The Writing Disorder




New Nonfiction


by Paul Garson


As high strangeness goes it was a strange three weeks for me. As high sadness goes, it was even sadder. Two distinctly different individuals passed away back in late September, mid-October of 2004. They were separated by gender, age, education, occupation, and geographic distance … even the manner of their deaths, one from “natural causes,” advanced age and illness, and the other by “accident,” a pedestrian-vehicle mishap. Yet, they were linked by an even stronger bond. Each had been touched by perhaps humankind’s greatest mystery and certainly one of our culture’s greatest controversies.

Betty Hill was 85 when she left this world on October 17, 2004. She had been battling lung cancer when she succumbed to the illness at her home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. John Mack, 74, was attending the T.E. Lawrence Society Symposium in Oxford, England, when, on September. 27, 2004, he was struck by a car while walking across a street.

Betty Hill had worked as a state social worker specializing in adoptions and training foster parents. She was also a political activist throughout her life, a member of the NAACP and a founding member of the Rockingham County Community Action. She had lost her husband, Barney Hill, an employee of the postal service, in 1969.

John Edward Mack was a certified practitioner of child and adult psychoanalysis who later became a full professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He inaugurated the pysch unit at Cambridge Hospital and found the Center for Psychology and Social Change, later renamed in his honor. He was also the Pulitzer Prize winning author of “A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T.E. Lawrence,” and so his reason for being in England and his intersection with Fate.

It was decades earlier and on another roadway, though rural and far from big city lights, that Betty Hill and her husband had the encounter that would irrevocably alter their lives and eventually also that of Prof. John Mack. Driving home through the New Hampshire White Mountains on the night of Sept. 19, 1961, they saw a strange bright light in the sky, a light that seemed to follow their car through the deserted countryside. The “light” apparently went away and the Hill’s arrived home. But something was not quite right. It was hinted at by the strange marks on their car and oddly enough the scuffed tips of Betty’s shoes. And there was a problem of time, missing time, a term which would become part of the Ufologist’s lexicon. The trip had inexplicably taken two hours longer than “normal.”

After many months of troubled sleep and increasing anxiety, the Hill’s sought medical help enlisting the aid of Dr. Benjamin Simon, a noted Boston psychiatrist and neurologist. During psychotherapy that included hypnotic time-regression, the Hill’s independently described a similar event. They had been abducted by extra-terrestrial humanoids and taken aboard their alien spacecraft where they underwent invasive physical examinations. Betty would during the course of the sessions sketch the purported extra-terrestrials home solar system including various trade routes to neighboring stars. Both she and Barney would also relive the terror and abject fear they experienced and had been apparently made to forget. That is, until the experience began seeping back into their consciousness.

Now the previous description may sound like a rather routine alien abduction scenario recounted countless times in books, magazine articles and portrayed on television and on the silver screen. But keep in mind this was some 40 years ago, Betty and Barney being the first to come out of the alien abduction closet as it were. It took no small courage to face the ridicule and ensuing scrutiny, one that lasted literally decades. But their story was taken seriously, to a point, thanks to the 1966 best-seller “The Interrupted Journey: Two Lost Hours Aboard a Flying Saucer” written by John G. Fuller. The story also appeared in Look magazine and subsequently in a made-for-TV movie starring Estelle Parsons and James Earl Jones.

It literally blew the lid off UFO research and commentary … the Abduction Phenomena. Heretofore “flying saucers” were blobs of light seen at a distance or in a few instances while hovering close to the witness, but never up close and personal. True, a few “contactees” had professed encounters with aliens (who for the most part looked entirely human). The aliens seemed concerned for mankind’s welfare and brought dire warnings about mistreating the planet. But now here were short, grey, globular-eyed creatures who apparently regarded us in the same way we regard lab specimens, plucking us at will whenever they pleased and then wiping our minds clean of the experience. It took the UFO controversy to a whole new level since even UFO believers were reticent about accepting the idea that the occupants of the flying saucers were actually directly interacting with our species. Betty and Barney brought that disquieting possibility to our public attention. It was indeed a groundbreaking, potentially earth shattering, moment.

Betty and Barney became famous or infamous, depending on which side of the UFO disc you’re on. Betty appeared at numerous public events as well as on radio and television programs. After several years of lecturing, and in her 70s, Betty backed away from UFOlogy. She had become distressed by what she saw as commercialism clouding the subject and expressed these thoughts in a 1995 self-published book, “A Common Sense Approach to UFOs.''

Making sense of the abduction phenomenon fueled John Mack’s investigations and ultimately his acknowledgment as a leading authority on the spiritual or transformational affects of alleged non-human entity encounter experiences. In 1994 Scribners published his "Abduction - Human Encounters with Aliens" which detailed thirteen case histories of purported alien encounters. By the time he had written this book Dr. Mack had investigated over 100 such cases. He also wrote another book on the subject, "Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters.” The books became the genesis for the 2003 documentary “Touched.”

John Mack had stepped out of the hallowed halls of Harvard to delve into an area of human consciousness that his colleagues basically shunned. John Mack treaded where others had dared not go for a variety of reasons, both personal and professional. UFOlogy, in the popular mind, was populated not by aliens from other worlds, but by “wackos” who heard voices and saw things that usually assigned them to a catch-all category of the mentally or emotionally ill. While the public, academia and the rest of his peers, grudgingly acknowledged that people were seeing strange things in the skies, the idea that they were in direct, personal communication with beings from other worlds (or times or dimensions) was, well, unthinkable or at least unacceptable in the framework of reality upon which all that we hold dear hangs.

Such heresies smacked of the work of people like Copernicus who had stated that the sun, not the Earth, was the center of the solar system. Most non-astronomically inclined citizens are unaware that it was not until 1920 that scientists began to grudgingly admit that ours was not the only galaxy in the perhaps infinite universe. It was hard enough agreeing with the evidence that our solar system was not in the center but actually in the suburbs of one of the spiral arms. In other words, the Earth and humankind were out in the boonies. Our species didn’t like being tossed from its lofty self-proclaimed central position in the cosmos. When we figured out that many, as in tens of millions, of those fuzzy patches out there were actually island universes like our own, we were somewhat humbled. But what Mack and other investigators were implying, that technologically advanced non-humans were having their way with our planet, perhaps conducting some long term study or even manipulation of our species, well, that was going just too far.

John Mack, keeping an open mind and a balanced viewpoint, stepped onto a path that led out into the cosmos by delving into the minds of his clients — clients not patients — for he found no sign of mental illness here, but he did find remarkably consistent stories among the 200 interviews he eventually conducted. He also became aware that the abduction experience often resulted in a heightened sense of spirituality and concern for the Earth’s ecology.

That led him to new vistas, ones that he hoped to share with the rest of us — just as Betty Hill had envisioned. Now both are gone, abducted by the ravages of time and the happenstance of accident. Perhaps the UFOs held a moment of lofty silence for them, halting the spinning of their silvery discs. Just for a moment they may have stopped flying, and then spun on.

Paul Garson has written over 2,000 feature articles on a variety of subjects — many using his own photography — in over 70 publications in the U.S. and around the world. He has worked as a teacher, screenwriter, and editor. His most recent book "Album of the Damned: Snapshots from the Third Reich" received much acclaim upon its release. For more information, please visit Paul Garson Productions.




by Teddie-Joy

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Album of the Damned
by Paul Garson


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