In 2009, Kentaro Mori posted a link on his blog to an article by Science Fiction writer James MacDonald concerning the Barney and Betty Hill incident. The article was over a year and a half old and I was surprised that I had not heard of it until then. James lives in New Hampshire and is quite familiar with the trip Betty and Barney took that night. To be honest, I was more than willing to accept the idea they confused something astronomical as the UFO and then dreamed the rest of the story up under hypnosis. MacDonald makes a case for why things transpired the way they did and explains the “missing time” . After reading his article, I was intrigued by his argument. Some of the key points that appeared to go unmentioned in the popular UFO literature was suddenly illuminated by MacDonald.
The Betty and Barney Hill event
I am not going to rehash the details about this event other than mention the basic outline:
Betty and Barney Hill were returning • to their home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire following a trip to Niagra Falls and Canada on September 19th, 1961.
The trip home involved a very long • drive along the minor two-lane roads through the mountains in northern New Hampshire.
They left Colebrook, NH around 10 • PM.
As they drove south, around Lancast• er, NH, they saw a bright light in the southern sky near the moon.
The light continued to be • there as they drove south but appeared to get bigger.
They tried to convince them• selves it was an airplane but, after examining with binoculars, thought it was an alien spaceship.
As they drove south, they seemed • to have lost track of the time. The next thing they knew they were on Interstate 93 heading towards Concord. They did not really recall much of what happened between Lincoln, NH and that point.
When they arrived in Portsmouth, it • was almost dawn. They had estimated they would return around 2 or 3 AM. It seems they had about 3 hours of “missing time”.
Later hypnosis revealed they were • abducted by aliens. The details are of the event are well known in the UFO community.
The elusive UFO
One part of the case that confuses me is the story about Betty and Barney driving for over 30 minutes watching this very bright UFO but nobody else driving in the area saw it. Just over twenty miles from Franconia Notch (about the same distance Lancaster is from the same location), is the Mount Washington Observatory. At an altitude of over 6,000 feet, it is the highest point in the White Mountains and one can see for dozens of miles from there (see the image I took below center which shows the view from the mountain top towards Lincoln, NH just south of the notch). The observers there make weather observations on a regular basis but the UFO seems to have been invisible to them. If Betty could see the UFO from ground level, why couldn’t these observers see it from over 6,000 feet altitude?
Then we have the motives of the UFO occupants. Were they focused the entire time on Betty and Barney as they drove south? Why did they wait for Betty and Barney to come to them? If they were fascinated by the Hills, why didn’t they simply go get them early on?
These are questions that appear to be ignored by the proponents of the Hill case. While, it is difficult to determine how aliens would actually act, the missing UFO reports from all of northern NH seems to indicate problems with the story as told.
A key point that James makes is that Betty and Barney were driving late at night trying to get home from a long trip to Canada. They had apparently run out of money and could not afford a hotel. As a result, they were going to drive through the night to get home.
Driving down two lane roads that twist about would make for a difficult trip during the day time. On my trip to Lancaster, which I had driven during the day and at night, I found the roads to be a bit tasking the farther north you drove. The trip to Twin Mountain from Lancaster was particularly difficult in the dark even today. Back in 1961, it would have been somewhat lonely and, if one were not familiar with the road, tricky to navigate.
Add to these issues the mental and physical fatigue they must have felt and you have a recipe for confusion and mistakes. Is it any surprise that they could not remember exactly where they were or when they passed through a certain area?
While many UFO proponents state they should have gotten home by 3AM, MacDonald notes they were not familiar with the New Hampshire roads in 1961 and the trip would have taken much longer. This was confirmed by Peter Brookesmith, who drove the trip over a decade ago. He computed an arrival time in Portsmouth of around 5 AM. He also estimated that the trip from Colebrook to Indian Head took at least two and possibly three hours. All the multiple stops that Betty and Barney took that night could make up for the three or so hours that supposedly were “missing” from their trip.
Up on the mountain top
James MacDonald’s big surprise was the source of the UFO. He had driven the trip with his family and attempted to locate some of the landmarks on his drive. At the time I first read the article, I was not aware of anyone trying this. I later learned that both Karl Pflock and Peter Brookesmith had documented their attempts at performing the drive in the book “Encounters at Indian Head”. However, neither of them bothered to mention MacDonald’s potential source of the UFO.
Just south of Lancaster, New Hampshire, is when Betty first noticed the UFO. James notes that this is where you just come up over a ridge and see the peak of Cannon Mountain for the first time. In 1959, a tower with an intense light had been placed on the top of Cannon mountain. It was MacDonald’s suggestion that this light could have been the source of the UFO that intrigued me. So, I decided to make a trip to the White Mountains and see for myself.
North Lincoln, NH
I live in Manchester NH and first attempted this trip in April of 2009. While theweather was clear in Manchester, low clouds hid the mountain tops. It was an informative trip but I was unable to accomplish my goal to see how the light appeared at night. Between my astronomy hobby and other obligations, I just never got to go up to the mountains at night for a few more years. I finally got that chance last fall.
Before I go into the drive, I really wanted to mention how the town of North Lincoln, NH is beginning to see a chance to make money off of the case. I stopped for gas and discovered the gas station had all sorts of alien references on the outside. The funniest thing was when I went to the rest room. The walls of the ONLY bathroom inside were coated with newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and other items referencing the Hills, Roswell, and just about anything else related to UFOs. Do they really expect people to read all of this while others wait to use the bathroom?
After gassing up, I chose to stop by the sign that has been erected commemorating the event. It is too bad that describes the incident as factual, which gives the event too much credence. Less skeptical people would accept the story blindly. It really should have stated that it was an “alleged abduction”. Of course, the protests would have come from Kathleen Marden, who apparently designed the sign and got it erected. I am surprised there was not a plug on the sign to read her book. Perhaps the state of NH would only allow so much.
After taking a few pictures of the Indian Head outcrop, I proceeded north through Franconia notch and the White Mountain forest towards Lancaster NH
When I arrived in Lancaster, NH, I could see what Mr. MacDonald had described. The view to the south is obscured by buildings and the surrounding hillsides. As one drives south through town, you begin to drive up a grade to the top of a ridge next to Mount Prospect where a view opens up to show the view to the south (see above).
As I watched the increasing twilight from the top of the hill at Mount Prospect, I began to have an uneasy feeling about the mountain light theory. The light on the mountain was not very noticeable to the naked eye, despite it being easy to see in binoculars and my telephoto lens (see below). At best it would appear no brighter than the average star (about +3) and maybe a bit fainter. It is possible, the light could have been much brighter in 1961. However, the tower, as it exists today, could not have grabbed Betty Hill’s attention.
While driving south along route 3, the light continued to be faint to me. I had seen Cannon Mountain as I had driven north during daylight and expected to see the light easily. This was not the case.
After passing through Twin Mountain, one drives into the edge of the White Mountain National Forest. There are plenty of trees as one drives in a west-southwest direction. They obscure just about anything to the south or southwest.
James MacDonald identified a picnic area in this region where the Hills reportedly stopped. This is the Mount Cleveland area and it is very small (see image above). According to the literature, they could see the UFO from this point but I do not see how if it was to the south or southwest. The trees and hills hide just about everything in that direction even where there is no foliage on the trees.
The light appears
As I approached within about five miles of the mountain the road turns towards the southwest. Suddenly a bright light, which I estimated was as bright as Sirius, appeared to my right in the trees. It wasn’t a star or planet because it was in a location where no bright stars or planets were positioned. It then moved to the left side of the road. I was pretty sure I was seeing the light on top of the mountain but the road was too dark and I could not see much.
After the road opened up with a wide view I was able to verify I was seeing the light on the mountain. There was a parking area on the eastern side of the road that allowed me to stop and take some pictures. Was this area accessible in 1961? Aerial photographs are not very clear and neither are the topographic maps I have. It seems that it would be a better argument for the stop that Betty and Barney st made than the Mount Cleveland picnic area.
The mountain was visible and the light was quite prominent on the right side of the road. The telephoto shows how it would have appeared from this location using binoculars (see above). The moon was visible but under a darker sky, the light might appear to have been in the sky and not on the mountain top. As I 8neared Cannon Mountain, the road shifted towards the southwest and the light then moved to the left side of the road. Looking at old maps of the road, it was not a very straight path like the present interstate and it had several changes in direction during this leg. Looking at the 1964 images compared to the lights location, we would see the following pattern relative to a car driving south (distances are approximate)
I lost the light just before reaching exit 34C for Echo Lake about two miles from the mountain light. I then proceeded through Franconia Notch where the light was no longer visible.
Since I was by myself, I could not see out the right side of the car as I passed through the notch. However, at the Lafayette campground exit (the first on the southern part of the route as one exits the notch), I turned off the road and was able to see the light only about a mile southeast of its location.
The next exit I turned off at was about 4 miles from the light near the “Flume” parking area. The light was very obvious. Using a telephoto lens (see below), one can see how this “light” might appear to be an airborne craft.
As I continued to drive south, the light disappeared behind the trees shortly before reaching the road sign commemorating the event but reappeared a mile or so south of this location near the US-93 interchange. The light, over six miles away, was still quite prominent. In 1961, the light may have been more or less visible depending on the intervening terrain/trees.
After scaling the image on page 8 with images from the Stellarium planetarium program, I decided to make some simulated images of how the stars and moon might appear to Betty and Barney Hill from the same location at different times. Below are images for times 2330 and 0030. I chose these times because this is the time period it is believed that Betty and Barney made it to Franconia Notch. The moon was still visible but was just off the right edge. It is important to point out that this is the view they would have as they exited the forest/woods about 3 miles north of Cannon Mountain. As one drives closer to the mountain, the moon and planets would have shifted position relative to the ridgeline. They would have been pretty low and disappeared behind the mountains as they drove south through the notch.
As I proceeded south on US-93, I felt I had seen enough. It was clear that the light was very prominent within a half-dozen miles of the mountain. Could it have played a role in the events that transpired that night in September 1961?
In my opinion, I felt the light, as it is today, was not very bright from Mount Prospect in Lancaster. The drive south through Whitefield to Twin Mountain provides views of Cannon Mountain but I never noticed the light to be prominent. Only when I was within a half-dozen miles of Cannon Mountain did it become an item of interest. The conditions for my drive were pretty clear, so I doubt the issue had to do with intervening atmosphere. However, we don’t know if the lights brilliance has changed in the past fifty years. A brighter bulb or a clearer casing might make the difference. I would consider it possible but not likely that the light on the mountain was what Betty first saw. It may have been that she first confused Jupiter or Saturn, which were near the moon and bright enough to be noticed.
Once they were within a few miles of Cannon Mountain, the light started to play a role in the events. Reading the narrative, the characteristics of the UFO appeared to mimic that of the light on the mountain top. One has to remember that at the time of the incident, both Barney and Betty were very fatigued and Betty had all sorts of wild ideas about what they were seeing. It would not take much for them to be confused and convinced they were seeing something other than the light on top of the mountain. Is it any surprise that as they drove further south, the UFO seems to have “disappeared” from the sky? It seems to be a significant coincidence that prior to passing through the notch, the UFO was in front of them but after they passed through the notch, it eventually “disappeared” from view.
Is this case solved with this explanation? I can’t state that we can conclusively close the book here. However, these explanations appear to me to be more plausible than an alien spaceship that nobody else noticed that night.
Quelle: SUNlite 2/2012