Betty and Barney Hill were an American married couple who rose to fame after they claimed to have been abducted by extraterrestrials on September 19-20, 1961. The couple's widely publicized story, commonly called the Hill Abduction, and occasionally the Zeta Reticuli Incident, was that they were victims of a UFO abduction.
The Hills lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Barney (1923-1969) was employed by the U.S. Postal Service, while Betty (1919-2004) was a social worker. Active in a Unitarian congregation, the Hills were also members of the NAACP and community leaders, and Barney sat on a local board of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
They were a mixed race couple at a time in America when that was unusual: Barney was African-American and Betty was Caucasian.
The evening of September 19, 1961, the Hills were driving back to Portsmouth from a vacation in upstate New York and Quebec. Since it was late at night, and because the summer tourist season was over, there were few other cars on the road as they traveled south. South of Groveton, New Hampshire, they are said to have observed a bright point of light in the sky. Initially, they thought that they were observing a shooting star, only it fell upward and stopped near the gibbous moon. While Barney navigated U.S. Route 3, Betty reasoned that she was observing a communication satellite and urged Barney to stop the car for a closer look and to walk their dog, Delsey. Worried about the presence of bears, Barney removed a pistol that he had hidden away in the trunk of the car.
Betty, whose sister had confided to her about having a flying saucer sighting several years earlier, observed the object through binoculars as it moved across the face of the moon flashing multicolored lights. Barney, who had not observed the craft, thought the light was a conventional aircraft. Betty was perplexed by the unconventional appearance of the object.
The Hills reported that they continued driving on the isolated, mostly abandoned road, moving very slowly so they could observe the object as it came even closer. Though the object was sporadically obscured by the mountain peaks, it seemed to be moving in unison with the topography. It also dipped in front of the peaks and descended slowly in their direction. At one point the object appeared to land on top of Cannon Mountain, but quickly began moving again. At times, it seemed to resemble the flight pattern of a ball and paddle game, rapidly approaching the Hills' vehicle, then receding.
Approximately one mile south of Indian Head, the craft rapidly descended toward the Hills' vehicle causing Barney to stop directly in the middle of the highway. Opening the car door for a closer look, he pocketed his pistol and grabbed his binoculars. The craft descended to approximately 80-100 feet above the Hills' 1957 Chevrolet and filled the entire field of the windshield through which Betty was observing. Barney stepped away from the vehicle and moved closer to the object, which shifted like a pendulum from the west side of the car, east above the adjacent field. Using the binoculars, Barney claimed to have seen about 8 to 11 humanoid figures who were peering out of the craft's windows, seeming to look at him. Suddenly, with military precision, all but one of the figures moved to what appeared to be an instrument panel as though they were about to perform an important task. The one remaining figure continued to look at Barney and communicated a message to him to ''stay where you are and keep looking.'' At that instant red lights on what appeared to be bat-wing fins began to telescope out of the sides of the craft and a long structure descended from the bottom of the craft. The silent craft approached to what Barney estimated was within 50-80 feet overhead and 50-100 feet away from him.
Suddenly overwhelmed with fear, Barney tore the binoculars away from his eyes and ran back to his car, saying, ''They're going to capture us!'' (Clark, 276) Prior to entering the car, he observed the object again shift its location to directly above the vehicle. He drove away at high speed, telling Betty to look for the object. She rolled down the window and looked up, but saw only darkness above them. Barney was afraid that the object was hovering directly over the car and blocking Betty's view of the stars.
Almost immediately, a series of mechanical buzzing sounds, loud enough to cause the vehicle to vibrate, seemed to come from the rear end of the car. Betty touched the metal on the passenger door expecting to feel an electric shock, but felt only the vibration. The Hills say they experienced the onset of an altered state of consciousness that left their minds dulled, and that they also felt a tingling sensation throughout their bodies.
When passing through Plymouth, New Hampshire, another series of beeping sounds seemed to come from the back of the car. Barney stopped the vehicle and drove erratically from side to side to attempt to reproduce the buzzing sound. However, he could not recreate it. When the beeping stopped, Betty said, ''Now do you believe in flying saucers?'' Irritated, Barney said, ''Don't be ridiculous.'' (Clark, 276)
Arriving home at about dawn, the Hills assert that they had some odd sensations and impulses they could not readily explain: Betty insisted that their luggage be kept near the back door rather than in the main part of the house. Barney noted that the leather strap for the binoculars was torn, though he could not recall it tearing. Barney says he was compelled to examine his genitals in the bathroom, though he found nothing unusual. They took long showers to remove possible contamination and each drew a picture of what they had observed. Their drawings were uncannily similar.
Perplexed, the Hills say they tried to reconstruct the chronology of events as they witnessed the UFO and drove home. But immediately after they heard the buzzing sounds their memories became incomplete and fragmented, and they could not determine a continuous chain of events. Barney recalled saying ''Oh no, not again'', though he could not place the comment in context. (Clark, 277)
After sleeping for a few hours, Betty woke and placed the shoes and clothing she had worn during the drive into her closet, observing that the dress was torn at the hem, zipper and lining. Afraid she had been exposed to radiation, Betty says she never again wore those items. Later, when Betty retrieved the items from her closet, Betty says she noted a pinkish powder on her dress, but had no idea where it might have come from. She threw the dress away, but later changed her mind, retrieving the dress and hanging it on a clothesline. The powder vanished in the wind, though Betty says a few pink stains were left on the dress. Over the years, five laboratories have conducted chemical and forensic analysis on the dress.
On September 21, Betty telephoned Pease Air Force Base to report their UFO encounter, though, for fear of being labeled a crackpot she withheld some of the details. On September 22, Major Paul W. Henderson telephoned the Hills for a more detailed interview, lasting about 30 minutes. Henderson's report, dated September 26, determined that the Hills had probably misidentified the planet Jupiter. His report was forwarded to Project Blue Book, the U.S. Air Force's UFO research project.
Within days of the encounter, Betty borrowed several UFO books from a local library. One of the books had been written by retired Marine Corps Major Donald E. Keyhoe, who was also the head of NICAP, a civilian UFO research group.
Within two weeks of the UFO encounter, Betty says she was troubled with recurrent nightmares. They occurred almost nightly, and were so vivid that her mind was occupied with thoughts of the dream throughout the day.
On September 26, Betty wrote to Keyhoe. She related the full story, including the details about the humanoid figures that she had neglected to report to the Air Force. Betty wrote that she and Barney were greatly bothered by their seemingly incomplete memories of the UFO encounter, and that they were considering hypnosis to help recall what had happened. Her letter was eventually passed on to Walter N. Webb, a Boston astronomer and NICAP member.