Sep 12, 2016

The Interrupted Journey of Betty and Barney Hill

There haven't been a lot of alien abduction stories recently, but for about ten years, they were all the rage.

People having weird "missing time" experiences or strange screen memories, going to a therapist, and uncovering years of abductions, painful medical procedures, and forced sexual acts orchestrated by groups of greys, praying-mantis beings, and humans.

Contrary to popular myth, the average abductee is a well-educated, wealthy young woman trying to deal with a history of traumatic abuse.

Unfortunately, the accounts try to heterosexualize the abductees whenever possible, reducing gay hints to "two women on a camping trip" or "two men sitting in their car."

The first well-publicized alien abduction case involved Betty and Barney Hill (left: James Earl Jones, who played Barney in a tv movie. Or at least, when I searched for "James Earl Jones" on google images, this is what it showed me).

  They were a middle-aged, middle-class couple, well educated, and active in politics: the local civil rights committee, the Unitarian Church and the NAACP.  They were interracial in the racist 1960s, but if you were careful, you could avoid most of the prejudice.  They got occasional stares, and some of their relatives wouldn't talk to them, but they had never been assaulted, yelled at, or turned away from a hotel.

On the night of September 19, 1961, they were driving home to Portsmouth, New Hampshire after a delayed honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls and Montreal.  Around 10:30 pm, they saw a bright light on the road ahead.  It got closer and closer, until they saw that it was a gigantic flying object about 60 feet across.  They could see beings through a row of windows: short humanoids wearing shiny black suits with matching caps and weird snake insignias.  One gave Barney a coquettish, over-the-shoulder smile, which frightened him.

The next thing they remembered was arriving at home, two hours later than expected.  They showered extensively, feeling unclean.  Their clothes were ruined, as if they had been torn off.

Later Betty began having vivid dreams, and under hypnosis she and Barney both recalled stopping for a road block, being taken from their car and brought aboard the spaceship, and being subjected to medical procedures.

 Betty had extensive conversations with her captors, one of whom spoke English (or used telepathy). They showed her a star map, and offered to give her a book (but the offer was rescinded later).

Barney didn't interact with them, and mostly kept his eyes closed, but he said that the aliens moved "with the cold precision of German soldiers."  In another session, he elaborated: "He looks like a German Nazi.  He's a Nazi."

The alien who smiled at him looked like "a redheaded Irishman," which made Barney nervous, due to his past experiences with racist Irishmen.

 Barney had a long tube inserted up his rectum, and a device placed over his penis to extract sperm (but, he said, he experienced no arousal).

(Left: Barney with a rocket in his pocket).

The case was written up in Look magazine, then in a bestselling book, The Interrupted Journey (1966).  Barney died in 1969, but Betty became a lifelong advocate of the alien abduction phenomenon, dismissing other explanations, insisting that they encountered beings from another world that night.

What other explanations have been suggested of the Hills' experience?  Other than fatigue and leading questions by the hypotherapist, the most cogent is an encounter with a motorcycle gang -- the bright lights, the uniforms -- who stopped them, questioned them, and subjected Barney and maybe Betty to a sexual assault -- they felt unclean afterwards, and showered and wanted to burn their clothes.

But why would your mind transform a sexual assault into an alien abduction which was just as traumatic, but would subject you to scorn and derision for the rest of your life?  And why would a motorcycle gang have a cordial conversation with Betty after assaulting her?

I read The Interrupted Journey around the end of grade school or the beginning of junior high, and I was fascinated.  Not only by the abduction:
1. You never saw black men and white women together on tv, in movies, or in real life.  I didn't know that interracial relationships existed.  If they were possible, what other desires were erased, hidden from view?
2. This was the first time I read the word "penis," anywhere.  It felt liberating and rather naughty to be thinking of Barney's penis.
3. Barney's experience, however much he denied it, was obviously sexual.  And it occurred at the hands of men, or male beings.  If same sex acts could occur in an alien abduction, certainly they could occur in real life!