The Lonnie Zamora Incident

In April of 1964, police officer Lonnie Zamora of Socorro, New Mexico, experienced one of the closest encounters of all time.
Lonnie Zamora next to an indentation in the desert floor
(Lonnie Zamora next to an indention on the ground.)

The Sighting

On Friday, April 24, 1964, at approximately 5:50 PM, Lonnie Zamora was in full pursuit of a speeding vehicle in Socorro, New Mexico. His pursuit of a speeding teenager eventually extended out of town and continued onto the desert highway. During the pursuit, Zamora noticed what he thought was an overturned vehicle out in the desert field. He stopped his vehicle to investigate and offer assistance. As he approached the scene, he quickly realized it was an oddly-shaped craft and was startled by a loud sound the craft had made. As Zamora began approaching this white egg-shaped craft, he noticed two humanoid figures in white coveralls standing beside the craft. The figures eventually vanished with the loud sound of what seemed to be two doors clinging shut. Lonnie made several attempts to contact police headquarters but was not able to surpass the heavy static. Zamora noticed a strange red insignia on the craft as it blasted off the ground with a bluish-orange flame. Startled by the flame, Zamora says he ran behind his squad car to hide for cover as the egg-shaped craft rose to about 30 feet in the air. He said it hovered there for a while and took off slowly to the west. According to original reports, Lonnie dropped his glasses on the floor and left them there as he stumbled to distance himself from the object. 

While still at the site, Zamora contacted his friend Sergeant Sam Chavez of the New Mexico State Police. Chavez arrived within 10 to 15 minutes of the incident and was the first to talk with Zamora after his incident. He found him to be excited and frightened. Soon thereafter, more people arrived at the landing site.

Within 90 minutes, U.S. Army officials sent captain Richard T. Holder from White Sands Missile Range to view the site. He and his team investigated the scene and looked for any indication of a hoax. They eventually found nothing and said that what they investigated supported Zamora's claims.

Lonnie Zamora's original sketch of an unidentified craft

(Original sketch of the craft by Lonnie Zamora.)

The Press

By the following morning, the Zamora's experience had spread in newspapers all over the United States. The story quickly spread in Socorro. Lonnie was receiving phone calls from all over the world and became disgusted with the attention.

In the immediate days following Zamora's incident, several reports were made of similar unidentified craft in the New Mexico region. Due to Lonnie's incredible case, however, these other sightings were not investigated in much detail. 

Initial Investigation

Among those who gathered to meet Zamora within just hours of the incident was New Mexico State Trooper Ted Jordan. He was taking pictures of the site and indentations on the floor. His camera and film were confiscated. He says that he was told that the pictures would be developed and that he would receive copies. After some time, he asked about the photos and was told that the film had been ruined by radiation and that the pictures were no good.

Despite Zamora seeing two beings, the idea of footprints present at the site has long been debated. According to Sergeant Sam Chavez, no shoe prints or human tracks were found on the ground. What is without question is that many of the bushes in the area were burned badly. The original story, printed for the first time on April 28, 1964, in Socorro's El Defensor Chieftain newspaper, reported, "There were four shallow holes where the object apparently landed on its legs; there were burned greasewood and seared clumps of green grass; there were two round, very slight depressions. No footprints were found." 

The Insignia

The insignia that was initially released differed from that of which Zamora actually saw. Investigators advised that the release of a phony symbol might help with identifying any potential hoaxers attempting to deceive. According to Zamora, he was told not to describe the symbol publicly. The insignia is generally described as a red inverted V with three lines running across it. According to a declassified Air Force document uncovered by filmmaker James Fox, the actual symbol was drawn by Dr. J. Allen Hynek in September of 1964. 

Dr. J. Allen Hynek Letter - Lonnie Zamora Case - James Fox Post

"Declassified Air Force document revealing, for the first time, the real symbol on the side of an egg shaped landed ufo witnessed by police officer Lonnie Zamora in Socorro New Mexico in April 1964." - @JamesFoxDirector

Project Blue Book Investigation

According to archived documents, Dr. J. Allen Hynek was ordered by Hector Quintanilla to investigate the site for Project Blue Book within days of the incident. He arrived on Wednesday, April 29, 1964.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of this case is that indentations were left on the ground where Zamora sighted the landed craft. The tracks were inspected by Dr. J. Allen Hynek and were cataloged by Project Blue Book, which officially determined the case as "Unidentified."

Dr. J. Allen Hynek - Consultant to Project Blue Book

While collecting soil samples, Hynek cut his finger by touching one of the burnt bushes. The cut drew blood and eventually became infected. This is mentioned in a 1965 letter from Hynek. When asked about the case, Dr. J. Allen Hynek said, 

"The thing that’s puzzling to me is that I'm sure it must to the folks around here. I certainly believe that Lonnie Zamora had a most interesting and significant experience, and I’m particularly interested in the tracks that were left and in the analysis of the samples of material from those tracks. Until we know more about it, all I can say, rather disappointing to you perhaps is simply that I’m as puzzled as you are." - J. Allen Hynek 

Hector Quintanilla, the chief of Project Blue Book, also weighed in on the case by saying,

"One of the classic cases on file, of the Air Force, is the Socorro, New Mexico case which occurred in April of 1964. It is one of the best-documented cases on record. However, there is no indication that this vehicle, which a policeman, Lonnie Zamora saw was interplanetary or that it was beyond the state of the art of our present-day scientific knowledge." - Hector Quintanilla

Approximately 30 years after the incident, Capitan Richard T. Holder spoke publicly for the first time to share his perspective. He said, "Everything we saw seemed to support the story that officer Zamora recounted. My impression of talking to him was that he was mystified. He wanted an explanation. Nothing that I heard of later gave me the slightest hint that he did this as a hoax or cooked it up for fame or fortune." - Richard T. Holder

Project Blue Book Report Card - Lonnie Zamora Incident

(Report card concluding the case is Unidentified.)

Witness Testimony

Lonnie was not the only witness to the unidentified object that evening in Socorro.

Socorro's El Defensor Chieftain newspaper stated, "At least one other person – an unidentified tourist traveling north of U.S. 85 – saw the UFO just before it landed in the gully. Opal Grinder, manager of Whiting Brother's Service Station on 85 north, said the man stopped at the station and remarked that aircraft flew low around here. Grinder replied there were many helicopters in this vicinity. The tourist said it was a “funny looking helicopter, if that's what it was.” The man said further the object had flown over his car. It actually was headed straight for the gully where it landed moments later. The tourist also commented that he had seen a police car heading up the hill. This was Zamora's car."

Prior to the incident, Zamora had been on the police force for five years. He was regarded as an honest and trustworthy individual. He did not care much for the attention brought along by his story and eventually stopped talking about it. He was reluctant to talk about it, even with family.

In a rare 1964 interview, however, he discusses his encounter just as he experienced it.

Police Officer Lonnie Zamora

"I was chasing a reckless driver going up south on Park street. Up until the time I came to this little road, I heard this big roar blast. We got a dynamite shack to the west there. I thought I'd investigate maybe; I thought it maybe blew up. So, I started out there real fast. Half ways to it, I stuck my head out the window, out of the car, and I seen this white egg object. I didn’t know what it was at that time. I thought it was a vehicle that had turned over. I started out there real fast so I could maybe help the people in the car. I went up to it, close. About 200 feet, I was 200 feet from it. I got out of the car and started toward it when I heard this big noise again. Same noise and the flame coming from under it. I got scared and started running back. I ran about 50 feet from it. I pulled myself to the ground to hide. Afterwards, I didn't hear the noise no more. I just lifted up my head to see what was happening. It was real quiet then and I saw this white object just take off toward the west there, smooth out." - Lonnie Zamora

Documentary Film

According to 1965 clippings, an 80-minute documentary film on UFOs titled Phenomena 7.7 was set into production by a Hollywood studio named Empire Film Studios. The film is said to have been focused on Lonnie's case and features rare footage of Zamora and the landing site taken shortly after the incident. The film was even mentioned in a 1965 letter written by J. Allen Hynek. The film's producer, Michael Musto, even sent a letter regarding the film to the mayor of Socorro, New Mexico, Holm O. Bursum Jr. In the letter, Musto stated, "Phenomena 7.7 is now completed. It will be viewed by countless millions of people throughout the world. It will open the door to facts heretofore shrouded in secrecy. It will prepare the entire human race for a better knowledge of the universe and possible neighbors who have been observing our earth for centuries." The film was set to be shown publicly for the first time in Socorro but was not widely released as anticipated. The film has not been found in any archives or records since then.

Socorro Incident Sketch - Lonnie Zamora

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