Betty and Barney: The Official Version

Stanton T Friedman and Kathleen Marden. Captured: the Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience, The True Story of the World’s First Documented Alien Abduction. New Page Books, 2007.

This is something of an official biography of the Hills, by Betty’s niece, with the support of one-time nuclear engineer and long time at least semi-professional UFO lecturer Stanton T Friedman. As might be expected it presents the classical Friedmanesque style of fundamentalist ufology, with Betty and Barney being kidnapped by real live Zeta Reticullans in a nuts and bolts spaceship. Thus it is not always as insightful as the studies in the Pflock and Brooksmith volume, nevertheless it is not without interest.

The most important sections are those which show how Betty in particular was dragged into the realm of contactee cultism by the more than semi-mysterious Robert Hohmann and C. D. Jackson. Curiously Friedman (or is it Marden) seems surprisingly warm towards their “brave scientific experiments” in trying to get Betty to telepathically contact the space people. During these experiments a number of rather odd things are said to have happened, but no convincing evidence of anything was ever forthcoming. Though the authors are too polite to say so, there seems little doubt that these two came close to driving Betty totally over the edge, especially after the death of Barney.

It was in those years that Betty and her sky watching friends began seeing flying saucers all over the place and having all sorts of other strange experiences. Betty does seem to have been one of those charismatic personalities around whom people reported stories of the strange experiences, which they interpret in terms of their own beliefs and culture. These ‘wondrous experiences’, including one very odd one during Betty’s last illness, have more than echoes of the tales told about Catholic saints or spiritualist mediums.

I think this book just reinforces my suspicion that we would know a lot more about the Betty and Barney Hill story and its origins if we knew a lot more about Hohlman and Jackson, and whether they were just a couple of typical cultic milieu saucerarians of the sort that you could find in any British provincial flying saucer club, or something more sinister. The Hills were political radicals, deeply involved in the civil rights movements, perhaps with significant political careers ahead of them, and who maintained friendships with people on a nearby military base. Just the sort of people you might think to whom J Edgar Hoover would take a special animus against, in their case perhaps pushing them deeper and deeper into the bottomless mire of ufology, replaced the more usual drink, sex and financial indiscretions as the means to neutralise them. -- Peter Rogerson.

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