Nearly everyone has heard of certain events in the "UFO" world: Kevin Arnold. Roswell. Betty and Barney Hill (the first 'abduction' case). Even if the names are unfamiliar, a quick recap of events will spark a light in even the most disinterested person who 'remembers reading about that.'
"Encounters At Indian Head" gathers several prominent UFOlogists/writers and takes the reader through a lively debate regarding not only the nature of the Betty and Barney Hill case (and, by extension, UFO abductions in general), but raises the question 'did it really happen?'
There is a recap of the case with all the salient details, followed by essays by both believers and skeptics alike. Walter Webb, the original investigator of the case is represented here, and helps us relive the novelty and the newness of the case when it first came to light. Karl Pflock, one of the editors of this volume, argues that the Hills were abducted, but there have been none proven since.
The skeptics are well represented here as well. Peter Brookesmith, Robert Sheaffer, and Martin Kottmeyer present the skeptical view that (either) nothing happened or that events were misconstrued. Of the three, Brookesmith is the most thorough in his reasoning, Sheaffer the most condescending, and Kottmeyer the most entertaining. It's worth noting that all three present different points.
One thing that no one disputes is that Betty and Barney Hill truly believed that something had happened, and that this case is not, and has never been, a hoax or an elaborate prank.
By presenting their arguments through the focusing lens of what is widely regarded as the first abduction scenario, the authors present a variety of speculation and argument over the nature of UFOs themselves, of abductions and abductees, and whether or not something is going on. It's to be noted that all of the authors steer clear of folkloric faerie 'abduction' tales and confine themselves strictly to the UFOlogical world. I imagine that's an argument for another book.
I was intrigued throughout, found myself challenging assertions of both the believers and the skeptics. At one point, after quoting Betty Hill's statement that her dreams served to help rationalize her experience, Kottmeyer asks 'Dreams as rationalizations! Am I the only person who feels this is simply bizarre?' Well, yes, maybe you are. Dreams serve to filter the subconscious and often help us deal with stress by presenting events in a way we can deal with. I'd say that dreams can and do serve as rationalizations. However, that's not to say that Kottmeyer's contribution doesn't make a number of strong points regarding the role of culture in these abduction scenarios. I'm simply illustrating one of my reactions to his essay. (As I stated above, some of the believers caused me to arch an eyebrow more than once.)
In the end, what seems to be agreed upon is that something happened.
"Encounters At Indian Head" is an excellent review not just of the Hill case, but of abduction in general and the arguments that surround it.