Barney and Betty Hill’s story was the first widely publicized claim of an alien abduction in the United States. It also largely introduced the notions of missing time and grey aliens into popular culture and became the subject of many books and films.
The Hills were driving home through a rural portion of New Hampshire on the night of September 19, 1961. Near the resort of Indian Head they stopped in the middle of Route 3 to observe a strange light moving through in the sky. Looking through binoculars, Betty observed an “odd-shaped” craft with flashing, multi-colored lights traveling across the face of the moon.
Because her sister had claimed to have seen a flying saucer several years earlier, Betty thought it might be what she was observing. Barney observed what he reasoned was a commercial airliner traveling toward Vermont on its way to Montreal. However, he soon changed his mind when the craft rapidly descended in their direction. He quickly returned to the car and drove them toward Franconia Notch on a narrow mountainous stretch of the road.
The Hills claimed they continued driving on the isolated road, moving slowly through in order to observe the object as it came closer. The couple watched as the silent, illuminated craft moved erratically and bounced back and forth in the night sky.
Approximately one mile south of Indian Head, they said, the object rapidly descended toward their vehicle, then hovered above their vehicle, causing Barney to stop in the middle of the highway. Using the binoculars, Barney claimed to have seen multiple humanoid figures peering out of the craft’s windows, seeming to look at him. In unison, all but one figure moved to what appeared to be a panel on the rear wall of the craft. The one remaining figure continued to look at Barney and communicated a telepathic message to him saying “stay where you are and keep looking.” Barney had a recollection of observing the humanoid forms wearing glossy black uniforms and reported the “beings were somehow not human.”
Barney tore the binoculars away from his eyes and ran back to the car. In a near hysterical state, he told Betty, “They’re going to capture us!” He then saw the object shift its location to directly above the vehicle. He drove them away at high speed, telling Betty to look for the object behind them. Almost immediately, the Hills heard a rhythmic series of beeping or buzzing sounds which they said seemed to bounce off their vehicle, and the car vibrated as a tingling sensation passed through their bodies. The Hills said at this point they experienced the onset of an altered state of consciousness which left their minds dulled. A second series of beeping or buzzing sounds returned the couple to full consciousness. They then found they had traveled nearly 35 miles (56 km) south, but had only vague memories of the section of road in front of them. They recalled making a sudden, unplanned turn, encountering a roadblock, and observing a fiery orb in the road.
The Hills arrive home around dawn and tried to reconstruct the chronology of events as they witnessed the UFO and drove home, but their memories had become incomplete and fragmented.
Betty telephoned their close friend, Major Paul Henderson, at the nearby Pease Air Force Base, to report the UFO sighting. She then begin having vivid nightmares two weeks later involving being taken up into an alien spacecraft and having medical experiments performed on her. As a result of these nightmares, Betty and Barney decided to undergo hypnosis over two years later. In separate sessions, they described two similar, but different experiences of being taken on board the spacecraft by short beings with large black eyes and smooth gray skin. Betty was then shown a star map during her experience which she was able to memorize and reproduce later. Although, the map has been largely dismissed based on it’s multiple, possible interpretations and general inability to provide any useful positional information.
Barney Hill died only a few years after the alleged incident, but Betty Hill lived much longer to have the consistency of her story and credibility examined as a result. Skeptical Inquirer columnist and noted skeptic Robert Sheaffer wrote:
“I was present at the National UFO Conference in New York City in 1980, at which Betty presented some of the UFO photos she had taken. She showed what must have been well over two hundred slides, mostly of blips, blurs, and blobs against a dark background. These were supposed to be UFOs coming in close, chasing her car, landing, etc… After her talk had exceeded about twice its allotted time, Betty was literally jeered off the stage by what had been at first a very sympathetic audience. This incident, witnessed by many of ufology’s leaders and top activists, removed any lingering doubts about Betty’s credibility — she had none. In the oft-repeated words of one ufologist who accompanied Betty on a UFO vigil in 1977, she was “unable to distinguish between a landed UFO and a streetlight.”