever. Only a few accounts before theirs had been documented, but what happened to the Hills that night became one of the most famous cases in UFOlogical history. The fact that these two were willing stake their reputations about their experience speaks volumes about its legitimacy. When you look into their backgrounds, you'll find that Betty was a social worker and Barney worked for the United States Postal Service. The two were both respected members of their community and were part of the NAACP and the Unitarian Church. Barney was even appointed by the NH governor at the time to serve on the state civil rights committee. By all accounts it seems, they were upstanding citizens and it doesn't seem likely that they made their story up.
On a dark autumn night, September 19th, 1961, married couple Barney & Betty Hill were returning to their Portsmouth, NH home after a a vacation in Niagara Falls and Montreal. Everything was going as you’d expect for a quiet and late night drive through the wilderness of the White Mountains area on Route 3. Just south of Lancaster, Betty saw a bright point of light in the sky. This light was first observed below the Moon and Jupiter and then changed position to be upward and West of the Moon from her perspective. Betty just figured it was a shooting star at first, but shooting stars don’t appear to move upwards in the sky. This light then began moving erratically, glowing brighter and getting larger in size - or coming closer to them.
At this point, Betty urged her husband, Barney to pull the car over so they could get a better look and to also take their dog, Delsey for a quick bathroom break. Barney spotted a scenic picnic area just south of Twin Mountain and parked the car. Betty then grabbed a pair of binoculars they had in the car and she claims to have observed an “odd-shaped” craft with a colorful display of flashing lights on it transit across the face of the Moon. Betty recalled her sister telling a story of witnessing a flying saucer and reasoned that’s what this object must be. Barney wanted to get eyes on this thing as well, but in his mind he believed he was merely looking at a commercial plane. This is when things started to become truly bizarre. Much to Barney’s dismay, he quickly realized this was not just a plane when the object without looking like it had turned rapidly descended towards them. Barney was quoted as saying “this object that was a plane was not a plane.” Probably a little freaked out by the situation, the two then hopped back in the car with their dog and drove towards Franconia Notch.
As they drove through the narrow mountain pass, they realized the object was continuing to fly closer to them and tracking their position. At one point this UFO passed above a restaurant and a signal tower on Cannon Mountain and then appeared again near NH’s famous Old Man of the Mountain monument. Betty believed the object was one and a half times the length of the Old Man of the Mountain, which was 40 feet line. Barney & Betty further realized that this object was completely silent and appeared to be rotating as it bounced around erratically in the sky.
When the couple reached the Indian Head area this craft then quickly dropped towards their car and Barney’s only course of action was to bring their ’57 Chevy Bel Air to a stop in the middle of the road. They observed the craft hovering silently about 80-100 feet above them. It was so large that it filled the entire field of view of their windshield. Barney, armed with their binoculars and a pistol in his pocket got out of the car and approached the object. Barney then took a closer look with the binoculars and claimed to see 8-11 humanoid looking figures peering out this strange crafts windows wearing shiny black uniforms with black caps. They seemed to be looking at him directly. Then all but one figure moved away from the windows and the remaining entity allegedly communicated with him telepathically telling him to “stay where you are and keep looking.” What appeared to be fins then telescoped out from the object and a long ramp-type structure descended from the craft. It then approached Barney within 50-80 feet above the ground and was only 300 feet away from him.
In a state of panic, Barney tore the binoculars away from his eyes and bolted for the car, hysterically telling Betty “They’re going to capture us!” He started the car and booked it out of there like a bat out of hell, instructing Betty to keep eyes on the object. Betty rolled down her window and looked up, and to her shock the object was directly above their car. Suddenly the Hills heard a rhythmic series of buzzing and beeping sounds which caused the car to vibrate and causing a tingling sensation to envelope the Hills bodies. Whatever this craft was beaming at them caused an altered state of consciousness, dulling their minds. They then remembered another set of buzzing sounds and suddenly found they had traveled nearly 35 miles south from their previous position around Ashland, NH. If that wasn’t strange and unnerving enough, the couple had no recollection of driving through the mountain pass that was now behind them. Clearly this was an episode of missing time. At that point the only thing they could remember was making a sudden, unplanned turn, hitting a roadblock and seeing a fiery orb in the road. This bizarre series of events was only the beginning and soon the two began experiencing odd sensations and impulses they couldn’t explain.
In the aftermath of this incident, the Hills were never the same and there was evidence that something strange happened to them that night. They arrived home at dawn, two hours later than they should have. For example Betty wanted their luggage kept at the back door, rather than in its usual spot. Moreover, the watches they were wearing also stopped working. The leather strap on the binoculars they used that night were also mysteriously torn. The toe section of Barney’s dress shoes were also scraped and scuffed up, which he had no recollection of. Barney was then compelled to examine his genitals as something felt off. Both of them took repeated and long showers to remove any potential contamination from being in close proximity to the object they saw. The Hills tried to reconstruct the timeline of events of what happened, but would start hearing buzzing sounds in their minds, like something was purposely blocking the memory of what happened after the craft descended on them. Wanting to get rest, they decided to sleep. Betty awoke and had noticed that her dress she wore that night was torn at the zipper, hem and lining. Later on when she pulled the items out of her closet she noticed a pink powder on the dress. She initially threw the dress out, but decided to keep it, and over the years several labs conducted tests and forensic analyses on it. Their car also showed mysterious evidence raising further questions. For example, shiny concentric circles were found on their Bel Air’s trunk which seemed to have magnetic properties, causing their compass to spin wildly when they brought it close to the trunk. The Hills were adamant that they were not present before their encounter.
On September 21st, Betty called Pease Air Force Base to report the encounter, but withheld certain details so she wouldn’t sound too eccentric. The following day, Major Paul W. Henderson followed up for a more detailed interview. On September 26th, Henderson filed a report that determined the Hills simply identified the planet Jupiter. His report was then sent to Project Blue Book. On that same date, Betty wrote a letter to retired military officer, Donald Keyhoe, then head of NICAP and UFO author. She related the complete story to him including the alien beings they observed. At this point the Hills were considering hypnotic regression to help recall their blocked memories of that night. Betty’s letter eventually found its way to Walter Webb. The Hills met with Webb on October 21st. After interviewing the couple, Webb believed that there was a “purposeful mental block” placed on them preventing them from remembering the incident. Webb believed that Betty and Barney were truthful and that the incident probably occurred as they stated.
Before The Hills even met with Webb, Betty began experiencing terrifying and nightmarish dreams for five nights in a row around 10 days after their experience. After this the dreams never returned. These dreams were very intense and surreal in nature where she was with her husband and other strange entities surrounded them within a forest. The entities she recalled wearing shiny black uniforms and black caps, much like what Barney saw that night through his binoculars. The beings were around five feet tall and they had grey colored skin with large and dark eyes. What they described has gone on to become the classic “Grey Alien” which are prevalent in other abduction accounts. In the nightmare, Betty would recall walking or being guided up a large ramp leading to a disc-shaped craft at which point, Barney would be separated from her. Betty often referred to one of the entities as “the leader” which would explain that they needed to be separated to perform examinations in a quicker manner before sending them on their way. Furthermore, she stated further details like picking up a book with unknown symbols within its pages. The “leader” figure would also reveal a star map showing where they came from. Then the beings had a disagreement according to the “leader” and their minds were wiped to not recall this bizarre encounter with beings from another world. The Hills didn’t go through hypnotic regression for a few more years, but the pair continued to experience, at times, debilitating episodes, such as Betty having sudden moments of extreme anxiety and having a feeling of high alertness. Betty & Barney would take regular drives back to the location where they first witnessed the flying saucer in hopes that it might unlock some memories…
A year later they met with Captain Ben Swett, a church member who talked to the Hills about hypnosis. He agreed that it might help them remember their experience, but warned against unqualified persons to perform the procedure. Swett remained close with the Hills in the following years and helped them set up their first legitimate session of hypnosis. Betty was eager to move ahead with this, however Barney wasn’t as gung-ho. In late 1963 they met with an experienced hypnotist, Benjamin Simon. By January 1964, the Hills began their first regressions and this lasted up until June of that year. Barney & Betty were seen separately and privately as to not influence each others answers and stories. Simon suspected that Barney’s resistance to doing hypnosis showed he held deep concern and fright about what they would find. The results were immediate, and much like Betty’s nightmares, the two revealed encountering extraterrestrial beings. Barney reacted in genuine terror during his sessions. According to Barney, after he ran for the car, and drove off to get away from the craft, he had an unknown urge to drive the car off the main road and onto a back country dirt road. He drove for some time until “six men” appeared in the middle of the road. Then the car mysteriously stopped on its own. Three of the “men” approached the car and there was a voice in his head telling him not to fear them and to close his eyes. According to Barney he said, “I felt like the eyes had pushed into my eyes.” and that the stare from this strange “man” was mesmerizing. In further sessions, Barney would cry, “Those eyes! They’re in my brain!” and “all I see are those eyes…they’re just there.”
In his regressions, he found that he was taken to an exam table. Barney recalled a “cup-like” device placed over his genitals and extracting a sperm sample. Moreover he would feel them taking skin scraping samples while peering intently into his mouth and nose while he forcibly kept his eyes shut during their invasive and nonconsensual examination. He also recalled feeling hands working their way up his spine, perhaps counting his vertebrae. During this time he heard the creatures speak some kind of language, but it just sounded like mumbling. Bizarrely however he could also hear them speaking English in his mind, suggesting telepathy, or as he put it “thought transference.” Many of the couples revelations corroborated with each other and even mirrored Betty’s vivid nightmares shortly after the incident. As for Betty, she recalled having several samples taken from her body; skin, hair and nails. Horrifyingly she also remembered a long painful needle being inserted through her navel, which allegedly was a pregnancy test. Apparently the “leader” was surprised at her pain and as if by magic, placed his hand over her eyes to stop the pain. As the sessions progressed, Betty was recorded to become increasingly emotion and upset, sometimes getting so worked up that Simon had to end the session early.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the Hills hypnosis sessions was that of a star map revealed by Betty Hill. According to the story she had been shown a star map via some 3D holographic-like projection that showed twelve glowing dots with lines connecting them. The “leader” informed her these represented star systems and trade routes between them. After one session, Simon suggested she draw the star map, which to some is a key piece of evidence that validates the Hills story. After the hypnosis sessions, Benjamin Simon presented his findings to NICAP. Impressed were impressed by the Hills honestly and intelligence. Ultimately the Hills only ever wanted to understand what happened to them that fateful night and didn’t seek to gain financial reward form their experience. Interestingly, Dr. Simon was not a believer in the alien & UFO phenomenon, but sincerely believed that the Hills believed in what happened to them. After listening to the sessions, Ben Swett found that Dr. Simon tried to sway their stories to logical and rational explanation, but the Hills never once changed their abduction stories. After the sessions, the Hills went on to their daily lives, never seeking publicity about their experience and only telling few friends about their abduction.
In 1965, John H. Luttrell, a reporter with the Boston Traveller had been given an audio tape recording of a lecture the Hills made in Quincy Center a couple years prior. The Traveller then debuted the exclusive story titled “UFO Chiller: Did THEY Seize Couple?” all about the Hills abduction story. This launched a 5-day international media buzz. Ben Swett unaware this was about to drop found out and called the Hills in a panic during the middle of the night. The Hills were afraid they would be the subject of harsh ridicule and potentially lose their jobs because of it. Under pressure from the media sensation, the Hills came forward offering public statements about their experience. Afterwards, they collaborated with author, John Fuller to write a book detailing the harrowing tale that would be released in 1966 called “The Interrupted Journey.” Before the 60’s were over, Barney Hill’s health declined and in 1969 he died from a cerebral hemorrhage at 46 years old.
Years later in 1970, following the release of the book a school teacher and amateur astronomer, Marjorie Fish from Ohio contacted the Hills. After studying the star map present within the book, she believed it could be matched to an actual star system. Her research revealed that it was an exact match to the Zeta Reticuli binary star system, some 39.2 light years away. It should be noted that UFO researchers of the time were not even aware that this nearby binary star system existed. That’s not to say the system wasn’t known to astronomers, however even with Bettys education, it’s unlikely she would have known about this little talked about pair of nearby stars. In Carl Sagan’s TV Show, Cosmos, episode 12, he touched on the Betty Hill star map, but cast doubt on its authenticity saying any pattern can be found from different vantage points in space. Since the 70’s, Betty Hill remained somewhat of a celebrity in the UFO community until her death in 2004.
So was the Hill’s story true? Many believe their account is genuine, but as with all UFO stories and things fortean, there are skeptics questioning the authenticity of it all. Certain psychiatrists have suggested that the alleged abduction was brought about by the stress of being an interracial couple in the early 60’s USA. Betty strongly refuted this suggestion, noting that her relationship with her husband was happy and their marriage caused no problems with friends and family. In fact in The Interrupted Journey, Ben Simon noted that he thought their marriage had nothing to do with their experience with the UFO and alien beings which abducted them. Skeptic blogger, Brian Dunning believes that because the Hills had a couple years to discuss the tale before their hypnosis sessions, that they had plenty of time to invent the tale and that if something did happen that night there were rational explanations for it, such as the UFO being a set of weather balloons. Others like Martin Kottmeyer suggested that the retrieved “memories” were influenced by TV shows like The Outer Limits where similar looking creatures appeared in an episode called “The Bellero Shield” which debuted only 2 weeks prior to the Hills abduction. Betty maintained that she never heard of the show or the episode.
In the end we may never know what truly happened on September 19th, 1961, but the Hills experience and what followed paved the way for many into understanding the phenomenon of Alien Abduction.