Monday, February 04, 2013

The Nevada Fireball - April 18, 1962

(Blogger's Note: While researching another case, I stumbled across this article written by Scott Holloway. I had planned to adapt it, with permission of course, but in his reply, he gave permission to reprint the whole thing and I saw no advantage to adapting it. This then, is the article that Holloway wrote about his research into the Las Vegas UFO crash. It shows what can be done by someone who lives in the area. The only changes I made were a couple of grammatical and spelling changes.)
Written By: Scott Holloway

On April 18, 1962, an unidentified flying object , most commonly referred to by witnesses as a “fireball” or a “meteor”, crashed in Nevada after a near cross country flight. The event received coverage in newspapers, was documented by Project Blue Book, and the object was tracked on radar by the Air Force to a specific area in Nevada, before it vanished from the radar screen, in the same area noted by witnesses in Las Vegas, just before an apparent explosion, followed by a “column of brilliant smoke.” Witnesses in Utah and Nevada compared the explosion to a nuclear detonation. Spokesmen from Nellis Air Force Base confirmed that jets were scrambled from Phoenix, Arizona, by the Air Defense Command.

And yet, the odds are that you have never heard of this incident, and if so, but vaguely. Frank Edwards covered the incident for the August, 1962 issue of Fate magazine. He revealed no new information, but did revive the case after most of the country had presumably forgotten about it. Edwards also devoted a brief chapter from his 1964 book, Strange World, to the Nevada crash.
Beginning in 1989, researcher Kevin Randle, in various books, progressively documented the case, culminating in A History of UFO Crashes. Randle interviewed witnesses, searched Blue Book documents and newspaper articles, and provided by far the most complete picture of the events of April 18, 1962. Randle concluded that the object which crashed that night was an extraterrestrial craft.
It was Randle’s research which inspired me to begin my own inquiry into the case, as well as my proximity to the original event. I moved to Nevada in 2002, and began my investigation in May, 2008. I recalled that Edwards and Randle had not determined a precise crash site for the object, the true heart of the matter for me.
The April 19, 1962 edition of the Las Vegas Sun,, stated that the object was tracked by radar to the Mesquite area. Mesquite is approximately 75 miles from Las Vegas, where I live. I placed an ad in a Mesquite newspaper in search of witnesses, but received no substantial reply. Consulting a map, I noticed that Bunkerville, Nevada, is directly adjacent to Mesquite. Despite Bunkerville’s approximate population of 1,000, I was surprised to find a listing for a branch of the Clark County Library system there. I called the librarian, and was given the name of a prominent local historian. I called him immediately. When I explained the purpose of my research, he related to me the following account:

Several years ago, two brothers, residents of Bunkerville, were working at the Key West mining claim southwest of town, near sunset, when they suddenly noticed an extremely bright, white object pass directly overhead. The object continued in a straight path for about five miles, before it crashed into the side of a mountain. The brothers intended to find the crash site, but for some reason, never did. They were unable to determine the exact nature of the object.

This was the story related to him by the two brothers. Unfortunately, the two witnesses were deceased. I received the names of their surviving children, and contacted them as soon as possible. From them, I received slightly different versions of the incident. The daughter of one witness agreed that the brothershad never made it to the actual impact site. However, the two sons of the other witness told me that the brothers did in fact reach the site - they had come within 100 yards of an “object.” Later, their father took them to the site, which was
now obscured by overgrowth.

One of them was adamant that the object was a meteorite, and he refused to divulge the location of the site, until he was able to recover the meteorite for himself. His brother was unable to take me there due to his physical condition. He told me later that his brother was upset with him for speaking to me about the incident.

The historian in Bunkerville had been told that the object crashed near a mining claim familiar to both witnesses. After searching through several mining documents, and speaking to other residents in the area, I was able to gain a rough idea of the mine’s location. On my second trip into the area, I found the mine, but no evidence of an impact site. However, the terrain is vastly uneven, forested, covered with overgrowth and the remains of rockslides, and, on my last visit, by a thick carpet of snow. There is much ground left to cover, and my search for the crash site is ongoing.

To better understand the perception of this case, it is necessary to examine the original media coverage of the incident. The object was first sighted over New York state, and last sighted near Mesquite, Nevada. Oddly enough, though, only the Las Vegas Sun, of April 19, 1962, contains any mention of the sighting over Las Vegas, and the explosion near Mesquite. The April 19 edition of the Nevada State Journal mentions a sighting over Reno, Nevada, but not the Las Vegas sighting, and not the explosion near Mesquite. Other newspapers from April 19 include references to an explosion over Utah, nothing about sightings in Nevada. Several wire service articles quoted Robert Kadesch, an associate professor of physics at the University of Utah, who had not witnessed the object, as expressing the opinion that the object was a bolide, or an exploding meteor. The official Air Force explanation, issued on April 19, declared the object to be a meteor that came down in Utah.

There were reports from Stead Air Force Base in Reno of an object landing near a power plant in Eureka, Utah, which rendered the plant inoperable for 40 minutes. Accounts from many newspapers, but not the Las Vegas Sun, indicated explosion in Utah, and nothing further. The Utah papers quoted witnesses by name. Anyone without access to the Las Vegas Sun edition of April 19 was led to believe that a meteor, exploding or possibly crashing in Utah, was the most likely explanation, especially since Kadesch’s comment was widely circulated.

But the Las Vegas Sun article paints quite a different picture. It mentions the previous sightings, including the alleged landing in Utah, but also the sightings over Reno, Las Vegas, and the final explosion near Mesquite. This was not a wire service report, as most accounts were. It is not made clear from the reports outside Nevada if the explosion in Utah was actually the explosion
from Nevada. Bunkerville is approximately 10 miles from the Arizona state line. The explosion was seen in Reno, so the possibility that it was also seen in parts of Utah is not farfetched. The majority of the country, not aware of the Nevada sightings, but of the Utah sightings, and Kadesch’s uninformed opinion was left with only the meteor explanation. This, coupled with the official Air Force explanation of April 19th, effectively killed the story. Even the Las Vegas Sun, on April 20th, printed this explanation.

After the publication of the Fate article, the case lay dormant until 1964, when Frank Edwards resurrected it in Strange World. To further confuse the issue, Edwards now listed the crash site as “south of Reno,” on the opposite side of the state from Bunkerville! Whatever the reason for the slip-up, it only helped to bury the incident deeper, since there was no record anywhere else of a crash “south of Reno.”

Going back to Randle’s research, I decided to contact surviving witnesses in Utah. Randle had uncovered valuable information, such as the fact that the object changed speed, shorted out the engine of a vehicle, and even landed near Eureka, Utah, before taking off again. Though some witnesses were unavailableor deceased, one, Betty Robinson, related some new information to me. Betty’s late husband, Bob, had witnessed the object as it flew over his truck, stalling his engine, before continuing on its path. She was at home, bathing her children, when she heard a loud noise, and the house was filled with a bright light. Outside, she witnessed a bright light, and the noise seemed as if it would burst her eardrums. The streetlights were all out.

“It’s something that I’ll take to my grave,” she told me.

When her husband came home, he was “white as a sheet.” He told her, “You won’t believe what we saw.”

Betty also revealed that, in the wake of the passing light source, she noticed an electrical smell, like something burning. She also said that a short time after the incident, a producer from a television show came to Eureka, for a potential episode devoted to the incident, though nothing ever came of it. Betty could not recall the name of the program.

Her contention that the local media reported the object as crashing into the Pacific Ocean puzzled me, until I read the front page article from the Salt Lake Tribune of April 19, entitled “Flash Splits Area’s Sky.” In the article, this passage appears, in parentheses - (And early Thursday, Associated Press added a report of a “flash” in the skies over Ocean Beach, California, Wednesday about 8:55 p.m, PST (9:55 p.m. MST.) The California fireball “seemed to move west over the Pacific toward a spot some 30 miles off San Francisco”, the report said.)

The time of this sighting is well after the last known sighting in Nevada, at approximately 7:32 PST. To date, I have found no other corroboration of the California sighting.

The Project Blue Book file on this case contains this letter from Mrs. Pebble Cox of Boise, Idaho, addressed to J. Allen Hynek, dated May 11, 1962:

I understand you are interested in the meteorite which fell in Utah on the night of April 18. My husband, 3 sons and I left Salt Lake City, Utah Wednesday evening April 18 at about 5:30 p.m. traveling east on hiway 50. We traveledat 45 or 50 miles per hour and you can probably judge about where it fell fromfrom tracing our route. The meteorite came down right by the side of hiway (not on driver’s side) about 50 feet from road bed, about 100 miles out of Salt Lake City. It was quite low as my husband just looked out the pickup window(a son was driving)and didn’t have to look up to see it pass by. If this will be of any help to you in locating it I sure hope so.

We were on a trip to Missouri at the time after visiting our daughter and family in Salt Lake City, and have just returned to Boise, Idaho recently.

The significance of this account, if true, is plain: it demolishes the Kadesch theory of the object as a “bolide”, that “probably exploded 50 to 60 miles in the atmosphere”, and raises the question of why a “meteor” landing 50 feet from a main highway was never reported as found, unless the “meteor” again took flight soon after it touched down.

Also important is that the “meteor” was visible in Mr. Cox’s direct line of sight, as he “didn’t have to look up to see it pass by”, and that it is not described as a violent impact, but simply “came down”, as if in a controlled descent. It is unclear why the Cox family did not investigate the landing of the object.

My attempts to locate Pebble Cox have so far been unsuccessful. There is no indication that Hynek replied to this letter, or made any attempt to follow up on it. Perhaps this is because he, along with the Director of Project Blue Book, Robert Friend, had already visited Utah on May 8, 1962, in what amounted to a one day “field investigation”, during which they predictably found nothing. Hynek did not visit Nevada. While there are newspaper clippings in the Blue Book file, none are from Nevada. There is only a Project Record Card which, as Kevin Randle has pointed out, logged the incident in Zulu time, a difference of eight hours!

In 1962, responsibility for recovery of downed space objects rested with the 1127th USAF Field Activities Group. One example of this unit’s deployment is documented in a Blue Book file dated September 28, 1960, for an incident near Sheppard AFB in Texas. A Joint Message Form states, “On 28 Sep 60, an UFO was rptd to have fallen in the vicinity of Sheppard AFB, Tex. It is requested that the 1127th investigate this sighting.” The document is addressed to “1127 USAF FLD ACTY GP, FT. BELVOIR VA.”

Another document in the file states, “Moon Dust sighted by lcl (local) police to have landed in fld ten miles ssw Sheppard AFB, Texas at 28/1025Z. Search will begin at daybreak.” Documentation from 1967, in a group history of the 1127th for the last half of that year, confirms the function of the unit at that time. My requests for documentation for this unit’s group history in 1962 have so far been denied, but are ongoing.

 In a book authored by Berthold Schwarz, “UFO Dynamics,” there is a possible corroboration of the Nevada crash, given by an anonymous military witness. Beginning on page 532, the witness describes a craft recovered from Nevada after a “horrendous explosion”, which was “brought back” to a base in Arizona, where the witness was allowed to view it, and provide a detailed description of its interior.

I contacted Schwarz to ask about the availability of this witness, but was told that he will not discuss the matter with me, though he did indicate that there is something worth looking into. I have recently addressed a letter directly to the witness, through Schwarz. There has been no response from the witness to date. Schwarz has described the witness as a “war hero”, who served with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. In “UFO Dynamics,” he also describes a UFO related incident in Vietnam which he personally investigated. There have been various suggestions by Schwarz to this witness about contacting me, and I am grateful for his efforts. He has made every effort to assist my investigation, and provided needed encouragement along the way.

The long rumored Project Redlight, allegedly an Air Force program established to analyze and exploit recovered space vehicles, also figures into the story of the Nevada crash. In 1980, a man named Mike Hunt, in a letter to researcher David Dobbs, related that, from 1961-63, he served in the capacity of radio maintenance at the Nevada Test Site, specifically at the section known as Area 51. Hunt wrote that he witnessed a “UFO” on the ground that was “20-30 feet in diameter and sort of a pewter color”. (Schwarz’ military witness described the craft which he witnessed as “almost 20 feet across.”)

Hunt further claimed that he saw crates marked “Project Redlight”, and “Edwards AFB.” Several times when he was working on radios at Area 51, “they just died.” Later that year, in 1962, Hunt recalled reading an article in Reader’s Digest about a UFO which exploded in Nevada after a cross country flight. Shortly after the date given in the article for the crash, Hunt said, “everything came to a screeching halt at Area 51.” Hunt concluded, “I am satisfied that the UFO of the Digest article and the UFO of Project Red Light are/were one and the same.”

As reported in William Steinman’s UFO Crash At Aztec, Wendelle Stevens heard rumors in Las Vegas in 1980 of the crash of a UFO, piloted by humans, at Area 51, in which both pilots were killed. After the crash, the project to test recovered crafts was abruptly halted.

Regarding Hunt’s mention of a Reader’s Digest article about the crash, I searched every issue of that magazine for 1962 and 1963. There is no article about the incident in any of these issues. I believe Hunt was actually referring to the Fate article from August, 1962. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only magazine article from 1962 which mentions the incident.

There are other newspaper accounts which add puzzling dimensions to this case. On April 19, 1962, the Pasadena, California, Star-News, in a page one article, asked, “Anyone Else See a Meteor Hit the Moon?” The article quoted Brent Myers, 9, of San Marino: “It was a white light with blue flashes. It hit the lower left part of the moon. It had a light tail.” The article elaborated that Myers reported his sighting to the Mt. Wilson Observatory, “which had failed to note the phenomenon.” The time given for the sighting was 8:10 PST, after the last known documented sighting of the object in Nevada.

The Salt Lake Tribune, April 21, 1962, on page 34, featured the headline, “Rock ’Growing’ In Lawn a Product of Meteor?” A “porous” rock, five inchesin diameter, was discovered embedded in the lawn of the Pollock family of Midvale, Utah, on April 19. Jack Pollock “said the rock appeared to have been driven into the lawn with great force and from a southwesterly direction.”

Randy Pollock, age 10, is pictured holding the rock, which was described as “red in color, and has the appearance of having gone through extreme heat.” The article further states that,”a friend of the Pollock family will take the rock to Utah State University Saturday to let scientists there examine it...” Whatever the results of this analysis were, is unknown, but the proximity of this “rock” to the sightings in Utah of the object is intriguing.

A report from the Charleston Daily Mail, April 19, 1962, features an account by Mel Paisley, a foreman for the McLean Trucking Company. McLean witnessed the “tail” of a bright object which left a “blue-white trail 50 times as broad as that of a falling star”, that was visible for about three seconds. And yet Paisley witnessed this “tail” on April 19, between 4:30 and 4:45 a.m. The article was from the evening edition of the paper, one day after the crash.

Another fireball was reported on April 23, 1962, in the Ogden Standard - Examiner. Harry Koepke, a night watchman, described it as “whiter than the strongest light,” a description also used for the object which crashed in Nevada. While it is entirely possible that this fireball was part of the Lyrid meteor shower, known to occur from April 19-22, the articles notes that, ”although the watchman has seen numerous shooting stars, this is the first time he has ever seen anything as large or brilliant as the object he observed.”

Again on April 20, a fireball was seen near Torrington, Montana, which produced a “red flash and explosion.” The Albuquerque Journal, April 6, 1962 contains another report of a fireball coming to ground in New Mexico, and points out that “meteorites falling on federal property belong to the Smithsonian Institution.” The fireball was investigated by Dr. Lincoln LaPaz, director of the University of New Mexico Institute of Meteoritics, a man with extensive previous experience in this area, including field research into the “green fireballs” prevalent in New Mexico in 1949-50. LaPaz had gone on record as stating that the green fireballs were not meteors.

The connection of these various sightings is unclear, but indicates the presence of perhaps other unknown objects traveling through the same states as the object which crashed in Nevada. These objects were seen for a shorter duration, and in a far more limited area, making detailed analysis impossible. However, they demonstrate a pattern for the month of April, and a similarity to the object seen on April 18. Only this object is known to have been tracked by radar by the Air Force. As stated by a spokesman for Nellis AFB, “A meteor cannot be tracked on radar. And this object was.” This clearly contradicts the official Air Force explanation of April 19, as does testimony which indicates that the object changed direction, changed speed, caused power outages, and was pursued by Air Force jets.

It is highly improbable that there has ever been a “meteor” which can be accurately described in these terms. And yet, there are any number of reliably reported UFO sightings which fulfill these criteria.

That said, this incident is far from resolved. My research is ongoing. I have withheld names of witnesses for the present for this reason. Some who might have been directly involved are now deceased, including:

Oscar Abbott, the Deputy Sheriff for Bunkerville and Mesquite in 1962. Abbott served in this position because the two towns did not have their own police department. He was assigned by the Las Vegas Police Department.

Robert Stenovich, Superintendent of the Nevada Highway Patrol in 1962. I spoke to Stenovich’s widow, who cannot recall any involvement of his in the incident. Given the isolated area in which the crash occurred, it is quite plausible that the NHP had at least some peripheral participation.

Hank Greenspun, Publisher of the Las Vegas Sun, the only newspaper to present a somewhat complete picture of the incident, including the crash of the object in Nevada. I contacted Greenspun’s widow and surviving children, who claim no knowledge of the incident.

 Another witness at the Key West Mine, name unknown, likely deceased.

Bob Robinson, from Utah, who saw the object pass over his truck.

 The two brothers from Bunkerville, who may have seen the object on the ground after it crashed, and one of whom showed the exact location to his two sons, who refuse at this point to divulge it to me. The brothers were familiar with the mining claim nearby, and one even owned a claim in 1972 in the same general area. One of their sons also worked at the mine near the crash site years later.

Then there is the story of George Huntsman, 80, of Bunkerville. Hunstman told me that he witnessed a “fireball” several years ago while on his back porch in Bunkerville. He said that this fireball appeared about dusk, coming from the east, and moved away from Bunkerville. He was unsure of the exact year, but said that 1962 “sounds about right.” If this was the same object which later crashed, it was appearing here at an earlier time, moving in a different direction, and also in a straight line. Huntsman reported a loud boom after the object passed by, after which it “disappeared into some clouds”, to the west. He described the color as “bright red”, one color used to describe the object which crashed near Bunkerville.

Huntsman does not recall a later crash of a fireball near town. The fireball was sighted from approximately 1/2 mile away, and appeared from that distance to be “five to six feet in diameter.” It was also traveling below the mesa when he spotted it, making it unlikely the object was meteor.

There is no definite corroboration with the crashed object here, but the odds of two such anomalous objects appearing near Bunkerville in perhaps the same year seems remote. The further similarity of the two sightings is also intriguing, such as color, sound, altitude, and time of day.

A man named Cliven Bundy told me of a “blue-gold” object, with a “white tail”, pass over his father’s truck as the two were driving to St. George, Utah. The object was moving from east to northwest, similar to the direction reported by witnesses in Utah. Bundy’s family has driven cattle through the canyon where the object is said to have crashed for several generations, and lived about ten miles from the mine near the alleged crash site in 1962. He was uncertain of the exact year of his sighting, but believes it was in that approximate time frame. He also said that the object was travelling horizontally when he saw it, another characteristic of the crashed object.

These sightings are indicative of a pattern if they occurred on the same day, but of course are hard to confirm as to the exact date. There are undeniable similarities in appearance and behavior when all sightings are correlated, including corroboration through military documents and various media reports.

 The object, according to a Project Record Card in the Blue Book file, was first sighted over Cuba. Later reports indicate a sighting over Oneida, New York, then in various states, including Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada. It was seen closest by witnesses in Utah, where it flew low over Bob Robinson’s truck, temporarily shorted out his engine, and was seen to have possibly land near Highway 50, pass over Eureka, Utah, tripping the photoelectric cells in the street lights with its brightness, and possibly landed near town. One witness claims the object descended, then took off again, moving west. It was later seen over Reno, Nevada, and also over Las Vegas, Nevada, where witnesses reported it last moving horizontally northeast, in the direction of Mesquite, Nevada, before a blinding flash was seen, followed by a column of “brilliant smoke”, about 7:35 p.m., PST, according to an Air Force document in the Blue Book file.
To date, I have received no documentation through FOIA requests, other than Blue Book records, which confirm the reality of this incident. Though documentation of the 1127th USAF Field Activity Group is available for other years, I am unable to locate records for this unit from 1962. The U.S. Navy has not yet resolved my FOIA request made on March 3, 2009. No clear answer for this has been forthcoming. Other requests are pending.

I would welcome any new information from any source. The picture is far from complete, but I believe the pieces are there. My primary need is for witnesses to step forward. Confidentiality will be respected. I have revealed I have revealed names here with permission. Only the raw data matters, and a secret kept for forty eight years.

Email Scott Holloway


David Rudiak said...

I'll have to dust off my newspaper archive file on this one, but as I remember the flash of the explosion was seen at least as far north along the Canadian border by airline pilots to as far south as at least Phoenix, as far east as Kansas, and as far west as San Francisco. That's roughly a million square miles or more over which the flash could be seen, even at dusk in the west, or a helluva bright flash. Some people thought it was an A-bomb blast at the Nevada Test Site.

Whatever it was, it would probably have to be fairly high in the air to be seen over such a wide area when it exploded.

Regarding the flurry of bright "fireball" sightings, I noticed the same thing with an older mass sighting case from June 24, 1950 centered over southern California through northern Nevada (but also seen approaching Bunkerville, NV where the 1962 object was also seen, before reversing itself and flying away). This too was seen over a very wide area over a period of about an hour. (The area of view here was about 150,000 square miles.) The most commonly reported feature of this object was the enormous SPIRAL trail it left behind. Others reported an object with a bluish glow around trailing orange flames (sounding very similar to the famous 1948 Chiles-Whitted object).

Just as the phenomenon ended in northern Nevada, a bright fireball was reported going in the opposite direction (toward the south) over the Central Valley of California near Fresno, then a two hours later a roaring fireball was seen over San Jose, CA, followed two hours after that by roaring, cavorting "saucers" over the Central Valley again near Bakersfield. (There was another saucer reported by airline pilots near Commerce Texas the same day.)

Exactly one day before was another widely reported mass fireball sighting over the southern states extending into Texas, official explanation meteor and/or jet plane. Three days before (June 21) was the well known Hamilton Field case north of San Francisco of a roaring saucer trailing flames circling the field three times before departing.

At around midnight on July 1/2, a "flying banana" was reported from eastern Washington State through central Montana in a period of apparently only a few minutes. On July 1 and 3, an ice-cream cone shaped object trailing blue-orange flames and a "guided missile" were seen streaking over Fairbanks, Alaska and various military bases there. It went so fast the air base couldn't get a plane off the ground to chase it. Newspaper stories had reports of secrecy being invoked. Gen. Nathan Twining tried to write the latter sighting reports off as "astronomical phenomenon" like a shooting star.

On June 29, Itazuke Air Base, Japan, had an alert when "unidentified aircraft" flew near the base but disappeared when U.S. fighters flew to intercept. Air raid sirens sounded for the first time since 1945. Also reported, "There was no explanation of a bright flash which appeared on the horizon a few minutes before the all-clear."

It is kind of hard to write off such a variety of phenomena in such a concentrated time flying in all sorts of directions (including circles and spirals) as merely meteor fireballs.

Don said...

A UPI story, published on April 20,dateline Eureka UT:

"The flash was so bright that Eureka's street lights automatically went off..."

"Most observers reported that the fireball was traveling from east to west before its destruction. In Nevada, however, they said it was travelling in the opposite direction."

"The "fireball" and "flashes of light" were sighted in Nevada, Oregon, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming as well as California, Kansas and Utah. North American Air Defense Command headquarters in Colorado Springs said one report of a sighting came from as far away as New York"

[witness] "It was huge, green, emerald green, with a tail of bright light."



Anthony Mugan said...

Apologies but I'm afraid this would need considerably more data to be even remotely convincing. Perhaps it is just that i don't know the geography but I can't see any evidence presented to connect in a convincing way the high level trajectory of what really does sound very much like a bolide (perhaps one that fragments to allow for two aerial explosions) with the various reports of ground level and low level sightings.
Most of the individual sightings reported have little in the way of corrobative data presented for them and I am not at all cler that all can be even be reliably said to have occurred at the same time and in the same area as the high level object was passing over.
Most of the individual sightings lack enough detail to allow a reasonable attempt at identification.

Perhaps there is more detailed data behind this or I am missing something - if so sincere apologies, but at the moment this is very unconvincing.

David Rudiak said...


It was just more than visual sightings. In Project Blue Book documents it was treated as a UFO case, coming under the reporting requirements of AFR 200-2, where UFO reports were to be studied for reasons of national security and the study of technical aspects.

Mosey through Blue Book files on and will you also find some of the following:

It was tracked on radar for 32 minutes from Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada. The altitude was only 10,000. It was noted that the "speed varied noticeably"; it was headed NE but then "instantantly disappeared to S." No known aircraft were in the area. This is NOT a description of a meteor bolide.

This UFO AFR 200-2 radar report was also sent to the ADC in Colorado, Air Division of Hamilton AFB, ATIC at Wright-Patterson AFB, AF Intelligence in Washington, and the Secretary of the Air Force. Obviously it was not be treated as a meteor but something of concern to the Air Force. The Air Force does not care about meteor bolides.

In a letter of inquiry to ADC dated Aug. 31, 1962, a civilian named Louis Trifon said he was told by, "Your spokesman Lt. Col. Herbert Ralph that jets had been scrambled to intercept the object." He also stated, "The official spokesman at Nellis AFB, in reply to the meteor explanation, said: 'There's only one thing wrong with that--a meteor cannot be tracked on radar and this one was.'" (Trifon was perhaps quoting the Las Vegas "Sun" newspaper article which reported this.)

One question, why would you scramble jets to chase a "meteor" and how would you have the time? The fact that jets were scrambled from Reno and Phoenix (and perhaps Nellis) was also reported in some newspapers.

Trifon was told 3 weeks later by Pentagon spokesman/intelilgence officer Maj. C. R. Hart that: "The reported track is characteristic of that registered by a U-2 or high balloon..." then adding "but there is insufficient data reported to fully support such an evaluation."

Now if that isn't ever a double-talk, self-contradictory "explanation"! How can something simultaneously have both the characteristics of a balloon AND a U-2? No wonder there was "insufficient data" to "support such an evaluation". And couldn't they easily check out U-2 flights?

There is more to the case than that, such as the Air Force also noting that a commercial airline pilot reported the glowing object passing UNDER his plane (consistent with only a 10,000' altitude), an Air Force crew seeing the glowing object ON THE GROUND in Utah, and the very lengthy observation time of the fireball clear across the country starting in New York, again all inconsistent with meteor.

But no matter how you look at this, clearly the Air Force was treating this as a UFO case and NOT a meteor.

David Rudiak said...

I wrote:
There is more to the case than that, such as the Air Force also noting that a commercial airline pilot reported the glowing object passing UNDER his plane (consistent with only a 10,000' altitude), an Air Force crew seeing the glowing object ON THE GROUND in Utah.

A correction here: The actual report from the AF Reserve pilot is NOT of an object on the ground, but of a cigarette-shaped glowing object between and below his aircraft and BELOW the level of the mountains outlined and visible in the distance. He and the co-pilot first saw a bright source of light from above the aircraft while they were in a turn, which continued on for at least 10 seconds, at which point everything dimmed and he caught sight for about 2 seconds of the slender, cigarette-shaped object below the level of the aircraft. They neither heard, saw, or felt any explosion nor saw a trail. Time was 3:19 Zulu April 19 or 8:19 p.m. MST April 18 in Utah.

The air intelligence report and keep browsing around PBB files for other reports:

Another difference from the usual fireball report is the pilot thought the object was traveling from SW to NE rather than from E to W or to the NW as ground observers in Utah generally reported.

Observers in western Nevada around Reno, however, said they saw the object going E to W before seeing the object disappear below the mountains, then seeing the bright flash.

A complicated case with some contradictory reports of directions, maybe a case of something exploding high over Utah but something else continuing on and not behaving like a meteor at all, traveling over Nevada to the Reno vicinity, maybe doubling back east to the Las Vegas area, then heading NE where it was tracked on radar for 32 minutes from Nellis AFB before seeming to suddenly depart to the south and disappear. Kevin, who has written extensively about this case, has previously hypothesized something along these lines.

I also wrote:
In a letter of inquiry to ADC dated Aug. 31, 1962, a civilian named Louis Trifon said he was told by, "Your spokesman Lt. Col. Herbert Ralph that jets had been scrambled to intercept the object." He also stated, "The official spokesman at Nellis AFB, in reply to the meteor explanation, said: 'There's only one thing wrong with that--a meteor cannot be tracked on radar and this one was.'" (Trifon was perhaps quoting the Las Vegas "Sun" newspaper article which reported this.)

One question, why would you scramble jets to chase a "meteor" and how would you have the time? The fact that jets were scrambled from Reno and Phoenix (and perhaps Nellis) was also reported in some newspapers.

Here's another mention of a jet scramble from Nellis as a result of the radar tracking from Nellis:

MH said...

All good points, Mr. Rudiak. The object seen in Nevada changed direction at least twice, and was tracked on radar, not characteristic of a meteor. In Utah, it landed twice, changed speed, shorted out a power plant, and continued on it's path. And the Blue Book file itself states that the same object was seen as far away as New York, although a separate report was created for the Nevada sighting. I believe that circumstances argue for the same object being responsible for all sightings. The Nevada sightings alone indicate something not a natural object.

Scott Holloway

David Rudiak said...

I lived in Las Vegas at the time, but never saw this event nor remember it happening. I have since gone back and pulled the reports in the two Las Vegas newspapers, the Review-Journal and the Sun.

The RJ, the morning paper, had a short item on the front page that read:

Meteor Shower Lights Up LV

Momentary streaks of orange flames over the Las Vegas sky early last night were reported by the Nevada State Highway Patrol as probably parts of a meteor shower.

A Patrol spokesman said there were reports of heavier showers in the Reno area. The Review-Journal received numerous calls, and the northern Nevada area was described as "considerably upset" by the sight.

The Patrol said the meteor, which passed over Las Vegas, probably struck at a point between a triangle formed by Vegas, Kingman, Ariz., and St. George, Utah.
[i.e. to the NE]

This is completely different than the standard reports of flying east to west over Denver, into northern Utah, and then exploding there near Eureka/Nephi. Here it passed over or near Las Vegas and headed NE in the direction of SW Utah/NW Arizona.

So two different objects, or one on a very complicated trajectory?

The Sun, the afternoon paper, had a very lengthy and independent article, the only one that mentions the radar tracking by Nellis AFB there, to Mesquite, NV, or to the NE, near the S Nevada/SW Utah/NW Arizona border. It also mentions concern by Air Defense Command and the scrambling of jets from Phoenix triggered by the radar sighting. It has a quote from a Nellis spokesman saying that it couldn't be a meteor because meteors can't be tracked by radar and notes a search for the object by the Sheriff’s department. The lead article with blazing headline on April 19 read:



A “tremendous flaming sword” flashed across Las Vegas skies last night and heralded the start of a search of a weird “unidentified flying object” that apparently had America’s Air Force on alert.

The object, which was first reported to have been tracked by radar to the Mesquite area, 70 miles northwest [sic—should be NE] of here, also lit up Reno “like an enormous nuclear explosion.”

The brilliant, flashing, trail of fire was observed over the entire Western states and as far east as Gridley, Kan. It was also reported seen in New York.

Air Force spokesman said that radar tracked the object to the Mesquite area.

Late last night, according to United Press International, the Air Force reported that a mysterious object, possibly a large meteorite, had landed near Eureka, Utah.

Spokesman for the 28th Air Division at Stead Air Force in Reno said the power at Eureka, 40 miles west of Provo, Utah, was knocked out by the impact and word of the strange landing was held up until power was restored.

Little information but the fact that the landing and explosion were known last night by press time.

Despite theories that the object was a “large meteor,” a Nellis Air Force Base spokesman told the SUN last night that:

“There’s only one thing wrong with that: a meteor cannot be tracked on radar.

“And this object was.”

David Rudiak said...

PART II (Las Vegas SUN article)
He and other Nellis spokesmen confirmed that the Air Defense Command had been alerted by the fire trail—which was seen at approximately 7:20 p.m.—and that Phoenix jet fighters scrambled after the radar sighting. [According to the Blue Book radar report I cited in a previous post, the 32 minute radar tracking began at 7:35 p.m., or 15 minutes later.]

In Colorado Springs, Colo, Lt. Col Herbert F. Rolph, information officer for the North American Air Defense Command, said one report of sighting came from as far away as New Yok.

A NORAD astronomer said the object could have been a “Lyrid meteor”—fragments of matter from the constellation Lyra, normally seen betwen April 19 and 22. [Lyra would not rise for another 2 hours to the NE, whereas the object was tracked by radar in the opposite direction from Nellis AFB, so no Lyrid. Also the object was tracked for 32 minutes, so not a meteor.]

Reports of the mysterious UFO were reported from Utah, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming, Arizona and California.

In the central Utah area, residents also reported hearing rumbling sounds, as of explosions.

Observers in Nephi, Utah—about 9 miles south of Salt Lake City—said the object appeared to pass directly over the city from east to west.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Las Vegas SUN were deluged with calls reporting the object that was seen here traveling almost horizontally northeast of Las Vegas until a final explosion and colum of brilliant smoke rose from the direction of Mesquite.

Sheriff’s Deputy Walter Butt, who heads the search team headed into the area between Spring Mountain and Mesquite last night to find out what it was.

Despite official opinions that the object was a meteor, the fact that the ADC was alerted to the point of sending fighters into the air lends more than an air of mystery about it.

Theories were advanced that it may have been a Soviet space experiment—possibly even containing human beings—that went disasterously wrong over the United States, carrying its possible crew to flaming death.

But nobody knows for sure.

However, indications were obvious that America’s airmen who are responsible for defending this continent from attack were alarmed.

Spokesman at SAC’s West Coast headquarters—March Air Force Base near Riverside, Calif.—told the SUN last night:

“I have no information that I can give out at all.”

SUN Staff Photographer Frank Maggio, who saw the object, said it looked “like a tremendous flaming sword.”

He said that a series of bright explosions broke up its trail across the sky.

“I’ve seen meteors before and they always fall at an angle. This was going horizontally. Besides, a meteor always appears bluish. This red, organ orange and yellow.”

A spokeman for the AEC at the Nevada Test Site saw it and said it looked like a nuclear explosion. But he added that it came from the wrong direction.

Anthony Mugan said...

David Rudiak

Thanks - that's exactly the sort of cross-correlating detail which is very helpful. My apologies on not having known / previously found out about it.

Certainly a complicated case and the timing around the time of the Lyrids may lead to actual meteors being mixed in with reports that do seem rather more curious, given all this additional information, and with some degree of supporting evidence...I stand corrected (I'm impressed!)

Anthony Mugan said...

Can I ask if it's clear that the explosions can be tied back convincingly to one or more of the radar tracks? For example would an extrapolation of the trajectory bring whatever was reflecting radar into the right area at the right time?

Does sound like the it's quite possibile that more than one thing was going on in all these different aspects - hence my caution

Thanks and best wishes for their continued efforts to those putting the pieces of these cases together

David Rudiak said...


This much is certain from the newspaper reports and Blue Book files:

1) A brilliant fireball with tail was seen crossing the Rocky mountain states, passing over Denver at 8:17 p.m., continuing on into Utah and at 8:19 there was a tremendous explosion of something near Eureka/Nephi Utah that was seen over the entire western U.S. A loud explosion and rumbling was heard by nearby ground observers several minutes later. This suggests a very large explosion akin to a nuclear blast at high altitude (but not too high or nothing would have been heard). Also witnesses reported the fireball in a horizontal trajectory, not a downward one, except perhaps at the very end. An AF reserve crew in the air reported seeing the bright light, perhaps the explosion flash, but the pilot also reported seeing a bright cigarette-shaped object below his position right afterward.

2) At 8:35 p.m. Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, started radar tracking something at about 10,000-10,800 feet and continued tracking it for 32 minutes to the NE into the vicinity of Mesquite, NV, near the Utah and Arizona borders, then it seemed to suddenly disappear to the south. Already rattled by the previous fireball, AF spokespeople confirmed the scrambling of jets as a result of the radar track. It is unclear from what I've read whether the radar tracking was followed by another explosion.

Air Force spokespeople also confirmed that a Bonanza airline pilot reported an unidentified object flying BENEATH his plane that was at 11,000 feet, or consistent with the 10,000 foot altitude of the radar track. However, exactly when and where this happened was never reported, though Bonanza operated out of Las Vegas.

3) In addition, it was reported the same object was seen in New York (same or different?), that the fireball traveled east to west viewed from more eastern states, but in Nevada was generally reported as going west to east. The Nevada Highway Patrol said an object was seen traveling over Las Vegas.

4. The Las Vegas Sheriff's Department was reported mounting a search in southern Nevada, whilst the Air Force said it was looking for something that had possibly come down in Utah near Eureka, then later said if something came down it was in an inaccessible wilderness area and the search was called off.

Trying to put this altogether, if there was a meteor fireball, it was very large, lasted unusually long--over a minute and perhaps substantially more--and on a very unusual flat horizontal trajectory. If it was also sighted in New York and not seen again until Colorado, what happened in between?

A meteor on a grazing, skipping trajectory with the atmosphere might be slowed down enough on initial pass through the atmosphere to temporarily skip out then be pulled back in again at about orbital velocity and continue on through the high atmosphere on a horizontal trajectory. This often happens when the source of a meteor shower is near the horizon, though the constellation Lyra was not to rise for over two hours.

The main problem is the huge size of the reported fireball and explosion and the duration of the fireball. We would need a VERY big chunk of meteor material meters in size, not at all typical for a meteor shower produced by the debris from the tail of comet (mostly dust to occasional pebble size). I've also never heard of a fully documented meteor fireball event that lasted even a full minute much less over a minute.

Then there were the reports of something going on immediately afterward, an object much lower down, passing beneath planes, tracked for a prolonged period on radar, and seen flying in different directions. Even if the first fireball was a meteor, what was the second object? The coincidence in timing is remarkable. Was the second object a continuation of the fireball event or something different?

So very, very puzzling. An Air Force intelligence officer in response to an inquiry several months later tried to pass the incident(s) off as both consistent with a balloon and a U-2 plane, which was preposterous.

David Rudiak said...

Miscellaneous interesting historical aviation/aerospace factoids surrounding the fireball time period of April 18, 1962:

1. According to an AP item in the Oakland Tribune April 19, 1962, accompanying the article on the Utah/Nevada event, an object emitting a bright light was sighted by the weather bureau over Columbia Missouri at 3:47 a.m moving from SSW to NW and visible for 5 minutes--obviously NOT a meteor. Also the Chicago weather bureau had reports of a "similar sighting" at Milwaukee and said it was a probable meteorite.

2. Secret military satellite launch April 18: A "super secret satellite" that the Air Force refused to talk about was launched into a polar orbit from Vandenberg AFB, CA. (Las Vegas Sun, Washington Post, 4/19/62) (Probably a Corona spy satellite.)

3. ABM & BM tests: On April 19, a Nike-Zeus anti-ballistic missile was test fired from Point Magu, CA, but failed to complete a test destruction of a simulated ICBM warhead. At Cape Canaveral, an airborne Skybolt ballistic missile was test-fired from a B-52. (Las Vegas Sun, 4/20/62)

4. Unusual VIP visit to Nellis AFB: Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona and Howard Cannon of Nevada, both Brig. Generals in the Air Force Reserve, and other elite members of the AF Reserve Association, made a surprise visit shrouded in secrecy to Las Vegas using JFK's personal airplane, landing at Nellis AFB 4/14 and leaving 4/15. The group was said to have inspected Vandenberg AFB prior to this. Cannon the next day said such inspection tours of important bases were common and he didn't know why secrecy had been imposed from Washington. (Las Vegas Sun, 4/17 & 4/18/62)

5. Nuclear rocket program: On April 18, NASA said it would take over the nuclear rocket program at the Nevada Test Site to help meet its goals of space exploration to the planets in the late 1960s. (Las Vegas Sun, 4/18/62)

6. ICBM's: In Denver on April 18, the Air Force declared its first squadron of underground Titan ICBM's at Lowry AFB near Denver was now combat ready. (SF Chronicle 4/19/62, adjacent to fireball story). At Cape Canaveral on April 18, a Jupiter IRM (intermediary range missile) was test fired with dummy warhead. (Las Vegas Review-Journal 4/19/62). (These were being installed in Italy and Turkey and would soon play a role in the Cuban missile crisis in October.)

7. X-15 flights: At Edwards AFB, CA, on April 19, Joe Walker piloted an X-15 to 30 miles altitude. On April 20, Neil Armstrong piloted an X-15 to a new record altitude of 40 miles. (Las Vegas Sun, 4/20 & 4/21/1962)

8. OTHER ROCKETS: On April 20 was the first fight of the Centaur liquid-hydrogen fuel rocket. On April 23 was the Ranger 4 moon rocket launch. On April 24 was the second Saturn rocket launch. (Sacramento Bee, 4/19/62

9. April 26, the super-secret A-12 spy plane made its first test flight out of Area-51 in central Nevada. (Thus too late to have had any connection with the April 18 events.)

10. Plane crashes: On April 19, a T33 jet trainer out of Hill AFB, UT, crashed on the northern end of the Great Salt Lake near Snowville, UT killing both crew members (Phoenix Gazette, 4/20/62). On April 20, a private plane out of Salt Lake crashed in NE Nevada near Wendover UT. (Berkeley Daily Gazette, 4/21 and 4/22/62)

MH said...

I have spoken to other residents in Las Vegas when the event occurred. Some recall it vaguely, some not at all. As noted in the LV SUN article, a staff photographer, Frank Maggio, was a witness to the object. I have not been able to locate the reporter, Jim Stalnaker, if he is still alive. I am quite satisfied that the two witnesses to the actual crash are genuine. If I can locate a plausible crash site (and I have a general idea where it is) then another piece will be in place.
As I said, the behavior and documentation of the object in Nevada, even if distinct from the other sightings, argues for an aircraft of some sort, whether man made or not.
I hope to update my article in the future. Thank you for the comments, especially Mr. Rudiak.

Scott Holloway

David Rudiak said...

Scott Holloway wrote:

The object seen in Nevada changed direction at least twice, and was tracked on radar, not characteristic of a meteor.

Scott, to clarify, do you mean the reported west to east trajectory reported from the Reno area, then the NE tracking out of Las Vegas?

In Utah, it landed twice, changed speed, shorted out a power plant, and continued on it's path.

The reported time of passage over Denver was 8:17, with the explosion high over Utah at 8:19. So if a landing or two, it sounds like after the explosion, not before, as there would have been insufficient time. This may be connected to the AF Reserve sighting of the glowing object below their position at least 10 seconds after initially seeing the bright light above their position.

As to the power plant, there were conflicting newspaper reports. Initially Stead AFB in Reno said the power supply in Eureka, Utah, was knocked out, e.g. this quote in a follow-up story from the Las Vegas Sun on April 20: "A spokesman for the 28th Air Division of the Air Force at Stead Air Force Base, Reno, said the power at Eureka, 40 miles east of Provo, Utah, was knocked out from the impact and word of the meteorite's landing was held up until power was restored."

Against this, the usual wire service report, including citing Police Chief Joseph Bernini in Eureka, was all that happened was that the photocells were triggered by the bright flash and turned off the streetlights for a few seconds.

I believe Kevin wrote in one of his books that he later interviewed Bernini who went with the photocell story. So I still don't know if power in Eureka was actually knocked out, as Stead AFB reported early on. Does anybody have any more information on this?

And the Blue Book file itself states that the same object was seen as far away as New York, although a separate report was created for the Nevada sighting.

Specifically Oneida, N.Y., but I have zero information on the sighting there, such as time, direction, etc. I can't find this particular sighting in BB files. Anybody?

Apparently it was thought there was a connection, but why?

I believe that circumstances argue for the same object being responsible for all sightings. The Nevada sightings alone indicate something not a natural object.

Something was sighted over Vegas leaving a prominent orange streak and tracked by radar at low altitude NE to the Mesquite area. Jets were scrambled. The Sheriff's dept. was going to search the area. That's about all we know for sure from newspapers and BB files. Blue Book also said maybe a balloon, but it was tracked by Nellis weather radar. You would think they would know what was flying and what about the prominent streak in the sky?

Mesquite is about 70 miles NE of Vegas, so a 1/2 hour track would indicate a speed of about 140 mph, thus speed not necessarily contradictory with balloon but no real direct evidence to support it. Also the relatively low constant altitude of around 10,000' is not consistent with a typical balloon, and we have the report of the Bonanza airline pilot of a blazing object passing under his plane while flying at 11,000', although not clear if directly linked to the object tracked on radar at 10,000'.

Still lots of loose data points in this case. I wonder if FAA records would record the airline report and pin things down a bit.

David Rudiak said...

Scott Holloway wrote:
I have spoken to other residents in Las Vegas when the event occurred. Some recall it vaguely, some not at all. As noted in the LV SUN article, a staff photographer, Frank Maggio, was a witness to the object. I have not been able to locate the reporter, Jim Stalnaker, if he is still alive.

Some more trivia: As I mentioned, I lived there and neither saw anything or recall anything. I was only 13 at the time. May have something to do with living on the west side of town instead of the north or east side where the event would have been easier to see. Or I just wasn't outside at the time.

Also the family newspaper was the Review-Journal, which didn't have much coverage, unlike the SUN. My father would have nothing to do with the SUN because there was bad blood between him and the publisher, Hank Greenspun.

Greenspun died in 1989 and Scott says he interviewed the family, who don't know anything more (son Brian took over as publisher from his father). Our family knows the Greenspuns a little bit, but that doesn't seem to be of use here.

I don't know anything about the reporter, Stalnaker, who would probably know the most. I'll see if I can find out. Frank Maggio, besides being a staff photographer, also wrote humor columns. He later married Miss Nevada, 1963, Cheryl Thompson of Las Vegas, who came in 3rd in the Miss America contest that year.

Since the SkeptoN(a)uts like to label me a "conspiracist", let me go out on a limb saying that Ms. Thompson's marriage to Maggio and high placement in the Miss America contest was obviously connected to the 1962 Nevada UFO event, bribes to keep the two of them quiet about what they knew about the 1962 UFO crash. (You heard it here first!)

But that's not all! When Kevin wrote about this case 4 years ago, it was noted that the SUN's files were burned in a fire on the same day Kennedy was assassinated. Not just the files, but the entire office and printing plant--arson. Greenspun had many enemies, but obviously the fire was connected to destroying the UFO files and what Greenspun had on Kennedy. (I only half joke about the latter, since Greenspun had been pardoned by Kennedy for running guns to the Israeli's and was later connected with the Watergate break-in. In addition to Democratic HQ at the Watergate, Atty. General John Mitchell also wanting the Plumbers to break into Greenspun's safe to retrieve rumored blackmail material he had on Democratic Presidential candidates.)

Anyway, the Conspiracist's see connections in everything, and it's all TRUE!

[Sarcasm mode OFF]

David Rudiak said...

On a more serious note, a little sighting math.

Reported fireball time over Denver: 8:17 p.m.

Fireball explodes over Utah: 8:19 p.m.

Eureka is 380 air miles due West of Denver.

380 miles in about 2 minutes would be 11,400 mph. If we assume orbital speed of 5 miles/sec it would have taken 76 seconds to cover the distance, which would be within error limits given we don't know the exact time elapsed. So could possibly have been something initially traveling in the upper atmosphere at orbital speed around 50-60 miles up where it would start glowing from friction. This would also give it a flat-appearing horizontal trajectory if traveling tangentially to the earth.

OK, so possibly a large meteor. Can't rule that out. (But see calculation next post of how large a meteor it would have taken--NOT a puny Lyriad.)

Now the Nevada object, assuming it was a continuation of some part of the exploding object.

From Eureka to around Reno, where it looped around and headed towards Las Vegas to the SE, first tracked on radar at 8:35 p.m. (7:35 in Vegas), or 16 minutes later.

Eureka to Reno: 410 miles; Reno to Las Vegas: 340 miles; TOTAL ~750 miles.

750 miles in 16 minutes about 3000 mph average. (You could possibly knock this down by about 25% to around 2200 mph since I know of no reports of anybody actually seeing anything over Reno, just something headed in an eastward direction.)

The lower estimate would be about the top speed of the newly developed A-12 spy plane, but historically it didn't start flight-testing until 8 days later from Area 51 in mid-Nevada, and they certainly wouldn't start testing at the maximum speed. And this is a much higher speed than the U-2 spy plane, which also operated out of A-51. This is just one reason to rule out the later preposterous claim from a Pentagon AF intelligence officer recorded in Blue Book that it could possibly have been a U-2 or a balloon.

Then we get to Las Vegas and the radar tracking by Nellis AFB of an object proceeding relatively slowly to the NE for 1/2 to the vicinity of Mesquite, NV, a distance of 70 miles, so 140 mph average. Altitude only about 10,000 feet. Then it was lost from radar, said to be heading south

That's a very conventional speed and altitude. Could have been any number of conventional things. But jets were scrambled and nothing was ever identified as causing the radar tracking, at least officially. Weather balloons and airplanes leave behind paper trails, but nothing recorded was ever connected with this object sighting.

David Rudiak said...

A little more math on the energy of the explosion:

After the explosion near Eureka, people on the ground in the Eureka area heard explosion and rumbling sounds several minutes later, typically 3 or 4 minutes later. Sound travels about 12 miles a minute, so possibly the explosion was 3 or 4 dozen miles away, consistent with an explosion perhaps about 30 miles up (much higher and there wouldn't be enough atmosphere to carry the sound). The high altitude would also help explain why the flash of the explosion could be seen over virtually the entire western U.S., for distances of up to about 800 miles.

But you still need one helluva large explosion to account for the huge area over it was seen. I would estimate an A-bomb size explosion in energy. (The flash of A-bomb ground explosions at the Nevada Test Site we could easily see from Las Vegas 90 miles away. At higher altitude, I wouldn't be surprised if they could be seen at 10 times this distance.)

Another way to estimate the energy are from the reports that the ground was lit up as if it were daylight near the explosion. Assuming an explosion distance of 40 miles away and the same radiant energy/meter squared as the sun, you again get about an A-bomb's worth of energy (around 10^14 joules give or take).

I won't bore you with the details, but if you assume a meteor traveling at 5 miles/sec or 8 km/sec and assuming 10% of the kinetic energy being converted into the energy of the explosion, you would need a mass on the order of at least a 10,000 metric tons!

It would take a solid nickle-iron meteor about 20 feet across. That's one helluva of a "Lyrid" meteor, not nickle-iron, but caused by debris in a comet's tail, usually little more than dust to pebble-size ice or silicate material.

So we can't rule a meteor out, but it seems unlikely.

David Rudiak said...

Hopefully one last post, another thought about energy estimate of explosion:

If the streetlights in Eureka went out temporarily because photocells designed to turn them off in the early morning were triggered by the light of the explosion, that could put a more quantitative lower limit on the radiative energy of the light than descriptions like "as bright as the light of day."

On the explosion and subsequent events:

This has some similarities to the Kecksburg incident of 1965 and Roswell (naturally).

In both cases, somewhat like 1962, there was a large explosion followed by the later sighting and/or finding of a secondary object. (Yes, skeptics, I know you dispute at least the secondary crash sites.)

For Kecksburg, a fireball was seen by thousands over multiple states, clearly exploding somewhere over the western end of Lake Erie. Nothing but a meteor bolide and that was the end of the story, according to the skeptics. Nothing happened at Kecksburg 200 miles to ESE.

But not so fast. Even some witnesses to the explosion reported seeing debris flying out from the explosion point, including a larger chunk. (This would be true even for a meteor.) 50 miles beyond the explosion point, in and around Elyria, Ohio, metallic debris was reported raining down and starting grassfires. There were fireball and other object sightings beyond this point. A weather observer in Columbus reported seeing the fireball to his east, or in the direction of Kecksburg. The object was reported by the Pittsburgh airport as being in their airspace a few minutes later. Sonic booms were reported in western Pennsylvania attributed to the fireball. A Canadian RAF pilot sent a written report to Project Blue Book of being on a commercial airliner flying south of Pittsburgh, looking out his window to the east, and seeing a glowing object suddenly going into a steep dive.

Then there the witnesses in and near Kecksburg seeing something maneuvering and descending to the ground, feeling a ground bump when it hit, and several witnesses seeing the acorn-shaped object in the woods, and then being hustled out on a flatbed by the Army covered with a tarp.

So if the Kecksburg story is true, were there two incidents closely conjoined in time, a meteor fireball and a separate "UFO" incident, or were they connected?

My theory is a distressed object descending from orbit, perhaps a main object exploding and something like an escape capsule continuing on. That would resemble a meteor bolide but not be a meteor. (A NASA spokesman in 2005 would admit NASA examining metallic debris form the object, claiming it was Russian.)

Now Roswell, an explosion over the Foster Ranch but a small craft with crew continuing on and crashing about 20 or 30 miles east, the second crash site. Again this is possibly a main craft exploding but something like an escape capsule continuing on to crash elsewhere.

1962 event: Explosion over Utah of main object but "escape capsule" continuing on, perhaps being seen near ground by AF Reserve pilot in Utah right afterward and later being seen over Nevada in Reno and Las Vegas and tracked by radar from Las Vegas back towards Utah and disappearing near Mesquite, NV.

This takes us back to Scott Holloway and the Bunkerville (near Mesquite) miners who supposedly saw the object crash nearby.

However, I do have to ask myself the question why an "escape capsule" would take such a highly convoluted and lengthy trip before finally touching down. There's nothing particularly special about Bunkerville for a landing site. And I can think of better places to hide out for a time.

MH said...

I spoke to the wife of the Deputy Sheriff in 1962, Walter Butt, who was in poor health and unable to speak with me. She told me that he led a search team to the perimeter of the Nevada Test Site, which is far from the area where I believe the object crashed, and far from where Las Vegas witnesses reported the explosion, near Mesquite. The SUN article mentioned a search of the Spring Mountain area, again nowhere near Bunkerville or mesquite. The area south of there is not easily accessible, and I believe that if the crash occurred there, the only plausible witnesses to the crash site would have been miners working in the area, or a military retrieval team. It is not a site that one would just stumble across. However, I have located the mine mentioned by the witnesses as the nearest landmark. The question of witnesses from that mine is much more difficult, as records from that era, especially of unincorporated mines, are almost nonexistent.
If the site does exist, I believe there must be some indication of it, given the apparent force of the explosion, if that is what it was. There have been UFO reports of extremely bright flashes, noiseless, which preceded landings, but did not damage the UFO. I also consider the account of the Berthold Schwarz military witness, who claimed to have been shown a recovered craft from Nevada at a base in Arizona. Schwarz was highly impressed with the man's credentials, and I find his account suggestive of a mention by Donald Kehoe to Wilbert Smith of a secret base in Arizona for the purpose of studying UFO propulsion, a base first mentioned in fact by Smith, far predating the Schwarz witness. Whatever this man witnessed, he was still quite adamant about not discussing the incident with me or Schwarz further, although noting that there was something to it.
Not conclusive, no, but this is a unique field of research, perhaps not so conventional as others.
The research is ongoing, and often tedious, but always rewarding.

MH said...

Let me add that I am open to various interpretations of the nature of the object. The object reported across the country on 4/18/62 may not have been a single event. Suggestive, yes, but, I concede, impossible to prove empirically. Whatever was seen in Utah and Nevada, if reported somewhat accurately, defies the meteor explanation, especially the Bob Robinson and Pebble Cox accounts.
It's a process. I can accept the truth whatever it may be. My research is far from complete, always evolving. There is more to this than I ever would have guessed, but the journey is fascinating.

Mr. Rudiak, please feel free to contact me with any information, even just recollections of 1962 Las Vegas. Be glad to hear from you, here or through email.

MH said...

Scott Holloway.

Anthony Mugan said...

I am again impressed by the additional depth of information being provided. Please accept any further thoughts in the spirit intended, which is to be constructively challenging.
The data presented does support two events at least, the high level trajectory at 8:17-8:19 and unbidden tidied radar track at 10,000 feet 16 mins later. I agree that the timings of the high level trajectory are consistent with something coming in from space, allowing for slight elements of rounding of differences in time pieces involved. An east to west trajectory would be from a retrograde orbit, so unlikely to be a man made satellite but is consistent with either a meteor or a more advanced technology. I especially like the point about the photocells being triggered a this could help put a lower lit on the radiant power. We are clearly not talking about an actual atomic explosion and the lack of blast damage is also a factor. This in all honesty does sound like a large bolide exploding in the upper atmosphere but I remain very open to any data from any specialists in such matters as to why that couldn't be so.
The escape pod idea is ingenious, and you can get some interesting correlations in UFO patterns. For example a paper of mine in 2011 in the Journal of Frontier Science suggested that UFO sightings were statistically significantly more common near CE4 events, but as a single event coincidence of timing is possible and we don't have a clear chain of evidence linking the high and low events.

If the aircraft sighting could be tied in with the radar track that would rule out weather anomalies. It doesn't sound like a weather related radar anomaly, but someone would no doubt try and suggest. If the radar track was contnous for a reasonable length of flight that would also more or less rule out the weather type effect and meterological records could also help here to.

Anthony Mugan said...

Just to add, as the previous comment seemed to seize up part way through...

It may be worth considering and testing a couple of alternative possibilities for the low level track. There are rare types of plasma that can occurr in the atmosphere that can reflect radar and have an appearance consistent with the report from the aircraft. It is known that these can be generated in times of high seismic strain, so an examination of relevant seismic data could be suggestive if there was an increase in seismic activity in the area (radius of around 150 miles would be enough) within a month or six weeks of the event. If not then unlikely to be a tectonic strain light. There was also a recent paper by a New Zealand researcher suggesting that plasma could be generated by the passage of meteorites. I'm typing this away from the desk but will try to dig out the reference later. I don't know how that idea has stood up to scrutiny but it seems possibly of relevance. Not sure how to test it, but there may be something in the original paper that could help (the time gap and distances involved may be a factor, but in needs a specialist).

Sorry, whilst I am overall supportive of the ETH, the number of cases that survive serious scrutiny (I don't mean the absurd pseudo-sceptical rubbish put out by some) seems quite small to me. That may include not accepting some genuine events just because it's not possible to eliminate all alternatives and show some positive evidence in favour of a controlled technology. All the best with the continued research on this one. There are certainly some interesting aspects to it, but I can't accept it shows evidence for an actual UFO crash just yet. I confess I am also sceptical over Kecksburg, but with an element of doubt. Roswell is in a league of it's own in terms of UFO alleged crash cases, as far as I can see.

Anyway, I'll sign off now, sorry for being annoying!

David Rudiak said...

MH (Scott Holloway) wrote:

I spoke to the wife of the Deputy Sheriff in 1962, Walter Butt, who was in poor health and unable to speak with me. She told me that he led a search team to the perimeter of the Nevada Test Site, which is far from the area where I believe the object crashed, and far from where Las Vegas witnesses reported the explosion, near Mesquite. The SUN article mentioned a search of the Spring Mountain area, again nowhere near Bunkerville or mesquite.

Quite. The Spring Mountains are about 15 miles west of town, so a search there makes no sense for an object reported headed towards Bunkerville/Mesquite, which are about 70 miles NE of town.

The Test Site begins about 45 miles NW of town (at Indian Springs AFB) though portions are to the NNW. The Sheep Range is north of town on the SW side of the Test Site. East of town a few miles is Sunrise Mountain with Lake Mead (behind Hoover Dam) on the other side.

If any searches were being done, I would think they either have been the NE sector around the Sheep Range or beyond Sunrise Mt., not the Spring Mts., which are in completely the wrong direction.

The area south of there is not easily accessible, and I believe that if the crash occurred there, the only plausible witnesses to the crash site would have been miners working in the area, or a military retrieval team. It is not a site that one would just stumble across. However, I have located the mine mentioned by the witnesses as the nearest landmark.

If by south you mean south of Bunkerville, then this would be the region around Lake Mead and south of the dam which are indeed extremely rough canyonlands cut out by the Colorado River. It would definitely be very hard to find something that landed or crashed there unless it was seen coming down or tracked by radar. Same thing if it landed/crashed into Lake Mead.

David Rudiak said...

I previously wrote:
If the streetlights in Eureka went out temporarily because photocells designed to turn them off in the early morning were triggered by the light of the explosion, that could put a more quantitative lower limit on the radiative energy of the light than descriptions like "as bright as the light of day."

Let's flesh the idea out a little bit. Streetlights usually use cadmium sulfide photoresistors, which have been around for a long time, to trigger turning street lights on or off. These have high resistance when it is dark and very low resistance when it is light. How the resistance drops off is measured in lux, illumination energy per square area adjusted for how humans perceive light brightness with wavelength. It so happens Cd-S photocells have sensitivities to wavelength similar to that of the human eye, so they are very good at turning the streetlights on and off at the appropriate moment, and are also used in camera light meters for the same reason.

To get a feeling for what lux means, good interior lighting might be around 50-100 lux, a very dark, cloudy, stormy day might be around 100 lux, brightness at dusk or dawn on a clear day is around 400 lux, an overcast day around 1000 lux, full daylight but not direct sunlight around 10,000-25,000 lux, and direct sunlight around 30,000 to 120,000 lux.

Obviously you want the streetlights to trigger at about dusk or dawn lightness, or about 400 lux, but not on an overcast day at 1000 lux, when there is plenty of light to see by. This is less than 1% of the illumination in direct sunlight on a clear day (where the power levels can be 1 Kilowatt/m^2)

However, this is in continuous light. With the 1962 explosion, the light flash was only a few seconds. I would guess you would therefore need a much more intense light to quickly trigger the light switch.

A "typical" trigger might consist of the Cd-S photocell attached to a heating element around a bimetal, like in a thermostat. When the light goes up, the resistance in the circuit goes down, the bimetal is heated, causing it to bend. If it bends far enough, it opens the main lighting circuit and turns the lights off. When it's dark, the resistance is high and very little current heats the bimetal. It returns to its dark/cold lights-on position. How long it takes to turn the lights on or off depends on the particulars of the photosensitive switch, for which I have no data.

But I would guess for the streetlights in Eureka to turn off to such a short flash, the light intensity would have to be much higher than the prolonged dim light intensity that would normally turn off the lights at dawn.

In my calculation of explosion energy, I used a distance of 40 miles from the explosion for Eureka (based on how long it took them to hear it) and full direct sunlight intensity of about 1000 joules/m^2. This works out to a total energy of about 5*10^13 joules, which just so happens to be what a "typical" 15 kiloton A-bomb releases. This would make the flash as bright as daylight, as witnesses reported and would represent close to he upper end of what the energy release of the explosion was.

If the photocells could rapidly turn off the street lights with only a few seconds of bright light at maybe 10% of full sunlight, then this would be the lower end of energy--a small A-bomb.

We could then get into the source of this energy, whether kinetic energy of reentry would be enough, but you need a very massive object to do it, probably something like a "mothership" in size of several thousand tons rather than a small UFO. (By comparison, a fully loaded 747 would weigh around 300 tons.)

Anthony Mugan said...

Reference and abstract as promised (he is actually Australian, not from new Zeealand). Do treat with some caution as I don't think the causal mechanism is fully understood, but possibly of relevance.

Stephen Hughes, 2011, ‘Green fireballs and ball lightning’, Proc R Soc A 2011 467:1427-1448; doi:10.1098/rspa.2010.0409

Abstract given below:

Green fireballs and ball lightning

1. Stephen Hughes*

+ Author Affiliations

1. Department of Physics, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland 4001, Australia

1. *↵

This paper presents evidence of an apparent connection between ball lightning and a green fireball. On the evening of the 16 May 2006 at least three fireballs were seen by many people in the skies of Queensland, Australia. One of the fireballs was seen passing over the Great Divide about 120 km west of Brisbane, and soon after, a luminous green ball about 30 cm in diameter was seen rolling down the slope of the Great Divide. A detailed description given by a witness indicates that the phenomenon was probably a highly luminous form of ball lightning. A hypothesis presented in this paper is that the passage of the Queensland fireball meteor created an electrically conductive path between the ionosphere and ground, providing energy for the ball lightning phenomenon. A strong similarity is noted between the Queensland fireball and the Pasamonte fireball seen in New Mexico in 1933. Both meteors exhibit a twist in the tail that could be explained by hydrodynamic forces. The possibility that multiple sightings of fireballs across southeast Queensland were produced owing to fragments from comet 73P Schwassmann–Wachmann 3 is discussed

David Rudiak said...


Thanks for the reference. Two big problems I have with this as an explanation for happened in 1962 are duration and distance. The "object" near Las Vegas was tracked on radar for 32 minutes. Reports of ball lightning have durations typically measured in seconds, rarely a minute or more. I don't think there are any historical accounts of half an hour.

Also there is a separation of three hundred miles between Mesquite, Utah and Las Vegas. Meteors certainly do ionize the atmosphere as they pass through it, but the ionization is along their trajectory, not hundreds of miles ahead of it and tens of miles below. I do not see how a meteor could trigger ball lightning formation hundreds of miles away.

Anthony Mugan said...

David...all good questions. I don't ball lightning is a likely explanation but there are some indications of larger and longer lived plasmas being occasionally generated by various poorly understood mechanisms (e.g Hessdalen). I'm not saying this is the explanation, but worth considering given the coincidence of timing. Events today in Russia (15/2/2013) seem similar to the high altitude fireball also

David Rudiak said...

Here are some interesting videos of the Russian fireball, including the explosion:

HuffingtonPost (start of video has sound of shockwave hitting):

I found it particularly interesting how the first set of videos show the main explosion but the fireball and trail do not end there, a smaller fireball seeming to continue on the original trajectory for at least half a dozen to a dozen miles before flaming out.

There are indeed a number of similarities to the 1962 fireball, including relatively flat, horizontal trajectory, estimated size of the explosion (A-bomb size), ground illumination, and estimated speed and size of the object. Most damage seems to have been not from meteor fragments but the shock wave of the explosion shattering windows.

This fireball seems to have detonated at a lower altitude and therefore caused widespread ground damage, unlike 1962, or it was a larger explosion. I seriously doubt it detonated at 10,000 meters in one of the news reports, or damage would have been much more massive. One witness said the shock wave took about 3 minutes to arrive, so she would have been about 36 miles from the explosion. No doubt the trajectory experts will soon pour over all the videos and calculate a more precise trajectory, speed, energy, and size.

Well, almost certainly a meteor, even though you can't really tell the difference between a natural object and an artificial one burning up in the atmosphere from simple videos.

Unknown said...
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MT said...

I am a meteorite hunter in Las Vegas, NV. If you have more information on this, let me know. I know of several meteorites being found in the Gold Butte area, and Moapa area, which is near Mesquite, NV. Meteorites can be picked up by radar, and even tracked, just google search meteorites and radar. My email is

Unknown said...

I saw this fireball while sitting in my dad's car outside my grandparents house in Henderson,NV, I was seven yrs old. It looked like it hit out at Lake Mead, which is about 9 miles from where I was sitting.My mom showed me an article in the RJ that said it hit outside Salt Lake City, knocking out power to large part of the city. If anyone knows anything else, please write me at Thompson

Searching said...

This is interesting my father told me about this incident and I asked him for a year and found this article. He said he and his siblings saw a what appeared to be an aluminum craft sparking out and what looked to be electrical issues. The electrical smell story definitely catches my attention with similarity. My dad will be interesting to hear this as well!