On April 24, 1964, in the small town of Socorro, New Mexico, Police Officer Lonnie Zamora spotted a local teenager speeding through town. Officer Zamora followed the teenager to the edge of Socorro and out into the desert. Zamora had no idea the strange twist his life was about to take:
"I could see a white object to my left there. I thought it was a turned-over car. When I got up on top of the mesa there, I looked down, and I saw this big white object on the ground. I thought I could see something around the craft there. I could see some figures. Looked like they were walking around the craft."
According to Lonnie, there were red markings on the hull, a vertical arrow with a horizontal line beneath it and a crescent-shaped line above it. Lonnie tried to radio police headquarters but was not able to break through the heavy static. After hearing two metallic sounds, like doors clanging shut, Lonnie said he noticed the small figures were gone:
"I saw this flame come up from underneath it, then I ran back behind the car, and it went up two, 20, 30 feet up in the air. It just stayed there for a while. And then, finally, it just took off slowly to the west. At first, you know, after I got to my senses, I said, 'Did I see it or didn't I, you know? What happened, you know?'"
With his radio now static free, Lonnie called an old friend, Sergeant Sam Chavez of the New Mexico State Police and told him to hurry to the site:
"I could tell that Lonnie was excited and probably scared. Lonnie Zamora, he's a very dependable, honest type of person. He's not one to create or make stories or build things up to make it exciting or anything like that."
When Sam arrived, he and Lonnie noticed what looked like landing marks on the ground:
"We found some indentation on the ground where this thing had landed and the marks into the ground were 9 inches deep, 8 inches long, and 9 inches wide. I started looking for tracks, human tracks, but the only thing I found were impressions on the ground that were made by a perfect circle. But I found no human tracks. No shoe prints."
U.S. Army officials at the nearby White Sands Missile Range sent Captain Richard T. Holder to investigate:
"My first impression was that it was something from the range that needed possible help. You know, first aid, attention, or at best, security. The more I got into it, the less convinced I was that that was the case."
Holder noticed the unusual marks left in the sand and a bush burned to a crisp on only one side:
"Everything we saw seemed to support the story that officer Zamora recounted. Nothing gave me the slightest hint that he did this as a hoax or cooked it up for fame or fortune."
After their investigation, the Air Force agreed that Lonnie saw something, but they insisted that it must have been a secret military aircraft. UFO expert and author Jerome Clark said the official explanation doesn't hold water:
"They never were able to find any such evidence that any such thing was being tested at the time. And, in fact, even today, not an iota of evidence has emerged to support that claim. Nonetheless, the Air Force line on the case is that this is a credible witness. He clearly saw some kind of structured flying vehicle and that it must have been something that we built even if we can't find it anywhere."
Air Force officials brought in Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a respected astronomer and consultant on Project Bluebook, the Air Force's official study of the UFO phenomenon. Dr. Hynek found the physical evidence convincing. But according to Jerome Clark, the most persuasive argument was Lonnie Zamora himself:
"Dr. Hynek was enormously impressed by Lonnie Zamora. He thought there was virtually no possibility of a hoax. He expressed huge disdain for the Bluebook handling of the report. And he said it was clear that the story that Bluebook had cooked up about this possibly being some kind of experimental aircraft was a story that even Bluebook knew to be untrue, but which was invented to keep Congress from harassing the Air Force."
How do we explain what Lonnie Zamora saw? No matter what others believe, Lonnie has no doubt that what he witnessed was not of this earth:
"If they want to believe me, good. If they don't want to believe me, it's all right, too."