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The UFO Romance of Betty and Barney Hill

Betty and Barney / UNH Special Collections UFOS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

No one can prove or disprove that this New Hampshire couple was taken aboard an alien spacecraft. Believes will believe, skeptics will not. But we can all agree that Betty and Barney Hill enjoyed one of America’s most fascinating interracial love affairs. (Read the full story below)





Love among the flying saucers

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Let’s forget for a moment that Betty and Barney Hill claimed they were taken aboard an alien UFO. Their alleged abduction in the White Mountains on September 19, 1961 came to define the rest of their days. It made them, for a time, one of the most famous couples in America. Their shared nightmare, revealed through hypnosis, united the Portsmouth couple. But the international publicity that followed threatened to tear them apart.

Let’s think of this, instead, as a love story. It is the marriage of two activist souls. Even before their UFO adventure, real or imagined, Betty and Barney were truth seekers, fighting against social injustice and inequality. An interracial couple married in 1960, they lived in an era when discrimination was rampant, even in New England.

Life Before UFOs

Eunice Elizabeth ("Betty") Barrett was born on June 28, 1919 and grew up on a Kingston, NH farm. Spunky, agile, intelligent, and creative, she always saw herself as special, destined for great things. Betty wanted to leave the family farm so badly, according to college friend Dr. Mary Ann Franklin, that she asked her parents permission to join a passing circus as an acrobat in training. Permission was denied. At the University of New Hampshire Betty socialized with Franklin, the only African-American on campus. Betty spoke out for liberal issues and supported her friend in difficult times.

"She was very active," Dr Franklin, age 87, says today. "She may have had a problem as a result of that because so many people of that time were not accepting of racial equality."

Betty took a fateful break from college just as the United States entered World War II. She worked as a waitress in a seacoast diner, married the cook and adopted his three children. When that marriage ended in divorce after 14 years, Betty returned to UNH, graduated in 1958 and became a social worker. She shrewdly spent her settlement on a house on a busy street in Portsmouth. When Gulf Oil offered to buy and demolish her house to build a gas station, she negotiated twice the price, then purchased her own house back for a dollar and moved it to a nearby lot where she lived until her death in 2004.

Betty and Barney Hill and friends (c) UNH Special Collection / All rights reserved

Three years younger, Barney Hill was born on July 29, 1922 at Newport News, Virginia and evolved into an unflinching activist. A high school dropout, Barney joined the Army and served three years in World War II as a truck driver. It is not surprising that, when describing his alien abductors years later, Barney pictured them in military caps like those worn by Nazi soldiers. He was injured in a grenade accident on a firing range and honorably discharged in 1943, then started a family in Philadelphia.

Betty met Barney Hill in the mid-1950s when he was vacationing in New Hampshire with his first wife. When that marriage dissolved, he and Betty married, but it took months for Barney to uproot himself from Philly and move to Portsmouth. He took a night job as a postal worker in Boston, enduring a 90-minute commute each way. The transition to a predominantly white New England town, far from his friends and his two boys, weighed heavily on him.


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