To Zeta Reticuli and Back; A Case For Abduction’s Sake

terry-hadler-new-hampshire-betty-and-barney-hill-driving-at-night-see-a-ufoA 1991 Roper poll, titled ‘Unusual Personal Experiences’, conducted on behalf of Dr. John Mack and Robert Bigelow, showed that nearly 2% of all Americans not only believe in alien abduction phenomenon, but have experienced it first hand.[1]

This means that, at the time of the study, roughly 4 million Americans were willing to admit having had some level of exposure to alien abduction phenomenon.[2]  The number of reported abductions on an annual basis world-wide is staggering, if not elusive; the actual number is unknown, for several reasons, but estimates put it high in the hundreds of thousands (conservatively).  If we guess at a figure of 100,000 abductions taking place in a year, that means that on average, there are 250-300 people being abducted every day around the world.  That number becomes frightening fairly quickly if we allow a more liberal estimation.

Where the obvious discrepancy in these estimates comes from, is the unfortunate but understandable fact that the vast majority of Abductees (also known as Experiencers) are reluctant to come forward.

This is not the case for all Abductees however.

On September 19, 1961, a young Portsmouth New Hampshire couple were driving home from a vacation in Canada.  While on their late night interstate drive, they happened upon a “strange point of light” in the sky.  As the story goes, the couple stopped along the roadway, just south of Groveton New Hampshire on US Route 3, to walk their dog before completing the final leg of their long journey home.  Shortly after their pit stop, the couple suffered what seemed to be a lapse in memory, and found themselves again driving along Route 3 with no recollection of having gotten back into the car.

I am of course, referring to the infamous abduction story of Betty and Barney Hill, and the above is one of the many variations of their abduction story that have surfaced over the years.  Betty, born Eunice Elizabeth Barrett, a direct descendant of European Pilgrims who immigrated to the US aboard the Mayflower in 1620, married to Barney Hill, an Ethiopian-American, is touted to be the Mother of Alien Abduction Stories.

Depending on the specific version of the story you happen upon, the Hill’s were either on their way home from their Canadian Honeymoon (which is not correct), or just on their way home from visiting family, when they chanced to see a bright light in the sky above them.  Their account tells of a wild chase through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, playing cat and mouse with what ultimately was found to be an immense alien craft, littered with coloured lights.  They tracked the craft along the lonely mountain roads, watching it’s movements through a pair of binoculars they happened to have with them.  Nearly an hour into the sighting, the Hill’s found themselves confronted by the craft and its inhabitants as it descended onto the road in front of their car.

Different versions of the story offer different details on what happened next, some suggest that Barney exited the car with a pistol in hand, others say he was curiously drawn to the ship.  Whichever version you believe, the apparent results remain the same.  Mr. and Mrs. Hill suffered abduction at the hands of an alien species whose apparent intent was to examine this stereotypical American couple in great detail.

Betty_and_Barney_HillIf, for a moment, you forget that we’re talking about the first and most famous widely accepted alien abduction story in modern history, it might actually seem just like any other, and what strikes me about this accounting, in all its convoluted glory, is that each element of this case has become a sort of founding compass for all abduction stories to come after it.  You could say that it holds all of the classic abduction story characteristics, though of course, it is the classic abduction story.

You end up with 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th kind encounter scenarios, lost time, implants and medical experimentation, hypnosis recovery, and even government cover-up (depending who you believe).[3]

After the alleged abduction, Betty Hill went on to become the first UFO/Alien related celebrity the world had ever known.  The Hill’s story was told the world in the way only Betty could tell it, on radio, on television, in newsprint and through the gossip chains of Middle American households, and with that fame came both opportunity and criticism.

On September 21st, two days following the incident, Betty reported the event to Peace Air Force base by telephone, and the following day participated in an investigative interview with Maj. Paul W. Henderson.  The findings of that investigation were less than charitable, citing that the Hill’s had most likely observed and misidentified the planet Jupiter in the night sky.  This may have been the result of deliberate government efforts to conceal the nature of the encounters, or it may simply have been that Mrs. Hill was unconvincing in her initial report.  It is widely known that she withheld certain details in her telephone report, and that some details were completely different in the Major’s findings.  Thus begins the sceptic’s examination of her testimony.

It has been said that following her interview with Major Henderson, Betty borrowed several books on UFO’s, extraterrestrials and abduction from her local library, which bears a significant amount of criticism from those who understand the fallacies of eye witness testimony.  The difference between her original statement and what she swears to after this cursory research is, as critics claim, more than suspect.

In the early 1960’s however, and considering the fantastic nature of her claims, the populous was eager to soak up her every word.

In successive weeks, the Hill’s recounted their story, adding detail as they went along.  Betty endured horrific nightmares and both husband and wife began displaying tell-tale signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, at the time a psychological concept still in its infancy.  Through her post-abduction research, Betty came across a book written by retired Marine Corps Major Donald E. Keyhoe, and apparently due to something she found relevant in the book, she attempted to correspond with Keyhoe, who was the then leader of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP).  Keyhoe eventually put the Hill’s in contact with fellow NICAP member and astronomer, Walter N. Webb, who conducted a six hour interview of each Mr. and Mrs. Hill, now famously known as The Webb Interview.  The results of the Webb interview are pointedly bland; NICAP held a standard policy of general scepticism and from that position, Webb remained unconvinced of the truth behind the Hill’s encounter.

The subject of Betty Hill’s dreams quickly became the focus of the Hill’s story, which has also become known as the Zeta Reticuli Incident, after the amazing detail eventually recovered from both Betty’s dreams and from later hypnosis sessions, in which she describes star maps and other features of the alien ship with surprising depth.  And though it may be an astounding assessment at this point, this is where the story gets really weird.

From shortly after the Webb Interview until her death in 2004, Betty Hill repeatedly extolled the fantastic circumstances of her abduction, as remembered through her dreams, to nearly anyone who would listen.

The following is a reasonably accurate paraphrased account of Betty’s dream, found on[4]

“In the dream, Betty seemed to be struggling to regain consciousness; she then realized that she was being forced by two small men to walk in a forest in the night-time, and of seeing Barney walking alongside her, though when she called to him, he seemed to be in a trance or sleepwalking. The small men stood about five feet tall, and wore matching uniforms, with caps similar to those worn in the U.S. Air Force. They had no hair on their heads, and had large bulbous foreheads.

In the dreams, Betty, Barney, and the small men all walked up a ramp into a disc-shaped craft of metallic appearance. Once inside, Barney and Betty were separated. She protested, and was told by a man she called “the leader” that if she and Barney were examined together, it would take much longer to conduct the exams. She and Barney were then taken to separate rooms. Though the leader and the other men spoke to her in English, their command of the language seemed imperfect, and they had difficulty communicating.

Betty then dreamt that a new man, similar to the others, entered to conduct her exam with the leader. Betty called this new man “the examiner” and said he had a pleasant, calm manner.

The examiner told Betty that he would conduct a quick exam and a few tests to note the differences between humans and the craft’s inhabitants. He seated her on a chair, and a bright light was shone on her. The man cut off a lock of Betty’s hair. He examined her eyes, ears, mouth, teeth, throat and hands. He saved trimmings from her fingernails. After examining her legs and feet, the man then used a dull knife, similar to a letter opener to scrape some of her skin on to a glass slide.

The doctor removed Betty’s dress. He told her to lie on a table. Saying he was examining her nervous system, he dragged a machine somewhat resembling an EEG device over her front and back body. The doctor cleaned his hands with a liquid and put examination gloves on. He took out a hypodermic needle some four to six inches long to conduct what he said was a pregnancy exam. He used a wet swab on her navel. He thrust the needle into it, which caused Betty agonizing pain, but the doctor rubbed her forehead and the pain vanished.

Betty was told that her exam was complete, and that she and Barney would shortly be returned to their automobile. She began conversing with the leader, only to be interrupted when another man rushed into the room and – seemingly excited – spoke with the leader in a strange language. They hurriedly left the room, leaving Betty alone.

Returning in a few minutes, the leader examined Betty’s mouth and seemed to be trying to pull her teeth from her mouth. When this was unsuccessful, the leader asked why her teeth were fixed while Barney’s came out of his mouth. Laughing, Betty told them that Barney wore dentures because humans often lose their teeth as they age. The leader seemed unable to understand the concept of old age. She tried to explain what a year was, but he didn’t seem to understand.


A rendering of Betty Hill's map of Zeta Reticuli

In the dream, Betty asked the leader if she could take an artefact from the ship in order to prove the reality of the encounter. The leader let her take a large book whose pages were filled with symbols filled in columns.

She then asked the leader where he and his craft had come from. Betty wrote that, in response, from the wall the leader “pulled down a map, strange to me … It was a map of the heavens” marked with numerous stars and planets. (Clark, 281) There were different types of lines between some of the stars which denoted, she was told, trade and exploration routes. The leader asked Betty if she knew where the Earth was located on the map. Betty responded by saying that she did not, being unfamiliar with the map. The leader then said that because of her ignorance, it was impossible to explain where he had come from.

Betty then suggested that humanity would like to meet other inhabitants of the universe, and tried to persuade the leader to openly announce their presence on Earth. Amid her pleas, the men brought Barney into the room. He seemed to be in a daze.

The men began escorting the Hills from the ship, though an argument broke out amongst the men in the strange language they’d spoken before. The leader then took the large book from Betty. She protested, saying that the book was her only proof of the encounter. The leader said that he personally did not care if she kept the book, but the other men of the ship did not want her to even remember the encounter. Betty insisted that no matter what they did to her memory, she would one day recall the events.

She and Barney were taken to their car, where the leader suggested that they wait to watch the craft’s departure. They did so, and then resumed their drive. Betty stated that the event was miraculous and exciting, but Barney said nothing.

Betty’s dream concluded with her asking, “Now do you believe in flying saucers?” Irritated, Barney said, “Don’t be ridiculous.”

While Betty thought the dreams might reflect actual events, Barney was more sceptical, thinking that his wife had simply had a number of unusually vivid dreams.”

It wasn’t until three years later that Betty and Barney Hill underwent hypnotic therapy at the capable supervision of Dr. Benjamin Simon of Boston MA.  Simon’s sessions with the Hill’s were extensive and as controlled as could be managed in a hypnotherapy setting.  Ultimately, Simon too was unconvinced of the truth behind the encounter.  He was one of the first to suggest that Barney’s recollection of the events was likely the result of memory transference from Betty’s continuous retelling of the encounter since that night, but he was not the last.

In the years after this precipitous event, Betty and Barney tried to go back to their normal lives, Barney was a hard working US Postal Service employee, and Betty a social worker, but thanks to John H. Lutrell’s story in the Traveller on October 25, 1965, the Hill’s fame was secured, and their story was printed for all to read shortly after in John G. Fuller’s book, The Interrupted Journey.

hillpic6The Zeta Reticuli Incident, as Betty Hill preferred to call it, is perhaps the most famous abduction case in the history of UFOlogy; followed by such incidents as The Walton Incident, which was the inspiration for the hit sci-fi movie Fire in the Sky, and the Rendlesham Forest Incident.  Whether the details were embellished by Betty Hill, or recounted word-for-word as gospel certainty, the underlying truths to the story remain difficult to deny.  On that night, on the dark and lonely US Route 3 in New Hampshire, Barney and Betty Hill encountered something that changed their lives.  They became the impetus for many more abductees to come forward and share their stories, and like so many of the incidents that have happened since, and which happened before 1961, theirs is one of the foundational memes of UFO culture worldwide, whether by accident or design.

Did Betty Hill meet with, discuss the comedic value of dentures with, and ultimately come to respect actual extraterrestrials?  We may never know for sure, but if the incidence of similar reports every year since then is any indication, we may know more than we did sometime soon.



[1] An approximation of the 1991 Roper Poll is available here:

[2] The Roper Poll in question is no longer available from the Roper Organization, though many UFOlogists have published and analysed the data from that poll with included commentary.  See: and and

[3] The four kinds of alien or UFO encounters are defined as: 1st– A sighting of one or more unidentified flying objects, 2nd– An observation of a UFO and of associated physical effects from the object, 3rd– Observation of alien beings or operators of said UFO, 4th– Abduction by alien beings or associated UFO.

[4] Source URL:

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