By Stanton T. FriedmanI am sure that everybody who has been following the US election campaign is well aware that much of what has shown up on the Internet simply wasn’t true. Clearly some was intentionally posted to deceive. It has also been true that much that has been written about UFOs has been false. A fine example of ignorance or intentional deception appeared in a “skeptical” piece by Brian Dunning (BD) which appeared as Skeptoid No. 124 on October 21, 2008. It was sent to me by a guy who occasionally sends nasty comments after I appear on Coast to Coast. The title is “Betty and Barney Hill: The Original UFO Abduction.” It can be found on Skeptoid.com.
It is truly a splendid textbook example of propaganda and misrepresentation. BD does get the date right, Sept. 19, 1961, but very little else. “Near the resort of Indian Head they stopped their car in the middle of Rte. 3 to observe a strange light moving through in the night sky. The next thing they knew, they were about 35 miles further along on their trip and several hours had elapsed.” Talk about omissions. There was more than one stop. The large object (hardly a light) was within a few hundred feet. Barney observed it through binoculars from outside the car. He observed a double row of windows through which he could see about 10 individuals, red lights on fins on the outside, etc. This was conscious recall and was described to NICAP Investigator Walter Webb during a six hour interview on October 21, 1961. No hypnosis was involved.
“Then Betty began having nightmares two weeks later; in her nightmares she described being taken aboard an alien spacecraft and having medical experiments performed. As a result of these nightmares, Betty and Barney decided to undergo hypnosis.” This is absurd. Barney had developed hypertension, bleeding ulcers, was unable to sleep. He was in therapy . The original thought, that these symptoms were related to his having moved to NH leaving his sons, was dispelled by the therapist. At one session he noted that he and Betty had been searching for the location where they had seen the UFO. Then he was referred to Psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin Simon, an early expert in treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder using medical hypnotic regression with amnesia induced after each session.
BD States “Innumerable books and movies were made about the Betty and Barney Hill abduction…you almost never hear a critical treatment of their story.” He mentions none of the books. I know of three (Ref. 1, 2, 3) and one movie, NBC’s 1975 “The UFO Incident” starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons. There have been loads of very critical treatments, for example, by Carl Sagan in the bestselling “Cosmos” (Ref.4) and in an article in Parade magazine (Ref.5). BD goes on “Much of the Hill story is said to be based on these separate hypnosis sessions…In fact that turns out not to be case at all…It is important to note that that it was more than two years after the incident that the Hills underwent hypnosis. During those two years Betty was writing and rewriting her accounts of her dreams. All of the significant details you may have heard about the Hills medical experiments came from her two years of writing.” This is a total lie. There was no writing and rewriting as can be seen by reading what she wrote, for example, in “Captured!” and the comparative analysis between the dreams and the hypnosis material.
She did dream of a star-map, but it was on a roller like maps at school and was not 3D. BD has the gall to claim, “Betty probably told the story to Barney over and over again until his ears fell off over a period of two years before they ever had any hypnosis.” I have no idea what the source is for this nonsense. Nor for this ridiculous comment “When they first saw the light, Betty said she thought it was a spacecraft. Barney always said he thought it was an airplane.” Without hypnosis they described seeing it close-up near their car with a double row of windows and barely moving and without any noise. This is an airplane?
Dunning then notes that Betty’s written description of the beings in her nightmare was different from Barney’s under hypnosis But when reliving the moments together their descriptions of events matched: “After Betty Hill heard these sessions suddenly her hypnosis accounts began to describe the same kind of character.” The simple fact of the matter is that Betty and Barney were each hypnotized separately and amnesia was induced after each separate session so they could not talk with each other about what came out under hypnosis. Betty could not have heard any of these sessions until Dr. Simon finally played the tapes for them.
Dunning then tries to relate the characters described in the hypnosis session to aliens who appeared 12 days prior to Barney’s first hypnosis session in February 1964 to an experience on the Outer Limits TV program called “The Bellero Shield.” As a matter of fact, they do not match. Dunning admits “The Hills stated they did not watch it.” As with most of Dunning’s claims, no basis is given for claiming they did. It should be noted that nowhere does Dunning bother to note that Betty was a social worker and a supervisor in the Welfare Department of the State of New Hampshire. Of course he doesn’t mention that Barney was on the governor’s Civil Rights Commission. Nor does he give Dr. Simon’s name or background such as that he ran a 3000 bed hospital for shell shock war veterans and that he was featured in an army film “Let There be Light” about his successful treatment of these veterans, using hypnosis in the same fashion he used with Betty and Barney to recover missing memories.
Dunning claims: “Betty had commonly spoken of UFOs even before 1961, including one story she often told of her sister’s own close encounter in 1957.” Again no source is given. The fact is that her sister’s daughter, Kathleen Marden, co-author of “Captured!” has stated this is false. Betty mentioned it once to Barney and he didn’t believe in UFOs and that was the end of that.
Dunning then gives this strange summary: “So here’s what we have so far: A woman who clearly had an obsession with UFOs [no evidence whatsoever] saw a light in the sky that her husband described as an airplane [when it was farther away]. She then spent two years writing an elaborate story [totally false] and no doubt telling it and retelling it to her husband [totally false]. Later under hypnosis Barney was asked about the events described in Betty’s story, and surprise, surprise, he retold the story she already told him a hundred times [totally false] and added a dash from the Outer Limits.”
Dunning mentions radar sightings included in the Blue Book file and dismisses them naturally excluding some important data such as the supposed weather balloons having a very low radar profile. He tries to throw out measurements made on Betty’s dress by unnamed “crop circle enthusiasts” but ignores the important work done by analytical chemist Phyllis Budinger, employed by a major company for 35 years. He claims that anything found on the dress was the result of its being in the closet for 40 years. Phyllis actually had a very similar dress (her wedding dress) kept for that long and not having any of the same stuff on it.
Dunning is equally cavalier in trying to toss out the star map work done by Marjorie Fish. Surprisingly he mentions her by name, then totally misrepresents what she did. He says she read a book [Of course he doesn’t mention that it was John Fuller’s Interrupted Journey and that she visited Betty to get more data.] “It’s seven or 8 random dots connected by lines.” More nonsense, there are 15 dots. The lines make sense: nearest star to nearest star. “She then took beads and string and converted her living room into a 3-dimensional version of the galaxy based on the 1969 Gliese star catalog.” The fact of the matter is she built 26 different 3D models of the local galactic neighborhood, out 55 light years, at most, from the sun. The biggest model was a 3-foot cube, hardly living room size, and was used as a teaching tool by Dr. Walter Mitchell, Chairman of the Astronomy Department at the Ohio State University. He and Marjorie and Betty are all in the movie UFOs Are Real. (Ref. 6) The galaxy is about 100,000 light years across. Most of the work was done before the Gliese catalog was published. Nobody doing what she did before the Gliese was published could have identified the stars because the correct distance data had not been available. Of course he says Zeta Reticuli when there are 2 stars, Zeta 1 and Zeta 2 Reticuli. (The constellation is Reticulum.) He makes no note of the facts that they are the closest to each other pair of sun-like stars in the neighborhood (1/8th of a ly apart), and a billion years older than the sun and 39.3 light years from Earth and that all the pattern stars are sun-like though only 5% of those in the neighborhood are, and that all the sun-like stars in the 3D volume represented by her models are part of the pattern and that they are all in a plane. He claims that anybody could have made a crude drawing using the Gliese data, not published until 8 years after the event!! He makes claims about Carl Sagan and other astronomers’ comments, but neglecting to say they don’t stand up to careful review such as provided by Astronomy writer Terence Dickinson. (Ref. 7 and 8)
He concludes this mockery of journalism and science: “The Betty and Barney Hill abduction story has every indication of being merely an inventive tale from the mind of a lifelong UFO Fanatic. It is unsupported by any useful evidence and is perfectly consistent with the purely natural explanation.”
I have been unable to find any biographical data about Dunning though there is a well known flautist with the same name. His piece (there are many other false claims besides those noted above) stands as a monument to laziness, misrepresentation, bias and ignorance. It is almost pure baloney, an inventive tale from the mind of an anti-UFO fanatic. No, I have no idea why he and other debunkers are so determined to ignore the UFO evidence.
1. Fuller, John The Interrupted Journey Dial Press, New York. 1966
2. Pflock, Karl and Brookesmith, Peter (Editors) Encounters at Indian Head: The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Abduction Revisited 2007 Anomalist Books
3. Friedman, Stanton T. , Marden, Kathleen. Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience. 320 pages, New Page Books, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, 2007, Autographed by both authors, UFORI, POB 958, Houlton, ME 04730-0958 $18.99 includes P & H
4. Sagan, Carl Cosmos TV Series and Book, 1980
5.Sagan, Carl UFO Abductions PARADE, March 7,1993
6.UFOs Are Real DVD 1979 93 minutes UFORI, $20.00
7.Dickinson ,Terence The Zeta Reticuli Incident Astromedia 1974
8. Dickinson, Terence Update on the Zeta Reticuli Incident, UFORI 1980 $1.00