The Modern UFO Era Begins

Socorro, new mexico

On April 24, 1964, in Socorro, New Mexico, policeman Lonnie Zamora was pursuing a speeding car north on US-85 when he heard a roar and saw flames in an isolated area where a dynamite shack was located. He decided to

abandon the chase and drive to the spot where he believed an explosion had occurred.

After he had traveled a little-used road through an unpopulated area full of hills and gullies and arrived at the site, Zamora saw what he at first thought was an overturned automobile standing on its end. At this point he was about 800 feet away from the scene of the supposed accident. He saw two figures in coveralls, whom he assumed to be the occupants of the upended car.

Later, Zamora would state in his report: "Thought some kids might have turned over. Saw two people in white coveralls very close to the object. One of these persons seemed to turn and look straight at my car and seemed startled—seemed to quickly jump. At this time I started moving my car towards them quickly, with an idea to help. The only time I saw these two persons was when I had stopped…to glance at the object. I don't recall any particular shape…or headgear. These persons appeared normal in shape—but possibly they were small adults or large kids."

Zamora radioed headquarters to report the accident, then proceeded to drive closer to the automobile and its occupants. When he was about 150 feet from the gully, he stopped his patrol car to continue on foot. By now he could clearly see that he had found something far more bizarre than an upended automobile. He saw a white egg-shaped object supported on girderlike legs that had smoke and flame issuing from its underside. He heard a loud roar and feared the object was about to explode. He turned and ran to shield himself behind the patrol car, bumping his leg and losing his glasses on the way.

In his report, he wrote: "It was a very loud roar.…Not like a jet.…It started at a low frequency quickly, then the roar rose in frequency and in loudness—from loud to very loud.…Object was starting to go straight up— slowly up. Flame was light blue and at bottom was sort of orange color."

Crouching behind the patrol car and shielding his eyes with his arm, he watched the object rise to a point about 15 to 20 feet above the ground. The flame and the smoke had ceased swirling around the object, and Zamora could see a design on its side. The markings were red and shaped like a crescent with a vertical arrow and horizontal line underneath. The UFO remained stationary for several seconds, then flew off in a southerly direction following the contour of the gulley.

Within minutes, Sergeant Chavez of the New Mexico State Police arrived in response to Zamora's earlier radio call. He saw no object, but he did take notice of some slight depressions in the ground and some burned brush in the area where Zamora had sighted the object.

The U.S. Air Force sent investigators from their project office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The investigation disclosed the following facts:

There were no unidentified helicopters or aircraft in the area. Observers at radar installations had observed 770 unusual or unidentified blips.…There was no evidence of markings of any sort in the area other than the shallow depressions at the location.…Laboratory analysis of soil samples disclosed no foreign material or radiation above normal.…Laboratory analysis of the burned brush showed no chemicals which would indicate a type of propellent.…

In his report of the Socorro case to arch UFO skeptic Dr. Donald H. Menzel, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, scientific consultant for Project Blue Book, the U.S. Air Force's official investigation of UFOs, wrote: "I wish I could substantiate the idea that it was a hoax or hallucination. Unfortunately, I cannot. I have talked at length with the principals in the sighting, and unless my knowledge of human nature is utterly out of phase, I would feel that [Lonnie Zamora] is incapable of perpetrating a hoax. He is simply a good cop…he resented the whole thing because it prevented him from getting his quota of speeders that day. He is not imaginative, sticks solidly to business, and is far from talkative.…

"Major [Hector] Quintanilla [Air Force officer in charge of Project Blue Book at that time] is convinced that the Socorro sighting is neither a hoax nor a hallucination, but he feels that perhaps some sort of test object (war games, etc.) might have been going on. However, there is no record of such an event though he has tried to track this down through White Sands, Holloman Air Force Base, and a few others. I would like to go along with the hallucination idea if it weren't for the marks and burned patches."

The once-skeptical Hynek was not the only one convinced of the authenticity of the Socorro, New Mexico, sighting by Zamora. The case remains one of the most solid in Project Blue Book files and in the annals of UFO research.

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