Thursday, April 01, 2021

Carl Hart, Jr., The Lubbock Lights Photographer has Died


John Steiger alerted me to this and it is something that I should have noted last year. Carl Hart, Jr., the teenager who took the iconic Lubbock Lights pictures, died on September 24, 2020, in Lubbock.

He was born in Lubbock, attended the Lubbock High School and graduated from Texas Tech University. He was a first-generation Eagle Scout and had a passion for scouting during his life.

Carl Hart in 1951.

In September, 1951, Hart, who was interested in photography, was lying in bed when he saw a group of lights flash overhead. He knew, based on the newspaper accounts, that the lights sometimes returned. When they did, he was ready, photographing two flights. He originally took five pictures but one has been lost.

His pictures have been the subject of controversy since they were published. He was interviewed by Ed Ruppelt, then the chief of the Air Force UFO investigation. And he was maligned by Donald Menzel for perpetrating a hoax.

Hart maintained that he didn’t know what he photographed. On the bad advice of friends, he was told not to copyright the pictures because it would make it seem that he had faked them. Those pictures have been published around the world.

In the mid-1990s, while I was in Lubbock on another investigation, on a lark, I looked up his telephone number. I was surprised that he was still in Lubbock and surprised when he answered the telephone. We had a nice chat about the pictures. He told me that his house was gone, replaced by a Pizza Hut. At the end of the conversation, I asked him what he had photographed. He said that he still didn’t know. I might have been the last UFO researcher to interview him.

Other than this single brush with fame, Hart lived a quiet life in Lubbock. He was 87 years old.