July 29, 2013 by kittynh
Betty and Barney Hill are such legendary figures in the mythology of alien abduction that most are already familiar with their iconic abduction story. The Hills account of what they claimed happened to them the night of Sept.19, 1961 is considered to be the first modern alien abduction case. Their story is the prototype for many of the alien abduction stories that have followed.
The Hills were on a homeward trip through rural New Hampshire late at night when they saw a bright light they could not identify. They arrived home hours later than they thought they should have, introducing the concept of “missing time”. They later went to a psychiatrist, Dr. Benjamin Simon and the Hills believed, through hypnosis, that Dr. Simon had retrieved their missing memories of the event. The “event” is the now all too familiar (thanks to books, movies and TV shows) alien abduction. Dr. Simon, an experienced hypnotist, felt the Hills account was just a fantasy. The Hills disagreed.
Barney Hill expresses his opinion in this undated letter to Dr. James MacDonald, at The University of Arizona (from the Milne Special Collections, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH)
“Doctor Simon told us he had met you at the home of a colleague and that Dr. Sagan was there. Unfortunately we feel that Dr. Simon vacillates between believing and non-believing in UFOs, and then this influences his interpretations of our hypnosis experience. We believe the experience to be an actual one, including the hypnosis, in spite of Dr. Simon’s opinions.”
After the Hill’s abduction story, the age of the kind Venusian aliens, here to share their knowledge with us, was over. Modern abduction mythology, which includes missing time, hypnosis, and probings, was here to stay. Still, the now common view of aliens looking like little grays probably did not start on the night of September 19-20th.
The onset of the modern abduction experience in my opinion really started after media coverage of the Hills began. In 1966 John Fuller published his book “The Interrupted Journey” about the Hills. This book was written with the cooperation of the Hills. A TV movie “The UFO Incident” was aired in 1975, starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons.
The aliens in the movie looked very much like the typical “little grays” we all know today from movies, TV and novelty store items. There are differences, but the influence was imprinted on the memories of everyone watching and the cultural impact of the movie is still with us today.
This new type of alien was quickly assimilated into modern culture. Aliens, with kind hearts, here to warn us of the dangers of our behavior were found boring. Scary aliens, however, make terrific subjects for movies, TV and books. When watching a movie or TV show, people seem to enjoy being scared by an alien more than listening to a sermon from an alien. Aliens that reflected our fear of atomic annihilation or environmental pollution were replaced by aliens with a far more personal agenda for us. These new aliens don’t want us to warn mankind, they want us.
The skeptic community has for many years looked for the inspiration for the aliens the that the Hills claimed abducted them. I assumed (like most of the people I have talked with about aliens over the years) that the now stereotypical little grays were the type of alien the Hills described seeing during their abduction experience.
One suggestion for inspiration for the gray alien is that an episode of the “Outer Limits” television show entitled, “The Bolero Shield” may have been seen by Barney Hill before his hypnotic sessions with Dr. Simon. The episode featured slant eyes aliens and has been put forth by Martin Kottmeyer in his 1990 article “Entirely Unpredisposed” as a potential influences. I found another potential influence though while researching the Hills.
I am lucky enough to live in the beautiful state of New Hampshire. New Hampshire is famous for maple syrup, cold winters, presidential candidates, and the state where Betty and Barney Hill claim they were abducted by aliens. Betty Hill, an alum of the University of New Hampshire left her papers and other historic items to the school.
It was while researching Betty and Barney Hill at the Hill archives (Milne Special Collections, Special Collections, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH) when I came across a draft of her book “The Interrupted Journey Continued or A Common Sense Approach to UFOs”. When I read the following, I let out a gasp, that made the librarian in the room glance at me for breaking the silence.
“Sometimes I have been approached by those who tell me they have been abducted by the same ones I met, or the same type. They are smiling, until I ask if they looked like the ones in my movie. Oh yes. Then I tell them the ones in my movie was Hollywood’s idea of their appearance, for they had no similarities to the real ones. Such disappointment!”
Betty Hill had actually written that the aliens in the movie, the ones we have continued to exemplify as typical today, were an invention of Hollywood.
I wondered just what the Betty Hill thought the “humanoids” that abducted her and Barney looked like. I scoured the archival material and found what may be the answer in a file dedicated to materials about Marjorie Fish. Marjorie Fish, was an amateur astronomer who attempted to find a match for a “Star Map” Betty Hill claims to have seen on board the alien craft. She produced a controversial and discredited 3-D model based on what stars were represented on the “star map”. In this folder of correspondence between Marjorie Fish and Betty Hill I found my first clues.
The first clue is in a letter to Marjorie Fish, dated July 12, 1969. (Milne Special Collections, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH)
“Barney and I had a theory that the star that the humanoids were from probably was a colder planet than the Earth. We based this thought on similarities between the humanoids and a group of Indians who live in the Magellan Straights, south of South America. These Indians have adapted to the climate or severe cold by developing fat folds to protect themselves which give the impression of being much like the humanoids. IE, the Indians have very large slant eyes, surrounded by a fat fold which gives the impression of extremely large eyes; their noses are almost ehinct (sic);their lips are difficult to see because they are hidden by another fat fold: Their fingers and toes are very short, but their hands and feet are thick with layers of protective fat. These Indians go swimming in 40 degree below zero, without discomfort.”
The second clue is a cut snippet from some other document. It was also found in the Marjorie Fish folder. It is clearly Betty Hill writing. Betty is commenting on drawings Marjorie Fish has drawn of the humanoids, which Betty describes as “too human”.
“We did see some slides of a group of Indians in Antarctic who resembled these humanoids very much- both of us were very shocked by this. They had fatty layers of tissues around their features to protect them from the extreme cold of their environment – a warm day is 40 below and they go swimming. In these pictures their hands, fingers, feet, and toes were very thick with layers of fatty tissues, and their fingers and toes were very short and fat: their little fingers and toes were almost impossible to see because of their small size. Barney and I had such a reaction to these, that we always wondered if subconsciously we were remembering them in this way.”
I investigated what “natives” Betty was referring to. The closest match I could find was from Patagonia, in Southern South America. Patagonian natives do somewhat resemble the description by Betty, and slightly resemble prototypical little grays. The slight resemblance is found in the features, with more slit like eyes and flattened noses. They are not little, gray or green, and certainly resemble nothing but fellow members of the human race. It seems the aliens that “abducted” Betty and Barney were far more human than alien in appearance.
More research brought yet another description of the “humanoids”. This time from a October 20,1964 letter to “Walter” about a talk given at Phillips Exeter Academy, a private preparatory school in the Concord NH area.
“Last night Barney and I went to Phillips Exeter Academy to hear Dr. Coon, anthropologist, of Harvard, lecture on the ‘Races of Man’. He showed several slides, but one of them looked like the people on the space ship. Barney and I both recognized this at the same time! It was the slide of a woman that lives in a very cold climate and showed her physical adaptation to this very cold. I believe she is of Mongolian background, with very distinct slant eyes. Her adaptation is the formation or a fatty substance around her eyes, which causes the appearance of a large eye extending around to the side. Her nose is very small and flat to her face. Her mouth seems distorted by this fatty substance.”
Later the letter continues, “I do not know where that UFO was from, but I am convinced that it must be a very cold climate. It was surprising to actually see a picture which resembled the men so closely – much better than we could ever begin to do.”
Once again, the “humanoids” are described in much more terrestrial than extra terrestrial terms.
Betty and Barney also seemed dissatisfied with the alien drawings done by artist David Baker. A letter dated October 1967 to Betty and Barney from the archives indicated she was not entirely happy with his depiction of the aliens.
Dear Barney and Betty,
A great weekend—thanks for making it so exciting.
I was distressed over your concern over the drawings I made, in fact, I spent most of the night trying to theorize the entities you both saw in ’61. I would like to draw some more for you, of any aspect of the experience you could verbalize.
The letter goes on to describe her reaction to when a stocking was pulled over a face.
You noted, I recall, with great concern, the simulated effect we demonstrated with mouth immobility by pulling a tight silk stocking over face. Lips were pressed close to the teeth line, neutralizing all usual lip fullness and character. In fact the stocking trick gave Mongoloid expression to all bound features.
Someone, Betty or Barney, has written a penciled “Yes” next to the paragraph.
The image of someone with a stocking over their head, their features flattened, brings to mind a bank robber, not an alien. Once again, the Hills seems to be indicating not little grays, but very human like creatures.
When I speak about UFOs and aliens, I often do a little demonstration. I hand out 3by5 cards and ask the audience to “If you were abducted by an alien on the drive home tonight draw what you think the alien would look like.” The cards come back, some heavily influenced by science fiction shows, a few jokingly drawing Mexicans or Canadian Mounties, but most with the characteristics of the Betty and Barney Hill TV movie alien. Small lips, small or no nose, elongated skulls and slanted eyes.
I tape all the cards up and then draw a “composite” of the alien. It is always the same little gray we see everywhere today. Even a young child, if shown the drawing, would recognize it as an alien. The humanoids Betty and Barney Hill claim abducted them, that so closely resemble humans that have evolved for life in a cold climate, have never appeared in a movie or television show.
My audience always has a few hard core UFO believers. They, like the people that approached Betty Hill to tell them about their own abduction experience, suffer “such disappointment” when they learn Betty Hill believed our modern archetype of an alien was an invention of a costume designer and Hollywood. This doesn’t mean that someone that has seen a little gray or suffered an abduction experience is lying. Indeed, our memories and common culture influence all our everyday experiences. The move from kind Venusians trying to save our planet, to cold grays trying to abduct us, has been greatly influenced by Hollywood more than the UFO community is prepared to admit.