Writer Jim Macdonald carefully retraced Betty and Barney Hill's steps, and he points out that a common light atop an observation tower on Cannon Mountain appears in the exact spots the Hills describe their UFO. It even seems to weave around the sky as you wind through the (at the time, completely dark) mountain roads.
Don't be too hard on the Hills here. Their road trip had covered some 1,200 miles, and they'd been driving for something like 18 hours when they experienced their sighting (they'd skipped the hotel on the way back to save money). They were sleep-deprived, there was nothing on the radio, and, well, the road can mess with your mind. Ask a trucker, if you can get them to stop talking about the magical black dog they've all seen on the highway.
As for the mysterious "missing time," that's probably due to the couple badly overestimating how fast they could make it through those mountain roads at night, while failing to account for their frequent stops to try to find a place to get coffee, and then later to track a nonexistent UFO with binoculars.
As for the big-eyed alien "Greys" that captured the public imagination, it's very possible Barney got them from an episode of The Outer Limits which had aired just two weeks before his hypnosis session.
The rest of abduction scenario just ... got implanted into his brain by talking to his wife, I guess? Like, apparently you can hear a story enough that it takes shape in your mind as a thing that occurred to you, to the point where you can "remember" sights and sounds and smells so vividly that you'll melt down in panic when you relive them?
And then hundreds of other people around the world can then "remember" the exact same thing, just as vividly?
That is fucking terrifying. A lamp, a sleepy couple, a few bad dreams, a low-budget Twilight Zone knockoff ... and from that is born a concept that infects hundreds of millions of people across dozens of countries and two generations, one that lives in their minds as truth.
And you can shrug and ask how is this any different from all of the other bullshit, the demons and ghosts and witches that people swear they've been seeing for millennia. The difference is that this is the era of universal literacy and mass media. A time when we don't need to believe in magic because our machines are magic, when we don't need to fantasize about spacecraft because we can build the damned things.
What haunts me is the realization that none of that matters, because some ideas survive specifically because they're outlandish and bizarre. The brain is somehow programmed to think something is true specifically because it's so unlikely. The vaccines and chemtrails are making us sick, the local pizza shop is a rape dungeon. It's true because it's weird.
I therefore imagine that a thousand years from now, people will still be claiming to have been abducted and tortured by big-eyed Greys -- creatures that never existed anywhere in the Universe -- because once compelling but wrong ideas enter our cultural bloodstream, we can't fight off the infection.
Which makes me wonder if we dug into some of our most surely-held cultural beliefs, and followed them all the way down to the roots, if what we'd find there is nothing at all.
David's latest novel is out in paperback right now -- look at the review scores! Jason "David Wong" Pargin is the Executive Editor at Cracked. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook or YouTube or Instagram.
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