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September 19, 2007

Alien Abduction: Betty & Barney Hill
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:05 PM * 359 comments

Today, this very day, forty-six years ago, Betty and Barney Hill drove down U.S. 3, right past my house and into history. They were about to become Patient Zero for Alien Abductions with Weird Medical Experiments, Missing Time, and Big-Eyed Extraterrestrials. The first and (we are told) best documented case of Alien Abduction Evah. There was a book. There was a made-for-TV movie. Magazine articles. Mentions in other books. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. X-Files.

So what happened out on Route 3?

Here’s Paranetinfo.com’s brief summary:

Synopsis: In the early morning hours, Betty and Barney Hill were returning from a vacation in Montreal, Canada. As they traveled down Highway 3, just outside of Colebrook, New Hampshire, Betty first noticed a star that appeared to be moving. Bringing Barney’s attention to it, they watched it as they continued to drive. They realized that the star was moving and keeping pace with them as they negotiated the mountainous terrain.

Somewhere, outside of Indian Head, NH, they decided to stop the car and use binoculars to attempt to see what the object was. Barney left the road and moved through the woods to get a closer look. By this time, the Hills’ realized that the star was a pancake-shaped object which had moved to a position in front of their car at tree-top level. As Barney got closer to it, he observed two fin-like objects with blinking red lights that appeared to detach from the fins, as the fins began coming out of the sides of the object.

Through binoculars, Barney could see humanoids standing in a large window looking at him. As he observed, all of the men except what Barney called the “leader”, turned and began operating levers and controls on a wall behind them. The leader continued staring at Barney and Barney could detect that the leader was telling him not to be afraid and that they were going to come down for him and bring him onboard.

Barney was filled with absolute terror and found that he could not take the binoculars away from his face. He claimed that the leader’s eyes just bored into his head. Tearing the binoculars away from his eyes so hard that he broke the strap around his neck, he ran hysterically back to the car screaming to Betty, “They are going to capture us!!”

Barney jumped into the car and began driving wildly. Shortly after this, the Hills’ heard a series of beeping sounds and this is where their memory of the experience ends. Later, they hear another series of beeping sounds and when they return to consciousness, they discover that they have traveled 35 miles from where their memory fails them. When they return home they also realize that 2 hours are unaccounted for.

Following this, the Hills’ are treated by a Boston psychiatrist, Dr. Benjamin Simon, and, under medical hypnosis, they recall the terrifying 2-hours of missing time.

This story is told in detail in a book by John Fuller, “The Interrupted Journey” and was made into a television movie by the same name.

I’ll be looking at Fuller’s account in some detail, but this will be long so I’ll put it below the cut.

Watch this space. More to come—

Keep reading Alien Abduction: Betty & Barney Hill


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Let’s start out with the only absolutely objective data we have: Time of sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset, from the Naval Observatory.

The following information is provided for Lancaster, Coos County, New Hampshire (longitude W71.6, latitude N44.5):

Tuesday
19 September 1961 Eastern Standard Time

SUN
Begin civil twilight 5:00 a.m.
Sunrise 5:30 a.m.
Sun transit 11:40 a.m.
Sunset 5:50 p.m.
End civil twilight 6:19 p.m.

MOON
Moonset 11:30 p.m. on preceding day
Moonrise 2:45 p.m.
Moon transit 7:38 p.m.
Moonset 12:34 a.m. on following day

The following information is provided for Portsmouth, Rockingham County, New Hampshire (longitude W70.8, latitude N43.1):
Wednesday
20 September 1961 Eastern Standard Time

SUN
Begin civil twilight 5:00 a.m.
Sunrise 5:28 a.m.
Sun transit 11:37 a.m.
Sunset 5:44 p.m.
End civil twilight 6:13 p.m.

Phase of the Moon on 19 September: waxing gibbous with 70% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated.

First quarter Moon on 17 September 1961 at 3:23 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Time of transit is when the moon is due south. 19SEP61 would have been during Daylight Savings Time, so lunar transit would have been at 2038 local, moonset at 0134 local. Actual observed moonset would have varied depending on exactly where they were—in the mountains the moon could have gone behind a mountain and vanished from sight a half-hour or more before astronomical moonset.
Here’s the story as told in the Concord Monitor a year ago today. I recommend you read the full article; it’s got a lot of good material, particularly on Betty’s life in the decades that followed.

This part of the story follows Fuller, with no original reporting. It will serve as a summary for when I go through Fuller’s first chapter (the relevant one) below. That will be lengthy. In this brief recap, please notice the bit about leaving the main road.

It was September 19, 1961, and the weather report predicted a hurricane along the New Hampshire coast, so Betty and Barney Hill cut their long weekend in Montreal short and headed back to Portsmouth in their 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.

They stopped at a restaurant in Colebrook, where Betty ate a piece of chocolate layer cake and Barney ate a hamburger. At 10:05 p.m. they were back on Route 3 heading toward the White Mountains.

The sky was clear, and just past Lancaster Betty noticed a bright light close to the nearly full moon. As it got closer and brighter, she pointed it out to Barney, a World War II veteran who knew something about planes. He assumed it was a satellite, perhaps off-course.

Their dachshund, Delsey, was getting antsy, so they pulled over to let her out. Betty took binoculars from the car. With hyperbolic finesse, Fuller described the moment this way: “Betty put the binoculars up to her eyes and focused carefully. What they both were about to see was to change their lives forever, and as some observers claim, change the history of the world.”

Afterward, Barney was disinclined to discuss what he had seen, but Betty did so in a letter she wrote soon after to the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. “He did see several figures scurrying about as though they were making some kind of hurried type of preparation. One figure was observing us from the windows … and seemed to be dressed in some type of shiny black uniform,” she wrote. “At this point, my husband became shocked and got back in the car, in a hysterical condition, laughing and repeating that they were going to capture us.”

Back in the car, Barney drove wildly in an effort to escape. Past Franconia Notch they left Route 3 and headed down a smaller road.

Betty Hill said recently she was more curious than afraid at the time. “I understood something’s going to happen and I don’t know what it is, but I’m ready for it. At that point I rolled down the window and waved hello to the craft,” she said, laughing into the crook of her arm. “At this time I was sure it was a flying saucer, but I didn’t say so.”

Suddenly a cluster of beings was blocking their way. Barney stopped the car, but could not restart it. The men came toward them.

For almost three years, their memories would stop at that scene, only to pick up sometime later that night, when they found themselves driving south near Ashland.

Actually, their memories didn’t stop. We’ll get to that anon. One important point to remember: Not Fuller, not Hynek, not Klass … not even Betty and Barney themselves as they attempted to retrace their steps … ever personally tried driving down Route 3 late at night.


Here’s a more recent work (July 23, 2007), with my commentary:

Captured! - the Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience: The True Story of the World’s First Documented Alien Abduction

By Stanton T. Friedman and Kathleen Marden

“With the publication of this book, the skeptics’ ‘wiggle room’ has shrunk to zero.” —from the Foreword by Dr. Bruce Maccabee, author of Abduction In My Life

From Chapter 9 (pp. 99-100)

[UPDATE: Note: All but 150 words of the fair use quote from Captured! removed at the request of Kathleen Marden.]

An Unconventional Craft Approaches

As Barney drove south on Route 3, Betty rode silently, observing her surroundings. This Great North Woods area of northern New Hampshire was dotted with sprawling farm homes, acres of cornfields, and yards full of logs waiting to be milled. They passed through a valley edged with small, tree-covered mountains along a two-lane highway lined with railroad tracks and skirted by the Connecticut River. After they had traveled approximately 27 miles south of Colebrook they passed Groveton, elevation 884 feet above sea level.

Correcting an error from Fuller’s book.

Eight miles south of Groveton, at an elevation of 867 feet, lay the village of Lancaster and its well-known fairground.

On March 7, 1964, Dr. Simon probed Betty’s detailed memory of her trip through northern New Hampshire. She stated she was somewhat startled by a truck that passed, dragging…

About where Jupiter would have been.

They mean they left a wide valley with rolling hills. From Lancaster south the road is narrow, winding, and very hilly. The Connecticut River valley is behind and they won’t reach the Merrimack valley for quite a while.

They could be observed briefly (at one point in the swamp just north of White Mountain Regional High School) if you know exactly where to look and the leaves are off the trees. After that the next spot you can see the Presidentials is in Twin Mountain.

That’s an interesting feature there. More when we get to John Fuller’s book. This clue is all you need to figure out what happened.

Here’s an explanation for the object’s apparent motion: it was considerably closer than Jupiter, and was objectively getting closer and larger. And it really was moving in relation to the star field behind it.

Have no fear, Betty: It wasn’t Jupiter.



At this point I will go to a detailed look at The Interrupted Journey: Two Lost Hours “Aboard a Flying Saucer” by John G. Fuller. I must preface this by saying that I mean no disrespect to Betty or Barney Hill, nor to Mr. Fuller. It’s possible for someone to be completely sincere, absolutely truthful, and utterly mistaken. Also it’s important to note that “UFO” only means “Something in the sky that I don’t recognize.” It doesn’t mean “An alien spacecraft flown by extraterrestrials.”

Chapter One

September in the White Mountains is the cruelest month.

Doyle read this aloud as we made our way down Route 3—me, Doyle, and our born-and-raised-in-New-Hampshire daughter Pip—following Betty and Barney’s trail. And as soon as she had spoken it, all three of us in the car burst out laughing.

No one had told John Fuller about January or February, perhaps, when a pot of boiling water thrown into the air turns to ice by the time it hits the ground and walking to the end of your driveway to get the paper can be life-threatening, or about Mud Season in March and April. September is heavenly, with bright blue skies dotted with puffy white clouds, cool days and crisp nights, the trees just beginning to show a tinge of color.

The gaunt hotels, vestiges of Victorian tradition, are shuttered, or getting ready to be; motels and overnight cabins flash their neon vacancy signs for only a few fitful house before their owners give up and retire early. The New Hampshire ski slopes are barren of snow and skiers, the trails appearing as great, brownish gashes beside the silent tramways and chair-lifts.

The ski slopes are still brilliant green, while the hotels are recovering from the Summer People and getting ready for the Leaf Peepers who will arrive in just a couple of weeks. It is true that the motels shut down early, but if you call ahead they’ll leave a key out for you.

The Cannon Mountain tramway runs 365 days a year, and has been doing so since 1938 when it became the first aerial tramway in North America. That tramway will be important later in our story.

The Labor Day exodus has swept most of the roads clear of traffic; very few vacation trailers and roof-laden station wagons straggle toward Boston or the New York throughways. Winter is already here on the chilled and ominous slopes of Mount Washington, its summit weather station clocking the highest wind velocities ever recorded on any mountain top in the world.

Highest wind velocities ever recorded anywhere on the surface of the earth, outside of tornadoes. Still this is a glorious time for hiking Mt. Washington. Just remember to tell folks when you’re expected back and what route you’re taking, and pack for an overnight blizzard (good advice in July and August as well).

Bears and red foxes roam freely. In a few weeks hunters in scarlet or luminous orange jackets will be on the trails, intent on deer or ruffed grouse, or anything legal in sight.

Not to mention road signs, barns, cows, and each other.

The skiers follow later, their minds on powder snow and hot buttered rum, as they bring back the gay holiday mood of summer. Once again the White Mountains will take on new life.

Ah, for a simpler time when a gay vacation only meant a cheerful one. We have to make our own fun in Colebrook. What we generally do is go out to The Balsams and watch the New Yorkers drink doubles.

It was in the doleful mid-September period of 1961—September 19, to be exact—that Barney Hill and his wife Betty began their drive from the Canadian border down U.S. 3, though the White Mountains, on their way home to Portsmouth. It was to be a night drive, brought on by a sense of urgency. The radio of their 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop made it clear that a hurricane coming up the coast might cut in toward New Hampshire, an event that in previous years had uprooted trees and spilled high-tension wires across roads.

The Great Hurricane of ‘38, to be precise.

They had failed to bring along enough cash to cover all the extras of their holiday trip, and their funds had dwindled sharply as they had driven leisurely up to Niagara Falls, then circled back through Montreal toward home.

Ah, the real reason why they were making a forced march is revealed. They didn’t have enough money for a motel so they’d decided to pull an all-nighter.

They had cleared through the U.S.-Canadian custom house at about nine that evening, winding along the lonely ceiling of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, a section of the state that is said to have threatened to secede not only from Vermont, but from the United States as well.

I don’t know about the Northeast Kingdom threatening to secede from the United States, but the town of Pittsburg, New Hampshire, was a separate country into the beginning of the 19th century—The Republic of Indian Stream. To this day there’s an eighteen-inch section between the US and Canadian customs houses on Route 3 in Pittsburg that doesn’t belong to either country, the result of a surveying error in 1842.

There were three possible places for Barney to have crossed from Canada into Vermont: Norton, Canaan, and Beecher Falls. The border crossing in Norton is 22 miles from Colebrook, Canaan is 10 miles, Beecher Falls is 9. In the hypnotic sessions we learn Barney took Route 114, but where he got on it, whether at Norton or Canaan, isn’t specified.

The traffic was sparse; few other cars appeared on the road before the Hills approached the welcome lights of Colebrook a half an hour later…
[County Farm Road]

Time and distance estimations will be important in this story, and we’ve just reached our first one. If Betty and Barney reached Colebrook in a half hour, they didn’t cross at Norton: even today, an ambulance traveling with lights-and-sirens can’t make it from Norton to Colebrook in a half hour. The road is too narrow, steep, and winding. In 1961 it was all of those, and a dirt road to boot.

If the Hills crossed at Canaan then they were averaging twenty miles an hour rather than the fifty to fifty-five that they will later estimate. A look at the road as it would have appeared then (this is a bit that was cut off when the road was straightened some years later) makes a 20-MPH speed seem more likely.

The last major town they’d have passed in Canada would have been Coaticook, Quebec, thirty miles north of the border. The land between there and Colebrook is farming country, with few lights and fewer cars.

…an ancient New Hampshire settlement founded in 1770, lying in the shadow of Mt. Monadnock, just across the river from Vermont. The lights of the village, though a relief from the endless turns of the narrow two-way road they had been traveling, were few. A forlorn glow came from the windows of a single restaurant, and realizing that this might be the last chance for any bracing refreshment for the rest of the trip, they decided to turn back even though they had driven past it.

The lights of the village would have appeared when they crested Cooper Hill, just up from my house. There were three possible restaurants they could have stopped at, all on Main Street (as Route 3 is called in Colebrook): Howard’s, at the corner of US 3 and NH 145 (still in operation; I recommend the pie), The Legion (now called The Wilderness—they open early for the farmers, truckers, and hunters), and the Speed Chef (where Bouchard’s apparel is now located).

Both Howard’s and The Legion closed around 9:00 pm, but Speed Chef (owned by Lawrence Kelsea, since deceased) stayed open until one or two in the morning, making it the most likely place for them to stop.

The restaurant was nearly deserted. A few teen-agers gathered in a far corner.

“A few teen-agers” is how you’d describe The Entire Senior Class at Colebrook Academy.

Only one woman, the waitress, in the quiet restaurant seemed to show any reaction at all to the fact that Betty and Barney Hill’s was a mixed marriage:…

“Not from around heah, are ya?”

…Barney, a strikingly handsome descendant of a proud Ethiopian freeman whose great-grandmother was born during slavery, but raised in the house of the plantation owner because she was his own daughter; Betty, whose family bought three tracts of land in York, Maine, in 1637, only to have one member cut down by the Indians….

[And so on for a bit. We return from a lengthy digression to their roadtrip, already in progress….]

But what was to happen to them this night of September 19, 1961, had nothing whatever to do with their successful mixed marriage, or their dedication to social progress. Nor was there any hint of what was to happen as they sat at the paneled restaurant counter in Colebrook, Barney unceremoniously eating a hamburger, Betty a piece of chocolate layer cake. They didn’t linger too long at the counter, just long enough for a cigarette and a cup of black coffee before they continued down U.S. 3 toward home.

Had They But Known! I’m interested in exactly how you go about ceremonially eating a hamburger. But never mind that now. Fuller is fond of his adverbs.

The distance from Colebrook to Portsmouth is a hundred and seventy miles,…

178.4 miles from the site of Speed Chef in Colebrook to the Portsmouth Traffic Circle, by actual measure following Betty and Barney’s itinerary.

… with U.S. 3 remarkably smooth and navigable in the face of the deep mountain gorges it must negotiate. Further south, below Plymouth, nearly thirty miles of four-lane highway—more than that now—invite safe speeds up to sixty-five miles an hour. For the other roads, Barney Hill liked to drive between fifty and fifty-five, even if this should be a shade above the limit.

Even today, in good weather and daylight with the road straightened and widened since 1961, it’s hard to make that speed, and it is considerably above the limit most places once you’re south of the Notch. It’s also well above Sane for those mountain gorges. I think that Barney may well have been overestimating his speed (see above, Canada-to-Colebrook).

The clock over the restroom in the Colebrook restaurant read 10:05 when they left that night. “It looks,” Barney had said to Betty as they got in their car, “like we should be home by 2:30 in the morning—or 3:00 at the latest.”

That’s a wildly optimistic estimate. But they’d already decided that they were going to drive home that night. They were on the tail end of a twelve-hundred-mile trip, had run out of money, and were committed to pushing on.

Please note that time tick, though: 10:05 EDT at Colebrook. That’s the last hard piece of data we’ll have until they arrive home at dawn the next day.

Betty agreed. She had confidence in Barney’s driving, even though she sometimes goaded him for pushing too fast. It was a bright, clear night with an almost-full moon. The stars were brilliant, as they always are in the New Hampshire mountains on a cloudless night, when starshine seems to illuminate the tops of the peaks with a strange incandescence.

“Strange incandescence,” check.

The car was running smoothly through the night air, the road winding effortlessly along the flat ground of the uppermost Connecticut River valley, an ancient Indian and lumbering country, rich in history and legend. The thirty miles south to Northumberland,…

Fuller is working from maps and tourist brochures, not from an actual visit. Had he checked it out for himself he’d have discovered that the town is called Groveton, though the police cars have “Town of Northumberland” on their doors. (He might also have found out that Groveton, then and now, is a speed trap; Barney wasn’t going fifty-to-fifty-five through town.)

… where Rogers’ Rangers made their rendezvous after the sack of St. Francis, passed quickly. Betty, an inveterate sight-seer, enjoyed the brilliance of the moon reflecting on the valley and the mountains in the distance, both in New Hampshire to the east and over the river to Vermont in the west. Delsey, the Hills’ scrappy little dachshund, was at peace on the floor by the front seat at Betty’s feet.

One wonders what Delsey made of the space aliens. One also wonders what the space aliens made of Delsey: “Nice people, but woo! is their kid ugly….”

Through Lancaster, a village with a wide main street and fine old pre-Revolutionary houses—all dark now on this September night—U.S. 3 continues south, as the Connecticut River swings westward to widen New Hampshire’s territory and narrow Vermont’s. Here the smooth, wide valley changes to a more uncertain path through the mountains, with the serrated peaks of the Pilot Range, described lushly by one writer as “a great rolling rampart which plays fantastic tricks with sunshine and shadow, and towards sunset assumes the tenderest tints of deep amethyst.”

The mountains there are indeed called the Pilot Range on the map, but I don’t know about serrated. I’d say more rounded as if they’d been ground down by an ice sheet about a thousand feet thick. The Pilot Range has nothing more to do with this story—like Lancaster’s wide main street (Lancaster is particularly proud of that; it’s in all the brochures) it’s just there to provide local (amethyst) color.

The important point to note is that the road here becomes steeper and more winding as it leaves the Connecticut valley and heads for Franconia Notch and the headwaters of the Merrimack river.

There was no sunshine or amethyst now, only the luminous moon, very bright and large, and a black tarvia two-lane road which seemed totally deserted. To the left of the moon, and slightly below it, was a particularly bright star, perhaps a planet, Betty Hill thought, because of its steady glow.

There were no streetlights, either. In the shadows of the trees and mountains at night US 3 is blacker than the Earl of Hell’s weskit. And the road didn’t just seem deserted—it probably was deserted. One of Colebrook Academy’s class reunion parties featured a volleyball game with the net strung across Route 3.

The planet to the left of the moon was Jupiter. The planet to the right of the moon was Saturn. The moon had transited at 8:38 p.m. local time while Betty and Barney were still in Canada and was now setting in the southwest. The moon and planets would have been visible from the straight stretch just north of Lancaster before the junction with US 2.

Just south of Lancaster, the exact time she cannot remember, Betty was a little startled to notice that another star or planet, a bigger one, had appeared above the other. It had not been there, she was sure, when she looked before. But more curious was that the new celestial visitor appeared to be getting bigger and brighter. For several moments she watched it, said nothing to her husband as he negotiated driving through the mountains.

The money shot. [Mt. Prospect]

Just south of Lancaster, as US 3 heads away from the Connecticut, one goes steeply up hill over the shoulder of Mount Prospect. On the peak of that mountain stands Weeks State Park, a fire tower, and the John Weeks House (hosting a museum that has in its collection a bull moose shot by Teddy Roosevelt himself). On the right as one crests the shoulder of the mountain there’s a Scenic Turnout. But there’s one thing more important still: As one comes over that crest line the top of Cannon Mountain (AKA “Profile Mountain” because it was the site of the Great Stone Face) suddenly appears dead ahead, bearing 199 magnetic. (Yeah, I know the road is four lanes at this time. I remember when it was widened, too—before then you could get stuck forever behind a truck laboring up that slope.)

At night, Cannon Mountain is invisible.

But, on top of Cannon Mountain there’s an observation tower, and on top of that observation tower is an all-around white light.

Here’s the description of that light from when it was put into operation in 1959:

Documented History (by the NGS)

1/1/1959 by CGS (FIRST OBSERVED)
DESCRIBED BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1959 (HRL) STATION IS LOCATED ABOUT 11 MILES SOUTHWEST OF TWIN MOUNTAIN AND ABOUT 5-1/2 MILES SOUTHEAST OF FRANCONIA ON THE HIGHEST POINT OF PROFILE MOUNTAIN. STATION IS ABOUT 35 FEET TALL, CONSTRUCTED OF WOOD AND IS SUPPORTED BY FOUR LEGS. THE POINT INTERSECTED WAS THE WHITE LIGHT ON THE ROOF OF THE TOWER WHICH IS JUST TO THE EAST OF CENTER OF THE ROOF. TO REACH STATION FROM THE JUNCTION OF U.S. HIGHWAYS 3 AND 302 AND STATE HIGHWAYS 10 AND 115 IN TWIN MOUNTAIN GO WEST AND SOUTH ON U.S. HIGHWAY 3 FOR 12.0 MILES TO THE AERIAL TRAMWAY AT FRANCONIA NOTCH AND END OF TRUCK TRAVEL. RIDE THE TRAMWAY TO THE TOP AND THEN FOLLOW THE FOOTPATH FOR ABOUT 5 MINUTES TO THE SUMMIT AND STATION AS DESCRIBED.

Betty would have lost sight of the moon and its accompanying planets as the car went up hill along the side of Mt. Prospect, heading nearly due south. As they crested the rise, the moon and planets would reappear, only now there were two lights to the left of the moon.

The light on Cannon Mountain, at that range on a clear night, is as bright or brighter than Jupiter. On a clear night stars appear below the peak of Cannon Mountain to the right and left.

Up above we heard the Hills, in a different interview, relate, “it first appeared to be a falling star—only it fell upward.”

Immediately after cresting the shoulder of the mountain, Route 3 plunges down a 9% grade for the next half mile. The road is pointed directly at Cannon Mountain at this time. Subjectively, at night, I can report of my own direct observation, the light appears to head rapidly straight up.

Perhaps Betty could not recall the exact time, but I can calculate it: Driving south from Colebrook along Rt. 3, doing 55 MPH from Colebrook to North Stratford and 50 MPH south of there (per the speed limit these days, using cruise control for accuracy) with 30 MPH in the towns of North Stratford, Groveton, and Lancaster, Betty and Barney would have crested that rise at 10:53 p.m. local time. Had they driven more slowly, they’d have gotten there later; that’s the earliest they could have arrived.

Finally, when the strange light persisted, she nudged Barney, who slowed the car somewhat and looked out the right-hand side of the windshield to see it. “When I looked at it first,” Barney Hill later said, “it didn’t seem anything particularly unusual, except that we were fortunate enough to see a satellite. It had no doubt gone off its course, and it seemed to be going along the curvature of the earth. It was quite a distance out, meaning it looked like a star, in motion.”

How a satellite might go off course is never explained, but that the light was following the curvature of the earth is very perceptive.

In a moving car, at night, in the mountains, the illusion that the car is stationary while the world is moving outside is strong. And the light on Cannon does appear to move against the star field.

They drove on, glancing at the bright object frequently, finding it difficult to tell if the light itself were moving or if the movement of the car were making it seem to move. The object would disappear behind trees, or a mountain top, then reappear again as the obstruction was cleared. Delsey, the dog, was beginning to get slightly restless, and Betty mentioned that perhaps they should let her out and take advantage of the road stop to get a better look. Barney, an avid plane watcher who sometimes liked to take his two sons (from a former marriage) to watch Piper Cub seaplanes land and take off on Lake Winnipesaukee, agreed, and pulled the car over to the side of the road where there was reasonably unobstructed visibility.

“…finding it difficult to tell if the light itself were moving or if the movement of the car were making it seem to move.” That too is a very perceptive comment. The next obvious question would be, “What made you think that the light was the thing that was moving?” Subjectively, driving on that road at night, the light does appear to move up and down, to the right and left of the road, appearing and disappearing between trees and mountains. Even if you know what it is, it’s weird to watch. It vanishes over here, it reappears over there … spooky.

There are several places along US 3 between Lancaster and Whitefield where the light on Cannon Mountain is easily visible.

At this point we come to the first of several stops of unknown duration that Betty and Barney will make during their trip to Portsmouth. Whether or not they maintained their estimated speed, these stops must have added up.

There were woods nearby, and Barney, a worrier at times, mentioned they might keep an eye out for bears, a distinct possibility in this part of the country. Betty, who seldom lets herself get concerned or emotional about anything, laughed his suggestion off, snapped the chain lead on Delsey’s collar, and walked her along the side of the road. At this moment, she noted that the star, or the light, or whatever it was in the September sky, was definitely moving. As Barney joined her on the road, she handed Delsey’s leash to him and went back to the car. She took from the front seat a pair of 7x50 Crescent binoculars they had brought along for their holiday scenery, especially Niagara Falls, which Betty Hill had never seen before. Barney, noting that the light in the sky was moving, was now fully convinced that it was a straying satellite.

Betty put the binoculars up to her eyes and focused carefully. What they both were about to see was to change their lives forever, and as some observers claim, change the course of the history of the world.

Betty and Barney will spend a lot of time laughing off each others’ suggestions before the night is out. Barney should have put worries about bears out of his mind. We used to say that there hadn’t been a bear-related fatality in New Hampshire in over 200 years. But, just recently, a guy saw a bear, ran, and had a heart attack.

Back to the light in the sky: It’s very hard to tell if a point light source against a dark background is moving. Tiny eye movements, if nothing else, create the illusion. Keeping a pair of binoculars that you’re holding in hand steady on an object is very difficult. The object will jump all over the place, thanks to muscle tremors.

Barney expected to see the light moving; he thought it was a satellite. Betty too expected to see it moving. She thought it was a flying saucer (as will shortly be revealed).

At this point there’s a line break and Fuller drops back to a wide-ranging digression.

The holiday trip had been a spontaneous idea, originating with Barney. For some time now, he had been assigned to the night shift at the Boston post office, where he worked as an assistant dispatcher….

And so on for several pages. We learn that:
a) Barney commuted 120 miles every day.
b) Barney worked nights and was bored with his job.
c) Barney decided to drive out to Niagara Falls on the evening of 14 September, told Betty about it on the morning of the 15th, and planned the trip that same morning.
d) “But trip money was not in the budget.”

The digression then digresses further to provide quite a bit more detail about Betty’s family, how she grew up during the Depression, her college career, and her dedication to Civil Rights.

We’re still on the 15th of September, four days before Betty and Barney traveled down Rt. 3, as we return to our story already in progress….

The planning of the trip that was to have such a profound impact on their lives was brief and relaxed. The shortage of immediate funds was partially compensated for by Betty’s idea of borrowing a car-refrigerator from a friend. In this way, the expense of too many meals in restaurants would be reduced. Barney, momentarily ignoring the diet for his ulcers, drank a glass of orange juice, ate six strips of bacon and two soft-boiled eggs, as he plotted the course of the trip on a few Gulf road maps. They would drive leisurely, avoiding the throughways, pay a brief visit to Niagara Falls, then circle through Montreal, and back to Portsmouth. While Betty shopped for food, Barney took a nap to recover from his all-night work at the Boston post office.

That is to say, his sleep schedule is already disrupted. The total distance of the trip would be on the order of twelve-hundred miles, and they would be going on secondary roads.

They finished most of their packing that afternoon, filled the car-refrigerator with food and put it in the deep freeze. By eight o’clock that evening they were in bed with the alarm set for four the next morning.

Barney, an inveterate early-riser, was up first, but in moments Betty had coffee percolating, and the last-minute packing process began….

Her sleep schedule is disrupted too. We’re now on the morning of Saturday, the 16th. Skipping ahead a bit, as Fuller goes into their last-minute packing process in more detail than you’d expect….

It was a clear, crisp New Hampshire morning as they drove off, noting the mileage on the speedometer only to lose the slip of paper later—an ingrained habit of Barney’s. They drove out on Route 4, toward Concord, in a festive mood. Barney, at the wheel, burst into a hoarse version of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” Betty, who liked to hear Barney sing, smiled. Barney, who liked to please Betty, smiled back. There was no hint at all of what was about to happen later; nor could there be. No such event would be so thoroughly documented.

Barney likes to please Betty. Check. Thoroughly documented. Check. Lost the slip with the mileage. Check.

We return from that pages-long digression via a line-break to find:

The object they saw in the sky near Route 3 four nights later, south of Lancaster, New Hampshire, continued its unpredictable movement as they passed through Whitefield and the village of Twin Mountain. They stopped briefly several times, and by now Barney was frankly puzzled.

Okay, we have one stop north of Whitefield and “several” through Whitefield and Twin Mountain. (Need I mention that the light on top of Cannon Mountain is visible at various points along this entire route—sometimes high, sometimes low, sometimes to the right of the road, and sometimes to the left?)

His only alternate theory, aside from a satellite, was that the object was a star, a theory he immediately discounted because they had proved that it was in movement, changing its course in an erratic manner. At one of the stops, a few miles north of Cannon Mountain, Betty had said, “Barney, if you think that’s a satellite, or a star, you’re being absolutely ridiculous.”

The light on Cannon does indeed move against the starfield as you drive south. Betty’s right: it isn’t a satellite or a star.

With his naked eye, Barney could tell that she was right. It was obviously not a celestial object now, he was sure. “We’ve made a mistake, Betty,” he said. “It’s a commercial plane. Probably on its way to Canada.” He got back in the car, and they continued driving on.

Betty, in the passenger seat, kept it in view as they moved down Route 3. It seemed to her that it was getting bigger and brighter, and she kept getting more and more puzzled and more curious. Barney would note it through the windshield on occasion, but was more worried about a car coming around the now frequent curves of the road. His theory that it was a commercial airliner headed for Canada soothed his annoyance at the fact that he might be confronted with some unexplainable phenomenon.

The light on Cannon does indeed keep getting bigger and brighter. One question that you’d have to answer in order to show this was a flying saucer is, “If what you saw was a space ship, where was the light on Cannon while all this was going on?”

The road was completely deserted; they hadn’t seen a car or truck in either direction for miles now, which left them alone in the deep gorges late at night. Some natives of northern New Hampshire prefer never to drive through these roads at night, through long-standing custom and superstition.

Superstition my [bleep]! You could run into a moose up there, and you could be dead. Plus, as Fuller was at pains to point out, everything’s closed. Where would you drive to?

In winter, an informal group known as the Blue Angels patrols the roads for cars frozen or broken down. It is too easy to freeze to death in these lonely stretches, and the State Troopers cannot possibly cover the wide territory frequently enough. Barney, his concern growing in spite of his comforting theories, hoped that he would soon see a trooper or at least another car driving by which he could flag and compare notes with.

Blue Angels? I suppose it’s possible. Before my time. But it is easy to freeze to death up here, and traffic is light. One night I drove to Littleton and didn’t see one single other vehicle on the road between Colebrook and Whitefield. We’ll see in a bit exactly how eager Barney was to talk with someone about what they were observing.

Around eleven o’clock they approached the enormous and somber silhouette of Cannon Mountain, looming to the west on their right.

No they didn’t. Around eleven o’clock, even if they hadn’t stopped to walk the dog, even if they’d been driving fifty-to-fifty-five miles an hour the whole way, they would have still been north of Whitefield.

Later on, Fuller will make a big deal about how, the next morning when they arrived home, Betty and Barney discovered that their watches weren’t running. What this tells me is that, if this was based on Betty or Barney looking at their watch, that watch had already stopped.

After they leave Colebrook there are no good time-ticks.

Barney slowed the car down near a picnic turnout that commanded a wide view to the west and looked again at the strange moving light. In amazement he noted that it swung suddenly from its northern flight pattern, turning to the west, then completing its turn and heading back directly toward them.
[Mt. Cleveland Picnic Area]

South of Twin Mountain you have a couple of choices, but the only one that matches this description is the picnic turnout at the foot of Mt. Cleveland. (Beaver Brook is up a sideroad and doesn’t have a good look at the sky. The turnout at the top of the Franconia Notch trails already has a good view of the Aerial Tramway.)

Barney braked the car sharply, turning off into the picnic area.

Ah, so at the moment he saw the unknown object swing in a circle and head back toward them the car was still in motion. That is a pretty fair description of the Cannon Mountain light’s apparent track, too, right about there. You come to the Mt. Cleveland picnic area directly out of a set of S-bends.

“Whatever you’re calling it, Barney,” Betty said, “I don’t know why, because it’s still up there, and its still following us, and if anything it’s coming right toward us.”

“It’s got to be a plane,” Barney said. They were standing in the picnic area now, looking up at the light which was growing bigger still. “A commercial liner.”

The light is objectively considerably bigger here than it is when you can first spot it outside Lancaster. And, when you stare at a point source against a dark background, it will appear to grow in size (approach you). Try it with a random star and see for yourself.
“With a crazy course like that?” Betty said.

“Well, then it’s a Piper Cub. That’s what it is. With some hunters who might be lost.”

“It’s not hunting season,” Betty said, as Barney took the binoculars from her. “And I don’t hear a sound.”

Neither did Barney, although he desperately wanted to.

“It might be a helicopter,” he said as he looked through the binoculars. He was sure that it wasn’t, but was reaching for any kind of explanation which would make sense. “The wind might be carrying the sound the other direction.”

“There is no wind, Barney. Not tonight. You know that.”

Unless an aircraft is very close and very low, you wouldn’t hear a sound anyway, and sound does get lost in the mountains. Still air at the surface is no guarantee of still air aloft—those high winds on Mount Washington aren’t far away. But in any case, if it was indeed the light on Cannon Mountain that they were seeing, there wouldn’t be a sound.
Through the binoculars, Barney now made out a shape, like the fuselage of a plane, although he could see no wings. There also seemed to be a blinking series of lights along the fuselage or whatever it was, in an alternating pattern. When Betty took the glasses, the object passed in front of the moon, in silhouette. It appeared to be flashing thin pencils of different colored lights, rotating around an object which at that time appeared to be cigar shaped. Just a moment before it had changed its speed from slow to fast, then slowed down again as it crossed the face of the moon. The lights were flashing persistently, red, amber, green and blue. She turned to Barney, asking him to take another look.
Through binoculars Barney would have been able to make out the edge of the roof on the lookout tower, illuminated by the light above it.

As to the color changes, I have no explanation, other than that by now Betty and Barney must have both been reeling with fatigue.

“It’s got to be a plane,” Barney said. “Maybe a military plane. A search plane. Maybe it’s a plane that’s lost.”

He was getting irritated at Betty now, or taking out his irritation on her because she was refusing to accept a natural explanation. At one time, several years before, in 1957, Betty’s sister and family had described seeing clearly an unidentified flying object ….

Barney is starting to get cranky. And we’re now told that Betty is a true believer in flying saucers. The description of her sister’s UFO encounter runs on for a bit. When we return to Betty and Barney in the picnic area….
Beside them, the dachshund was whining and cowering.
Perhaps noticing that Betty and Barney were getting tense and angry with one another.
Betty gave the binoculars to Barney, took Delsey to the car and got in and shut the door. Barney put the glasses on the object again, again wishing that he could find some comfort from comparing notes with a passing motorist. He wanted above all to hear a sound: the throb of a propeller-driven plane or the whir of a jet. None came. For the first time, he felt he was being observed, that the object was actually coming closer and attempting to circle them. If it’s a military craft, he was thinking, it should not do this, and his mind went back to a few years before when a jet had buzzed close to them, shattered the sound barrier, and cracked the air with an explosion.
It looks like Betty’s getting cranky too.
Getting back in the car, Barney mentioned to Betty that he though that the craft had seen them and was playing games with them. He tried not to let Betty know that he was afraid, something he didn’t like to admit to himself.

They drove on toward Cannon Mountain at not much more than five miles an hour, catching glimpses of the object as it moved erratically in the sky.

They’re both tired, and scared.

The distance from the Mt. Cleveland picnic area to the base of Cannon Mountain is 6.4 miles. If Barney really drove it at “not much more than five miles an hour,” there’s one of his missing hours right there.

At the top of the mountain, the only light they had seen for miles glowed like a beacon, appearing to be on the top of the closed and silent aerial tramway, or perhaps on the restaurant there.
[Topo Map]

They’re in the Notch now, and can see the windows on the restaurant at the top of the Aerial Tramway, elevation 4,077 feet. Although the snack bar there closes around five in the afternoon, the Coke machines and such would have cast a visible light (as they do to this day). Betty and Barney were about a mile from the top of the Tramway at this time, and to the dark-adapted eye even the glow of a cigarette is very visible at that range.

The top of the mountain is 4,180 feet, the light is 36 feet above the base of the tower which sits on that peak. The light on the lookout tower is about 150 feet above the Tramway, and about 250 feet south of it.

There are two separate lights visible at this point: the restaurant at the top tramway station, and the lookout tower. Betty and Barney observed two lights: the restaurant at the top tramway station, and the UFO.

They stopped again near the base of the mountain, momentarily, as the object suddenly swung behind the dark silhouette and disappeared. At the same moment, the light on the top of the mountain went out, inexplicably.

As you move farther south through Franconia Notch, both the light at the tramway station and the light on the lookout tower are occluded by the shoulder of the mountain.

Betty looked at her watch as it did so, wondering if the restaurant were closed.
Yes, it was closed. But it didn’t suddenly close Right Then and switch out its lights.
She could not read the dial very plainly in the dashboard light, and never did get an accurate reading. If there were people up there, she thought, they must be getting an exceptional view of the object
[Tramway roof]

Nope, no time-tick.

Here’s a photo of the tramway station from the lookout tower. We’re looking out from the tower toward Lancaster.

No, the folks at the tramway station don’t get an exceptional view of the lookout tower. It isn’t visible unless you’re standing on the tramway’s roof. That’s a bit of US 3/I-93 in the lower center; you can get an idea of where and in what relation someone on the ground would see both structures [Tramway roof]

And here’s a photo of the restaurant windows on the tramway station. They face toward the road, and can be seen glowing visibly at night (at least these days). According to the nice lady who was running the tram car, there’s always been a snack bar up there.

As the car moved by the darkened silhouette of the Old Man of the Mountain, the object appeared again, gliding silently, leisurely, parallel to the car to the west of them, on the Vermont side of the car. It was more wooded here, more difficult to keep the object in sight as it glided behind the trees. But it was there, moving with them. Near The Flume, a tourist attraction, they stopped again, almost got a sharp, clear look at it, but again the trees intervened.
This completely, absolutely, and exactly describes the position and apparent motion of the light on the lookout tower.[Panorama]

Here is a photo from the lookout tower, looking east toward Mt. Layfayette. You can see, on the left, the shoulder of the mountain that occludes the light from the road (where Betty and Barney saw the light vanish), and you can see Rt. 3 to the southeast. The light appears, to a vehicle moving south (to the right in the photo), to follow a path that’s the reciprocal of the curves in the road.

Just beyond The Flume they passed a small motel, the first sign of life they had seen for many miles. The tidy hostelry looked comforting, although Barney, his eyes alternately moving between the curves of the road and the object in the sky, barely noticed it. Betty noted a sign beaming with AAA approval, and the light in a single lonely window. A man was standing in the doorway of one of the cottages, and Betty thought how easy it would be to end the whole situation right now by simply pulling into the motel.
Had Barney really been intent on flagging down another motorist or a State trooper, he had his opportunity here. But perhaps his desire to talk to someone else was stronger in retrospect than it was at the time.

As for Betty, one can imagine the dialog had they pulled in, and had she asked the man:

Betty: Do you see it?
Man: See what?
Betty: Over there! [points] The UFO that’s been following us! It’s been watching us since Lancaster!
Man: You mean the aircraft-warning light on Cannon Mountain?
Betty: It’s not an alien spacecraft intent on kidnapping us?
Man: Not from around heah, are ya.

On the other hand, it would have made for a very short book.

Her curiosity about the object had now become overwhelming, and she was determined to see more of it. By now Barney was beginning to irritate her by trying to deny the existence of the object. In fact, he was. He was still concerned about another car coming around a blind curve while he tried to keep one eye on the object as it moved almost directly ahead of them on the road.

Getting crankier by the minute. They’re both over-tired.

It was now apparently only a few hundred feet high, and it was huge. Further off, it had seemed to Betty that it was spinning; now it had stopped and the light pattern had changed from blinking, multicolored lights to a steady, white glow. In spite of the vibrations of the car, she put the binoculars to her eyes and looked again.

She drew a quick, involuntary breath because she could clearly see a double row of windows. Without the glasses, it had appeared only as a streak of light. Now it was clear that this was a structured craft of enormous dimension, just how large she couldn’t tell because both distance and altitude were hard to judge exactly. Then, slowly, a red light came out on the left side of the object, followed by a similar one on the right.

“Barney,” she said, “I don’t know why you’re trying not to look at this. Stop the car and look at it!”

She can see all that with binoculars from inside a moving car? I rather suspect we’re in Recovered Memories territory now.

“It’ll go away by the time I do that,” Barney said. He was not at all convinced that it would.

“Barney, you’ve got to stop. You’ve never seen anything like this in your life.”

He looked through the windshield and could see it plainly now, not more than two hundred feet in the air, he thought, and coming closer. A curve to the left in the road now shifted the object to the right of the car, but the distance remained the same. To the right, not far south of Indian Head, where another historic stone face surveys the mountains and valleys, he saw two imitation commercial wigwams on the site of a closed-down enterprise known as Natureland. Here, hundreds of youngsters swarm with their parents during summer visits. At the moment, it was silent and tomb-like.

Barney stopped the car almost in the center of the road, forgetting in the excitement any problem with other traffic. “All right, give me the binoculars,” he said. Betty resented his tone. It sounded like he was trying to humor her.

Barney got out, the motor still running, and leaned his arm on the door of the car. By now the object had swung toward them and hovered silently in the air not more than a short city block away, not more than two treetops high. It was raked on an angle, and its full shape was apparent for the first time: that of a large glowing pancake. But the vibrations from the motor jostled his arm, blurring his vision. He stepped to one side of the car to get a better look….

At this point we get into a long segment of running around a field trying to get a view of the object, with a great deal of dialog between the two. Most, if not all, of it appears to be memories recovered through hypnosis. The important point to notice is that they have, once again, stopped the car and spent some unknown amount of time looking at the strange object.

Returning to Fuller’s book a page or so later….

….

Barney was near hysteria. He jammed the car into first gear, spurted off down the road, shouting that he was sure they were going to be captured. He ordered Betty to look out the window to see where the craft was. She rolled down the window on the passenger side, looked out. The object was nowhere in sight. Craning her neck, she looked directly above the car. She could see nothing whatever. The strange craft did not appear in sight. But neither were the stars which had seconds ago been so brilliant in the sky. Barney kept yelling that he was sure it had swung above them.

2.1 miles south of Indian Head is the last time the Lookout Tower Light is visible from Rt. 3.

Betty checked again, but all she could see was total darkness. She looked out the rear window, saw nothing—except the stars, then visible through the window.

The light on top of Cannon Mountain at this point was directly behind them and obscured by trees. It hadn’t swung above them, it had vanished astern.

Then suddenly a strange electronic-sounding beeping was heard. The car seemed to vibrate with it. It was in irregular rhythm—beep, beep—beep, beep, beep—seeming to come from behind the car, in the direction of the trunk.

Barney said, “What’s that noise?”

Betty said, “I don’t know.”

They each began to feel an odd tingling drowsiness come over them. From that moment, a sort of haze came over them.

Drowsiness is about the least they can expect.

Objectively speaking, it’s probably about 1:15 a.m. by now. Moonset is coming up in fifteen minutes. They’ve probably been on their feet and moving for close to eighteen hours straight. Sleep deprivation can produce some strange effects. So can sensory deprivation, and driving through the mountains at night is a pretty close to sensory deprivation. Do you remember those old “Night Driver” video games, where you had to use a steering wheel to keep centered between an endless line of approaching dots that shifted right and left across the screen? Driving Rt. 3 at night is like that.

Some time later, how long they were not sure, the beeping sound repeated itself. They were conscious only that there were two sets of these beeps, separated by a time span they had no idea about—as well as what had happened or how long it had taken.

As the second set of beeps grew louder, the Hills’ awareness slowly returned. They were still in the car—and the car was moving, with Barney at the wheel. They were silent, numb, and sonambulistic. At first, they rode silently, glancing out at the road to see just where they might be. A sign told them they were somewhere in the vicinity of Ashland, thirty-five miles south of Indian Head, where the inexplicable beeping had first sounded. In those first few moments of consciousness, Betty remembers faintly saying to her husband, “Now do you believe in flying saucers?” And he recalls answering: “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course not.”

But neither can remember much detail, other than this, until they had driven on the new highway, U.S. 93. Not long after entering this highway, Betty suddenly snapped out of her semi-wakefulness and pointed to a sign reading: CONCORD—17 MILES.

“Concord—17 Miles” is the very first sign you see on I-93, right after the entrance ramp at Tilton, and Tilton is the very first time Rt. 3 crosses I-93 after Ashland.

“That’s where we are, Barney,” she said. “Now we know.”

Barney, too, remembers his mind clearing at this point. He does not even recall being disturbed or concerned about the thirty-five miles between Indian Head and Ashland, about which he seemed to remember nothing.

They drove on toward Concord, saying little. They did decide, though, that the experience at Indian Head was so strange, so unbelievable that they would tell no one about it. “No one would believe it anyway,” Barney said. “I find it hard to believe myself.”

Betty agreed. Near Concord, they looked for a place to have a cup of coffee, but nothing was open, anywhere.

They lose yet more time cruising around Concord looking for coffee. If “several” means “three” and each diversion took just ten minutes, they’ve lost at least eighty minutes to these stops.

The whole trip, until they reached US 93 (now I-93) at Tilton was on unlighted two-lane blacktop, mostly through woods and beside fields. The change to superhighway is the first real change.

Still groggy and uncommunicative, they ploughed on, now turning east on Route 4, swinging across the state toward the ocean and Portsmouth.

It’s probably close to four in the morning now; they’ve been driving for around twenty straight hours, with time out to eat out of their car-refrigerator and grab that snack in Colebrook. “Groggy” is how anyone would feel.

Just outside of Portsmouth, they noticed dawn streaking the sky in the east. As they drove through the streets of the slumbering city, no one was stirring. The birds were already chattering, though, and it was nearly full daylight when they reached home. Barney looked at his watch, but it had stopped running, and shortly afterward Betty looked at hers and it had also stopped. Inside, the kitchen clock read shortly after five in the morning. “It looks,” said Barney, “like we’ve arrived home a little later than expected.”

They had indeed. The birds would start chattering, and the sky would be streaked with dawn, at the beginning of Nautical Twilight (when the sky is light enough for a definite horizon to be seen, but the brightest stars are still visible). In Portsmouth, on the 20th of September 1961, nautical twilight commenced at 0427. And, finally, we have another time-tick, although it’s a squishy one: “shortly after five.”

The Startling Conclusion!

Comments on Alien Abduction: Betty & Barney Hill:
#1 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2007, 10:11 PM:

I for one, welcome ...
oh, never mind.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2007, 10:14 PM:

Lots more. The reason it's not posted is that Jim has been following Betty and Barney Hill's route, taking photos and checking facts. He's been planning this one for a while.

Here's the teaser: Betty and Barney Hill's UFO is still there. You can go see it for yourself. Jim says it looks darned spooky.

#3 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2007, 10:49 PM:

Yeah, but he should have used "Keep watching the skies!" as his end-tease.

#4 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2007, 11:04 PM:

I confess, I have always assumed that folks who report themselves as having been abducted by aliens are batshit crazy, for some value of the term. Yes, I loved Close Encounters of the Third Kind, at least until the ending when the aliens actually appeared. Makes no difference.

I hope you are not going to disabuse me of this comforting notion.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2007, 11:07 PM:

No spoilers -- but surely you've gotten Jim's measure by now?

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2007, 11:22 PM:

They're also referenced in the TV Miniseries Taken.

And I like Andras Corbin Arthen's theory that the people who today have alien abduction experiences would have "gone to visit the elves" long ago...they have a lot of things in common like lost time, non-human humanoids (often diminutive), etc. Andras thinks it's a real experience (i.e. they're not lying), but it's a spiritual one, not an ordinary-reality one.

#7 ::: Tom S ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2007, 11:41 PM:

Xopher @ #6:

Carl Sagan mentioned this idea in A Demon Haunted World. Was he borrowing from Arthen?

#8 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 12:02 AM:

#6 It's not their theory alone, and some (many?) with that theory attribute it to endogenous or environmental or accidental ingestion of DMT.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 12:15 AM:

Ray Radlein @ 3... he should have used "Keep watching the skies!" as his end-tease

Tonight, on Alpine Abductions...
Keep watching the skis!

#10 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 12:40 AM:

All the really cool stuff happens in New Hampshire.

#11 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 12:55 AM:

Haven't thought about this in ages. I remember buying the book from the Science Fiction Book Club, but I mostly remember watching the tv movie -- James Earl Jones as Barney Hill just blew me away, especially when Hill was reliving his experiences under hypnosis.

#12 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 01:56 AM:

Wow, I hadn't thought about this in years either. When I was seven or eight, I got really interested in books about UFOs, TV shows like "In Search Of...", etc. And always, Betty and Barney Hill was a centerpiece story...

#13 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 02:18 AM:

Xopher @ #6: That's one of the central themes of R.A. Wilson's Cosmic Trigger. If you've never read it, it's worth a read. He brings out a great sense of how all these occult and mystic types, when you catch them right, would say something to the effect of "Something strange is going on here, but I'm not really sure what."

Did you ever hear of the mid 19th-century airship sightings? Supposedly during the mid-late 1800s, people in various remote parts of the US reported meeting friendly visitors descending from the sky in giant airships, who explained they were just traveling from some-remote-part-of-Europe in these airships, and they're the latest thing on the continent.... only of course there wasn't any such thing.

#14 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 03:06 AM:

Yeah, those aliens have really good abs.

#15 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 03:33 AM:

If I were a "believer" (I'm not), I'd say: "Of course people in the olden days claimed they'd seen 'elves' -- they didn't know it was really alien visitors!"

The weakest part of abduction stories, like a weak case against a murder suspect, is "motive".

Why would highly advanced aliens travel a tremendously long distance, at astronomical (ha ha) costs, just to kidnap somebody? What's their motive? (Excessive boredom?)

#16 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 03:43 AM:

So it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Yarrrr!), Hermione Granger's birthday, AND the anniversary of one of the weirdest stories I unearthed in the library as a kid?

Wow.

I feel as though three phases of my fannish existence just hopped into a Tardis to have tea at Milliways.

#17 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 03:45 AM:

Used to be dragons. And mysterious flying wheels.

she wrote. “At this point, my husband became shocked and got back in the car, in a hysterical condition, laughing and repeating that they were going to capture us.”

Anyone know what Barney Hill did in WW2, because this sounds like a flashback, some sort of PTSD? Though is seems a dreadfully long time after the war. Still, something like that would really screw up anything from hypnosis.

#18 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 05:18 AM:

Never been sure why disproving stories like this is so all-fired important.

#19 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 05:56 AM:

A suggestion, Jim; you could mark out the location on a Google Earth KMZ overlay, so everyone can appreciate exactly where you can see the Presidentials from. And add any photographs you may happen to take. Or get Kathryn Cramer to do it:-)

#20 ::: Mac H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 05:57 AM:

@ #15: "Why would highly advanced aliens travel a tremendously long distance, at astronomical (ha ha) costs, just to kidnap somebody? What's their motive? (Excessive boredom?)"

I'm sure many Pacific Islanders in times gone by used the same argument to demonstrate why White Europeans were a myth.

Perhaps we need to concede that an alien culture might have alien motivations.

Mac

#21 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 06:35 AM:

"Today, this very day, forty-six years ago, Betty and Barney Hill drove down U.S. 3, right past my house and into history. "

So Jim set them up, right? He made a deal with his masters from beyond the void and sacrificed these two innocents to monsters of unholy lust.

I think I should definitely write this up. The truth needs to be told.

#22 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 06:47 AM:

#15 A.R.Yngve: Why would highly advanced aliens travel a tremendously long distance, at astronomical (ha ha) costs, just to kidnap somebody? What's their motive? (Excessive boredom?)

My theory has always been that they heard through the galactic grapevine about a strange race of beings that believes it is being visited by flying saucers and so, astonished, they came down here to have a look for themselves.

#23 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 07:08 AM:

Jim taking the time and trouble to do this is cooler than I can possibly express.

#24 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 07:16 AM:

#15: "Why would highly advanced aliens travel a tremendously long distance, at astronomical (ha ha) costs, just to kidnap somebody? What's their motive? (Excessive boredom?)"

I'd always heard it was because Earth women were hot. That probably didn't apply to Betty at her age, though.

#25 ::: marrtyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 07:40 AM:

I read somewhere that 10% of Americans think they have been the subject of alien abduction.

What I want to know is where are J and K when we really need them?

#26 ::: K.C. Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 08:04 AM:

Ooh, I remember finding that book on a relative's coffee table when I was in my early teens. I spent an evening reading it and got completely freaked out--at 14 I'd believe anything.

I told my mom about it, and she explained what folie a deux meant.

#27 ::: oldsma ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 08:37 AM:

::: Clifton Royston @13 Did you ever hear of the mid 19th-century airship sightings? Supposedly during the mid-late 1800s, people in various remote parts of the US reported meeting friendly visitors descending from the sky in giant airships, who explained they were just traveling from some-remote-part-of-Europe in these airships, and they're the latest thing on the continent.... only of course there wasn't any such thing.

They were from France? Snrk.

MAO

#28 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 09:00 AM:

Curse you! You have sold me a whole seat, but it is in excess of my specific requirements.

#29 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 09:10 AM:

I'd always heard it was because Earth women were hot. That probably didn't apply to Betty at her age, though.

Perhaps we need to concede that an alien culture might have alien motivations.

#30 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 09:10 AM:

It doesn't apply in this case, but a lot of alien abduction stories sound to me a lot like sleep paralysis. I've experienced an episode (sans aliens) and it was scary as hell. Complete awareness of sounds, touch, etc. combined with total paralysis of voluntary muscles. I couldn't open my eyes; couldn't even speed up my breathing by trying. I wasn't worried about aliens, but until I found out what it was I was concerned I might have some horrid neurological problem. (I do have a relative with narcolepsy.)

#31 ::: Seth Finkelstein ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 09:11 AM:

Earth might be some sort of rest stop on a galactic backroad. A place to get out of the ship for a while, or do some minor maintenance made easier by gravity and atmosphere. The amusing natives could just be a bonus, like picking up frogs near a pond ("I was abducted by hairless apes"). You don't hear about all the ships where nobody has an interest in the local fauna.

#32 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 09:32 AM:

#30 Lila: It doesn't apply in this case, but a lot of alien abduction stories sound to me a lot like sleep paralysis.

I've heard this theory before and, based on my own experience with sleep paralysis, I find it plausible.

Having said that, I will lay a small wager that there is at least one person reading this thread who has had what he or she believes was an alien abduction experience. I would love to hear about it. I personally won't try to argue you out of it, though I won't say I won't find the notion dubious. And I can understand hesitancy in the face of what would likely be an avalanche of skepticism. I have talked with people who describe having had this experience. They are usually extremely shy about discussing it.

Still. If you have a story you feel like telling, I personally would be interested in hearing it.

#33 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 09:45 AM:

And I like Andras Corbin Arthen's theory that the people who today have alien abduction experiences would have "gone to visit the elves" long ago...they have a lot of things in common like lost time, non-human humanoids (often diminutive), etc.

This requires some setup, but I promise there's a connection.

So back before GURPS (it's a roleplaying game) did its most recent reboot, they put out a setting book called GURPS Technomancer. The premise was that Oppenheimer's Death-Destroyer-of-Worlds quote, in combination with the atomic bomb test, had ripped a hole in reality and let, basically, magic in. So the setting was essentially "what the 2nd half of the 20th century would look like if magic suddenly worked".

There were some very neat bits--why, yes, JFK was killed with a literally magic bullet, why do you ask? Eva Peron's cancer was cured by magic, and she was still running Argentina in the 1990s. And the sidebar on "sidhe abductions", complete with teensy implanted metallic "elfshot". I thought that was so beautiful, it was almost worth the price of the book on its own.

#34 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 09:52 AM:

I would like to see a graph of the total reported cases of different weird memory-glitch-like phenomena over time. Do the stories of visits with angels and elves drop off as the space alien visits increase? What replaces them as space alien visits become less common?

My guess: Some oddball thing happens, and the person maps it to the best match they can find, and then retells the memory internally till it is internally consistent. This underlying oddball thing could conceivably be contact with space aliens or spirits or angels, though I am pretty skeptical of that. But the nature of memory is that people tend to reconstruct a sensible story from what is remembered, and this can be really far from reality.

It's really a fascinating experience to read old journal entries or to try to reconstruct a sequence of events from documentary evidence, and compare it with what you remember. I recall putting together a resume a few years back that I had messed up a bunch of sequences of events (order of classes as reported on my transcript, sequence of school/job/life events, etc), including some for which I had enough logical consistency in my "memories" that I would have bet a lot of money on my memories being right. I guess that extremely intense and scary experiences, and experiences that you see in a very different light many years later, are much worse in this regard than fairly simple and unemotional things like "when did I take that finance class, when did I take statistics, and when did I overlap the ideas between them?"

#35 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 09:53 AM:

#33: said GURPS book is clearly disinformation from The Laundry.

#36 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 10:00 AM:

Having said that, I will lay a small wager that there is at least one person reading this thread who has had what he or she believes was an alien abduction experience. I would love to hear about it.

I do not personally have such an experience, but I have two accounts from friends--directly from the person, in both cases. One claims to have seen a UFO outside his window while fully awake (and he also has sleep paralysis, which he says is scary and completely different); the other is a more conventional "abduced from bed" story with a bit of a twist to it.

He says that the aliens, as is apparently fairly common, carried him through the wall and that while they were doing so he noticed a carpenter's pencil in the wall space. He chalked it up to a dream, but several years later, when renovations of the room were undertaken, a carpenter's pencil was in the wall in the right spot. He tells me that he thinks it's possible he had the abduction dream and then went back and unconsciously filled in the pencil afterwards, but that's not how he remembers it; he remembers having seen the pencil before the wall came down.

#37 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 10:07 AM:

I'm afraid Barry Ween, Boy Genius has entirely ruined me for alien abduction stories; I can't think about the subject but the words "Look at me! I'm John Holmes!" (along with Judd Winick's rather... evocative art) spring, unbidden, to mind.

#38 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 10:12 AM:

Kip @ #29:

Well, given the very low number of "hot Earth wimmen" that have been abducted, I'd say that theory was bogus.

Otherwise, we'd be having an epidemic of abducted NFL cheerleaders or similar groups.

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 10:14 AM:

Xopher @ 6... Andras Corbin Arthen's theory that the people who today have alien abduction experiences would have "gone to visit the elves" long ago

I think that theory first came up in 1978, with French writer Bertrand Meheust. If you can read French, the link below will take you to the site of SF writer Elisabeth Vonarburg, who talks about the recent re-release of Meheust's book:

http://www.noosfere.org/heberg/auteurstf3/Sommaire.asp?site=58

#40 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Considering the "use" the Europeans generally put indigenous populations to, I think we're lucky with our new alien masters. So far.

#41 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 10:55 AM:

Ya'll know about the "Lights over Phoenix" right?

Okay, these are flares. I live not far from Barry Goldwater range and I see these lights on a very regular basis. They're military flares. And the famed "lights" are up there four or five nights of the week. The news media just chose to make a story out of it.

Anyway, /vent

Several years ago I was driving home on Maricopa Road -- which, at the time, before Phoenix vomited urban sprawl into Pinal County, was a lonely country road. It was possible to crash and not be seen until dawn if you ran off the road on on a particular curve.

So I come up on this curve and there's a guy in the road frantically waving his arms. I figured he'd been in a wreck or had seen one, got my cell phone out, stopped, cracked my window, and asked him what happened.

"They're coming! They're coming!"

-- The guy's pointing at the flares, which, as I said, are so common as to not even merit mention by the locals.

He continued to rant, "You've got to turn back! They're out there! They're coming!"

... I put my foot on the gas and left him in the dust, then called the cops to report Teh Crazy In Teh Road Stopping Teh Traffic.

Couldn't help but think, though, that if he'd had a video camera and had submitted pictures of his "UFOs" to the local media it's quite likely that there would have been a new round of Phoenix Lights stories. Because the local media just loves to carry those stories ...

#42 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 11:16 AM:

Xopher #6 And I like Andras Corbin Arthen's theory that the people who today have alien abduction experiences would have "gone to visit the elves" long ago...they have a lot of things in common like lost time, non-human humanoids (often diminutive), etc.

There are often similarities between "recovered" memories of alien abduction and "recovered" memories of abuse by Satanic cults...in particular, women claiming to have had a child when there is no evidence of such.

#43 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 11:25 AM:

Personally, I'm expecting a glowing tombstone.

#44 ::: michelel ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 11:31 AM:

albatross @ 34: Similar to Connie Willis's theory of near-death experiences in Passage? Perhaps people are experiencing a mini-stroke in a very specific part of the brain, or passing through a particular kind of marsh gas, or falling into a form of highway hypnosis particular to rural nighttime backroads environments -- something like that causes an experience that people try to fit to the nearest narrative their society has?

Do non-technological societies have similar abduction/fairy realm stories that haven't been updated to incorporate European airships or UFOs?

#45 ::: K.C.Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 11:32 AM:

Hmm, well, my aunt Cindy (a sane and generally sensible person) tells this story. I believe it was the early to mid 1970s. Cindy drove my mom home late one night and dropped her off, then continued across (small, rural) town to her own house. On the way she saw a huge spherical light hovering just over the trees by the road; she said it was as big as a house and seemed to have rectangular "windows" near its top. Cindy said she slammed the accelerator and was afraid to look back. She said she was afraid she'd see people moving around behind those windows.

So that's the closest anyone I know has come to an alien abduction story. My uncle the rocket scientist occasionally tries to figure out what the UFO might have been ("streetlight?" "it was too big"; "reflected light from a nearby house?" "it was too BIG"), but without success. It has passed into family lore and we all accept that Cindy saw a UFO.

#46 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 11:35 AM:

There will be photos. When I figure out how to do a Google Earth overlay, I'll have that too.

Here's a sample for right now: Old Route 3, to give you an idea of what it would have looked like in 1961 (a section that was cut off when the road was straightened and improved, about six miles north of Colebrook).

I'm about to embark on a detailed commentary on Chapter One of The Interrupted Journey.

This will, alas, be long. Fortunately, the RSS Feed has already gone, I think, so folks' email (or whatever -- I'm unclear on how RSS Feeds work) won't be too clogged.

#47 ::: Andres ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 11:37 AM:

I recently read a very interesting book on how people end up believing in alien abductions. It is called "Abducted", by Susan Clancy. It is highly recommended.

#48 ::: K.C.Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 11:38 AM:

Thanks! This is fascinating.

That's a pretty area, by the way.

#49 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 11:58 AM:

Zander, #18: It's the fight for the minds of the bystanders. Nothing will ever convince the True Believers that they're mistaken, but there are an awful lot of people who can be swayed by con-jobs based on that sort of thing (see the "Lying in the Name of God" thread for more discussion about this), and that in turn can affect public policy in potentially-disastrous ways.

K.C., #45: Yes, what your Aunt Cindy saw was a UFO -- an unidentified flying object. What she didn't see was an alien spacecraft, because then it wouldn't be unidentified, now would it? :-) I'm with Asimov on this issue; if people want to insist that they're alien spacecraft, then don't call them UFOs, call them alien spacecraft... or flying saucers.

BTW, Arthur C. Clarke wrote an essay titled something along the lines of "Flying Saucers I Have Known", which I highly recommend to anyone who's interested in this sort of thing. The account of one such item which turned out to be a flaming golf ball from a trash fire, rocketing around the garden spitting sparks as it went, had me laughing so hard I could barely breathe.

#50 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 12:28 PM:

#46 James D. Macdonald: Here's a sample for right now: Old Route 3...

See, now, were I driving along that particular road late at night, I'd be half expecting to be alienly abducted, myself. But then I love scary stories about The Lonely Woods, Late at Night. The best thing about being a Cub Scout was going on overnight camp-outs to The Scary Woods. "The Blair Witch Project" was right up my secret fears alley.

Honestly, truly, bringing that pic up in my browser just now, in the context of this discussion, I got a little chill right up my spine.

#51 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 12:40 PM:

That's a pretty area, by the way.

Indeed it is. And well-supplied with tourist cabins that can be rented by the day or by the week, for people who want to spend some time where it's usually at least ten degrees cooler than New York or Boston, even in the heat of summer.

Also -- if you're interested in making a thorough getaway -- the local cell phone service is spotty at best. If the office wants to find you, they may have to send out scouts on foot.

#52 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 12:41 PM:

I too read the Fuller book on "the Hill case" when I was in, oh, sixth grade or so. Devoured everything having to do with UFOs and such. What sci-fi reading kid in rural Arkansas wouldn't want to be spirited away by more interesting beings to more interesting places? Then eventually I put away childish things and found more interesting places and people on my own.

But, lo, what contactee craziness Betty Hill has inspired since then, especially in the Internet age. For instance, the vast, many-leveled parking garage of conspiracies, contacts, and psycho-ceramics found at zetatalk.com, where you can read about the Hills' encounter straight from the ETs themselves here, here, and probably elsewhere.

Looking forward to rest of Jim's report with enthusiasm.

#53 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 01:14 PM:

I guess I'm not surprised that the Sidhe/Aliens theory isn't original with (or at any rate unique to) Andras. I'm not sure he even represented it as such when he was discussing it. I like it and I got it from him (a decade or so ago, but after Sagan died, I'm pretty sure), so I attribute it to him.

Sleep paralysis, as Teresa could tell you, is normal during REM. People who don't have it are commonly known as sleepwalkers. If you have a sleep disorder you may have it without REM or have REM when you're partially awake. Seeing lights moving in the sky is a very simple kind of hallucination; Teresa's descriptions of some of the things she's seen go wayyy beyond that.

The first time I saw a UFO I was a child, and hadn't yet figured out that sometimes you get stuff on the lens of your eye, too small to hurt but big enough to show up. Since then I've seen a number of things that I, for one, could not identify, which makes them UFOs, but I don't actually believe they were alien spacecraft.

The thing that gets me is, if the aliens want to study some humans, why don't they ever take the ones who really want to go? I'd be delighted to take part in some alien interaction! (And no, ethan and Michael Weholt, I'm not referring to that old Kids In The Hall sketch, where the alien says "Qba'g lbh guvax guvf vf xvaq bs cbvagyrff? Jr cvpx hc gurfr Rneguyvatf, cebor gurz nanyyl, naq chg gurz onpx, naq fb sne nyy jr'ir qvfpbirerq vf gung gra creprag bs gurz qba'g zvaq ng nyy!" [might be slightly NSFW if you use a really big font])

More seriously, when I was an extremely troubled (and rather weird) adolescent, I spent a lot of time standing on the highest place I could find within walking distance of home (none too high in glacier-scraped Michigan), calling occupants of inteplanetary craft. Now, I might not have been much of a projective telepath, but you'd think I'd've gotten something for all those hours and hours of standing there thinking, with all the force and drama of an adolescent in the grips of those opera-sized emotions adolescents have, "Please come and take me away. I don't belong here. Please come and take me away."

Needless to say, my cries fell on deaf telepathic receptors, if there were any.

We're a speck (on a speck)^n, as wassisname says. And we're way out on the edge of the galaxy. It's unlikely we're the only intelligent beings in the universe, or even in our galaxy, but also unlikely that anyone could or would visit us. Any radio signals we picked up from them would be after their solar system died, and they won't get ours until we've been gone for millions of years.

It would be nice to believe in FTL technology (has anyone debunked Asaro's theory about it yet?). And yes, aliens will have motives we don't understand. But given our speck^n-ness, even if aliens found us worthy of visiting, how would they find us? Even if they can go faster than c, our radio signals can't; how would they know to look for us, out in this unlikely and sparsely-populated (starwise) backwater of the galaxy? It just seems fabulously unlikely.

I want it. I really, really want to meet a member of a nonhuman intelligent species someday. But since when do people like us get what we want?

#54 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 01:16 PM:

Lee, #49:

That's something I try not to think about too much when the subject comes up, because it makes me unreasonably irritable. Do I believe in UFOs? Of course I do, and everyone else does too, because to believe there's never gonna be anything flying around that you can't name right away is preposterous. Whether I believe in flying saucers is a completely different question.

#55 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 01:42 PM:

Xopher @ 53

You mean you didn't wave a towel around? No wonder you didn't get picked up!

#56 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 01:55 PM:

#18 Zander:
Never been sure why disproving stories like this is so all-fired important.

Because some of us like our reality as-is, complete with natural wonders.

Explaining what previously was unexplainable is the ultimate exercise in critical thinking. It'd be really nifty if there were aliens but it's even better that, with just a tweak of our perceptions, we can see how easily it is to shape our experienced world into something fabricated by our subconscious. Even better, we learn just how bizarre and wonderful the world is, without having to fill in the holes in our perception with elves and aliens.

Plus, thinking is just cool.

#57 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 01:56 PM:

Xopher @ 53: maybe it would have worked better if you'd said "I wish the goblins would come and take me away right now?"

Not that that's ever worked for ME, more's the pity. And if it did work, with my luck, Jareth's reign would be over and the current Goblin King wouldn't look nearly so fetching in tights.

#58 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 02:02 PM:

Speeds, etc.

I've known people consistently mis-estimate their average travel speeds, sometimes quoting ridiculous journey times. In any case, peak speeds might be quite high, without much changing the average speed.

It's also quite possible that a speedometer would be over-reading, without giving a grossly wrong distance record. There's two mechanisms driven from the same source.

#59 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 02:09 PM:

Xopher @6: [..] I like Andras Corbin Arthen's theory that the people who today have alien abduction experiences would have "gone to visit the elves" long ago...they have a lot of things in common like lost time, non-human humanoids (often diminutive), etc. Andras thinks it's a real experience (i.e. they're not lying), but it's a spiritual one, not an ordinary-reality one.

One of my favorite books is Miracle Visitors by Ian Watson. Fiction, but it seemed more convincing than any "factual" books of alien abduction I had read.

#60 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 02:11 PM:

#46, #50--
It must be my upbringing--here I was thinking it didn't look any worse than Old US 66 near Devil's Elbow (close to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, for those unacquainted with the northern Ozarks), or any of the other roads I spent my teenage years driving around on--or many of the roads I'm familiar with in Tennessee or Kentucky.

If you showed my the picture without an identifier and asked me to guess, I'd spend a lot of time wondering if this was a trick question, and this was maybe a picture of the road to a relative's house.

Of course, you're only going to get any speed on that road if you're well-acquainted with it, and it's daylight in good weather. With a stick shift, on some stretches you'd be changing gears almost as often as you do with town driving.

#61 ::: thanbo ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 02:45 PM:

Seth Finkelstein #31:
The amusing natives could just be a bonus

And the anal probes? Just a bit of zipless rishathra with the natives?

#62 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 02:47 PM:

fidelio #60:

Agree totally. We used to go banging along roads like that in Kentucky at much too high a speed after dark; it was my father's one thrill-seeking habit. Lots of times we'd go out with the expressed intention of chasing thunderstorms, flickers barely visible beyond the horizon; we never caught one, but the lights looked spooky enough to make one think of flying saucers.

#63 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 02:53 PM:

Re motives of intergalactic visitors: do cows ever wonder why they get tipped?

#64 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 03:04 PM:

#61 thanbo: [Seth Finkelstein #31: The amusing natives could just be a bonus] ... And the anal probes?

It may be that the aliens don't have anuses themselves and so misinterpret ours as spiritual paths.

Wait, is this the religion thread...?

#65 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 03:10 PM:

Michael, the anus IS a spiritual path.

I know mine is.

#66 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 03:39 PM:

michelel @ 44, I do recall reading about a folk belief of the native people in Guatemala, that might fit the bill. I'd have to find my old photocopies to be sure, but roughly, it was about spirits (white-bearded and dressed in white) who lived in mountains, who took the Indian people away to be their servants or to work on underground plantations. They were guarded by fierce dogs, but occasionally someone would escape and return to his village to tell the tale.
-Barbara

#67 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Xopher #53: If FTL is allowed, then many of the arguments making UFO alien green/grey men from Zeta Reticulis impossible are gone, extinct, ex-arguments.

It's a measure of how fundamentally we all believe Einstein that anything which requires him to be wrong is regarded as deranged.

A bit like Darwin, in that respect.

#68 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 03:58 PM:

Xopher @ 53

Well, now really, if you received an impassioned telepathic cry from a teenager, would you pick him up and carry him off to live with you? I had two teenage sons at one point, and my answer would be "no". I'd find someone who wouldn't be quite such a handful.

As for the probability of contact, read David Brin's essay on the Fermi Paradox. I think he's posted it on his blog/website somewhere. Basically, if there's someone out there in this galaxy at all, they can visit every solar system in the galaxy in less than 3 million years for a small initial capital outlay if they're willing to build and launch a relatively small number of von Neumann probes, that arrive at a star system, build a few more of themselves, and all move on.
No FTL drive needed, and the time can be reduced considerably if each probe builds hundreds more at each stop instead of only a handful.

#69 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 04:02 PM:

Xopher @ 65

Ah, but the path to what?

#70 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 04:08 PM:

#49/#54: "If I threw a pepperoni pizza across the back yard and you didn't know what it was, it would be a UFO." --My favorite quote (probably slightly mangled) from a UFO researcher/debunker, whose name I now forget.

#71 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 04:10 PM:

But if it were sausage and mushroom I'd recognize it immediately.

#72 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 04:17 PM:

Sausage and mushroom? Around here, it'd be an unidentified frying object.

#73 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 05:11 PM:

For knitters, it would be an UnFinished Object. We have lots of them.

#74 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 05:19 PM:

Colebrook is "lying in the shadow of Mt. Monadnock"?

#75 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 05:32 PM:

@53: Now, I might not have been much of a projective telepath, but you'd think I'd've gotten something for all those hours and hours of standing there thinking, with all the force and drama of an adolescent in the grips of those opera-sized emotions adolescents have, "Please come and take me away. I don't belong here. Please come and take me away."

But no one wants to hang around with angsty emo teenagers except, you know, other angsty emo teenagers (not even — heck, maybe especially not — former angsty emo teenagers like myself); so unless the aliens were also dramatic adolescents who thought that Earth sucked, they'd probably fly the other direction, fast. And if they were of the opinion that Earth sucked, they probably wouldn't be hanging around here, on account of their fancy interstellar spacecraft and all.

So your target audience was probably limited to bored alien kids whose parental units were stuck on Earth as zoologists or whatever, and who had their learner's permits but weren't allowed to leave the solar system.

#76 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 05:42 PM:

Dave@#74: Yes, Colebrook lies just across the Connecticut River from Mount Monadnock, but it probably isn't the Mount Monadnock that you're thinking about. (Yes, there are two of them. The one in southern New Hampshire has all the good PR.)

#77 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 05:55 PM:

I wonder if the various UFO abductees had an experience similar to mine?

I recall, at a young age, being taken from my home. I was surrounded by people dressed in white and all I could see were their eyes. They did things to me that hurt, and probed me with various instruments (yes, even there). After a while I awakened and I was back home.

What actually happened was this: when I was four, the family came home from a shopping trip. I went into my room, tripped, and hit the bridge of my nose on the edge of the toy box. My mom and dad heard my screams, grabbed me (and I presume the rest of my siblings) and rushed me to the emergency room, where they examined me, determined the extent of my injuries, x-rayed my skull, took my temperature (rectally), applied a local, then stitched up my nose.

I was four and I barely remember the episode, but I do remember enough to note the similarity to abductee reports. How many of them had similar episodes when very young?

#78 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 05:58 PM:

martyn @ 25:
I read somewhere that 10% of Americans think they have been the subject of alien abduction.

That sounds like an exaggerated version of a poll done in the 1990s, which claimed that about 2% of Americans had experiences "suggestive of" an alien abduction. What the poll did was ask a sample of people if they'd had various experiences (e.g., sleep paralysis; experiencing an hour or more of lost time; seeing strange lights they couldn't explain; etc.). The authors of the poll then interpreted positive answers to enough of the questions as somehow indicating alien abduction.

So what the authors of the poll actually claimed (using highly dubious logic, to say the least) was that about 2% of Americans could have experienced alien abduction -- not that any particular fraction actually said they'd been abducted.

#79 ::: Diana ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 06:13 PM:

Awesome post, looking forward to the rest of it.

anyone here seen Ratatouille? remember the Pixar short at the beginning, about the (failed) alien abduction?

there's your alien teenager out crashing the family car...or family spaceship, as it were...

#80 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 06:22 PM:

I get impassioned email pleas from teenagers with some regularity. I tell them to hang in there, that things will get better, that being a teenager (especially a gay teenager) sucks bigtime (npi), and sucks in direct proportion to distance from a major city, and that they should bide their time and learn everything they can until they're old enough to flee their tiny little town (if that much) forever.

I don't IGNORE them, which is what those damned aliens did to me. Bastards.

#81 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 06:26 PM:

What's this about Mary Aileen abductions?
("Alien. Not Aileen.")
I can take off my tinfoil hat then?

#82 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 06:40 PM:

R.M. Koske, #54: More annoying yet are the people (only a few to date, thank ghu) who become completely bumfuzzled when I say I don't believe in flying saucers... because wait, don't I read science fiction?

To which my usual response is, "Yes. And that means I can also tell the difference between science fiction and fantasy."

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 06:44 PM:

How about Gerry Anderson's U.F.O.? Remember the year 1980, when the men wore jumpsuits, and the Moonbase's female personnel wore bright purple wigs?

#84 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 07:20 PM:

Diana @ 79

Yes, that was hilarious. Typical terrific Pixar animation; with characters like that, who needs dialog?

#85 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 07:35 PM:

Serge writes in #83:

How about Gerry Anderson's U.F.O.? Remember the year 1980, when the men wore jumpsuits, and the Moonbase's female personnel wore bright purple wigs?

The Moonbase, the submersible supersonic interceptors, the AI tracking satellite, the silver miniskirts, and the VTOL-airlifted anti-saucer crawlers were all secret. For all we know, they're still out there defending the Earth, mostly successfully, except for the occasional stray Peruvian death meteor.

(Serge and I seem to share a fondness for certain kinds of schlock SF... Fumetti, anyone?)

#86 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 07:39 PM:

Serge (81): I'm sure you'll be crushed to know that you're not the first to make that connection. I had a high school classmate who, on seeing my name written out for the first time said puzzledly, "Mary Alien?"

#87 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 08:04 PM:

michelel, #44, I've had an NDE. I haven't gotten to Passages yet, but I believe the scientific evidence, which is that as the brain loses oxygen, it dredges up images and ideas from your past.

Jim, great work! I'm looking forward to the next part.

#88 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 08:24 PM:

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey @ 85

I used to watch that one too; that and Space: 1999 are about all I remember of that year or two in Boston (not my favorite place). But tell me, how can you keep those miniskirts secret as long as there are hetero males around? And also, how did the actors keep from being beheaded by the gullwing doors of the cars when they got out? Looked to me like the props guys had snorted one too many DeLoreans.

#89 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 08:25 PM:

Bill Higgins @ 85... Serge and I seem to share a fondness for certain kinds of schlock SF

Indeed. Gerry Anderson's oeuvre was a great part of my initial exposure to SF. Supercar... Stingray... Fireball XL-5... Yes, he has a lot to answer for.

#90 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 08:26 PM:

This is incredibly fascinating, and I want to hear more about it -- and I'd really like to see the whole thing published as a book (or at least put up in one piece on a website when you were done.)

#91 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 08:31 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 86

Ever since I moved here I've been wanting to do a midnight tagging raid on the exit sign on Route 217 that marks Allen Road. I figure just black out the a bit of the second 'l' and we'll see how long it takes before people start talking about "Alien Road". It drives me nuts every time I go by there because that's the only way I can read it now.

Although with the way the whole immigration issue is going I'm not sure but it wouldn't start a real ruckus: that part of Beaverton is where a lot of Hispanics have been moving in as the Asians move west out of the first ring suburb. This whole area has been playing Musical Minorities for a couple of decades now.

#92 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 08:46 PM:

Serge #89: But not, I am shocked to see, Torchy the Battery Boy ('Torchy, Torchy, the Battery Boy...' sang three-year-old me along with the theme song.)

#93 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 08:56 PM:

So... Is this write-up earmarked for The Skeptical Inquirer?

#94 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 09:00 PM:

I can't wait to see what comes of this strange "meteorite" hit in the high and dry plains of the Andes. I feel certain we will soon be hearing The Truth about it, by way of the Coast to Coast AM Show or whatever. A new manila file folder has been opened in the drawer marked "X", I'm absolutely certain of it. Watch the skies.

#95 ::: Wim L ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 09:20 PM:

@53 and @68, re the Fermi paradox: it really is a puzzle; most reasonable assumptions about the nature of the universe lead to the conclusion that we ought to have alien visitors. But not aliens who pop down to probe us and then disappear: logcally, we would expect to be in the middle of a galaxy-spanning alien civilization. There'd be an office park and a WalMart on Venus, a strip-mining operation dismantling Jupiter, and a mini-storage facility where the asteroid belt used to be. A lot of SF novels are basically explorations of random ideas about why this appears not to be the case.

#96 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 09:27 PM:

Wim #95:

For the Fermi Paradox: While all the alien civilizations will conclude that there must be older, more advanced civilizations out there, one of them will be wrong.

I wonder if we are the most advanced civilization in the universe?

#97 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 09:36 PM:

Fragano @ 92... I've never even heard of Torchy. But there was Joe 90, Father Unwin and Matthew, Captain Scarlett (where the same hero dies at the end of each and every episode)... And Thunderbirds of course (would you feel comfortable flying on an atomic-powered plane called the Fireflash?)...

#98 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 09:51 PM:

#96 James D. Macdonald: I wonder if we are the most advanced civilization in the universe?

I don't see any reason to exclude that possibility. Granted, the age of our system is, what, 1/3 to 1/2 the estimated age of this universe? My feeble amount of astronomy suggests to me that no sort of life that we are familiar with could arise from a system around An Original Star (i.e., one that didn't arise from the detritus of a nova or supernova) so it seems reasonable to me that all occupied systems might be as young as, or younger than, our system.

It's got to be a razor-edged race to be the oldest, though. What's the age difference between a stone-age civilization and a star-faring one? If we make it 10,000 years further on, I'll bet we'll be star-faring in some manner or other, either robotically or what-all. 10,000 years is a tiny fraction of the age of a system capable of giving rise to life (as we know it). If there are a bunch of life-capable systems out there, and we are the oldest, 10,000 years from now we could be in the midst of an incredible blossoming of contacts.

Or, maybe we aren't the oldest and it could start tomorrow, or even later tonight.

All of which, I'm sure, only exposes my genuine ignorance on this subject.

#99 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 10:42 PM:

Is it just me? I have this group of rebel neurons that, whenever I hear or read "Betty and Barney", or "Barney and Betty", insist on trying to put "Rubble" after it. Legacy of a misspent yoof? Signs of being a certain age …

Speaking of which, a friend entertained me while I was sick by (among other things) showing me episodes from his DVD box set of the UFO series. We only saw some of the Gerry Anderson series in Oz, so I don't recognise all of the examples here; my fave was Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (poster) with its unseen villains — how can you have a schoolgirl crush on a puppet? People are strange.

But gullwing door cars, like the series, distinctly pre-date the 1980s Delorean, e.g. the Mercedes Benz 300L (some here) is from the 1950s.

#100 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 11:00 PM:

Ray Radlein @ 75: "So your target audience was probably limited to bored alien kids whose parental units were stuck on Earth as zoologists or whatever, and who had their learner's permits but weren't allowed to leave the solar system."

I'd read that.

#101 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2007, 11:14 PM:

Heresiarch @ 99: Parke Godwin's Waiting for the Galactic Bus has some resemblance to that plot.

#102 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 12:21 AM:

Zander: It's not "so all-fired important"; note the difference in tone between JMD's dissection and the fanaticism ("no wiggle room for the doubters!") in some of the believing works. That being said, some reasons why it might be:
- Exposing fraud is a mitzvah, like picking up trash by the side of the road; there will always be more, but reducing entropy even for a minute is a Good Thing. (Reducing entropy, however temporarily, could be considered a mark of sapience.)
- Many of us live by facts, or at least give them far greater importance than wild speculation (let alone outright lies) presented as fact.
- While we live by facts, many of us genuinely like to be surprised by new information; but we like the information to be genuine. Fraud is such an industry that undercutting it gives us more real fun to play with.
- Sometimes we're just insulted that people think we should believe this rubbish. (Never underestimate the power of pique.)
- It's an intellectual exercise to filter the few facts out of a farrago of nonsense, then show how the facts have nothing to do with the nonsense (cf Keith@56). Occam's razor is fun to wield, and is more likely to improve the environment than solving abstract puzzles.
- Some debunkers may even dream of public fame; blowing up a ridiculous story is a lot more comprehensible than proving a mathematical theorem.

That's half a dozen reasons, to go with the impossible things some people believe before breakfast.

#103 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 12:49 AM:

I think Douglas Adams did a bit about teenage aliens that would go to a backwards planet, dive bomb cars on lonely roads, etc.

I loved the show U.F.O. I particularly liked the one where the aliens made Straker think he was actually an actor on a sci-fi TV show about UFOs and aliens. That sort of paranoid recursiveness worked well with the genre.

The whole alien thing seems to go in phases. Other than a few singletons like the "Phoenix lights", you don't have people getting rectally probed every other week.

I wonder if the conspiracy hounds have found other outlets in governmental conspiracies and it's just a few old-timers still pulling for the flying saucers. I just ran across the Denver Airport conspiracy yesterday (thanks, Wikipedia!). I've never been through the new airport, but it's apparently chockablock of Evil artwork and Evil coded messages, and let's not forget the Masons.

#104 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 12:55 AM:

Michael Weholt @ 98

We might not be the oldest, but we're very likely the oldest for some distance around. It's possible, even at velocities no higher than 10% of c to explore every star in a galaxy the size of ours (between 400 and 1,000 billion stars) in less than 10 million years based on what I think are fairly conservative technological abilities that we could develop in the next few hundred years. So it doesn't take long even in biological terms, let alone geological or astronomical terms, to cover a lot of distance. At the same rate I think we could expand to the entire local group of galazies, total more than 5 trillion stars, I'd guess, in a volume 10 million light years across in less than 200 million years.

So if they haven't gotten here yet they must be coming from a long ways away.

#105 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 01:02 AM:

I've been watching U.F.O. recently--I'd go so far as to say it's not schlocky, just very campy. And very smart.

#106 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 01:12 AM:

Personally, I think the aliens took one look at what we've been broadcasting, and quarantined us.

It's quite possible we're the only ones in the galaxy, or at least the only intelligence currently exhibiting both curiousity and technological means --, or, at least, dreams.

I do wonder what the odds are of another techonological civ arising if we disappeared from the earth. How long would it take? What would it be? Another primate? Cetacea? African Grays?

#107 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 01:38 AM:

Steve C. @ 105

It's not clear that intelligence provides either a long-term survival advantage, so that once achieved an intelligence species is likely to persist for a long time, or that there is a typical evolutionary path to intelligence that is sufficently stable all along its length as to give a high enough probability of completing it that a significant number (> 1) of species will actually do so in the lifetime of life on Earth.

Maybe if we do ourselves in, nothing will replace us. Or maybe half a dozen species will dance around our graves.

#108 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 02:07 AM:

#65?

Don't know how cows feel about being tipped, but it surprised my horse.

Locally, our felines (indoor variety) are complaining about having been scooped up into boxes last Saturday, put in a unnaturally fast vehicle, and taken to a place full of bright lights, white walls, and strange furniture, where not-our-aliens gave them rectal probes, shots, stared at their teeth and clipped their claws. They were taken back to their home at the end of all this and released, but it was all most upsetting.

It was all very upsetting.

#109 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 02:24 AM:

Written about 50 years ago, by Loren Eiseley:

"Darwin saw clearly that the succession of life on this planet was not a formal pattern imposed from without, or moving exclusively in one direction. Whatever else life might be, it was adjustable and not fixed. It worked its way through difficult environments. It modified and then, if necessary, it modified again, along roads which would never be retraced. Every creature alive is the product of a unique history. The statistical probability of its precise reduplication on another planet is so small as to be meaningless. Life, even cellular life, may exist out yonder in the dark. But high or low in nature, it will not wear the shape of man. That shape is the evolutionary product of a strange, long wandering through the attics of the forest roof, and so great are the chances of failure, that nothing precisely and identically human is ever to come that way again."
...
"In a universe whose size is beyond human imagining, where our world floats like a dust mote in the void of night, men have grown inconceivably lonely. We scan the time scale and the mechanism of life itself for portents and signs of the invisible. As the only thinking mammals on the planet -- perhaps the only thinking animals in the entire sidereal universe -- the burden of consciousness has grown heavy upon us. We watch the stars, but the signs are uncertain. We uncover the bones of the past and seek for our origins. There is a path there, but it appears to wander. The vagaries of the road may have a meaning, however; it is thus we torture ourselves."

"Lights come and go in the night sky. Men, troubled at last by the things they build, may toss in their sleep and dream bad dreams, or lie awake while the meteors whisper greenly overhead. But nowhere in all space or on a thousand worlds will there be men to share our loneliness. There may be wisdom; there may be power; somewhere across space great instruments, handled by strange manipulative organs, may stare vainly at our floating cloud wrack, their owners yearning as we yearn. Nevertheless, in the nature of life and in the principles of evolution we have had our answer. Of men elsewhere, and beyond, there will be none forever."

-- Loren Eiseley, "Little Men and Flying Saucers," The Immense Journey

DANG!

#110 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 02:38 AM:

Stefan @ 108 -

Thanks for that - Loren Eiseley was one of our best essayists.

#111 ::: Adrian Bedford ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 02:48 AM:

I loved the UFO series, too, when I was a sprog in the 70s. I think I was too young for it, though: I'd watch a given episode, which would abruptly end, and I'd be left going, "What?" Not really understanding the story, basically.

I remember, around the same time, falling hard for the von Daniken nonsense--oh, it was totally plausible! It was!--and spending altogether too much time looking up at the sky, and kinda wishing a lot. This was before I also learned that one should always be careful what one wishes for.

When I first got onto the Internet in the early 90s, when you had to have so many different utilities to do different jobs, I discovered vast troves of fascinating UFO/alien-related documents in an archive at Rutgers University, and spent a lot of time downloading and reading them. They were all of the form of badly written and formatted text files about everything from secret aliens at Groom Lake, to CIA Mind Control (MK-Ultra, and everything), to you name it. I found that I was more interested in how passionately the people concerned believed in all this stuff than I was in the stuff itself. What was it about the material that stirred up such extraordinary passions, that made the believers (and the equally passionate disbelievers, for that matter) so intense? The material itself was thin and not that convincing, but you had people investing their whole selves in it, like a religious ecstasy, only involving "Space Brothers".

Nowadays, of course, even if it did turn out that the US government had a bunch of dead alien guys on ice at Groom Lake or somewhere similar, I'm inclined to think nobody much would give a damn, since everything else the government is doing is so much more terrifying, worrying, etc.

That all said, Jim, that was a damn fine post (I've now read the whole thing). Good on ya for going out there and looking into it all in such detail.

#112 ::: Koneko ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 03:02 AM:

#96 - I wonder if we are the most advanced civilization in the universe?


That is the most terrifying thing I have seen all week.

#113 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 03:10 AM:

While travel times between stars seem managable tat the civilisation level, nobody has really considered the energy cost. The sort of large-scale interstellar flood-fill being described has a huge launch overhead for each probe.

A van Neumann approach might not have the background energy consumption of a civilisation, but the change in system radiation as the next salvo of probes is fired off might be detectable.

Variable stars?

#114 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 06:25 AM:

If they used e.g. light sails, we might only be able to detect them if we were in line of sight.

#115 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 06:39 AM:

Dave Bell @ 112:
A van Neumann approach might not have the background energy consumption of a civilisation, but the change in system radiation as the next salvo of probes is fired off might be detectable.

Variable stars?

I think there was a Larry Niven short story where the first signs of aliens approaching the Solar System was the "nova" they set off in another system to speed them on their way.

Alas, most well-studied variable stars have plausible physical mechanisms that explain their variability without needing aliens or von Neumann machines.

On the other hand, the various forthcoming all-sky surveys (ground-based and space-based) are probably going to turn up tens or hundreds of millions of previously unknown variable stars, so there's room to speculate about exotic mechanisms for a while yet.

#116 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 07:18 AM:

Michael Weholt @ 98:
I don't see any reason to exclude that possibility. Granted, the age of our system is, what, 1/3 to 1/2 the estimated age of this universe? My feeble amount of astronomy suggests to me that no sort of life that we are familiar with could arise from a system around An Original Star (i.e., one that didn't arise from the detritus of a nova or supernova) so it seems reasonable to me that all occupied systems might be as young as, or younger than, our system.

It's reasonable to assume that you do need a fair amount of "metals" (astronomer-speak for all elements other than hydrogen and helium) in the cloud that a star forms out of to end up with planets and such, which does indeed require several rounds of supernovas.[*] And the Sun is a relatively "metal-rich" star, as stars go. (And "1/3 the estimated age of the universe" is spot-on.)

But you can get several rounds of "star formation -> supernova -> metal-enriched gas clouds -> new star formation" in a surprisingly short time[**], if the conditions are right. The central region of our galaxy has quite a few stars that are as metal-rich as the Sun -- or more -- but are billions of years older. Stars that are both older than the Sun and metal-rich are relatively rare out in our part of the disk, but they do exist. (It's speculated that they may have formed closer in to the galactic center, and been scattered out to larger radius by some mechanism, perhaps by the gravitational influence of the galactic bar.)

So even if you make the assumption that intelligent life requires a star as metal-rich as the Sun, you're still going to have a significant number of candidate stars in our galaxy that are several billion years older than the Sun.


[*] Or supernovae, if you prefer your plurals to be Latinate. (Novas/novae are different beasts, and don't contribute a whole lot.)

[**] Astronomers, like geologists, have screwy time scales, so "surprisingly short" here means something like "only tens or hundreds of millions of years."

#117 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 07:51 AM:

ethan @ 104... Actually, if you take away the women's ghastly fashion, U.F.O. had some good stuff in it. For example, Straker had to pay a price for being in charge of a Secret Organization, with his marriage ending in divorce.

#118 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 08:08 AM:

As far as fashion goes, futuristic film and TV seems to assume that the fashion catwalk is the only clothing source.

And I could imagine that sort of clothing in some nightclubs. Look at the fashion crazes of the last thirty years. But they didn't become uniforms or flood the market.

#119 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 08:11 AM:

Serge #97: The Andersons were very busy people, that's for sure. Hmmmmmmm. 'When the Mysterons plan to conquer the Earth/That indestructible man will prove his worth! Captain Scarlet!'

#120 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 08:17 AM:

Dave Bell... You mean that the crews of submarines don't wear fishnet shirts?

#121 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 08:17 AM:

Peter Erwin #114: That sounds like Niven and Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye.

#122 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 08:29 AM:

Fragano... Not quite. In Mote, the extreme brightness that announced the approach of aliens was caused by superduper lasers used to propel the alien sailship.

#123 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 08:40 AM:

Serge, the women's fashions on UFO might be a little...quirky...but the the men's fashions are pretty great. I especially love dreamy Col. Foster and his dreamy eyeliner and dreamy fuschia suitjackets.

#124 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 08:41 AM:

Frackity frack!

Fuchsia.

#125 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 08:53 AM:

Add me to the list of "U.F.O." fans. I adored that show.

Re aliens and why they're not here: the universe could be full of intelligent beings that, for various cultural and practical reasons, are not impelled to leave their home planets.

Bruce Cohen @ #91, Check this out. (No, I didn't do it.)

#126 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 08:59 AM:

This is very interesting. Sleep deprivation and a lookout tower light? Yeah, I can believe that.

I eagerly await learning how these two were convinced that they had been "abducted".

#127 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 08:59 AM:

Maybe aliens are staying away from us because they received our broadcasts of Lost in Space.

#128 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 09:02 AM:

#115 Peter Erwin: ...The central region of our galaxy has quite a few stars that are as metal-rich as the Sun -- or more -- but are billions of years older.... So even if you make the assumption that intelligent life requires a star as metal-rich as the Sun, you're still going to have a significant number of candidate stars in our galaxy that are several billion years older than the Sun.

I love it when people who know what they are talking about pipe up. So let me ask you...

According to my reading, I get the impression the central region of our galaxy is a pretty dangerous neighborhood to try to live in. All sorts of untoward activities going on mostly? partly? because of the "overcrowding".

Now, space is an enormous place and even if you live in a crowded and dangerous neighborhood, you still could live billions of years without any of the local thugs knocking your developing species into the next dimension (if any).

So yes, even though the central region may have an enormous number of older, metal-rich systems, it may be harder for a system to avoid various cosmic catastrophes that could wipe out a species developing toward intelligence.

Do you think the dangerousness of the central region neighborhood could have a significant effect on the chances of an intelligent species developing around an older, metal-rich star?

#129 ::: Rick Owens ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 09:39 AM:

Peter Erwin @ 114:

I think you're thinking of "The Fourth Profession" - the aliens are traders, normally they deal with systems that can build launching lasers. But if a species isn't "civilized" enough to build such a laser, either through lack of technology or will, they're only animals, so it's ok to blow up their sun for that extra push on to the next potential client system. Mustn't risk the ship, after all! The main character apparently convinces one of the aliens that causing a nova is wrong, and convinces a gov. agent that humans *must* build the laser to avoid an artificial nova, and the world is saved.

Re. UFOs and cats: http://dropline.net/cats/kitty/i-wants-to-beliefs

#130 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 09:44 AM:

Dave Bell,

There are some nice engineering tradeoffs when you're sending intelligent machines rather than biological organisms. Since they're self-reproducing, it's not at all hard to add self-repair, so their effective mission length can be made much longer. This means using lower transit velocities is possible, and energy is quadratic with velocity. Also, the size of the delivered payload can be quite small if you're willing to spend a few generations bootstrapping up to the machines that will actually do the work at the destination; I wouldn't be surprised if really good nanotech let you send an entire expedition in a single nanowhisp massing less than a gram. Enough engineering cleverness and the energy requirements would be so small we couldn't see the effects of launching from more than a few light-years away, and then maybe only if we were staring down the barrel of the launcher. In which case we'd find out pretty soon anyway.

#131 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 09:56 AM:

Peter Erwin @ 115

been scattered out to larger radius by some mechanism, perhaps by the gravitational influence of the galactic bar.)

Or by encounters with the central black hole. I read recently that there's a new theory that the recent observation of a number of stars exiting the central volume at very high speed may be evidence for the previous existence of a second hole there, which was eaten by its bigger sibling about 100 million years ago.

It seems unlikely to me that stars in the central volume would develop planets, given the catastrophic (in both the mathematical and common senses of the word) gravitational dynamics of the place. Maybe further out, beyond a few thousand light years from the hole, where the radiation from the hole's accretion disk and the various kinds of death rattles of stars wouldn't be so problematic.

#132 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 10:05 AM:

Rick Owens @ 128:

Yes, that's the one!

(I'd forgotten about the similarity to Mote in God's Eye, actually; I did remember that I was thinking of a short story, and the kicker of "Oh, well, if you can't or won't build us a launching laser...")

#133 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 10:06 AM:

Lila @ 124

LOL.

"Which part of Clifton do you live on?"

"The part that doesn't eat."

#134 ::: Roxanne ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 10:24 AM:

I once was convinced that I was seeing a UFO. It was coming up fast, barely above the treeline, in the middle of nowhere in rural Michigan. I fumbled my camera out, ready to start taking *lots* of pictures ... when I noticed the distinctive five-pointed star of the US Air Force painted on the side. Not a UFO, just some test plane ...sigh... It's always weather balloons, or experimental aircraft, or mountaintop beacons, isn't it? :-)

#135 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 10:25 AM:

Serge @ 126

"Oh no! Sheets of thin black vinyl! Helm, hard to zenith!"

#136 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 10:31 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 130:
Or by encounters with the central black hole. I read recently that there's a new theory that the recent observation of a number of stars exiting the central volume at very high speed may be evidence for the previous existence of a second hole there, which was eaten by its bigger sibling about 100 million years ago.

That's almost certainly something that happens. There are other galaxies where the density of stars stops increasing as you go inward and becomes almost constant very close to the center (say, less than 100 light years from the center); one of the favorite explanations is that gravitational encounters with a binary binary hole ejected a lot of the stars that used to be there.

However, that will get you stars on extreme radial orbits (moving almost straight out from the center), and the nearby old, metal-rich stars that I'm aware of[*] are on moderately elliptical orbits, which rules out their having come from the vicinity of the central black hole.

[*] = I read a recent paper about them... not really my area of expertise.

#137 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 10:48 AM:

Jim, that was great. I'm looking forward to more.

#138 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 10:49 AM:

Alan #102: I've been snowbound overnight in the Denver airport. It is evil.

#139 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 10:57 AM:

ethan @ 122... I personally preferred the scientist who'd built SID's FTL radar. She didn't appear in many episodes, true, but she was one of the few women in the cast upon whom that 'quirky' female fashion was inflicted. Dark pants and a dark Nehru jacket are kind of neat, even today.

#140 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 11:00 AM:

Someone once suggested that the reason we don't see 'them' is that our neck of the Galaxy is sort-of a wild-life preserve.

#141 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 11:02 AM:

Alan @ 102, I hope you come back and read this because, buddy, you owe me a new monitor!
Denver Airport conspiracy???
So of course I had to google it, to see if you were joking...And you weren't.
Funny though.

#142 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 11:21 AM:

Serge (#119): You mean that the crews of submarines don't wear fishnet shirts?

On TV recently, I saw the Vincent Price film Master of the Universe (supposedly based on a combo of Verne's book of that title with Robur). When the better looking crewmen on the quasi-blimp airship were really getting down to business (e.g. releasing a bunch of anti-war pamphlets over London), they stripped off their striped "sailor" shirts.

#143 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 11:28 AM:

Margaret #107:

If aliens were offering us free health care I think I, at least, would have noticed.

#144 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 11:32 AM:

Wish I could remember the name of the featured young Italian artist at the 1995 Venice Biennale who was exhibiting futuristic Ming-the-Merciless style female costumes as sculpture. Elaborate embroideries, padding, quilting, epaulletty things. Great stuff, as serious art, as skiffy illustration, and as costume design generally.

#145 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 11:33 AM:

#110: oooh! Space Brothers! When my ex worked for the El Paso Times, she interviewed members of a local cult who believed the Space Brothers had a secret facility buried inside Mount Franklin.

One a co-worker picked up the phone, gave my ex a puzzled look and told her, "You have the Emperor Zann calling on line one."

#146 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 11:40 AM:

Melissa #136, that's all there is (I've already run into the bug in Movable Type that truncates posts ... it displays the entire post, but only a portion is available for editing).

As to how Betty and Barney came to believe they'd been abducted:

Betty told her friends about seeing a UFO. She was worried that they'd been exposed to radiation; a friend told her that she could detect radiation on her car with an ordinary magnetic compass. She put a compass next to her car and the needle deviated, proving that the car was now radioactive.

She began to lecture to local UFO groups, retelling her story.

Betty started to have strange dreams about her UFO experience. These disturbed her enough that she sought psychiatric help. She and Barney discovered, through hypnotic regression, that they hadn't just seen a flying saucer, they'd actually been captured and subjected to weird medical experiments.

Others have covered the post-sighting events in a great deal of detail. I think I'm the first to actually drive down Route 3 north of the Notch at night and correlate what you can see there with the Hill Abduction case.

The believers assumed that the flying saucer was long gone so there was no need to go that far north. They concentrated on finding the location where Barney swung off onto a side road and saw the moon-shape, somewhere south of Indian Head. (They never did locate it.) The skeptics assumed that Jupiter was long gone so there was no need to go at all. Neither group considered that Betty and Barney's UFO might still be visible in the White Mountains.

#147 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 11:58 AM:

Actually, I see now that Movable Type only displays the complete post once, then truncates.

Here's the rest of it:

The chapter continues with what they did during the day, and a recap of the previous twenty-odd pages as they discuss the events of the night before.

They remembered two distinct series of beeps. But the sandwich in between was puzzling to them. Betty, with the aid of a strong cup of coffee, could recall very faintly some of the things which had happened right after Indian Head. She could recall seeing a road marker that divided the towns of Lincoln and North Woodstock, but it was a flash, fragmentary impression. She could remember passing a store in the town of North Woodstock, again an isolated impression. Both recalled very faintly a large, luminous moon-shape, which seemed to be touching the road, sitting on end under some pines.

The actual moon set at 01:34 local time. At various points along Rt. 3, the road physically points north, south, west, east, and every direction in between. It's possible that the explanation for them to remember seeing a moon-shape touching the road is that they saw the moon, touching the road.

Betty, straining to remember, thought that Barney had made a sharp left turn from Route 3, but could not in any way identify where this might have been. When they had seen the moon-shaped object, Barney faintly recalled saying to Betty, “Oh, no, not again.” Betty recalls her reaction to Barney’s denial that it could have been an Unidentified Flying Object. She thought: That’s the way Barney is. If something frightens him, or he doesn’t like it, he just says to himself that it never happened. Barney, to a degree, will confess to this.

A brief digression to another source:
Here’s Betty talking:

We told them about the setting moon just before we turned on to the dirt road. They said we could not have seen the moon, for it had already set.

Sometime around 01:30 local time, then, they were already below the Notch. There's another possible object they may have seen: the Jack O'Lantern Resort in Woodstock which, at the time, had a large billboard with their logo (a stylized jack-o-lantern) down by the road. That would certainly appear to be a "large, luminous moon-shape, which seemed to be touching the road, sitting on end under some pines." This is well out of town; no other features are nearby.

Panic by both of us. So they suggested we take a road map, and pinpoint our location at different times. We knew we had left Colebrook about 10 PM, the restaurant there. We were able to pinpoint the locations and times most of the way, but at one point between Plymouth and Ashland was a blank. So they suggested we go back to this general area. Then we talked about time - we could drive to Canada in seven hours, and it had taken us seven hours to come home from Colebrook. There had to be an explanation.

The explanation is: Colebrook and Canada are ten miles apart. I think, though, that what she meant wasn’t “Canada,” but “Montreal.”

Another part of the explanation is that between Plymouth and Ashland there is nothing. It’s all unlighted fields and woods.


A third part of the explanation is that they stopped for periods of unknown duration eight times (depending on what “several” means; I’m assuming “three”), and drove slowly for other portions of the trip, got lost on a side road on another portion, and spent some time cruising around downtown Concord looking for an open coffeeshop. They state explicitly that they drove slowly for one portion. It’s likely that they didn’t maintain speed in other portions, particular when they were feeling “groggy,” “sonambulistic,” and overcome by “drowsiness.”

By the time they reached home they’d been driving for around twenty-one hours. They’re lucky that being abducted by space aliens was the worst that happened to them: Others who’ve tried similar trips have run into trees.

Returning to Fuller….

Both agree they regained full consciousness at the sign on U.S. 93 which indicated that it was seventeen miles to Concord. Before that, one other recollection came to their minds: a fragmentary image of the darkened streets of Plymouth, a half a dozen miles north of Ashland, where the second series of beeps took place.

The chapter ends with Betty and Barney finally going to bed.

What do they remember south of Indian Head?

a) The Lincoln/Woodstock road marker
b) Downtown North Woodstock
c) (Possibly) the billboard for the Jack O'Lantern Golf Course & Resort in Woodstock
d) Downtown Plymouth
e) Downtown Ashland
f) Entering the superhighway
g) Concord
h) Portsmouth

In short, they remember every single town they passed through. The rest of the trip is past dark lakes, rivers, fields, and woods. I’ve driven that route more than once, and I don’t remember much more than that myself. Not only isn’t there any missing time, there aren’t any missing memories.

Finally, here’s your reward for sticking with me through this monster of a post: here’s an actual photo of the Flying Saucer that abducted Betty and Barney Hill. If you want to see it for yourself, you can drive down US 3 from Lancaster any clear night. It’s waiting for you.

#148 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Jim, I am massively impressed.

#149 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Jim, I am massively impressed.

#150 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 12:21 PM:

Sleep paralysis? I've been there so many times that I've developed techniques for getting out of it, or at least signaling Patrick that I'm awake so please come shake me.

The trick: feel around to see whether you're still in control of any of your muscles. True complete paralysis is less common than partial paralysis. For instance, paralysis of the extremities is common, so see whether you can move any of the muscles in your torso. If you can, do so. Movement wakes you up. You're trying to re-establish contact with the affected muscles, and moving or shaking them is often enough to do that.

If you're prone to frequent sleep paralysis, put some effort into seeing whether you have enough muscle control to whistle. If you can do that, teach your cohabitants that if you're apparently dead to the world but are audibly whistling, they're to come shake you awake.

If you're looking at sleep paralysis as a source of alien abduction experiences, you should also consider hypnagogic hallucinations. Like sleep paralysis, they can be brought on by sleep or REM deprivation, though they can also show up other times.

Really good hypnagogic hallucinations are wowsers. Think of it as going into REM sleep when you're awake and have your eyes open. You know how dreams will take sensory input from the real world and weave it into the dream? Hypnagogic hallucinations can do that with visual input. Long-legged roadside signs will pick up their poles and stalk across the road in front of you. The yellow stripes dividing the lanes from the shoulder strips will peel up as you approach, streaming diagonally past the windows of your car like endless ribbons. A pool of shadow on I-5 can turn into a giant trap door that falls open to reveal a bottomless fall into darkness.

Other hypnagogic hallucinations are sneakier. The contents of your memory can turn up in the supposedly waking world around you. I once had my car followed at close range by the memento mori Death out of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. On top of that, they can sometimes be touched or smelled, or have their own soundtrack. The really vivid full-sensorium ones are rare.

Hallucinations caused by sleep deprivation can be a moment's blip that briefly alters something you see, or a shift in the sounds you hear just as you're sliding into sleep.

I have my own theory about alien abductions, one that doesn't drag in elves or angels. I believe a lot of them are caused by chronic sleep deprivation. It's an extremely common condition. As a species, we've had almost no time to adjust to having bright artificial light on demand. Most of us don't get as much sleep as we should, or get our sleep on an appropriately regular schedule; and we take drugs, like caffeine, that can mess up our sleep cycles.

By the way, losing time is a symptom of sleep deprivation.

Note that there isn't a strict correlation between the amount of sleep lost and the hallucinations or other manifestations you may experience; but being chronically short on sleep makes you far more prone to having that happen. Note also how many reports of strange sightings and/or abductions happen at night, and happen when the supposed victims have been doing some boring repetitive task like driving in the dark on lightly traveled roads.

Why should these experiences take the form of aliens in flying saucers? Suggestion, I would guess. Images of big-eyed aliens, and roughly circular flying devices, have been around for a long time. The more aliens people see, the more likely people are to see aliens.

"Recovering memories" under hypnosis is a fast and effective way to generate memories that never existed. Hypnotists who aren't bought into the idea that memories recovered under hypnosis are necessarily true can do demonstrations of false memory generation that would curl your hair. You know how sometimes when you're dreaming, some loud noise or other alarming stimulus will wake you up, only before it wakes you up you weave it into the dreams you're having? That's the work of a second, and yet the dream that incorporates the stimulus can be fully fleshed out with a plot and numerous details.

That's how fast your brain can make stuff up. The speed at which "memories" are recalled under hypnosis is a stroll in the park by comparison. The trick isn't to pull up memories; it's to avoid prompting the subject to generate false ones.

You don't need hypnosis to have an alien contact experience. It just helps.

Anyway, that's my theory.

#151 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 12:38 PM:

Faren @ 141... Well, you know, those stacks of leaflets were very heavy. Anyway, yes, I do know that movie. What Richard Matheson's script did was to take the bulk of Verne's novel Robur the Conqueror, and used the opening scenes of its sequel Master of the World. I always thought his airship, the was quite neat.

#152 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 12:52 PM:

I want to go on the Betty and Barney Re-enactment Tour. I want to book a seat on the bus. I want to meet the Tour Guides in the place designated in the brochure. I want to gather in the local restaurant for a catered dinner while listening to the brief introductory lecture describing what I and my fellow Betty and Barney Re-enacters will see later that night. I want to get a good window seat on the Betty and Barney bus, one close to one of the tiny speakers in the vehicle's ceiling, over which the evening's narrative will proceed. I want the heat in the bus turned off so there is nothing to interfere with whatever chills I might be able to generate up and down my spine.

I think it's a money-maker. I'd go on that holiday trip. I want to see the light on the mountain, in the dark, from the various wide spots in the highway. I want to imagine imagining it is some mysterious Light in the Night Sky, moving inexplicably.

Yep, I'd pay for that. If, you know, box lunches or even light (gluten-free) snacks were provided throughout the evening (included in the price of the tour, of course).

#153 ::: K.C. Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 01:09 PM:

Michael #153--The tour sounds like a moneymaker to me too, but the snacks would probably consist of hamburgers and chocolate layer cake. And you'd have to eat them unceremoniously.

I must say, much as I enjoy all the posts here, this one may be my favorite ever. Even better than the lolcat poetry.

#154 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 01:22 PM:

I don't know about UFO tours, but you can certainly take a Moose Tour.

You ride on a comfortable motor coach with low-light cameras mounted on the sides. Your money refunded if they don't find a moose!

They leave three times a week at 6:30 pm from the information booth in Gorham, May through October.

#155 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 01:30 PM:

@153

That would be a pretty awesome trip if the tour met up in, say, Concord (or got there from somewhere else), then drove into Vermont, north to the Canadian border, and looped back down (stopping in Colebrook for supper, of course) and dawdling long enough that it would be sufficiently dark by the time the OMG SCARY LIGHT IN THE SKY would be visible.

It's a shame I don't have a bus driver's license, I'd be all over this. It would be more interesting than secretarial temping...

#156 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 01:54 PM:

Michael Weholt @ 127 and Bruce Cohen @ 130:

Various people have suggested that the central part of the galaxy would be a dangerous place, but it's hard to quantify this well (partly because it's hard to be certain what would and wouldn't be dangerous for life; there are people who argue that mass extinctions are bad for evolving intelligent life, and other people who argue that they might promote more rapid evolution and diversification -- at least, as long as they're not happening every damn millenium...).

Still, I can think of four general problems:

1. The massive black hole at the center of our galaxy. I suspect this may not be that important for our galaxy, because we've got a relatively wimpy black hole, which means it isn't that energetic (throwing off x-rays and jets from the accretion disk) when it's active. Also, the peak activity was probably in the first few billion years of the universe, so that it's been pretty quiescent the last few billion years. You may not want to be within 100 light years of the center, but I'm not sure that things would be that bad 1000 ly away.

2. More frequent gravitational encounters between stars due to the higher density of stars. Close encounters with neighboring stars could (perhaps) mess up planetary orbits or (more likely) perturb the orbits of comets in the Oort Cloud, sending them crashing into the inner system. Close encounters like this are rare out in our part of the Galaxy (but they probably do happen); they'd be more common where there are more stars per cubic light year.

3. More frequent exposure to dangerous exotica, again because of the higher density of stars. Now you're worrying about rare things like supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, and the like, which will probably be bad for people living within a hundred light years or so of the beastie. In a denser neighborhood, you're more likely to have something go off within a dangerous distance. (Supernovae are more common when you have young stars around, though, so if all the stars around you are old, they're less of a problem.)

4. Nuclear starbursts. (Or: "The center of the galaxy is where all the trash and loose change piles up.") If there's a merger with another galaxy (even just a dwarf galaxy or a near-miss fly-by), you'll end up with a lot of gas collecting in the center. This gas will compress, get dense, and form lots of new stars in a relatively short time (that's the "starburst"). And then (a few million years later) you get lots of extra supernovae.


Here's a paper and the accompanying summary/discussion from a few years back on the idea of "Galactic Habitable Zone". (It's in Science; I don't know if it's generally available or not.)

#157 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 02:07 PM:

John L @38 - My comment @29 was a mashup of you @24 and Mac H @20. Apologies if I'm pointing out the obvious, but "alien motives" was a play on Them supposedly abducting someone who was not "hot." You thus seem to be responding to a comment 180 degrees out of phase with mine.

#158 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 02:09 PM:

Jim, you should shop this to the Skeptical Inquirer, as has been suggested. I haven't read it since a little while before my subscription lapsed, but this is the kind of point-by-point reason-bombing they should appreciate.

#159 ::: Rozasharn ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 03:01 PM:

Jim @146 wrote: They state explicitly that they drove slowly for one portion. It’s likely that they didn’t maintain speed in other portions, particular when they were feeling “groggy,” “sonambulistic,” and overcome by “drowsiness.”

Not just likely: it's practically a certainty.

I've mostly been fortunate enough to work day shifts, but there was a brief period when I worked overnight shifts. I was coherent, but tired, driving home in the morning.

I felt in control of the car. I was driving the way I usually did, keeping my eyes on the road ahead and maintaining speed by reflex. I didn't realize until I glanced at the speedometer that I was actually going 10 mph below my usual speed on that road.

Fatigue slows your reflexes. You may not realize how slow you've become until you check yourself against an outside reference like the speedometer.

So I suspect Barney, driving all night in the dark after disrupted sleep schedules, with his wife constantly directing his attention to the sky, worried about plane crashes and being pursued, was maintaining a speed much less than his usual 50-55 mph. And if he didn't look at the speedometer, he'd never know.

#160 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 03:20 PM:

Peter @ 155:

I posted a longer response, or tried to, and the site blew up (<goofy>Hunh! Don't know my own strength!</goofy>) so, for fear it will end up double posting, I won't reproduce it here. I'll just say I have a subscription to "Science" and was able to retrieve that paper and I thank you very much for the link. The paper seems exactly on-point.

#161 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 03:34 PM:

#146, Actual UFO Picture: Aw, I'm disappointed, I thought it was going to be some of those flashing lights on towers to warn off low-flying aircraft. They fooled me a few times as a kid.

#162 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 03:38 PM:

Rotating airport beacons could do wonderful things late at night when you were half awake, sweeping past the window.

#163 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 03:51 PM:

#145: She put a compass next to her car and the needle deviated, proving that the car was now radioactive.

Good grief.

I used to have one of those $5 attachable clock temperature and compass things on the dashboard of my car. I gave up looking at it after I noticed that north was always toward the hood. Never thought it was the fault of radioactivity and space aliens, though. I suppose thinking that something in the car might be a magnetic source is just too mundane.

#164 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 04:24 PM:

The Worldcon will be in Montreal in two years. That path would make an entertaining return trip. Hmmm, maybe we'll go to L'Anse aux Meadows on our way up instead of on our way back...

#165 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 04:41 PM:

I saw a good UFO one night, driving back to Phoenix from Tucson after an IguanaCon committee meeting. Back then, there was a lot more dark and empty between Phoenix and Tucson, and the cities themselves didn't extend as far.

I was driving a station wagon full of sleeping committee members. Up ahead of me I could see a pulsing, shifting array of multicolored lights arranged in a pattern that was symmetrical top-to-bottom and side-to-side. It hovered near the highway, sometimes veering off to one side or the other.

Eventually it slowed down, and I got close enough to identify it: a big semi with an unusually large number of white, red, and amber reflectors attached to its rear. Their arrangement was bilaterally symmetrical, and the mirage-shimmer coming off the hot road at night was doubling it vertically. (Mirages are still there at night. You just can't see them unless you shine light on them.)

A more puzzling one showed up in the dark hours of the early morning when Patrick and I were driving across the Bonneville Salt Flats. The road is long and straight, and when it's dark there's nothing to either side of you. It's like one of those old arcade night driving simulators.

Way up ahead of us we could see a little dancing polymorphous red object. It never got much bigger or smaller, and its constantly morphing shape stayed within strict size limits, but it was pleasantly mysterious.

Eventually we figured out that we were on a slight downgrade, and were seeing the combined tail lights of all the cars for miles and miles in front of us.

The best extraterrestrial I ever sighted was huge for its class, burned with a distinctly greenish flame, had big chunks breaking off it, and tumbled slightly as it fell. I've seen a meteor shower that was more spectacular, but that was my best single meteor.

I have never seen real terrestrial or celestial objects in circumstances that suggested UFO sightings that were anywhere near as spectacular as the halucinations I've seen when I've driven too long and too late. The moral of the story is: get more sleep, and don't drive when you're tired.

#166 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 04:52 PM:

Teresa @ 164... The best extraterrestrial I ever sighted was huge for its class

Because it had too many of those pepperoni pizzas that Mary Aileen mentionned in #70?

#167 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 04:55 PM:

Peter Erwin @ 157

Thanks, that paper is accessible with a free registration on the site, which I already had.

#168 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 05:18 PM:

My UFO story: When I was about 8, three of us camped out in the backyard of a friend's house. At some point after dark, as we were lying looking at the sky chatting, we noticed a small light, about the size and brightness of a star, going from left to right not far above the horizon. A little while later, another light followed at exactly the same altitude and speed. There may also have been a third one. They didn't look like airplane lights, or anything else ordinary we could think of. Our flying saucer speculations finally spooked us so much that we spent the rest of the night inside.

Maybe some kind of satellite? Or airplanes after all?

#169 ::: Wim L ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 06:09 PM:

The most compelling UFO I've seen turned out to be a flock of birds (geese or ducks, probably). It was dark and they were lit from below, and while the flock was moving more or less in formation my brain *insisted* that I was seeing a single large rigid object, with irregularities that caught the light, and a strange shimmer at the frequency of wingbeats. It was only when a few birds split off and flew in another direction that the illusion dissipated.

#170 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 08:25 PM:

For birds-in-the-sky, there's always the Lubbock Lights.

#171 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 08:37 PM:

Wim L @ 168:

I've had a similar experience. It was a clear dark night in Cambridge, and I was looking at the night sky when suddenly around a dozen silver ellipsoids zoomed overhead in a V-formation. If I hadn't spent my formative years reading about all the classic explanations for UFOs, I would have taken them for mysterious craft moving incredibly quickly at a great height. Instead, thought "This must be a flock of geese," and sure enough, when I looked closely at the sides of these highly reflective ellipsoidal craft, I could see the stubs of wings, flapping vigorously. Had I not had this background in skeptical UFO studies, I would certainly have taken them as some kind of large, mysterious craft.

#172 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2007, 09:21 PM:

Jim @ 169

Well, it could have been migrating geese - that area's on the central flyway, although they don't usually go through that early in the fall. They get sandhill cranes, too, that spend the winter over toward Muleshoe. Avocets, ducks, possibly egrets or late-flying seagulls (they get around), maybe even white pelicans.

I'd bet on the rancher's identification, though.

#173 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 12:42 AM:

A couple times I've seen lights in the sky that seriously looked like weird stylized comets--a literally star-shaped head with glowing glitter trailing behind them--traveling along weird trajectories that suggested to my untrained eye that they were not launched from nearby ground. What they were, I don't know, but they were mighty goofy-looking.

The weirdest unexplained phenomenon I ever experienced was driving through Connecticut in the middle of the night with a friend--we had just passed through Mystic heading north on 95 towards Rhode Island, and from somewhere over the horizon (it appeared, at least), there was a sudden, huge burst of bright, bright green light, with what looked like a pretty definite single source, but bright enough to light up the entire sky. It lasted probably about a second, or at least a significant portion of one, and when it stopped all the streetlights had turned. I never found out what that was.

#174 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 01:02 AM:

Is it just me? I have this group of rebel neurons that, when I hear or read "Betty and Barney", or "Barney and Betty", insist on trying to put "Rubble" after it. Legacy of a misspent yoof perhaps, or signs of being a certain age …

#175 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 02:29 AM:

Nez, it isn't just you.

Not any more.

#176 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 02:47 AM:

Mary Aileen @ 167

Possibly those were fighter planes in patrol formation. They often send out 2 or 3 planes to patrol a large orbit, 50 to 100 miles in diameter, spaced a few miles apart. In the year after 9/11 the Navy was running 2 F-14s nearly constantly in that pattern out of Whidbey Island in a circle from north of Seattle at one side down to Portland at the other. When I took my dog for a walk at night I'd see them go overhead, first one, then the other a minute or so later, about every 15 minutes. They'd go right over us because we live on the side of Council Crest, a high hill with the largest structure this side of Seattle: a rsdio tower about 1100 ft high (above the 900 ft. hill) with lots of lights on it. That tower makes an excellent navigation check: you can see it for a hundred miles.

Moral of the story: consider where you saw the lights in the sky; if there's a common landmark nearby you might be seeing patrol aircraft.

#177 ::: Martin Sutherland ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 05:03 AM:

No-one seems to have pointed out the infamous "It's a streetlight" thread on Fark yet. Some people never let a simple explanation get in the way of a perfectly good whacked-out theory.

#178 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 09:08 AM:

A few years ago, I read in Skeptical Inquirer a report of an alien-abductee convention. After their first night there, many of the abductees figured out that they had been abducted again.

Meanwhile, here in New Mexico, a church's sign advertises a discussion about the End Times, to be held Oct 18 thru 21. Does that mean it all Ends on Oct 22?

#179 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 09:50 AM:

Mez 173: No, it isn't just you, and never was. I'm wondering if I'm the only one who wonders if the Rubbles were deliberately named after these folks. I haven't checked the timing, though.

I'm also wondering if I'm the only one who's wondering if I'm the only one who's wondering if I'm the only one.

I wonder.

#180 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 09:58 AM:

It's not just patrol planes. Over the years, MS Flight Simulator has made a lot of effort to get radio navigation aids correctly placed, and I used to spend a lot of time working out and flying simulated routes.

Anyway, there are defined routes for civil aircraft and, while they keep their distance from the cumulo-granite, I can see a stranger easily getting excited by lights following identical paths across the sky.

Where I used to live, we were within a mile of the runway alignment of the local airport. Not a lot of planes, and low enough to be easily identified, but add a couple more miles of displacement, and the right lighting, and you could wonder.

Of course, having most of the RAF buzzing overhead since you were kneehigh to a grey Fergie tends to bias you towards aeronautical explanations. And on a good day, with the wind in the west, a Lightning departing Binbrook could be a bright dot of sunlight on aluminium, which seemed to hover over the Wolds before shooting straight upwards.

#181 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 10:07 AM:

Xopher... I wondered too. But if the Rubbles were named after them, is there also a secret code in Fred and Wilma?

#182 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 10:30 AM:

My best UFO story (which ends as an IFO story) happened in 2006. Out walking the dog in the park at night, I saw something *very* odd fly past. It looked like a formation of orange lights very high up, or perhaps an aircraft of some kind with lots of tiny orange lights on it quite low. It was travelling NNW, and I thought it might be a collection of satellites in formation (which would be very odd indeed) but it was moving too fast. Then it turned, heading NNE. Nothing in orbit could do that, so it had to be an aircraft, but one that apparent size had to be pretty low, and this was completely silent. A glider? A balloon? In pitch darkness, without red and green marker lights?

Then it disappeared entirely, which is something a satellite might do when entering the Earth's shadow, but no aircraft would just turn off all its lights, so what could it be?

I was heading home contemplating writing about this UFO when it flew over again on a reverse course. This time I was on a lit street, and the street lights showed it for what it was: a barn owl, flying silently about 20-30 feet up.

In the dark of the park, what I had seen were reflections of the distant sodium streetlights on the owl's white plumage, and it was much lower, smaller and slower than I imagined.

Much cooler, too. That's the first time I've seen one in the wild, and just yards from my house.

#183 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 10:32 AM:

The imdb listing for The Flintstones has its first transmission date as 30th September, 1960. Which is almost a year before "19 September 1961", when this happened. Nice idea, tho'.

#184 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 10:44 AM:

Serge (#150): There was a glitch in your post, and the name of the aircraft (was it supposed to be a link?) didn't come through. I can't remember it myself, but it was a darn peculiar looking thingie.

Since people have been discussing weird light(s), I'll mention the strange dawn we had in Prescott today. It's supposed to get stormy again after some overnight rain (hmm, it just started raining as I type, and it's *sunny*), but the clouds to the east weren't all that heavy. Nonetheless, a bit before sunup the sky seemed much lighter to the north-west and it looked more like early evening than morning. Definitely not a "sailor take warning" effect. I'm sure there's some natural explanation, but I don't think I've seen that kind of thing before -- and I see lots of dawns from the window next to this computer, which faces slightly north-east.

#185 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Faren @ 183... Curses! The airship's name was the Albatross.

#186 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 11:01 AM:

Bruce Cohen (175)/ Dave Bell (179): That sounds very plausible. Would they show from a distance as just one white light, no red or green?

#187 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 12:12 PM:

Martin Sutherland @ 176... Some people never let a simple explanation get in the way of a perfectly good whacked-out theory.

After all, for some people, the simple explanation doesn't fulfill their need for more meaning to their lives, unlike the modern version of encounters with the Sacred.

#188 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 01:02 PM:

Epacris 182: Did the Rubbles appear in the first episodes?

#189 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 01:14 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 185

That's what I always see. I don't think warplane designers worry a lot about bright, multi-colored running lights; in combat I would think the pilot is going to turn all the lights off anyway (and pray to the gods of ECM that enemy radar doesn't spot him), and a good part of the time they're going to be running IFF transponders so the good guys know who they are and where.

#190 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 01:20 PM:

It's easy to mis-identify things in the sky -- there's nothing to compare them to for scale, so something small and close and slow-moving can appear at large, distant, and fast.

Among other things: I've had the rising moon reported to me by a lookout as a nuclear explosion. The planet Venus reported as a helicopter (the person making the report continued to believe it was a helicopter even after I took a sight on it with my sextant, broke the sight, and laid down the line-of-position which crossed our track at the dead-reckoning time--of course, this was also the person who reported a tow-truck-and-tow on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel as a submarine running on the surface, so...).

For reasons I'm not entirely sure of (though I suspect it involves refraction), Sirius (the Dog Star) appears to flash red, green, and white. That gets reported as an aircraft a lot.

Binoculars, particularly if the lenses aren't entirely clean, the tubes aren't collimated, or one or the other side is a bit out of focus, or they aren't color-corrected, can add interesting effects on their own, even if you've got 'em on a solid rest. If you're holding them in your hand you get all that, plus jerky motion in your object. Estimating the size of something you're looking at through binoculars is also tricky even for folks who do it a lot.

#191 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 01:37 PM:

A wiggy-but-usually-sceptical school friend of mine moved to Pembrokeshire years ago. I went to visit him, and he claimed to have seen Astonishing Things in the Sky.

Which was not surprising; he lived only a few miles away from the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency's missile and UAV test range at Aberporth...and the RAF training area attached to the Tactical Weapons School at Valley further north..

Regarding sleep, or the lack of it, I once travelled in one hook from Alice Springs to Sydney via Adelaide and Broken Hill on long distance buses, 40 or so hours in all and not a sodding wink. By the middle of New South Wales on the Barrier Highway I was seeing all sorts of things out of the corners of my eyes, and so wired I couldn't drink coffee. I would not have been a credible witness of anything.

#192 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 02:08 PM:

Xopher @ 187: The Rubbles were in the series from its beginning (per the episode guide).

Perhaps the Hills' regression under hypnosis went way too far?

#193 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 02:21 PM:

Maybe the Hills were named after the Rubbles!

No, wait...

#194 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 02:46 PM:

This post, more or less as it stands, would make a very good article for Fortean Times.

#195 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 02:56 PM:

ethan @ 192... Maybe the Hills were named after the Rubbles!

Benny Hill?

#196 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 03:01 PM:

Joel 191: Yeah, I've heard of lost time, but this is ridiculous!

ethan 192: [bursts into song]The Hills are alive...and they've been abducted...

#197 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 03:34 PM:

I prefer thinking of those absences less as lost time and more as time not spent.

#198 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 04:10 PM:

Serge @#196: Saved time, really.

#199 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 04:22 PM:

Mary Dell... "Let's do the time warp again..."

#200 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 05:57 PM:

"Federal law limits the participation of resident aliens in the political process. But it is silent on the role of extraterrestrial aliens."

This is from a WashPost column documenting the Paradigm Research Groups demand that the presidential candidates support an initiative to tell the truth about the aliens here on Earth. mmmhmmm

#201 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 06:09 PM:

Marilee @ 199... Once again, reality sounds like something from the Onion.

#202 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 06:13 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ 189

Being kind to your lookout, I'll assume he saw that "nuclear explosion" in the tropics, and he hadn't been there before. I've seen enough sun and moon rises near the equator to know that their light waxes more slowly than any nuclear weapon, and up in the higher latitudes it's even slower. It was a good thing there wasn't a lunar eclipse; if he was a Christian the red color might have made thiknk him that the end of the world had come, and he and all his shipmates had been sent to Hell with no reprieve.

#203 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 07:37 PM:

The standard version of the Betty-and-Barney-Hill story:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

#204 ::: Tobe J ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 08:52 PM:

Dear Mr Macdonald. Thanks. You're hella cool. I need to buy more of your books.

May your spiritual path never be probed by big-eyed extraterrestrials!

#205 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 10:07 PM:

I think we're all overlooking the truly inexplicable behavior here. I refer, of course, to Delsey the Dachshund. My warning signals went off when it was mentioned that he was sleeping on the floor of the car, near Mrs. Hill's feet.

As one who has spent a lifetime caring for Dachshunds,* I cry foul. There is no way a Dachshund was on the floor, let alone happily. The proper place of a Dachshund in a moving car is on the driver's lap, front paws on the wheel**. From this position they both help to steer (usually in the direction of food) and keep an eye out for evil attack creatures (usually rodents) about whom all must be warned at top volume.

Now what could cause such unnatural behavior in a Dachshund? Was it fear? Perhaps he was already aware something was up, and was cowering in terror. Perhaps some lesser breeds would be so craven, but the Dachshund Standard states that Dachshunds are "courageous to the point of rashness," so we can dismiss this possibility out of hand.

Consider also that later on, it was Delsey's insistance on stopping that got the Hills out of their car and into position for contact to be made.

Putting these two facts together, we are led to the inescapable conclusion that Delsey was not a Dachshund, he was in fact an impostor. The real Delsey had been surreptitiously replaced by a shape-changing alien, charged with manouvering the Hill's into position for capture. So much now becomes clear! The mind-clouds when in his presence! The inexplicable behavior! The odd turnings of the car! The passive capitulation to their fates!

And what of the real Delsey? Knowing the command powers of the Dachshund, I feel no hesitation in declaring him to be, even now, cruising the galaxy, being hand-fed sweetmeats and morsels by legions of tummy-rubbing acolytes. I have no doubt that his story is one of curious interest, and great adventure, could we but come to know it.


*Not well, as they'll tell you. They're starving.

** Except for my mistreated Dachshunds. I force them to ride in a crate, which is secured to the frame of the car in a location outside the crumple zone. I make noises about safety, but they+ know I just want them to be miserable.

+The plural refers to my lifetime supply of dogs. I'm currently down to one. This is sad, and unnatural, and I'm working to rectify the situation.

#206 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2007, 03:25 AM:

Am reposting this, which got lost somewhere in the intartubes aether. It goes with the Gerry Anderson 'U.F.O.' series discussion back around comment #83 et seq. Hope it gets thru' this time.

A friend entertained me while I was sick last year by (among other things) showing me episodes from his DVD box set of the UFO series. Not too bad at all.

We only saw some of the Gerry Anderson series in Oz, so I don't recognise all of the examples people mentioned here. My fave was Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (poster) with its unseen villains — how can you have a schoolgirl crush on a puppet? People are strange.

But gullwing door cars, like the series, distinctly pre-date the 1980s Delorean, e.g. the Mercedes Benz 300L (some here) is from the 1950s.

#207 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2007, 08:53 AM:

Dave@179: en-route planes may not be spotted as often as they're very high up, but planes queued for landing would certainly excite the credulous; on a clear night I've seen at least 6 planes with landing lights (much brighter than running lights, and IIRC not always used during cruise) making a long crosswind to land at Newark without interfering with LaGuardia or JFK. That's at an airport with limited traffic; you could have twice the fun around DFW, Minneapolis, Detroit, O'Hare, or many other airports with independent parallel runways and at least one hub operation.

#208 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2007, 09:34 AM:

Faren Miller #183: "Since people have been discussing weird light(s), I'll mention the strange dawn we had in Prescott today. It's supposed to get stormy again after some overnight rain (hmm, it just started raining as I type, and it's *sunny*), but the clouds to the east weren't all that heavy. Nonetheless, a bit before sunup the sky seemed much lighter to the north-west and it looked more like early evening than morning. Definitely not a "sailor take warning" effect. I'm sure there's some natural explanation, but I don't think I've seen that kind of thing before -- and I see lots of dawns from the window next to this computer, which faces slightly north-east."

The Zodiacal Light (or "false dawn") should appear in the east this time of year, so you've got me.

#209 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2007, 09:49 AM:

Juli @ #204, hear hear. One of my foster dogs used to stand on her (former) owner's shoulders in the car.

I can testify to "courageous to the point of rashness" too. My little longhair Phoebe (14 lbs.) used to charge at the local Bernese Mountain Dog (110+), making terroristic threats, every time she saw him. And my old geezer Linus tried to pick a fight with a half-grown pit bull in the vet's waiting room. Linus is not only small and arthritic, but has very few teeth. AND he's been beaten up by an off-leash Chow mix, so he knows what can happen when he's outclassed.

And there are plenty of homeless Dachshunds here.

#210 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2007, 11:23 AM:

I saw an UFO once.
I was traveling back to school after Christmas vacation. Trailways or Greyhound, I forget which, but it was an express from Miami to D.C. It made a half hour stop in Atlanta.
It was a very cold and foggy January and the Atlanta folk, as most southerners will, overheated the station to the point of choking. I asked a guard if it would be safe if I went outside to get some fresh air. He said ok but stay by the door where I can see you.
I was sleepy from the heat and the long drive, and the cold air was a slap in the face. Suddenly awake but disoriented, I looked up and sar a large circular object with lights evenly spaced along the middle, turning slowly directly on top of some buildings. I finally figured out what it was, but for those first few seconds...holy crap.
I am probably the only person in the world to be scared by a restaurant.

#211 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2007, 11:30 AM:

There's no reason to think that Betty and Barney didn't see a mixture of a) the light on Cannon Mountain, b) Jupiter or Saturn, c) a satellite, d) an airplane, and e) lights on various houses and barns at various distances, and conflated them all. On a trip through wooded mountains you don't get a continuous view of anything. You see a glimpse through the trees here, and five minutes later a glimpse through the trees there. One isolated white light against a dark background looks much like another.

For that matter, the glowing moon-like object touching the road between Woodstock and Plymouth could have been the billboard for the Jack O'Lantern Resort (a huge orange jack o'lantern). It's at about the right place, and the Jack O'Lantern has been in operation for 75 years. It's about the only thing that breaks the monotony on that stretch of road. I can't prove that the billboard was on Rt. 3 back in '61, though, and there's no possible way of telling whether it was what they saw at the time and only recalled months-to-years later.

At this late date, and with the written record being of memories recovered through hypnosis, who can tell?

#212 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2007, 11:32 AM:

"saw", dang it. I meant "saw".

#213 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2007, 11:45 AM:

Emma (208): I am probably the only person in the world to be scared by a restaurant.

The one on top of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta hotel? Because I've always thought that looked amazingly like a flying saucer.

#214 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2007, 12:33 PM:

Mary Aileen #211: I too think so. I wonder if that's part of the reason Dragon*Con is held there.

#215 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2007, 01:15 PM:

Emma @ 208

Not the only one. I once spent an evening in (most likely) that very restaurant with friends from a professional conference. I probably shouldn't have finished off the evening with the brandy after all the wine and the scotch before-hand; as I walked out through the vestibule where the carousel meets the building proper, I was really afraid for a second or two that I was going to fall over and go rolling around the restaurant.

#216 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2007, 02:37 PM:

Fragano (212): I wouldn't be surprised. It was even more impressive years ago when the Hyatt was the tallest building around.

#217 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2007, 07:05 PM:

Mary Aileen #214: I've never been in it, I must confess. My wife and I had an anniversary dinner a couple of years back at the revolving restaurant across Peachtree at the Westin (which has some magnificent views).

#218 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2007, 10:05 AM:

Mary Aileen @213: Yep, that one. In those days (early 80s) it was the biggest building in the area and the restaurant does look like a flying saucer... Thankfully someone had mentioned it, so my natural skepticism reasserted itself...

Bruce @215 giggle

#219 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2007, 08:11 PM:

ethan @ 173, was it near sunset when you saw the green flash?

mez @ 206 - oh, me too, I had a crush on Captain Scarlet (and can still sing most of the theme song). Captain Blue was Canadian, so I liked him too.

-Barbara

#220 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2007, 08:36 PM:

Barbara Gordon @ 219... I had a crush on Captain Scarlet (and can still sing most of the theme song). Captain Blue was Canadian, so I liked him too.

According to imdb.com, there was also a Captain Magenta.

Also, the Organization's airborne HQ was defended by three female fighter pilots code-named Melody, Harmony and Symphony. I wonder if their ranks included Cacophony and Littleditty.

#221 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2007, 01:19 AM:

Barbara Gordon #219: No, it was somewhere around three in the morning.

#222 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2007, 10:58 AM:

Serge @ 220

Well, there were Corporals Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone; they always had a kind word for the perp in between swings of the lead pipe.

#223 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2007, 11:18 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 222... and Captain Chartreuse, and Captain Fuschia...

#224 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2007, 11:26 AM:

Frivolously, I've been trying to imagine a cartoon version where Hank and family from TV's "King of the Hill" get abducted. It wouldn't be nearly as paranoid and gloomy as the so-called official account, via hypnosis et al.

#225 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2007, 11:31 AM:

I'm pretty sure there was a Rhapsody Angel as well in Captain Scarlet. Confusingly their leader was Destiny Angel. For once they didn't have just enough personnel in a Gerry Anderson program; with 5 Angels for 3 aircraft, they could at least take a break once in a while.

I seem to remember that in UFO there were three moon-based interceptors each armed with one missile. Even with the Submersible Aircraft Carrier etc., it seemed to me that a dozen saucers turning up at once would easily overwhelm the defences. Actually, I have a feeling that something like this happened in one episode. Must track it down again.

#226 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2007, 11:40 AM:

Neil Willcox... Same problem if the UFOs show up on the other side of the Earth from where the submarine is. (I wonder if its crew went thru a lot of uniforms in one week. "Dang! There's a run in my shirt!")

About Gerry Anderson's personnel... I wonder what Gordon did most of the time, considering that they didn't need Thunderbird Four that often. ("They hate me. They all hate me! That's why dad stuck me with the submarine duty.")

#227 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2007, 11:44 AM:

Neil, thus far I've seen all but the last four episodes of UFO, and so far they talk a lot about how the aliens might try a mass attack (Straker wants to prepare for it, the bureaucrats pooh-pooh him), but it hasn't happened yet. I haven't the faintest idea why; they'd win easily.

Again, I guess we must accept that aliens would have alien motivations. Maybe their goal is to fight a very, very protracted war of economic attrition (forcing the humans to spend lots of money and resources on planetary defense for an extremely long time), while for their part losing as many people as possible. Or maybe they're just biding their time until the moon explodes and goes rocketing out into space. Isn't that what the spinoff show is about?

#228 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2007, 12:17 PM:

ethan @ 227... Or maybe they're just biding their time until the moon explodes and goes rocketing out into space

Then, in 2063, Steve Zodiac, onboard the Fireball XL-5, finally catches up with the Moon and brings everyone back home.

#229 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2007, 03:57 PM:

Why is it that when discussing Anderson shows, nobody ever mentions Terrahawks?

#230 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2007, 04:17 PM:

Wow, "Supermacromation" sounds even more super than Supermarionation!

#231 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2007, 05:38 PM:

From Barney's hypnotic tapes (he's looking with binoculars in through the window of the flying saucer):

Barney: And the evil face on the-- (He starts to say "leader.") He looks like a German Nazi. He's a Nazi... (There is a questioning tone in his voice.)

Doctor: He's a Nazi. Did he have on a uniform?

Barney: Yes.

#232 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2007, 12:43 AM:

I just checked for stuff related to Captain Scarlet on YouTube and made a disturbing discovery as I watched the opening credits: why does the Voice of the Mysterons sound like Lurch?

#233 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2007, 01:13 PM:

I've actually had that exact experience of a light on a hill looking like a UFO, when driving along the Oregon coast near Tillamook. There was an enormous glowing object in the sky--not just a light, but a massive floating disk--and my mother and I drove toward asking each other "What on earth IS that?" for a good half hour. UFOs started to seem a lot more plausible, even to a skeptic like myself. Eventually I realized that it was the gigantic letter "G," which sits on a hillside over the town of Garibaldi, and which is apparently lit up brilliantly at night. But if I hadn't known the G was there, and if I never went back? I'd probably still be thinking that I'd narrowly escaped the alien mothership on the Oregon Coast...

#234 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 07:48 AM:

There is a Harvard psychologist who has written a lot about alien visitation. He's damaged his career by it.

The reality is a lot of people believe they have met aliens. It is a documentable mental phenomenon. There are hundreds of documented testimonies by people who really believe it happened to them.

The *explanation* is much more complex, but there is at least one pretty good guess. Going down a long tunnel towards a light, and being greeted there by people with big eyes and no facial features ("The Greys") who poke and prod you?

What's that but being born? Babies have consciousness, perhaps, much earlier than we realise, and the memories are embedded.

On the subject of USAF testing. My father's job at one point was to retrieve Royal Air Force antisubmarine weapons (secret) which had been accidentally dropped on peoples' houses or gardens along the coast, during testing. In those days the culture of the Official Secrets Act was widespread: people viewed it as part of their national duty *not* to blab.

There is no doubt the boffins test some pretty weird things.

Pravda reported on UFOs over Iran. Red and green lights, reversing directions. A couple crashed and destroyed themselves. It turned out it was US (or Israeli) pilotless drones, surveying air defence sites.

As one Iranian Air Force general was quoted 'it's standard US doctrine. They want us to turn on our radars so they can locate them. But they forget, we were all trained at Colorado Springs in the 1970s'.

#235 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 12:57 PM:

The Harvard psychologist was John Mack. (See also.)

One of the cases he reports as alien abduction is a hypnotic regression of a middle-aged man who reports that, when he was a teenager, one day he was levitated out of his car (without leaving a hole in the roof) by a large-breasted, blonde-haired, blue-eyed nude female space alien whose facial expression never changed, a young lady who (weird sexual experimentation!) masturbated him to orgasm before returning him. He never noticed at the time, and only recalled years later.

And my first thought wasn't "Woo! Those space aliens! I bet they were using it for genetic research!" My first thought was "I wonder what Miss November looked like that year?"

#236 ::: sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 06:02 PM:

"I want to go on the Betty and Barney Re-enactment Tour. "

Oh yeah! I'd travel into town to do this. Someone make this happen?

#237 ::: Emily Cartier ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 08:40 AM:

Huh. Any takers on the idea that that's the first (and probably the last) time that Barney drove 21 hours without stopping to sleep or trade drivers?

Solo, about the longest I'm willing to do is 8 hours. I can go over that but then I'm cutting into my safety margin for function. I'm a morning person, so me driving late at night is Not The World's Best Plan. And on a solo trip, rest breaks are usually double what I'd do with other drivers to spell me. If I'm not in good shape, they can triple or quadruple. This knocks my average speed down hard, and speeding does almost nothing to bring it up. If I want to go faster, a second driver to spell me makes the biggest difference... and more than doubles the potential drive time.

Barney and Betty Hill's trip wouldn't have been anywhere *near* as exciting if they'd swapped driving. Pulling over into a scenic overlook for an hour or two of nap wouldn't have hurt either.

#238 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 09:05 AM:

Ethan @227 Neil, thus far I've seen all but the last four episodes of UFO, and so far they talk a lot about how the aliens might try a mass attack (Straker wants to prepare for it, the bureaucrats pooh-pooh him), but it hasn't happened yet. I haven't the faintest idea why; they'd win easily.

It's probably a recovered memory; I was usually short on sleep at the time I watched UFO.

I remember Terrahawks from what must have been the first time round, although mostly I remember the noughts and crosses ending, one episode when Cy-star has a baby and fighting with my brother during the boring bits (whenever people were talking generally).

#239 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 09:34 AM:

I liked Supercar and Captain Scarlet, but my favorite was Fireball XL-5 (I even had a Fireball XL-5 playset).

#240 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 09:42 AM:

James Macdonald... Want to borrow my DVD boxed set of Fireball XL-5? My own favorite remains Thunderbirds, which is probably why I found the movie of a couple of years ago absolutely ghastly.

#241 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 10:01 AM:

Serge #240: You? Found a movie ghastly? A movie directed by Will Riker?

Neil #238: Maybe the mass invasion episode you remember was really just a light on a distant mountain. Or maybe it's on the last disc of the DVD set. Or swamp gas.

#242 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 10:07 AM:

ethan @ 241... Ahem... Even yours truly has some limits where Bad Cinéma is concerned. The Thunderbirds movie was it, along with the two Fantastic Four movies.

#243 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 10:40 AM:

238

re UFO

In the episode where the aliens are building a dome underneath the sea, they are also building up to a mass attack, flying saucers hovering just out of defence range.

Straker isn't clear why, but does say 'they'd lose half of them before they reached the atmosphere'. Implying Earth has more defence resources than 3 interceptors.

The general tack of the series, though, is that the aliens are from a dying planet, and operating at the very limits of their range. Rather as if we were exploring Alpha Centauri using Apollo capsules. And so their attacks are pinprick or covert.

#244 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 11:20 AM:

Ah, there you go. I haven't seen that episode. Sounds awesome!

#245 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 12:00 PM:

244

Ethan. The order of release of episodes of UFO is different in the US and UK editions. Amazon (.co.uk or .com) had a good explanation under the reviews section.

What frightens me is I haven't seen that episode in 30 years and yet I remember it so clearly.

The last few episodes really played up the paranoia element, and were particularly good.

Anyone remember the TV series The Invaders?

Keith Laumer did a particularly good novelisation of the first couple of episodes.

#246 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 12:07 PM:

239

Thunderbirds is, by consensus, the best Gerry Anderson series.

one hour (Captain Scarlet was only 30 minutes). Best animation.

The theme of the series was very modern: environmental disaster, etc. The episodes have mostly aged pretty well-- skyscrapers on fire, nuclear plant meltdowns etc. Memorable characters: Lady Penelope and Parker. Scott's (?) unrequitted love for the Japanese girl. Brains.

And there was the wonderful theme song. There is (still) a great movie to be made of that franchise, which speaks to our very modern fear of terror and disaster, and of raw human courage. If George Clooney couldn't kill the Batman franchise, maybe Thunderbirds can live again.

http://www.andrewdawson.info/thunderbirds_fab.html

Thunderbirds FAB was a very successful stage show which ran in London. The critics didn't like it, but the audiences loved it.

#247 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 03:56 PM:

I think this may have been posted here before, but here is a YouTube link for Superthunderstingcar, a parody of the Gerry Anderson puppet shows performed by Dudley Moore and Peter Cook on the 60s British comedy show Not Only... But Also.

#248 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 05:15 PM:

Valuethinker @ 245... Anyone remember the TV series The Invaders?

Oh yes. It was much better than the dreadful(*) TV movie of about 10 years ago, with Scott Bakula as the main character. By the way, did you know that Philip K. Dick was a fan of the show? If not, does that shock you?

(*) See, ethan, I do have some standards where it comes to TV and movies.

#249 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 05:24 PM:

Sadly, The Invaders doesn't seem to be available on DVD, at least not from netflix. I've never seen any of it meself, but my father talks about it constantly. Made an impression on him, I guess.

#250 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 05:44 PM:

ethan... I checked elsewhere and The Invaders just isn't available. Meanwhile "V" is. Go figure. I remembered the former as being quite good, but I was a mere boy back then and everything was new and shiny to me. I might find it dreadful today. On the other hand I found "V" crappy from the get-go.

#251 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 12:52 AM:

Jim, #239, I have a UKan friend who has recently bought a new Fireball XL-5 playset for her son.

#252 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 04:39 AM:

ethan and serge

If you liked 'the Invaders' you might really like 'the Delta State'. Animated series about a group of young people (origins mysterious, even to them) who are fighting a psychic battle with alien invaders (from another dimension?). The series was French, originally, I think, and has that style. Episodes are ambiguous, at times, and mysteries are created and not resolved.

#253 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 05:00 AM:

I've recently sought a set of The Invaders (w Roy Thinnes) for a fan-collector friend of mine. You can find sets of DVDs, particularly in the UK, relatively straightforwardly. Some of them are Region-free. I suspect all of them are 'non-official', probably dubbed from the old VHS tape releases, which you can also sometimes find for sale.

Whether you want to engage in this trade I'm leaving to your own ethical decision.

#254 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 08:01 AM:

I agree that Thunderbirds was the best, but I always found the Tracey brothers all a bit too goody-two-shoes and dull. Which is among the reasons why I like Stingray - Troy Tempest is a real character* - as this this film of me and my friends watching Stingray shows.

(Actually a friend of mine had this video, so we had to do the "dance" when Stingray came on and we were at his house)

* with two girlfriends, which is one more than the entire set of Tracey brothers, and ten times the dramatic potential.

#255 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 08:16 AM:

Neil Willcox @ 254... Heheheh... Which of the guys are you? By the way, wasn't the voice of Troy Tempest's human girlfriend done by Lois Maxwell, aka Moneypenny?

#256 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 08:24 AM:

Stephen Baxter's novel Coalescent had a character who grew up in the early 1960s who was a big fan of Fireball XL-5. I wonder how autobiographical that was.

#257 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 09:20 AM:

Here's Fireball XL-5's theme song.

I especially enjoyed the episode where Our Heroes are waiting for the Moon to rise before they launch. And they wait and wait and wait, until they hear reports that our satellite is way away in space. You see, those mean aliens from planet Magneton have been focusing their planet's awesome magnetic field on our Moon. Of course, Our Heres get the Moon back in place before the story is over. Not sure how, but who cares?

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That's amore
When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine
That's amore
Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
And you'll sing "Vita Bella"
Hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay
Like a gay tarantella

#258 ::: Goldar ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2007, 12:02 AM:

I think you all are a bunch of screwballs...live long and prosper ...human freaks!

#259 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2007, 12:21 AM:

Do you think that's meant to be an insult?

#260 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2007, 12:48 AM:

Serge #255: Did you know that Lois Maxwell just died?

#261 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2007, 06:48 AM:

Sylvia Li... No, I didn't know that. I had noticed a small b&w photo on Comcast's site when I checked my mail, but didn't realize it was about her.

#262 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2007, 01:51 PM:

Serge & Sylvia, that was the thought I had when I saw comment #255. Synchronicity. There's a nice short interview (RealPlayer) accompanying the Perth ABC story about her from 2005. This morning I heard a doctor saying she'd done a lot of charity work for them in gratitude to the hospital which treated her when she first visited her son in WA. You can see one mentioned at the end of the story. Another one of those 'concealed Canadians' — I love the picture of her with Ronald Reagan on the CTV obituary, tho' The Times one is pretty comprehensive.

Tying back into the thread, she had a part in two episodes in the first season of U.F.O. (scripts here) as 'Miss Holland', who sounds like a variation of Miss Moneypenny, whom she portrayed before and after that role.

#263 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2007, 02:04 PM:

Whoa, wait, Miss Holland is Miss Moneypenny? I don't believe it!

#264 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2007, 03:14 PM:

Goldar couldn't even spell "Luca Bracci" right in his fake email address!

#266 ::: Jason McIntosh ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2007, 11:15 AM:

I'd like to note that this post got referenced (and attributed and linked to) by the most recent (November 10, 2007) episode of Pseudocertainty, a podcast about UFOlogy and other strangeness hosted by a friend of mine.

#268 ::: L K Tucker ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2008, 09:08 PM:

I have been searching and waiting for some one to write an account of that trip.

I suspected that some light source had been their "alien ship." As you note the moon and other planets don't fit the time line.

Barney's sketch of the alien matches the alien from an Outer Limits episode that aired a week or so before the hypnosis interview when he drew it. The Bellero Shield was that episode.

Barney was a postal worker having trouble with what Betty described as psychosomatic complaints. He is said to have had an ulcer from stress before the "alien encounter."

That suggests he had a work situation that allowed Subliminal Distraction exposure. My site is a five-year investigation of SD. I plan to place a link to this page when I begin to re-edit the Barney and Betty Hill page on my site.

A family member who emailed me said he was always an outdoor worker and never worked in the building. But low exposure while sorting and preparing his route mail, would cause this problem but prevent the sudden dissociative episode usually seen with this phenomenon, Subliminal Distraction.

You may use any information from my site.

#269 ::: Scott H Florance ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2008, 01:24 PM:

I want to have my DNA taken to the far ends of the Milkyway. Someone should order small plastic vials from the manufacturer using the green Thomas industrial catolog at the public library, look up vials /plastic. Next have someone make a kids rubber helium party baloon that is 1 inch bigger when its inflated so it goes higher in the sky. Have it made with glow in the dark stuff that shines at night. It will take two rubber baloons tied together to carry up the plastic vial taped to one of the baloons. Proceed to get poke-em lancets from the drug store to prick your finger. Now Space-Aliens flying in invisible craft in Earths skies could retrieve a drop of your blood when you release the baloons over the desert or nature park. Go ahead and dab a drop of blood onto the surface of the baloon instead if you want, then only one baloon is needed. Your baloon might be recognized by the Aliens up there. Or you might find the whole idea a bad thing. Should people who believe there is Aliens visiting our solor system send out a spacecraft way past Pluto that has a supply of fruit tree, vegetable and berry seeds so the Extra-terrestial star travellers can take it home?

#270 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2008, 06:50 AM:

For folks who want all the loose ends tied up....

John Harrigan, former publisher of the Coös County Democrat, tells me that the waitress who served Betty and Barney their hamburger-and-cake was named Ruby Beecher.

#271 ::: Mike Markley ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 06:30 AM:

Very nice debunking. I wanted to share an anecdote of my own that might help fill in what happened while Barney's and Betty's memories are fuzzy.

When I was 18, I moved from El Paso, TX to Cleveland, OH via car. Being naive (I said I was 18), I expected to be able to drive nearly straight through and tackle this in a day, maybe a day and a half. Taking a detour through (appropriately enough) Roswell did nothing to help my transit time, and at the end of the second day, I found myself in St. Louis.

I planned to sleep at a friend's house there, but then I met a cute girl and ended up spending the night trying to spend the night with her. When that didn't meet with any success, I went back on my way. I was stopped just outside St. Louis for swerving to make a freeway junction at the last moment. Once the state policeman was convinced that I was merely tired and had not been attending the Phish concert the night before, he sent me on my way with a suggestion that I get some sleep soon. I did catch a few hours' sleep after breaking down in Greenville, IL, while waiting for my car to be fixed, but that didn't last long and I was soon back on the road.

By the time I reached Indianapolis, I was completely fried. I needed sleep badly, but I wanted to keep pushing, so I stopped and grabbed some more No-Doz and kept on.

Finally, I ended up pulling off into a truck stop parking lot, barely conscious of what I was doing, and catching a nap. The reason: a scary little incident where I'd glanced at my clock, blinked, and glanced at the clock again. The only problem was that the clock read about an hour later the second time. I doubt VERY sincerely that I was actually asleep for that hour while behind the wheel on a busy freeway, but I sure couldn't tell you with any confidence exactly what I was doing. Even days later, my memories of that stretch of the trip were sketchy at best. The only two things I remember about the greater Indianapolis area are seeing people imitate IRL on the freeway by passing at 100MPH on the freeway, and napping in the driver's seat at a truck stop, hoping I'd found my way to a real parking space, since I wasn't even entirely sure of that.

The point of this rather long-winded story: Endless hours of driving plus lack of sleep make an easy recipe for the phenomenon some call highway hypnosis. Recalling my state of mind at this point in the trip, I'm sure I would've been freaking-out-paranoid about the weird light following me, too, and I sure as heck don't remember substantial portions of the drive.

It's been covered a bit already in the comments, it seems, but another two cents can't hurt.

#272 ::: Jammie Russell ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 10:14 AM:

I have been abducted, most of my life by extraterrestoals. I have carried their childern for them. They can erase our memeries. So they could have been abducted most of their lives, so they could been abducted when they were childern. If any one wanted to talk to me about my exprences please e mail me at ozarkartist@wmconnect.com

#273 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2008, 11:18 PM:

More on Betty and Barney: the Tank VODcast from 04DEC07.

#274 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2008, 09:02 AM:

Larry King Live: Alien on tape Notice that they don't actually show the tape; they show one frame. The tape that is shown is labeled "reenactment" (though no one says "This is what our artists think the tape would show, if we saw it, and if the description that the guy who shot the tape five years ago gave is actually what's on the tape.") See also: A longer version.

This is the Stan Romanek tape, only now coming to light five years after it was shot. Elsewhere we learn that "An instructor at the Colorado Film School in Denver scrutinized the video ‘‘very carefully’’ and determined it was authentic, [Jeff] Peckman said."

Jeff Peckman wants to have the Denver City Council to have an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission. He's got a ballot initiative to that effect.

What the fellow from the Denver film school determined was that the tape was shot on the kind of camera that Stan claims it was, not that the thing seen on it is authentically a space alien.

Why do I think that this is BS? Because the space alien looks just like a Betty-and-Barney-Hill space alien, and it would be a pretty incredible coincidence if what they described and genuine space aliens looked the same.

More stories.

#275 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2008, 11:52 AM:

Jim, when are you going to accept that that's just what aliens look like?

#276 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 08:01 PM:

I'm amazed that I didn't check on this before. Was there, in fact, a hurricane coming up the coast on 19 September 1961?

The answer is, Yes. That was Hurricane Esther.

There was a hurricane watch from Cape May, NJ, to the Massachusetts coast on 19 September.

#277 ::: Cathy Creswell ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2008, 08:05 PM:

Well, it's about dam time someone retraced the Hill's steps on that journey. Why had no one thought of this sooner??? Very nice debunking. So, is the lookout tower for forestry purposes? I have yet to find definitive proof of aliens and the whole mythology. However, there have been some weird stuff seen flying in the sky by some reputable people.

#278 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2008, 11:30 AM:

#277 However, there have been some weird stuff seen flying in the sky by some reputable people.

Indeed there has been. But an "Unidentified Flying Object" is just that -- Unidentified. All it means is that the observer couldn't tell what it was, not that it's been definitively identified as an alien spacecraft.

#279 ::: Kathleen Marden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 09:12 AM:

I am writing to inform you that you are in violation of copyright law. You do not have a signed release, and therefore cannot post more than 150 words from Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience or The Interrupted Journey.

#280 ::: Carrie S. wonders if #279 is a joke ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 09:38 AM:

Huh? There's only that one post in the View All...

#281 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 09:50 AM:

The commenter is one of the authors of the book in question; it's not surprising she hasn't commented before, since she may just have found the reference to the book in a Google search.

I would suggest, however, that she see section 107 of US copyright law, "Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use". It's online at various places, including here.

If she'd like to argue that the noncommercial use of quotations from 2 pages of a 300-page book for the purpose of commentary and criticism does not qualify as fair use, she's welcome to try to make the argument, based on the criteria given in section 107. A simple word count won't suffice, though; the fair use provisions do not specify a particular word limit.

#282 ::: Raphael worries it isn't, and it's probably not spam , either ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 10:08 AM:

You'd expect there to be no previous posts if she's just discovered Making Light and only posts to get her complaint through. (Mods, I'm using the word "spam" in the name line so that you notice this.)

#283 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 11:20 AM:

A hundred and fifty words?

Really?

I believe my quote was fair use, a brief excerpt for the purpose criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

#284 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 02:29 PM:

While my use of Ms. Marden's words is clearly fair use, I am nothing if not agreeable. I've removed all but 150 words of my brief quote (made for the purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research), less than two printed pages from her 320 page work. My removing those words is not in any way an admission of any sort of wrongdoing--my obvious fair use will cover me completely if she wishes to pursue the matter.

I've retained my commentary.

Ms. Marden's real objection, of course, is that this article totally blows the "abducted by aliens" theory out of the water. The Hills saw a light on a mountain top, and either the moon or the billboard for the Jack O'Lantern resort, which fatigue turned into a spaceship.

I'm sorry about that, Ms. Marden, but if you want to see the "UFO" that "abducted" your aunt, all you need to do is drive down US Route 3 any clear night.

#285 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 02:50 PM:

Maybe you want to clarify the main article later with a note as to the removals by the reference to the book title? I just re-read it, and right now the article reads a bit oddly, in that your responses to passages from the book are visible, but it's not apparent what you're responding to.

Courtesy to authors is usually a good thing, I say.

#286 ::: Kathleen Marden ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 09:33 AM:

I wish to thank you for promptly coming into compliance with copyright law pertaining to your quotes from Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience. I have made dozens of research trips along the encounter route both in daylight and darkness. Although I strongly disagree with your reasoning, you are entitled to your own opinion. See the Offical Betty and Barney Hill page at http://kathleenmarden.googlepages.com for accurate information pertaining to the case. It is under construction and additional information will be added as time permits. You should now address the issue of a copyright release with John Fuller's heirs. You remain in violation.

#287 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 09:41 AM:

While I think the quotes you originally had fell well within the bounds of fair use, if you still want to reduce the quotation from that book to 150 words or less, here's a selection that I think gets the most important points across reasonably clearly. I've cut some of the scene-setting and peripheral errors, since those don't directly affect the analysis of the UFO sighting itself, and stripped down the sighting described to what appear to be the most important details.

On March 7, 1964, Dr. Simon probed Betty’s detailed memory of her trip [...]

North of Lancaster, near Groveton, Betty observed a star below the moon on the lower left-hand side.

Moments south of Lancaster, she noticed there was a bigger star up above this one that had not previously been there. She pointed it out to Barney, and continued to watch it as it seemed to grow bigger and brighter.

In 1961, the Hills told NICAP’s Walter Webb that it first appeared to be a falling star—only it fell upward.

In 1976, skeptic Robert Sheaffer suggested that Betty and Barney, in all probability, observed the planets Jupiter and Saturn—not a UFO. [...] However, [...] Betty described two bright objects to the left of the moon, whereas Saturn was positioned below and to the right of the moon. Nor did he offer an explanation for the object’s apparent motion and expanding size.

If you retain the replies you have to these quotes (you can tack on the "Have no fear..." reply to the end of your reply to the last quote), include some paraphrases in your own words of other assertions you want to respond to, and add any additional scene-setting that seems necessary for the more parsimonious quotation, then this passage should still be understandable and useful even with only the 150 words quoted above.

The analysis of the account in Fuller's book, on the other hand, really requires more than 150 words of quotation, and there's no reason under copyright law that you shouldn't be able to quote more than that as needed to make your points.


#288 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 09:55 AM:

As I'm sure you're aware, Ms. Marden, I was in compliance with copyright law before, and I'm in compliance with copyright law right now. My use is fair use. I refer you to section 107 of the copyright law to answer any further questions you may have.

I removed the text as a courtesy to a living author. It was not vital to making my case. The only reason for quoting you at all was to show that this is not a dusty memory from the nineteen sixties, but a still-controversial case--which I have now solved.

#289 ::: Kathleen Marden ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 11:27 AM:

I am not aware that copyright law has been modified since I had to come into compliance with it prior to the publication of my book. For a complete description of the Hills’ UFO sighting as they left Franconia Notch and entered the Indian Head area see “Should the USAF Reopen Project Blue Book?” by Major William E. Brummet and Captain Ernest R. Zuick, Jr. at www.cufon.org/cufon/afrstdy1.htm Their Project Blue Book Report is posted on this site.

#290 ::: Kathleen Marden ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 11:41 AM:

For clarification between consciously recalled events and hypnotically retrieved information please read the NICAP report listed below for which I have obtained a copyright release. It is on pp. 51-52 in Captured!. It is dated 10/26/61.
"The UFO came around in front of the car and stopped in mid-air to the right of the highway “'8 to 10 stories” (80 to 100 feet) above the ground. The height given was a rough guess and the distance was even more difficult to estimate, but the object probably was not more than 100 feet away, which meant that the Hills had to look up at it at a forty five degree angle to see the UFO. The lighted edge of the object, a row of windows through which a cold, bluish-white fluorescent glow shown, was visible and a red light on each side of the object could be seen. The UFO was no longer spinning.
Mr. Hill braked the car to a halt, but left the headlights on and the engine running. His wife handed him the binoculars and he tried to look through the windshield with them. Then he opened the door on his side and stepped out onto the highway for a better look. At that moment the UFO shifted position from right to left in front of the car and hovered in mid-air. Barney still believed that what he was seeing had a rational explanation—a military helicopter perhaps having some fun with them. What amazed him though was the ease with which this craft seemed to move and stop and the absolute lack of any sound at this close range.
Looking through the binoculars, he watched in fascination as the object, tilted downward slightly, began descending slowly in his direction. He could see eight to eleven separate figures watching him at the windows. They seemed to be standing in a corridor that encircled a central section. Suddenly there was a “burst of activity”- the figures scurried about, turned their backs, and acted as if they were pulling levers on the wall. One figure remained at the window. At that moment, the red lights began moving away from the object, and Mr. Hill could see that the lights were on the tips of two pointed fin-like structures sliding outward from the sides of the “ship.”
The figures, according to Barney Hill, were of human form dressed in shiny black uniforms and black caps with peaks or bills on them (which could be seen when the figures turned their heads). The uniforms were like glossy leather. When they were standing at the windows he could see down to their waists. When they moved backward to the wall, their legs were partially visible. The figures reminded the observer of the cold precision of German officers; they moved smoothly and efficiently and showed no emotion except for one fellow operating a lever who, Mr. Hill claims, looked over his shoulder and smiled.
The approaching UFO finally filled up the entire field of the binoculars. The ‘leader’ at the window held a special attraction for the witness and frightened him terribly. The witness said he could almost feel this figure’s intense concentration to do something, to carry out a plan. Mr. Hill believed he was going to be captured like ‘a bug in a net’. That is when he knew it was no conventional aircraft he was observing but something alien and unearthly containing beings of a superior type, beings that were somehow not human.
‘I don’t believe it!’ he said as he put down the binoculars. He could see the figures in the object with the naked eye (an inch long at arm’s length, but this is highly uncertain in my opinion.) The UFO was now an estimated ‘5 to 8’ stories (50 to 80 feet) up and possibly between 50 and 100 feet away (hard to judge or to recall). The Hills remember that no light from the thing fell on the ground and there was no sound."


#291 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 12:09 PM:

That's all fascinating, but rather beside the point.

If you're interested in the most likely explanation for why their watches stopped: Their schedules were so disrupted that they forgot to wind them. Based on Fuller's account it's likely that their watches had already stopped some time before they reached Twin Mountain.

#292 ::: Kathleen Marden ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 12:09 PM:

On 9/26/1961 Betty wrote the following to NICAP Director Major Donald Keyhoe:

"About midnight on September 20th, we were driving in the National Forest Area in the White Mountains, in N.H. This is a desolate, uninhabited area. At first we noticed a bright object in the sky which seemed to be moving rapidly. We stopped our car and got out to observe it more closely with our binoculars. Suddenly it reversed its flight from the north to the southwest and appeared to be flying in a very erratic flight pattern. As we continued driving and then stopping to watch it, we observed the following flight pattern: the object was spinning and appeared to be lighted on only one side which gave it a twinkling effect. As it approached our car, we stopped again. As it hovered in the air in front of us it appeared to be pancake in shape, ringed with windows in the front through which we could see brilliant blue-white lights. Suddenly, two red lights appeared on each side. By this time my husband was standing in the road, watching closely. He saw wings protrude from each side and the red lights were on the wing tips. As it glided closer he was able to see inside this object, but not too closely. He did see several figures scurrying about as though they were making some hurried type of preparation. One figure was observing us from the windows. From the distance this was seen, the figures appeared to be about the size of a pencil (held at arm’s length), and seemed to be dressed in some type of shiny black uniform. At this point, my husband was shocked and got back into the car in a hysterical condition, laughing and repeating that they were going to capture us. He started driving the car—the motor had been left running. As we started to move, we heard several buzzing or beeping sounds. At this time we are searching for any clue that might be helpful to my husband, in recalling what he saw that caused him to panic. His mind is completely blacked out at this point. Every attempt to recall leaves him very frightened. This flying object was at least as large as a four engine plane, its flight was noiseless and the lighting of the interior did not reflect on the ground."

I hope this adds some clarification concerning the events at the field and Betty's position seated in the vehicle, not scurrying around the field.

#293 ::: Kathleen Marden ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 12:15 PM:

James, you are incorrect. They checked their watches in Colebrook. It was 10:00 PM. When they arrived home their watches were not running. They assumed that they had simply forgotten to rewind them. However, both watches were permanently broken.

#294 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 12:24 PM:

Don't you find it an amazing coincidence that the UFO first appeared just south of Lancaster, at the exact place where the light on the lookout tower on Cannon Mountain is first visible, that when the Hills looked from the base of Cannon Mountain toward its summit they saw the light at the top of the tramway and a UFO, while to this day from the same location you can see the light on the top of the tramway and the light on the lookout tower, that the UFO passed down the right side of their car as they drove south through Franconia Notch, exactly as does the light on the lookout tower, and that the UFO vanished just south of Indian Head, as does the light on the lookout tower?

Any future account you make of this case will have to explain why what they saw wasn't the light on the lookout tower.

#295 ::: Kathleen Marden ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 04:57 PM:

Six reasons the Hills could not have mistaken the light on the lookout tower on Cannon Mountain for a UFO:
1. Mt. Cleveland Picnic Area: Betty Hill stated the “odd shaped” craft flashed multicolored points of light as it passed over the face of the moon. It appeared to be about 1/4 the size of the moon. She then handed the binoculars to Barney and returned to the car.
2. Mt. Cleveland Picnic Area: Barney Hill stated the craft flew in a northwest direction towards Vermont. It then shifted direction and rapidly descended in his direction reminding him of a commercial airliner coming in for a landing. However, it was silent and he could see the windows. He knew then that it wasn’t a piper cub.
3. Cannon Mountain: Betty Hill stated the craft flew over the light at the top of the mountain. As it passed above it, the light on the tower blinked out.
4. Profile Lake stop: Betty stated that the craft stopped beside the Old Man of the Mountain’s granite profile. She and Barney noted that it was nearly twice as long as the Old Man’s profile. It was silent and appeared to be rotating.
5. Field south of Indian Head: Betty Hill stated the craft shifted ahead and came to a halt above and to the right of their vehicle. It descended to within approximately 100 feet of the Hills, causing Barney to stop the car directly in the middle of the road. She observed an 80’ diameter silent, hovering disk with a forward row of intense blue-white lights. (NICAP report)
6. Field south of Indian Head: Barney Hill stated the silent, hovering disk shaped object moved to the adjacent field. He walked towards it and observed figures looking down at him. With military precision, all but one moved to what appeared to be a panel on the adjacent wall. The disk tilted in his direction and continued to descend as something dropped down out of it’s under side. Small finlike structures parted from each side of the disk. (NICAP report)

#296 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 05:04 PM:

Good lord, Jim, she stuffed the barrel with fish and handed you the gun...

*gets popcorn*

#297 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 05:51 PM:

Hoo boy. The only question in my mind right now is "Is Kathleen Marden a True Believer or just a not-very-scrupulous author with a book to sell?" I'm leaning toward the latter at the moment.

I wonder if KM had a signed release to quote the passage (more than 150 words) she quotes at #292? If so and the passage appears in her book, I wonder if she'll come back and tell Jim he's "in violation of copyright" because it's on his blog, even though she posted it there? It would be of a piece with her other "logic."

Kathleen, it might help if you cited sources for any of the claims in #295 (other than your book, which is not a credible source for backing up your own claims,* and which I'm dramatically less inclined to purchase than I was before your cheap, tacky "you're in violation of copyright" trick). Is the "NICAP report" available online? If not, where can it be obtained?

The other four assertions are claimed to be statements by the Rubbles Hills. Documented where?

*This is a general principle: Can't cite Cicero to corroborate Cicero. The fact that you have a clear interest in keeping the Hills' "abduction" from being debunked makes you still less credible, but is not strictly relevant here.

#298 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 06:20 PM:

both watches were permanently broken

Were the watches checked by a watchmaker or a repairman? Had they been overwound? (Easy to do; I've done it myself. Without realizing it, too.)
'Permanently broken' doesn't require UFOs as an explanation.

#299 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 10:06 AM:

"Permanently broken" is kind of a silly description, rather like a diagnosis of "lethargica gravis" for someone who can't be awakened. Broken in what way, and how might that have been done?

#300 ::: Kathleen Marden ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 02:45 PM:

I have nothing against healthy skepticism. The fact is that I consider myself a skeptic. I welcome healthy skepticism by respectful rationalists. However, denigrating remarks and personal attacks are not acceptable in intelligent discourse. To his credit, Jim MacDonald has engaged in a respectful exchange of ideas. Unlike many skeptics, he has devoted significant time to the investigation of the Hills’ close encounter route.
I realize that some writers do not have access to accurate information concerning the Betty and
Barney Hill UFO experience and I attempt to assist them by supplying information from
archival documents for which I own the copyright or have obtained a release. I am the trustee
of the Hill archival collection, and therefore, own the copyright to their personal information.

My book, which was the culmination of 15 years research and investigation, was vetted for accuracy by several scientists. Sometimes it becomes apparent that my attempts to elucidate writers who have posted inaccurate information is not appreciated. However, those who wish to present historically accurate information are often grateful for my assistance. Occasionally my generosity is met by ad hominem attacks and gossipy speculation, even bullying, as has occurred in some recent posts. (In reality, notification of copyright infringement is what brought me to this site.)

There is ample reason to be skeptical about some aspects of the Betty and Barney Hill UFO abduction, especially regarding some of Betty’s statements that are identical to her dream account. Although the Hills’ UFO encounter provided an abundance of forensic evidence, only Betty’s dress underwent scientific laboratory analysis. My comparative analysis of the hypnosis tapes vis-à-vis Betty’s infamous “Dreams of Recall?” account provides correlating data that is clearly amenable within the framework of social science. It is apparent that “something” anomalous happened to Betty and Barney Hill on September 19-20, 1961.
If you wish to research the Betty and Barney Hill UFO incident, their two archival collections (civil rights and UFO) are located at the University of New Hampshire. I would also recommend that you drive along US Route 3 from Lancaster to North Woodstock on a bright, starry late September evening, keeping in mind the fact that this event occurred 48 years ago. With that thought I bid you farewell.

#301 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 04:15 PM:

1) Both of the Hills were sleep-deprived. (By the time the last leg of their trip ended they had been awake and moving for an entire day and an entire night.)

2) Sleep deprivation (and this is documented many places) can cause a) visual hallucinations, and b) a sense of "lost time."

3) The Hills saw some very odd things, and had a sense of lost time.

4) The simplest explanation is ... ?

I believe that my solution to this case is correct.

BTW, there is a small airfield in Franconia. It's a grass strip, popular with glider pilots. It too would have been between the Mt. Cleveland rest area and the moon.

(Xopher: Ms. Marden is Betty Hill's niece.)

#302 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 11:53 AM:

Ah! That explains several things, and gives her a non-slimy motive for wanting to believe Betty Hill's story.

False copyright-takedown notifications push my buttons, especially when I'm convinced the author would have no such objection to being quoted equally extensively in a blog post that agreed with her conclusions.

#303 ::: Rusty ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 01:14 PM:

As quoted above: "This story is told in detail in a book by John Fuller, “The Interrupted Journey” and was made into a television movie by the same name."

This is incorrect. The made for TV movie was called "The UFO Incident".

#304 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2009, 07:57 PM:

Per IMDB, "The UFO Incident" is also known as "Interrupted Journey."

#305 ::: Ben Piscopo ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2010, 03:11 AM:

Somebody help me out here ... If you were being (followed/chased ?) by what you thought was a spacecraft from beyond Earth why would you turn down off a U.S. highway onto a crappy not very well improved road ?!?! What was US HWY 3 like in 1961. Did they have the limited access toll road (Frederick Everit Turnpike) next to it like they do now ? If you were Barney Hill wouldn't you want to race back to the restaurant where they said they were at or at least try to find somebody or something they could run to insted of a crappy abandoned road ?
For that matter how could Barney think it was a sattelite ? few if any existed at the time ?? I mean there was Telstar and Sputnik but we're talking about 1961 A.D. here ...

#306 ::: Serge sees SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2010, 03:39 PM:

That depends on the meaning of 'first'.

#307 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2010, 05:10 PM:

Ben #307

Let me see if I can help here:

Somebody help me out here ... If you were being (followed/chased ?) by what you thought was a spacecraft from beyond Earth why would you turn down off a U.S. highway onto a crappy not very well improved road ?!?! What was US HWY 3 like in 1961.

They were on US 3, which was the best there was in northern New Hampshire in 1961. Yes, it looked like a country lane, but at least it was paved. Two lane blacktop, all the way.

I don't believe that Betty and Barney learned that they were being chased by an alien spacecraft until some days after the event.

They said they got lost off US 3 onto a lesser road somewhere in the Woodstock area. I find this entirely easy to believe. At night, with the roads poorly marked, it's easy to take a right when you should take a left down there. Nor were they familiar with the road.

Did they have the limited access toll road (Frederick Everit Turnpike) next to it like they do now ?

No, they didn't. The F. E. Everett Turnpike runs from Nashua to Concord. North of that, we have I-93 (for trivia buffs, it's the Senator Styles Bridges Highway). In 1961, I-93 got all the way to Tilton/Laconia. Betty and Barney got onto it as soon as they could.

If you were Barney Hill wouldn't you want to race back to the restaurant where they said they were at or at least try to find somebody or something they could run to insted of a crappy abandoned road ?

Racing back to Colebrook from Franconia Notch would have taken them an hour and a half, minimum, and the restaurant would have been closed long before they got there. At that point their home in Portsmouth would have been just as close. Even today, at night, the roads in northern New Hampshire are pretty deserted, and they'd have been the same or worse in '61. Again, it's easy to get lost along that road (try it some night!), and we know that Barney did get lost for a while. (If anyone's interested in where all that "missing time" came from.)


For that matter how could Barney think it was a sattelite ? few if any existed at the time ?? I mean there was Telstar and Sputnik but we're talking about 1961 A.D. here ...

I remember 1961. Satellites were large, low, and slow in those days, easily visible with the naked eye, and they were very much in the news and the public imagination. I remember standing in my front yard with my dad looking for them.

I'm convinced, deep in my heart, that what Betty and Barney saw was the white light on the top of Cannon Mountain. What you, or I, or anyone else would have seen from the shoulder of Mount Prospect that night was the moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Cannon Mountain light. What Betty and Barney saw was the moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and a UFO.

From the base of Cannon Mountain, you, or I, or anyone else that same night would have seen the lights at the top of the aerial tramway and the light on the lookout tower. What Betty and Barney saw was the lights at the top of the aerial tramway and a UFO.

This is conjecture, but: As they went farther below the Notch, what you, or I, or anyone else would have seen was a billboard for the Jack O'Lantern Resort in Woodstock. What Betty and Barney saw was a moon-shaped UFO with a row of windows. (Alas, I can't find a photo of that billboard, so I can't prove this part, and it's down now, but I do recall seeing it myself in later years.) That billboard, glimpsed briefly in the headlights, combined with sleep deprivation and suggestion, could well have been what created the UFO as described. The description fits, the time fits, the place fits -- I think that nails it.

The billboard was a large jack o'lantern, exactly as you see in the linked picture, with the words "Jack O'Lantern Resort, Woodstock" in smaller type. The graphic was the largest element.

#308 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2010, 06:13 PM:

A larger version of the Jack O'Lantern Resort logo. Not only could this be the origin of moon-shaped UFO with its row of windows, it could be the origin of the aliens with their bizarre triangular eyes.

#309 ::: Joe Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2010, 06:24 AM:

James @ #310:
I remember 1961. Satellites were large, low, and slow in those days, easily visible with the naked eye, and they were very much in the news and the public imagination. I remember standing in my front yard with my dad looking for them.

I remember watching Echo 1 in the early '60s. While the satellite was large in absolute terms (about 100 feet in diamter), it appeared as a non-twinkling white point of light when orbiting in the sky. It took 2 to 3 minutes to traverse the sky from horizon to horizon. Sometimes it passed directly overhead. Your comment about the statellites being low is ambiguous. It could be interpreted that they were in low orbits or that they appeared to be low in the sky. While they were in low altitude orbits, they could be seen either on a low trajectory hugging a horizon or a high trajectory passing overhead depending on the viewer's position in relation to the satellite path.

#310 ::: Joe Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2010, 06:54 AM:

Would there be any way to determine what type of lighting was used back in 1961 on top of Cannon Mountain? If several lights were used, which could appear to be horizontally arrayed in a cigar like fashion, it would make the case that the Cannon light is the source of the B & B Hill sighting much stronger, because it would then more closely match their description.

The Book, Interrupted Journey, says that the light at the top of Cannon Mountain was visible for miles. Let us assume for the moment that this light is either the tramway or restaurant light and not the lookout tower light. If the Hills were aware of that light for miles and the UFO were the Cannon Mountain lookout tower light, then both lights would always be in the same general direction. Any movement by one relative to the Hills observations in the car and out of it, would be matched by the same movement of the other light. I find it difficult for them to claim the UFO is making all sorts of unusual movements and not notice that it is staying in close proximity to the light they have identified is on the mountain. To them it would appear that the UFO was hovering around the mountain light, not moving back and forth, up and down, and coming at them. Since they didn't make any observation that the two lights are staying close to one another, I suggest the UFO isn't either light on Cannon Mountain. Personally, the odds seem good to me that the phrase in the book that the light on top of Cannon Mountain was visible for miles strongly suggests that the mountain light the Hills noticed was the lookout tower light, not some restaurant or tramway lights which may or may not have been lit and if lit may not have been so bright as to be visible for miles.

#311 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2010, 07:13 AM:

The trouble is, Joe, that Interrupted Journey doesn't say that the light on Cannon Mountain was visible for miles. What it says is:

At the top of the mountain, the only light they had seen for miles glowed like a beacon, appearing to be on the top of the closed and silent aerial tramway, or perhaps on the restaurant there.

The first light they'd seen in miles. This is at the point where they were in the Notch. And that's the point where the light at the top tramway station becomes visible. (In fact, it wasn't the only light they'd seen for miles ... there was another light that they'd been watching ever since Lancaster.)

Back in 1961 the lookout tower had a roof, and the light illuminated the edge of that roof.

#312 ::: Joe Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2010, 12:47 PM:

Is the light at the top of the tramway not visible prior to being in the notch because it is of low intensity, or because of some other reason (e.g. placement on the mountain)?

The narration in the book is a bit ambiguous as to when the light which is identified as being on the mountain is first seen. It enters the narration here because the light will shortly be no longer visible. The phrase "the only light they had seen for miles" could mean they'd seen it for miles and it is the only light they'd seen for miles, or it could mean they had seen no light for miles and they now see this one.

You made a comment very early on that I would like to clarify. You said, "At this point we get into a long segment of running around a field trying to get a view of the object, with a great deal of dialog between the two. Most, if not all, of it appears to be memories recovered through hypnosis." The specificity of the dialogue would of course be from hypnotically recalled memory. The sighting of aliens in the lighted object was reported to Walter Webb about a month after the sighting and many months prior to any hypnosis. No abduction memories existed until hypnosis, other than those in Betty's dreams which occurred about ten days after the sighting. You can throw out all of the hypnotically recalled info and you still have a sighting of alien beings, by a man who doesn't believe in such things.

Incidentally, the turn-off from Route 3 into the area where the abduction was alleged to have taken place was eventually found. An aerial photo of the area is on page 42 of Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill Experience.

#313 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2010, 03:25 PM:

The sighting of the aliens that was reported within the first month wasn't the small grey aliens we know today. What Mr. Hill first reported was a Nazi officer in uniform, and a red-headed Irishman.

While those are technically "aliens," that isn't what most people think of these days when discussing this case.

The light at the tramway isn't visible beyond the Notch itself (and more-or-less in-line with the tramway cables) due both to low intensity and to the geography of the mountain at that point. The windows the light comes from face northeast; a traveler approaching from the northwest wouldn't have a view of them until quite close and alongside.

Standing at the foot of the tramway, you or I if we were there tonight would see the lights at the tramway station and the light on the lookout tower. Standing at that same location in 1961, what Mr. & Mrs. Hill saw was the lights at the tramway station and a UFO. The question remains, if it was an aerial object of some kind that they were seeing at that moment, what had become of the light on the lookout tower?

Let me repeat, in all this, that I have utmost respect for Mr. and Mrs. Hill. I'm certain that they reported accurately exactly what they remembered. What I'm not certain is that what they remembered matched objective reality.

#314 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2010, 03:35 PM:

Oh, and incidentally, after leaving Twin Mountain on the way south, the Hills would have been in the White Mountain National Forest. It would have been quite literally true that, by the time they reached the Notch, they would not have seen any lights for miles. No street lights, no houses, no traffic signals. That stretch is more than ten miles of pure woodland.

(Twin Mountain is at the intersection of Rt 3 and Rt 302.)

#315 ::: Joe Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 10:44 AM:

James @ #318

What Mr. Hill first reported was a Nazi officer in uniform, and a red-headed Irishman.

Barney never claimed to see a red-headed Irishman. The Nazi and red-headed Irishman come from the hypnosis regression transcript (Interrupted Journey, pg 90 of the Book Club Edition, 1966).

Doctor Simon asks two questions in succession about the alien Barney thinks is smiling. "What was his face like? What did it make you think of?" Barney answers the first by saying, "It was round." He answers the second by saying, "I think of - I think of - a red-headed Irishman."

If you asked me those two questions about Bill Murray, the actor, I would say, "It was round. I think of Caddyshack." I wouldn't be saying he looks like a Caddyshack. Only that he reminds me of the movie he starred in by that name.

Barney does say the other alien looks like a Nazi, but the author notes that there is a questioning tone in his voice.

This close up sighting of the UFO happened not at Cannon Mountain. It happened "not far south of Indian Head", which is four miles south of Cannon Mountain. See map. At a speed of 30 miles per hour, it would have taken about 8 minutes to get there from Cannon Mountain. That is plenty of time to realize that the UFO, assuming it is the light on Cannon Mountain, is well behind them. The intensity of the light on Cannon Mountain would be 1/16th what it was at their closest approach, about a mile away. If your analysis is to work well, you need an explanation why the Hills are seeing the UFO in front of them, while the Cannon Mountain light is behind them, and why they see the UFO close up here, instead of at the base of Cannon Mountain.

#316 ::: Joe Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 06:34 AM:

The Hills' sighting at Indian Head, N.H. happened at a tourist attraction called Natureland, now defunct. According to the book "Encounters at Indian Head" this location is now the site of Whales Tale Waterpark. Google Maps street view shows the Waterpark off to the right of the highway. I have the street view oriented so the view is towards the South, presumably the same direction their car was pointed when the sighting was made.

#317 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 09:46 AM:

I suspect that the UFO that they saw up ahead of them was in Woodstock (the towns there, in order from north to south, are Franconia, Lincoln, Woodstock, and are quite close together) and was most likely their headlights sweeping over a billboard on the ground. The logo for the Jack O' Lantern Resort matches the description of a moon-shaped object with a row of windows.

Their memories of time and distance, as well as their recollections of what they saw, were very likely confused, due to their great fatigue. Visual hallucinations and feelings of lost time are common symptoms of sleep deprivation. There is no doubt that both Barney and Betty were sleep-deprived.

1) No time is actually missing.
2) No memories are actually missing, other than the memory of being abducted.

3) I suggest that the reason the memory of being abducted was missing was because it didn't actually happen.

#318 ::: Shawn ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2011, 03:15 PM:

This is one of the most spectacular analyses of a paranormal episode I've ever read. Very, very well done and a great service to all. A friend pointed me at this a few months after you posted it way back, but I just re-read it today and remain impressed.

#319 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2011, 02:59 PM:

I love the hypnopompic/hypnogogic explanations.
Yeah, hypnogogic -

..., Lasting several hours

..., While driving a car

..., and was experienced by two people in tandem!

Crazy Dream Daddy-O !
(Give me a Break)

#320 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2011, 11:44 PM:

I love the hypnopompic/hypnogogic explanations.

Yes? Well, you'll have to look for them elsewhere - nobody in this thread has attempted to claim such an explanation for the Hills' experience.

(Only one person who even mentioned them before you showed up, and she wasn't talking about the Hills.)

#321 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2011, 01:51 AM:

"...hypnopompic/hypnogogic explanations"?

Hardly.

Mis-identification of a common object.
The illusion of motion in a fixed object caused by being in a moving car.
The sensation of lost time (even though no time was actually lost) due to fatigue.

Add false memories induced during hypnotic regression and you have the package.

That pretty-much covers it, doesn't it?

Do you have a better explanation?

#322 ::: Stevens ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 04:16 AM:

IF extraterrestrial life is real, and notice I
emphasize the word 'if,' then I hope that we Earthlings will eventually make contact with them in some way or another.

#323 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 07:11 AM:

Andrew #325: As noted, the hypnogogic explanation isn't prominent here; In any case, it doesn't apply to "UFO sightings", but to the "abduction narrative" itself -- the shadowy figures with big eyes, experiments and probes, etc..

#324 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2011, 11:17 AM:

Stevens, #328: So do I. However, I haven't seen or heard anything which would convince me that it's happened to date. Arthur C. Clarke has a wonderful essay about things he's personally seen which most people would have interpreted as "flying saucers" or "alien contact", but which proved on closer examination to be no such thing. If there's a perfectly plausible non-alien-contact explanation for a phenomenon, it doesn't make sense to bring in alien entities.

#325 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2011, 06:17 AM:

Ms. Marden has gotten a state historical marker put up honoring her aunt and uncle's sleep deprivation.

Go her! We can't get too many tourists.

#326 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2011, 02:11 PM:

#53 ::: Xopher:

I wasn't asking for aliens to take me away, but let's just say that I don't think the end of Tiptree's "Beam Us Home" was a hallucination in the story.

#63 ::: Connie H.:

That's roughly what I was thinking. If an insect is caught in a cup and tossed out of a window, what does the insect think happened? Could it possibly understand the human's motivations?

And that's without getting into the experiments scientists do on wild animals....

#106 ::: Steve C.:

Personally, I think the aliens took one look at what we've been broadcasting, and quarantined us.

The odds are that humanity is morally and aesthetically pretty close to the average.

#327 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2011, 02:26 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #332: The odds are that humanity is morally and aesthetically pretty close to the average.

If so, we'd be damn lucky if They did leave us to our little planet. Think about how humanity would react if we met intelligent life... and by "humanity", I don't just mean the miniscule number of high-minded scientists, but: the guys who control the gunships and nukes, the religious fundamentalists and evangelists, the sort of "scientists" who ran the Tuskegee experiment, Rupert Murdoch and such, politicians, looking to "man up" their image Shrub-style.

Yeah, sometimes I get disgusted with humanity, and I certainly wouldn't blame them for sticking an orbital beacon out there: "These guys are dangerously volatile and untrustworthy. Do not attempt contact if you value your lives."

#328 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2011, 06:19 PM:

Remember, half the alien species are going to be more violent than we are.

Question for the group mind: does anyone remember the title of a story from the 80s or earlier in which the human race is unique because earth is an unusually benevolent environment? We're the most naive species in the galaxy. The author might have been Aldiss or Ballard.

#329 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2011, 07:12 PM:

If it's any hlep, I remember the title of the direct opposite story: A Call To Arms by Alan Dean Foster, where humans are uniquely violent because Earth is tectonically active.

#330 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2011, 07:20 PM:

earth is an unusually benevolent environment? We're the most naive species in the galaxy.

Actually, that could go either way. When life is really tough, people can stick together, such that killing or betraying your fellow tribesfolk is Just Not Done. Of course, there are also other effects on such societies.... We could be the only species that, even after forming a society, still had the spare resources to spend killing each other off instead of unifying against the forces of Entropy and Chaos.

That said, I'd say the worst Alien Encounter short of Berserkers, would be a powerful species that doesn't recognize us as civilized, or perhaps even as sentient! And before saying "oh, but of course we can prove ourselves", consider the arguments we've used to dehumanize whole segments of our own species, let alone dismiss the importance of maintaining the non-human ecosphere.

If, e.g., a hive species achieved intelligence and large-scale control of their environment, they might well dismiss us as incapable of proper cooperation (and they might well be right ;-) ). Or they might simply be unable to recognize any non-hive race as worth interacting with.

#331 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2011, 07:22 PM:

Another set of stories where humans were uniquely violent was the Berserker series by Fred Saberhagen.

#332 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2011, 07:44 PM:

David Harmon, 336: a powerful species that doesn't recognize us as civilized,

...because we're made out of meat.

#333 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2011, 09:23 PM:

TexAnne, a point memorably addressed in Zenna Henderson's amazing short story "Food to All Flesh".

#334 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2011, 09:46 PM:

Lila, 339: Very true, although I was thinking of this.

#335 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2011, 11:39 PM:

ObFlanders&Swann:

"If the Juju had meant us not to eat people..."

#336 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2011, 06:52 AM:

TexAnne #338: snicker, but that's actually not something I'd be worried about. Even RNA+amino acid "panspermia" would leave a heluvalot of room for divergence.

#337 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2011, 07:46 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 334: I don't think it's the one you're thinking of, but Harlan Ellison's Strange Wine fits the description.

#338 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2011, 12:01 PM:

Definitely not Strange Wine, but it sounds like I want to read it.

#339 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2011, 03:40 PM:

The September 17th edition of The Caledonian Record (St. Johnsbury, VT) had a dramatic front-page-with-photos (including a photo-composite showing a classic flying saucer above the Old Man of the Mountain) story about today's fiftieth anniversary of the Hill "abduction."

Ms. Marden is still beating the drum for the reality of her aunt's abduction, even though (clearly having read this article) she knows good and well that there's a perfectly rational explanation that doesn't involve space aliens. Rather, it involves a couple of sleep-deprived people misinterpreting a normal object.

Ms. Marden shows that she's aware of the serious objections to the abduction story, and may even be referring to my article here, when The Caledonian-Record states: "She says that years ago a magazine article described Barney and Betty Hill as a couple of people who saw a bright light, accidentally turned on to a back road and returned home later than expected. However she said this account ignores the Hills' identical descriptions of their experience under hypnosis, the results of tests conducted on Betty's dress which found traces of unexpected soils, and other evidence."

Actually, they admitted turning onto a back road and getting lost. As well as making numerous stops along the way, and hunting around downtown Concord for an all-night coffee shop (there wasn't one). No time was missing.

Nor were any memories missing--other than the memory of being abducted. There's an obvious reason why that memory may not have been there, without hypothesizing alien abduction.

Betty was a true believer in UFOs before the event. She interpreted the light on Cannon Mountain as a UFO at the time. The question remains: If what they saw was a UFO, where was the light on Cannon Mountain (which should have been clearly visible in the same places and same time) while all this was going on?

The hypnosis happened years after the fact; evidence elicited under hypnosis isn't admissible in court in a number of states, for some very good reasons. It's also worth remarking that while there are details of the event that are found in Betty's hypnotically-recovered account but not in Barney's, there are no details found in Barney's recovered account that aren't in Betty's.

Is it really surprising to find non-New Hampshire soil samples on clothing worn during a 1,200 mile road trip?

Back to the newspaper article (Ms. Marden is speaking): "I attempted to set the record straight. So much skepticism is based upon inaccurate information. I'm skeptical until I see evidence. So I think that it's a matter of informing people about the truth.... I don't want people to take my word for it."

So, Ms. Marden, here it is: Drive down Rt. 3 after dark tonight. You'll see the evidence.

#340 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2011, 03:52 PM:

Ms. Marden isn't interested in the evidence. She's like the Republicans in Congress: her agenda has nothing to do with what's true or makes sense. It has to do with her own position and profit, and with supporting her aunt's credibility.

Anyone can be mistaken. Betty Hill was very publicly and loudly mistaken; that's an embarrassing thing to admit, even if you're a close relative rather than the person herself. Then you add in the profit motive with the book and everything...Ms. Marden is never, ever going to say "Wow, James, you're right, they probably DID just mistake that light for a UFO."

#341 ::: Agent 47 ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2012, 03:29 PM:

James

If your reffering to lack of sleep and a Tram along with the Tower light I can see the similarities, however Betty discusses how they took his teeth and couldnt understand why they couldnt take hers.. she laughed and years later understood it was due to him having false teeth and not her. You just dont make this up. My question in all this is... A Book ..really???!! We dont have flying saucers but we have iPads.. Interesting, nobody is asking the right questions.

#342 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2012, 05:58 PM:

Agent 47 #357 You just don't make this up.

Actually, you do. The thing about the false teeth was a "recovered memory" years later, under hypnosis. (So was the bit about something passing in front of the moon that Ms. Marden referred to at #295.)

"Making this up" under hypnosis is very, very easy, and afterward the false memories blend with real ones so that the person doesn't know what's real any more. Testimony gained under hypnosis isn't admissible in a court of law in many states, and later testimony from someone who has been hypnotized isn't admissible either.

That's why the information that pre-dates the hypnosis is so important. Everything that we know from Mr. and Mrs. Hill's pre-hypnosis statements is consistent with sleep deprivation and mis-identifying common objects that we know actually existed along their route, in the places and at the times they remembered seeing them.

#343 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2012, 06:25 PM:

Incidentally, one of the top ebook downloads at Smashwords is Self-Defense Against Alien Abduction by M.E. Brines.


While discussing the nature of the aliens, the author points out, not unreasonably,

In sixty years they’ve made no attempt to trade their supposedly advanced technology for our resources, not even in exchange for cattle spleens. They haven’t come to homestead. And their petty attempts to harass and molest a few isolated individuals hardly constitute a campaign of conquest.

Rather than concluding that this means that there haven't been any abductions at all (which is my position), he goes in a different direction: That there have been abductions, but the beings aren't space aliens.

#344 ::: Shawn ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2012, 04:06 PM:

Re-reading this again because friend and I were discussing it earlier today, I suddenly got the crazy idea:

If the Jack-O-Lantern Resort billboard was the object as big as the moon, I wonder if its orange visage was not the prompting for the hypnotically recovered red-headed Irishman?

I've been fascinated by UFOlogy for years. The Hill incident was long one of the cases I took most seriously, but ever since I first read this article, Jim, that's not been the case.

The most fascinating aspect of the case for me at this point is the later incident involving Betty's earrings disappearing and reappearing. But at that point, we're not down to something which reasonable people might disagree on interpretations of; either one takes the Hills at their word (reported through Ms. Marden) or one doesn't.

#345 ::: LMM sees suspicious spam-like-ness ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2012, 10:23 AM:

A link to a Facebook group. Could be valid, but I'm doubting it.

#346 ::: David Goldfarb isn't so sure ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2012, 03:49 PM:

It looks like a relevant Facebook group. I suspect a driveby rather than spam as such.

#347 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2012, 06:20 PM:

Spam.

Word-for-word identical text posted elsewhere on the web.

#348 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2012, 02:37 PM:

Today is World UFO Day. Go misidentify a common object!

#349 ::: sally freitas ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2012, 05:39 PM:

Query to #349: Who are they? Government experimenters?

#350 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2012, 06:08 PM:

#355 ::: sally freitas

Nope, not government experimenters. Demons under the control of Satan, attempting to instill New Age philosophies in folks so as to undermine faith and morals.

The self-defense against these alien abductions is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior.

#351 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 08:17 PM:

I always thought that the obvious answer was that they're wildlife biologists. But then why don't any abductees come back with transmitters super-glued between their shoulder blades?

#352 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 11:13 PM:

#357 Jeremy Leader

Two words: Alien Implants.

#353 ::: kittynh ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 06:21 PM:

Wonderful article! I know a lot of skeptics believe this tie in to Cannon Mountain. If nothing else, the hypnosis sessions were a very bad idea. I look forward to reading the rest.
The Hills fully believed they had seen a UFO. Sadly, Betty continued to see UFOs for years after right up until her death.
This would be a good article for SI or SKEPTIC magazine. It's a great resource, living in NH myself the whole missing time thing is silly.
Back roads and no lights even today means a trip can take very different amount of time depending on what route you take. Excellent job.
I hope you can stop in at UNH and peek at the Hill archives. The staff there is excellent and the papers really intriguing. Plus you get a real feeling for who Betty and Barney were. Especially Betty. I've been doing a few blog posts about them at Yankeeskeptic.

#354 ::: Benjamin Wolfe sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 09:40 PM:

It's coherent, but I'm pretty sure this is potted meat product.

#355 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 09:53 PM:

I disagree. I don't think kittynh is a spammer; she's on-topic and suggests a relevant information source. Spam is almost always a) incoherent or b) informationlessly gushing. This is neither. What's more, putting a random sentence into Google produces no hits.

So no, not spam. Hi kittynh! Welcome to Making Light. Take a look around the place.

#356 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 12:05 AM:

Agreed, this doesn't feel like spam to me. A drive-by, possibly, but the benign kind.

#357 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 12:15 AM:

Kitty's link is non-commercial. It's also broken.
This is the correct link: http://yankeeskeptic.com/

#358 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 12:25 AM:

My apologies; welcome to Making Light, kittynh.

#359 ::: David Halperin ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2014, 01:35 PM:

I'm a professor emeritus of religious studies (UNC-Chapel Hill) who was once a teenage UFOlogist. I'm now interested once more in UFOs, as a religious phenomenon. I find the Hill case entirely fascinating.
Jim, I am terrifically impressed by your analysis of the case, and I think you've made your point convincingly. There are some loose ends, though.
At the top of p. 14 of "The Interrupted Journey," Fuller writes that "slowly, a red light came out on the left side of the object, followed by a similar one on the right." Your comment: "I rather suspect we're in Recovered Memories territory now."
The detail of the two red lights, however, appears in Betty's letter to Major Keyhoe of 9/26/61 (Fuller, p. 30), as well as in Major Henderson's report to Project Blue Book, which I gather is based on information provided by the Hills two or three days after their experience (p. 27). So I don't think it can be attributed to the hypnosis.
Do you have any thoughts about what might have caused it?
I don't think this problem undermines your overall explanation, which seems very solidly grounded. But I would be interested in your reflections on it.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Jim Macdonald, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

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