In The Cult of Alien Gods I made reference to the theory that details of the Betty and Barney Hill alien abduction recalled under hypnosis in 1964 were derived from an episode of The Outer Limits that had aired just before the hypnosis sessions. I've been watching the original Outer Limits series, being run late nights on the This TV network, and I immediately picked up on similarities between an episode of the series and the Hill abduction. Unfortunately, the episode I fingered as the culprit was not the one cited in the skeptical literature. How could this be?
In researching the matter further, I discovered that no one actually did any real research on The Outer Limits episodes that aired in the winter of 1964 in the weeks before Barney Hill's infamous first hypnosis session. The entirety of the skeptical case rests, ultimately, on a half-remembered assertion by one skeptic, Martin Kottmeyer, in a 1990 magazine article that turns out not to be true. Kottmeyer said that "The Bellero Shield," airing February 10, 1964, was the only occurrence of aliens with slanted eyes of the kind reported by Barney Hill on February 22 and therefore a likely source for Barney's hypnotic recollection. Kottmeyer never reviewed the Outer Limits episode he discussed (he was basing his discussion on memory), and skeptics and believers alike simply accepted his word as fact, skeptics because it provided a convenient explanation for the Hill case and believers because the details differed significantly enough to allow the connection to be dismissed. A few people actually screened the episode (though notably Stanton Freedman based his dismissal on the opinion of an artist he spoke with who remembered seeing the show once), but so far as I can tell no one looked at other episodes of the series airing that same month.
A different episode, "The Children of Spider County," which aired even closer to the hypnosis session on February 17, 1964, not only featured aliens that matched the facial features and eyes of Barney's imagination, but also their clothing, the woods where they chose to abduct humans, and even more details that to my mind are simply too close to be anything other than the direct inspiration.
I have reviewed all of the Outer Limits episodes airing in the weeks before Barney's first hypnosis session and I compared them point for point with Hill's claims under hypnosis. The results were striking and surprised even me in how closely they conformed to what had just aired on TV.
Read the full report here.
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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