|Alleged UFO landing at Socorro, NM, 1964|
The famous Socorro “UFO landing” case of April 24, 1964, has been proclaimed by leading UFOlogists, such as Jacques Vallee and the late J. Allen Hynek, as among the best ever recorded. Policeman Lonnie Zamora allegedly witnessed two humanoids standing outside a landed craft, which then flew away with a loud roar. The object’s landing pads allegedly left behind four indentations in the ground, and nearby vegetation was scorched and burning. Could this classic UFO incident have been a hoax perpetrated by students at the New Mexico Institute of Technology? That’s exactly what UFOlogist Anthony Bragalia, who usually argues the pro side of UFO discussions, claims....
In a September 23, 2009, blog entry, Bragalia wrote, “The Socorro UFO Hoax Exposed! (Famous 1964 sighting was a college prank).” The principal support for this conclusion was found in a scribbled reply to a letter by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling to Stirling Colgate, a noted physicist who also served as president of New Mexico Tech. The 1968 letter recently discovered in Pauling’s papers has Pauling asking Colgate, purely as an aside from other matters, about the famous UFO incident that occurred in Socorro, just a short distance from his campus. Colgate’s brief and enigmatic reply was, “I have a good indication of the student who engineered the hoax. Student has left. Cheers, Stirling”
Officer Lonnie Zamora
While there were a few others in the New Mexico Tech community who also hinted at knowledge of a hoax, the matter was never proven, and how such a hoax might be pulled off was, unfortunately, never explained. The noted UFO skeptic, the late Philip J. Klass, visited Socorro in 1966 and interviewed Zamora and others who had first-hand knowledge of the incident. Klass was puzzled by how little interest there was among the scientists at New Mexico Tech in what might be the first genuine alien encounter in recorded history, occurring literally in their backyard. Klass wrote, “When I pressed one member of the community to explain his apparent indifference, he suggested that I ‘nose around a bit,’” and he went on to explain that the town was seeking to attract tourists to strengthen its economy. Klass also noted the curious lack of symmetry in the “pad prints” supposedly left behind, illustrating how unsuitable such an unstable design would be for any craft. Klass concluded that the incident was a hoax to 'put Socorro on the map,' a collusion probably involving Zamora, the mayor, and a few others. If that is the case, Socorro has not been nearly as successful at milking UFO notoriety as another New Mexico town named Roswell. The assumption that the incident was a student hoax instead of one perpetrated by publicity-seeking town leaders changes Zamora from an 'active participant' to 'victim of the hoax,' which frankly seems more plausible.
“It was a prank and I was very concerned for Officer Zamora.”But how exactly was it done? Bragalia writes,
“No one would come forward on this, they were all embarrassed.”
“So many things were pressuring me and still are about this.”
“I did not feel that I could add anything by pressuring the students, and recognized it as a prank.”
“The students were embarrassed about the possible harm that could have come to Zamora (from the prank.)”
Two students standing in white lab suits - the "aliens" - and one driving the speeding car to lure Zamora, the intended victim of the hoax, to the spot where the hoaxers needed him to be. If you want more details, read Bragalia's piece.
Beauty is often found in simplicity. And so it is with Socorro. For all of the speculations about the hoax involving such things as tethers, remote control and flame throwers - it needn't be and wasn't. In the August 8th email from Stirling Colgate, he opened up even a bit further about how the students had hoaxed Lonnie. I had of course always wanted to know from him just exactly how the deed was done. How did the students do it?
I stated to Colgate that he must know how they did it- and directly asked of him:
“How did they do it? What was the craft made of?”
His short but telling reply:
“A candle in a balloon. Not sophisticated.”
I also asked of Stirling how many were “in on the hoax?” Again, a short reply received:
“I’d say about 3-6”
Is this proof that the incident was a student hoax? Not yet, but we're getting closer. To me a guy like Dr. Colgate has a lot of credibility in "telling it like it was." Now that almost 50 years have passed since the incident, and Zamora has passed away, it is time for those involved to step forward and proudly confess their role in one of the greatest hoaxes in the history of UFOs.