Thu. Oct 24th, 2019

The Levelland UFO Case: Electrical Storm or Something Else?

It’s rare that my mind is changed while researching an article – this is one of those times.

UFO military car

Image Source: steve baxter on Flickr | License: Public Domain

From the famous Lubbock Lights to multiple sightings during bad weather, Texas seems to be a magnet for UFO sightings. The western border of Texas is a mere 80 miles from Roswell, New Mexico so it’s no surprise that one of the most important sightings in UFO history happened in Texas in November of 1957, in and around a small town called Levelland.

In 1957, the town of Levelland had just about 10,000 residents.[1] It’s only about 30 miles east of the New Mexico border. It lies in between Lubbock and Roswell.

Levelland UFO Lubbock Roswell
Levelland, TX: Note the proximity to both Lubbock, TX and Roswell, NM | Image Credit: Google Maps

The Levelland UFO case consists multiple independent sightings, which is something UFO researchers take great interest in. It’s also one of the earliest cases in which witnesses reported electrical disturbances in their vehicles. It differs from other classic sightings in that most witnesses didn’t describe a silent, saucer-shaped craft. In fact, most seemed to think what they saw was some sort of rocket – complete with thunderous noise and heat.

The sightings were investigated by Project Blue Book and determined to be either a severe electrical storm or a rare phenomena known as ball lightning. Interestingly enough, there were no reported thunderstorms in the area during the night the sightings occurred.[2]

So what did the residents actually see? Let’s take a look at the evidence and see what the most likely conclusions are.

The Timeline of Levelland UFO Sightings

Initial reports by police were believed to be prank calls, but as the night of November 2 into the early morning of November 3 went on and more reports came in, the Levelland police department quickly realized that residents were actually seeing something real.

The following timeline of the most notable reports has been put together based on a variety of online sources but the primary source was the Texas UFO Museum & Research Library. There are some discrepancies between the timeline depending on sources so I’ve pieced these together as best as possible. These sources are linked at the bottom of of the article.

10:50 PM

The Levelland Police Department receives its first call from Pedro Saucedo and Joe Salaz at 10:50 PM. The sighting itself may have occurred closer to 10:30 PM as the witnesses drove about 10 miles before stopping to make a phone call. The two men were in their truck 4 miles west of Levelland when they saw the object. It was preceded by a blue flash of light – after the flash, a rocket shaped object rose from the road and approached their truck. The engine died.

I jumped out of the truck and hit the dirt because I was afraid. I called to Joe but he didn’t get out. The thing passed directly over my truck with a great sound and rush of wind. It sounded like thunder and my truck rocked from the flash…I felt a lot of heat.

Pedro Saucedo: Texas UFO Museum & Research Library[6]

The object was reported to be shaped like a rocket or torpedo and estimated to be 200 feet long. Once the object passed overhead, Saucedo’s truck started normally and they were able to drive away. The Levelland Police Department assumed the call to be a joke… until the next call came in.

11:50 PM

The Levelland Police Department receives their 2nd call about an hour after the first one. Immediately, they realize that their dismissal of the the first call as a joke may have been a mistake.

Jim Wheeler claimed that while driving, he witnessed an illuminated egg-shaped object sitting in the road. His car engine died & the headlights went out. The object then rose into the air and disappeared. After it was gone, his car started normally and he was able to drive off.

Wheeler claimed the object he saw was about 200 feet long, though he was about 4 miles east of Levelland when his sighting occurred.

11:55 PM

The next call came in around just after the previous one. This time, north of Levelland, Jose Alvarez also witnessed a bright egg-shaped object in the road. He experienced the same engine troubles as other witnesses.

12:15 AM

Another report came just after midnight. There isn’t much detail on the report by Frank Williams. All sources seem to indicate his sighting was similar to the others.

1:15 AM

This time, James Long, witnessed an egg-shaped object along the road. Again the description was of an egg-shaped object roughly 200 feet long. Just like all the others his engine died, but the car started just fine once the object flew up into the sky and disappeared.

Additional Reports

Additional Reports are peppered throughout the time period from 10:50 PM until about 1:30 AM. Some reports didn’t come in until the next day. These include college students, other residents, and most notably Hockley County Sheriff, Weir Clem who had gone out to investigate the reports and Fire Marshall Ray Jones.

All in all, 15 separate calls were made to the Levelland Police Department and nine different vehicles are known to have been affected by some type of electromagnetic interference.

witness report ufo
Photo by Hugo Frey on Unsplash

Possible Explanations

The Levelland UFO case, like most cases, has many possible explanations. While some can be dismissed quickly, dismissing others is much more difficult.

Hoax

With every sighting, this possibility must at least be considered. That being said, we can pretty much wipe this possibility off the table from the start.

The number of independent witnesses pretty much guarantees that the November 2-3 sightings in Levelland were not a hoax. It’s still possible that some hoaxer may have fooled a large number of independent people people but…

Given the size of the object and the number of corroborating accounts of vehicle engines dying in its presence, this would have been one heck of a hoax to pull off. Some hoaxer would’ve had to build a pretty impressive flying machine all on their own with some type of strong electrical field in order to accomplish this – and that’s just out of the realm of reasonability.

Russians

On November 3rd, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik II into orbit.[3] Given the time difference between the Soviet Union and the US, this launch would have happened just a couple hours before the first sightings were reported in Levelland.[4] Is it possible that residents witnessed a Russian rocket carrying Sputnik II into orbit?

While it’s completely possible the launch of Sputnik II by the Soviet Union can explain residents describing a rocket-like object, it’s not likely that the folks in Levelland would have been the only people in the country to see it. If the R-7 ICBM which carried Sputnik II into orbit was visible from the US, this is something much of the country would have seen and reported.

Additionally, there’s absolutely no way that a Soviet ICBM would have passed over the United States low enough for resident to report feeling the heat of the rockets – not without it being an act of war at least. With the number of reports of an object being seen sitting in the actual road, it’s safe to say it wasn’t a Soviet rocket.

Project Blue Book Conclusion

The official conclusion by Project Blue Book was that a severe electrical storm which may have also included ball lightning was the source of the sightings. This conclusion resulted in the closing of the case.

But the story on Project Blue Book doesn’t really end there. In fact, Project Blue Book’s top scientist, Dr. J. Alan Hynek was tied up monitoring the launch of Sputnik II by the Soviet Union so he didn’t have much time to put towards any of his Project Blue Book duties during the days and weeks surrounding the time period of the sightings.

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 headlights.

Dr. J. Allen. Hynek: The UFO Experience, J.Allen Hynek (1972) pages 123-128[5]

An important element of the Project Blue Book conclusion ignores the fact that ball lighting doesn’t come in a 200 foot long variety. Normally it’s only just a few feet in size. And while one or two people could potentially make a sizing error in their perception, almost every report that stated a size had it much larger than a few feet. For everyone to have gotten it wrong is highly improbable.

It’s also worth nothing that as the layers of secrecy have been peeled back over the years on Project Blue Book, it’s become apparent that Blue Book’s purpose was as much about investigation as it was about covering up specific truths. The official explanation was either incorrect or purposely covering up something else.

Military Testing

Like other sightings in and around Texas, you simply can’t ignore the possibility of a UFO sighting being caused by secret military testing. In 1957, the US was in the heat of the space race with the Soviet Union having lost the race to put the first satellite into space.

The difficulty with this possibility is even today, military records are closely guarded and finding out exactly what was being tested on a particular day almost 60 years ago is nigh impossible. Throw the unreliability of military documents during a space race in which everything was rushed to production and the fact that most individuals involved are no longer alive and you’re presented with a task that’s to be rife with errors.

Historically though, we do know that military testing does generate UFO sightings. And given Levelland’s proximity to Air Force bases, there’s a strong chance that the military had something to do with the sightings. As a result, it must be left as a possibility.

Extraterrestrial Craft

The final possibility is that the good people of Levelland, TX witnessed some type of extraterrestrial space craft. The chances are always slim that this is the case, but that doesn’t mean we can write it off. There are a couple of good reasons to keep this explanation open as a possibility.

Object Behavior: Crafts that land and then take off in an instant are currently beyond our known technical abilities – especially in 1957. Multiple witnesses claimed the craft took off at a great speed that wouldn’t have been possible in man-made craft.

Object Locations: While the Levelland UFO stayed in a relatively small area, it appeared in a short time span from 5 to 10 miles at a time. In at least one case, two of the sightings happened almost simultaneously and yet where miles apart. If the same object were witnessed by both people, it would have had to move at an incredible speed to be seen in both places in such a short period of time.

Some Other Unexplained Phenomena

There is of course the possibility that another unexplained ‘thing’ that’s responsible for the Levelland UFO sightings.

For instance, one might argue ball lightning comes in a larger variety than meteorologists are yet unaware of. Considering the rarity of ball lightning of any size, that it would be seen multiple times in one evening is highly unlikely.

UFO Green Clouds
Image Source: Pixabay

Conclusion: Levelland UFO

When I began researching the Levelland UFO case, I was convinced this was a misidentified military test vehicle and that Project Blue Book’s conclusion was devised to cover up its existence. However, after digging through the eyewitness accounts and other details, I was unable to maintain this position.

The full truth of what what seen in Levelland may never be known. Any definite conclusion would be pure conjecture. All of the possible explanations fall apart at some level, and there’s not enough evidence to say, without a doubt, that it was an alien space ship.

So what can I be sure of?

For one, the people of Levelland saw something real. This wasn’t some type of mass hysteria.

Second, the Project Blue Book conclusion was wrong, whether intentionally or unintentionally. This wasn’t an electrical storm or ball lightning.

Third, this was not a military vehicle or test craft. The military didn’t have any craft matching the descriptions in the sighting reports and the technology to travel in the means the object was described simply didn’t exist.

A Mystery That Might Never Be Solved

In the absence of more evidence, the most logical conclusion is that we simply don’t know what the Levelland UFO was. Given the age of the sighting and witnesses, it’s most likely the truth may never become known.


Sources & Additional Reading:

Featured Image Source: steve baxter on Flickr | License: Public Domain

1. Wikipedia: Levelland UFO Case

2. History: History’s Most Infamous UFO Sightings

3. Wikipedia: Sputnik 2

4. How Stuff Works: The 1957 Levelland UFO Encounter

5. National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP): The Levelland, Texas, Sightings

6. Texas UFO Museum & Research Library: Levelland 1957

7. Texas UFO Museum & Research Library: J. Allen Hynek Comments about Levelland Case

3 thoughts on “The Levelland UFO Case: Electrical Storm or Something Else?

    1. I saw her on tv in the 80s before she died of cancer most likely because of this incident.and her testimony leaves me to believe.this is probably our gov.testing our back engineering …technology from crash recovery vehicles.only because of all the military copters involved probably an escort on a prototype vehicle.gone bad…just speculation on my view

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