Sixty-two Year Old UFO Report Continues to Stir Controversy

© Kathleen Marden 2023
All photo and textual rights reserved under the Pan-American and International Copyright Conventions.  

      It is difficult for some, impossible for others, to accept the idea that an average American couple during the final hours of an enjoyable vacation could have been plucked off the highway by a mysterious, silent, hovering craft. It is easier to ignore the facts found in archival documents and develop speculative arguments that might dismiss the reality that altered the course of this couple’s life. Could they have been mistaken? Did they observe a light in the sky that seemed to follow them? Did Betty have a series of dreams that Barney accepted as reality? Were they making it up? Were they experiencing a shared delusion?

     Betty and Barney Hill attempted to dismiss the idea that they had been abducted by extraterrestrials late on the night of  September 19, 1961. Yet mysterious memories of that night were etched into their minds and reinforced by circumstantial and physical evidence. You may know of their report to the US Air Force’s Project Blue Book at Pease Air Force Base in Newington, New Hampshire, on September 21, the day after they arrived home from their vacation trip to Niagara Falls and Montreal, Canada. This paper will offer evidence from the archival record without speculation.

     Barney sketched the following picture from memory on the morning of September 20, 1961. It depicts what he observed as he stood in a field in Lincoln, NH, after the object swooped down over his vehicle. 

     The former chief of police in a small New Hampshire town advised Betty and Barney to file a report at Pease Air Force Base in nearby Newington. It was already nighttime, so they waited until the following day to contact Major Paul W. Henderson.

Report to Pease Air Force Base

The Project Blue Book Bomb Wing SAC report 100-1-61 is a general outline of the sighting. The important points include the following: (The complete report is in the Appendix of my book with Stanton Friedman Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience.)

  • It changed direction abruptly.
  • It stopped and hovered in the air.
  • When it swooped down it was the size of a dinner plate.
  • While hovering, objects began to appear from the body of the “object” like wings with the V shape extended.
  • At this point, they decided to get out of the area and fast.
  • Hill watched by sticking her head out the window, but her view was obstructed, and this prevented her observation of its full departure.
  • They heard short, loud buzzes that they described like someone had dropped a tuning fork, in Lincoln.
  • They could feel these buzzes.
  • They heard them again about thirty miles south of Lincoln near Ashland, but they did not see the object this time.
  • Hill described the flight pattern as “erratic.” It changed directions rapidly. During its flight it ascended and descended numerous times very rapidly. Its flight was described as jerky, not smooth.

Below you will find photocopies of the pertinent information in the Hills' report:

Report to the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena

   On September 26, 1961, after Betty had read The Flying Saucer Conspiracy  (1955) by Major Donald Keyhoe, Director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, she typed a letter to him. She had borrowed the book from the Portsmouth Public Library. It was the first book she had read on this topic.

     NICAP was a scientifically oriented organization burgeoning with retired military and intelligence officers, scientists, and interested members of the public.

This is Betty's  letter:

NICAP's Preliminary Investigation     

     Walter Webb, a conservative NICAP investigator, chairman of the Boston, Massachusetts NICAP subcommittee, and astronomy lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium at the Boston Museum of Science, visited the Hills’ home on October 21, 1961. He  interviewed the Hills separately and together over a period of several hours and wrote a confidential NICAP report on his preliminary investigation of their sighting.   

Walter Webb’s confidential Massachusetts Subcommittee Unit #1 NICAP report dated October 26, 1961, adds the following information that Barney did not report to the USAF because he feared ridicule.

  • The band of lights was not continuous around the object but occupied about half the entire rim, and the other half was dark, causing a twinkling or blinking effect as the object rotated.
  • The UFO came around to the front of the car and stopped midair to the right of the highway 80 to 100 feet above the ground.
  • The lighted edge of the object, a double row of windows through which a cold, bluish-white, fluorescent glow shown, was visible and a red light on each side of the object was seen.
  • The UFO was no longer spinning.
  • Hill braked the car to a halt but left the headlights on and the engine running. He opened the door on his side and stepped out onto the highway for a better look through binoculars.
  • At that moment, the UFO shifted position from right to left in front of the car and hovered in midair.
  • Barney followed it when it moved across the highway. The object tilted downward slightly and began descending slowly in his direction.
  • Now he could see eight to eleven separate figures watching him. They were dressed in black, shiny uniforms and caps with peaks or bills on them. Suddenly there was a “burst of activity.” Everyone turned in unison toward what seemed like a panel and only one remained at the window.
  • The craft filled up the entire field of his binoculars.
  • The one at the window showed an intense concentration that Barney could almost feel, to carry out a plan. Barney believed that he was going to be captured like a “bug in a net.”
  • That is when he knew it was no conventional aircraft but something alien and unearthly containing beings of a superior type, beings that were “somehow not human.”
  • The object was now 50 to 80 feet up and possibly 50 to 100 feet away.

Below you will find a copy of an important page from Walter Webb's report.

Evidence that Something Unknown has Occurred

      When they arrived home Betty discovered that her watch had stopped operating. She set it for the precise time and wound it as was usual for windup watches. It reads 5:16.  She had previously checked the time in Colebrook, NH, and at Cannon Mountain, north of the close encounter field in Lincoln, and her watch was operating as it should have. However, the Hills’ watches were broken when they arrived home. I was aware of this on September 22 or 23 when my family and I visited the Hills.

     Webb’s first report did not mention the evidence they discovered when they arrived home. Betty noticed that her dress had been torn at the zipper and the lining was torn from waist to hemline. Later, she found a pink powdery substance on large areas of her blue dress. The sleeves and lower portion of her dress were heavily saturated with the pink substance.   

     Additionally, Barney discovered a severed leather binocular strap, badly “scraped” tops of his shoes, and vegetative matter on his dress slacks. As stated above, they found shiny spots on the trunk of the 1957 Chevy Bel Air, in the location where they heard the buzzing sounds, and when a compass was placed over them the needle whirled indicating the presence of a magnetic field. My family and I were witnesses to the watches and spots during our visit, but I was only thirteen years old and did not comprehend the significance of the evidence.

The October 1965 Surprise

     The Hill’s UFO abduction case did not generate widespread media publicity until October 25, 1965, when a series of newspaper articles on five consecutive days were published in the Boston Traveler. Award winning journalist John Luttrell had conducted a thorough investigation of the case. He had spoken with Air Force officers at Pease Air Force Base, to members of the three state UFO Study NICAP Group, and to additional witnesses who saw the UFO on the night of the Hills’ encounter.

     Luttrell had written a letter to the Hills promising not to commercialize their experience in any way if they would only grant him an interview. They flatly refused, and when he traveled to their home they fled to my grandparent’s home in Kingston, NH. He wrote a letter to them about his lengthy wait on their doorstep. He also took the opportunity to interview their neighbors. 

     John Luttrell's  first of a series of articles in the Boston Traveler  "A UFO Chiller: Did THEY Seize Couple?" began as follows:

“Their story, although disclosed publicly for the first time, is known to government officials and to scientists around the world investigating unidentified flying objects. Officially, the Air Force, the government's UFO investigatory agency, says this couldn't have happened. Although conceding that other persons reported sighting a UFO at the same time and place as the Hills, the Air Force says the UFO appeared on its radar as a ‘shimmering’- an air mass phenomenon that reflects light from the ground.

But unofficially, it is known that the Hill case is getting top priority attention of the Foreign Technology Division of the Air Force Command at Wright Patterson Field in Dayton, Ohio. The word ‘Foreign’ means foreign to this earth, not simply alien to this country.

This highly secret division, directed by the Central Intelligence Agency, takes over and investigates UFO reports the Air Force itself cannot explain.

 In addition, scientists and astrophysicists in this and other countries are studying the case.” [1]

     As an example of Luttrell’s investigative skills, he noted the difference between the Hills’ initial Project Blue Book report to Pease AFB and a later adjusted report that no longer mentions the craft’s unusual flight pattern and their own radar report. (Factually, there were two radar reports that night.) The writer of the falsified, typed report made a mistake by dating it September 21, 1965, instead of September 21, 1961. Luttrell did a service to the Hills when he revealed evidence of a cover-up. He had spoken to officials at NICAP who informed him of the government cover-up on all UFO reports.

      Additionally, his column spoke of interviews with six witnesses who observed the craft on the night of September 19, 1961.  On July 7, 1976, he replied to an inquiry from UFO investigator Stanton Friedman regarding other witnesses to the craft. 

You will find his letter below:

     Dr. Benjamin Simon, the noted psychiatrist who conducted separate hypnosis sessions with the Hills and reinstated amnesia at the end of each session, was falsely accused to violating confidentiality. Dr. Benjamin Simon as follows: “He (Luttrell) requested an interview with me—which I refused, informing him that I would not discuss the Hills’ case without their written consent and that even with their written permission any discussion would have to depend on my judgment of its potential effect on their emotional health. A month or two later, Mr. Hill, in considerable distress, called to say that the reporter had approached them for an interview—which they had refused. He (the reporter) claimed to have the data on the case which he would publish without an interview with them if they refused to comply.” [2] 

     This experience had a profound impact on Betty and Barney Hill. They did not seek publicity, only understanding from family, close friends, scientists, and military officers. In late October 1965, they were violated by callous individuals who could not imagine the consequences of their actions. As a teenager and young adult, I was a firsthand witness to the aftermath of the Hills' experience. Later, Betty became my mentor. As a trained investigator, I began my formal investigation of their case in 1991. I have all her archival records and have amassed my own collection. I am the trustee of her estate and established her archive at the University of New Hampshire, Milne Special Collections Library. 

[1] John H. Luttrell, “Did THEY Seize Couple?” The Boston Traveler, a division of the Boston Herald Traveler Corporation, Boston, MA. P. 1 and continued on additional pages, 10/25/1965.

[2] Benjamin Simon, “Introduction,” The Interrupted Journey, viii.

Read the Full Story in Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience