'The Vehicle in the Arroyo' - Sorocco UFO Landing
An encounter with a UFO with occupants occurred in Socorro, New Mexico on April 24, 1964. The experiencer was a police officer name Lonnie Zamora. This encounter is one of the best documented events with physical trace evidence. Until this incident, reports from persons claiming to have seen small beings in connection with UFOs on the ground (CE-III or Close Encounters of the Third Kind) were looked upon with considerable disfavor within the UFO research community. After the landing near Socorro, New Mexico, confirmed by a second reputable witness, attitudes changed. The years following this event produced an unprecedented flow of reports of high credibility and strangeness:
history of the phenomena. To this day it remains a case in which all the facts involved support the witness' claims and it is this kind of case that makes the UFO phenomenon such an enduring mystery. Lonnie Zamora saw a highly unusual device of unknown origin, what can only be described as a "craft" of some kind, and he reported seeing what he believes were occupants. Despite the controversy which often surrounds the subject of UFOs, the incident at Socorro remains an example of what the UFO phenomenon is, in fact, all about.
The following information is based on facts I have gathered from various sources including conversations in person and by telephone with Mr. Lonnie Zamora. This is not intended to be a complete report on Lonnie Zamora's experience, but is intended to provide a source for some rash details about the case and to clarify others. More than anything else I have made every effort to ensure that what is here is the truth. I also owe a great deal of gratitude to Mr. Ray Stanford, one of the most thorough and knowledgeable investigators I have met. He arrived in Socorro within four days of the incident and authored the definitive book on Zamora's experience and the subsequent investigation. I recommend it to anyone seriously interested in this case and in the subject of UFO's in general. Socorro "Saucer" in a Pentagon Pantry is available in major libraries but can be obtained from the author.
Socorro is a small town located about an hours drive south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. In April 1964, Lonnie Zamora was a police officer with the town and late in the afternoon on April, 24th he had just dropped his pursuit of a speeding car to go check on what he thought might have been an explosion on the outskirts of town. Thinking that a small shack containing dynamite might have exploded, he made his way up a rough embankment and then moved slowly along a narrow gravel road that wound beside a small arroyo (a shallow dry gully). From this first more distant vantage point he saw what he thought might have been an overturned car down in the arroyo and radioed back to his headquarters that he was proceeding to check out this 'vehicle'. It was from here that he saw what he described as possibly two children or small adults, and he noted that one appeared startled at his approach and seemed to "jump somewhat".
He moved further along the gravel road and finally stopped his car at the point where he believed he had previously seen the vehicle in the arroyo. It was at this point that he heard what he later could describe as several loud "thumps" or "slams", similar to metal hitting metal. As he left his patrol car and proceeded towards the gully, he had not gone more than a few steps before he had a full view of an elongated oval shaped object on "girder-like" legs. In that instant a loud roar and bluish flame shot out of the underside of the object and it began to rise. Zamora did not hesitate...he hit the ground thinking it was about to explode, then got up running and jumped down on the other side of the gravel road. He heard a whirring noise and watched the object rise up out of the arroyo, the legs he saw moments before were no longer apparent. He noted that the object had risen to perhaps 20 feet above the bottom of the gully when suddenly the sound stopped completely. There was no more flame visible and he watched as the now-silent vehicle moved off parallel to the terrain picking up speed as it left the area. He watched it move off into the distance and it eventually disappeared from view.
Almost immediately upon the object having left the area, State Police Sargeant Sam Chavez arrived having overheard Zamora who had radioed wildly to his dispatcher hoping that someone else might be able to see the object. Together they noted the evidence left in the arroyo...a half burned bush, four angular impressions in the sandy soil where the "legs" had been, and several small footprints and other impressions.
From an oil painting based on photographs taken of the actual landing site. The image portrays the object just as it began to lift off and from a viewpoint near where Mr. Zamora reportedly stood. Mr. Zamora has seen this illustration and stated that it is a good representation of what he observed, though he felt that the "legs" might have been extended slightly further than is portrayed. The dimensions presented however are taken from both the witnesses description and the exact measurements provided by investigators of the impressions in the soil.
Ever since the first report that Zamora had seen some type of symbol on the side of the craft there had been some confusion about just what that symbol was. He had drawn and described this symbol to several people soon after the incident, and what appeared to be discrepancies in the description had arisen from various sources. There does appear to be some support for believing that the symbol that was widely circulated early on may have actually been a variation of the actual one. The idea that a substitute might have been circulated by the investigative personnel from the Air Force or other governmental agencies as a way to guard against copycat reports has some merit. Though the actual shape may not be ultimately important to the overall case I did make an effort to try to obtain an honest description of just what Zamora saw. In one of our telephone conversations he clarified to me that he had never been told -not- to relate the actual shape and he gave me a description which I realized was slightly different from what I had heard and seen before. I was curious about this and shortly afterward I sent him several pages of small sketches which covered various details of his sighting. I included several variations of this symbol including one that matched what I had seen in other places and one that matched what I thought he had described to me. I asked him to merely place a check mark by whichever sketch matched his recollection. Below are several sections of the sheets I sent him, and his check marks are visible. But on the section showing the symbols, he was nice enough to actually redraw what he had seen.
Of all the evidence that could be presented to support the contention that what Lonnie Zamora saw was something totally unexplained, perhaps nothing is more compelling than this brief article. It appeared in the formerly classified CIA publication entitled "Studies in Intelligence" from the fall of 1966. It was written by Hector Quintanilla, Jr., the former head of the Air Force's Project Bluebook.
It gives a history and methodology of the Air Force's investigation of UFO's, and after presenting many of the prosaic explanations that had been encountered, he concluded his article with a synopsis of a "Policeman's Report" in which he described the Socorro incident. One short quote from this article in itself makes a profound statement about the reality of some UFO reports.
"There is no doubt that Lonnie Zamora saw an object which left quite an impression on him. There is also no question about Zamora"s reliability. He is a serious police officer, a pillar of his church, and a man well versed in recognizing airborne vehicles in his area. He is puzzled by what he saw, and frankly, so are we. This is the best-documented case on record, and still we have been unable, in spite of thorough investigation, to find the vehicle or other stimulus that scared Zamora to the point of panic."
This document was approved for release on January, 2, 1981 and is available to anyone under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
It is my hope that this information is useful to anyone wanting to know more about the subject of unidentified flying objects. Even I find it easy to become disillusioned at times when I find that almost all the readily available information is made up of fantastic claims made by people who offer no valid proof. However, anyone who looks closely will be able to find that there are many cases, like the Socorro incident, that clearly indicate something physically real, and of a high degree of strangeness, is being seen by honest, reliable witnesses. - Chris Lambright - CUFON
At about 5:45 p.m. on Friday, April 24, 1964 Socorro policeman Lonnie Zamora was chasing a speeding car when his attention was drawn to a peculiar sight in the sky. "At this time I heard a roar and saw a flame in the sky to the southwest some distance away." Thinking it might be an explosion connected with a building known to contain explosives, he forgot about the car chase, and sped off in the direction of the UFO.
The next time he saw it, it was on the ground, and from a distance it looked like a car that had overturned. As he drove closer, he could see that it resembled a large egg, sitting on one end and supported by slender legs. He stated:
"I saw two people in white coveralls very close to the object. One of these persons seemed to turn and look straight at my car and seemed startled -seemed to quickly jump somewhat. I don't recall noting any particular shape or possibly any hats or headgear. These persons appeared normal in shape -but possibly they were small adults or small kids."
As he drove closer, a small hill blocked his view of the object, though at one point he heard a noise like a door closing. When he could again see the object, there was no one near it. He drove as close as the rough terrain would permit, stopped, parked his police cruiser and got out, intending to walk toward the craft. At this point "I heard about two or three loud 'thumps,' like someone possibly hammering or shutting a door or doors hard. These 'thumps' were possibly a second or less apart."
The white-suited individuals were not seen after he heard the thumps. As he started towards the object, it began to roar:
"It started at a low frequency, but quickly the roar rose in frequency and in loudness... Flames were under the object... light blue and at bottom was a sort of orange color."
Assuming it might be about to explode, Zamora quickly hid behind his cruiser for protection. The roaring then stopped and he looked up to see it hovering a few feet above the ground. "It was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop." The vehicle then moved away slowly, gathering speed as it headed toward the dynamite shack, which it cleared by a few feet.
At this time, Zamora was joined by a police sergeant who watched the craft fly away into the distance. Zamora and the sergeant then walked to where it had been parked, and noted charred and singed grass, underbrush and imprints in the ground corresponding to where the vehicle had landed.
Within hours, Zamora was interviewed by U.S. Army Captain Richard T. Holder, Up-Range Commander of the White Sands Missile Range, and by FBI Special Agent Arthur Byrnes, Jr., the latter requesting that the FBI's involvement be kept secret. Zamora described the object to them:
"It was smooth - no windows or doors. As the roar started, it was still on or near the ground. There was red lettering of some type. The insignia was about 2.5 feet (75 cm.) high and about 2 feet (60 cm.) wide. It was in the middle of the object. The object was... aluminum-white."
He then drew a sketch of the object with the red "insignia": half of a circle over an inverted V with a vertical line inside and horizontal line below.
A day or two later, Dr. J. Allen Hynek arrived to investigate the report for the Air Force's Project Blue Book. In addition to questioning Zamora, Hynek measured and photographed the landing site. He located what appeared to be impressions in the ground made by the landing gear, as well as several small footprints.
The case received rapid and extensive press coverage, and the Air Force was under pressure to explain it as something less momentous than a landed spacecraft. Among the explanations considered and rejected were a rancher's helicopter and an experimental NASA lunar lander.
In the end, Project Blue Book declared the report "unsolved," and Major Hector Quintanilla, the project's final director, stated that there is no doubt that Lonnie Zamora saw an object which left quite an impression on him:
"There is also no question about Zamora's reliability. He is a serious police officer, a pillar of his church, and a man well versed in recognizing airborne vehicles in his area. He is puzzled by what he saw, and frankly, so are we. This is the best-documented case on record, and still we have been unable, in spite of thorough investigation, to find the vehicle or other stimulus that scared Zamora to the point of panic."