Fifty years ago tonight on November 2, 1957 - and coincidentally about an hour after the Russians launched Sputnik 2 carrying the first passenger ever lifted into orbit, Laika the dog - one of the best known and well documented cases of UFO close encounters took place on the outskirts of Levelland, Texas, population 10,000.
Patrolman A. J. Fowler, on duty that night, received the first call at about 11pm and would receive another 14 different calls over the next two and a half hours. Among the witnesses were Levelland's sheriff and the town's fire chief who confirmed they too observed something pass across the highway in front of them. Most of the reports depicted the object as a brightly lit torpedo or cigar-shaped flat-bottomed object, eyewitnesses pretty consistently described the UFO as a glowing, pulsating bluish-green. The first call came from Pedro Saucedo, traveling with a co-worker named Joe Salaz. While driving down Route 116, about 4 miles west of Levelland, an object suddenly rose into the air from a nearby field. Saucedo estimated that it was 200 feet in length, and soon was flying at speeds around 800 miles per hour. While passing over their truck there was a sound of “thunder” and a “rush of wind.” The truck rocked from the blast, and both passengers felt “a lot of heat." As the object flew over the truck, the headlights went out and the engine stalled, but as the UFO vanished into the distance the engine restarted easily and the lights worked normally. In total, there were at least seven separate UFO incidents that night reporting either a car or a truck becoming disabled, but recovering each time the UFO departed.
Head of the Air Force’s Project Blue Book, Captain G. T. Gregory, quickly suggested that the UFO’s sightings were merely ball lightning; there had been reports of an electrical storm in the area earlier in the day. However, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a physicist at the University of Arizona, who initially agreed with Captain Gregory, later dismissed the possibility of ball lightning when he learned that though the night was overcast and misty, there were no reports of thunder or lightning near Levelland. Later Dr Hynek also offered the view that there has never been any evidence suggesting ball lightning could temporarily kill a vehicles engine and lights in such a manner. Some conspiracy theorists have suggested that perhaps some sort of “weapon or device” was being “tested” on automobiles during the late 50’s, accounting for the unexplained UFO activity, and the flurry of similar events. For a while, after the Levelland UFO Incident, such reports came in on almost a daily basis.