Prolific author, scholar, and unidentified flying object (UFO) researcher Kevin D. Randle is a retired US Army officer who has spent more than four decades writing about UFOs and related paranormal events. Mr. Randle is considered the leading expert on the famous 1947 Roswell, New Mexico, UFO sighting and his forthcoming book, Encounter in the Desert: The Case for Alien Contact at Socorro, shines new light on another significant reported extraterrestrial encounter in the Land of Enchantment. His blog discussing paranormal topics is appropriately called “A Different Perspective.” Mr. Randle graciously agreed to answer a few questions about his new book and the general public’s fascination with the possibility that travelers from other planets have visited our galactic neighborhood.
Riley Mitchell: In late April, 1964, a local policeman named Lonnie Zamora filed a report indicating that he had witnessed a UFO landing in a field outside of the town of Socorro, New Mexico. Your new book, Encounter in the Desert: The Case for Alien Contact at Socorro, reviews the details of this intriguing sighting and newly explores a range of evidence about the events reported by Officer Zamora. What makes this incident different from other UFO sightings?
Kevin D. Randle: It is a landing trace case in which the occupants of the craft were seen outside it. Within minutes of the craft taking off, Zamora was joined by another policeman and within an hour or so, there were others on the scene. The markings were photographed and were seen by a number of people. While it seemed that this was a single witness case, we now know there were others as well. The case is much more robust than we thought and there are multiple chains of evidence for it including the landing traces.
RM: You make the case that this incident has not really received the appropriate level of attention from UFO investigators. Why do you think that has been true?
KDR: The misperception that it was single witness. While the bulk of the eyewitness testimony rests with Lonnie Zamora, there are others who saw and heard the craft. The case is mentioned in nearly every book that outlines the history of the sighting, but all of that information revolves around Zamora. There is much more to it, but I think the location and now the time that has passed have tended to isolate it. Attention is being drawn to the case by such UFO researchers as Ben Moss and Tony Angiola.
RM: During the research for this book you were granted access to some recently discovered file materials from Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s 1950s-60s program to investigate UFO phenomena. Would you talk a bit about why these “new” files are important and what they helped explain about the Socorro case?
KDR: The material was discovered by Rob Mercer and seemed to be “unofficial” copies of much that was in the Project Blue Book files. There were some differences between the two and that provided insight into the case itself.
The biggest difference was in the symbol [a marking on the UFO] that Zamora saw. Here, I think it complicated the case until we were able to determine what had gone on back in 1964. While it is clear that Captain Richard Holder suggested that they not release the exact symbol as a way to check those who came forward later, it was this that led to some of the trouble. I think we’ve gotten it sorted out now . . . and I should say that the early civilian investigators, primarily Coral and Jim Lorenzen, agreed with the decision. In the world today, I think we know what the symbol Zamora saw looked like, but it has caused some confusion.
RM: How likely is it that Zamora simply stumbled upon a government test of early spaceflight equipment from nearby White Sands Missile Range or fell victim to an elaborate prank by the engineering students at Socorro’s New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology?
KDR: The Air Force, particularly Hector Quintanilla who was the chief of Blue Book, searched for a government program that would explain the case. As he said himself, he had unrestricted access to what was going on during those research programs and found nothing that would account for the sighting. This included his review of records and documents, and interviews with those conducting the research. He was stumped. He did say that he thought it had to be some sort of black project but he couldn’t find any evidence of it and that was why he listed the case as “Unidentified.”
Although my friend, Tony Bragalia, would disagree, I found no persuasive evidence that it was a student hoax. If you only had Zamora’s sighting, there might have been a possibility, but when you add in other testimony and the connections that J. Allen Hynek, the Air Force consultant who visited the site within days, had with the president at the school, that seems to rule it out. Had it been a student hoax, that would have been discovered.
RM: Are we getting any closer to having definitive data that finally solves the mystery of whether UFOs are evidence of extraterrestrial visitations to Earth?
KDR: Unfortunately, I think we have been spinning our wheels for a long time. We have some very interesting cases with multiple chains of evidence but we are lacking that one, definitive thing to prove the case. Somehow that seems to elude us and while I see some very good work being done, we seem to get swamped by so many others who have personal agendas that good data is often lost. Until we begin to coordinate the effort and begin to use proper investigative and scientific methods, we’re not going to advance.
RM: Why do UFOs and the possibility that we may not be alone in the universe both fascinate and confound us?
KDR: For me it’s the opportunity that it affords. Our space program has been fairly stagnant for decades, and by that, I mean our personal explorations rather than some of the wonderful things done such as New Horizons [NASA’s space probe launched in 2006 to study Pluto and Kuiper Belt Objects]. But all that is really limited to our Solar System. It took years for the probe to reach Pluto which is part of our system. To reach the nearest star, with our current ability, would take thousands of years . . . but, if we are being visited, then the problems with interstellar flight have been solved. It would move us out of the Solar System much faster.
It is also the mystery about what is out there. We don’t have any good answers and if we could get out there, we’d have some of those as well.