Hill, Betty and Barney

Betty and Barney Hill’s close encounter began with a late-night drive at the end of a vacation.On September 19–20, 1961, they were returning to their home in Portsmouth,New Hampshire,from Quebec,when in the White Mountains they began to see a bright light in the sky.Thinking it was an airplane,Barney was startled to discover through binoculars that the craft was wingless and appeared to have a particular interest in their car. Gun in pocket,Barney got out of the car and saw for the first time 11 figures in the flattened,circular disk hovering less than 100 feet above the ground. He remembers being terrified of capture and running back to the car.As they drove away, they heard several beeping sounds from the trunk.

The story the Hills tell was two to three years in the making and involved many hours of hypnosis therapy. As they looked back on it, they remembered feeling drowsy and not knowing what had happened to them as they completed their fivehour drive home. The problem was that it had taken them seven hours. Such “missing time” would become a common characteristic of abductee experiences,though they were on the leading edge and had never even heard of such an experience before. In the days following their trip, Barney experienced severe anxiety,and Betty had intensely vivid nightmares.

In one,she and her husband were accompanied by several men up a ramp and into a metallic, disk-shaped structure. One of them explained in English that they should not be afraid.They would be tested and released shortly. The figures wore uniforms and had gray skin, dark eyes and hair, and were about five feet tall.The examination was hurried, consisting of a skin scrape, a sample of her fingernail, a nervous-system check, and a pregnancy test.When the figure was able to wave away Betty’s pain, she instantly lost all fear and began to converse with him. She was at first allowed to take evidence of their visit with her and, following her own failure to understand a sky map that the being showed her,attempted to convince the being to meet with astronomically knowledgeable humans at a later date. Abruptly she was rebuked,and her evidence (a book) was taken back. They said they would make it so she and her husband would not remember the incident and returned them to their car.

As medical and psychological problems continued to nag at the Hills, they sought psychiatric help.After speaking with several physicians, they underwent hypnosis in January 1964 with Dr.Benjamin Simon,despite their fears that it would be a traumatic experience. Betty told essentially the same story from her dreams three years earlier in her session.Betty also produced a drawing of the three-dimensional map she had been shown.Surprisingly, because he has always maintained his skepticism about UFOs,Barney also relayed an abduction experience.There were minor differences between the stories relating to the number ofmen, the details of the initial encounter on the ground, and some of the events inside the spacecraft. Dr. Simon was suspicious of UFO stories in general and specifically of the possibility that Barney was merely deriving his story from Betty’s dreams. This would become a commonly held theory in explaining away the validity of their claim.

By and large the Hills kept their thoughts and fears about the encounter to themselves for four years after it occurred.They had reported a sighting of a strange flying object to Pease Air Force Base the day after,and they did write to Donald E. Keyhoe, a retired Marine Corps major with connections to the National Investigation Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). But the general public was largely unaware of their story until a journalist for the Boston Traveler, using tapes of public statements they had made to small audiences, wrote an article detailing their claims of having been abducted.The story immediately became an international affair. Shocked, the Hills first considered legal action,then,after some time, seemed to embrace their new fame. They cooperated on books and movies about their story.

After Barney’s death in February 1969, Betty continued her public appearances and began to report many new sightings. For better or worse, much of what happened after this point provided rich material for those intent on debunking the Hills’ claim. Betty’s credibility came under criticism as she seemingly mistook stars,streetlights, and airplanes for UFOs during many of her escorted excursions to a “landing area” near Portsmouth. She was not without allies, however. In her defense, stories of an unidentified object appearing on Air Force radar the night of their encounter began to surface.Also, the star map that Betty had produced was taken up by an amateur astronomer,Marjorie E.Fish,and shown to correspond to a section of space including the stars Zeta 1 and 2 Reticuli. Endorsed by Walter Webb (an interested investigator of the case) and Stanton T.Friedman (a scientifically trained ufologist), the story drew the attention ofnone other that Carl Sagan, eminent astronomer from Cornell University, who argued that the pattern match was merely a product ofchance.

Official reports by Project Blue Book and NICAP attributed the sighting to a temperature inversion making Jupiter appear brighter than usual and to a concoction stemming from subconscious fears.Webb,who had worked for NICAP,provided more positive evaluations of the event.In 1965 he pointed out the smoothness with which the details of the story fit together under hypnosis and to two pieces of physical evidence:a circular shape on the skin around Barney’s groin area that subsequently developed unusual warts, and a pink substance that appeared on Betty’s dress.He went on to say that the Hills’ psychological stress and confusion following the encounter was consistent with posttraumatic stress disorder, commonly manifested in abductees.Attempts to debunk continue to this day.If nothing else,it is a testament to the fascination of abduction stories and the breakthrough brought about by two folks out for a drive in 1961.

See Also:Abductees;Close Encounters


  • Dickinson,Terence.Zeta Reticuli Update.Fredericton, New Brunswick,Canada:UFO Research Institute, 1980.
  • Fuller,John Grant.Interrupted Journey:Two Lost Hours “Aboard a Flying Saucer.”New York:Dial Press,1966.
  • Gansberg,Judith M.,and Alan L.Gansberg.Direct Encounters:The Personal Histories ofUFO Abductees. New York:Walker,1980.
  • Jacobs,David M.Secret Life:Firsthand Accounts ofUFO Abductions. New York:Simon and Schuster,1992

Taken from : UFOs and Popular Culture – An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Myth
Written by : James R. Lewis – Copyright © 2000 by James R.Lewis