Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Levelland and the Four Witnesses

During the interview with Robert Sheaffer on A Different Perspective, I mentioned the Levelland UFO case as one that seemed to have quite a bit of evidence. Here was a case with multiple, independent witnesses who reported the close approach of the UFO that stalled their car engines, dimmed their headlights and filled the radios with static. It is a case that fascinates me and seems to suggest that there is no plausible, terrestrial explanation for it. Robert suggested that four of those
independent witnesses had been discredited and it might have been just one or two guys calling the Levelland police or sheriff’s office and making multiple reports. Frankly, I had not heard about that, and given the nature of the show, just didn’t have the time or ability to explore the claim then. For those who haven’t listened to the show, you can find it here:

Actually, during the show, Robert sent me a link to a website that provided the information. I just couldn’t get to it then, in the middle of the show, but have, of course, looked at it since. (I will note here that we take short 30 second breaks between segments so that the commercials can be inserted later.) You can find that link on Levelland here:

The relevant comments, from the site provide four names and a little about their importance to the case. It says:

Their names were James Long, Jim Wheeler, Jose Alvarez and Frank Williams. For some reason, they are considered witnesses of the highest caliber; any analysis of the Levelland case is likely to refer to them with words such as honest, sincere, truthful, sober or reliable. The fact that prisons are filled with honest, sincere, truthful men notwithstanding, the UFO enthusiast neglects to mention that all we know about what happened to these men comes from a phone call each of them placed to a UFO investigator.
They were never interviewed by the police, the Air Force or other reputable sources; we have but their claims, telephoned to a single UFO investigator, on which to hang their veracity. Let me call forth all of my powers of understatement and say that I feel this is insufficient justification to take their word for it.
These men aren’t the only ones who reported an encounter with the object that night but it was these four who had been singled out. Although it appears, as mentioned, that those four were not interviewed by the Air Force, they were interviewed by law enforcement. It is not true that UFO researchers have referred to them as “witnesses of the highest caliber.” Please note here the use of the word, “likely” when mentioning that any analyst “is likely to refer to them with words such as honest, sincere, truthful men…” In my survey of various sources including those that I have written, I did not find any such praise. Just the raw facts of their sightings.

I’m not sure of the relevance of suggesting the “fact that prisons are filled with honest, sincere, truthful men.” I’m actually not sure how you can claim that prisons are filled with honest, truthful men. This seems an inappropriate comment and wonder if a better analogy might have been used rather than this somewhat oblique smear.

The “official” investigation of the sightings lasted for most of a day (seven hours) and was conducted by Staff Sergeant Norman P. Barth, a mid-level NCO with the 1006th Air Intelligence Service Squadron stationed at Ent Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Barth did interview a couple of the witnesses including Pedro Saucedo, the first man to report the UFO stalling the engine of his truck.

Barth was unimpressed with Saucedo and the passenger in his truck, Joe Salaz (though his last name is spelled several different ways in the various reports). Barth reported that the “source,” that is Saucedo, had no concept of direction and gave conflicting answers. He also reported that Saucedo’s truck had been recently repaired and a piece of the distributor rotor in the ignition system had broken off, possibly causing the truck to stall.

There were those interviewed by Barth that did corroborate Saucedo’s claims. According to Newel Wright’s statement found in the Project Blue Book files:

I was driving home from Lubbock… at approximately 12:00 p.m. [I’m sure he meant midnight] when the ammeter on my car jumped to complete discharge, then it returned to normal and my motor started cutting out like it was out of gas. After it quit running my lights went out. I got out of my car and tried in vain to find the trouble. When I found nothing I closed the hood… It was at this time I saw the object. I got back in my car and tried to start it but to no avail. After that I did nothing but stare at the object until it disappeared about five minutes later. I then resumed trying to start my car and succeeded with no more trouble than under normal circumstances.
Although it seems that Ronald Martin was not interviewed by the Air Force, he did report some of the same things as did the other witnesses. He said he saw an orange ball of fire hovering in the sky. At about a quarter mile, the lights and motor of Martin’s truck failed. Once it was gone, he was able to start his truck. Martin then, is another witness to the object and it’s EM effects.

Ray Jones, the local fire marshal was one of those out chasing the object. He said that he saw a “streak of light” and his headlights dimmed and his engine sputtered. This is not the most dramatic report, but it does, to a point, help corroborate Saucedo’s earlier claim. And there might be more to that story than is first seen.

Sheriff Weir Clem
The Levelland Sheriff, Weir Clem, told his family, contrary to what the Air Force reported, he had been closer to the object than it was claimed and had his engine stalled and his headlights dim. Don Burleson collected that information in 2002, nearly fifty years after the fact, and given that it is second hand, could be rejected outright, if there wasn’t additional information.

In 1975, Don Berliner interviewed the sheriff. Clem said the object was shaped like a football and had bright white lights. This suggests that Clem was closer to the object than the Air Force had reported and that he saw something more than a streak of light in the distance.

On November 4, 1957, the Indianapolis Star provided some additional information. Clem is quoted in the article saying, “It lit up the whole pavement in front of us for about two seconds.” He said it was oval shaped and looked like a brilliant red sunset.

To be fair, there is other documentation about what the sheriff had to say. In a radio interview conducted shortly after the sighting, Clem told the reporter, “I did not see the object. I seen (sic) the lights, I will say the beams from the object.”
Although Clem did not fill out the official Air Form, a sergeant at Reese Air Force Base, took his telephone call early on November 3 and filled out the form based on what the sheriff said. There was nothing particularly illuminating on the form, other than the names of two of the witnesses and a reference to Saucedo.

While this all provides information from others who were involved and who were interviewed by the Air Force, this doesn’t validate the information provided by Long, Wheeler, Alvarez and Williams. The Lubbock Morning Avalanche reported on what each of these men said, which removes it from the idea that they can be dismissed because a UFO investigator also found them. The article, written by Bill Wilkerson, said, “Others who reported sighting the object were Jim Wheeler of Levelland, Jose Alvarez of Levelland, Frank Williams of Kermit and James D. Long of Waco.”

Wilkerson also wrote, “Wheeler, Alvarez, Williams and Long, all traveling in separate cars, each said their car engines died and their lights went out when they drove near the object. They all described it as being ‘egg-shaped, and about 200 feet long.’”

It is also clear, from interviews conducted with Sheriff Clem, that he had spoken to several of the witnesses. In a radio interview conducted on November 3, 1957, Clem said this:

Clem: James D. Long, a colored [I left the reference intact, though I fear it might offend some… I thought the original flavor of the sheriff’s statements required accurate reporting] male from Waco, Texas, working here in the cotton harvest, he drove up on it settling in the highway, on the farm to marker road, we call the Oklahoma (word missing) [Flat] Road. Runs north and a little west of Levelland. And he said, just as he drove up to this object, turned his car lights and drove up. It was sitting in the road, (word missing) his car lights shined on it, just as plain as could be, and he had made his stop, and presumably to get out, and this thing lit up, and when it did, to take off, why his lights went out and his motor died.
Clem: … And he said it was egg shaped (words missing) the best he could figure it looked like a big egg. 
Interviewer: Was it spherical – I mean by that, was it a solid object or did it appear to have windows, or openings in it?
Clem: That he did not give us at all. He said it just looked like an egg shape, big oval egg-shaped object.
Clem was also asked about other witnesses and he did mention Frank Williams. Although not as detailed as the information about Long, Clem said this, “Mr. Frank D. Williams, from Kermit, Texas. He said he done him the same way on highway 51, about 9 miles north of Levelland.” He added, “He didn’t report the noise. By this time, I was out there trying to find it and he called in to the dispatcher and they did not report any noise to me. I am trying to locate Mr. Williams on the phone at this time.”

There was another man who reported the object and was interviewed by the Air Force. J. B. Cogburn is important because he was the fourth person whose name appeared in the Blue Book files to say he had seen an object. The Air Force, in their press statements said that only three people had seen an object. The others reported lights or streaks of lights, according to the Blue Book files.

There is one other factor to mention here. At the end of the Air Intelligence Report, it was noted, “Prime sources could not be located for interview or interrogation by USAF investigator.” That means, of course, that Barth didn’t talk to some of the witnesses, but given that he only spent seven hours in his investigation, and given that the witnesses were scattered all over west Texas, it’s not surprising that he failed to interview some of them.

In another report, the Air Force officer writing it suggested, “Other witnesses reported in newspaper accounts as having observed an object had either disappeared or returned to their homes leaving no forwarding addresses.”

At least two of those witnesses lived in Levelland and another in small Kermit, Texas, not all that far away. Long lived in Waco, Texas, but given the Air Force mission, all these witnesses should have been simple to find had any one wanted to do so. This suggests that the Air Force investigator didn’t try very hard to gather additional information and no one in his chain of command did anything to reverse that decision.

Also found in the Air Force files are a number of notes about the cost of conducting the investigations. An Associated Press story mentioned a figure of ten thousand dollars (which is in 1957) for these investigations, using the cost as a reason that not all witnesses were interviewed.

What we know is that of the four men mentioned on the skeptic’s site I found information suggesting at least two of them were interviewed by members of law enforcement. It is clear from the documentation in the Air Force files and in the newspaper articles that all four acted independently and were reporting, as best they could, what they had seen. There is no evidence that they were reacting to the news media reports with the exception of Long from Waco.

It seems that this was a series of sightings of something strange seen around Levelland, Texas, for a couple of hours during the night of November 2 and the early morning of November 3. It seems, based on the documentation, that those calling into the police department or the sheriff’s office, or who walked into those facilities, had no knowledge of what the others had seen. The skeptical posting that began this has been shown to be in serious error. And the Air Force attitude to this series of sightings as well as the whole of the UFO phenomenon has been less than candid. Although, by regulation, they were required to investigate the sightings of UFOs, it is clear that they rarely followed those regulations other than to do as little as necessary so they could claim compliance.


Bryan Sentes said...

Solid retort, sans the snark; thanks!

Louis Nicholson said...

Mr. Sheaffer's skeptical bias is so overwhelming that his opinions on these issues lack all credibility. Healthy and balanced skepticism with an open and objective mind is something most UFO investigators, skeptics AND believers, seem to lack. That is the main reason I appreciate you so much Kevin. You look for the truth, no matter where it leads.

Gal220 said...

"Mr. Sheaffer's skeptical bias is so overwhelming that his opinions on these issues lack all credibility." - Its hard to say what his real beliefs are, if he even hints at the possibility of something extraordinary, he would be shunned and laughed at by all the skeptical community that snicker and pat each other on the back at Bad UFOs.