One of the most widely-read UFO stories in history has been revealed as a likely hoax as a letter turns up just after the 65th year anniversary of the oft-repeated story containing all the necessary elements of a good science fiction tale from the era. For those who haven’t heard the tale, here’s one last re-telling for old time’s sake.
Lonnie Zamora of the Socorro NM Police department was on the clock, when he spotted a speeding car and flipped his lights and siren on. But it was that driver’s lucky day, and a day that would change Lonnie’s life forever. A tremendous boom spurred Deputy Zamora to stop pursuing the speeder, and instead turn to a nearby hill where he saw a cone of flame disappear behind it. Thinking it may be linked to a nearby dynamite shack, Zamora crept his car to the crest where he stopped thirty yards or so from a 20-foot tall enigma that would perplex listeners the world over. It was smooth, and oval shaped, resting on solid legs, with a “aluminum-white” color to it. As Zamora’s mind raced to figure out what this device could possibly be, he noticed two figures “the size of small adults or large kids… normal in shape… (wearing) white coveralls” walking around the ship. Zamora indicated that the object had no doors or windows, but rather had a red symbol emblazoned across the front.
Zamora, not sure how to proceed, unbuckled his seat-belt and opened his door. Somehow on the way out, however, his glasses got knocked off and just as he was retrieving them he saw a flame jet from the underside of the craft and it was flying away. He heard a shrill whine, and it traveled with exceptional celerity over him and a nearby shack, before disappearing over another hill. Zamora, left by himself, walked down to the site of the craft and noted four impressions in the dirt where the craft had been. Nearby a creosote bush smoldered. Zamora radioed another officer, declaring the object looked like a balloon, but that he couldn’t be sure. Later he would say it could have been government or even, as many would believe in time, alien in origin. For sixty-five years this story was told, and then finally it died when a Dr. Stirling Colgate claimed via letter that he had a very good idea of the persons responsible for the hoax. This was later confirmed by Dr. Frank T. Etcorn, and Dave Collis, both of New Mexico Tech after some old fashioned gumshoe interrogation by investigator Anthony Bragalia. Unfortunately, the perpetrator of this puerile prank’s name has been either lost to antiquity, or no one at NM Tech is talking.
But before the UFOlogist or researcher takes this hoax as a sign that the credibility of paranormal research has taken a blow, and that skepticism equals truth, consider this; the skeptics largely got this one wrong too. Donald Menzel started off on the right track, but then later changed his theory of the Socorro affair saying that Mr. Zamora had likely, ‘misidentified a dust-devil’ as two people and a flying exploding ship complete with flames from the posterior. Well respected journalist and UFO skeptic Philip J. Klass suggested that the sighting was likely misidentified ball lightning, then Klass claimed Zamora had hatched up the scheme along with the mayor in order to boost tourism in the town and create a land-mark styled theme attraction for newcomers. It seems like this classic story, though put out to pasture, is evidence that when it comes to the paranormal, skepticism isn’t always truth, witnesses aren’t always lying, and a man can unwittingly gain notoriety and fame over-night if he only looks in the right place to find the truth.