Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Betty Hill case, re-pondered

I stumbled upon an online post by a UFO debunker, who posted a number of documents in effort to rebut on the Betty Hill story.  I think that the documents are very interesting... They are an exchange of letters between Dr. Benjamin Simon and famous debunker Phil Klass, written around the time of the initial broadcast of "The UFO Incident" in 1975, with Dr. Simon agreeing with Klass--there was no actual abduction on September 19, 1961.

Initially I was surprised: *The* famous Betty and Barney Hill hypnotist, agreeing with Klass?  But as I read through them, I thought, "Not a surprise."  The Betty Hill story was quite radical for the time, and, if it's "true," it still is. It would take a number of logical leaps for a credentialed medical professional to accept it at face value. But did Dr. Simon actually debunk it?  Not quite. While he implies that there is probably a repressed psychological origin for the experience, he does concede that it was an experience of some sort--but certainly not a "real" abduction by "aliens."

The letters are actually an interesting window into Betty Hill's evolution from frightened abductee to New Age evangelist, as she traveled the circuit with her story, collecting money whilst surrounding herself with APRO investigators, astrologers, and other weird people.

None of this should surprise anyone. I remember reading about Betty Hill's erratic behavior at the time in "Fate" magazine. I'm not sure that her behavior rises to the level of illness, but Klass and Dr. Simon certainly leave the impression that Betty was an unreliable informant.  And no one can blame Dr. Simon for not wanting to be part of this sort of circus. Reading between the lines as I am wont to do, a lot of money was made by many on the Betty and Barney Hill story, and Dr. Simon did not share in the windfall.  Sour grapes maybe?  Probably not, but still possible.

But the correspondence left me with a number of questions. What about Betty Hill's implied mental instability, for example? Does it taint her original 1960s testimony?  Was she in fact mentally ill, and if so, does this invalidate her story?  Or was she, as Dr. Simon implies, embellishing her experience for attention and money?  What about the "two experiences with UFOs" that Dr. Simon had?  Dr. Simon was a UFO experiencer--was he "abducted" himself? And what about medical ethics--I know that this was pre-HIPAA, but was Dr. Simon a medical doctor?  If so, was he authorized to discuss Betty's hypnotic treatment?

So I'm left with questions. And I don't know if I want to do the necessary work to find answers. I doubt that it's possible to pin down the truth of *anything* involving UFOs, particularly in the Betty Hill case.  Additionally, fraud seems to be endemic in the paranormal field, and cases commonly accepted as legitimate have actually been successfully debunked (example: ITC, or "Spiricom").  Despite all, however, I still see the Betty Hill case as being (probably) legitimate. In my opinion, Dr. Simon was simply unable to conceive of any experience of a nonphysical nature that was not hallucination or fraud.  And Betty may have had some incipient flakiness that was pathologically affected by her experience. I have a small connection to the Betty Hill story that hints of a reality outside of the consensus; a story, maybe, for another time.

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