Socorro UFO: Unpacking Evidence of an Alien Visit

On April 24, 1964 near the town of Socorro in New Mexico, policeman Lonnie Zamora claimed to have seen an egg-shaped craft with two small humanoid figures dressed in white. As he went to approach it, it took off in a roaring flame. The Socorro UFO incident is one of the most intriguing in US history, but what really happened on that fateful day in this quiet US town?

5 June 2024

The story of the New Mexico UFO that reportedly appeared in the sky in April 1964 is ranked among the most fascinating, credible, and best documented cases in UFO history. So much so that the then-head of Project Blue Book, the study of unidentified flying objects by the US Air Force, was believed to have said that it was the most puzzling case he’d ever dealt with. Known as the Lonnie Zamora incident, it remains officially listed as ‘unexplained’.

The Roswell incident in 1947 is probably the world’s most famous alleged UFO sighting, and it remains mired in conjecture and speculation to this day, but the Socorro UFO sighting, no less perplexing or compelling, has gone under the metaphorical radar.

What happened that day in the desolate arroyo in the wilds of the American southwest? Were there aliens in New Mexico? Did Lonnie Zamora witness evidence of extraterrestrial life? Did he see nothing more than a secret Air Force test plane, or was it an elaborate prank perpetrated by local students?

Let’s take a trip back to the sixties, seventy-five miles south of Albuquerque, in an attempt to shed light on the story of the UFO in New Mexico, one that has baffled scientists, the military, and enthusiasts alike for sixty years.

Friday April 24, 1964: Socorro, New Mexico

Was there a UFO in Socorro? (Credit: Grant Faint via Getty Images)

According to Zamora, while chasing a couple of local teenagers driving a little too quickly, he was distracted by a deafening roar and a flame in the southwestern sky. Curiosity led him towards the disturbance, and an encounter which would become known as the ‘Lonnie Zamora Incident’.

Zamora radioed his dispatcher Nep Lopez to let him know he was checking a possible car crash. Not long after, Zamora contacted Lopez again to ask him if he’d seen anything unusual in the sky. Lopez hadn’t. Zamora approached with an element of trepidation and was astonished by what he saw.

“I could see a white object to my left there. I thought it was a turned-over car. When I got up on top of the mesa there, I looked down, and I saw this big white object on the ground. I thought I could see something around the craft there. I could see some figures. Looked like they were walking around the craft.”

He later described the figures, with no discernible facial features, as ‘normal in shape – but possibly they were small adults or large kids.’

As is often the case with such situations, the reporting of the incident has morphed over time, without any single definitive narrative. One version of the story suggested the ‘craft’ was hovering just above the ground with no discernible markings. Another version put it on the ground on four legs with red markings on the hull, later described as a red arrow with a horizontal line underneath it, and a crescent-shaped line just above.

As quickly as it had arrived, the New Mexico UFO was gone. Zamora’s account detailed the craft’s abrupt departure, marked by a thunderous noise and a blinding blast that scorched the earth beneath.

So what was it that Zamora encountered and was there really a UFO in New Mexico that day?

Immediately following the sighting, Zamora alerted his colleagues, leading to a swift response from local authorities and the community. The area was secured, and evidence of the alleged aliens in New Mexico, including impressions in the ground and burnt foliage, was documented. These physical traces supported Zamora’s testimony and sparked a wider public and governmental response.

Who Was Lonnie Zamora?

Lonnie Zamora (Credit: Denver Post via Getty Images)

Dionicio E. Zamora was a highly respected sergeant with the Socorro Police Department. He was not known for fanciful tales, which lent a unique credibility to his report. His background as a former soldier and an unwavering reputation for honesty and integrity added weight to his claims about the Socorro UFO.

The Socorro UFO Investigation: Project Blue Book

White Sands Missile Range, NM (Credit: Erik Von Weber via Getty Images)

Project Blue Book was the US Air Force’s official inquiry into UFOs, running from 1952 until 1969. The project’s primary goals were to ascertain if UFOs presented any threat to national security and to determine if they could provide any unique scientific knowledge or advanced technologies.

Over its seventeen-year operation, Project Blue Book collected and analysed thousands of UFO reports from various sources including military and civilian pilots, weather observers, and the general public.

Of the 12,618 sightings reported, just over seven hundred remained classified as unexplained after investigation, meaning they could not be conclusively interpreted. One of those was the Lonnie Zamora incident.

It was reported that the US Army dispatched Captain Richard T. Holder from White Sands Missile Range, around 120 miles due south of the Socorro UFO site, to investigate.

‘My first impression was that it was something from the range that needed possible help. You know, first aid, attention, or at best, security. The more I got into it, the less convinced I was that that was the case.’

He went on to say, ‘Everything we saw seemed to support the story that officer Zamora recounted. Nothing gave me the slightest hint that he did this as a hoax or cooked it up for fame or fortune.’

Lonnie Zamora was confident in what he reported on that fateful day in New Mexico, but was never able to fully explain what he saw. The Air Force even brought in astronomer, professor, and Project Blue Book adviser J. Allen Hynek, one of the most famous names in UFO research. He was very impressed with Zamora and, like Captain Holder, believed there was virtually no possibility the New Mexico UFO incident was a hoax.

But the question remains. What exactly did Lonnie Zamora see?

The Socorro UFO Theories

Radio telescope array near Socorro, NM (Credit: Daniel A. Leifheit via Getty Images)

The Lonnie Zamora incident has spawned several theories – all speculative – attempting to explain the baffling encounter.

A Mysterious Mirage

British UFO sceptic Steuart Campbell, suggests that what Zamora witnessed was ‘almost certainly’ a mirage of Canopus, the second-brightest star in the night sky, which could have been refracted unusually due to atmospheric conditions. However it has been argued that this theory can’t explain the physical traces left on the ground.

A Moon Machine

Another theory says that the UFO in New Mexico may have been nothing more than a prototype lunar lander being tested by personnel from the White Sands Missile Range. This explanation is supported by the proximity of the range and the description of the craft.

A Student Stunt

It has long been speculated that students from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology orchestrated a clever and elaborate hoax, knowing Zamora’s patrol routes and habits. This theory suggests that the students could have created a convincing set-up to fool the officer. Then-president of the university, nuclear physicist Stirling Colgate, was relatively certain it was his students. He said that Zamora saw ‘a candle in a balloon…not sophisticated.’

A Futuristic Flyer

Given the era and location near several military and research installations, it’s theorised that Zamora may not have seen aliens in New Mexico that day, but rather he observed a secret experimental or military aircraft, which was not publicly acknowledged.

Alien Arrival

Perhaps the most popular, yet controversial, theory is that Lonnie Zamora encountered an actual extraterrestrial spacecraft. This theory is built upon the account of unidentified occupants and the advanced technology apparently exhibited by the craft, however there’s no concrete evidence that he saw a UFO in New Mexico that day.

Each of these theories addresses different aspects of Zamora’s account, yet none provide a conclusive explanation, leaving the Socorro UFO incident open to interpretation and ongoing fascination.

The Lonnie Zamora Incident: What Really Happened in Socorro?

What did Lonnie Zamora see? (Credit: OsakaWayne Studios via Getty Images)

The Socorro UFO incident remains one of the most enigmatic and debated sightings in the annals of UFO research.

Despite various theories ranging from optical illusions and secret military experiments to extraterrestrial encounters, no conclusive explanation has been universally accepted. The enduring mystery of what Lonnie Zamora witnessed that Friday afternoon in 1964 continues to captivate ufologists and sceptics alike, and Zamora himself remained characteristically humble, yet convinced in his account.

‘If they want to believe me, good. If they don’t want to believe me, it’s alright, too.’


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