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October 18, 1999, revised March 26, 2000
Analysis of the Evidence and Evaluation of the Ball Lightning Hypothesis
Map of the Levelland area (Courtesy Larry Hatch Map Collection)
Introduction by Mark Cashman
The following document is the most comprehensive study of the famous Levelland vehicle interference case ever performed, and took two years to complete. It has undergone peer review through CUFOS and by some members of Project 1947. Tony Rullán has kindly allowed me to reproduce this as part of my site. I hope you will find it as interesting and thought-provoking as I have.
Acknowledgments by Antonio Rullán
I could not have conducted this study without the great help and previous work of Mark Rodeghier (CUFOS), Jan Aldrich, and Loren Gross. Mark Rodeghier and CUFOS provided me with copies of their extensive file on the Levelland case and all the declassified material
from the Air Force Blue Book study of the case. Jan Aldrich provided voluminous amounts of news-clippings from the Southwest for November of 1957 that provided perspective on the case and details not found anywhere else. Loren Gross provided his great research summary on Levelland in his November 1957 books. I also am indebted to Wendy Connors who provided support and took time to review the final draft. I also want to thank Newell Wright and A.J. Fowler who gave their time and attention to discuss and review this case 42 years after their experiences. All errors or faulty logic in this paper are my own.
Table of Contents
1 Purpose of Study
The purpose of this study was to re-evaluate the sightings that took place in Levelland, Texas 42 years ago with the benefit of declassified Air Force files, updated knowledge of ball lightning, full review of all the literature on this case, and personal interviews with a two of the participants. While this case has been documented in numerous UFO books, a thorough analysis of the witnesses, their claims, the investigators, and the pros and cons of the ball lighting explanation has not been done. Moreover, the story and claims differ depending on which book or newspaper is read. Thus, there was a need to determine the most reliable sources and the most likely description of events from the night of November 2-3, 1957. The study evaluates the likelihood that ball lightning was the cause for these sightings and summarizes the reasons for rejecting or accepting that hypothesis. The key issues brought up by the pro-UFO and pro-ball lighting investigators are summarized and discussed.
2 Summary of Levelland Case
In 1957, between the late evening hours of November 2 and the early morning hours of the 3rd, seven independent witnesses near Levelland, Texas saw an oval shaped ball of light approach their vehicles causing their engines to stop and headlights to shut. The sightings took place in a 2.5 hour period (from 10:50 PM until 1:15 AM) and was limited to a 10 mile radius area West, North and East of Levelland. The events lasted from a few seconds to no more than 5 minutes. Once the ball of light left the scene, all witnesses were able to start their automobile engines and their headlights went back to normal operation. Most witnesses were scared about the incident and eventually called the Levelland Police Department to report the incident. While descriptions of the sighting varied amongst all witnesses, there was a general consensus that some lighted object was stopping cars and trucks around Levelland. On the early morning of November 3, there were other witnesses who saw lights in night sky and flashes of light. While these sightings added to the confusion and emotion of the evening, they will not be considered in this study. The Levelland Sightings are defined in this study as only those seven reports where a bright ball of light was within 500 feet of the witness’ vehicle and led to engine and headlights failure. On November 4, 1957, the incident at Levelland was reported in most of the newspapers across the US. Newspapers were dumbfounded as to the nature of the mysterious ball of light and gave it different names: mysterious object/thing, flying egg, whatnick, and eggnick. Many newspapers quoted Representative J.T. Rutherford from Odessa, Texas who wanted to know whether the sightings were the result of an American experiment and sent a telegram to Air Force officials in Washington asking for answers. It was not until Nov. 5, 1957, that the
idea that an extraterrestrial craft caused the Levelland sightings gained publicity in the newspapers. Most of the newspaper quoted James A. Lee (a NICAP member from Abilene, TX) as the key proponent of this idea. On Nov. 15, 1957, the Air Force issued a summary report concluding that the incident was a rare form of lighting called ball lightning. The Air Force solution to this puzzling case was so controversial that the Air Force had to discuss the case in a US Congressional briefing on the UFO program on July 15, 1960 . While the case was solved as far as Blue Book was concerned, for many UFO organizations (NICAP, APRO, CSI) the case was not closed but instead represented one of the best-documented cases of a UFO. 3 Literature Survey 3.1 Commentary and Analysis from Pro-UFO Authors 3.2 Commentary and Analysis from Pro-Ball Lightning Authors 4 The Witnesses and the Investigators 4.1 Witness Reliability and Source of their Statements 4.1.1 Newell E. Wright 4.1.2 Pedro Saucedo 4.1.3 Ronald Martin 4.1.4 James D. Long 4.1.5 Jim Wheeler, Jose Alvarez, and Frank D. Williams 4.2 Conclusion on Sources of Evidence and Witnesses 5 Analysis of Levelland Sightings: Searching for Patterns 6 Air Force/Blue Book Investigation and Explanation 7 The Weather 7.1 Weather According to the Air Force 7.2 Weather According to Dr. James. E. McDonald 7.3 Weather According to Newspaper Records 7.4 Weather According to US Weather Service 7.5 Summary and Conclusions on Weather 8 The Extraterrestrial Spacecraft Hypothesis 9 Other Possible Explanations for Levelland Sightings page 39 page 40 page 4
page 18 page 31
10 The Ball Lightning Hypothesis page 41 10.1 General Definition of Ball Lightning 10.2 The Reality of Ball Lighting 10.3 Properties of Ball Lightning 10.4 Deviations between Levelland Sighting Descriptions and Ball Lightning Properties 10.5 Fitness of Ball Lightning Hypotheses 11 Conclusion page 56
12 Appendix page 57 12.1 US Weather Bureau - Local Climatological Data (Lubbock-Texas, Nov. 1957) 12.2 US Weather Bureau - Local Daily Precipitation (Levelland-Texas, Nov. 1957) 13 References and 14 Sources and Notes
Commentary and Analysis from Pro-UFO Authors
Many UFO researchers have written about the Levelland UFO sightings in one way or another. Most authors write about the standard claim: that 7 witnesses had their automobiles’ engines and headlights shut off by a UFO within a 2.5 hour period and within a small area surrounding Levelland. Each author gives his reason for the importance and merits of the Levelland case. The section below summarizes what made this case so popular among UFO researchers. According to Donald Keyhoe, Director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) from 1957 to 1969, the reason this case became so popular was that too many newspapers were taking the sighting reports seriously. The press took the sightings seriously because five Texas law officers backed the story. Keyhoe believed that had it been an isolated case, the press would have killed it with ridicule. The press did not kill the story because there were too many trained observers on record. Keyhoe, however, did not give this case any exalted importance. He did not believe it was the beginning of the 1957 UFO wave but the continuation of it. Keyhoe thought the evidence put forward by NICAP was sufficient to conclude that the UFO at Levelland was an extraterrestrial craft. Overall, Keyhoe supported this case as evidence for the extraterrestrial hypothesis because there were multiple independent witnesses, because the claims were backed up by law officers, and because of the lack of a reasonable explanation for the reported anomalous events. Dr. J. Allen Hynek, astronomer and former Project Blue Book scientific consultant, thought the case was significant enough to include it in his book The UFO Experience as the top Close Encounter of the 2nd Kind (CEII) amongst 23 cases listed. Hynek developed a Strangeness-Probability Index for the cases he evaluated in order to determine their worthiness for study. The Levelland case had a Strangeness Index of 5 and a Probability Index of 8. This rating put it at the top of Hynek’s CEII list. Hynek’s definition of the Strangeness Index is the number of information bits a report contains, each of which is difficult to explain in common sense terms. For example, in the Levelland case he found 5 items that he could not explain using common senses. Unfortunately, he did not list these items. We could guess at them based on Hynek’s list of items difficult to explain: 1. 2. 3. 4. weird looking ball of light (BOL) BOL stops car engine BOL shuts off car headlights\ engine and headlights start fine when BOL leaves BOL appears under intelligent control.
Hynek’s probability rating is a function of assessed credibility of the witnesses. He judges this by (1) internal consistency of the report, (2) consistency among several reports of same incident (3) manner in which report was made (4) conviction of reporter and (5) subtle judgement of “how it all hangs together”. Hynek gave the Levelland case a very high probability rating of eight out of ten. He gave such a high rating because of the multiple independent witnesses in this case. Hynek stated “that all seven cases of separate car disablement and subsequent rapid, automatic recovery after the passage of the strange
illuminated craft, occurring within about two hours, could be attributed to coincidence is out of the statistical universe – if the reports are truly independent”. As opposed to Keyhoe, Hynek did not conclude that this incident was an extraterrestrial craft. What Hynek concluded was that the Air Force ball lightning explanation for the cause of the sightings was not acceptable. Hynek did not believe the ball lighting explanation for two key reasons: (1) observers at the time of the incident did not report lightning but overcast and misty weather (2) there is no evidence that ball lightning can stop cars and put out headlights. These two points are very significant regardless of the number of witnesses who experience the phenomenon. For Hynek, however, the fact that 7 observers reported similar events, brought significant credibility to the observed claim. Hynek did not put a lot of weight on the weird light reports from the 5 law enforcement officers in Levelland because they did not experience the auto engine and light failure. Dr. Jacques Vallee also wrote about the Levelland case in Anatomy of a Phenomenon. Vallee, however, did not analyze the case in detail nor gave it any special importance. For him, it was another case among the wave of sightings in 1957. He stated that the wave had been going on for a long time and did not start with Levelland or Sputnik II . It did not represent anything new to him, since he was very familiar with the UFO landing reports from France in 1954. Vallee, like Hynek, did not believe the ball lighting explanation for the case. Vallee wrote in 1965: “the official fairy tale concerning the Levelland case is that the sensational interpretation of the sightings by the press triggered the series of reports now known as the 1957 wave.” In Jan 16, 1964, Vallee and Hynek met with Bluebook Officers Captain Hector Quintanilla and Sergeant Moody in Chicago to discuss the UFO Phenomenon. In that meeting, Captain Quintanilla and Sergeant Moody agreed that they could not explain the Levelland case. An interesting revelation given that Bluebook had explained the Levelland sightings seven years earlier as Ball Lightning. Ronald Story also had a high regard for the Levelland case. He called the Levelland case one of the two best cases on record of electromagnetic effects caused by UFO’s. He included the case as one of the 10 most baffling cases on record in his book titled Sightings. Story agreed with Hynek in rejecting the ball lighting hypothesis as the explanation for the Levelland sightings. Story stated four reasons why the case was so extraordinary and had never been explained satisfactorily to him: 1. 2. 3. 4. No evidence that ball lighting stops cars and put out headlights Ball lighting preference for dirt roads and paved highways Ball lightning size of 200 ft is not common Six independent witnesses experienced something similar and extraordinary within a 10 mile radius of Levelland
Richard Hall included the Levelland case in his book the UFO Evidence as just one more case in the UFO wave of November 1957. The case was of importance to Hall because it was the first series of sightings to be widely publicized in November of 1957 and it had the most intensive single concentration of UFO sightings. In the book, Walter Webb gave a good summary of the events at Levelland in November 2-3, 1957. While no analysis of the case was provided in the book, Richard Hall and Walter Webb made several good points: They wondered why should reddish elliptical UFOs, which cause cars to stall, suddenly be reported from one small Texas town. They pointed out that the witnesses were going about their business when the UFOs intruded
upon the scene. There was no evidence that the witnesses were searching the sky or otherwise expecting to see anything unusual. Their independent reports told a consistent story. Dr. James E. McDonald was also fascinated by this case. McDonald added the Levelland case to his list of UFO Cases of Interest mainly because he had personally checked the case and saw in it characteristics of special interest. McDonald was very disappointed in the analysis of the case done by Dr. Menzel and the Air Force who explained away the Levelland sightings as ball lightning and wet ignitions. McDonald checked the weather data for the night and locale in question. He studied the weather maps and rainfall data and concluded that a large, high-pressure area was moving southward over the Texas panhandle. He believed that these weather conditions were not conducive to lightning of any sort. He checked half a dozen stations in the vicinity and found that there was not even any rain falling during this period, nor had more than a small amount fallen hours earlier that day when a cold front passed through. McDonald concluded that the prevailing anticyclonic conditions in Levelland the night of November 2-3, 1957 almost categorically ruled out ball lightning . Thus, McDonald concluded that the Levelland case was not ball lightning and that it was still an unknown. The key reasons McDonald did not agree with the ball lightning explanation was: 1. He believed that ball lightning had to accompany a thunderstorm, but there was none reported the night in question 2. He believed that ball lightning seldom exceeds a few feet in diameter, but the description of the objects was about 200-ft. McDonald certainly did not believe that ball lightning could form under fair-weather conditions (free of all thunderstorm activity). He claimed that via some elementary computations he could show how quantitatively absurd this claim was. Moreover, McDonald also did not like the wet ignition explanation for the failure of the car engines. He pointed out the fact that the engines could be re-started just as soon as the object darted off was entirely inconsistent with wet ignition idea. The Levelland case was also written up in the American edition of Aime Michel’s Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery (Michel, 1958) by Alexander D. Mebane (member of the Civilian Saucer Intelligence group in New York). Mebane used four arguments to accept the Levelland sightings as flying saucers: 1. Used the analogy to the French sightings from the Fall of 1954 2. Disagreed with the Air Force explanation that rain and storms led to wet electrical circuits that shut the auto engines. 3. He wrote: “How the circuits happened to dry out instantly when the ball lightning had departed was not explained.” 4. Claimed that there were no thunderstorms in the area during the sightings. He quotes a Levelland weatherman statement in the Levelland Sun-News of November 5, 1957. 5. Complained about the Air Force investigation being too short Of these four points only point #2 and #3 are valid and will be discussed further in this paper. The Levelland case was also included in the 1981 CUFOS study on UFO reports involving vehicle interference (Rodeghier). Rodeghier evaluated 481 UFO reports, which involved
vehicle interference. Of these 481 reports, eight came from the Levelland case. In the study, Rodeghier found 35 statistically significant correlations amongst observed properties of the electromagnetic (EM) UFO events. He grouped these highly correlated properties into three Nexus consisting of 3 to 4 properties each. In a nexus, the presence of any one characteristic implies that the likelihood of the other three occurring is increased. Nexus I had the following positively correlated characteristics: presence of light beam control of the vehicle physiological effect on witness chasing of the vehicle Nexus II had the following positively correlated characteristics: metallic appearing UFO UFO that lands disc-shaped UFO presence of sound Nexus III had the following positively correlated characteristics: movement in a straight trajectory UFOs that appear as a light size range under fifteen feet Rodeghier concluded that UFO reports that fall within Nexus I and II do not represent some unknown natural phenomenon because in these groupings the UFO is described as metallic and behaves with intelligence. On the other hand, Rodeghier concluded that Nexus III contains characteristics, which appear to describe an undiscovered natural phenomenon. The relevance of Rodeghier’s work to the Levelland case is that the Levelland sightings do not fit in Nexus I or II (the Nexus groups that most likely describe non-natural phenomena). The Levelland sightings fit better under the Nexus III category because the Levelland UFOs moved in straight trajectories and they were described as balls of light. The only characteristic that does not fit with Nexus III is the size of the reported UFO (between 30 to 200 ft as opposed to Nexus III characteristic of less than 15 ft). The key point here is that the Levelland sightings do not fit into the EM UFO groupings that are unambiguously strange and unexplainable. The interpretation of the Levelland sightings is open to a possible natural phenomenon explanation. In summary, most pro-UFO authors felt that the Levelland case deserved attention because of the multiple independent eyewitness testimony and the consistency of the anomalous claims. Moreover, most of the authors rejected the ball lightning hypothesis because the weather conditions and the object’s behavior, characteristics, and its effect on the automobiles did not match what was known about ball lightning. Thus, determining the accuracy of the witness testimony, understanding their claims and description of the object and its behavior, and determining the weather conditions are crucial to understanding this case.
Commentary and Analysis from Pro-Ball Lightning Authors
Dr. Donald H. Menzel (Harvard Astronomer and Director of the Harvard College Observatory) also wrote about the Levelland sightings in his book The World of Flying Saucers (Menzel, 1963). In the book, he retracts previous statements made to the press in 1957 when he stated that mirages were causing the sightings. He explains that he made these statements too quickly without having all the evidence at hand. His original statements to the press (back in Nov. 6, 1957) were: “The whole thing amounts to another flying saucer scare. They are caused by a layer of heated air… acting as a lens and forming an image of objects as much as 40 to 50 miles way. They are nothing more than a mirage. They are prevalent just after nightfall as the heated air begins to cool off at the ground and they are common in the West where they have clear air.” As for reports of auto engines stalling, Menzel said, “it would not be surprising that a nervous foot could stall an engine.” Six years after this statement, in his 1963 book, Menzel fully supported the ball lightning explanation for the events of November 2 and 3 and rejected the mirage hypothesis. He states “in Levelland the night of Nov. 2, conditions were ideal for the formation of ball lightning. For several days the area had been experiencing freak weather and on the night in question had been visited by rain, thunderstorms and lightning.” He also states that the month of November 1957 proved to be the wettest ever recorded in West Texas. However, Menzel does not include the sources or references for his weather information. Menzel gives three possible reasons for why the automobiles’ engine died during the ball lightning sightings: 1. The rain during the evening could have seeped under the hood and soaked the ignition or dampened the spark plugs 2. The feed line may have been clogged 3. A region of highly rarefied air created by the ball lightning may temporarily have deprived the engine of oxygen Explanation #3 is the only one that makes a cause and effect connection between the ball of light and the car engine. Nevertheless, most of the press reports quoted only the first one (which did not make a lot of sense given that all cars and trucks started right after the ball of light left the scene). Menzel also argued against the claim of a new kind of electromagnetic force that flying saucers use to stop vehicles. He states “there are physical phenomena that the scientist does not yet understand, but he does know that electrical and magnetic forces do not and cannot perform all the feats attributed to them by saucer enthusiasts.” Moreover, he said, “no imaginable single force – electric, magnetic, or gravitational – could possibly have caused all the effects attributed to saucerdom’s miraculous electromagnetic force. An E-M field with the postulated powers is as improbable as a force that would lift fallen apples from the ground and draw them up to reunite with the branches of their parent tree.” For Menzel to believe that UFO’s have such powers he would have expected the following events to take place:
Thousands of automobiles should have been temporarily disabled in the neighborhood of every car-stopping UFO. Hundreds of TV sets should have blurred in the neighborhood of every TV-blurring UFO Physical evidence of landing should be found (shrubs crushed, grass scorched, ground disturbed) Moonwatch (on alert that week all over the US and Canada) teams should have detected the objects in the sky
Menzel focused mainly on one witness to the Levelland sightings (Pedro Saucedo). He claimed that Saucedo saw lightning when he reported the flash of light prior to the UFO. Saucedo, however, never stated on record that he saw lightning. The only references to the Levelland case that Menzel used to arrive at his conclusion are two newspaper clippings (El Paso Times, Nov. 4, 1957 & Denver Post, Nov. 6, 1957) and Aime Michel’s book (Michel, 1958). Based on the references listed on the Levelland chapter, it does not appear that he had access to the Blue Book files, interviewed any of the witnesses, or had any specific weather report for the area and time in question. Edward Ruppelt’s (chief of the Air Force’s Project Blue Book from 1951-1953) opinion of the Levelland sighting is not clear. He did include the Levelland case on the 2nd edition of his book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects in 1959. While he included the case in his book mainly to summarize popular cases of 1957, he did state that these sightings had a “new twist” (i.e. the stoppage of automobiles by the UFOs). Nevertheless, he did not comment whether the Blue Book explanation for the sightings was appropriate or not. He stated: “according to the best interpretation of the maze of conflicting stories, facts and rumors about these famous sightings, the only positive fact is that there were scattered storm clouds across West Texas on the night of Nov. 4, 1957. This was unusual for November and everyone in the community was just a little edgy”. But later in the same chapter Ruppelt stated: “The Levelland, Texas sightings were written off as “St. Elmo’s Fire” (parenthesis by original author)”. Maybe Ruppelt used the term “written off” to suggest that he did not
believe the Blue Book explanation. On the other hand, he did believe that there were storms during the sightings (a critical requirement at the time for the ball lightning explanation).
The Witnesses and the Investigators
The Levelland case is entirely dependent on eyewitness testimony. There were no physical traces on the ground, none of the affected vehicles were examined, and no photographs were taken. As a result, the witness testimony becomes the only way to evaluate the case. Unfortunately, many newspapers misquoted the witnesses or embellished the stories. Moreover, very few eyewitnesses were actually interviewed by the Air Force and Journalists. In order to determine whether the seven reports were consistent, the source of the report and the manner in which it was reported must be reliable. In the Levelland case, witness credibility was not an issue with regard to the fact that something was seen. The Air Force and the Journalists all agreed that something was seen on the evening of Nov.2-3. Nevertheless, witness credibility was an issue with regard to the description and details of what was seen.
In order to better judge level of accuracy in each of the seven reports, we must understand who the witnesses were, their level of training, how the report was made, who interviewed the witnesses and how the report was documented. Below is a summary of the how testimony was obtained for each witness and which source is deemed most reliable.
Witness Reliability and Source of their Statement
Newell E. Wright
Newell Wright - 1957 Newell Wright was a 19-year-old freshman student at Texas Tech.University in Lubbock. He was driving late on Saturday night (Nov. 2) on his way to Levelland for a weekend visit with his parents. Shortly after midnight (at about 12:05 AM), he witnessed the ball of light and his car engine stopped. After the event, he went home and went to bed. He did not call the Levelland Police Department that evening because he did not think much of the event. The following day (Sunday Nov. 3) he was encouraged by his parents to report the incident to Sheriff Weir Clem. His parents felt that he should report it because they had read about similar incidents in the Levelland newspaper and because they knew and trusted Sheriff Clem. Newell described the incident to Sheriff Clem on Sunday at 1:30 PM. He was subsequently interviewed by a journalist from the Levelland Daily Sun. He was also interviewed by the Air Force officer who came to Levelland to investigate on Tuesday November 5. Newell’s story was also documented in the Texas Tech student newsletter titled Toreador and 25 years later he was interviewed by a Hockley County News-Press reporter. The author recently interviewed him to better understand his previous statements. In summary, Mr. Newell Wright is on record on several sources: Air Intelligence Information Report , Levelland Daily Sun, and Toreador. In this study, we will consider the Air Force report as the most accurate because the Blue Book officer’s main purpose was to determine causation and not to create newsprint. Nevertheless, we compared how key descriptions of the sighting were reported in each of these sources in order to determine the reliability of the press at the time (shown below in Table 1). It appears that the description of Mr. Wright’s sighting on Levelland Daily Sun and the Toreador were very close to the Air Force report. While there are minor discrepancies on the location of the sighting, the key difference is that
the newspapers implied that the object was solid (ie. “image not just a light”, “solid with a definite form”). Moreover, while the Air Force Report and the Toreador said that the sighting lasted minutes, the Levelland Daily Sun states more accurately that the Mr. Wright thought it was minutes. In a recent interview, Mr. Wright said that while it might had seemed minutes at the time it probably was more like 4 to 5 seconds. The key point here is that witness testimony is subjective and facts and figures are just rough estimates made after a stressful event. The same comment can be made about the size of the object. Recently Mr. Wright said that the glow from the ball of light covered the whole width of the two-lane road. This size estimate is less than 30 ft (see note below), but back in 1957 he said the object was between 75 and 125 ft wide. Table 1: Comparison of Three Reports of Newell Wright’s Sighting Sighting Descriptions 1. Date of Interview 2. Date of Report Air Intelligence Information Report Nov. 5, 1957 Nov. 18,1957 Levelland Daily Toreador Sun Nov. 4, 1957 Nov. 5, 1957 Nov. 4, 1957 Nov. 5,1957
Dale Johnson 3. Investigator/Reporter Sgt. Norman P. Barth On Hwy. 116, 4 mileswest Near the town of On Route 116, one 4. Location of Smyer Smyer mile west of Smyer 5. Event Duration 6. Weather: (Clear,Cloudy, Rain, etc) 7. Description: UFO Shape 4 to 5 minutes Heavy clouds and a light rain falling Shaped like a loaf of bread Thought it was minutes Not Available ~ 5 minutes Night was overcast
Like an egg but flat on the bottom ~75 ft long but he did not know how far object was Saw an image not just a light; not as bright as neon
Egg-shaped and flat on the bottom; solid with a very definite form ~75 ft long but he did not know how far object was White with a little greenish tint
8. UFO Size: How was it 75 to 100 ft long He did not know how far object estimated? was. Size of a baseball at arm's length. 9. UFO Color White with a little greenish tint
In the Air Force report of Mr. Wright’s sighting, he was considered to be a reliable witness. It is interesting to note that James A. Lee, a NICAP investigator from Abilene, TX, also interviewed Mr. Wright and described him as the “most important and authentic of all” the witnesses in the Levelland case . The comment is curious because Mr. Lee concluded on Nov. 4, 1957 that the sightings were due to “space craft from one of the neighboring planets” but his best witness never believed in the spaceship theory. Mr. Wright always thought it was some sort of natural phenomena. After the sighting, he went to bed and did not think much of it. On Sunday he reported it only because his parents asked him to do so. The Monday after the sightings, Mr. Wright met a professor of Electrical Engineering at Texas Tech (who he
worked for part-time) who explained the sighting as ball lightning. This explanation was reasonable to Mr. Wright and he has been satisfied with this explanation ever since.16 In a interview in 1982 he tells the Hockley County News-Press that people did not want him to say he thought what he saw was something from nature. He said “nobody that ever talked to me was ever satisfied to hear that (his explanation) because the other was more exciting”.
Pedro Saucedo - 1957 Pedro Saucedo was a 30-year-old farm hand and part time barber from Levelland. He was the first witness to call the Levelland Police Department (PD) on the Saturday evening of November 2, 1957. Saucedo had his sighting on Hwy. 116 about 4 miles west of Levelland near the Pettit Community. After the sighting, he drove towards Whiteface and made the call to the Levelland PD. Mr. Saucedo talked to A.J. Fowler who was the officer working the night shift at the Levelland police dispatch. The Saucedo sighting was the only vehicle interference case that evening that had two witnesses. A friend of his, Joe Salaz, also witnessed the event. Nevertheless, nobody ever interviewed Mr. Salaz to confirm the story. Saucedo returned to the Levelland PD the following day (Nov. 3, 1957) in order to give a more complete report. Saucedo gave a complete statement of his sighting to Officer Shelby Hall and he later talked at length with a Lubbock Avalanche Journal reporter named Bill Wilkerson. On Tuesday Nov. 5, the Air Force officer who came to investigate the Levelland sightings interviewed Mr. Saucedo. Thus, there are two documented sources of what Mr. Saucedo saw on the evening of Nov. 2, 1957: the Air Intelligence Information Report and the Avalanche Journal report made by Mr. Wilkerson. To determine if there were any discrepancies between the Saucedo story reported by the Air Force and the story reported in the newspapers, we selected a few key descriptors of the event and compared them for each report.
This comparison is shown Table 2 below. Sighting Descriptions 1. Date of Interview. 2. Date of Report 4. First Thing Noticed 5. Sound 6. Physical Effects 7. Location 8. Event Duration: 9. Description: UFO Shape Air Intelligence Information Report Nov. 5, 1957 Nov. 18, 1957 Saw a large flame in the West None Reported Felt heat On Hwy. 116, 4 miles west of Levelland 2 to 3 minutes Shaped like a torpedo Lubbock Avalanche Journal Nov. 3, 1957 Nov. 4, 1957 Bill Wilkerson Flash of light in a field to his right Sounded like thunder Felt rush of wind and truck rocked from the blast. Felt a lot of heat On Hwy. 116, 4 miles west of Levelland None Reported Torpedo shaped orlike a rocket but much larger
3. Investigator/Reporter Sgt. Norman P. Barth
The are three slight discrepancies in the two statements. First, the Air Force does not mention any sound heard during the Saucedo sighting, while the Avalanche Journal reported that it sounded like thunder. Second, the Air Force reports that the sighting lasted 2 to 3 minutes while the Avalanche Journal did not mention time. The fact that the object described by Mr. Saucedo flew past him very fast (like a rocket) implies that it could not have been minutes. Thirdly, the air force report does not mention that Saucedo’s truck rocked from the blast while Wilkerson’s report does mention this. Mr. Saucedo told the Air Force investigator (Sgt. Barth) that he thought the object was an electronically controlled rocket. The Air Force, however, considered Mr. Saucedo not reliable and to be below average intelligence. It is interesting to note that the Air Force never stated in its report that Mr. Saucedo was a Korean War veteran but the Lubbock Avalanche Journal did report it. According to A.J. Fowler, the Levelland police officer that took Saucedo’s call on that Saturday evening, Mr. Saucedo did not speak very good English and it was difficult to understand him. This might be the reason why the Air Force investigator did not think much of Mr. Saucedo. Moreover, in his Air Intelligence report Sgt. Barth wrote that Mr. Saucedo “had no concept of direction and was conflicting in his answers.”
Ronald Martin - 1957 Ronald Martin was an 18-year-old truck driver who happens to have been in Levelland at the time of the sightings. While Loren Gross writes that he was staying at the Padgett Hotel in Levelland , nobody was able to determine where he was from. Ronald Martin never called A.J. Fowler on the evening of his sighting (Nov. 3, 1957 at 12:45 AM). Martin was the 2nd witness who showed up at the Levelland Police Station the day after the incident (Nov. 3, 1957). At the Levelland Police Station he gave a report to Officer Shelby Hall. Moreover, the Lubbock Avalanche Journal reporter, Bill Wilkerson, was able to interview Mr. Martin on Nov. 3. Besides interviewing the witness in person, the Avalanche Journal was also able to photograph Mr. Martin and showed his picture on the Lubbock Morning Avalanche of Nov. 4, 1957. The Air Force officer who showed up on Nov. 5 was not able to locate Mr. Martin and concluded in a memo to file that “contrary to newspaper reports, source (Ronald Martin) did not live in Levelland ”. Therefore, the only good source of information for the Ronald Martin story comes from the Lubbock Avalanche Journal report. This story was subsequently sent via Associated Press wire to numerous papers across the country. According to Civilian Saucer Intelligence (CSI), there was a probable hoax in the Levelland case . CSI speculated that the unreliable witness was Ronald Martin based on the fact that he reported the sighting the day after. CSI quotes a press report stating that “an unidentified employer said the facts simply would not have allowed one of the local witnesses to be where he was under the circumstances described.” The Levelland Daily Sun claimed the discovery that at least one of the dramatic sightings appeared to be of the imaginary variety . However, they did not identify the witness. As a result, we have to withhold judgement on Mr. Martin. He is one of the few who did come back the afternoon following the sightings and interviewed with newspaper reporters. By then, he had already heard the news of the sightings and it is possible that he embellished the story. Martin’s story, however, is more reliable than that of other witnesses who were not interviewed and who just reported the sightings to A.J. Fowler.
James D. Long
James D. Long was a truck driver from Waco who, like Ronald Martin, was driving on the outskirts of Levelland in the early morning hours of Sunday, Nov. 3, 1957. Right after his sighting, he called the Levelland Police Department and talked to A.J. Fowler to report the sighting. Nevertheless, Sheriff Weir Clem is the one who is quoted in most of the newspaper stories that mention Long’s sighting story. While Sheriff Weir Clem was quoted in the El Paso Times as saying that he talked to Mr. Long, this quote is doubtful. In a recent interview with A.J. Fowler, A.J. said that he talked to a negro man who called on the early hours of Nov. 3 to report a sighting and car stoppage. While A.J.’s description of the man’s sighting is different than the one reported 42 years earlier, this man must have been James D. Long because there was only one negro man quoted on the whole Levelland case. Moreover, Long’s sighting happened at 1:15 AM, which is only 15 minutes earlier than Sheriff Clem sighting of a streak of light. It is difficult to have Mr. Long calling Mr. Clem within a 15-minute period when both of them were on the outskirts of Levelland. It is more likely to conclude that Mr. Long called the Levelland PD and talked to A.J. Fowler, who then communicated the news to Sheriff Clem via radio. No newspaper reporter or Air Force investigator claimed to have talked to Mr. Long. It was presumed that Mr. Long continued to his home in Waco after the incident and there was no further follow-up interview. As a result, the descriptions available about Mr. Long’s sighting are based on what Sheriff Clem told the press on November 3 and 4 and on what Officer Fowler told the press on November 3. A.J. Fowler is the only person who is on record talking to Mr. Long. A.J. Fowler told the author that George Dolan, from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, was the only reporter who called him the day after the sightings on Sunday, November 3, shortly before noon . He also recalls talking later to the local newspaper (Levelland Daily Sun) but does not recall talking to anybody from the Lubbock Avalanche Journal. Nevertheless, no full-length interview of Mr. Long took place. In conclusion, if we rely on Sheriff Clem’s description of James Long’s sighting then we are relying on third hand information: Long told Fowler, Fowler told Clem and Clem told the Lubbock Avalanche Journal reporter. If we rely on what A.J. Fowler told the Fort Worth Star Telegram, then we minimize the potential for error. Nevertheless, the Star Telegram account is still second hand information. As a result, the quality of the details in the Long story is not the most reliable.
Jim Wheeler, Jose Alvarez, and Frank D. Williams
Jim Wheeler, Jose Alvarez, and Frank D. Williams also called the Levelland Police Department to report similar sightings and vehicle interferences. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Wheeler and Williams had their sighting north (8 and 4 miles) of Levelland on Route 51 at 11:50 PM and 12:15 AM respectively. Alvarez had his sighting at midnight about 14 miles east of Levelland on Highway 116. There is very little information available on these three independent witnesses. Jim Wheeler and Jose Alvarez were supposedly from Levelland while Frank Williams was from Kermit.
On November 4, the Levelland police searched for Wheeler and Alvarez but were unable to locate them. Sheriff Clem asked Winkler County Sheriff L.B. Eddins to search there for Frank Williams. Sheriff Eddins said that he “turned Kermit upside down” and even had an appeal broadcast on the Kermit radio station but was unable to find Williams. Neither newspaper reporters nor the Air Force investigator ever interviewed these three witnesses. As a result, the story that Wheeler, Alvarez, and Williams told was only available via whatever A.J. Fowler wrote on the Levelland police records on the evening of November 2 and whatever Officer Fowler recalled and told the press. In October of 1998, the author contacted the Levelland Police Department and asked the Chief of Police whether they had kept any records going back to 1957. The Chief of Police said that there were no records in Levelland prior to 1978. Given the lack of primary interviews available, the most reliable information available on the Wheeler, Alvarez, and Williams stories is the report that George Dolan wrote on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on November 4 supplemented with reports from the Levelland Daily Sun and Associated Press wires from Levelland.
Conclusion on Sources of Evidence and Witnesses
Of the seven Levelland witnesses who reported a ball of light that shut down their vehicles, only three of them were interviewed and questioned by investigators. Of these three, only two were interviewed by the Air Force. Newspaper reporters were also able to document these three witnesses. The reports of the remaining four witnesses were secondary reports. The newspaper reporters obtained their stories on these other 4 witnesses by interviewing Sheriff Clem and Officer Fowler. As a result, there is a lack of consistent data amongst the reports, a lack of consistent investigation procedure, and a lack of details on four of the seven reports. Nevertheless, there is enough data available for analysis. We can analyze the data and draw conclusions from it as long as we take into account its source of origin. One way of ranking the level of accuracy in the reports is by using the Information Quality Index proposed by MUFON. This Index (with a value between zero and one) indicates the relative strength that a report has for analysis based on how it was acquired. MUFON’s criteria for indexing the quality of the information is based on the type of investigation conducted (direct or indirect), the time spent interviewing the witness and the level and source documentation. The ranking classification is shown below in Table 3. Type of Investigation Level of Investigation At the Site At the Site Direct Investigation Interview Person to Person Interview Person to Person By Telephone By Telephone Questionnaire with Follow-up Indirect Investigation Questionnaire with Follow-up Letter with Follow-up
Time/Length >= 2 hours < 2 hours >= 1 hour < 1 hour >=1/2 hour <=1/2 hour Extensive Brief Extensive
Index 1.0 0.9 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.7 0.6 0.6
Letter with Follow-up Questionnaire Letter/Narrative Letter/Narrative Newspaper Newspaper Others Radio/TV Witness Relative Verbal/Rumor
Brief >= 1 page < 1 page >= 500 words < 500 words
0.5 0.6 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.0
Based on the level of investigation and reporting done on the seven Levelland witnesses, we rated the level of accuracy using the MUFON’s Information Quality Index. We also rated the level of Accuracy of the information using the author’s subjective levels (Low, Medium and High). The author’s criteria for accuracy of data is shown below:
High: Witness was interviewed in person; a full record of witness testimony is available; witness was questioned thoroughly by Air Force investigator Medium: Witness was interviewed in person; the witness report was documented but only in newspapers; no formal Air Force investigation took place Low: Witness was not interviewed in person; witness was not interviewed by an investigator or journalist; no record of witness testimony is available
The resulting Information Quality Index and the author’s own subjective rating are shown below in Table 4. The Information Quality Index given to Long, Wheeler, Alvarez and Williams is zero because nobody interviewed them and wrote a report. The source of information for their sightings was based on a verbal conversation via phone with A.J. Fowler. No report or record of these sightings was made. A.J. Fowler gave the details of these sightings to the press via another phone call. Thus, these witnesses were not really investigated (directly or indirectly). Their reports were obtained verbally. Table 4: Subjective Rating of Accuracy of Witness Report Witness InformationQuality Index Level of Accuracy in Report High Type of Investigation
Pedro Saucedo 0.8
Interviewed in person by Air Force officer and Avalanche Journal Reporter Interviewed in person by Air Force officer and Avalanche Journal reporter Interviewed in person by Avalanche Journal reporter Talked to Officer A.J.Fowler via phone; A.J. then told reporters
Newell Wright 0.8
Ronald Martin 0.8 James Long 0.0
Jim Wheeler Jose Alvarez
Low Low Low
Talked to Officer A.J.Fowler via phone; A.J. then told reporters Talked to Officer A.J.Fowler via phone; A.J. then told reporters Talked to Officer A.J.Fowler via phone; A.J. then told reporters
Quality of Information is different that reliability of witness. In the Levelland case, most witnesses were credible and truly experienced something that they never saw before. The issue is not whether they saw a ball of light in sky in the early morning hours of Nov. 3 1957, but the details of what they saw. It is the details that will help determine and or explain what they saw. Thus Quality of Information is deemed more important than witness reliability. Witness Reliability is usually estimated using parameters like age, occupation, and education. In this study, however, source of information at the time of the sightings is deemed more important than a potentially biased Witness Reliability Index. A key point to make with regard to witness reliability is that during and after the sightings, neither the Air Force, Sheriff Clem, nor Officer A.J. Fowler doubted that the witnesses saw something and that their vehicles were stopped. Even today, A.J. Fowler says that all the witnesses who called and talked to him were credible, scared, and did see something that night. The issue of reliability of the report has only to do with how accurate the report was made and how well documented was the sighting description from each witness. It is the details of the description of the phenomena seen that will help the most in finding a solution to the mystery.
Searching for Patterns
The seven witnesses who reported vehicle interference told their stories to different people via different mechanisms. As a result, the seven stories vary in depth of information, accuracy, and quality. In order to minimize error in the analysis, we limited sources of information to those reports and/or newspapers that had access to the key witnesses. For example, newspaper references were limited to the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, Levelland Daily Sun News, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram because we know their reporters actually interviewed key witnesses (Pedro Saucedo, Newell Wright, Ronald Martin) and key participants in the event (A.J. Fowler, Weir Clem). Part of the witnesses' stories were retrieved from other newspapers when more details were available in those papers but missing in the Lubbock/Levelland/Fort Worth papers. However, out of town newspapers (with the exception of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram) that were not quoting the Associated Press wires from Levelland, tended not be as accurate as the Lubbock and Levelland papers. The report from the Air Force investigation was also a key source for the details of the story of Pedro Saucedo and Newell Wright. Unfortunately, the stories of some witnesses, who just called the Levelland Police Department and talked to A.J. Fowler and were not fully interviewed by the Air Force investigator or a newspaper reporter, are lacking many details that are impossible to determine 42 years later. Even when the witnesses are still alive, the details of the story are not reliable. Thus the best we can do is analyze the best data available at the time.
Table 5 summarizes the key elements of the Levelland sighting story for the seven witnesses. The witnesses are listed in the chronological order of the sightings. Twenty-one elements of the story were tabulated ranging from time and place of sightings to details of the actual sighting. When data was not available, the table cell was left blank or indicated not reported. Of the 21 elements shown in Table 5, ten describe the object's behavior and properties and the other eleven describe the witness, his behavior, and the source of information. The ten properties selected to describe the object sighted are shown below:
Event Duration Shape Size Color Type of Motion Direction Distance Type of Vehicle Interference Sound Physical and Physiological Effect
Review of the descriptions given by the seven witnesses (as shown in Table 5) indicates that not one report was identical to another in all these 10 properties. The only generalization that can be made is that seven independent witnesses (while driving within a 10 miles radius of Levelland and within a 2.5-hour period) ran into a light source that shut down their car's engine and headlights. Then when the light source left the scene, the car's engine and headlights worked normally. Table 5: Descriptions and Key Elements of the Seven Levelland Vehicle Interference Cases Witness Pedro Saucedo Jim Wheeler Jose Alvarez Newel l E. Wrigh t 11/3/5 7 9 miles East of Levell and on Route 116. One mile west of Smyer Frank D.Willia ms 11/3/57 Four miles north of Levellan d at the intersecti on of Route 51 and a dirt road or 11 miles north of Levellan d on Ronald Martin James D. Long
11/2/57 On Highway 116; about 4 miles west of Levelland near the Pettit Community . Afterward s he drove towards Whiteface.
11/2/57 At the intersecti on of Highway 51 and a farm road eight miles North of Levellan d or on Hwy. 11 6 about
11/3/57 4 miles east of Levellan d near Lubbock Highway or on Route 51 near Whitharr al; 10 miles north and slightly
11/3/57 5 miles West of Levellan d on Hwy. 116
11/3/57 5 miles Northwes t of Levelland on the Oklahom a Flats farm road
Witness Age Witness Occupati on
30 Farm Hand /part time barber/ Korean War Veteran from Levelland
4 miles East of Levellan d 11:50 PM or 12:00 N.A. Man from Levellan d
east of Levellan d 12:00 AM N.A. 12:05 AM 19 Texas Tech. Fresh man Univer sity studen t from Levell and None
Route 51 near Whitharr al 12:15 AM N.A. Man from Kermit
12:45 AM 18 Truck driver from Levellan d
1:15 AM or 1:30 AM N.A. Negro truck driver from Waco
Other Witnesse s Event Duration : Descripti on: UF O Shape
2 to 3 minutes Torpedo eggshape or shaped like a rocket thing sitting on the road Not Reported
~4 minute s Oval shape, flat on the botto m Shape d like a loaf of bread 75 to 125 ft long He did not know how far object was White with a
~ 15 minutes object was sitting on the road Round in shape Big ball of fire Round as a ball Oval shaped Brilliant eggshaped mass
UFO Size: How was it estimate d?
About the size of an airplane Larger than a torpedo or rocket 200 ft long and 6 ft wide Blue with yellow
200 ft long
As wide as the paved portion of Hwy. About the size of two cars
200 ft long
Brightly lit like
Changed color to
flame coming out of the rear and white smoke surrounding the flame
neon lights. Brilliant light It was so bright it lighted up the whole area.
little greeni sh tint
light was pulsating on and off
UFO rose up out of a field and started toward the truck picking up speed. Whe n it got near the truck, the lights went out and motor died. Objec t was about 200 ft off the ground and went directly over truck.
It was just sitting there, all lit up. It was light up with neon lights.
Thing was circling cotton field, just above the ground on one of the circles, the Thing’s lights went out. It just disappear ed
Object rose from the groun d and when witnes s looked throug h the winds hield, the object was gone. Object left groun d almost straigh t up and disapp eared from view in a split instant
Object was siting at the intersecti on of the Route 51 and a dirt road. W hen witness got out of his car, then the object rose swiftly to about 200-ft and its light went out and it disappear ed.
bluishgreen when it set on Hwy. Th en changed to an orange fireball again when it rose straight up & disappear ed. big ball of fire dropped on the highway in front of his truck
ntly like neon sign
Object was on ground on road.
Moving East to Levelland
UFO rose into sky and its light blinked out
Distance 200 ft over to UFO: truck (How was it determin ed)
. Circling Object field then rose light almost went out straigh and t up disappear and a ed. little to the north, at a terrific speed. Within second s it was out of sight. It disapp eared almost instant ly. Could not determ ine distan ce to UFO
rose up and disappear ed
Rose straight up and disappear ed
Object rose straight up and then hovered about 200 ft in the air and then it turned its light off.
Type of Vehicle Interfere
lights on truck went out and
Engine died and headlight
Engine died and headlight
Amme Engine ter died and began headlight
Saw big ball of fire hovering in the sky about a mile and a half ahead of him. The thing dropped down and landed on the road ahead some 300 to 400 ft away. Truck engine died and
He got out of his car about 200 ft away to investigat e but when he did, it took off with a roar straight up into sky.
When the UFO lit up, his
nce: (Effects on Engine, Radio and Lights)
motor died when object got near truck
s went out
s went out
jumpi ng, then motor gradua lly died, then the lights and radio went out
s went out.
lights went out
EM Effects after UFO Left
Headlights went on by themselves and
Type of Sound Emitted by UFO:
When witness started to get out of his car, the UFO Truck started fine rose abruptly. after At a Saucedo height of turned the about key in the 200-ft, ignition. UFO lights went off, and car lights went back on. great sound; No sound sounded was like thunder Reported and rush of wind
When the Thing disappear ed, the car lights went back on, and witness started the motor normally.
No sound was Reported
Every time the pulsating light from the UFO came on, his car light and motor would go off. After Not object reported, left, but the the car fact that started the norma witness lly drove on after the sighting to a payphon e implies that car lights and engine went back to normal. No sounded sound like was thunder Report when it ed took off
truck stalled and the lights went out
Truck’s headlight s came back on and the truck’s engine started normally
Engine started and light came on when object got about 200 ft high.
No sound Sounded was like a big Reported clap of thunder, as it settled to the ground and again as it seemed to take off. Too k off with a roar None None
and Physiolo gical Effects What brought attention to UFO?
rush of wind that rocked the truck; felt lots of Heat First saw a flash of light in a field to the right. Then object rose up out of the field and started toward the truck pickup us speed.
Report Reported ed
What was the witness doing before UFO showed up?
Driving to Gerald Reding Farm near the Pettit Community
Car engine and lights sudde nly quit worki ng. H e got out to investi gate, but could find nothin g wrong. As he slamm ed the hood and turned around he sudde nly saw the object on the Hwy. up ahead. Drivin g back home to Levell and from Texas Tech.
Object was sitting in the middle of the road ahead of him.
Driving truck on highway when suddenly a ball of fire drops on the highway in front of his truck
He saw the object resting in the middle of the highway with its light off. Whe n he got right up to it, its light went on and his truck lights and motor went off. Othe r reports say that his truck stalled as he neared a bright object sitting on the road.
Driving truck towards Levellan d
He had just left Levelland on a run to a destinatio n east of town.
Officer A.J. Who Intervie Fowler via Phone; wed Witness? Officer Shelby Hall at Police Station; Bill Wilkerson (LAJ Reporter) Lubbock Key Morning Source Avalanche of Informat 11/4/57; ion Levelland AP; Air Intelligence Information Report, 11/18/57
Witness called Levellan d Police and talked to A.J. Fowler
Witness called Levellan d Police and talked to A.J. Fowler
colleg e in Lubbo ck Sheriff Weir Clem; Dale Johnso n (Torea dor Report er)
Fort Worth Star Telegram , 11/4/57; Lubbock Morning Avalanch e 11/4/57; Associat ed Press, Levellan d, 11/4/5 7
Fort Worth Star Telegram , 11/4/57; Lubbock Morning Avalanch e 11/4/57; Associat ed Press, Levellan d, 11/4/5 7
Called Levellan d Police and talked to Officer Shelby Hall; Bill Wilkerso n (LAJ Reporter) Torea Fort Lubbock dor Worth Morning 11/5/5 Star Avalanch 7 Telegram e , 11/4/57; 11/4/57; Lubbock Associat Air Intelli Morning ed Press, gence Avalanch Levellan d, 11/4/5 Inform e 11/4/57; 7 ation Report , Associat 11/18/ ed Press, 57 Levellan d, 11/4/5 7
Witness called Levellan d Police and talked to A.J. Fowler
Witness called Levelland Police and talked to A.J. Fowler
Associate d Press, Levelland , 11/4/57 ; Fort Worth Star Telegram , 11/4/57
To better compare the descriptions of the light source for each witness, we created radar diagrams using eight of the properties listed above. The duration of the event and the distance to the light were not included in the diagram because these estimates (made by the eyewitness after the event) are typically very unreliable. The eight properties selected tend to be easier to remember by the witness and are better descriptors of what was actually observed.
The criteria used to differentiate each property according to the witness' description are shown in Table 6. Table 6: Criteria and Scale used to Differentiate Witness Description of Levelland Sighting Criteria/S cale Shape Size Color Action Motion Light Chan ges Blinki ng on/off Sound Physi cal Effect s Sound Heat and Wind Heat only Color Chang es Wind only Other
Loaf of Bread Round/ Ball
Hover (or Vertica Still) & l& Move Horizo ntal Vertica l Move Continuo usly Horizo ntal Circula r Hovering or Sitting Still
50-100 Yellow/Or ft ange Red
Torpedo <50 ft
Not Availab le
Not Availa ble
Not No Availab chang le es Repor ted
No Sound Repor ted
None Repor ted
While this criterion is arbitrary, we believe it is useful for searching for patterns. The main purpose of generating radar diagrams is to see visually how similar descriptions of the sighted object are from one witness to another. Moreover, this analysis also helps to determine whether descriptions from witnesses who gave more detailed and higher quality reports were more similar to each other than descriptions from witnesses whose reports were less reliable. The metrics assigned to each witness report is shown in Table 7. Table 7: Metrics Assigned to Witness Descriptions Criteria Shape Size Color Action Motion Light Changes Sound Physical Effects Pedro Saucedo 0.25 1.00 0.75 0.50 1.00 0.00 1.00 1.00 Newell Wright 0.75 0.25 1.00 1.00 0.75 0.00 0.00 0.00 Ronald Martin 0.50 0.25 0.50 1.00 0.75 0.50 0.00 0.00 James Long 1.00 1.00 0.00? 1.00 0.75 1.00 1.00 0.00 Jim Wheeler 1.00 1.00 1.00? 1.00 0.75 0.00 0.00 0.00 Jose Alvarez 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.50 0.25 0.00 0.00 0.00 Frank Williams 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.00 0.75 1.00 1.00 0.00
Summary of Radar Figures
For the seven eyewitness reports, none of the radar figures were identical. The descriptions from the 3 witnesses with the highest quality reports (Pedro Saucedo, Newell Wright, and Ronald Martin; Figure 1, 2 and 3 respectively) were also different. Shapes described by these witnesses were torpedo, loaf of bread, and ball. Sizes ranged from 200 ft to width of road (< 30 ft). Colors described were blue, white, and orange. Motion and action also varied. Of these three witnesses, only Saucedo heard any sound and felt heat and wind. Of these three witnesses, only Martin saw a change of light color from orange to bluish-green and back to orange. While overall these three witnesses experienced something similar, their descriptions of the light source were very different. A blue torpedo shaped light moving horizontally over a truck and emitting sound and heat appears to be a different phenomenon than (1) a white “loaf of bread” light hovering still over the road without any sound nor heat and (2) a round orange ball that drops vertically onto the road and changes color to bluishgreen. Nevertheless, of the best-documented cases, the Wright and Martin cases are the most similar. Besides slight variations in shape and size estimates, the main discrepancy between their reports was the color of the object and that it changed colors. While Wright was quoted as saying the object size was between 75 ft and 125 ft, he recently told the author that the object diameter covered the width of the road. This size estimate is the same as what Ronald Martin said at the time. Comparison of radar diagrams for the four other witnesses, whose reports were least reliable (Figures 4 through 7), show that each of them had a different description of the sighting. Jim Wheeler’s account is the closest to Wright and Martin’s description. The diagrams for Alvarez and Williams look very different mainly because of lack of data. Long’s description of his sighting, however, is very similar to William’s when we compare the known parameters. Nevertheless, no conclusive comparative statements can be made on these four reports. Of interest, however, is the fact that Long and Williams reported sounds just like Saucedo. All three witnesses described the sound as a clap of thunder. Moreover, only Long and Williams reported the object’s light to be blinking on and off and glowing intermittently like a neon sign.
Two references were found stating that Ronald Martin’s truck started by itself when the object left. One reference was an article written by Max Miller in Saucers magazine and the other reference was Don Berliner’s article in Official UFO magazine. Miller implied that the engine of Ronald Martin’s truck started by itself when the object ascended vertically. He quotes Martin as saying: “One thing I can’t understand is how it could stop that combustion engine and then start it again when it took off.” Miller’s article did not give a reference for this quote. Likewise, Berliner’s article did not give a reference for Martin’s claim. No reliable source was found to back this claim. The Lubbock Avalanche Journal, the Levelland Daily Sun News, and the Levelland Associated Press wires did not mention anything about self-starting engines. Bill Wilkerson, of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, interviewed Martin and his article did not mention this claim. It is possible that an out-of-town newspaper published this claim since we found contradictory claims in other out-of-town newspapers. For example, a newspaper article from Amarillo (based on AP and UP wires) said that the object never cut off Martin’s truck engine or lights. The best available sources of information indicate that all auto engines started normally after the ball of light left the scene. Thus we conclude that no auto engine in Levelland started by itself in November 2-3, 1957. In conclusion, while there is a fundamental similarity amongst all seven reports (i.e. the car stoppages, a light source, the timing, and location), all seven reports were different in the details of the observations. The variety of descriptions for the light source tends to imply that it was not the same object seen seven times in 2.5 hours. Either there was more than one object seen that evening or it was a phenomenon whose properties were variable and diverse.
Air Force/Blue Book Investigation and Explanation
After all the publicity on the Levelland sightings was reported all over the nation on November 4, the Air Force was besieged by reporters calling for explanations. On November 7, Captain Andy Beasley (NORAD public information officer) said NORAD had sent an investigator to Reese AFB, Lubbock, Texas, on Monday (November 4) to probe reports that a brilliant colored, egg shaped object had stalled automobiles in West Texas and New Mexico. This investigator was due to return to command headquarters on November 7. The Air Force sent Sergeant Norman P. Barth to Levelland to investigate the sightings on November 5, 1957 (Tuesday). Sgt. Barth was a NCOIC (Non Commissioned Officer in Charge) of the UFO Section of the 1006th Air Intelligence Security Service (AISS) located at Ent Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Sgt. Barth showed up in Levelland at Sheriff Clem’s office around noon and finished his field investigation at around 6:30 PM. Of the 6.5 hours he spent in the area, at least 3 hours were spent in Lubbock. During the 6.5 hour period, he interviewed six people: Sheriff Weir Clem (Levelland), Newel Wright (Levelland), Pedro Saucedo (Levelland), Patrolman Lee Roy Hargrove (Littlefield), Harold D. Wright (Lubbock), and J.B. Cogburn (Whiteface). Of the six people that the Air Force interviewed only two had their car engines and headlights shut by the mysterious ball of light (Pedro Saucedo and Newell Wright). Three others (Sheriff Clem, Hargrove, and Harold
Wright) only saw a streak of light and J.B. Cogburn’s sighting was 2 days after the Levelland event (Nov. 4, 8:45 PM).Even the Air Force report concluded that Cogburn’s sighting was not connected with the other Levelland sightings two days earlier. Lt. Colonel William P. Brunson of the 1006th AISS in Ent Colorado wrote the Air Intelligence Information Report on November 18, 1957. Col. Brunson had different conclusions for each of the witnesses. Moreover, he and Sgt. Barth rated each of the witnesses with a reliability scale.While this study is only concerned with the auto stoppage cases, the Air Force interviews and reliability estimates of the 3 other witnesses does provide useful information about the weather conditions on the evening of November 2. A summary of the conclusions for each of the five relevant sightings in Levelland is shown below in Table 8. 1 Table 8: Air Force Reliability Ratings and Conclusions for Levelland Sightings Reliability Estimate by Air Force Usually Reliable Not Usually Reliable Fairly Reliable Not Reported Usually Reliable Reliability Code given by Air Force B D C B B
Newell E. Wright Pedro Saucedo Sheriff Weir Clem Patrolman Lee Roy Hargrove T/Sgt. Harold D. Wright
Air Force Expla Sighting Ball Lightning Imagination Streak Lightning Streak Lightning
Col. Brunson concluded that Pedro Saucedo’s account was unreliable because of a discrepancy between Saucedo’s estimate of the object’s speed (800 miles per hour) and distance (300 ft away) and Saucedo’s estimate of the length of time the object was in sight (2 to 3 minutes).Besides this incompatibility, Col. Brunson states another reason why Saucedo is not deemed reliable: Saucedo’s description of the weather condition did not agree with the established conditions in the area. Nevertheless, Saucedo’s description of the weather was never written in the AISS report on Levelland. ATIC’s conclusion on Saucedo was “that the excitement of the situation probably wetted the imagination of this witness, and that at least part of the information which he provided is false”. Col. Brunson concluded that Pedro Saucedo’s account was unreliable because of a discrepancy between Saucedo’s estimate of the object’s speed (800 miles per hour) and distance (300 ft away) and Saucedo’s estimate of the length of time the object was in sight (2 to 3 minutes).Besides this incompatibility, Col. Brunson states another reason why Saucedo is not deemed reliable: Saucedo’s description of the weather condition did not agree with the established conditions in the area. Nevertheless, Saucedo’s description of the weather was never written in the AISS report on Levelland. ATIC’s conclusion on Saucedo was “that the excitement of the situation probably wetted the imagination of this witness, and that at least part of the information which he provided is false” On the other hand, Col. Brunson had a high opinion of Newell Wright. He called the Newel Wright’s sighting the most important (of the six he reviewed).Moreover, he states that the reliability, sincerity, and intelligence of Mr. Wright lend credence to his account. Col. Brunson proposed four possible explanations for Newel Wright’s sighting:
Weather phenomena, such as St. Elmo’s Fire or a similar phenomenon Ball lightning Reflection of excess burning gas from a very low cloud cover A meteorological phenomenon which could be any combination of 3 shown above
However, he wrote that insufficient knowledge of the meteorological phenomena proposed as possible explanations existed at his organization to completely resolve the sightings. Thus, he forwarded the sighting to the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) as unresolved. ATIC on the other hand, concluded that the conditions, which existed in Levelland during November 2 and 3, were consistent with those associated with ball lighting. In particular, they concluded that what Newel Wright saw was ball lightning.ATIC concluded: “It is the opinion of ATIC that ball lightning may have contributed to the overall circumstances of the Levelland sighting, but was not a major factor. It is concluded that the major cause for the Levelland case was a severe electrical storm. The storm stimulated the populace into a high level of excitement. This excitement reflected itself in their reactions to ordinary circumstances, and resulted in the inflation of the stories of some of the witnesses concerning their experiences”. ATIC’s conclusion that a severe electrical storm was the major cause and not ball lightning was due to the fact that three of the six witnesses they interviewed saw only a streak of light. Moreover, they discounted Saucedo’s sighting and ignored Cogburn’s. Thus, only one sighting (Newel Wright’s) out of 6 sightings required the ball lighting explanation. Col. Brunson’ AISS report did not address directly the possible cause of the automobiles engine stoppage. That is probably why he submitted the Newel Wright case as unresolved. ATIC, on the other hand, concluded that the two cases of motor stoppage that the Air Force investigated (Saucedo and Wright) could be attributed to the electrical storm either directly or indirectly. ATIC’s summary report states that “the high humidity may have resulted in sudden deposition of moisture on distributor parts and the possibility of stoppage due to this is especially true if moisture condensation nuclei were enhanced by increased atmospheric ionization” This suggestion, curiously enough, was made by Dr. J. Allen Hynek in a memo to ATIC. In the memo Hynek says that a connection between the ball lighting phenomena and the engine stoppage was possible via ionization of the air and moisture deposition. Later in his life, Hynek regretted supporting this hypothesis because he could not explain why the auto engines would start right after the ball of light left the scene and because he found no evidence that there was an electric storm in Levelland the night of sightings. For ATIC, the auto stoppage issue was obviously the most difficult to explain away given the limited data and science available on ball lightning. The head of the Blue Book in 1957, Captain George T. Gregory, admits the weakness of the ball lightning explanation in a letter to the Air Science Division on December 4, 1957. In that letter he asks for a review of the Levelland case with emphasis on the “missing factor” of the ball lightning hypothesis. The missing factor he asks about was “what effect does nearby lightning discharges have on the electrical circuits or voltage potential of automobiles”. Presumably, Captain Gregory could not explain the auto stoppages and restarts with the limited knowledge available on ball lightning.
On January 3, 1958, Captain Gregory writes another concluding memo stating “the phenomenon was undoubtedly related to the meteorological conditions that existed in the area at that time: fog, light rain, mist, very low ceiling (400 ft), and lightning discharges. The latter were definitely established through the results of numerous investigative reports”. He concludes that all the weather conditions were conducive to a ball lightning manifestation.Furthermore, he explains the auto stoppage occurrence with Hynek’s explanation that ball lightning or lightning discharges were capable of ionizing the air and in turn affect the moisture laden ignition components of a motor vehicle.
Observations and Conclusions of Air Force Investigation
While the Air Force investigation of the Levelland case had pluses and minuses, overall it made a positive contribution to the evaluation of this case. The negative aspects of the Air Force investigation were:
They limited the scope of investigation to only the people who they could find in Levelland when Sgt. Barth arrived.While Sgt. Barth, tried to locate Ronald Martin, no extra effort was made to find the other four witnesses. No investigation was made on the affected automobiles. They focused their attention on the electrical storm hypothesis despite many witnesses stating that there was no electric storm.
The positive aspects of the Air Force investigation were:
They documented the interviews with the witnesses and provided better investigative reports than the newspaper accounts. They used Air Force resources to check for other possible causes and did not find any. They documented the weather conditions in Levelland and Lubbock at the time of the sightings. They started the scientific debate on the possibility of Ball Lighting being the cause of many UFO reports.
Nevertheless, the crux of Blue Book’s Levelland explanation rests on two key assumptions: (1) that there was an electric storm in Levelland on the night of November 2, 1957 and (2) that ball lighting can cause automobile engines to stop.Thus, to better understand this case, we must determine what was the weather like on Nov. 2-3 and what are the known properties of ball lightning.
Weather According to the Air Force
ATIC concluded that there were severe electrical storms in Levelland on Nov. 2-3, 1957. Nevertheless, of the five witnesses Sgt. Barth interviewed (who had sightings on the evening of Nov. 2 and early morning of Nov. 3), only the statement of two were recorded. Newell Wright stated that there were heavy clouds and light rain. Harold D. Wright stated that it was misty, with scattered clouds, slight breeze and occasional lightning.
The Air Intelligence Information Report, written by Col. Brunson, summarizes the conditions reported by the US Weather Station in Lubbock (which is only 32 miles east of Levelland). The AIIR report states that a complete overcast existed with a 400-ft ceiling, visibility at 3 miles, surface winds were light and variable, and there was a drizzle or light rain throughout the period. This weather report differs slightly from a teletype report sent to ATIC from the Commander of Walker AFB on November 4, 1957. The teletype report states that there was unlimited ceiling, with visibility at 15 miles, that surface winds were 10 knots at 45 degrees, cloudy with light drizzle, and 5/10 to 9/10 of the sky was obscured. Besides cloudy skies and light rain, no mention is made of a thunderstorm in these two reports. A memo in the Blue Book files states that heavy thunderstorms were present in the area prior to the sightings, but no reference is made to the source of information. Capt. Gregory’s memo of January 3, 1958 stated that lighting discharges were definitely established through the results of numerous investigative reports. This conclusion was probably arrived at after concluding that three of the sightings investigated by Sgt. Barth were due to lightning (Harold Wright, Weir Clem, and Lee Roy Hargrove).
Weather According to Dr. James. E. McDonald
In 1966, Dr. James McDonald re-investigated the Levelland case. Dr. McDonald was a professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Arizona, and thus was very curious about the Air Force explanation of the case as ball lightning. In a paper he wrote in 1967 for the American Society of Newspaper Editors, he summarized his findings on the weather conditions in Levelland at the time of the sightings. McDonald writes: “I dug out the weather maps and rainfall data. A large, high-pressure area was moving southward over the Texas panhandle, completely antithetical to convective activity and lightning of any sort. A check of half a dozen stations in the vicinity revealed that there was not even any rain falling during this period, nor had more than a small amount fallen hours earlier that day when a cold front passed through”. In 1966, he wrote a letter to Mr. Troy Morris (a member of the editorial staff at the Levelland Sun-News who was present at the time of the sightings) asking for weather conditions on the night of the Levelland sightings. Mr. Morris replied in May 11, stating that “the night was clear and there was no clouds”. McDonald called him on October 5 and Mr. Morris was “emphatic that the early hours of Nov. 3 were clear or nearly clear. He, himself, when he heard the reports, went out to have a look on the roads. He couldn’t understand why the Air Force would say that there were storms…”. In summary, McDonald’s conclusions on the weather conditions in Levelland on the November 2nd-3rd 1957 were:
a cold front had passed through Levelland earlier in the day on November 2 conditions were not present for lightning to occur very little rain had fallen there were no storms at the time of the sightings
Weather According to Newspaper Records
Weathermen in Levelland could not explain the sightings away as a weather phenomenon as early as November 5. They were quoted in the Levelland Daily Sun-News: “weathermen
said they could not explain away the sightings. There were no thunderstorms in the area, and they scoffed at St. Elmo’s light”. The Lubbock Morning Avalanche reported heavy rains in the area on Sunday, November 3 but there was no mention of a thunderstorm. The article stated that “most area points reported rain starting just about sunrise Sunday and thickening into a heavy drizzle that continued most of the day. Some towns received rain Saturday night and it still was raining at midnight Sunday in many places”. The news report states that “a thin cold front eased into the South Plains early Sunday morning, sliding under warm air masses to trigger steady falling, general rains over West Texas and to keep the temperature in Lubbock below the 40 degree mark most of the day. The South Plains registered some of the heaviest falls in the state Sunday with 1.5 inches reported at Post and Snyder”. The El Paso Times also mentioned the cold front that hit Texas on November 2. The paper stated: “rains up to two inches fell in parts of central Texas as a rather tame cold front moved into the area Saturday night. The front reached central sections of the state at mid-afternoon, dropping temperatures a few degrees and switching winds to the north”. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram also mentioned the cold front: “a mild cool front which pushed slowly through Texas during the week-end brought light to moderate rains over much of West and North Texas Sunday and dropped temperature to the 50 degree mark or below”. In summary, the newspaper weather reports tend to agree with some of the witnesses that experienced light rain on the late evening of Saturday (November 2) or the early morning hours of Sunday (November 3). None of these newspapers mentioned thunderstorms. The most relevant paper, the Lubbock Avalanche Journal (because Lubbock weather should have been similar to Levelland) did not mention any thunderstorm. As a result, all we can conclude from the newspapers is that a cold front moved into West and North Texas on Saturday accompanied by light to moderate rains. Weather According to US Weather Service The US Weather Bureau has climatological data for Lubbock, Texas for 1957. Since Lubbock is only about 32 miles east of Levelland, its weather conditions should be a good indication of weather conditions around Levelland for November 2 and 3 1957. Daily average climatological data for November 1 through November 5 is shown below in Table 9: Table 9: Local Climatological Data for Lubbock, TX - November 1957 Date Nov. 1 Nov. 2 Nov. 3 Nov. 4 Nov. 5 Maximum Temp. (°F) Minimum Temp. (°F) Average Temp. (°F) 73 59 45 45 45 50 45 37 39 40 62 52 41 42 43
Departure from Pre Normal Temp. (°F) +7 -3 - 13 - 12 - 10
Based on daily average data collected at Lubbock, it appears that a cold front did move in towards the panhandle of Texas on November 2. Moreover, the data sheet shows that on
average, there was little rain on November 2 but almost 0.4 inches of rain on Sunday the 3rd. No thunderstorms or lightning were recorded in Lubbock until November 5 on this daily average data sheet. The Weather Bureau does have a more detailed data sheet for Lubbock showing precipitation and lighting activity on an hourly basis. An extract of this data sheet is shown in Table 10 below. Table 10 shows the hourly level of precipitation and any reported thunderstorm in Lubbock from 8 PM on November 2 through 4 AM on November 3. Table 10: Hourly Climatological Data at Lubbock, TX - November 1957 Date Nov. 2 Nov. 2 Nov. 2 Nov. 2 Nov. 2 Nov. 2 Nov. 3 Nov. 3 Nov. 3 Nov. 3 Local Time (Hour ending at) 7 PM 8 PM 9 PM 10 PM 11 PM 12 PM 1 AM 2 AM 3 AM 4 AM Precipitation (inches) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 T Thunderstorm or distant Lightning
The hourly data-sheet shows a different picture than the daily average data. Hourly data shows that there was no rain in Lubbock during the hours of the sightings in Levelland from 10:50 PM on November 2 through 1:30 AM on November 3. The 0.36 inches of average precipitation reported for November 3 occurred after 8 AM that day. Moreover, a visibility of 15 miles and unlimited ceiling during the hours of the sightings indicate that the sky was clear. Interestingly, however, is the fact that thunderstorms were reported in the vicinity of Lubbock between 2 AM and 3 AM on November 3. This recorded fact tends to disagree with Dr. McDonald’s assertion that conditions were not present for thunderstorms. The timing of the observed thunderstorm, however, was about half-hour to one hour after the last sighting in Levelland (~1:30 AM). The Lubbock climatological data shows that thunderstorms were observed on November 3 but mainly from 8 AM through 8 PM. The Levelland Daily Precipitation data sheet indicates that Levelland had 0.21 inches of rain on average on November 2 and thunderstorms were reported on November 3. Unfortunately, an hourly precipitation report for Levelland is not available and thus the time of the reported thunderstorms and rains is not known.
Summary and Conclusions on Weather
The climatological data for Lubbock does not to support the weather statements made by witnesses Newell Wright (sighting at 12:05 AM, Nov. 3) and Harold Wright (sighting at 11:35 PM, Nov. 2). Both witnesses told the Air Force that there were heavy clouds and light rain on the early morning hours of November 3, while data shows no precipitation and unlimited ceiling for those time periods in Lubbock. Nevertheless, the data collected was for Lubbock and the weather in Levelland could have been different. The climatological data for Levelland did show rain on November 2 and thunderstorms on November 3, but the data was averaged daily and did not provide hourly detail. The Lubbock Avalanche Journal wrote that it started raining just about sunrise on Sunday, November 3, which tends to agree with the precipitation data on the US Weather Bureau data-sheet. James McDonald’s weather analysis and other eyewitness testimony (Troy Morris, Weir Clem, and A.J. Fowler) tend to agree that the sky was clear and that there was no rain during the late evening hours of November 2 and the early morning hours of November 3. It is interesting to note that this conclusion is similar to the teletype report sent to ATIC from the Commander of Walker AFB on November 4, 1957. The teletype report stated that there was unlimited ceiling, with visibility at 15 miles, cloudy with light drizzle, and 5/10 to 9/10 of the sky was obscured. However, the information in this teletype was not quoted by Blue Book in its final report. All sources of weather information lead to the conclusion that there was no thunderstorm during the time period of the Levelland sightings. The Air Force weather report never mentioned a thunderstorm; neither did the two witnesses that the Air Force used to support the electrical storm hypothesis. The local newspaper did not mention any thunderstorm around Lubbock during that weekend. Moreover, the US weather station located in Lubbock did not report any thunderstorm or lightning during the relevant period. Nevertheless, there was thunder and lighting reported in Lubbock between 2 AM and 3 AM on November 3 and thunderstorms were reported in Levelland on November 3. This data point contradicts Dr. McDonald’s weather analysis that led him to conclude that the weather conditions in Levelland could not have produced lightning of any sort. In conclusion, there was no severe thunderstorm in Levelland during the time period of the sightings. There could have been a few clouds with light rain in Levelland despite no rain being reported at the Lubbock weather station. Conditions for scattered lightning, however, cannot be discounted. Lack of a thunderstorm does not imply lack of sporadic lightning. There was lightning reported between 2 and 3 AM on November 3 in Lubbock. Thus, lightning conditions did exist. The issue of whether ball lightning could happen under clear sky conditions or only during thunderstorm conditions will be discussed below.
The Extraterrestrial Spacecraft Hypothesis
The Lubbock Avalanche Journal never claimed that the Levelland sightings were flying saucers or spaceships. While on November 3 their headlines called the sightings a “Flying Fiery Object”, by November 4 the morning paper called it a “Thing” and the afternoon paper called it a “Flaming Thing”. James A. Lee was the first person to publicly claim that the Levelland sightings were spaceships from other planets. James Lee claim was first printed on November 4, 1957 and was quoted in wires from the Associated Press and United Press. James Lee was a NICAP (National Committee on Aerial Phenomena) investigator and also the director of the Interplanetary Space Patrol (a West Texas organization). Mr. Lee lived in Abilene where he owned and operated a surgical and medical equipment supply store. He rushed to Levelland on Sunday (Nov. 3) to interview and tape record the witnesses (we believe he interviewed Newell Wright, Pedro Saucedo, and Weir Clem). Lee identified the object as “a space craft from one of the neighboring planets” the same day he arrived in Levelland. Lee told Sheriff Clem that Levelland had a visit from another planet and left by 11 AM on Sunday. Lee told the Lubbock Avalanche reporter that “machines inside the object disturbed the magnetic field of balance and caused car engines to stall”. The Dallas News staff asked Mr. Lee on November 5 about the possibility that the mystery object might have been ball lightning. Lee responded: “Not a chance. Whatever it was showed every indication of being under intelligent guidance. Its objective seemed to be to land on the highway and interrupt traffic, then immediately leave that area and fly over to another highway leading into Levelland. It landed four times, and when observed it would take off to another location. In every case when a car or truck would approach, it would fail to function and the lights would go out”. Dr. Wayne Rudmore (a physics professor at Southern Methodist University) was the one who offered the possibility that engine failures were caused by ball lightning or static electricity as early as November 5. Despite Mr. Lee’s conclusions, none of the witnesses went on record stating that the object seen was a spacecraft from another planet. With the exception of Pedro Saucedo (who described the object as looking like a rocket), none of the witnesses described a solid craft or flying saucer. None of the witnesses saw landing legs, windows, or protrusions from the object. Six of the seven witnesses only saw a flaming ball of light. Most witnesses, including Pedro Saucedo, did not know what they saw and called the police department for help. Newell Wright, the best witness according to Mr. Lee, never believed he saw a spacecraft but his statements were not as popular in the press as Mr. Lee’s. While Mr. Lee saw intelligence in the behavior of the object, Newell Wright stated recently that he never thought the object behaved as with intelligence. One of the reasons Lee and others assigned intelligence to the object is that when it landed it chose preferentially to land in the middle of roads. Of the seven witnesses, five of them ran into the object in the middle of the road in front of them. If the object was ball lightning, then it is peculiar that it dropped preferentially onto asphalt and dirt roads. On the other hand, we don’t know where else it fell that evening. While it is interesting that the phenomena was observed mainly along roads,
this fact alone cannot justify a spacecraft from another planet. Maybe the phenomenon was observed elsewhere and was not reported because it was deemed uneventful. The second major reason why the extraterrestrial spacecraft theory was proposed was that nobody could figure out how a mysterious ball of light could interfere with the operation of a vehicle. The quick explanations that the Air Force gave (wet ignition systems, nervous feet, etc.) were only fueling the mistrust of the public. The spacecraft theory was quickly accepted because it was able to explain the vehicle interference, the supposedly intelligent behavior, and it rejected the Air Force’s explanations, which were deemed untrustworthy by the major UFO groups (NICAP, APRO, and CSI). Moreover, even after the Air Force publicly discounted the Levelland UFO sightings on November 15, Sheriff Weir Clem publicly disagreed. He stated that the Levelland sightings were not caused by freak weather conditions, because he had seen ball lightning and St. Elmo’s fire before and it wasn’t that. Statements from Sheriff Weir Clem and Police Officer A.J. Fowler supported the idea that ball lightning was not the cause of the sightings and unintentionally enhanced the extraterrestrial spacecraft idea. A.J. Fowler recently stated that he always believed (and still believes) the object was something that the Air Force was experimenting with and that the Air Force did not want anybody messing with it. He also stated that Sheriff Weir Clem always believed that the object was a solid craft as opposed to a weather phenomenon.
Other Possible Explanations for Levelland Sightings
The Levelland objects, unfortunately, did not leave any long lasting physical evidence and were not picked up by radar. Shortly after the sightings took place, many suggestions were made for the source of the sightings: rockets from White Sands Proving Ground, aircraft from Reese Air Force Base, secret weapons from the Air Force, and advertising planes flying around Levelland. Most of these explanations were rejected early on by Air Force personnel. Bill Haggart, from the Public Information Office at White Sands Proving Ground stated that the mystery object, which glowed and stopped car engines near Levelland, Texas, did not come from White Sands. He said, “it has nothing to do with any experiments here.” Moreover, Col. Barney Oldfield of the North American Air Defense said on November 4 that “the object from Levelland… was not picked up by radar. It did not seem to be traceable.” He said the provost marshal at Reese had investigated but found nothing. Other peace officers in this area made a ground search but found no signs. Sheriff Clem said his office had found no evidence that any plane might have been in trouble. Authorities at Reese Air Force Base outside Lubbock also said they had checked and could offer no explanation. A.J. Fowler stated in his recent interview that the Levelland PD and Sheriff Weir Clem spent some time searching for an advertising plane that supposedly was flying the night of the sighting, but they found no evidence to back that claim. Eventually, the Air Force Blue Book investigators rejected all these claims. This study will not evaluate any of these claims and we mention them here just for completeness.
The Ball Lightning Hypothesis
General Definition of Ball Lightning
According to James Dale Barry, author of Ball Lightning and Bead Lightning, “ball lighting is considered by many to be an atmospheric electrical phenomenon observed during thunderstorm activity. It is reported to be a single, self-contained entity that is highly luminous, mobile, globular in form, and appears to behave independently of any external force.” Stanley Singer (Director of Athenex Research Associates and author of The Nature of Ball Lightning) defines ball lighting as “a luminous globe which occurs in the course of a thunderstorm. It is most often red; although varying colors including yellow, white, blue, and green have also been often reported for the glowing ball. The size varies widely, but a diameter of one-half foot is common. Its appearance is in striking contrast to ordinary lightning, for it often moves in a horizontal path near the earth at a low velocity. It may remain stationary momentarily or change course while in motion. Unlike the rapid flash of ordinary lightning, ball lightning exist for extended periods of time, several seconds or even minutes”.
The Reality of Ball Lighting
On January 3, 1958, Captain Gregory (officer in charge of Blue Book) wrote a memo with his conclusion on the Levelland case. He wrote: “After careful search, study, and consideration of all data available, the phenomenon was undoubtedly related to the meteorological condition that existed in the area at that time: fog, light rain, mist, very low ceiling (400 ft), and lightning discharges. The latter were definitely established through the result of numerous investigative reports…. In summation, all of the above were conducive to a ball lightning manifestation – a field, of which very little is known by admission of writers and authorities themselves (Dr. John Trombridge, Enclop.Am.; Prof. T.A. Blair, Univ. of Nebraska, Weather Elements, among others)”. Captain Gregory acknowledged that ball lightning was itself a controversial and unknown field back in 1957. Today, while not much has changed with regard to understanding ball lighting, there is more acceptance of its reality. According to Singer (1971): “Despite reports of upwards of one thousand observations in the literature and more than a half dozen comprehensive, detailed reviews of the problem, including two monographs volumes, published in the last 125 years, ball lightning remains one of the greatest mysteries of thunderstorm activity.” Part of the problem of understanding ball lightning is that it has been described with a diverse and broad number of properties, which do not allow researchers to define it well. Great contradictions are found when analyzing ball lighting reports. For example, ball lightning phenomena has been reported under clear skies or under pouring rain, its color could be red, blue or any combination, it could be motionless or move very fast, it could move with the wind or against the wind, it could disappear silently or explode with a bang. Singer writes that “from the continually accumulating observations of ball lightning it gradually became clear that an unusual, if not wholly contradictory, combination of properties was indicated by
the eyewitness reports. The diversity in appearance and behavior of ball lightning in different cases had led to the conclusion that different types of ball lightning may exist.” Another ball lightning investigator and author tends to agree with Singer on the potential for multiple atmospheric phenomena being all lumped together under the ball lightning umbrella. According to James Dale Barry, author of Ball Lightning and Bead Lightning, “it is likely that several atmospheric electrical phenomena exist with similar but somewhat different characteristics.” Nevertheless, in a 1977 paper, Singer stated that “after a century during which several noted scientist held a negative opinion on the reality of ball lightning, it appears that in the last decade most meteorologists and perhaps a majority of physical scientists consider the existence of ball lightning well established.” While ball lighting might be considered real physical phenomena, no theory has been put forward yet that can explain all the observations. While theories have been unusually numerous, no theory is accepted today amongst ball lightning researchers. Despite the lack of a generally accepted theory to explain ball lightning and the continued discrepancy on the properties of ball lightning, we must acknowledge that an unknown atmospheric phenomenon (collectively called ball lighting) exists. Given that ball lightning is real, we must investigate whether its range of properties, behavior, and genesis describe the events in Levelland in November of 1957.
Properties of Ball Lightning
To determine what are considered general properties of ball lightning, we selected those listed by Singer and Barry in their respective books. According to Singer, “the general characteristics of ball lighting are well known. These have been obtained by study of approximately one thousand random observations by chance observers recorded over the past century and a half in the general scientific and meteorological literature.” Barry states that “the properties and characteristics of ball lightning have been deduced by a number of researchers from surveys and quasi-statistical analyses of collected reports.” Thus, the general properties listed in Table 11 are a summary of numerous reports and studies presented by earlier researchers and not just the authors’ opinion. Table 11: Range of Properties for Ball Lightning as Documented and Catalogued by two Ball Lightning Researchers Ball Lightning Properties Author: Stanley Singer Title: The Nature of Ball Lightning Plenum Press, NY, 1971 (Quotes are all from his book) Size The diameter of ball lightning has been reported from pea size to 12.8 meters. The average diameter has been reported as 20
Author: James D. Barry Title: Ball Lightning and Bead Lightning Plenum Press, NY, 1980 (Quotes are all from his book) Dimensions of the spherical or ovalshaped ball lightning vary from a few centimeters to several meters in diameter. The most common diameter
cm, 25 cm, 30 cm, and 35 cm depending on which database is used. Extreme sizes of 27 m and 260 m have also been reported. The balls viewed from closer distance are usually associated with smaller diameters; the larger dimensions have been reported for distant sightings in which the estimation of the size is dependent on the distance of the object, which could itself only be approximated. Shape (protrusions, rays, halos, or corona) Generally spherical or ball shaped in 83% in Brand’s database and in 87% of cases in Rayle’s database. A few oval or eggshaped masses have also been observed.
reported is 10-40 cm. A spherical or oval shape with a diameter less than about 40-cm is most frequently reported.
Ball lightning has been reported with spherical, oval, teardrop, and even rod shapes. There are three structural types. First, a solid appearance with a dull or reflecting surface or a solid core within a translucent envelope; second, a rotating structure, suggestive of internal motion and stress; and third, a structure with a burning appearance. The burning structure has been reported most often with the spherical and oval shapes, a red or red-yellow color, and a diameter less than 40 cm. Ball lightning reported to have a solid structure commonly has a green or violet color and a diameter between 30 and 50 cm. The rotating structure is observed with a combination of colors. It usually has a bright-colored interior with darker colored poles or a translucent envelope.
Red and orange colors are reported most frequently for ball lighting according to the five major surveys. Red was by far the most common color. Yellow, white, blue and blue-white are also commonly reported. Barry found less than 2% were blue or blue white in his study. Green is noted relatively rarely. Most common lifetime is from 1 to 5 seconds. An appreciable number disappear in less than a
Most ball lightning reports indicate the object as having had a red, re-yellow, or yellow color. Other colors, including white, green and purple were occasionally reported. Blue and bluewhite colors are associated with reports of St. Elmo’s fire. A color change with time was reported by only a few of the observers. These changes fall into three categories: red to white, violet to white, and yellow to white. The lifetime of a ball lightning is most often reported to be only 1-2 seconds. A lifetime of this length or
second and the examples with a lifetime longer than 5 seconds are markedly fewer. Several exhibit a lifetime of the order of 1 minute, and individual observations for 9 minutes and 15 minutes have been recorded. The longer lifetimes, extending to periods of a minute, were correlated with motionless blue or blue-white globes in the survey by Barry, who concluded that such globes were actually St. Elmo’s fire. Evidence of Heat The absence of any heat radiating from ball lighting has been especially noted as unusual for a body emitting such intense light. This property is reported in by far the larger number of cases. Brand concluded that, in general, no heat effect is exhibited by ball lightning of the type which floats free in the air. Two categories of motion have been distinguished; the luminous globes which fall to earth from the upper atmosphere and those which travel near the ground and are formed following a lightning stoke to earth. The general paths which have been observed include direct descend from the clouds to the ground, horizontal flight close to the earth with the wind or sometimes directly against the wind, upward flight, up and down motion, or rebounding from the earth. Velocities range from 1 meter/sec to 240 meters/second.
less was reported or indicated in about 80% of the reports examined. A small percentage of reports indicated longer lifetimes, lasting up to minutes. The longer lifetime is highly correlated with the motionless blue or blue-white ball, which is considered to be St. Elmo’s Fire.
A small number of observers reported that heat emission was experienced during the event. Death attributed to ball lightning has also been reported. Damage to objects that were touched by a ball lightning has also been reported. In contrast to these reports of serious damage, others have indicated that ball lightning does not emit heat and does not cause harm to objects. In general, ball lightning is most commonly observed in descending motion apparently from a cloud. It usually assumes either a random or horizontal motion several meters above the ground. The motionless state often results after an initial random or horizontal motion, although it can occur sooner. Cloud-to-cloud motion and earth-to-cloud motion are reported least - only a few of over 1600 reports indicate such motion. The motionless ball lightning is observed to hover in midair, seemingly unaffected by external forces. It is usually red or yellow white in color, spherical or oval shaped with a diameter of about 30-cm. It is often observed to undergo a sudden attraction to a grounded object. It darts quickly to the grounded object and decays noisily upon contact. The data accumulated indicate that if a wind-related motion is mentioned in a report, the ball lightning is most often observed to move along with the wind rather than against it.
Motion (velocity, path, rotation, direction with respect to wind)
Smells described as being of sulfur and ozone are common. In a few cases the odor was compared with that of nitrogen dioxide. General odors of burning have also been reported. Approximately one-quarter of the globes reported in Rayle’s survey were associated with a smell. Various sounds are emitted by ball lightning. The most common sound reported is a hissing or crackling noise. In some observations ball lightning is reported as entirely silent.
Many observers report a distinctive odor accompanying the presence of ball lightning. The odor is described as sharp and repugnant, resembling ozone, burning sulfur, or nitric oxide. The odor is reported most often when the distance between the ball lightning and the observer is small. Odors of this type are common ionization products of a lightning discharge. A characteristic hissing sound is often associated with the presence of ball lightning by many review authors. Only a few first-person reports were found which specifically mentioned a sound characteristic in connection with a nearby ball lightning observation. Conversely, a hissing sound is definitely associated with the St. Elmo’s fire phenomenon which is occasionally misidentified as ball lightning. Consequently, we may conclude that ball lightning is predominantly a soundless phenomenon.
Emission of sparks or lightning from the ball
Emission of sparks or long fiery rays from ball lightning has been noted in several occurrences giving rise to a frequent description of the luminous mass as a firework. The disappearance of ball lightning often occurs silently, but in many cases there is a violent explosion. Barry’s survey indicated that a majority exploded, including 80% of the red balls and 90% of the yellow. Ball lightning has been observed to decays by two modes. One is the silent decay, associated with a decrease in brightness and diameter. The second, designated as the explosive mode, is associated with a loud violent sound. Some observers report a sudden color change preceding the explosive decay. A small percentage of observers mentioned a residue found after the decay. These include, smoke or god residue and a tar or soot residue. Barry found less than 1% of the observation in his survey of the literature indicated a change in color,
Disappearance of the ball (Explosive or Silent)
In many ball lightning Traces left by the ball (Burns, occurrences no permanent traces are found after disappearance of damage, etc.) the ball despite its awesome activity. No change in the appearance of Change in appearance of ball lightning is noted during its the ball (change existence for by far the larger
is size or color)
number of cases, but in a small and all of these involved a change to number definite changes have bright or dazzling white of balls from been observed in the size, shape the initial red, violet, or yellow colors. or color. Changes in size may involve either a decrease or an increase. The light intensity of 12 cases in Rayle diminished and two increased. Color changes have also been specifically considered by Brad and Mathias. The greatest frequency of appearance of the balls came approximately two hours later than the peak in storms during the day but otherwise roughly resembled the distribution with time of day exhibited by storms. The fiery globes were most numerous in the summer months, 63% of the cases considered by Brand according to this parameter coming in this season and a total of 80% from May through September, again closely following the yearly distribution of storms. The data of Rayle’s collection dealing largely with observations in the central United States also show the greatest number appearing in summer, 83%. The frequency of ball lightning is thus evidently associated with the frequency of thunderstorms. The number of ball lightning appearances not directly connected with a storm is very small. Barry estimated that 90% of the cases reported occurred during thunderstorm activity. In three incidents for which reasonable complete accounts are available there appears the possibility of some distant residue of storm activity although the ball appeared under sunny skies which were clear or contained, at most, a few clouds. Of the reports gathered by McNally, three
Time of day of the occurrence
Occurrence during storm and connection with flashes of linear lightning
The occurrence of ball lightning is commonly associated with natural lightning events during thunderstorms, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other such stressful conditions in natures. These observations are the basis for the assumption that ball lightning is associated with the ordinary lightning discharge and is an electrical phenomenon. This association is supported by reports that describe a ball lightning appearing simultaneously with a nearby ordinary lightning discharge, immediately following the storm or just preceding the
indicated the formation of ball discharge. About 90% of the ball lightning under a clear sky, and lightning observations reported Rayle reported five which did not occurred during thunderstorm activity. occur in a storm. The majority of ball lightning incidents are further specifically associated with discharges of ordinary lightning, which may appear either before or after the ball lightning.
Deviations between Levelland Sighting Descriptions and Ball Lightning Properties
One way of evaluating whether the ball lighting hypothesis explains the phenomena observed in Levelland is to compare the descriptions given by the seven witnesses to the ranges of properties observed in ball lightning. If all the descriptions of the objects seen in Levelland fall within the ranges of ball lightning properties summarized by Singer and Barry, then it is reasonable to assume that the observed phenomena was ball lightning. On the other hand, if we observe significant deviations from observed ball lightning properties, then the ball lightning hypothesis must be rejected. Table 12 summarizes the key deviations between the descriptions of the seven Levelland sightings and the ranges for 13 ball lightning properties. The key interest here is in deviation from the observed ranges given by Singer and Barry. If the Levelland sighting description does not meet the average property of ball lighting but is within range, then it could be classified as ball lighting. If a property was not reported by the witness, then we can not judge it and we identify it as Not Available. The reported size of the Levelland object was a key deviant from size ranges given to ball lighting. While Singer states that the largest size of ball lighting observed was 12.8 meters (or about 41 ft), Saucedo, Wheeler, and Long stated that the object seen was about 200 ft. Two hundred feet is way beyond the upper bound given by Singer. Singer created a graph of the frequency distribution of ball lightning diameters for four databases of ball lightning observations covering about 738 observations. In this graph, shown in Figure 8, Singer shows that the largest diameter on these databases was only about 4.2 ft. Thus, either the witnesses overestimated the size of the object seen, a new record size ball lighting was discovered, or the observed object was not ball lightning. The other witnesses who gave size estimates said that the ball of light was a wide as the road. A two-lane road is less than 30 ft wide; thus these other descriptions fit the range of observed ball lightning sizes.
Figure 8: Distribution of Ball Lightning Diameters
Shape descriptions for ball lightning matched all Levelland descriptions. While Saucedo’s description of a torpedo or rocket shaped object is rare in ball lightning reports, Barry states that rod shaped ball lighting has been reported. Classifying Saucedo’s drawing of his sighting (made for the Air Force investigator and shown in Figure 9 below) as rod-shaped ball lighting might be considered unlikely but not impossible. For example, Corliss (in his book Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena) discusses the sighting of a rod-shaped ball lightning that was described by the witness as torpedo shaped.
Figure 9: Pedro Saucedo’s Drawing of His Sighting
All colors reported by the Levelland witnesses were within range of those reported in ball lightning observations. A few witnesses described the light as a neon sign but no color was given. Even if we assume that the witness saw the typical color of neon gas (orange-red), it is still within the range of colors in ball lightning descriptions. Only three witnesses gave duration of observations, ranging from 2 minutes to 15 minutes. Eyewitness estimates of time are usually not very reliable, especially during a stressful event. In the Levelland case, for example, Mr. Newell Wright was recently asked about his report stating that his sighting lasted 4 minutes, and he replied that it probably lasted seconds but felt like minutes. Despite the unreliability of eyewitness time measurements, the reported times are within the ranges given by Singer and Barry. While Singer and Barry say that the most common ball lightning lifetimes are 1 to 5 seconds, they do report sightings lasting minutes. Thus, duration of the Levelland sightings does not rule out ball lightning. The motions observed in ball lightning are usually horizontal and vertical, which fit the descriptions of all Levelland eyewitnesses except Alvarez’s. Most of the witnesses reported the ball of light departing vertically upward which is rare in ball lightning reports. According to Barry, earth-to-cloud motions are reported least (only a few of over 1600 reports indicate such motion). Nevertheless, however uncommon, ball lighting reports with upward motion have been recorded according to Singer and Barry. Thus, the majority of the observed
motions in the Levelland sightings fall within the range of motions in ball lightning. The Alvarez sighting, however, describes the object as circling a cotton field just above the ground. This type of motion was not found in Singer and Barry’s descriptions of ball lightning motion. Barry does mention that spiral motions have been reported, but a spiraling motion is not the same as a circling motion. Thus, Alvarez description of motion is considered a deviation from the ranges given to ball lightning motion. Smell is an interesting ball lightning property because none of the Levelland witnesses reported smelling anything. Singer and Barry, however, say that not all ball lightning observers report smell. According to Barry, witnesses who are closer to the ball of light report smells more often. Nevertheless, either witnesses did not smell anything or maybe they said it but nobody wrote it down. No conclusion for or against the ball lightning hypotheses can be made based on the lack of smells reported. Sound is another ball lightning property that does not help distinguish between ball lightning and something else. According to Singer and Barry, ball lightning has been reported with and without sound. Barry, however, states that ball lightning is a predominantly soundless phenomenon. Of the seven Levelland witnesses, four reported no sound. The three that did report sound described it as thunder. Saucedo appears to have heard the sound as the object passed over his truck, Williams heard the sound when the object took off vertically, and Long heard the sound when it settled to the ground and again as it took off. These sounds tend to agree more with what Singer and Barry describe as the explosive mode of disappearance of ball lighting. Apparently, ball lightning has been reported to disappear either silently or with a loud violent sound. Either way, all seven Levelland sighting reports fall within this range of ball lighting disappearance. No traces were left by any of the Levelland sightings, which matches the majority of ball lightning observations. Some ball lightning reports emit sparks or long fiery rays. Thus, Saucedo description of a blue object with a yellow flame coming out of the rear could fall within the ball lighting emissions described by Singer. With regard to changes in color or light intensity, a small number of ball lightning reports have observed changes in size, shape, intensity, and color. In the Levelland cases, Ronald Martin, James Long, and Frank Williams reported changes in appearance. Martin reported color changes from orange to bluish-green and back to orange. Long and Williams reported that the object’s light was blinking on and off like a neon sign. Barry found that less than 1% of the observations in his survey indicated a change in color. Nevertheless, all of these involved a change from red, violet, or yellow to white. While Barry’s color changes are different than Martin’s reported color changes, the key point is that color changes have been reported in ball lightning observations and thus Martin’s description is not a significant deviation. Long’s and William’s observation, on the other hand, has not been reported in connection to ball lightning. Singer writes that 14 ball lightning cases have been reported with changes in light intensity (in 12 of these the light intensity increase and in 2 it decreased). Nevertheless, light intensity changes are not the same as a pulsating light. Thus, we consider Long and William’s observations as deviant from the ball lightning observations on changes in appearance. The occurrence of ball lighting during storms or connected with linear lightning is very important to the Levelland case because many previous investigators discounted the hypotheses when no evidence of a lightning storm was found in Levelland. Dr. James
McDonald, who did not agree with the ball lightning hypotheses, wrote: “if there are any workers in atmospheric electricity who hold that ball lightning can be generated without presence of intensely active thunderstorms, I have failed to uncover such viewpoints in a recent extensive review that I carried out on the ball lightning problem.” Singer and Barry tend to agree with Dr. McDonald in that the majority of the ball lightning cases have been reported in connection with a lightning storm. Nevertheless, according to Barry, 10% of the reported ball lightning cases have occurred without thunderstorm activity. A few of these reported cases have occurred under sunny skies, which were clear or contained a few clouds. While a lightning storm might not be required, the majority of ball lightning incidents are specifically associated with ordinary lightning discharges that may appear either before or after the ball lighting. Singer refers to McNally’s and Rayle’s collection of cases (447 and 98 respectively) in which 85% and 70% of the ball lighting cases were seen in conjunction with ordinary lightning flashes. Based on these observations, we must not discount ball lightning as a potential cause of the Levelland sightings just because no lightning storm was present. As unlikely as it seems, weather conditions during the time of the Levelland sightings do not preclude ball lightning. Table 12: Deviations between Levelland Sightings Descriptions and the Properties of Ball Lighting
t (green) = Within Range of Singer and Barry’s Ball lightning Descriptions x (red) = Not Within Range given by Singer and Barry N (yellow) = Not Observed NA = No Data Available or Not Reported
Fitness of Ball Lightning Hypotheses
The ball lightning hypotheses was proposed by the Air Force to explain all the facts observed in Newell Wright’s Levelland sighting. The Air Force did not consider Saucedo’s sighting worthy of explanation because they attributed it to imagination. Since then, however, the ball lightning hypothesis has been used to explain all of the Levelland sightings that caused vehicle interference. The ball lightning hypothesis must explain all of the reported observations for it to be accepted. Detail analysis of the witness testimony and comparisons between descriptions of the Levelland sightings and the properties of ball lighting (as documented by Singer and Barry) indicate that there are some discrepancies. This section will discuss the discrepancies and issues that prevent the full acceptance of the ball lightning hypothesis. There are four key issues that are relevant to the acceptance or rejection of the ball lightning hypothesis: (1) weather (2) deviations from ball lighting properties (3) effect on automobile ignition and (4) other anomalous effects observed. Ball lightning has been rejected as an explanation for the Levelland sightings because it was assumed that its presence required a lightning storm. Because there was no lightning storm in Levelland on the night of November 2 1957, it was concluded that ball lightning could not have been generated. Contrary to popular belief, Singer and Barry report that about 10% of the ball lightning cases occur without the presence of a lightning storm. Singer points out, however, that sometimes ball lighting is seen in conjunction with a few lightning flashes but no storm. Nevertheless, clear sky ball lighting has been observed. Thus, the ball lightning hypothesis cannot be rejected purely because no lightning storm was present. While no lightning storm was present in Levelland, weather conditions conducive to lightning did exist. Based on weather reports from Lubbock, lightning was reported in the area one hour after the sightings. Thunder and lightning were reported in Lubbock between 2 AM and 3 AM on November 3. Moreover, weather reports from Levelland indicate that thunderstorms were reported in Levelland on November 3. While these weather reports are not proof that lightning conditions existed in Levelland at the time of the sightings, they do reject the idea that weather conditions in the area were not conducive to lightning formation. The combination of these two facts (1) the possibility of ball lightning formation without lightning storms and (2) the observation of lightning in Lubbock one hour after the incidents prevent us from rejecting the ball lightning hypothesis for reasons of weather. The comparison of the Levelland sighting descriptions to the observed properties of ball lightning led to some discrepancies that must be addressed to either reject or accept the ball lightning hypothesis. There were three areas where the Levelland descriptions did not match the ball lightning properties (as catalogued by Singer and Barry). These areas of discrepancy were (1) size (2) motion and (3) change in appearance. The size given by Saucedo, Wheeler and Long (200 ft) is beyond the size of any observed ball lightning. The largest reported size being about 41 ft. Such a deviation in size leads us to conclude that either the three witnesses misjudged the size, a new record size of ball lightning was discovered, or the object was not ball lightning. Eyewitnesses are typically not good measuring instruments for sizing a bright object at a distance at night. For example, Newell Wright originally stated on his Air Force interview that the object’s size was between 75 and 125 ft. However, when questioned 42 years later, he said that the object was not wider than the road. Thus, size discrepancy should not be the only basis for rejecting the ball lightning hypotheses.
A more significant deviation between the Levelland sighting descriptions and ball lighting properties is the change in appearance reported by Long and Williams. Both of them reported that the object was blinking on and off like a neon light. This description does not match any ball lighting report in Singer and Barry’s books. Thus, the observed blinking was either a very rare ball lightning property (that has not been reported) or it was the property of some other unknown object or phenomena. Another deviation between the Levelland sightings and the observed properties of ball lighting was the motion of the object observed by Jose Alvarez. He described the object as moving in circles above a cotton field. A circling motion is not within the range of observed motions for ball lightning as described by Singer and Barry. Thus, this observed motion is either a rare case of ball lightning motion or it was the property of some other unknown object or phenomena. The most common and controversial reason for rejecting the ball lightning hypothesis is the reported shutdown of the automobile engines and headlights by the Levelland object subsequently followed by their normal startup when the object left. In the extensive summary of cases provided by Singer (1971) and Barry (1980), no mention was made of ball lightning effects on automobiles. The effect of ball lightning stopping automobile engines was not reported in their summaries of traces left, damage, and heat. The few cases where ball lightning did cause damage, the effect ranged from dust raised by the ball, burns in material which the ball has touched, holes bored in walls, to the collapse of a building caused by the explosion of the fireball. While a few cases have been reported of ball lightning interacting with airplanes and entering houses, these cases offer no help in understanding the effects on automobiles. A search of the bibliography of ball lightning did not uncover any papers on the effect of ball lightning on automobiles. Dr. Peter H. Handel (professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Missouri and a theorist on ball lighting formation) replied to the author’s inquiry on this subject stating that “there are no papers specifically written on the interaction of ball lightning with cars and appliances.” Thus, it appears that the scientists and investigators who study the ball lightning phenomena are not making the claim (based on case studies) that ball lightning has stopped automobile engines from afar. Dr. Martin D. Altschuler, author of the chapter titled “Atmospheric Electricity and Plasma Interpretations of UFOs” in the Condon Report and a member of the Astrophysics Department at the University of Colorado in 1968, purposely omitted the discussion of the feasibility of ball lightning interfering with automobiles. The two reasons he gave for omitting the discussion were (1) that there was no connection between the observed unknown object and the vehicle interference and (2) that no unusual magnetic patterns have so far been found in auto bodies (despite the fact that the Condon Study only evaluated one vehicle). Nevertheless, he does address the plasma hypotheses that was proposed by Phillip Klass (in his book UFOs Identified) to explain vehicle interference. Dr. Altschuler writes that “it is difficult to explain how a UFO-plasma could gain entry to the car battery in the engine compartment without first dissipating its energy to the metal body of the car.” In this study we have assumed a direct connection between the Levelland object and vehicle interference. This assumption is not deemed unreasonable because of the number of similar cases reported in Levelland within a period of only 2.5 hours. If only one witness had reported this incident, then maybe we could have rationalized it as two independent
events. But when seven witnesses report the presence of a brilliant object in conjunction with their vehicles shutting down, then the probability of these two events being dependent becomes significant. The Air Force also concluded that there was a linkage between the ball of light and the vehicle interference. The Air Force explanation, however, is not fully supported by the scientific community. The claim that “the high humidity may have resulted in sudden deposition of moisture on distributor parts and the possibility of stoppage due to this is especially true if moisture condensation nuclei were enhanced by increased atmospheric ionization” has not been proven. McCampbell (1975) has also suggested that ionization of atmospheric gases might lead to the vehicle shutdown followed by restart when the object leaves. But instead of suggesting that the object causing this effect is ball lightning, McCampbell suggests that the object is a craft whose propulsion system ionizes the air. Nevertheless, if experimentation shows that ionization of moist air around a 1957 type vehicle leads to engine shutdown, then it would be more likely to support the ball lightning hypothesis than some other. There were also three anomalous observations reported in Levelland that defy the ball lightning hypothesis. These observations were reported by four of the seven Levelland witnesses (Pedro Saucedo, James Long, Jim Wheeler, and Frank Williams). James Long reported seeing an object with its light off in the middle of the road ahead of him, and when he approached it in his truck, the object’s light turned on. This description, obviously, does not fit the definition or any description of ball lightning. To support the ball lightning hypotheses requires us to discount this story as misinterpretation by the witness or bad reporting. James Long’s story was documented second hand to the press. Only A.J. Fowler talked to Long. George Dolan, one of the few journalists who interviewed Fowler, is the only reporter who wrote this claim in a newspaper. Thus, we must accept this claim with caution and doubt. Another anomalous observation was the timing of the departure of the brilliant object. Wheeler, Williams, and Long reported that as they got out of their cars/trucks in order to approach the light, it took off straight up and disappeared. It is odd that in three of the five Levelland cases were the object was sitting/hovering on the road, the object left at the moment when the witnesses tried to approach it on foot. This type of behavior is more likely to denote intelligence than the fact that five of the seven sightings took place in the middle of the road (as suggested by James A. Lee). Nevertheless, the timing of the object’s exit might just be a coincidental result from ball lightning that does imply intelligence. Moreover, the quality of the reports obtained from these three witnesses was previously determined to be low and these claims should be weighted appropriately. Overall, the timing of the object’s exit is not conclusive evidence for rejecting the ball lightning hypothesis. The third observation came from Pedro Saucedo and was well documented by the Air Force and the press. He stated that the object caused a rush of wind that rocked his truck. This type of physical force was not found in the ball lightning literature as an observed property of ball lightning. Thus, what Saucedo experienced does not fit the description of ball lightning effects. Because Saucedo’s claim is deemed accurate and cannot be discounted, we must either reject the ball lightning hypothesis as the cause of his sighting or look more thoroughly for evidence that fast moving ball lightning can cause a rush of wind that can rock a truck.
In conclusion, we reject the ball lightning hypotheses mainly because of lack of evidence that ball lightning causes vehicle interference and not because of the lack of a storm during the sightings. Other reasons for rejecting the ball lightning hypothesis, however, are more contingent on the accuracy of the details given on eyewitness testimony. A summary of the other evidence that could be used to reject the ball lightning hypothesis is shown below in Table 13. The table splits the claims between those witness reports whose accuracy was deemed High/Medium and those reports whose accuracy was deemed Low. Table 13: Summary of Witness Observations that Do Not Fit the Ball Lightning Hypotheses
Table 13 shows that most of the deviant observations (observations that could be used to reject the ball lightning hypotheses) were made by witnesses whose reports are considered low in accuracy. If we had to judge the Levelland sightings by only using reports of High/Medium accuracy (Saucedo, Wright, and Martin), and assume that Saucedo misjudged the size of the object, then these three observations would fall within ball lightning parameters with the exception of the vehicle interference and wind effects. The claim that ball lightning cannot momentarily stop engines and turn off headlights is still an area that needs further research and is not a foregone conclusion. If in the future, ball lighting researchers find conclusive evidence that ball lighting could interfere with vehicles in the same fashion as Levelland, then we must conclude that the ball lightning hypothesis explains the three Levelland reports of High/Medium accuracy. Moreover, if the three reports with the most accurate details could be explained by the ball lightning hypotheses, then it is very likely that ball lighting also caused the other four reports (whose details were of low accuracy). This conjecture, however, requires us to discount the testimony from 4 eyewitnesses. This might not be unreasonable given that these witnesses were never interviewed and their claims were not fully documented. Other evidence in support of the ball lightning hypotheses is that all seven reports gave different descriptions for the observed object. The variety of descriptions (shape, size, and color) for the light source implies that the same object was not seen seven times in 2.5 hours. Either there was more than one object seen that evening or it was a phenomenon whose properties were variable and diverse like ball lightning. Despite these observations that support the ball lightning hypothesis, we must reject it as the explanation of the Levelland sightings because of the lack of evidence for it causing vehicle interference. Thus, we conclude that the cause for Levelland sightings continue to remain Unknown.
The Levelland sightings and vehicle interferences, despite being a puzzling mystery that is highly rated amongst UFO researchers, were not very well documented and investigated. The evidence available consists only of eyewitness testimony. Moreover, of the seven eyewitnesses who reported vehicle interference, only three were fully interviewed in person. The accuracy of four of the seven eyewitness reports was deemed to be low. All seven eyewitness’ accounts, while similar in general terms, were different in the details. Therefore, it was difficult to determine whether the differences were due to accuracy in reporting or due to the variability of the phenomena. The poor quality of the testimony available, the lack of consistency among the reports, and the different manner in which these reports were collected should not place this case amongst the well documented, high quality, UFO cases. Despite the weaknesses in the quality of data available for analysis, we reject the ball lightning hypothesis as an explanation for the Levelland events. Rejection of the ball lightning hypotheses, however, is based on the lack of evidence for ball lightning causing vehicle interference rather than lack of stormy weather in Levelland. Weather data sheets and newspaper accounts show that there was no storm in Levelland or Lubbock during the time in question. Nevertheless, climatological data sheets from the US Weather Bureau show that thunder and lightning were observed in Lubbock one hour after the sightings ended. Thus, weather conditions conducive to ball lightning were possible in the area. Moreover, ball lightning researchers have observed that 10% of the reported ball lightning observations have occurred in clear weather. Thus, the lack of a thunderstorm during the Levelland sightings does not necessarily imply that ball lightning was impossible. There were other observations that also lead to the rejection of the ball lightning hypothesis (size of object, motion, behavior, and physical effects). These deviant observations, however, were made mainly by four witnesses whose reports were considered low in accuracy. While this evidence is weaker, it does support the rejection of the ball lightning hypotheses because the observations made did not fit the range of properties given to ball lighting. The main reason to reject the ball lightning hypotheses for Levelland is that there are no documented reports amongst ball lightning researchers connecting ball lighting to temporary automobile engine stoppages and/or headlights failure. Until that connection is made, the source of the Levelland sightings will continue to be considered Unknown. This conclusion, however, does not imply that the object sighted was an extraterrestrial craft. There was no compelling evidence to conclude that the object sighted was a craft of any sort or extraterrestrial in nature.
The following are images of pages from the original data - US Weather Bureau - Local Climatological Data (Lubbock-Texas, Nov. 1957) and US Weather Bureau - Local Daily Precipitation (Levelland-Texas, Nov. 1957)
References and Sources
Barry, James Dale, (1980), Ball Lightning and Bead Lightning, Plenum Press, New York Corliss, William R. (1986), Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena, Arlington House, New York Center for UFO Studies, CUFOS Files on Levelland, Chicago IL Fund for UFO Research, (1995), UFOs and Science: The Collected Writings of Dr. James E. McDonald, Compiled and Edited by Valerie Vaughn, Maryland Golde, R., (1977), Lightning, Volume 1 Physics of Lightning, Academic Press, London, Chapter 12 Gross, Loren (1997), The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse UFOs: A History, 1957: November 3rd to 5th Gross, Loren (1997), The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse UFOs: A History, 1957: November 6th Gross, Loren (1997), The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse UFOs: A History, 1957: November 13th-30th Hall, Richard (1964), The UFO Evidence, New Edition by Barnes & Noble Books –1997 Hendry, Allan, (1979), The UFO Handbook, Doubleday & Co. Hynek, Allen, (1972), The UFO Experience, Henry Regnery Co., Chicago, IL Jacobs, David M., (1975), The UFO Controversy in America, Indiana University Press, Bloomington Keyhoe, Donald (1960), UFO’s: Top Secret, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1960, p. 114117, 133-135 Menzel, Donald & Lyle G. Boyd, (1963), The World of Flying Saucers, Doubleday & Co., 1963 Michel, Aime (1958), The Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery, Criterion Books Mutual UFO Network, (1995), MUFON Field Investigator’s Manual, Mutual UFO Network, Inc., 4th Edition
Mutual UFO Network, (1975), MUFON UFO Symposium Proceedings, Huntington Hotel, Pasadena Rodeghier, Mark (1981), UFO Reports Involving Vehicle Interference: A Catalogue and Data Analysis, Center for UFO Studies, Chicago, IL Ruppelt, Edward J. (1959), The Report on Unidentified Flying Saucers, Doubleday & Co. Inc., 2nd Edition Singer, Stanley, (1971), The Nature of Ball Lightning, Plenum Press, New York Story, Ronald (1981), Sightings: UFOs and the Limits of Science, Quill, NY US Department of Commerce, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina, Climatological Data for Texas, November 1957, Volume LXII, No. 11, Table 3: Daily Precipitation, Vallee, Jacques, (1965), Anatomy of a Phenomenon, Ace Star Books, New York Vallee, Jacques, (1966), UFO Enigma: Challenge to Science, Ballantine Books, New York Vallee, Jacques, (1992), Forbidden Science, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley CA
Sources and Notes
David M. Jacobs, The UFO Controversy in America, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1975, p. 176-177
Donald Keyhoe, UFO’s: Top Secret, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1960, p. 114-117, 133-135
Allen Hynek, The UFO Experience, Henry Regnery Co., Chicago, 1972, Appendix 1, pages 239-240
Allen Hynek, The UFO Experience, Henry Regnery Co., Chicago, 1972, page 127 Jacques Vallee, UFO Enigma: Challenge to Science, p. 158 Jacques Vallee, Anatomy of a Phenomenon, p. 193, Ace Star Books, New York, 1965 Jacques Vallee, Forbidden Science, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley CA, 1992, p. 85-86 Ronald Story, Sightings: UFOs and the Limits of Science, p. 155, Quill, NY, 1981
Richard Hall, The UFO Evidence, 1964, New Edition by Barnes & Noble Books –1997, p. 168-169
James E. McDonald, UFOs and Science: The Collected Writings of Dr. James E. McDonald, Compiled and Edited by Valerie Vaughn, FUROR, Maryland, 1995: (UFOs: Greatest Scientific Problem of Our Times?, Presentation at the 1967 Annual meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Washington, DC, April 22, 1967
James E. McDonald, UFOs and Science: The Collected Writings of Dr. James E. McDonald, Compiled and Edited by Valerie Vaughn, FUROR, Maryland, 1995: (p. 47) UFO’s-Atmospheric or Extraterrestrial? Abstract of talk to Chicago Chapter of the American Meteorological Society, May 31, 1968; (p. 136-139) UFOs-An International Scientific Problem, presented March 12, 1968 at he Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute Astronautics Symposium, Montreal, Canada; (p. 95-98) Chronological List of Some UFO cases of Interest, March 13, 1967); (p. 189-191) UFOs: Greatest Scientific Problem of Our Times? Presentation at the 1967 Annual meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Washington, DC, April 22, 1967
The Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery, Criterion Books, 1958, Appendix by Alexander D. Mebane, p. 237
UFO Reports Involving Vehicle Interference: A Catalogue and Data Analysis, Mark Rodeghier, Center for UFO Studies, 1981
Alamogordo Daily News, “Harvard Expert Brushes Off UFOs: Another Saucer Scare”, Nov. 6, 1957, p. 5, Washington, Associated Press
The World of Flying Saucers, Donald H. Menzel & Lyle G. Boyd, Doubleday & Co., 1963, p. 179
Ibid., p. 188 Ibid., p. 189-190
The Report on Unidentified Flying Saucers, Edward J. Ruppelt, Doubleday & Co. Inc., 2nd Edition, 1959, p. 254
Ibid., p. 258
The Levelland Daily Sun News, November 5, 1957, Source: Loren Gross, UFOs: A History 1957 November 3rd-5th , p. 63
Phone interview with Newell Wright on June 21, 1999, 37 min audio-tape interview by A.F. Rullan
Air Intelligence Information Report, AISS-UFOB-386-57, Prepared by William P. Brunson, Lt. Colonel, USAF, 1006th AISS, Ent AFB, Colorado, Levelland Investigator was Sgt. Norman P. Barth, NCOIC UFO Section of the 1006th AISS
Dallas Morning News, Nov. 6, 1957, “Air Force Looking Into Texas Thing”, from Dallas News Staff and Wire Reports, p. 1 and 3
Lubbock Evening Journal, Nov. 4, 1957, p. 10
Hockley County News-Press, “Twenty-five Years Ago UFO visited Levelland”, Nov. 4, 1982, p. 1 & 2, by Beverly Taylor and Rick Lee,
Lubbock Morning Avalanche, Nov. 4, 1957, p. 1 and 10, “Levelland Flaming Thing Brings World Knocking at City’s Door”, by Bill Wilkerson
Lubbock Morning Avalanche, Nov. 4, 1957, p. 1 and 10, “Levelland Flaming Thing Brings World Knocking at City’s Door”, by Bill Wilkerson
Air Intelligence Information Report, AISS-UFOB-386-57, Prepared by William P. Brunson, Lt. Colonel, USAF, 1006th AISS, Ent AFB, Colorado, (19 pages), Levelland Investigator was Sgt. Norman P. Barth, NCOIC UFO Section of the 1006th AISS (Source: CUFOS file on Levelland)
Phone interview with A.J. Fowler on June 21, 1999, 50 min audio-tape interview by A.F. Rullan
Lubbock Morning Avalanche, Nov. 4, 1957, p. 1 and 10, “Levelland Flaming Thing Brings World Knocking at City’s Door”, by Bill Wilkerson
The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse UFOs: A History, 1957: November 3rd to 5th ,by Loren E. Gross, 1997, p. 3
CUFOS file on Levelland, 1 page memo to file from Sgt. Norman P. Barth, February 19, 1958, titled: “Prime Source in Levelland UFO Case”,
Civilian Saucer Intelligence News, “USAF vs. UFO: How the Air Force Slew the FlyingSaucer Dragons”, date?, CSI Files at CUFOS
The Levelland Daily Sun News, November 6, 1957, “At Day In the Sun”, Newspaper clipping located in UFO: A History 1957, November 6th , by Loren E. Gross, p. 13
The El Paso Times, Nov. 4, 1957, “Mystery Object Stalls Autos in West Texas, p. 1 and 2, by Associated Press Wire from Levelland
Phone interview with A.J. Fowler on June 21, 1999, 50 min audio-tape interview by A.F. Rullan
Lubbock Morning Avalanche, Nov. 4, 1957, “Levelland Flaming Thing Brings World Knocking at City’s Door”, by Bill Wilkerson, p. 1 and 10
MUFON Field Investigator’s Manual, Mutual UFO Network, Inc., 4th Edition, 1995, p. 216
Witness’ unreliability in judging distances has been well documented by Allan Hendry in his book The UFO Handbook where he summarizes his findings from evaluating 1,307 UFO reports. The UFO Handbook, Allan Hendry, Doubleday & Co., 1979, p. 93-103
The reported Location of Wheeler’s sighting differs according to source. The Forth Worth Star Telegram reported that it was at the intersection of Highway 51 and a farm road
eight miles North of Levelland, while the Lubbock Avalanche Journal reported that it happened 4 miles East of Levelland on Hwy. 116.
The reported Location of Alvarez’ sighting differs according to source. The Forth Worth Star Telegram reported that it was 4 miles East of Levelland near the Lubbock Highway, while the Lubbock Avalanche Journal reported that it happened 10 miles north and slightly east of Levelland.
The reported Location of William’s sighting differs slightly according to source. The Forth Worth Star Telegram reported that it was 4 miles North of Levelland on Route 51 while the Lubbock Avalanche Journal reported that it was closer to Whitharral about 10 miles north of Levelland.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Nov. 4, 1957, “Whatnik Sidelines Sputnik, Woofnik”, StarTelegram writer George Dolan, p.1-2
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Nov. 4, 1957, “Whatnik Sidelines Sputnik, Woofnik”, StarTelegram writer George Dolan, p.1-2
There is disagreement on whether Mr. Long saw a bright object sitting on the road or a dark object that turned it light on. The Forth Worth Star Telegram of Nov. 4, 1957, reported that Long saw an object with its light off while the Associated Press Wire from Levelland reported that he saw a brilliant, egg-shaped mass sitting on the road.
Berliner, Don, “The Levelland Sightings:, Official UFO, January 1976, p. 46
Miller, Max B. “The Great Saucer Flap of 1957” Saucers, Winter 1957-1958, Vol. V, No. 2, p.5 (Also in UFOs a History: 1957 November 3rd-5th, by Loren Gross, p.3)
The Amarillo Daily News, November 4, 1957, “Object Lands on Highway”, by Regional, AP and UP Sources
Las Cruces Sun News, Nov. 7, 1957, p. 9, “Reports of Objects Unabated”, by Associated Press-Colorado Springs, CO
UFO’s: a History 1957 - November 3rd-5th, by Loren E. Gross, p. 62 and 73
Telegram from Commander of 1006th to Assistant Chief of Staff Intelligence at AF Headquarters and to ATIC Commander at Wright Patterson AFB, Source: CUFOS Files on Levelland
CUFOS’ file on Levelland, 3 page summary from ATIC titled: “Levelland, Texas: 2,3, and 4 November 1957”
CUFOS’ file on Levelland, 3 page summary from ATIC titled: “Levelland, Texas: 2,3, and 4 November 1957”
CUFOS’ file on Levelland, 3 page summary from ATIC titled: “Levelland, Texas: 2,3, and 4 November 1957”
CUFOS’s file on Levelland, one page memo from J. Allen Hynek discussing the Levelland Case (no date)
The UFO Experience, J. Allen Hynek, 1972 , Henry Regnery Co., Chicago IL, p. 127
Letter from Captain George T. Gregory to Air Science Division requesting review of Levelland Case, December, 4, 1957 (Located in CUFOS File for Levelland)
CUFOS’ file on Levelland, one page memo from Capt. G.T. Gregory, January 3, 1958, titled “Analyst’s Comments or Conclusions: Ball Lightning”
Blue Book memo titled “Levelland, Texas Blue Light Case – 2 November 1957”, in CUFOS’ file on Levelland
James E. McDonald, UFOs and Science: The Collected Writings of Dr. James E. McDonald, p. 190, Compiled and Edited by Valerie Vaughn, FUROR, Maryland, 1995: (UFOs: Greatest Scientific Problem of Our Times? Presentation at the 1967 Annual meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Washington, DC, April 22, 1967
Letter from Troy Morris to Dr. J.E. McDonald on May 11, 1966, Source: UFOs: A History – 1957 November 13th-30th, by Loren E. Gross, p. 27
Letter from James McDonald to Richard Hall, October 5, 1966, Source: CUFOS file on Levelland
Levelland Daily Sun-News, November 5, 1957 Lubbock Morning Avalanche, Nov. 4, 1957, p. 1, “Rains Douse South Plains” Ibid.
The El Paso Times, November 3, 1957, “Rains, Cold Hit Texas Saturday”, by the Associated Press
Fort Worth Star Telegram, November 4, 1957, “Light Rains to Continue During Today, Bureau Says”, p. 1
Local Climatological Data, Lubbock, Texas, November 1957, US Department of Commerce, Weather Bureau, Source of Document: Office of the Texas State Climatologist
Local Climatological Data, Lubbock, Texas, November 1957, US Department of Commerce, Weather Bureau, Source of Document: Office of the Texas State Climatologist
Climatological Data for Texas, November 1957, Volume LXII, No. 11, Table 3: Daily Precipitation, Source: US Department of Commerce, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina
Lubbock Evening Journal, November, 4, 1957, “Area Mystified by Thing”, p. 1 & 10,
Dallas Star Morning News, November 6, 1957, “Air Force Looking Into Texas Thing”, p. 1&3
Levelland Daily Sun News, Nov. 17, 1957, p. 1 “Weather Phenomenon? Clem Vows What He Saw Sure Wasn’t”
El Paso Herald Post, Nov. 4, 1957, p. 12, “El Paso Couple Saw Strange Flying Objects”, p. 12, by Virginia Turner)
Alamogordo Daily News, “WSPG Pickets Mark Fireball At Trinity Site”, Nov. 5, 1957, p.1 and p. 6
El Paso Times, Nov. 4, 1957, “Mystery Object Stalls Autos in West Texas”, p.1 and p.2, by Associated Press in Levelland
Ball Lightning and Bead Lightning, James Dale Barry, Plenum Press, New York, 1980 The Nature of Ball Lightning, Stanley Singer, Plenum Press, New York, 1971
CUFOS’ file on Levelland, one page memo from Capt. G.T. Gregory, January 3, 1958, titled “Analyst’s Comments or Conclusions: Ball Lightning”
The Nature of Ball Lightning, Stanley Singer, Plenum Press, New York, 1971, p. 146 Ibid., p. 62, 146 Ball Lightning and Bead Lightning, James Dale Barry, Plenum Press, New York, 1980, p.
Lightning, Volume 1 Physics of Lightning, Edited by R. Golde, Academic Press, London, 1977, Chapter 12, “Ball Lightning” by Stanley Singer, p. 414
The Nature of Ball Lightning, Stanley Singer, Plenum Press, New York, 1971, Figure 19, p. 66,
Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena, William R. Corliss, p. 21-22, Arlington House, New York, 1986
Air Intelligence Information Report, AISS-UFOB-386-57, Prepared by William P. Brunson, Lt. Colonel, USAF, 1006th AISS, Ent AFB, Colorado, (19 pages), (Source: CUFOS file on Levelland)
James E. McDonald, UFOs and Science: The Collected Writings of Dr. James E. McDonald, Compiled and Edited by Valerie Vaughn, p. 191, FUROR, Maryland, 1995: (UFOs: Greatest Scientific Problem of Our Times? Presentation at the 1967 Annual meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Washington, DC, April 22, 1967
Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, Edited by Daniel S. Gilmore, Bantam Books, New York, 1968, p. 749, (Study conducted by the University of Colorado and directed by Dr. Edward U. Condon under contract to the United States Air Force)
CUFOS’ file on Levelland, 3 page summary from ATIC titled: “Levelland, Texas: 2,3, and 4 November 1957”
“UFO Interference with Vehicles and Self-Starting Engines”, James M. McCampbell, (MUFON UFO Symposium Proceedings, Huntington Hotel, Pasadena, 1975)
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