We were abducted by aliens: Betty and Barney Hill's unbelievable story

‘We were abducted by aliens’: The unbelievable story of suburban churchgoing couple Betty and Barney Hill, the first Americans to claim they’d been snatched by a UFO

  • In 1961, Betty and Barney Hill claimed they were abducted by a terrifying UFO
  • In questionable hypnosis sessions, they detailed being probed by the aliens
  • They built a following as the first Americans claiming to be abducted by a UFO, transforming from a churchgoing couple to conspiracy theory darlings

On a cold September night in 1961, Betty and Barney Hill found themselves in a game of cat and mouse. 

The couple were driving through a deserted, winding New Hampshire road for hours without a witness in sight, convinced a terrifying UFO was circling above them. 

When they got home, they felt disoriented and dazed. Barney’s shoes were scuffed, Betty’s dress was ripped, and neither felt they could recall what exactly happened that night. 

In a search for answers, they enlisted a hypnotist, and their infamous sessions saw them both conjure bizarre stories about being abducted by grey, bug-eyed extraterrestrials. 

Their admissions made them famous as the first Americans to claim being abducted by aliens – but the next decades erupted into a twisted saga of fame, conspiracy theories and death. 

The saga is set to be the subject in upcoming book ‘The Abduction of Betty and Barney Hill’ by author Matthew Bowman. He told Dailymail.com that the revival of conspiracy theories, from the JFK assassination to QAnon, can be traced back to the Hills.

‘UFOs have become interwoven right with various conspiracies about politics, science, medicine, health, even religion… their case is really a pivot point,’ he told DailyMail.com. 

Betty (left) and Barney Hill (right) were the first Americans who claimed they were abducted by aliens in September 1961

In recent years, a newfound public fascination with UFOs has seen droves of whistleblowers come out of the woodwork to tell their tales of alien encounters. 

And while even Barack Obama has admitted he watched UFO footage he ‘can’t explain’, the typecast alien look has a history dating back to the Hills in 1961. 

In a book published five years later, Barney said the two embarked on their road trip spontaneously, as a way to steal a quick retreat from their jobs as a post office worker and child-welfare officer. 

They embarked on a trip through Montreal and Niagara Falls, something of a long-awaited honeymoon for the couple over a year after their wedding. 

But as they drove back on the third night, they reached a diner in Vermont, where Barney decided to push ahead to stay in front of a storm and aim to reach home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire at around 3am. 

While winding through the country roads, an ominous light emerged in the sky, described as a falling star that appeared to grow ever brighter. 

So the story goes, the object was an anomalous spinning disk that hovered around 100 feet in the air. 

The light seemed to track the car as it mazed through the wilderness, ducking behind trees and leaving the occupants completely bewildered over what they were seeing. 

The couple underwent extensive hypnosis sessions, where they claimed to vividly recall being beamed into the UFO and probed by aliens 

The ordeal is the subject of an upcoming book by author Matthew Bowman 

Faced with explaining the nonsensical meeting, the Hills thought it best to keep quiet. Their memories were almost completely gone, and no one had ever claimed to experience anything similar before. 

After recurring nightmares and anxiety crippled the couple, however, they turned to hypnosis in an attempt to dig out their suppressed traumatic memories. 

In sessions recorded by the hypnotist, Dr Benjamin Simon, the Hills detailed beings eerily familiar to abduction tales of years since. Betty was palpably traumatized by the ordeal, as she claimed she and her husband were beamed into a flying saucer, taken into separate rooms, and analyzed. 

Simon spent months piecing their story together, finding they both had oddly similar experiences. 

They said they were placed on examination tables in the UFO, before being subjected to scientific experiments while the aliens stripped them, plucked their hair, took clippings of their nails, and scraped their skin. 

Betty also claimed to have been shown an intricate star map that she knew from memory. When asked to produce it later, she identified star system Zeta Reticuli, around 39 lightyears from earth, as her abductor’s home planet. 

Their story was picked up by a Boston reporter and spread like wildfire, propelling the Hills into fame and fascination. In 1975, a made-for-TV movie starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons was made about their story. 

Their story was turned into 1975 made-for-TV movie ‘Alien Abduction’ starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons

An image allegedly drawn by Betty Hill in 1961, depicting a UFO she claimed to have been abducted by

Before the Hills came out with their claims over six decades ago, stories of alien abductions were far different – and bordered on nonexistent. 

Most appeared to be about more casual encounters where the extraterrestrials were friendly. After the Hills captured national attention, abductions almost all came to include issues including medical experiments and invasions. 

The stereotypical wide-eyed, grey beings and plate-like UFO described by the Hills also went on to become a benchmark for other alien sightings for decades to come. 

‘Not to carry it over too far, but they were kind of the Adam and Eve of alien abduction,’ said Bill Ross, Professor Emiritus of UNH, to NewsCenterMaine. 

Just as with skeptics now, experts tried to explain how the couple, who were seemingly regular, stable individuals with no prior history of mental illness, could come up with such a tall tale. Even Simons, who conducted the hypnosis sessions on them, said he didn’t believe their story. 

But after Barney’s death in 1969 at the age of 47, Betty seemingly struggled with people questioning her story alone. 

She dove further into conspiracy theories in her later life, and she claimed to be followed by black helicopters as she became increasingly alienated from society.

Betty also claimed to be abducted several more times in the years since, as she earned legendary place within the conspiracy theory world. 

Betty and Barney Hill are credited as forever changing UFO sightings and conspiracy theories

Now, more than 60 years on from the Hills’ encounter with the third kind, experts have warned their legacy has had a lasting impact on conspiracy theories today. 

Discussing his book, Bowman insisted that the dismissal the Hills were faced with when they came forward with their story, including from their own hypnotist, could have made them dig in. 

‘It would have been a real slap in the face for them, and that’s the point they began giving up on the idea that the government, scientists, experts are going to help them.

‘They turned to this alternative infrastructure of conspiracy theorists who will affirm to them what they remember.’ 

He added that the revival of conspiracy theories, from the JFK assassination to QAnon, can be traced back to the Hills and the first UFO sighting. 

‘One of the quintessential features of the last 60 years in western history is a distrust of institutions and the emergence of conspiratorial thinking,’ he said. 

‘The sense among many citizens in the west, that there are vast institutional powers running our lives, a major vector for that sort of discourse stemmed from belief in UFOs.’ 

But, as put by Harvard psychologist Richard McNally to History: ‘The ‘alien-abduction’ phenomenon, in my opinion, shows how sincere, non-psychotic individuals can develop beliefs about, and false memories of, incredible experiences that never happened.’ 

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