The Hill Case — Part 1

What We Know and How We Know It, Part 1:

What We Know: Betty and Barney were sleep deprived on the night of 19/20 September 1961

How We Know It: They were on the back side of a twelve-hundred mile road trip on two-lane blacktop.  It is possible, though I sincerely doubt it, that they were well-rested at 10:00 am on the morning of September 19, but their event didn’t happen on the morning of September 19th.  Twelve hours later, and three-hundred-plus miles farther down the road, at 10:00 pm, they were just leaving Colebrook, NH, for what would turn out to be another seven hours on the road.

They should have stopped for the night two hours earlier, but they didn’t.  Fuller (in his book Interrupted Journey) makes it clear that the reason they didn’t stop was because they had run out of money and couldn’t afford a motel, so they decided to pull an all-nighter.

If they were tired by 10:00 pm, which common human experience suggests they must have been, by five the next morning they would have been reeling.

How else do we know that they were sleep deprived?  They were showing signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation.

One symptom of sleep deprivation is paranoia, the feeling that someone is watching or following you. Betty and Barney felt that someone was watching or following them.

Another symptom of sleep deprivation is not being able to remember the last several miles driven.  Betty and Barney were, during one part of their journey, unable to remember the last several miles driven.

A third symptom of sleep deprivation is a feeling of “missing time.”  Betty and Barney felt they had missing time.

A fourth symptom of sleep deprivation is irritability. During this part of the trip Betty and Barney were getting irritable with each other.

Fuller reports they felt an “odd tingling drowsiness” and a “haze.” This is consistent with sleep deprivation.


See:  See:

As to why I doubt that the Hills were “well-rested” when they started the morning of the 19th of September, 1961, we have the following facts:


First, Barney was a night-shift worker.  He worked nights and slept days.  Yet on this road trip he drove days and slept nights.  His sleep schedule was severely disrupted the moment he pulled out of his driveway on the morning of September 16th.

Common human experience tells us that road trips, with successive nights in unfamiliar beds in a series of motels, can result in less-than-restful sleep.

Further, I reference this:  “Nearly a Third of Americans are Sleep Deprived.”
While the study mentioned there, a 2012 study by the CDC, isn’t contemporaneous with 1961 (and there have been some significant changes in things affecting Americans’ sleep since 1961, including but not limited to the Internet, smart phones, DVD movies, 24-hour cable TV, and LED lights) and therefore I’m not hanging my hat on it, some of the findings are interesting and perhaps relevant:  For example, that around 30% of Americans are chronically sleep deprived.
Who are the folks most likely to be chronically sleep deprived?  People who work night shifts (Barney worked the night shift) and people in the age range 30-44 (Betty, age 42, and Barney, age 39, fall into that range).

Based on that alone, it is very likely that Betty and Barney were chronically sleep deprived.

Therefore, I consider it proved that, by the time they had their experience on the night of 19/20 September 1961, Betty and Barney were in fact fatigued and sleep deprived.

Please, friends, if you are driving and notice that you can’t remember the last few miles, or if you have a sense of missing time … pull off at the next motel, or at least pull over and take a nap.  Your night in a motel will cost far less than a day in a hospital, or a funeral.

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