In the last few weeks I have been asked a couple of times about which UFO cases I believe have credibility. I have avoided these sorts of questions in the past because I know the pitfalls of providing a list like that. Debunkers (as opposed to skeptics) will then attempt to explain those cases in the mundane with little regard to the facts. A good example of that was Philip Klass’ explanation of the Coyne helicopter case as a meteor and ignoring the testimony of the pilots and crewmen. Rather than learn the procedures used by Army helicopter pilots, he talked to some unidentified guy who had flight time in helicopters never telling us if that flight time was at the controls or riding in the back.
Ignoring that, and my own trepidation, I will note that the best of the cases will have multiple chains of evidence, including multiple witnesses, interaction with the environment, measurements by instrumentality such as radar, landing traces, and photographs. You would think that after seventy years or so we’d have just such a case. Although we don’t there are a few that meet some of these requirements and one of the best is that from Levelland, Texas, in November 1957.
I have reported on this series of sightings in the past, including featuring it in several books, and in postings here that can be seen at:
Here’s the thing about the Levelland sightings. There is some evidence that investigations of that case from all points of view was less than stellar. According to the records I have reviewed and the documentation available from various
sources, there were witnesses at thirteen separate locations who
reported engines that stalled, lights that dimmed and radios that filled with
static. The Air Force claimed in press releases that only three people had seen
the object, though they would eventually claim six observers, and to them, if
they hadn’t interviewed the witnesses, they didn’t exist. Donald Keyhoe claimed
nine but his estimate, as we now know, was low.
Photo copyright by Kevin Randle
The number of witnesses around Levelland would fulfill one part of that chains of evidence argument. We can say that we have multiple, independent witnesses. Given the circumstances, most of them were unaware that others have made reports. They called the Levelland Sheriff’s Office to report what they had just seen. A few, after hearing the news reports the next day, called to say they had seen the same thing.
These witnesses also reported an interaction with the environment which, of course, is their stalled engines, dimmed lights and static filled radios. The witnesses at each of those thirteen locations reported the same things, though not necessarily all of them. Although this information is based on witness testimony it is fairly consistent among them and it suggests an interaction with the environment.
The Condon Committee study a decade later didn’t bother to research this case other than talk to a businessman who claimed his car had been stalled by a UFO in 1967 under somewhat similar circumstances. Although they did make an investigation of that report, they concluded that there were discrepancies in the witness’s statements, no evidence, according to them, of a strong magnetic field near the car based on their mapping of the magnetic points on the car, and because there were no other witnesses, there was no need to continue to investigate. Given what they said, I would be inclined to agree with their assessment of that particular case. However, they also suggested that because the Levelland case was ten years old and the cars involved were no longer available, they couldn’t conduct their magnetic mapping of those vehicles. They decided they weren’t going to follow up on it. Had anyone tried the magnetic mapping in 1957, that might have resulted in some interesting information that hadn’t been found at the time. It seemed that they used the results of their single investigation to reject the Levelland case and this is only place in their study (page 108 of the Bantam paperback) where it is mentioned… Or, in other words, a chance to gather some interesting scientific evidence in 1957 was lost because no one thought to attempt it and nothing new was learned by the Condon Committee because they thought the case too old so they didn’t bother.
Had the magnetic mapping as suggested by those at the Condon Committee been done in 1957 that would have also, to a lesser extent, fulfilled the requirement for instrumentality. This would have provided some additional indirect evidence that something had happened at Levelland or maybe shown that there was no good evidence of a strong magnetic field which might also be important information.
As I have mentioned in the past, there is a hint of a landing trace as well. Before the skeptics point it out, let me note that it comes not from Levelland sheriff Weir Clem, but members of his family and is a claim made nearly half a century after the fact. Family members said that a rancher north of Levelland had found a large burned area on his land. The sheriff had seen it, but then there are no reports from the time, no pictures of it, and no first-hand witnesses to it. If that indirect evidence had existed, it could have formed another chain of evidence if properly investigated, but then that just didn’t happen.
And, of course, no photographs of the object have ever been found. In today’s world everyone who had experienced a sighting like this probably would have had a cell phone to take a picture. In 1957 most people, on routine business, didn’t carry a camera. Pictures, especially if taken from multiple locations, would be powerful evidence.
In what is a somewhat hilarious conclusion, the Air Force wrote off the Levelland sightings as “ball lightning,” a phenomenon that in 1957 was still a subject of scientific debate. Today ball lightning is described as appearing almost simultaneously with cloud-to-ground lightning, have diameters that can reach about three feet and that lasts from a second to about a minute. This, of course, suggests that what was seen in Levelland was not ball lightning. This doesn’t mean it was an alien spacecraft, only that the Air Force explanation for the sightings was bogus and because of that should be listed as “unidentified.”
The point here, however, is that I see Levelland as a very good case given the evidence that was collected. I also see it as a missed opportunity. If Keyhoe and the Air Force hadn’t been so busy arguing about the number of witnesses and what the effects of the close approach of the UFO might be, or that some of it was caused by a cracked rotor in a car, we might have learned something very important. It was certainly a missed opportunity and while there are hints of what else might have been collected, we simply can’t verify it as proof of alien visitation in today’s world.