The city of Levelland, in Hockley County, Texas, in the United States, is a mostly quiet place with nothing on the surface all that exceptionable about it. With plenty of cotton fields and a cozy, small-town atmosphere, it seems remarkably rural despite its present population of around 13,542, and it is a place many people could drive right on past without giving much thought to it. Yet, in 1957 this sleepy little corner of Texas became ground zero for a series of intense UFO sightings that captured the imagination of the nation, put Levelland on the map, and has gone on to become held up as one of the most remarkable UFO events in history.
It began on November 2, 1957, when police officer A.J. Fowler was at his desk spacing out on a typical quiet evening at the Levelland police department, but the night was about to get very bizarre indeed. A phone call came in from two scared and panicked sounding men who turned out to be immigrant farm workers by the names of Pedro Saucedo and Joe Salaz, and who claimed to have just witnessed a UFO. His attention piqued and the sleepiness banished from his head, Fowler asked what had happened and was told that the two had been driving in a pickup truck about 6 miles outside of town when a very bright, cigar-shaped object measuring an estimated 200 feet in length had come speeding towards them as the vehicle suddenly stalled and the headlights cut out to leave them bathed in an otherworldly blue light. As the thing barreled towards them they were so afraid that it was going to hit them that they had apparently leapt from the truck to take refuge in a ditch. The witnesses said the strange craft had passed over them, creating a disturbance that actually caused the vehicle to tremble and shake, as well as a blast of heat like an oven door open, and then continued on into the night, after which their truck had abruptly started up once again.
Fowler didn’t take this report very seriously at first, and just assumed it was a prank or that the men had maybe had a bit too much to drink, but he made a note of it. He probably would have forgotten all about it if there wasn’t another call just about 45 minutes later, this time from a man named Jim Wheeler, who claimed to have seen a “brilliantly lit, egg-shaped object, about 200 feet long” actually sitting on the pavement just 4 miles outside of Levelland. Like in the first call, Wheeler claimed that his vehicle had sputtered out and rolled to a stop as he approached, and he stated that when he got out of his car to investigate the object shot straight up into the sky with great speed and a blast of heat. As soon as the UFO was gone, his car had started back up and worked normally.
This second report was enough to make Fowler take notice, but this was not even the end of it. Over the next 2 hours, between approximately 11:30 PM and 1:30 AM, a total of 15 additional reports would come in all describing the same thing. In every case the witnesses were either buzzed by the object or saw it perched on the road, and in every instance the vehicle had stopped and lost power, only to turn back on when the craft was gone. The object seen was also described in the same way, egg or cigar-shaped, a brilliant blue, and measuring between 100 and 200 feet long. This was enough that the police were already going out to see what was going on, and it was then that even some of them would see something strange in the sky, such as a Sheriff Weir Clem, who saw a bright red object, and Levelland’s Fire Chief, Ray Jones, who claimed that the object had made his vehicle stall and had caused his headlights to flicker as it drew near, and by some accounts even Fowler himself saw the thing.
By now the sightings and UFO wave hitting Levelland had hit the media and it was all over the news, which also drew the attention of the government. The U.S. Air Force sent investigators to the scene from their UFO unit called Project Blue Book, and the whole affair was quickly dismissed as having all been caused by severe electrical storms, possibly combined with the phenomena called ball lightning and St. Elmo’s Fire. As far as the Air Force was concerned, that was that, but this was far from satisfactory for many. Many other researchers, including physicist Dr. James E. McDonald and astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who was even one of project Blue Book’s top investigators, disputed the official findings, immediately pointing out that the Blue Book investigator at the scene had only spent 7 hours casually interviewing witnesses and not really taking any of it seriously. It was also seen as unlikely that ball lightning or an electrical storm could cause vehicles to just stop and turn on again, and even more damning was that it seemed that there had been no such storm in the area at the time in the first place. Hynek would say:
As the person responsible for the tracking of the new Soviet satellite Sputnik, 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 [the Air Force’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. This was shown not to be the case. Observers reported overcast and mist but no lightning. Had I given it any thought whatsoever, I would soon have recognized the absence of any evidence that ball lightning can stop cars and put out headlights.
The Levelland UFO flap is exceptional in that the town only had a population of 10,000 people at the time, and yet produced an intense wave of over a dozen sightings within a 2-hour period, including police officers and the fire marshal. What was going on here? Was the government trying to cover it up by sweeping it all under the carpet with a curt, easily digestible answer? There had been much debate about this case, and no one can really say what is going on, but it certainly stand out as one of the most spectacular UFO waves in recent memory.