Alternate Perceptions Magazine, September 2023
The Fall 1957 Flying Saucer Flap - A Snapshot Look
by: Rick Hilberg
1957 was a pivotal year for the so-called "Space Race" between the United States and the Soviet Union as the U.S. Vanguard rocket failed to launch a satellite into space and the Soviets went on to launch their Sputnik I to beat the Americans and gain prestige as being the first nation into space with an artificial satellite. Therefore, matters relating to space were headline news just about every day and people were scanning the skies hoping to catch a glimpse of the Russian "moon". With so many eyes focused on the skies, maybe it was only natural that UFOs would be seen and reported to the news media. Anyway, for a brief time the space focus shifted from the Russian engineering triumph to those weird things in the sky being reported by folks all over the country.
What follows is a brief overview of just what Americans were seeing and reporting during an anxious time in the Cold War.
Levelland, Texas was a big West Texas oil and cotton town of some ten thousand souls that fall of 1957. Saturday night, November 2nd started out like any other until Pedro Saucedo and Joe Salaz, two typical farm hands, were driving in a truck toward a farm in Pettit. However, Saucedo suddenly spotted a strange object rise from a field and come towards their truck. Then the truck's engine died and the headlights began to dim.
"The thing passed directly over my truck with a great sound and a rush of wind," Saucedo said. "It sounded like thunder and my truck rocked from the blast. I felt a lot of heat." The object, whatever it was, was of a torpedo-shape.
Saucedo and Salaz were not the only ones to spot something mighty strange around Levelland that night, as five other people traveling in separate cars all reported seeing an egg-shaped thing estimated at some 200 feet long causing their engines and headlights to fail. Additionally, all of the five agreed to the size of the thing and that it was of a bluish-green color.
Local Sheriff Weir Clem of Levelland, his deputy Pat McCullough, as well as other area lawmen also viewed the strange egg. Clem said a beam of light projected onto the highway in front of him and his deputy early Sunday morning. He described the bright beam as being about six feet high, 50 yards wide and from 350 to 400 yards long. Clem estimated they were some 300 to 400 yards away from the thing.
Levelland wasn't the only place spotting strange flying eggs that Saturday night. Amarillo Airport Control Tower operators Calvin Harris and Sandy McKean observed a "blue gaseous object which moved swiftly and left an amber trail southeast of the city." And a "streak of light like a fireball" was reported moving toward the southwest at about 8:00 p.m. by one Odis Echols, owner of radio station KCLV in Clovis, New Mexico.
At about 3:30 that Sunday, the 3rd, an MP jeep patrol at the site of the first atomic bomb blast at White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico observed a "very bright light" in the sky, which descended to about 50 yards above the old atomic bunkers before it went out. The MP patrol consisted of Corporal Glenn Toy and a Pfc. named Wilbanks. Shortly after the object blinked out, according to Toy, it "became real bright, like the sun, then fell in an angle to the ground and went out."
Toy estimated that the egg-shaped thing was from 75 to 100 yards in diameter, and about some three miles distant from their position. While no physical evidence was left by the thing, another patrol saw a "large bright light" hanging 50 feet above the old bunkers about 8: 00 p.m. later that Sunday. They stated that the object rose into the sky at a 45-degree angle , started blinking on and off, and then disappeared.
According to 1st Lt. Miles Penney, the MP's Commanding Officer, none of the men had heard of the goings-on in the Levelland area.
Also, on that Sunday evening, Mrs. Mary Cahill reported sighting a "large, inverted ice cream cone, glowing with fire" as she drove toward Tucson, Arizona at about 7:00 p.m. The flying cone rose from the horizon heading in a westerly direction, said Cahill, then it briefly hung motionless, after which it moved off in an erratic manner and disappeared within a few brief seconds.
And on Monday, November 4th the action shifted to the Chicago area.
Police Patrolmen Cliff Schau and Joe Lukashek, and Fireman Robert Volz were riding in an Elmwood Park, Illinois patrol car at 3:12 a.m. when they sighted an object "shaped like an egg... the color of sunset" hovering over the Elmwood Park Cemetary. Said Patrolman Lukashek , "It seemed to be landing and folding into itself like a parachute." And when they turned a spotlight on the thing, "it puffed up into a ball again and moved away at 65 miles an hour."
Patrolman Schau said it was "sort of bright orange, with maybe a little red. It was very bright. I switched off our lights and started following it. When we got close, I turned the lights back on and then it shot up about 200 feet in the air. We followed it at about 65 mph, but could not catch it. It moved at a very high rate of speed... all of us saw the thing, so there must be something to it. We can't all be seeing things."
The three witnesses lost sight of the object at 3:22 near the Elmwood Park and Franklin Park boundary line. "Our motor didn't stall" , Schau added, "but our lights flickered a couple of times. I shined the big spotlight on the object and the light almost went out."
James W. Stokes, a missile engineer at Holloman AFB in New Mexico, was driving along New Mexico Highway 54, near Orogrande later that Monday when he experienced his car radio starting to act up and fade out. "Then my automobile began slowing down and came to a stop. Ahead of me, several cars were stopped on the side of the road and people were pointing up at the sky. I immediately got out my notebook and observed this object."
Stokes told newspaper reporters, "I saw a brilliant-colored egg-shaped object making a shallow dive across the sky to the northeast. Then it turned and made a pass at the highway and crossed it not more than two miles ahead. Then it moved toward White Sands...As it passed...I could feel a kind of heat, like radiation from a giant sun lamp. But there was no sound. It had no visible portholes and there was no vapor trail. When I got back into the car and checked the engine, I found it intact but the battery was steaming. But the engine started with no difficulty." It's interesting to note that Stokes later complained of a condition similar to a sunburn on his exposed skin.
Stokes said the object seemed to have depth, "was oval shaped." Its surface appeared like "glowing mother of pearl." He also estimated it speed to be at least Mach 2, and its size was "about 500 feet long."
Although Stokes claimed that up to ten other cars were stopped by the object, newsmen could find no additional witnesses to the encounter coming forward.
On Tuesday, November 5th, the Coast Guard Cutter "Sebago" tracked a mysterious unidentified object from 5:10 until 5:37 a.m. both visually and by radar over the Gulf of Mexico. Ensign Wayne Shockley described the UFO as a "bright point of light with no definite shape, resembling the planet Venus." Commander Clarence Waring said the thing was tracked on radar traveling from 240 to 900 mph, changing directions frequently and, for a short time, remaining stationary.
In the coming days and weeks, more reports of mysterious objects would be reported to authorities and news outlets all across the United States. Sputnik definitely was upstaged for a brief moment in time...