Betty & Barney Hill

Testimony by Ben H. Swett
Pease AFB, NH

On 23 November 1962, I read some of my poetry to a meeting at the Rectory of the Unitarian Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I wasn't a member of that church and didn't know anyone there except the pastor. After my poetry reading, he said he had heard I was studying hypnosis, and they would like to hear about that. Those who came for the poetry left, and a few remained. I gave them a brief overview of hypnosis, including some of its uses and abuses.

As I was about to leave, two people came up to me, introduced themselves as Betty and Barney Hill, and asked me if hypnosis could be used to recover lost periods of memory. I wondered why they asked that question, because I had just mentioned it in my talk, but I said, "Yes, that's one of the classical uses of clinical hypnosis."

They started telling me about something that happened to them as they were driving home from Canada on the night of 19-20 September 1961 -- a light in the sky that seemed to follow them and then circled them, and being stopped on the road, and how they later realized they had a three-hour gap in their memories. As they told their story, Barney's face kept twitching spasmodically on one side. I didn't like the looks of that.

They said some of their friends thought the light that followed them was a UFO, and asked me what I thought about UFOs. I said, "There are a lot of reports by credible people." Then they asked me if I would hypnotize them to recover that gap in their memories. My first thought was: "I don't want to wade into whatever is making his face twitch like that. I'm not a psychiatrist." Then I thought: "UFOs ... I'm an Air Force officer ... hypnosis ... I have no credentials." So I said, "No, I'm not qualified to do that." There was some discussion of UFOs. Three of the men obviously knew a lot about Air Force UFO reporting -- more than I did -- but I didn't know them.

Betty and Barney walked outside with me, and we talked for rather a long time. I was skeptical of their story, but responded as best I could. They said several people had suggested they try hypnosis, and since I had studied it and recommended it for recovering memories, they thought they would go ahead with it. I said recovering those memories might reveal a lot of trauma, and cautioned them against going to an amateur hypnotist, such as myself, or a half-baked hypnotherapist. I said they needed to find a reputable psychologist or psychiatrist who used hypnotherapy.

On 7 September 1963, I gave a lecture on hypnosis to one of the adult study groups at the Unitarian Church in Portsmouth, followed by a question-and-answer period. No one mentioned UFOs. Several years later I learned that Betty and Barney had told their story to this group before I arrived. They came to me afterward and said they had not tried hypnosis, and still had the gap in their memories. Betty was still having dreams about the incident, but she wasn't as upset about them. Barney was going to a psychiatrist he liked and trusted. He had mentioned the UFO incident, and the psychiatrist wasn't astonished, but they were not working on that. I thought, "This sounds right. He's in good hands." I strongly encouraged them to ask Barney's psychiatrist about the use of hypnosis to recover the gap in their memories.

I didn't hear anything about the Hills for the next nine months. It was only later that I learned they had acted on my recommendation, and Barney's psychiatrist had referred them to Dr. Benjamin Simon, a well-known psychiatrist in Boston. They first met with him on 14 December 1963. From 4 January to 27 June 1964, they drove to Boston one day a week. Dr. Simon always hypnotized them separately and made sure that neither of them could hear what the other one said. Under hypnosis, they were able to remember the UFO incident, but it was so traumatic for them that he reactivated the amnesia at the end of each session. Starting about the first of April, the sessions were mostly based on playback of the audio tapes made under hypnosis. At the end of the last session, Dr. Simon gave them the tapes and said they should listen to them at home, because that might help to reduce the trauma.

On 27 June 1964, as soon as they got home, Barney telephoned me at supper-time. I was surprised to hear from him. He said they took my advice, had tape recordings made under hypnosis, and asked if they could bring the tapes to our house, because they didn't want to listen to them alone. They wanted me to listen to the tapes and tell them what I thought. So the four of us -- Betty and Barney and Wyn and I -- sat on the floor in our living room that night and listened to the recording of Barney's first session under hypnosis.

I was skeptical at first, but hearing what was on that tape, plus the fact they didn't want any publicity, convinced me they were telling the truth. For example: under hypnosis, Barney described seeing the UFO hovering close to the ground near the road. He got out of his car, walked toward it and looked at it through binoculars. Something like a man was looking at him out of a window -- right into his eyes -- and started putting thoughts in his mind: "He says 'Come a little closer ... Don't be scared' ... Uh ... I used to talk to rabbits like that ... when I was hunting them." Just before the point on the tape where Barney started screaming "I've gotta get outta here!" and ran back to his car, the physical Barney jumped up and ran out to our kitchen and vomited in the sink. I thought that would be pretty hard to fake.

When we finished listening to the tape, they asked me what I thought about it. I said I thought they were telling the truth. But that wasn't the problem. They said Dr. Simon also thought they deeply believed all this was true, but they wanted to know if it was real. Did this really happen to them, or was it somehow a dream or a fantasy created in their minds? I said I would need to hear all of the tapes before I would even try to answer that question. They left the tapes with me.

I listened to all the tapes. That took five nights. I made a lot of notes and went back to several tapes to make sure I had them right. Then I cross-checked comparable elements, distilled the whole thing in my mind, and decided what I believe. It was obvious that the Hills were deeply hypnotized. What they recalled under hypnosis consistently (and persistently) supported the hypothesis that their experience was real. But Dr. Simon didn't believe in UFOs and wasn't about to. He kept leading them toward any other explanation, and thus strongly suggested their experience wasn't real. That was why they were so ambivalent and why their trauma had not been resolved. On the positive side, the fact he did not believe them (did not suggest it to them and tried to lead them away from it), greatly increased their credibility and thus supported the hypothesis that what they remembered was real.

I telephoned the Hills, went to their house, returned their audio tapes, told them I was convinced their experience was real, and explained why I thought so.

I said it was obvious that they were deeply hypnotized; I knew that from my own work with hypnosis. They were hypnotized separately and not allowed to hear each other's sessions, so there was no information feedback or cross-feed. Most important, Dr. Simon strongly suggested to them (under hypnosis!) every other explanation he could think of, but they persisted in the same report.

Their testimony under hypnosis cross-checked with things they had told me earlier, which they didn't understand at the time, and also cross-checked in detail. Each of them re-lived what he or she had experienced in 1961 and did not report anything that he or she could not have known. For example:

> In November 1962, they told me that, when they got home in 1961, they discovered that the TOPS of Barney's shoes were scuffed and scratched, and that bothered them because they didn't know how it could have happened. In 1964 under hypnosis, while Betty was re-living being taken from the car to the ship, she said, "Oh, Barney, pick up your feet. Don't let them drag like that." Her wifely comment explained the scuff marks and also why Barney did not report being taken from the car to the ship. He was unconscious at that point, with the tops of his shoes dragging on the ground as he was carried by his arms.

> Likewise, in November 1962 Barney told me that, a few days after they got home in 1961, he discovered that he had a ring of warts around his genitals. That bothered him, because it indicated something had happened to him and he didn't know what. In 1964 under hypnosis he remembered the aliens put something like a cup around his genitals. When we talked about it in the summer of 1964, I said maybe that was where the warts came from. He thanked me for making that connection.

> In 1964 under hypnosis Barney reported that while they were being examined in separate rooms, the aliens seemed to be interested or excited because his false teeth came out. Separately, Betty reported that an alien came into the room where she was being examined, opened her mouth, pulled on her teeth, and then left the room.

My over-all appraisal of the incident was simple: a spaceship was traveling from point A to point B. The spaceship crew wanted to do some research on hominid species, so they landed on a planet ("Just off one of our trade routes"), picked up a couple of samples, and did a quick physical examination. Some of them wanted to do more research while they had these samples, but the Captain said they had to leave in order to get where they were going on time. (Aircraft commanders think like that.) They used post-hypnotic suggestion to block the samples' memories, and put them back in their environment. It was no big deal from that point of view. It seemed to be an impromptu capture that could have happened to anyone on that road that night, and not aliens stalking them personally.

My matter-of-fact appraisal of the incident seemed to help the Hills. They said they would like to talk with me again after they had time to think about it, so I went to their house several times for what amounted to informal counseling sessions in which I tried to help them look at the entire incident more objectively. They said my point of view made sense, and they became more relaxed as we talked. Finally, I felt I had said all I could say. They thanked me most graciously. We remained friends. Betty invited Wyn and me and Wyn's mother to their house for lunch, and we all had a good time. Then we went our separate ways and I didn't hear from them for a year.

On 25 October 1965, Barney telephoned me at four o'clock in the morning with panic in his voice. He said they were getting telephone calls from Europe about their UFO experience. I asked him how that happened. He said they had told their story to the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), supposedly in confidence. Someone told an unscrupulous reporter part of it. The reporter tried to interview them, but they refused and asked him not to publish anything about them. He said they had no right to refuse, and published what he had in the Boston Herald Traveler. Many Europeans had already seen it in their morning newspapers because of the time-zone difference. Barney said he and Betty were afraid they would be scorned and ridiculed and lose their jobs. (He worked for the Post Office and she worked for the State Welfare Agency.) What should they do? I said they should immediately tell their employers that the story was published without their permission, and then find a lawyer who handled copyright cases to see what their rights actually were.

As it turned out, their employers were understanding, so they didn't lose their jobs, and public reaction was generally positive, but as far as I know, they never were paid anything for their story. They did find a lawyer, but he said there was nothing they could do about a newspaper story that wasn't libelous. Pressure to tell their story continued to build. Barney agreed to be interviewed for television.

On 8 November 1965, Barney was interviewed for television in a little Unitarian Church in Dover, New Hampshire, on a cold rainy night. The church was packed. There was a waiting line around the building and down the street. Wyn and I went past the line to the basement of the church to get out of the rain. Soon the basement was full of people. While I was watching two men wire up a loudspeaker so we could hear the interview even though we couldn't see it, a man in a tweed coat with several cameras hanging around his neck came through the crowd to me and said, "My name is John Fuller. I understand you know Barney Hill. Could you introduce me to him? I'm writing a book about the UFO sightings in this area, and I'd certainly like to consider his story, perhaps for another book." I asked him what his slant was -- his approach to writing these stories. He said, "I'm not a sensationalist. I try to get all the information I can, and present it as accurately as possible. If anything, I tend to underplay the sensational aspects." I liked what he said, so I led him upstairs and introduced him to Barney.

John G. Fuller wrote "The Interrupted Journey" (Dial Press, 1966) based on the audio tapes and extensive interviews with the Hills and Dr. Simon. Betty and Barney said he was a pleasure to work with. They appreciated his attitude. As he said, he wasn't a sensationalist and he tried to present their story as accurately as possible. They seemed happy and relieved. They were no longer ambivalent, and their trauma seemed to be very much reduced if not totally resolved.

I and my family moved from New Hampshire to New Mexico in August 1966. Not long before we left, I stopped by their house to say good-bye to the Hills. Barney wasn't there, but I visited with Betty. That was the last time I talked with her.  She sent me a copy of "The Interrupted Journey" when it came out, and I thanked her for it, but we didn't continue correspondence.

Barney Hill died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 25 February 1969.

In 1975, I saw the TV movie "The UFO Incident" starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons. It is based on "The Interrupted Journey" which is based on the audio tapes. Both the book and the movie represent the tapes accurately, and both underplay the sensational aspects. I only saw two small errors: Betty was a brighter person than she was portrayed in the movie, and she and Barney were not quite that lovey-dovey with each other. But I was surprised at the end of the movie. I knew that one of the UFO crew members showed Betty a star-map and told her where they came from, and she drew the map while under hypnosis, but I didn't know that some astronomy experts with a computer had found a matching star system right where she drew it. (The type of humanoid extraterrestrial beings that picked up the Hills are called "Grays" because of their skin color, or "Zetas" because Zeta Reticuli is the name of the star they pointed out to Betty Hill.)

Betty wrote a book entitled "A Common Sense Approach To UFOs" in 1995.

A videotape interview with Betty was made in 2002. She was still doing well.

Betty Hill died in her sleep on 17 October 2004 at her home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She was 85.

Barney and Betty Hill
circa 1966

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