Friday, September 14, 2018

New Socorro UFO Landing Information

The other day Rich Reynolds over at the UFO Conjectures blog, sent me a link to a skeptics site. He wondered if I had seen the information published there about the Socorro UFO landing. I had not, but found the information interesting. You can see that here for yourself:

Dave Thomas, who hosts the site, gave me permission to quote from the two new stories that he had put up there. Neither had been available when I wrote Encounter in the Desert. Had they been, I would have mentioned them, though one is a tad bit farfetched.

Thomas published a letter from Ron Landoll, whose mother lived in Socorro at the time of Lonnie Zamora’s sighting. He related what she told him, but I am disinterested in it. The tale is second hand, but in this case, it turns out that this second-hand testimony accurately reflects what his mother told him. I’m ignoring it because the second letter published by Thomas is from Landoll’s mother, Dorothy.

There are some very interesting things in that letter. First, she wrote that she was at home, in Socorro, taking care of the baby (Ron) when her husband called. He was a senior at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMIMT) and said that the campus was “abuzz with a UFO that had been sighted.”

She turned on the radio and said that it was tuned to KOMA, which was (or is) an Oklahoma City station. I know that at one time it played rock and roll, because when I lived in Texas some four or five years after the Zamora case, I listened to it. But the real point here is that an Oklahoma City radio station was broadcasting the news of the UFO landing within, what minutes, certainly hours, of the landing. They, like other members of the media got onto the story quickly. This is a point that would become somewhat important later when two men from Dubuque, Iowa claimed to have been in Socorro at the time. Their story seemed to surface almost as did that from Zamora, but a careful reading of suggests it was an invention by those men for some reason. Some of the details they gave turned out to be from a different sighting. They’d gotten their facts mixed up.

The next morning, which would be April 25, 1964, the Landolls drove out to the site. Dorothy Landoll wrote to Thomas:

The next morning we drove out to the site. There was a police car sitting off to one side. There were perhaps 7 or 8 cars parked over to the other side and folks just standing around looking. There wasn't a lot to see. There was one round indentation in the dust near where we were standing (I don't know how many total) - about like what our tires were making. There was no indentation into the hard packed ground as some later stories said. I walked up to the little mesquite bush in the middle and it was somewhat blackened. I didn't touch it but it may have been burned a little and might have had a bit of oil on it. We stood around for a bit too and then left to go home.
While it is interesting to have another first-hand account of what was going on that next morning, it is also necessary to point out that there were impressions in the ground. These were seen by nearly everyone else and either the Army or the police had surrounded the markings with rocks to protect them. They were photographed by
Landing impression. Photo courtesy
of the USAF.
several people including members of the military. Jim and Coral Lorenzen published a picture of one of the landing gear imprints in the May 1964 edition of The A.P.R.O. Bulletin. That picture was taken by State Police Sergeant Sam Chavez.
Dorothy Landoll continued her narrative of the incident. She wrote that:
Holm Bursum III was president of the First State Bank and Polo Pineda was his right-hand man [were there]. At the time of the sighting, Polo was acting sheriff… [I worked at the bank and] still took my morning breaks with her, Polo and one of the tellers. On Monday morning we were in the kitchen when Polo came in… He was as mad as a hornet. Ruth asked him what was going on with the UFO. His first comment was that he'd been told that he wasn't to talk to anyone about what had happened but this was his town and he'd talk to whoever he pleased! He sat down with his coffee and proceeded to tell us.
She provided a synopsis of the Zamora tale and then added an interesting note. She wrote:
Lonnie Zamora was pursuing a vehicle going south near the edge of town when something caught his eye. He drove up on the mesa and looked down to see a round craft with two individuals in silver suits walking around it. After a minute or two they got in and it took off. Describing the craft, he said that it had markings on it similar to what Boeing puts on its planes. Lonnie was so upset/scared that he first headed to the Catholic church for confessional and then contacted Polo. Shortly after that, I was in the front of the bank and there were two obviously FBI men - black suits and sunglasses (which they took off as they entered). They went up to one of the tellers and asked for Polo. I went back and told Polo they were looking for him.
I would like to have known if there was anything more to this encounter between the sheriff and the FBI. We know that one FBI agent was there from the beginning. I don’t know of a second FBI agent in the area, but that doesn’t mean that there hadn’t been one.
It also seems a little strange that the FBI would tell the sheriff not to talk about this when the information had been broadcast on April 24, on a radio station that had the power to reach all the way to Socorro. And that station reached into several other states as well. It was one of the powerhouses of that era.
I do know that Captain Richard Holder, an Army officer involved within about 90 minutes, and the FBI agent Arthur Byrnes, had spoken to Zamora, suggesting that he not talk about seeing any beings associated with the sighting, and to keep the true insignia to himself. Byrnes thought the news media might be a little rough of Zamora for seeing “little green men,” and Holder thought keeping the insignia hidden would help to weed out copycats.
Landoll, in her letter to Thomas, also suggests a solution for the Socorro craft that Zamora reported. She wrote:
The following year we were living in Midland, TX, I'm guessing maybe May or June, my husband had brought in the newspaper and it was lying on the couch. I glanced down at it and hollered to my husband that Lonnie's UFO was on the front page of the paper. What I saw fit the exact description that Polo had given us. It was a photo of a LEM with an article. I wish I had kept that newspaper but it simply wasn't anything of consequence at the time.
And, for those of us who have been paying attention, the illustration drawn by Rick Baca, under the guidance of Zamora, does resemble the LEM. But documentation suggests that the prototype LEMs being tested in New
Rick Baca holding the illustration he made in
consultation with Lonnie Zamora. Photo
copyright by Rich Baca.
Mexico at the time were not powered. The testing involved a helicopter. It seems unlikely that this is the explanation, especially when it is remembered that the Captain Hector Quintanilla, the chief of Blue Book at the time, looked into that possibility. He carried a top-secret clearance, and personally checked at Holloman Air Force Base and the White Sands Missile Range to see if they might have the explanation for the sighting.
But this isn’t the only new additions to Thomas’s skeptics website. He received another communication that provided a much more exciting solution for the case. Kevin J. Ashley wrote that he had been a student at the NMIMT a few years later and that he had been interested in the Zamora sighting. According to him, once he graduated and was employed, he told co-workers about the case. He wrote:
In short, I know the answer to the Socorro Saucer Siting [sic] because I talked to one of the people who was on the other side of the arroyo that morning when Officer Zamora showed up. His name is Bruno R____ and he was a mining engineering student at Tech in the early 1960’s…
As I finished the story I noticed one of the other mining engineers who worked there leaning against the door and laughing. When I asked him what he was laughing at he said, “It was me.”
He then told his story about the incident. He said that he and another mining student were bored and looking for something to do that day. They got their hands on some dynamite (possibly from the dynamite shack mentioned in Officer Zamora’s account) and decided to have some fun setting it off under an old overturned metal barrel. The first time they did this the barrel went flying into the air which they found very amusing so they did it a couple more times. (It was probably the third explosion that attracted the attention of Officer Zamora.) Delighted with the result of the barrel being thrown in the air again, they set about putting together one more explosion. As they were bending down getting everything set they were apparently seen from across the arroyo by Officer Zamora. The two of them, who were wearing white coveralls, were seized with a sudden need to get the hell out of there because being caught doing a stupid stunt like this with dynamite would get them both expelled. (Officer Zamora notes in his statement that one of the persons looked at him and seemed very concerned.) Evidently the fuse had already been lit when Bruno and his friend legged it for their vehicle to get away. Office Zamora started toward the site when the explosion went off and as he dived for cover he lost his glasses. What he saw the couple of times he glanced up was the oil drum being projected upwards with flame coming out from the bottom. Bruno and his friend kept a low profile throughout the entire affair after that and I may have been the first person he told this story to. This was in 1980, sixteen years after the affair.
I suppose, we could believe that two college students, in their early 20s would be dumb enough to play with dynamite in that fashion. And we could believe that Zamora somehow concocted a craft that roared off into the sky out of this.
Ashley did, however, elaborate on what he had been told. This according to what Bruno R. told Ashely:
Reading over the account by Officer Zamora his original description seems to fit well with Bruno’s account. It is the “filling in” of details where the mystery arises. For instance, when people went back and found four burn spots, these became a configuration of thrusters from a vehicle, not the scorched remnants of multiple dynamite explosions. Also important is that this was not a hoax. Bruno and his friend were not trying to fool anyone. This is just a case of an observer trying to explain something that they have not seen before.
The problem here, however, is that the four markings were never considered to be marks of the thrusters, but marks made by the landing gear. The area that would have been under the center of the craft had showed evidence of high heat. No evidence that would have been left behind by dynamite explosions was found, which, I believe rules out this explanation.
Tony Bragalia, who is a proponent of the hoax theory, noted that Bruno R. thougt Ashely, had gotten some of the facts right. Bragalia theorized that three students had been involved, Zamora had been chasing a speeder and the roar of the craft did capture his attention. Bragalia also noted that this wasn’t “innocent” fun as suggested by Ashley, but that it was a planned hoax.
Ashley supplies a little more information about Bruno R. Apparently, he lives in Felton, California. Thomas didn’t follow up on the story imediately. I think he thought the same thing as me. It really is rather farfetched. But then, I do believe we should follow up because we don’t know exactly what Bruno said. I have tried to locate him given the information supplied, but have had no success. Bragalia is also trying. His resources in this are better than mine, so there might be more learned.
The real point here is that we have some new information. I find the tale told by Dorothy Landoll quite interesting because she said she was on the scene the next morning. She described what she saw… and importantly, felt no obligation to share that information with anyone until decades after the sighting. I’m hoping to reach her to find out why she didn’t come forward before now.
If I learn anything new about this, I’ll post it here. For now, you can read the entire text of the letters from the Landolls and Ashley at Thomas’s New Mexico Skeptics website, and for the complete story, you can take a look at Encounter in the Desert, which provides quite a bit of new and additional information about the Socorro Landing.


Brian B said...

Well her synopsis of Zamora’s tale includes a reference that he said it had “markings similar to what Boeing puts on their planes” and yet if you look at the history of the Boeing logo (below), there aren’t any symbols similar to any of the supposed symbols reported or sketched. If you wanted to stretch things I suppose, watch the video and stop at 1:25 and you’ll see a specific Boeing aircraft logo with an upward pointed chevron, but that’s about as close as you’ll get:

History of Boeing Logo:

TheUFOGuy said...

The one thing about the Socorro case, and I have spent 4 years investigating it, is that you can count on a new story about a 'perpetrator of a hoax' surfacing every 10 years or so. I find it interesting that so many keep trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
This flying can is perhaps the funniest, and most ludicrous explanation yet to those of us who have been on site and spoken to the living witnesses.
3 explosions would have caught the attention of others. Dynamite residue would have been found at the site by the Airforce investigators.
It is not hard, with a little field work, to take the hoax theory apart piece by piece, in order to finally move past the fiction to the truth.
Tony Angiola and I just returning from our second visit to Socorro, there are more details concerning this very important case, still listed as an "Unknown" by Project Blue Book, that need to be told.
Everything I have found indicates that an ellipsoid shaped object landed displaying 4 struts, or landing gear. Two small bipedal figures were seen next to the object, before seemingly retreating back into the craft. The craft then took off, leaving important physical evidences behind. Suffice it to say that the details of this event can be found online, and do not need to be repeated here.
Colgate Letter
In 1968, a letter to Dr. Sterling Colgate, from Dr. Linus Pauling inquiring about the Socorro sighting, Colgate had replied with the simple scribble saying:
"I have a good indication of the student who engineered the hoax. Student has left. Cheers, Sterling."
This is almost the entire basis for the hoax theory. What follows from this ONE letter appears to be speculation, urban myth, and the musings of a scientist who simply believed that since no Aliens can get here from wherever, that 'It had to be a student hoax'. There is no proof, there is only rumor, hyperbole, and fabrication.
Imagine students pulling off a hoax that is heard around the world! It fools the Project Blue Book investigators (as well as the Air Force, FBI, and CIA) yet never brag about it, or tell several friends and family, even today when there would be no repercussions. Remember, this occurred within a month of final exams, in a remote area of the desert. There is ZERO evidence that students liked to play around in this location in the desert as has been stated.

TheUFOGuy said...

While in Socorro in April of 2018, we spoke with several people who were there in 1964, and who were close to the event and Lonnie Zamora, the police officer who witnessed this UFO landing. Not a single one of them believes the hoax tale. In fact, we were told by a town official who was there in 1964 that students rarely ventured into Socorro, and certainly did not wander around in the desert. As the locals reminded us, you have to watch out for Cactus, holes, rocks, snakes and various other dangerous things that inhabit the desert.
As far as the location of the event, you can barely get there in a modern car, much less a car from 1964. You CANNOT drive in that arroyo, there are bushes, cactus, depressions and rocks everywhere. There is NOWHERE TO HIDE. There is no reason in the world for students to be at this remote location, and if they had no car, how did they get many the miles to this location? And where did they go??
Sargent Chavez was there in 2 minutes, and later White Sands up range commander Captain Holder also was on scene with several other people. The official report says that there were no footprints at all, only the 4 landing gear indentations, and a few circular depressions possibly made by a ladder that the beings came down and up from and to the craft.
Captain Holder said there was no indication of any combustibles, fireworks, nothing. This is all also in the official Blue Book files. A review of the Air Force Materials Laboratory Analysis of the soil samples gathered at the landing site concluded that 'there was no foreign residue. Analysis of the burned bush revealed no chemicals that could have been propellant residue, and there was no evidence of any pyrotechnics on site." No oils either.
"The landing impression were 'dug' by students."
The estimated weight of the object able to penetrate the still moist soil and leave this quadrangle of 4 depressions was approx. 9 TONS. The soil was pushed in a direction that indicated it came in at an angle. Who would have thought of that detail? If it was a hoax. The depressions were made by a wedge shaped landing gear, and the thruster producing the blue orange exhaust (4 times longer than wide), that sliced a creosote bush in half with radiant heat, was in the exact center place in the quadrangle that it had to be for the struts to balance this object. This was noted by Dr. Hynek and Ray Stanford when they were measuring the distance between the impressions, and the distance that Lonnie was when closest to the vehicle (35 Feet), with his glasses still on.
Hector Quintanilla, the head of Project Blue Book in 1964, had this to say in the CIA publication "Studies in Intelligence" released in 1966:
The brief was called “Policeman’s Report.”
“There is no doubt that Lonnie Zamora saw an object which left quite an impression on him. There is also no question about Zamora’s reliability. He is a serious police officer, a pillar of his church, and a man well versed in recognizing airborne vehicles in his area. He is puzzled by what he saw, and frankly, so are we.
“This is the best-documented case on record, and still we have been unable, in spite of thorough investigation, to find the vehicle or other stimulus that scared Zamora to the point of panic.”
So, in summation, another attempt to portray the Socorro Incident as a hoax, does not stand up to scrutiny. But these tales are getting creatively funnier.

KRandle said...

Brian -

Already had looked that up and found nothing that looked as if it might have been something seen by Zamora... Didn't mention it because there was nothing to it.

KRandle said...

Ben -

I appreciate your passion, but there wasn't much in these two (or three letters) that added much to he case. The important point is that Dorothy Landoll said that she had heard a report on KOMA that night. Much of what you mention here was covered in Encounter in the Desert. I just thought this was interesting in a historical sense.

I don't know of anyone who would really take the dynamite story as real. I will mention that Byron Weber did provide some information that could have lead to Bruno R., the but the telephone number has been disconnected... and neither Tony Bragalia nor I have been able to track him down. Anyway, thanks Byron for the tip.

Larry said...


There seems to be some confusion in your narrative regarding the discussion of Lunar landers.

Dorothy is quoted as saying: "It was a photo of a LEM with an article. I wish I had kept that newspaper but it simply wasn't anything of consequence at the time."

And you wrote: ....." the illustration drawn by Rick Baca, under the guidance of Zamora, does resemble the LEM. But documentation suggests that the prototype LEMs being tested in New Mexico at the time were not powered. The testing involved a helicopter."

I think you (and perhaps Dorothy) are conflating two different lunar landers. The LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) was the lander that was used in the Apollo manned space flight project. It was large--in the same size range as the object that Zamora described--but I don't think there were any complete examples in existence at the time of the sighting (April, 1964). They were still making design changes as late as 1965 (going from 3 legs to 4 legs, for example). And it was much too large to be lifted by a Bell 47 helicopter. The first actual flight of a LEM occurred in 1968.

The test that involved a Bell 47 helicopter was a test of the Lunar Surveyor robotic spacecraft. My reading of the test report is that the test did not involve a test of the entire Lunar Surveyor spacecraft assembly, but only of the landing radar unit, which was hung outside the helicopter cabin on a specially fabricated mount. The first flight of a Lunar Surveyor was in 1966.

So what, exactly did Dorothy see in the newspaper in 1965? The Lunar Surveyor looks not very much like what Zamora described, so I am inclined to believe it really was a depiction of the LEM. If so, it would probably have been a picture of a mockup. The prime contractor on the LEM, Grumman Aircraft, was continually building and modifying mockups of the LEM for purposes of astronaut training, etc.

However, regardless of what was seen in the newspaper, neither the Surveyor nor the LEM are possible explanations for what Zamora described. Neither one of them were capable of free flight in Earth's atmosphere. They were designed to land on (and the LEM's case, take off from the Lunar surface). Of course, Earth's gravity is 6 times greater than that of Luna. The thrust ratings of their rocket engines are well known and are far too low to perform either landings or takeoffs Earth's gravity field.

Also, as I pointed out over at Rich's site, the LEM was actually a two stage rocket vehicle. It landed on the moon with the two stages connected to each other, but when it came time for takeoff, the descent stage was left on the surface while the ascent stage separated and went into Lunar orbit. Since there was no hardware left at the Socorro site, that by itself would eliminate the LEM as a possibility. The Surveyor spacecraft was designed to land with its tanks empty except for a very small reserve. One of the Surveyors had enough reserve fuel to hop a couple of meters after it had landed on the moon, but it had no capability to do any extensive flight after that.

On a separate note, I live about a 20 minute drive from Felton, CA. In theory, I could go over there and do a little investigation. Are there any other distinguishing characteristics of Bruno R. that might make it possible to track him down?

Byron Weber said...

Kevin, pretty sure the info I provided is correct even if the telephone is disconnected. Turns out this Bruno also worked as an Engineer for the U.S. Forest Service. If you search the name I gave you, you will find a confirmation of the full name related to the Zamora incident.

Filip GraliƄski said...

I'm wondering why you're hiding Bruno R.'s surname. It's fairly easy to google him up (I mean his full name).

KRandle said...

Filip -

The answer can be found in the 1964 movie, Zulu. As the Zulu Impi is about to descend on Rorke's Drift, Lt. Chard orders the cooks to pour the soup on the fire. Asked why, he said he didn't want to make a present of fire for the Zulus. He knew, of course, that the Zulus knew how to make fire, he just didn't want to give it to them as they arrived. If they wanted fire they would have to make it themselves...

I didn't want to make Bruno R's life miserable by giving away his last name. If someone wanted it, they would have to look for it, as I did. That his number is no longer in service (and given the message, it would seem it went out of service in the last six months) makes it a little more difficult. Anyway, I know his last name is out there, but it will be only those who really want to know it who will find it.

Oh, one more thing. Bill Brazel told me that he would periodically get telephone calls from drunks in the middle of the night wanting to know if he had been quoted accurately. Yes, I know that we all want to be sure that we're getting the facts from the writers and researchers, but 3 a.m. is not the way to do it. Just trying to save Bruno a little aggravation.

jamesrav said...

I noticed that Dave Thomas used the figure "150 to 200 YARDS" when describing Zamora's approach to the object , and no other figure in his account (I think I recall he said Zamora did move "closer"). Recent postings have used the precise figure 103 FEET as his closest approach. If fifty years post-event there's still uncertainty (perhaps deliberate, to push a certain POV) on how close Zamora got, then that's a sad state of affairs. As the saying goes: "everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not his own facts." 103 feet is nothing, a an adult can run that in 5 seconds. 200 Yards is something else entirely.

Ron S. said...

I'm wondering what ever became of Ben Moss's claim that nutty Ray Stanford went back to Socorro (decades later) and took pictures of the landing site - and then at some time later (back home) when he was reviewing the photographs....viola! Out in the distance (in the sky) is the same exact egg shaped UFO....complete with landing gear extended! What tremendous luck and what a coincidence! Several times on the Paracast Forums Ben said he saw these pics and they were legit and that the pics would be released "very soon" - which was like 3 years ago now.

One of the most bunk stories I've ever heard. But usually anything involving Stanford is bunk.