camera, action and UFOs
by Clay Coppedge
I have seen a lot of weird things, I never saw the Lubbock Lights.
I once saw a man -- a half-man actually -- perched atop a trash can
lid that had roller skate wheels attached to the bottom. He had a
broomstick that he used to propel himself down the sidewalks and streets
of a small West Texas town. My friend Ernie and I were on our way
back to Lubbock from Austin early one Sunday morning when we saw him.
I screamed and bit my sun visor because I had never seen anything
like that and did not know how else to react.
Once, in the wee hours of the morning, I was awakened by the sound
of high-pitched voices singing "Going to The Chapel." I went outside
to investigate and saw several little people dressed as munchkins,
standing in my yard and singing that inane old song at the top of
their little lungs. I yelled at them to go away and they did. I went
back to bed and wondered: Did I see that?
So, as I say, I've seen some weird
things. But I never saw the Lubbock Lights. They came along a couple
of years before I was born, in 1951. As far as I know, which isn't
very far, they haven't returned but their mystery and the legend surrounding
the lights has never quite gone away.
Lubbock Lights phenomenon, as it's usually referred to, occurred in
late August and early September of 1951, a couple of years before
I was born, in and around my hometown of Lubbock.
The first sightings occurred on August 25, 1951 a little after 9 p.m.
Among the first witnesses were three Texas Tech professors. They were
sitting in a back yard when they saw dots of light flying in a U or
V formation over the city. The lights moved northeast to southeast
across that vast South Plains sky at a rapid rate of speed, leaving
the professors curious and puzzled. People have always seen weird
things out there on the High Plains but nobody had ever seen anything
quite like these lights.
The professors, all scientific sorts, said the lights were not meteors.
The lights were described as looking a little like stars, only brighter.
Other witnesses said they looked like a string of beads moving in
a rough semi-circle, their color "a soft glowing bluish green."
The scientists who saw the lights that first night were Dr. W.I. Robinson,
Professor of Geology; Dr. A.G. Oberg, Professor of Chemical Engineering;
and W.L Ducker, head of the Petroleum Engineering Department. A mathematics
professor, Dr. R.S. Underwood, got in on the act by triangulating
that the lights were flying at an altitude of 2,000 feet and moving
at about 750 miles per hour.
The sightings continued. People all over the area reported seeing
the lights, albeit with slightly different descriptions and wildly
The most popular possibility was that these were flying saucers. Others
said they were birds, flying in a V pattern and illuminated by the
lights of a growing city out in the middle of nowhere.
One thing that gave the sightings wings, so to speak, was some photographs
taken by a Texas Tech freshman, Carl Hart, Jr. He snapped off five
photos of the lights and took them to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal,
which printed the pictures. In time, the pictures would run in newspapers
all across the country and in Life magazine. The lights were famous
and, for a time, so was the town where they were seen.
Air Force was eventually called in to investigate. Lieutenant Edward
J. Ruppelt, supervisor of the Air Force's Project Blue Book program,
interviewed the professors, Hart and other witnesses. The Air Force
studied the pictures in the kind of detail that only the government
can manage and basically said: "Dunno.". Officially, the Air
Force said it could neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of
One of the people Ruppelt interviewed was a rancher in Brownfield
who said he saw the lights and heard the "unmistakable call of the
plover." Plovers are water birds about the size of quail with oily
white breasts. Such a combination could easily reflect city lights.
Others discounted the "plover" theory, partly because the birds rarely
travel in large groups. Another witness told Ruppelt, "It definitely
Ruppelt, who wrote about his life as a UFO investigator in a book
titled "The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects," believed that
the lights might have been caused by light reflecting off moths.
At any rate,
the lights were written off by the Air Force as a natural phenomenon.
The Blue Book report said: "The Air Force conclusion is that birds,
with street lights reflecting from them, was the probable cause
of the sighting...
"The kind of birds responsible for this sighting is not known, but
it is highly probably that they were ducks or plovers. Since plovers
do not usually fly in formations of more than six or seven, ducks
become more probable. The fact that this was late summer, and that
the objects consistently flew to the south, tends to substantiate
the conclusion that the objects of this sighting were migratory
didn't end the controversy. Twenty-six years later Ground Saucer
Watch, a Phoenix-based civilian aerial research group, examined
the Hart photos with the aid of computers and determined that the
lights were phenomenal but not natural.. The lights were, the group
concluded, "a formation of extraordinary flying objects."
"Based on the photographic evidence and the analyzed data on the
said Lubbock photographs, it is the consensus of the GSW photographic
staff that the images depicted herein represent a formation of extraordinary
flying objects," the researchers wrote in their report.
The lights were, the researchers said, "one of the more vexing photographic
sequences ever taken, since the conception of modern-day UFO sightings."
The report discounted the notion that these were migratory birds
because the density of the alleged birds was too great for that
conclusion to hold up.
Some of the
sightings might have been birds, the group said, but the objects
in Hart's photographs most definitely were not. They were flying
objects and they were unidentified: UFOs.
a sense, the lights never have left Lubbock. The stories persist,
theories abound and no one can say for sure what the lights were
or were not. A documentary about the high number of talented musicians
that Lubbock has produced was titled "Lubbock Lights."
Since I never saw the Lubbock Lights I can't weigh in on what they
looked like or what they might have been, other than what I've been
read and been told. I wish I could have seen the lights but I never
Also, I wish I had never seen that man with the missing legs using
the garbage can lid with roller skate wheels as a means of transportation.
Me, I would prefer to have seen the Lubbock Lights but I was born
too late. I was four years old when a UFO was said to have landed
a few miles from Lubbock.
I didn't see that either, but I keep my eye on the sky at night
anyway because I believe, as the old TV show would have it, that
the truth is out there.