Friday, June 27, 2014

Levelland, Texas Revisited

In an earlier post I had suggested the Air Force lied about some of the information hidden away in the Project Blue Book files. I had been going to expand on the comments about the Portage County UFO chase, but then remembered some of the things I had read about the Levelland, Texas UFO landings and EM Effects case of November 2, 1957.

What struck me as I read the file in years past was that the Air Force and Donald Keyhoe, at the time the Director of the civilian National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), were engaged in a publicity war, each suggesting the other was lying. The Air Force said there were only three witnesses but Keyhoe said there were nine. Well, both couldn’t be right so I thought I would take another look at what appears in the Blue Book files.

In a document from those files, I found the following statement. “Contrary to Keyhoe’s and Washington Press reports only three, not nine persons witnessed the incident.”

But later in the file, there is another document that said, “A mysterious object, whose shape was described variously as ranging from round to oval, and predominately bluish – white in color was observed separately by six persons near the town of Levelland.”

In a separate document which was apparently part of a newspaper account of the Air Force investigation, the reporter wrote, “The investigators said further (note the plural) [which is a parenthetical comment in the document] that they could find only three witnesses who actually saw the object.”

This could explain the discrepancy inside Air Force file which is to say that only three saw the object but the others were involved in the incident. This would mean that the Air Force, while not telling the whole story was only slightly shading the truth.

Except, in another part of the file, that included newspaper reports, it is clear that more than three saw an object as opposed to a streak of light. For example, the sheriff, Weir Clem, is reported to have said, “It lit up the whole pavement in front of us [he and a deputy] for about two seconds.” He called it oval shaped and said that it looked like a brilliant red sunset.

This brings up a separate issue, which is the color of the object. The Air Force focused on the blue-white light, suggesting that this was related to lightning, supposed to be flashing in the area at the time. But in several of the cases the witnesses talked about a bright red and if that was accurate, then the Air Force explanation fell apart or partially fell apart.

The Air Force eventually explained the case as ball lightning, a phenomenon that science was still investigating in 1957. Those descriptions found by the Air Force claimed it was a bright blue-white and ball shaped. What the Air Force didn’t bother to mention was that ball lightning was short lived, just seconds, and that it was extremely small, something on the order of eight or nine inches in diameter. The witnesses suggested something much larger.

This newspaper quote about the sheriff seeing something larger and oval from the time seems to corroborate statements made by Clem’s wife some forty or forty-five years after the fact. According to a report by Richard Ray of FOX News 4, Oleta Clem, the sheriff’s widow said, “Well, he just said he’d seen a thing that lit down in that pasture with lights all around. It come down and then it went back up as fast as it come down.”

So, we have Clem describing, in 1957, an oval-shaped object and we have his wife saying, in 2002, that he had seen a thing with lights all around. She is telling us he was closer than the Air Force gave him credit for and we had him, making statements in the public record in 1957 that says the same sort of thing. Is this good proof? Not really, but it is interesting testimony and it does suggest that the Air Force was playing fast and loose with the facts.

The Air Force file contains newspaper clippings that have the names of many of the witnesses, statements made by them about what they saw and what happened to their vehicles, and giving the hometowns or locations of these witnesses. Without too much trouble, it is possible to come up with the names of more than three people who saw an object, all available in the Project Blue Book files which negate the Air Force statements about the case.

And yes, I would agree that these newspaper reports are not the most reliable source of documentation, but it would have provided the Air Force investigators, if there had been investigators, a place to begin. Instead, they noted in the file that they hadn’t interviewed one of the primary “sources” because he didn’t live in Levelland, but outside the town… and as an aside, there was but a single investigator who spent most of a day attempting to find and interview witnesses rather than investigators.

What we have here is a clear case of the Air Force pretending to investigate a major sighting and then writing it off as ball lightning when everything argues against that explanation. There were multiple sightings of an object made by more than three people in separate locations, and who made the reports independently to various agencies including the Levelland sheriff and the news media.

The other thing that caught my attention was the NICAP investigator who showed up, one James A. Lee of Abilene, Texas, and said that he had been studying these things for twenty years. Since this was 1957, that would mean he started his investigations in 1937. I would have liked to know what sparked this interest. Had he seen something? Had he read Charles Fort? Did he know of the Great Airship of 1897, or one of the other airship waves that had happened? Or was this some sort of hyperbole to show his long and deep interest in UFOs? I don’t know, but found the qualification, mentioned several times, interesting.

The point here, however, is simply the nonsense of an argument over the number of witnesses rather than an attempt to interview them. Had this happened in 1957, in the days that followed the sightings, we might have learned something about UFOs, electromagnetic effects and a possible landing trace case. Instead we have a file labeled as “ball lightning” and witnesses who were not interviewed in 1957. Everyone dropped the ball.


Anthony Mugan said...

This sort of spin ( from both NICAP and the AF) will be familiar from many different arenas. By this time the focus of Air Force activity in this field was firmly on heading off the risk of Congressional hearings and therefore on media management.
Investigations were conclusion driven and it would be a mistake to think that investigation in a scientific sense, or even in the more limited sense if the technical intelligence oriented work of SIGN was on the agenda by this time.
Such discrepancies, sophistry and playing fast and loose with the facts need to seen in the context of the wider policy agenda. The objective was to make such reports 'go away' in terms of public and, particularly, Congressional consciousness. In that sense the AF team were very effective.

Don said...

Official agencies, among them the FBI and the AAF/USAF, have a history, in UFO cases, of altering, or attempting to alter, the accounts of witnesses and withholding or altering evidence, even 'recruiting' some witnesses to inform on others. CIC/AFOSI, particularly, did not play well with others, including "others" within the AF. They played their own game.

ET advocates have their opinion as to "why". I don't know why, but it is a fascinating institutional activity to document.



cda said...

Sputnik 2, weighing several hundred pounds and carrying a dog, was launched at virtually the same time as the Levelland sightings. This so shocked the US military (and western Europe) that it is very likely the USAF investigation of Levelland, and other sightings at the time, was severely limited due to the huge military (and public) interest in the Sputnik and a possible threat to the US.

KRandle said...


Yeah, yeah, that's the narrative of the time, except, of course, Sputnik 1 was lauched a month earlier. And how does this explain the lies told and the false answer supplied by the military?... not to mention that the Air Force mission is to protect our airspace from foreign invaders, whatever the source of those invaders. So, we have widespread sightings in the panhandle of Texas, clear evidence of something going on and the Air Force response is to send a single NCO (from all those based in Lubbock at Reese AFB) to spend most of the day in Levelland some twenty miles away and suggest oil rigs burning off gases, thunderstorms that weren't in the are, and a variety of other things that have no relevance to the sightings.

Sorry, CDA, but on this one, the Soviet launch of Sputnik 2 doesn't actually figure in.

David Rudiak said...

Well at least CDA didn't try to explain Levelland with Sputnik 2. That puts him a tiny step ahead of Blue Book later trying to explain the Ravenna case with a nonexistent satellite flying overhead.

I do find it interesting, however, that Levelland did happen within about an hour (as I recall) of Sputnik 2's launch. I've noticed it isn't unusual for some spectacular UFO event to happen within hours of some major historical event. (Of course, this could also be just spurious correlation, since major historical events are fairly common.) My probably unprovable theory is that the UFO events are messages to the powers that be that they are closely watching.

Two examples I stumbled over date from 1950 and involve UFOs leaving huge trails behind. One was a mass sighting in Tucson, Arizona, Feb. 1, the day after Truman announced the development of the H-bomb (also when Ingrid Bergman's affair became public, the major front page news story, but that I wouldn't consider to be a major historical event). This was actually the first case mentioned by Donald Keyhoe on page 1 of his infamous 1950 book, "The Flying Saucers Are Real."

The second one was another mass sighting June 24 over southern California and Nevada, observed by dozens of pilots and CAA control tower operators, plus hundreds of others on the ground, the object leaving a huge spiral trail. This took place within about an hour of the White House learning of North Korea invading South Korea, the start of the Korean War. The event was barely reported because of the outbreak of the war. For anyone interested in the cases:

cda said...

DR writes:

"My probably unprovable theory is that the UFO events are messages to the powers that be that they are closely watching".

Very soon after the Levelland sightings, and thus very soon after Sputnik 2 (carrying the dog), there were two or three strange reports of UFO 'dognappings', i.e. cases of landings and occupants where the UFOnauts reportedly tried to kidnap the dogs belonging to the witnesses. I forget the locations.

I have never heard of such before or since, and it makes you wonder whether some sort of psychological effect was at work or whether (perish the thought) the ETs actually WERE watching our earthly activities.

Needless to say, I tend to go along with the former. Still very strange.

But I digress....

Anthony Mugan said...

I've also wondered about the same thing, and in principle it is testable.
a) define a sample of major historic events, preferably by someone 'blind' to the purpose of the exercise and not closely involved in UFO research.
b) identify if high quality case ( eg BB unknown, Geipan type D etc) occurred within the next 24 hours of the event
c) pick a equal number of random dates ( for simplicity one could choose the same time and date as the historical event but one year later
There is geographical bias in the major data sets so perhaps define historical events as being of significance to the countries the data sets relate to.
One could then use the non-historic sample to set an expected frequency of occurrence. A simple Chi squared test should be sufficient to calculate significance.

Too engrossed in the Ramey memo at the moment, but that could be an interesting little project at some point...
Sorry Kevin...digressing a bit I know

KRandle said...


You know, if one of us tried to ull that dognapping trick, you'd be demanding citations for it... not to mention that reports of the aliens taking samples of plants and animals were made during the 1954 wave, and there was a report of an attempted dognapping during the 1973 wave. I'm not sure what your point was, other than it was pulled for cloudy memories.

Don said...

Dognappings and Laika:

FSR Vol 30 #4 1985

Footnote 5 to the article The Soria Abduction Part II, by Antonio Ribera, based on two cases from Mrs Lornezen's article in Humanoids. There's lots more about dogs and ufos in that footnote.

It's on the web.



Nitram Ang said...

Anthony Mugan wrote:

"Too engrossed in the Ramey memo at the moment"

Anthony - may I contact you by email please? If so, what email address should I use?


Anthony Mugan said...


In practice I'm at an early stage in my personal study of it - so far just got to the point where I'm happy that the consensus read of certain words and phrases such as 'victims of the wreck..." and 'disc' are correct. This doesn't go beyond (or even close to) what David Rudiak has already done in great depth. A lot follows from that, but that really is digressing.

David is your man really on that but if you would like to contact me use

Don said...

Lt Col Farrell's report includes a "corrected list of witnesses who reportedly observed the citing [sic] is as follows" (The names are redacted, and these descriptions in clear)

farm hand and part time barber, Levelland

truck driver, Levelland

Texas Highway Patrolman, Littlefield

Texas Highway Patrolman, Littlefield

Levelland, Texas

Levelland, Texas

Kermit, Texas

Waco, Texas

college student, Levelland

So, there are the nine. I haven't read enough about this case to comment further.



starman said...

David and Anthony: IMO the classic example of UFO sightings coinciding with a major historical event--in fact a number of such events--was the October 1973 wave in the US. There was a major Mideast war, an oil embargo, Watergate and the Agnew resignation.

David Rudiak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.