C Niece of Betty and Barney Hill — Portsmouth couple who famously claimed to be abducted by aliens— authors book on family's experience.
Stratham author Kathleen Marden, niece of Betty and Barney Hill, poses with her new book "Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience," which gives the true story of the couple's alien abduction.
By Jeanné McCartin
July 08, 2007 6:00 AM-There were decades during which Kathleen Marden didn't divulge who her aunt and uncle were. She'd witnessed firsthand the circus that engulfed their lives, pro and con. So later when the Stratham resident became a social worker and educator, she decided it was best not to mention her relationship to Betty and Barney Hill.
But her interest and curiosity, as well as her love for the two people at the center of one of the most famous — alleged — UFO abductions, eventually led her back to the subject. Along with Stanton T Friedman, Marden has penned "Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience," which will be released in August by Career Press/New Page Books.
GET THE BOOK Advance copies of "Captured!: The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience" — to be released in August — are available at Amazon.com and autographed copies can be purchased now at www.StantonFriedman.com.
Betty and Barney Hill were portrayed by Estelle Parsons and James Earl Jones in the 1975 television movie "The UFO Incident," and by Lee Garlington and Basil Wallace in the 1996 television series "Dark Skies." It was 1961. Kathy, 13, was at home when Aunt Betty and Uncle Barney of Portsmouth dropped by. They'd come to tell the family what they could recall about their recent, life-changing trip to the N.H. White Mountains. They'd been abducted by aliens.
"I was absolutely flabbergasted. But, I had learned in school that none of the planets were inhabited. I never though of anything outside the solar system," she says. "I just assumed we were the only life forms."
Nonetheless she believed them. "I had a great respect for them. My aunt was a well-educated social worker for the state and Barney worked for the Boston Post Office and was active in the civil rights movement, a lifelong member of the NAACP. ...; But I was amazed."
Marden goes on to explain how well established the two were. The importance of laying the ground is evident as she checks off their involvements and accomplishments. She knew these people. They were not crackpots.
Marden's book is intended as a biography of Betty Hill. "It follows her life since 1957 till her death (in 2004). ...; There's a chapter on Betty and Barney's relationship (a bi-racial couple), how it developed." But given the impact of the UFO event on their lives it's the focus. "It changed their world view and changed their life.
Marden recalls, within days of the alleged abduction, she and her family were at the Hills' home looking at evidence. "The tops of Barney's car showed deeply scraped forms ...; which he couldn't explain. They were the size of silver dollars, highly polished, circular, on the trunk of the car. And when Betty placed a compass over the sports it spun and spun." Their watches they'd been wearing had stopped working, "though they'd been running perfectly the night before the event. ... They never operated right again."
They told of a close encounter with a craft, "at the closest point about 100 feet from them. It was disc-shaped, with a double row of rectangular windows, and an intense blue-white light. There was a red light that telescope from each side of it."
For some time the story was kept close and quiet. "They wanted to keep it confidential. ...; But they thought as citizens they needed to report it to Pease Air Force ...; they did on Sept. 20, 1961, the day after arriving home."
Curious, Betty started researching UFOs at the local library. In one book she found reference to NICAP, a private organization located in Washington, D.C., comprised of military personnel, and scientists interested in "the UFO problem, dilemma whatever you want to call it," says Marden. Her aunt wrote the group.
"She described that Barney returned to the car and was afraid ...; that they heard what Betty described as electric beeping and Barney discussed as buzzing, a series of sounds." The latter incident the last Barney recalled till reaching Ashland, N.H., 35 miles south of the field.
Betty retained fleeting memories. Both recalled a roadblock and a huge moon, or red-orange orb silhouetted against the trees. Initially Marden learned most the details a month after the incident when Walter Webb, an astronomer with the NICAP, arrived in October of '61.
News of the abduction broke in 1965. Life for the couple and their relatives changed.
The pair told their story at a NICAP meeting, in Quincy, Mass. "They weren't on any official agenda, but had agreed to stand up and tell ...; what they saw. Apparently it was tape recorded."
One of those in attendance handed the information on to a reporter with the "Boston Traveler." He contacted them and was insistent they talk. They refused and hired a lawyer. "They had a good reputation in the community. ...; They certainly didn't want to be considered crackpots."
This is another important point for Marden. In the past the Hills, Betty in particular, were accused of seeking publicity. It just wasn't that way, says the niece. "Barney was appointed chair of Rockingham County Community Action Program and was also on the state advisory board for economic opportunity board. He was also a N.H. representative to the Civil Rights Commission and legal redress to the NAACP and on the New Hampshire regional board." Betty also held positions in these organizations, and was an envoy to the United Nations through their church.
"So they really had a lot to lose. ...; They took what action they could to prevent it from being told. But they couldn't stop it."
On Oct. 25, 1965, the incident hit the papers with five follow-up articles. "I think not only myself, but the entire family was concerned about it." The reason was simple, "because of the way it would reflect on Betty and Barney and because we were members of the family it would reflect on us as well."
Marden was in high school at the time and initially felt no strong effect. Her brother on the other hand was bullied and beaten because of the story. During college and later entering the work field Marden thought twice about divulging the connection. "I was worried that it would effect my professional career and how people would perceive me. So I only told friends until I retired. ...; I sort of separated myself from the affair for a number of years."
Today the incident and the research regarding UFO sightings is a part of her life. "I'll tell you why. When I left my profession back in the early '90s I was spending more and more time with my aunt. And something I'd always wanted to do was investigate ...; to find out in my own mind if it had happened, or if Barney had absorbed Betty's dreams." (Barney passed in 1976).
While Betty was still alive Marden started what she describes as intensive research. She mapped out distances, looked at landmarks, even took Betty along with her several times. "I had the opportunity to ask lots of questions. ...; I think what cemented it for me was when she gave me the hypnosis tapes."
"While you can't really confirm without outside verification, what I was looking for was the independent corroborating information. And I believe I found that." It was in the inconsequential things, she says. Marden explains that when the Hills underwent hypnosis, the doctor imposed amnesia after each session, in part to keep them from exchanging ideas. In 1996 Marden transcribed the tapes and started comparing them with one another and with Betty's dreams. She feels the two accounts often corroborated one another.
"During part of the hypnosis I do believe Betty was mixing dreams with other things, a combination of fantasy and reality. I don't think so with Barney."
Betty Hill appointed Marden trustee and executor of her estate. After Betty's death in 2004, Marden compiled two permanent archival collections for the Milne Special Collection and Archives Department at the UNH Dimond Library. One is the Hills' civil rights collection, comprised of documents, letters, photographs and newspaper articles pertaining to Betty's and Barney's social and political activities. The UFO collection contains all of all the correspondence, articles, and other material from Betty's extensive files, including new material, Betty's dress, and the forensic paintings of her captors by N.H. artist David Baker. They will soon become available to qualified researchers.
"I read every letter she'd written, letters from researchers, serious scientists ...; whose identities will never be revealed. They're studying it quietly. I had her diaries, her memories. The book is based on all this information." There are also hours of tape from interviews between Marden and Hill, with the niece often playing devil's advocate.
After retiring from her professional life, Marden became more involved in the UFO world. She was on the board of the international group Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) for 10 years, till resigning recently. She was MUFON's director of field investigators, the arm that trains and tests field investigators, "people qualified to investigate after UFO sightings."
The upshot of her own family's sighting? "I do believe there is enough evidence to say I think they probably were (abducted)," says Marden. And yes, she does believe in UFOs, though she's very skeptical of most claims.
"I'm very interested in the subject. I'm not a person that is going to go out advocating or proselytizing about UFOs. I think of myself as taking more of a curious, social-science-perspective look at this sort of thing. I find abductions fascinating interesting and perplexing. ...; but unless you show me evidence, I can't say yet it happened."
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