Betty and Barney Hills' Route and Timeline on

September 19-20, 1961

© Kathleen Marden 2024


      In 1961, New Hampshire was known as a different world from its more heavily populated neighbors to the south. It offered splendid views from craggy, granite mountain peaks, shimmering sky blue lakes, tranquil streams, ocean beaches, hiking trails, and succulent north Atlantic seafood. Its dairy farms supplied milk throughout the region, and its numerous poultry farms shipped baby chicks and hatching eggs around the world. In the fall, apple orchards sold pecks of crispy, red Macintosh apples, fresh pressed cider, and old fashion donuts. Small businesses bolstered the economy and skilled workers labored in factories producing much sought after textiles. 

     Portsmouth, New Hampshire was a small port city on the Piscataqua River that led into the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean. Betty Hill lived and worked in Portsmouth as a child welfare and adoption specialist for the State Division of Child and Family Services. She was a conscious employee who took her professional position very seriously. 

     Married years earlier, she had raised her first husband’s three children, but as the years passed, she grew tired of her husband’s  boozing and running with fast women. Fed up with a life filled with disappointment,  she divorced him, acquired one of their real estate investments, and returned to college for her Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work. 

     She met Barney Hill in the mid-1950s when he was vacationing in New Hampshire, and when he and his first wife separated, their courtship began. Although they were acutely aware of the consequences of interracial relationships in this less accepting period in America, it did not matter to Betty. She was an outspoken  advocate of civil rights and had many friends of different races and nationalities. Barney was an intelligent, well-read, handsome, gentile man and Betty could not resist the opportunity to spend time with him.

     They married in 1960 but he remained in Philadelphia with his beloved sons until the US Post Office transferred him to Boston in 1961. Barney had driven a mail truck in Philadelphia and enjoyed driving, so it did not seem unreasonable to surprise Betty with a trip to Niagara Falls during her upcoming September vacation. 

     I had visited Niagara Falls weeks earlier and had excitedly shared all the details of my trip with Betty and Barney during their weekly visit to my childhood home. Barney asked Betty if she would like to visit this popular vacation spot and she indicated that she would be delighted to. So, on September 15, Barney requested a few days off from his new job as a distribution clerk at the post office. They pooled their cash, gathered their important documents, and packed food in a picnic cooler, setting off on their journey early on the morning of September 17. 

     September 17, 1961: The Hills have driven to Niagara Falls, NY, and crossed the bridge to the Canadian side. It is the most frequently visited area of the falls because it is lively and spectacular. The Hills had taken in Canadian culture and hospitality and were enjoying themselves immensely. They spent the night here and embarked east toward Toronto in the morning. 

I visited Niagara Falls in July 1961, and showed Betty and Barney my photos. Barney decided to surprise Betty with a trip to Niagara Falls during her vacation in September. In this photograph, I am a thirteen year old school girl standing by Niagara Falls.

The beautiful Canadian side of Niagara Falls

     September 18, 1961: Betty and Barney are enjoying their drive through Ontario, taking in the sights, and sampling a variety of culinary delights, when late in the afternoon their car emits a squealing sound. They are in the Thousand Islands area, so they cross over a bridge into Upstate New York where they find an American service station. It is a great relief when the Hills are informed that the problem can be easily and inexpensively remedied. The malfunction is quickly eradicated with an injection of grease. 

A Restful Night at a Pleasant Motel 112 Miles Southwest of Montreal

     Soon the Hills continued on their way toward Montreal but grew tired and decided to stop for the night approximately one hundred and twelve miles west of the city. Barney pulled up to a friendly looking motel and Betty registered the couple and their pet dachshund Delsey for the night.

     September 19, 1961:  Well rested from the night before, the Hills ate a large breakfast at a restaurant a short walk across the street from the motel. They were anticipating taking in the sights of the big city and experiencing the cultural events that Montreal had to offer, so they departed along a four lane highway on the 112 mile journey toward the city. 

The Hills' Route Through Ontario to Montreal, Quebec

     They had read an advertisement for Sainte Catherine Street, Montreal’s nine mile primary commercial artery across the metropolitan area. It is known for its department stores, specialty shops, restaurants, commercial buildings, and theaters. At the end of an afternoon exploring the sights and dining on French cuisine, the couple had planned on taking in a show at one of the glamorous theaters.

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

     But first they made plans to secure lodging. The hotels in downtown Montreal were inaccessible to a couple with a tight budget, and Barney was disappointed at the thought of driving to the bustling city’s outskirts and then turning around and negotiating the confusing route back to Sainte Catherine Street in downtown Montreal, after dark. The city road map was difficult to navigate, and this delayed his journey toward the city’s edge. With a sense of frustration, Barney decided to abandon his plans for and evening of Montreal's nightlife and instead turned onto the highway that led to New Hampshire.

     Barney did not enjoy the hustle and bustle of large cities. He preferred the peace, quiet, and natural beauty of lakes, mountains, and country farms. His favorite childhood memories were of the times he spent on his aunt’s and uncle’s farm in Virginia. Likewise, Betty spent her early years in the tranquility of a poultry and dairy farm in Southern New Hampshire. As an adult she resided in the small port city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, only twenty miles from her beloved family. Barney loved Portsmouth but his heart ached for his beloved sons in Philadelphia. He saw them as frequently as possible. 

     He drove 172 miles along the highway that led from Montreal to Canaan, Vermont. The drive would have taken approximately three and a half hours if they had not stopped. However, they stopped briefly  for a snack at a restaurant in Coaticook. As they entered the restaurant they observed a few young men with haircuts that Barney associated with hoodlum behavior. He immediately went on guard but was relieved to discover that they were not hoodlums. He and Betty were treated well. The restaurant was crowded with French speaking people and the Hills had difficulty with the French onlymenu. Their order of French fried potatoes (pommes frites)  came as potato chips (croustilles), hardly a substantial meal.  Frustrated over the language barrier, they left the restaurant without placing a second order.

Downtown Coaticook, Quebec 

© Kathleen Marden
     The couple went through US Customs in Canaan, Vermont, and drove the short trip along Route 102 to Colebrook, NH. Pleased to be back on home territory they filled their gas tank and sought the burning lights of an open restaurant. 
     It was only a 45 minute drive  from Coaticook to Colebrook, but potato chips and a soft drink hardly satisfied the Hills’ appetites.  It was a little after 9:00 PM when they arrived in Colebrook, but luckily "Howard's Restaurant" was open for business.  

Howard's Restaurant, Colebrook, NH

© Kathleen Marden

      They took a seat at the counter at Howard's Restaurant in Colebrook, and a Native American woman who had worked there for years, waited on them. Barney ate a cheeseburger and Betty slowly savored a piece of chocolate cake spread with a sweet layer of chocolaty frosting. Both drank a cup of coffee and enjoyed the quiet ambiance of the restaurant.

     Having ingested their meal, the couple checked the time on their watches against the clock on the wall. It was 10:05 PM. They wound their watches and Barney calculated their approximate arrival time. The 185 mile trip would place them in Portsmouth between 2:00 and 3:00 AM. 

     He was able to drive 60 miles per hour on some sections of the highway, whereas the curved mountainous areas required a slower speed. It was a bright, light night, so he moved along at the maximum speed allowed by the law. 

This 1960-1961 map shows the Hills' route through upstate New Hampshire

Town of Lancaster, NH

© Kathleen Marden

     Although the Hills’ initial report stated that Betty had observed a strange moving light in the sky near Groveton, when they retraced their route they realized that they were south of Lancaster when Betty’s eyes were drawn to a rapidly moving light that arced upward into the sky. According to Betty’s statements, her initial sighting took place  30 miles south of Colebrook at approximately 10:55 PM.

      They were south of the small town of Twin Mountain when the object began to close in on their vehicle. Barney pulled to the side of the road to walk their dog near the Mount Cleveland Picnic Area. This was only 17 miles south of Lancaster. He and Betty observed the encroaching craft through binoculars but left the area quickly and headed south toward Franconia Notch crossing the Hugh Gallen Bridge at approximately 11:30 PM. They had a clear view of Cannon Mountain and the craft as it passed over a warming hut at the top of the popular ski resort. Betty checked the time on her watch to gauge their progress. 

The Hills' first observational stop 

     Betty and Barney entered Franconia Notch on Route 3, four miles south of the Mt. Cleveland Picnic Area. Cannon Mountain was straight ahead. Betty glanced at her watch and noted that it was 11:20 PM. This old section of US Route 3 is now closed to through traffic but can be accessed at the Governor Hugh Gallen Bridge tourist attraction. 

Cannon Mountain as seen by Betty and Barney Hill on old Route 3 at the north entrance of Franconia Notch

© Kathleen Marden

     This uncanny craft had so sparked Betty’s insatiable curiosity that she would not be satisfied until she could identify it. Barney was weighing some possibilities in his own mind, because he felt certain that extraterrestrial visitation was impossible. They pulled to the side of the highway for their second observational stop by the Old Man of the Mountain, only a mile south of Cannon Mountain and five miles south of their first stop at Mount Cleveland. 

The Old Man of the Mountain, Franconia Notch

© Kathleen Marden

     Through binoculars the Hills’ witnessed the craft hovering beside the 48' long Old Man's profile. It was one and a half to two times the length of the profile. The rotating craft appeared to be lighted on only one side. Barney compared its movement to that of a spinning top. It then assumed a vertical position and began to move.

     Profile Lake was located at the base of the Old Man of the Mountain. Betty and Barney watched as the craft tilted vertically and descended in a stair-step pattern above the lake. As he watched in amazement, it suddenlybounced back and forth in the sky. Barney said, "like a a ball attached to a wooden paddle with a rubber band. You hit the ball with the paddle and it shoots out in a straight line. Then it returns in a straight line without making a circle." Today’s observers have compared this motion to the back and forth action of a ping pong ball.

      The Hills quickly returned to their car and headed south toward the town of Lincoln and the familiar motels and tourist attractions that lined the highway.  

    Along the way, they pulled to the side of the highway for a brief moment, but drove on because trees blocked their view of the craft. Soon they exited Franconia Notch and passed by a natural stone landmark known as Indian Head. Barney was relieved to have left the remote mountainous area and to view the familiar motels in Lincoln's tourist section. 

Indian Head Rock Profile 

© Kathleen Marden

As they drove by the Indian Head Resort's cabins, Betty saw a man smoking a cigarette behind a screened door. She considered the possibility of stopping for the night, but she could not quell her curiosity. She and Barney drove on as the craft surged ahead of them and descended lower next to the highway.

   The Indian Head Resort in 1961 

     Almost directly in their path, the couple encountered a huge flattened circular disc with a row of lighted windows along its forward edge. Barney slammed on the brakes and stopped in the middle of the road, blocking both lanes. He grabbed his binoculars and opened the car door for a less encumbered view. The silent, hovering object had descended to an estimated two hundred feet or less above their vehicle. He stepped back and the craft moved across the highway and descended lower, perhaps to one hundred feet overhead. 

The Close Encounter Field on US Route 3 is a short distance south of Indian Head

© Kathleen Marden

     Barney left the car motor running and the driver's side door open illuminating the car's interior. He turned and followed the craft into the field while Betty remained seated on the passenger seat. 

     The silent enigmatic craft was huge; maybe sixty to eighty feet in diameter. As he approached it, two red lights at the end of fin-like structures parted from the sides of the craft, and it tilted toward Barney. 

     Lifting his binoculars to his eyes, he spied a group of “strangely non-human” figures moving about with military precision. As the craft tilted downward and began to descend toward him, one of these strange creatures, who remained at the window, communicated a frightening message. Something unknownbegan to extend from the bottom of the craft, and this gave Barney the immediate impression that he was in danger of being plucked from the field “like a bug in a net.” Overcome with fear and with all of the strength that he could muster, he tore the binoculars from his eyes and raced back to the car. Breathless, trembling, and in a near state of hysterics, half laughing, half weeping, he warned Betty that they needed to get out of there or they were going to be captured.

Barney at the Close Encounter Field on Route 3 in Lincoln and his sketch on September 20, 1961

© Kathleen Marden

     As Barney beat the pavement to his car, he saw the craft moving in his direction. He threw his binoculars onto the seat and accelerated rapidly to escape the craft, but his effort was futile. Suddenly, rhythmic "buzzing" tones struck the trunk of the Hills’ vehicle and they sensed a penetrating vibration in their bodies. Thirty  miles down the highway, once again they heard buzzing sounds that returned them to full conscious awareness. This time they did not observe the craft. However, they had vague memories of finding themselves on an unpaved road lined with tall trees. They saw a roadblock and a red-orange orb.

     Feeling a desire for human comfort, they were on the lookout for a police officer or a restaurant that was open, but they could find neither.They continued on their route home. arriving hours late.  

 This 1960-1961 New Hampshire map shows the Hills' close encounter route and observational stops. The yellow dashes indicate the section of highway during their period of dual amnesia. The red line on the smaller insert indicates their route from Lancaster to the second series of buzzing sounds that restored them to full awareness. © Kathleen Marden
This 1961 New Hampshire map indicates the Hills' route to their home in Portsmouth, NH. US Route 3 continued straight onto US Route 3B. They did not take US Route 3 to Meredith and Laconia. They heard a second set of buzzing tones strike the trunk of their vehicle near Northfield. Interstate Highway 93 was under construction and had been completed as far south as Northfield/Tilton. They drove south to Concord and headed east on US Highway 4 to their home in Portsmouth. 

     When the Hills arrived home they felt "clammy" and feared that they had been contaminated by ionizing radiation or cosmic rays from the craft. They took long showers and then sketched the craft from memory. 

     Later that day, they were were startled to find shiny concentric circles on their car’s trunk precisely where they had heard buzzing tones hours earlier. They had not been there the previous day. When they held a compass over the spots, the needle whirled indicating a magnetic field. But when they moved it to another area of the vehicle, the needle dropped down.

     Their watches had stopped and never ran again, the leather strap on their binoculars had been severed, Barney's best dress shoes were ruined with deep scrapes on the toes, and Betty's dress was torn in several places.  

     Her favorite blue dress had been in fine condition when she dressed on the morning of September 19, but when she arrived home, there was a 2 inch tear in the stitching at the top of her zipper and the thick zipper fabric was torn. The lining was torn from waist to hemline and the hem was down on the same side. She did not wash her dress. Later, she discovered a perplexing pink powdery substance on many areas of her dress. It has been analyzed in five scientific laboratories, but no scientist has discovered a prosaic explanation for the mystery.

     The tops of Barney’s best dress shoes were so badly scraped that he had to purchase new shoes. Vegetative matter speckled his pant legs. Later, a concentric circle of growths appeared on his groin.

     In the days and months that followed, an aura of mystery surrounded the Hills' shocking events on the night of September 19, 1961. The physical and circumstantial evidence played constantly in their minds as they quietly sought answers to their questions. They filed reports with Pease Air Force Base and the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. 

The photo on the left shows the Hills' home in Portsmouth, NH.
The photo on the right shows the watch that Betty was wearing on the night of her UFO encounter. When she arrived home, the watch was no longer running, so she set the time to 5:16 AM and wound it. However, it was broken. 
The photo on the left shows the front of Betty's dress. Notice the original blue color on the bodice and the saturated pink discoloration near the hem and sleeves. Small fabric samples were taken from the left side of her dress. Someone cut a large section from the hemline on the right side of the dress.
The photo on the right shows the blue dress lining, the green torn zipper, and the tear along the side of the lining. 

Facsimile of shiny spots on the trunk of Betty's 1957 Chevy

Created by Kathleen Marden from memory. Unlike Kathleen's creation, the concentric circles were perfectly shaped and smooth.

For additional information, see Menu for "Sixty-two Year Old UFO Report Continues to Stir Controversy"