An unanswered question


I never did get to meet Lonnie Zamora.



I might have had a close encounter of the spurned kind last year, but that might just be my imagination running wild. I have to take the word of an officer of the law that Lonnie had to cancel due to a trip to the doctor’s office.

Lawrence Romero was police chief at the time and he’d known Lonnie for a long time. Romero said he wouldn’t mind asking Lonnie if he’d be willing to meet with me — not necessarily as a journalistic pursuit on my part. I just wanted to meet Socorro’s most reluctant celebrity and was willing to play by whatever rules Lonnie laid down.

But if the rule was that I could only ask him one question, I think it would have been: “Lonnie, what do you think it was?”

As far as I know, he never answered that question. He just reported what he saw and let others draw conclusions.

The front-page story by Lloyd Jojola in this edition does a good job of describing what Lonnie had to live through since that fateful day — April 24, 1964 — when he spotted something most unusual on the south end of town. It remains one of the most credible UFO reports on record, largely because Lonnie was such a credible source. (There was also evidence discovered at the site — impressions in the earth from the legs of the contraption, and scorched brush and fused sand presumably from the heat of the burners — observed by dozens of other credible witnesses.)

By all accounts, Lonnie was as honest as the day is long. If there’s one thing that’s a given in regard to Socorro’s alleged UFO landing it’s that Lonnie was telling the truth. He never changed his story and he never tried to capitalize on his notoriety. He just wished the whole thing had never happened.

There’s no doubt in my mind that whatever it was that Lonnie saw land in the desert that day, take off again and disappear over the mountain was a UFO. It was an object, it flew and it has never been positively identified.

Some have tried, floating various possible explanations, including that it was only a balloon. Most recently “new evidence” has been introduced — a letter that suggests it was all a hoax engineered by a group of New Mexico Tech students.

Nevermind that it’s nothing more than hearsay taken from second- and thirdhand accounts. I know there’s a lot of people smarter than I’ll ever be over there at Tech, but I can’t accept that some Techie’s science project would have fooled Lonnie, not to mention trained military investigators. And besides, I’ve never known a secret in Socorro to remain a secret for longer than 45 minutes, much less 45 years.

It seems more likely that the letter’s a hoax — and it would certainly be a whole lot easier to pull off. It’s unfortunate that in the last weeks of his life Lonnie had to suffer the indignity of having his credibility called into question one more time.

So what was it really?

I’m no ufologist, but I have two theories that seem most logical to my admittedly twisted mind.

1) It was an experimental aircraft — perhaps a prototype to the lunar module, but that’s just a guess.

At the time of the incident the U.S. was in a race with the Russians to be first to land a man on the moon. I speculate it might have been something that wandered over from White Sands Missile Range. The government is good at keeping secrets, especially things classified as “Top Secret,” so I could buy the explanation that it was a secret government project.

It doesn’t explain why they went through the trouble of sending Air Force investigators to look into the matter, but maybe that’s part of the coverup.

2) It was an alien aircraft from some other planet in the universe.

I don’t think you can look up at the zillions of stars in the sky and not consider it a real possibility that there is life elsewhere and, if there is, it’s a lot more advanced than us. So I won’t discount the possibility that Lonnie might have seen something that was literally from out of this world.

So the question remains: what did Lonnie think it was?

I never got a chance to ask him.

To make a long story short, the meeting never happened. On the appointed day, Lonnie was nowhere to be found. Chief Romero told me later that Lonnie had to go see a doctor, and I have no reason to doubt that explanation either.

Even if he did spurn me, I’m OK with that. The man probably just wanted to be left alone. May he finally rest in peace.