Betty and Barney Hill – The Pop Culture Legend
When the object rapidly descended towards their vehicle approximately one mile south of Indian Head, Barney stopped the car in the middle of the highway.
The story has become something of pop culture legend that’s known the world over. A young couple driving at night. They see a light in the sky, at first thinking it’s a plane or helicopter. Perhaps it’s Mars or Venus. The light in the sky does strange things, moving in ways not physically possible. Suddenly, the light descends onto the couple, surrounding them with a powerful white light. The couple awakes the next morning, not knowing how they got home or what happened. Slowly, events come back to them, horrifying events that involved medical experimentation by aliens from another world. But that’s all made up for the movies, right? Not according to the accounts of the most famous alien abduction, the 1961 Betty and Barney Hill case.
According to the reports given by the Hills, the UFO sighting happened on the night of September 19th, 1961. Coming home to Portsmouth from a vacation in the Niagara Falls area, when the couple was just south of Lancaster, New Hampshire, Betty observed a light in the sky. At first reasoning she was seeing a shooting star, Betty was shocked when the light started moving upwards. As the light moved more erratically and grew brighter and brighter, Betty urged Barney to stop so they could observe the light better. Stopping at a picnic area just south of Twin Mountain, the pair walked their dog Delsey as they observed the light with a pair of binoculars.
Under the observation of the binoculars, Betty noted an ‘odd-shaped’ craft that had multi-colored lights flashing and the craft appeared to be rotating. Barney thought he was first seeing a commercial air liner against the backdrop of the moon but thought differently when the craft suddenly descended towards him. The pair quickly got in their car and made for Franconia Notch, a mountainous narrow road. But even as they drove away, the craft seemed to follow them and made multiple appearances in the sky.
When the object rapidly descended towards their vehicle approximately one mile south of Indian Head, Barney stopped the car in the middle of the highway. Their entire windshield field of vision was filled by the craft as it hovered about 100 feet above the Hill’s car. Barney got out and using the binoculars, observed 8 to 11 humanoid figures peering out of the craft. One seemed to be communicating the message, ‘stay where you are and keep looking,’ to Barney.
Barney rushed back the car in a near hysterical state, telling his wife, “they’re going to capture us!” Driving away at high speeds, the object shifted its location to directly above the car. The Hills then heard a series of beeps and buzzing sounds that began to alter the state of their consciousness. Their minds were altered to a dulled state. A second series of beeps brought the couple back to full consciousness. When alert, the Hills had discovered they’d traveled nearly 35 miles but yet they have only a vague memory of driving down that stretch of road.
After arriving home, the Hills tried to reconstruct the events of the night as they happened but after they heard the first buzzing sounds their memories became incomplete. They also noticed strange things when they arrived at home. Barney’s shoes were scraped. Betty’s dress was torn. The trunk of the car had strange circles that hadn’t been there the day before. The Hills examined the circles on the trunk and found that when they moved a compass over them, the needle spun but when the compass was moved a few inches away, it worked normally.
Betty phoned the Pease Air Force Base on September 21st to report their encounter, although she held many details back. On September 22nd, Major Paul W. Henderson phone the Hills for a more complete interview. In Major Henderson’s report, dated September 26th, the determination was that the Hills had most likely misidentified the planet Jupiter. The report was later changed to optical condition and insufficient data. This report was forwarded to Project Blue Book, the U.S. Air Force’s UFO Research project.
Check Out Leif's Books on Amazon
On September 26th, Betty wrote to retired Marine Corps Major Donald E. Keyhoe, the head of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, NICAP, detailing the encounter. She gave a more detailed account of the incident including the non-human figures Barney had seen through the binoculars. Betty stated that the couple was considering undergoing hypnosis to help remember what had happened. The letter was passed to Boston astronomer and NICAP member Walter N. Webb who took interest in the case.
The Hills discussed their case with other UFO researchers and NICAP members but it wasn’t until November 23rd, 1962, when attending an event with guest speaker Captain Ben H. Swett of the United States Air Force, when Captain Swett discussed his personal interest in hypnosis did the Hills seriously consider undergoing hypnosis. Captain Swett openly admitted he wasn’t qualified and urged them against seeking out an amateur hypnotist.
Through a series of contracts, the Hills got in touch with Benjamin Simon of Boston on December 14th 1963. Simon dismissed the extraterrestrial hypothesis as impossible but noted that whatever they’d seen was causing Barney a great deal of worry and anxiety. Simon thought the Hills genuinely thought they’d witnessed a UFO and had some type of experience and Simon hoped to uncover more about the experience through hypnosis.
On January 4th, 1964 Simon began hypnotizing the Hills and preformed a number of hypnosis sessions on both Betty and Barney, lasting until June 6th of that year. To preserve the stories, Simon conducted the sessions privately so the sessions couldn’t be overheard and at the conclusion of each session, he re-induced amnesia about the events discussed.
In Barney’s hypnosis sessions, Barney underwent a great deal of stress and fear as he recalled seeing the figures looking at him. He remembered a great deal about eyes staring at him, feeling the eyes watching him and observing him. Even saying things like, ‘Oh, those eyes. They’re there in my brain.’ Barney also spoke of being in an examination type room with beings looking him over, taking skin samples and peering into his mouth and ears.
Throughout the experience, the beings were speaking to him in English, but their mouths never moved. Barney called the communication ‘Thought Transference’ as he was unfamiliar with the word telepathy. Barney recalled that after being studied the beings escorted him from the ship and back to the car where he and Betty started driving, eventually catching up with his regular memory.
Betty’s sessions produced similar results. She remembered coming to a road block with men who looked to be in military outfits but were very small. She was taken on the craft and given an intense investigation. A lock of her hair and clippings from her fingernails were taken. A sample of her skin was collected. Betty recalled that one of the beings referred to himself as ‘the leader’ while another was ‘the examiner.’ They were very comforting and pleasant with her, always reassuring her that everything was okay.
While under hypnosis, Simon used a post-hypnotic suggestion that Betty sketch out the ‘star map’ that she claimed to have seen that showed where the visitors were from. Betty described the map as a three-dimensional projection, like a hologram.
In a part of the story that has perhaps fueled more speculation than any of the other events, Betty recalled a long needle being thrust into her navel. When the needle entered, she experienced a great deal of pain, but the leader waved him hand and the pain vanished. They did a few more tests, including tests on her nervous system, before reuniting Betty with Barney and taking them back to their car. The leader suggested that they watch the craft depart, with the pair did before continuing their drive.
Before starting the hypnosis sessions, Betty had written down the events of a series of dreams she’d experienced in the weeks immediately after the incident. Her hypnosis sessions seemed to match the dreams very closely, with only minor details being changed around. This led to many skeptics throwing the case out, claiming that what Barney recalled was picked up from the notes of Betty’s dreams.
Simon concluded that Barney’s recollection was a fantasy based off Betty’s dreams. The Hills rejected this notion, noting that while some of the stories lined up, there were many details that were unique to each. After the sessions, Barney fully embraced that they’d been abducted by aliens, but he never believed as strongly as Betty did. For Simon’s part in all this, he wrote an article detailing the events for Psychiatric Opinion calling the case a singular psychological aberration.
In 1966, writer John G. Fuller, wrote the book, The Interrupted Journey, detailing the incident with the cooperation of both the Hills and Simon. The book, including a sketch of Betty’s ‘Star Map’ went on to be a quick success, having several printings.
In 1968, Marjorie Fish of Oak Harbor, Ohio read the Interrupted Journey. As an amateur astronomer she became very intrigued by the map and wondered if there would be some way to read it to figure out where the beings had come from. Working off the assumption that one of the stars had to be Earth’s sun, Fish built a three-dimensional model basing distances off the 1969 Gliese Star Catalogue. Studying the model for years, the only system that matched the map was the double star system of Zeta Reticuli.
Through a series of contacts, the model found its way to the pages of Astronomy magazine where the editors asked the public to give their thoughts and opinions on the validity of the map. No less an expert than Carl Sagan and Steven Soter, weighed in on the issue, arguing that the map wasn’t correct as the ‘star map’ was little more than random alignment of chance points. Sagan even devoted a portion of an episode of Cosmos to looking at the map.
Much scrutiny and refutations have come regarding this case. Perhaps the couple was influenced by the recent wave of science fiction content in television and literature. Perhaps, since the hypnosis came over two years after the incident they corroborated on the story. Perhaps they made the whole story up for attention. Perhaps what they encountered was United States Military testing on its own subjects. The theories about the incident have garnered as much attention as the incident itself.
Barney Hill died of a cerebral hemorrhage on February 25th, 1969, not even eight years after the incident. Betty died October 17th, 2004 of cancer at the age of 85, having never remarried. What the pair actually saw that night, we’ll never know, but the story, the legend of Betty and Barney Hill forever remains one deeply ingrained into not only UFO lore but pop-culture as well. One day, we may know what happen that night in 1961, but for now, all we can do is speculate…and hope that such a horrific alien encounter doesn’t happen to us.
Keep following along in my upcoming blogs where I take a look at Alien encounters and some of the most cutting-edge research on the subject, mixed in with blogs about other unexplained phenomena that has influenced my science fiction writing. To see more of my blogs, or to buy some of my science fiction books today, head over to my website, www.leifericksonwriting.com today and see where your imagination can take you. Thank you.
Fuller, The Interrupted Journey, 1966
Friedman/Marden, Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience, 2007
Benjamin Simon, “Hypnosis in the Treatment of Military Neurosis” (Psychiatric Opinion, Volume 4, Number 5, pp. 24–28, October 1967).
Webb, Walter. “A Dramatic UFO Encounter in the White Mountains, NH”. Confidential report to NICAP. October 26, 1961.
About Leif J. Erickson
Leif J. Erickson is a science fiction and fantasy author from a small farming community in west central Minnesota. Using his time wisely when he was a farmer, Leif developed many ideas, characters, and storylines to create over fifty unique first drafts and outlines for stories. From his start in a small town school, to college at North Dakota State University, back to his family farm, then to the bright lights of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and back to his small farming town, Leif has always had a love of writing.
When Leif isn’t writing he can be found with his wife hiking in state parks, canoeing local lakes and rivers, exploring local and regional ghost towns, experiencing museums, or simply reading or hanging out with friends and family. Leif draws on the local nature and ecology to find inspiration for his writing while he also asks what’s possible for technology and the human race, weaving them together for amazing stories that will stay with the reader for years to come. Leif looks forward to having many novel and story releases in the years to come.
You can see all of Leif’s Books here: Leif’s Amazon Author Page