September 19, 2011

Interrupted journey: 50 years later

A N.H. historical sign marks Barney and Betty Hill's encounter with a UFO on Sept. 19, 1961.

The Associated Press

LINCOLN, N.H. - Fifty years after Betty and Barney Hill reported seeing a flat, cigar-shaped craft hovering over them in New Hampshire's White Mountains, the state has put up a historical marker noting their close encounter with a UFO.

click image to enlarge

A car passes through Franconia Notch, where a state marker is seen. Betty and Barney Hill recalled through hypnosis that they were abducted by extraterrestrials here 50 years ago.

Associated Press photos

click image to enlarge

Betty and Barney Hill of Portsmouth, N.H., are shown in 1966, after their story became publicized.

The Associated Press

Returning from a vacation in Canada on Sept. 19, 1961, the Hills arrived home in Portsmouth puzzled by stains and tears on Betty's dress, scuffs on Barney's shoes and shiny spots on their car. Their watches weren't working.

When they got home, they realized they had "lost" about two hours of time. They called family and reported the event to Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth the next day.

Barney, who had binoculars, later told science investigators that he could see figures on the craft. The couple also reported seeing a fiery orb. In 1964, they underwent a series of taped hypnosis sessions -- and recalled they had been abducted and physically examined by "men" who did not appear to be human. Paintings and a sculpture of their descriptions depicted them with large, bald heads, slanted eyes and gray skin. "They dragged me, kicking and screaming," Betty said in a 1986 interview.

In 1965, their story, known to only a small circle of investigators, close friends and family, was leaked to the Boston Traveler, which published it. Their UFO experience was described in a best-selling book in 1966, "The Interrupted Journey: Two Lost Hours Aboard A Flying Saucer," by John Fuller; a 1975 television movie starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons, "The UFO Incident"; and numerous speaking engagements. Last week, Hollywood writer-producer Bryce Zabel, who developed the UFO conspiracy series "Dark Skies" in the 1990s, said he is planning to make a new film about the couple's experience.

In July, the state erected a historical marker to the "Betty and Barney Hill Incident" in Lincoln near some cabins at the Indian Head Resort on Route 3, one of the last places the couple recalled seeing that night.

The resort is the site of a conference Sept. 23-25 devoted to what the state marker describes as "the first widely reported UFO abduction report in the United States." Kathleen Marden, the Hills' niece, will give a guided tour of places they stopped at during their encounter.

"How many states have courage enough to do something like that? Even the state of New Mexico hasn't put up a plaque for Roswell," asked Stanton Friedman, a nuclear physicist who was the first civilian investigator of the Roswell incident, a purported UFO crash on a ranch in July 1947. The military later declared it was a top-secret weather balloon.

Friedman has written papers and books on his UFO research, including one he wrote with Marden in 2007, "Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience."

"I started off kind of neutral," Friedman said when he first heard of the Hills' story back in the 1960s. "After meeting with them, I was very impressed with them. ... I saw no enlargement at all, no attempt to make more of the story than was there."

Michael Stevens of Farmington, who started a petition for the marker in 2008, said the state's Division of Historical Resources was "very clear from the get-go that they weren't necessarily backing that the event happened."

"What they could back up -- the report and the cultural effect it had -- was in and of itself historical, and that's what they could go on to get the marker through," he said.

 

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