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Yorba Linda, California, January 24, 1967:

On January 24, 1967 at twilight, Tom, aged 14, was startled by a dark hat-shaped object hovering outside the second storey window of his home in Yorba Linda, in a small, relatively isolated town on the edge of Orange County California.

He quickly rushed to another room to get his inexpensive Mark XII fixed-focus camera and returned within seconds. The object had moved farther away from the windowpane in the meantime, but that he was still able to snap one black-and-white picture before running downstairs, shouting for his family to come and view the strange craft. Unfortunately, by the time they had climbed the stairs, the UFO had moved out of sight.

Tom had the impression that the object was "gigantic", but there was no objective reason to accurately talk of its size, so that this could be a subjective impression only.

He regularly used a mail-order film company to process his photos, but they had lost a roll of film shortly before this incident, so instead of posting it by mail for developement, he asked a friend who was 14 to develop it for him.

His friend was not an experienced developper, and the negative and photo emerged scratched, dulled, and was probably light-struck, so it had to be restored professionally later. The cheap camera also had a faulty winding mechanism that caused several long scratches on the negative.

The sighting and the photograph came to the attention of Ann Druffel of NICAP's Los Angeles section in June 1967, and she subjected to analysis by six photographic experts during the next four years, including sophisticated aerospace photogrametric systems. All the experts estimated that the photograph was of a real, three dimensional object, either stationary or moving at slow speed. Double exposure, cutouts, hand-thrown, or string-suspended models possibilities were examined but ruled out.

Tom had reported four thin appendages hanging down from the bottom rim, but on the photograph, only three were showing. One of the expert speculated that it could have withdrawn or folded up.

Investigation revealed that when first seen, it subtended an angle of about sixteen degrees and about one degree when the photo was taken. Tom's visual impression was that the bottom rim was continuous and slanted like a top hat; however, the photo showed the rim was actually composed of egg-shaped bulges, from which the legs apparently protruded.

Tom's character and reliability were checked, and appeared flawless. He was an honest, intelligent youngster, appreciated by his friends and school authorities. His family did not see the UFO, but confirmed that he had called them, and that he was very excited after he saw and photographed the object.

The family tended to believe Tom for another reason: Tom, his parents, and his sister had seen a large silvery object with lighted windows on January 4, 1967 just twenty days before the hat-shaped object was photographed. Before this event they had no interest in UFOs and considered the subject silly and uninteresting.

But following their January 24, 1967, sighting, they saw quite a number of other, more distant UFOs, and other residents of Yorba Linda and the area also saw some.

Tom has never tried to make any profit with the photograph, and has made it available to researchers for use without restrictions.

A photograph taken by a single witness could not shake NICAP's natural skepticism and caution, so they initially estimated that the photograph was a hoax. With further analyses, among other densitometer readings by a major California aerospace firm, who estimated that the object had photographed much darker than it should have, their cautiousness seemed justified. However, another study by a Southern California geodetic survey company revealed that the color of the object could be red, which would photograph darker than black.

This seemed at odds with the witness' description, since he said the object was dark. Very interestingly, what happened was that this allowed to discover that Tom was colorblind in the red, seeing dark reds and maroon colors as rather black.

Numerous studies continued later, and nobody could find any sign of hoax. In 1999, a computer-enhancement expert said he could confirm the three-dimensionality of the object, and he also found a faint highlight on the body of the craft, indicating probable reflection of sunlight off the rounded surface, consistent with the position of the sun at the time of sighting.

To read:

If you are familiar with my website you must have noted that I do not advertize books that much on my website, as I find this borders the unethical. However, for once I want to highly recommend "Firestorm: Dr. James E. McDonald's Fight for UFO Science". This excellent book was written in 2003 by Ann Druffel who was at the heart of this case as LANL member, NICAP's Los Angeles section. The book provides incredibly valuable information mainly on the remarkable scientist Dr. James McDonald and his prominent role in UFO studies, but also many details on such cases and on decidedly rich ufology times.

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This page was last updated on December 23, 2005.