On September 19, 1961, Betty Hill, a social worker, and Barney Hill, a post-office worker, were driving back to their home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire from a vacation they took in Canada. While driving along US Route 3, the Hills noticed a strange light in the sky that appeared to be moving erratically. At first, they thought it might be a plane travelling towards Vermont on its way to Montreal, but a sudden change in direction indicated that it couldn’t be a plane (a regular plane would not be able to handle such a maneuver). Curiosity got the better of them, and so they decided to follow the mysterious object through a mountainous region of New Hampshire known as Franconia Notch.
After following it for some time, their suspicions were confirmed; it was definitely not a plane, but a “pancake”-shaped craft, the shape of which they could now discern as the ship had flown a mere 24 to 30 meters above their vehicle after descending very quickly from its original position.
As anyone would be, Barney was alarmed by the craft’s sudden interest in them, and so he grabbed a pair of binoculars, stepped outside of his vehicle, and peered through them to spot the flying craft more clearly. What he saw would go down in the annals of history as one of the first legitimately reported UFO sightings in US history.
After peering through the binoculars, Barney could make out windows on the side of the craft, of which eight to 11 humanoid figures, dressed in glossy black uniforms and black caps, were looking through. All but one of the figures moved in unison towards a panel at the back of the hallway that encircled the ship, while the one remaining figure told Barney to stay where he was and to continue looking forward. Telescopic wings then protruded from the sides of the craft, and a long structure came out of the bottom; it was at this point that Barney became less curious and more afraid, screaming at Betty “They’re going to capture us!”
Terrified, Barney returned to the car and drove off as fast as he could. The flying craft followed them, emitted a rhythmic sound that vibrated the car and put the couple into a trance-like state. A second set of rhythmic sounds released them from the state soon thereafter, but what they discovered in their newfound lucid state was that they had travelled over 56 km from their original position, despite the short amount of time that they thought had passed.
When they arrived home, they said that they were experiencing a fragmented memory in regards to what had happened earlier that night, and had unexplainable tears and marks on various items of clothing, as well as strange, concentric circular imprints on the hood of their car. Most notably, Betty Hill’s dress was torn at the hem, and had a pink powder on it that blew away in the wind when she hung it on her clothesline.
Perplexed by their lack of memory, the condition of their belongings, and of course the event itself, they decided that they would report the incident to the proper authorities, and phoned Pease Air Force Base. Major Paul W. Henderson responded personally to attain a more detailed account of the incident, and in his report completed thereafter, dated September 26, he stated that it was likely a misidentification of the planet Jupiter. In spite of his assumptions, he sent the report to Project Blue Book, the US Air Force’s UFO research project.
By September 26, six days after the incident, Betty Hill was reading a book about UFO’s written by retired Marine Corps. Major Donald E. Keyhoe, and decided that she would contact him and tell him about her experience. He got her in touch with a member of a civilian research group (Walter N. Webb, a Boston astronomer) he founded called NICAP (National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena) who met with the Hills on October 21 and conducted a six-hour interview. Webb concluded that “they were telling the truth and the incident probably occurred exactly as reported except for some minor uncertainties and technicalities that must be tolerated in any such observations where human judgment is involved (e.g., exact time and length of visibility, apparent sizes of object and occupants, distance and height of object, etc.).”
After another interview on November 25, they came to the realisation that the drive itself should have only taken four hours, and yet they arrived home seven hours later. They couldn’t account for the missing time, and could not recall anything of the 56 km length of road that they had travelled along US Route 3. It was apparent that they were suffering from a phenomena that experts today refer to as “missing time”, the ‘cure’ of which was hypnotic recall. Thankfully, an experienced hypnotist by the name of Benjamin Simon was found through a friend at their church, and a meeting was set up on January 4 of the following year.
Now, this is where things became very interesting. Through his sessions, it was determined that during the period of time that was lost, Barney Hill was compelled by some unknown force to drive his vehicle off of the road down a dirt path and step outside of the car. There were six men waiting for them, of which three told him to close his eyes and not to fear them. The next thing he remembers, he was on an operating table, where they took skin samples using a scraper, counted his vertebrae, and peered into his ears and nose. They also attached a cup-like device to his genitals and inserted a tube into his anus. It should be noted that during this recollection, Barney Hill was very distressed and emotional, as one would certainly be after having to relive such an ordeal, and apparently while he was being examined on the UFO, he barely had his eyes open as he was completely terrified.
As for Betty Hill, her session was a tad bit more intriguing. Like Barney, she was led into the craft along a dirt path in a forest, she was examined (eyes, ears, mouth, throat, hands) and samples were taken using scrapers for her skin and shavers for her fingernails. However, unlike Barney, she had a more detailed account of the encounter as she kept her eyes open. Apparently, the examiner was quite friendly, was humanoid in appearance with grey skin, dark hair, dark eyes, prominent noses and bluish lips, and went as far as to offer her a book with some strange symbols in it, as well as a view of a holographic star chart that depicted their home world. However, while escorting the two off the ship, the humanoids became distressed and told her that she couldn’t keep the book, and would also not be allowed to remember the events that had transpired.
As incredibly strange as the whole encounter was, what stood out the most was the star chart that was shown to Betty Hill. When Simon asked her to draw the chart, it depicted an actual location in our universe, a nearby (relatively) binary star system known as Zeta Reticuli. The solid lines that she drew in between the stars supposedly indicated trade routes, whereas the dotted lines indicated less frequented channels. Now remember, Betty Hill, as intelligent as she may be, is a social worker, and Barney Hill was employed by the United States Postal Service. They aren’t astronomers, so it is certainly peculiar that they would have a knowledge of star locations, and yet, she did. Furthermore, they were separately hypnotized by a professional who stated that it seemed to him that they genuinely believed everything that they were saying. However, he also stated that he believed that Barney’s recollection of the events was likely due to an influence by dreams that Betty was having, dreams that she had shared with Barney after the incident had taken place. These dreams were almost identical to that of her recounting during the hypnotic session, though dreams can be (to a degree) a somewhat truthful recollection of an event that has occurred in one’s life.
So, in the end, Barney and Betty Hill’s story is still an anecdotal account of a bafflingly out-of-this-world experience. One cannot say for certain if this event occurred in the way that it was remembered, or if it occurred at all, but it definitely sparks the imagination in a way that few stories can, and for that, I applaud their courage to speak freely on the subject, during a time when such topics were saved for the possibly insane.