Listening to the tape recording is still unsettling, even more than half a century later. “It’s alright,” says the comforting voice of Dr. Benjamin Simon as he guides Barney Hill into a deep, dark hypnotic trance. “You can go right on. Experience it. It will not hurt you now.” Barney is sitting safely in a Boston office with the psychiatrist, but to him, it is certainly not “alright.” As the buried memories surface from his unconscious mind, he begins to shriek almost hysterically, “I gotta get my gun! I gotta get my gun!”
When the human brain experiences something too terrible and horrifying to bear, amnesia can sometimes be the psychological response. Barney and Betty Hill suspected that something awful had happened to them on a remote New Hampshire highway, but they could not fully remember what. Three years after their experience, though, psychiatrist Dr. Simon used hypnotic regression to return them to that fateful night.
Respected in their community, Barney and Betty were a normal, down-to-earth couple. Betty was a social worker with a university degree. Barney worked for the postal service. Perhaps the only slightly remarkable thing about them was that they were an interracial couple at a time in U.S. history when this was relatively rare. However, what apparently happened to them on their drive back from Montreal to their home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on the night of 19 September, 1961 would transcend all that – and change their lives forever.