Jun 22, 2020 I Nick Redfern

Betty and Barney Hill, an “Alien Abduction,” and MK-ULTRA

The September 1961 "alien abduction" incident of Betty and Barney Hill - chronicled in John Fuller's 1966 book, The Interrupted Journey - still provokes interest and intrigue to this very day. It is to alien abductions what Roswell is to tales of crashed UFOs: a key case in the history of Ufology. What if, however, aliens did not abduct Betty and Barney? What if the pair were led to believe they had undergone something that had extraterrestrial origins, when things were actually much different? One of those who came to believe that the Hills had been subjected to an MK-ULTRA-type event was the late Philip Coppens. He said: "It is clear that the Hills were being monitored by USAF [U.S. Air Force] Intelligence before the encounter took place, through Major James MacDonald, who had befriended them some time earlier. Betty Hill wrote to [UFO researcher / author] Donald Keyhoe who, despite the fact that he received over a hundred letters a day, homed in on this initially unremarkable case. Within twenty-four hours, Keyhoe had arranged for the Hills to be visited by top-level scientists, including C.D. Jackson, who had previously (definitely not coincidentally) worked on psychological warfare techniques for President Eisenhower [italics mine]. Stretching coincidence far beyond breaking point, Jackson already knew Major MacDonald..."

Betty and Barney Hill 570x446
Betty and Barney Hill.

Philip continued on: "It seems that Betty and Barney Hill were at the center of a web that involved USAF Intelligence and top military experts in psychological warfare. The evidence suggests that the Hills were the subjects – victims – of a psychological experiment."  Those who believe that the Betty and Barney Hill experience was a genuine alien abduction case might very well dismiss the words of Coppens. That’s not a wise approach to take, though. Sadly, Coppens was unable to continue his work on the case for long on this topic. In 2012, he was quickly taken by a very rare form of cancer at the age of just forty-one: Angiosarcoma. Philip Coppens is gone, but the threads of his research have allowed us to take his investigations further into the associations between UFOs and mind-manipulation.

As for Fuller, he was an intriguing character. When he died in 1990, at the age of seventy-six, the New York Times ran an obituary on him. It was written by a Times journalist, Edwin McDowell, who stated: "Mr. Fuller was sometimes criticized by reviewers for not using footnotes in his books and for what they judged was the implausibility of his topics. But as Jeff Greenfield wrote in The New York Times Book Review in reviewing ‘The Poison That Fell From the Sky,’ Mr. Fuller ‘keeps raising the most unsettling of questions.’ Moreover, even before passage of the Freedom of Information Act, he had a facility for somehow obtaining Government documents [italics mine], which he incorporated in some of his books.”"

The fact that Fuller had a strange knack for getting his hands on official papers prior to FOIA legislation was passed, suggests strongly that he moved in intriguing places and with equally intriguing people. Powerful people, too, no doubt. Indeed, back in 1957, Fuller had a decidedly clandestine meeting with a Dr. Karlis Osis, as Marie Jones and Larry Flaxman note in their 2015 book, Mind Wars. As now-declassified CIA files on Osis reveal, he was deep into a wide range of fringe sciences and technologies, including out-of-body experiences, how to alter brain wave frequencies, the means to affect "various biophysical changes," and mind manipulation. It’s no wonder that Osis was also secretly consulted by the CIA’s MK-ULTRA teams.

After getting to know Fuller, Dr. Osis guardedly informed him on what was going down with the MK-ULTRA people – of the successes that had been achieved, but also of the disastrous accidents that had occurred with certain hallucinogens. Osis also made Fuller an unforeseen, amazing offer: how would he, Fuller, like to be the very first investigative journalist to break at least a part of the MK-ULTRA story to the Unites States’ media? Clearly, Osis was recklessly playing both sides at the same time – the government and the media - for reasons that, today, are lost and not clear. As a writer, though, Fuller immediately recognized the dollar value of the story that, potentially, just might be tossed into his lap. At the time, the mid-to-late 1950s, Fuller chose not to publish anything that might have compromised the mind-control programs that both the CIA and the U.S. Army were heavily into at that time. Clearly, however, Fuller never lost the undeniable allure of all this.

From the mid-1950s, and up to at least the latter part of the 1960s, John Fuller was inextricably, and clandestinely, tied to some of the most significant players in MK-ULTRA. And, Philip Coppens’ work put psychological warfare expert C.D. Jackson right in the heart of the Hill’s encounter on that dark and dangerous night home in September 1961. Does this prove that the Hill affair was some kind of MK-ULTRA-type experiment? No, it does not. At the very least, though, we should dig further into the matter of these thought-provoking threads and characters referred to above.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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