Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Betty and Barney Hill


Betty and Barney Hill are not exactly household names.  While you may not have heard of them, you've probably heard their story, or one very similar.  A story of lost time, hypnotherapy and ultimately, alien abduction.  But more on that later.

Betty was born Eunice Elizabeth Barrett in Newton, New Hampshire on June 28, 1919.  She was a social worker and was very involved in the growing civil rights campaign, through which she met Barney.

He was born in Newport News, Virginia on July 20, 1922.  He was a postal worker in Philadelphia before his career brought him to New Hampshire, where he became a local leader in the NAACP.  Divorced from his first wife, Barney married Betty at a time when mixed-raced couples were not all that common.

In the early morning hours of September 20, 1961, the Hills returned to their home in Portsmouth following a weeklong road trip to Canada.  Although they had spent several memorable days exploring Montreal and Niagara Falls, neither could remember arriving home.  However, they both vividly recalled spotting an unidentified flying object the night before as they traveled down U.S. Route 3 in Lancaster, New Hampshire. 

Once at their home, Betty and Barney were both overcome by a series of odd circumstances and impulses that they could not explain.  There were shiny, concentric circles on their car.  Neither of their watches would ever work again.  Barney noted that the strap on his binoculars had been torn, but he could not recall how it had happened.  He was also compelled to examine his body but he didn't understand why.  And Betty refused to allow the luggage from their trip to be brought into the house.

The Hills drove a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.
  Unable to explain any of this, the
  Hills reconstructed the previous
  evening's events as best they
  could. They remembered
  stopping their car at a picnic area
  near Twin Mountain to take
  a closer look.  Taking the
  binoculars, Betty observed an
  odd-shaped craft flashing a series
  of multi-colored lights. 

When Barney took a look for himself, he initially decided that it was a commercial airliner, but he quickly changed his mind as the object approached them.  Barney would later famously quip "this object that was a plane was not a plane."

They continued on their journey while keeping an eye on their strange visitor, which began to bounce erratically across the sky.  Near the town of Indian Head, they watched as it made a rapid descent toward their car and began emitting a series of strange beeping noises.  The Hills described a tingling sensation throughout their bodies, resulting in an altered state of consciousness.  They stopped in the middle of the highway as the craft hovered directly over their car.  But that was the last they could remember of the evening's events.

More than a week after returning home, Betty began having nightmares, strange visions of her and Barney during their alien encounter.  The dreams continued for five consecutive nights with little to no variation.  The couple were abducted by grayish figures, then taken aboard their craft and subjected to medical examinations.  Betty could not recall ever remembering her dreams as vividly as those of the encounter, but she and Barney agreed to never discuss them again.

Dr. Benjamin Simon.
A year would pass before they would revisit the issue.  In November of 1962, the Hills met Ben Swett, an Air Force Captain at their church, who gave a discussion on hypnosis.  They relayed what they could remember of that night and
asked if it were possible to retrieve their lost memories via hypnosis.  Intrigued, Captain  Swett put them in contact with a colleague of his, Dr. Benjamin Simon of Boston.

On January 4, 1964, Simon began a series of hypnotherapy sessions with the Hills.  He conducted them separately so that neither would overhear the other's recollections.  Barney was up first.

Under hypnosis, Barney recalled his first visions of the craft, which he described as looking like a pancake.  With a pistol in one hand and his binoculars in the other, he walked towards the object after it landed.  From a distance, he was able to see approximately eleven humanoid figures, whom he described as being "somehow not human."  He recalled that the grayish beings wore glossy black uniforms and black caps.  They observed him through the craft's windows while one of the occupants communicated telepathically with Barney, instructing him to "stay where you are and keep looking."   

But Barney ran instead, and as he did so, he broke the strap to his binoculars.  He and Betty drove off as quickly as they could before being compelled to pull off the road and drive into the woods.  At this point, the Bel Air stalled, while three of the craft's occupants approached the Hills.  They told Barney not to fear them.

Barney displays his rendition of the craft.
Barney continued his recount of the ordeal, stating that the beings escorted him and Betty onto their craft where they were separated.  He was disrobed and given a complete medical examination. Skin samples were scraped from his back, a sperm sample was collected, and a gastrointestinal device was employed.  Use your imagination.

Under her hypnosis session, Betty's account was consistent with Barney's up to the point where they entered the craft.  Once separated, she was given a similar examination, though hers seemed to be much more painful.  While the beings employed telepathy with Barney, they spoke perfect English with Betty.  Dr. Simon recorded these sessions, and you can hear Betty's in its entirety here.

Betty recounted her discussions with the leader.  She asked him where they were from.  In response, he showed her a star map and asked her to identify Earth.  As she was unable to do so, the being jokingly replied "well if you don't know where you're from, how will you know where I'm from?"  The being reassured Betty, but informed her that her memories of the encounter would be erased.

Following the sessions, Betty was able to draw the star map with surprising clarity.  It contained twelve prominent stars connected by three smaller ones which formed a distinctive triangle.  She recalled the being telling her that the more prominent stars formed "trade routes," whereas the smaller ones were those less traveled to.

In 1966, the story received national attention after the publication of John Fuller's book The Interrupted Journey (see Trivia below).  Two years later, an amateur astronomer who read the book theorized that the star map represented the dual star system of Zeta Reticuli.  As a result, the Hills abduction is often referred to as "The Zeta Reticuli Incident."

Barney didn't have a particularly long life after the incident.  He died of a stroke just a few years later on February 25, 1969.  He was just 46 years old.

After Barney passed away, Betty remarried.  She continued to be in the public eye, giving media interviews and making public appearances.  She ultimately died on October 23, 2004.  She was 85 years old.

The Hills are buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Kingston, New Hampshire.

  • The Hills have a very unique burial situation.  The plot is owned by Betty's mother and the main headstone bears the Barrett name.  Barney was the first to pass, and he's buried not only with Betty, but his first wife as well.  Not to be outdone, Betty's third husband is also buried there.  They were a very close family.

  • The Interrupted Journey, written by John Fuller, was first published in 1966.  Pick up a copy from Amazon.

  • The 1975 made-for-TV movie The UFO Incident is available for free in its entirety on Youtube.  Watch it here.  

    Estelle Parsons and James Earl Jones as Betty and Barney Hill.
  • In 1997, Betty was interviewed by WGBH's Greater Boston program, offering her first-person account of the abduction.  Watch it here.

  • Several years before their encounter, Betty's sister claimed to have also seen a UFO.

  • A historical marker noting the incident was placed along a New Hampshire highway where the encounter took place.

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