Meet Betty and Barney Hill

The topic of alien abduction has been met with eye rolls and scrutiny for as long as the UFO skepticism has divided generations of scientists, naysayers and believers.

It’s easy to scoff at reports of abduction when there isn’t a credible witness.  But what happens when the report comes from two well-respected individuals, a married couple who had enough social hurdles to clear without the hassle of making up an abduction hoax?

Barney and Betty Hill were an interracial couple from New Hampshire in the 1960’s.  A happy couple who loved one another and their dog, Barney was a US postal worker while Betty was a social worker who contributed extensively to the Civil Rights movement.  Both were members of the NAACP and considered community staples – while interracial marriage certainly wasn’t accepted nationwide at this time, the Hills had relatively no problems settling into their New Hampshire community.

Betty and Barney Hill
Betty and Barney Hill

On the night of September 19, 1961 at around 10:30, the couple were driving home from a vacation in Niagara Falls when both husband and wife claim to have seen a bright light in the sky that moved up and down, from left to right.  Betty’s first thought was they were seeing a falling star.  However, considering the light was also moving upwards, Mrs. Hill suggested Barney stop the car so that they could take in the unusual sight.  Mr. Hill pulled the car over at a picnic area and, aware that bears were in the area, took his pistol from the trunk of the car and let their dog out for a walk while the couple gazed up at the sky.

Betty claims to have seen a craft with multi-colored lights dash across the night sky while Barney suggested it was merely an airplane.  Mr. Hill’s opinion changed abruptly when he noticed the craft was racing downward towards the couple.  The two returned to their vehicle and proceeded home with a little led in Mr. Hill’s pedal foot.

As they drove, the craft in the sky continued following the couple’s vehicle and drawing closer.  As the mysterious object’s descent continued, Betty reasoned that it was roughly sixty feet wide and rotating.  Suddenly, the craft was barely 100 feet above the vehicle and Barney stopped in the middle of the highway, awe-struck.  With the craft hovering so closely, Barney did what not many people I know would have done – he exited the vehicle to get a better look at the craft overhead.  Pistol in his pocket, Barney observed the craft and claims to have seen several “humanoid figures” peering out of the craft’s windows, looking down at him.  At this time, Barney alleges that a message was communicated to him by one of the figures to “stay where you are and keep looking”.  Mr. Hill insisted later on that the figures were “somehow not human”.

Delirious with fear, Mr. Hill finally dashed back to his vehicle and reportedly told his wife that “they’re going to capture us”.  The craft hovered directly over the Hill’s vehicle as Barney tore down the highway, urging his wife to keep an eye on the craft.  Without warning, a series of odd noises, mechanical humming and whirring, vibrated throughout their vehicle and the couple claims a tingling sensation passed through their bodies.  The Hills say, at this time, they were induced into an “altered state of consciousness” and suddenly they realized they had traveled roughly thirty-five miles without more than a flash of memory of the drive.


The Hills finally arrived home shortly near dawn and quickly found that their behavior and some other weird coincidences were afoot.  The watches they wore that night never ran again.  Barney claims that the leather strap on his binoculars was torn, even though he never recalled the strap being torn that night.  Betty felt most comfortable with their luggage remaining near the back door as opposed to back in its proper place in their home.  Most unsettling in this writer’s opinion, Barney observed that the top of the dress shoes he wore that night were scraped and scuffed as if he had been dragged while partially levitated.

Following showers and a few hours of rest, the Hills inspected their vehicle to find “shiny circles” on the car’s trunk that had definitely not been there the day before.  The couple retrieved a compass and experimented with the spots, noting that whenever the compass was near the shiny circles, the needle whirled rapidly.

Betty also noticed that the dress she wore the night before was torn in a few odd places and that a pink powder substance was on the dress.  Betty claims that the powder blew away in the wind when she hung the dress on the clothesline outside to inspect it.

Two days later, Mrs. Hill contacted Pease Air Force Base to report what she and her husband saw in the sky a few nights earlier.  Understanding that what she was telling them was bound to be met with skepticism and perhaps even a chuckle, Betty kept some of the details out of her initial call.  The next day, a gentleman from the Air Force Base, Major Paul W. Henderson contacted the Hills for a more extensive interview.

To the surprise of not a single UFO believer, Henderson concluded that the couple had probably just seen the planet Jupiter.

Betty, however, continued her own research on the event and soon got in touch with retired Marine Corps Major Donald E. Keyhoe, who had written a book on UFO abductions from the local library.  It was at this time that Betty first mentioned the use of hypnosis as a possible way to recall what exactly happened on that eerie night.  The letter that Betty wrote Mr. Keyhoe was passed on to an astronomer who ultimately met with the Hills on October 21, 1961.

Walter N. Webb met with the couple for six hours where the Hills told their story, complete and in the best detail they possibly could.  Barney was convinced that the mental block he was experiencing regarding that night was due to the fact that he simply did not want to remember the events.

Mrs. Hill had begun to experience very vivid dreams following the night in question for a total of five nights before the dreams stopped completely.  These dreams were so real and detailed that they interrupted Betty’s daily life.  Betty began to write down her memory of the dreams, which included the couple stopping at a roadblock where small men walked her and Barney out into the forest in the middle of the night.  The “men” had greyish skin and wore blue uniforms with small matching caps.  In the dream, the group walked into a disc-shaped craft – the one the couple claims to have seen in the sky – and were examined together by the odd men before being separated and further examined.  It was at this time that Betty was subjected to examinations of her legs, feet, eyes and ears, among other body parts.  The examiner told Betty that these tests were being done to determine the difference between humans and their race.  This included a horribly painful moment where one of the examiners inserted a ling needle into her navel.  The pain immediately disappeared, however, when the examiner waved his hand over Betty’s eyes.


The couple was then escorted back to their vehicle and told to wait to drive away until the spacecraft departed.

Following his visit, Mr. Webb was firm in his believe that the Hills were telling the truth, acknowledging that the events “probably occurred exactly as reported”, with the exception of minor details.  The problem with “missing time” is a very common issue with any abduction case, with most people claiming to have lost track of significant chunks of time during their ordeal.

After two years of interviews, personal research and trying as hard as they could to recall the events that took place during the missing time on September 19, 1961, the couple elected to meet with Benjamin Simon, a noted hypnotist from Boston.  Simon himself was very skeptical of the abduction story but judging by Barney’s severe levels of anxiety and the couple’s stress, he agreed to conduct a hypnosis session to uncover what the root of the problem really was.

Simon’s hypnotizing sessions with the Hills started on January 4, 1964, with sessions lasting until June 6 of that year.  He conducted the sessions with Barney and Betty separately to avoid either one of them hearing what the other one was saying.

During Barney’s sessions, the man’s recollections of the “non-human figures” were especially stressful as Barney struggled to keep his emotions in check.  Barney revealed that the leather strap on his binoculars had indeed broken while he was running away from the hovering space craft that fateful night.  He also said that while driving away from the UFO, he had the irresistible urge to pull off the road and drive into the woods.  A group of the strange “men” approached the vehicle in the woods and told Barney not to fear them.  Barney says he kept his eyes closed for most of the abduction and the following examinations.  Perhaps most disturbing of all is when Barney claimed that it “felt like the eyes had pushed into my eyes” and that the eyes “were in my brain”.

Barney also discussed an examination that involved a possible sperm sample being collected as well as one of the “men” counting the vertebrae down his back.

Betty’s sessions had her tell almost the exact same story as she had when recalling the vivid dreams she had a few years earlier.  However, while under hypnosis, Betty described the technology of the space craft much more in detail and the short men aboard the ship were slightly different in physical appearance as the ones in her dreams.

While discussing her examination, Mrs. Hill also became very emotional, especially when recalling the pain that she endured when the needle was inserted into her navel.  In fact, one session was cut short because Mrs. Hill was crying and she was in obvious physical pain.

Another part of Betty’s experience on the space craft that raised eyebrows was her recalling seeing a map, a “star map”, that she later drew and described in great detail.  She said it looked like a hologram on the ship and a few years later, an amateur astronomer actually recreated the map while reading a book based on the Hills’ experience and determined that there was in fact a star system that resembled Betty’s drawing almost exactly.  The Zeta Reticuli is a double star system that matched Betty’s map, and this created quite a stir in the UFO and astronomy world.  From magazine readers to UFO experts, Carl Sagan to Steven Soter, the map was debated hotly.  There is still debate to this day as to whether or not Betty’s map could actually be a map of a star system somewhere far, far away but many who believe the story claim that it is almost completely impossible for Betty’s map to have been as accurate as it was without actually seeing something that night.

A replica of Betty's star map
A replica of Betty’s star map

Both Betty and Barney claimed to be able to understand the aliens, mostly through telepathy.  It is also worth noting that both Barney and Betty’s memories while hypnotized were very consistent with one another’s although they were a bit different from Mrs. Hill’s dreams.

Following the hypnosis sessions, Simon concluded that the most plausible explanation of the events was simply Barney conjuring up dreams of his own based on Betty’s UFO dreams.  Barney, of course, rejected this theory vehemently and after being skeptical of an abduction at first, was fully accepting of the fact that he and his wife had indeed been abducted over two years earlier.

The best thing to come out of the hypnosis sessions – the Hills were no longer haunted by their memories of that night and both Barney and Betty were able to embrace the fact that they may very well have been visited by extraterrestrials.

Of course, there were a ton of people who thought the entire story and psychological process that followed was a bunch of bologna.  Many suggested the issues were merely the stress that had mounted up for Barney and Betty because they were an interracial couple in a time where that was less than acceptable in most parts of the country.  Others argue that most of the stories Betty in particular recalled during her sessions could have easily been created simply based on what she knew and read in the UFO books she had become so fond of after the alleged incident.  After all, the hypnosis sessions did occur two years later.  Some even believe Barney’s stories were just rehashed memories from an episode of ‘The Outer Limits’!  Sleep deprivation, an aircraft warning beacon and work stress are considered reasons behind the Hills’ abduction stories by non-believers.

A 1975 television movie called THE UFO INCIDENT starred James Earl Jones as Barney and Estelle Parson as Betty.  Several books documented the case, as well, and the case also inspired episodes of ‘The X-Files’, ‘American Horror Story: Asylum’ and Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’.

Whether a true account of something amazing or simply a hoax created by a storm of real-life issues, the Betty and Barney Hill Abduction is one of the most fascinating cases of alien interaction ever recorded. As the years went on, Betty didn’t do herself many favors by oftentimes facing her critics and being lauded as a complete fraud but the fact remains.  There definitely was a very real emotional and psychological response that the Hills shared and for someone who believes in other-worldly life like me, their case is definitely one that deserves to be checked out by anyone who believes there are eyes in the sky.


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