Red Bluff: 1960 – Saturday Night Uforia

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Olive grove

Above: An olive grove in Corning, California.

EVEN TODAY the area around the small town of Corning — at the northern end of the Sacramento Valley in California — is a combination of rural farms and pastoral views. Heavily agricultural, the area is renowned for its mature olive groves, along with a mix of plum, walnut and almond farms.

Farming here dates to the 1850s, but the history of the area stretches back beyond written record. Indigenous peoples endured here for eons, eventually becoming the homeland of the Nomleqa Winthun peoples. Then came the conquering Spanish for centuries more, before ceding way to the manifest destiny of the United States, and its prospectors traveling through as they answered the siren call of “Gold!”.

Over time events settled — the unremarkable and placid way of life there becoming first routine, then long established and accustomed, with excitement or adventure kept to a minimum…

…that is, of course, until one eerie and memorable night in August, 1960.

Satellite image Hoag Road

Above: Satellite image of the Corning, California area today. The black line represents the entirety of Hoag Road, which runs for a total distance of approximately 1.5 miles. To the right is the Sacramento River, and just beyond that, the Vina Plains.

THE STORY began just before midnight, on Saturday, August 13, 1960. The night — though still warm — offered some small relief following a blazingly hot summer’s day.

In their car were two officers of the California Highway Patrol — Charles A. Carson and Stanley E. Scott — who were searching out a speeding motorcyclist along Hoag Road just east of Corning. What happened next would be told in an official report written by officer Carson and submitted to the CHP Area Commander…

Note: The following is from a transcription in the declassified files of Project Blue Book, the U.S. Air Force program officially tasked with investigating UFO reports. Names blacked out on the declassified copy are included in brackets.

August 13, 1960

Area Commander – 130

[Blacked Out]

UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECT

Officer [Scott] and I were EB on Hoag Road, east of Corning looking for a speeding motorcycle when we saw what at first appeared to be a huge airliner dropping from the sky. The object was very low and directly in front of us. We stopped and leaped from the patrol vehicle in order to get position on what we were sure was going to be an airplane crash. From our position outside the car the first thing we noticed was an absolute silence. Still assuming it to be an aircraft with power off we continued to watch until the object was probably within 100′ to 200′ of the ground when it suddenly reversed completely, at high speed and gained approximately 500′ altitude. There the object stopped, at this time it was clearly visible to both of us and obviously not an aircraft of any design familiar to us. It was surrounded by a glow making the round or oblong object visible. At each end, or each side of the object there were definite red lights. At times about five white lights were visible between the red lights. As we watched the object moved again and performed aerial feats that were actually unbelievable.

At this time we radioed Tehama County Sheriff’s Office requesting they contact local radar base. The Radar Base confirmed the U.F.O. – completely unidentified.

Officer [Scott] and myself, after our verification continued to watch the object. On two occasions the object came directly towards the patrol vehicle, each time it approached, the object swept the area with a huge red light. Officer [Scott] turned the red light on the patrol vehicle towards the object and it immediately went away from us.. [sic, two period marks] We observed the object use the red beam approximately 6 or 7 times, sweeping the sky and ground areas. The object began moving slowly in an easterly direction and we followed. We proceeded to the Vina Plains fire station were we again were able to locate the object. As we watched it was approached by a similar object from the south. It moved near the first object and both stopped, remaining in that position for some time, occasionally emitting the red beam. Finally both objects disappeared below the eastern horizon. We returned to the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office and met Deputy [Fry] and Deputy [Montgomery], who had gone to Los Molinos after contacting the radar base. Both had seen the U. F. O. clearly and described to us what we saw. The night jailer also was able to see the object for a short time, each described the object and its maneuvers exactly as we saw them. We first saw the object at 2350 hours and observed it for approximately two hours and 15 minutes. Each time the object neared us we experienced radio interference.

We submit this report in confidence, for your information, we were calm after our initial shock and decided to observe and record all we could of the object.

[Blacked Out]                   
Charles A. Carson, [Blacked Out]

The route followed by Carson and Scott according to the report would have first taken them south for a little over a mile and then east over the Sacramento River for just short of four miles, and then north for a quarter-mile to the fire station — ending in their being due east of their original sighting…

Satellite image Hoag Road

Above: Route taken by officers Carson and Scott from Hoag Road to the Vina Plains fire station.

Undoubtedly, in towns such as Corning (population 3006 in 1960) and nearby Red Bluff (the Tehama County seat, population 7202 in 1960) word of mouth spread news of the incident quickly, and the first newspaper report would indeed be local, dated Monday, August 15, 1960, in the Red Bluff, California, Daily News — which conducted no personal interview but repeated statements from Carson’s report to the Area Commander. But the story soon caught the attention of the national newswires, which did a little original reporting in the form of quotes, as from the August 16, 1960, edition of the Redlands, California, Daily Facts

Highway Patrol Chases Unidentified Flying Object

RED BLUFF, California (UPI) — Two California highway patrolmen have reported sighting — and then racing — a mysterious flying football-shaped object which gave off a mysterious red glow.

At least eight other persons also reported spotting the object, which was described as being the size of an airliner. They reported that sometimes it just hung silently in the air only 200 feet off the ground.

The strange story began about 11:45 p.m. Saturday when patrolmen Stanley Scott and Charles A. Carson were cruising in their patrol car 18 miles south of here.

Scott Monday night reported that he first saw the thing about a mile and a half away at an altitude of 200 feet. It seemed to have a row of horizontal lights and “something on the end that made a red beam” and appeared to be sweeping the ground, he reported.

As they kept looking at it in disbelief, it suddenly shot noiselessly up about 500 feet.

They sent out a radio alert and then put their flashing red light on. The object swung its red beam and then began to slide across the sky, they reported. They pursued the object for about two hours.

At one time, it went into “various maneuvers — straight up and down and sideways.” But it soon left its pursuers behind.

Three deputy sheriffs, hearing the radio alert, raced into the hunt. They reported that they saw it too, but were also outmaneuvered as the thing disappeared over the eastern horizon around 2 a.m.

All this time, the patrolmen’s radio was full of static, presumably caused by the flying object.

Meanwhile, here in Red Bluff, the night jailer, Clarence Fry, picked up the radio alert. About 1 a.m. he marched four prisoners onto the front steps of the jailhouse. All five men testified to seeing the glowing mysterious object “about 25 miles to the south.”

Neither officer would identify it as a “flying saucer.”

But their boss, Highway Patrol Capt. Ruel Boehm, said Monday night: “They know they saw it and we know they saw it.”

Unfortunately the United Press newswire story above was mostly second-hand, with few direct quotes and some errors in the facts — along with a dash of hyperbole, as well. But in Blue Book’s declassified files is a transcript of a lengthy radio interview at the local radio station, KBLF from Tuesday, August 16, 1960. The version of the transcript found in Blue Book files was apparently prepared especially for Blue Book, as it replaces most names with underlines, and doesn’t identify who is speaking…

Note
Transcript

Above, top: Unsigned note in Blue Book files concerning the radio interview by officers Carson and Scott. Below: Beginning of transcript.

     Radio KBLF interview of officers [Blacked Out] and [Blacked Out] of highway patrol, Red Bluff, Office.

     Saturday night, approximately 11:50, almost midnight.

     Where did you first spot the unidentified flying object?
     East of Corning (?), about 4 miles East of Corning to be exact.

     You were on the Hoag (?) road where the people know the area around here, right? Now, what you spotted, we have had a lot of talk and people have called it different things and everything else; so, the best way possible, Mr. Scott, if you could more or less identify what it looked like from where you were this time of the evening.
     At first we thought it was an airliner coming down and after looking closer at it and getting out of the car, we realized that it was not a conventional type aircraft. It was surrounded by a bright white glow, a glow of light. It was shaped similar to a football. A row of white lights ran horizontal to the object across the center of it, and on each end there was a red light which would sweep the countryside as the object turned. It pointed the red light in the direction…

     How far were you from this when you sighted it the first time?
     It is hard to say, not knowing the size of the object. It is possible that we were as close as a half mile or anywhere up to a mile and a half to two miles at the. closest.

     Something I asked this _______ afternoon, I’ll ask him again; but right now, I would like to ask you. The very first moment you saw the unidentified flying object — what was your first feeling?
     At first I didn’t have any feeling until the object had performed a few maneuvers and then appeared to be coming straight toward the patrol car. At that time, I did get scared and the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I was quite shocked.

     Was there ever a feeling of fear in any way, form, or was it mostly curiosity or shock, like you say?
     Well, I did feel fear just one time there when it first started toward us, and after that it was more curiosity. We were then trying to find out what it was.

     Well, _______, to your own idea now, Mr. Scott more or less explained what it looked like — once again it looked like it had either a row of lights or a row of windows on the side of the object, is this right?
     Yes, it appeared to be windows. The windows were only visible when the object would turn at a certain angle to us. It appeared to have to manipulate the machine in order to get this beam to sweep in the sense that the beam wasn’t movable in itself, that the entire object had to move to move the beam light — this fixed light.

     This fixed light, was this one the nose and one, more or less, the rear of the ship?
     We only saw one beam in operation at a time but both red lights on the front and rear or sides, how ever the case may be, were always visible.

     Would you say, it was round?
     The light or the object?

     No, the object itself.
     The object was round.

     In other words, if someone would say a flying saucer — that is what it looked like?
     Yes, that’s right.

     And it was supposedly hovering over the ground at a certain altitude for a certain length of time right in that area?
     That’s correct, quite considerable lengths of time it hovered over the ground and appeared motionless.

     Well, you know a lot of people have been talking about weather balloons and illusions and so forth; and right now I would like to point out that we have with us two members of the California highway patrol and they in no way are seeing any illusions, the big thing we want to point out. And, in checking with the weather bureaus in __________________ on the San Francisco Bay area — there were two balloons let out with red and white lights but these balloons were never in the area where the officers were. And so, if anyone has the idea that this is an illusion, no, it is not! And something else, too, _______, I would like to bring out and that is the fact that you or Mr. Scott put the red light on the object.
     That was officer Scott, he propped (?) the red light on the object.

     What happened then?
     Well, then the object moved away from us, and we followed it in the patrol car at which time we lost sight of it. We stopped after several miles and got out of the patrol car and, as I recall, we climbed on the hood of the car to look over a knoll. There it was, looking right back at us.

     Good feeling, right!
     It was hovering about a mile away. At this time it appeared to be about a mile away.

     Well, _______ was saying earlier that at one time it was behind the hill and all at once it seemed to jump over the hill.
     That was the time.
     It appeared a lot closer that [sic] what it was.

     How big would you say the object was?
     As large or larger than an airliner.

     Could you say in feet approximately?
     About 150 to 200 feet.

     How close would you say that you ever got to the flying object?
     Well, like we said, not knowing the exact size of the object and just judging from the lights, we couldn’t get too much of an extremely accurate — it would be a guess, but we figure anywhere from a half mile to a mile and a half.

     Well, let’s see, in your own thoughts, naturally in your own opinion, do you have any idea what it might be? What is your own opinion?
     Not in the slightest. I wouldn’t even care to form an opinion. I would like to know what it is.
     Still amazed!?

     This was Saturday night. I heard reports too, that it was also sighted last night by residents in the area and it seems to be coming back to the same spot. Do you think there might be a possible chance that it would return to this same spot tonight or some time in the future?
     Well, could be.
     Could be, right!

     Well, after all this night’s work, Mr. Scott, what was your feeling after you returned home and heard, of course, on newscasts and read in newspapers and magazines about people who spotted such objects and people saying some weird things about them? How did you feel yourself, especially after you reported this to the highway patrol office?
     Well, I could hardly believe what I had seen out there and I was thankful for the fact that there were other officers from different agencies that had seen the object, plus residents of the area and people traveling through because myself — I don’t think if I had seen it and no one else had seen it — I would have been pretty confused.

     (The object was seen by:) you and ________ and three deputies and a couple of prisoners from the jail and some city police plus some residents from the area. It would really be quite a thing to come across something like this. Were you in the area on a regular routine patrol?
     We were on routine patrol. We were the only car in the county that night and we were covering the entire county.

     After you had come across this thing, you reported it to the highway patrol office?
     No, we reported it to the dispatcher at the sheriff’s office. We don’t have a dispatcher here at Red Bluff.

     They in turn sent down three deputies, was that the idea?
     Yes, that is what they did.

     You say then it was more of a saucer shape than a cigar shape? The way you described it this afternoon, it could be either one.
     It could have been either one. Not being directly under it and not getting the full view of the under side of the thing or never having the machine turn cross ways in front of us it is (would be) difficult to say even in the daytime — you could not determine whether it was round or oblong.

     Well, do you say this, that maybe perhaps it knew of your presence there especially with this red light on?
     I firmly believe it was aware of the presence of the light because the object moved away immediately. As officer Scott brought the red light on, it moved directly away from us.

     Well, then it did move away. Did it move away slowly or did it do this all at once, with speed?
     It moved away fairly fast. It moved so swiftly that we lost sight of it. That is when we lost it the first time.

     I see, like it did notice the red light and it was leaving the area. Then did it return after you put the red light …
     It came back towards us on one other occasion.

     _______, Let’s put it this way, how do you feel about the whole situation right now?
     I am like officer Scott, I still find it rather difficult to believe even after watching. It was amazing to sit out there for two hours and fifteen minutes watching this thing, and it is even more difficult to tell someone else what you saw. It is quite an experience. That is all you could say about it.

     So, if someone would say to you that they felt you saw a balloon or an optical illusion, what would you say?

     I would say that I wish that person had been sitting where I was and I had been sitting home.

     Is that your same feeling, Mr. Scott?
     That’s right, it was definitely not a balloon or optical illusion. We saw something out there.

     It was a UFO, an unidentified flying object. I can see what you mean. Well, there it is. In other words, we have an unidentified flying object, maybe never again, then again we might.
     This is in the area on highway 99 E and as a guess it was approximately 200 feet (sq ft ?) in diameter, and had weird lights and so forth, and hovering over the ground down there, and shifting from back and forth and, once again, it was not an optical illusion: it was there.

     Well, _______, would you like to say anything to sort of wrap this up. I know you have been busy all day long and both Mr. Scott and Mr. Carson have been with the wire service and the television all day and now I have them cornered, too, trying to get more out of them; but after this experience tied up with press and everything else, what do you think of it now?
     Oh, even with the press it was quite an experience. I think most of the reporters and people we talked to were quite impressed due to the number of creditable people that saw the thing. I go along with Scott 100 per cent: I am sure glad I wasn’t there by myself. If I had been, I would have gone home and thought it over by myself before reporting it.

     Isn’t it true that someone in the area at the time traveling through called in somewhere and reported, more or less, confirming your reports of the same object?
     Yes, two people from San Francisco called today to report that they had seen the object in the area at that time as they were passing through on highway 99 E.

     How many people would you say saw the object that you know of that night?
     I have no idea. There was, I believe, at least 8 of us at that time that we knew of right then that was watching the object. However, I do know that some people have called the highway patrol reporting that they also saw the object. Of course, this happened today after the story broke.

I was talking to some of the residents of the __________ area and they said too that they also spotted the object. (narrator)

Well, gentlemen, since time is running out I would like to take the opportunity to say thanks after a busy day with press and with the office work and so forth. I would like to thank you a lot for taking the time and coming out here. To me this is a fantastic story. I think it is just fabulous and like you said, I am glad you weren’t alone because if I were in the position I would feel the very same way. So, thank you so very much.

We have officer Scott and officer Carson here. Highway Patrol, Red Bluff Office.

The interviewer’s comment that “I heard reports too, that it was also sighted last night by residents in the area” may have referred to two reports later documented by researcher Loren Gross. Transcribed from the August 17, 1960, edition of the Corning Daily Observer, the first report concerned Corning residents Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Million, Mrs. Louis Pryatei and her son Robert…

The four were standing in their front yard in the 1400 block of Butte Street, watching for satellite Echo One when they saw two objects in the eastern sky. They described the objects as cigar-shaped, and they saw red and white lights shining from them.

The UFO’s flew soundlessly and erratically around one and other for about 10 minutes before disappearing to the northeast.

The second report in that August, 17, 1960, edition of the paper concerned a sighting by Mr. and Mrs. Ron Wells and their children Glen and Kimber…

Last night’s sighting by the Wells family on Prune Street was made at 9:50 as they were watching for Echo One. Thinking the object to be the satellite, they called their children Glen, 10 and Kimber, 6.

As the four members of the Wells family watched, however, the object approached from the wrong direction for Echo One. Boomerang-shaped like a flying wing, it approached from the southwest, moved at an “unbelievable speed,” and finally disappeared to the northwest, twice emitting bursts of white light.

The Wells family said that altogether the object was in sight for less than five minutes.

After the object had disappeared, as soundlessly as it came on the horizon, the Wells saw Echo One appear on schedule.

The Corning residents said that the object was not an airplane because they had seen them earlier and they had blinking wing lights and moved much slower.

The lack of sound also impressed the Wells. Earlier they had seen a jet approach soundlessly, but then heard its roar as the jet was flying away from them.

The UFO, however, made no sound at any time during its appearance and disappearance

But if those were the same reports referred to by the KBLF interviewer, then somewhere there has been an error in the dating — for the interview was said by Blue Book to have occurred on August 16, while that was the same night given by Gross for the two sightings transcribed above. This discrepancy might be resolved in light of a comment by the interviewer…

…I know you have been busy all day long and both Mr. Scott and Mr. Carson have been with the wire service and the television all day and now I have them cornered, too, trying to get more out of them…

The United Press report on officers Carson and Scott had first gone out on August 16. If press and television were bombarding the two officers it may well have been the day after the UPI newswire report — communication and travel taking considerably more time then than it does now. All circumstances considered, it seems most likely that the KBLF interview occurred on August 17th. But if the date given for the interview by Blue Book and the date given by Gross for the news articles are both correct, then there were indeed other sightings, the details of which remain unknown.

In both the United Press newswire story and the interview, it was stated that at least eight people had reported the sighting. But the exact identity of each person is not clear. Two had been Carson and Scott, the original witnesses. Two more had been Deputies Fry and Montgomery, who had gone to Los Molinos to see for themselves. A fifth witness had been the unnamed night jailer in Red Bluff, who according to the UPI story had “marched four prisoners onto the front steps of the jailhouse” to see the object — making a total of nine witnesses. In addition, there were two witnesses from San Francisco traveling Highway 99 at the time.

Map of Area

Above: Red Bluff, California at top of map, seat of Tehama County and site of the Tehama County Jail. Middle: Los Molinos, California, where officers Fry and Montgomery traveled to get a look. Bottom left: Hoag Road in Corning, California, where the original sighting by officers Carson and Scott took place. Bottom right: The Vina Plains Fire Department which was Carson and Scott’s final vantage point. Running along the right side is Highway 99, where the two witnesses from San Francisco had their sighting.

Unfortunately, other documentation makes the situation less straight-forward. One such is a “Tehama County Sheriff Supplemental Crime Report” found in Blue Book files. There is no date on the document, but it covers events between August 8, 1960 and August 20, 1960. From the language used and the careful analysis of the visible portions of the blacked-out signature, it undoubtedly was prepared by Officer Clarence Fry, one of the original corroborating witnesses to the sighting by Carson and Scott. The relevant portion…

Sheriff Report

Above: Beginning of the Tehama County Sheriff Supplemental Crime Report, which covers events between August 8, 1960 and August 20, 1960.

On August 13, 1960 at about 11:30PM, Officers [Scott] and [Carson] of the California Hiway [sic] Patrol radioed the Tehama Co. Sheriff’s Office and stated that they watching [sic] a flying Object and had been for about one hour.

At 12:00Midnight [sic] this Officer and Officer [Montgomery] went to Los Molinas [sic, should be Molinos] and set on a small hill to the East named or called Blueberry Hill and at approximately 12:30AM of 8-14-60 observed four objects in the Western sky, they were traveling from the south to the north in a straight line and at times they would go straight up or down, one of the objects seem [sic] to stop and hover over the Red Bluff area. After a short time there was a [sic] Object seen going from the North to the South.

Here, then, inconsistencies began to appear in the story. A minor one was that Fry reported that at 11:30 p.m. Carson and Scott had said they had been watching the object “for about one hour”, when according to the two officers the sighting didn’t begin until 11:50 p.m.

The second — and far more important — inconsistency was in officer Fry’s description of what he and officer Montgomery had seen. Everything Carson and Scott said indicated they had been facing and moving east to keep track of the object. But Fry and Montgomery had from their position in Los Molinos “observed four objects in the Western sky”. Clearly, facing in opposite directions, the four men could not be seeing the same thing.

The next section of officer Fry’s report further complicates matters…

Note: Names blacked out on the declassified copy of the following are included in brackets when known.

On 8-14-60 at approximately 10:05 to 10:10PM went out side of the Tehama Co. Jail to check the Sky [sic] as officer [Montgomery] radioed that he had a object in the Los Molinas [sic, throughout] area that had appeared to have landed twice to the east of Los Molinas, on checking out side of the Jail observed a object comming [sic] in from the west to a position of about South East of the Jailaand [sic] it appeared to stop and hover for a moment in that position. Writer called to the four trusties a [Blacked Out], [Blacked Out], [Blacked Out] and a [Blacked Out] to come out side and observe the flying object, by the time the four men arrived the Object was hovering and it looked lik [sic] a large Rail Road car with two large Red Lights one on each end, the hole [sic] Object was a pale Yellow glow in color and white lights appeared along it in three or four places which may have been windows. The Object then took off in a southerly direction and passed out of sight with out any of the above four persons and this writer hearing any type of motor or sound from the Object. A few moments later the Corning Police radioed (Officer [Blacked Out] and he stated that the object was west of Corning going South at agreat [sic] Speed.

The most glaring inconsistency in the above is the times given — 10:05 to 10:10PM on August 14. This would place events nearly 23 hours after the first sighting by Carson and Scott. But the entirety of the situation seen in retrospect seems to indicate that this was a careless error by officer Fry, and that it may have been intended to read “01:05AM to 01:10AM”. This is partially confirmed by an “Extract from Operations Log” from Red Bluff Air Force Station — the local radar base — as found in Blue Book files…

Op Log extract

Above: Summary extract of the following using local time notation rather than military “Z time”.

Note: The following uses military universal Z-time notation, which on that date and for that location was +7 hours ahead of local time.

Extract from Operations Log

14 Aug 60

0715Z     Received a call from [Blacked Out] at this time, [sic, punctuation] He reported that he had received various calls from individuals in town reporting an object flying Eastbound. The way he described the object and from my own observations, I told him it was the Satalitte [sic] ECHO 1, that was supposed to be in view at this time. (RS) Relayed this INFO to PADS (KS)

0735Z     SSgt Day recieved [sic] a call from [Blacked Out] of the Red Bluff Police, [sic, punctuation] He said that he receive d [sic] a call from a Calif. Highway Patrolman patrolling Highway 99 and the Hyway [sic] Patrolman reported seeing 3 (three) flying objects – traveling Northbound. Patrolman [sic] then went outside and saw for himself 1 (one) object flying North [sic, no punctuation] Patrolman [Blacked Out] described it as being round, with a red glow and a white light directly behind and to the left. He reported that it was doing between 30-40 MPH @ around 1,000ft no Noise [sic, capitalized] was heard. SSgt Day then called Red Bluff Airport and they said they had an aircraft take off @ approx. this time and would check on any flights of three’s [sic]. We saw nothing here on the PPI. Patrolman [Blacked Out] address is [Blacked Out] Red Bluff [sic, no punctuation] Reported this INFORMATION to PADS (KS)

1015Z    Received another calll [sic] from [Blacked Out] He reported seeing 4 (four) red flashing objects between 1200 Local – 0100 Local [sic, no punctuation] Between 0100 Local – 0130 Local he saw 5 (five) red flashing objects. He said the whole RBPD & Calif Hyway [sic] Patrol on duty tonight had seen the objects [sic, no punctuation] We observed nothing [sic, no punctuation] This INFO was passed to PADS (KS)

This INFO was logged by [Blacked Out]

However, the matter is still complicated by a sketch found in Blue Book files…

Sketch
An enlargement of the blacked-out portion on the left of the sketch shows it was prepared by deputy Clarence Fry. The blacked-out portion on the right is completely unreadable, but was likely officer Montgomery. And so it has both Fry and Montgomery identifying it as occurring on August 14, 1960, around 10 p.m. If accurate this would mean that sightings had occurred on two consecutive days approximately 24 hours apart, witnessed on both days by both Fry and Montgomery. But it would also mean that news of this second sighting was kept out of the press. Nor does a second day of sightings by Fry and Montgomery appear in any subsequent investigatory report on the events of the time.

Further complicating matters are conflicting statements regarding the “night jailer” who marched trusties out to be witnesses. He is identified by name in the August 16 UPI article…

Meanwhile, here in Red Bluff, the night jailer, Clarence Fry, picked up the radio alert. About 1 a.m. he marched four prisoners onto the front steps of the jailhouse.

And as noted above, although names are blacked out deputy Fry is undoubtedly the author of the Tehama County Sheriff Supplemental Crime Report which states…

Writer called to the four trusties a [Blacked Out], [Blacked Out], [Blacked Out] and a [Blacked Out] to come out side and observe the flying object…

But the night jailer is referred to as being a separate person from officer Fry in officer Caron’s original report to the Area Commander…

We returned to the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office and met Deputy [Fry] and Deputy [Montgomery], who had gone to Los Molinos after contacting the radar base. Both had seen the U. F. O. clearly and described to us what we saw. The night jailer also was able to see the object for a short time…

Other documentation also refers to a separate unnamed night jailer. The simplest (and most likely) explanation is that there was another deputy at the jail at the time who was also a “night jailer”. Red Bluff — where the jail was located — is the Tehama County seat, and there was more than one deputy on duty that night. And in fact in the KBLF radio interview it was stated…

(The object was seen by:) you and ________ and three deputies…

But even with the identify of the “night jailer” and Officer Fry’s error in times (probably) settled, it still leaves actual events hazy. Assuming the time given by Fry (and Montgomery on the sketch) was in error, events seem to have unfolded as follows…

1) Carson and Scott make their sightings of an object in the east;

2) Fry and Montgomery travel from Red Bluff to Los Molinos to get a look (but sight multiple objects to the west);

3) Fry returns to Red Bluff where he becomes the “jailer” mentioned in news articles;

4) Montgomery makes a radio report from Los Molinos of an object landing twice;

5) Fry goes out to look and sees an object “comming [sic] in from the west to a position of about South East” of his position, matching the description of officers Carson and Scott.

6) Fry brings out four jail trusties to be witnesses;

7) The object Fry is watching then “took off in a southerly direction and passed out of sight”;

8) Within a few moments “Corning Police radioed” the object was moving “west of Corning going South at agreat [sic] Speed”;

9) Somewhere within all this officers Carson and Scott state the first object “was approached by a similar object from the south”;

10) The second object “moved near the first object and both stopped, remaining in that position for some time, occasionally emitting the red beam”;

11) Finally, “both objects disappeared below the eastern horizon”, some two hours and fifteen minutes after their initial sighting (making it approximately 2:05 a.m.).

Still — except for officers Carson and Scott — the question of who saw what where and at what time remained obscure. To straighten it all out would require the active involvement of a skilled investigator…

…which officially came under the purview of Project Blue Book, the U.S. Air Force program responsible for investigating UFO reports.

Blue Book Request

Above: August 16, 1960 request from Project Blue Book for a “detailed investigation” by McClellan AFB.

ON WEDNESDAY, August 17, 1960, an Associated Press national newswire story brought word that the Air Force would indeed be conducting an investigation. From the Albuquerque, New Mexico, Journal

USAF Probes UFO Report

HAMILTON AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) — The air force Tuesday said it was investigating reports of a football-shaped object, as big as an airliner, reported seen over northern California Saturday night.

Two California highway patrolmen, Stanley Scott and Charles A. Carson reported:

They saw the object while crusing [sic] in their patrol car near Corning, Tehama County.

It had a horizontal row of lights, and from the end came a red beam. First it was about 200 feet above the ground, then it shot up about 500 feet and took off eastward over the hills.

The officers said they sped over country roads trying to keep the object in sight. Three sheriffs deputies said they too saw the object and joined the chase.

The object vanished over the eastern horizon.

Hamilton AFB officers said “we are required by regulations to look into all UFO (unidentified flying object) reports” for analysis by experts at Wright-Patterson, Dayton, Ohio.

“Up to the present,” said Hamilton AFB spokesman, “the air force has been able to explain all UFO appearances, except in 1/10 of one per cent of the cases. In the exceptions there has not been enough information for the report to be pinned down.”

The news article’s use of the word “chase” was misleading. In the original report by the officers to the Area Commander they said merely that the “object began moving slowly in an easterly direction and we followed”.

But then, the reported statement out of Hamilton AFB saying that only 1/10 of one percent of reports remain unidentified was far below even the Air Force’s extremely misleading claim that the number of unknowns hovered at three percent.

That same day, the story received a brief update from the Red Bluff, California, Daily News

Red Bluff Radar

Above: Red Bluff Air Force Station, a radar-only site — under the operation of the 858th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron, known as 859th Radron — which was part of the national network of North American Air Defense Command early warning radars against Soviet attack. Its equipment also provided Ground Control Intercept capability.

Mystery Flying Object Puzzles

The unidentified flying object seen flittering around Tehama county Saturday night remains a mystery today.

Officials at the local radar base claim no knowledge of the strange object and deny tracking it on their radar screens. However, Major M.J. LeRoy commander of the base, said a complete report of the incident as reported by Highway Patrolmen Stanley E. Scott and Charles A. Carson has been forwarded to the Portland Air Force Defense Sector for investigation.

Ruel Bohm, captain of the local patrol office, state today he also has sent a complete report to the patrol operations office in Sacramento.

In the mean time it appears all will remain in the dark other than for the descriptions of eye witnesses of a huge oblong object emitting a “violently red” light which performed what is stated as “unbelievable” aerial feats.

Also — seemingly published locally — was news of another sighting report by sheriffs deputies and others in Mineral, California, approximately 31 air miles northeast of Red Bluff. An undated and unsourced news clipping in Blue Book files relates the following…

6 ‘Objects’ Fly Formation Near Mineral Lodge

Six “flying objects” in V formation maneuvered silently between Mineral and Turner Mountain last night according to two sheriff’s officers who were on a roadblock at Mineral Lodge.

Investigators Bill Gonzalez and Al Perry watched the display for close to half an hour, they said today. So too, they said, did at least half a dozen people from the lodge.

This was shortly after 10 o’clock.

A little before that two women in Red Bluff said they saw “two bright objects,” much larger than stars moving from south to north while they were watching the skies from Miller’s Trailer Park.

Both Mrs. Virgil Dickie and Mrs. Bill Schwartz reported the sightings. They watched the objects until they moved behind the hills and disappeared.

Perry and Gonzalez said the objects looked quite large but were so distant they could not identify the shapes. They flashed white and red lights.

Both said they went across the highway in an effort to hear whether the objects made any noise. They reported that they did not emit a sound.

“Nor were there any vapor trails,” Perry added. He said, however, he would estimate that they moved faster than any jets possibly could.

That same week would also see sightings of varying degrees of verisimilitude reported up and down the state — some seen only at great distance, some carrying the potential to be misinterpretation of conventional events, and others poorly reported or having greatly different versions told by separate witnesses to the same event. One summary of the events was given by deputy Clarence Fry — partially quoted earlier — in the Tehama County Sheriff Supplemental Crime Report, concerning events between August 8, 1960 and August 20, 1960 (in which he revealed he and officer Montgomery had additional sightings over the period)…

Note: Names blacked out on the declassified copy of the following are included in brackets when known.

Sheriff Report
On Monday 8-8-60 at approximately 9:05Pm at the Tehama County Jail there was heard and felt two loud Booms, at about 9:25PM received a radio report from the Corning Police Dept. that there was a ball of fire falling from the ball or object appeared to be falling to the East of Los Molinas [sic, throughout — should be Molinos] and Vina area. This report was radioed from the Corning Police dept. by Officers [Blacked Out] and [Blacked Out]. Writer reported this to the California Div. of Forrestry [sic] a [sic] CAA and the US Radar Base at Red Bluff, as the falling objectwas [sic] thought to be a Aircraft of some sort. All of the reports from the above was neg. as to any of our Air Craft., [sic, punctuation] and no Fires.

On August 13, 1960 at about 11:30PM, Officers [Scott] and [Carson] of the California Hiway [sic] Patrol radioed the Tehama Co. Sheriff’s Office and stated that they watching [sic] a flying Object and had been for about one hour.

At 12:00Midnight this Officer and Officer [Montgomery] went to Los Molinas and set on a small hill to the East named or called Blueberry Hill and at approximately 12:30AM of 8-14-60 observed four objects in the Western sky, they were traveling from the south to the north in a straight line and at times they would go straight up or down, one of the objects seem [sic] to stop and hover over the Red Bluff area. After a short time there was a [sic] Object seen going from the North to the South.

On 8-14-60 at approximately 10:05 to 10:10PM went out side of the Tehama Co. Jail to check the Sky [sic] as officer [Montgomery] radioed that he had a object in the Los Molinas [sic, throughout] area that had appeared to have landed twice to the east of Los Molinas, on checking out side of the Jail observed a object comming [sic] in from the west to a position of about South East of the Jailaand [sic] it appeared to stop and hover for a moment in that position. Writer called to the four trusties a [Blacked Out], [Blacked Out], [Blacked Out] and a [Blacked Out] to come out side and observe the flying object, by the time the four men arrived the Object was hovering and it looked lik [sic] a large Rail Road car with two large Red Lights one on each end, the hole [sic] Object was a pale Yellow glow in color and white lights appeared along it in three or four places which may have been windows. The Object then took off in a southerly direction and passed out of sight with out any of the above four persons and this writer hearing any type of motor or sound from the Object. A few moments later the Corning Police radioed (Officer [Blacked Out] and he stated that the object was west of Corning going South at agreat [sic] Speed.

On 8-16-60 at about 11:20pm while inrout [sic] to the Mineral area on a Road check a Object of about the same description was spotted by Officer [Montgomery] and writer in the Tuscan Butte area, this Object was observed to the South and was in hovering position the moved off to the south and was about three to four miles from the above Officers [sic, entire sentence]. At about 11:45PM while Officer [Montgomery] and writer were waiting at Dales Station for Officers [Blacked Out] and [Blacked Out] Officer [Montgomery] and writer observed a Object of a Pale Yellow color in the Red Bluff area, these sightings were about two to two and a half hours after the sightings at Mineral.

On 8-20-60 between 12:30AM and 2:15AM of this date Officer [Montgomery] and writer observed four objects east and north of Los Molinas, two Objects were high in the sky and were of a pale Reddish-Yellow color and a Red las [sic] flashing light, these object [sic] appeared to stand still as no movement was seen, at about1:15 [sic] to 1:30AM the last two were seen to rise up from the groundor [sic] possibly from the Mill Creek canyon area.

This is a true and as accurate a statement as this officer can submit at this time.

Sheriff Report

That deputy Fry’s summary took events to August 20th probably reflected another event, as reported in the August 20, 1960, edition of the Eureka, California, Humboldt Standard

Air Force Sifts Tehama Flying Saucer Reports

RED BLUFF (UPI) — An Air Force intelligence officer has begun a routing [sic] check into Tehama County sightings of an unidentified flying object, or objects.

Duane Bilslend, supervisor of criminal investigation at McClellan AFB in Sacramento, said Friday he would question everyone who claimed to have seen the objects last weekend.

Bilslend started with two California highway patrolmen who reported sighting a strange object last Saturday night.

“I consider myself a referee in the game of flying saucers,” he said.

Justus Wyman, information officer at McClellan, said that the Air Force makes the checks whenever anyone reports having seen a UFO. He said that no reports had ever turned up anything unexplainable in California.

Like the earlier statement that “only 1/10 of one percent of reports remain unidentified” by Hamilton AFB, the statement from McClellan was manifestly untrue — by that time there were thirty unknowns from California in Blue Book files.

It was not a promising start to the investigation to come.

Transcript

Above: From the declassified files of Project Blue Book, transcript of a hand-written statement and recreation of drawing included with the hand-written statement — taken as part of Bilslend’s investigation.

THE CHOICE of Duane K. Bilslend to conduct the investigation was unusual. Generally, field investigations requested by Blue Book were conducted by the intelligence officer at the nearest Air Force base. But Bilslend was chief of the Provost Marshal office, in charge of the military police for McClellan AFB near Sacramento.

In any case, Bilslend conducted his investigation from August 18 to August 21, 1960, and on August 23, 1960 filed his report to Blue Book…

Note: Names blacked out on the declassified copy of the following are included in brackets when known.

1. On 18 August 1960 the Provost Marshal, McClellan AFB, California, received TWX AFCIN-4#2X S-2488-E, dated 17 August 1960. At 1455 hours, 18 August 1960, the undersigned emplaned for Red Bluff, California, and up arrival reported to Major Malden J. LeRoy, Commanding Officer, 859th Radron, Red Bluff AFS, California.

2. The investigation of the incident was being conducted by 1/Lt David E. Snyder, AO-3017204, of that station. Lt. Snyder had taken a written statement from California Highway Patrolmen [Carson] and [Scott]. That statement (2 copies) a sketch and a newspaper article by and concerning these Patrolmen is attached as Exhibit “A.”

3. In addition, Lt Snyder had extracted all information associated with the incident which had been recorded in the Red Bluff Air Force Station Operational Log. Those extracts are attached as Exhibit “B.”

4. “Exhibit “C” is additional information of a general nature which Lt Snyder had secured.

5. At 1630 hours, 18 August, the undersigned interviewed Patrolmen [Carson] and [Scott] and was able to develop the additional information attached as Exhibit “D.”

6. Local inquiry succeeded in locating various residents who had witnessed the appearance of UFO previous to or on the same date the Highway Patrol Officers had reported seeing the one in question. Attached to this report are statements and sketches by [Blacked Out] and [Blacked Out], respectively tabbed as Exhibits “H” thru “I.” Received on 23 August via mail was additional statement by additional persons which is included herewith as Exhibit “I-2.”

7. The undersigned interviewed each of the above persons and based on a personal opinion formed through observation of credibility, responsibility and reputation, concluded that an unidentified object and/or objects of similar physical appearance, whether real or imaginary, were observed by various solid citizens of Tehama County California.

8. Based upon allegations by the citizenry that UFOs had been appearing nightly in the area north and east of Red Bluff, California, the undersigned established a vigil in the Inskip Look-Out Tower on the night of Friday, 19 August 1960, between the hours of 1830-0200. No objects were observed.

9. At 2000 hours, Saturday, 21 August 1960, the undersigned was at the Sheriff’s Office in Red Bluff, at which time an UFO was reported by Criminal Investigator D[Blacked Out] Red Bluff, California. The undersigned went immediately to the address and was shown a very distant round object having a reddish hue. The horizon was extremely smoky due to forest fires in the area. The object was observed for 30 minutes until hidden by smoke. At 0200 hours the same date contact was visually re-established and the object was identified as a star.

10. California Division of Forestry Maps of Tehama County were obtained and recordings of sightings indicated thereon. See Exhibits “J”, “K” and “L.”

11. And additional report of sightings of UFO was furnished by the California Highway Patrol Commissioners Office. Attached as Exhibit “M.”

12. Forwarded with this report is a tape recording of the conversation given by the two California Highway Patrolmen to the KBLF Radio Reporter in Red Bluff, California, on the morning following the sighting of the UFO 13 August 1960.

DUANE K. BILSLEND, Chief
Investigations and Inspection Section

Bilslend had proved himself to indeed be an objective referee. But his unbiased and unskeptical report no doubt arrived unwelcomed by the powers that be at Blue Book (which was located at ATIC — the Aerospace Technical Intelligence Center — at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio).

Blue Book’s nominal chief at the time was Major Robert Friend. But he reported to Colonel Philip G. Evans, Deputy for Sciences and Components at ATIC. And Evans had a singular goal: to rid Air Force intelligence of responsibility for investigating UFO reports once and for all.

For a period of more than six months — starting in late September, 1959 — Evans had been part of a high-ranking group located at Dayton and at the Pentagon who had been proactively working to get Blue Book transferred to the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) or to the Secretary of the Air Force’s Information Services (SAFIS — the public information arm of the Air Force.)

That plan was firmly rebuffed by the heads of both ARDC and SAFIS (and others even higher up) and was dead in the water by June, 1960.

The situation would get even worse for Evans when several congressmen — including Robert Smart of the Armed Services Committee — threatened congressional hearings on Air Force handling of UFO reports. To add insult to injury, the threat of congressional hearings had been prompted by an aggressive lobbying campaign by the civilian group NICAP (National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena), whose head, Major Donald Keyhoe, was considered by Blue Book to be its number one nemesis. In the end, the congressmen settled for a briefing at the Pentagon, which as noted in a follow-up report in Blue Book files included an impressive list of attendees…

Present at the meeting: Mr Robert Smart, Armed Forces Committee, Mr Spencer Beresford, Mr Richard Hines and Mr Frank Hammil [sic, should be Hammill], Science and Astronautics Committee, Mr John Warner, CIA (Asst for Legislative Liaison to Mr Allen Dulles), Mr Richard Payne, CIA (Tech Advisor), Mr John McLaughlin, Adm Asst to Sec of the Air Force, M/Gen A.H. Leuhman [sic, should be Luehman] and B/Gen E.B. LeBaily, SAFOI, B/Gen Kingsley and Col James C. McKee, SAFLL, L/Col Sullivan, AFCIN-Pla, L/Col Tacker, SAFOI-3d, Maj J. Boland, SAFLL, Maj R. Friend, AFCIN-4E2 and Dr J. Allen Hynek, Consultant to Project Blue Book.

The briefing had been tense. Congressman Smart, in particular, insisted that the Air Force needed to devote greater resources to investigation, that it should proactively “investigate those cases which appear to have intelligence, scientific, or public relation potential”, that he and the Armed Services committee should be kept current on the results of those investigations, and — in a not so subtle threat — that his “future stand to constituents” on the competency of the Air Force investigation would depend on the Air Force implementing his suggestions.

Evans — who had not attended the meeting — whipped out a memo stating that the “necessary action has been initiated at this level to obtain both the additional personnel and funds required to carry out this operation”. But it was an empty promise, and in fact Blue Book continued as before… the one difference being that in cases which attracted congressional attention, Evans would personally author a report.

Generally, in well-documented cases, a report by Evans would mis-state, fabricate or omit relevant facts. He would then go on to give a wordy pseudo-scientific analysis explaining why witnesses did not see what they saw. His analysis of the sighting of officers Carson and Scott — date-stamped November 23, 1960 — would be more of the same…

AFCIN-4E2x

Congressional Request for Summary of UFO Sighting
(Mr Robert Smart, House Armed Services Committee)

SAFOI-3d (L/Col Tacker)

1. The summaries contained in this correspondence are of the UFO sightings which occurred in the Red Bluff, California area between 12-20 August 1960. These summaries and the associated ATIC analysis are forwarded per telephone requests by L/Col Tacker, SAFOI-3d and L/Col J. Boland, SAFLL on 16 November 1960. Information concerning these sightings was requested from SAFLL by Mr Robert Smart, House Armed Services Committee.

2. On 13 August 1960 at 2345 hours PST, two California highway patrolmen, [Blacked Out] and [Blacked Out] observed an unidentified flying object while patrolling 18 miles south of Red Bluff, California. The two officers stated that the object suddenly appeared directly in front of their patrol car and their first impression was that it was an aircraft about to crash. The officers leaped from their car in order to be in a better position to act after the expected crash. When outside of their car both officers were immediately struck by the absence of sound, but assumed the aircraft was without power. As the object approached within 200-300 feet of the ground it suddenly reversed itself, and at high speed gained approximately 500 feet of altitude, where it came to a complete stop. The officers described the object as surrounded by a glow, and at each end of the round or elliptical object there were red lights. At times there were approximately five white lights visible between the red lights. Officer Scott’s impression was that the object was sweeping the area with red light beams and estimated that six or seven sweeps were made. He further stated that it appeared to take positive action to avoid his shining the red light of the patrol vehicle upon it. Both officers described the motion as abrupt, but generally toward the east and reported that they followed in their vehicle. As they followed and watched the object, it was approached by a similar object. Finally both objects disappeared below the eastern horizon. Upon return to the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office, it was determined that two deputies and the night jailer had also experienced seeing the object and their impressions were the same as the two patrolmen.

3. On 17 August 1960, at 1930 hours PST, Mr [Blacked Out], Red Bluff, California was driving up Belle Mill Road with his wife and son toward what is commonly called Hog Back Road. Mr [Blacked Out] reported that he and his family sighted a bright metal-like object at approximately tree top level which was flying in a northerly direction. Mr [Blacked Out] stated that the object was approximately three to four miles away and the first impression was that it was a large helicopter. When Mr [Blacked Out] and his family reached the spot where they thought the object to be, they sighted it approximately one-half mile away and approximately 100 feet below them. The object appeared to immediately pick up speed, rising out of the canyon and passing over the road in front of the family. It dropped from sight for a few moments and was then seen traveling up a branch canyon. The object was described as completely round and approximately 35 to 50 feet in diameter. When it rose form the canyon and passed over the road it appeared to have a light near the nose. The light had a reddish purple hue. The object was reported to have second light which was located on the back. The second light appeared as a narrow bluish band. The object was estimated to have a speed of 25-30 miles per hour.

4. On 17 August 1960 at approximately 2100 hours local, [Blacked Out], Dept of Correction, Mrs. [Blacked Out], Forest Look-Out, and Miss [Blacked Out] sighted an unidentified flying object from the forestry look-out at Inskip Mountain. The object was described as a dull red light above the horizon. The object was reported to have faded and reappeared several times in gradual cycles. The object was reported to be generally stationary. At approximately 2130 hours another object was sighted which was similar to the first; however, it appeared to be moving from right to left at a constant elevation

5. As evidenced by Exhibits I and M of attachment #1 to this document, there were many sightings of UFO’s in the California area between 12-20 August 1960. These exhibits also confirm the fact that the circumstances surrounding these sightings were generally the same.

6. This case was brought to the attention of ATIC on 16 August 1960 by a telephone call from L/Col L. Tracker, SAFOI-3d. On this date a TWX (Atch #2) was sent to McClelland [sic] AFB, California requesting a full and detailed investigation in accordance with the two provisions of AFR 200-2, dated 14 September 1959.

7. On 16 August 1960, ATIC made telephone contact with the 859th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (ADC), Red Bluff Air Station, Red Bluff, California. The 859th is tied in with the Portland Air Defense Sector, Adair Air Force Base. Major LeRoy of the Radar Station reported that nothing had appeared on their scopes which called for a scramble between 12-16 August 1960. Contact was again established with the 859th on 17 November 1960, and at this time Major LeRoy denied having informed patrolmen [Blacked Out] and [Blacked Out] that an unidentified object was on the scope of his unit on the night of the sighting. The Radar Unit at Red Bluff is a SAGE station. The equipment at Red Bluff is only monitored at that station and is tied in to the Portland Air Defense Sector, which has the identification and intercept responsibility. Major LeRoy informed the California Highway Patrol that his station had no capability for identification, but that in view of the fact that no scramble had occurred, no unidentified object was on the scope.

The major stated that the officers ware not convinced that his information was all true.

8. For further support of the data collected during the investigation of this case ATIC obtained from the Air Weather Service (NATS) at Asheville, North Carolina the WBAN Forms 31 (Adiabatic Charts) for the Red Bluff, California area covering the period 8-24 August 1960. The weather stations at Red Bluff, Chico, and Redding, California are second order stations. Those second order stations observe on a limited schedule, generally daylight hours, and do not correlate adiabatic charts. The most representative records available for determining the vertical temperature gradient for Red Bluff are the Adiabatic Charts for Oakland, California and Medford, Oregon. Red Bluff is located almost exactly half way between these two cities, 165 miles from Oakland and 155 miles from Medford. Since the general weather for Oakland, Red Bluff, and Medford was the same, it is safe to assume that interpolation will give a representative picture of the vertical temperature gradient at Red Bluff. The Adiabatic Charts indicate that a strong temperature inversion was prevalent in the entire northern California area during the period of the sightings.

9. The conclusion of ATIC is that the sightings which occurred in the Red Bluff area were due to atmospheric refraction. It is an impossible task to determine what the exact light source was for each specific incident, but the planet Mars was the most probable culprit in the instance of the highway patrolmen. The planet at the time of the sighting was just below the horizon and probably hove into view due to the refraction of its light by the atmosphere. A contributing factor to the sightings could have been the layer of smoke which hung over the area in a thin stratiform layer. This smoke came from the forest fires in the area and hung in a layer due to the stable conditions associated with the inversion.

10. The usual occurrence in nature is for the temperature of the atmosphere to decrease as altitude increases. This change in temperature with altitude is known as the “lapse rate.” In some cases, however, instead of decreasing with altitude the temperature actually increases and the condition is termed an “inversion.”

11. In passing from one medium to another of different densities or different densities of the same medium, waves or radiant energy are refracted or bent from their original straight line course, except when entering at 90° to the surface separating the two media. The bending is explained by the fact that the waves travel at different speeds in media of different densities. This, in effect, means that a person can in fact look around a corner, or a curve when there are an infinite number of layers of slightly different densities next to each other, as in the atmosphere. Due to the fact that light of different wave lengths (colors) bend at different angles, white light is separated into color bands (spectrum) ranging usually from red to violet. The longer wave lengths (red) being bent less than the short (blue). This secondary effect of refraction is called dispersion.

12. In addition to the usual results of atmospheric refraction, special optical effects known as mirages may occur when there are strong temperature contrasts in adjacent layers of air. Mirages fall into two general categories termed “inferior” and “superior.” The most common mirage is the inferior type, occurring when the temperature profile is following the normal pattern of decreasing with altitude. However, for the condition to occur, a layer of extremely warm air must exist near the surface with relatively cooler and, therefore, denser air above it. Convection would normally occur under these conditions, but usually has not begun due to lack of turbulence and the slow transfer of heat due to conduction and radiation. These conditions cause the light which reaches the eye to be less curved than normally, and in some extreme conditions to actually be curved in the opposite direction. The effect of inferior mirages is to shorten the distance to ones [sic] apparent horizon (see Atch #3). In this type of mirage a distant object is sometimes seen inverted and below the real object. This is the type of mirage which is so familiar to persons on deserts. The water they see being an inverted image of the sky. An evoryday [sic] experience with a mirage of this type is the wet appearance of known to be dry highways. The wet spot remaining some distance ahead of the car. These mirages are called “inferior” because the image is below that real object. When the opposite temperature conditions occur, a cold layer of air with warmer air on top (inversion), the conditions produce a superior mirage. These mirages tend to increase the distance to our horizon and their effects are much more startling than inferior mirages. When these conditions occur a person can actually see objects which normally would be below his horizon. Sometimes the images will be highly magnified or extremely distorted. This mirage is called a superior mirage because the image occurs above the actual object. In this explanation reference has been made to layers of air, but it should be understood that the transition from one layer to the next is not abrupt. There is mixing and a gradual change in the refractive power of the air, and the effects seen in mirages are due to this continuous variation.

13. A number of the witnesses mentioned that the object they observed was moving at some approximate speed. The speeds most commonly mentioned were centered around about 35 miles per hour. It should be noted that these witnesses were riding in cars and that this is probably the speed at which they were driving. It is a common characteristic of mirages that the image remains a constant distance from the observer in order that the geometry associated with the phenomena remains fairly consistent. Mirages of water holes seen in the desert are constantly out of reach. It is probable that the witnesses’ estimates of speed were reached by the fact that the object appeared to keep pace with their cars.

14. It is quite probable that reports of all of the sightings which occurred in California during the period 12-20 August 1960 did not reach ATIC. It is, therefore, impossible to make an accurate estimate as to how many sightings actually occurred and what percentage were due to the inversion. It is possible that some were due to other causes such as “hysteria” and the “get into the act” attitude of some people. However, in view of all available evidence in this case, it is concluded that the effects associated with the inversion were responsible for the sightings which occurred in the Red Bluff, California area between 12-20 August 1960.

FOR THE COMMANDER:

PHILIP C. EVANS
Colonel, USAF
Deputy for Science and Components

The temperature inversion “explanation” for anomalous aerial phenomena had first appeared in 1952, by way of the oversized ego of Dr. Donald H. Menzel of Harvard Observatory.

It had never been subjected to scientific tests, nor accepted by atmospheric physicists who examined Menzel’s theory — who pointed out, for example, the extreme temperature differentials required for an inversion to produce the illusion of solidity. Indeed, the Air Force itself mostly rejected Menzel’s temperature inversion theory during its more-serious period of investigation in the early 1950s — noting that Menzel declined to put his theory to the test in applying it to actual sighting reports in Air Force files. But over the years — as “explaining away” sightings became Blue Book’s goal — it had been aggressively promoted as a solution to sighting reports where no other solution would do.

In service of that goal, it also became malleable in its properties — for instance, producing identical “mirages” seen by people at a distance of dozens or even more than a hundred miles from one another.

But in this case, the absence of scientific validity to the theory was exacerbated by Evans’ claim that because there were temperature inversions noted in Oakland, California and Medford, Oregon, there were therefore inversions across the 275 miles in-between.

Nor does Evans’ casual statement that the “general weather for Oakland, Red Bluff, and Medford was the same” hold up to scrutiny. On August 13, 1960 the high temperature for Medford was 86 degrees farenheit. In Red Bluff, it was 100 degrees. In Oakland, the high was 72 degrees (14 degrees cooler than Medford and 28 degrees cooler than Red Bluff), with the Oakland Tribune forecast noting…

Fair today except fog near the ocean all day and high fog inland this morning… High fog extending inland tonight but clearing over much of area by noon tomorrow.

Nor did Evans provide the dates, times and actual readings of the Medford and Oakland stations to support his explanation, leaving his assertion that “a strong temperature inversion was prevalent… during the period of the sightings” vague, at best, with plenty of wriggle-room built in. It is perhaps telling in this regard that although the request and follow-ups to Air Weather Service are still found in Blue Book files, the actual charts and analysis are missing.

But whatever the actual data, as far as Evans was concerned the matter had been successfully settled — meaning avoiding pressure from Congress — allowing Blue Book to close the file on the experience of officers Carson and Scott.

But his would by no means be the last word on the matter.

Covers

Above, left: Cover of the NICAP publication The UFO Evidence by Richard Hall. Right: Cover of UFOs: A History (also known by the longer title The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse) by Loren Gross.

IN FACT, a variation on Evans’ temperature inversion explanation had already been publicly released five weeks earlier by Blue Book. It had come in response to a letter from Congressman Edgar W. Hiestand, as reported in a United Press national newswire story found in the October 16, 1960, edition of the Phoenix, Arizona, Arizona Republic

Dispute Flares Over Flying Saucers

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Rep. Edgar W. Hiestand, (R-Calif.) and the Air Force sharply disagreed yesterday over the old question whether there is evidence that flying saucers are real.

Hiestand, writing Air Force Secretary Dudley Sharp under date of Sept. 19, to suggest release of full information about saucers said:

AFTER ALL, although the unidentified flying objects are unknown devices, there seems to be enough evidence available to convince that they are real rather than imaginary.”

Flatly rejecting this position, the Air Force said it had “analyzed over 6,500 reports in the last 13 years and has found no evidence that the UFOs are anything but natural phenomena.”

In releasing Hiestand’s letter, a group called the National Investigation Committee on Aerial Phenomena, said Air Force radar at Red Bluff, Calif., had tracked an unknown object at the same time police saw an object with red lights hovering 500 feet above their patrol car on Aug. 13 at Red Bluff.

The Air Force said the incident had been evaluated as follows:

THE INDIVIDUALS concerned witnessed a refraction of the Planet Mars and the two bright stars Aldeberan and Betelgeux.

“A comprehensive survey of weather conditions during the period of the sightings reveals that not only was there a temperature inversion but during part of the time double inversions existed. This, of course, contributed to the phenomena as the planet Mars was quite low in the skies and the inversion caused the refractions to be projected upward.”

In a special bulletin in October, 1960, NICAP revealed the assertion could not hold up to scrutiny…

False AF Answer in Red Bluff Case

In utter disregard of astronomical records, the AF has issued an impossible explanation of the August 13-14 UFO sightings in the vicinity of Red Bluff, Calif. …

A check of August 13-14 star positions by a NICAP astronomical adviser reveals these facts:

1. Mars and the two stars were below the horizon, invisible, when police sighted the UFO at 11:45 p.m., August 13.

2. Mars did not appear until an hour later. Aldebaran was just visible above the horizon at 1 a.m., Betelguese did not rise until nearly 3 a.m. …

Apparently the AF gambled that no one would check the star positions when they risked this answer…

NICAP’s special bulletin was only intended for selected members, but it is interesting to note that in Evans’ report weeks later Aldebaran and Betelgeux are nowhere to be found, stating only that it “is an impossible task to determine what the exact light source was for each specific incident, but the planet Mars was the most probable culprit”.

Apparently no reporter attempted to get a reaction from officer Carson or Scott to the Blue Book evaluation at the time. Fortunately, NICAP had kept in touch with Carson, and in its mammoth 1964 report The UFO Evidence, it included the following…

Carson Sketch

Sketch of object included in Officer Carson’s letter to NICAP.

Extracts from Officer Carson’s letter of November 14, 1960, in answer to Adviser Webb’s questions:

We made several attempts to follow it, or I should say get closer to it, but the object seemed aware of us and we were more successful remaining motionless and allow it to approach us, which it did on several occasions.

There were no clouds or aircraft visible. The object was shaped somewhat like a football, the edges (here I am confused as to what you mean by edges, referring to the outside visible edges of the object as opposed to a thin, sharp edge, no thin sharp edges were visible) or I should say outside of the object were clear to us . . . [the] glow was emitted by the object, was not a reflection of other lights. The object was solid, definitely not transparent. At no time did we hear any type of sound except radio interference.

The object was capable of moving in any direction. Up and down, back and forth. At times the movement was very slow. At times it was completely motionless. It moved at high (extremely) speeds and several times we watched it change directions or reverse itself while moving at unbelievable speeds.

When first observed the object was moving from north to south [patrol car moving almost due east]. Our pursuit led in an easterly direction and object disappeared on eastern horizon. It was approximately 500 feet above the horizon when first observed, seemingly falling at approximate 45 degree angle to the south.

As to the official explanation, I have been told we saw Northern lights, a weather balloon, and now refractions.

I served 4 years with the Air Force, I believe I am familiar with the Northern lights, also weather balloons. Officer Scott served as a paratrooper during the Korean Conflict. Both of us are aware of the tricks light can play on the eyes during darkness. We were aware of this at the time. Our observations and estimations of speed, size, etc. came from aligning the object with fixed objects on the horizon. I agree we find it difficult to believe what we were watching, but no one will ever convince us that we were witnessing a refraction of light.

/s/ Charles A. Carson
Calif. Highway Patrol.

Nor would that be the last word on the matter. In 1966, atmospheric physicist James McDonald of the University of Arizona began his own search for answers to the UFO mystery, and soon became an aggressive and tireless investigator and speaker. One of the first incidents he researched was the experience of officers Carson and Scott.

In prepared remarks for a 1967 speech given to the American Society of News Editors, McDonald would note…

I have interviewed one of the two California Highway Patrolmen who were the principal witnesses and have spoken with two other persons in that area who were involved in the incident. CHP officers C.A. Carson and S. Scott, driving east at 2300 on a back road south of Red Bluff suddenly sighted what they first took to be an aircraft about to crash just ahead of them. Pulling their patrol car to a rapid stop and jumping out to be ready to render whatever assistance they could, they were astonished to see the long metallic-looking object abruptly reverse its initial steep descent, climb back up to several hundred feet altitude and then hover motionless. Next it came silently towards them until, as Officer Carson put it to me, “it was within easy pistol range.” They had their pistols ready and were debating whether to fire when it stopped. Attempts to radio back to the nearest dispatcher failed due to strong radio interference, an occurrence that recurred each time the object came close to them during the remainder of this 2-hour-long sighting. Huge bright lights at either end of the object swept the area. Carson stated to me that one light was about six feet in diameter; other smaller lights were also discernible on the object. After some initial minutes of hovering only 100 to 200 feet away from them and about that same distance above the ground, the object started moving eastward away from them. They then contacted the Tehama County Sheriff’s office that handled their night-dispatching work, and asked for additional cars and for a check with Red Bluff Air Force Radar Station. Then they began to follow the object. The full account is too involved to relate here (see Ref. 3), but it is important to point out that a number of witnesses confirmed the object from various viewing points in the county, and a call to the AF Radar unit brought confirmation that they were tracking an unknown moving in the manner reported by Carson and Scott.

When, however, Carson and Scott went next day to talk with personnel at the Red Bluff radar base, they were informed that no such radar sighting had been made. Their request to the officer in charge to talk with the radarman on duty at the time of the incident was denied. The Bluebook explanation that came out after a few days attributed this very detailed, close-range sighting of a large object, seen by two experienced officers, to “refraction of the planet Mars and the two bright stars Aldebaran and Betelgeux.” NICAP referred the question to one of their astronomical advisers, who found that none of the three celestial objects were even in the California skies at that time. Bluebook then changed the explanation to read Mars and Capella! Capella, the only one of those celestial bodies that was even in the California skies at 2300, was nowhere near the location of the sighted object, and could not, of course, give the impression of the various maneuvers clearly described by the officers.

Carson subsequently stated, “…no one will ever convince us that we were witnessing a refraction of light.” And to me, he wryly remarked on the Bluebook explanations that “I’d sure hate to take one of my cases into court with such weak arguments.” Dr. Menzel (Ref. 9, p. 254) concurs with the Air Force explanations and speaks of this being a night of “fantastic multiple inversions of temperature and humidity,” such that he would have expected many more reports of UFOs. I should like to know what radiosonde data Dr. Menzel is citing, since the data I obtained does not fit that description. And any such casual putting-aside of the details of the basic report has no scientific justification in the first place. If Menzel and Bluebook think California Highway Patrolmen draw their 44’s in uneasiness over looking at a refracted image of Capella, and misinterpret it as a 100-ft object with huge bright lights hovering over the road nearby, I am afraid I cannot share their readiness to so easily discredit and discount reliable witnesses. When I spoke with Carson a few months ago, I found him still deeply impressed by this incident, over six years after it occurred. “I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since,” he emphasized.

But it is thanks to researcher Loren Gross and to James McDonald both that insights which would otherwise be lost would later be revealed.

In the 1960s, Gross — working at a time before the internet and easy access to research sources — gathered together an extraordinary collection of news articles, interviews, letters, and other documents (a collection of collections, actually) to produce the multi-volume survey of the phenomenon year by year (under the title The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse — UFOs: A History). And it is thanks to Gross that further details of McDonald’s interview with officer Carson are available today, through excerpts from a 1966 letter from McDonald to NICAP’s Richard Hall (who had authored NICAP’s The UFO Evidence)…

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) office at Red Bluff informed me that Charles A. Carson has been transferred to the Santa Cruz area. The CHP office there gave me his unlisted phone number when I identified myself. I reached him by phone at this home Thursday evening, October 27th. His home address is 2660 Borregas Drive, Aptos, California. Carson informed me that CHP Patrolman Stanley Scott, who was with him that night, was killed in an aircraft accident, so I could not contact him. I spoke with Carson for over an hour, and found him quite articulate and intelligent, and careful in his description of the event. On the basis of the phone discussions I would rate his reliability and credibility as high.

I quickly confirmed the main features of the sighting as reported in the Evidence. They sighted the object as they were heading east on a road east of Coming. It was descending at a steep (45 degree) angle from north to south (i.e., from their left to right). He estimates that it was not over 1/4 mile away when first noted. Their first impression was that it was an aircraft in distress, so they jammed on the brakes and leapt out to get a better view of what they thought was going to be a disaster. The object was making no sound and they saw no exhaust, no wings, but took it to be a power-off dive, viewed from the side. It proceeded down its glide path passing over their road and continuing a short distance south. When at a point whose altitude he recalls as a few hundred feet above terrain, the object instantaneously reversed its motion and climbed more or less back up the glide-path to a position almost due east of them, but a bit south of the roadway. There it hovered tor a minute, long enough for Patrolman Scott to dive tor the radio and call the dispatcher to send other cars and alert all cars in the area.

Next the object came west towards them, losing altitude from about 300-500 feet to perhaps 50-100 feet above terrain. At closest approach it was within easy pistol range, perhaps 150 yards, he recalled (They had only .357 Magnums, but with armor-piercing bullets, and they debated whether they should fire, deciding not to unless it came still closer, which it did not.). They could see lights at each end of the football-shaped object, whose length he put over 100 feet but under 200 feet. It looked metallic and one of the lights was an intense and steady red light which he estimated at about six feet in diameter. Its beam seemed to extend out a distance in the air, and then to end in some curious manner that he did not understand then or now. It seemed to go out a few hundred yards, evidently being visible from dust in the air, though that ‘s only an inference on my part. It seemed to be fixed to the object and as the object maneuvered and turned, it did too. The object went ‘though any maneuver you might mention’ during the more than a minute that it remained in that general spot. They noted static on their radio during this time, while they talked with Tehama County Sheriffs office that does their dispatching after 1700 in the evening. He indicated that they ‘were a little bit nervous about the thing,’ but did not request permission to fire.

Then it began to move away from them, towards the east, and since the Tehama dispatcher (Deputy Clarence Fry) had indicated that he was getting other cars they took courage and elected to follow it at judicious distance. Its eastward motion was sometimes very slow, occasionally very fast, ‘so fast as to be unbelievable.’ Occasionally it drifted back toward them ‘almost as if in water.’ They couldn’t see the light all the time, as it turned from time to time. This was in open, but rolling country, and it tended to stay well to their south most of the time, so that from time to time during their extended chase (which he recalled only as ‘over an hour’) the object would become temporarily hidden behind isolated hills. They knew all the back roads and would take side-roads from time to time to try and get near it. Once it did not come out behind a hill, so they stopped, climbed up on the hood of their patrol car to look over an embankment when all of a sudden it shot up to within only 150 feet of them before darting eastward once more. They resumed their pursuit of it and got as far east as a place which sounded phonetically like ‘Romiano Ranch,’ a monastery he said. This was east of Highway 99E. To this point he estimates over an hour had elapsed. He did not know just where the other cars were, they never joined his car. I believe he indicated that he learned later the others never got closer than Los Molinos, but they definitely saw a red-glowing object to their south, he learned.

It was getting farther and farther ahead of them, so they broke off the attempt at keeping up with it, pulled back to 99E and went south to where they knew there was a forest fire control tower. The forester was gone but the tower was open and they ran up to the top to observe the remainder of the episode from there. The object was then only a ‘light,’ but it gradually climbed up over a range of hills about three miles east and continued eastward. Before it finally disappeared, a second ‘light’ came in from the south, approached the first ‘light’ and then the two moved on eastward and eventually disappeared, terminating the observations. He estimated that the total time might have been about two hours to this point. Said the radio log would show the correct time.

He confirmed that they had asked the dispatcher to check with the Red Bluff radar base and confirmed that they said they had the object on their scopes, going through the reported motions to the east, etc. Carson was at first somewhat reluctant to get into this aspect, saying that he was not free to ‘involve the Air Force,’ but when I read from the published account in the Evidence he opened up a good bit. He said that the Air Force never came to interrogate him (he was a bit cryptic and definitely annoyed in saying this, but I believe I got the correct picture). Said you ‘might call it an interrogation’ in that he and Scott, the next AM asked for an appointment at the Red Bluff radar base, drove there (nine miles west of Red Bluff). He said he stated to the commanding officer something like, ‘Well, we understand there was a bit of commotion last night,’ to which the officer replied ‘Not to my knowledge’ and immediately gave them what he termed ‘the ice-water approach.’ So they asked to talk to the man who was on the radar the preceding night and the commanding officer denied them permission to see him. Carson said ‘I was getting a bit testy’ at that point, but they left. Somewhere along the line, evidently a few days later, he thought he had talked to someone from the Air Force, but described it as a ‘tongue-in-check investigation.’ He couldn’t recall just how this interview came about and didn’t remember where it was done. He told me that a Dr. Clarence W. Winning, of Red Bluff was at the Tehama County Sheriffs office that night and was on one of the phone extensions and heard the radar base say that they had a radar fix on the object, and said a lot of other persons were on other extensions listening in, as he heard it later; but knew of no others by name.

Carson said that night was clear, with no wind, a ‘beautiful night’.

He is now and was then a private pilot and so was Scott. He was familiar with all the conventional planes in the area and is positive this was no plane, nor meteor, nor northern lights. He understands that the Air Force later claimed they were looking at a star. ‘I know what I saw. It was not a star. I saw what I saw. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. We saw something that could defy the law of gravity.’ And concerning the Air Force star-explanation he stated that ‘I’d hate to try to take one of my cases into court with such weak arguments!.’ As you can see, his initial reluctance to ‘involve the Air Force,’ which came out when I first brought up the radar question, had evaporated as he proceeded through his account and on to the USAF handling of the thing. ‘When we walked into that radar station and got ice water, we knew what was coming,’ he said. But his CHP base struck by them, and elected to release no names, just the story, which was marked Confidential in the CHP files. Some reporter, who later (three months later) told him he’d been awarded $50 for digging out the only two men on duty in that area that night, so it came out in the local press by about two days later. Evidently handled locally as a big story. This had one useful side-effect: A number of persons who had seen the red-glowing object, some while driving on 99E, wrote them letters confirming the sightings, etc.

He said Dispatch Fry was running from his radio out to the front of his building, from which he could see the red object, since it was several hundred feet above the ground and that’s generally open country. He mentioned that Fry brought several trusties outdoors ‘as witnesses.’ Carson said ‘we came in for a lot of kidding but fortunately there were a lot of people who saw it. We could lay them end to end.’ He mentioned an interesting point: The following nights there were more Air Force planes in the air over the county than he’d ever seen before. But he heard no more from the Air Force. He heard from a deputy that an Air Force investigator had interrogated a federal forester whose whole family had seen a similar object, but he thought it was the next night, though not sure of that,. Didn’t know this forester by name, only hearsay report. He also mentioned that the ‘University of California sent up a team to check taking samples of soil and fence-wire. (Magnetic check?) He can’t recall any names of these people. I wonder if it could have been Dr. Harder, an APRO man?

Hoping to secure more definite confirmation on the radar sighting, I phoned Dr. Clarence W. Winning of Red Bluff, on Friday evening, October 28, 1966 … This netted no firm check. Winning was vague on details, though as we talked, his memory came back on some details. He was doing alcohol blood tests there that evening. Recalls a lot of commotion during the sighting, and remembered there was something about radar checks but was unable to say for sure whether he was on an extension phone. I don’t know just what to make of that. He did not seem evasive, yet he just couldn’t recall. …

And with that last fragment of contemporaneous documentation, the story was known as far as it could be known, for any who cared to ponder and draw their own conclusions.

Officers Carson and Scott

Above: From the declassified files of Project Blue Book, a clipping from the Red Bluff, California, Daily News.

THE STORY OF just what had happened to officers Carson and Scott has sewn much confusion and ambiguity, extending even to the place where it occurred — not in Red Bluff (as it came to be identified) but in Corning and the Vina Plains. Differing descriptions by others who were said to witness the original event, as well as subsequent reports occurring on different days and at other locations — while interesting on their own — have only obscured matters more by conflating different events together as if they were one. Meanwhile, those at Blue Book — who had the responsibility to make matters clearer — instead were intent on throwing dust into the eyes of any who may have looked their way.

But in the end, as happens so often, the power of a witness such as Charles A. Carson, stating simply and sincerely what he and Scott saw and experienced, has the ultimate power to sweep away the confusion and obfuscation to a considerable degree…

…providing its own unique clarity, which tells its own tale.


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