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Classic cases:

The third of the major American waves of UFO reports peaked in the first week of November 1957, with at least 30 accounts of electrical devices experiencing temporary failure in connection with UFO sightings.

Levelland, Texas, USA, 1957:

CBS Newscast of November 3, 1957, extract: (thanks to Wendy Connors):

"Folks in Levelland, Texas are worried about strange objects in their neighborhood. Sheriff Weir Clem says he has received several reports of a strange, egg-shaped object, about 200 feet long, landing on farms and highways last night in the vicinity of Levelland."

"Sheriff Clem said he even got a glimpse of this thing, which somehow switched off lights and auto engines when it came near. The Sheriff said lights and engines worked fine again after the thing went away."

"This is Bob Pierpoint in Washington."

The files of Project Blue Book show 330 reports for the first week of 1957, while the files of the private National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) list almost 90 unexplained reports.

It started four weeks after the Soviet Union shocked the world by launching the first earth-orbiting satellite, Sputnik I, and a day before Sputnik II was orbited with a small dog as passenger. Public enthusiasm for searching the night sky for a glimpse of the first satellite had waned, and that for the second had not yet begun.

The most striking feature of this sighting wave was the concentration of "electromagnetic effect" cases around the west Texas town of Levelland. There were at least eight such reports in the space of 2.5 hours in an area to the west, north and east of Levelland:

At 10:30 p.m. came the report from truck driver Pedro Saucedo, who described seeing a blue torpedo-shaped object with yellow flame and white smoke coming out of its rear. He estimated it was 200 feet (60 meters) long and 6 feet (2 meters) wide. He said it rose from a nearby field and roared low over his truck with a loud, explosive sound, and produced so much heat he got out of his truck and lay on the ground. "It sounded like thunder, and my truck rocked from the blast." He thought it came within 200-300 feet (60-90 meters). His truck lights and engine failed while the UFO was in view; after it disappeared, his lights worked perfectly, and he was able to re-start the engine.

At Pettit, Texas, 10 miles (16 km) to the northwest, two grain combines failed as a UFO flew past: "shortly before midnight, Jim Wheeler reported seeing a large 200 feet (60 meters) elliptical object on the road; as he drove toward it, his car lights and engine failed. The UFO rose and flew off, and when it blinked off, his lights came back on and he was able to re-start his engine."

At the same time, Jose Alvarez's car lights and engine died when he saw a glowing, 200 feet (60 meters) UFO nearby. After the object flew away, his lights came back on and he was able to re-start his engine.

At about 12:05am, college student Newell Wright's car lights and engine failed. He got out to fix them, looked up and saw a glowing, bluish-green, flat-bottomed, oval object on the highway. The object was in sight for four or five minutes. During that time, Wright tried to start his engine, and while the starter made contact, the motor was unaffected. The object disappeared, straight up, and immediately the car lights came back on, the engine started, and then operated perfectly.

At 12:25am, Frank Williams' car experienced a failure of its lights and engine, when a glowing, egg-shaped object appeared on or near the ground pulsating brightly. When it rose straight up, the car returned to normal. 'When it took off, it sounded like thunder.' "At 12:45 a.m., Ronald Martin's truck lights and engine stopped working when a round, glowing UFO landed and changed from orange to blue-green. He said the glow was so bright it lit up the inside of his truck. The UFO then changed back to orange and took off straight up. The car lights came back on, and his engine re-started by itself!

At 01:00am, some 17 miles (27 km) to the north, Fire Marshall Ray Jones reported seeing a streak of light and at the same time his car lights dimmed and his engine almost quit.

At 01:15am, James Long said he saw an elliptical UFO on the road ahead, and when he drove to within 200 feet (60 meters) of it, the lights and engine of his truck died. The UFO then shot up vertically with a sound like thunder, and the lights and engine returned to normal.

By 01:30am, Hockley County Sheriff Weir Clem had heard so many reports that he decided to see for himself. He drove out with a deputy sheriff, and saw a large oval red light, though he did not experience electrical system problems. Years later he said: "The object was shaped like a huge football and had bright white lights. The blinding lights flashed on, it went right over the car and was gone. No living human being could believe how fast it traveled. The whole thing was as bright as day; it lit up the whole area."

Project Blue Book sent a single investigator to Levelland to check the reports. His explanation, accepted as the official Air Force conclusion, was that:

"... the major cause for the Levelland case was a severe electrical storm. The storm stimulated the populace into a high level of excitement. This excitement reflected itself in their reactions to ordinary circumstances, and resulted in the inflation of the stories of some of the witnesses concerning their experiences."

Ten years after these incidents, atmospheric physicist Dr. James McDonald completed a study and determined that there had been no storm in the area, and thus no source of excessive moisture to interfere with the automobiles' electrical systems.

"In a two-hour period near midnight, November 2-3, 1957, nine different vehicles all exhibited ignition failures, and many suffered headlight failures as objects described as about 100-200 ft long, glowing with a general reddish or bluish glow, were encountered on roads in the vicinity of the small community of Levelland, Tex. (Ref. 10, 13, 14). This series of incidents became national headline news until officially explained in terms of ball lightning and wet ignitions. However, on checking weather data, I found that there were no thunderstorms anywhere close to Levelland that night, and there was no rain capable of wetting ignitions. Although I have not located any of the drivers involved, I have interviewed Sheriff Weir Clem of Levelland and a Levelland newspaperman, both of whom investigated the incidents that night. They confirmed the complete absence of rain or lightning activity. The incidents cannot be regarded as explained."

With no "severe electrical storm" to "stimulate the populace into a high level of excitement," the official explanation falls apart.

J. Allen Hynek:

Presentation of the reports by astronomer J. Allen Hynek, talk presented to the "Hypervelocity Impact Conference Banquet" at Eglin Air Force Base, April 27, 1960.

References:

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