On the evening of September 19th, 1961, the Hills were driving back to Portsmouth from a holiday in Niagara Falls and Montreal. When they were just South of Lancaster, New Hampshire, Betty noted a bright point of light in the sky that moved from below the moon and Jupiter, upward to the west of the moon. Betty first thought she was observing a falling star, aside from the fact it moved upward. As the light continued to move erratically, growing bigger and brighter, Betty urged Barney to pull over so they could take a closer look, and to walk their dog.
Once they pulled over, Betty had a look through the binoculars and observed an ‘odd-shaped’ craft flashing multi coloured lights which travelled across the face of the moon. Barney also observed through the binoculars, at first assuming what he saw was a commercial airliner, though soon changed his mind as the craft begun to descend in his direction. They quickly returned to the car and continued driving.
The Hills drove slowly so they could observe the object as it continued to move through the sky. About one mile south of Indian Head, the object descended towards their vehicle, causing Barney to stop in the middle of the highway. Barney noted that the craft filled the entire view of the windshield and reminded him of a huge pancake. He stepped away from the vehicle, carrying his pistol. He claims to have seen eight to eleven humanoid figures wearing glossy black uniforms through the craft’s windows. He said that all but one moved towards a panel on the rear wall of the hallway around the front of the craft, the one remaining communicated a message to Barney, ‘stay where you are and keep looking.’
Barney ran back to the car yelling to Betty ‘They’re going to capture us!’ The couple made it back to the car and began driving, however they soon heard a rhythmic buzzing that seemed to bounce off the trunk of their vehicle. As the car vibrated, the Hills claimed to have felt a tingling sensation pass through their bodies, after which they experienced an altered state of consciousness. After a second series of buzzing sounds, the couple regained full consciousness, however they were now almost 35 miles south.
On arriving home, the Hills said to have felt odd sensations they couldn’t explain, their watches no longer worked, and the leather strap of Barney’s binoculars was torn. Betty later noticed that the hem on her dress was torn, and it was coated in a pinkish powder. There were also shiny concentric circles on their car’s trunk that hadn’t been there before. When they moved close to these spots with a compass, the needle would whirl rapidly.
On September 21st, Betty telephoned Pease Air Force Base to report the incident, though she didn’t reveal all the details. In the years to come, Betty suffered from disturbing dreams and Barney developed anxiety. The couple sought out psychiatrist and neurologist, Benjamin Simon, who specialised in hypnosis. Through their sessions, Simon discovered that the unidentified object had landed atop of the Hill’s car, putting them to sleep. Afterwards the humanoid figures walked them into the craft and, once inside, the couple were separated, taking turns in an examination room. During the examination the figures removed the couple’s clothes, took nail clippings, strands of hair and skin samples. Betty also recalled a star map, which she later drew from memory.
Following the hypnosis sessions, Simon speculated that Barney’s memory of the UFO encounter may possibly be a fantasy inspired by Betty’s dreams. However, Betty and Barney remained sure that they had experienced an alien encounter. In 1965, the Boston newspaper picked up the story, and a year later, writer John G Fuller, with the help of the Hills, wrote a book inspired by the events, called The Interrupted Journey.
Though the Hills were not the first to report an abduction, their story was the first to gain significant public interest. According to Christopher Bader, a professor of sociology at Chapman University, previous reports of alien encounters had been friendly, however after the Hills story, accounts would share similar themes such as missing periods of time and medical examinations.