Friday, July 19, 2013

The 1980 Cash-Landrum UFO: Paracast Q & A

Due to my discussion of Chris Lambright’s accurate illustration of the eyewitnesses’ description of the UFO, Gene Steinberg invited us to appear on the Paracast radio program.

Illustration by Chris Lambright
Gene and Chris present a full-scale discussion of a classic UFO encounter, the Cash-Landrum incident, which occurred on an isolated two-lane road near Houston, Texas on December 29, 1980. This sighting includes a witness who received possible severe radiation burns as the result of being in close proximity to the strange aircraft. To flesh out the nuts and bolts of the case, we invited two UFO investigators, Chris Lambright and Curtis L. Collins (whom our forum members know as Sentry).

There were discussions about the case there on the Paracast forum before and after the episode:
Paracast: Cash-Landrum UFO: Chris Lambright & Curtis L. Collins

Also, there was an opportunity for listeners to post questions on the forum to be asked on the show. There were many good questions, but some came in too late to be used. I decided to post all the questions and my expanded answers, after I had the chance to “cheat” by checking references.

Paracast Forum Q & A

I've heard that witnesses to this event were exposed to radiation. If true, what was learned from the Cash-Landrum radiation exposures? Has there been a documented report to correlate their radiation sickness symptoms with known sources or types of radiation fields? There are a lot of differences between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation and acute vs. chronic exposures (and all combinations).. I would think there symptoms should be qualitatively linked to a known source type.

A: The symptoms were not a precise match for ay radiation exposure. Once again we are challenged by what really happened versus what we were told about it.
John Schuessler newspaper quote on medical treatment from 1981:
“There was no diagnosis: the doctors did not know what they were dealing with.”
“You can’t guarantee it’s radiation sickness, but it looks like it.”
“Other things can cause these (symptoms) but not likely the whole package.”

Vickie Landrum's later skin ailments

Betty Cash diagnosed with "Alopecia Areata"

That is one of the most controversial aspects of the case. Further, only Betty Cash received hospital treatment for her injuries. Vickie Landrum did not seek treatment for Colby’s and her complaints, except to see optometrist Dr. Steve Chandler for her eye problems. He said: “an allergy to sunlight, chemicals and other things could have caused the same symptoms as radiation”. 
There was a medical examination of all three performed at Houston Medical Center in connection with their appearance on ”That’s Incredible!”
Dr. Mel Spira (a plastic surgeon) said on the program that some of Betty’s symptoms resembled radiation exposure. 
“Dr. James Easley, a Houston radiologist, examined the women more than six months after the incident but said his results were not conclusive because he saw the women so late.”

The primary supporters of the witnesses possibly receiving radiation comes from doctors that never examined them, MUFON medical consultant Dr. Peter Rank, radioligist. He examined the UFO case file, photos of the witnesses and the available medical records. Dr. Richard Niemtzw also favored the radiation theory, but his examination was based soley on published reports and he was not allowed to view the medical records.
The physican who directly stated the exposure was from radioactive materials is Dr. Bryan McClelland, who started treating Betty Cash in the mid 1980s. He is not a radiologist, his specialty is Family Practice and Geriatrics.
In Vickie Landrum’s report to NUFORC, and in a letter to Dr. Peter Rank, she said that the original check of Betty’s blood test for radiation was negative.

Stanton Friedman has reported that he worked on nuclear powered aircraft. Do you think the UFO in this case may have been such a prototype aircraft? (If so, then the government was certainly liable for the illness the observers developed.)

A: No, and in a rare flip-flop of position, neither does Stanton Friedman. In in 1985:
I don’t think it was an alien spacecraft, frankly. I think it was a nuclear powered aircraft.
“I worked on nuclear airplane engines back on the late 50s. It seems unlikely...
... didn’t seem appropriate to me... I don’t think it was one of ours.” 
(About 1.5 hours into the show.)

Even if it was a nuclear powered aircraft that somehow burned the witnesses to differing degrees without leaving trace radiation and the automobile, as John Schuessler noted there needs to be some other radiation sources to account for the other reported symptoms. The craft had produce an improbably broad spectrum of radiation, and yet not emit a lethal dose.

How well is Colby Landrum doing since that awful exposure to the "UFO Radiation"?
tom1961:  has any one talked to him lately.

A: Colby Landrum is alive and well in living in the Dayton area. He was examined for a 2009 episode of UFO Hunters by Betty Cash’s doctor (not a radiologist) and given a clean bill of health. One of the many fears was that he would be rendered sterile from the alleged radiation exposure, but he has a little blond daughter that he calls his “mini-me”. Colby has been approached for interviews, but prefers not to talk about or relive the incident unless compensated to do so. He’d agreed to participate in a Kickstarter financed documentary with Dan Marro, but the funding failed.

I have read that around 20 CH-47 "Chinooks" were seen.
Question (1) Has a FOIA relating to the helicopters i.e radar data or flight plans etc been attempted?

A: Yes, several times, and next to nothing was produced. There were classified operations involving helicopters in a planned second attempt to rescue American hostages held in Iran. some of those documents were classified until 1992, and FOIA requests may not have been responded to in this area. (Although Col. Sarran insists he examined this possibility.)

Han: Question (2) Were ALL of the Helicopters CH-47s?

A: No, but the double-rotor helicopters were all they originally mentioned, supposedly because they were the most prominent. Some were described as smaller, traditional helicopters with a single central rotor. The claim that there was more than one model used makes the sighting more plausible, as covert military exercises conducted involved using such a combination.

Han: It is my understanding that the "CH-47 Chinook" has a crew of at least 3 usaully 4 and sometimes five if we take the lowest number 3 crew per Helicopter that would be roughly 60 crew or "witnesses". Also getting 20 chinooks ready to fly would take a lot of ground crew and a lot of planning, especially if they were to fly in formation.(imagine the noise that they would make!) It is also my understanding that "U.S" Chinook squadrons consist of 12 aircraft so if over 12 were seen then it would seem to suggest 2 or more squadrons.

A: Your information seems good, but recalculate for about half as many CH-47s mixed with maybe the smaller OH-6. The exact numbers of helicopters is not known, but I agree that it would have been a massive operation involving possibly over a hundred people.

Han: Finally: the "CH-47" has a top speed of around 200 mph which although fast for a Helicopter is significantly slower than an Aeroplane. were any "jets" seen flying at the same time?

A: None reported. The UFO was never described as flying rapidly, and in fact was described in terms more closely matching a balloon, hovering, floating drifting etc. When the UFO and helicopters flew away from the initial scene, Betty waited a few moments for her eyes to readjust before driving away. Even with a head start, the witnesses were able to catch up to the UFO and copters three or so miles down the winding road. 

Has there been any recent attempt to learn more about the government's involvement in the case through FOIA requests? If so, any success?

A: Yes, but my request was for a duplication of previously released data, where I was hoping previously redacted material would be available- no luck. I’m not aware of anything relevant, but am hoping to try again. This is complicated somewhat in that if this was a secret exercise, it involved a blend of Special Forces from different military branches. Figuring what to ask for and who to request it from is the first step.

1982 UFO described by Jon McDonald
joeyk22: Do either of you know of any sightings since 1980 that resemble the craft in question?

I’ve not examined this since finding out about the original description. John Schuessler reported in the 1983 MUFON Journal:
”A similar object was sighted near Cleveland, Texas, on May 22,1982. Jon McDonald, a deputy sheriff for Liberty County, was on routine patrol..”
McDonald’s description:
"It was in a diamond shape, y'know, all four corners were rounded; but it was in a diamond shape." He went on to describe the color as grayish; like a dirty galvanized steel — "a dirty, dirty gray." And it was large. "I'd say you could fit ten cars into the square it would form if it was placed on the ground.” 
He described it as having flashing red lights on the body and two white “headlights”.

joeyk22: Is it possible a government contractor was doing a test flight of some sort and this gives the U.S. government plausible deniability when it comes to disclosing information about the object if in fact it is "man-made"?

A: I think Joey has been peeking at my notes! IF it was a test craft, this is my top pick for a scenario. Unfortunately, there are no plausible contractor candidates. This touches another area, why would they be conducting test flights so near a populated area? As unreasonable as it sounds, it really happens, from anything to plane exercises to the transport of nuclear materials and weapons. It probably happens way more often than we can imagine, as our documentation come mostly when these things crash near cities. I’ll put up an article on this on my blog in the near future, that’s too deep a tangent to explore here, but it does offer some credibility for the man-made craft hypothesis. 

I've always wondered about this case and the fact that it happened within days of the Rendlesham Forest/Bentwaters incident. Both Cash-Landrum and Bentwaters appeared to have military involvement. A coincidence? Has anyone ever looked for a connection between the two?

A: Jenny Randles and her collaborators examined the comparison in “Sky Crash”, but I’ll say coincidence just from the lack of specific similarity. The UFOs are only share a few superficial characteristics- they fly and behave unlike one another and the experiences of the witnesses are also completely different. There are some that do try to stretch the similarities to make this part of a global ET operation, and others have claimed that Rendlesham was a “smokescreen”, a staged event to fake a ET UFO so that the military operation in Texas would be obscured.

Here are the key points I intended to make on the show about the Cash-Landrum events:

This case is important, because whatever it was, it is the tip of a UFO iceberg. By uncovering more on the military involvement, we should be able to trace the activities to specific operations and personnel. Much can be learned from this, whether or not this was an ET craft the helicopters were following. Even if we only study just the UFO investigation methods here, we can learn both from the successes and failures in a case which features some compelling evidence and eyewitness testimony.

Despite hard work and good intentions serious errors and inaccuracies crept in to the investigation led by John F. Schuessler of MUFON.

The popular version of the story is an inaccurate portrayal of events, the most visual example is the erroneous portrayal of the UFO itself.

Since the case was effectively owned and controlled solely by MUFON, it raises questions to the bias of the investigation and choosing what evidence to include or eliminate.

The Medical records should be open for review by qualified, unbiased experts (whether or not the records themselves are made public).

The Schuessler/Project VISIT files on this case should be open for examination by researchers. There is the potential for overlooked leads or connections that were not apparent to the time due to government classification.

Based on today’s knowledge of the military events of 1980, new investigations and FOIA request should be targeted at the Special Operations Forces active in classified missions during the winter of 1980.

FM 2100, scene of the events.

Reaction to the show has been positive, and I thank Gene Steinberg and Chris O’Brien for giving us the opportunity to spotlight this case.

It was suggested that a “tip line” be added to this site for anyone with information on this case, whether a pilot who participated in the helicopter operation, or a resident of the area during the time of the events who might have some background.

To report leads on the 1980 Cash-Landrum UFO, contact


  1. Hi,

    A couple of questions, firstly is the colour (red) depicted in the Lambright image correct?

    Secondly, has exposure to Ultra Violet light been considered as a possible cause for the skin injuries?

  2. Over time, the witnesses described a range of colors to describe the light and flames, but were consistent in using a palette of fiery colors, and saying that it lit up the woods like daylight. Chris acknowledges that his depiction is an artistic guess based on witness testimony, and that it could be too red.

    UV light has been discussed, often as part of a spectrum of radiation. The problem with it and the other candidates is that the symptoms don't match up well. We have to mix and match exposures and maladies to come up with the symptoms produced.

    Part of the medical puzzle was created to some extent by the investigators trying to match the case to a radiation source. Based on what I've seen, they may have overstated some of the symptoms (esp. those of Vickie and Colby) in order to present a stronger case.

    Search for "Betty Cash"+Ultra-Violet to see some of the discussion of the UV possibility. Brad Sparks' articles are of particular interest.

  3. Thanks, I'll certainly do that. I bought up UV because as an Australian we get lots of warnings about the dangers of sun exposure and the pictures of Betty Cash reminded me of images used in warning campaigns.

    I do however have my own, purely speculative idea as to what might have been seen, this popped into my head after listening to the Paracast interview.

    My idea, is that it was a flamethrower using a boron based fuel mounted on a Ch-47.

    During the Vietnam war some Ch-47s were outfitted as gunships (They were dubbed "Go-Go Birds") and the idea could have been revived for Honey Badger.

    Also during the 50's the United States Air Force looked into using boron based fuels which were believed to produce more energy than conventional fuels. They also turned out to be incredibly toxic, which is why they were abandoned.

    That is also one of several objections to the concept, I'm not going to enumerate them because they should be fairly obvious.

    My problem with the story as told is that the object was emitting heat, but the heat should have spread in all directions, if you've stood near an overlarge bonfire, then you should have some idea of what I'm saying at this point, something is off, either the timing of the event as stated, or the distance the witnesses said they were to the object, but I have no idea how to test this and it might have to be a 'field test' to investigate that aspect.

    I would suspect that the key is going to be those helicopters.

  4. Graham, I'm sorry to be just now replying to your comments. I was not aware of the armed CH-47s, but cannot find anything to connect them to the incident. A while back I contacted a helicopter mechanic who had souped up CH-47s for the 1st hostage rescue attempt:

    "I see no connection to anything that we did back then.
    I am not aware of any other CH-47s that were modified for Honey Badger other than the ones that we did at the Army Depot in New Cumberland, Pa.
    After the screw-up in transportation by the Navy in Florida, "Plan B" was hatched on the fly to instead use unmodified CH-53's and you already know the results of that decision."

    I asked him to look at a summary of the case, checking for any equipment that could have been misinterpreted as the UFO. He saw no connection, and knew of no missions during the C-L time frame.

    Dr. Hynek thought (based on several investigations) that there were no physical helicopters present, but he believed the witnesses. He considered the possibility that the helicopters were some kind of holographic-like projection.

    I'm willing to consider half of his theory, that there were no helicopters.

  5. For what it is worth here is a link to what wikipedia had to say on armed Chinooks:

    Looks like my memory of them being called "Go-Go Birds" was wrong, then again wikipedia could be wrong...

    As with all UFO cases ultimately they come down to the witness testimony and if it cannot be trusted then you might find yourself without a case.

  6. Graham, Thanks for your contributions. There's a thread on the case on ATS where where 1ofthe9 discusses a candidate vehicle for the UFO, an experimental sub-orbital craft:
    "From this, I would think that our mysterious flying machine was running off a tripropellant, possibly air-augmented, rocket engine that was burning LOX, kerosene, and borane 'zip fuel'. Now the borane fuel program in the 1950's wasn't exactly a successful program...but if you really wanted something like I've proposed it might be worth a look. Borane fuels (I think they also looked at beryllium - but I'd have to dig through my aerospace books/pdfs) also turned out to be pretty nasty things, and the combustion products were just as unpleasant. "

    I've glanced through some of his references, while I'm unable to make any connections, have to say his scenario is much more plausible than the nuclear vehicle notions. His thoughts on the fuel seem to run along the same lines as yours. What do you think?

  7. I'd call it an interesting speculation, and my own preferences are towards a terrestrial explanation (Like the one suggested by the photograph of the helicopter in your November 15th blog post.), but in my own opinion, a 'souped up' flamethrower is easier to design, build and supply 'exotic' fuel for than an aerospace vehicle.

    And there is less lead time involved. To use a real world historical example NASA ran it's first manned lunar landing simulations covering a full mission from launch to landing in 1962, seven years before the first Apollo landing, so early in fact that they had not decided on the landing mode (The missions simulated a direct landing of the Apollo CSM on the lunar surface rather than the two vehicle approach eventually chosen.)

    This thread I created on the forums last year has pictures from the reports, but the documents themselves are currently offline due to that security scare earlier in the year.

    I just don't see the lead time existing to put together a manned SSTO spacecraft, even if they were working from completed plans.

  8. The object hovered & rose after flame bursts, then descended, flame burst & rose eventually clearing the trees & escorted by 23 chinooks.
    This is a real case of a UFO acting like a balloon!!
    Schuessler was the link through MUFON to imply a UFO. He was a propulsion expert at NASA as well. So I looked at balloons at NASA.
    To explore Saturn's moon,Titan, NASA was looking at radioisotope balloons.
    Vikings had used a RTG. Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators to create electricity & the by-product,Heat. could be used to provide balloon lift.
    Coupled with a rocket , HYDRAZINE & irridium catalyst/oxidiser, to launch & adjust altitude. Both of these could be a source of the symptoms.
    Could the military have made a near space spying platform in the shape of a diamond balloon.? The flat angles of the diamond to give it a structure to contain the envelope full of isotopes, as well as early stealth being faceted & black.
    A leak in the envelope could have sent it to ground, the rocket blasts to raise it enough for aerial capture or a more desolate location for containment.
    This might explain all the Chinooks as Haz-mat crews, & if carrier based be Marines or Sea Knights, & thus give plausible deniability to Army & Airforce.
    IT was Schuessler who managed the event & put the UFO angle into the investigation & his NASA links to a radioactive & toxic rocket fuel that must be kept secret at all costs. This explains the mysterious re-paving of the road as well.

    LOOK AT: Radioisotopes & propulsion of NASA Balloons.

    1. Deano, I saw your comments on Robert Sheaffer's site as well, and it is obvious you have carefully been reading up on the case and considering earthly scientific explanations for the events. I'm just not familiar enough with the program you mentioned to know if it could plausibly be connected with the case.

      I'm glad you have paid careful attention to the flight characteristics of the UFO, and I agree with you the size reported along with maneuvers do seem to to resemble those of a balloon of blimp of some kind. Still, it's not a perfect match and we don't have access to any evidence for it.

      My belief is that if there was a genuine event at the core of this story, there are almost certainly surviving operators and support crew of the vehicles involved. Classified or not, someone will talk. This is not like Roswell, the surviving crew members would just now be nearing retirement age.

      Thanks for posting your comments, please check back. There are more articles and files to come!

  9. Deano, regarding the "mysterious re-paving of the road" you may want to check out the November 15 blog post entitled 'The Legend of the Scorched Road' for the current information on that story.

    To resurface a road you need more than a 'few trucks' and some asphalt plus the men to spread it. Other equipment required includes, backhoes, graders, road rollers, asphalt spreaders and the transport necessary to bring those vehicles to the site. Where did this equipment come from? Where is the paper trail?

    Remember that back in the early 1980s computers were not that widely used, if these vehicles originated from a military source then there would be requisition orders ditto if they were borrowed from the local councils equipment depot. And then there is the asphalt itself, it cannot be 'whipped up on the spot' it needs to be made and transported and again there would be a paper trail.

    The photographs on the wikipedia page about the type of asphalt used in roadbuiling includes a photograph of roadworks in progress.

  10. Chris, have you considered whether the object was a Harrier jet? If a Harrier came in low over the trees with its exhausts pointed down, it could be quite startling and difficult for the witnesses to comprehend. I understand you have found that Betty and Vickie didn't recall much visually other than the flames.

    At the end of this video, when the pilot turns the exhausts down before landing, it can be seen what the illuminated exhausts of a Harrier can look like at night.

    In this daytime video, it can be seen how a Harrier appears when doing hovering maneuvers with the exhausts pointed down. When seen head on, it almost appears diamond shaped.

    1. Bill, I get that a lot, even when there's not a Chris around.

      You are right, a Harrier would give us part of the effects. Allan Hendry's recently discovered report discusses this possibility, going further to suggest it was part of a military exercise involving helicopters and electronic countermeasures which could have produced microwave injuries. a tidy little package! Supposedly (I've not seen documentation) Harriers were ruled out and all were accounted for.

      Still, it's such a good match, it's worth taking another look at along with other VTOL craft such as "tail-sitters." A problem is their hover time is fairly short, and wouldn't be able to linger as reported.

      You are looking at the right kind of things. Whatever it his was, how did it "float"?

    2. Curt, regarding the hover time, I was surprised to see in the second video above how long the Harrier can hover. The pilot is moving it back and forth along the crowd. But it appears, if he had wanted, he could of left it hovering in one spot for most of the 4+ minute video. I'm not sure how long the Cash-Landrum witnesses had the object in sight.

      By the way, great job of researching this.

    3. Bill, I have to admit that when I replied earlier, I had not watched the videos yet. The first one, in the dark almost looks like a flying saucer! I was surprised how dark the plane was, and was expecting to see a bright exhaust like a rocket launch.

      The second one is fascinating (if you like flying things). That hover time is amazing. From memory, I thought it was minimal, just something like 17 seconds for either take off or landing. Still, I'm guessing this was a stunt for the show and the pilot nearly burned off the whole tank.

      I just dusted off a report on some tech candidates I came across a few years back. just a sampler of things military tech that might have been in play. It'll be up in the next few days. Thanks for stooping by and the kind words.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Sorry Curt, I referred to you as Chris

  13. Curt, great blog. Sadly, it's making me more of a skeptic about this case. I used to consider this the most difficult to explain UFO sighting of all time. Though I always tended to believe in a man made explanation. After reading your blog, I have the following concerns about the case:

    1. The MUFON investigator made questionable assumptions.
    2. The women did not see a diamond--only Colby did. When I was his age, I was pretty aware of airplanes and spacecraft. One night I swore I saw the Space Shuttle rocketing overhead. In all likelihood I saw an ANG F-102.
    3. Clearly the number of helicopters supposedly seen is problematic.
    4. The women's injuries were not properly assessed medically right after the supposed exposure to the craft.

    I want to muddy the waters some more. The women saw a blinding light. Has anyone considered a helicopter-mounted searchlight?

    The following manual warns about heat damage to exposed surfaces:

    Also, this video shows a Bell 234 (civilian CH-47) carrying a firefighting bucket. Is it possible the "diamond" was actually being carried by a helicopter in a firefighting role? The retardant is not flames but perhaps could be mistaken for them when backlit by another light?

    It's not a perfect hypothesis--why would a firefighting Bell 234 dump retardant on a highway? Mechanical problems?

    As for injuries, as they were not properly assessed by a doctor right after, we can't make definitive judgments as to whether the sighting even caused them. But I'd be curious to know whether firefighting retardant could cause skin injuries such as those reported.

  14. Great comments, Chris. I have not seen much examination of the helicopter spotlight idea, but it's possible that nothing was published on it. In my files I've gathered some material on it, and had even asked aviation historian Curtis Peebles about the idea, but he felt it was unlikely. Still, if I had the resources, I'd love to stage an attempt to duplicate the sighting with helcopters, searchlights and sling loads just for comparison's sake.