Guest post from Nicholas Mignanelli, Yale Law School
I was so inspired by Sarah Gotschall’s post on UFO research that I had to write a post calling attention to the Betty and Barney Hill Papers in the Special Collections of the University of New Hampshire Library. Although I’m not certain how all of this intersects with legal research, I would like to think there is a legal scholar out there using ufology resources to theorize about…uhhh, space law? Maybe these posts will help the law librarian tasked with consulting on that research project. As a disclaimer, my life is somewhat linked with these papers: not only am I a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, but I also grew up just 15 minutes from the alleged abduction site.
Betty and Barney Hill were a married couple from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Betty, a graduate of the nearby University of New Hampshire, was a social worker. Barney was a postal worker. Betty was white, Barney was Black, and together they became respected local civil rights activists. In fact, but for the events of the night of September 19, 1961, they would have been remembered solely for their faithful service to the NAACP and their Unitarian Universalist congregation. The universe, however, had other plans.
Driving south through the White Mountains on their way home from a trip to Montreal, Betty and Barney encountered a UFO in the night sky and lost three hours of time. Later, in a series of hypnosis sessions administered by a psychiatrist, they separately recounted being abducted by extraterrestrial beings from the Zeta Reticuli star system. Although they initially told their story to family members, friends, and a few UFO researchers, it was later leaked to a reporter for the Boston Evening Traveller. When United Press International (UPI) picked up the frontpage story published in the Traveller, the Hills’ account gained international attention. The authorized version of their story was later told by John G. Fuller in his 1966 book The Interrupted Journey: Two Lost Hours “Aboard a Flying Saucer.” In 1975, their story was turned into a made-for-television movie starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons.
Barney passed away in 1969, but Betty spent the following three decades engaging in UFO research. Before her death in 2004, Betty agreed to donate her personal papers to her alma mater. A detailed description of the papers—and how they came to the UNH Library—can be found in a recent article by Special Collections Librarian William Ross published in The Journal of Popular Culture. For the purpose of keeping this post short, I’ll simply point out that what makes the Betty and Barney Hill Papers so unique and controversial is that they include, among other peculiar items, the dress that Betty wore on the night of the alleged abduction and a bust depicting one of the extraterrestrial beings as Betty described them.