Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to write things. I try; goodness knows I do. Yet somehow, I only seem to manage to upset people. First Ben Radford became upset with me because I criticized his secondhand attack on a non-existent ancient astronaut documentary. Then Sonja Brentjes became upset with me for drawing what seemed to me a logical conclusion from published sources. Now Martin Kottmeyer is upset with me for my article “Alien Abduction at the Outer Limits” because he feels I misrepresented the Outer Limits alien he identified as the source for Barney Hill’s alien abduction claim.
Generally, I don’t discuss private correspondence on my blog, but since in an email to me Kottmeyer offered only a specific critique of my published work and no discussion of anything not already in the public record, I feel that his points are important enough to share with my readers to help us get to the bottom of the Hill abduction.
Kottmeyer wrote the 1990 Magonia magazine article that first connected the Betty and Barney Hill alien abduction to the 1960s Outer Limits TV series. Specifically, he proposed that Barney Hill was influenced by the bifrost alien seen in “The Bellero Shield,” an episode that aired 12 days before Barney Hill first reported his alien abduction. In my article, I suggested that the Hill abduction was instead influenced by not one but three episodes of the Outer Limits that aired in succession, including the “Bellero Shield,” all of which shared traits with the Hill abduction. I believe that Hill conflated the three under hypnosis in developing his abduction story, which I believe shares the closest thematic similarity to the rural setting, abduction plot, and romantic aspects of “The Children of Spider County,” especially given the Hills’ interracial marriage. I noted that “The Children of Spider County” aired just five days before Hill’s hypnotic report.
Kottmeyer feels that I have misrepresented his claim. I will not quote directly from his email, but the gist was that he feels that the “Bellero” bifrost alien’s eyes are unique and that I have purposely selected a photograph that fails to illustrate the truly unique nature of these eyes in order to minimize Kottmeyer’s identification. According to Kottmeyer, in his 1990 article, the “Bellero” bifrost alien is the sole instance of “wraparound eyes” in 1960s media.
The facts are these: I don’t have a high quality screen capture system for video. The illustration I chose was a still frame provided by Wikipedia. It was the only image I had available when illustrating the article, and it is the same image Wikipedia uses to illustrate its discussion of Kottmeyer’s claim.
Here is another image I found at The Iron Skeptic that gives a profile view of the “Bellero” bifrost alien. I’d like to point out that this image very clearly shows that the eyes are not as Kottmeyer describes. On the left is the untouched image. At right, I have highlighted the eye itself in blue, and I have colored in red the ridges surrounding the eye, which stretch backward toward the rear of the head. There is no lens or sclera in this section defined by the upper and lower ridges, which is clearly of skin. Therefore, these are not “wraparound” eyes in a literal sense but merely give an impression of being large eyes due to the prominent ridges surrounding the small, human-sized eye. (This is not to say that Hill couldn't have been struck by the impression of large eyes, of course.)
The Iron Skeptic also complains that this photograph, too, fails to capture the "wraparound" nature of the eyes. At some point you have to accept that this is what the makeup looked like and the "eyes" you remember are shadows caused by the TV lighting. Here's a screen capture that I think better illustrates the eye-like impression created by the shadows cast by TV studio lighting.
Kottmeyer claimed to me that the “Spider County” aliens cannot be identified with Hill’s aliens because their eyes do not wrap around the head to the back of the skull. Mere “slanted” eyes were not the same. As the image below shows, the eyes of the “Spider County” aliens are larger than those of the bifrost alien and extend further back on the skull than the makeup for the bifrost alien. The tapering of the eyes and the dark spot underneath the extended brow ridge provide a closer match to the “wraparound” eyes than the “Bellero” bifrost alien, and they are also the prominent focus of the creature, unlike the bifrost alien whose eyes are an afterthought.
However, Hill did not specifically describe “wraparound” eyes. In his hypnotic session, Hill stated that the eyes were slanted, but differently from Asian eyes. When prompted to describe them better, he stated the following, as quoted from The Interrupted Journey:
I’ve never seen eyes slanted like that.
The reader of Interrupted Journey is then referred to a drawing Hill made of the alien.
Now, I feel that the round inside edge of the eye stretching outward and upward seems to be a relatively good description of the “Spider County” aliens’ eyes, at least insofar as a fantasy-prone man under hypnosis would be expected to exaggerate their most prominent features. Since in his drawing Hill also emphasizes the prominent pupils, featured in the “Spider County” but not “Bellero” aliens, I am convinced that the “Spider County” creatures are a more direct source for Hill. As I stated in my article, I believe the Hill abduction is best explained by the conflation of three Outer Limits episodes, not a literal 1:1 correlation between one episode and the Hill hypnosis claims. Therefore, it is reasonable to suspect that both aliens contributed to the fictitious creatures that Hill imagined under hypnosis. (The Outer Limits reused motifs in their makeup, so there are clear similarities between the two aliens, and seeing similar eyes twice makes it more likely that Hill would recall them later.) However, I lean toward the "Spider County" eyes as the more important source both because of the pupils and because Hill drew the eyes as white, not filled in and black, and he never described them as dark, a key element of the shadow eye-impression of the "Bellero" alien. Hill was overly impressed by the eyes, and as I stated in my article, his description of the eyes and their paralyzing, invasive power correlates closely to the "Spider County" aliens' use of their glowing eyes to paralyze or disintegrate people.
But I suppose what gets my goat is that even when I agree with someone and work to expand his claim with additional information, I still get complaints!
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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