September 19, 1961
Location: Exeter, New Hampshire, United States
first abduction case to be brought to the publics attention
was back in 1961. Betty and Barney Hill reported seeing
a UFO and experienced a period of missing time while on
a long car journey. Under hypnosis they both seperatly
described how they were abducted by aliens and shown around
the spacecraft before under going medical examinations.
Betty also spoke of the origin of the aliens which were
of the zeta reticuli system but at that time it wasn't
discovered until 1969.
Betty and Barney Hill.
Artist's impression of the object encountered by Betty
and Barney Hill. (credit: Brookesmith)
The sketch by Barney Hill, showing the craft with figures,
"fins" and red lights.
Under hypnosis, Betty Hill described a map she was shown
"by the leader aboard the ship."
Later, she sketched it (above). She said she was told
that the heavy lines marked regular
trade routes, and the broken lines recorded various space
expeditions. Years later, researcher
Marjorie Fish was able to find a unique matching set of
nearby stars which fit the map.
Top: Barney Hill, under hypnosis, drew the above (top)
sketch of the "leader" of the alleged
abductors. Bottom: Two sketches by David Baker are based
on two interviews Baker had
with Barney, one under hypnosis. (credit: NICAP 1972)
Loy Lawhon, About.com
Hampshire is a marvelous and mysterious place. In the
southern part of the state is North Salem, near which
lies Mystery Hill, "America's Stonehenge",
a collection of stone structures with a mysterious origin.
Also in the south, near New Hampshire's small strip of
coastline, is Exeter, the site of a large number of UFO
sightings in 1965.
the eastern central part of the state is Ossipee Lake,
an area sacred to the Indians. In 1800, an Indian burial
ground was discovered in the area that contained over
ten thousand bodies arranged in concentric circles. There
are numerous "kettle" lakes in the area
that were carved out by glaciers during the ice ages,
and the area is ringed by ancient volcanoes. Some of the
ponds are considered bottomless and may be connected to
each other by volcanic vents. It is said that UFOs have
been seen plunging into these deep ponds.
north and in the center of New Hampshire lies the White
Mountains National Forest. In the summer, the area is
filled with vacationers and campers and hikers and fishermen.
There are various sights to see, such as the Flume, The
Old Man of the Mountain, Mount Washington, and Indian
Head. In the winter, skiers flock to the slopes and hunters
to the forests. But during the in-between times, the early
fall and the early spring, the area is quiet, resting.
probably wasn't easy having a mixed marriage in 1961,
even in liberal New Hampshire, but the Hills seemed to
have adjusted well. Betty Hill was a white social worker,
and Barney Hill was a black postal employee. Barney was
working in Boston, commuting back and forth daily from
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where the couple lived. Barney
had developed an ulcer, perhaps from stress at work, and
when the opportunity came for a few days' vacation, he
took it. Betty was able to schedule her vacation for the
same time, so they decided to go to Canada. They took
their little dachsund, Delsey, with them, staying in motels
that would allow the dog in their room.
went to Niagara Falls and to Montreal, and on September
19th, they were on their way back home to Portsmouth.
They stopped in Colebrook for a burger and then wound
on down Highway 3 through Lancaster.
about 10:15 p.m., just south of Lancaster, Barney noticed
a light in the sky below the moon, and called Betty's
attention to it. At first, they thought it was a planet,
but then they noticed it was moving. Barney began trying
to convince himself that it was only a satellite or a
plane, becoming more and more agitated at anything that
contradicted this view. Betty, whose sister had seen a
UFO, was convinced from the start that the light in the
sky was something unusual. They stopped the car to let
Delsey do her business, and observed the object with a
pair of binoculars they had.
the time they reached the Flume, north of North Woodstock,
the object had grown in size and Barney noticed that it
had an unusual motion in that it would dart away to the
west and then back, closer each time. At Indian Head,
Barney stopped the car again and looked at the object
with the binoculars. He could now see multi-colored lights
and rows of windows on the pancake-shaped object, which
was huge and was only a hundred feet away. He walked closer
to the craft, and could see occupants standing inside,
one of which he said seemed to be the "leader".
He became very frightened and ran back to the car, where
Betty was waiting. He started the car and took off quickly.
They could no longer see the object, but they heard a
later, they heard the beeping noise again, and noticed
that they were thirty-five miles south of Indian Head,
at Ashland. They drove on home to Portsmouth without further
slept until afternoon, and when they awoke, Betty called
her sister Janet and told her about their experience.
Janet urged her to report the UFO sighting to nearby Pease
Air Force Base. Over Barney's objections, Betty called
the base and gave a report to Major Paul W. Henderson
of the 100th Bomb Wing. When asked to do so by the Major,
Barney reluctantly gave his version of the sighting. Curiously,
Pease AFB was the home of the 509th Bomb Wing in 1961,
the same 509th Bomb Wing whose home had been Roswell AAFB
at the time of the "Roswell Incident"
in 1947. According to Jacques Vallee in Dimensions, the
Hills' sighting was corroborated by a radar sighting at
Pease AFB on 20 September 1961, but his reference for
this is unclear. It's an excerpt from Report No. 100-1-61,
that says simply:
strange incident occurred at 0214 local on 20 Sept. No
importance was attached to the incident at the time.
reporting the incident, Barney preferred to forget about
the event, but Betty went to the library to look up books
on UFOs. She found Major Donald Kehoe's The Flying Saucer
Conspiracy and read it avidly. She even wrote Kehoe a
letter detailing their sighting. A few days later, ten
days after their sighting, Betty began to have a series
of nightmares that lasted five days and then stopped.
The nightmares involved she and Barney being stopped at
a road block and then being taken inside some large craft.
At the urging of a friend, Betty wrote down the dreams.
Betty's letter to Kehoe had been passed to Walter Webb,
a lecturer on the staff of the Hayden Planetarium in Boston.
Webb was a scientific advisor for NICAP (National Investigations
Committee on Aerial Phenomenon), Kehoe's UFO organization.
Webb was asked to interview the Hills. He drove up to
Portsmouth and spent several hours interviewing them.
He was much impressed with their sincerity and with the
detail they provided, and he wrote a long report for NICAP.
talking to Keyhoe, and after reading Webb's report, two
technical writers who were interested in UFOs, Robert
Hohman and C.D. Jackson, made arrangements to interview
the Hills in November. It was during this interview that
one of the writers asked a key question: Why had it taken
the Hills so long to get home? Calculating the time and
the mileage from Colebrook to Portsmouth showed that they
should have gotten home two hours sooner than they did,
even allowing for stops. Also present at this interview
was Major James MacDonald, a former Air Force Intelligence
officer and close friend of the Hills. It was he who first
suggested hypnosis to recover their memory of the missing
March of 1962, they spoke to a psychiatrist about hypnosis,
but decided to put it off until a later date. That summer,
Barney's ulcers returned, and his recurring hypertention
returned. Feeling that his problems were emotional in
origin, he began therapy with a psychiatrist in Exeter,
Dr. Stephens. He continued this therapy through the next
year, but the UFO sighting was not explored as part of
this treatment at first. But, not long after Betty and
Barney had been asked to speak to a church group about
their sighting, Dr. Stephens decided that the sighting
was important. He also decided that hypnosis was needed
to help Barney deal with the incident. Not being proficient
in hypnosis himself, he referred Barney to Dr. Benjamin
Simon, a well-known Boston psychiatrist and neurologist.
Simon quickly determined that he should treat both Betty
and Barney for an anxiety syndrome that could be traced
back to the incident on the night of September 19-20,
1961. He began by hypnotizing Barney, then Betty. Over
the next six months, the story of the two hours of missing
time began to emerge. Betty and Barney Hill told of being
stopped at a roadblock and being taken onto the UFO, where
they were given medical examinations before being returned
to their car. Betty reported being shown a "star
map" that was later interpreted to mean that
the aliens came from Zeta Reticuli. Their story was later
written into a two-part article in Look magazine, a book
titled The Interrupted Journey
by John G. Fuller, and later a TV movie called The
UFO Incident starring Estelle Parsons and James
Earl Jones as the Hills.
Hill's story was the first "modern" abduction
story. There was no Communion back in 1961, and no X-Files.
Abduction stories had not become part of the popular culture
yet. People had claimed to have contact with aliens, but
they were "contactees" in the mold of
George Adamski, who claimed to have been visited by friendly
Venusians with long blond hair who gave him a warning
for all mankind about nuclear war. Skeptics such as Martin
S. Kottmeyer claim that the elements of the Hill abduction
could be found in movies like 1953's Invaders From Mars
and in the pulp science fiction magazines. They also say
that an alien with wrap-around eyes such as Barney Hill
described was portrayed on an episode of Outer Limits
just 12 days before the hypnotic session during which
he described the aliens. These claims might be compelling
if it had ever been proven that Betty and Barney had seen
the movie or the Outer Limits episode or that they were
science fiction fans. But investigators such as Karl Pflock
say that there is no evidence that they had been exposed
to any of those things. Skeptics also point out that Betty's
nightmares began after she read Keyhoe's book. That's
true, but Barney had not read Kehoe's book when he saw
the UFO with double rows of windows with "people"
behind them on the night of the sighting.
if the dreams and the hypnotically recalled "abduction"
are excluded for whatever reason, the sighting itself
still stands as one of the most reliable and inexplicable
Simon, the psychiatrist who worked through the post-traumatic
stress of the incident with the Hills, did not believe
that they were lying. He was unable to explain the sighting
as anything other than an actual occurrence, and stated
as much in a letter to the insurance company regarding
the case. However, he did not believe that the abduction
took place. His final diagnosis was that Betty's mind
had created dreams of an abduction to fill the amnesia
period, and that Barney's mind, when he heard the content
of her dreams, had unconsciously absorbed her dreams for
the same purpose of filling the missing time period. None
of this, of course, explains exactly what DID happen and
why it took the Hills two hours longer than normal to
drive from Colebrook to Ashland.