Betty and Barney Hill were a couple in New Hampshire who, in the 1960s, claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Theirs was one of the landmark cases in the field of alien abductions, and Betty Hill herself would go on to become a well-renowned figure among those who believe in alien abduction until her death in 2004.
The pair was an interracial couple in a time when that was exceptionally rare in the United States. Barney was African-American while Betty was white. The couple lived together in Portsmouth, New Hampshire where Barney worked for the United States Postal Service, while Betty worked as a Social Worker. They were by all accounts, a pair of normal, perfectly sane people who exhibited no signs of attention seeking or mental health issues prior to their abduction.
According to the reports given by the Hills, the abduction occurred September 19th, 1961 at approximately 10:30 PM. The couple was returning to Portsmouth from a vacation in Niagara Falls and Montreal in Canada. While Barney was driving along U.S. Route 3, Betty claimed that she began to see a bright light in the distance which moved from being under the moon from her perspective to hovering in front of the west side of it. Betty, at first, assumed that she was witnessing a falling star, due to just how bright it was, but when it started to move oddly, came to wonder if it wasn’t something else entirely.
As it began to move more and more unnaturally and became larger and larger, Betty urged her husband to pull over and allow them to get a closer look. Barney pulled over near a deserted picnic area just south of Twin Mountain so they could walk their dog, Delsey, and get a better look at the bizarre light. Betty looked through a pair of binoculars and saw what she described as an oddly shaped craft flying through the sky and emitting a number of different colored lights. Betty’s sister had seen a UFO back in 1957, and she quickly concluded that that might possibly be what she was seeing. Barney reasoned that it was probably an aircraft on its way to Vermont, but quickly changed his mind when he noticed that it was lowering toward the ground and was growing larger. As he later recollected, he noticed that “this object that was a plane was not a plane.”
The pair quickly returned to their car, placed the dog on the back seat, and continued on along the way to Franconia Notch, a mountain pass along the road. Curiously, the pair did say in some of their accounts that Delsey seemed perturbed through the whole ordeal, though there is no indication that the aliens cared one way or another about the canine.
They claim to have driven slowly across the narrow road to continue observing the craft and that they saw it fly above a signal tower atop Cannon Mountain. About one mile south of Indian Head, the pair claimed that the spacecraft hovered about one hundred feet above their car and covered the entire view from the windshield. Betty described it as being approximately sixty feet long and round, noting that it seemed to be constantly rotating. Barney said that it reminded him of a massive pancake.
Using their binoculars, through a window in the UFO, Barney noted between eight and eleven humanoid beings, wearing glossy black uniforms and black caps. The lead figure somehow communicated to the pair its desire for them stay still and continue looking at them. Barney, removing the binoculars from his eyes, panicked and screamed that they were going to be captured and started driving away as quickly as he could. He told Betty to keep an eye on the craft which she noted kept pace with their car with ease. As she rolled down her window to get a better look, the pair began to hear a sort of rhythmic beeping and buzzing. The sound pinged off of the trunk of their vehicle as if it was being targeted right at them.
It was at this point that the pair claims that they began to experience a sort of altered state of consciousness as their senses began to dull. They described their car beginning to vibrate and an odd tingling sensation coursing through their bodies. A second series of beeps and buzzes returned them to full consciousness. By that point, they discovered that they had traveled thirty-five miles south with only the faintest and spotty memories of how they had gotten there. As they would soon discover, it was during this bizarre trip southward that they had experienced their alien abduction.
It was just before dawn when they arrived home and they realized that their drive home had taken hours longer than it should have. They both claimed after that when they got home, they both had a number of strange impulses. Betty insisted on keeping her luggage by the back door instead of where she would have normally kept it, while Barney felt unusually compelled to examine his genitals. There were also a number of things which they could not explain about the state of their belongings as well. The leather strap on their binoculars had broken and neither could recall how. Their watches did not work and never functioned again. The toes of Barney’s dress shoes were scrapped and he could not explain how. The pair took long showers in the hopes of cleaning off any remaining residue from their ordeal, though both were still not entirely clear as to what had happened.
They tried to piece together what they could remember. They both discovered that they were equally clear on what had happened up until the strange rhythmic buzzing and beeping began, but after that, all they were left with was incoherent sounds and images until they came to in their car again. When Betty dressed the next morning, putting on the clothes she had worn that evening, she noticed that her dress was torn in a number of places, as if it had been taken off by someone who either did not care to be gentle or who did not know how to remove a dress. She also noticed that there was a fine, pink powder on their clothing. The clothes have been tested numerous times over the years, but the results have never been conclusive. The final thing they noticed was the small, concentric circles on the roof of their car that looked like miniature crop circles. They had no normal explanation for how this could possibly have happened.
On September 21st, Betty contacted the Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire to report the incident. The next day, Major Paul W. Henderson met with the couple and interviewed them. His report, finished on September 26th, stated that they had most likely misidentified the planet Jupiter as if that could account for anything. It was later changed to state that there was insufficient data to draw any conclusions.
Betty and Barney had not told Henderson everything about their encounter for fear of being presumed insane, but Betty, still wanting an explanation, borrowed a book from her nearest library on UFOs written by retired Marine Corps Major Donald E. Keyhoe. Keyhoe was, at the time, the head of the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena, or NICAP, a UFO research group. Betty wrote him and informed him of their ordeal, including her description of the aliens themselves. Keyhoe passed the letter on to NICAP member and Boston based astronomer Walter N. Webb.
Webb met with Barney and Betty on October 21st that year and interviewed them for six hours. During that exchange, Barney informed Webb that he believed that he was experiencing some sort of mental block and speculated that there might be things about his ordeal that he did not want to remember. He went on to describe the craft and the entities which he stated were “somehow not human.”
Webb, for his part, believed the two and chalked up the uncertainties in their accounts to normal human reactions to such incidents. Betty and Barney expressed a desire to undergo hypnosis in order to possibly help them to recover missing or blocked memories, something that Webb agreed with but did not have any expertise on.
With the thought of hypnosis put off for another time, Betty and Barney sought to continue on their lives as normal, but the memories of their ordeal continued to haunt them. Ten days after their abduction, Betty experienced starkly vivid dreams about what had happened to her during the abduction experience. These dreams continued for five straight nights and then never returned again. Despite their conclusion, she found that she could recall the dreams in great detail and stated that she never had dreams of such vividness like that at any other time in her life.
In November of 1961, she began to write down the details from these dreams. In one of her dreams, she and Barney were surrounded in their car by strange inhuman men. She dreamed that she had struggled to maintain consciousness but found that she couldn’t. When the dream continued, she gained awareness only to find herself and Barney being led through a forest by the alien beings. She called out to Barney, but he seemed to be sleepwalking. The entities she described were short, between four and five feet in height, dressed in blue uniforms, with black cadet caps and with peculiar gray skin. She described them as having dark eyes, dark hair, bluish lips, and prominent noses.
In her dream, the two of them were led up a ramp into a large, round metal craft. Though she protested, they were separated, with an entity she referred to as the ‘Leader’, telling her that their separation would allow the process to go more quickly. She was led into a room where the leader was joined by another entity she called the ‘Examiner’, who had a less perfect command of English than the Leader. The Examiner communicated to her that they were going to undergo a number of tests in order to determine the differences between humans and their species.
He cut off a lock of her hair and took trimmings of her fingernails. He then examined her feet, legs, hands, throat, mouth, teeth, ears, and eyes. Using a dull knife, he scraped off loose skin cells and placed them onto what seemed like a plastic wrap, as Betty described. Finally, to test her nervous system, he inserted a needle into her navel, which caused her great pain until the Leader made the pain vanish with a simple wave of his hand.
When the tests were done, Betty spoke with the Leader and was told that she could keep a book filled with strange markings that he had given her. According to her, when she was reunited with Barney and the pair was being led back to their car, a disagreement broke out among the entities and the Leader took back the book saying that it had been decided that the pair were no longer going to even remember their meeting.
They were returned to their car where the Leader told them to wait until the craft had left so that they could watch it leave. They did so and then resumed their prior journey.
On November 21st, 1961, Betty and Barney were interviewed by NICAP members C. D. Jackson and Robert E. Hohmann. They told them of the unusual nature of their drive and how a journey back home which should have taken four hours had instead taken seven. The NICAP members said that this sort of missing time was common in UFO cases.
Within three months, the couple had begun making trips every weekend to the area in the hopes of jogging their memories or discovering clues. Though they claimed to find the spot where they were taken in 1965, they never found evidence of their abduction.
In November of 1962, the pastor of their local parish happened to invite Captain Ben W. Swett of the United States Air Force to speak there. He had written a book of poetry and in addition to reading excerpts from the book, he discussed his personal fascination with hypnosis. After the talk, the Hills spoke with him and discussed what had happened to them. Swett found the whole thing interesting, especially the matter of their missing time. He told them that hypnosis could be helpful to them, but cautioned them against going to an amateur such as himself.
By September 1963, when Captain Swett gave another lecture on hypnosis, Barney had begun to see a therapist named Dr. Stephens. Swett suggested Barney to ask the doctor to refer him to a hypnotist. Barney did so and Dr. Stephens referred him to Benjamin Simon, a hypnotist living in Boston. Simon quickly concluded that the incident was causing Barney more anxiety than he was willing to admit. And though he himself was an outright skeptic, he came to believe that the Hills genuinely believed that they had been abducted by aliens. He told them that hypnosis could be useful for the recovery of lost memories and told them that he would be happy to help them.
Their hypnosis sessions began on January 4th, 1964, with Simon deciding to put Barney under hypnosis first. He conducted their sessions privately from one another and at the end of each one, induced amnesia to make them forget what they had discussed. This was to ensure that they could not influence one another before he was finished. It was also to ensure that they would not remember the traumatic events until he was confident that doing so would not cause them further distress.
Under hypnosis, Barney recalled first that the leather strap of their binoculars had snapped when he had run back to his car to attempt to drive away from the approaching UFO. As he was driving away, he said that he suddenly felt compelled to pull over. When he did, he was approached by six figures who told him to remain calm and to not be afraid of them. Barney narrated that the Leader told him to close his eyes. Barney reported more than once during their hypnosis sessions that it felt as though the Leader’s eyes were pushing into his eyes.
His examination, as he recalled it, differed from what Betty experienced. He apparently kept his eyes closed through most of it and so had fewer details to offer. As he described it, a cup of sorts was placed over his genitals and though it did not induce orgasm, he believed that it extracted a sperm sample. The examiner seemed to count his vertebrae for some purpose and quickly inserted and then removed a thin tube into his anus. One curious detail that he gave was that the aliens, though he understood their English, seemed to communicate with him through what he referred to as ‘thought transference’. Barney was unfamiliar with the word ‘telepathy’.
Betty’s hypnosis sessions revealed a narrative quite similar to what she had dreamed. There were some key differences, however. Most notably, the appearance of the aliens and the order of events differed somewhat. Betty and Barney’s hypnosis sessions were consistent with one another and what differed from Betty’s dreams differed for them both. This suggests that Betty’s subconscious had perhaps filled in some missing details for her which her memories, once recovered, simply lacked. The appearance of the aliens, for instance, was said by both of them to be more in line with the now famous image of the Gray than the entities in Betty’s dreams. It is possible that in her previous dreams of the abduction encounter, her mind had given the entities a slightly more human appearance while trying to fill in the gaps of her memory, simply because that was what she knew from her ordinary life.
One thing that Simon got Betty to do during one of their sessions was to draw out a star map that she described both in her dream and under hypnosis. She did so, though she stated that the stars she drew were the ones most prominent in the star map and thus most clear in her memory. According to Betty, when she asked the leader about the map, she was told that the lines between the stars represented various trade routes.
Benjamin Simon concluded that Barney’s recollection was a fantasy inspired by his wife’s dreams. Barney rejected that conclusion, citing that both of their hypnotic recollections differed from Betty’s previous dreams and that they had a number of details unique to themselves from the times when they had been separated from one another aboard the alien craft. He became fully convinced from the hypnosis sessions that he had in fact been abducted by aliens, and though he would never become quite as involved in the community as Betty would, he did accept that it had happened.
The couple never sought publicity for their ordeal, though they got it anyway. On October 25th, 1965, the Boston Traveller ran a front-page story entitled “UFO Chiller: Did THEY Seize Couple? ” The reporter responsible for it, John H. Luttrell, had acquired an audio recording of a lecture that the pair had given to a small, private audience at the Quincy Center back in 1963. He also somehow managed to get his hands on notes from confidential interviews that the couple had given to UFO investigators. He found out from there that they had undergone hypnosis sessions with Benjamin Simon. The next day, the United Press International picked up the story and the Hills gained international attention as a result.
In 1966, author John G. Fuller convinced the Hills and Simon to cooperate with him and wrote the book The Interrupted Journey based on their experiences. It included a copy of Betty’s star map. The book sold well and made their story one of the more famous early alien abduction cases.
Barney Hill died in 1969 of a cerebral hemorrhage and Betty, who died of cancer in 2004, never remarried. Betty became quite famous in the UFO community, retelling her story countless times over the decades.