UFO landing abuzz half century later

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Kathy Richardson still gets a little excited when talking about the infamous unidentified object landing that’s alleged to have taken place in Socorro 50 years ago today.

Anthony Welch — El Defensor Chieftain: A mural honoring Socorro police officer Lonnie Zamora — who is said to have spotted the UFO south of Socorro — was painted in 2012 by Erika Burleigh. The mural is located on Park Street, south of N.M. 60, across from the RV park.

Born and raised in Socorro, Richardson married and left town to live Hobbs, N.M., back then. That’s where she first got word of the incident of Socorro police officer Lonnie Zamora spotting a UFO just south of town.

“I was pretty excited,” Richardson said. “My mom and dad came out the next day and saw the burned spots.”

Richardson’s family owns the land where the incident took place. Richardson’s father, Buford, purchased the property a few years after the UFO landing took place, she said.

That well-documented night, Zamora observed a four-legged, egg-shaped craft in a gully south of town on April 24, 1964, according to an article printed in the April 28, 1964, edition of the Chieftain. Zamora stood an estimated 150 yards from the unidentified object and watched it rise straight up in the air and head over Six-Mile Canyon, the article said.

“It’s a classic case,” Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) New Mexico State Director Don Burleson said. “It has drawn quite a bit of attention over the years.”

Burleson, who’s been involved with MUFON for 16 years, feels the Socorro case is one of the top three UFO cases in New Mexico, if not the No. 1 case. Numerous witnesses make the Socorro case more intriguing than the Roswell case of 1947, according to Burleson.

Besides Zamora, State Police Sgt. Sam Chavez saw the object take off as he drove toward the scene, Burleson said. Later, a carload of tourists witnessed the craft fly just over their vehicle. Other people saw the object flying up around M Mountain, Burleson added.

“Quality of the witnesses is an important thing,” he said. “When you have state police involved, those are very no-nonsense people. If they say something happened, it did I think.”

Socorro City Councilor Gordy Hicks visited the site of the landing the day after it happened. The 15-year-old Hicks ventured out with his mother to the area south of town.

“They called my mother out there to take pictures of it because she was the only photographer in town,” he said. “You could see something definitely landed out there.”

The smell of burnt weeds was undeniable at the scene, according Hicks. There were four distinctive holes in the ground where the object landed. Each was around 8 to 10 inches deep and shaped like an oven dish, he added. The sides of each hole went straight down, then angled in 45 degrees and then flattened out at the bottoms, according to Hicks.

A quick Google search of the Socorro landing garners countless articles and blogs about the incident. Some speculate the landing was a hoax or possibly a prank by college students. Burleson doesn’t buy those rumors one bit. It happened, he said. The proof is in the evidence.

“Metal fragments found on rocks at the scene were analyzed and found to be an unfamiliar alloy. It couldn’t have been a hoax. It’s impossible,” Burleson mentioned. “I’m one of the hard science guys in this field. I don’t believe everything I hear or see. We do our best in MUFON to keep it scientific.”

Word spread fast around town following the incident, Hicks said. It was the hot topic of conversation at school the next week. Hicks feels fortunate to have been at the site the day after.

“It was just neat being there and seeing part of history,” he said.

MUFON will host it’s statewide meeting 1:30 to 4 p.m. this Saturday at Socorro Public Library. Burleson will present a slideshow on the Zamora incident. In addition, Paul Garver, assistant state director, will present “Enchanted Skies: New Mexico UFO Sightings, 2001-2010,” which examines the data surrounding UFO reports made to MUFON.

A special segment of the presentation will feature Socorro-related sightings.

The program is free and open to all who wish to attend.

 

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