Betty and Barney Hill: The Documented Evidence

and Media Distortion

© Kathleen Marden 2023


     Nearly everyone reading this paper knows that Betty and Barney Hill believed they had been abducted by extraterrestrial visitors late on the night of September 19, 1961. Some of you know that they filed a report of their UFO sighting to  Pease Air Force Base in Newington, New Hampshire, on September 21, the day after they arrived home from the vacation trip to Niagara Falls and Montreal, Canada. 

The Project Blue Book Bomb Wing SAC report 100-1-61 is a general outline of the sighting. The important points are listed below: 

  • 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.

     On September 26, after Betty had read her first book on UFOs, The Flying Saucer Conspiracy (1955) by Major Donald Keyhoe, she typed a letter to Keyhoe, the Director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. NICAP was a scientifically oriented organization burgeoning with members of the military, both active and retired, scientists, and interested members of the public. Her letter brought Walter Webb, a conservative NICAP investigator, chairman of the Boston, Massachusetts Subcommittee, and astronomy lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium at the Boston Museum of Science, to the Hills’ home on October 21, 1961.

     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 in 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. 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.

     Webb did not tape record the eight hour interview with the Hills, both separately and together, nor did he collect photographic or physical evidence on his first visit to the Hill's home. But later he traveled with the Hills along the route they had driven and photographed the important landmarks. Webb was a highly respected investigator, one of the best, but he had not previously investigated a case of this significance.

      I interviewed Walter Webb during my investigation of the Hill case and he told me that he would have borrowed a recording device if he had comprehended the magnitude of this case. Recording devices in 1961 were the size of a picnic cooler and had reel to reel tape. His friend wrote the Hill's statements on paper and a few days later, he wrote his NICAP investigation report. 

     There is a small error in his original report over the Hill's precise location  when Betty's attention was drawn to a new light in the sky. His report states that Betty first saw a new light in the sky about midnight in Groveton, NH. Months later, the Hills cleared up their error when they retraced their route. They remembered checking the time at 10:05 PM when they left Howard’s restaurant in Colebrook. The distance from Colebrook to Groveton is 20.44 miles and Barney reported that he was driving above the speed limit because it was a bright, light night and visibility was good. When they retraced their route, Betty and Barney realized that she first spotted the unidentified aerial light south of Lancaster, which is 8.1 miles south of Groveton.     

     After making observational stops at the Mount Cleveland picnic area and the Old Man of the Mountain, the couple arrived at the close encounter field in Lincoln at about midnight. (They had driven into the parking lot at the Flume, but tall trees obstructed their view.) They stopped again south of the Indian Head Resort when the craft swooped down and stopped to the right of Route 3. In fact, Barney stopped in the middle of the road to avoid driving under the silent disk that was now looming only two hundred feet overhead.      

Sketch by Barney Hill on September 20, 1961. © Betty and Barney Hill Family photo collection

The distance from Colebrook to the close encounter field in Lincoln is approximately 70 miles. Given the Hills’ four stops to observe the approaching craft it makes sense that they arrived in Lincoln shortly before midnight. At speed of 45 miles per hour the drive would have taken about one hour and 33 minutes. Barney stated that he had exceeded the speed limit. This gave the Hills ample time for their observational stops.  

     Webb accurately noted Barney’s account of his time in the close encounter field in Lincoln. In a letter to NICAP, dated September 26, 1961, Betty wrote of Barney's description of the "figures seemed to be dressed in some type of shiny black uniform." 

Excerpt from Walter Webb's confidential NICAP report, October 26, 1961

Betty's letter to NICAP and Webb's report make it clear that Barney fled for the safety of his car, which he had left running with the headlights blazing. Attempting to evade the craft and and its non-human occupants, he drove at a rapid pace down the highway. He was fearful because he saw the craft moving in his direction as he approached the car, so he instructed Betty to attempt to locate the craft. 

     Betty rolled down her window and looked up, but her view of the sky was obstructed by something. All she saw was blackness. She rolled up the window and advised Barney that she could not see the lights from the craft.

     She and Barney had traveled only five or six blocks when they heard a series of code-like buzzing sounds striking the trunk of their two tone blue and white 1957 Chevy Bel Air. During my investigation of their case, Betty informed me that she and Barney sensed  a vibration and a tingling sensation pass through their bodies that seemed to be related to the "beeping" sounds. Betty touched the metal to test it for electricity but did not receive an electric shock. Later,  they heard a second series of buzzing sounds. This time they did not see the craft, but mysteriously they were about thirty five miles south of their previous location. Betty looked again, but the craft was no longer visible.

     Webb wrote, “Mrs. Hill asked her husband for the first time, 'Do you believe in flying saucers?' And he replied, 'Don’t be ridiculous! That wasn’t a flying saucer.”[1] Barney had been a confirmed skeptic prior to his frightening encounter and enjoyed needling Betty regularly with “Don’t be ridiculous.” whenever he disagreed with her, and sometimes, jokingly to chide her. 

     They harbored vague memories of finding themselves on a dirt road with tall trees all around, a large, fiery orb, and a roadblock. Over the ensuing months, they searched for this road but didn’t find it until September 1965. My grandparents,  mother, I were on a camping trip with them that Labor Day weekend.

Evidence that Something Unknown has Occurred

     Webb’s first report does not mention the Hills anticipated arrival at their home in Portsmouth, NH, was between two and three on the morning of September 20. However, when she arrived home Betty checked her watch and discovered that it had stopped operating. Without realizing that it was broken, she set the time and wound it. The hands on her watch still read 5:16. Barney did the same. But their watches never ran again.

Betty’s watch stopped at 5:16 AM © Kathleen Marden, Betty and Barney Hill Family photo collection

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 Hill's watches were broken when they arrived home. I was aware of this on September 22 or 23, 1961, when my family and I visited the Betty and Barney and observed some of the evidence. I was thirteen.

     Webb’s first report did not mention the physical evidence they discovered when they arrived home. Betty discovered that her dress had been torn at the zipper and the lining was torn from waist to hemline. Additionally, Barney discovered a severed leather binocular strap, the toes of his shoes were "scraped" and vegetative matter speckled his dress slacks. They found shiny spots on the trunk of the 1957 Chevy Bel Air, in the location where they heard buzzing sounds the previous evening. When they placed a compass over the spots, needle whirled indicating the presence of a magnetic field. It did not whirl on other parts of the car. Although my family and I witnessed the watches and spots, I was only thirteen years old and did not comprehend the significance of preserving the evidence. We looked on in amazement but did not photograph the evidence.

1. In hypnosis, Betty remembered the examiner's struggle with her zipper. 2. Betty remembered kicking her captor and fighting to free herself when they escorted her to a landed craft. © Kathleen Marden 

The October 1965 Surprise

The Hill’s confidential case did not generate media publicity until October 25, 1965, when a series of newspaper articles, on five consecutive days, were published in the Boston Traveler. Newspaper reporter John Luttrell had done a thorough investigation of the case. He had spoken with the 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 Hill's encounter.

     Dr. Benjamin Simon wrote of Luttrell as follows: “He requested an interview with me—which I refused, informing him that I would not discuss the Hill's 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]    

     A letter in the Hill's archival file proves that Luttrell had written a letter to them promising not to commercialize their experience in any way if they would grant him an interview. They refused to comply with his request, and when he traveled to their home they fled. He sat on their doorstep for a considerable period of time and probably interviewed their neighbors, as they are mentioned in his articles.

     Betty and Barney were not seeking publicity because they did not want to tarnish their excellent reputations. However, according to Luttrell, they had spoken to a group of New England scientists and a tape recording was made. We later learn that this was at a meeting of the New England UFO Study Group in Quincy, MA. Someone made this recording available to him, or he attended the meeting and made the secret recording. He claims that he acquired it from a member of the group. However, I could not find evidence that Betty and Barney revealed the content of their hypnosis recordings, which Luttrell seems to have listened to.

     Luttrell's letter to the Hills, dated August 19, 1965, reveals that he had been talking to Lorrie Dallasandro, the wife of a retired US Navy officer and friend of Betty. Lorrie and her husband were NICAP members. Lorrie denied being the source of the confidentiality breach but is mentioned in one of Luttrell’s five newspaper articles. He wrote that several additional informants who helped in his investigation. 

     His article begins 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.”[2]

     Luttrell wrote that NICAP, a privately funded scientific organization in Washington, DC, reports that the Hills might have observed visitors from outer space from a distance. However, Walter Webb, the investigator, termed the Hill’s sighting as “one of the most dramatic, most remarkable in the history of foreign object sightings. He is convinced that the New Hampshire couple saw a space vehicle.” [3]

     Luttrell wrote of six witnesses to the craft the Hill's observed on the night of September 19, 1961, but in a letter to Stanton Friedman (1976)he wrote of twelve to fourteen different witnesses. (See below) 

John Luttrell’s letter to Stanton Friedman dated 7/7/1976 © Stanton Friedman archival collection
     (Webb wrote a comprehensive investigation report in 1965, after the Hills had undergone four month's hypnosis sessions and two month's therapy with famed neuropsychiatrist Benjamin Simon, MD. Barney was initially referred to Simon because he had anxiety related to his UFO experience and was hospitalized for  bleeding stomach ulcers and high blood pressure in 1963. His medical condition had necessitated his leave of absence from his job.)

     Luttrell described Betty as a short, pleasant woman professionally trained to weigh decisions carefully, a University of New Hampshire graduate, and a NH state welfare worker with an unblemished reputation. This description is accurate. Furthermore, he interviewed her supervisor who praised Betty’s professionalism, stating that he wished he had twenty more just like her. Luttrell’s characterization of Betty is accurate.

     She was a high achiever, intellectually astute, and compassionate. Her memory of facts and figures was remarkable and several highly educated people who knew her, say she was brilliant, and opinionated, and enjoyed defending her position. She was politically active and feisty. She enjoyed her work as an envoy to the United Nations and her activities at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Portsmouth, NH.

[1] Walter Webb, “A Dramatic UFO Encounter in the White Mountains, NH, Sept 19-20, 1961. Confidential NICAP report. 10/26/1961.

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

[3] 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.

[4] Walter Webb, confidential NICAP report, 10/26/1961.