The couple claimed that on September 19, 1961, they were driving home from a vacation in Canada when they saw a bright light in the sky that followed them and eventually landed on a road ahead of them.
They said they were approached by gray beings with large eyes who took them inside a metallic disc-shaped craft and performed various medical examinations on them, including a crude pregnancy test on Betty.
They also said they were shown a star map that supposedly indicated the origin of their captors. The Hills later recovered some of their memories under hypnosis and their story became widely publicized after it was published in a book and adapted into a TV movie.
However, some skeptics have suggested that the Hills’ story was influenced by their exposure to popular culture, such as science fiction movies and books, or by their psychological stress as an interracial couple in a racially tense era.
Others have proposed more sinister explanations for their experience, such as being victims of a top secret mind-control experiment conducted by the CIA or other government agencies.
One of the most notorious projects of the CIA was MK-Ultra, which involved illegal human experimentation with various drugs and methods to manipulate mental states and brain functions.
The project began in 1953 and was halted in 1973 after it was exposed by congressional investigations. MK-Ultra aimed to develop techniques and drugs that could be used for interrogation, brainwashing, psychological torture and espionage purposes.
Some of the drugs used included LSD, mescaline, heroin and ecstasy. Some of the methods used included electroshocks, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation and verbal and sexual abuse.
Some conspiracy theorists have speculated that the Hills were unwitting subjects of MK-Ultra or a similar project that used LSD or other hallucinogens to induce false memories or alter their perception of reality.
They argue that this could explain some of the inconsistencies and implausibilities in their story, such as seeing an object moving upward instead of downward like a falling star; being able to drive for hours after being drugged; having vague or contradictory descriptions of their abductors; or being shown a star map that matched no known constellation at the time.
According to this theory, the Hills could have been targeted for various reasons: because they were prominent civil rights activists; because they had access to sensitive information through their jobs as postal worker (Barney) and social worker (Betty); because they were part of an ongoing study on interracial couples; or because they were simply random test subjects chosen by chance.
The theory also suggests that some of the people involved in their case could have been part of the conspiracy: such as Dr. Benjamin Simon, who hypnotized them; John G. Fuller, who wrote their book; or Walter Webb, who investigated their case for NICAP, an organization dedicated to UFO research.
One of those who came to believe that the Hills had been subjected to an MK-ULTRA-type encounter was the late Philip Coppens. He said: “It is clear that the Hills were being monitored by USAF [U.S. Air Force] Intelligence before the encounter took place, through Major James MacDonald, who had befriended them some time earlier.
“Betty Hill wrote to [UFO researcher / author] Donald Keyhoe who, despite the fact that he received over a hundred letters a day, homed in on this initially unremarkable case.
“Within twenty-four hours, Keyhoe had arranged for the Hills to be visited by top-level scientists, including C.D. Jackson, who had previously (definitely not coincidentally) worked on psychological warfare techniques for President Eisenhower [italics mine]. Stretching coincidence far beyond breaking point, Jackson already knew Major MacDonald, with whom he next interviewed the Hills.”
Philip continued on: “It seems that Betty and Barney Hill were at the center of a web that involved USAF Intelligence and top military experts in psychological warfare. The evidence suggests that the Hills were the subjects – victims – of a psychological experiment [italics mine].”
However, there is no conclusive evidence to support this theory beyond speculation and circumstantial clues. There is no proof that MK-Ultra or any similar project ever experimented with alien abduction scenarios or targeted specific individuals for mind control purposes.
There is also no indication that any of the people involved in the Hills’ case had any connection to MK-Ultra or any other covert operation.
Moreover, there are alternative explanations for some of the anomalies in their story: such as optical illusions caused by atmospheric conditions; memory distortions caused by stress or trauma; cultural influences from media exposure; or subconscious influences from personal beliefs or expectations.
Therefore, while it is possible that MK-Ultra played some role in shaping the Hills’ experience—or at least our perception of it—there is not enough evidence to conclude that it was a deliberate mind-control test orchestrated by shadowy forces.