Friday, November 15, 2013

Cash-Landrum UFO Case: The Legend of the Scorched Road

The Evolution of a Legend

The first road description in the Cash-Landrum case:

“Measurements taken during the post-sighting investigation showed their location to be about 130 feet from the strange craft.” CUFOS Symposium, Sept. 1981Schuessler, John F. 1988. Medical Injuries Resulting from a UFO Encounter. Mimi Hynek, ed. The Spectrum of UFO Research
A more thorough description: 
“Following the in-home interviews, Vickie took Holt and Schuessler to the scene of the sighting. It was at this time that she did the first timed walk-through of the event. Fairly accurate notes on the location of the incident, UFO and helicopters were taken. The route was retraced and  statements about the activity were recorded. A step-by-step account of the helicopter encounter was made, noting where they were first seen, where they were reengaged, counted, and last seen. 

The scene was revisited a number of times with Vickie, Vickie and Colby, and with all three victims. Other investigators were involved also. Some were with newspapers, others with television productions. John Schuessler participated in most of these excursions. Each time data was recorded and photographs taken.” 
Schuessler, John F., MUFON UFO Journal September 1983, pg. 4.
A Bad Stretch of Road: FM 1485

First printed claim of a burned road:

“As it neared the ground a huge cone of flames belched downward searing the macadam surface of the road.” Schuessler, John F. 1986, "Cash-Landrum UFO Case File: The Issue of Government Responsibility," MUFON 1986 UFO Symposium.

In the newspaper:

Another quirk was the unexplained repair of a melted spot in the road where the incident occurred, Schuessler said." I have photographs of a 15- to 25-foot area where even the center stripe was wiggly," he said. A year later, he said, the spot had been resurfaced. Schuessler said county officials denied any knowledge of the repair. "Twice Burned, Not Shy: Stung By Radiation, Ridicule, Trio Stick To UFO Story," Houston Chronicle September 15, 1991, by Cindy Horswell.

As Seen on TV:

John Schuessler on Unsolved Mysteries, February 6, 1991.
“They were able to tell us exactly where along the road that they stopped, because there were certain markers that identified the spot. They were able to point out exactly what they saw-- the object coming down out of the sky, over the road, and hovering there. They were able to point out a spot on the road that indicated that it had been heated to an extreme level of heating. It was burned, and it was very clear to the naked eye. Several weeks after we went to the spot and saw this burned area, someone came along, dug up the road and hauled it away and replaced it with new asphalt. Some of the witnesses that watched this happen said that people brought in unmarked trucks, dug up the road, put the material on the trucks, covered it with a tarpaulin, and drove away.” 
Dramatization of Schuessler's story by Unsolved Mysteries

No Marks on the Road

Allan Hendry's FUFOR report from April 1981 summarized Schuessler's original report and included information with independent interviews with the primary witnesses. Hendry wrote:

Flames intermittently “whooshed” down towards the road; later examination showed no marks on the pavement.


Television again, 2009:

Colby Landrum: My grandmother told me this is the section from about here about 135 feet in back, and they stripped the pavement from about this point to 135 foot back towards in on the road.”

 Where did this information come from?

“Well, I had heard from different sources. Somebody had told me it was black, unmarked trucks that come in here and actually stripped it. It should throw a red flag up to somebody.”
UFO Hunters, "Alien Fallout" episode aired January 14, 2009.

The road replacement episode sounds like a local legend that somehow crept into case records because the primary case witnesses believed the story and repeated them. The claims of the scorched road seem to appear only after the road was repaved.

I'm working on fully documenting the road story, but here's a rough timeline: 
12/29/1980 UFO Incident on a worn 2-lane country road
2/28/1981 General area of the road examined, photographed. No UFO damage to road in report.
7/11/1981 Recreation of the scene on original road for That's Incredible!
6/16/1982 Recreation of the scene on original road for The UFO Experience.
7/2/1982 MUFON Symposium: road repair 1st mentioned, with claim UFO scorched pavement
12/5/1983 Billy Cox, (Florida) Today visited the scene, “One lane wears a new coat of asphalt.”

APRO Bulletin Sept. 1982, with Schuessler notes. He first hears of repaving

Yes, the road was repaired, but not immediately, and due to ordinary maintenance. It seems to have happened about a year and a half later after the UFO incident, during a period of expansion and construction, when convenience stores and apartments started being built in the area.

The disclosure by Schuessler to the Texas Department of Health (during an investigation at the request of Vickie Landrum) that the witnesses could not identify the sighting location is very difficult to reconcile with his later claims. The legend of the road replacement comes so much later than the events, it would seem to have no legitimate bearing on the case.

More about the road from someone who should know:

Alan Holt participated in Schuessler's first visit to the scene, and is the only other VISIT member who wrote anything about the case. 

Holt lectured at the Second CUFOS Conference held September 25-27, 1981, on "UFO Maneuvers and Radiation." (Later printed in The Spectrum of UFO Research, 1988.) A portion described the Cash-Landrum case:
Vickie and Colby Landrum, Betty Cash traveling isolated road near Dayton, Tex, December 29, 1980 Diamond-shaped UFO emitting a plasma-like flame from the bottom blocked the road. Object rose (flame emission stopped) and was surrounded by 15 double  and single rotor helicopters which “escorted” the object as it moved toward the southwest. UFO and helicopters were observed two more times by the witnesses. UFO and helicopters were noted by additional witnesses
Maneuvers Observed
Hovering with emissions of plasma pulse moving up and down (propulsive-like effects), beeping sounds
Descended and ascended at a slow rate

Radiation Effects
Very intense white light covering or lighting up large area (while hovering)
Intensity substantially decreased while moving
Rose-colored, flame-like plumes emitted from bottom of diamond
Car door handles heated beyond touch temperature
Car’s interior atmosphere heated
Car dash heated sufficiently to leave permanent marks with pressure
Observers suffered effects similar to nuclear/microwave radiation
The above is from the same conference where Schuessler first presented the case. Alan Holt's description of  the UFO's physical behaviors and effects make no mention of burns to the scene. 

C. 2013, Curtis L. Collins


  1. Just as a general comment, the 'secret road repair' story has always sounded suspicious to me, simply on the grounds of logistics.

    This is something I've seen again and again in UFO crash retrieval stories. All to often you see claims that amount to slinging the UFO on to the back of a truck and roaring off to Wright-Patterson AFB, Area 51 or wherever the author claims it was taken, without trying to explain or speculate where the vehicles came from or how they travelled to and from the alleged crash site.

    Kevin Randle, posted a skeptical article (In three parts, part 3 is linked below.) on the Aztec UFO crash story by a Monte Shriver which in the section entitled "Moving The Craft to Los Alamos" gives a pretty good idea of the transportation difficulties that get glossed over in many UFO stories.

  2. So... I'm stupid, you need to explain it to me like I were a 2-year-old:

    Were or weren't there burned marks on the road?

    If so, do we have images of it taken by Schuesler?

    1. I need to go back and revise this to clarify, and to add some information discovered later. This is a bit from another article, Report on the Cash/Landrum New Caney CEII Case by Allan Hendry

      There have been no published photos of a damaged road, and the witnesses did not describe seeing burn marks. No burn marks!

      Allan Hendry was contracted by the Fund For UFO Research to investigate the source of the helicopters in the Cash-Landrum case….
      Hendry’s April 1981 FUFOR report is possibly the best document written on the case, objective, free of agenda or bias.

      He provides a narrative of the case based on Schuessler’s original VISIT report and eyewitness interviews (by phone).
      The single most startling item is that he reports:
      “Flames intermittently ‘whooshed’ down towards the road; later examination showed no marks on the pavement.

    2. So why did Schuesler say there were burn marks on the Unsolved Mysteries episode then?

    3. I can only speculate as to why he would say that. Certainly, it made for a better story.

      If it were genuine, I feel sure it would have been mentioned in either the witnesses' lengthy discussion of the event with the AF at Bergstrom, or by Al Holt who also examined the scene, or in the legal complaint filed against the Air Force, and the lawsuit that followed it.

      The story about the road only appears in the UFO literature and television coverage. Sometimes, secondary details are introduced to improve the narrative, a technique mastered by authors such as Gray Barker and John Keel.