What happened in Socorro NM April 24 1964

jamesrav

Member
This is to me the best UFO case ever, by a long ways. It involved a policeman, occurred in daylight, and at close range. It was marked Unexplained after a concerted effort to find a solution by the US govt, featuring an investigative team led by Major Quintanilla and at least 3 employees of the Air Force assigned to it (the only unidentified and unexplained CE III on record classed as an "unknown" by Project Blue Book). It also featured the involvement of J. Allen Hynek.

There's no video or pictures, so it differs from the Patterson/Gimlin situation in that respect. There is a lot of actual Air Force investigation, all chronicled in great detail. I have all the relevant PDF files, they mostly contain the same sketches, etc. but all contribute something the others dont have. I can post them to save the effort to track them down. I will include here an artists conception of what Lonnie Zamora saw that late afternoon, his drawing of the object, and an 'overhead' drawing of the scene. The key point for me is that Zamora got to around 100' (roughly 30 steps) from the object. Walk away from your own car 30 paces, turn around, and it's still clearly your car. It's not a vague shape from that distance, it's easily 'throwable' distance with a decent sized rock.

There have been attempts to debunk based on a hoax (two theories: Zamora was hoaxed by students from a nearby Tech university using a balloon; Zamora was in on a hoax involving the mayor to promote some land or the city, I cant recall which - this was Klass' theory) or a Lunar Lander test vehicle (despite having nothing remotely close to what he described, then or now). That leaves ET visitation or some other novel explanation.

socorro_painting.jpgzamora drawing.pngSocorro-Incident-Sketch_1024x1024.png
 
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Mendel

Senior Member.
Article:
"The White Sands Missile Range was testing a surveyor," Thomas said. "To test it, they had to support it. They used a Bell helicopter that was very small, not your ordinary helicopter at all. The combination of the lunar craft and the helicopter would have presented an object that looks sort of white and round."

The figures Zamora saw could be explained as workers on the project or astronauts in suits who were along for the testing. Zamora also famously saw a red symbol painted on the side of the craft. His description bears a resemblance to a period Hughes Aircraft logo.
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
In discussions of this case elsewhere I have asked this, with no result, might as well try here:
I have a very distinct memory of a chart of the "landing legs marks" that showed distances between them that somebody measured -- but memories are often wrong, I have not been able to find it again and nobody came up with it in earlier conversations, so does anybody here have (or can find) that diagram?
It would be interesting to compare to, say, the Surveyor landing legs dimensions.
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
There have been attempts to debunk based on a hoax (two theories: Zamora was hoaxed by students from a nearby Tech university using a balloon; Zamora was in on a hoax involving the mayor to promote some land or the city, I cant recall which - this was Klass' theory) or a Lunar Lander test vehicle (despite having nothing remotely close to what he described, then or now). That leaves ET visitation or some other novel explanation.
You seem to rule out the hoax explanations here without in fact ruling them out. Just sayin'.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
huh. i never looked at Hughes helicopters. no wonder people inthe 60s thought they were seeing ufos all over the place!
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heli1.pngScreenshot 2022-08-06 125353.png
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add: a rendition that matches above helicopter (even though the entire account from alledgedly Project Blue Book sounds exactly like a hot air balloon)

UFO-Conf-Socorro-UFO-Lonnie-Zamora-Hitting-The-Dirt-400-px.png
Article:
Glasses fell to ground, left them there. ran to north--car between him and object.
 
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Ann K

Senior Member.
I lived for several years at White Sands Missile Range, beginning late in the year in 1964, i.e., a few months after this event. In conversations around the post (casual chat; I wasn't privy to the corridors of power) nobody seemed to take this seriously and it was generally regarded as a silly misinterpretation, although I'm not sure if the "prank" explanation was common knowledge at the time.
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
Quotes from another site
"Zamora also famously saw a red symbol painted on the side of the craft. His description bears a resemblance to a period Hughes Aircraft logo."

If it does, then they were using a logo I can't find yet...
Screenshot_20220806-094943_Chrome.jpg
 

jamesrav

Member
heres the insignia 'match' I was referring to. Since it was found after the sighting, did the company adopt Zamora's drawing? I guess an arrow pointing up is a pretty basic idea for 'rocket ship' so maybe its a natural to use that concept. astropower.jpg
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
i would need to see ZAMORA's actual description because the "artist renditions" of his description im seeig are all over the place.

Hughes does have a pi insignia, but not sure if Zamora saw the insignia before or after he lost his glasses. I dont think the OP paraphrasing helps us any.

images (1).jpg
 

NorCal Dave

Senior Member.
This is to me the best UFO case ever, by a long ways.
As Mendel alluded to above, if this is "the BEST case ever", this explains my ongoing skepticism about alien visitation. it's largely one (1) guys account of what he thought he saw. Maybe a few depressions in the ground and a possible burnt bit of scrub.

What is interesting is that the Blue Book guys and people like Klaas were there not to long after, so we have Zimoras story and what ever happened somewhat locked down early. Makes it very difficult for people like Charlis Berlitz, popularizer of the Bermuda Triangle, to come a long years later and all kinds of new witness and angles to the story 30+ years later like he did with Roswell.

UFOlogist are kinda stuck with Zimora's story and not a lot else.
Zamora was in on a hoax involving the mayor to promote some land or the city, I cant recall which - this was Klass' theory

It sorta worked:

In 1966 the president of the Socorro County's Chamber of Commerce, Paul Ridings, proposed developing the site of Zamora’s claimed UFO encounter to make it more accessible to tourists. Consequently stone walkways and steps were built into the arroyo from the mesa top, with a rock walkway circling the supposed landing site that included some wooden benches. However these were built approximately a quarter mile from the actual site of Zamora’s alleged sighting due to local rumors that the original site was contaminated by radioactivity.[9]
Content from External Source
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lonnie_Zamora_incident

or a Lunar Lander test vehicle (despite having nothing remotely close to what he described, then or now).

Here's some info on that (bold is in the original, so I went with italics for emphasis):

Yet another possible candidate has emerged in recent years, about the time of the identification of the source of the Roswell Incident to a specific program, New York University constant-level balloon launches from Alamogordo in the summer of 1947 ["The Roswell Incident and Project Mogul," S/I July August 1995]. One of the participants in these launches, Charles B. Moore, stayed in Socorro and taught atmospheric physics at the college there, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (my Alma Mater). Moore, now retired, has had a very distinguished career, and received the prestigious American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Otto C. Winzen Lifetime Achievement Award for his scientific exploits, which included flying a balloon to the very edge of space. He visited the Socorro "landing" site in 1966, and thinks that Lonnie Zamora is sincere, and that he really did see something strange on that day in 1964. In 1995, a colleague of Moore's who ran the Skyhook Balloon program at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, Bernard "Duke" Gildenberg, learned from Capt. James McAndrew, the AF's point man on Roswell, that on April 24, 1964, there were special tests being conducted at the north end of the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) involving a helicopter used to carry a Lunar Surveyor around for some tests. A portion of the WSMR Range Log obtained by McAndrew appears below. Surveyor was a three-legged, unmanned probe, which was used to learn about the moon before the Apollo program got there. In fact, the Apollo 12 astronauts paid a visit to Surveyor 3 almost three years after it had landed on the moon. This new angle on the old Socorro story was first mentioned publicly in a brief piece in the July 15th, 2000 edition of James Moseley's Saucer Smear.

The timing isn't right for the UFO sighting -- the range log calls for morning tests, and the sightings occurred in late afternoon - but then things don't always go "according to plan," and many tests which have defied completion by morning have been known to somehow get finished up in the afternoon. In fact, bombing runs scheduled for that part of the range might have delayed the tests.
There are many other tantalizing bits that might support the Surveyor explanation for Socorro.
  • The Surveyor tests were done with a small Bell helicopter that supported the craft from its side. The helicopter and spacecraft would have presented a bizarre profile. The Surveyor's slanted legs fit Zamora's description well, and are also a match for the shape of the "landing pod imprints" found later. In Stanford's 1976 book, he mentions Phil Klass's comment that landing pads like Surveyor's were among the only practical shapes for that function.
  • The spacecraft used vernier engines and attitude jets to probe and sample soil, which could explain the flames the policeman saw, and the burn marks many saw. The flames weren't being used for lift; that was supplied by the helicopter. The burn marks at the site did not indicate sufficient thrust to lift a large vehicle, according to Hynek.
  • The Surveyor used a mechanical scoop with a shape that matches a rectangular trough photographed at the Socorro site.
  • Zamora described the craft as "aluminum-white," which certainly matched the bulk of the Bell helicopter.
  • The test missions were manned by a helicopter pilot and a Hughes engineer ... two persons, in white coveralls.
  • Most people in Socorro, and several of the investigators, thought it was most likely a secret government experiment, and some Blue Book researchers even pinned it down as a tenant operation run by Holloman, the base for the Surveyor test flights.
  • Of course, this new evidence is far from conclusive. A lot has happened since 1964, and it's difficult to reconstruct events from that long ago, especially events with strong implications. Was it a college prank? A hoax? A balloon? An alien craft from another world? Perhaps we'll never really know. Gildenberg is confident that William of Occam, of Occam's Razor fame, would think kindly of the Surveyor explanation, especially over some of the other contenders.
Content from External Source


That dude's got everything!


 

jamesrav

Member
The correct name is Zamora, so we should all get that correct. Here's his pic, he could be from central casting for gruff no-nonsense cop from the 60's. Apparently he was not liked by the local kids who probably didn't appreciate his disdain for drag-racing and other shenanigan's kids would have been doing back then (as opposed to now, with guns). To flip the narrative and say it limits UFO fanatics since he's the sole witness, I'd say it limits debunkers even more so. A cop seeing something in broad daylight at a distance of 100', conducting interviews with national media for days on end - that's a tough nut to crack. Quintanilla gave up, and I suspect Klass did too but had to pad a chapter in a book so tossed in the hoax idea.

The only problem I have with the Lunar Surveyor-hoisted-by-Helicopter explanation is everything. That combo compared to Zamora's drawing look absolutely nothing alike, they share no matching points whatsoever. Whoever first tossed that into the mix long ago needed to preface it with "this would have fooled me". Nobody would dare make such an admission.

This is a great video, still amazes me with what a million dollars and a team of brilliant engineers can accomplish. It bears a slight resemblance to what Zamora saw (and commenters noted that), but there are major differences (in his case, the take-off roar only lasted a few seconds, after which it floated away silently - our present (and probably forever) method relies on a continual burn.

zamora.jpg

Source: https://youtu.be/ftPZsKeAZTY
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
The spacecraft used vernier engines and attitude jets to probe and sample soil, which could explain the flames the policeman saw, and the burn marks many saw. The flames weren't being used for lift; that was supplied by the helicopter.

there are major differences (in his case, the take-off roar only lasted a few seconds, after which it floated away silently - our present (and probably forever) method relies on a continual burn.
it's accounted for, see above

you're doing the same discussion tactic as with bigfoot
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
The only problem I have with the Lunar Surveyor-hoisted-by-Helicopter explanation is everything. That combo compared to Zamora's drawing look absolutely nothing alike, they share no matching points whatsoever.
i figure it was a balloon. everything he described jives with balloon and he said it looked like a balloon.
I answered "It looks like a balloon."
Content from External Source
https://documents2.theblackvault.com/documents/fbifiles/paranormal/FBI-UFO-Socorro-fbi1.pdf

but IF it was the lunar surveyor a simple explanation would be ...sun in his eyes/glaring off object and/or faulty eyesight.

ever see My Cousin Vinnie?
c2a6181f-de5b-4c3a-914d-f4404d4c89dc_screenshot.jpg


Sun was to west and did not help vision. Had green sun glasses over prescription glasses.
....
Seemed like O in shape and I at first glance took it to be overturned white car. Car appeared to be up on radiator or on trunk, this first glance.
...
and started to go down to where I knew the object (car) was. Hardly turned around from car, when...
Content from External Source
https://documents2.theblackvault.com/documents/fbifiles/paranormal/FBI-UFO-Socorro-fbi1.pdf

how does an overturned car on its end look like an O?
how did he see the flame when he still didn't have eyes on object? and the flame was under the object and the object (he still didn't have eyes on) was 20-25 feet below him?
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
Article:
A photo found archived at New Mexico Tech’s Atmospheric Lab may provide stunning visual confirmation that the world-famous “UFO” sighted by Officer Lonnie Zamora outside of Socorro, NM in April 1964 was indeed a balloon launched by college students at the nearby school. This extraordinary image may well illustrate who did the hoax, what it really was, and what it looked like.



AN INCRIMINATING PHOTO FOUND
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The photo and accompanying notation above is courtesy the files of the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, NM.



According to school documents, the photo was taken in “approximately” 1965 in the area south of town where newly-acquired, advanced experimental balloons had been sent aloft by college students and department personnel for the prior two years.
 

Ravi

Senior Member.
this, by itself, sounds like a hot-air balloon. their burners are quite loud, but operated only intermittently.
Perhaps you are on to something. Perhaps it was a hot air balloon, basket hidden from view? Two persons in white in the basket? White, because it protects better in the sun? Indeed the propane burners give of a strong blue/orange flame. I just cannot imagine a large balloon (being lit by the burner) is overlooked.
 

jamesrav

Member
Perhaps you are on to something. Perhaps it was a hot air balloon, basket hidden from view? Two persons in white in the basket? White, because it protects better in the sun? Indeed the propane burners give of a strong blue/orange flame. I just cannot imagine a large balloon (being lit by the burner) is overlooked.
New Mexico is indeed famous for hot air balloons! (and UFO's). But in this case, we are asking that a policeman somehow did not notice the very necessary gondola from 100' away. Also doesn't jibe with landing struts that left indentations. The wind situation at the time is a mini topic by itself (discussion can be found all over the web), but I will say that it has been thoroughly researched and the object went into the prevailing winds.

There are apparently hot air balloons without gondolas, but the very shape rules them out. Zamora clearly noted an oval shaped object, we all know hot air balloons are round.

I dont think we can ignore the larger picture here. Major Quintanilla had a secretary and 2 personnel who did nothing but investigate this case, for however long it took. They called contractors working on military/civilian programs to see if anyone was working on a similar 'craft' and came up empty. They and Hynek considered a hoax by students and clearly determined it was not feasible given the testimony by Zamora. The Stirling Colgate blurb to Linus Pauling that it was students was not backed up by any evidence, and would seemingly represent a bit of 'bragging' by the university President to a Nobel Prize Winner ('my students are clever'). He has not followed up with names of anyone involved (and was gently and politely prodded to do so by UFO investigators), and by now everyone (and there must have been a group to pull this off) must be in their late 70's to mid 80's in age. Nobody has come forward explaining how they pulled it off. Quintanilla hated leaving it as Unexplained, yet after accumulating all the evidence could come up with no other conclusion.
 

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Ravi

Senior Member.
What would be your take on it, @jamesrav ? Do you give this case a higher chance being an actual extra terrestrial craft? Or do you perhaps think it is unexplained, because for whatever reason, we have not found evidence of something from Earth? Just curious.
 

FatPhil

Senior Member.
This is to me the best UFO case ever, by a long ways.
...
There's no video or pictures

So there's no physical or documentary evidence, only a non-corroborated eyewitness account? That sounds like a terrible case, not the best ever.
 

Ann K

Senior Member.
Quintanilla hated leaving it as Unexplained, yet after accumulating all the evidence could come up with no other conclusion.
Then it's simply unexplained. Nothing about that word suggests extraterrestrial or mysterious, just unexplained. Plausible alternatives have been suggested to you, and there is certainly nothing strange in other organizations, be they academic or military, who found no reason to clarify the matter to outsiders.

I once accompanied my husband, who on that day was the officer in charge of blocking the desert road to traffic for an hour, a thing they did regularly at White Sands when missile testing was in progress. There were a group of visiting generals on post, and they put on a bit of a show for them. The missiles were fired toward a target miles away, but they put a couple of phosphorus bombs on the nearby hillside for faux explosions. I'm sure there were civilians in their stopped cars that went away completely convinced that they had just escaped a near miss! My husband explained it, but even in the days of a lower level of "conspiracy believers" as there are now, I wonder how many simply chose to disbelieve him.

Things happen all the time that are unexplained. Thats no reason to go straight to woo when there are more mundane explanations.
 
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NorCal Dave

Senior Member.
But in this case, we are asking that a policeman somehow did not notice the very necessary gondola from 100' away

This is a classic "appeal to authority" argument, often made by proponents of UFOs and other things. UFOlogist rarely tout reports from raving lunatics. They bring up reports from seemingly reliable people. It may be that Zamora was reliable, in general, but could still be mistaking in this case.

My father was in law enforcement for 30+ years as a Deputy Sheriff, a homicide detective and a Chief of Police. He was also a long-time hunter, and yet, he got so exited while hunting with his grandson (my son) that he mistook a doe for a 3-point buck and had my son take a shot. He missed. Surly an experienced hunter and no-nonsense law man would never make that kind of dumb mistake. Police are people, and people make errors.

but I will say that it has been thoroughly researched and the object went into the prevailing winds.

So you say. If this is crucial, it's going to take more than you saying it. And don't tell me to "go look it up", that's not how it works. I'm going to sound like a broken record, but sources please.

The Stirling Colgate blurb to Linus Pauling that it was students was not backed up by any evidence, and would seemingly represent a bit of 'bragging' by the university President to a Nobel Prize Winner ('my students are clever')

Seems to be a bit of speculation.

Quintanilla hated leaving it as Unexplained,

Maybe he could have cared less. Do you have a source for this claim?

And please note, people saying stuff on Reddit is NOT a source.
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
Also doesn't jibe with landing struts that left indentations.
My experience with balloons is limited, and much later than this case, but I wonder if a balloon might be temporarily tethered by three stakes in the ground, ropes between those stakes and the balloon might look like three legs. The stakes would also leave marks on the ground. I have only been around balloons "tethered" by lots of folks holding ropes, but for tethered balloon rides they use some sort of anchors, and depending on wind and preferences of the balloonist more or fewer tethers, seem to be used.
gettyimages-599815386-2048x2048.jpg
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
My experience with balloons is limited, and much later than this case, but I wonder if a balloon might be temporarily tethered by three stakes in the ground, ropes between those stakes and the balloon might look like three legs. The stakes would also leave marks on the ground. I have only been around balloons "tethered" by lots of folks holding ropes, but for tethered balloon rides they use some sort of anchors, and depending on wind and preferences of the balloonist more or fewer tethers, seem to be used.
my pondering: if it was students playing with a jerry rigged hot air design (which would get them expelled if found out) it might not even have a proper basket...maybe just a platform they were standing on and held onto the ropes attatching to balloon. i think the ropes from balloon to whatever could maybe look like legs too. Zamora said he only glanced at it for like a second and was more focused on the people (he could not describe but to say they were in white.

another thing, as coincidental as it would need to be..there was apparently a lunar test possibly that morning. the balloon and the marks could be from two separate instances and people just assumed thats where the balloon "landed" because they saw marks from the morning test.

I know this possibility of coincidence will completely overload james, but we are just assuming the two things are related.
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
Patricia Piccinini made a second Skywhale? Neat! I had no idea -- the first one (on the right in your picture, with the dangly bits) was controversial and iirc was shelved for a time, didn't think she'd do another. Her sculptural art shows up from time to time on paranormal boards as "proof" of cryptids or of evile government experiments in mutants or genetic human/animal hybrids...


00006e58_medium.jpegPatricia-Piccinini-The-Young-Family-20022.jpgBlogslider-Patricia-Piccinini-hybrid-Realism-Workshop-ILoboyou7.jpg

Sorry for the digression, was just excited to see the skywhale
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
it's more likely for a helicopter to bear the logo of the operator, rather than the manufacturer
I was thinking in terms of the Hughes logo being on the test "vehicle" Surveyor than on the helicopter. But in any event the Hughes logo is not a good match.

heres the insignia 'match' I was referring to. astropower.jpg
That's a decent match, is Astropower associated with Hughes? (Side note: the up pointing artiw also is the "A" in Astropower; under it is an "i" for "inc.")
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
That's a decent match,
one site had the symbol that cnn article might have been referring too. except it's green. and would have to sideways.


i think the pi symbol is a decent match and its red.
1659909768386.png
If it was a symbol Zamora is not familiar with and he was totally freaked out (as is in the report via Black Vault), the chances his recall of the symbol being accurate is small. i personally believe the "red" part would be correct though. unless something else o the balloon or copter was red and he was really scrambling his memory (which is quite possible)

hcd2.jpg
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
from a distance of 100'
where is this evidence?

And regarding the Lunar Surveyor as a candidate: why would nobody in a position of authority have shut down that theory in an hour if they knew it was just that?
we ie documents, already said why in the thread.

His blurb to Linus Pauling on an unrelated matter
his blurb was not an unrelated manner. Linus asked him specifically
Screenshot 2022-08-07 181858.png
would therefore not represent first-hand knowledge of any hoax, but speculation that students he would now be overseeing were involved.
or the teacher/student that was involved or discovered the truth told him so.
Article:
Colgate took several days to reply to me. In his email, Colgate answered very cryptically and sparingly:

To the question, "Do you still know this to be a hoax? His reply was simple: "Yes."

When asked, "Today, decades later, can you expand on what you wrote to Pauling about the event?" He wrote: "I will ask a friend, but he and other students did not want their cover blown."

He offered that the hoax, "was a no-brainer."

When asked "Specifically how did they do it?" He just answered, "Will ask."

When queried, "Have you ever publicly commented on this?" he replied "Of course not."
 

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deirdre

Senior Member.
i don't know... if we take the panels off the top (which i doubt we would risk for landing tests ???) and i was 25 feet above it. it looks like an oval with legs.

??

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Article:
As the bus approaches the moon, a retro-rocket is fired to slow it from 9,000 feet per second to 350 fps as it descends to about 25,000 feet.

In addition to the main retro-rocket, three controllable-thrust vernier engines - one of which swivels for roll control - there are an altitude-marking radar; yaw, roll and pitch gyros of a three-axis auto-pilot; an analog computer; three beams of Doppler velocity radar; and a radar altimeter.

This system must perform several critical functions simultaneously, compatibly, and with precision. At an altitude of 13 feet, the vernier system is shut off and the spacecraft free-falls to the surface.
 
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