UFO Intelligence Summary
Subject: The Lubbock Lights
By Francis Ridge
Last update: March 20, 2005
For over a half century the Lubbock Lights have been described as a set of UFO photos taken by a young man with a simple camera. On the surface it appeared that there was little that could be gained from studying these lights in the sky that apparently were birds illuminated by bright street lights. But behind the scenes there was much more concern and even much more going on. And this time the incidents were investigated by the Air Force and we have the documentation to back it all up.
The incident began on August 25, 1951 and there were several reports of interest. But a year later (August 1952) there was a Conference With Astronomers on Unidentified Flying Objects given to members of ATIC held by Dr. J. Allen Hynek.
NARA Blue Book Microfilm Sequence 40468, Page ID 17039
The report mentioned on page 7, "In short, Astronomer R believes this subject is serious enough to be considered as a scientific problem, and that it should be taken entirely out of the sensational realm. He believes, for instance, that a group of serious scientists should aim to help investigators by starting with a thorough going investigation of the "lubbock lights".
Also in August of that year, Captain Edward J. Ruppelt was still puzzled by the LL, in an article/draft for the Air Intelligence Digest. On page 6 he says:
NARA Blue Book Microfilm Sequence 50609, Page ID 18429
"Skipping years and many sightings, we arrive at one of the most puzzling cases to date: a series of sightings over Lubbock, Texas."
A decade later the Lubbock Lights were still of concern and apparently not explained. In July of 1960 the summaries of four cases were requested by Mr. Stuart French of the Senate Committee on Preparedness and Mr. Robert Smart of the House Armed Forces Committee. This request was made at a briefing on UFO's which was given to these committees during the week of 11-15 July 1960.
NARA Blue Book Microfilm Sequence 30562, Page ID 16228
The document was signed by Col. Philip Evans, Deputy for Science and Components, USAF. These summaries were attached and the incidents were as follows:
1. Lubbock, Texas summary
2. Washington, D.C. summary
3. Levelland, Texas summary
4. Redmond, Oregon summary
The Project Blue Book list of "Unknowns" contains these two sightings:
955 August 25, 1951 Albuquerque, New Mexico (two separate sightings)The Project Blue Book Status Reports contain a very brief sighting report synopsis on both of these incidents. Status Report 1 includes the August 25 incident involving the college professors at Lubbock, Texas, on page 37. To see the actual document, click on the links below.
NARA Blue Book Microfilm Sequence 30559, Page ID 16215
NARA Blue Book Microfilm Sequence 30560, Page ID 16216
NARA Blue Book Microfilm Sequence 30561, Page ID 16217
NARA Blue Book Microfilm Sequence 30562, Page ID 16218
Quoted from that page, Project Blue Book Status Report 1, Page 37:
LUBBOCK. TEXAS - 25 August 1951
I. DISCUSSION OF THE INCIDENT
The first of a series of sightings related to this incident occurred the
evening of 25 August 1951 at approximately 2110 CST. Four Texas Technical College
professors were sitting in the backyard of one of the professor's homes observing
meteorites in conjunction with a study of micrometeorites being carried out by
the college. At 2120 they observed a group of lights pass overhead from N to S.
The lights had about the same intensity as high cirrus clouds on a moonlight night. The altitude was not determined but they traveled at a high rate of speed. The pattern of the lights was almost a perfect semi-circle containing from 20 to 30 individual lights. Later in the evening a similar incident was observed and
during a period of about three weeks a total of approximately twelve (12) such
flights were observed by these men.
The group of men included:
a. The Head of the Petroleum Engineering Department
b. Professor of Geology, has PhD.
c. Professor of Physics, has PhD.
d. Professor of Chemical Engineering, has PhD.
Besides the above four men, the following have observed the incidents:
a. Professor of Mathematics, has PhD.
b. Graduate student working on PhD.
In addition, a Professor of Astronomy was consulted on the incident, but he did
not observe any of these flights.
The above mentioned men took a personal interest in the phenomena and undertook a study of the objects. Attempts were made to obtain an altitude measurement by laying out a measured base line perpendicular to the usual flight path
of the object, and placing angle measuring devices at the end of the base line,
however, all their attempts failed because the objects did not appear on the
nights the observers were waiting for them.
From the series of observations, the following facts were obtained:
a. The angular velocity of the object was very nearly 30 of arc per second.
b. There was no sound that could be attributed to the object.
c. The flight path of the object was from N to S in the majority of the
flights although some were NE to SW.
d. On several nights there were two or three flights.
The confidential report then continues with the famous Carl Hart, Jr. photographs taken on August 31, also at Lubbock, Texas. Information obtained in this investigation was reported direct to the Commanding General, Air Materiel Command, based upon concurrent investigation conducted by 1st Lt John A. Farley, Assistant Wing Intelligence Officer, Reese Air Force Base, Lubbock, Texas, in accordance with Air Force Regulation 200-15 under pending status for development, of lead by 11th OSI District at Lawton, Oklahoma.
On the evening of 31 August 1951 at about 2330 CST, a college freshman from
Texas Tech observed a flight of the unidentified objects pass over his home. The
flight was observed through an open window. Upon observing the first flight of
the objects, the observer obtained his camera and went into the backyard of his
home in an attempt to get photographs of additional flights of the object.
Comment: This would be logical as by 31 August 1951 these flights of the ob-
jects, and the fact that several flights might occur in an evening, was well
known.) Two more flights of the object allegedly did occur and were photographed.
Two photos of one flight and three af another were obtained. ATIC has four of
the negatives but the other one was lost or misplaced by the photographer. The
photographs show, a V-shaped formation of lights. In one photo a single-V of
lights appear, while on three photos there is a double-V. The separate lights,
which appear to be pinpoint light sources, vary in intensity.
The Air Force publicly tried to explain these objects in the photos as birds, but Ruppelt then said the case was solved, only he couldn't tell us how.
Since the "birds" were flying in a "V" formation, that limits the number of birds
that can be considered. The only bird that flies in "V" formations is the GlossyIris, a duck with a maroon or reddish colored breast and belly. They are migratory, and arrive in the Lubbock area around the middle of September... which means they would have arrived a little early.
Let's not forget that Ruppelt said that he had a satisfactory answer which he
refused to publish because the theory would expose the source. Ruppelt's
manuscript and original notes were purchased by a Denver area UFO group
and so we know Ruppelt's answer... fireflies. It's no better than birds.
Remember one other thing. The failure of the bird explanation only relates to
the Hart photographs... birds do, in fact explain some of the sightings in the BB
files (though not all of them).Fran Ridge:
One comment on the Lubbock case. Even assuming that the visual sightings were just caused by birds, and that the photos were faked (and I must say they seem odd due to the alleged speeds of the objects and the non-blurred images given the camera used. You know how hard it is to take good night photos of even stationary objects) -- even if the case is bad, there are still reasons to be interested in it. The main one is that Ruppelt describes the concept that the "rocket and intelligence experts" had that the object was some kind of space reentry vehicle. Not a formation of discs, as some insist on seeing, but illuminated rocket nozzles on a flying wing-shaped space vehicle that was similar to contemporary ideas for such vehicles.
The possibility that these kinds of people detected patterns in the data concerning overflights of nuclear facilities is in itself of interest, even if they were wrong, because it may have determined policy. Maybe not, but the possibility seems worth considering from a historical point of view.
On the same night as the college professors' incident and the Hart photos, there was an interesting flying wing sighting at Sandia Base, at Albuquerque, New Mexico. The report synopsis is on page 41 and a drawing is on page 42.
NARA Blue Book Microfilm Sequence 30563, Page ID 16219
NARA Blue Book Microfilm Sequence 30564, Page ID 16220
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO - 25 August 1951
I. DISCUSSION OF INCIDENT
On the evening of 25 August 1951, at 2158 MST, a Sandia Base Security Guard
and his wife observed what they described to be a flying wing type aircraft
similar to the Northrop flying Bomber (B-49) pass over the backyard of their
trailer home in the east part of Albuquerque. They judged the wing span of the
aircraft to be about one and one half times the wing span of a B-36, with which
they were familiar. The object was flying low, the altitude was thought to be
about 800 ft. - 1000 ft., and there was no sound that could be attributed to
the object. The color of the object was not apparent due to the twilight but
dark chordwise stripes were noticed under the wings. Six to eight pairs of soft
flowing lights were noticed on the trailing: edge of the wing. The speed was
judged to be about 300 - 400 mph and the object was on a heading of approximately
Broken clouds at 17,000 feet; visibility five miles, wind S at 5 mph.
III. STATUS OF THE INVESTIGATION
The possibility of this being a known aircraft was checked with negative
results. The AC and W Radar Station at Kirtland AFB did not observe any unusual
or unidentified aircraft.
The guard's background was checked and since he has a "Q clearance, it
has been assumed that he apparently is mentally stable.
An investigation was made to determine whether or not any one else had seen
the object but only negative results were obtained.
The photographs referred to in Appendix I were sent to the OSI at Kirtland
AFB. These photos were shown to the sources and they stated that the photos
resembled the "exhaust" or light, pattern of the object. A sketch, drawn by
the observers, is shown in this Appendix.
It is interesting to note that a very similar sighting took place in Lubbock,
Texas. The exact time and date of the sighting could not be determined due to
the fact that the observer believed she had seen an illusion of some type and
did not report the incident. The only date that could be given was "late in
August or early September.
None. The investigation will be continued until the authenticity of the
photos in Appendix I can be determined.
END OF DOCUMENT
Since all of the below are checkable by the reader, they should be included in a discussion of the case.
1. Lubbock had just put in a new street lighting system prior to the
2. The professors wrote to Life magazine about the case stating that Carl<>Hart's photograph was according to the witnesses unlike what they had seen.
3. The professors telegraphed Ruppelt that they had explained their
sighting, but wished no public disclosure.
4. There are several explanation for this sighting:
Ruppelt: 2nd edition of his book: moths
Ducker: in the book "The Lubbock Lights" Prof. Ducker tells of doing experiments using tethered balloons and pieces of clothe to try to determined possible altitude of the lights. When that had been established they waited for another sighting with a small telescope and were able to identify web feet.
Various: Some type of flying wing device.
5. The obvious question, just like in many of the Hudson Valley sightings
is: was there an object that obscured the stars as the lights passed. That
as far as I know has never been discussed, but in some Hudson Valley and
Connecticut sightings, the star light shone through the space between the
lights, there was no obscuring of star light. The numerous sightings of
these lights at Lubbock by both the professors and others seems to indicate a
possible recurring natural or man-made phenomenon.
6. Night Lights without reference points are essentially low-strangeness
evidence of little value no matter how much official or popular attention
is focused on them.Item #1 listed by Jan Aldrich is countered here. Blue Book files describe an attempt to duplicate the photos, with a much better camera:
The items above have been mentioned as per Jan Aldrich's request and have, or will be, addressed further down in this report. IMHO, item #6 should have read, "night lights, at first glance, have no real value." The Air Force, and later Ruppelt in a magazine article, wrote off the Lubbock Lights AND the Fort Monmouth incidents. If we hadn't dug into them, and questioned the evidence, both would have remained only history. But we exposed the lies and brought out the truth for for now and future generations.
Response to Item #2 was found on Sequence 30529; Page ID 16185:
".....discrepancies In the photos have been found and the photographer is being
reinterrogated by the O.S.I. One school of thought of the people in the Lubbock area is that the objects were some type of migratory birds reflecting light from the city. Several people reported that they definitely knew the objects were ducks because they could see wings flapping. It is very possible that some of the people who were looking for the object did see ducks as there were duck flights passing over during the period. It is significant that those people who saw ducks were definitely able to identify the objects as ducks, or some type of bird, because they could see the wings or heard them make a noise, however, other people were just as determined that they were not birds. The possible conclusion is that some people did see birds, but others saw some other objects."
Item #3 seems relevant, but really isn't. Something was going on over a wide area and the Air Force knew about it, even if it took them a month or so. Even one of the professor's wives verified this:
Blue Book documents:
"Two other incidents took place which the group would not mention at first but finally did. They qualified the incidents with the statement that they are so absurd they have never mentioned them. The first incident happened to Mrs. ____, who according to several people is a very calm woman. Prof. ____ stated that she came running into the house one evening just at dusk very excited. Due to her usually calm manner, the excitement was very apparent. She said she had seen a very large wing type aircraft, making no sound, go over the house. She could offer no more description. Prof. ____ could not remember exactly when it took place as he had passed it off as being too fantastic. (Note: Nearly identical to 25 August 1951 sighting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.)"
"At this point in the interview Mr. Hans, head photographer and Asst. Managing Editor, was called in and gave this information. When the story of V-shaped lights came out some people immediately branded them as ducks or some type of migratory fowl. Later when Hart's photos were printed, the argument as to whether or not they were migratory fowl came up. Mr. Hans decided to try to get a picture himself so he stationed himself on top of the Lubbock Avalanche Building with a 4 x 5 Speed Graphic loaded with a tungsten ASA 80 film and a GE #22 flashbulb in a concentrating reflector. He normally uses this same equipment to photograph night football games. He can get a normal negative by shooting f16, at 1/100th of a second and developing twice the normal time in DK-60 a developer. This night he sat on the roof and had his camera set at f4.7 at 1/10th of a second. He waited some time and a flock of some type of birds flew over. They were visible in the light of the sodium vapor street lights used in Lubbock. He shot as the flock was overhead. He also stated that he knew they were birds before he took the pictures because he could see them dimly outlined. They were in a ragged V-formation and silent, which is unusual for ducks or geese, if they were ducks or geese. He developed his negatives and found the image so weak he could not print them. On the next night he attempted the same thing using a Kodak Reflex at f3.5 at 1/10th with Super XX film, a #22 bulb and the concentrating reflector; the results were the same. Mr. Hans assumed that with his experience he should know that he was in a position in the city to get a maximum of light on any birds flying over him. From this, he is convinced that whatever Hart took a picture of was many times as bright as the birds he unsuccessfully attempted to photograph."
Items 3 & 4. The professors knew better. My theory, backed by evidence in Project Blue Book documents, is that they got spooked and backed off the unexplained lights theory and decided to go with birds or ducks:
"They had dropped their investigation by the time Lt. Ruppelt arrived because they had come to the conclusion that the object was some kind of a new weapon belonging to the U.S. and that they would only be prying into something that was none of their business. They also reasoned that if such an aircraft was far enough along to be flight tested they would probably hear something about it soon anyway. It is very apparent that their interest is again aroused and that they will attempt more research on the incident.
"They are rather firmly convinced that the object is not a flock of birds. This is due to the great speed at which they travel. If the birds did have an apparently great speed, they would have to be very low. The lights these people saw gave the appearance of being very high, except for "____'s Horror." Another doubtful point is the nearly perfect geometric pattern of the first two formations. Birds could not do that. The men did state that now that they know that the Air Force is interested, they will thoroughly discuss the possibility of birds in hopes that it is birds or some other such thing that can be explained. It is apparent that they were concerned when they found out it wasn't an Air Force project, which they had assumed when no Air Force personnel came to investigate the incident.
Mike Hall and Wendy Connors:
"Professor Swords told us that he thinks Ducker and the other professors did realize they had seen something extraordinary in 1951. But by 1952 he thinks they were "inclined" to come up with a rational explanation for the sightings and that's when they got creative—setting up equipment and binoculars and lights and such. They were looking for something in the sky during their experiments and eventually saw something. So, in 1952, they did see birds and for what ever reason linked it to the mysterious 'Lubbock Lights.'"
If one accepts the "moth" explanation, the "ducks" must go. One man in the group of professors "confesses" they used a telescope and a spotlight and finally identified the Lubbock Lights as "ducks". If one accepts Ducker's "ducks", Ruppelt's final explanation "moths" or "fireflies" must go. There can't be more than one explanation for the actual Lubbock Lights.
As coordinator of The Lunascan Project I can tell you that tracking high speed objects with a telescope is not easy. Ducker (if he actually did the experiment, which I seriously doubt)had to have seen objects at slow speeds in order to train a telescope on them. IF, he did that, he couldn't say that these were the Lubbock Lights. In the experiment he would have to have been looking at slow-moving ducks. You can't put a scope on a bird or duck traveling as fast, or even half as fast, as the Lubbock Lights were reported to have been going. Even if you were lucky enough to get them illuminated and in the FOV, there wouldn't be time enough to put a scope on them. And if your conducting experiments of trying to catch ducks in a telescope or camera, you're going to hear ducks. There would be no need to look for damning evidence such as legs or webbed feet.
Setting a scope on the Moon, guided by a computer, letting objects pass through the field of view, was our business. But give us objects traveling at 30 degrees per second and you won't get any images from us, or anybody else with a telescope. Ducker's group saw ducks and knew what they were. They also saw the Lubbock Lights and the documentation makes this quite plain.
Response to Item #5 listed by Jan Aldrich was covered in Sequence 30528, PID 16184 in the Blue Book documents page:
"Efforts to determine whether or not there was any form between the lights
by trying to see stars between the lights were made. This also was unsuccess-
ful due to the short time the object was in view."
The Matador, Texas incident occurred on August 31 and was of a different type object, one of a pear shape. The reason for mentioning it in this summary is that it was declared an unknown and happened within a week of the flying wing sightings.
NARA Blue Book Microfilm Sequence 30565, Page ID 16221
On 31 August 1951 at approximately 1245 CST two ladies were "driving in an
automobile several miles north of Matador, Texas. The object was described as
a pear-shaped object about the length of a B-29 fuselage, aluminum or silver in
color, which readily reflected the sunlight. The object had a port or some type
of aperture in the side and moved through the air with the small end forward.
There was no sign of any exhaust and no noise was heard.
As the two ladies were driving north from Matador, Texas, the driver of
the automobile first noticed the object about 150 yards ahead of the automobile.
They stopped and both ladies got out to observe the object. It was drifting
slowly in an eastward direction at a speed they judged to be less than the
speed required to take off in a Cub aircraft and an altitude of about 120 ft.
Seconds later the object began to ascend rapidly and moved out of sight into
the wind in a circular ascent. (The wind at this time was from NE at about 5-7
A background investigation showed that both women were of excellent
This incident is of interest because it was observed during the same period as the objects over Lubbock, Texas.
It has been reported that a road repair crew saw the same object later on
the same day. Attempts will be made by Project Grudge personnel to contact
members of this road crew and obtain their statements. There were also reports
of crop dusting activity in the area, so attempts will be made to determine
whether or not the ladies could have seen this activity.
Of particular interest here, and not listed in the BB unknowns, is the radar trackings on August 26th, which should have been there. NICAP has them listed in the UFO Evidence report:, and Ruppelt mentioned it in his book.
NARA Blue Book Microfilm Sequence 30531, Page ID 16187
LARSON AFB. WASHINGTON - 26 August 1951
On 26 August 1951 at O836 PST, an unidentified flying object was detected
by an AN/CPS-4 and AN/CPS-l radar sets. The object was tracked continuously
for a period of six minutes and made a timed ground speed of 950 mph. The
object was on a course of 340 degrees with only slight deviations enroute. An altitude reading of 13,000 feet was obtained but the accuracy of the measurement is questionable due to brief length of time the object was detected.
The F-86 aircraft were scrambled but radar contact with the object was
lost before the aircraft were airborne, A visual search was conducted from
17,000 to 25,000 feet with negative results.
The operator of the radar set, an Air Force Captain, is considered to
be an expert operator.
Weather conditions at the time of sighting were not favorable for ano-
malous microwave propogation.
Status of Investigation
Review of this incident by the Electronics Section of ATIC concludes
that the return was possibly due to interference. This was concluded be-
cause of the apparent path of the object, directly approaching the station,
and the fact that the target was observed on only the low beam of the AN/CPS-l
If it was tracked on two different radars, a CPS-4 as well as the CPS-1, then it couldn't be interference because they are on two different radio frequencies, interference could only affect one radar and could not possibly affect two radars and coordinate an identical target blip on both.
CPS-1 was an early postwar search radar in the S-band around 3,000 MHz, and the CPS-4 was an early postwar height-finder radar also in the S-band, both designed by the MIT Rad Lab.
I've been fortunate in my 40-plus years in the UFO business as a researcher and FI/SSD/SD, to have known and worked with experts on radar. Some would have us believe that radar people can't tell the difference between interference, weather targets, whatever. This is nonsense. If radar was that hard to utilize, it wouldn't be safe to fly.
I almost overlooked the report from the radar station because it was fairly short. It said that early on the morning of August 26, only a few hours after the Lubbock sighting, two different radars had shown a target traveling 900 miles per hour at 13,000 feet on a northwesterly heading. The target had been observed for six minutes and an F-86 jet interceptor had been scrambled but by the time the F-86 had climbed into the air the target was gone. The last paragraph in the report was rather curt and to the point. It was apparently in anticipation of the comments the report would draw. It said that the target was not caused by weather. The officer in charge of the radar station and several members of his crew had been operating radar for seven years and they could recognize a weather target. This target was real.
I quickly took out
a map of the
a course line between Lubbock and the radar station. A UFO flying
between these two points would be on a northwesterly heading and the
times it was seen at the two places gave it a speed of roughly 900
miles per hour.
The first thing I
did after reading
a set of the Lubbock photos to the intelligence officer of the 34th
Air Division in Albuquerque. I asked him to show the photos to the
AEC employee and his wife without telling them what they were. I
requested an answer by wire. Later the next day I received my answer:
"Observers immediately said that this is what they saw on the night of
25 August. Details by airmail." The details were a sketch the man and
his wife had made of a wing around the photo of the Lubbock Lights. The
number of lights in the photo and the number of lights the two
seen on the wing didn't tally, but they explained this by saying that
they could have been wrong in their estimate." (End of Ruppelt
The Lubbock Lights incident and others is probably VERY significant. Work on the case will continue as new findings emerge. For the latest up-to-date information, always refer to the links on the NICAP sighting directory for the case listed at the bottom of this page.
A special report on other incidents of swept-back wing UFOs will be found on the NICAP site, especially on the dir mentioned above.
For use in this Intelligence Summary study, here is the complete 1951 BB printout, which doesn't include the "explained' radar track at Larson AFB on the 26th:
886 February 1, 1951 Johnson AB, Japan