A new theory about the cause of the Levelland car stalling incidents has been offered and it was noted in one of the comments to a posting here. The theory is that there was electrically charged dust, in the atmosphere, which had not been reported. This dust, sucked into the engines of the cars, caused the spark plugs to fire continuously, causing the engine to stall. Since many (half) of the cars in 1957 had six-volt batteries, this caused the headlights to dim. Once the discharge ended, then the car could be restarted. It was noted that the idea that the cars restarted spontaneously had been disproved by the original testimony. (Actually, one of the witnesses insisted that his car had restarted on its own). You can read the whole theory here:
A cursory reading of the information in the Project Blue Book files would tend to refute this theory. According to that documentation, there was light mist. A light mist would suggest there was no trouble with dust in the atmosphere.
a report on November 7, 1957, and from the commander of the 1006th
AISS, the idea of bad weather was reinforced. It was noted, on a single page
that seemed to be
Location of one of the UFO sightings.
Photo copyright by Kevin Randle
detached from the rest of the report, that “In the opinion of [the] investigator [Barth] following possibilities exist… 1. With amount of rain in area…”
Another message, sent about the same time, provided additional weather information about the conditions in Levelland. It reported that it was cloudy with a light drizzle. There was a handwritten comment that said, “Note!”
In a teletype document that seemed to have been separated from page one, page two of it said:
…conditions might have developed to bring St. Elmo Fire or the like pd [period]. 2. Possibility of excess burning gas from oil operations reflecting off 400 foot cloud cover pd [period]. 3. Possibility of downed power line sparking off wet ground. pd [Period] Southwest public service co. is checking with REA Coops (sic) on any other concern with power lines into area for failure pd. … Dr. Ralph S. [Underwood] cmm [comma] Texas Tech astronomy expert cmm [comma] stated that the following oossipilities (sic) existed as he understood the sighting cln [colon] natural phenomena not fully understood cmm possibly caused by rain cmm and he stated that the possibility existed they came from outer space but he personally did not believe this… Dr. Underwood also concured (sic) with numbers one and two above.
On page three of another report written by the commander of ATIC on the Joint Messageform – Continuation Sheet, and addressed to AFCIN (Air Force Chief of Intelligence) and to the attention of Major Byrne, there is more information about the Air Force belief in wet weather. The document said:
The following possibilities, repeat, possibilities, being checked, which could result in unusual phenomena observed particularly under darkness, mist and rain…
The Air Force was pushing the idea that weather, rainy weather, with low hanging clouds had something to do with the sightings. Each of the reports returns to the idea that rain, drizzle and clouds were responsible for the sightings.
In keeping with the Air Force explanation for the Levelland sightings, or rather using the information supplied by the Air Force and assuming that it was accurate, Dr. J Allen Hynek wrote a half page, single-spaced report that repeated much of what the Air Force had said. According to Hynek:
The phenomena reported seen causally interlocked with the meteorological conditions prevailing at that time; viz, low ceiling (400 feet), fog, mist, light rain and periodic lightning flashes. Our knowledge of such well-attested phenomena as ball lightning and related electrical discharges is not sufficient to pinpoint the exact cause of the present sighting. But there is no need to hypothesize “space craft” etc. in this matter since lightning flashes, alone, in a foggy, low-ceiling nocturnal meteorological setting is sufficient to produce weird effects, especially to imaginative minds…
Coming now to the phenomena of motor stoppage, etc. This was reported in three (3) cases [this is inaccurate]. One case momentary – loud noise of radio and momentary flutter of car light (typical of electrical storms). The other two cases indicated definite stoppage. Might not be possible, if indeed these occurrences were causally connected with the phenomena reported (rather than ascribable to coincidence -- after all, two car engines stopping one hour apart, in a lightning storm with high humidity [emphasis added], does not strain coincidence) to ascribe stopping to sudden deposition of moisture on distribution parts [emphasis added], especially if moisture condensation nuclei were enhanced by increased atmospheric ionization.
At some point, the low ceiling and the fog cited by those analyzing the sighting appeared, but, ironically, other documentation in the Blue Book files simply does not bear this out.
In fact, according to the local newspaper, Levelland Sun-News (found in the Blue Book file) on November 5 reported, “Weathermen said they could not explain away the sightings. There were no thunderstorms in the area and they scoffed at St. Elmo’s light.”
Don Berliner, who interviewed the Levelland Sheriff, Weir Clem, wrote, “Sheriff Clem remembers the night very well: ‘The moon was very bright. There were a few, thin, wispy clouds in the sky but not enough to obscure the moon.’” A bright, clear sky does not suggest that there was any dust in the atmosphere.
Some of the weather data found in the Levelland file, seems to bear out Clem’s memory. The sky was reported to have only four-tenths coverage, which means that the majority of the sky was clear. There is no information about the height of the clouds, only that they covered part of the sky. Various altitudes would suggest that the sky was not obscured by clouds and that there was no ceiling at 400 feet. Four-tenths coverage does not constitute a ceiling.
There is more trouble with the idea that the night was drizzly, misty or had a low overcast. * Dr. James McDonald, wrote, “[Troy] Morris was emphatic that the early hours of Nov. 3 were clear or nearly clear. He, himself, when he heard the reports, went out to have a look on the roads. He said he couldn’t understand why the Air Force would say that there were storms since there were Air Force investigators the following day.”
McDonald, to check out the weather aspect of the case said, “I dug out the weather maps and rainfall data. A large, high-pressure area was moving southward over the Texas Panhandle, completely antithetical to convective activity and lightning of any sort, and a check of half a dozen stations in the vicinity revealed that there was not even any rain falling during this period, nor had more than a small amount fallen hours earlier that day when a cold front went through.”
What this means is that even if there was no drizzle or mist at the time of the sightings, there had been rain earlier in the day. That, too, would have, dare I say it, dampened the dust. The weather data, available from various sources says that the surface winds were light and variable. This would suggest that there simply wasn’t the dust in the atmosphere to cause the engine problems suggested by the theory.
There is one other thing that I’m hesitant to mention and it’s simply that the stalling car engines and the dimming headlights were not regularly reported in the Levelland area. It would seem that it happened only on this one night and that would seem to negate the dust theory, especially when it affected only a few cars.
But the real point is that the weather conditions on that night, as documented, do not support the theory. Too many cars in too many locations in and around Levelland with drivers reporting trouble. Too many people independently reporting an object to law enforcement. And no replication of these conditions at other times. The evidence argues against the solution.
*Although I don’t accept all the Air Force reports on the weather, I mention them to underscore that I have examined the entire record. If you believe the Air Force, then the dust explanation fails. If you believe the information from the newspapers and the witnesses, and the data uncovered by Dr. McDonald, then the dust explanation fails. I wanted it understood that I looked at the entire weather record.