The Eyes Still Speak

by Martin Kottmeyer

Defenders of the reality of the alien abduction phenomenon have taken notice of my argument that Barney Hill was influenced by the Outer Limits episode "The Bellero Shield" that appeared in The REALL News (Vol. 2, #7; July 1994) and elsewhere. Evidently disturbed by its implications they have offered some counter-arguments that they hope refute or render uncertain this claim of influence. Those appearing in Jerome Clark's The UFO Book: Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial (Visible Ink Press, 1998, pp. 15, 291-2.) will be addressed in what follows.

1. Both Jerome Clark and Thomas E. Bullard offer our first argument in their independent entries on "Abduction Phenomenon" and "Hill Abduction Case." Simply put, they feel Barney probably did see wraparound eyes on the entity long before "The Bellero Shield" aired. His earlier, conscious recall of what happened on the date of initial sighting seems to suggest this interpretation to them. Bullard states Barney "remembered a being with compelling eyes looking down at him from a UFO. If he saw the Outer Limits episode, he might have borrowed the wraparound eyes as a metaphor, but his preoccupation with the staring entity and its eyes began years before this television image could have influenced him." Clark states, "In his conscious memory, dating from that night in September 1961 (long before the airing of the show, in other words), Barney could recall seeing the beings only from a distance, from which perspective the precise shape of the eyes may not have been easily apparent. He did, however, remember vividly the intense stare and the apparent mental message that the beings were about to capture him. The sense of being caught in the stare, and of being the recipient of communication in that state, is consistent with his later testimony."

Observe that neither Bullard nor Clark offers quotations in support of their attempted refutations. Let's look at the actual record provided by John Fuller in The Interrupted Journey. In the first document on the case, Information Report 100-1-61, neither the figures on the craft or their eyes are mentioned. Fuller avers this was because of fear of ridicule. The next document is Betty Hill's letter to Donald Keyhoe. In it she states, "one figure was observing us from the windows." Barney is described as hysterical and "laughing and repeating that they are going to capture us." (p. 47) Is this consistent with seeing a being with compelling eyes?

Next we come to Webb's report of October 26, 1961. In it the leader in the craft is described as peering out of the window at Barney. The being is not close enough to observe facial characteristics, but Barney could see a grin on one figure and an expressionless face. The eyes are not emphasized and no word of elongation or eyes that speak. (p. 54)

When we come to the account of the Hohman, Jackson, McDonald meeting of November 1961 the description runs, "moving figures in the craft, the one that kept looking back at me with those eyes. He gave me the impression -- and this was dim in my memory, but there just the same -- that he was a capable person, and there can be no nonsense here. We have business to attend to." There is still no mention of wraparound eyes or eyes that speak and it seems odd that he can discern such impressions as the person being a no-nonsense capable person and yet overlook these traits if they were consciously present. (p. 67)

Further along, on p. 76, Barney is wrestling with his emotions that are described as, "The unexplained panic, that he knew to be foreign to his general reactions plagued him, in addition to the curtain of absolute blankness that descended at that moment." Basically, what he is preoccupied with is not "those eyes" but the missing time and his hysteria. This is also manifestly the issue in his presenting complaints to Doc Simon.

This is the extent of the paper trail on these matters prior to the hypnosis sessions with Doc Simon. However, there is one account I skipped. In Chapter One, Fuller describes Barney seeing the craft in these terms: "His memory at this point is blurred. For a reason he cannot explain, he was certain he was about to be captured. He tried to pull the glasses away from his eyes, to turn away, but he couldn't. As the focus became sharp, he remembered the eyes of the one crew member who stared down at him. Barney had never seen eyes like that before." (p. 32) Bullard has admitted in correspondence that this was the source of his impression that Barney had seen compelling eyes, albeit it is clear that Barney feels the compulsion to watch before he had focused the glasses. The bigger problem is that Fuller does not give his sources for this construction of this account. Given what we see in the extant paper trail, it seems likely that Fuller is incorporating material post-dating the hypnosis sessions with Doc Simon.

Clark's assertions that Barney was "caught in the stare" and that he received "communication in that state" or an "apparent mental message" have no support in the paper trail and it is a puzzle how he even got the impression such things happened. Barney's sense of imminent capture is more simply understood as his reading of the situation that he believes a craft is hovering out there and is interested in him for some reason. He didn't need a mental message to infer there might be reason to worry that something like capture is being considered. Clark's claim that the conscious memories are consistent with the hypnosis session has additional problems. The speaking eyes belong to a figure standing in the road not the figure in the craft that purportedly generated the sense of imminent capture. The message of the speaking eyes in the hypnosis session was "Don't be afraid." Barney says in the hypnosis session that he isn't. Yet in the conscious recollections of both Barney and Betty, he panicked and became hysterical. Perhaps I'm quibbling, but that doesn't look consistent to me.

2. Our second argument appears in the writings of both Bullard and Clark though with different degrees of emphasis and detail. Writes Clark in The UFO Book, "Kottmeyer did not trouble to inquire of Betty Hill, who is still alive, if she and her husband were in the habit of watching Outer Limits. (When asked by another writer, Betty said, 'As for the Outer Limits -- never heard of it. Barney worked nights. If he was not working, we were never home because of our community activities. If we had been home, I am sure this title would not interest us.’)" In a summer 1996 review of Carl Sagan's book The Demon-Haunted World, Clark frets that Sagan "recycles Martin Kottmeyer's specious theory, by now an all-but-unkillable canard, that Barney Hill got the idea for wraparound eyes from a 1964 episode of Outer Limits. To start with the Hills never watched the show; Betty had never even heard of it until I asked her about it last year." Despite the word "start" there, this is the only argument he uses in the Sagan review to show that we are wrong. Bullard simply says Betty says Barney did not see The Outer Limits episode without offering quotes or reference. The context suggests he puts less weight on this argument and offers it more in an informational way than a way of killing a canard.

True, I didn't inquire. Wraparound eyes and speaking eyes are so exotic and the congruence in time so impressive, anything that Betty might say would be irrelevant. If she had said Barney had seen it, I would not have used it because it would be a weak argument guaranteed to be picked apart, dismissed, and form a target of innuendo. Historians, indeed most people, know that second-hand decades-old memories are unreliable. The fact that Clark happened to be the first to inquire Betty on the point in 1995 despite my "canard" being around since 1990 shows how unusual Clark's action was.

Betty says she never heard of The Outer Limits. The issue is whether or not Barney saw it. Betty says Barney worked nights. The implication here would seem to be that Barney could not have seen the show because he was working when the show was airing. Peter Brookesmith has recently established that Barney was working from midnight to 8:00 a.m. The Outer Limits aired from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday evenings. Betty’s statement thus seems largely irrelevant or invalid.

I might be inclined to take the comment about community activities more seriously if it meant as a corollary the Hills did not even own a TV or that nobody in their community owned TV sets. As Peter Brookesmith has suggested in his recent book Alien Abductions , this may decrease the chances Barney saw the show, but it increases the odds he may have run into someone who saw the show and told Barney about it. The statement that such a title would not interest them means little since they could have been flipping through the channels and watched the relevant parts not even knowing what show it was. Brookesmith mentions that when he talked with Betty Hill in April 1997, she elaborated on this point by indicating their interests were rather more intellectual than one might guess. The problem here is that The Outer Limits was a show by intellectuals, promoted as a show dealing in ideas, and that the specific episode "The Bellero Shield" was conspicuously Shakespearean in tone to the point of having obvious adaptations from Macbeth. Clearly, she is not helping her case with such an upside-down argument.

Clark's faith that he has proven the claim of influence specious and nothing more than a canard is a poor gamble ultimately. Random chance arranging the congruence of speaking, wraparound eyes with the ancillary details appearing so close in time in both The Outer Limits and Barney's regression is too huge an improbability. The safe bet is Betty is wrong or overlooking something. Clark could have spared Betty and himself some embarrassment if he had simply exercised a little common sense.

3. The next argument is uniquely Clark's. He points out that Barney said the talking eyes at one point came so close to him that they pressed against him. "And I felt like the eyes had pushed into my eyes," seems to be the line he is not quoting. (p. 154) He points out that recent abduction accounts bear this detail even though it had been overlooked in subsequent rehashes of the Hill case. He quotes a passage from the sessions of one of David Jacobs's subjects named Karen Morgan, which, presumably, Clark thinks illustrates the point. Oddly, it does not. Morgan describes the eyes overwhelming her, going inside of her, and making her gone. Not only does Morgan not say the eyes pressed against hers, but Barney never said the eyes went inside him, overwhelmed him, or made him gone. Adding to the inconsistency is the fact that Morgan describes eyes that are all black and Barney drew eyes showing iris, pupil, and white.

Clark's point would have been more correctly illustrated with three other cases in Jacobs who do actually describe alien faces pressed against the faces of abductees. And, indeed, he does better his point by recalling a similar account gathered by Karla Turner in a different work. Clark asserts, "Even Kottmeyer refrains from contending such accounts can be traced to a few overlooked sentences among the many Barney spoke during hours of hypnotic testimony. Having exhausted his argument he retreats into 'psychological symbolisms,' which he finds meaningful and others may see as evidence of Kottmeyer's reluctance to entertain more heretical and disturbing possibilities."

I stated in my REALL News article that it would be tempting to speculate that the alien bonding practices described in the Jacobs book are descended from Barney's talking eyes. I refrained because I saw there were differences that also needed to be taken into account and, while it was something clearly interesting enough to mention in passing, I didn't want to clutter up a nice piece with a lengthy digression. Fuller's book remains in print and is far from obscure or inaccessible. It is possible that an abductee read it and passed along the eye-to-eye closeness detail in conversation. The complicating factor is that when Spock of Star Trek mind-melds with humans, his face is almost eyeball-to-eyeball close as well. Given the iconic status of Trek in our culture, who can deny that this might be a more plausible source of influence, especially in the absence of further details being borrowed from Fuller's book?

The Lynn Miller account in the Jacobs book, to expand on this, speaks of the alien touching her head and of there being a situation of vulnerability which is redolent with Spock's reservations about performing mind-melding because of the terrible intimacy of the process, an intimacy suggestive of sexual union. Thinking of Trek about these differences is only natural. Bringing Barney into the argument demands we ask why he did not speak of vulnerability or pleasurable feelings with a sexual component as Miller did.

There is additionally a complication apparent to anyone familiar with the historical legacy of exaggerated eye imagery in the world's storehouse of art, myth, and psychology. Eyes are rich in associations repeatedly exploited by the imagination. Miller and Trek may both be tapping into this cluster of common symbols rendering the need for Miller to know Trek or Fuller's book moot. What Clark sees as restraint, exhausting the argument, and a retreat, I felt was only being up-front about alternative interpretations. There's just no pleasing some people.

And just what does Clark want us to entertain that is so heretical and disturbing? Aliens are able to overwhelm you, make you gone, just by looking into your eyes. Such lyrical horror seems to me the province of people like Stephen King and Whitley Strieber, whose rhetoric of magical powers and ethereal mind are more suited to the easy speculations of fiction than the rigor of logic.

One small measure of the ease with which this idea comes can be seen in Camille Flammarion's 1890 work of fiction Urania. Flammarion was one of the first writers of scientific romance to imagine worlds populated by non-humans. On one such distant world he describes aliens with glowing eyes that had a special quality. "More than that, the power of their glance is such that they exert an electric and magnetic influence of variable intensity, and which under conditions has the effect of lightning, causing the victim upon whom the force and energy of their will is fixed to fall down dead." (p. 37) This could be considered an exact match to being made gone and overwhelmed, but before we start calling Flammonde an early abductee let's not overlook the fact that the alien eyes aren't black.

What Clark promotes is a return to the ancient beliefs of the evil eye and possession, magical doctrines discarded by educated men for many, many years. That is truly disturbing and I do not apologize for being reluctant to join Clark in his courageous appetite for worm-eaten concepts.

4. Finally, Clark makes a number of accusations that I suppose form a type of argument. He says my claim of influence tells us nothing about the Hill experience. I took a small detail out of a much larger context of a complex experience and asked you to think of it as the only issue of consequence and to dismiss similar testimony about this detail as irrelevant to considerations about its reality status. What is missing is "a coherent hypothesis though it is hard to imagine what that hypothesis might be." He felt my claims were an effort to "explain away the Hill encounter." My inclination is to ask the reader to dig up my earlier paper and see how hallucinatory this sounds. My interest was to tell people about my discovery of the compelling coincidence of speaking and wraparound eyes appearing in a fictional alien encounter on The Outer Limits mere days before it appeared in Barney Hill's hypnosis testimony and the implications of people repeating this description in later accounts. I said nothing about this being an explanation for the whole of the Hill case, nor asked anyone to think it is the only thing of interest in the case. I trust most readers and editors appreciated the succinct character of my argument and regard Clark's demands for a lengthy exegesis of a complex experience as sophistry -- to say nothing about impractical outside of a book.

My claim was simple and coherent. It should be evident by now that it is Clark's own comments that are largely incoherent and what is missing from his own account is an honest attempt to come to terms with that coincidence. Clark evidently believes Barney never saw "The Bellero Shield," but why then did that show happen to have wraparound and speaking eyes in it? I've viewed hundreds of SF films and state with no fear of contradiction that such traits are too exotic and scarce to seriously believe that random chance could arrange the coincidence.

As a final note, I am pleased to report that Bullard has admitted in correspondence he erred about the argument in point 1, grants point 2 was open to obvious reservations, and agrees random chance is hard to swallow. He has other ruminations on this affair which I cherish, but I won't force his hand. In The UFO Book he regarded the counter-arguments to Barney being influenced as "the triumph of uncertainty" and proof of how the inspection of skeptical arguments shows them to be ramshackle structures. Inspection of the inspection has negated this triumph. The claim for influence still stands.

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