The other day Rich Reynolds over at the UFO Conjectures blog, sent me a link to a skeptics site. He wondered if I had seen the information published there about the Socorro UFO landing. I had not, but found the information interesting. You can see that here for yourself:
Dave Thomas, who hosts the site, gave me permission to quote from the two new stories that he had put up there. Neither had been available when I wrote Encounter in the Desert. Had they been, I would have mentioned them, though one is a tad bit farfetched.
Thomas published a letter from Ron Landoll, whose mother lived in Socorro at the time of Lonnie Zamora’s sighting. He related what she told him, but I am disinterested in it. The tale is second hand, but in this case, it turns out that this second-hand testimony accurately reflects what his mother told him. I’m ignoring it because the second letter published by Thomas is from Landoll’s mother, Dorothy.
There are some very interesting things in that letter. First, she wrote that she was at home, in Socorro, taking care of the baby (Ron) when her husband called. He was a senior at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMIMT) and said that the campus was “abuzz with a UFO that had been sighted.”
She turned on the radio and said that it was tuned to KOMA, which was (or is) an Oklahoma City station. I know that at one time it played rock and roll, because when I lived in Texas some four or five years after the Zamora case, I listened to it. But the real point here is that an Oklahoma City radio station was broadcasting the news of the UFO landing within, what minutes, certainly hours, of the landing. They, like other members of the media got onto the story quickly. This is a point that would become somewhat important later when two men from Dubuque, Iowa claimed to have been in Socorro at the time. Their story seemed to surface almost as did that from Zamora, but a careful reading of suggests it was an invention by those men for some reason. Some of the details they gave turned out to be from a different sighting. They’d gotten their facts mixed up.
The next morning, which would be April 25, 1964, the Landolls drove out to the site. Dorothy Landoll wrote to Thomas:
The next morning we drove out to the site. There was a police car sitting off to one side. There were perhaps 7 or 8 cars parked over to the other side and folks just standing around looking. There wasn’t a lot to see. There was one round indentation in the dust near where we were standing (I don’t know how many total) – about like what our tires were making. There was no indentation into the hard packed ground as some later stories said. I walked up to the little mesquite bush in the middle and it was somewhat blackened. I didn’t touch it but it may have been burned a little and might have had a bit of oil on it. We stood around for a bit too and then left to go home.
While it is interesting to have another first-hand account of what was going on that next morning, it is also necessary to point out that there were impressions in the ground. These were seen by nearly everyone else and either the Army or the police had surrounded the markings with rocks to protect them. They were photographed by
|Landing impression. Photo courtesy
of the USAF.
several people including members of the military. Jim and Coral Lorenzen published a picture of one of the landing gear imprints in the May 1964 edition of The A.P.R.O. Bulletin. That picture was taken by State Police Sergeant Sam Chavez.
Dorothy Landoll continued her narrative of the incident. She wrote that:
Holm Bursum III was president of the First State Bank and Polo Pineda was his right-hand man [were there]. At the time of the sighting, Polo was acting sheriff… [I worked at the bank and] still took my morning breaks with her, Polo and one of the tellers. On Monday morning we were in the kitchen when Polo came in… He was as mad as a hornet. Ruth asked him what was going on with the UFO. His first comment was that he’d been told that he wasn’t to talk to anyone about what had happened but this was his town and he’d talk to whoever he pleased! He sat down with his coffee and proceeded to tell us.
She provided a synopsis of the Zamora tale and then added an interesting note. She wrote:
Lonnie Zamora was pursuing a vehicle going south near the edge of town when something caught his eye. He drove up on the mesa and looked down to see a round craft with two individuals in silver suits walking around it. After a minute or two they got in and it took off. Describing the craft, he said that it had markings on it similar to what Boeing puts on its planes. Lonnie was so upset/scared that he first headed to the Catholic church for confessional and then contacted Polo. Shortly after that, I was in the front of the bank and there were two obviously FBI men – black suits and sunglasses (which they took off as they entered). They went up to one of the tellers and asked for Polo. I went back and told Polo they were looking for him.
I would like to have known if there was anything more to this encounter between the sheriff and the FBI. We know that one FBI agent was there from the beginning. I don’t know of a second FBI agent in the area, but that doesn’t mean that there hadn’t been one.
It also seems a little strange that the FBI would tell the sheriff not to talk about this when the information had been broadcast on April 24, on a radio station that had the power to reach all the way to Socorro. And that station reached into several other states as well. It was one of the powerhouses of that era.
I do know that Captain Richard Holder, an Army officer involved within about 90 minutes, and the FBI agent Arthur Byrnes, had spoken to Zamora, suggesting that he not talk about seeing any beings associated with the sighting, and to keep the true insignia to himself. Byrnes thought the news media might be a little rough of Zamora for seeing “little green men,” and Holder thought keeping the insignia hidden would help to weed out copycats.
Landoll, in her letter to Thomas, also suggests a solution for the Socorro craft that Zamora reported. She wrote:
The following year we were living in Midland, TX, I’m guessing maybe May or June, my husband had brought in the newspaper and it was lying on the couch. I glanced down at it and hollered to my husband that Lonnie’s UFO was on the front page of the paper. What I saw fit the exact description that Polo had given us. It was a photo of a LEM with an article. I wish I had kept that newspaper but it simply wasn’t anything of consequence at the time.
And, for those of us who have been paying attention, the illustration drawn by Rick Baca, under the guidance of Zamora, does resemble the LEM. But documentation suggests that the prototype LEMs being tested in New
|Rick Baca holding the illustration he made in
consultation with Lonnie Zamora. Photo
copyright by Rich Baca.
Mexico at the time were not powered. The testing involved a helicopter. It seems unlikely that this is the explanation, especially when it is remembered that the Captain Hector Quintanilla, the chief of Blue Book at the time, looked into that possibility. He carried a top-secret clearance, and personally checked at Holloman Air Force Base and the White Sands Missile Range to see if they might have the explanation for the sighting.
But this isn’t the only new additions to Thomas’s skeptics website. He received another communication that provided a much more exciting solution for the case. Kevin J. Ashley wrote that he had been a student at the NMIMT a few years later and that he had been interested in the Zamora sighting. According to him, once he graduated and was employed, he told co-workers about the case. He wrote:
In short, I know the answer to the Socorro Saucer Siting [sic] because I talked to one of the people who was on the other side of the arroyo that morning when Officer Zamora showed up. His name is Bruno R____ and he was a mining engineering student at Tech in the early 1960’s…
As I finished the story I noticed one of the other mining engineers who worked there leaning against the door and laughing. When I asked him what he was laughing at he said, “It was me.”
He then told his story about the incident. He said that he and another mining student were bored and looking for something to do that day. They got their hands on some dynamite (possibly from the dynamite shack mentioned in Officer Zamora’s account) and decided to have some fun setting it off under an old overturned metal barrel. The first time they did this the barrel went flying into the air which they found very amusing so they did it a couple more times. (It was probably the third explosion that attracted the attention of Officer Zamora.) Delighted with the result of the barrel being thrown in the air again, they set about putting together one more explosion. As they were bending down getting everything set they were apparently seen from across the arroyo by Officer Zamora. The two of them, who were wearing white coveralls, were seized with a sudden need to get the hell out of there because being caught doing a stupid stunt like this with dynamite would get them both expelled. (Officer Zamora notes in his statement that one of the persons looked at him and seemed very concerned.) Evidently the fuse had already been lit when Bruno and his friend legged it for their vehicle to get away. Office Zamora started toward the site when the explosion went off and as he dived for cover he lost his glasses. What he saw the couple of times he glanced up was the oil drum being projected upwards with flame coming out from the bottom. Bruno and his friend kept a low profile throughout the entire affair after that and I may have been the first person he told this story to. This was in 1980, sixteen years after the affair.
I suppose, we could believe that two college students, in their early 20s would be dumb enough to play with dynamite in that fashion. And we could believe that Zamora somehow concocted a craft that roared off into the sky out of this.
Ashley did, however, elaborate on what he had been told. This according to what Bruno R. told Ashely:
Reading over the account by Officer Zamora his original description seems to fit well with Bruno’s account. It is the “filling in” of details where the mystery arises. For instance, when people went back and found four burn spots, these became a configuration of thrusters from a vehicle, not the scorched remnants of multiple dynamite explosions. Also important is that this was not a hoax. Bruno and his friend were not trying to fool anyone. This is just a case of an observer trying to explain something that they have not seen before.
The problem here, however, is that the four markings were never considered to be marks of the thrusters, but marks made by the landing gear. The area that would have been under the center of the craft had showed evidence of high heat. No evidence that would have been left behind by dynamite explosions was found, which, I believe rules out this explanation.
Tony Bragalia, who is a proponent of the hoax theory, noted that Bruno R. thougt Ashely, had gotten some of the facts right. Bragalia theorized that three students had been involved, Zamora had been chasing a speeder and the roar of the craft did capture his attention. Bragalia also noted that this wasn’t “innocent” fun as suggested by Ashley, but that it was a planned hoax.
Ashley supplies a little more information about Bruno R. Apparently, he lives in Felton, California. Thomas didn’t follow up on the story imediately. I think he thought the same thing as me. It really is rather farfetched. But then, I do believe we should follow up because we don’t know exactly what Bruno said. I have tried to locate him given the information supplied, but have had no success. Bragalia is also trying. His resources in this are better than mine, so there might be more learned.
The real point here is that we have some new information. I find the tale told by Dorothy Landoll quite interesting because she said she was on the scene the next morning. She described what she saw… and importantly, felt no obligation to share that information with anyone until decades after the sighting. I’m hoping to reach her to find out why she didn’t come forward before now.
If I learn anything new about this, I’ll post it here. For now, you can read the entire text of the letters from the Landolls and Ashley at Thomas’s New Mexico Skeptics website, and for the complete story, you can take a look at Encounter in the Desert, which provides quite a bit of new and additional information about the Socorro Landing.