“THE UNBELIEVABLE CASE OF NICHOLAS BARCLAY” and More Terrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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Listen to ““THE UNBELIEVABLE CASE OF NICHOLAS BARCLAY” and More Terrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
IN THIS EPISODE: The true story of Nicholas Barclay reads more like a work of fiction. A child goes missing and against all odds is found a few years later across the world. But what would happen next no one could even believe. (The Unbelievable Case of Nicholas Barclay) *** The most detailed description of a lake monster in recent history is one from Lake Okanagan – and it’s a story you likely have never heard. (Ogling Ogopogo) *** “However frightening they look at first, they are not demonic, and they do not seriously injure people or spread plague; on the contrary, they long for forgiveness and peace, but being unable to take any initiative themselves must wait for a living man to ask what the trouble is, and offer help; they can then confess, be absolved, and find rest through Masses and prayers offered on their behalf.” A quote about the ghosts of Byland Abbey. (The Ghosts of Byland Abbey) *** Sixty years after the Hills said they encountered extraterrestrials, their story still packs a punch. It’s a case that is all about firsts and it changed the world. (The Hills’ Out Of This World Honeymoon)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“The Unbelievable Case of Nicholas Barclay” by CrystalDawn for Lost N Found Blogs:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/caxwhm9k
“Ogling Ogopogo” by Malcolm Smith: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2thwc4rp
“The Ghosts of Byland Abbey” posted at Medievalists.net: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/fyeu2b72
“The Hills’ Out Of This World Honeymoon” by Bryce Zabel for Medium.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/ks7zphfw
EPISODE: “Alien Abduction of Betty And Barney Hill”: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3cc6pny8
VIDEO: Barney Hill appears on “To Tell The Truth” TV show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhZ24yUpXSM
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Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
The most detailed description of a lake monster in recent history is one from Lake Okanagan – and it’s a story you likely have never heard.
“However frightening they look at first, they are not demonic, and they do not seriously injure people or spread plague; on the contrary, they long for forgiveness and peace, but being unable to take any initiative themselves must wait for a living man to ask what the trouble is, and offer help; they can then confess, be absolved, and find rest through Masses and prayers offered on their behalf.” A quote about the ghosts of Byland Abbey.
But first… The story of Nicholas Barclay reads more like a work of fiction. A child goes missing and against all odds is found a few years later across the world. But what would happen next no one could even believe. We begin there.
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, enter contests, to connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
And this month we’re celebrating Weird Darkness’ birthday… this month makes seven years of Weird Darkness as a podcast. And to recognize our birthday, every October we ask you to make a donation to our Overcoming The Darkness fundraiser. Every dollar we raise through donations and the Weirdling Woods painting auction will go to organizations that help people who struggle with depression. You can learn more about the fundraiser and what we’re doing with it on the Hope in the Darkness page at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: THE UNBELIEVABLE CASE NICHOLAS BARCLAY==========
Nicholas Patrick Barclay was born on December 31st, 1980. He was being raised by his single mother and had two siblings, Carey and Jason, who were quite a bit older than Nicholas. The family resided in San Antonio, TX and lived a fairly quiet existence.
Nicholas Barclay was a troubled child. At an early age he already had a juvenile criminal record with charges of breaking & entering, stealing and truancy. His mother said he was hard to discipline, violent towards her at times, was street smart, thought he was 13 going on 30 and at such a young age already had 3 tattoos. He had even run away before when angry with his mother, but always returned after a day. As a result of Nicholas’ trouble with the law, he had a court date scheduled on June 14th where there was the possibility he would get sent to a group home. However, Nicholas would miss his court date.
January 13th, 1994 seemed to be just an ordinary day. Nicholas’ mother had talked to him that morning. She had given him $5 to play basketball and told him to be home by dinner. She then went to sleep as she worked overnights at a convenience store and slept during the day. Nicholas’ older brother Jason, who lived with them, said that Nicholas phoned later in the day asking for a ride home. Since the basketball courts were only 1-2 miles away and not wanting to wake his mother, Jason told Nicholas to walk home. That is the last time the family would hear from Nicholas.
When Nicholas never returned that day, the family was understandably very worried. According to his mother, his disappearance didn’t make the news. No one seemed to care but his family. Perhaps part of the indifference came from Nicholas’ several run-ins with law enforcement and runaway times in the past. But days and weeks would go by and there was no sighting of Nicholas, no clues or leads at all. It was reported by his brother Jason in September of the same year (just a few months after his disappearance) that Nicholas was trying to break in to their garage. However, when police arrived, they couldn’t find Nicholas or any signs of a break-in so that couldn’t be considered a valid sighting.
The police just assumed Nicholas would show up eventually. He was small for his age at just 4’8” and 80 lbs. He was last seen wearing a white shirt, purple pants and carrying a pink backpack. His mother did fear that Nicholas would have gotten into a car with a stranger for a ride given how street smart he thought he was. The family was at a loss as the years went by and no clues or sightings. They had resigned themselves that their beloved Nicholas had met with foul play. Then three years after his disappearance they got a phone call they could barely believe. Nicholas Barclay had been found alive!
Nicholas’ sister Carey had gotten a phone call from someone with an accent. They said a frightened child was discovered in Linares, Spain on October 7, 1997. The child didn’t speak much but eventually revealed he was from the US and had been abducted by military people and brought to Spain into a sex slave ring where he had recently escaped. He also revealed his name. He said it was Nicholas Barclay.
As you can imagine, Nicholas’ family was absolutely overjoyed and in shock. His sister, Carey, agreed to fly to Spain and retrieve her brother. When she got there, the reunion was sort of tense. Carey was overjoyed but Nicholas seemed nervous and wouldn’t speak much. He wore a lot of clothes and a hat and stayed covered up. Carey was certain the different way her brother acted was attributed to the horrible trauma he had been through the last 3 years. She brought many pictures and talked to Nicholas about the family and reminisced with him about past times. She was very excited to bring Nicholas back to her family and thought with his family’s support and love Nicholas would begin to recover from what he had been through.
When Carey and Nicholas arrived back in the US, his family was so happy to see him. Nicholas stayed very guarded however, and his family was understanding and in their mind Nicholas had changed so much because of the horrible things that had been done to him. According to Nicholas, he had been beaten, raped, punished if he spoke English and was forced to speak French. He even said that they did experiments on him and put solution in his eyes (which is why Nicholas’ striking blue eyes were now brown). His family was horrified to find out everything their loved one had been through. Anything that didn’t seem like their old Nicholas was attributed to the trauma he had been through, in his family’s mind.
Nicholas started to settle in to life back in San Antonio. He started high school, made some friends and even had a crush on a girl. The tv show “Hard Copy” had heard about his unbelievable case and wanted to do an interview so they hired PI Charlie Parker to find him. When Charlie Parker actually viewed Nicholas Barclay, he was stunned by how much he didn’t look like the younger pictures of Nicholas he had seen. The now 16-year-old Nicholas had dark beard stubble, brown eyes and what struck him the most was how different the ears looked. Charlie Parker thought the new found Nicholas Barclay was perhaps a spy.
Around the same time, Nicholas’ family had sent him to a psychiatrist. They thought he could benefit from therapy to help him deal with everything he had been through. Not long into therapy, the psychiatrist was alarmed. He noticed that Nicholas Barclay could not speak without a French accent. He said it was impossible for a child, who was raised in the US by English speaking parents, to not be able to speak without a foreign accent. He expressed his concerns to the FBI. In his opinion, this was most certainly not Nicholas Barclay.
When the FBI was alerted, they had concerns as well. They informed Nicholas’ family that there were fears he wasn’t who he said. The family ignored the warning though. The sister was convinced it was her brother and the mother even refused a DNA test that would have confirmed it was her son. She didn’t need to be convinced, she said.
Meanwhile the PI Charlie Parker was still on the case. His nagging suspicions about the new found Nicholas Barclay were growing and he was determined to find out the truth. He started to follow Nicholas and was even able to get his fingerprints. He then arranged a meeting with Nicholas where, to his surprise, he confessed. Finally, he admitted he was not Nicholas Barclay but an imposter!
The man posing as Nicholas Barclay was in reality Frederic Bourdin. He was a 24-year-old French man wanted by Interpol and had a past history of false identities, fraud and posing as teenagers. Nicholas Barclay had just been another in a long line of identities he had stolen.
It took a while for the family to really believe it, but when it did sink in the family was enraged and also felt stupid for having fell for it. Frederic Bourdin was eventually arrested for his crime. He was convicted of perjury and illegally obtaining a passport and sentenced to 6 years in prison. While in jail however, he made 100’s of collect calls from the phone in his cell claiming he had info on missing person cases trying to con others. After his sentence, he was deported to France. Three months after being deported, Bourdin then attempted to steal the identity of missing 14-year-old Leo Balley. But that’s not where the story of Nicholas Barclay ends.
Frederic Bourdin is clearly a sociopath who shows absolutely no remorse for the pain he brought to Nicholas’ family. But the way he came about this con and some accusations he levels are very interesting and certainly add another layer to this case.
In his own words, Bourdin had been detained in Linares, Spain and he was wanted by Interpol for a reason that isn’t specified. He knew that if he gave his true identity, he would go to jail. He came up with the plan to pose as someone from the US. He told law enforcement in Spain that he was a runaway from the US but he wanted to be the one to contact his family. He said it was overnight in the US currently so the next day he would tell them his real name. He spent that night calling various police departments, posing as a police sergeant, in the US saying he was trying to match up a child that probably would have been missing a few years. It was too many for the PD’s to go through so they suggested he contact the NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children). He was talking with someone there and they mentioned the name Nicholas Barclay. Bourdin decided to steal his identity.
According to him, he had the missing person flyer for Nicholas sent to him. He then dyed his hair blonde and kept questioning himself whether he could even pass this off. He thought since he had been missing 3 years, the family wouldn’t know how Nicholas would have aged so he had a chance. When he heard the sister was almost there to meet him, he actually ran away fearing he couldn’t pass this off and would go to jail. However, the police quickly found him and just figured he was nervous at being reunited. Bourdin claimed he had always felt like an outcast in his real life so he viewed posing as Nicholas a chance at a new life and to have people who loved him.
Frederic Bourdin doesn’t really speak well of Nicholas’ family. He does bring up some points in this case that many others have as well. How were they so willing to accept Nicholas as their family member? He claimed that when the sister Carey came to Spain, she fed him all the information on who everyone was. That’s how he got the questions correct when the Judge in Spain asked him about who the family members were before they allowed him to leave the country. There were so many differences that people outside the family seemed to pick up on right away (Frederic only lived in the US around 4 months before he was figured out). Even when they were confronted with the idea it wasn’t him, the family appeared combative, refusing to cooperate with law enforcement and to take a DNA test to clear the matter up right away. Did they just want it to be their Nicholas so much, they ignored the warning signs or is there another more sinister reason?
It has been mentioned numerous times the theory that Nicholas Barclay’s family could have been responsible for his death. The thinking is that could be why they were so willing to accept him, because the person responsible for his death would never be punished. The person who is mentioned most often is his older brother Jason. He was described as a cocaine addict with a violent temper. Bourdin did say that Jason was the only one who didn’t seem to buy he was Nicholas and his only words to him were “good luck”. When the FBI questioned Jason around the time Bourdin was discovered, he was not very cooperative and basically told them he knew all along it wasn’t Nicholas but wasn’t going to tell his family that. You can’t help but wonder why Jason was so convinced it wasn’t his brother when the rest of the family was. Did Jason know Nicholas wasn’t coming back? Sadly, not long after the FBI interview and shortly before Bourdin was arrested, Jason died of a drug overdose so any answers he may have had he took with him to the grave. When Bourdin told the FBI that “the family killed him” in regards to Nicholas, a homicide investigation was opened. It was eventually closed however due to lack of evidence.
As for my thoughts, I just can’t help but wonder if maybe Jason did know something more about Nicholas’ disappearance than he was letting on. By the accounts I’ve read, he never showed much care that his brother went missing and his call to the police claiming to have seen Nicholas could have been a “red herring”. Even when everyone was learning about it not really being Nicholas, Jason didn’t seem to care. He didn’t actually mimic the actions of a caring brother. In the past, when Nicholas would run away it was always briefly so I don’t see what reason he would have had this time to leave and choose to never come back. Of course, what Bourdin did to this family was utterly despicable and I fear that he continues to do it to other unsuspecting families of missing persons to this day.
I do want to definitely give a shout out to the source where I got a lot of the information for this article. Of course, I did my usual online research but there is actually a documentary about this case that is very compelling. They have in-depth interviews with Nicholas’ family as well as Frederic Bourdin. It’s on several streaming platforms and I highly recommend watching it! It’s called “The Imposter” and was released in 2012.
The thing I want people to take away most after reading this article is the one thing that has been tragically overlooked in this case. Nicholas Barclay is still missing!!! There is really next to nothing out there about his disappearance or if anything is even being done at all. He has definitely disappeared into thin air. It’s still unknown if he chose to run away that day or perhaps did meet with foul play…maybe even by someone he knew. This family has been through so much and it’s hard to know the kind of evil that lurks in Frederic Bourdin to be able to perpetrate such a cruel con.
The most detailed description of a lake monster in recent history is one from Lake Okanagan – and it’s a story you likely have never heard. But you will – when Weird Darkness returns!
STORY: OGLING OGOPOGO==========
Malcolm Smith was a foundation member of the International Society of Cryptozoology (ISC) in 1982, even contributing to its peer reviewed journal, Cryptozoology, and continued until it folded in 1998. Recently, he was going through the old Newsletters, and found an article he remembered well: of a close encounter with Ogopogo which, I am sure you are aware, is the monster of Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, Canada. Reading it again, he realized that the article had never been published elsewhere. As you are unlikely to have any copies of the ISC Newsletter, I shall share it with you here. The author was anonymous, and the editor, J. Richard Greenwell, is now most certainly deceased.
CLOSE ENCOUNTER IN LAKE OKANAGAN REVEALED
ISC Newsletter vol. 6, no. 1, Spring 1987
A remarkable “close encounter” between a “lake monster” and a Canadian woman in the 1970’s was recently revealed to the Society. The event took place near the southern shore of Lake Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, when the witness, now a married woman, was a teen-age student. The witness, who wishes to be referred to simply as Mrs. B. Clark, was alone at the time, and had actual physical contact with the unknown animal while she was swimming. This is the first time Mrs. Clark has publicly described her experience.
It is believe that this is the first time that a witness has had physical contact with a “lake monster,” or at least has claimed to have done so.
The exact date of the event is no longer recalled, but Mrs. Clark, in her report to the Society, states that it occurred in mid-July of 1974, at about 8 a.m., while she was taking a morning swim in the lake. The sky was partly cloudy, but it was generally sunny and warm. The lake’s surface was “ripply.”
Mrs. Clark’s report states: “I did not see it [the animal] first. I felt it. I was swimming towards a raft/diving platform located about a quarter of a mile offshore, when something big and heavy bumped my legs. At this point, I was about 3 feet from the raft, and I made a mad dash for it and got out of the water. It was then that I saw it.” The report goes on to describe the observation: “When I first saw it, it was about 15 to 20 feet away. I could see a hump or coil which was 8 feet long and 4 feet above the water moving in a forward motion. It was traveling north, away from me. It did not seem to be in much of a rush, and it swam very slowly. The water was very clear, and 5 to 10 feet behind the hump, about 5 to 8 feet below the surface, I could see its tail. The tail was forked and horizontal like a whale’s, and it was 4 to 6 feet wide. As the hump submerged, the tail came to the surface until its tip poked above the water about a foot . . . About 4 or 5 minutes passed from the time it bumped me until the time it swam from view.”
The report by Mrs. Clark went on to give specific details: the estimated length of the serpentine-shaped animal was 25 to 30 feet. Its breadth was estimated at 3 to 4 feet. Its color was described as “a very dull dark grey.” No head was observed, and it appeared that the animal kept its head below the surface. The witness “got the impression that the head joined the body without a neck — like a fish or snake.” She also felt that “it may have had fins, but it didn’t see any.” No hair was discerned, but “on its back it had light colored stripes and on its tail it had light colored round spots. The animal was long, narrow, and smooth. Because it was moving away, I could only see its back and tail.”
The report continues: “It was in the process of diving when I first saw it. It did not completely surface again, but it was so large and the water so clear that I could see it very well as it lazily swam north just a few feet below the surface . . . It swam north in an undulating manner. Although it swam smoothly and well, it created a very large wake. It traveled about 3-5 miles per hour. It moved up and down . . . After it was too far away to see any more, I could still see the large wake for several minutes until it too disappeared.” The animal itself was not heard to make any call or noise, and no cetacean-like blowing was heard or observed. Mrs. Clark believes that the animal “was very curious about me” and “the shock of seeing it freaked me out.”
In her summary, Mrs. Clark states: “At the time, I could not believe my eyes, so I told myself it was just a big fish. However, fish don’t grow that big (in lakes anyway) or behave the way this thing did. This thing looked and acted more like a whale than a fish, but I have never seen a whale that skinny and snaky-looking before. Nor have I ever heard of any that fit that description. I have seen killer whales perform at the Vancouver Aquarium, and although the animal I saw had a whale-like tail, it didn’t use it the same way as normal whales. By this I mean that it didn’t seem to rely on it to the same extent as regular whales. Instead of using it as its main source of propulsion, it kind of “humped” itself along like a giant inchworm . . . I really have no idea what I saw, but it was definitely not reptilian, and I’m sure it wasn’t as fish.”
Mrs. Clark also stated that she did not report her encounter at the time as “I was afraid no one would believe me.” After receiving the report, the Editor contacted Mrs. Clark to propose publishing the highlights of her encounter in the Newsletter, and, because reservations had been expressed about unwanted publicity, to propose that a pseudonym be used. Her response was: “Although we are not seeking publicity, I would not mind you using the report provided you refer to me as Mrs. B. Clark. We do not want our address used, however. While we wish to remain semi-anonymous, to protect our privacy, we would find it offensive to see my sighting in print with another name attached to it.”
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That, then, is the story, and it appears to be the most detailed description of “Ogopogo”. What was it? The term, “cetacean” means belonging to the order of whales and dolphins, and the witness constantly referred to the animal’s whale-like characteristics. First year zoology courses will teach you that mammals flex vertically when moving, while reptiles, salamanders, fish, worms – in fact, almost everything else – flex horizontally. There are reasons for this, which we won’t go into, except to say it is a function of the way mammalian limbs have been moved vertically under the body to permit a more efficient gait. For this reason, a whale’s tail flukes are horizontal, while a fish’s are vertical. Mrs. Clark was correct in stating that whales use their tails as the primary source of propulsion, but mammalian spines are flexible vertically, and an elongated whale could probably increase its vertical flexure by adding its lumbar spine ie the region behind the ribcage, to the equation.
In point of fact, among the archaeocetes or zeuglodonts, the predecessors of modern whales, there once existed an elongated family, the Basilosauridae. They have long been proposed as an explanation for some “sea serpent” sightings. Moreover, Dr. Roy Mackal proposed them as explanations for, not only Ogopogo, but similar “monsters” in other Canadian lakes, and suggested they can enter and leave more or less at will, through connecting rivers and marshes. The author of the article agreed, and suggested that Mrs. Clark had actually observed, and been touched by, a zeuglodont. It makes perfect sense. So there you have it: Ogopogo is a living fossil, a Basilosaurid.
But not so fast! I hate to have to correct zoologists more experienced than myself, but although Basilosaurids might well explain many sea serpents, there is a very good reason to rule them out as lake monsters: they have to breathe. And no matter how long a whale might hold its breath, it has to come to the surface at frequent intervals. As Malcolm Smith wrote in an essay about lake monsters, “[a]lthough a sign at Lake Okanagan declares that it is the home of Ogopogo, you know you would have to be incredibly lucky to see it. And let’s be realistic: how long would it take for even a single whale to exist in even a large lake before its presence became of regular occurrence for every boat-user on the waters, it acquired a pet name, its movements were tracked in the local press, and tourists were setting out with a reasonable expectation of sighting it?”
Sorry! Mrs. Clark’s encounter proves that Ogopogo looks like an extinct whale, and it swims like an extinct whale, but it isn’t one. It isn’t a reptile or fish, either. So what is it?
When Weird Darkness returns… now almost sixty years after the Hills said they encountered extraterrestrials, their story still packs a punch. It’s a case that is all about firsts and it changed the world.
STORY: THE HILLS’ OUT OF THIS WORLD HONEYMOON==========
If you’re not familiar with the case of Betty and Barney Hill, here is a quick refresher:
On the night of September 19/20, 1961, Barney and Betty Hill, returning from a honeymoon in Canada, encountered a large UFO in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The next thing they remembered was being thirty miles down the road with two hours elapsed that they could not account for. Both physical evidence and nightmares alarmed them. Later, they were hypnotically regressed and recovered memories of being on board the craft and subjected to medical exams by non-human entities. Their story swept America in the mid-1960s, and remains the most famous abduction case in history.
The mysterious case of Barney and Betty Hill happened almost sixty years ago but its relevance seems greater than ever. It remains the most famous alien abduction case in world history simply because it was all about the firsts.
- It was the first reported case of missing time.
- It was the first use of hypnotic regression to recover abduction memories.
- It was the first public description of what we now know as the Grays.
- It was the first time a couple had claimed a simultaneous abduction.
Startling and shocking when first reported, the Betty and Barney Hill case became the essential template for what followed in the entire field of alien abduction phenomena. When one claims abduction experience today, it is a reasonable question to ask if the person reporting such an event was influenced by previous accounts in books, articles, TV shows, films, documentaries, and social media because the specifics are known worldwide.
When the Hills said it happened to them, however, they were telling a story that came from someplace else, someplace original. Betty and Barney Hill had no reference point from which to make up a story about an abduction. It was the last thing on their minds.
In 1961, most people still called them flying saucers, and it was a big enough leap to think that something without wings might be buzzing about in our skies. The idea that those craft might have occupants was more than any reasonable person could even contemplate. Getting specific about what they looked like and where they came from was far too improbable. Talking about having medical experiments conducted was outrageous times infinity.
Let’s start with the simple fact of the matter: Barney Hill was a Black man and Betty was a white woman, and the Civil Rights movement that they both believed in was ripping at America’s soul. Not only were they an interracial couple, working for the NAACP, but they were living with the full time stress they saw in the silent stares of disapproval that followed them, even on the best days.
Still, they were also living normal lives to the extent it was possible. Betty was a social worker, taking on child welfare cases for the state of New Hampshire. Barney worked for the Post Office and had a grueling commute to Boston and back for his graveyard shift.
Before the events of September 1961, they got a lot of comic grief from their friends because they had the same names as those cartoon characters, the best friends of the Flintstones, Barney and Betty Rubble. The Flintstones was the first animated series on primetime TV, and it had debuted on ABC just one year before the abduction. On many levels, these were more innocent times.
The Hill case was so sensational that it’s no wonder many Americans fell in love with it. It was so disruptive. At a time when most people wouldn’t even talk about UFOs in polite society, here came a story (publicized in the mid 1960s) that confronts its receiver with specificity and cultural impact. It was like giving the finger to the restraint of the 1950s and embracing the chaos of a new decade of change.
In the years since September 19/20, 1961, with the growth of cable TV, streaming services, podcasts, and social media on the Internet, the Hill case has become a staple of conjecture, accusations, and awe. Believers and skeptics regularly, even today, butt heads over what happened.
The Internet has not been kind to the accuracy of the Hill’s story. Dozens of articles, even in mainstreamers like History, have recognizable mistakes and distortions. Many authors of these pieces have obviously thrown them together fast with limited or zero fact checking. With each amplification, the story gets a little more frayed around the edges as writers feed on the assumptions of other writers.
There’s no way a single podcast episode could ever straighten out all the deception, misinformation, and poor reporting that accompanies the Hill case these days. Still, the basics can set us free. Here they are, as straight up as possible.
It may also have had something to do with Barney’s discomfort about the possibility of getting a room as an interracial couple. He already felt like an outsider, living in mostly white Portsmouth, but these people in Montreal spoke French as well. He was an outsider-squared in that city up north.
So, for whatever reasons, they decided to pull a long late night into early morning drive, at least seven hours of hard mountain darkness ahead, and arrive in Portsmouth before the sun came up. They stopped for food at a diner, probably feeling the stares when they entered. Barney got a cheeseburger despite his high blood pressure, and Betty got the chocolate cake. They left just a few minutes after 10 p.m.
- They saw something in the sky they thought might be a satellite or a plane only it followed them. They tried to get away from it but eventually it forced them to stop in the middle of the road and they could see that it was an actual wingless object. With binoculars, Barney even saw beings looking back at him through windows. They heard a buzzing sound.
- The next thing they knew, it was two hours later, and they were thirty miles further down the road, feeling hazy, not sure how they got there.
- Back in Portsmouth, they realized that Betty’s new dress was torn, and her earrings were missing. Barney’s new shoes were scuffed badly. They felt clammy and violated.
- A compass went wild when it was placed on their car trunk where they had observed a collection of half-dollar sized round spots that weren’t there when they left. Plus, the car clock and their watches had stopped.
- They reported the case to Pease Air Force Base and to the National Investigations Committee for Aerial Phenomena. They spoke to a few key friends and family. Everyone saw how shaken they were.
- Betty began to have frightening nightmares about being taken aboard the saucer they saw. Weird dreams about blue people in uniforms, not alien Grays.
- Over two years later, they submitted to hypnotic regression, conducted by a Dr. Benjamin Simon. In separate accounts, they each told the same story from different points of view, about being taken on board the craft, having a medical exam conducted, and, in Betty’s case, having a conversation with a Leader. These tapes exist, some eleven hours of them, and they are shocking and authentic.
- Soon a local paper, The Boston Traveller, broke their story based on the old-fashioned investigative journalistic efforts of the dogged John Luttrell. Later, after Luttrell broke the ice, author John Fuller wrote a book about the Hills. Look magazine excerpted the book. America went wild for this story. NBC made a movie-of-the-week about it.
- Various attempts to prove the case have included testing Betty’s dress for DNA and finding blood on the inside where she claimed a needle was placed into her belly button as a pregnancy test. Also, a “Star Map” of the Zeta-Reticuli origin of the craft that one of the aliens showed to Betty turns out to match astronomical realities that wouldn’t be known for a decade after their abduction.
- Barney died in 1969 of a brain aneurysm. At his funeral, the NAACP provided food for the guests who included city, county and state politicians and community leaders. Betty passed away in 2004 of lung cancer.
Eunice (Betty) Barrett-Stewart and Barney Hill met in the summer of 1956 when Barney, his then wife, Ruby, and their two children met Betty while on vacation. After Barney and Ruby separated, early the following year, Barney and Betty, also divorced, started hooking up.
Betty and Barney were married in Camden, New Jersey on May 12, 1960. It was the second marriage for both of them and they had taken a big leap when they said “I do.” Their marriage said in no uncertain terms that they wanted to be color blind in the choice of their soulmate but, of course, that was never possible. Not in a country that was turning fire hoses on citizens and arresting people for sitting at a lunch counter.
That’s exactly what makes their story so poignant. Betty, 42, and Barney, 39, were in love, and they were off on a long-delayed honeymoon to the romantic hotspot of Niagra Falls with a return through Montreal. They didn’t have much money (about seventy bucks in cash for the trip and no credit cards), but they had each other. They thought they deserved some private time together.
Theirs was not an abduction experience that happened to one of them, rendering the spouse or significant other a mere observer. No, Betty and Barney Hill went through this trauma together as a couple. When no one else could be counted on, they had each other. Always.
As a backdrop to that way thinking, consider that the Ben E. King version of Stand by Me was all over the radio in 1961 (it hit #1 on the R&B charts) when Barney and Betty had their encounter with strange. It had been recorded in April of 1961 and immediately took its place in among that year’s great songs that included Tossin’ and Turnin’, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Runaround Sue, Travelin’ Man, The Twist and dozens of other classics.
The song is one of the most romantic ones ever written. Yet it also captures the angst of that late night drive through the isolated mountain pass. The Hills were driving their blue and white 1957 Chevy Bel Air and, if they could get reception on the AM car radio, they might well have heard it that night, it was that ubiquitous.
What the song also unlocks is the feeling that no matter how scary the dark of night can be, it is more bearable if you have your lover standing with you. Barney had Betty by his side, and she had him.
As a young kid, the author of this article I’m narrating, Bryce Zabel, first read about the case in his parent’s October 1966 copy of Look magazine where it was a cover article, “Aboard a Flying Saucer.” While most of America heard about the case this way, it was journalist John Luttrell Sr. of the Boston Traveller who broke the story the year before.
In any case, the Look article featured excerpts from the blockbuster book, The Interrupted Journey by John Fuller who had just written another New Hampshire UFO non-fiction book, Incident at Exeter. Fuller wrote his book in a hurry to meet a crushing deadline and the author had to deal with notes from his publisher, the Hills, and even the hypnotist who regressed them. It’s not that it was bad, Fuller had a flair for language, but it was incomplete.
Almost ten years later, in 1975, James Earl Jones optioned the book and produced and starred in the TV movie, The UFO Incident. Many people remember the film fondly today but, candidly, while Jones and Estelle Parsons are tremendous actors, the movie no longer holds up to our memories. The aliens are laughable, the craft not much better, and the script is limited by the narrow focus on the hypnosis sessions.
From Zabel’s point-of-view, it seems clear that something quite mysterious did happen on the night and morning of September 19/20, 1961 up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Still, what exactly are we talking about?
As mentioned earlier, building off the rights optioned from the Captured! book, Bryce Zabel’s company Stellar Productions intends to tell the Betty and Barney Hill story as either a limited or continuing television series. They’ve given enormous amount of time to considering what might have happened and why.
Their take is much different than what’s gone before, quite relevant to the issues that confront us today. They see the Captured television series as a perfect creative idea that could express the zeitgeist of our times, blending the dawning of UFO reality with a marriage put under pressure by the movement for racial justice and living in the immediate shadow of the Cold War.
- Were Barney and Betty Hill telling the truth about being taken into an alien spaceship?
- Or were they liars trying to become famous or rich or both?
To this day, it’s how the story is framed by skeptics and believers alike in those dozens of Internet articles, and television documentaries. What if they were telling the truth as they understood it, that something terrible and frightening had happened to them, but the reality is unexpectedly challenging?
There is another assumption to the case that they must have been victims of random chance, lifted summarily out of their lives by alien creatures because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. What if it wasn’t random?
- Is it possible that whatever forces interrupted their lives knew exactly what they were doing and who they were doing it to?
- Is it possible that Barney and Betty Hill were chased, stopped and taken aboard a craft specifically because of who they were?
Race was always a part of their story but it was so much easier to talk about the bright, shiny object of UFO abduction than the hard reality of grim discrimination in America in 1961. Even in New Hampshire, uncalled for stops by police officers and whispers about housing and employment were part of daily life for people of color. A mixed-marriage couple always felt the eyes of others upon them.
Both Barney and Betty were active in the NAACP — he was legal redress chairman for the Portsmouth chapter and Betty was editor of the newsletter. To be a committed Civil Rights activist at a time when police were attacking fellow Americans for expressing their constitutional rights was no small matter. Barney was particularly proud of his appointment to the Governor’s Council of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
If Barney and Betty were abducted by extraterrestrials, it’s interesting to note that while interested in Barney’s dentures, these alien beings appeared to have no interest in the darker color of his skin. They treated both of the Hills as humans.
Still, it is impossible to think of their case without wondering if some horrible racial incident might have happened in the White Mountains, something so extreme that memories of a horrific alien abduction would still be a preferable memory to the actual truth about man’s inhumanity to man.
The story of Betty and Barney Hill must take into account the global face-off between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1961. It was the peak of the Cold War. Just a year after the Hill abduction, the Cuban Missile Crisis would take the world to the brink of nuclear armageddon.
Over the years, UFOs have been associated time and again with an interest in our nuclear weapons from the missile shutdowns at Malmstrom Air Force Base in 1967 to the Tic-Tac sightings by the USS Nimitz in 2004.
In 1947, the nation’s only nuclear bomber base was located at, you guessed it, Roswell, New Mexico. It stayed that way until the mid 1950s when the nation’s non-ICBM bomber assets were moved to where they could get a more direct line of flight to our nation’s enemy, the Soviet Union.
That new base was Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, only miles away from where Betty and Barney lived. The AFB became operational in 1956. It was also the place where the Hills turned the day after their encounter for help. They reported the incident to officers there who promised they would pass it on to Project Blue Book.
Because Pease AFB was so important, Portsmouth was always thought to be at risk of infiltration by Soviet agents. It was just assumed that Soviet subs routinely cruised the cold waters of the Atlantic, near Portsmouth. To a Soviet agent, an interracial couple might have been seen as compromised, a bonus for thoughts of exploitation.
In 1975, a decade and a half after the Hill’s visit, the Senate’s Church Committee investigating CIA abuses revealed the existence of a program known as “MK-Ultra.” It was dedicated to experiments with mind control for military applications, using powerful psychoactive drugs like LSD and BZ.
As it turns out, MK-Ultra often used Montreal as a base of operations, possibly so it wasn’t headquartered on U.S. soil and allowed plausible deniability. Montreal, of course, is where Betty and Barney honeymooned and where they were returning from the night of their abduction.
Less than two months after the Look magazine article broke, December 12, 1966, Barney appeared on the popular primetime game show To Tell the Truth where he and two other men all answered questions from a celebrity panel tasked with finding out who the real Barney Hill was.
Some people believe that they can see inside a person’s soul and become a living lie detector. If you feel that way, watch the segment for yourself and reach your own conclusion. I’ll leave a link to the “To Tell The Truth” video segment in the show notes.
Just a reminder — don’t look for the truth only from Betty Hill. In her later years, she became what we call in Hollywood an “unreliable narrator,” given to seeing UFOs everywhere and claiming continuing contact throughout her life.
No, look for the truth in Barney Hill. There he is on national TV, a couple of years before his death, clearly uncomfortable to be in this self-created spotlight. He says less than the other two men on the stage with him. Is he uncomfortable because he’s lying or because he’s not?
I think he is.
After reading everything, talking to the so-called experts, and debating the story with believers and skeptics, it’s clear to Zabel that Betty and Barney Hill experienced something traumatic on their drive through the White Mountains of September 19/20, 1961.
There are credible reports of radar confirmations and other witnesses to go along with the case. There is the essential decency of the Hills and the fact that everyone who spoke to them in the immediate aftermath of the event judged them to be telling the truth as they knew it.
Given the absolute fact that the U.S. government has pretty much confirmed that UFO/UAP reality exists and that we don’t make these craft and it’s unlikely that Russia, China or anyone else does (or did going back to 1947), there is more reason than ever to take the Hill’s abduction account seriously.
You can know the Blue Book and NICAP reports exist because you can read them. Bryce Zabel guesses that there is another report out there, buried in an archive somewhere, that tells the rest of the story and hopes he’s still around to read it when it is finally released through the Freedom of Information Act or other means. It should be a very compelling read.
If you’re fascinated by the Barney and Betty Hill story, you might also want to visit WeirdDarkness.com and do a search for the episode entitled “The Alien Abduction of Barney and Betty Hill”, as it goes much more in-depth into the real-life events. I’ll link to it in the show notes.
“However frightening they look at first, they are not demonic, and they do not seriously injure people or spread plague; on the contrary, they long for forgiveness and peace, but being unable to take any initiative themselves must wait for a living man to ask what the trouble is, and offer help; they can then confess, be absolved, and find rest through Masses and prayers offered on their behalf.” A quote about the ghosts of Byland Abbey… which we will learn about in a moment when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: THE GHOSTS OF BYLAND ABBEY==========
Just like today, many people in medieval England believed in ghosts and the paranormal. Throughout the Middle Ages, one can find countless references about the spirits of the dead wandering the land of the living. While at times they were things to be feared, these ghosts were usually not interested in haunting. Instead, these medieval specters often needed help.
The stories about ghosts from medieval England (and other parts of Europe) were often connected to the Catholic idea of Purgatory. Emerging in the twelfth-century, this was the belief that many souls did not go directly to Heaven or Hell – instead, they would find themselves in an intermediate state, where they had to cleanse themselves of their sins before entering Paradise.
The living, who were understandably anxious about the souls of their dead parents and other family members, had ways of helping them – masses could be said for the souls of people, which would lessen the time they spend in Purgatory. By the later Middle Ages the church had a lucrative business going on, as they had set up a system, known as chantries, where people could pay the salary of a priest to have them perform masses for particularly people (this was often set up by the person in their will with the masses to be done for themselves), and by selling indulgences, where people could literally pay money to have their time in Purgatory reduced.
If the soul was not in Heaven or Hell, it had to be somewhere, and that place could be hanging around Earth, generally not getting in anyone’s way. However, some spirits could appear to and interact with the living. Often they did so because they wanted their assistance in leaving Purgatory. For example, one tale recorded in a 15th-century commonplace book explained that a man was visited by the ‘dark shadow’ of his dead mistress, who told him “I can be freed from the punishment I am suffering, if masses were said for me by good priests.”
In other cases, the ghost might ask a person to return a stolen good to its rightful owner, or even to pay a debt. In one story from 1457, a ghost demanded that his nephew go on a pilgrimage to Compostella in Spain, apparently the only place where a mass could be said that would release the uncle from Purgatory.
Among the numerous stories of paranormal activity written down in medieval England are twelve tales from Byland Abbey. Around the year 1400, one of the monks made use of a few leftover pages at the end of the book to record stories he had heard. These were often frightening tales – the monk was even scared to write it! – but they reveal how people dealt with ghosts. Jacqueline Simpson, in her article “Repentant soul or walking corpse? Debatable apparitions in Medieval England,” explains that “most of the Byland stories have the following pattern: a living man encounters an alarming ghost; he urges it to say why it has appeared; it replies that it is suffering because of an unforgiven sin, which requires posthumous absolution and/or some requiem Masses; the living man informs a priest, who fulfills the request; the ghost can rest.”
She adds that in most of these tales from Byland Abbey, these ghosts:
However frightening they look at first, they are not demonic, and they do not seriously injure people or spread plague; on the contrary, they long for forgiveness and peace, but being unable to take any initiative themselves must wait for a living man to ask what the trouble is, and offer help; they can then confess, be absolved, and find rest through Masses and prayers offered on their behalf.
These stories were first discovered by M.R. James and published in 1922. A few translations of them have been made, most recently by John Shinners in Medieval Popular Religion 1000-1500: A Reader. Here are three tales of paranormal activity that took place near the abbey:
1. Next, concerning another spirit following after William de Bradeforth and shouting “how, how, how,” three times over three nights.. It happened that on the fourth night, about midnight William returned to the new place [sic] from the village of Ampleforth. And while he was going back along the road heard a terrifying voice yelling far behind him, as if it were on a mountain. A moment later it yelled again but this time nearer. A third time he heard the voice shouting at the crossroads ahead of him, and then he saw a pale horse. His dog barked meekly, but then hid itself between William’s legs utterly terrified. When this happened, William charged the spirit in the name of the Lord and by the power of the blood of Jesus Christ to depart and not block his path. When the spirit heard this, it withdrew, looking like a canvas sail unfurling its four corners and billowing away. From this it can be gathered that this was a spirit greatly wanting to be conjured and given effective aid.
2. Remember that the said Robert, son of Robert Botelby of Kilburn, died and was buried in the graveyard. But it was his custom to go forth from his grave at night and disturb and frighten the villagers; the dogs in the village followed behind him barking ferociously. Finally, the young men of the village were talking together and they proposed to capture him any way they could. They met at the graveyard, but at the sight of him, they all fled except for two of them. Of these, Robert Foxton, grabbed him as he was going out of the graveyard and put him on the church-stile. His friend shouted bravely, “Hold him tight till I get there.” Robert yelled back, “Run to the parish priest who can conjure him. For God willing, what I’ve got, I’ll hold till the priest gets here.” His friend hurried swiftly to the parish priest and he came and conjured the ghost in the name of the holy Trinity and by the power of Jesus Christ to tell them what they asked. So conjured, the ghost started speaking not with his tongue but from deep within his innards, echoing like an empty barrel. He confessed his various sins. After the priest heard these, he gave him absolution. But he cautioned the two young men who had captured the ghost not to reveal any part of his confession. Afterwards, he left the ghost to rest in peace, God willing. But it is said that before his absolution, he would stand at the doors and windows of houses, and beneath their walls and partitions as if listening, perhaps waiting for someone to come out and conjure him to help him in his need. Others say that he had aided and plotted the murder of a certain man, and that he had done other evil things the particulars of which should not be mentioned at present.
3. Old people tell how a certain James Tankerlay, formerly Rector of Kirkby, was buried in the Chapter House at Byland, but used to walk forth as far as Kirkby by night, and one night he struck out one eye of his former mistress. And it is said that the abbot and monks had his body dug up from the grave, together with the coffin, and forced Roger Wayneman to cart it as far as Gormire, and how when they were throwing this coffin in the water the oxen almost sank in too in their terror. May I not be in any peril myself for writing such things, for I have written just what I heard from my seniors! And may God Omnipotent have mercy on him, if indeed he might be among the number of those to be saved!
Up next is a story from Weirdo family member Sarah Faith – you might remember her story from a couple of years ago called “Working for H2O”. If you don’t remember it I’ll place a link to it in the show notes. The story that she sent is called “The Smoking Ghost”.
After a night of take-out, drinks, and a movie, I chose to stay the night at a friend’s house instead of making the long, late-night drive home. I went to bed around 2:30 in the morning. Though I had enjoyed a couple of drinks, I had a hard time falling asleep. It was my first time staying there which meant feeling uneasy being out of my environment. When I was close to dozing off, I suddenly felt icy cold air all around me. There was a window next to the bed. I assumed my friend had left it open. I checked, and it was locked. No cold draft. I moved to the other side of the bed. It felt at least ten degrees warmer. I was fully awake now and bewildered. I saw no apparitions, heard no odd sounds, thank God, so I wasn’t alarmed.
I noticed there was no AC vent over the bed. The sole vent was on the opposite side of the room above the door, which was shut. No bizarre drafts there, either. I reasoned with myself that the air conditioning had kicked on though it was a chilly night. I got back into bed and covered myself with the sheet.
The cold breeze returned with enough force to move the sheet off my legs. I opened my eyes. Something cold and unseen brushed against my leg. It lingered. Now I was alarmed. I looked and listened for strange sights and sounds but there was nothing. Seconds later, I got a strong whiff of cigarette smoke. After a minute or so, the cold and the smoke went away. I pulled the sheet over my legs again and went to sleep. Three hours later I gave up and moved to the couch. I left my friend’s place believing it was haunted. Who ever heard of a smoking ghost?
Was this an isolated incident with a simple explanation? Maybe the AC kicked on while a neighbor was having a late-night smoke. Some air got pulled into the vents. Maybe. But how can I explain who or what had moved the sheet and caressed my thigh?
Less than a week later, I was home in my bed. It was a chilly night. I guarantee the AC was not running. A cold patch of air came over me, same as before, immediately followed by cigarette smoke. I wrapped myself in the blankets like a burrito. When the cold patch and the smoke were gone, I stepped out onto my patio and sniffed the air for lingering smoke. Most of us know it can linger in the air for some time. Nothing but fresh air. Spooky.
I can’t explain either of these experiences. Since they took place in different homes, I wonder if someone is trying to contact me, as opposed to both homes being haunted by a cold, touchy-feely, smoking ghost? Can a spirit follow someone? Why hasn’t it happened again? Maybe it has but I slept through it.
My adopted father died when I was in my early twenties due to complications from being a life-long cigarette smoker. I’m curious if anyone has been visited by a non-blood relative who has passed. Yesterday, I received a call from my cousin that our aunt is in the hospital with organ failure. Another life-long smoker. This isn’t a PSA to quit cigarettes. Do I even need to say it? She’s been in poor health for some time. We were close when I was younger, but things fell away more than a decade ago after never-ending family quarrels. Does anyone believe that the spirit of someone who is not well, who is close to the end, can leave their body and visit people?
Last week, I posted something in the FB group asking who believed loved ones can visit us from the afterlife. I wonder if the smoking ghost is someone I have lost, or the ethereal presence of an aunt I may soon lose? Like many people, I believe even if something can’t be explained, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen My only proof is my own experience. I’d love to hear if anyone else has experienced something similar.
If you have experienced something like this, or if you want to send in your own story for me to tell, visit WeirdDarkness.com and click on “Tell Your Story”.
SHOW CLOSE, CREDITS, A LITTLE LIGHT, AND A FINAL THOUGHT==========
Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! And please leave a rating and review of the show in the podcast app you listen from! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, shop the Weird Darkness store, sign up for monthly contests, find other podcasts that I host, and find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts.
And please consider giving towards our Overcoming The Darkness fundraiser, where every dollar you give will be donated to organizations that help people who struggle with depression. The fundraiser ends Halloween Night after the LIVE SCREAM, so please give today. Visit the Hope in the Darkness page at WeirdDarkness.com for more information.
Also on WeirdDarkness.com, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
All stories in Weird Darkness are purported to be true (unless stated otherwise) and you can find source links or links to the authors in the show notes.
“The Unbelievable Case of Nicholas Barclay” by CrystalDawn for Lost N Found Blogs
“Ogling Ogopogo” by Malcolm Smith
“The Ghosts of Byland Abbey” posted at Medievalists.net
“The Hills’ Out Of This World Honeymoon” by Bryce Zabel for Medium.com
Again, you can find links to all of these stories in the show notes.
WeirdDarkness™ – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, Weird Darkness, 2022.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” – John 8:12
And a final thought… “The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” – Thomas Szasz
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.