On Sept. 19, 1961, Betty and Barney Hill made their way back from Montreal to their home in Portsmouth, N.H., after a vacation.
Driving in a 1957 Chevrolet, the couple were traveling south of Lancaster through the Franconia Notch when they stopped to let their dog take a walk. First Betty and then Barney began watching a strange flying object.
It resembled an enormous pancake, and would descend and hover over them. Spooked by the object, Barney began driving south while Betty kept her eyes on the sky. Both described an unusual buzzing sound and an odd vibration in the car as they continued travelling through the Notch, and then they remembered nothing of the trip until they were passing through Ashland, some 35 miles later.
When they arrived at home, the Hills found that their watches had stopped working (they would never work again), they observed unusual markings on the trunk of their car, and the trip had taken them two hours longer than they expected. During this lost time, the Hills would come to believe they had been taken into a space ship for examination.
The Hills reported the incident to the Air Force, and were interviewed about the experience. The Air Force interviewer concluded the Hills had probably mistaken Jupiter for a flying saucer. Over the next year, the Hills would struggle to recall the events of that night. They would return to the White Mountains to look for the locations where they saw the flying craft.
They tried hypnosis to recover memories of the lost two-hours. Betty had begun dreaming frequently about that night. Through hypnosis recovered memories of a star map that aliens had shown her that she thought described where they had come from.
Barney, under hypnosis, sketched a picture of the alien he remembered seeing.
Betty and Barney Hill Speak
The Hills gradually filled in details of the events of that night, recalling an actual examination by aliens and developing a clearer description of the aliens. They kept their story largely to themselves until 1963, when they shared details of it with members of their church.
In November of 1963 they would tell the story to a group of UFO enthusiasts in Quincy, Mass. And on October of 1965, the story would finally explode. The Boston Traveler published an account of their story drawn from a recording of the Quincy meeting.
The Hills would work with author John G. Fuller on a book about their experiences, The Interrupted Journey. Over the years, the Hills stuck to their story. Skeptics would come up with numerous theories about the Hills. Some would argue that they mistook an aircraft warning light at the top of Cannon Mountain for a flying saucer. Others suggested hallucinations.
Barney, a mail carrier, would die in 1969, Betty, a social worker, in 2004. They told their story in books, magazine articles and on television many times. Though many doubted that the Hills had been abducted and examined by aliens, no one suggested that the Hills did not sincerely believe the story they told.
Today, a roadside marker on the Daniel Webster Highway in Lincoln describes the incident. The marker notes they filed an official Air Force Project Blue Book report of a brightly-lit cigar-shaped craft the next day. ” It notes they did not go public with their story until it was leaked to the Boston Traveler in 1965.
“This is the first widely-reported UFO abduction report in the United States,” it concludes.
This story updated in 2023.
Images: Barney Hill sketch By Barney Hill – https://archive.org/details/interruptedjourn00full/page/n166, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67527733. Betty’s star map By Zeta_reticuli.png: en:User:Clementiderivative work: Gregors (talk) 15:46, 22 February 2011 (UTC) – Zeta_reticuli.png, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13654126. Roadside marker By Kenneth C. Zirkel – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=108804674. Betty and Barney head shots By John G. Fuller (deceased) /Copyright owned by the University of New Hampshire – http://www.kathleen-marden.com/where-the-debunkers-went-wrong.php, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45536736.