Sunday, November 29, 2009

Socorro UFO Landing and New Witnesses?

There are those who feel the Socorro UFO landing is a weak case because it is single witness. Nearly everything comes down to what Lonnie Zamora, the Socorro police officer who saw the craft on the ground and the two humanoid occupants near it, said he witnessed. This is not completely true.

Opal Grinder, owner of a service station reported that a tourist had said something about jets flying very low over the town. That tourist has never been found and interviewed so any description of the craft and the incident is second hand. It might have provided some important corroboration for the case. As it is, it is simply an interesting anecdote.

There are, however, two other witnesses who have been named and have been interviewed. According to an article published in the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald on Wednesday, April 29, 1964, Paul Kies, who was 24 and Larry Kratzer who was 26 (seen here), had been in Socorro the previous Friday when the object took off.

Kratzer told the reporter, "We saw some brown dust, then black smoke – like rubber burning – then a fire. The smoke hid the shiny craft as it flew away."

Then they began to talk about things they couldn’t have seen, but might have heard on the news or read in the newspapers. Remember, they were talking some five days later, after there had been a great deal published and broadcast.

Kries said that federal agents had cordoned the area and that government sources had denied they had anything like the observed craft near Socorro. Kries said that there were four depressions, about twelve feet apart, left by the object. He also claimed that there was a large burned patch on the desert and that the exhaust had melted a pop bottle when it took off.

Sometime later, an Iowa UFO researcher, Ralph DeGraw interviewed the two men, but he was not impressed with their story. He said that it seemed to be in conflict with what Zamora had described. He believed their testimony was not trustworthy.

The descriptions offered by the two men, of what was found on the landing site seems to imply that they had been there and seen it. They suggest the area was condoned. They talked about the landing traces left by the craft as it took off, implying they had seen that as well.

However, there is no evidence that any civilians were on the scene that night. Almost all the testimony that was offered by Zamora, Sergeant Sam Chavez of the New Mexico State Police, FBI agent Bynes and Army Captain Richard Holder and some later filtered through Col. Eric Jonckheere seemed to suggest no civilians on the scene that night. The descriptions given by those we know were there based on the documentation differs from what the two new witnesses said. I’m most bothered by the melted pop bottle. No one we know who was on the scene talked about anything like that. Charred cardboard and other trash, yes, but no melted pop bottles.

Their description of the landing marks were nothing that new. It could have been picked up by anyone who had watched the story unfold for the last couple of days. There had been plenty of stories about what was seen.

While it would be nice to have additional witnesses to the case, and these two men claim to have been on the scene, there are many problems with them. Had they left it with having seen something in the sky, as they drove by, it would be one thing, but it seems they were suggesting they were at the landing site. It might be the way the story was written, or it might have been they incorporated the additional information without thought about ramifications. They might just have been trying to give the reporter the impression of something other worldly, but it is clear that neither man had walked the field.

This report doesn’t seem to add much to the Socorro story. It suggests corroboration, but as it stands now, it doesn’t help.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Socorro UFO Landing Part 4

Just recently I was reading the Skeptical Inquirer (of course I read it... there is some interesting stuff in there) and they repeated the story that the Socorro landing was a hoax because the land where the object touched down belonged to the mayor of Socorro at the time, Holm Bursum, Jr.

In Watch the Skies by Curtis Peeples (Berkley Books, 1995) also makes mention of this fact. He wrote, "The final factor was where the ‘landing’ took place. The site was between the two main roads into town – U.S. 60 and 85. The land itself was owned by Socorro’s mayor. After the landing, the nearly impassible road was graded and plans were made to use the landing site as a tourist attraction. (The town lacked industry and was dependent on tourists.) The implication was the landing was a hoax, to bring in tourist dollars."

Even Jerry Clark, in his massive UFO Encyclopedia, wrote about this, saying, "...conspired with Mayor Holm Bursum, Jr. (who owned the property on which the UFO landing reportedly occurred)... though it's clear that he is not persuaded by this and suggests that it is of no more consequence than Phil Klass' original explanation of some sort of plasma.

All well and good, but this implication was created by Klass who originally floated the idea in his book, UFO’s Explained. The skeptics have accepted this as the truth, meaning that the mayor owned the land, but none of them bothered to check to see if that was true.

According to the local newspaper, El Defensor Chieftain, which did a long story about the Socorro landing after it was suggested in 2008 that a historical marker be erected at the site, noted that the land in question had been part of the estate of Delia Harris in 1964. In 1968, the land was bought by the Richardson family and they apparently still own it. Mayor Bursum had never owned it. I don’t know where Klass got that idea. Maybe someone mentioned it to him and he believed it, figuring they would know.

Or maybe it was because in 1966 the Chamber of Commerce president, Paul Ridings suggested they do something to promote tourism and thought the landing site would be a good place to start. They created a path lined with stones around a landing site, but it was in the wrong place. Apparently there was a lack of vegetation at the real site that frightened people. Some believed there was residual radiation, so they just moved the site over an arroyo or two. Maybe Klass, there a couple of years after the case, went to the wrong site and believed it as the place where the UFO landed and believed that the land belonged to the mayor.

And maybe Klass, who was there about the time that the Chamber of Commerce began to float the idea of a tourist attraction, thought there was some connection. Given the timing, Klass was there in 1966 as well, he made the leap of logic.

Anyway, we can put this particular bit of misinformation to rest. It really changes nothing. It just removes one motivation for a hoax... this one by the mayor and Lonnie Zamora. I don’t think anyone who met Zamora believed that he was a participant in a hoax. Nearly everyone said that he seemed to be honest, and if a hoax had been perpetrated, he had no part in it.

That does not exclude other explanations or other culprits in a hoax. It just takes this one out of the running.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Socorro UFO Landing Analysis

I thought, given the tenor of the conversation, that I would attempt to establish some common ground. I believe there are some facts on which we all can agree, and I believe there is some analysis that we can make which would provide a jumping off point.

I believe that we can all agree that Lonnie Zamora saw something in the desert on April 24, 1964. We can agree that he described, as accurately as he could, what he had seen at that time. I’m not going to talk about apparent changes, additions, deletions from his testimony over time because human memory, being what it is, allows for these adjustments that are neither right nor wrong, but often just different.

We all seem to agree that it was more or less egg-shaped, with a red symbol on it. We all agree that he saw two figures near it, that he described as humanoid, that were dressed in white, and that they disappeared behind the object, whatever it might have been. This object lifted off in short order and disappeared, flying into the strong wind. There were no other reliable or identified witnesses to the sighting (and yes, I know about Opal Grinder’s tourist and the two men from Dubuque, Iowa who reported they had seen the craft).

There are a limited number of possible explanations for the case. It was a hallucination. It was a illusion. It was a misidentification. It was an experimental craft from White Sands (or somewhere else that is terrestrially based). It was a hoax. It was a craft from another world.

I have tried to think of any other alternatives, but haven’t come up with anything. By saying this, I hope to draw out someone who might have thought of something different.

Let’s look at the solutions. I discount hallucination because of the physical evidence left behind. I see no reason for Opal Grinder to have invented a tourist and am disappointed that this witness, who surely heard about the case, has refused to ever come forward. The two men from Dubuque, if they accurately reported what they had seen also argue against hallucination. Their reliability is another question.

The problem with illusion is that there is no real good source for the illusion. Some, or maybe one, thought, given the time and location, a bright star near the horizon, seen though the dry air, might have given the impression that it was on, or near the ground. There are many factors that argue against it including the markings left on the ground, and given the history since the sighting, it has little viability.

There is a possibility that it was a misidentification and this is the explanation favored by some such as Charles Moore. Arguing against it is the nearly fifty year history since the sighting. Even a top–secret vehicle would now be known and the records for White Sands, easily available now, have been accessed to no avail. If it was a vehicle from another installation, the same applies. The records would now be in a public arena and someone would have found them by now because there have been a number of people looking for that sort of thing. This seems to have little viability.

There was also a discussion that what he saw was a lunar lander being transported under a helicopter in some sort of test. Of course, Zamora never mentioned the noise that would be generated by the helicopter, the clouds of dust that would have been thrown up by the rotor wash, or that what he saw was lifted under something else. Of course the records don’t support this explanation. There seems to be little reason to accept this as an answer either.

I should point out here that some have suggested the misidentification of a dust devil, which is a whirling cloud of dust blow up by the wind... or stirred up by the rotors of a helicopter. The same reasoning applies here as it does to the lunar lander and I mention it only because someone suggested it.

There was a suggestion, briefly, that Zamora had seen a hot air balloon. This would have explained the blue flame and the roaring sound, but doesn’t explain how the balloon envelop, which would have had to be larger to lift two people, even small ones, could have fooled him or how the balloon would have lifted off into a strong wind. Hot air balloons do not do well in any windy conditions anyway. While the idea is somewhat interesting, given the reported wind conditions, it doesn’t seem plausible.

Of all the solutions, only hoax and extraterrestrial seem to have any real viability, and frankly, and offending my pro-extraterrestrial friends, hoax would seem to be more likely. It is a question of logistics more than anything else. You have to come a very long way to reach Earth from another world, so it is easier for it to be hoax than a question of interstellar travel.

Yes, there are many arguments in favor of this explanation and I won’t go into them all here. Tony Bragalia and his colleagues have already done that, and they have offered some evidence in support of it. They have latched onto the claim that this was done as revenge against Zamora for his alleged harassment of New Mexico Tech students and that the charred cardboard found on the site is proof.

Well, it is evidence, but I’m not sure that it is relevant, given the statements by the man who picked it up, but it is out there. Each person is going to have to decide what significance he or she attaches to this particular and rather isolated evidence.

And then the extraterrestrial... this too, has viability. Arguing against it are the vast distances in space and the complex technical problems that must be solved to travel interstellar distances. Then there is likelihood they would land on the outskirts of a small city in New Mexico only then take off when approached by a local resident.

To me, this boils down to either a hoax or an alien visitation. I can’t see any other explanation, given what we know and the evidence that is available in a variety of sources. The arguments seem to fall into one of those two categories as well. Some believing it to be a hoax and some believing that it was alien visitation.

What is left for us to do is a dispassionate examination of the evidence and that is what has been lacking... not the examination, but the dispassion. It is quite clear to me that those involved in the debate are very passionate about their positions, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. The problem arises when one side or the other refuses to look at all the evidence or begin to call one another names...

That is what we need here, an examination of all the evidence and I have seen both sides picking the evidence that suits them and forgetting some of the rest. I will note that Ockham’s razor states that the simplest solution that accounts for the facts is probably the correct answer. But note, it must account for the majority of the facts, not just those that point in one direction or the other.

Now, nearly fifty years later, we have yet to arrive at a point where we can all agree. And yes, I know that we’ll never get to that point because no matter what evidence is provided, there will always be some on the other side who refuse to accept the truth when they see it. We can point to examples throughout history where people have refused to believe the truth even when confronted by it with their own eyes. I have no hope that this will turn out any different.

But by looking at this, somewhat dispassionately, we now know why this case was labeled as unidentified. There simply isn’t the evidence necessary to make the proper call. Sometimes, that is the only solution that we can find and it is not a satisfactory one. It leaves us guessing and in a vacuum.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hector Quintanilla and The Socorro UFO Part 3

Hector Quintanilla (seen here) wrote a memoir about his experiences as the UFO officer for the Air Force. It is an interesting document, in which it becomes clear that his time at Project Blue Book was not a good one. He seems to have detested many people, including Dr. J. Allen Hynek and he believed that no UFOs were the result of alien visitation.

He did, of course, cover the landing at Socorro and it seems to be a fair account. Following is his opinions on the sighting, relevant today because of the discussion going on here. Following is his take on the Socorro sighting.

All hell broke loose on April 24, 1964, and I started smoking again. On that date at approximately 17:45 hours, at Socorro, New Mexico, police officer Lonnie Zamora was headed south chasing a speeding automobile when he suddenly heard a roar and saw a flame in the sky to the southwest. He decided to let the speeder go in favor of investigating the flame, because he knew there was a dynamite shack in the area and it might have blown up. He turned onto a gravel road that led by the shack.

As he was driving slowly along the road, Zamora saw above a steep hill just ahead a funnel-shaped flame, bluish and sort of orange. The base of the flame was hidden behind the hill, there was no smoke connected with the fla me. He had trouble getting the car to the top of the hill because of loose gravel; he had to try three times before he made it. As he reached the top of the hill, he saw a shiny object to the south, this side of the dynamite shack, about 150 to 200 yards away.

It was off the road to the left in the arroyo, and at first glance it looked like a car turned over, but when he drove closer it appeared to be aluminum clay, not chrome, and oval-shaped like a football. Zamora drove about fifty feet along the hill crest, radioing back to the sheriff’s office, "10-44 (accident), I’ll be 10-6 (busy out of the car), checking a wreck down in the arroyo". From this point, seated in the car, he could not see the object over the edge of the hill. As he stopped the car, he was still talking on the radio, and while he was getting out he dropped his mike. He picked it up and put it back and started down towards the object.

Just then he heard a very loud roar, not exactly like a blast, but also not steady like a jet engine. It was of low frequency at first and then became higher. At the same time he saw a light blue flame, sort of orange at the bottom. Zamora believed the flame came from the underside of the object; he could see no smoke but he did see some dust in the vicinity. He panicked, thinking the object was going to blow up. The following is his report of what he experienced (with slight rearrangements for the sake of clarity).

As soon as I saw flame and heard roar…ran away from object but did turn head towards object. Object was in shape It was smooth—no windows or doors. As roar started, it was still on the ground. Noted red lettering of some type like______________________. Insignia was about two and one half inches high and about two inches wide, I guess. Was in the middle of object, like _______________. Object still like aluminum white.

(Running), bumped leg on car back fender area. Car facing southwest…fell by can [sic] and (sun) glasses fell off, kept running to north, with car between me and object…rose to about level of car, about twenty to twenty-five feet, guess. Took I guess, about six seconds when object started to rise and I glanced back…it appeared about directly over the place where it rose from.

I was still running…(then) about fifty meet from car. I ducked down, just over edge of hill…I stopped because I did not hear the roar. I was scared of the roar, and I had planned to continue running down the hill. I turned around toward the object and at the same time put my head toward ground, covering my face with my arms…when the roar
stopped, heard a sharp tone whine and the whine lasted maybe a second. Then there was complete silence about the object.

That’s when I lifted up my head and saw the object going away from me…in a southwestern direction…It did not come any closer to me. It appeared to go in straight line and at same height—possibly ten to fifteen feet from ground, and it cleared the dynamite shack by about three feet. Shack about eight feet high. Object was traveling west fast. It seemed to rise up and take off immediately across country.

I ran back to my car and as I ran back, I kept an eye on the object. I picked up my …sunglasses, got into the car, and radioed to Nep Lopes, radio operator, to look out the window to see if he could see an object. He asked, "What is it?" I answered, "It looks like a balloon". I don’t know if he saw it. If Nep looked out his window, which faces north, he couldn’t see it. I did not tell him at the moment which window to look out of.

As I was calling Nep, I could still see object. The object seemed to lift up slowly, and to get small in the distance very fast. It seemed to just clear the Box Canyon or Mile Canyon Mountain. It disappeared as it went over the mountain. It had no flame whatsoever as it was traveling over the ground, and no smoke or noise.

Feeling in good health. Las drink—two or three beers over a month ago. Noted no odors. Noted no sounds other than described. Gave direction to Nep Lopes at radio and to Sergeant Chaves (of New Mexico State Police at Socorro) to get there. Went down to where the object had been, and I noted the brush was burning in several places.—I got my pen and drew a picture of the insignia on the object.

Then Sgt. Chaves came up, asked me what the trouble was because I was sweating and he told me that I was white, very pale. I asked the Sgt. To see what I saw and that was the burning brush. Then Sgt. Chaves and I went down to the spot and Sgt. Chaves pointed out the tracks.

When I first saw the object (when I thought it might be a car) I saw what appeared to be two legs of some type from the object to the ground. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to…the two legs. The two legs were at the bottom of the object, slanted outwards to the ground. The object might have been about three and a half feet from the ground at the time…

Lonnie Zamora experienced an event which left quite an impression on him. He was a serious officer, a pillar of his church, and a man well versed in recognizing airborne vehicles in his area. He was puzzled by what he saw, and frankly, so am I. And yet, I’ve always had some doubt about this case, even though it is the best documented case on record. In spite of the fact that I conducted the most thorough investigation that was humanly possible, the vehicle or stimulus that scared Zamora to the point of panic has never been found.

During the course of the investigation and immediately thereafter, everything that was possible to verify was checked. The communications media must have been waiting for a case like this, because immediately after Zamora reported his sighting all hell broke loose. The telephone at my house was ringing off the hook. I went to my office so that I could direct the investigation from there and at the same time contact Kirtland, Holloman, and White Sands via our telephone communications system. As I walked into our building, and turned into the hallway towards my office, I could hear the telephone ringing, ringing, ringing. The operator informed me that I had ten or twelve calls waiting for me. I decided not to accept the calls until after I had talked with my UFO investigating officer at Kirtland. Major Connor was my primary investigator at Kirtland, but he was inexperienced.

Fortunately, my chief analyst, Sgt. David Moody was on temporary duty at Kirtland. I asked Major Connor to get in touch with him and for Moody to get in touch with me regardless of the hour. It was hours before the investigation could be organized and on its way. A Geiger counter had to be found and the base photographer had to be called. The staff car, which had been provided for the investigation had a flat tire midway between Albuquerque and Socorro. Socorro is located fifty-five miles south of Kirtland Air Force Base.

The Stallion Range Officer had already conducted a preliminary investigation and had also interviewed Zamora. This information was turned over to the Air Force investigators as soon as they began their interview with Zamora.

Connor and Moody kept in touch with me and provided me with good information, but there was nothing from which we could draw a definite conclusion or a decent evaluation. The news media was on SAFOI’s back and SAFOI was on my back. I didn’t have any idea as to what Zamora saw and reported, but by God, I was going to find it. Because of the pressure from the news media, I decided to send Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Project Blue Book consultant, to Kirtland to help with the investigation. I felt that Hynek could concentrate on Socorro while Connor and Moody could check all other activity at the other bases in New Mexico.

In the meantime, Marilyn Beumer Stancombe, my secretary, and I began checking for some sort of positive activity. Radiation had been checked by Connor and Moody and the readings were negative. I checked the Holloman AFB Balloon Control Center for balloon activity. All local weather stations and Air Force bases in New Mexico were checked for release of weather balloons. Helicopter activity was checked throughout the state. Government and private aircraft were checked. The reconnaissance division in the Pentagon was checked. I checked with the immigration division hoping they might help. Finally, I was at my wits end, so I told Marilyn, "Get me the White House Command Post". She looked at me with those beautiful blue eyes of hers like I was nuts. I said, "Yes, Marilyn, the White House Command Post".

She never asked me a question, she just started dialing. I was afraid she would ask me how she could reach them, but she didn’t. It took her five or six calls, but she got me the Command Post. A Major General answered and I explained to him my situation. He was very sympathetic, but off hand he couldn’t recall any type of activity in my area of interest. However, he’d check and call me back.

Fifteen minutes later the General called back and told me that the only activity which he had was some U-2 flights. That was no help, so I thanked him for his cooperation and put my thinking cap on again.

It took days for us to check all of these agencies and activities. I finally received Dr. Hynek’s report; it was one of his typical reports which contained few technical details and added practically nothing to what had already been submitted by Connor and Moody. Actually, Hynek added very little to the investigation, however, his typical press interviews added more flame to the fire. The more press coverage the sightings got, the greater the number of sightings which were reported throughout New Mexico.

I was determined to solve the case and come hell or high water I was going to find the vehicle or the stimulus. I decided that it was imperative for me to talk to the Base Commander at Holloman AFB. I wanted to interview the Base Commander at length about special activities from his base. I needed help to pull this off, so I called Lt. Col. Maston Jacks at SAFOI. I told him what I wanted to do and he asked, "Do you think it will do any good?" I replied, "God damned it Maston, if there is an answer to this case it has to be in some hanger at Holloman". He went to work from his position at the Pentagon and the approval for my visit came through. Colonel Garman was the Base Commander during my visit. He was most cooperative and told me that I could go anywhere and visit any activity which interested me. I went from one end of the base to the other. I spent four days talking to everybody I could and spent almost a whole day with the down-range controllers at the White Sands Missile Range. I left Holloman dejected and convinced that the answer to Zamora’s experience did not originate and terminate at that base.

On my way back to Wright-Patterson, I hit upon an idea. Why not a lunar landing vehicle? I knew that some research had been done at Wright-Patterson; so as soon as I got back I asked for some briefings. The briefings were extremely informative, but the Lunar Landers were not operational in April 1964. I got the names of the companies that were doing research in this field and I started writing letters. The companies were most cooperative, but their answers were all negative.

It was now time for me to pass judgment on the case after a careful review of all the information at hand. I hate to use the word "judgment", but that is exactly what it boils down to. As President Truman used to say, "The buck stops here", and in the world of UFO’s my desk was the end of the line. It was time for the Air Force to make a formal decision on the sighting of Socorro, New Mexico. I reviewed the Air Force Materials Laboratory Analysis of the soil samples which were gathered at the alleged landing area. Conclusion: no foreign residue. Laboratory analysis of the burned brush revealed no chemicals that could have been propellant residue. Radiation was normal for the alleged landing area and for the surrounding area. There was no unusual meteorological activity, no thunderstorms; the weather was windy, but clear. Although we made an extensive search for other witnesses, none could be located. There were no unidentified helicopters or aircraft in the area. Radar installations at Holloman AFB and at Albuquerque observed no unusual blips, but the down-range Holloman MTI (Moving Target Indicator) Radar, closest to Socorro, had been closed down for the day at 1600 hours. All the findings and conclusions were negative. The object was traveling at approximately 120 miles per hour when it disappeared over the mountains according to Zamora’s best estimate.

I labeled the case "Unidentified" and the UFO buffs and hobby clubs had themselves a field day. According to them, here was proof that our beloved planet had been visited by an extraterrestrial vehicle. Although I labeled the case "Unidentified" I’ve never been satisfied with that classification.

I’ve always felt that too many essential elements of the case were missing. These are the intangible elements which are impossible to check, so the solution to this case could very well be lying dormant in Lonnie Zamora’s head.

So, even with his inclination to write off everything, he is left with a case involving a landed UFO, two apparent occupants from it and an investigation by his NCO that found no solution. It would have been simple for him to just claim it was a hoax though the media attention seems to have prevented that. Now, in a document that had no media scrutiny, we learn that he still doesn’t have an explanation and that he didn’t like the unidentified category here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Socorro UFO Landing Part 2

I seem to have been deeply drawn into the latest investigations of the Socorro UFO landing. The latest theory to be floated was that it was a hoax perpetrated by students at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. One of the items in support of the theory is the cardboard found at the landing site and the suggestion that this cardboard was the remains of some kind of pyrotechnics that gave the object its alleged blue – colored flame. I say alleged because there is some discussion about this flame and whether or not it was ever there, but that is a discussion for another time.

I have read, carefully, the file that was held by the Air Force and Project Blue Book and I find no mention about how this cardboard was recovered. Hynek, in his reports, sort of brushed by it and I did find a list of materials submitted for analysis that does mention it.

The first real discussion about the cardboard is in a letter from UFO debunker, Dr. Donald Menzel, who questioned Dr. J. Allen Hynek about it. Since it, the cardboard, was found on the site, though no one seemed to have noted exactly where it was collected which seems to be a little sloppy for both the police officers and scientists involved, there was a question about it being related to the sighting.

In a letter dated February 19, 1965, Menzel, writing to Hynek, noted, "There was also a piece of charred cardboard. ... How big and what shape was the cardboard? Maybe it played a significant role in the enacted UFO drama. Did it, for example, support part of the aluminum foil? Were there holes in the cardboard to which aluminum might have been attached, or indentations carved by paper clips or the like?"

Hynek, in his notes to the chief of Blue Book, wrote, "As far as the cardboard is concerned, Menzel’s conjectures here fall completely flat. The cardboard was portions of very old and weathered corrugated [emphasis added] paper from a packing box [which also seems to answer questions about shape and holes]. There are many examples of this all over the region. There is a city dump not too far away, and when the wind, which blows tumbleweeds all over the place, gets hold of some of this stuff, it scatters the papers pretty well all over the region. Many of the bushes, I noticed particularly this time, have papers caught on their underneath side. In any case, some of this paper was still there, and I shall send Menzel a sample of what this cardboard really looks like. I would say that the cardboard had been there through many rains and had suffered successive dryings [emphasis added]. The original piece I picked up was definitely charred."

The charred cardboard was not part of a tube, but of a packing box so it did not contain pyrotechnics. Hynek, who recovered it, seemed to believe that it was only associated with the sighting by proximity but had nothing to do with the case. It was Menzel who tried to turn it into evidence of a hoax, which is, of course, something that is going on today.

The records are quite clear about this. The cardboard was old and weathered. The landing site was near a dump and there was a lot of cardboard, and paper, and other debris blowing around the area. The most logical conclusion is that the cardboard had nothing to do with the sighting.

There is an ancillary issue here and that is the suggestion that this charred cardboard was part of the pyrotechnics used to create the original flame and give Zamora a reason for driving off into the desert. The Project Blue Book files and our old friend Colonel Eric T. de Jonckheere provides an answer for us. In his May 28, 1964 letter, which was sent to "Hq USAF SAFOI PB (Mrs Gaiser)* he wrote:

(5) Soil Samples: The soil samples obtained at the sighting were given to Dr. J. Allen Hynek by Capt Holder. They were turned over to Captain Quintanilla who in turn submitted them to ASD for analysis. Laboratory analysis of the soil was completed on 19 May 64. It included spectrographic analysis which revealed that there was no foreign material in the soil samples (emphasis added). Also, no chemicals were detected in the charred or burned soil which would indicate a type of propellant (emphasis added). There was no significant difference in elemental composition between the different samples.
The evidence that was collected at the time of the sighting including the charred cardboard and the soil samples seem to rule out a pyrotechnic display. That is, all the evidence and not just the pieces that fit into a narrow window, seem to rule it out.

And again, I can ask, "Where does that leave us?"

Right back where we were. One side saying it was a hoax, but without the evidence necessary to sustain that conclusion, and the other side saying it was an alien spacecraft, but with only the eyewitness testimony of Lonnie Zamora to the strangeness of the craft. What he reported doesn’t lead us to the extraterrestrial.

In other words, this case is unidentified.

*I believe the translation of this is Headquarters, United States Air Force, Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Information and Mrs. Gaiser is the point of contact there.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Socorro UFO Landing -- Part One

In the last few weeks, a controversy about the Socorro UFO landing has erupted when it was suggested, again, that a hoax had been perpetrated. The theory was, now changed slightly, that students at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology had created the spaceship and the landing evidence in an elaborate plan that fooled not only Lonnie Zamora but a group of investigators that included the FBI, Army Intelligence, the Air Force and its scientific consultant, and, of course, Jim and Coral Lorenzen of APRO and Ray Stanford the researcher from NICAP.

According to the latest, the one time president of the school, Stirling Colgate, in the late 1960s, told Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling that the whole thing was a hoax. Donald Menzel, the UFO debunker, said that it was as hoax almost from the beginning, but he based that on his own opinion that there were no alien spacecraft and anything that suggested otherwise was inaccurate at best.

But that is just one side of the argument. Like almost everything in UFO research, those arguing for the hoax haven’t presented all the information, though, according to them, they have looked at all the relevant information. I have, in my files, the complete Air Force report on the Socorro landing, and it provides ammunition for other side.

Dr. J. Allen Hynek was the Air Force scientific consultant for UFOs and he visited Socorro in the days after the sighting hit the national press. He interviewed dozens, including the police officer, Zamora, the FBI man and many in the general population.

On page seven of his lengthy report, Hynek wrote, "I also questioned, while in Socorro, my old friend, Dr Jack Whotmen, President of the New Mexico School of Mines (emphasis added), who said he knew of no geophysical or other types of experiments going on in the area at the time. He, as the rest of the townspeople, were puzzled by the event, but the general underground slull (sic) of opinion was that it would turn out to be some device which the government still had under raps (sic)..."

Okay, that doesn’t completely rule out hoax and that idea isn’t mentioned specifically, but we can infer that Whotmen had no indication that it might be a hoax. He, along with many others, believed it to be a government project, probably from White Sands.

Hynek, in his report does write, "No paraphernalia of a hoax were ever found. It would be rather hard to have done away with all the tell-tale evidence, such as tubes of helium, release mechanism, etc. Finally, it was LaPaz’s (that would be Dr. Lincoln LaPaz at the university in Albuquerque and the leading expert on meteorics) feeling had it been a hoax, it surely would have leaked by now."

One of the arguments against this is that there had been a secret society at the New Mexico Tech that engaged in such pranks. They never wanted to reveal what they had done because that was part of the fun. We know about this secret society because they have a website on which they talk about such things. And, if I have understood this correctly, they weren’t in operation in 1964. They came after that.

Finally I turn to my old nemesis, Dr. Charles Moore (seen here) who has claimed that Project Mogul was responsible for the Roswell UFO crash. According to Volume 41, No. 8, November 1, 1994 of Jim Moseley’s Saucer Smear (available for a nominal "love offering" from Moseley at PO Box 1709, Key West, FL 33041) Moore wrote, "At Jim McDonald’s request, I investigated the residue of the Socorro sighting in 1967 or 1968... Despite Phil Klass, I found no indications suggesting that this was a tourist-attracting ploy by the local Chamber of Commerce, nor was it a prank by the New Mexico Tech students (emphasis added)."

So here is a man at New Mexico Tech, who taught there for decades, who worked with the students directly, who had investigated the Zamora story, and he found no evidence of a hoax. This in contrast to Colgate who, for no currently justifiable reason has said that it was a hoax.

But in an interview conducted by Moseley, and published in his Saucer Smear on July 15, 2000, Moseley wrote that Moore said, "Something went wrong (with the Surveyor lunar module undergoing testing at White Sands on the day of the Zamora sighting) and they don’t want to admit it. I have good reason to believe that."

Isn’t that just as good an explanation as the hoax story. Neither has any solid evidence to push it forward as the final answer, but it comes from men who were at New Mexico Tech at the time and who have investigated the story. The hoax hypothesis fails because there have been no students identified as the tricksters and the Surveyor theory fails because Moore was unable to establish a time for the Surveyor tests.

And had the Surveyor been the answer, I suspect that Hynek, or the Chief of Project Blue Book at the time would have been given the answer. On a Joint Messageform (DD Form 173] and dated June 19, 1964, Colonel Eric T. de Jonckheere (seen here) wrote, "The possibility of a research vehicle being involved with the Socorro sighting has been investigated... at great length; however, they have no knowledge of an Army research vehicle which would leave marks such as those found at Socorro. Lt. Col Conkey and Maj H. Mitchell of the AFMDC have also been contacted... However, neither one of them has any knowledge of a vehicle in the Holloman [AFB, Alamogordo] area, such as described in our report."

Which means that if such a research project was going on, or if the Surveyor had strayed off course, Col. Jonckheere would have been able to learn about it. And the Air Force, believing the files would be classified for a long time, would have had their answer. Nothing in the file indicates that any such project was ever seriously considered and no evidence was ever found to corroborate that opinion.

Once again, it appears that the hoax idea fails because we have no information about the tricksters. Moore’s idea of a research vehicle fails because Air Force officers, following that trail failed to find any documentation that would support it despite the fact the Air Force wanted this case solved. We are where we began, with a police officer telling, honestly, what he had seen, and no evidence yet presented to suggest either of these alternative answers are viable.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

V-2 Launches and UFOs

In the continuing argument about the UFO crash at Roswell and the mundane solutions offered, there came a new question. As noted in my blog about the V-2 and biological samples, someone had released a document about a missile launch on July 4, at White Sands Proving Ground. The records from White Sands for missile launches, copies of which I have, show no launch on July 4. Lance Moody wondered what, exactly, those records looked like, so I scanned the relevant portions.

I will note here, as you look at them, that two "rounds" in July seem to be missing. What the records show is that those rounds were postponed and show up later in the records. Apparently the test firings kept the original number, but was noted out of sequence. I have included the page for those later rounds.
There was also a launch of a "Corporal ‘E’" in July 1947. I have included the document for that launch as well. Finally, there was a table that showed all launches from White Sands for 1947, as well as many other years. I have included that page.
First, the page for V-2 launches in July 1947.

Next, the page to show that the missing rounds are accounted for in th record at a later date.

Third, is the page for the Corporal "E" launch in July 1947.

Finally the overall totals page that includes July 1947 that shows only three launches that month, and all are accounted for.

I will say here that I looked at the records at White Sands, at the Space Museum in Alamogordo, at the National Archives, and at Fort Bliss (El Paso, Texas) to see if I could find anything that would account for the debris recovered on the Brazel ranch. Nothing appeared in any of the records, there were no suspicious gaps in the data, and nothing that was still classified.

Everything is accounted for in the record, so this new document is clearly a forgery. This report provides all the documentation necessary to refute the idea that what fell was a V-2.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lonnie Zamora Has Died

Lonnie Zamora, the policeman who reported the Socorro landed UFO, died on Monday, November 2. Colleagues in the police department said that it was heart failure.

Zamora zoomed into national prominence when he reported seeing an egg-shaped craft with two small creatures near it outside of Socorro, New Mexico. The Air Force, then charged with the investigation of UFO sightings sent Northwestern astronomer and their scientific consultant, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, to Socorro to investigate. No matter what Zamora saw, it seemed that the investigators, that also included the FBI and Zamora’s fellow police officers, believed he was describing what he had seen and was not a participant in a hoax.

I never met him, but a good friend, Robert Charles Cornett, who had an interest in UFOs and in astronomy had been in the Socorro area a couple of decades ago to visit the Very Large Array Radio Telescope. On a whim, he called Zamora and was invited to a backyard barbeque, providing that Cornett asked nothing about the UFO sightings. Zamora was tired of talking about it.

Cornett told me that Zamora was a nice man. Friendly to those from outside New Mexico. But he didn’t want to talk about flying saucers.

Those who knew him much better have said that he was a good man and a good police officer. Had it not been for his brush with the unknown, he would have passed a quiet life in New Mexico and might have been happier for it.

Lonnie Zamora 1933 – 2009.