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Ask anyone who has studied UFOs for a while and they will have their opinion about what was the best UFO case ever. For some, big cases like the crash at Roswell are top of the list while other cite a series of events such as the Belgium UFO Flap or the lights of Stephenville. One of the best is often said to the Levelland UFO case – but what happened and why is it rated as credible?
The case took place in a small Texas town called Levelland, to the west of another notable location, Lubbock. The town had a population of around 10,000 at the time and is on the South Plains area of the state. The events took place on 2-3rd November 1957 and involved a large number of witnesses, part of the reason it is always labelled as one of the best examples of a UFO case while others, including the US Air Force, dismissed it as either ball lightning or a severe electrical storm (again!).
The first report came on the evening of November 2nd when two farm workers, Pedro Saucedo and Joe Salaz, made a call to the local police department to report a UFO. They spoke to officer AJ Fowler who was on the night desk and said they had been driving four miles west of the town when they saw a blue light flash near the road. At the same time, their truck engine died and they saw a rocket shaped object that rose up and flew towards the truck. Saucedo got out of the truck and the craft passed over his head with a blast of air and a loud noise. The truck rocked in the passage and he felt heat. Seconds later, the truck’s engine started again.
Officer Fowler thought it was a joke and took no notice of the call until an hour later, another motorist called. Jim Wheeler reports a brilliant lit egg shaped object around 200 feet in length four miles east of Levelland that was blocking his path. He also reported his vehicle dying and when he got out of the car, the object took off. The car began to work again as the vehicle flew away.
At 10:55pm, a couple driving to the north of the town reported seeing a bright flash of light and their headlights and radio stopped working for three seconds. Five minutes later, Jose Alvarez called in to say he had seen a strange object 11 miles north of Levelland and that his vehicle’s engine had stopped working until the object had moved away.
Five minutes later, a student at what is now Texas Tech University called Newell Wright experience his car engine stopping while driving 10 miles east of Levelland. The engine stopped, headlights dimmed then went out. He got out to investigate and saw a craft some 100 feet long and egg-shaped on the road. Once again, it took off and the car started working once more.
At 12:15am, Officer Fowler was on the phone again. This time the call came from Frank Williams, a farmer who saw a bright glowing object on the road and again his car engine stopped, starting again once the object moved away.
Further calls were received at 12:45am from Ronald Martin and 1:15am from James Long, both reporting brightly lit objects on the road that caused their engines to stop until it flew away.
By now, Officer Fowler was no longer believing the calls to be a joke and other officers were involved. Sheriff Weir Clem was one of them and he himself saw a red object moving across the sky around 1:30am. Fire chief Ray Jones also reported seeing the object and experienced strange engine troubles around fifteen minutes later. In total, there were 15 UFO related reports that night.
The US Air Force investigated the Levelland sightings as part of Project Blue Book. They talked to just three of the witnesses and when they heard there were thunderstorms in the area, they immediately classified the incident as a ‘severe electrical storm’. Others believed that the incident was a result of ball lightning, a strange phenomenon that can cause electrical disturbances.
Two UFOlogists at the time were to dispute the investigation – James E McDonald and J Allen Hynek. They looked into the case and found no evidence of electrical storms over Levelland at the time. They also pointed out that the vehicles stopped independently, in different locations across a two hour period. This meant that the Air Force’s explanation was flawed from the start.
It is also interesting to note that at that time, ball lightning was a theory that was unproven. In a sense, the Air Force tried to explain an unexplained phenomenon with another unexplained and unproven phenomenon without really checking to see if the weather conditions needed for the event were even present!
Viewpoints on the Levelland UFO
Another interesting point made by Kevin Randle in his post on the topic is that it seems hard to image that the witnesses knew what each other were reporting – often mass sightings are blamed on some kind of mass hysteria with one person seeing what another had reported. If some of the reports had come the next day, this could have been the explanation but some came within five minutes of each other.
“In Levelland, and contrary to what the Project Blue Book files allege, there were witnesses in at least thirteen separate locations who reported the EM effects without the time necessary for the news media or the local grapevines to pass that nugget. Although you could argue that one or two of the witnesses who surfaced the next day might have heard or read something about the sighting prior to making a statement, the majority of them told their tales without knowing there were other witnesses in other areas who had seen, heard, and experienced the same things they had” – Kevin Randle
In his summary on the case, J Allen Hynek also recognised that interference with cars is one of the hallmarks of close encounters as well as effects on living things such as trees and plants. There are often ‘landing mark’ with scorched and denuded circles in evidence but in this case, because the craft landed mostly on roads, there seem to have been no physical evidence of their present – or if there was, no-one took any notice of it at the time.