Sunday, January 04, 2009

IUR DVD and Levelland, Texas

Not long ago I received my copy of the DVD that contains the entire run of the International UFO Reporter. It includes the Center Investigators Quarterly and an issue of Probe. In other words, there nearly everything from the Center that you could want on this disk and I have found it extremely valuable.

Today, I was looking for some information about Barney Barnett for a long term project and in the issue (Spring 2003) with the Barnett material, I found an article by Don Burleson about the Levelland, Texas sightings of November 1957. Yes, this is another old case, but Burleson did something that I advocate. He conducted his own on-site investigation. True, it was nearly fifty years after the fact, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t turn up some interesting stuff. And yes, I’m sure the skeptics will dismiss everything he found as being the result of fifty-year-old memories.

For those unfamiliar with the case, this started on the evening of November 2, 1957 as people in the southern panhandle area of Texas, around Lubbock, began reporting a UFO. Not only that, as the craft approached, their cars would stall out, the radios fade and the headlights dim.

During the official Air Force investigation the single investigator interviewed only three witnesses. Major Don Keyhoe, at the time the director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena had said there were nine witnesses. The Air Force challenged this publicly, saying that Keyhoe was wrong and implying that he was overstating the case for the publicity he could gather... In te world of Air Force UFO investigations, if they didn’t talk to a witness, then that person, or persons, simply did not exist regardless of the information they might have or the documentation they could bring to the table.

The problem here is that Keyhoe was, in fact, wrong. There weren’t nine witnesses. When I looked into the case, I found witnesses at thirteen different locations who had reported the UFO interacted with the environment. This was a case that demanded serious, scientific investigation, but instead, found only two opposing camps arguing trivia with one another. One saying that this suggested an alien presence and the other arguing for misidentification of natural phenomena... I have no idea what nature phenomenon they thought might explain the case other than a bunch of liars and some kind of mass hysteria (which, by the way, I think they attempted to suggest at one point. At another point they attempted the old ball lightning argument.)

The Levelland sheriff in 1957 was a man named Weir Clem (seen here) who was described by those who knew him strong and fearless man who would enforce the law regardless of the consequences. A man of integrity and quiet intelligence and who was trustworthy and truthful. He had suggested that he had seen the object himself while out with a deputy Pat McCulloch. In those early descriptions it was a streak of red in the distance. Some researchers paid little attention to Clem’s sighting and the Air Force certainly thought nothing of it, though he was a sworn peace officer.

There were some who reported that Clem had said he was considerably closer. He described the object he saw as an oval "like a brilliant sunset." He said that it passed over the road about three hundred yards in front of his car. In other words, he wasn’t all that far from it.

Donald Burleson, a man living in Roswell, which is not all that far from Levelland, only about three hours over the modern roads, found the daughter of Sheriff Clem when he was doing some research into these sightings. Burleson had heard some interesting things about the case and he decided to follow up on it.

Burleson reported, "Aided by the Chamber of Commerce, we [meaning Burleson and his wife Mollie] were able to find one of the late sheriff’s daughters and I interviewed her twice."

According to Burleson, "She [Ginger (Clem) Sims] described her father having tried to drive close to an airborne object, and having his engine and lights die."

That, of course, put him much closer to the object than had been reported before or to the Air Force. If he was close enough to the object that it would stall his engine, he was close enough to get a good look at it.

Burleson also said that "She said that she remembers his being called out to a ranch northeast of town to see a ring-shaped spot burned into the ground. The ranch owners had called the sheriff about the burned area.

Burleson found and interviewed a witness named Carolyn Reno who said that she had been a child living in the area in 1957, and that her father had taken her out to see a burned spot in the prairie grass that was something over twenty feet in diameter. Burleson said that the description and the location he received independently from Reno matched that given by the sheriff’s daughter. He also pointed out that the two women didn’t know one another yet provided similar descriptions.

The real question is if Clem was so involved in this in 1957, why didn’t he say anything at the time. Again, according to Burleson and to Clem’s daughter, "The Air Force visited him after his sighting(s) and advised him to ‘drop it’ and forget that he had ever seen anything."

Skeptics will point out that the record in 1957 showed that Clem was only reported to have seen the object, or lights, in the distance, some 900 feet away and they’ll reject, out of hand this new information. It is, after all, from the sheriff’s daughter, a second-hand witness, and was told nearly fifty years after the fact. In today’s world, it is interesting, but there is no way to verify it. Clem’s daughter’s reports should be noted, but the weight given to these should be fairly light.

About the same time that Clem was out chasing the light, two highway patrol officers and Constable Lloyd Bollen saw the UFO in the distance. They were unable to get very close to it and reported the same sort of thing as Clem did officially, that is, a red glow in the distance. That meant there were five law enforcement officers who thought they had seen the object that night in 1957, though none reported they got very close to it and none saw much more than a streak of light in the distance. Remember, that was officially. Clem, remember had gotten closer and saw an oval-shaped object.

Remember too, that ball lightning, which has been suggested by the Air Force, is an extremely rare an short lived phenomenon. It wouldn’t have persisted for several hours, flitting from one location to another, and certainly wouldn’t have lasted long enough for the police officers, sheriff’s deputies and others who went in search of it to find it.

Besides, the thunderstorms that supposedly caused the hysteria that resulted in so many people believing they had seen a flying saucer, had ended before the sightings started. There seems to be no causal relation.

Also in that vicinity about that time was Ray Jones, the Levelland Fire Marshal. He was searching for an explanation for the many UFO reports that were being made that night. He saw a streak of light not far from him. His lights dimmed and the engine sputtered until the object was gone. Suggesting, once again that ball lightning was not the culprit here.

In the IUR article, Burleson lays out all his evidence and takes us through the entire sighting which I have abbreviated here to get to the meat of the story which is that the sheriff experienced the same sort of effects that so many others reported on that night. This is another case that deserves a longer examination.

For those interested, the DVD with the IUR on it is available from CUFOS and you can order it at their website It one hundred dollars but it is well worth the money. I have found it to be an extremely valuable resource.


JRobinson said...

After over 70 years of observing sky phenomena I have never yet seen even one example of anything that could be called ball lightning...extremely rare indeed! If anyone has ever photographed such a thing outside of the laboratory I wish they would publish it somewhere.

Bob Koford said...

This period is very interesting to me, as it is when they (the Air Force) really began to put the hammer down on Mr. Keyhoe, and NICAP.

After investigating the sighting of a landed UFOB, on November 4, 1957, by a Mr. Schmidt, in Kearny, Nebraska, the Air Force began seeking a way to find negative information on Keyhoe/NICAP to enable the FBI and OSI to investigate their activities. The 1006th Air Intelligence Service Squadron's "CONFIDENTIAL" report, "SUBJECT: UFOB, Kearny Nebraska", stated, in part:

...when I (Mr. Schmidt) got within 60 feet of the river bank, my motor stopped"
Here again was a case where the object seemed to have an effect on electrical devices. Also notice that they were still using the term UFOB in 1957. "...I tried the ignition key and stepped on the starter but it wouldn't go."

He then related to the AF investigators that he saw an object on the river bank "on stilts".

By the 14th, the AF is trying to determine how they can destroy both NICAP, and Keyhoe, as per the report of the meeting in the office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, dated the 15th.

RRRGroup said...

This is all very interesting, but what does it tell us about the UFO phenomenon today?

Yes, the Air Force was ufologically malevolent.

Yes, Keyhoe was maligned.

Yes, peace officer Clem saw something strange.

Now what?

Where does this take us?

Kevin may be correcting the record, but that has very little to do with the core mystery: what are UFOs?

cda said...

I have always thought Levelland one of the 'good' UFO cases, but have to agree with RRRgroup on this one. Where does this 50-year old second-hand info take us?
By the way, I hope nobody tries to bring in the James Stokes (a few days later) case as confirmation of Levelland. In this case I do accept the USAF conclusion: "Hoax, presumably suggested by the Levelland Texas case".

Bob Koford said...

The AF was supposedly able to "demonstrate" that Mr. Schmidt was crazy, and he was institutionalized, but the particular AF Investigator (Lt. Alexander)in this case is also known to have fostered the idea that the Air Force should use the mentally unstable excuse for ALL sighting cases, and that Keyhoe himself was deranged.

KRandle said...

How in the hell did we get from Levelland to Stokes and to Schmidt?
Stokes was interesting, but he was in New Mexico and manifested, according to him, a burn from watching the UFO... and no, I don't accept the case as authentic.

Schmidt was in Nebraska and claimed that he was given a ride, or invited into a craft. I don't know of any one who accepts the case as authentic. It seems that even the contactees ignored him.

Once in a while the Air Force was right... and even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless you're using a 24 hour clock and it's still accurate once.

cda said...

To J Robinson:
There is a photo of ball lightning in the Scientific American publication "Atmospheric Phenomena" (Ed David K.Lynch, 1980). The article is by Harold W.Lewis and the photo taken in August 1961 during a severe thunderstorm at Los Alamos, NM. The photo is captioned "pulsating ball lightning" but may also be due to bead lightning.

I thought the AF put the Levelland sightings down to St Elmo's Fire, but I may be wrong.

Bob Koford said...

I apologize for seeming to take it so far off course. My main intention was to take note of the fact that there were several different cases of car motors dying out, and electrical devices stopping as a result of UFO proximity, reported from various locations at this same time.

As for Schmidt being thought of in the manner in which you have mentioned, another AFCIN memo had stated:
"...the police official said he had been informed by Bakersfield police that Schmidt was a reliable individual"

Once again, I am sorry.

JRobinson said...

cda: Thanks so much for the reference. I'll look it up.

Jerry Clark said...

Kevin, It's not true that Reinhold Schmidt was an outcast even among contactees. After his dubious claim in November 1957, he became a presence on the contactee circuit, championed by the likes of Wayne Aho (himself a contactee) and the endlessly credulous John Otto, not to mention Flying Saucer Review under the editorship of Brinsley le Poer Trench. In October 1961 Schmidt was sent to prison for a fraudulent investment scheme related to his contact yarns.

You're right, of course, that next to the important Levelland sightings, Schmidt is an inconsequential footnote. Still, I've always had a soft spot in my head for the classic contactees.

Bob Koford said...

I know, its still off Levelland, but before I'm just completely trashed over this, please allow me to say that I have always concentrated my efforts on trying to find out why it's all still a secret. There's a lot of UFO buff type history that I am sorely lacking in, I know. But whenever this Lt. Gregory Alexander derides someone, I am use to disbelieving it, because he appears to have been a real jerk who thought that ALL people who even have had a sighting should be locked up.
Also, Dr. Paul Fitts testimony of Project:BLUEBIRD being connected to the UFO Program, again, caused me to not believe, out-of-hand, the bad things said about some people connected to all of this.

I have since run Schmidt's name through search engines, and have seen what you have said about him.

That's all I wanted to say.

KRandle said...

Bob -

Your comments are always appreciated. I was just wondering how we moved from Levelland to Schmidt and Stokes... Stokes was talking about being burned by a UFO near Orogrande, NM in the days that followed the Levelland sightings, but I don't believe the Lorenzens took him seriously after a while. Yes, they did think the case had merit originally.

Jerry -

I was thinking of Schmidt in the grander scheme of the contactee world, the one dominated by Van Tassel and Adamski. Sure, Wayne Aho (does anyone other than me think the name appropriate in a text messaging world? Aho... A hol... well you see) supported him, but I never really saw him as one of the lights in the contactee display. I suppose it's a matter of degree.