The Original “Alien Abduction” Story That Launched A Thousand Bogus Tales

Published May 31, 2018
Updated June 13, 2018

Betty and Barney Hill were the first people to claim to be abducted by aliens, and have an in-depth story to back it up.

Barney And Betty Hill Newspaper

Universal History Archive/ UIG via Getty Images Barney and Betty Hill were an American couple, allegedly abducted by extra-terrestrials.

When husband and wife duo Barney and Betty Hill walked into Dr. Benjamin Simon’s office one December day in 1963 for a consultation, the psychiatrist first assumed that they had come to discuss problems from their interracial marriage.

However, Dr. Simon was mistaken and concluded that the “crippling anxiety” that both Hills suffered from (which Mrs. Hill “manifested…in the form of repetitive, nightmarish dreams”) was rooted around a “period of several hours” that the couple could not entirely account for. They both had “a feeling that something occurred” but could not recall what. Dr. Simon recommended they undergo hypnosis to try and recover their lost memories; he had no idea the explosive chain of events he had set in motion.

Barney And Betty Hill’s Abduction

The lost period of time had occurred two years prior, in September 1961. Barney and Betty Hill were driving home from a vacation in Canada, passing through the White Mountains on their way back to New Hampshire. The couple had run out of cash and were, therefore, driving straight through the night, with only the moon illuminating a highway empty but for their car. Betty had noticed that there was a “particularly bright star, perhaps a planet” in the sky that night, but she was slightly startled when she noticed “another star or planet” appear as they continued on their way.

At first, Betty said nothing, but soon she began to observe that the bright object appeared to be getting bigger and that it appeared to be following their car, “changing its course in an erratic manner.” After she alerted her husband to the strange phenomenon, he attempted to brush it off as a satellite or plane that had veered off course. However, he too began to get nervous as the object got closer and closer and he realized that it was almost completely silent: they would definitely have been able to hear the plane’s engines at such a close range.

The Hills became increasingly more afraid as it became clearer that the object was indeed tracking them and that it was obviously no aircraft that they could recognize. Finally, the “pancake-like disc, glowing with brilliant white light” hovered nearly directly in front of them and “they each began to feel an odd, tingling drowsiness come over them.” When they awoke, Barney was still driving them down the highway, as though nothing had happened.

Hills With Diagram

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

Betty was pretty immediately ready to believe what they had encountered was a UFO: her own sister had seen one year earlier. Barney was more skeptical until he revealed under hypnosis that he and his wife “creatures” with slanted eyes had taken them aboard a UFO for experiments. Although Dr. Simon himself did not believe them, the couple soon found journalists eager to cover their story and it wasn’t long until they were both famous.

After The Abduction

Barney and Betty Hill’s alien abduction story is widely considered the first of its kind ever recorded: all subsequent abduction stories for the most part mirror theirs. Interestingly, throughout the relatively recent reports of encounters with the third kind, it seems the stories follow the introduction of the tropes into pop culture, rather than the other way around.

In the two years, a TV -movie of the Hills encounter aired, other reports of alien abductions (again, an entirely new phenomenon in the history of mankind) increased a reported %2,500. Many of the abduction stories that followed shared similar basic aspects with the Hills account: a recollection of bright lights, a loss of memory, and mysterious physical feelings after.

Skeptics, such as Dr. Simon, think that Betty’s eagerness to believe in UFOs and the subsequent power of suggestion led the couple to recall false memories under hypnosis (which is not in itself a full-proof way to recover lost memories. The fact that an alien character on an episode of the TV show Outer Limits that aired only a few weeks before the Hills encounter closely resembled the slant-eyed creatures they described dis not help their case. It seems far more likely that the couple was sleep-deprived and that the two bright lights they saw in the night sky were in fact, Jupiter and Saturn (whose positions matched those of the objects described by the couple).

Regardless of the logic of the skeptics, there were (and are) thousands who were willing to believe the Hills story, setting the stage for an entirely new kind of myth to be established in modern America.


Next, check out the study that claims octopuses are actually aliens. Then, read about the secret government experiments that may make you believe in aliens.

Gina Dimuro
Gina Dimuro is a New York-based writer and translator.
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