Sunday, December 29, 2013

Remembering Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum

Betty Cash

Betty J. Cash 1929 - 1998

Betty J. Cash, 69, of Fairfield, Alabama, died December 29, 1998, in Birmingham, Alabama. She was born on February 10, 1929, in Birmingham to Jack L. (Jesse) and Pauline (Lockhart) Collins.

Betty moved to Dayton, Texas where she operated a business with her husband James F. Cash, taking sole ownership after their divorce. After developing health problems, she moved back to Alabama to be cared for by her mother. 

Betty was survived by her son, Toby Howard, daughter Mickey Geisinger, sisters Lois Green, Midge Helms. Sister Shirley Ann McNair, and brothers, James H. Collins, Jesse W. Collins and Charles Wayne Collins have all since passed.

She was buried at Cahaba Heights Baptist Church Cemetery in Birmingham, Alabama.

Vickie Landrum

Vickie Landrum 1923 - 2007

Vicie “Vickie” Marzelia Landrum, 83, of Liberty, Texas passed away Wednesday, September 12, 2007.  She was born on September 19, 1923 in Laurel, Mississippi to Johnny and Emily Holifield.  Vickie liked to play bingo, computer games and sew, but above all she loved to play with and take care of her grandchildren. 
Vickie is preceded in death by her parents; loving husband, Ernest Wilson Landrum, Sr.; and 2 brothers. She is survived by her children, Ernest Landrum, Jr. (deceased), Gloria Jean Roper, David Landrum, Paul Landrum, and Jayne Landrum; fourteen grandchildren; twenty-four great-grandchildren; and nine great-great-grandchildren. 

She was buried at Ryan Cemetary in Tarkington Prairie, Texas.

(Note: Betty Cash's obituary is my creation based on the scant details available.
Vickie Landrum's obituary appeared in the East Texas News.) 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dr. J. Allen Hynek on the Cash-Landrum UFO case

Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Speaking on the Cash-Landrum UFO Close Encounter of the Second Kind

“Something sure as hell happened..."

Dr. Hynek, as seen in Spielberg's CE3K

Dr. J. Allen Hynek was only indirectly involved with the Cash-Landrum case, but he knew it well. From the beginning, John F. Schuessler was sending copies of his Project VISIT reports to Hynek’s Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). In April 1981, Dr. Hynek’s protege, Allan Hendry, (CUFOS’ chief investigator) was contracted by the Fund for UFO Research (FUFOR) to investigate the incident. Further, Schuessler made his first lecture on the case at Hynek’s CUFOS symposium in September 1981. While Hynek himself did not investigate the case, he was very familiar with it. 

In 1981, just as the news of the Cash-Landrum story was spreading through mainstream media, Dr. Hynek was contacted by a Texas newspaper, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times for his comments on the case.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times September 13, 1981 p. 1A

Dr. J. Allen Hynek, founder of the Center for UFO Studies in Evanston, Ill., and the country's premier UFO investigator, termed the Dayton incident a “really crucial case,” because of the “absolutely unequivocal physical effects.”
“Something sure as hell happened: Those women didn’t pull out their hair and blind themselves," said Hynek. "The connection with the event is clear-cut. It's one-to-one. We have other cases, but rarely as clear-cut as this.”

“We are dealing with a real event , but we’re not sure if it’s a government exercise or a UFO sighting," said Hynek, who headed Project Blue Book, a U.S. Air Force study of UFOs from about 1948 to 1969. "There’s a lot of secret stuff going on that most people don’t know about.”
Hynek believes the women should file a lawsuit to compel disclosure.
Corpus Christi Caller-Times September 13, 1981 p. 1A
Texans Tell of Strange Encounter by Pamela Lyon

OMNI Magazine Interview with Dr. J. Allen Hynek

The year before he died, Dr. Hynek was interviewed at length by Pamela Weintraub of OMNI magazine, it appeared in the February 1985 issue. A number of UFO cases were discussed, and in a rather surprising way, the conversation turned to the Cash-Landrum case.

Dr. Hynek. Portrait from OMNI magazine
Omni: ... close encounters of the third kind might be anybody's fantasy.

Hynek: I can't disagree. That's why I'd like to focus most of my new research on close encounters of the second kind, where there are actual physical marks. -Perhaps a foreign consciousness is creating not just illusions but the real ship and the-real creatures as well. If they weren't physical creations, they couldn't leave traces. That's the importance of the close encounter of the second kind. Let us suppose that a very, very advanced civilization has, as a part of its everyday technology, the ability to project a thought form that, like a holographic image, temporarily assumes three-dimensional reality. This is just speculation of the wildest sort, but if the UFO phenomenon is doing anything, it's causing us to expand our imagination, to make us aware that this nice, cozy world we live in is only the world we see around us, not the sum total of our environment. 

Omni: Are there any close encounters of the second kind that you feel would particularly help to reveal this broader reality? 

Hynek: I'd like to get to the bottom of the Cash/Landrum affair. The story there concerns Betty Cash, Vicki Landrum. and Vicki's grandson Colby The three were coming back from a Bingo game when they saw a glowing triangle spewing flames above them in the sky. They stopped the car to watch the thing, and as it moved off, they reportedly saw about twenty-three helicopters escorting it out. After they got home there were all sorts of physiological effects: Their eyes swelled, their hair fell out, they developed blisters, they were nauseated and weak. The event completely altered their lives. 

Omni: What do you think was at the root? 

Hynek: My best guess is that they were exposed to some kind of microwave radiation. 
Space-shuttle engineer John Schuessler, who's investigating the case, is veering toward the idea that the three were exposed to a government device escorted by twenty-three helicopters, He's even helped Betty, Vicki, and Colby to institute a lawsuit against the government. But there's another side of all this: Where would twenty-three helicopters come from? First of all, it was Christmas week, and people at the bases said they would never conduct military exercises at a time like that. 

Omni: Certainly you can't be suggesting the possibility of twenty-three extraterrestrial helicopters? 

Hynek: No, that's preposterous. But perhaps Cash and the Landrums saw a holographic image of the helicopters. I could buy that more than I buy twenty-three solid, physical helicopters from some unknown base, when no baseman will admit seeing so many helicopters of that particular kind. 

Omni: Yet I really think that we're obliged to  consider the fact that some of these sightings are due to government craft. Recently, James E. Oberg traced many reports to secret Soviet satellite launchings. 

Hynek: Today, of course, such technology may account for many reports. From 1947 through 1955, however, almost none of the maneuvers ascribed to UFOs could have been duplicated with human technology. And even today, our technology can duplicate only part of the phenomenon. We still don't have craft that can hover and then take off at fantastic speed. 

Omni: As far as you know. But the government has been implicated in other ways as well. A group known as CAUS [Citizens Against UFO Secrecy] claims that the government has been orchestrating a massive cover-up of UFO information. They've recently invoked the Freedom of Information Act to obtain classified information. Have they found anything, and do you believe there's a government cover-up? 

Hynek: What can be covered up? You can cover up ignorance, embarrassment, sinister political acts. I myself don't see real evidence for a diabolical, Machiavellian cover-up. I do perceive a strong reluctance to share information with the public.

The conversation turns to other UFO topics. See this link for a PDF of the entire article:

Omni Magazine February 1985 interviewed by Pamela Weintraub.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Flaming UFO: An Examination of the Cash-Landrum Original Testimony

UFO Fire: Flames or Glow? Separating the Heat from the Light

"… more glowing than on fire…"   -Colby Landrum, 2013

“In addition to lighting the whole area like daytime, the UFO periodically belched flames downward. Each time the object would shoot flames downward it would rise. As the flames stopped it would drop in altitude. The intense glow, however, never changed.
-John Schuessler, MUFON Journal November 1981
MUFON Journal April, 1981 illustration of the UFO,

Whatever it was, one thing that seemed definite about the Cash-Landrum UFO is that it "belched flames downward." When investigator Chris Lambright shared the transcript from his 1985 interview with witnesses Vickie Landrum and Betty Cash, it became apparent that there were problems with the details circulating about the UFO's description and characteristics. Examination of the case documents shows that there is much confusion in separating the UFO itself from the light, and the flame-like effects it produced. When Colby Landrum appeared on Martin Willis’ Podcast UFO, he was questioned on specific details about the object: 
“To me, it was like a diamond shape with flames coming out the bottom, not just massive flames, the whole thing looked [like it] radiated bright orange and it actually looked like it was more glowing than on fire. As a kid, that seems to stick in your head... a lot of things I don’t remember, but this particular thing about the object I do remember.”
Colby Landrum, Podcast UFO, Dec. 4, 2013
Identifying this pyrotechnic characteristic could prove to be a vital clue in either identifying or eliminating a terrestrial craft as a suspect for the UFO. This prompted me to review the records, with emphasis on the earliest reports with direct statements from the witnesses. What did the witnesses originally say about the fire, and did it change over time?

(Note: Abbreviations used, VL= Vickie Landrum, BC= Betty Cash, CPL= interviewer Chris Lambright.)

First reports: the best evidence

“a deal came down and it was like fire was coming from it.” (Referring to Betty’s illness) “...could it have had anything to do with that thing that we stood and watched, ‘cause we were close enough to it that we felt a fire from it."
VL’s call to Robert Gribble at NUFORC Feb. 2, 1981
“It was bright, the lights were bright. And there was a lot of heat coming from this object.”  (No mention of fires or flame.)
BC - Parkway Hospital Tape Early Feb. 1981
"The whole road ahead and around it glowing as if by fire. I believe it was fire because it glowed down and let up a little."
VL- Parkway Hospital Tape Early Feb. 1981
“this bright object that made the sky just split up & it looked like the world was coming to an end, it was a very bright red.”
BC’s handwritten account of the encounter, Parkway Hospital, Feb. 7, 1981 
There is a gap in the record from February 8th until the 21st. During this time, the case was being managed by Bill English (a rogue member of APRO), who sold the story to the tabloid Weekly World News, providing them with Betty's and Vickie's taped statements from Parkway Hospital.

To date, no records of the conversations between the witnesses and English or the tabloid have surfaced. It was during the tabloid involvement that the definite descriptions of fire begin to appear.
The light  from it was glowing, lighting up the whole road like it would set it on fire.
 VL- The Courier (Conroe TX) Feb. 22, 1981
"It looked like the whole sky had split and fire was coming down almost to the road.”
VL- Weekly World News March 24, 1981
"this fire was coming out of the bottom of it. And it wasn't just one little streak.'' 
VL- Feb. 28, 1981 interview, The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident by J.F. Schuessler
“a bright silver... an aluminous thing. It was diamond-shaped with fire coming out of the bottom,” flames produced “air brakes” sound, but louder. Asked if flames were like a rocket, “That’s the way it was, but it didn’t fly off.” No smoke was noticed. Flames produced a roar compared to tornado, big winds, big engine, “air brakes” sound, but louder.
BC- 1981 undated interview, The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident by J.F. Schuessler
“ ... fire was shooting out the bottom of it ... and then it would let up, when it would let up... it made... I don't know what kind of sound to tell you it was making, it... similar to air brakes... or?... a whooshing sound.”
BC- Bergstrom AFB Interview, Aug. 17, 1981
“... it was hanging up, you know, over the trees... when the fire'd comedown, it would lift up, and when the fire'd let up, you know... when the fire'd kinda go away... that's when it would come back down... and finally when big gust of fire came down and the sound was so shrill, that's when it lifted to where it would get up and go away.. the flame come down, you know? ... just like, just like a rocket” 
VL- Bergstrom AFB Interview, Aug. 17, 1981
Night rocket launch.

1985 Interviews of the Witnesses

July 10, 1985, Chris Lambright interviewed Vickie Landrum in her Dayton home, seeking further details. He tried to determine when and from where the object emitted the glowing light.

Vickie Landrum from 1985 interview with Chris Lambright
CPL: Were the flames coming down all the time? 
VL: No, no. They would let up and then come back down.
CPL: How could you see it if the flame went out?
VL: It didn’t go completely out. It went up and then it would come back down. It was like something, like a motor or something that was in trouble. And finally, when the flame come whooshing down, there was a loud noise…the loud noise it made…it lifted slowly.
CPL: Was the flame more or less constant, or did it just cease?
VL: It never did just completely cease. It was permanently…It was just a big light. It was glowing over the road so much we saw the object.
Two days later, Lambright followed up by talking to Betty Cash by telephone.

Betty Cash compares flame to blowtorch.
Blowtorch flame, warming up and in operation.
CPL: When the light came out, it came out only from the bottom?
BC: That is right. 
 Lambright asked for clarification on the color and characteristics of the light.
BC: I have described it on several occasions myself as a blow torch light. You know, a welding light…they don’t all come out one color…you can look at them and they are different colors. 
CPL: Are you talking about an arc-welder?
BC: Well, one of them welding torches that shoots flames out. A propane torch.
CPL: Right, a blow torch cuts a nice sharp flame and it’s real brilliant bluish color. 
BC: Yes, and if you will look you can see the yellow and white…you know. 
CPL: Did you notice anything about the flame itself that would have made it look very red, so you would have described it as red? 
BC: Well…not really as a red. But there was a reddish-yellowish looking color. 

Chris Lambright detail. Different versions attempting to show witness descriptions of object and lighting.

As a boy, Colby Landrum was rarely quoted at length in the press coverage, and he later withdrew, refusing to discuss the events. In his first television appearance as an adult, he described the object.
”It was a bright red, glowing object. Kind of looked as if you took a piece of metal and heated it up with a torch. It kind of looked like it was on fire, but it was kind of floating.”
Colby Landrum, UFO Hunters, “Alien Fallout” aired January 14, 2009


Betty Cash, who witnessed the encounter the most closely, did not mention fire or flames in the earliest two reports, just heat and light. Vickie Landrum initially said the object produced heat and was glowing as if by fire  As they were asked to repeat their story, it appears the glow and the heat may have combined into a description of “flames.” Admittedly, it’s a bit unclear and confusing, as are many details reported in the case. Often, eyewitness testimony can become unintentionally contaminated by external influences or just grow in the retelling.

In the interview at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Vickie and Betty included details of John Schuessler's investigation in their description of events, such as the measurements of the UFO's position and size. Colby was the only witness who could originally describe a shape for the object, Schuessler emphasized the diamond shape in his initial report. The witnesses absorbed the report, and this new information was incorporated into their story.

In examining the original testimony, the witnesses reported seeing the brilliant light and feeling heat produced by the unidentified flying object. The more dramatic description of fire and flames may have been a later interpretation.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dream of Space Ships Near Reality, Air Force Chief Declares: Nov. 12, 1945

War may descend upon us by thousands of robots
    one or two atomic bombs should suffice

A bit of military prophecy from the Golden Age:

The Milwaukee Journal Nov. 12, 1945, Headline:

Dream of Space Ships Near Reality, Air Force Chief Declares

Gen. Henry H Arnold advises advises that atomic bomb warfare 
waged from interstellar space ships is "within the foreseeable future."

For further atomic spaceship information, see:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Kevin Randle on Cash-Landrum: A Military Perspective

Kevin Randle on the Cash-Landrum UFO case

As part the discussion of the Cash-Landrum UFO case, we'll be inviting others who have examined the case to share their opinions.

Author  Kevin D. Randle

In Kevin D. Randle's 1998 book, Project Moon Dust: Beyond Roswell-- Exposing The Government's Covert Investigations and Cover-ups, chapter 11 was a ten page analysis, titled, "December 29, 1980: The Cash-Landrum UFO Encounter." Kevin Randle is a retired Lieutenant Colonel, and his service and his experience as a helicopter pilot should aid in the understanding of the military involvement in this case.

Chapter 11: Cash-Landrum UFO Encounter

One resource that Randle had that most others did not, was the file on the case from the Center for UFO Studies. This allowed Randle to note the discrepancy in the account of Betty Cash as to whether she stopped the car's engine or it stopped on its own, apparently due to the proximity of the UFO. This detail was discovered in April 1981 by CUFOS investigator Allan Hendry, but went unmentioned until Randle's book. In Project Moon Dust, he does an excellent job of summarizing the case history based on materials available at the time, and also offers some analysis and commentary, a portion of which appears as the closing remarks for this entry.

Kevin Randle had occasion to discuss the case again in 2011, on his blog, A Different Perspective.
Reprinted here, with the author's kind permission.

Cash Landrum and Crash Retrievals 


One of the strange things about writing a book is that sometimes the comments or criticisms come in a short period of time.

What do I mean?

My book, Crash: When UFOs Fall from the Sky was published in May and in the last week or ten days I have heard from several people who wished I had included the Cash-Landrum case in the book. That is an interesting case and I believe John Schuessler did a very comprehensive study of it which has been published.

The problem for me is that I don’t view the case as a crash/retrieval. I see it as something that might have been an emergency close approach, or just a close approach without the emergency, or some kind of terrestrially-based test, but not a crash of an extraterrestrial vehicle. For that reason, I left it out.
Cash-Landrum not included
What I know about the case is what everyone else knows and is based on the research of those who studied it in person. I have never spoken to any of those who were originally involved, though I do know John Schuessler. He is one of those who has devoted a great deal of time to the study of UFOs and this case took place almost in his backyard.

It was December 29, 1980, when Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum and Landrum’s seven-year-old grandson, Colby saw the strange object as they returned from dinner. Thinking that it was an airplane heading to a nearby airport, they thought nothing of it. But as they rounded a curve on the rural road, they saw the light approaching them at treetop level.

Fearing that they would be burned alive, Landrum screamed for Cash to stop. The road was narrow and Cash was unable to turn to car so that they could escape. But there was no other traffic, so Cash got out, walking to the front of the vehicle. Landrum also got out but her grandson so upset she got back in.

They could feel heat from the diamond-shaped object that was about 100 feet away. The car became too hot to touch and Landrum put her hand on the dashboard and left an imprint. Cash needed to use part of her leather jacket to protect her hand so that she could open the door.

There was a final blast of heat and the object ascended slowly. As it cleared the treetops, helicopters appeared from all directions. The object and the helicopters then disappeared from sight.

When her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Cash started the car and they began to head home. As they rounded another curve on that same road, they saw the object again, and Cash counted 23 helicopters near it. Landrum thought there were 25 or 26 of them. Cash was able to pull off the road. When the object and the helicopters were again out of sight, Cash then drove home.

Schuessler depiction of the UFO
Later that evening Cash became sick, the symptoms like that of radiation poisoning, at least according to some. She was hospitalized twice for treatment. The Landrums were also sick, but not to the same degree as Cash, which might be as simple as Cash being outside the car longer and her exposure greater.

The case was, of course, investigated. Cash eventually sued the government for 20 million dollars alleging that her illnesses were caused by the close approach of the craft. She was eventually treated for various cancers 25 times and had undergone two operations. The helicopters were obviously US government and they should have been protecting her. The case was dismissed in 1986. Cash died some twenty yeas later.

The suit was dismissed, according to the ruling, because there was no evidence that the diamond-shaped craft was any type of government test vehicle and they were hard pressed to find witnesses to the formation of helicopters. A few witnesses were found who said they had seen the fleet, but no physical evidence or documentation was ever located.

I will point out here, based on my experience as a helicopter pilot, that I find it difficult to believe they could hide an air operation of this magnitude. The helicopters would have had a crew of three and maybe four meaning almost 100 men (and given the date of this, I wouldn’t expect any women in the flight crews), not to mention the logistical support necessary. You’d have to supply a refueling point, as well as other considerations but no trace of any of that was ever found or documented. Something like that, on that scale, would be impossible to hide.

Nearly everyone, skeptics and believers alike, suggest that the illnesses sounded like radiation sickness. One of those who doesn’t is Brad Sparks. He presented a number of reasons including the rapid onset of the symptoms and the lingering nature of them as reason to suspect another cause. Philip Klass was interested in the health of the three victims prior to the encounter.

The bottom line for me, and my book on UFO crashes, is that there is no hint of a crash here. A close encounter of the second kind, meaning a close approach of a UFO, but not a crash. For that reason, I didn’t even consider this case for my book.
  _ _ _

Kevin Randle's Conclusion

 Lt. Col. Kevin D. Randle. ret.

Randle closes the chapter on the Cash-Landrum story in Project Moon Dust, with a summary of the problems in evaluating the case.

"There is nothing to prove that the three were in perfect health prior to the events and that those events caused an erosion of their health. Betty Cash's cancer may have been a pre-existing condition, though there is no record of it prior to the events. A comprehensive search by military officers and civilian researchers has failed to produce any evidence that the sighting took place.  
Once again we are left with nothing except our beliefs. Was the craft extraterrestrial? Was there any craft at all? Or was it some kind of elaborate hoax invented by the women (though neither has a history of creating practical jokes)? Without more data, we just can't answer any of these questions satisfactorily."

A special thanks to Kevin Randle for permission to reprint his column.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cash-Landrum: The Light Pillar Theory Revisited by Wim VAN UTRECHT

Guest article by Wim VAN UTRECHT, a companion piece following his examination of Light Pillars and their possible role in the Cash-Landrum UFO case.
Cash-Landrum Theory & Analysis: Unpublished 2002 Wim van Utrecht Article

See also the article on weather conditions present:
The Weather: Evidence in the Cash-Landrum UFO Case

Some additional notes on the Light Pillar Theory 


Commentators on several lists have raised a couple of pertinent questions about my suggestion that a light pillar caused by a combustion flame was – at least partially – responsible for the CASH-LANDRUM incident. This is an attempt to respond to these posts.

How bright are light pillars in high cloud? 

This issue was raised in my initial draft article. In note 14, I mentioned a bright reflection with an estimated magnitude of -9 (note however that this observer was standing very close to the combustion flame).  My own visual observations - I think I must have observed the phenomenon about 7 or 8 times now - were all from a distance of 8.6 km (5.3 miles), and never as bright as -9.  Because of the pulsating nature of the light source and the continuous changes in thickness of the reflecting cloud layer, the brightness changes constantly.  Perhaps the average brightness of light pillars can best be compared to a spotlight creating a luminous patch on a cloud deck or the moon seen through a layer of stratus cloud. Much depends from the surroundings (my observations were from the centre of Antwerp city where there’s much light pollution). On a dark road bordered with trees I expect a pillar to show up quite bright.  Here’s what I wrote about light pillars and brightness in an article on my website
The brightness depends not only on the nature of the light source and the distance between the observer and the reflection, but also on the type of ice-crystals, their size, the smoothness of their surfaces and the way in which they are scattered within the cloud. A flat horizontal layer consisting of large ice-crystal plates with smooth surfaces will generate a crisp and colourful image, whereas a cloud of randomly scattered oscillating ice-particles of small size will produce an image with diffuse edges and a less outspoken colouring.
In one of the best cases on record, a trained observer, studying a reflection from the glow of a blast furnace converter through a telescope, reported that it looked as if the flames from the furnace mouth could actually be seen moving about inside the reflected image [SPERRA, William E., "A Night Mirage" in Popular Astronomy, Vol. XVI, No. 3, March 1908, pp. 164-167.].
In the case of the North Sea sightings referred to above, a witness who used binoculars noticed that the "object" had "a granular surface, with a large number of small points inside". This is not the only case in which the light reflected off the smooth surfaces of the individual ice crystals gave the reflection the appearance of a luminous structure made up of countless points of light. 
Using data obtained from another witness to the North Sea incident, Erik HØG of the Niels Bohr Institute for Astronomy, Physics and Geophysics department of the Niels Bohr Institute for Astronomy at Copenhagen University, found that the magnitude of the circular reflection observed that night was close to -9 [HØG, Erik, various Internet messages from November 1993 and May 1995.]. By way of comparison: the magnitude of the full moon is -13, that of a bright star -1. Normally, the reflected images are much weaker.
In evaluating the brightness of light pillars from photographs, it should be taken into account that the intensity of the streaks is sometimes exaggerated by the long exposure times needed for clear night shots. 

Actually most photographs of light pillars that are on my website gallery ( are time exposures (exposure time, aperture and ISO are mentioned for most images). Normally light pillars from combustion flames are not that bright, but the strange thing is that how longer you look at them the brighter they seem to get, up to such a point even that it’s easy to make yourself believe that the sky is splitting in two and that you’re looking at a fissure in the sky with a fire behind it. 

Here’s two videos of light pillars that will give a better idea of their brightness:

and more spectacular (but reaching to the ground, so not in high clouds):

Have there every been similar incidents?

There are several incidents in my collection of possible light pillar sightings that have elements similar to what was reported in the CASH-LANDRUM case. One of these concerns a phenomenon observed by none other than earthlight researcher Paul DEVEREUX.  On pages 11-18 of his 1982 book on Earthlights there is a description of an event that marked the beginning of his work on Earthlights. The incident took place when DEVEREUX was studying fine arts at the Ravensbourne College of Art near Bromley, Kent, UK. Together with some fellow students DEVEREUX spotted a strange luminous display in the NNW sky one evening in May 1967.  I quote from my catalogue:

Description: a pulsing, preternaturally brilliant orange light in the form of an upright rectangle; moved towards the college, then came to a halt in the sky, a few hundred feet above the fields; remained stationary; it had the proportions of a door, crisp edges and corners; impossible to determine whether the shape was fully three-dimensional or somehow flat; suddenly the glowing phenomenon began to decay, the crisp rectangular shape collapsing into amorphous, organic configurations that kept churning in the sky; like a sort of animated, glowing Rorschach test in which many forms could be fancied; not a machine, but like some happening out of the Old Testament; moving within itself like a time-lapse film of a billowing, boiling cloud, albeit a small and glowing one; at one point the shape of a human form suggested itself with its arms outstretched, like a Christ-like or angelic glowing silhouette; a rosy cloud could still be made out a quarter of an hour later, until it resembled a vague smudge of rouge in the sky

When I first read about DEVEREUX’ experience, I wondered if this pulsing, orange vertical shape could not have been a mirrored image of a flare. Possible candidates were flares at the Beckton Gas Works or the Shell Haven Refinery, but these were not in the NW but in the NNE and NE. A fire was another option. In an attempt to get to the bottom of this, I sent DEVEREUX a letter asking to indicate the exact line of sight on a map. He never responded.      

A second spectacular case from the UK concerns an incident reported by three youngsters driving a car near Felixstowe, Suffolk on September 20, 1965 (at around 10h30 p.m.).  Here’s the story as told on

A group of joyriding youths consisting of the driver, 25 year-old Geoffrey Maskey, and his passengers, Mavis Fordyce and Michael Johnson had decided to pull over on the curb near a tree lined Walton Avenue.

The youngsters were engaged in lively conversation when Johnson abruptly opened the car door and walked out into the murky night.

Fordyce and Maskey were perplexed as their friend vanished into the blackness of the forest, but assumed that he must be answering “nature’s call.”

Just moments after, the youths began to overhear a “high-pitched humming” sound.

Fordyce grew anxious as the disconcerting sound began overwhelming them and Maskey leaned out the window to try and ascertain the origin of the annoying noise.

The youths spied an oval-shaped, orange object suspended in the sky over 90-feet above his car; and it was glowing so brightly that it bathed the surrounding countryside in its eerie orange glow.

Without warning, the humming object shot away from the vehicle and vanished beyond the trees. The pair stared at each other in silent astonishment, when it suddenly dawned on them that Johnson was still in the woods… and that he might no longer be alone.

The apprehensive duo — both of whom were reticent to leave the car and wander into the forest wherein the UFO and their friend were lurking — began shouting their Johnson’s name to no avail.

Johnson then suddenly emerged from the wooded area.

He staggered into the road with a dazed expression adorning his face. Maskey hoped that he was just having a go at them, but as soon as Johnson collapsed in the middle of the street he knew that this was no laughing matter.

Fordyce and Maskey wasted time in exiting the vehicle to their friend’s aid even though they were frightened and in shock.

They found Johnson laying motionless on the asphalt, totally unconscious.

Fordyce and Johnson with the friend they rescued sped away from the forbidding forest and the strange orange light toward the nearby Felixstowe hospital.

 Once at the hospital Johnson regained consciousness, but he was suffering from amnesia and could not recognize the friends who had rescued him, much to their dismay.

The doctors on duty diagnosed Johnson as having succumbed to a serious shock.

Johnson also sustained physical trauma from the UFO encounter.

Doctors noted that he had unusual burn marks on the back of his neck and a contusion above his right ear.

The alarmed doctors decided to transfer Johnston to a better equipped hospital.

The doctors then decided that it would be prudent to transfer Johnson to the hospital of Ipswich, which was far better equipped to deal with Johnson’s injuries and psychological condition.

The following day Johnson recovered his senses and when his friends came to visit them he told them of his harrowing encounter with an ostensibly alien entity in the woods.

Johnson claimed that when he abruptly got out of the car the night before he was compelled to do so by an unknown “force,” which insisted that he go into the woods.

Johnson told his friends and doctors that he was forced to walk into the dark forest — although he was unable to recall exactly how far — where he encountered what he described as a humanoid being with the large sloping eyes that were glowing in the darkness.

The odd creature was engulfed by orange flames. It was at that point that he blacked out.

I added this anecdote to my catalogue because it was suggested at the time that the youngsters had taken a flare from the nearby Propane Gas Plant at Felixstowe for a UFO. I have no idea if that theory was based on any investigation. 

A third one, directly from my catalogue:

Hellemmes, Lille (Nord) France - June 28-29, 1974 (at about 02:00 a.m.)

Description: (1) intense light lighting up the entire sky; all houses in the surrounding streets seemed to be engulfed in flames; in the sky there was a reddish cylinder which resembled melted steel; seemed to be falling from the sky; (2) like the sun in the morning, but with fusion going on in the centre; (3) blinding light.
Duration not given, but at least several minutes.

Sound: explosion followed by a scary whistling noise that filled the sky

Note: dogs barking furiously throughout the sighting; car battery found to be flat the next day; zinc terrace roof found to have been pierced over a rectangular area of about 10 cm a few days after the incident as if the zinc plate had been worked over by an oxy-acetylene torch;   

- PACAUT, René, Ils ont rencontré des extra-terrestres, Editions Alain Lefeuvre, 1978, pp. 162-164
- Gazet van Antwerpen - 12 July 1974  

Nearby chemical plant: Lille and Dunkerque

Here too, no sign of any investigative report worthy of that name.

One more:

Nantes, Loire Atlantique, France – December 15, 1979 (at about 03:00 a.m.)

Description: enormous luminous shape (about 10 times the full moon); like a vertical cigar, four times longer than wide; yellow; at the bottom there were rectilinear, vertical elements of yellow and orange colour, moving up and down fast; at the beginning the contour of the object was imprecise but it soon became sharply defined; after a while it glided to the right, growing smaller and smaller; when 1/3 was still sticking out of the buildings the phenomonenon suddenly extinguished

Note: light was so bright that it hurt the eyes  

Sound: soft alternating noise; "bchh-bchh-bchh”

Source:  Lumières Dans La Nuit  Vol. 24, No. 203 (March 1981),  pp. 19-21 

Nearby chemical plant: Industry on the south bank of the Loire

The problem is that these extreme cases are to be regarded as pure anecdotes and that, as far as I know, no attempts were ever made to document the experiences in a scientific way. So probably we will never know if light pillars were involved or not.

However, there’s one case from Vitrolles, France, that WAS investigated shortly after it had occurred (that was on January 19, 1981, at 3 a.m).  The investigation was conducted by the local gendarmerie and the country’s official UFO investigative probe GEPAN (now GEIPAN/CNES) 

Description: very bright glow; UFO moving about in the sky; pink glow getting very large and very small; large patch of diffuse light, lighting up the sky and the entire plant; fiery orange; shaped like a cigar

Note: tens of witnesses, also from surrounding communities, called the local police, who went to the site and witnessed the phenomena for themselves; photos taken but not published; vibrations felt; windows shaken over a distance of several kilometres  

Sound: loud humming noise; very intense dull sound; like a helicopter in slow motion, heard over distances of several tens of kilometres

Source: Note Technique No. 14 - Mini  enquêtes en1981 et 1982, Toulouse, GEPAN, 1983,  pp. 1.0-1.13 (now also available at

Identification: incident with a new cracking unit at the Shell Petrochemical plant at Etang de Berre

I could cite dozens of examples of vertical “cigars” and “cylinders” that were successfully identified as light pillars from flares, but the majority of these are less spectacular. Often the veracity of the purported side effects seems to depend on who spotted the lights and who investigated the sightings.  

Location of a possible candidate for the hypothetical flare

The fact that the CASH-LANDRUMS were able to see the “vertical light” in the rear mirror when driving east to Dayton rules out oil refineries south of Houston as the cause of a light pillar. What we need is a big flame much closer to where the CASH-LANDRUMs left the Huffman-New Caney road and took the turn towards Dayton.  Historical Google Earth maps show that there was (and still is) a chemical plant near Sheldon Road, Channelview, Texas. It is now called LyondellBasell Industries (formerly Lyondell Chemical Company and before that Lyondell-Citgo). The new plant was established in 1985 from facilities belonging to the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO Chemical). This site is a good candidate I think. It is exactly in the continuation of the stretch of the Huffman-New Caney Road where the bigger part of the incident took place. It is also not too far south. A reflection in the sky of a flare at this location would have been visible in the back of the witnesses when they were heading East to Dayton.  The plant is 34.4 km (21.4 miles) south from where the fiery streak was first spotted. 
1978 Houston area satellite photo with the UAP and chemical plant locations. 

Note: a light pillar of a big flame 21.4 miles further down the road reflecting in 13,000 to 16,000 ft high cirrus (the average altitude for this type of optical phenomenon to occur) would have been visible at an elevation of roughly 13 degrees (centre of the reflection).

Light pillars cannot display lateral movements

An (valid) objection to the Light Pillar Theory is that the sighting set off with “a light” that came from the left over the tree tops. In his recent December 4 interview at, Colby repeated this. But on page 4 of SCHUESSLER’s book, which was the main source for my draft article, there is no mention of an object coming from the left. Just a “glow on the horizon” and “a vertical streak of red” that “appeared to be miles away” and “appeared to be getting larger”. 

This again is different from what we read in the article SCHUESSLER wrote for the Winter 1981 issue of UFO Report, namely: 

Suddenly they observed a large light above the pine trees some distance ahead. Although the light was extremely bright, they dismissed it as an airplane en route to Houston Intercontinental Airport and continued to drive back to Dayton.

When they rounded a curve and entered a long straight stretch of highway FM 1485, they again saw the bright light. At this time it approached the road and seemed to float down into the opening between the trees lining each side of the highway”

If the witnesses themselves dismissed the light they spotted in the East as an airplane, I see no reason to contradict this. It may well be that this light - shape and colour are not mentioned - was unconnected to the fiery streak that came into sight as the car rounded the curve. As for the object coming to a stop in the middle of the road, a very simple illusion can explain this: as Betty turned right on the road, the trees on the left will have glided past the car from right to left, making it look as if a distant stationary object sailed over the trees in the opposite direction. In other words it will have looked as if the fiery streak came from the left and settled above the road. So the movement of a plane en route for Houston, and the illusion of a light pillar gliding over the trees in the same direction, could easily have created the impression that the two were one and the same object.  
The important thing at this stage is that the flame-coloured vertical streak appeared stationary from the moment the witnesses were on the straight stretch of the FM 1485 that runs south.  

The problem is with what happened next, i.e. after the panic took hold of the trio. The movement to the right at the end of the “close encounter” is much more difficult to explain in terms of a reflection from a stationary ground light. One explanation would be that, as the flame slowly extinguished, another flame, located at the same plant but closer by and a bit more to the right, flared up for a short moment and created the illusion that the “object” moved upward and to the right. Two flare stacks alternatingly producing a big flame is not unusual  I’ve witnessed this on several occasions here in Antwerp and this has also been photographed on two occasions. See photos below: 

Were the weather conditions favourable for light pillars to appear? 

Thanks to Tim PRINTY we now have the weather data for three places bordering the sighting location. One important piece of information is missing though: the type of clouds and their altitude. A low cloud cover may not be ideal for light pillars to appear because it would prevent the light from the flame to reach the ice-crystal clouds higher up (the clouds in which light pillars appear are usually high-altitude cirriform clouds).  So if there were low clouds, a reflection could only have been visible through gaps in the cloud.  

Fragment of 12/29/1980 area weather data supplied by Tim Printy.

The weather situation on the ground can be very different from one light pillar observation to another. What we really need is data from a weather balloon. Tim and I tried to get these through, but only to found that there are no soundings available for Fort Worth, Shreveport or Corpus Christi. The closest meteorological stations that did publish soundings for December 29th are Lake Charles (112 miles E of Huffman) and Little Rock (379 miles NNE of Huffman). That's all quite far away.  Moreover, these balloons were launched at 18h00 local time, i.e. almost three hours before the sighting occurred.  But our search may not have been totally in vain: a quick look at the data from Lake Charles tells us there was a rather strong temperature inversion in the lower regions of the atmosphere (with temperatures rising with 5.6 deg Celsius between 10 metres and 55 metres and another 5.8 deg between 55 m and 887 m). Inversions are not required for light pillars to occur, but they may be instrumental in spreading the falling ice-crystals into a flat horizontal layer, much like a giant mirror. 

An inversion layer may also explain why the witnesses could hear noises of flaring activities many miles distant (inversion layers refract sound to the ground and the long road bordered by trees may have acted as a large tunnel directing the noise to the witnesses). The “deafening roar” and “intermittent beeps” reported by Betty and Vickie are the typical sounds that can be heard when flaring takes place. 

There’s one problem though: according to the weather data from Houston, Galveston and Beaumont, the wind was blowing from the N to NW during the evening (wind speed was around 10 miles/h, i.e. moderate). Normally, a northern wind would have carried the sound away from the witnesses, unless – and this is clutching at straws a bit – there was a localized inversion around Lake Houston encompassing the chemical plant and the Huffman-New Caney Road but not the surrounding areas.  It is known that the air beneath an inversion layer may be completely cut off from the air circulation of the weather system moving through the region, creating a “lake” of stagnant air. But we need a meteorologist to tell us if the weather situation on December 29 could have created such an situation or not. 

How can an optical phenomenon account for the medical traumas suffered by the witnesses?

Obviously it can’t. But perhaps air pollutants from flaring operations can.

After I sent him a copy of my draft article - that was in 2009 -, veteran researcher Matthew GRAEBER called my attention to Brad SPARKS’ analysis of this aspect of the CASH-LANDRUM incident, An Analysis of the Cash-Landrum Symptomatology. Brad - and APRO consultant Dr. Richard NIEMTZOW agreed with him on this - concluded that there were sufficient indications to accept that the symptoms suffered by the CASH-LANDRUMs could not be due to ionizing radiation. Instead, Brad’s findings showed that many elements of the case indicated that the witnesses had suffered a chemical agent exposure. 
Brad’s findings would be in line with Vickie’s recollection of a smell that reminded her of lighter fluid (but, if I remember well, this detail only surfaced under hypnosis so we might not want to take that too seriously). If there was a localized inversion over the lake that night, and the flare stack was below the inversion layer, we could speculate further that the inversion not only trapped the sound but also the poisonous gases from the flaring activities and perhaps even the heat emanating from the flame. On the other hand, we don’t want smoke to spread too far in the direction of the witnesses as that would have prevented the light from the flare to reflect in ice crystals suspended halfway the flare and the witnesses. So probably not a good idea. Anyone?


By way of conclusion, I would say that the light pillar explanation is still an option, nothing more, nothing less. For the theory to be upgraded to the status of plausible explanation, we need more proof, like a confirmation that flaring was in effect taking place at the old ARCO Chemical site that evening. But it’s not clear to whom such a request should be addressed. And if we do find someone who has access to these 33 year old archives, it’s far from certain that he or she will be prepared to consult them for a request like this. During my own inquiries, now more than a decade ago, I learned that petrochemical companies are very reluctant to give this type of information. They automatically think that some kind of pollution problem is being investigated. 

And finally, I can’t help but compare the CASH-LANDRUM incident to a pseudo-religious experience. Belgium, which is where I live, has a long history of religious apparitions. In many of these instances, the events were triggered after the percipients had seen a luminous shape in the distance that looked unusual to them. In a previous message I already pointed to the Dutch case of January 7, 2007, when a bright light pillar caused by a flare at a chemical plant in Terneuzen was interpreted by accidental observers as a sign of the second coming (see photo and caption pertaining to this incident at  

It is not a coincidence, I think, that the CASH-LANDRUMs were “very biblical” and religious people. Perhaps their religious background helped transform a light pillar into a “chariot of fire” coming out of the sky.  Experienced investigators of UFO reports know how a bright star or planet can trigger a spectacular UFO encounter. If astronomical bodies can create such grotesque misinterpretations, a much stranger light pillar will do the job too, certainly if it’s spotted on a lonely dark road together with a fleet of helicopters.  

(December 2013)

Thank you Wim for, continuing to investigate and explain your findings. 
Thanks also to Tim Printy for his participation and interest. - Curt