Betty & Barney Hill

John G. Fuller once wrote in a column for The Saturday Review that skepticism was a good thing, especially when talking about whirling saucers that defy the rules of aerodynamics, back on October 2, 1965. However, he adds that curiosity is a tremendous force. John G. Fuller was intrigued by the recent outbreak of UFO claims in Exeter, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and New Mexico, where policemen, and other people, reported seeing UFOs in the sky.

Fuller recognized a greater tale than a brief piece could contain. He continued his inquiry into the book Incident at Exeter and produced a lengthier version for Look magazine. Fuller found an even more dramatic New Hampshire occurrence while working on the Exeter case, one that would become renowned as the very first publicly documented extraterrestrial abduction event in America: the tale of Barney and Betty Hill.

The Hills were heading back after a tour to Canada, where this couple had seen Niagara Falls and Montreal, on September 19, 1961. Betty appreciated the lovely, perfect night as Barney drove over the White Mountains into Portsmouth. A dazzling light in the sky close to Lancaster caught her eye. Betty couldn’t determine if that object was moving or not, but it stayed visible as they drove further. Barney, who suspected it was a military ship, believed it was teasing them.


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He eventually stopped the car, got off it, took his binoculars, and went into a field. Barney noticed humans onboard the vessel within 50 feet. He jumped back into his car and drove faster down the road, but suddenly he heard a loud, continuous, vibrating beep. The Hills felt exhausted and passed out. They awoke disoriented and scared, and they were 35 miles down the road.

The Hills couple seemed like unusual candidates for UFO-related fame. Barney, a 39-year-old Black Army veteran, served on the New Hampshire State Advisory Board of the US Civil Rights Commission. He worked at the Boston Post Office and was a member of the Portsmouth NAACP. Betty was a 42-year-old white social worker in her neighborhood who also worked for the NAACP. Their case is interesting, and it’s one I’ve spent much of my life trying to avoid.

The Interrupted Journey, which was initially published the same year as his Exeter book, is still being reissued at a time when UFOs are once again making headlines—and the government remains tight-lipped about the extent of its investigation.

Fuller wasn’t very interested in the supernatural back in 1965, but he liked asking challenging questions.

Fuller got his start as a radio and television host, as well as a playwright. On Broadway, his 1953 play The Pink Elephant, about an ex-reporter turned political wordsmith, starred Steve Allen but received mixed reviews. Love Me Little, a 1958 drama based on Amanda Vail’s novel regarding boarding school girls, was his next project. Joan Bennett appeared in the picture, which had a short and unimpressive run.

Even though he created comedy plays for the theater, Fuller did not make fun of UFOs. The Interrupted Journey is even more stunning since it is the calculated work of a satirist who likes to use puns: a dramatist who was frequently jocular and sarcastic. Fuller, a skilled writer, grasped the proper tone for his subject, which wasn’t really a science fiction setting. He was recounting the events of a relationship.

His fascination with UFOs started with his early ventures into the paranormal. As Leonard Nimoy was telling the stories about the Bigfoot and Bermuda Triangle, he faded into hazy replays of In Search Of. During his high school years, he was taking independent study classes on Charles Fort’s work and UFO encounters around military bases. He didn’t tell anyone, especially not his AAU basketball buddies, and instead cherished his dual existence. It was a top-secret, similar to the world of the supernatural.

However, aliens terrified him. Not squishy humans at arm’s length, but vibrating discs careening through the Southwestern sky. He couldn’t look at Whitley Strieber’s Communion’s cover. He avoided news of abductions. They were personal and physical, and the kidnappings were tariffing. For a youngster of the 1980s, there was nothing scarier than being abducted.

He was always aware that the Hill event was daunting, but he aggressively denied it. He thought if it can happen to the Hills, it can happen to him.

In about a few hours, The Hills’ shocking occurrence was public knowledge. Betty Hill spotted brilliant, glossy patches all over their car’s trunk. When she came close to the spots, her compass began to whirl violently. She was so disgusted that she caught the eye of her neighborhood, and the incident rapidly went public. Betty contacted a former local police chief, who sent her to the nearby Pease Air Force Base, where Major Paul W. Henderson investigated the case for Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s UFO investigative program.

Major James McDonald, a newly retired Air Force intelligence officer, suggested they attempt medical hypnosis to help them understand what happened during their “lost period.”

Barney had a history of medical problems, high blood pressure, anxiety, and ulcers, which prompted him to see a psychiatrist, who sent him to Dr. Benjamin Simon, a Boston psychiatrist and neurologist, for hypnosis. Simon was a Stanford graduate who served as the chief of neuropsychiatry and executive officer at Mason General Hospital, the Army’s main mental facility during WWII.

In The Interrupted Journey, Fuller gives records of the hypnosis meetings. The dialogues Dr. Simon had with the Hills are formatted as plays, with parenthetical annotations from Fuller included. The transition from the factual language in paragraphs to frenzied, recursive dialogue in the novel gives a sense of transformation. The constant white space on the pages is captivating, even striking. Should we follow our minds’ routes, we will accompany the Hills on their journey. We are disoriented and powerless, and we just won’t stop turning the pages.

The Hills spotted something in the skies, but the kidnapping “was a dream,” according to Dr. Simon. Regardless, our lives are shaped by our dreams and our nightmares. Like a grownup who still questions if humanity is alone in the universe, what Fuller remembers most about the case is not the fear of extraterrestrial abduction.

What bothered Fuller the most is that Betty has waited alone in the waiting room while Barney Hill was being hypnotized at Dr. Simon’s office. Even though she was separated from them she was able to hear Barney weep. Dr. Simon had always scheduled the two of them when there was literary no one else in the offices. She was able to hear the pain of her loved one. That made her cry as well. The alien abduction of the Hills is still frightening because Betty and Barney were together during the abduction but not throughout the lost time—and that unknowing is genuinely horrible.

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