By KRQE News 13SOCORRO, NM -- Something strange happened in the desert near Socorro NM, on a spring night 42 years ago, and a State Police officer was there to report it.
It has become known as the Zamora UFI Incident, named for officer Lonnie Zamora. While not as publicized as the legendary Roswell Incident, this UFO landing made national headlines at the time sparking intrigue and speculation ever since.
Experts who investigated the case have no doubt that he saw what he said he saw. But after years of harassment and ridicule, Zamora, now 73 and living in Socorro, vowed in 1994 never to speak of the incident again.
On April 24, 1964, Zamora chased a speeding vehicle southeast of Socorro. “Up about the time I came to this little road, I heard a loud roar…a blast,” Zamora told a radio station in one of his many interviews in the following days.
Sticking his head out the window, he saw what he described as a flying egg about the size of a car. Zamora also saw what looked like two people wearing white coveralls standing outside the mystery craft, and it appeared to be lifting off.
“I went up close, about 200 feet from it and got out of the car when it started making noise and the flame under it,” he told his radio host. “I got scared and started running back.
“I radioed for help from the car.”
These days, Zamora doesn't like to talk about what happened, but his report was taken very seriously at the time. The State Police and the U.S. Air Force launched an investigation setting off a frenzy of speculation about the mystery object and whether Zamora had an out-of-this world close encounter.
Whatever happened on that Friday night in 1964 is considered one of the most credible alleged UFO incidents in history. Not only was the witness credible--a police officer--there was actual physical evidence: a half-burned bush, imprints in the area where the legs sat, shoe prints.
“I think the policeman was sincere when he thought he saw something strange.” said Dave Thomas of New Mexicans for Science and Reason. “I don't think it came all the way from outer space.”
The scientists in Thomas’ group have a theory about what Zamora really saw on that fateful night. Their evidence for this new theory begins with a page from the log book at the White Sands Missile Range, the expansive test range whose northern border extends to the area of Zamora’s patrol.
“The Socorro Incident in1964 might have been an American spacecraft that was being tested at the north end of White Sands Missile Range,” Thomas said. According to the log, that American spacecraft was an early prototype for a "surveyor," which evolved five years later to a lunar vehicle during the Apollo missions.
There's also the lunar lander, a NASA vehicle flown by astronaut Neil Armstrong just months before he landed on the moon. In 1964, there were only two of these landers in existence, and one of them was delivered to White Sands in April, the same month as Zamora’s famous encounter.
Yet the skeletal landers don’t match Zamora’s description of an egg-shaped craft
“Especially with the surveyor experiments, the craft was being held up by a miniature Bell helicopter, so the combination of the helicopter holding this contraption with the legs and jets, I think would have looked very strange.” Thomas said.
There are still plenty of believers who are convinced that aliens visited Socorro that warm April night. The star witness himself, however, has always looked for a more down-to-earth explanation.
“What was your immediate reaction when you realized this may be an object from outer space?” one of his radio hosts asked.
“Well, I didn't think it was an object from outer space because I don't believe in those things,” Zamora replied.
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