Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Crawling Out Of The Desert, 1963-1964.

------{the image above has been approved for posting on this blog by its artist, Chris Lambright, to whom thanks is given for facilitating the process of spreading knowledge to as wide an audience as possible}--------- Hello again, folks. Busy-ness in Wheeling has been extreme and little to no FSR reading has occurred. Worse, FSR has been pretty boring in this era. But things might be a-changing as 1964 was the year that UFO phenomenology began to rouse from its slumber. Most of the 1963-1964 FSR year was occupied with either low-excitement level stuff or heated discussions about Michel's Orthoteny theory. Michel, Menzel, and Vallee were the main combatants. Despite all their best efforts, little was clarified for me. The BAVIC line is still intriguing due to its straightness and date concentration, but little else is. Certain people were raving about these lines being lines on great circle routes around the planet, when in fact any two points connected by a "straight line" on a sphere [i.e. straight in the sense that the only arc they have is in relation to the center of the sphere] are automatically on a great circle with the center of the Earth. Nevertheless everyone seemed having a good old time with this. -----------------------As to getting out of the data desert, I suppose that it was only cosmic harmony that the case that catalyzed a whole new era of hope and excitement came out of the desert as well, and from New Mexico at that. So to Socorro we go.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The story's so well known that it feels awkward to re-tell it. I'll be as brief as possible. April 24, 1964, Patrolman Lonnie Zamora is pursuing a speeder when he is distracted by a blue flame off the road. Thinking that there is a fire he changes pursuit and ends up driving off-road towards the site and a roaring sound emanating from that direction. He stops after clearing a hill and notices a metallic-appearing almost car-shaped thing on the ground a ways off. It was white but shiny, and had two human looking figures beside it. The thing was an oval with its long axis horizontal, and an insignia on the side. It had "landing legs". One of the figures spotted Zamora's car and seemed excited/surprised. Zamora then moved closer in his vehicle, cleared another dip in the terrain, and exited the patrol car only about 50 feet away. He heard the loud roar again and saw a blue flame apparently emerging from the bottom. [the figures were no longer in sight]. Afraid now, due to the flame and sound, he hit the dirt after running away. Gathering his courage, he risked a look and saw the object moving off slowly [almost laboriously] in the sky at a low altitude. He reported to base and looked around at the burning desert bushes. When a colleague arrived, they looked more thoroughly, spotting several markings on the ground. Reports were made and others [such as another patrolman, a sheriff, and an Army captain from White Sands] ultimately walked the scene and took measurements and pictures. Both NICAP and APRO got involved, and lastly Allen Hynek for Blue Book. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Almost everybody was impressed in their different ways. The main commonality on the "impressed" list was the character of Lonnie Zamora. Zamora was not a complicated man. He was a diligent worker who everyone rated excellent on honesty and "moderate" on IQ. He was a concrete man who reported things as he saw them and did his job without imagination. ---------------------------The second thing about the case was that something had certainly happened. There were burnt areas of vegetation with burning more prominent on one side than another, just as one would believe it should be from a central source. There were several types of ground marks, four of which made a kind of symmetrical distribution on the proper place for the "landing". And over time, there were several other reports [none nearly as good as Zamora's] which could easily have been of the same object. There seemed little doubt that an object of some size was "parked" in the Socorran desert when Lonnie arrived, and took off from that spot with a flaming display which burnt up parts of the nearby plants. And, in reasonable deduction, took at least two persons with it when it flew, and did so with a substantial roar. No heightened radiation count was noted by the testings, nor anything particularly odd about the soil [though I would have rather had our modern analyst Phyllis Budinger do the work]. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Attempts at explanations were swift. In the newsclipping to the left, a guy famous in UFO circles from almost the beginning, Lincoln LaPaz, the meteor expert from the University of New Mexico and of Green Fireballs fame, mentioned his feeling that the Zamora object was a Vertical Take-off prototype [for the Lunar Lander [Lunar Excursion Module/ LEM]?]. The NASA administrators at White Sands said that it DID sound a bit like that, but that they would not be building such a module for another year. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------With NICAP, APRO, and Hynek getting fired up [and even FSR finally published a note on this at year's end] , it was obvious to the debunkers that this had to be squashed. Menzel, with his endless ability to just make things up, decided that high school students had rigged up a device to embarrass Zamora because he was hard on their drinking and driving habits. No evidence for this was ever uncovered despite Blue Book chief Quintanilla making some effort to do so. The concept of students rigging a device which operated on a jet-propelled engine a la a LEM, and capable of carrying two people, and being massive enough to make holes in the ground etc etc etc [ex. even knowing when to do this or even if anyone would see it] beggars the imagination, and Blue Book and any sane analyst dropped it. [howlingly, this old Menzelianism has re-emerged recently with only a grade advancement to college students. And no evidence whatever.] Menzel himself gave up on the idea and decided that Lonnie had dropped his glasses wasn't seeing clearly and misinterpreted a dust devil as a craft with flame-spewing exhaust and burning bushes and two people alongside. Yep. Makes sense, that does. Phil Klass who was often even less shameless than Menzel, decided that Zamora played the dupe in a totally fabricated scheme by the local mayor to whip up tourist business in a failing economy. As, once again, lying is not usually a criminal offense, Klass was free to just spew crap without regard to any evidential support, and walk away with his famous smirk on his face. All that degenerated into the BS it was in time. But what was Socorro?--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lonnie had drawn an egg-shaped craft with a metallic luster and an insignia on the side. I think that its asking a bit much for him, at 50 feet, to get this insignia correct with precision, but people have worked at it as if it held some sort of key. Leon Davidson thought that it might have really been some jumbled up rendition of CIA, thus supporting his speculations that all anomalous UFOs are products of secret US government technology. Whereas SOME UFOs may be products of Black Projects, one would hope that no one believes Davidson's idea anymore. And, one can be almost certain that no organization like the CIA would paint its name on the side of a secret craft [or probably anything at all]. I have a hat that says CIA on it, which will make it certain to anyone that I am the only person in the room that everyone can be sure is NOT CIA. Still, what about Socorro? Was it really high-strangeness anomalous? Or could it have been Earth technology? --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacques Vallee, who was just over from France and had transferred to working in graduate school with Hynek at the time was also intrigued with Socorro. He, of course, viewed Zamora as an honest reporter, doing the best that he could. But Jacques thought that Socorro sounded like "local" technology too. As time went by Vallee found the ad at the left, which he saw as a possible example of an insignia that may have been painted on Zamora's craft. {I have been informed that this image was rather found by Jim Klotz of CUFON, to whom I am happy to acknowledge }. No direct link has been made to VTOs or LEMs etc with this company, but it is the idea that counts here, if it is at least reasonable to contemplate. --------------------------------------------------------I am going to surprise [shock?] some of my UFO buddies and say that the LaPazian/Valleean theory for Socorro should not be discarded. Why would I say such a horrible thing? After all, Socorro is the highest rated UFO case among UFO veterans when you ask them to pick their favorite cases and then numerically weigh their responses and add them up. It has never been mine. Whereas Menzelianisms sicken me, and Klassisms make me wish for a debunker prison, this case, to me, lacks the qualities of strangeness required to make it something that I would "take with me into War". What do we really have here? We have an object which flies laboriously slow and low, apparently using "common" jet propulsion. No maneuvers, no silent hovering [it in fact makes a h___of a racket], no sudden accelerations or any such shocking feat of "magic tech". We have two guys on the ground who could well be humans. And...nothing else. Where does the UFOlogical enthusiasm come from? I think that the "enthusiasm" came from the "desert". The UFO community was so thirsty for a blockbuster case, that this one, obviously true and unsolvable, became praised beyond all reason. The "enthusiasm" is a product of an accident of history. To feed these fires, "we" had to knock out every thing that came up which might explain it--reasonable things like balloons, or rocketry or VTOs, not idiot-drivel like dust devils or tourist fraud. As we eliminated the things we heard about, we could fool ourselves into believing that we had eliminated everything. In many cases, we CAN do this. It is because of high strangeness. Socorro doesn't have it. We can't get cocky with a case like this. {P.S. my friend and colleague, and one of UFOlogy's finest old veterans, Don Berliner, tells me that he personally interviewed Zamora back in the Old Time. Lonnie told Don that at one point in the leaving of the object, things DID go eerily silent. If this is real phenomenology and not a product of some subjective response by him, then this DOES add a real high strangeness element to the case, and I will have to upgrade it. } ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The idea that somewhere in the military research areas or somewhere in the developmental departments of the aerospace industry some group was working on something similar in shape or performance to a VTO/LEM in April of 1964 should not be regarded as crazy just because it's not what we want to hear. The table to the left seems to indicate that some prototype work on a lunar surveyor was taking place in the exact area at the exact time. The table talks of helicopters being involved and Lonnie saw no such things. So maybe this surveyor work had nothing to do with Socorro. But maybe some other project that we have no documents about did. This isn't "unreasonable debunking": the burden of data is on us. If we don't have the strangeness, we have a weak case. I'd like Socorro to be a blockbuster as much as anyone, but I'll take Bill to Gill to Hill [and RB-47, Yukon giant, Tehran, Coyne, Red Bluff, et al] any day. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
My esteemed colleague [and I do not jest with that respect] Kevin Randle, has written in his blog a superb defense of the Socorro case, which I recommend to all. In it he points out that Colonel Eric de Jonckheere made an attempt to run down military projects which could match the characteristics of what Lonnie saw. This seems to have been a legitimate effort, and he found no such project to report. Well, OK, kudos to Colonel de Jonckheere and to Kevin; but it does not satisfy me. The reason is just this: we have all come across incidents where certain organizations did not feel at all impelled to tell some military office everything that they knew or were doing. And, we know too that private aerospace companies work on their own prototypes secretly in hopes of presenting people like the Air Force with working models of "proof of Principle" while secreting away what they are doing from their competition. Do I have proof that this happened? No. But in the UFO business I don't have to. The burden's on us, who think we have an anomaly. If we don't have the strangeness, then the human technology alternative is always in play. The worst thing about this sort of thing to me, as I've read through the years of UFO "unidentifieds", is that if we [the UFO community] can get someone in the military to say that "they" have no device that meets the characteristics of an encounter, we immediately buy into that, since it's what we want to hear, and focus on getting rid of the Menzelianisms etc, now that the "black project" category is [allegedly] taken care of. We'd never trust the military in any other instance, but we buy in there. Only when a case has enough strangeness that we KNOW the military has no such thing is the Black Project card eliminated. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I don't know whether Zamora saw a truly exotic anomaly or not. That's the whole point isn't it? I can list over a hundred encounters which contain strangeness and credibility at levels so that I have no need for Socorro to be on the list. MIGHT Lonnie have seen an ET spacecraft? Well, yes. Would I want to defend it in front of my non-UFO friends? No--not if I was going to put the whole thing into an honest perspective, and give all dogs their due. Nevertheless, it is an amusement to me that a relatively weak case [but very timely and visual] became the icon for the new 1960s wave which contained so many powerhouse events. This was not like Kenneth Arnold and that other great catalyst--THAT was a blockbuster in its own merit. No psycho-sociologist I. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------An unrelated event which heralded an different sort of watershed: Waveney Girvan suddenly died at the end of 1964. He was replaced as FSR editor by Charles Bowen--regarded by all as its finest editor. So, UFOlogy and FSR began anew together as they moved into 1965.


  1. Hello, Prof.

    In this post, you use the word 'strangeness' as a noun several times as an indicator of UFO authenticity. Could you define 'strangeness' in more detail from your perspective? A list of what qualifies, perhaps? I suspect that strangeness, like 'beauty' resides in the eye of the subjective beholder. Regards, Richard

  2. Richard, of course you are correct--"strangeness" is in the guts of the beholder. I tried to generally address this in a post on October 25, 2009, I believe. In that post, I do not make some long list of things that I consider to be of increasing strangeness--an interminable effort. But the discussion may be of use to you anyway. There is one element of "strangeness" which should not be overly subjective however. In UFOlogy, an event can not be labelled "strange" if it is easily explainable on mundane grounds. [ex.Black aircraft technology which is easily within our reach]. The further an event is from current physical understandings about things, the further "strange" it is [ex. going out of sight like lightning is less strange to most of us than disappearing on the spot, but both are strange]. Anyway, the pile of things called "strange" could be debated, dissected, ranked many different ways. Each of us would structure ones own pile differently--but I was talking about my own pile, and Socorro isn't near the top of it.

  3. My take on strangeness is that if they're coming from other star systems then they need a technology that is "indistinguishable from magic." There are a number of objections to that, most obviously the assumption of the extraterrestrial hypothesis, another is that our own technology is quickly becoming indistinguishable from magic. I'm thinking of metamaterials here but as far as I know we don't have any magic propulsion systems yet.

  4. agree to all that --- I'd take some items a little less than "magic" [example: nano-technology built metals etal that we can't quite fabricate yet], but generally I'm on your wavelength. There are other ways we could get strangeness short of magical looking behavior, such as a trip on board, or a really close-up obviously alien being, but "magical" technical behavior would be the most expected "distant" observable.

  5. Thanks for the link to your October 25th 2009 'Strangeness' post. Interesting and sensible. The strangeness perspective seems similar to a Supreme Court Justice's comment regarding pornography. The justice said he could not define it, but recognized it when he saw it. A humorous and human remark. Regards, Richard

  6. dear sir

    this zamora case always intrigues me, the lack of high strangeness is one thing that made me think this is human related vehicle.. but the other factors like : Loneliness of witness, Desolate Area, UFONauts putting on a show and the ran away... these fits the profile of most CE cases except the time of day. The logo also confusing, it almost make me think of the hoax UMMO incidents.

    Maybe the Yacanto-Cordoba incident where argentinian military personel encounter a cone shaped UFO (and photographed it) feels closer [to me anyway] to this soccoorro case. a reputable goverment official as witness. there also the eriee silence on the place of incident, noticable by the witness.

    If what you said about zamora admitting the eriee silence on the time of encounter, maybe this have to do with the reality distortion field from these entities ? just like the stories of pararel worlds where one can enter a fog and suddenly transported into field of grass ? If the entities can control our realities by suggestions then its almost impossible to tell which is physical truth from psychic /paranormal manifestation.

    Prof, the amount of stories in here [indonesia] are exactly the same as your irish lore stories, a man met a woman alone at night on the road, offer here a ride home and then the girl offered the man a meal on her house, he eat and sleep there but in the morning he woke up in graveyard or wilderness.. these entities can exert certain level of influence distorting our reality if we allow them [imho]