On the evening of September 19, 1961, Barney and Betty Hill, along with their dog Delsey, were returning to their Portsmouth, New Hampshire, home after a short vacation to Niagara Falls. They were traveling on Highway 3, just south of Lancaster, when they saw a bright light in the sky. Betty, who was in the passenger seat, watched the light move lower into the sky. At first, Barney thought it was probably an airplane. Betty, who had heard of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), was sure she was looking at a flying saucer.
The Hills stopped to get a closer look at the object and let Delsey out for a short walk. Barney remained curious, but just a little frightened. He got out of the car and used his binoculars, but still could not figure out what he was looking at. He stopped the car a few more times on the way home. He described seeing lights of all different colors and rows of windows on the object. He described the object as “pancake shaped.” At one point, he approached the object and could see several occupants inside, which scared him so badly he ran quickly back to the car to join Betty where she was waiting for him.
The couple then heard buzzing sounds and felt tingling sensations throughout their bodies, but ultimately, they drove home, where they went straight to bed exhausted. They did not wake up until late the following afternoon. They then realized the four-hour trip home from Niagara Falls had taken them seven hours. Betty noticed the dress she was wearing was torn in several places and had a pinkish powder on it. The powder was later examined by five different laboratories. None of them could identify the substance.
The toes of Barney’s good dress shoes were scuffed to the point he could no longer wear them. The binoculars strap was broken and looked like it had been cut. Both Barney and Betty were wearing watches at the time of their unusual encounter. Both watches quit working and never worked again. Shiny, concentric circles appeared on the trunk of the car that seemed to have some sort of magnetic connection. They noted a strange reaction from a compass after it was placed near the circles.
At her sister’s urging, Betty called the nearby Pease Air Force base to report the incident. As Betty and Barney each recalled the incident, they became convinced they had been abducted by extraterrestrials.
The Betty and Barney Hill abduction story was the first of its kind, but certainly not the last. Although the incident happened more than 50 years ago, it is still being discussed and analyzed today. Were the Hills really abducted? If so, what happened to them during their time on the spaceship? What and who did they see? How did they communicate? Where were the extraterrestrials from? Let's find out what exactly happened in the aftermath of this historical milestone event.
The Air Force Investigation
Barney would have preferred to just keep the experience quiet and between the two of them, fearing that he and Betty would be viewed as “eccentric.” Betty won their brief argument on the issue and on September 21, she called the Air Force to report their experience. Major Paul Henderson visited them in person and wrote a report of the interview dated September 26, 1961. It's unclear whether or not Henderson viewed the Hills as credible; a National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) report concludes that there was “insufficient data in the Air Force files.”
The NICAP Report
Betty also found a book on UFO encounters and wrote to the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) to report the experience. NICAP opened its investigation on October 21, 1961. The Hills were interviewed several times, each interview lasting for hours. At times they were interviewed separately and then together. They both recalled seeing a “large, silent hovering disk.” Barney also described the aliens he had seen as “somehow not human.”
Ten days after the incident, Betty had a series of dreams over a five-day period about the UFO encounter. She wrote down the details of the very real dreams, but did not share the details with Barney, who seemed uninterested.
The next two years for both Betty and Barney were quite unpleasant. Barney became so stressed that he had to take a leave of absence from work. Some people thought the stress was due to their interracial marriage. Mixed race marriages were uncommon in the 1960s, and since Barney was a black postal worker and Betty a white social worker, their marriage drew some criticism in the community.
However, Betty knew this was not the case. New memories of the experience were resurfacing, causing Barney to become increasingly more anxious.
Betty began to concentrate on finding answers and help for them both, especially Barney. About two years after the incident, she found a psychotherapist, Dr. Benjamin Simon, who was willing to hypnotize them in order to help them recall more details of their experience.
The Hypnosis of Barney and Betty Hill
Dr. Simon held sessions with the two for a period of six months, beginning in early 1964. Initially, at the end of each session, he would induce amnesia so they would not talk to each other about what they remembered. Barney recalled that, at one point, he got out of his car with his .45 military issue weapon that he once used in the Army. He fired at the UFO, but soon became overwhelmed by the aliens. They took him and his wife onto the spacecraft, where he recalled a red-headed Irishman greeting him along a number of people who did not appear human. He thought they were speaking German.
Barney described his experience, beginning with a description of the aliens' uniforms. He said that they wore peaked caps and a uniform with silver piping — an appearance that reminded him of the SS Panzer Nazi uniforms worn during WWII. He also recalled there was a German shepherd that stayed near the red-headed Irishman.
Barney said that the Irishman spoke English, but also communicated silently in a way that Barney could understand the message. Betty gave this same report about communication. Both Barney and Betty reported that the extraterrestrials conducted medical experiments on them. They took samples of the Hills' blood, other bodily fluids and hair. Betty added that they also scraped her skin for sampling.
Despite undergoing separate hypnosis sessions, Betty and Barney reported similar experiences. Most of Betty’s memories she recalled while under hypnosis matched what she had written about her dreams of the event. Betty also drew a map of the stars and the UFO she recalled seeing that night. Experts analyzed the sketch and determined to be a drawing of Zeta Reticuli, a pair of stars 220 trillion miles away from Earth and the home base of the aliens she and Barney encountered.
The NICAP investigator, who interviewed them shortly after the incident, said he was “impressed by their intelligence, apparent honesty, and obvious desire to get at the facts and to underplay the more sensational aspects of the sighting. Neither witness had read any books on the UFO subject before the sighting. Mr. Hill, especially, had been a complete UFO skeptic before the experience (he still detests the term ‘flying saucer’).”
The investigator concluded that the Hills were speaking the truth. Except for a few minor details, such as the size of the object and the number and description of the occupants, he believed that the encounter occurred exactly as they described it. After the hypnosis sessions, Dr. Simon allowed the investigator to listen to all seven hours of the recorded sessions. The investigator said this did not change his mind; in fact, listening to the recorded sessions helped fill in some of the gaps in their memories.
The reports of the encounter and the hypnosis sessions remained secret until somehow, confidentiality was broken. On October 25, 1964, The Boston Globe published a report of the Hills’ alien encounter and abduction, including notes from their hypnosis sessions. The story was published in a five-day series and picked up by United Press International (UPI).
The Betty and Barney Hill Abduction Aftermath
The Hills spoke to their church members about their experience, but they did not seek out nor did they desire publicity. They received an enormous amount of publicity after the 1964 story in The Boston Globe.
The Hills, along with their psychotherapist, eventually cooperated with author John G. Fuller who published a book in 1966 about the abduction, titled “The Interrupted Journey.” A second book, titled “Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience,” was written by Betty’s niece, Kathleen Marden, who studied all of the historical records as well as the hypnosis session notes. Both books can still be purchased today.
The story of the abduction of Barney and Betty Hill has stood the test of time and still intrigues UFO enthusiasts today. For more insight into this incredible historical event, watch the Dark Alliance episode of Deep Space.
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