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The First ‘Alien Abduction’ Case to Cause a Media Frenzy

Matthew Gaskill
Barney and Betty Hill. Getty Images
Barney and Betty Hill. Getty Images

In 1966, the book The Interrupted Journey was released, detailing the unusual experiences of Betty and Barney Hill, a couple from New Hampshire. In 1975, acclaimed actors James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons played the Hills in a TV adaptation of the couples’ experience entitled The UFO Incident.

You see, Betty and Barney Hill reportedly were taken aboard an alien spacecraft for two hours and were the subject of medical experiments. Sound familiar? Well, in 1961 it didn’t: Betty and Barney Hill’s case was the first alien abduction claim to be given any real attention in the media and by the public. Even today, more than five decades later, people who go public with their belief that they were abducted by creatures from another planet (or dimension) are subject to ridicule and often the targets of suggestions that they “seek mental help.”

The Hills did exactly that. Years before their book and movie came out, the couple sought out professional mental help because they could not explain what was happening to them, and what had or had not happened to them. What did the Hills say had happened?

Barney and Betty Hill who claim to have been abducted by aliens describe their experience as Barney holds up a diagram

Barney and Betty Hill who claim to have been abducted by aliens describe their experience as Barney holds up a diagram

They were coming home from vacation in Niagara Falls and Montreal, driving through an isolated section of New Hampshire at about 10:30 pm. At one point, Betty started watching a bright light in the sky. Initially, she believed that it was a shooting star, but it lasted far too long – and was moving up, not down. After a short time, the “shooting star” started moving erratically and changing brightness.

She saw a craft with multicolored lights and an odd shape moving across the Moon. Betty almost right away thought “flying saucer” — her sister had reported seeing one sometime before, and in the “space-happy” times of the early 1960s, there were many reports of unexplained phenomena in the sky.

Barney was more of a skeptic: he believed he was seeing a plane traveling toward Montreal. Barney was an aviation enthusiast and a veteran. He was familiar with the way planes flew, which is why he got a bit nervous when the “plane” suddenly changed direction in a way that a plane could not and descended toward the couple.

Beautiful view on Niagara Falls in daylight

Beautiful view on Niagara Falls in daylight

The couple continued driving through the woods of New Hampshire and as they traveled, the “plane” followed them, sometimes closely, sometimes far away. Barney reckoned that maybe the cars’ movement made it seem like the “plane” was coming closer and then further away.

Betty urged her husband to stop the car and take a look. They could also walk their dog while outside – at this point, the Hills thought they were seeing something unusual in the sky, but nothing threatening. When they stopped, Betty looked through a pair of binoculars and saw a spinning craft with multicolored lights. She told her husband that if he thought the object was a plane or a star, he was being “ridiculous.”

Barney was a bit more concerned than he let on – he didn’t want to scare his wife even more than she was. He ran through the options in his mind: it was too quiet to be a helicopter or a plane, but it seemed to move with intention. What the heck was it? The Hill’s got back in the car and headed back towards home – this time moving at 70 mph down curving New Hampshire roads. The thing kept following them.

UFO flying over forest at night.

UFO flying over forest at night.

They stopped again and Barney got out of the car, this time with a handgun. A vet, he felt comfortable with guns – and, in the environment of 1961, even in accepting New Hampshire, Barney Hill was aware that many people did not like the fact that he was married to Betty: he was black and she was white. Why is this important? Because many people thought that people claiming to see UFO’s and other unexplained phenomena were simply looking for attention. A quiet, professional African-American man married to a white woman in 1961, Barney Hill was decidedly not looking for attention.

When Barney got out of the car, the craft was hovering above the road. It was as long as a jet, but flat as a pancake. It also had windows, and through the windows, Barney could see figures that were decidedly not human. He began to raise his gun, but a voice, seemingly inside his head, told him not to lower his binoculars to grab his weapon. Barney thought to himself “This can’t be real.”

He snapped out of his fascination and ran back to the car – now he was afraid. He had one thought – these things were trying to capture he and Betty. He ran back to the car, and the couple started speeding down the road, Betty watching the UFO following them, Barney driving. They started hearing loud beeping coming from the direction of their trunk.

An alleged flying saucer seen over Passaic, New Jersey in 1952

An alleged flying saucer seen over Passaic, New Jersey in 1952

The Hills next remembrance was waking up 35 miles down the road two hours later. They remembered nothing else. When they got home, both of them said they felt compelled to check their private parts for some reason – both felt a sense of violation but remembered nothing. After conferring, they called the Air Force, which sent interviewers. They even gave a talk to an association that focused on “flying saucers,” but beyond what is written above, they could not remember anything about their “missing time.”

They began visiting Dr. Benjamin Simon, a respected psychiatrist and neurologist. Over the next few months, the Hills’ began to make sense of their “missing time”: they were indeed, they said, captured by alien beings (who looked very much like with the familiar “grays” that many “abductees” report today). Both reported being in sort of a semi-trance, aware of what was happening around them, but unable to do anything about it.

Stripped naked, hair and nail samples were taken, as were skin scrapings. Needles were inserted in their heads, arms, legs, and spines. Most of these procedures were relatively painless, with the exception of one: Betty’s belly was pierced by a needle some 4-6 inches long. She believed they were checking her for pregnancy. At one point the creatures left Betty’s room in a hurry – under hypnosis, Barney revealed that they had found his dentures fascinating.

UFO stock image

UFO stock image

Throughout this experience, a “leader” alien was present, watching. Betty “spoke ”with it, via a form of telepathy. The creature even joked with her when she asked told it she didn’t know much about the universe. “If you don’t know where you are, there would not be any point in telling you where I am from.” However, the alien did show her a “map,” which she reconstructed under hypnosis. Soon after, the Hills were released and found themselves in their car.

Read another story from us: Ancient Aliens – Bizarre Theories and Evidence Throughout History

If much of this sounds familiar, it should, but the Hills were the first ones to report on “missing time,” gray aliens, and medical experiments. A quiet couple who shunned the spotlight, the Hills became national news in 1965, when a Boston paper picked up the (by then) old story.

Barney Hill died in 1969. Betty died in 2004, believing that she had been visited numerous times over the years.