Saturday, October 31, 2009

THE SOCORRO UFO: PHYSICAL EVIDENCE POINTS TO A PRANK by Anthony Bragalia

A review of decades-old documents points to the involvement of pranksters in the famous 1964 Socorro, NM UFO sighting. Overlooked details about the sighting witnessed by police officer Lonnie Zamora suggest a prosaic explanation that involved student trickery. Recently discovered material clues hint at a hidden hoax. Physical evidence (reports of which have been previously missed or ignored) offer damning indications of deception. This evidence has remained unconsidered, until now:

- "Charred cardboard" and particulate was discovered by military officials in the very area of the landed craft.

- "Footprints from teenagers" were found at the site by government investigators immediately after Zamora's encounter.

- Burned brush that was seen at the site was caused by "pyrotechnic ignition" according to experts.

- The "whining frequencies" heard by Zamora may have come from novel, sound-producing pyrotechnics.

Previous articles on the Socorro sighting provided clues to a college caper:

- An archived document revealed that in the 1960s, renowned scientist and NM Tech President Dr. Stirling Colgate wrote to Nobel laureate Dr. Linus Pauling that the Socorro UFO was a prank. He told his friend Pauling (whom I had earlier discovered had conducted secret UFO studies) that the "student who engineered the hoax" had "already left the College."

- In 2009, Dr. Colgate (now at Los Alamos as Scientist Emeritus) emailed this author confirming that the event was a hoax; that in fact one of the involved students is his personal friend. He said of the hoaxer "he and the other students did not want their covers blown." He added that it was all "a no-brainer" and that he would see if the pranksters would now come forward.

- Two eminent NM Tech Professors support Colgate. They attest that they had heard from trusted sources at the College that the incident was a hoax that involved students. One added that the students did not like Lonnie Zamora at all. Another explained that the school had a world-class explosives facility and that other labs may have provided advanced balloons, inflatable materials and "white coverall" lab suits that were strikingly similar to what Zamora had observed.

- Two former NM Tech students revealed the existence of a deeply secret "techno-geek" hoax society and culture operating at the school since its inception. Highly organized, its sole purpose involved pranking people. In the 1960s this fraternity of pranksters created hoaxes so advanced that they even fooled military. Many of these pranksters had no regard for safety or legality. Some of these staged events involved creating faked flying saucers.

These articles are available here and here.

Prior investigation by this author has offered up credible testimony, authenticated documentation and strong circumstantial evidence of a planned prank. As this investigation of the Socorro sighting continues, additional evidence has emerged that supports a hoax scenario. This time the evidence is physical:

THE "CHARRED CARDBOARD" CLUE

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A former NICAP investigator provided to this author the original, official Air Force report on Socorro, titled: "USAF Investigation Report Socorro, NM" It lists as authors "Investigators Hynek, A.; Quintanilla MJR." These authors are of course famed investigators Dr. J. Allen Hynek and Hector Quintanilla. An attentive reading of this document reveals something that is very telling. In the 17th paragraph (lines 44 and 45) the investigators wrote:

"A closer USAF investigation of the site revealed a fair amount of charred particles mixed with dirt, and some charred cardboard was also found."

This single buried sentence speaks volumes. The "charred cardboard" found at the site by AF investigators is an extremely important detail that does not seem to have ever been brought up by "civilian" UFO investigators who support Soccoro as an ET or secret aerocraft event. And of course the reason for this is obvious: such mundane material should not be there if it were ET or if it was an experimental vehicle. Instead, this "find" is indicative of something very terrestrial. This is because "charred cardboard" makes complete sense when considering the event as a student-created hoax:

Pyrotechnics could very well account for the found material. Such cardboard tubes or "casings" are used in shell inserts, bottle rockets and fireworks. When ignited, such spent explosives leave a a distinct charred cardboard appearance upon cooling. Burned cardboard and cardboard powder char are left in their wake.

Not coincidentally, NM Tech had the most advanced Explosives Lab of any college in the country at the time. One 1960s NM student said that the ease of obtaining "cool pyrotechnics" from the school "was like getting candy from a baby."

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Or perhaps the charred cardboard came from the "craft" itself. One NM Tech Professor speculated that the "craft" seen by Lonnie was a large white balloon. In fact, Lonnie's immediate reaction was to characterize it as a balloon. He even radioed to his partner: "It looks like a balloon." The Professor believes that this balloon may have been "over-fitted" with white coated craftboard (or light cardboard) to create the "landing struts" and other features. Such cardboard or craftboard material may well have ignited and charred at the bottom- potentially leaving such cardboard residue as was observed by AF investigators. The College's Atmospheric Sciences department had every manner of inflatable and balloon known- and they had an abundance of lightweight craft materials to create kites, balloon cargo holders, framing- or even landing gear for a "spaceship."

THE SOUNDS AT SOCORRO: A WHINE FROM WHAT?

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Investigators concentrate on the sights that Zamora saw- but they do not say much about the sounds that Lonnie said that he heard as the craft was in flight. And what he heard sounds suspiciously like the whines and whistles of advanced pyrotechnics!

Lonnie speaks of 1) high and low frequencies that changed or oscillated 2) thumps 3) whines 4) changes in loudness of the sound; 5) a kind of roar and 6) sudden silence. This "aural accounting" is the sum total of what is known about the sounds that Zamora had reported hearing at the site.

Lonnie is interviewed by AF invetigator Dr. Hynek after Zamora's sighting: "He hardly turned around from his police car when he heard a roar- it was not exactly a blast but a very loud roar. It was not like a jet - he knew what a jet sounds like. It started out quickly at low frequency then rose in frequency from loud to very loud. Simultaneously, he saw flame under the object...a kind of orange color at the bottom." From a NICAP recounting of the event we learn that what he heard was in the span of a matter of seconds and that: "The low frequency roar changed to a high frequency whine then to silence." Lonnie says more about what he heard: "I heard two or three loud thumps, like someone possibly opening or shutting a door hard." Zamora says that the thumps were a few seconds apart from one another.

Now look and listen to the videos of pyrotechnic whistles and whistle rockets appearing below. Each of the videos is only a few seconds in length. I purposely provide examples of amateur, homemade pyrotechnics. Professionals can create far more advanced noise features. And NM Tech had one of the most advanced Explosives Labs in the nation. Note the thumps and roars; the changes in high and low frequencies and the "whines." Related videos on Youtube show that pops, thumps and booms can result from both the ignition and explosion of pyrotechnics. Some pyrotechnics (called "fart bombs") use "stops" to produce "staged" ignition, producing two or three muffled booms or pops seconds apart. Were these the sounds heard at Socorro?:





Did you hear low frequency roars, changed frequencies, whines and then silence? That's what Lonnie heard. Did you hear a couple of pops or thumps at any point? Thats what Lonnie heard. Try listening with your eyes closed with the volume up loud. Explore related videos of other kinds of pyrotechnic whistles on Youtube to hear more examples.

A post by a member of the APC (Amateur Pyrotechnics and Chemistry) Forum is highly instructive: "The roars and whines of pyrotechnic whistles have a sound all their own. We can even change them up and make them sound like they are from another world."

Without mentioning a UFO connection, this author contacted Bill Bahr, President of the Pyrotechnics Guild International industry group. I related Zamora's testimony of what he heard, simply saying that these sounds were associated with the observation of a "lift off" of something and brief "flames" seen in an "area of wide expanse." I asked Bahr what he thinks that these sounds might describe. Without missing a beat, Bahr replied that the description sounds "a lot like a pyrotechnic whistle."

The "charred cardboard" evidence found at the site -combined with Lonnie's description of what he said he had heard- supports the idea that some type of pyrotechnics were likely involved in the execution of a hoax. But to cap it off, we also learn (as detailed later in this article) that burned brush and shrub were found at the site, leaving a distinct tell-tale pattern that is known to be caused by pyrotechnic ignition!

But first, lets look at the found footprints:

FOOTPRINTS THAT PROVIDE A TIP-OFF

I have earlier suggested that the "figures" reported by Lonnie near the craft were likely of students in white lab suits that were obtained from the college. Lonnie reported that the figures (which were seen only for seconds, and possibly without glasses) were of a "normal shape." He said that were about the size of "boys or small adults." Lonnie indicated that the figures were wearing "white coveralls." The figure in the middle looks especially like what Lonnie described:

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Supporting this idea are overlooked statements made at the time of the event by investigator and White Sands Army Captain Richard T. Holder. Holder was called to inspect and study the UFO landing site by FBI Agent Arthur Byrnes. Immediately after Zamora's sighting, Holder and Byrnes went out to the landing area and closely examined it by flashlight, where Holder stated that he had found footprints. Holder related: "The footprints were similar to the size of the footprints that a bigfooted teenager would make."

Captain Holder described the footprints that he discovered in very down-to-earth terms. He said that they were like what a young person wearing big shoes would make. Taken together, what Lonnie and Holder described sounds very much like short college kids wearing white labwear and big lab safety boots. Nothing about these figures and footprints seemed "alien." Even Lonnie used the phrases "of normal shape" and "the size of small adults" when describing the figures. Holder said it reminded him of "teenagers."

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A Lab Safety Boot would nicely account for the description of the "bigfooted teenager" footprints left at the site that were found and reported by Captain Holder. In fact nothing about the reported figures reported by Zamora -or the footprints that they had left that were discovered by Holder- seemed at all alien. There was nothing about them that suggested anything other than humans. Young humans wearing hefty boots.

THE BURNING BUSH TELLS A TALE

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Interestingly, Captain Holder also noted that he had found burned brush at the site that was only affected on one side. He said that it was entirely dissimilar to what one would expect from "an object that blasts off by rocket or jet propulsion." Something else had lit the bushes. Holder described the brush as "flaky" - and mentioned that only one side had scorched. According to experts, explosions from pyrotechnics leave very similar patterns as described by Holder.

Bill Bahr is both the President of the famous Red Dragon brand of fireworks as well as the Executive Director of the Pyrotechnics Guild International, a worldwide industry trade group. He states that the effect on plants as described by Zamora "is classic to pyrotechnics." He agreed, "When certain pyrotechnics are set off in a clearing that is surrounded by brush- the damage to vegetation is flaky. It often just grazes and powders the tips of surrounding plants, or it can carve out larger sections." The resulting damage can range in color from dark black to very light grey or whitish. He says, "This kind of flash damage is typically very localized to the point of just searing one side of a shrub or bush- on the side where the ignition of the pyrotechnic material occured."

By contrast, he explained (just as Captain Holder had noted) that an outright explosion, or an applied flame or a jet or rocket blast would have thoroughly incinerated any plant material. It would not have left such a flaky, half-sided scorch effect like the brush that was observed at the Socorro site. But pyrotechnics certainly would.

A UNIVERSITY LEFT UNINVESTIGATED

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NEW MEXICO INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

The Air Force and other investigators at the time of the Socorro sighting apparently did not even consider or explore the possibility of a hoax perpetuated by engineering students at NM Tech. It does not appear that there is any record of any type anywhere that shows official interviews by these investigators of College administration or students at the Institute. A re-examination of the extant literature on the Socorro UFO -as well as recent inquiries to NM Tech itself- show no indication that any official had ever discussed the matter with the school.

Clearly these investigators were entirely unaware of the College's even-then longstanding history of complex hoaxes and pranks. They did not think about the role that the combination of brilliant but bored college students, an Explosives Lab and a Balloon Atmospherics Lab at the University may have played in devising such a hoax.

High-schoolers were considered...but not college students. Documents show that Harvard Astronomer Donald Menzel at one time suggested that Zamora was the victim of a prank "by high school students who planned the whole thing to get Zamora." Other reports confirm that Hynek talked to townsfolk about the possibility- including a teenager employed at a local gas station who said that no teens were involved to his knowledge.

But no one appears to have gone a step further to investigate the possible involvement of older and wiser students- like NM Tech students. NM Tech was, at the time, "separated" from the town. There was friction between the townies and the Techies. This may account for why investigators ignored the Institute. And perhaps investigators had assumed that such fresh-faced, smart and upstanding, tie-wearing, scientists-in-training would never perpetuate such a hoax...but that high-schoolers might. The fact that the "not-from-town" government officials did not examine the NM Tech connection was a serious omission of investigation. But nearly a half-century later, the investigation continues...

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ET has visited Earth. But the Socorro UFO had nothing to do with people from the stars above. It had everything to do with the free-spirited young amongst us. Many things tell us this. The circumstances, means and motive are very telling. Prominent NM Tech administration, professors and students have revealed much. And we now have physical evidence that speaks to us through old documents and reports. The time approaches to put out the flames that light our beloved campfire story. The Sighting at Socorro was not a display of ET nor of man's secret science. Instead it appeared as a flashy fraud that continues to bedazzle us all.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mac Tonnies gone?

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Greg Bishop notifies readers of UFO Mystic that the brilliant and young Mac Tonnies has died (of natural causes).

This is a loss to science, science fiction, and ufology that is immeasurable.

We only knew Mac indirectly, but considered him one of the bright stars of ufology and all things avant garde.

This is a great loss.

Rest in peace, buddy…..

Nick Redfern's tribute

Saturday, October 10, 2009

In defense of the Socorro hoax hypothesis by Zarkon II

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Anthony Bragalia’s recent postings about the Socorro/Zamora sighting of 1964 have raised hackles among the UFO mainstream.

Mr. Bragalia presented a scenario that strikes at the heart of ufology’s belief-system: that UFOs and flying saucers are extraterrestrial craft, piloted by alien life-forms or robotic creations.

When that belief system is questioned, no matter how obliquely, UFO’s “believers” move aggressively to squelch the heterodoxy.

This is what happened when Mr. Bragalia had the temerity to suggest that the 1964 Socorro sighting was a prank promulgated by students at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

Ufologist Ray Stanford became particularly exercised by Mr. Bragalia’s assertion(s). Why?

Mr. Stanford’s “fame” in the UFO community – he has none in the real world – rests on his intrepid “investigation” of the Socorro episode, almost immediately after it occurred.

His book about the sighting has become a UFO Bible of sorts for the Socorro event and its aftermath.

If someone were to rebuke Mr. Stanford’s “research,” he would be left without the legacy he has accumulated for the past forty-five years. So one can understand his pique and desperate attempts to protect his turf.

David Rudiak, another ET die-hard, also came out of the woodwork to take on Mr. Bragalia’s thesis. Mr. Rudiak is nothing if not thorough in his attention to minutiae of various UFO accounts – Roswell and Socorro among them.

Where Mr. Rudiak goes wrong, and he is off base in his ET bias when it comes to Socorro, is that he overlooks the mundane aspects of the Socorro details as related by Lonnie Zamora: the blue-flame of the propulsion that landed and lifted Zamora’s craft; the “beings” seen outside the egg-shaped craft, wearing white overalls; the flight pattern of the craft as it lifted and flew off; the indentations left behind, in the sand; the “roar” that accompanied the thing, et cetera.

The Zamora craft wasn’t exotic enough to be an alien craft.

Ufologist Frank Warren posted a kind of rebuttal to Mr. Bragalia’s exposé. One of the points made by Mr. Warren was that other egg-shaped UFOs were spotted before and after Zamora’s sighting.

What Mr. Warren didn’t note was that egg-shaped craft have been listed among UFO reports often, but none with an insignia, unique to Zamora’s UFO, nor any that had beings outside them, wearing human-like clothing. And none had produced the “roar” that Officer Zamora heard.

Mr. Warren is offended by Mr. Bragalia’s direct assertion that the Socorro event was hoax, ostensibly and admittedly a premature assertion since Mr. Bragalia hasn’t produced (yet) the person behind the prank or the methodology of their prank.

But Mr. Bragalia has only posed the possibility – one that has been raised before – that the Socorro episode was hoax-oriented, and Mr. Bragalia has mustered some interesting circumstantial evidence to support his hypothesis.

However, the Socorro sighting is so entrenched in the ufological psyche as an extraterrestrial landing (for repairs it seems) that any hypothesis outside the ET one will be attacked viciously and illogically, as is the case when any belief system is challenged.

I suggest Eric Hoffer’s insightful book “The True Believer” [Mentor Books, NY, 1951] to make my point.

And to see how hoaxes work, the Curtis D. MacDougall book “Hoaxes” [Dover Publications, NY, 1940/1958] for details about the mind-set of those perpetrating hoaxes and those who fall for them.

Ronald Millar’s “The Piltdown Men” [Ballantine Books, NY, 1972] also tells how grat men can be duped by hoaxes and hoaxers who are less skilled then they should be when it comes to discovering how a hoax operates.

In the world of ufology and UFOs the gullible are legion. And when it comes to the sacred cows of the UFO literature – the Arnold sighting, the Trent photos, Roswell, Socorro, and even Rendlesham, the UFO believers will do anything to make sure that anyone or anything that undercuts the “extraterrestrial” premise of those sightings should be stomped out and eliminated from any dialogue about UFOs.

The Bragalia hoax hypothesis has legs, of a kind, it is shaky perhaps, but not moribund and not unsound, if what he has uncovered has any merit whatsoever.

And when it comes to UFOs, nothing should be so sacrosanct that it can’t be thrown on the table for review and civil discussion. Otherwise, we shall find ourselves with a fascistic approach to truth-seeking; that is, only the orthodox shall prevail and anything that goes against that orthodoxy should be quelled at all costs – even if it means a diminishment of the truth.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

SOCORRO UFO HOAX PART 2: GETTING CLOSER TO THE CULPRITS by Anthony Bragalia

New investigation reveals that the likely culprits behind the Socorro UFO hoax in 1964 were part of a highly secret group of student pranksters at NM Tech. It is now learned that so extreme were some of these Techie "pranks" during the 1960s that they even caused physical endangerment. One especially sophisticated UFO hoax at that time led to the severe reprimand by U.S. military base officials of a Techie whose prank had caused the emergency scrambling of jet interceptors! This intensely private group existed at the College under various code names and leaders for decades.

A co-conspirator to many hoaxes at the NM Tech in the 1960s now details the remarkable "flying saucers" that were created by students during that time- and how they were made. A former Techie prankster offers a stunning clue about the true nature of the "aliens" sighted by Officer Lonnie Zamora. Other "insider insight" provided by NM Tech alumni furthers the case that the Socorro UFO was one of the most extraordinarily engineered hoaxes in history. This "extreme prankster" cabal reflects a technological "caper culture" that was unique in all the world and that has remained hidden- until now.

SOCORRO REDUX

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OFFICER ZAMORA (LEFT) EXAMINES LANDING SITE WITH USAF

In April of 1964, Socorro Police Officer Lonnie Zamora reported sighting a landed craft outside of town. In pursuit of a speeder, Zamora was diverted by an explosion he had heard that led him over a hill. There he viewed an egg-shaped 20 foot in size craft the color of "aluminum white" that was "smooth" and which had a red insignia or emblem on its side. Zamora reported two small figures clad in white nearby the craft. Zamora says that the figures "jumped from view" and the craft rose with a roar and out of view.

In an earlier article by this author that can be viewed here, the discovery of a letter was related. It was written to Nobel-Laureate Dr. Linus Pauling. The letter was found buried within the Pauling Archives at Oregon State University. The letter was from Dr. Stirling Colgate, President of NM Tech in Socorro in the 1960s, Los Alamos legend and associate of such luminaries as Oppenheimer and Teller. Colgate wrote to his friend Pauling (who had taken an interest in the case) explaining that the Socorro UFO sighting was a hoax that "was engineered by a student who has left the college."

In an email to this author written 40 years after his letter to Linus Pauling, Dr. Colgate (who still maintains a Los Alamos office at age 84) confirmed the letter's authenticity and then stated a bit more:

- He knew the event to have been a prank. It was he called it, a "no brainer"
- One of the pranksters was in fact a personal friend of his
- That friend and the other students "didn't want their covers blown"
- He would see if they would now come forward

Dr. Colgate had no idea that his knowledge of the incident would be made public many decades later. He would never have imagined that his private communication to Pauling would be openly revealed. He was "caught" by me and had no choice but to reply- sparingly. Dr. Colgate is not "guessing" about this, a friend of his is the hoaxer. He writes with the certainty of a scientist. He is either 1) a liar 2) believes liars or 3) is telling the truth. There really is very little "wiggle" room to draw any other conclusion. I do not believe that Colgate would lie to his associate Pauling- and continue to lie about this to me in the winter of his life- if it were not true. And why would his personal friend (himself now elderly) continue to lie over decades to Colgate that he "and others" were the hoaxers? That leaves us only with option number 3- Colgate is telling the truth.

Two other noted NM Techies, Dr. Frank Etcorn (who is the inventor of the Nicotine Patch) and Dave Collis (who directed NM Tech's renowned Energetics Lab) related their understanding -gained from their lengthy time at NM Tech- that the Socorro UFO was in fact a student-perpetuated hoax.

Etscorn's grad student (for a credit project to study the incident) had located a suspected hoaxer who admitted the prank but would not allow use of his name. Collis was told in 1965 in confidence by his trusted NM Tech Professor that the famous sighting of a landed UFO in Socorro from the year before was a hoax devised by a Techie prankster. Collis explained that this was not his Professor's "guess"- the Professor had personal knowledge of the perpetrators. Only 45 years later did Collis break the confidence to tell what he learned from his Professor.

A PERSONAL NOTE

As a vocal advocate of ET visitation, this author struggled with release of this information. I did not look for this story, it fell upon me when I discovered Linus Paulings's archived secret UFO studies. I did not intend on dousing this campfire story. It is hoped that in reporting this, readers understand that I am simply following the evidence where it takes me. I am obligated to report what I find and have no "hidden agenda." I remain firm in my conviction that life from elsewhere visits Earth. But I am also firm in my conviction that many UFO researchers simply do not appreciate the extent and sophistication with which UFOs are pranked by our nation's college youth. This was especially true in the 1960s at places like NM Tech:

"STUDENT SAUCERS" IN THE SIXTIES

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John W. Shipman came to NM Tech in the Summer of 1966 as a Freshman. John -an admitted serial prankster- remains so enamored of his college experience that he recounts events of the time in an online blog. John offers keen observations about this most unique school in the mid-1960s: "The spirit of technological uproar rubbed off on the students. With limited opportunities for recreation, the happiest students were the ones that made their own fun."

John mentions his accomplices to hoaxes- with code names "Joe Hat" and "Harry Hat." Both he says, were extremely competent with electronics. Shipman says, "They were nerds long before the term was invented." Shipman says that during that summer, the Hats bought a surplus radar and began working on it. The school paper featured them on the cover with the caption, "They've Landed." Harry had found out that jets from Holloman AFB often used Socorro Peak as a radar target for simulated bombing runs. Apparently the Hats were able to devise a jamming device and then left it on a nearby mountain to the base. Shipman says that the bombing scores "all went to hell" because of this jamming device. Shipman explains that the Air Force had tracked down the problem. As Shipman understands, two MPs came into the Tech classrooms and physically hauled Harry to the Base Commander. After over an hour of scolding, an officer admitted to Harry Hat that, after graduation, he would like to hire Harry because he was better at radar research than most of his people at the base!

Shipman recounts that "Harry also experimented with making Flying Saucers, a popular diversion for dorm residents." He says that an even more impressive student-made "saucer" was "specifically designed to upset the folks at White Sands." Shipman explains, "the envelope was a surplus weather balloon filled with natural gas. The payload consisted of a highway flare, a hundred-foot surveyors measuring tape made of steel, and a long fuse. The measuring tape was weighted at one end rolled up and secured with a piece of waxed string. After the prevailing wind had blown the balloon out over the north end of the range, the fuse burned to the end and lit the highway flare and burned the string around the steel tape. The radar operators were rather upset when a hundred-foot long radar target appeared suddenly on their screens. They scrambled several interceptor jets. The interceptors never found what they were looking for."

Though Shipman came to NM Tech a couple of years after the Socorro UFO event, the information he provides is invaluable in understanding how such a thing could have ever happened. From Shipman we learn that in the 1960s, Techies were making "Flying Saucers" that even fooled military men. This brand of brilliant "merry pranksters" was of an entirely different order then found then or now at other schools.

The Techies of the 1960s were so "ballsy" and rebellious -and had such little regard for safety or legality- that they would even jam sensitive radar and disrupt military exercises! To cause a "hub-bub" with town cop Zamora paled by comparison!

THE SCHOOL OF PRANK TECHNOLOGY

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Mr. Thomas Jones graduated from NM Tech with a degree in Physics. For a period of time in the 1980s and 1990s, Tom led a closed group of Techie pranksters called "Stealth Beta Force." The groups "memorial site" can be viewed at www.spril.com/StealthForceBeta/ or simply Google keywords Stealth Force Beta. His site is an extraordinary read. The complexity and technical sophistication of the pranks he and his team accomplished is nothing short of astonishing. The organization had rules, code names and a "magician's code" of secrecy. Its an illusion, but never own up to it- and never tell how it is done, that is how they worked.

Jones time at NM Tech was years removed from the Socorro event. But he is considered even today by the NM Tech Public Information Office to be the foremost expert on the history and breadth of NM Tech pranking. We gain needed insight into that unusual and special world by listening to Jones.

We learn from him that such hoaxing at NM Tech was a pastime from the school's very inception up through his time at the school. Jones indicates that today such physical pranking has given way to "digital pranking." Though such grand physical pranks are rarer on campus now, the spirit of the prank remains in digital form. The "glory years" of such physical pranks ran from the 1960s through the early 1990s. There is a certain "comraderie through the generations" when it comes to such Techie pranking. There is silent homage given by pranksters today at the school to the illustrious who walked those same prankster steps at NM Tech before them. Like a geek "Skull and Bones" society, these Techies made tight, secret circles.

Tom said to me that -given his intimate understanding of the school and his inside knowledge of the institution of pranking there- "I think it is highly likely that Tech students hoaxed the Socorro UFO incident." Tom adds cryptically, "and there was institutional memory of the Socorro UFO hoaxers at NM Tech."

We can all learn from Tom's instructive ideas on how this all even have happened: "If you haven't lived in the environment of a top-tier science school, it may be very difficult to understand the culture. You get used to weird things happening all of the time. Students built long-range water cannons, explode bombs made of butane and model rocket engines, build collosal armor-piercing toys, and handle radioactive rocks- just because its interesting. And thats only the tip of the iceberg." He says, "Many pranks are deliberately configured to appear that they were done by others- rival schools or space aliens." Retaliation is often a motive, he explained. Zamora was intensely disliked by students at the school at the time.

He adds that NM was a strange and wonderous place "for a kid from Maryland." Even the landscape itself lent itself to thinking about the surface of other celestial bodies. Space pranks were a natural at a place like Tech, he says. Tom says that the school is very small, very protective of its own and that "outsiders" simply cannot ever understand the intense techno-geek culture that would lead to such a prank as the Socorro UFO. They cannot appreciate the psychology of these closed circles of "brilliant and bored kids" who loved to fool the foolish.

Speaking more specifically of Socorro, Tom says that one of the things that frustrates him is that people have the idea that the area is flat and featureless, leaving no possibility for escape of the hoaxsters. But Tom says that the area is in fact filled with arroyos, rolling and rocky hillettes, and large brush and shrub. He told of a pastime at Tech- playing "hide and seek" in the maze of such arroyos outside town. Staying out of view of others out there was easy, he says.

Tom also explained certain elements of the Socorro UFO mystery that can be accounted for by campus-based activities:

CLUES FROM THE ATMOSPHERE

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It was enlightening to learn from Tom that in the 1960s NM Tech was looking for funded research opportunites "on the cheap." They wanted to expand their mining and geology science programs to include the Atmospheric Sciences. The decision was made to create within the Physics Department a much more formalized group to study Atomospheric Physics. Graduate degrees in the discipline would now be offered and grants would actively be sought for such research. The school would obtain military funding and expand its work in the field. It received an incredibly vast array of balloons and floating devices that were used in weather, radar and related research.

By 1964, the College had every type of "inflatable" available in the world at the time. This new influx of balloons, gases and inflatable materials was known to have been a "new source for play" for these 1960s student scientists. Tom said that it without doubt that these advanced inflatables caught the attention of the prank-minded.

LONNIE'S "ALIENS"

Tom gives a hint about the "aliens" that were viewed by Lonnie. Zamora described the two "beings" walking outside the craft as:

- Short in stature (the size of boys or small adults)
- Clad in white "coveralls"
- of "normal shape" (like a human)

Tom and I discussed what could possibly account for such a strange sight. The explanation -though unfamiliar to Zamora- was very "down to earth." Early laboratory outerwear very much resembles today's lab suits. From head to foot they cover laboratory workers in white, appearing like space-age attire. They are used to help prevent contamination of the individual -and the specimens- when conducting laboratory experiments. Radiological suits (as were found at NM Tech in the 60s) were even more elaborate affairs.

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EARLY PHOTO OF PHYSICS LAB TECHIES

Examine the above photo. Squint while viewing and move back a bit from the screen- Lonnie was at a distance from the craft. Remove your eyeglasses if you have them- Lonnie lost his. Note the shortest figure in the middle. Is this an "alien" - or is it a "short in stature" student scientist of "normal shape" who is clad in "white coveralls" as described by Lonnie Zamora? Next try covering up the other figures in the picture with your hands so that only the middle figure remains in view. Squint and place yourself a distance from the screen. The "alien" -precisely as described by Zamora- will appear even more vividly.

In a future article I hope to conclusively identify the white clad students who walked the arroyos outside Soccoro in 1964 - fooling a town, a nation and the world for decades.