Many states might shy away from immortalizing its UFO history. But the State of New Hampshire is known for its fiercely independent people and its “live free or die” motto. On July 20, 2011, it erected a historical marker to commemorate the September 19-20, 1961 close encounter and “lost” time of Portsmouth residents Betty and Barney Hill. The marker is located next to the highway in front of Cabin # 20 at the Indian Head Resort in North Lincoln and across the street from the granite stone face called Indian Head.
By Kathleen Marden
Several years ago, Mike Stevens, a Farmington, NH, man circulated a petition to request a marker to commemorate Betty and Barney Hills’ UFO experience. The State of NH Division of Historical Resources, Department of Cultural Resources advised him that a formal request would be required. I, as the Hills’ niece and trustee of Betty’s estate, then worked with the state over the next 3-4 years to complete the process. Employees at the Department of Cultural Resources called upon me to suggest appropriate text for the marker—a challenge in and of itself. Every statement had to be footnoted and supported by ample evidence that it was true and accurate. In all, the wording for the 12 line plaque had 20 footnotes and 28 sources listed in its bibliography.
The final wording approved by the state agency reads as follows:
On the night of September 19-20, 1961, Portsmouth, NH couple Betty and Barney Hill experienced a close encounter with an unidentified flying object and two hours of “lost” time while driving south on Rte 3 near Lincoln. They filed an official Air Force Project Blue Book report of a brightly-lit cigar-shaped craft the next day, but were not public with their story until it was leaked in the Boston Traveler in 1965. This was the first widely-reported UFO abduction report in the United States.They didn’t accept my first draft. I had stated that the Hills were prominent members of the community and supported it with evidence that Betty and Barney were active in community affairs. They helped organize the Rockingham County Community Action Program and Barney was chairman of the Board of Directors. In 1965, Barney was appointed to the NH State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Barney was legal redress officer for the local chapter of the NAACP and served on the regional board. They promoted literacy throughout the state and worked on Lyndon Johnson’s presidential campaign. I accompanied Betty and Barney to his inauguration in January 1965. We were invited guests.
I had also added that the Hills’ experience generated interest in the scientific community because J. Allen Hynek, James McDonald, Carl Sagan, David Saunders, Leo Sprinkle, Stanton Friedman and others looked into the case. But that text didn’t make the final cut either. I am, however, very pleased with the text that the D.O.C.R. eventually approved. The marker is beautiful.
The decision to place the marker by Indian Head was a difficult one to make. Five locations were initially considered. The Mt. Cleveland picnic area, south of the Town of Twin Mountain was the Hills’ first stop. It gave Betty the opportunity to view through binoculars the star like object that had sparked her curiosity fifteen miles north. She watched as it traveled across the face of the moon flashing multi-colored lights. By the time she handed the binoculars to Barney, the object had changed course, and shortly thereafter, rapidly descended in their direction.
My next suggestion was the Old Man of the Mountain historical site in Franconia Notch, the Hills’ second stop. The Hills stated that as they motored past the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway just north of the Old Man, Betty noticed that the lights on a structure at the top of the mountain blinked out as the craft passed over it. It then rounded the mountain and hovered motionless in the sky, except for its rotation, beside the Old Man’s 48 foot profile. It was at least 1 ½ times the length of the natural granite formation from chin to forehead. It appeared cigar shaped because they were observing a lighted row of windows. Within moments, the silent craft rapidly changed direction and ascended and descended in a stair step pattern.
Indian Head was my next suggestion. Located near Franconia Notch’s the south entrance, the resort offers ample parking space and was a prominent landmark along the Hills’ journey south.
In regressive hypnosis with Dr. Benjamin Simon, Betty stated, “We went past the Flume, somewhere between the Flume and Indian Head or……..it was just beyond the Flume or just beyond Indian Head. There was a motel and it was like cabins, these small neat looking cabins. The sign itself wasn’t lighted, but there was one cabin on the end that had a light on, and there was a man standing in the door. And I saw this and I thought, “If I want to I can get out of this whole situation right now. All we’ve got to do is drive in here and this object will go away, and that will be the end of it.” But they didn’t stop.
Only a mile south of Indian Head and almost directly in their path, the couple encountered a huge flattened circular disc with a row of intense blue-white lighted windows along its forward edge. Barney rapidly brought the car to a halt in the middle of the road and grabbed his binoculars for a closer look, opening the car door for a less encumbered view. The silent hovering object descended to an estimated eighty to a hundred feet above their vehicle. It had ceased rotating. Rapidly, in an arc like movement, it shifted from its location directly ahead, and rested above the tree tops in an adjacent field. Barney pocketed his handgun and walked toward it. The silent enigmatic craft was huge; maybe sixty to eighty feet in diameter. As he approached it, two red lights at the end of fin-like structures parted from the sides of the craft, and it tilted toward Barney.
Lifting his binoculars to his eyes, he spied a group of “strangely not human” figures moving about with what he described as “the precision of German officers.” As the craft tilted downward and began to descend toward him, one of these strange creatures, who remained at the window, communicated a frightening message. Barney had the immediate impression that he was in danger of being plucked from the field. Overcome with fear and with all of the courage that he could muster, he tore the binoculars from his eyes and raced back to the car. Breathless, trembling, and in near hysterics, he told Betty that they needed to get out of there or they were going to be captured.
The close encounter field would have been my number one choice for the marker but Interstate Highway 93 now passes through it, with entrance and exit ramps to Route 3. At the height of the tourist season, it would have presented a traffic flow problem. The Notch Express, a convenience store and gas station near the ramp is a place of interest. Its walls are lined with UFO photos and memorabilia and UFO related video is constantly playing on a monitor by the checkout counter.
The fifth location that we considered was the abduction site on Mill Brook Road in Thornton. We almost immediately rejected that notion because it is located off the highway in a new housing development. In 1961, Betty and Barney found themselves on the then deserted logging road where they encountered a roadblock by non-human entities. They reported that they were forced aboard a landed disk and subjected to unearthly physical examinations before they were released. After years of searching, they located the landing site on Labor Day Weekend in 1965.
We made the final decision that Indian Head was the best overall location for the historical marker. Over the past 50 years, the Indian Head Resort has grown into a large modern facility with motel rooms, a function hall, business center, restaurant and lounge, and swimming pools. This year it will host a 50th anniversary celebration of the Hills’ UFO experience on September 23-25. There will be a memorial marker dedication and many additional activities. I will be on hand to give a guided tour along the close encounter route and a new presentation about the Hills’ close encounter and abduction. For additional information, see my website at www.kathleen-marden.com and my 2007 book with Stanton Friedman, Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Encounter.
Note: the Hills’ archival collection is housed at the Milne Archival Collection Department at the University of New Hampshire Library, 18 Library Way, Durham, NH 03824. The collection consists of 87 folders, arranged in 9 series. These contain correspondence, personal journals and essays, manuscripts, newspaper clippings, photographs, slides, and films and audio tapes of the Hills’ radio and television appearances. I compiled the collection in 2005 at Betty’s request.
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