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The 60th Anniversary of the Betty & Barney Hill Abduction – Really a “Mind-Control” Experiment?

Approximately two months from now we’ll hit the 60th anniversary of the famous Betty and Barney Hill “alien abduction.” They were a husband and wife who, on the night of September 19, 1961, and while driving home from Canada to New Hampshire after completing a fun vacation, had a significant number of hours erased from their minds. It all happened near Indian Head, New Hampshire. It was there they saw a strange light in the sky that appeared to be carefully shadowing them from above. Concern and anxiety set in, which is no surprise. Finally, they made it home. Something very strange and disturbing happened to the Hills, but such was the state of their minds, they weren’t sure what it was. But, they certainly wanted to know. There’s no doubt that the case, itself, remains – to this day – the definitive alien abduction. But, was it really what it seemed to be? There’s a reason why I put that question forward. I suggest that with the sixty-year mark now looming large, someone ought to focus on one of the most controversial, alternative scenarios for the case: namely, that yes, Betty and Barney  were abducted. But, maybe, not by extraterrestrials. The fact is this: a case can be made that something of a very “down to earth” nature occurred, rather than something from outer space.

Someone who recognized this alternative possibility was the late Philip Coppens. Had Philip not died at such a young age, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would have continued to pursue this angle and to try and find out what really happened to Betty and Barney – and to Delsey the dog, too. Let’s see what Philip had to say about all of this: “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.. Stretching coincidence far beyond breaking point, Jackson already knew Major MacDonald, with whom he next interviewed the Hills.” 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 [italics mine].”

Too extreme to believe? Nope, not at all. Check out the “alien abduction” story of Antonio Villas Boas in Brazil in 1957, and the very strange saga of Gerry Irwin (of 1959), the latter told in the pages of David Booher’s book, No Return. Strong cases can be made that both incidents were staged. And, all three cases were relatively close to each other in terms of the time-frames: 1957, 1959 and 1961. Although Betty and Barney didn’t look for professional help for what happened until sixty-three, just a handful days after the incident they shared the details they could remember with a man who was a good friend of Barney. His name was James MacDonald. More correctly, Major James MacDonald, USAF, Retired. It turns out that MacDonald did clandestine work with none other than the CIA. Betty Hill’s niece, Kathleen Marden, says of this curious affair: “[MacDonald’s] tie to the intelligence community has led to speculation among researchers that his presence at the meeting was more than social.” Betty rejected this theory, but it is, without doubt, worth noting.

Now, we come to the matter of John G. Fuller, the man who wrote the classic book on the Hill case: The Interrupted Journey, that was published in 1966. 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, which he incorporated in some of his books.”

Back in 1957, Fuller had a decidedly clandestine meeting with a Dr. Karlis Osis. As now-declassified CIA documents on Osis show, 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. Days after their first meeting, Osis introduced Fuller to a CIA man named Robert Lashbrook. It turns out that Lashbrook was the very last person to see scientist Frank Olson alive before he took a deadly, violent shove out of the Hotel Statler in Manhattan in November 1953.  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 at all clear. Osis also made a way for Fuller to speak with one Andrija Puharich. He was an American of Yugoslavian extraction, someone who was deeply interested in the mysteries of the human mind, and who, in the 1950s, just happened to work at the Edgewood, Maryland-based U.S. Army Chemical Center. The Edgewood Arsenal being a place where controversial mind-manipulation-based experiments were undertaken on military personnel during the Cold War.

I should stress, there is no hard evidence to show that Betty and Barney were victims of a high-tech “MK-ULTRA“-type test. But, with the 60th anniversary of the case looming large, maybe someone will decide to get to the heart of all this and put the pieces together. And, maybe, surprises will be found. Big and shocking surprises.

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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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