Is it chasing us? That thought coursed through Betty and Barney Hill’s minds as they drove down the empty winding country road in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It was a September night in 1961, they hadn’t seen a car for miles, and a strange light in the sky seemed to follow them.
When they finally got home to Portsmouth at dawn, they were far from relieved. They felt dirty. Their watches stopped working. Barney’s shoes were strangely scuffed and Betty’s dress was ripped. There were two hours of the drive that neither one of them could remember. What had happened?
With the help of a psychiatrist, the quiet couple eventually revealed a startling story: Gray beings with large eyes had walked them into a metallic disc as wide, Betty said, as her house was long. Once inside, the beings examined the couple and erased their memories.
Their experience would kick off an Air Force inquiry, part of the secretive initiative Project Blue Book that investigated UFO sightings across the country. The incident would also become the first-ever widely publicized alien-abduction account and shape how stories like it were told—and understood—from then on. Debate continues as to whether the husband and wife were liars, fantasists, crackpots or simply sleep-deprived people who later recovered seriously scrambled memories.