“Excellent and exhaustive.”—Colin Dickey, Slate
In the mid-1960s, Betty and Barney Hill became famous as the first Americans to claim that aliens had taken them aboard a spacecraft against their will. Their story—involving a lonely highway late at night, lost memories, and medical examinations by small gray creatures with large eyes—has become the template for nearly every encounter with aliens in American popular culture since.
Historian Matthew Bowman examines the Hills’ story not only as a foundational piece of UFO folklore but also as a microcosm of 1960s America. The Hills, an interracial couple who lived in New Hampshire, were civil rights activists, supporters of liberal politics, and Unitarians. But when their story of abduction was repeatedly ignored or discounted by authorities, they lost faith in the scientific establishment, the American government, and the success of the civil rights movement.
Bowman tells the fascinating story of the Hills as an account of the shifting winds in American politics and culture in the second half of the twentieth century. He exposes the promise and fallout of the idealistic reforms of the 1960s and how the myth of political consensus has given way to the cynicism and conspiratorialism and the paranoia and illusion of American life today.
“The story of the Hills has been dissected and exploited by both promoters and debunkers of alien visitation. Bowman offers instead a sensitive and rich biography of the couple that both fascinates and enlightens.”—Greg Eghigian, Penn State University
“Matthew Bowman situates the story of Betty and Barney Hill, whose experiences originated modern UFO abduction narratives, within their identity as a Unitarian interracial couple, and in doing so demonstrates how their lives reveal transformations within American economics, politics, religion, and race relations. Far from just a story about flying saucers, Bowman’s book traces themes of authority, conspiracy, science, religion, gender, and media.”—Benjamin E. Zeller, author of The Handbook of UFO Religions