He broke off his story of the lights and launched into
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his background as a native Texan, with range wars, Indians, and stage coaches 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.
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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 Lubbock affair.
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 I'd 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 11:20 P.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 UFO's. 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
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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 any where 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
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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 lights 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
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set up a light to move at the same speed as the UFO's 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
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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 UFO's 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 them
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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 UFO's. 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.
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