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P-1947: Hynek on The Leveland, Texas, Sightings

From: Fran Ridge <slk@EVANSVILLE.NET>
Date: Wed, 29 Jul 1998 14:46:22 -0500
Fwd Date: Thu, 30 Jul 1998 11:14:21 -0400
Subject: P-1947: Hynek on The Leveland, Texas, Sightings

For the record:
Fran Ridge

[From: 'The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry'
 pages 122-128. (1972)]

The Leveland, Texas, Sightings
Dr. J. Allen Hynek

For the moment, let us look at the probability that motors are
killed and lights and radio stop by coincidence when the driver
has a UFO close sighting.

We have all seen cars stopped by the side of the road, hood up,
waiting for tow trucks. It would be highly improbable that a car
would become completely immobilized and then a few moments later
"heal itself," yet it can happen. Perhaps, for example, a wire
that had become loose was jarred back into place in some way.
But to combine this low probability event with the simultaneous
appearance of a strange light coming down from the sky and
hovering over the car, the car remaining disabled only so long
as the light was present, is dubious at best.

It is, of course, much the easier way out to dismiss the whole
matter as "psychological" (whatever that means in this context)
and return to commonplace, understandable matters. However, that
would not be acting true to the high ideals of science, which
involve being curious about all things that occur in man's
environment, investigating and weighing them, and calmly
considering the evidence.

If the probability of a happening in any one case is extremely
low, consider the probability of coincidence in the following
train of events - if they happened as reported.

On the evening of November 2, 1957, at about 11:00 P. M., just
one hour after the Russians had launched their second,
dog-carrying artificial satellite (that certainly was
coincidence) but before we Americans knew about it, Patrolman A.
J. Fowler, officer on duty at Levelland, Texas (population
10,000), received the first of several strangely similar phone

The first was from Pedro Saucedo, who, with companion Joe Salaz,
had been driving four miles west of Levelland when a
torpedo-shaped, brilliantly illuminated object (as Saucedo
described it) rapidly approached the car. Fowler listened to a
terrified Saucedo relate the incredible story of how, as the
object passed close over the car, the truck headlights went out,
and the engine died. A certified copy of a statement made by
Saucedo reads:

To whom it may concern: on the date of November 2, 1957, I was
traveling north and west on route 116, driving my truck. At
about four miles out of Levelland, I saw a big flame, to my
right front. . . . I thought it was lightning. But when this
object had reach to my position it was different, because it put
my truck motor out and lights. Then I stop, got out, and took a
look, but it was so rapid and quite some heat that I had to hit
the ground. It also had colors - yellow, white - and it looked
like a torpedo, about 200 feet long, moving at about 600 to 800
miles an hour.

As the UFO moved into the distance, the truck lights reportedly
came on by themselves, and Saucedo found that his truck started
easily. The two men drove on to Whiteface, ten miles west of
Levelland, and it was from a phone booth there that the call was
made to Officer Fowler. Fowler apparently figured the man must
have had one too many drinks, and he dismissed the report from
his mind.

Considered by itself, the testimony of an uneducated, frightened
truck driver, as sincere in his reporting as he might have been,
has little credibility. But one hour later Fowler got another
call, this time from Mr. W. of Whitharral. Fowler was told that
he (Mr. W.) was driving four miles east of Levelland (the
direction in which the Saucedo object had disappeared) when he
came upon a brilliantly lit egg-shaped object, about 200 feet
long, sitting in the middle of the road. As Mr. W. approached
it, his car engine failed, and the headlights went out.

According to the observer, the object was lit up like a large
neon light and cast a bright glare over the entire area. The
observer decided to get out of his car, but when he did so, the
UFO rose and, at an altitude of about 200 feet, the object's
light or glare blinked out entirely. Mr. W. then had no trouble
starting his car.

A short time later Officer Fowler got another call, from another
Whitharral man, who was, at the time of the incident, some 11
miles north of Levelland. He reported to the police station that
he had come across a glowing object sitting on the road and that
as he approached it - the reader can finish the sentence -his
car engine stopped, and his headlights went out. But when the
object left shortly thereafter, all was again well.

But that was not the end. According to a signed statement in
Project Blue Book files, at 12:05 A.M. that Saturday night in
November, a 19-year-old freshman from Texas Tech, driving
roughly 9 miles east of Levelland, found that his car engine
began to sputter, the ammeter on the dash jumped to discharge
then back to normal, and the motor "started cutting out like it
was out of gas." The car rolled to a stop; then the headlights
dimmed and several seconds later went out.

Baffled at the turn of events, he got out of his car and looked
under the hood but found nothing wrong. Closing the hood, he
turned away and then noticed for the first time, he reported, an
oval-shaped object, flat on the bottom, sitting on the road
ahead. He estimated it to be about 125 feet long, glowing with a
bluish-green light. He stated that the object seemed to be made
of an aluminum-like material, but no markings or other details
were apparent. Frightened, he got back into the car and tried
frantically but in vain to restart the car.

Resigned, he sat and watched the object sitting in front of him
on the road (he did not state how close he thought he was to the
object) for several minutes, hoping that another car would drive
by. None did. The UFO finally rose into the air, "almost
straight up," and disappeared "in a split instant." Afterward,
the car was again fully operable.

"I then proceded home very slowly," his statement continues,
"and told no one of my sighting until my parents returned home
from a weekend trip .. . for fear of public ridicule. They did
convince me that I should report this, and I did so to the
sheriff around 1:30 P.M. Sunday, November 3."

At 12:15 A.M. Officer Fowler got still another call, this from a
man phoning from a booth near Whitharral. This observer reported
his encounter with the strange object at a point some nine miles
north of Levelland. Once again the glowing object was sitting on
a dirt road, and as his car approached it, its lights went out
and its motor stopped. Soon the object rose vertically, very
swiftly, and when it reached an altitude of about 300 feet, its
lights went off and it disappeared from sight. As the reader
expects by now, at this point the car lights came back on and
the car was started with no difficulty.

By this time Officer Fowler had finally realized that something
odd was going on, and he notified the sheriff and his colleagues
on duty, some of whom took to the roads to investigate. Two of
them reported bright lights, seen for just a few seconds, but
they did not have any car-stopping encounters.

At 12:45 A.M. another single witness - I have broken my rule to
use only multiple-witness cases because of the independent
witnessing of essentially the same event or object, with the
same physical effects, from independent nearby points - driving
just west of Levelland and thus close to the spot where two
hours earlier Saucedo had had his sighting, spotted what looked
like a big orange ball of fire at a distance of more than a
mile. The ball then came closer and landed softly on the highway
about a quarter of a mile ahead of the observer. It covered the
paved portion of the highway.

The wituess reported that the motor of the truck he was driving
"conked out" and his headlights died. Meanwhile, the object sat
there on the road ahead of him, glowing bright enough to light
up the cab of his truck. In about a minute, the observer
reported, it made a vertical ascent - and, of course, things
returned to normal. This encounter was not phoned in at the time
to Officer Fowler but was reported the following day. One
possibly significant clue to some as yet unknown process may lie
in the fact that the reporter stated that when the UFO landed it
changed from its original red-orange color to a bluish green but
that when it rose it changed back to red-orange. And it is
perhaps of interest to note at the object or objects always
landed on the pavement, except once, when it settled on a dirt

But that is not all. At 1:15 A. M. Officer Fowler got another
call, this time from a terrified truck driver from Waco, Texas,
who was at the time just northeast of Levelland, on the
"Oklahoma flat road." The man told Fowler that his engine and
headlights suddenly failed as he approached within 200 feet of a
brilliant, glowing egg-shaped object. He said that it glowed
intermittently 'like a neon sign" and that he estimated it to be
about 200 feet long. He reported that as he got out of the
truck, the UFO quickly shot straight up with a roar and streaked

Officer Fowler stated that the truck driver was extremely
excited when he called and that the witness was most upset by
his close encounter. The truck engine and lights worked
perfectly when the object left.

By this time patrol cars were out looking for the reported
object. Sheriff Clem and Deputy Pat McCulloch were being kept up
to date by Fowler as they drove around the area. At 1:30 A.M,
while driving along the Oklahoma Flat Road, between four and
five miles from Levelland, the two men spotted an oval-shaped
light, "looking like a brilliant red sunset across the highway,"
a good 300 or 400 yards south of their patrol car. "It lit up
the whole pavement in front of us for about two seconds," said

Patrolmen Lee Hargrove and Floyd Gavin were following in their
patrol car several miles behind. In his signed state ment
llargrove stated:

  Was driving south on the unmarked roadway known as the
Oklahoma Flat Highway and was attempting to search for an
unidentified object reported to the Levelland Police Department.

=B7 . . I saw a strange-looking flash, which looked to be down the
roadway approximately a mile to a mile and a half. . . . The
flash went from east to west and appeared to be close to the

Constable Lloyd Ballen of Anton, Texas, also reported seeing the
object, although his statement was: "It was traveling so fast
that it appeared only as a flash of light moving from east to

None of these patrolmen's cars was affected, but Levelland Fire
Marshal Ray Jones, who also was looking for the UFO, stated that
his car's headlights dimmed and his engine sputtered but did not
die, just as he spotted a "streak of light" north of the
Oklahoma Flat.

Officer Fowler reported that a total of 15 phone calls were made
to the police station in direct reference to the UFO, and he
added, "Everybody who called was very excited."

In terms of probabilities, 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 (and
they are, according to the tests we've used throughout).

Suppose we try to attribute the happening to mass hysteria,
although that does not disclose a mechanism for killing engines
and extinguishing lights and stopping radios. The observers were
independent unless all of them, for example, were listening to a
local radio station that carried the news. (No investigator
ever checked into the important question of whether the radio
stations were notified and if they broadcast the reports.) We
know that at first Officer Fowler discounted the reports, and it
is unlikely that he would have almost immediately notified the
local station. But let us suppose that he or someone else did
and that all car radios were tuned in to that particular
station. We still would need an explanation for the physical
effects reported unless we attribute them to downright
prevarication rather than to hysteria.

What was needed at the time was swift reaction by Blue Book and
a serious, thorough investigation. Captain Gregory, then head of
Blue Book, did call me by phone, but at that time, as the person
directly responsible for the tracking of the new Russian
satellite, I was on a virtual around-the-clock duty and was
unable to give it any attention whatever. I am not proud today
that I hastily concurred in Captain Gregory's evaluation as
"ball lightning" on the basis of information that an electrical
storm had been in progress in the Levelland area at the time.
That was shown not to be the case. Observers reported overcast
and mist but no lightning. Besides, had I given it any thought
whatever, I would soon have recognized the absence of any
evidence that ball lightning can stop cars and put out

I was told that the Blue Book investigation consisted of the
appearance of one man in civilian clothes at the sheriff's
office at about 11:45 A.M. On November 5; he made two auto
excursions during the day and then told Sheriff Clem that he was

A newspaper reporter subsequently said that he had recognized
the investigator and identified him as an Air Force sergeant.

In any event, Blue Book came under severe pressure. In a memo
dated December 4, 1957, Captain Gregory complained that.... . as
a result of pressure from both the press and public

=B7 . . Assistant Secretary of Defense requested that ATIC
immediately submit a preliminary analysis to the press . . . a
most difficult requirement in view of the limited data."

Interfering with cars on the highways is but one of the physical
effects reported in this category of Close Encounters. There are
also the reported - and photographable - effects on living
things, notably plants and trees. Many witnesses have reported
temporary paralysis in their limbs when their encounters have
been quite close.

More than 300 cases of "scorched, denuded circles" and related
"landing marks" frequently associated with the sighting of UFOs
at close range have been cataloged. These, like UFOs in general,
have been reported from many parts of the world, and a definite
pattern is evident. The prototype is clear from an examination
of even a few cases.