Close Encounters in Texas Jan 5, 2020 1:29:54 GMT -5
Post by JoannaB on Jan 5, 2020 1:29:54 GMT -5
Close Encounters in Texas
In 1973, when Palacios Mayor W. C. Jackson invited extraterrestrials to visit Texas (“No one has ever made those fellas welcome,” he told reporters), his hospitality came almost a century too late. According to local legend, long before anyone had heard of Roswell, flying saucers were spotted in Texas in 1878 and one actually touched down in 1897. In fact, Texas can boast of some of the most compelling evidence ever uncovered of alien visitors – such as Aurora’s crash site, Lubbock’s mysterious lights and Dayton’s close encounters. Texas has also bred its share of peculiar UFO devotees: Heaven’s Gate leader Marshall Applewhite was born in Spur and experienced his first spiritual vision while walking along a Galveston beach, and there are members of the Republic of Texas who reportedly believe the Marfa Lights are proof of a subterranean energy grid that the Pentagon is trying to tap into with alien technology. MUFON, the world’s largest UFO investigation organization, is based in Texas, as is NASA, which oversees an intergalactic radio signal monitoring program called SETI, or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
Denison, Texas: 1878. Thanks to a long-forgotten 19th-century farmer named John Martin, unidentified flying objects were first described as “saucers” here in Texas. According to the article “A Strange Phenomenon” that appeared on January 25, 1878, in The Denison Daily News, Martin was hunting when he saw “a dark object high in the northern sky.” The news account reports “the peculiar shape and the velocity with which the object seemed to approach riveted his attention, and he strained his eyes to discover its character. When first noticed, it appeared to be about the size of an orange, after which it continued to grow larger.
“After gazing at it for some time,” the article continues, “Mr. Martin became blind from long looking and left off viewing to rest his eyes. On resuming his view, the object was almost overhead and had increased considerably in size and appeared to be going through space at a wonderful speed. When directly over him it was about the size of a large saucer and was evidently at great height.”
Although Martin clearly saw a “saucer,” Idaho pilot Kenneth Arnold is widely – and incorrectly – credited as the first person to describe an unidentified flying object as such. Arnold ushered in the post-war wave of UFO hysteria in 1947 when he told a local reporter, and in turn, the Associated Press, he had seen an object in the sky over Washington’s Cascade Mountains that “flew like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water.” Arnold’s account coined the term “flying saucer,” although the honor rightly belongs to Texan John Martin, who had spotted one 69 years earlier.
Marfa, Texas: 1883. According to Apache legend, the ghostly flashes of light that appear in the night sky of West Texas are the incarnation of the wandering spirit of Apache Chief Alaste, who has haunted the Chinati Mountains since his execution at the hands of Mexican Rurales in the 1860s. White settlers first noticed these lights, now known as the Marfa Mystery Lights, in 1883 when rancher Robert Ellison was driving his cattle a few miles east of Marfa. He and his companions spotted flickering lights along the horizon and feared they were Apache camp fires, but when they searched the area the following day, there were no traces of encampments.
Since that time, people have flocked to what is now Route 90, nine miles east of Marfa, to try to spot the lights, which have appeared in hues of white, pink, yellow, green and blue to the east of the Chinati Mountains. Sometimes the lights dance erratically and at other times they remain motionless, slowly brightening with intensity. Skeptics believe the lights are simply car headlights skimming across the mountains, but this would not explain sightings in the 19th century, or the fact the lights often move in circles or zigzag formations. Others have argued the lights are nothing more than ball lightening, reflections, mirages, swamp gas or static electricity, however, scientists have not been able to prove any of these phenomena could happen in West Texas terrain with such regularity. According to local folklore, the lights are believed to be many things: Alaste’s spirit, the reflections of Spanish gold, the hidden treasures of Pancho Villa, brujas (witches) who are learning to fly, and most recently, UFOs.
Aurora, Texas: 1897. On April 17, 1897, six years before the first airplane was flown by the Wright brothers, an “airship” visited Aurora, Texas. After having been spotted sporadically in the Midwest, the illuminated, cigar-shaped craft next appeared in North Texas – first in Denton and then in Weatherford, Corsicana and Stephenville. The editor of the Stephenville newspaper claimed the airship hovered so close to the town he was able to yell out a request for an interview, which the extraterrestrial pilot denied.
Moving on to Aurora, the airship reportedly circled the town square, crashed into a windmill and exploded, leaving behind the pilot’s charred body and a note written in indecipherable hieroglyphics. According to an article published in The Dallas Morning News two days later, the pilot was thought to be “a native of the planet Mars.”
Rumors concerning the airship persisted, and in 1973, a team of UFO buffs and television crews descended on Aurora to see if they could substantiate the story. Some Aurora elders claimed to remember the close encounter, while others emphatically insisted it was an old hoax designed to revive Aurora’s declining fortunes. The incident may always remain a mystery because a district court blocked an effort to exhume an Aurora grave that some believed held the pilot’s body. According to local legend, the grave was marked by a headstone bearing a cryptic insignia: several small circles drawn inside the Greek letter delta. The stone has since disappeared, although the town of Aurora is hoping to recover it.
Laredo, Texas: 1948. Gossip circulated throughout the 1950s that on July 7, 1948, several officers from an air force base near Laredo were instructed to cordon off a remote strip of land where an extraterrestrial aircraft had crashed. Rumored to be a large disc, it had supposedly flown over Albuquerque at around 2,000 miles-per-hour before crashing into the West Texas desert, where it was recovered by government agents. In one variation of the story, it was claimed the badly-burned inhabitant of the craft was significantly shorter in height than the average human and had unusually long arms.
In 1978, a man claiming to be a former Air Force photographer sent reporters photos of a severely burned body inside some wreckage – pictures that he claimed he was instructed to take of a wrecked experimental aircraft outside Laredo during the summer of 1948. The singed “alien” in the photo, quickly dubbed “tomato man” by the press because of his extremely large head, is probably a human pilot who was killed when his plane crashed and burned. The pilot’s noticeable lack of hair and enlarged head are believed to be a result of the fire.
Government papers now indicate the Air Force was experimenting at that time with V-2 rockets, nicknamed “foo-fighters,” hence the crashed experimental aircraft the photographer was instructed to document. One question remaining is whether the pilot was actually a man or a monkey; the latter would explain the rumor that the pilot was short in stature with extremely long arms.
Lubbock, Texas: 1951. Before Buddy Holly put Lubbock on the map, the panhandle town had already gained national fame for the Lubbock Lights. On an August night in 1951, several college professors sitting outside on the porch saw a formation of blue lights move quickly overhead. They waited to see if the lights would return and later that evening, observed the phenomenon again. That same night, a Lubbock woman spotted the blue lights as she was removing her laundry from the clothesline. The lights, she later told Air Force investigators, framed the tail end of an enormous, “wing-like” craft. A few days earlier, an employee of the Atomic Energy Commission saw the same type aircraft in Albuquerque – a “wing-shaped” object with blue lights at its base. By the end of August, there was another sighting of the object in Matador, Texas, around 70 miles north of Lubbock, and Carl Hart Jr., a freshman at Texas Tech, photographed the lights.
Before the lights disappeared two weeks later, dozens of people in North Texas reported seeing blue lights darting from one end of the horizon to the other. An investigation into the phenomenon for Project Bluebook – a 1950s and 60s Air Force study into the possible existence of UFOs – came up with two possible explanations for the sightings. One theory was that the lights were plovers, West Texas birds with shiny white breasts that could have reflected the city’s glow as they flew overhead A second theory was that the lights were actually the result of Lubbock’s newly-installed mercury-vapor street lamps that gave off a bluish haze. However, neither of these explanations accounted for the immense speed or sudden disappearance of the mysterious lights.
The Air Force ultimately categorized the sightings under the inconclusive heading “Unidentified,” making it one of the most famous – and widely-witnessed – UFO incidents in history.
Levelland, Texas: 1957. Not far from where the Lubbock Lights were seen six years earlier, residents of Levelland, Texas, reported 10 UFO-related incidents during the course of several hours on November 2, 1957. The first close encounter occurred around 11 o’clock in the evening when farmhands Pedro Saucedo and Joe Salaz saw a giant, brilliantly-lit object fly over their truck. As it passed, the truck’s headlights and engine went dead and they weren’t able to start their vehicle until whatever it was left the area. Saucedo reported the incident to Levelland police, who received a call an hour later from Jim Wheeler, who saw the craft eight miles from where it was originally reported. According to Wheeler, both his engine and headlights failed as he approached a brightly-lit egg-shaped object in the road. Once the object ascended into the sky and disappeared, he was able to restart his engine.
Sheriff Weir Clem and Deputy Pat McColloch drove along Route 116 searching for the glowing object and finally, around 1:30 a.m., they spotted an enormous, egg-shaped craft that Clem said looked “like a brilliant red sunset across the highway” that “lit up the whole pavement in front of us for about two seconds.” Throughout the night, there were calls to local law enforcement from people describing a similar bright object that caused lights to dim and car engines to shut off.
The Air Force investigated, speculating the incidents were examples of ball lightning. However, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, primary UFO investigator for the Air Force at the time, recanted this conclusion in later writings. “I am not proud today that I hastily concurred in Captain Gregory’s evaluation as ‘ball lightning’ [as the explanation for the Levelland sightings] on the basis of information that an electrical storm had been in progress in the Levelland area at the time. That was shown not to be the case,” he wrote. “Besides, had I given it any thought whatsoever, I would have soon recognized the absence of any evidence that ball lightning can stop cars and put out headlights.” The Levelland sightings remain unexplained.
Seguin, Texas: 1975. The world’s largest UFO organization, the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), was originally founded in Illinois in 1969 after the Air Force abruptly ended Project Bluebook, its study of the possible existence of UFOs. Taking up where the Air Force left off, MUFON researches, investigates and compiles reports of UFO sightings. In 1975, MUFON relocated to Seguin, where it resumed documenting UFO sightings, alien abductions, crop circles and animal mutilations throughout the world using the organization’s vast network of investigators.
Now considered the preeminent UFO authority, MUFON hosts an international symposium each year, publishes its own magazine and 312-page investigator’s manual, and is frequently called upon by writers for TV programs such as The X-Files and Unsolved Mysteries for script material. MUFON’s charismatic 76-year-old founder, Walt Andrus, and the organization’s vast resources – such as a museum filled with rare UFO photos, stacks of declassified government documents, and a database containing thousands of investigators’ methodically researched reports – have drawn everyone from German physicists to Hollywood producers to Seguin.
Dayton, Texas: 1980. On the night of December 29, 1980, on a remote road 40 miles outside Houston, restaurant owner Betty Cash, her friend Vicki Landrum, and Landrum’s 7-year-old grandson, Colby, were returning home from a night out when a large, glowing, diamond-shaped aircraft spurting flames descended from the sky and hovered above the road in front of them. When they got out of the car to take a closer look at the object, which made a loud roaring noise, they were soon forced to return to their vehicle because of the intense heat emanating from the craft – if that’s what it was. Cash recalled when she grasped the car’s hot door handle, her wedding ring burned into her hand. Soon thereafter, the mysterious object flew away, along with a swarm of black Chinooks, or military helicopters.
Cash, who had remained outside the car longer than the Landrums, was admitted to a local hospital as a burn victim. The three manifested different symptoms of what appeared to be radiation sickness, including burns, blisters, nausea, rashes, severe headache, sore eyes and hair and fingernail loss. Cash was later diagnosed with breast cancer and Landrum developed severe cataracts. “I’ve never believed in UFOs, ” Cash later told reporters. “I was the first one to laugh.” But, she admitted, “I was terrified. Now I’m afraid to look up.”
Two theories swirled around the incident: either the object was an experimental military device which had gone haywire on a test flight or, some speculated, it was a recovered alien aircraft which the Air Force was attempting to fly. Cash and Landrum retained an attorney who filed a complaint against the government for $20 million in damages. The case dragged on in district court for several years during which time members of NASA, the Air Force, Army and Navy were called upon to testify. However, because no governmental agency owned or operated any aircraft fitting Cash and Landrum’s description, the case was dismissed in 1986. To this day, no one knows what the women encountered that night.
Crawford, Texas: 2008. Around 8 p.m. on the night of January 8, 2008, numerous people – including a police chief, police officer, former air traffic controller and private pilot – were alarmed when they saw an enormous craft displaying extremely bright lights near Texas White House of President George W. Bush (who was not in residence at the time). Some witnesses estimated the object was at least a thousand feet in length, while others insisted it was closer to a mile. The object alternately hovered, slowly cruised at low altitude and then, according to Steve Allen, the private pilot, suddenly accelerated to “about 3,000 miles-per-hour.”
Later FOIA requests for radar data and flight logs from Carswell Air Station revealed that a squadron of F-16 Fighting Falcons was in the air nearby for 71 minutes during the incident. So was an AWACS surveillance jet, which flew lackadaisical figure-8s over the area for four hours. Were they tracking the object? Sure. Radar data clearly indicated the craft being “skin painted” by multiple sources, but at no time did the 10 F-16s actually intercept the ship or attempt to force it to land. Initially, the Air Force denied any jets were in the air at the time in question, but several days later, Maj. Karl Lewis reversed himself and admitted there were, indeed, 10 F-16s in the vicinity. “In the interest of public awareness, Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs realized an error was made regarding the reported training activity of military aircraft,” read the news release. And the UFO? Oh, it was only the lights from the F-16s themselves, the Air Force claimed. Not one of the pilots flying the F-16s has come forward to explain what was being monitored or why the craft wasn’t intercepted. Larry King mentioned the incident on his show, but the remainder of the news media was silent.
Sources: Pamela Colloff, Texas Monthly, January 3, 2020; Christopher Carson, American Thinker, April 23, 2015; Matt Frazier and Mark Agee, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 12, 2008; and Glen Schulze and Robert Powell, MUFON, July 4, 2008.