Chapter 8 of Edward J. Ruppelt’s 1956 book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects:
When four college professors, a geologist, a chemist, a physicist, and a petroleum engineer, report seeing the same UFOs on fourteen different occasions, the event can be classified as, at least, unusual. Add the facts that hundreds of other people saw these UFOs and that they were photographed, and the story gets even better. Add a few more facts—that these UFOs were picked up on radar and that a few people got a close look at one of them, and the story begins to convince even the most ardent skeptics.
This was the situation the day the reports of the Lubbock Lights arrived at Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC). Actually the Lubbock Lights, as Project Blue Book calls them, involved many widespread reports. Some of these incidents are known to the public, but the ones that added the emphasis and intrigue to the case and caused hundreds of hours of time to be spent analyzing the reports have not been told before. We collected all of these reports under the one title because there appeared to be a tie- in between them.
The first word of the sightings reached ATIC late in September 1951, when the mail girl dropped letters into my “in” basket. One of the letters was from Albuquerque, New Mexico, one was from a small town in Washington State, where I knew an Air Defense Command radar station was located, and the other from Reese AFB at Lubbock, Texas.
I opened the Albuquerque letter first. It was a report from 34th Air Defense at Kirtland AFB. The report said that on the evening of August 25, 1951, an employee of the Atomic Energy Commission’s super-secret Sandia Corporation and his wife had seen a UFO. About dusk they were sitting in the back yard of their home on the outskirts of Albuquerque. They were gazing at the night sky, commenting on how beautiful it was, when both of them were startled at the sight of a huge airplane flying swiftly and silently over their home. The airplane had been in sight only a few seconds but they had gotten a good look at it because it was so low. They estimated 800 to 1,000 feet. It was the shape of a “flying wing” and one and a half times the size of a B-36. The wing was sharply swept back, almost like a V. Both the husband and wife had seen B-36’s over their home many times. They couldn’t see the color of the UFO but they did notice that there were dark bands running across the wing from front to back. On the aft edge of the wings there were six to eight pairs of soft, glowing, bluish lights. The aircraft had passed over their house from north to south.
The report went on to say that an investigation had been made immediately. Since the object might have been a conventional airplane, air traffic was checked. A commercial airlines Constellation was 50 miles west of Albuquerque and an Air Force B-25 was south of the city, but there had been nothing over Albuquerque that evening. The man’s background was checked. He had a “Q” security clearance. This summed up his character, oddballs don’t get “Q” clearances. No one else had reported the UFO, but this could be explained by the fact the AEC employee and his wife lived in such a location that anything passing over their home from north to south wouldn’t pass over or near very many other houses. A sketch of the UFO was enclosed in the report.
I picked up the letter from Lubbock next. It was a thick report, and from the photographs that were attached, it looked interesting. I thumbed through it and stopped at the photos. The first thing that struck me was the similarity between these photos and the report I’d just read. They showed a series of lights in a V shape, very similar to those described as being on the aft edge of the “flying wing” that was reported from Albuquerque. This was something unique, so I read the report in detail.
On the night of August 25, 1951, about 9:20P.M., just twenty minutes after the Albuquerque sighting, four college professors from Texas Technological College at Lubbock had observed a formation of soft, glowing, bluish-green lights pass over their home. Several hours later they saw a similar group of lights and in the next two weeks they saw at least ten more. On August 31 an amateur photographer had taken five photos of the lights. Also on the thirty-first two ladies had seen a large “aluminum-colored,” “pear-shaped” object hovering near a road north of Lubbock. The report went into the details of these sightings and enclosed a set of the photos that had been taken.
This report, in itself, was a good UFO report, but the similarity to the Albuquerque sighting, both in the description of the object and the time that it was seen, was truly amazing.
I almost overlooked the report from the radar station because it was fairly short. It said that early on the morning of August 26, only a few hours after the Lubbock sighting, two different radars had shown a target traveling 900 miles per hour at 13,000 feet on a northwesterly heading. The target had been observed for six minutes and an F-86 jet interceptor had been scrambled but by the time the F- 86 had climbed into the air the target was gone. The last paragraph in the report was rather curt and to the point. It was apparently in anticipation of the comments the report would draw. It said that the target was not caused by weather. The officer in charge of the radar station and several members of his crew had been operating radar for seven years and they could recognize a weather target. This target was real.
I quickly took out a map of the United States and drew in a course line between Lubbock and the radar station. A UFO flying between these two points would be on a northwesterly heading and the times it was seen at the two places gave it a speed of roughly 900 miles per hour.
This was by far the best combination of UFO reports I’d ever read and I’d read every one in the Air Force’s files.
The first thing I did after reading the reports was to rush a set of the Lubbock photos to the intelligence officer of the 34th Air Division in Albuquerque. I asked him to show the photos to the AEC employee and his wife without telling them what they were. I requested an answer by wire. Later the next day I received my answer: “Observers immediately said that this is what they saw on the night of 25 August. Details by airmail.” The details were a sketch the man and his wife had made of a wing around the photo of the Lubbock Lights. The number of lights in the photo and the number of lights the two observers had seen on the wing didn’t tally, but they explained this by saying that they could have been wrong in their estimate.
The next day I flew to Lubbock to see if I could find an answer to all of these mysterious happenings.
I arrived in Lubbock about 5:00P.M. and contacted the intelligence officer at Reese AFB. He knew that I was on my way and had already set up a meeting with the four professors. Right after dinner we met them.
If a group had been hand-picked to observe a UFO, we couldn’t have picked a more technically qualified group of people. They were:
Dr. W. I. Robinson, Professor of Geology.
Dr. A. G. Oberg, Professor of Chemical Engineering.
Professor W. L. Ducker, Head of the Petroleum Engineering Department.
Dr. George, Professor of Physics.
This is their story:
On the evening of August 25 the four men were sitting in Dr. Robinson’s back yard. They were discussing micrometeorites and drinking tea. They jokingly stressed this point. At nine-twenty a formation of lights streaked across the sky directly over their heads. It all happened so fast that none of them had a chance to get a good look. One of the men mentioned that he had always admonished his students for not being more observant; now he was in that spot. He and his colleagues realized they could remember only a few details of what they had seen. The lights were a weird bluish-green color and they were in a semicircular formation. They estimated that there were from fifteen to thirty separate lights and that they were moving from north to south. Their one wish at this time was that the lights would reappear. They did; about an hour later the lights went over again. This time the professors were a little better prepared. With the initial shock worn off, they had time to get a better look. The details they had remembered from the first flight checked. There was one difference; in this flight the lights were not in any orderly formation, they were just in a group.
The professors reasoned that if the UFOs appeared twice they might come back. Come back they did. The next night and apparently many times later, as the professors made twelve more observations during the next few weeks. For these later sightings they added two more people to their observing team.
Being methodical, as college professors are, they made every attempt to get a good set of data. They measured the angle through which the objects traveled and timed them. The several flights they checked traveled through 90 degrees of sky in three seconds, or 30 degrees per second. The lights usually suddenly appeared 45 degrees above the northern horizon, and abruptly went out 45 degrees above the southern horizon. They always traveled in this north-to-south direction. Outside of the first flight, in which the objects were in a roughly semicircular formation, in none of the rest of the flights did they note any regular pattern. Two or three flights were often seen in one night.
They had tried to measure the altitude, with no success. First they tried to compare the lights to the height of clouds but the clouds were never near the lights, or vice versa. Next they tried a more elaborate scheme. They measured off a base line perpendicular to the objects’ usual flight path. Friends of the professors made up two teams. Each of the two teams was equipped with elevation-measuring devices, and one team was stationed at each end of the base line. The two teams were linked together by two-way radios. If they sighted the objects they would track and time them, thus getting the speed and altitude.
Unfortunately neither team ever saw the lights. But the lights never seemed to want to run the course. The wives of some of the watchers claimed to have seen them from their homes in the city. This later proved to be a clue.
The professors were not the sole observers of the mysterious lights. For two weeks hundreds of other people for miles around Lubbock reported that they saw the same lights. The professors checked many of these reports against the times of the flights they had seen and recorded, and many checked out close. They attempted to question these observers as to the length of time they had seen the lights and angles at which they had seen them, but the professors learned what I already knew, people are poor observers.
Naturally there has been much discussion among the professors and their friends as to the nature of the lights. A few simple mathematical calculations showed that if the lights were very high they would be traveling very fast. The possibility that they were some natural phenomena was, of course, discussed and seriously considered. The professors did a lot of thinking and research and decided that if they were natural phenomena they were something altogether new. Dr. George, who has since died, studied the phenomena of the night sky during his years as a professor at the University of Alaska, and he had never seen or heard of anything like this before.
This was the professors’ story. It was early in the morning when we returned to Reese AFB. I sat up a few more hours unsuccessfully trying to figure out what they had seen.
The next day I again met the intelligence officer and we went to talk to Carl Hart, Jr., the amateur photographer who had taken the pictures of the lights. Hart was a freshman at Texas Tech. His story was that on the night of August 31 he was lying in his bed in an upstairs room of the Hart home. He, like everyone else in Lubbock, had heard about the lights but he had never seen them. It was a warm night and his bed was pushed over next to an open window. He was looking out at the clear night sky, and had been in bed about a half hour, when he saw a formation of the lights appear in the north, cross an open patch of sky, and disappear over his house. Knowing that the lights might reappear as they had done in the past, he grabbed his loaded Kodak 35, set the lens and shutter at f 3.5 and one tenth of a second, and went out into the middle of the back yard. Before long his vigil was rewarded when the lights made a second pass. He got two pictures. A third formation went over a few minutes later and he got three more pictures. The next morning bright and early Hart said he took the roll of unexposed film to a friend who ran a photo-finishing shop. He explained that he did all of his film processing in this friend’s lab. He told the friend about the pictures and they quickly developed them.
I stopped Hart at this point and asked why he didn’t get more excited about what could be the biggest news photos of the century. He said that the lights had appeared to be so dim that he was sure he didn’t have anything on the negatives; had he thought that he did have some good pictures he would have awakened his friend to develop the negatives right away.
When he developed the negatives and saw that they showed an image, his friend suggested that he call the newspaper. At first the paper wasn’t interested but then they decided to run the photos. I later found out that they had done some checking of their own.
We went with Hart into his back yard to re-enact what had taken place. He described the lights as being the same dull, glowing bluish- green color as those seen by the professors. The formation was different, however. The lights Hart saw were always flying in a perfect V. He traced the path from where they appeared over some trees in the north, through an open patch of sky over the back yard, to a point where they disappeared over the house. From the flight path he pointed out, the lights had crossed about 120 degrees of open sky in four seconds. This 30-degree-per-second angular velocity corresponded to the professors’ measured angular velocity.
We made arrangements to borrow Hart’s negatives, thanked him for his information, and left.
Armed with a list of names of other observers of the mysterious lights, the intelligence officer and I started out to try to get a cross-section account of the other UFO sightings in the Lubbock area. All the stories about the UFOs were the same; various types of formations of dull bluish-green lights, generally moving north to south. A few people had variations. One lady saw a flying Venetian blind and another a flying double boiler. One point of interest was that very few claimed to have seen the lights before reading the professors’ story in the paper, but this could get back to the old question, “Do people look up if they have no reason to do so?”
We talked to observers in nearby towns. Their stories were the same. Two of them, tower operators at an airport, reported that they had seen the lights on several occasions.
It was in one of these outlying towns, Lamesa, that we talked to an old gentleman, about eighty years old, who gave us a good lead. He had seen the lights and he had identified them. Ever since he had read the story in the papers he had been looking. One evening he and his wife were in their yard looking for the lights. All of a sudden two or three appeared. They were in view for several seconds, then they were gone. In a few minutes the lights did a repeat performance. The man admitted he had been scared. He broke off his story of the lights and launched into his background as a native Texan, with range wars, Indians, and stagecoaches under his belt. What he was trying to point out was that despite the range wars, Indians, and stagecoaches, he had been scared. His wife had been scared too. We had some difficulty getting back to the lights but we finally made it. The third time they came around, he said, one of the lights emitted a sound. It said, “Plover.” The old gentleman had immediately identified it as a plover, a water bird about the size of a quail. Later that night, and on several other occasions, they had seen the same thing. After a few more hair-raising but interesting stories of the old west Texas, we left.
Our next stop was the federal game warden’s office in Lubbock. We got the low-down on plovers. We explained our interest and the warden was very helpful. He had been around west Texas all of his life so he was familiar with wildlife. The oily white breast of a plover could easily reflect light, but plovers usually didn’t travel in more than pairs, or three at the most. He had never seen or heard of them traveling in a flock of fifteen to thirty but, of course, this wasn’t impossible. Ducks, yes, but probably not plovers. He did say that for some unknown reason there were more than the usual number of plovers in the area that fall.
I was anxious to get the negatives that Hart had lent us back to the photo lab at Wright Field, but I had one more call to make. I wanted to talk to the two ladies who had seen a strange object hovering near their car, but I also wanted to write my report before I left Lubbock. Two Air Force special investigators from Reese AFB offered to talk to the ladies, so I stayed at the air base and finished my report.
That night when the investigators came back, I got the story. They had spent the whole day talking to the ladies and doing a little discreet checking into their backgrounds.
The two ladies, a mother and her daughter, had left their home in Matador, Texas, 70 miles northeast of Lubbock, about twelve-thirty P.M. on August 31. They were driving along in their car when they suddenly noticed “a pear-shaped” object about 150 yards ahead of them. It was just off the side of the road, about 120 feet in the air. It was drifting slowly to the east, “less than the speed required to take off in a Cub airplane.” They drove on down the road about 50 more yards, stopped, and got out of the car. The object, which they estimated to be the size of a B-29 fuselage, was still drifting along slowly. There was no sign of any exhaust blast and they heard no noise, but they did see a “porthole” in the side of the object. In a few seconds the object began to pick up speed and rapidly climb out of sight. As it climbed it seemed to have a tight spiraling motion.
The investigation showed that the two ladies were “solid citizens,” with absolutely no talents, or reasons, for fabricating such a story. The daughter was fairly familiar with aircraft. Her husband was an Air Force officer then in Korea, and she had been living near air bases for several years. The ladies had said that the object was “drifting” to the east, which possibly indicated that it was moving with the wind, but on further investigation it was found that it was moving into the wind.
The two investigators had worked all day and hadn’t come up with the slightest indication of an answer.
This added the final section to my now voluminous report on the
The next morning as I rode to the airport to catch an airliner back to Dayton I tried to put the whole puzzle together. It was hard to believe that all Fd heard was real. Did a huge flying wing pass over Albuquerque and travel 250 miles to Lubbock in about fifteen minutes? This would be about 900 miles per hour. Did the radar station in Washington pick up the same thing? I’d checked the distances on the big wall map in flight operations just before leaving Reese AFB. It was 1,300 miles from Lubbock to the radar site. From talking to people, we decided that the lights were apparently still around Lubbock at 11:20P.M. and the radar picked them up just after midnight. They would have had to be traveling about 780 miles per hour. This was fairly close to the 900-mile-per-hour speed clocked by the two radars. The photos of the Lubbock Lights checked with the description of what the AEC employee and his wife had seen in Albuquerque. Nobody in Lubbock, however, had reported seeing a “flying wing” with lights. All of this was swimming around in my mind when I stepped out of the staff car at the Lubbock airport.
My plane had already landed so I checked in at the ticket counter, picked up a morning paper, and ran out and got into the airplane. I sat down next to a man wearing a Stetson hat and cowboy boots. I soon found out he was a retired rancher from Lubbock.
On the front page of the paper was an account of a large meteor that had flashed across New Mexico, west Texas, and Oklahoma the night before. According to the newspaper account, it was very spectacular and had startled a good many people in Lubbock. I was interested in the story because I had seen this meteor. It was a spectacular sight and I could easily understand how such things could be called UFOs. My seat partner must have noticed that I was reading the story of the meteor because he commented that a friend of his, the man who had brought him to the airport, had seen it. We talked about the meteor. This led to a discussion of other odd happenings and left a perfect opening for him to bring up the Lubbock Lights. He asked me if I’d heard about them. I said that I had heard a few vague stories. I hoped that this would stave off any detailed accounts of stories I had been saturated with during the past five days, but it didn’t. I heard all the details all over again.
As he talked on, I settled back in my seat waiting for a certain thing to happen. Pretty soon it came. The rancher hesitated and the tone of his voice changed to a half-proud, half-apologetic tone. I’d heard this transition many times in the past few months; he was going to tell about the UFO that he had seen. He was going to tell how he had seen the bluish-green lights. I was wrong; what he said knocked me out of my boredom.
The same night that the college professors had seen their formation of lights his wife had seen something. Nobody in Lubbock knew about the story, not even their friends. He didn’t want anyone to think he and his wife were “crazy.” He was telling me only because I was a stranger. Just after dark his wife had gone outdoors to take some sheets off the clothesline. He was inside the house reading the paper. Suddenly his wife had rushed into the house, as he told the story, “as white as the sheets she was carrying.” As close as he could remember, he said, this was about ten minutes before the professors made their first sighting. He stopped at this point to tell me about his wife, she wasn’t prone to be “flighty” and she “never made up tales.” This character qualification was also standard for UFO storytellers. The reason his wife was so upset was that she had seen a large object glide swiftly and silently over the house. She said it looked like “an airplane without a body.” On the back edge of the wing were pairs of glowing bluish lights. The Albuquerque sighting! He said he didn’t have any idea what his wife had seen but he thought that it was an interesting story.
It was an interesting story. It hit me right between the eyes. I knew the rancher and his wife couldn’t have possibly heard the Albuquerque couple’s story, only they and a few Air Force people knew about it. The chances of two identical stories being made up were infinitesimal, especially since neither of them fitted the standard Lubbock Light description. I wondered how many other people in Lubbock, Albuquerque, or anywhere in the Southwest had seen a similar UFO during this period and hesitated to mention it.
I tried to get a few more facts from the rancher but he’d told me all he knew. At Dallas I boarded an airliner to Dayton and he went on to Baton Rouge, never knowing what he’d added to the story of the Lubbock Lights.
On the way to Dayton I figured out a plan of attack on the thousands of words of notes I’d taken. The best thing to do, I decided, was to treat each sighting in the Lubbock Light series as a separate incident. All of them seemed to be dependent upon each other for importance. If the objects that were reported in several of the incidents could be identified, the rest would merely become average UFO reports. The photographs taken by Carl Hart, Jr., became number one on the agenda.
As soon as I reached Dayton I took Hart’s negatives to the Photo Reconnaissance Laboratory at Wright Field. This laboratory, staffed by the Air Force’s top photography experts, did all of our analysis of photographs. They went right to work on the negatives and soon had a report.
There had originally been five negatives, but when we asked to borrow them Hart could only produce four. The negatives were badly scratched and dirty because so many people had handled them, so it was difficult to tell the actual photographic images from the dust spots and scratches. The first thing that the lab did was to look at each spot on the negatives to see if it was an actual photographic image. They found that the photos showed an inverted V formation of lights. In each photo the individual image of a light was badly blurred due to motion of the camera, but by careful scrutiny of each blurred image they were able to determine that the original lights that Hart had photographed were circular, near pinpoint sources of light. Like a bright star, or a distant light bulb. Next they made enlargements from the negatives and carefully plotted the position of each light in the formation.
In each photograph the individual lights in the formation shifted position according to a definite pattern.
One additional factor that was brought out in the report was that although the photos were taken on a clear night no images of the stars could be found in the background. This proved one thing, the lights, which were overexposed in the photograph, were a great deal brighter than the stars, or the lights affected the film more than the light from the stars.
This was all that the photos showed. It was impossible to determine the size of each image of the group, speed, or altitude.
The next thing was to try to duplicate what Hart said he had done. I enlisted the aid of several friends and we tried to photograph a moving light. When we were talking to Hart in Lubbock, he had taken us to his back yard, where he had shot the pictures. He had traced the flight path of fights across the sky. We had him estimate the speed by following an imaginary flight of lights across the sky. It came out to about four seconds. We had a camera identical to the one that Hart had used and set up a light to move at the same speed as the UFOs had flown. We tried to take photographs. In four seconds we could get only two poor shots. These were badly blurred, much worse than Hart’s, due to the one-tenth-of-a-second shutter speed. We repeated our experiment several times, each time with the same results. This made a lot of people doubt the authenticity of Hart’s photos.
With the completed photo lab report in my hands, I was still without an answer. The report was interesting but didn’t prove anything. All I could do was to get opinions from as qualified sources as I could find. A physiologist at the Aeromedical Laboratory knocked out the timing theory immediately by saying that if Hart had been excited he could have easily taken three photos in four seconds if we could get two in four seconds in our experiment. Several professional photographers, one of them a top Life photographer, said that if Hart was familiar with his camera and was familiar with panning action shots, his photos would have shown much less blur than ours. I recalled what I heard about Hart’s having photographed sporting events for the Lubbock newspaper. This would have called for a good panning technique.
The photographs didn’t tally with the description of the lights that the professors had seen; in fact, they were firmly convinced that they were of “home manufacture.” The professors had reported soft, glowing lights yet the photos showed what should have been extremely bright lights. Hart reported a perfect formation while the professors, except for the first flight, reported an unorderly group. There was no way to explain this disagreement in the arrangement of the lights. Of course, it wasn’t impossible that on the night that Hart saw the lights they were flying in a V formation. The first time the professors saw them they were flying in a semicircle.
The intensity of the lights was difficult to explain. Again I went to the people in the Photo Reconnaissance Laboratory. I asked them if there was any possible situation that could cause this. They said yes. An intensely bright light source which had a color far over in the red end of the spectrum, bordering on infrared, could do it. The eye is not sensitive to such a light, it could appear dim to the eye yet be “bright” to the film. I asked them what kind of a light source would cause this. There were several things, if you want to speculate, they said, extremely high temperatures for one. But this was as far as they would go. We have nothing in this world that flies that appears dim to the eye yet will show bright on film, they said.
This ended the investigation of the photographs, and the investigation ended at a blank wall. My official conclusion, which was later given to the press, was that “The photos were never proven to be a hoax but neither were they proven to be genuine.” There is no definite answer.
The emphasis of the investigation was now switched to the professors’ sighting. The meager amount of data that they had gathered seemed to be accurate but it was inconclusive as far as getting a definite answer was concerned. They had measured two things, how much of the sky the objects had crossed in a certain time and the angle from one side of the formation to the other. These figures didn’t mean a great deal, however, since the altitude at which the formation of lights was flying was unknown. If you assumed that the objects were flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet you could easily compute that they were traveling about 3,600 miles per hour, or five to six times the speed of sound. The formation would have been about 1,750 feet wide. If each light was a separate object it could have been in the neighborhood of 100 feet in diameter. These figures were only a guess since nobody knew if the lights were at, above, or below 10,000 feet. If they had been higher they would have been going faster and have been larger. If lower than 10,000 feet, slower and smaller.
The only solid lead that had developed while the Reese AFB intelligence officer and I were investigating the professors’ sightings was that the UFOs were birds reflecting the city lights; specifically plover. The old cowboy from Lamesa had described something identical to what the professors described and they were plover. Secondly, whenever the professors left the vicinity of their homes to look for the lights they didn’t see them, yet their wives, who stayed at home, did see them. If the “lights” were birds they would be flying low and couldn’t be seen from more than a few hundred feet. While in Lubbock I’d noticed several main boulevards lighted with the bluish mercury vapor lights. I called the intelligence officer at Reese AFB and he airmailed me a city map of Lubbock with the mercury-vapor-lighted streets marked. The place where the professors had made their observations was close to one of these streets. The big hitch in this theory was that people living miles from a mercury-vapor-lighted boulevard had also reported the lights. How many of these sightings were due to the power of suggestion and how many were authentic I didn’t know. If I could have found out, it would have been possible to plot the sightings in Lubbock, and if they were all located close to the lighted boulevards, birds would be an answer. This, however, it was impossible to do.
The fact that the lights didn’t make any perceivable sound seemed as if it might be a clue. Birds or light phenomena wouldn’t make any sound, but how about some object of appreciable size traveling at or above the speed of sound? Jet airplanes don’t fly as fast as the speed of sound but they make a horrible roar. Artillery shells, which are going much faster than aircraft, whine as they go through the air. I knew that a great deal of the noise from a jet is due to the heated air rushing out of the tail pipe, but I didn’t know exactly how much of the noise this caused. If a jet airplane with a silent engine could be built, how much noise would it make? How far could it be heard? To get the answer I contacted National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Laboratory at Langley AFB, a government agency which specializes in aeronautical research. They didn’t know. Neither they nor anybody else had ever done any research on this question. Their opinion was that such an aircraft could not be heard 5,000 or 10,000 feet away. Aerodynamicists at Wright Field’s Aircraft Laboratory agreed.
I called the Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratories at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, to find out why artillery shells whine. These people develop and test all kinds of shells so they would have an answer if anybody did. They said that the majority of the whine of an artillery shell is probably caused by the flat back end of the shell. If a perfectly streamlined shell could be used it would not have any perceivable whine.
What I found out, or didn’t find out, about the sound of an object moving at several times the speed of sound was typical of nearly every question that came up regarding UFOs. We were working in a field where there were no definite answers to questions. In some instances we were getting into fields far advanced above the then present levels of research. In other instances we were getting into fields where no research had been done at all. It made the problem of UFO analysis one of getting opinions. All we could do was hope the opinions we were getting were the best.
My attempts to reach a definite conclusion as to what the professors had seen met another blank wall. I had no more success than I’d had trying to reach a conclusion on the authenticity of the photographs.
A thorough analysis of the reports of the flying wings seen by the retired rancher’s wife in Lubbock and the AEC employee and his wife in Albuquerque was made. The story from the two ladies who saw the aluminum-colored pear-shaped object hovering near the road near Matador, Texas, was studied, checked, and rechecked. Another blank wall on all three of these sightings.
By the time I got around to working on the report from the radar station in Washington State, the data of the weather conditions that existed on the night of the sighting had arrived. I turned the incident folder over to the electronics specialists at ATIC. They made the analysis and determined that the targets were caused by weather, although it was a borderline case. They further surmised that since the targets had been picked up on two radars, if I checked I’d find out that the two targets looked different on the two radarscopes. This is a characteristic of a weather target picked up on radars operating on different frequencies. I did check. I called the radar station and talked to the captain who was in charge of the crew the night the target had been picked up.
The target looked the same on both scopes. This was one of the reasons it had been reported, the captain told me. If the target hadn’t been the same on both scopes, he wouldn’t have made the report since he would have thought he had a weather target. He asked me what ATIC thought about the sighting. I said that Captain James thought it was weather. Just before the long-distance wires between Dayton and Washington melted, I caught some comment about people sitting in swivel chairs miles from the closest radarscope. . . . I took it that he didn’t agree the target was caused by weather. But that’s the way it officially stands today.
Although the case of the Lubbock Lights is officially dead, its memory lingers on. There have never been any more reliable reports of “flying wings” but lights somewhat similar to those seen by the professors have been reported. In about 70 per cent of these cases they were proved to be birds reflecting city lights.
The known elements of the case, the professors’ sightings and the photos, have been dragged back and forth across every type of paper upon which written material appears, from the cheapest, coarsest pulp to the slick Life pages. Saucer addicts have studied and offered the case as all-conclusive proof, with photos, that UFOs are interplanetary. Dr. Donald Menzel of Harvard studied the case and ripped the sightings to shreds in Look, Time, and his book, Flying Saucers, with the theory that the professors were merely looking at refracted city lights. But none of these people even had access to the full report. This is the first time it has ever been printed.
The only other people outside Project Blue Book who have studied the complete case of the Lubbock Lights were a group who, due to their associations with the government, had complete access to our files. And these people were not pulp writers or wide-eyed fanatics, they were scientists—rocket experts, nuclear physicists, and intelligence experts. They had banded together to study our UFO reports because they were convinced that some of the UFOs that were being reported were interplanetary spaceships and the Lubbock series was one of these reports. The fact that the formations of lights were in different shapes didn’t bother them; in fact, it convinced them all the more that their ideas of how a spaceship might operate were correct.
This group of scientists believed that the spaceships, or at least the part of the spaceship that came relatively close to the earth, would have to have a highly swept-back wing configuration. And they believed that for propulsion and control the craft had a series of small jet orifices all around its edge. Various combinations of these small jets would be turned on to get various flight attitudes. The lights that the various observers saw differed in arrangement because the craft was flying in different flight attitudes.
(Three years later the Canadian Government announced that this was exactly the way that they had planned to control the flying saucer that they were trying to build. They had to give up their plans for the development of the saucer-like craft, but now the project has been taken over by the U.S. Air Force.)
This is the complete story of the Lubbock Lights as it is carried in the Air Force files, one of the most interesting and most controversial collection of UFO sightings ever to be reported to Project Blue Book. Officially all of the sightings, except the UFO that was picked up on radar, are unknowns.
Personally I thought that the professors’ lights might have been some kind of birds reflecting the light from mercury-vapor street lights, but I was wrong. They weren’t birds, they weren’t refracted light, but they weren’t spaceships. The lights that the professors saw—the backbone of the Lubbock Light series—have been positively identified as a very commonplace and easily explainable natural phenomenon.
It is very unfortunate that I can’t divulge exactly the way the answer was found because it is an interesting story of how a scientist set up complete instrumentation to track down the lights and how he spent several months testing theory after theory until he finally hit upon the answer. Telling the story would lead to his identity and, in exchange for his story, I promised the man complete anonymity. But he fully convinced me that he had the answer, and after having heard hundreds of explanations of UFOs, I don’t convince easily.
With the most important phase of the Lubbock Lights “solved”—the sightings by the professors—the other phases become only good UFO reports.