Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Night of Final Judgement by José Antonio Caravaca - Special Guest Article


Guest article by José Antonio Caravaca 

José Antonio Caravaca

José Antonio Caravaca belongs to the last batch of researchers, writers and reporters focused on the world of the para that emerged in the early nineties in Spain. He has published over 500 research articles on UFOs, cryptozoology, archeology and other issues related to the heterodox.
(Mini-bio adapted from his blog.)

José  has graciously allowed an English translation of his article to be shared here. While the article is well written and insightful, some of the language suffers from the mostly mechanical translation, particularly in the quotations. His article is an excellent overview of the incident as reported in UFO literature (which has some facts in dispute). José  does note some of the controversial elements of the case, and also examines some possibilities as to the source of the UFO. Best of all, he remembers that whatever the cause, this was an event that happened to real people. His article treats them as such, and not just pieces of evidence.

by José Antonio Caravaca 

Sometimes people who have reported UFO sightings have suffered in their own flesh the consequences of dealing with this enigmatic phenomenon. And, sometimes, the physical scars suffered by the witnesses after an interaction with unidentified object or their crews, have profoundly influenced their lives. Probably one of the world's best documented incidents of alleged injuries caused by a UFO, is the one by two women and a child in the United States. The incident occurred on December 29, 1980, when Betty Cash (51 years), Vickie Landrum (57 years) and young Colby Landrum (7 years), had a close encounter with a strange aircraft that would change their lives completely. That night, about 21:00, traveling on a lonely road (FM 1485) near Huffman, Texas, when they spotted a huge bright UFO hovering above the trees. According Betty it was "diamond-shaped and as big as a water tower" estimating the size as 7.5 meters high by 3.5 meters wide, although her companion stated the object would was at least 15 meters for 7 , 5 meters wide. Had a "dull metallic gray" color, as Vickie, with blue lights in the center and issued a"powerful sound like a flamethrower" interspersed with intermittent "beeping" sounds. The force of the flames and the extraordinary luminosity detached from the object made ​​it almost impossible to distinguish clearly the details of the apparatus. The witnesses also distinguished a smell "like lighter fluid."

Betty Cash and Landrum Vickie were protagonists of one of the most controversial incidents in the United States.

The UFO but was about 40 meters away from the witnesses and had greatly raised the temperature inside the vehicle. Ms. Cash stopped the car when Vickie screamed that if they got close to it they would burn up. Betty later ensure that: "I felt I was burning inside. The light blinded me so much that I could not see to back up the car and was afraid to move forward, closer to the object. " At that time, the object had approached the witnesses standing on the tarmac about 7 feet tall and obstructing the passage of the road with its powerful flares. At first, Ms. Landrum, who held strong Christian convictions, thought that light was due to the "return of Jesus Christ to earth" in fact told her grandson: "That's Jesus. He will not hurt us. " The bright image stood out in the dark night sky,  completely and frightening baffling both women. At that time, Vickie looked from the car to see the whole area around the UFO was heavily lit "as if the whole forest is on fire". From outside the car was an intense wave of heat released by the object, although the temperature in the area was of 4.5 degrees. In an interview with the USAF Captains, Terry Davis and John Camp, in August 1981, at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Betty said: "I walked to the front of the car and the light was very bright, well .. . the heat was so intense, I did not know whether to run, back to the car ... and I was there for a few minutes. Not long because it was so hot and the light was so bright "that" burned "eyes".

Vehicle similar to that of the witnesses.

From the bottom of the "diamond of fire" emanated, at regular intervals, an intense flow of reddish-orange colored flares. Such was the magnitude of the heat that came from the object when Betty back to her car could barely touch the door handle and had to use her coat pocket as to reenter the vehicle, plus  fingerprints were impressed in the witnesses' dashboard due to the high temperature and also in the interior of the vehicle which caused some plastic parts to be almost melted.Vickie also left the car but returned to answer the cries of her grandson, and was only outside for 2 minutes. When the UFO finally the began to move, after being stationary 10 minutes, the women continued their drive into the distance watching the flight of the "diamond".

The device emitted powerful flares at its bottom. Its brightness was such that could not see with the object definition. The light of the alleged UFO burning eyes. Image Chris Lambright. 

But the most disconcerting experience is that, at the time, the witnesses said  around 23 helicopters burst on the scene, some of them later identified as the CH-47 Chinook, used by both the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps. Ms Cash told investigators that the helicopter seemed to be trying to surround the "fire diamond". The object and the helicopters flew away into the night. Researcher John Schuessler, author of "The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident" (1998) failed to find more witnesses to the incredible incident. Jerry MacDonald, an oil worker witnessed that night from the backyard of his home, "a sort of triangular or diamond (...) with two parallel torches giving off blue flames on its back" while passing over his house. Schuessler also located a Dayton police officer, L.L. Walker who had seen  "helicopters were flying in formation of three, with spotlights illuminating the ground as if looking for something. A second group followed them about 5 miles." Belle Magee employee of a bakery recalls that night, about 13 miles from Dayton seeing a bright light in the sky flying towards New Caney. John Schuessler said the pavement  where the floating object had been was melted, but could not detect radioactivity in the area or in the car of the witnesses. However, some researchers indicated that the high-energy ionizing radiation can cause damage to human beings and not be detectable in the surrounding environment.
Later, when the Army conducted an official investigation, through the "Inspector General of the Army," Lt. Col. George Sarran who interviewed Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum and the police officer, concluded in his report that the witnesses " are credible ... The policeman and his wife are also credible witnesses. There was no perception that the witnesses were trying to exaggerate the truth. All those interviewed were extremely cooperative and willing to help in any way. In the course of the investigation, the investigating officer tried to focus on the name of any entity or organization that may have had helicopters flying that evening. There was not any evidence that would indicate that helicopters of the Army, National Guard or Army Reserve they were involved."

After this experience , the women suffered terrible physical consequences. That night, Betty Cash suffered vomiting, and found her skin was completely red, especially the neck, face and scalp were also dotted with blisters. The burns were similar to those suffered by long exposure to the sun without any protection, and the first symptoms appeared just 30 minutes after witnessing this strange flying object. The blisters were the size of a golf ball on the neck and face, and even covered her eyelid.

Some sections of the press were quick to qualify the incident as an "attack" on UFO witnesses.

The next day Betty was so weak she could not move from the bed. When Betty was attended by doctors, she concealed, for fear of ridicule, her extraordinary sighting, making it difficult for physicians identify and target the source of their severe discomfort. But in the end they concluded that Ms. Cash was affected by acute radiation, which forced her to be hospitalized for several weeks. In addition, to check the physical impact of the event on Betty, it should be noted that days after the incident, the woman lost nearly half of the hair of the head and had different skin rashes, some the size of a large coin, which left permanent scars. In turn, Vickie and Colby had various skin problems and skin seemed defenseless against infections following the sighting. But perhaps the most serious injury suffered by Vickie has been to her eyes, as her vision was severely affected with the passage of time, in fact his eyes were watery and irritated for 3 months. Her eyelids were infected very quickly and have never been recovered. Her grandson has also had problems but at a lower level. Remember that Betty was expose for about 10 minutes to the object outside the vehicle, Vickie 2 minutes and Colby did not spend any time out of the car, so the impact on witnesses varied, obviously, depending on the time of direct exposure to the UFO. As an interesting detail doctors said that a few weeks after the event, Vickie had lost about 30% of her hair and had large bald patches on the head. When the hair grew back it was a different texture, finer than the original. Her grandson Colby lost only a small portion of hair from the crown. In August 1981, Vickie Landrum, due to damage caused by different exposure to disturbing UFO, though I went from 62 kilograms to 50 kilograms in 8 months (12 pounds lost).

Ms. Cash shows reporters hair loss he suffered a few days of the incident.
The witnesses suffered various physical injuries after thier unusaul his close encounterl.
Ms. Landrum suffered strange "burns" that were visible for a long time.

Doctors who treated the witnesses also came to the disturbing conclusion that on the night of the sighting they were exposed to some form of radiation that caused them many evils like, "Burns, eye damage, loss of hair, skin ulcers, diarrhea and vomiting." In September 1991, the personal physician of Mrs. Cash, Dr. Brian McClelland, told the Houston Post that his condition was "a textbook case" of radiation poisoning to be comparable to a "5 or 8 miles from the epicenter of Hiroshima". A radiologist wrote in a report to MUFON (Mutual UFO Network):" We have strong evidence that these patients have suffered secondary damage produced by ionizing radiation is also possible that there was an infrared or ultraviolet component "As.. experts exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation can cause "skin burns, hair loss, nausea, sickness and even death. The effects depend on the amount of ionizing radiation received and the duration of irradiation, and personal factors such as gender or age. " Although other specialists like Brad Sparks, indicates that despite the similarity of symptoms, the witnesses could not be exposed to ionizing radiation or they would have died within a few days after the first signs appeared . However, Sparks notes that, in his opinion, it is likely that they were exposed to some kind of chemical contamination, perhaps a spray.
The most affected was precisely Betty Cash, who spent more time watching UFO, about 10 minutes at a distance of 40 meters. Her health weakened dramatically since that day, to the point of having a breast cancer. Throughout the years it underwent several serious hospitalizations, until November 1998, Ms. Cash suffered a stroke, from which she did not fully recover, and passed away at age 69 on 29 December 1998, exactly 18 years after her fateful encounter.

Researcher John Schuessler with witnesses at the scene of the sighting.

Dr. Bryan McClelland was convinced that women had radiation contamination at levels 2/3 gray (Gy), given a level of more than 5 Gy leads to death in about two weeks. The Office of Radiation Control Texas Department of Health began an investigation that was never made ​​public. As evidence that the health problems were in clear correspondence with the object, when Ms. Landrum exited the vehicle, she laid her hand on the roof, and developed a strange disease to only 4 fingertips. Specifically, Dr. Niemtzow, discovered that the nails of these fingers had developed "dead tissue lines" similar to cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. The funny thing is that Dr. McClelland stated that an inside source informed that the UFO seen by women was an experimental aircraft called nuclear WASP II. Dr. Joseph Allen Hynek stated bluntly that "it was a real event, but whether it is a maneuver of the government or the appearance of a UFO," concluding "Something happened, that it is certain. These women didn't pull their hair out or blind themselves ".

The fact that the UFO was escorted by military helicopters made ​​the witnesses look for explanations and responsibilities to the government of the United States to consider that it could be some kind of experimental prototype that got out of hand. In fact, in the interview with the officers of the USAF, Ms. Cash was emphatic in stating that the helicopters were the hallmarks of the USAF. Therefore, in August 1986, Ms. Cash and Ms. Landrum filed a civil suit against the U.S. government claiming $ 20 million for damages for what they considered were caused by Army property. The Ross Sterling Court judge dismissed the case after the Army, Navy, USAF and NASA inform that did not have any kind of device as described by the witnesses. Schuessler believes there is a deliberate campaign to hide information when he says that "the doctors did not want to say too much for fear of inflicting the principle of patient confidentiality, but believed that the injuries were authentic. I also interviewed generals and congressmen, who gave me endless answers. Most of them contradictory or outright lies. All that made ​​me think I was at an important case because the upper echelons did everything he could to deny it. "

The involvement of military helicopters  suggested that the U.S. government was responsible for the event.

The lawyer in charge of the case, Peter Gersten, mourning the death of one of his clients, Ms. Cash in 1998 said in a public notice: "In 1981 I represented three people in a lawsuit against the U.S. government by injuries caused by contact with an unusual aerial object. Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum and Colby Landrum are the only three people who have sued our government for injuries caused by a UFO. Betty Cash was a fighter and a hero. She fought the U.S. governmentand even in defeat, showed a spirit and tenacity which will now be his epitaph. We pay tribute to a very brave woman ... and a victim of this government's insensitivity to the rights of the person." According to some experts, the witnesses that night ran into a secret military aircraft lenticular form called LRV. The propulsion of the vehicle consisted of two nuclear rocket engines. The project was classified as secret since its inception in 1962 until December 28, 1999, when it was approved for declassification. However, the government continues to deny any link with this enigmatic and deadly incident.

Nevertheless, over the years, speculation about the artifact that caused serious injury to the witnesses has not stopped growing. Participation or involvement of the U.S. military has made ​​many researchers speculate on the nature of the mysterious "diamond".

A suspect. The Delta Clipper or DC-X was an experimental vehicle designed by McDonnell Douglas, and was able to take off and land vertically. Although the first official tests were performed in 1993, it is likely that early experiments were secret and many years ago.

Perhaps it was either a secret prototype, or the flight test of a true UFO recovered by the military, and it mistakenly left the test range. The presence of a large number of helicopters suggests that it is a must have been a preplanned operation. However, researchers still argue that the witnesses actually observed a UFO and that follow-up by military helicopters were sent to intercept. The ufologist John Schuessler is convinced that "the case was genuine. Cash and Landrum saw a UFO (which may be in difficulty or not). The army deployed a fleet of helicopters to follow "However, Curtis Collins, a researcher specializing in the case, offered his view to the author of this report. 

"This is a fascinating case, but it's puzzles are many. There was no primary investigation by police or the Air Force, only by UFO investigators, led by John F. Schuessler. Studying this case, it become clear that almost all our knowledge is imperfect, based on Schuessler's highly selective reporting. The core story of the event is fairly close to what the witnesses reported, but the analysis of alleged injuries, physical trace evidence, secondary witnesses testimony all have serious evidential problems. Schuessler and his team were knowledgeable aerospace engineers, but unprofessional as investigators. Due to their preconceptions as proponents of extraterrestrial space travel, they entered the case seeking to fit events into their UFO paradigm. Another bias enters the case, that of the witnesses themselves. They refused to consider any answer besides the military test theory. The case is worthy of study, but the first big step is to recognize that it has become a legend. To get to the truth of it, we have to peel away the layers of myth."

Apart from these speculations, the terrible physical effects suffered by the witnesses are the best evidence that sometimes  encounters with UFOs have disastrous human consequences. What they encountered was something outside their normal reality. Although in this incident it is difficult to determine who may be behind the "collateral damage", some unknown force, or the army of the stars and stripes 


No reproduction of the material without express permission. Property of Jose Antonio Caravaca.

Use the translator of your choice to read more by José Antonio Caravaca  at

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Vickie Landrum's Phone Call to Report a UFO Encounter

The Call that Started it All

Vickie Landrum, 1985 AP photo
The Cash-Landrum encounter occurred the evening of December 29, 1980. Afterwards, the witnesses agreed not to tell others about it, fearing ridicule. When they began to feel ill, they did not initially associate the illnesses they were developing with the encounter, and it is not clear when they made the connection.

Betty was in such bad shape after a few days that they she was taken to Parkway Hospital in Houston. Doctors were unable to determine the cause of her illnesses, only treat her symptoms and release her after two weeks. When her problems forced her to be readmitted, Betty's cardiologist expressed frustration, saying if they knew the cause, she might be helped. At that point, seven-year-old Colby Landrum blurted out their secret. 

The details and sequence of events are not precisely known, but shortly afterwards, Vickie contacted Dayton police chief Tommy Waring. He was apparently at a loss as to what to do (the sighting was near Huffman, out of his jurisdiction), but he remembered having a business card with a contact number call for UFO reports. It took Waring two days to locate the number for Robert Gribble's National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) and give it to Vickie. On February 2, 1981 Vickie Landrum placed a long-distance phone call: 
"Yes sir, this is Vickie Landrum from Dayton, Texas..."
Video slideshow of Vickie Landrum's NUFORC Report

Transcript of Vickie Landrum’s call to Robert Gribble at NUFORC Feb. 2, 1981
(Recording edited only to remove contact info.)

“RG” indicates Robert Gribble of the National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle Washington.
(Note- Betty Cash was treated in Parkway Hospital, not Parkview)

Yes sir, this is Vickie Landrum from Dayton, Texas.

RG: Yes.

Uh, a deal came down and it was like fire was coming from it

RG: Uh huh. 

It got ahead of us and we had to stop, and we got out of the car,
which I didn’t stay out but just a minute ‘cause I had my 
little grandson with me, which I got custody of and I got back in the car.
There was nothing happened to me but my but eyes is burned.
But, but Betty Cash that was with me that night,
knots started coming and she had a real terrible headache.
and so she’s been in Parkview Hospital over two weeks, 
I got her out she stayed two weeks and I had to put her back.
And all of her hair has come out.
They can’t find out exactly what is wrong with her, they keep saying
it could be this, or it’s a possibility of that.
But, instead of her getting better, she’s getting worse,
and 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.

RG: How close do you feel you were to that?

Uh, I’d be safe to say it wasn’t more than maybe a block and a half from it.
It lit up the whole element, and I thought that the World was coming to the end, I really did.
I told my grandson not to be afraid, that if he saw something come out 
of it, that it would be Jesus.
I thought that way I could explain to him to keep him from going into [unclear] 
(a little failure? heart failure? or possibly hysteria?)

RG: Was this a fairly large object?

Yes sir!

RG: Would it be larger than your car?

Yes sir!

RG: and did it land on the ground?

No sir. It come down almost to the treetops, and then it went back up and went to the right of us.
And we counted 23 helicopters. It might have been more. 
Come in on 1960 over here...

RG: Uh-huh

We counted those helicopters up there, so there has to be somebody that knew about it.
It was because from that, I don’t want her to die, I want her to get better.

RG: What roadway were you on at the time?

We was on the cut-off road, something called New Caney and Huffman road.
My name’s Vickie Landrum and her name is Betty Cash and she’s in Parkview hospital. Now, one of the doctors believes that we might have got some
radiation, but he is not positive.
He taken her blood and it didn’t show up in any of her blood but, in less than two weeks time she has lost all her hair- except down there at the bottom. And she has- she had hair that you wouldn’t believe.
And I mean this is not a hoax- I’m not calling you for a hoax.
Call the Parkview Hospital and verify what I’m telling you.
I’m not putting you on. I wish somebody would go to the hospital- and see that lady.

RG: We’re going to see if we can’t get some help for you and they’ll call ahead of time and make an appointment.

I- I mean, I- I’ve been afraid to call- afraid that somebody would think I was- you know, that it was a hoax. But since she’s had to go back in the hospital for the same thing and she’s not getting any better.
I have to have help from somewhere, if don’t she’s going to die.

RG: Okay, we’re going to do everything we can to help
Okay, thank you a lot.

RG Thank you.

Robert Gribble reported the contacted APRO and MUFON, which launched the beginning of the case as a UFO story.

(Note: John F. Schuessler erroneously dates this call as taking place on Feb. 17. Vickie makes reference to making more than one long-distance call to NUFORC, so he may have the date of a later call.  No recording of any later calls are currently available.)

Wendy Connors first presented the NUFORC recording on SDI.
Thanks to Giuliano Marinkovic, for preserving Vickie's report and enhancing the audio clarity.

For details on Wendy Connor's original presentation, please see this earlier post:

Cash-Landrum: Phone Report of UFO to NUFORC

 © Curt Collins

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cash-Landrum Theory & Analysis: Unpublished 2002 Wim van Utrecht Article

Cash-Landrum UFO Identified? A "Lost" Case Analysis from 2002

UK researcher Isaac Koi discovered references to  a 17 page publication on the Cash-Landrum incident by  Wim van Utrecht of Belgium: Cash-Landrum UFO identified?

 Koi writes,
"It turns out that the relevant item by Wim van Utrecht was in fact NOT published, only prepared in draft and sent to some colleagues. However, Wim has kindly provided the last version of that draft item (18 pages, at at 2002) and said that I should feel free to inject this text into the new discussion. Wim has asked that if I do inject his draft article, I should include some notes by him."
Isaac put me in touch with Wim, who agreed to let me share his article here with his requested modifications. Wim considers this article unfinished, and may have further comments on the case due to recent developments. His original article presents an interesting theory and an excellent discussion of the original investigation. Some of his 2013 thoughts on the case can be found as an informal afterword.


by Wim van Utrecht


In 1994 a research and publication project by the name of CAELESTIA was founded. Its purpose: to identify "Unidentified Flying Objects". Its modus operandi: to collect data on rare natural phenomena and man-made contraptions apt to generate UFO reports. In seven years’ time, a vast documentation was gathered on what were coined "UFO prone stimuli". Part of CAELESTIA's collection deals with atmospheric reflection- and refraction phenomena such as rare halos and spectacular mirages. In collecting these data we found evidence of another, most peculiar, optical phenomenon: luminous streaks or patches of light that were not related to the sun or the moon, and could not be explained in terms of mirages or manifestations of the aurora. A closer look at these sightings revealed that the reported phenomena were caused by the reflection of flames on clouds of ice crystals. The light source responsible for such a reflection can be a flare from an oil refinery, petrochemical plant or gas well, but also the glow from a blast furnace or from any major fire. But the biggest surprise came when we decided to re-examine thousands of reports of unusual aerial phenomena from around the world and it transpired that a substantial number of these reports could be explained by this apparently forgotten meteorological phenomenon.

Flame Reflections - a general description

NOTE:  The “flame reflections” that I refer to in the article are actually part of a broader phenomenon that I have since called “Artificial Light Pillars in High Cloud”. A six-part article on these light pillars can be found here: Light Pillars in Cirriform  Clouds.

Usually flame reflections appear as pale grey or bright orange-red streaks or bars of light, oriented vertically. They can last for minutes, even hours, disappearing and reappearing just like a light that is switched on and off. Reports have been collected for any time of the year but with a clear preponderance for cold winter nights. The length and brightness of the streaks depend on the distance between the observer and the light source, and on the height and thickness of the reflecting layer (mostly flat, hexagonal ice plates, floating in 7 to 10 km high cirrostratus). The clouds that contain these ice particles are often so thin that they are invisible to the naked eye. It is suspected that flame reflections can also occur close to the ground, for instance when a temperature inversion forces ice crystals that are formed at the basis of power plant plumes to expand in a horizontal direction. Trapped between a layer of cold air near the ground and a layer of warm air on top, such an ice-crystal layer will take the aspect of a huge horizontal mirror.

The most spectacular reflections occur when flaring takes place at a petrochemical complex. Flaring is sometimes necessary to release pressure from the pipes or to burn off commercially non-profitable gases. Often, such activities are reserved for holidays and weekends, but not seldom they can last a full week or even longer. In principal, flaring is limited to an absolute minimum because of the dangers involved and the serious pollution they entail. Gas flaring adds to the carbon dioxide loading on the atmosphere and represents approximately 5% of world gas production which is wasted.1 An engineer employed at one of the petrochemical plants in Antwerpen assured us that a flare from a fire stack can blaze up to heights of 60 metres and more. Exceptionally, heights twice that much have been observed. Such enormous flames constitute the brightest, artificial light sources on the planet. Together with large fires and heavily lit fishing boats (two additional ground-based light sources known to have caused atmospheric reflections), they rank among the four primary types of lights recorded by the Defence Meteorological Satellite Program during a six month time period in 1994-1995.2 The mirrored image of a flare can be seen up to distances of 85 km, but in most instances distances between 10 and 40 km were noted. The reason why flame reflections are rarely reported from shorter distances is believed to be due to the fact that objects or lights in the sky are more readily spotted when they are close to the horizon. Living 8 km southwest of a large petrochemical complex in the port of Antwerp, the author had the opportunity to observe and photograph the phenomenon for himself.

Written references on flame reflections are extremely rare. Most standard works on geophysical anomalies and optical phenomena fail to mention them. 3,4,5,6 Yet, it is clear from the scientific literature that they have been with us since the beginning of the industrial era.7 Because of their comet-like appearance, they were initially referred to as "gas comets". An 1887 article from the American Meteorological Journal describes their appearance as "bright streaks or bars of light ( ... ), measuring on an average one-quarter of a degree in width and from 5 to 15 degrees in length ( ... ) of a decidedly red color".8 According to the same article, the actual size of the streaks, seen at an air line distance of 15.5 miles (25 km) from the gas wells that caused them, was measured to be 2.5 miles long by 350 feet in diameter, or, roughly, 4 km by 100m! In addition, CAELESTIA's re-evaluation of thousands of sightings revealed that flame reflections can be much more spectacular and diverse than was previously assumed, making it even more difficult to understand why an atmospheric phenomenon of this magnitude has remained nearly undiscussed for a complete century.

A typical pillar-shaped reflection in cirriform clouds caused by the bright light of a gas flame at the Dow Chemical plant in Terneuzen, The Netherlands. The picture was taken on January 7, 2007, by amateur astronomer Klaas JOBSE who spotted this bright specimen from Oostkapelle, 32 km (19.9 miles) northwest of Terneuzen. © Klaas JOBSE

The UFO link

One of the things we found while analysing UFO reports that were caused by flame reflections, was that witnesses and/or ufologists often resort to expressions closely allied to UFO lore and space age terminology. Descriptions such as "cigar"- or "rocket-shaped objects" are commonly encountered. Because of the thickness of the reflective layer (a cloud of ice-crystals), the mirrored images often appear as 3-dimensional, sometimes leading observers to describe them as "solid objects". 

Witnesses close to the flame have reported ''tear-drop" shapes and circular patches or balls of light. In one well-documented case, competent observers at different locations provided descriptions that differed markedly. In nearly all cases the phenomena were either pale white, red-orange or yellow, at times with pink or blue edges or halos. The colours depending, not only on the type of gases that are burnt off (more hydrogen means more blue and yellow), but also on the way in which the ice-crystals are scattered within the cloud (a flat horizontal layer will generate crisp and bright images, whereas a cloud of uniformly scattered ice-particles will produce weak, grey or amber-white reflections). Some witnesses mentioned seeing flames inside the reflected image. Others claimed that the light was so bright that "it hurt the eyes". Variations in intensity are also commonly reported and can be attributed to the pulsatory movement of the flames. Movements have been described as well, usually over very small angles, both horizontally and vertically. Various observers claim that the "object" disappeared with an unbelievable speed (a similar illusion is commonly reported by people who mistook the moon for a UFO). On occasions, vertical cigar-shaped lights were seen in slanted positions or were seen to shift to the horizontal before they "sped off'. Some of the lights were said to have changed shape or split up. Much of this sounds like typical UFO behaviour, but the majority of these effects can be explained by ripples or holes in a slowly moving ice-crystal layer. Much like the reflection in an unpolished or broken mirror.

Especially in cases where oil refineries are involved, the phenomenon is sometimes accompanied by a loud roaring sound, "as if someone was using a huge flame thrower". High-pitched noises and sounds similar to gases escaping under pressure have also been reported. Infrasound was recorded in connection with a start up procedure of a petrochemical plant near Marseille in 1981.9

CAELESTIA has gathered over 200 sightings of flame reflections and of UFO reports that are suspected to have been caused by them.11 Meteorological conditions (humid air, cold weather and little wind) prevail in nearly all spectacular cases of flame reflections. They were also present at Huffman, Texas on December 29, 1980. 

The Cash-Landrum incident

That evening one of history's most important UFO events took place. In one of his early accounts, UFO veteran and - now retired - aerospace engineer John Schuessler, summarizes this major classic as follows12:

"Betty Cash (52), Vickie Landrum (57) and Vickie's grandson Colby Landrum (7), were driving home to Dayton, Texas, on the Cleveland-Huffman road just north of Lake Houston. It was 9 o'clock at night and the road was deserted. The first indication of something unusual was the presence of a very intense light several miles ahead just above the pine trees. Betty remarked about the unusual brightness, but temporarily lost sight of it due to the many trees along the road.
Suddenly, hovering over the road only a short distance ahead was an enormous diamond shaped object. 'It was like a diamond of fire”, Vickie said. The glow was so intense they could barely stand to look at it. Vickie at first thought it was the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and expected Jesus to come out of the fire in the sky.
In addition to lighting the whole area like daytime, the UFO periodically belched flames downward. Fearing they would be burned alive Betty stopped the 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass without leaving the road. They all got out of the car to get a better look at the UFO. Colby was terrified and dove back into the car, begging his grandma to get back in, too. Vickie did and comforted Colby.
Betty stood momentarily by the driver's door and then walked forward to the front of the car. After much pleading by Vickie, Betty finally returned to the car. The door handle was so hot she used her leather coat as a hot pad to open the door. Although the winter night air had been about 40°F (= 4.4°C), the heat from the UFO caused the witnesses to sweat and feel so uncomfortable that they turned on the car's air conditioner.
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. In addition, the threesome heard an irregular beeping sound throughout the sighting.
Finally, the flames stopped, the object rose to the southwest, and was lost from sight. Vickie and Colby commented that several helicopters could be seen above and beyond the UFO".

A diamond-shaped object

In 1998, Schuessler's many years of involvement with the Cash-Landrum incident inspired him to write a book about the case13.This 323-page document offers useful insights about the different phases of the experience and the actual aspect of the phenomenon. Close reading of the report revealed that the first thing the witnesses saw was "a red glow" near the horizon. Shortly thereafter they could make out "a vertical streak of red" that "appeared to be miles away", but "stood out clearly in the sky". To Vickie, it looked like "a long streak of fire", while Betty thought that "perhaps a new shopping centre had opened in a nearby town and that a searchlight was being used to draw a crowd". "But", Betty added, "Whatever was in the sky didn't move around the way a searchlight does".

So far so good: the red glow near the horizon, the appearance of "a vertical streak of red" and the position (near the horizon) are totally consistent with the reflection of a distant flame. We know that the witnesses were driving south on the New Caney-Huffman road east of Lake Houston, with the "object" hovering in front of the road, between the trees. This means they were looking south. So, in order to confirm our suspicion, it is crucial that we find the source of the reflection in that direction. A glance at the map of East Texas reveals that there are plenty good candidates: the area south and southeast of the New Caney-Huffman road, between Houston city and Port Arthur, is strewn with oil refineries and petrochemical works (see map). The industrial sites near Baytown, Deer Park and Channel View are among the most important petrochemical complexes in the world. It is likely that flaring was taking place there during the week between Christmas and New Year, and that most installations had shut down to converge gasses to a main fire-stack, producing a huge flare that lit up the entire sky. With many employees taking a few days off, this period of the year is an excellent opportunity to start this type of operation.

Back to our story now. Schuessler's report goes on to state that: "in a matter of just several minutes, [the UFO] had grown from a small red streak on the horizon to a fiery looking thing the size of a car" (whatever that may mean). Not without a certain sense for the dramatic Schuessler continues: "Then, with no warning at all, the sky seemed to split open and the object came angling down directly in front of them, settling swiftly between the trees just ahead of them and above the highway. It seemed enormous! 'Oh my God!' Betty shrieked, 'What is that thing?' ( ... ) The fiery object was only a few hundred feet in front of them, and they were rapidly getting closer to it. It towered above the trees with the bottom coming more than half way down into the trees. Although it was still well above the highway, strips of flames blasted down from the bottom, virtually blocking the way, and a roaring sound bombarded their ears".

We should not forget that, at this stage, the tension in the car was increasing by the second, even to such a point that a state of sheer panic and hysteria was reached. Schuessler's report states that Betty and Vickie were "shaken and frightened", ''wondering if the world had come to an end praying to God thinking they were going to die", while Colby was "hysterical, frantic, and crying", nearly pulling Vickie's clothes off. A state of panic does not make good witnesses. Furthermore, the trio had been driving for miles through dark forest. In such conditions, even the light of bright stars and planets has caught countless drivers by surprise. With the chances being good that the initial "glow" and the consecutive "streak of red" were due to flaring activities taking place at one of the oil refineries or petrochemical works east of Houston, it would be unwise to bring unearthly visitors into the picture at this stage, be they Jesus or E.T. It seems more rational to acknowledge that, under the right conditions, flame reflections can be extremely spectacular. In several reports from our collection, witnesses have indeed used expressions such as "very bright" and "blinding" to describe the lights they saw. Unfortunately, scientific estimates of the brightness of flame reflections are rare.14 As for the description given by the Cash-Landrums of flames "blasting down from the bottom of the object", this too is compatible with the mirrored image of a pulsating flare. Flames that blaze up from a fire-stack should appear to gush down in the mirrored image. Fig. 1 gives an idea of what may have happened.

Figure 1. Simplified diagram (not to scale) showing how the light of a combustion flame can breflected from cloud of ice particles with a smooth basisThe sharply defined, mirrored image icaused by light reflected directlfrom a thin layer of icplates athbottom of the cloud. Thmuch weaker area on top of this mirrored imag(secondary reflection) is caused by light that is reflected and refracted by scattered ice particles in higher areas of the cloud.

The flame reflection hypothesis implies that the Cash-Landrums did not encounter a solid, fire-spitting object but merely a reflection thereof As early as February 1, 1981, Betty and Vickie made an audio tape recording describing the incident. In these early statements, Betty makes no mention of a fire or flames. She merely points out that "the lights were bright", whereas Vickie asserted that "The whole road ahead and around it (was) glowing as if by fire". "I believe it was fire because it glowed down and let up a little", she added. One month later, during an interview with Schuessler & physicist Alan Holt, Vickie changed that statement to "It was fire.( ... ) The fire was fire, like flames from a bonfire or something".

A comparison between the different narratives revealed several more glaring contradictions in the witnesses' stories. This does not necessarily mean that the witnesses themselves are unreliable, but it does prove that by the time the investigators interviewed them, their rendition of the events was already infested with inaccurate memories and gross exaggerations. Illustrators have added to the confusion by making artists' impressions that depict a metallic, spindle-shaped object with blue lights or portholes around the centre. Yet, no such description can be found in the initial interviews (the blue lights popped up when ufologist Leo Sprinkle placed Vickie under hypnosis in the Summer of 1981). Reliable indications that there really was a metallic object blocking the road are actually very difficult to find. On page 9 of his book, Schuessler writes that, "by shielding their eyes, they could see beyond the brilliant luminescence what appeared to be a greyish, metallic structure", and on the next page it is pointed out that, when Betty raised her left arm to shield her eyes, "she still couldn't make out any details on the object". In Betty's own tape-recorded statement she recalls that "We stopped and tried to see what it looked like. We could not get up close enough to detect what the figure was". However, in the Schuessler & Holt interview one month later, Betty is quoted as having said "It was a huge ... a bright silver. .. an aluminous thing". As for Vickie and Colby, they never even mentioned seeing a metallic object. The words they use to describe the "object" behind the flames are "a real bright diamond shape" (Colby) and "oblong in a vertical direction" (Vickie). Obviously, there is no consensus about the true aspect and colour of the flame spitting "object". Even when the flames had died out, they could not distinguish a precise shape. Schuessler writes to this effect that "Even though flames were no longer coming out of the object, it still glowed like a piece of red hot iron on a blacksmith's anvil", while Vickie tells us all they could see at that moment was "a long white light".

More problems surfaced when we tried to find out how the phenomenon disappeared. Schuessler asserts that, when Betty had gotten back in the car, all three witnesses noticed how, suddenly, "another mass of flames shot down from the object and in an instant, it rose swiftly above the trees, almost out of their line of vision". According to Vickie "it was just like something reached down and picked it up". Elsewhere, Schuessler describes how the phenomenon "appeared to tilt over on its side and began to move slowly (sic) away south, away from them, in the direction of Galveston Bay", in other words exactly in the direction of the petrochemical works. A "suggested UFO flight path", drawn by the investigators on a map of the area, shows a south-southeastern trajectory, whereas Vickie claimed that ''the object went up and off to the right", i.e. to the southwest. Despite these discrepancies, one thing seems clear: the phenomenon disappeared more or less in the witnesses' line of sight. In consequence, the movement away from the witnesses can equally well be interpreted as a decrease in intensity or size. This interpretation is reinforced by the fact that, later on, when driving eastward on the FM1960 to Dayton, the UFO was seen again in the same direction as before, now looking like "an oblong ball, glowing red", but fainter and more to the right of the car, to finally become visible in the rear window and rear mirror view. This means that, towards the end of the sighting, the phenomenon was again situated in the direction of the petrochemical works near Channel View and Baytown, making you wonder if it ever "left" its original position in the first place. 

About the tilting motion it is interesting to note that this feature has been described in various UFO reports that might be linked to flame reflections. MINNAERT has shown that, when a light source strikes a rippled surface (like a street lantern or the headlight of a car reflecting off an undulating water surface or a rugged asphalt road), this can cause the reflected image to change orientation from a vertical to a slanted position. 15 Likewise, it is conceivable that, when a reflection reaches the boundary of the cloud, it will seem to tilt and then disappear.

Figure 2. Map of the area east and northeast of Houston indicating the route followed by the Cash-Landrums and the location of the most important oil refineries and petrochemical works.

Mysterious sounds

Besides the helicopter roar and "a shrill beeping sound at irregular intervals, so loud that it hurt their ears", the witnesses also reported a loud whooshing sound associated with the flames. They described it as "similar to the noise made by air brakes on a truck", and "sounding like air, like a pressure, like a flame thrower". This description fits our picture amazingly well. It is exactly what gases, squeezed through a labyrinth of pipes, and a blazing combustion flame, sound like! In January 1981, a cracking unit at an oil refinery near Marseille, France, made such a noise that alarmed citizens from neighbouring communities called the police. At the same time an infrasound caused windows to tremble over a distance of 20 km from the complex. 16 As for the shrill beeping sound, is it possible that flaring activities had resulted in an accident and that the beeping came from some alarm-device or from fire engines, police cars or ambulances heading towards the place of the accident? In that same line of thought, the helicopters may have been rescue helicopters, not necessary military ones as Schuessler et al had always assumed.

But how can it be that sounds can be heard so distinctly over a distance of 35 km? The answer is once again given by Prof Minnaert17. In the original Dutch version of his highly esteemed three part work on natural phenomena, Minnaert explains how temperature inversions are not only instrumental in the formation of a stable horizontal ice-crystal layer, but also have the remarkable property of refracting sound waves back to earth. The result is that loud noises can be heard in places miles away from where they originated. Minnaert refers to this anomalous propagation of sound as the acoustic equivalent of a mirage.

The secondary effects and additional witnesses

But what about the physical and physiological effects? And how to explain the stories of other witnesses claiming to have seen strange lights that night? Let's take a closer look at the evidence presented in Schuessler's book.


All witnesses agree that the phenomenon emitted heat. In total, four specific effects are mentioned: a general feeling of heat; hand burns from touching the car, fingerprint indentions in the dashboard of the car and the discovery of an area of melted asphalt on the road.

About the first effect Schuessler writes: ''the heat from the UFO caused the witnesses to sweat and feel so uncomfortable that they turned on the car's air conditioner". Is it not simply possible that the panic that had taken the best of the witnesses was the real cause of these sensations? Were they hyperventilating? We should not forget that both Vickie and Betty were convinced they ''were going to die", that ''the world had come to an end" and that "Jesus was about to come out of the sky". People have started to sweat over less than that.

As for the second claim, Betty stated that she had to retract her right hand when she touched the fender and had to use the tail of her leather jacket to open the door, while Vickie had burned herself while laying her hand on top of the car. An alternative interpretation could be that the vision of a large, flame-like apparition, coupled with the touch of cold metal, caused a false sensation of burning. It is known that feelings of cold and heat are in essence very similar and can easily be confused if the nature of the object causing the sensation is not immediately clear. Fact is that there is no direct evidence, photographic or medical, of these burns.

The third indication of emitted heat is Vickie's claim that, as she clutched onto the dashboard when Betty stepped on the brakes, she noticed it had gone soft and that there were indentions where she had touched it. But how can we be so sure that these deformations were not already there before the encounter. A photograph in Schuessler's book shows a small dent in the dashboard that could have been caused by almost anything. 

During a first visit to the sighting location two months after the incident, the investigators discovered an area on the asphalt road where the surface appeared to have been melted and resolidified. This area was found at a distance of approximately 135 feet (40 meters) from where the Cash-Landrums had stopped the car (we assume Schuessler is referring to the first stop). This approximate distance is in itself remarkably accurate since neither Betty nor Vickie could tell the investigators exactly where the encounter had taken place (during separate visits ''they both were able to take us to nearly the exact same location" Schuessler writes). Schuessler assures us that ''this damaged area contrasted very well with the old cracked road surface that runs for miles through the East Texas Piney Woods", but photographs or precise measurements of this remarkable evidence are not included in the book and the question remains whether the investigators did indeed search other areas of the New-Caney-Huffman road for similar "traces". Actually, the superficial description we get is in no way different from a routine restoration of a battered stretch of asphalt road. Moreover, it is difficult to understand how a flame-spitting object could have melted the surface of the road leaving the surrounding pine trees intact.

Betty Cash, Feb. 22, 1981
Vickie Landrum, July 1981

Physiological traumas

Back home from their frightening trip, all three witnesses experienced feelings of heat and suffered from an inexplicable thirst, vomiting and diarrhoea. In addition Betty felt lumps forming on her neck and head. In the days that followed, it transpired that Betty's condition was much worse than that of Vickie and Colby.

When she got home, Vickie didn't tell anyone what had happened, not even her husband. Only a waitress, who is an employee of Betty, got to hear the details. When Vickie's husband came home late in the afternoon the next day and asked why she and Colby were so red, she replied that they had gotten chapped by the wind out at the cafe that morning. When he asked what was wrong with Betty, she said she thought Betty had blood clots. On January 2nd 1981, Vickie drove Betty to Parkway General Hospital in Houston where she was admitted with a severe headache, a swelling of the face, a swelling of the eyelids, a swelling of the skull on the top of the head and hair-loss. In spite of this condition, and although she was in much pain, both women refrained from telling the medical staff about the incident right away. Why did they keep this terrifying experience to themselves? Is it possible that, initially, Betty and Vickie were themselves doubtful that their health problems were connected with the UFO incident? Both women were in their fifties and extremely shaken up by the encounter. It is known that a state of extreme anxiety can cause physiological problems as well, especially in the menopause.

There is no reason to doubt the seriousness of the physiological traumas suffered by the witnesses and by Betty in particular. The question is to know whether the link that has been made with the unidentified phenomenon is watertight or remains uncertain. Schuessler writes to this effect that Vickie, when she got home the night of the incident, "couldn't understand why Colby was so sick" and that "perhaps it was something he had eaten at the truck stop in New Caney". "It never occurred to her that his condition could have been connected in any way with their encounter on the highway", Schuessler adds. If the witnesses themselves had doubts, then why is Schuessler so keen on making a connection? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that, in 1980, Schuessler headed Project VISIT, a small team of engineers, scientists and medical specialists that acts as "a clearinghouse for all UFO incidents involving medical injury or alleged entry into a UF0"18 UFOs causing medical injury are of course exceptional stuff. Is it not possible then that, when Schuessler finally got the opportunity to investigate such a case, his enthusiasm took him in tow?

There is another element that raises questions. Asked about Colby's facial redness, Vickie told Schuessler & Holt that Colby's face was "like it was sunburned". Contrary to what many believe, the qualification "sunburned" has rarely ever been associated with UFO sightings. However, it did feature as a typical UFO after-effect in Spielberg's very popular movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, released three years before the incident.

Printed in Schuessler's book are photos of “sores and scarring" on Vickie's hands taken 8 months after the incident. At first sight these sores and scars bear much resemblance to normal skin problems that affect many people over their fifties. Whatever their exact nature, the link with the UFO incident is definitely not an established fact.

The most striking piece of evidence consists of two photos of Betty showing hair-loss. This particular symptom was examined by a dermatologist shortly after the incident. It was believed that the problem was alopecia areata, a baldness disorder that may or may not be permanent. Schuessler discredits this diagnosis instantly by adding that "later investigations revealed this diagnosis was suspect", giving no details as to why this was so. Once again, we are left with the impression that Schuessler puts everything to work to connect the health problems of the witnesses with the UFO incident: doctors who make statements in favour of his viewpoint are quoted at large and are praised for their "outstanding care", other opinions are mentioned only in passing.

Examinations carried out in the two years that followed the incident revealed no serious damage to Betty's eyes. An EEG and CAT Scan in that same period showed no abnormalities and X-rays of the chest and sinus cavity revealed nothing unusual. A neurologist vaguely asserted that the headache "might have been caused by severe tension". End May 1981, one of the doctors who treated Betty, found many sores and scarring on her skin but could see no obvious blisters. Results of blood and urine tests carried out in late 1981 were negative. In mid 1982, a bone marrow biopsy revealed necrosis and decreased iron storage, but it is not clear how these symptoms can be linked to radiation exposure. It was not until 1983, after ongoing complaints of chest pains, that lumps were found on Betty's right breast. Despite a chemotherapy treatment both breasts were removed. Referring to Betty's medical history prior to the incident, Schuessler mentions that, as early as 1979, Betty complained of "a little bit of chest pain". Yet, he chooses to believe that it was the UFO that caused the cancer. Other misfortunes during the years that followed the encounter include a heart attack, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a nasty fall in the bathtub. Again, there is no reason to blame UFOs for all this. The cause of the heart attack for example is easy to trace back to a bypass surgery which, Schuessler himself informs us, Betty underwent in Alabama "sometime in 1977", i.e. three years before the encounter.

The first diagnosis of "radiation exposure" came from a dermatologist who examined Betty in November 1981, nearly a year after the event. The only indications at that time being "some intermittent chest pain, non-cardiac in origin" and "an impression of radiation dermatitis". Schuessler concludes from this that ''there is no doubt that she was exposed to radiation during the encounter". Quite a bold statement, especially if we know that Betty already suffered from chest pains the year that preceded the encounter.

Betty died on December 29, 1998, exactly 18 years after her frightening experience. ''Never a year passed that she wasn't hospitalised and treated for complications arising from that initial extensive radiation exposure", Schuessler writes in an in memoriam for The MUFON UFO Journal.19 Yet, Schuessler's own data clearly show that at least several of Betty's hospitalisations following the UFO incident were almost certainly related to earlier complaints of chest-pains and heart-problems. The conclusion that "Betty died of health problems associated with the injuries that were caused by her close encounter with a UFO" is speculative to say the least.

Additional eyewitnesses

Four additional UFO reports were collected from the State of Texas between March and August 1981. All four describe unidentified aerial objects seen during the night of December 29th. One of these sightings took place between 7 and 9 p.m. at Dayton, where 23 year old J.M. witnessed a triangular object with white and blue lights on the comers, a bright red light in the middle, and two "brilliant cutting torch white lights shining out from the aft end". During the sighting a rumbling noise was heard. This is not much to go on, but any experienced UFO investigator will agree that such a description is pretty much consistent with the sound and standard lighting configurations of an airplane or helicopter. Another incident occurred seven miles west of Dayton. No details are known except that "a big light" was seen for a short period of time. A third story involves a couple driving back to Dayton from New Caney and seeing "a bright light ' like a car' in the sky". The fourth sighting was reported by an employee at Houston's Methodist Hospital who witnessed a silent, huge ''vehicle" just south of Cleveland. Inside were ''three humanoids with 'Roman noses', wearing silver suits and helmets". On page 77 of his book, Schuessler mentions December 29 as the date of this fantastic encounter, whereas his personal notes made from a telephone conversation with the witness (page 318), mention "after work (around midnight) in late Dec 1980". Since the account on page 77 uses exactly the same phrasing and rough details as the telephone notes, the question arises how Schuessler can be so sure that the exact date was December 29th.

Details about these incidents of "related UFO activity" are sketchy to say the most. The information given here is all we get and is of no help whatsoever in trying to figure out what really happened that night.

In the course of 1981, five more groups of witnesses came forward who confirmed having seen the fleet of helicopters reported by the Cash-Landrums. A state police officer and his wife driving east on the FM 1960, i.e. away from the sighting location and the petrochemical complex, saw about 12 twin rotors fly over in groups of three with their searchlights on. The couple reported no unknown object. A more extensive eyewitness account comes from a mother and daughter living in Crosby (location indicated on map in Fig. 2). At about 9 p.m. on the night in question they saw a large number of helicopters coming in from all directions, but most of them from Houston and from the northwest, hovering over the area with bright searchlights. In addition, they saw a big glow ("must be a forest fire; but I never could see any flames") just over the top of the tree line in the direction of Huffman (northwest). This is odd, because the mother stated that most helicopters were hovering southeast and southwest of their home, which means that they were nowhere near Huffman, but rather in the direction of Channel View and Baytown! The fact that these witnesses mention a glow in the direction of Huffman seems puzzling. Confusion with the moon is ruled out because the latter was far beneath the horizon at that time. One possibility is that they saw the glow from refineries and blast furnaces in the Cleveland area. These are only about 45 km to the north and, given the special meteorological conditions of that night, should have been visible as a pulsating glow over the pinewoods in the direction of Huffman. Note that, here too, no object was sighted. The only problem that remains is why these witnesses did not report seeing a much brighter glow in the direction of Channel View and Baytown. Both mother and daughter recalled that one of the helicopters was hovering close to the ground near a tree, only 140-150 feet ( 45 m) from the house. Perhaps their view was hampered by nearby trees or buildings (a map of the sighting location would have made it possible to verify this). Another possibility is that their attention was focussed on the helicopters that were hovering so close by in that direction

A highly sensational, second-hand story came from a helicopter pilot who was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, at the time of the incident. This man claims there was a "special alert" at the base that night and that all pilots were called on a mission to find "an unusual aircraft", to "try to force it to land", "mark the spot, radio in and wait for other people to move in". Which, according to the pilot, was also what happened. There is one problem with this story: the man in question admits that he was "half-drunk" when he took off from Fort Hood, making you wonder if, apart from being an irresponsible pilot, this anonymous and irretraceable witness is not just a spinner of tall tales.

In January 1984, attorney Peter Gersten, not only the driving force behind such workshops as "Healing Your Inner Alien"20, but also an advocate of the hypothesis that UFOs may well be high-tech Nazi achievements which have their base on Antarctica21, filed a $20 million suit in federal district court. The motion charged that the presence of helicopters pointed to federal complicity where the physiological and psychological damage suffered by the Cash-Landrums was concerned. The government denied any responsibility and, despite a thorough search, were unable to identify the "army helicopters" sighted that night. All this is of course interpreted as a cover-up, either of aliens trespassing U.S. territory, or of military pilots test flying some new experimental craft that apparently never flew again in the twenty years that have elapsed since then. If ufologists keep interpreting official responses given to them by the military as devious attempts to hide the truth, one wonders why they bother to file requests in the first place. 

By way of conclusion

Schuessler has done well to document this important case, but despite a report of no less than 323 pages, with a selection from nearly 10,000 pages of information collected during the investigation, important shortcomings were found. Elementary data about the possibly related UFO reports are not included and little information is given on the astronomical and meteorological situation of the night in question. Another problem is the absence of clear topographical maps (the one detailed map printed in the book has its "roads' curves deleted for simplicity"). Yet, knowing the exact azimuth and elevation of the phenomenon for each phase of the sighting, would have made it much easier to verify our hypothesis.

We can also question Schuessler's one-sided interpretation of the physical and physiological evidence and ask ourselves why an investigator of high esteem is reluctant to call our attention to contradictions and exaggerations in the witnesses' stories. Schuessler personally believes, not only that aliens are living among us, but also that they make secret use of our earth's resources. According to an interview with a popular magazine that focuses on the supernatural, Schuessler is of the opinion that the government is well aware of these alien missions and has ordered the military to keep a close eye on the plunderings ...22

Taking all this into account, the flame reflection hypothesis offers a much more economical explanation for the phenomena encountered by the Cash-Landrums. The visual and auditive characteristics of the phenomenon, the meteorological situation, the probability of flaring taking place at a petrochemical plant precisely in the witnesses' line of vision, all point in the direction of this widely ignored meteorological anomaly. 

Wim van Utrecht
(September 2002)

The author wishes to thank  Dr. Ronny Blomme of the Royal Observatory at Brussels for his valuable advice and for proofreading the manuscript; Heino Bardenhagen for sending us his excellent photo series; Dr. Eric H0G of the Niels Bohr Institute for Astronomy, Physics and Geophysics at Copenhagen for sending us his investigative notes on the gas platform sightings in the North Sea; Jos Hermans for sending us a copy of his investigation report on the 1979 Berchem case; anomaly researchers Marc Hallet, Eric Maillot, Claude Mauge and Jacques Scomaux for their pertinent remarks and numerous photocopies; Kwinten van Weverberg for , Walter Van den Eynde for searching the Internet for background info on East Texas; Guy Jacobs of FINA Antwerpen, Gui Winkelmans of FINA OLEFINS ANTWERPEN and other anonymous sources at the FINA and BASF complexes for technical data on flaring activities.

Notes and references

1  Internet message concerning the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Initiative led by the World Bank Group in collaboration with the Government of Norway, April 2002.

2  EL VIDGEChristopher D. et al, ''Night time Lights of the World: 1994-95", articlsubmitted to the ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing on February 11, 2000.

3  GREENLER, Robert, Rainbows, Halos, and Glories, Cambridge University Press1980.

4  CORLISS, William R.RarHalos, Mirages, Anomalous Rainbows and Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights and Related Luminous Phenomena, The Sourcebook ProjectGlen Arm, 1984.

5  MINNAERTDr. Marcel, Dnatuurkunde van 't vrijveld -1, en 3, Thiem & Cie, Zutphen, 1968 Part I of this standard work is also available in English as Nature of Light and Colour in the Open Air, Dover, 1954, and Light and Color in the Outdoors, Springer-Verlag, New York1993.

6  LYNCH, David K. & LIVINGSTONWilliam, Color and Lighin Nature, Cambridge University Press, 2001.

7  See for example:
American Meteorological Journal, February and March 1887;
Popular Astronomy, March and May 1908;Zenit, the NetherlandsSeptember 1975, May 1977 and September 1977 (first known colour photos of flame reflections);Aarde &KosmosMarch 1977;GANTOIS, J.MDE LOORE, Prof. C.W.H.UFO's en andere vreemde natuurverschijnselenThieme & CieZutphen1979.
And for 
related phenomena: 
Ciel et Terre, 1887:119-120187-188; L 'Astronomie, 1888:392-393 and hllp://m\ \\. html (about clear reflections from landscape elements off clouds);
Nature, April 51930; Monthly Weather Review, February 1935; WeatherFebruary 1973; GREENLER, RobertRainbows, Halos, and Glories, Cambridge University Press1980,1991Journal of Meteorology, February 1999 and http://\n\w.nctppl. fi/-jarmom:haloguid/halogal. html (about atmospheric light columns from artificial light sources);- MENZELDonald H. & BOYD, Lyle G., The World of Flying Saucers, Doubleday Co, New York, 1963 (about atmospheric reflection and refraction phenomena in general);SCORER, Richard & VERKAIKArjenSpacious Skies, David & CharlesLondon, 1989 (photo of atmospheric reflections caused bthe lights of Japanese fishinboats);WeatherMarch 1970 (photo of a diamond-shaped reflection below cloud caused by sunlight reflectefrom the St. Lawrence River);
Weather, Jul1972 (about ice-crystal displays from power plants);Journal of Applied MeteorologyAugust 1978 (about specular reflections from plate crystals usinan active laser radar system).

8  HOOK, JosepA., "AeriaReflectionover Burning Gas Wells" in American Meteorological Journal, February 1887.

9  "Mini-Enquetes en 1981 et 1982 »in NotTechnique n° 14 , GEPAN, Toulouse, 1987, ppl.Ol.l3.

10  UFO investigators often interpret descriptions of beams of light emanating from a light source and moving in the direction of an observer, as proof of a highly personal encounter between an unknown intelligence and a favored witness. It seems more reasonable to accept that such witness-centred effects are caused by optical phenomena associated with the observer's position (much like in the case of a solar halo or a rainbow).

11 (Passage deleted, numbering kept to preserve author's formatting.)

12  SCHUESSLER, John F., "Cash-Landrum Radiation Casein The MUFON UFO Journal No. 165November 1981.

13  SCHUESSLER, John F., The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident, Geo Graphics Printing Co., La Porte1998. If not indicated otherwise, quotes were taken from this book.

14  We found only one example: on October 20, 1983 a circular flame reflection of a diffuse orange color was seen by a meteorologist from a Danish gas platform in the North Sea. In this case a total integrated brightness of about magnitude -9 wainferred (the moon has an integrated brightness of mag 13). Source: H0G, Eric (Copenhagen University Observatory)Internet messages and personal correspondence.

15  MINNAERT, Dr. Marcel, Dnatuurkundvan 'vrije veld1, pp. 27-30.

16  "Mini-Enquetes e1981 et 1982 »in NotTechniqun° 14GEPAN, Toulouse, 1987pp. 1.0-1.13.
17  MlNNAERT, Dr. Marcel, Dnatuurkundvan 'vrije veld2, pp. 25-33.

18  SCHUESSLER, John F., "Cash-Landrum radiation case" in ThMUFON UFO Journal No. 165, November 1981

19  SCHUESSLER, John F., "Betty Cash dies on anniversary of encounterin The MUFON UFO Journal No370, February 1999.

20  GREENWOODBarry, Just Cause, January 25, 1998.

21  KLASSPhilip J.Skeptics UFO Newsletter# 51, May 1998, p. 3.
22  "DCash-Landrum zaak" in X Factor No. 30, 1998.

- - -
Additional Light Pillar Photographs
- The German photos included at the end are not a good example of the type of pillar that, I think, caused the CASH/LANDRUM report. Most of the pillars that are shown in these pictures are reflections from unshielded city lights in low cloud (ice mist). What we need for the CASH/LANDRUM report is a mirrored image of a big flame in cirriform cloud. Flames from a gas well or a petrochemical complex may have been responsible for the twin pillars in the bottom picture, but I never managed to establish that with certainty. 

Photo 1 A typical example of atmospheric reflections, photographed by Heino BARDENHAGEN at Helvesiek, Germany, on January 28'-h, 1998. Flares and spotlights from an industrial site south of Hamburg, approximately 40 km east-northeast of Helvesiek  are thought to have been responsible for this display. In total 9 reflections were photographed that night, appearing and disappearing at different azimuths and elevations between the southeast and the east-northeast. Most of the streaks are flanked with fainter specimenwhich often appear only on time-exposures and remain invisible to the naked eye.

Light pillars, reflection source unconfirmed.

Photo 2 – Another photo by Heino BARDENHAGEN, taken 30 minutes after the previous shot. The reddish streaks on this photo were almost certainly caused by flares from a twin well-head at the Liineburger Heide, approximately 75 km southeast of Helvesiek The great distance between the photographer and the light source explains why the reflected images appear so close to the horizon. Note the dark saucer-shaped object on top of the two pillars of light. In reality this "objectis nothing but a small gap in the cloud-deck

Considering the Light Pillar Theory, 2013

Comparing the phenomena to the event

Not good for the light pillar theory is what SCHUESSLER writes next on pp. 11 and 12 of his book, namely that, after Betty had observed the phenomenon from outside the car, "the object (...) rose swiftly” then “appeared" (sic) "to tilt over on its side” before it “began to move slowly south in the direction of Galveston Bay" (which is actually in the SSE). However, according to the November 1981 issue of The MUFON UFO Journal, Betty stated that: "after 15 minutes or so, the object began drifting upward to the right of them in a direction that looked to be somewhere in between Humble and Houston" (which would be somewhere in the SW). Also, it is not entirely clear to me how to picture the object tilting on its side then moving slowly to the south when it already was in the south. Perhaps changes in brightness and length of the light pillar created the illusion of the "object" tilting and moving away from the witnesses.  The upward movement is not necessarily a problem: if the altitude of the ice-crystal cloud changes, the reflected image will drop or rise accordingly (consecutive photos of light pillars do indeed show changes in elevation). One possible explanation for the rising, tilting and moving away is that the reflection encountered a gap in the cloud.

Next, after following a “very curvy” portion of the road, the witnesses “turned right at the intersection" (i.e. going south again) where "they could see the UFO and helicopters ahead" (MUFON UFO Journal, Sept. 1983). So we have the phenomenon in the south again (interestingly it is now described as looking “like a vertical elongated light”). On p. 16 of his book, SCHUESSLER continues: “Betty turned east on the Huffman-Eastgate Road (…), The object and the helicopters were now much farther off to their right”. And in the Sept. 1983 issue of The MUFON UFO Journal: “At FM 1960”, which is the Huffman-Eastgate Road, “they turned left and sped home to Dayton and lost sight of the object out the rear window before they reached Dayton”.  So when driving east to Dayton the UAP was first to the right, then fell behind them. This is compatible with a fixed light source just south of Lake Houston.  

I did find a possible candidate light source on Google Earth: a chemical plant 34.5 km (21.4 miles) south of where the Farm-To-Market Road makes a turn and becomes the Huffman-New Caney Road (i.e. where the “streak of fire” was first seen). With its vast petrochemical/refining infrastructure, the Houston area has a long history of flaring activities creating strange lights in the sky. As a veteran investigator of UFO reports SCHUESSLER should have been aware of that.

Summarizing all this we could say that we have an “object” that remained pretty much in the same spot during a period of about 20 minutes. If SCHUESSLER had only measured the azimuth and elevation for one of the times the witnesses were not driving (like when Betty pulled over at the cemetery) we would have something tangible to work with.  

Despite the fact that there are quite a few shortcomings in the manuscript, there is no doubt in my mind that the first phase of the CASH/LANDRUM incident was indeed caused by an atmospheric reflection of a bright flame.

Additional Examples

The 2009 video from Paris, France (not Paris, Texas) that Gilles Fernandez linked to at UFO SCEPTICISME shows artificial light pillars near the zenith. These are usually caused by unshielded city lights (mostly broad-beamed high-intensity floodlights at soccer fields or spotlights illuminating monuments) that reflect off of a relatively thin layer of ice-crystals (with no ice-crystals beneath, otherwise the pillars would have been much longer). 

© Joël BAVAIS 

Another spectacular example of light pillars near the zenith can be found at the CAELESTIA photo gallery of Artificial Light Pillars.  This is the type of display that was responsible for the famous 1991 sightings at Montreal (more about that at CAELESTIA:    

© Wim van Utrecht

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