The Truth about Betty and Barney Hill


             Pseudoskeptics’ Deception about the Betty and Barney Hill UFO Encounter

                                                                    Kathleen Marden


     I have nothing against healthy skepticism.  The fact is that I consider myself a skeptic.  I do, however, find the intentional dissemination of false and misleading information abhorrent.  There is a growing movement of pseudo-skepticism afoot that threatens scientific progress. The pseudoskeptics often adhere to a theistic belief in science, although many are self professed atheists, marked by cynicism and the manipulation of data to fit their beliefs.  They target frontier sciences such as psi phenomena and UFOs and work to suppress scientific exploration in these fields.  < xml="true" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" prefix="o" namespace="">

     Historically, when new paradigms have threatened existing dogma, those who clung to archaic ideology have worked to suppress emerging scientific ideas.  For example, British Ornithologist Francis O. Morris wrote the following about Darwinism (1877): “If the whole of the English language could be condensed into one word, it would not suffice to express the utter contempt those invite who are so deluded as to the disciples of such an imposture as Darwinism.” Pierre Pochet, a professor of physiology at Toulouse wrote of Louis Pasteur (1872): “…theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.”  An editorial in the Boston Post wrote of Joshua Copperfield, who was arrested for fraud for attempting to raise funds for the development of a telephone (1865): “Well informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical use.” Britain’s leading scientist, Lord Kelvin wrote (1897): “Radio has no future.” and (1900) “X-rays are a hoax.”  American engineer Floyd Parsons wrote of the atomic bomb (1931): “Nothing is gained by exaggerating the possibilities of tomorrow.  We need not worry over the consequences of breaking up the atom.” Adolf Hitler called physics “Jewish pseudoscience.” Ernst Mach, professor of physics at the University of Vienna wrote (1913) “I can accept the theory of relativity as little as I can accept the existence of atoms and other such dogmas.”    

     Today it is apparent that similar forces are engaging in ad hominem attacks against frontier scientists, disseminating lies and misrepresenting factual information.  Examples of this type of cynicism are abundant on the Internet.  Below you will find a list of false information disseminated by pseudoskeptics about the September 19-20, 1961 Betty and Barney Hill UFO experience, along with the truth.

False: The Hills spotted a star-like object in the sky that seemed to be following them.  Although it remained star-like, the Hills thought that it must have been a flying saucer.  Betty thought it was a spacecraft but Barney always thought it was an airplane.

True: The Hills initially spotted a brightly lighted object in the sky. However, they soon observed its unconventional appearance and flight pattern.  Two miles south of Indian Head, the large, silent craft descended to within hundreds of feet of the vehicle, and finally stopped 80-100 feet above the Hills.  As Barney observed it through binoculars, he saw a brilliantly lit double row of windows along the curved exterior of the disk shaped craft. With military precision all but one of the figures moved to a rear panel along a corridor, while one remained at the window.  His intense stare frightened Barney who thought that he was about to be captured like a “bug in a net”.  Fear of ridicule prevented him from reporting the figures to Pease Air Force Base when he reported the UFO. (Reported to Pease Air Force Base 9/21/61, NICAP  9/26/61 and 10/21/61.


False: Betty phoned their close friend, Major Paul Henderson at Pease Air Force Base.

True:  The Hills had never met Major Paul Henderson.


False: The Hills became nervous when a star-like object appeared to be following them and they turned onto narrow mountain roads becoming lost.

True:  They reported that, while the object was above their vehicle after it had 'swooped down, they heard a series of short loud' buzzes' which they described as sounding like someone had dropped a tuning fork. They reported that they could feel these buzzing sounds vibrate in their auto. The Hills thought that the object had departed, (Pease AFB 9/21/61), yet without warning, Barney made a sharp left turn approximately twelve miles south of the close encounter site. He told Dr. Simon, “I was driving and driving and driving, and I made a turn and I never knew this.  I don’t know why I had to make that turn. And I was lost. I was on a strange area of the highway and I had never been there before.  And I was being stopped.”(1964 Hypnosis session)  Barney had turned off U.S. Highway Route 3 onto NH State Highway Route 175.  It is not a narrow mountain road.  It runs parallel to Route 3 through the rural villages of Thornton and Campton.  It increased the Hills travel distance by approximately five miles. 


False:  When the Hills returned home they had vague memories of observing a star-like object in the sky that seemed to be following them. It wasn’t until after Betty had a series of dreams about a UFO encounter and alien abduction that they became convinced they had experienced a close encounter with a UFO.  Nearly the entire experience was recalled through hypnotic regression. 

 True:  When the Hills arrived home on the morning of 9/20/61 they had full conscious recall of a close encounter with an 80’-100’ silent hovering craft.  (See the Project Blue Book report.) Barney reported his observation of figures aboard the craft to my father within two days of the event.  On 10/21/61 he told Walter Webb the following: “The figures, according to Barney Hill, were of human form dressed in shiny black uniforms and black caps with peaks or bills on them (which could be seen when the figures turned their heads).  The uniforms were like glossy leather.  When they were standing at the windows he could see down to their waists.  When they moved backward to the wall, their legs were partially visible.  The figures reminded the observer of the cold precision of German officers; they moved smoothly and efficiently and showed no emotion except for one fellow operating a lever who, Mr. Hill claims, looked over his shoulder and smiled. The approaching UFO finally filled up the entire field of the binoculars. 

The ‘leader’ at the window held a special attraction for the witness and frightened him terribly.  The witness said he could almost feel this figure’s intense concentration to do something, to carry out a plan.  Mr. Hill believed he was going to be captured like ‘a bug in a net’.” 

     Letters written by the original investigators indicate that from the outset Betty’s amnesia

was of shorter duration than Barney’s. She recalled a turn off from Route 3, whereas

Barney’s conscious recall ended near North Woodstock.  Both remembered a second series

of beeping/buzzing sounds that seemed to shake them out of an amnesic state and restore their verbal communication. They were perplexed by memories of a fiery orb and a roadblock, but they couldn’t recall the location. (NICAP Report 10/26/61) 


False: Betty said the compass needle seemed to move erratically over six, strange, shiny spots the size of a dollar on the car’s trunk.  However, when Barney tried the same test the needle acted normally. 

 True: There were 12 to 18 shiny spots on the car’s trunk.  Barney stated, “The spots were shiny and perfect circles. (They were) about the size of half dollars….silver dollars. I put the compass close to it and the compass would spin and spin, and I could move the compass as few inches to a spot on trunk that did not have a spot and the compass would drop down, and I could not understand this.  (1964 conversation with Dr. Benjamin Simon)


False:  Betty Hill wrote to Donald Keyhoe who, despite the fact that he received over a hundred letters a day, homed in on this initially unremarkable case.  Within 24 hours, Keyhoe had arranged for the Hills to be visited by top-level scientists, including C.D. Jackson, who had previously (definitely not coincidentally) worked on psychological warfare techniques for President Eisenhower.  

True:  Richard Hall (NICAP secretary), read the letter and replied on 10/17/1961, almost a month later.  NICAP investigator Walter Webb, an astronomy lecturer (not military), interviewed the Hills separately for 6 hours on 10/21/61, over a month after the encounter. Not Hohmann and Jackson and not fast.  The C.D. Jackson, who visited the Hills on 11/25/61, was not the one who worked for Eisenhower.


False:  It was Jackson who drew the Hills' attention to their missing time period.  Until he did so, the couple had not realized that their memories of that fateful night were incomplete. It was Jackson who suggested hypnotic regression as a means of unlocking it.

True:  The Hills were already aware of the fact that they arrived home later than anticipated. It wasn't until they drove along their close encounter route with Hohmann and Jackson that they realized they were missing a full two hours, even accounting for their stops and period of slow driving.  Air Force Major Jim McDonald suggested hypnosis, although Betty had mentioned it in her first letter to NICAP dated 9/26/61. Hohmann and Jackson agreed that hypnosis might be a good option.   


False: It was Jackson who then arranged for one of the Army's top psychiatric experts to undertake the regression, under which the full story of the joint abduction “emerged”. 

True:   Dr. Duncan Stevens, the civilian psychiatrist Barney was seeing because of his bleeding ulcer and high blood pressure thought that Barney was making a good adjustment in his marriage to Betty and life in NH.  However, following an exploratory trip to the White Mountains, he mentioned his UFO encounter and apparent amnesia to Dr. Stevens.  Dr. Stevens thought this was significant and referred Barney to Dr. Benjamin Simon, a civilian psychiatrist for many years, who had specialized in hypnotic regression to treat traumatic amnesia during WW II.  He set up the psychiatric unit at the Mason General Hospital on Long Island  After the war, he taught at Harvard, owned a private psychiatric hospital, and later, went into private practice in Boston's Back Bay.  The Hills saw him in his Back Bay office.


False: Many researchers have since demonstrated that a careful review of the timings actually shows that there was no missing time at all.

True:  Skeptics have made this claim but it can't be supported.  I and others have driven along the Hills' route at their reported rate of speed, lingered at the reported stops, and followed their route precisely.  We could not account for the time differential. I also attempted to become lost for two hours and couldn't. 


False:  The anxiety caused by Barney’s increasing racial sensitivity during his trip caused him to misinterpret a conventional aircraft for an unconventional flying object.  He did not encounter a UFO. 

True:  Although Barney engaged in introspective thought about racial prejudice on three brief occasions over a three day period, no overt discrimination was exhibited toward him. When Dr. Simon inquired about his mood, Barney stated, “I felt in good spirits.  I felt in high spirits.”


False:  Barney was so tired that he must have been hallucinating.

True:  In a conscious interview with Dr. Simon Barney stated the following:  “I was well rested from the night before.  We had spent a delightful day and I knew I could drive on from the White Mountains down to Portsmouth.  So, I didn't stop.  I didn't feel too tired.”


False:  Betty wrote and rewrote accounts of her dreams during a two year period prior to hypnosis.  She probably told the story over and over again until Barney’s “ears fell off”.

True:  Barney told Dr. Simon that he overheard Betty tell her dreams to NICAP investigator Walter Webb while he waited in an adjacent room.  He also heard her dream account on 11/3/1963.  She did not write and rewrite them.  She initially wrote them on note paper.  She wrote one and only one account titled “Dreams or Recall?”.


False: Betty had vivid nightmares in which she was taken from her bed onto an alien ship, and had medical procedures performed on her. The information revealed during the Hills’ separate hypnosis sessions is essentially identical to Betty’s dream account.

True:  Betty did not dream that she was taken from her bed onto an alien ship. There are significant differences between Betty’s dreams and information recalled separately by Betty and Barney during hypnotic regression. My next paper will reveal the correlating data not present in Betty’s dreams.  In the interim, refer to Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience.  


False:  The Hills were stripped naked and underwent intrusive medical examinations focusing on their genital organs. 

True:  No, they weren’t stripped naked. Betty remained dressed in her underwear, including a slip.  Barney’s clothing was pushed up or lowered.  The exam did not focus upon their genital organs.  Betty’s genital organs were not examined but a needle was inserted into her navel. The exams focused on the differences between them and us--skin, skeletal structure, mouths, eyes, etc.. 


False: There are reasonable mundane explanations for the damage to Betty’s “purple” dress, examined by a group of crop circle investigators, such as dust mites, moths and mold.

True: There was a 2” tear in the stitching along the top right side of the fabric next to her zipper on Betty’s blue dress.  There was a 1” tear in the thick zipper fabric along the top left side. The lining was torn from waist to hemline and the hem was hanging down. All of this during a drive through NH? Later, when Betty retrieved it from her closet it was coated with a pink powdery substance and badly stained, especially along the hem, around the sleeves, and along the top of the bodice. Betty reported that her captors had touched the dress in the stained areas. Although it initially underwent testing in 1978, BP-Amoco analytical chemist Phyllis Budinger, M.S. did the most thorough analysis from 11/2001-10/2003. (She is not a crop circle investigator) She compared Betty’s dress to a 40 year old control that had hung in a closet for the same duration.  She found dust, cat hair, etc. on both dresses. Otherwise, there were no similarities.


False: You almost never hear a critical treatment of their story.

True:  This is patently false. The pseudoskeptics have invented largely bogus accounts of the Hills’ UFO experience and have widely disseminated them in books, magazine articles, radio and television programs and on the Internet. 


False: The Betty & Barney Hill abduction story has every indication of being merely an inventive tale from the mind of a lifelong UFO fanatic.

True:  The Hills had little or no interest in UFOs prior to their close encounter.  They had a wide range of interests, including civil rights, human rights, politics, church activities, gardening, and their jobs. The statement that Betty was a lifelong UFO fanatic is an outright lie.  She was 42 when the UFO encounter occurred. 


False: In her original written stories, she described the aliens' star map as three dimensional. Under hypnosis, she redrew it on paper, in two dimensions. It's seven or eight random dots were connected by lines.

True:  In “Dreams or Reality?” Betty described a two dimensional star map that rolled up like a window shade.  Later, during hypnotic regression, she remembered a three dimensional hologram.  She drew it on paper as the result of a post hypnotic suggestion by Dr. Simon.  There were not 7 or 8 random dots; there were 16 precisely drawn dots of varying size, connected by solid, dotted or dashed lines.  Marjorie Fish built 26 three dimensional models of our local galactic neighborhood before she was able to find a match. She found that all the pattern stars are the right kind for planets and life, even though less than 5% of the stars in the local neighborhood qualify, and all the sun-like stars in the volume of space taken up by the 3D model are part of the pattern. There have been many estimates made of the probability that it was just a coincidence from one in a thousand to one in a million.  Her work was vetted and found to be very accurate by Dr. Walter Mitchell of the astronomy department at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.


     There is ample reason to be skeptical about some aspects of the Betty and Barney Hill UFO abduction, especially regarding Betty’s statements that are identical to her dream account.  Although the Hills’ UFO encounter provided an abundance of forensic evidence, only Betty’s dress underwent scientific laboratory analysis.  My comparative analysis of the hypnosis tapes vis-à-vis Betty’s infamous “Dreams of Recall?” account provides correlating data that is clearly amenable within the framework of social science.   It is apparent that “something” anomalous happened to Betty and Barney Hill on September 19-20, 1961.  I welcome healthy skepticism by respectful rationalists.  However, denigrating remarks, lies and personal attacks are not acceptable in intelligent discourse. 



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Henderson, Major Paul W., “Air Intelligence Information Report No. 100-1-61”, Project Blue Book, September 21, 1961.

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