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The Barney and Betty Hill UFO Abduction Story

Updated on February 5, 2017
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With interests in science, nature, and the paranormal, cryptid explores fringe topics from a unique and sometimes controversial perspective.

A rendition of the "Star Map" allegedly recalled by Betty Hill under hypnosis, showing the location of the alien home world in Zeta Reticuli.
A rendition of the "Star Map" allegedly recalled by Betty Hill under hypnosis, showing the location of the alien home world in Zeta Reticuli. | Source

The Original UFO Abduction

In the mid-1960s a New Hampshire couple called Betty and Barney Hill were allegedly abducted by aliens and taken aboard a UFO. The event became known as the Hill Abduction, or the Zeta Reticuli Incident. Their story is both strange and frightening, and set the standard for a rash of UFO abductions that continued for decades.

Through hypnosis the Hills were helped to remember their strange experience with visitors from another world. Some say this proves their story is nothing but a fantasy, brought on by the power of suggestion. Others claim hypnosis helped them tap into memories so terrifying they had blocked them out of their conscious minds.

What really happened to the Hills on that dark and desolate road so many years ago? Only they knew for sure, but the alleged events of that night would fuel speculation and intrigue that continues to this day.

Is this really among the best evidence of aliens visiting our planet, or is there something more to the story?

The Story

On September 19th, 1961, Barney Hill and his wife Betty were on their way home from Niagara Falls when a bizarre object appeared in the sky. It seemed to follow them, and the couple stopped to observe the strange phenomenon. Curiosity quickly turned to terror when Barney, using a pair of binoculars, identified the object as a craft of some kind, with strange humanoids visible through the windows.

Believing they may be in danger, the Hills fled. But when they finally arrived home they discovered that their four-hour journey had taken seven hours, and their memories after the encounter with the UFO were fragmented and hazy. Both Barney and Betty were confused, paranoid and fearful, though they could not pinpoint exactly why.

Betty began to experience nightmares soon after. During these strange dreams she claimed to recall additional details about the evening with the UFO, such as entering the craft and the appearance of the inhabitants within. Though Barney was still unsure, it became clear to Betty that they must have been taken by aliens from another world.

The Hypnosis Sessions

After a few years of torment, in 1964 the Hills underwent hypnosis sessions under the care of Dr. Benjamin Simon in an effort to recover more repressed memories. Separately they described nearly identical experiences, including the little grey men who attended them while they were aboard the craft.

They outlined examinations the little men conducted, and described their ability to communicate telepathically. Betty recalled a “Star Map” she had been shown by the creatures, and she was able to make a sketch of it.

The Hills wished to keep their experience quiet, but news eventually leaked out. Their story became the blueprint for UFO encounters around the world, the first reported case of many. In the fifty years that have followed, researchers, psychologists and scientists have struggled to explain exactly what happened that night, and to understand what has been happening to others ever since.

Many researchers remain skeptical of the abduction phenomenon, but to Betty and Barney Hill, and many like them, the experience would haunt them for the rest of their lives.

The Legacy of Betty and Barney Hill

Many of the particulars we now associate with a stereotypical UFO abduction started with the Hill case. The aliens called the “greys”, with their oversized heads and big, buggy eyes, were described by both Betty and Barney under hypnosis.

The physical examination details, including the dreaded probing, were first mentioned here as well. Missing time, the shape of the craft, the nightmares—all were first noted in the Hill UFO abduction.

This begs an interesting question: Did the Hill case mark the beginning of an ongoing study conducted on humans by aliens from another world, or was the public so captivated by their story that people began to imagine their own versions of the Hill abduction?

The so-called Star Map is another interesting piece of the puzzle. A school teacher named Marjorie Fish examined the Star Map in 1968, and conducted extensive research on the drawing using a respected astronomy reference guide.

She concluded, after two years of study, that the planet the UFO had come from must be orbiting the star Zeta Reticuli. Several people have logically refuted this possibility over the years, including the esteemed astrophysicist Carl Sagan. However, among believers the Star Map is ample evidence of the UFO’s origin.

Though Barney passed away only a few years after the incident, Betty went on to discuss her experiences, speak at UFO conventions and even write a book. Her statements became more bizarre through the years as she claimed more UFO sightings, and her credibility began to suffer. Some believe Betty was a confused woman who dragged Barney along for the ride.

Others say her original experience was legitimate, and resulted in psychological damage which caused her bizarre behavior later in life. She eventually passed away in 2004.

The Hill Abduction Debunked

Naturally, the tale of the Hill abduction has come under tremendous scrutiny over the years. For many, the value of hypnosis in itself is up for debate as a reliable means of memory recovery. Plus, the Hills had several years to discuss the occurrences of that night before they underwent the hypnosis sessions.

During that time, Betty was fixated on the recurring dreams that followed the event. Blurred and fragmented memories, along with suggestions brought on by conversations, may disqualify anything the Hills “recalled” under hypnosis.

One researcher retraced the Hill’s journey back to their home in New Hampshire, and came up with an interesting conclusion: The Hill’s may have misidentified an aircraft beacon. The couple was driving in the middle of the night, and possibly sleep deprived. The beacon must have appeared quite surprising on the horizon, particularly to exhausted people who were not expecting it.

As for the missing time: The Hills themselves stated that they frequently pulled over to allow their dog to do his thing on the side of the road. Could the Hills have fallen asleep during one of these stops? Perhaps they returned home in a groggy state, with poor memories of a perfectly mundane night.

Other details fall under suspicion when looking at the big picture. Betty Hill’s sister experienced her own UFO encounter several years earlier, and Betty was reportedly quite captivated by the story.

The popular television show Outer Limits featured an episode with alien beings strikingly similar to the “greys” described by Barney, and aired only days before Barney’s hypnotic regression.

These facts point to the Hill’s outright fabrication of the story, which seems plausible given Betty’s odd behavior in the years that followed.

It’s strange looking back at the Hill story from this vantage point. Fifty years have passed, and the details match exactly what many people have since reported as their UFO abduction experience. But it’s important to remember that the Hill abduction was the first of such cases.

In the end, it comes down to three possible scenarios: The Hill’s were confused by a string of strange circumstances, and built a story to explain that confusion over the years that followed; the Hills made the whole thing up for reasons known only to them; or Betty and Barney Hill were abducted by a UFO from a planet orbiting Zeta Reticuli.

Do you believe Betty and Barney Hill's story?

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    • sparkster profile image

      Sparkster Publishing 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      Lol, of course everyone is entitled to their opinion and as suggested, it's important to be open minded whilst maintaining a healthy level of skepticism. However, being a true skeptic is about neither believing nor disbelieving. Regardless of whether they were really abducted or not, it's a fact that they were a couple who were named Barney and Betty. Is that really so unusual? Does that mean they didn't exist? No, of course not. Their existence is officially documented therefore they were a real couple who did exist and were genuinely named Betty and Barney. The one key piece of evidence in this case is the star map that Betty drew under hypnosis. She couldn't have had prior knowledge because Zeta Reticuli wasn't discovered and added to the Gliese catalogue until eight years after her abduction.

      P.s. I have had several encounters myself too. The first one happened when I didn't even believe in UFOs or aliens.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      OH...absolutely! I forgot about Dino! He is a troublemaker. Thanks for going along with my sense of humor.....I am not in the habit of ridiculing what others say, think and do. In fact, quite the contrary. I'm 100% for all of our freedoms to be very individual!

      As I hope I conveyed, I keep an open mind. No doubt there is substantial reason and evidence to accept there are other life forms in the Universe. In fact, I HOPE they're smarter than we are at this point!!

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 2 years ago from Earth

      I never have any problem with those who have a skeptical attitude toward the paranormal. In fact, its important if there are going to be genuine debates on phenomenon such as UFO abductions. However, it's never cool to diminish the views of another person through ridicule, no matter what the subject matter.

      I'll choose to take it in good fun, though, as I'm sure that's how it was meant. If I come across any evidence of the Fred and Wilma abduction I'll write a post about it, though I would immediately suspect that yappy dinosaur of foul play.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Sparkster & cryptid........I guess I've just been hanging out on earth here, not paying attention to much of this.................YES, of course I'm well aware that these claims, incidents and studies have been going on for YEARS. I've read much about Roswell & numerous others.

      I have my doubts on this particular story.......I mean, would aliens really abduct Betty & Barney without Fred & Wilma? And what about Bamm-Bamm & Pebbles? They wouldn't leave the kids behind, would they??? LOL

      Have a great day!

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 2 years ago from Earth

      @fpherj48: I'd guess that the Hills got more grief out of the experience than positive exposure. Remember, this was the first time this had ever (allegedly) happened in modern history. UFO abductions weren't really part of the public's view of the UFO phenomenon back then.

    • sparkster profile image

      Sparkster Publishing 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      fpherj48, you said:

      "IMO if torn apart, studied and investigated by professionals and experts in several fields, over a lengthy period of time, I'm prone to think that there is alternate, more probable reasoning behind the alleged experience these people believe REALLY occurred."

      These studies HAVE been happening over the last few decades and have involved scientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc and they can find no conventional cause of reasonable explanation. Where have you been?? There is also physical trace evidence in many cases. In fact, they are now beginning to come to the conclusion that many of these cases do appear to have genuinely happened.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      The attention, interviews, article & book deals....= $$$$$. People have been known to go even further than this little trick.

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 2 years ago from Earth

      It is indeed a strange story, with plenty questionable facets. One thing that's tougher to explain is, if they did indeed fake the whole thing, why?

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      crytid.....LOL...this is a good article, however fodder for curiosity and open season for skeptics...

      Barney and Betty??? Really? in Barney and Betty RUBBLE?? For heaven's sake, even their names can make us laugh. IMHO, this couple is actually less believable than the Rubbles.

      Do I believe the possibility exists for life on other planets? I happen to keep my mind open to all things being "possible."

      The probability of alien abductions? Not so much. IMO if torn apart, studied and investigated by professionals and experts in several fields, over a lengthy period of time, I'm prone to think that there is alternate, more probable reasoning behind the alleged experience these people believe REALLY occurred.

      However, since the arrival of the cell phone, making it possible for "E.T to phone home," who knows?......Great article! UP+++tweeted & pinned

    • sparkster profile image

      Sparkster Publishing 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      The power of suggestion is always presented in this way in these cases but I think it's important to realize that all abductees have had their experiences before the hypnosis sessions have even happened and that the only reason the hypnosis sessions happen is because of the experiences they've already had, so those experiences couldn't have been planted during the hypnosis sessions - they happened before the hynposis.

      However, as you pointed out, there is still plenty of room for the power of suggestion and the belief of what actually happened during those experiences can be manipulated, whether accidentally or intentionally. There is one researcher I am aware of, I don't know their name off-hand and I haven't read their work (yet), but they propose the theory that there is no such thing as false memory syndrome and that all supposedly false memories are actually repressed memories of real experiences. However, I haven't look into it so I have zero idea about how much credibility there is to those claims.

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 4 years ago from Earth

      sparkster, the only part of this that really makes me wonder is the hypnosis. I'm certainly not an expert on it, but it just seems like there is so much room for the power of suggestion, especially in a case where the hypnosis sessions happened so long after the event. Otherwise I agree: The original story of the UFO sightings and even possible interaction seems plausible, given the circumstance.

    • sparkster profile image

      Sparkster Publishing 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      There are few strange but compelling parts of this story, I'm more inclined to believe it was genuine. I also believe Travis Walton's abduction (which wasn't really an abduction) was also genuine.

      Notice how these two cases in particular were not abductions that happened at night whilst they were asleep in their bedroom (sleep paralysis)... and even if sleep paralysis was responsible how likely is it that both Betty and Barney would both experience it at the same time while asleep in their car? (Barney's hypnosis session confirmed the details of Betty's experience).

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 4 years ago from Earth

      You're right aa. Especially with this story, there is just no way to even guess what really happened that night. Only two people know for sure, but then again they may have been confused into believe something fantastic that wasn't true. Hope your sleep thing gets better! Sounds scary indeed.

    • aa lite profile image

      aa lite 4 years ago from London

      These events are so intriguing and frustrating. What is truth, how do we know that what we experience is really true? Occasionally I have experienced this strange sleep disturbance in which I am waking up, but my body still hasn't come out of its REM paralysis. This is quite scary, and is accompanied by very weird out of body experiences. It is really not a big stretch of imagination to think that one is being abducted by aliens.

      On the other hand, it is not impossible that aliens really are out there.

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 4 years ago from Earth

      Thanks Phil. It's an interesting tale, true or not.

    • Phil Riddel profile image

      Phil Riddel 4 years ago from Scotland

      I've read several versions of this story, but there were some interesting facts here I hadn't seen before. I'm an alien abduction-sceptic, so it's nice to see a good, objective look at the known facts for a change!

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 4 years ago from Earth

      Thanks Georgie! You're right, only they knew the truth.

    • Georgie Lowery profile image

      Georgianna Lowery 4 years ago from Lubbock, TX

      Dang, I'm reading about all kinds of alien stuff today! First the Anunnaki and now Barney and Betty Hill.

      Their story seems interesting, and I believe that they certainly believed it. Who knows for sure, really? Nobody but them and they're both gone.

      As usual, well written, interesting and informative Hub! :)