Humanoids and strange insignia

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I’ve been putting off writing about the next one in line, slightly intimidated by the amount of material that exists about it.  Lonnie Zamora’s encounter with a strange flying craft and its two occupants is legendary, and is one of the few single-witness cases given credibility – largely due to the physical evidence from the scene and Zamora’s status as a level-headed police officer.

The main points of the story are: that at about 5:50 pm on 24 April 1964 police patrolman Zamora was giving chase to a speeding driver when he saw a blue-and-orange flame descending towards a nearby dynamite shack. Afraid that the shack might explode, he gave up the chase and went off-road towards it. After three attempts to drive up a hill, he finally managed to climb it and saw a metallic object resembling a car on its end. Next to it were two figures, four feet tall and dressed in white coverall-type outfits. One of them saw Zamora and appeared to jump. Zamora drove towards them, thinking they might need help. The object, he saw, was roughly oval or lozenge-shaped, standing on four legs and with strange insignia on the side. Zamora got out of his car (the ground now being too rough to drive on), and heard two or three loud thumps, like hammering or a door closing. He was almost at the object when a flame appeared and the object took off, presumably taking the two figures with it as they were nowhere to be seen. Zamora went back to his patrol car and called for backup. while waiting for sergeant Sam Chavez  to arrive, Zamora drew the insignia.

The two police officers went to the spot the craft had stood on (which was on fire), and they saw a quadrangular arrangement of depressions in the ground, later estimated by an engineer, WT Powers, to have need one ton of force to create. Four smaller marks within the quadrilateral were described as “footprints”.

Project Blue Book, when it came to investigate, was for once stymied – the object appeared to resemble no known craft or natural phenomenon.


So, to explanations: the best candidate, according to this site, is a test run of the Surveyor-3 lunar probe; it was certainly being tested in the area that morning, and operational snags could have held up tests until the late afternoon. The surveyor, though. has three feet, rather than four, but perhaps this was an early design that was later changed. What puzzles me, though, is that the craft had to be carried about by a helicopter, which Zamora did not report seeing. That Zamora could read and draw the insignia but not see helicopter rotors (or hear them when he was just fifty paces away) is just a bit too much of a stretch for me.

In recent years it’s been suggested that the incident was a hoax. Here, the idea of a lit up balloon is the main prop. Well, ok. And somehow the two people alongside it went with it? or something. All explanations and theories must explain the main points of the case: the two beings/people; the descending and ascending flame and object; the roaring noise; and the marks on the ground. The comments are especially good, especially because they never descend into the idiotic name calling etc that passes for debate elsewhere on the bottom half of the internet.

This is one the most famous and most picked-over cases, and yet over 50 years later no explanation really satisfies. I’m going to go for a real, unknown craft, and as to whose craft it was exactly, that one I’ll leave open.


Luminous, silent and eerily still

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Page 8 of issue one of The Unexplained has a brief (half a page) report of a nocturnal UFO seen at Vernon, France on 23 August 1954. One Bernard Miserey, arriving home at one in the morning, looked up at the seine to see a rather unusual sight. A cigar-shaped object, ninety metres tall, luminous and silent, was hanging over the river’s north bank, occasionally ejecting bright red discs that passed over M. Miserey’s head and disappeared over the southwestern horizon. Now you might think that Bernard had had a nice evening with a good cognac, but the event was also witnessed by two policemen and an army engineer. Charles Bowen compares this case to the Idlewild case (see previous post), trying to establish a mothership connection, and perhaps the nuts-and-bolts man accidentally hits the wrong bullseye: are they both natural phenomena rather than alien craft? The Vernon objects tell us nothing, leaving us to puzzle in perpetuity.

The internet has a few things to say here. First of all, these fascinating contemporary press accounts give conflicting information about the incident. was the main cigar green or red? They also give more information about Bernard Miserey: he was a bookseller aged 25. The army engineer refuses all publicity. the sole explanation given at the time (that it could have been the moon) is pithily dismissed by the great French ufologist Aimé Michel: “This notion has the indisputable merit to gather several miracles worthy to interest at the same time the astronomers (the Moon seen towards the North) and the psychiatrists (telepathic lie). Come on.” The moon at the time was just rising, and showing a waning crescent; it was probably not firing off luminous red flying saucers. reports (the headline “encounters with aliens on this day” does not fill me with confidence, though) that a UFO had been seen in Vernon the year before, again in August. has a little more on this – a number of UFOs were seen at a “military facility”(the nature of this facility is not given). that page is illustrated with a picture of a UFO, but with no caption it is hard to tell how relevant it is.

It is perhaps of note that Vernon has been in the business of manufacturing rocket and jet engines since 1947; another aspect of the 1954 case is that the UFO was close to the largest body of water in the immediate region; the apparent affinity for bodies of water by UFOs has been noted in the literature before.

So to summarise: a half-page article in the UFO casebook does just enough to get the main facts across, and a search of the internet, using the article as a starting point, fills in the rest and puts some kind of context around it.

“We are not alone”

UFO Casebook was a recurring feature in the magazine, and as its name indicates it simply presented classic cases, with only a slight dusting of opinion. Charles Bowen (author of The Humanoids and longstanding editor of Flying Saucer Review) wrote them all, and each case is illustrated with crayon drawings that successfully convey the main points. This first edition features three incidents which I shall cover in the next three entries; one is obscure but interesting; another is one of the most famous cases of all. But let’s begin with a case from 1954, one of ufology’s finest vintage years.

“We are not alone”: radar-visual, Atlantic Ocean off Labrador, 29 June 1954


The UFO seen by Captain James Howard and the crew and passengers of the BOAC Stratocruiser Centaurus on 29 June 1954 was not a saucer, or a disc; it was, astonishingly, a shape that kept changing shape…

Howard drew some of the shapes he saw the object take: a delta wing, a telephone handset and a pear. (the shapes could – just- be an odd-shaped but stable object seen from different angles, of course). What it most reminded him of was a swarm of bees, presumably due to its changing aspect and the group of six smaller objects attending and finally merging with it. Perhaps it was a flock of birds, but the shiny and metallic look of the object (as described in the magazine; this page has him describe it as a black silhouette with a “clear edge”) would rather indicate against this.

It was an unusual radar-visual case in that more than one radar set was involved – on the Stratocruiser, on the Sabre jet sent to intercept the UFO, and presumably from ground control, who had ordered Howard to hold his position for half an hour just before he saw it, although the article itself doesn’t confirm this last possibility. It is a pity that there was only one camera on board the Centaurus, and that its owner slept through the whole thing.

So what else can be said about this? NICAP doesn’t like it much, (“This is not a good Unknown”) and Caelestia argues closely that the object was a mirage – explaining its sudden vanishing act. Howard himself felt it was a real flying craft, and as someone who flew real flying craft for a living, perhaps his view has some merit. Mirages certainly present bizarre and misleading images, and this is the most probable answer to case with many interesting sides to it.