Is This The First True Alien Abduction Story?
Updated: Feb 10
On this week's episode of the Misfits and Mysteries Podcast, Emmy and I discussed Celebrity alien encounters, and the most famous alien abduction story, the abduction of Betty and Barney Hill. You can find episode 8 here, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts.
The abduction of Betty and Barney Hill was by no means the first UFO, or alien abduction story, however, it was the first to captivate the nation and “define the genre” of alien abduction stories going forward.
The Hills were a hard working mixed race couple in the 1960’s who were just trying to make an honest living. Barney worked the night shift for the New Hampshire Postal Service, which required him to drive 60 miles to and from work every night. Betty was a social worker who handled child welfare cases. The couple devoted the little free time they had to their church and the civil rights movement. Their abduction captivated the nation because the couple were upstanding citizens, who were not in it for the fame.
The Hill's Abduction
September of 1961, the couple who had been married for a little over a year decided to take a spontaneous road trip through Montreal and Niagara Falls and back to New Hampshire as a delayed honeymoon. This was such an impulsive trip that the couple had no time to go to the bank before it closed for the weekend. They left for Montreal with less than $70 in their wallets. By the end of their three day mini honeymoon vacation, the couple stopped at a coffee shop in Vermont to “recharge” before making the trip back home to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Barney figured that they should drive through the night, to try and avoid the high winds and rain a hurricane was pushing east.
The couple left the diner around 10pm EDT and estimated they would arrive in Portsmouth between 2 and 3 am. As the couple drove down the dark, windy mountain roads, they noticed a strange bright light in the sky above them that appeared to be following them. The light appeared to grow larger and brighter with each passing mile. The couple assumed that the light was just a satellite that was veering off course and the light following them was just an illusion created by the moving car. Eventually the couple was overcome with curiosity and they decided to pull over at a picnic stop and pulled out their binoculars to see what the light was. According to Betty the white light was actually an object spinning in the air. Betty exclaimed “If you think that’s a satellite or a star, you’re being completely ridiculous”
The couple got back into the car and continued their ride home. When the couple was about 70 miles past the diner, the object was hovering only 100 feet above them. Feeling threatened, Barney abruptly stopped the car, grabbed his handgun and binoculars and ran into a nearby field with Betty still in the car, engine running. Barney claimed that the craft was as large as a jet and as round and flat as a pancake. When Barney looked through his binoculars he saw grey uniformed beings behind a row of windows. When he went to pull out his pistol, Barney recalled being unable to lift his hand and heard a voice tell him not to put down the binoculars. Barney sprinted back to the car yelling and screaming hysterically and the couple barreled down the road as fast as possible. As they drove, Betty craned her neck out the window to track the craft. Minutes later, a loud rhythmic humming came from their trunk and the couple was knocked unconscious and woke up 2 hours later 35 miles down the road.
When the couple made it home, they had no recollection of the incident but both felt dirty. In the following Weeks and months, Betty started having very disturbing dreams and Barney developed an ulcer and anxiety. Betty also became very interested in UFOs and aliens and became entangled in the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), a civilian UFO group. It got so bad that the couple eventually sought mental help and became patients of psychologist and neurologist Benjamin Simon, who specialized in hypnosis. Through months of weekly sessions, Simon helped the couple piece together what they think happened to them.
According to their story, a space vessel landed on their car and knocked them out, then grey beings walked them up a long ramp and onto the UFO. Once the couple was on board, the grey beings (or Greys as they nicknamed them) brought them into separate exam rooms that had curved walls and had large ceiling lights. During the examination, the Greys removed Betty and Barney’s clothing, plucked strands of hair, took clippings on their nails, and scraped their skin. Each sample was placed on a clear material similar to a glass slide. Needles connected to long wires probed their heads, arms, legs, and spines and a large needle around 4 to 6 inches long was inserted into Betty’s bellybutton to test if she was pregnant.
For intergalactic travelers, they had some truly barbaric pregnancy tests. Could they seriously not just analyze her pee? Wouldn't that be more instantaneous? This abduction occurred in 1961 and humans invented the pee pregnancy test all the way back in 1927. I just think its strange that the Grey’s managed to master intergalactic space travel but could not figure out how to make a pregnancy test.
So back to the story. After Betty’s examination ended, the Greys excitedly rushed back into her room, after discovering that they could remove Barney’s teeth because he had dentures. Later, when Betty was alone with the leader of the Greys, she asked where the craft had flown from and the being joked with her saying “If you don’t know where you are, there wouldn’t be any point in telling you where I am.” Apparently at one point, one of the Greys allowed Betty to take home a space souvenir, but before she had her memory wiped, the leader vetoed that.
The couple's story was not a national sensation until 1965, four years after the alleged abduction, when the Hill’s story was picked up by a Boston newspaper. After that everything changed for the couple, as they became abductee celebrities who were the subjects of a best selling book, and a blockbuster film starring James Earl Jones.
Space Commuters and Redefining the Alien Abduction Genre
Whether you believe the Hill’s story or not, you can’t turn a blind eye to the major cultural impact their story had on the entire UFO, alien abduction, and extraterrestrial genre. The Hill’s story not only impacted how popular culture and the movies depicted aliens, UFOs, and abductions, their story fundamentally shifted how all future “abductees” recounted their stories. According to Christopher Bader, Professor of Sociology at Chapman University’s research, all reported alien encounters were friendly and in some cases the aliens lived and worked on Earth and commuted back to their home planets on the weekends. However, after the Hill’s story went “viral” in 1965, alien encounters and abductions shifted away from hanging out with your work buddy from Mars, towards accounts of abductions that shared the same characteristics as the Hill’s story including medical exams and lost time. The Hill’s story is even responsible for creating the popular SCI-FI trope of depicting aliens as grey humanoid creatures with large heads and big black eyes that is still popular today. In fact the plot of the first episode of South Park, which aired back in 1997 revolved around alien abductions, and featured greys.
I gotta say I’m kind of bummed that we no longer have commuter aliens. The idea of that is just so funny to me. Just imagine for a minute an alien wearing a suit and tie working a dull job like an accountant, he then goes out to the company happy hour on Friday and then flies to a new galaxy for the weekend. Like the water cooler talk must be awesome. Like what if one day he slipped up and said something wild and tried to cover it up by saying something like “how about those Jets.”
It’s a strange coincidence that after Hill's story came out, all abduction stories changed and mimicked their story. It’s very possible that people just wanted attention after seeing the fame that the Hill’s gained and fabricated stories to be just like them. It’s also possible that maybe these are two different species of alien. Perhaps your co-worker aliens and your anal probe aliens are not the same. This could explain why we have two different genres within the alien abduction literature.
Explanations for the Hill’s Abduction
While some people think they made up the story, the Hill's psychiatrist Simon thinks they were telling the truth. Or at least what they thought was the truth. Simon concluded that Betty had dreamed up the abduction, as the memories perfectly reflected her bad dreams, which she had written down prior to any memories coming back to her during hypnosis. He believes that during hypnosis, when you’re the most susceptible to suggestibility, Betty convinced herself that her dreams actually happened and Barney absorbed her story. This is supported by the fact that the most vivid details Barney remembered match perfectly with Betty’s dreams. We talked about hypnosis in our first ever episode which you can find here or anywhere else you listen to podcasts.
Other experts believe that sleep paralysis, brought on by sleep deprivation and extreme stress, explain the hallucinations. As someone who has suffered from sleep paralysis, I 100% think this is a possibility. Maybe their brains filled in the gaps with alien spaceships and what not. We have discussed sleep deprivation in depth in our Second episode which you can find here or anywhere else you listen to podcasts. This explanation also makes sense because the couple was definitely under a lot of stress all the time. They both had high stress jobs and were a mixed race couple in a predominantly white state in the 1960’s during the civil rights movement. On top of all of this, the Cold War was in full swing, which likely put extra stress on the couple.
Neither Betty nor Barney believed that sleep paralysis was an adequate explanation for their abduction. They both stuck to their story until the day that they died, which makes me wonder, maybe they actually were abducted by aliens. I don’t really believe in alien abductions or UFOs, however, I do believe that aliens exist and I’m open to being proven wrong.
If you enjoyed this blog, please consider sharing it, and check out our latest episode of the Misfits and Mysteries podcast to hear our full discussion and analysis of the Hill’s abduction and other alien encounters.