Debunkery Versus Research
© Kathleen Marden, January 2016
On Christmas night 2015, I received an email message from blogger Andre Skondras informing me that debunker Robert Sheaffer, an associate of Philip Klass and longstanding member of CSI (formerly CSICOP), had posted never before published letters allegedly written by Dr. Benjamin Simon to Philip Klass, along with several letters that Betty had written to Klass. One of the letters attracted my interest because was in Betty Hill's files. I had considered publishing part of it in my book with Stanton Friedman Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience, but decided not to do so because my research findings posed questions with regard to its authenticity. Betty thought it was a forgery, and Dr. Simon's close associates found it uncharacteristic of him. I will explain the history of my research below.
The letter in question bears Dr. Simon's letterhead and signature and was dated March 1, 1976, five years prior to his death. Philip Klass mailed the letter to Betty Hill in 1988, probably as one of his many attempts to inflict injury upon her. The letter (posted below) spoke of Dr. Simon's intent to “give the true story of the Betty and Barney Hill affair” before John Fuller had gotten his "hooks" into it, and his new intent to write a book, perhaps with guidance from Klass. Its tone seemed uncharacteristic of the other letters in Betty's file that had been written by Dr. Simon. I found the letter truly perplexing because, although his dream conjecture had been published time and time again, and Betty was fully aware of his opinion, he had never written an unkind letter to Betty and Barney. In fact, he had taken an active role in the production of Fuller's book and profited handsomely from it, as well as from the movie The UFO Incident, and had expressed his opinions in both.
Betty had marked "FORGED LETTER!” on the letter and "Dr. Simon knew only John Fuller could write about us-part of the contract when he wrote our book The Interrupted Journey". As part of my research for my book Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience, with Stanton Friedman, I had contacted an individual and two of his associates who were close to Dr. Simon, for an opinion. I am protecting their identities out of concern for their privacy. They replied, "I do know that (Ben Simon) was very circumspect with regard to sharing his opinions about the Hill case, and it would be highly uncharacteristic of him to opine as in the letter...I personally felt that the style and phraseology were not characteristic of (Ben Simon's) writing. I sent copies to (my associates) and both felt that the letters to Mr. Klass were almost certainly not written by (Ben Simon)."
An important point to consider is the non-competition clause that Dr. Simon had signed. He could not have legally written a book on the Hill case as long as Fuller was alive, so why had he written to a well-known debunker about his intent to write a book about his personal opinion on the Hill's event? Did he really intend to subvert his own role in The Interrupted Journey, reduce his royalty payments, and face a lawsuit from Fuller and Hill? Hill had already requested permission to write her own book, but Fuller had denied it. She published the book after his death.
With regard to the veracity of the Hill's experience, it is important to remember that the case was investigated by several technical and scientific people who supported the possibility that it might have been a real event. Although the term “racial paranoia” is used in the letter in question,to account for the Hill’s experience, their psychiatrist stated that neither was psychotic. Nor was it a joint fabrication, a folie a` deux, or a hoax. (Fuller, John. The Interrupted Journey. Pp. 291-291.) The original investigation documents indicate that Barney had conscious, continuous recall of observing figures on the craft that were "somehow not human" which caused a severe emotional reaction. (Walter Webb's NICAP Report) The psychiatrist opined that Barney's racial sensitivity increased the intensity of his emotional reaction. You'll find my comparative analysis of the Hill's statements under hypnosis in Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience. I was skeptical about their abduction memories, because some of Betty's memories were nearly identical to her dreams. I also noted that Dr. Simon had searched for a psychological explanation and apparently did not believe that they had been abducted by aliens. Yet, Betty and Barney spoke of information that was not in her dream material and their statements were identical, including the number of non-human entities who were standing in a certain position at a certain time. Sometimes their correlating statements contradicted the information in her dreams.
Mr. Sheaffer attempted to fracture my credibility by stating that I somehow share in Betty’s “delusion” that Dr. Simon had rejected the abduction hypothesis. This is absurd. Betty and I were both aware that Dr. Simon had developed the dream hypothesis, stating that the percipient’s emotional reaction to the UFO might have produced some “perceptive and illusory” misinterpretations. (Fuller, p. 292). He had stated this in IJ and in the media. The fact is that I had listened to Dr. Simon’s statements in interviews pertaining to the televised movie the UFO Incident and have discussed this on radio shows in the past. But Mr. Sheaffer seems confused in reference to my opinions and level of knowledge pertaining to this case, unless he is simply feigning ignorance for the purpose of destroying my credibility. This may be the case, as he has posted false information on his blog.
Mr. Sheaffer stated that Dr. Simon had rejected the abduction hypothesis on radio shows, as if he believed I had somehow missed this in my research. The fact is that I had listened to Dr. Simon’s statements in interviews pertaining to the televised movie the UFO Incident and have discussed this on radio shows in the past. But Mr. Sheaffer seems confused in reference to my opinions and level of knowledge pertaining to this case, unless he is simply attempting to destroy my credibility. His attacks on me certainly make it appear this way.
It appears that there is some confusion over my statements with regard to Dr. Simon’s support of Betty and Barney. Several researchers have asked me if he was supportive of them. My response has been “Yes, he was very supportive of them.” I did not say, “Dr. Simon was fully supportive of their belief that they had experienced a real abduction.” I have referred to his kind, sympathetic, compassionate relationship with Betty and Barney. Certainly, his opinion on the topic of alien abduction differed. I’ve stated this many times. But he did not state this in a cruel, malicious manner. He was sensitive and caring when he explained his reason for developing his dream hypothesis. Of course, even today we do not have proof one way or the other with regard to the reality of the Hill’s abduction experience. We have only the evidence that favors their opinion.
Betty Hill and Dr. Simon's associates had reason to suspect that the letter had not been written by him. Several of the points in Dr. Simon's letter are not supported by the evidence, but Mr. Sheaffer clings to his firmly held belief that Dr. Simon's subjective memory was as clear in 1976 as it was in 1961, when he listened to the Hill's statements. I have the hypnosis tapes and have verified that some of the statements in the alleged Simon letter are not borne out by the evidence. Regardless of how committed Mr. Sheaffer is to his belief that alien abduction is impossible, it is unethical to subvert the facts.
Dr. Simon's testimony on his belief that Betty and Barney had not experienced a real abduction by aliens was delivered in a sensitive and explanatory manner. His statement on the Larry Glick Show (11/24/1975) is as follows: "Barney and Betty gave the same story and this story was precisely like the story that was written by the NICAP investigator. There were no differences between the three. It was the same story they gave consciously. There was no difference. They both shared the same experience all the way. It had me in a bind and I was now faced with certain decisions that I couldn't make. I was faced with a story that was very fantastic. If this were real and true, I would have to believe that the supposed people were from outer space and having what everyone hopes we'll have and nobody has proved at all-visitation from outer space. I believed in their honesty. But the story was fantastic and unreal and had to be accepted or rejected." Subsequent to this he made a similar statement on another show. Klass had mailed the tape recording to Betty, along with a nasty comment.
There is evidence that Dr. Simon was under pressure from his peers with regard to making a decision to go down in history as the doctor who endorsed visitation from outer space or for the outstanding history he had as a neuro-psychiatrist. This information is at John Fuller's archival collection at Boston University. He was entitled to his opinion that the abduction was a shared dream, as are those who have offered a skeptical opinion. However, he had not investigated the case or examined the evidence, whereas others who have done so have reached an opposite opinion. The hard, cold fact is that no one knows the answer.
Mr. Sheaffer challenged me to produce evidence that Dr. Simon had ever written a supportive letter to Betty. I entered into the record a letter dated December 8, 1966. Dr. Simon wrote, "I don't think any of the unanswered questions will be answered by dialectic discussions between 'believers' and 'non-believers' and I was happy to see that emphasized by Dr. Hynek in the articles, 'Are Flying Saucers Real?' which appeared in the 'Saturday Evening Post', December 17, 1966. I fully agree with Dr. Hynek in his point of view--and this is my point of view. Phenomena must be assessed and the excavation of little items such as Mr. Baller's data which he purported to have received from his daughter does no more than Menzel's production of phenomena which could explain U.F.O.s, nor Klass's electronic plasma. While these could explain the phenomena they do not explain your experiences, and I have steadily held that you probably did have an experience with the sighting." (emphasis added.) This statement is inconsistent with Dr. Simon's statement in a letter he allegedly wrote to Philip Klass.
We will probably never know for certain if the letter was indeed written by Dr. Simon or if Philip Klass created it as a “got ya” letter to Betty. I could not find it in his archival collection, so this raised additional questions with regard to its authenticity.
Three of the letters that I referenced are copied below. I had posted the other two, but my colleague advised me to remove then, as they hinted at the identities of Dr. Simon's close associates. Therefore, I removed them. I would not want these innocent professionals attacked, as Betty and I have been.
The following letter is Betty Hill's rough draft of her reply to Philip Klass after she inspected the letter that was allegedly written by Dr. Simon. She points out factual errors in the letter allegedly written to Klass by Dr. Simon. Klass believed that he knew more about my family's personal business than we did. The fact is that we lived it and had all of the evidence.
The following letter was written to Betty by Dr. Simon. Robert Sheaffer had demanded proof that Dr. Simon had ever written a supportive letter to Betty. You'll notice that it also dispels some of the misinformation that has been entered into evidence by skeptics. Dr. Simon stated, "...nor did I make such remarks as Mr. Baller attributes to me... "At no time have I interpreted your dreams or statements, not do I intend to."...I have steadily held that you probably did have an experience with the sighting."
The following is the "Got ya" letter that Philip Klass mailed to Betty Hill seven years after Dr. Simon's death. It was allegedly written by Dr. Simon. However, Betty thought it was a forgery, as it was inconsistent with legal agreements that he had entered into, and was factually in error with regard to his contribution to The Interrupted Journey.