If you know the names Barney and Betty Hill today, it is mostly likely because of their famous abduction experience. Who Mister and Missus Hill were prior to the night of 19 September 1961 has been obscured by their harrowing reports of an encounter with an unidentified flying object and its inhuman crew. While driving through the White Mountains of New Hampshire on State Route 3, the couple witnessed strange aerial phenomena inducing a sense of panic and confusion followed by a prolonged period of missing time. Arriving home around dawn the following morning, each of them was distressed by their inability to explain what they had seen and their incomplete recollections of what had happened after their attempt to outrun the strange aircraft.
Barney Hill was born in Newport News, VA, but raised in Pennsylvania, graduating from South Philadelphia High School and attending Temple University before enlisting in the U.S. Army. Following his service in the Second World War, Hill joined the U.S. Postal Service where he was employed until his death in 1969 at the age of just 46. Betty, a state social worker, was his second wife and a few years his elder. The couple had no children together, but, Barney was survived by two sons from his first marriage. As a veteran and career civil servant, a husband, father, and member of numerous civic associations he was, in the parlance of his own times, a model citizen. He was active in the NAACP, and filling a leadership role on the Association’s New England Regional Board, while taking on similar responsibilities on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, his local County Community Action Program, and State Board of the Economic Opportunity Program. In 1961, they would have called him a “Model Negro” but in contemporary terms he was “Woke AF” and living the his best life.
That is the story that a casual researcher will extract from most narratives of the Hill Abduction: a highly capable man and his wife were taken by unknown entities and left severely traumatized. This is a heroic narrative as old as recorded mythology itself. But, it is important to remember that it is also a reconstructed narrative. In the aftermath of their encounter, the Hill’s were aware something was amiss. They recognized that they had no memory of at least two hours of their journey, their watches were broken, their clothing was askew. But, they could not put the anomalous phenomenon of driving hundreds of miles in their sleep behind them because Betty was having recurring dreams about the incident. These night terrors and other symptoms of what would now be considered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder drove the Hill’s to consult psychotherapists, leading to the hypnotic regression treatments which produced the now famous case of the first UFO abductees.
One thing that is certain about the Hill’s is that there is a tremendous amount of disinformation floating on the surface of their case. When we start writing up our case files, we conduct due diligence fact checks on our own research. This time consuming process proved exceptionally valuable in this instance. Most sources state that the couple were coming from Niagara Falls, NY, where they had been vacationing; but, their encounter occurred along New Hampshire Route 3 in the middle of the White Mountains. This means that they were in fact driving from Montreal, Quebec. Before the completion of the U.S. interstate highway system, that was the smart way to go. As an inter-racial couple, the Hill’s were accepted in more cosmopolitan areas and knew the dangers they faced traversing the back-roads. So, there is nothing remarkable about the fact they were coming from Montreal aside from the fact it is so consistently omitted from most accounts of their story.
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