In an earlier post I had suggested the Air Force lied about some of the information hidden away in the Project Blue Book files. I had been going to expand on the comments about the Portage County UFO chase, but then remembered some of the things I had read about the Levelland, Texas UFO landings and EM Effects case of November 2, 1957.
What struck me as I read the file in years past was that the Air Force and Donald Keyhoe, at the time the Director of the civilian National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), were engaged in a publicity war, each suggesting the other was lying. The Air Force said there were only three witnesses but Keyhoe said there were nine. Well, both couldn’t be right so I thought I would take another look at what appears in the Blue Book files.
In a document from those files, I found the following statement. “Contrary to Keyhoe’s and Washington Press reports only three, not nine persons witnessed the incident.”
But later in the file, there is another document that said, “A mysterious object, whose shape was described variously as ranging from round to oval, and predominately bluish – white in color was observed separately by six persons near the town of Levelland.”
In a separate document which was apparently part of a newspaper account of the Air Force investigation, the reporter wrote, “The investigators said further (note the plural) [which is a parenthetical comment in the document] that they could find only three witnesses who actually saw the object.”
This could explain the discrepancy inside Air Force file which is to say that only three saw the object but the others were involved in the incident. This would mean that the Air Force, while not telling the whole story was only slightly shading the truth.
Except, in another part of the file, that included newspaper reports, it is clear that more than three saw an object as opposed to a streak of light. For example, the sheriff, Weir Clem, is reported to have said, “It lit up the whole pavement in front of us [he and a deputy] for about two seconds.” He called it oval shaped and said that it looked like a brilliant red sunset.
This brings up a separate issue, which is the color of the object. The Air Force focused on the blue-white light, suggesting that this was related to lightning, supposed to be flashing in the area at the time. But in several of the cases the witnesses talked about a bright red and if that was accurate, then the Air Force explanation fell apart or partially fell apart.
The Air Force eventually explained the case as ball lightning, a phenomenon that science was still investigating in 1957. Those descriptions found by the Air Force claimed it was a bright blue-white and ball shaped. What the Air Force didn’t bother to mention was that ball lightning was short lived, just seconds, and that it was extremely small, something on the order of eight or nine inches in diameter. The witnesses suggested something much larger.
This newspaper quote about the sheriff seeing something larger and oval from the time seems to corroborate statements made by Clem’s wife some forty or forty-five years after the fact. According to a report by Richard Ray of FOX News 4, Oleta Clem, the sheriff’s widow said, “Well, he just said he’d seen a thing that lit down in that pasture with lights all around. It come down and then it went back up as fast as it come down.”
So, we have Clem describing, in 1957, an oval-shaped object and we have his wife saying, in 2002, that he had seen a thing with lights all around. She is telling us he was closer than the Air Force gave him credit for and we had him, making statements in the public record in 1957 that says the same sort of thing. Is this good proof? Not really, but it is interesting testimony and it does suggest that the Air Force was playing fast and loose with the facts.
The Air Force file contains newspaper clippings that have the names of many of the witnesses, statements made by them about what they saw and what happened to their vehicles, and giving the hometowns or locations of these witnesses. Without too much trouble, it is possible to come up with the names of more than three people who saw an object, all available in the Project Blue Book files which negate the Air Force statements about the case.
And yes, I would agree that these newspaper reports are not the most reliable source of documentation, but it would have provided the Air Force investigators, if there had been investigators, a place to begin. Instead, they noted in the file that they hadn’t interviewed one of the primary “sources” because he didn’t live in Levelland, but outside the town… and as an aside, there was but a single investigator who spent most of a day attempting to find and interview witnesses rather than investigators.
What we have here is a clear case of the Air Force pretending to investigate a major sighting and then writing it off as ball lightning when everything argues against that explanation. There were multiple sightings of an object made by more than three people in separate locations, and who made the reports independently to various agencies including the Levelland sheriff and the news media.
The other thing that caught my attention was the NICAP investigator who showed up, one James A. Lee of Abilene, Texas, and said that he had been studying these things for twenty years. Since this was 1957, that would mean he started his investigations in 1937. I would have liked to know what sparked this interest. Had he seen something? Had he read Charles Fort? Did he know of the Great Airship of 1897, or one of the other airship waves that had happened? Or was this some sort of hyperbole to show his long and deep interest in UFOs? I don’t know, but found the qualification, mentioned several times, interesting.
The point here, however, is simply the nonsense of an argument over the number of witnesses rather than an attempt to interview them. Had this happened in 1957, in the days that followed the sightings, we might have learned something about UFOs, electromagnetic effects and a possible landing trace case. Instead we have a file labeled as “ball lightning” and witnesses who were not interviewed in 1957. Everyone dropped the ball.