Friday, October 7, 2022

The Cash-Landrum UFO: 1980s Recording of Witnesses Interviews

The Cash-Landrum UFO case received a lot of national media coverage, but few of the local broadcasts have been preserved. One was recently posted on YouTube by the account, “Eyes On Cinema,” titled, “Rare 25-minute interview with Vickie and Colby Landrum on the Cash-Landrum UFO incident, 1980.”
It’s audio of interviews with the two witnesses while visiting the sighting location a few years after the events. Unfortunately, the source and date of the recording was not stated, and the poster has not responded to requests to identify it. In May 21-25, 1984, KHOU, television channel 11 in Houston ran a five-part series on the C-L case by reporter Mitch Duncan. It’s a strong possibility that this recording was part of the material by Duncan filmed for those broadcasts.

Mitch Duncan, KHOU, circa 1984

The recording begins with the participants traveling by automobile to the Cash-Landrum UFO sighting location. The two witnesses present were Vickie Landrum and her grandson Colby, who were 60 and 10 years old in 1984. The audio is very good, but contains noises from the car trip to the site, and once they reach the location, from passing traffic. Below is a complete transcript of the recording as presented on YouTube. There’s also some cross-talk that’s been edited for clarity. Three segments of recordings are evident, but it’s not known what other breaks or edits the tape may contain.

To properly evaluate the recording, there’s some background that’s needed for context. This interview was conducted over three years after the UFO incident, and the story was well on its transformation into legend. The witnesses were pursuing a legal case against the U.S. government for the injuries they claimed, which kept their story newsworthy in the eyes of the media. This recording is not an unbiased account or a cross-examination of the witnesses. It was made by a sympathetic newsman who was asking them to tell their side of the story. The interviewer asked leading questions based on his limited knowledge of events, some questions based on faulty premises. Vickie Landrum indulged him, giving the reporter the answers she thinks he wants without making any corrections. The interview is short on specific details about the sighting, instead focusing on the plight of the witnesses.

Despite any flaws, the interview is one of the best and it features lengthy, vivid accounts from both Vickie and Colby Landrum about their experiences. It provides the most compelling answer to the question: What was it like to be there?

Interview: During the Drive to the Location

Vickie Landrum

Vickie Landrum: It was between 9 and 9:15, we was coming back from New Caney, we had been to a bingo game. Betty Cash, my grandson Colby Landrum and me, and um we started seeing the light over to the left of us. And it seemed to be way off and - but we got to wondering what it was. And uh the trees every once in a while would make it disappear, and then it would come back into view. And as we went down the road, well it seemed to get brighter.

Q: Were you afraid at all?

VL: Not at first, we was just curious, to you know, and wondering what it was and uh because Colby kept saying uh “See it Grandma, see it Grandma,” uh he'd say, “See it aunt Betty,” and uh so we said “yeah we see it,” and he'd say, “What is it?” and we said, “Well, we don't know,” you know.

Q: Did you estimate what color it was, or how big it was?

VL: Well it was um, when we first saw it it was um about half as big as a water tower and it looked um, you know, it was a big bright kind of glowing light, you know, and um so as we traveled on down the road well uh, it disappeared and then it come back into view and um…

Q: Nobody was following you at all?

VL: No, we were going like we were going toward where it was, and it was kind of like it was floating, uh on to the - closer to the left of us, and um, so when we get down here I'll show you exactly where it's at.

Q: Were there any other cars on this road?

VL: No, there was none. If it's, you know, it was kind of cloudy and had been bad, it was um, when it's like that there's not very many people to travel through here because it's, you know, in the wintertime people stay at home mostly.

Q: What time of year was this?

VL: It was um, the 29th of December of 1980. 

Q: Not down here? 

VL: Uh huh, right on down here.

Q:What about you, Colby,  what'd you think of all this?

Colby Landrum: Well, it was scary. One of the things I’ll never forget.

Q: Light bright?

CL: Yeah, it was real bright.

Q: Ever seen anything that bright before?

CL: No.

Q: What would you say it looked like to you?

CL: It looked like a diamond.

Q: A diamond? Did it have any lights blinking on and off?

CL: No.

Q: It was a white light?

CL: No, it was -  it looked like fire.

Q: It looked like fire? Were you scared at all?

CL: Well, I'll tell you what, scareder than you would ever get.

Q?: Was it making a big noise like a train or… jet?

CL: It sounded like… a jet engine.

Vickie Landrum: Now, right a little bit further down.

Q: About where that sign is?

VL: Yeah just a little past that sign. 

Q: Okay now, once we get past this sign, what began to happen?

VL: [Garbled] down a little bit further. Well, all at once I saw it and when it come in to the left of us. And um I screamed. On down a little bit further, right along about here.

And it was raining and everything, we couldn't pull over it out of the road but it it's just like it - it come down and it was just, you know, hanging up there. And um… 

Q: Was it blocking your path?

VL: Well, I - I feel like if we had’ve went on we would have burned up because you could feel the heat from it. And it was um, about the size of a water tower and when the fire come out - out the bottom of it, it would - it never did get only just, you know, past, you know, up above the treetops.

Q: I thought you saw something, that there was actual flame shooting out of it?

VL: Yes sir, the flame when it would come down, it would lift, and when it would let off, it would ease back  like it was going to come down, you know?

Q: And making a loud noise?

VL: Yes sir, and uh when the flame would come way down, it sounded like, you've heard um um, let me explain to you this way uh uh, like when anybody's doing welding then you know how that the sound, except it was loud, loud, loud. And when it would come down, well that's what it would lift up in the um it just set there suspended. And Betty got out, Betty Cash and walked past the front of the car because she was trying to find out what it was. Colby and me we got out for about um two or three minutes, I guess, and uh he was trying to get away from it to run, and um I grabbed a hold of him and he and pushed him back in the car, and he grabbed ahold of me of pulling and screaming for me to get back in the car.

And I got back in the car and I was begging Betty to get back in the car, because I felt like we were going to burn up, and um so um, all I could think of - I've been raised that, you know, the world will be destroyed by fire, you know, and the whole area looked like it was, you know, from the light of it, looked like that the whole woods was going to be set on fire. And uh Colby was screaming and everything, and I was afraid that he was going to have a heart attack, so um I begin to talk to him that, you know, if he saw a big man, it would be Jesus and he'd come to carry us to a better place. And um he asked me what about his papaw [grandfather], and I said we’d go through Dayton and pick him up. That's all I could think of to calm him down enough that he - with that - that he wouldn't die, because I've always felt like that anybody could be scared enough that they would die. And um I was scared and he was scared, and Betty got back in the car and she was scared, but when it that last flame came way down it lifted off, and it went over to the right of us and it just gradually went up and went - it didn't foof off it,  just, you know, gradually went, and we when it got out of our way we started on down and we could see it, but we saw that - we saw helicopters.

Q: How many helicopters?

VL: And they were well a lot of - I mean they were more and more, ‘cause they a - helicopters just kept coming you know from all directions and they were the kind that - uh reason we were so curious about them, they had the double rotaries to them you know the kind that we never - I had never saw before.

(Break in recording)

Interview at FM 1485, the Sighting Location

(Picture from Feb. 1981)

Q: What happened when you got out of the car?

VL: Well uh when I screamed for her to stop, uh it would have went on under it. We'd have burned up. And um, we got out in the car, um to see if we could figure out, you know, what it was. And I think we got out in the car to run, but Colby was screaming and hollering and trying to get away from me and I knew if I let him away I don't know where I'd have caught him or not, so I grabbed him and pushed him back in the car.

Q: Was it threatening you at all? Coming towards you?

VL: No, it was just hanging there and when the fire come down, it would lift. And then when the fire let up it was like it was coming back down again and it was hot.

Q: Was it hot?

VL: It was real hot.

Q: What happened to you?

VL: And um, well I didn't realize at the time anything was happening to me, except I was afraid. I got back out when - we got back in the car and I finally got Betty back in the car and it lifted and went over to the right of us we was on our way home, well um I had a headache and Betty had taken a terrible headache. And um, Colby said he was burning and it was just like we had been out in the heat and got sunburned. You know how the um wind and anything will chap you in the wintertime, and you feel like you, you know, you burning? Well that's the way we felt. And I got home and put uh baby lotion on us and by one o'clock we was blistered. And Betty, uh the lady that was with us Betty Cash, she had big blisters on this side of her, on her neck and on her face, and it was big old knots, they hadn't come out into blisters. And um, I tried for from - it was on the 29th of December, and I tried till the 2nd of January before I got her into a hospital or got a doctor to see her because she didn't have any people here. And I  - somebody had to take care of her. And when I got her in the hospital, all of ‘em down there asked if we was a burn patient. 

Q: Were you burned?

VL: And she said no. Yeah, but I mean, I wasn't as bad as she was, so I felt like that I had to stay able to take care of Colby and to take care of her.

Q: What did the doctor say to you when he examined all three of you?

VL: Uh, well, he that's what he asked is have - had we been burned. And we told him not his, you know, no because we hadn't we thought he meant like burned with fire, or, you know, something like that. And um, when Betty broke out in those big old blisters and all of her hair started falling out, well um, they couldn't understand it, and he couldn't find out what was wrong with her. And uh so um, I knew it had to be something that happened with the object, because we were all three of us, we had the same symptoms, we were hurt bad.

Q: Where were you hurt the worst?

VL: Well um, just my eyes.

Q: Medically, what exactly happened to you and Colby?

VL: Uh…

Q: Did it hurt your eyes?

VL: It hurt our eyes. Uh, because my eyes swelled and they teared when I'd go to sleep at night, next morning my pillow would be completely wet. And it looked just like they were just gonna deteriorate.

Q: What did it do to your skin?

VL: Well, same thing the blisters and and then the blisters you know when they started getting better they were runny blisters and and it's like that my whole hand was going to bleed, my arm…” 

Q: What did the doctors say when they examined you?

VL: They, um, said it had to be some sort of radiation.

Q: From the symptom you were experiencing? Were you experiencing anything else besides burns?

VL: Vomiting. Vomiting, and um like him [Colby] he had no control over his bowels or his kidneys. And we couldn't eat, and we drink water -  I mean it was just like we were dying for a drink of water. We didn't want  - we didn't want Coke, we didn't want nothing but water. We couldn't get enough water.

Q: When you came out of the car and looked and you saw this thing move away, what exactly went on when you saw it lift off?

VL: Well, I said, I was setting back in the car, I hadn't got back in the car and I said, “Thank God It's going,” you know, and I said uh “let's wait a minute and we'll be ready, uh then maybe we can, you know, get under so when it lifted, well um, we Betty cranked the car up and we moved on under it, I mean on down the road because it had drifted over to - to the left of us and, um that’s when we begin to see the helicopters.

Q:What kind of helicopters?

VL: Well um,

Q: What made you think they were helicopters?

VL: Because, uh, they sounded - I mean the rotaries and everything. You could hear the swish of them, you could hear the roar of them. You could see them from the uh, glow from the object, you could see the helicopters.

Q: This object, was it suspended by a cable or something from one of the helicopters?

VL: Well, I could - we couldn't tell, but it uh, you know, when it was hanging there you know like it was going to fall. We could hear a beep, and it was a loud beep a shrill, real shrill beep.

Q: How many helicopters were there in the air?

VL: Um well, we didn't count them here, when we we went on down it's about four miles, we 

stopped and we counted the helicopters. I counted 22.

Q: 22 helicopters. 

VL: Colby said “There's another one,” and I said “Yeah, that makes 23.” But I actually counted 22. And I could  have counted one once or, you know, or twice maybe, but if they'd have been eight or ten of them that big of helicopters, it would have been too many.

Q: Were they chasing this object?

VL: Well, they were,  uh it was like as if they were around it, and and coming to it and everything, like it was - this object was in trouble. And they were, you know, maybe gonna, you know, be there in case it fell or something.

Q: What happened then, when you saw the helicopters and this object in the air?

VL: Well, it um, kept drifting off to the right of us. And when we got almost to Dayton, we could 

yet look back and see the uh, the object, the glow of the object, and there were yet helicopters coming  - yet coming, and going toward it.

Q: What do you think all this was?

VL: I think it's something the government has, and it got out of control.

Q: You don't think it was a spaceship from another planet… you think it was Earth-bound.

VL: No, I sure don't. I think it was Earth. I think it was made by man. 

Q: What do you think all this was?

VL: I think it was something the government had up there. If they didn't - if it wasn't government, the government knew about it, because the helicopters were up there and they were our government helicopters. If they don't know about it, somebody's done ripped them off. 

Q: Did you contact the Air Force after your incident happened and ask them what they were doing out here?

VL: Yes, sir, and they said they wasn't out here. They said the helicopters don't fly at night. I know they fly it.

Q: Did you try to contact the Air Force about what you saw?

VL: Yes, sir, we went to uh, um Austin to the [Bergstrom] Air Force Base and begged them for help.

Q: What did they tell you?

VL: They said if we wanted any help we would have to find us a lawyer and file some papers.

Q: Did they deny having these helicopters in the area?

VL: Oh they didn't know nothing about it, but they had the map spread out, and we couldn't see because our eyes were burning so bad, and the lady that was in there pinpointed the road to us. But yet they didn't know nothing about it.

Q: Did the Army have anything to do with this? Did you try to contact the Army?

VL: We've tried to contact everybody. And everybody denies it. But a pilot - one of the, um National Guard Pilots said they were called out that night by Montgomery County Sheriff's department, but when he was [contacted] he didn't know nothing about that either. He said that Miss Cash and me told him. Miss Cash wasn't with me when he told me, it was my friend, because Miss Cash was in the hospital.

Q: Why were they called out?

VL: For this object.

Q: They were investigating an object.

VL: Right.

Q: But you don't think it was extraterrestrial. You think it was an Air Force project, and they should be responsible for the damage they caused you and your family.

VL: Right, right. Well, if - if it wasn't put there by the government, the government knew about it, and they have control over the airways. Why didn't they stop it before it hurt us?

Q: What happened to Colby?

VL: Well um, like I say, he - he got - most of his hair come out, and he had this diarrhea, and had no control over his bowels or his kidneys, and he was blistered. 

Q: Did the doctors say that was the radiation poisoning?

VL: And they said there's a possibility that was radiation poisoning, and if we could - said we need to find out the kind of radiation it was, because if  - if it was radiation, by the time he's 15 to 18 years old, he'll come down like with leukemia, but it won't be leukemia. And if they was to treat him for leukemia, it could kill him because of the radiation that would be in his body.

VL: And did you tell the Air Force what your doctor told you?

VL: Yeah.

Q: What did they tell you?

VL: They said well there was nothing they could do about it, and if we wanted to do anything about it, we'd have to - if we could find us a lawyer, we'd have to find us a civilian lawyer and file these papers

Q: When you told the Air Force about this, did they absolutely without a doubt deny anything was up at all, or did they say no comment?

VL: Well, they wouldn't comment on it, but um... 

Q: They didn't deny it.

VL: They didn't deny it. They didn't comment on it, no they didn't deny it. And um…

Q: What do you plan to  - that's serious? [Colby] could come down, you know, in his later years that could affect his health. What are you gonna do?

VL: That's why I'm fighting now. 

Q: What are you doing now?

VL: Well, I'm - I'm trying to find out what it was. If I can't find out what it was, maybe I can find out what kind of radiation it was putting out. Because we certainly didn't pull our hair out, we didn't burn ourselves, and I didn't, uh, injure my eyes to where I can't see out of one of them. And I sure wouldn't injure a little seven-year-old boy, because I love him with all my heart.

Q: You still have marks on your hands?

VL: Right. And I'll carry them as long as I live, I guess, on my arms. On my feet. [Shows him.]

Q: Those are all from the incident that occurred three years ago?

VL: Right. And think I don't have something to fight about?

Q: What about your eyesight?

VL: Well, I can't see none on the side vision of this side. And it's just like I'm using one eye. I can't see how to read anymore, I can't drive the automobile no more. So when I have to go somewhere I have to get either my daughter, or my daughter-in-law, or my grandson to carry me or I walk.

Colby Landrum Interview at the Location

Colby Landrum

Q: So when you and your grandma were driving down here, you saw that bright light, were you afraid?

Colby Landrum: Well, not at first, but after we got on closer to it I got scared.

Q: Did it hurt you?

CL: Well, it burned us. When I got home, and when I went to sleep my grandma - I had blisters on me. And um, well, it wasn’t the same night, the next morning I had a bunch of blisters on my face and um, I - my grandma doctored me.

Q: Did you feel sick at all?

CL: Yep, vomited a bunch.

Q: What do you think it was out there?

CL: Out there that night?

Q: Yeah. 

CL: Well, all I can think of is the government project.

Q: If you didn't know about the government, what do you think it might be?

CL: I don't know.

Q: What exactly did it look like to you? Do you think it was being chased by helicopters? 

CL: I think so.

Q: What exactly did it look like to you, do you think it might have been a spaceship?

CL: A diamond. No, it couldn't have been a spaceship.

Q: Why do you say that?

CL: I don't believe in spaceships. 

Q: And it looked like a diamond-shape?

CL: [Apparently nods yes.]

Q: Did it move fast or slow?

CL: It moved slow.

Q: Was it loud?

CL: Yeah, it was as loud - it - it sounded like a jet engine, but it sounded like about five jet engines put together. 

Q: What did you see out there that night, did you see helicopters?

CL: Yes, about twenty-three of them.

Q: What were they doing?

CL: They were right above - above the object.

Q: 23 helicopters, I mean they're big helicopters. 

CL: Oh yeah.

Q: How big was that object would you say? As big as a helicopter or…

CL: Bigger than a helicopter. About as big as a water tower.

Q: And the helicopters were over it. What were they doing, shining lights on it or anything?

CL: No. Not really, they were guarding it.

Q: Did the helicopters have their lights on, so you could see if they were Army, or Air Force, or could identify what they were?

CL: Well, you couldn't really tell, but they were double-rotary like the government’s helicopters.

Q: Now those double-rotary propellers are used by helicopters that haul around big things, they’re transport carriers.

CL: [Response drowned out by traffic noise. Possibly mentions dreams] …not scared anymore.

Q: Are you scared anymore?

CL: Well, I don’t have, - I hadn't had a nightmare about it for about a …

Q: What kind of nightmares did you have about it?

CL: Well, like it was.

Q: I mean what did you dream about that scared you?

CL: About the object.

Q: What was it doing to you?

CL: It was about that night. It - just like I was out here again.

Q: You don't dream about that anymore?

CL: No. Well, I hadn't for a long time.

Q: So you're not scared anymore.

CL: Well, sometimes I think about it and I get scared.

Q: What are your friends at school think?

CL: Well, most of them don't believe me.

Q: Does that bother you?

CL: No, because I know it's true.


Analyzing the Interview: Facts and Flaws

In many respects this is the best recorded account of the sighting, with minimal editing or interruptions to the witnesses' accounts. It’s interesting to hear what parts of the story are emphasized and how some familiar parts are omitted, like Vickie’s handprints on the dashboard, or Betty having to use her jacket to open the hot car door handle. Due to the questions asked, we get a good feel for the sensations and emotions they experienced during the encounter, and for the impact it had on their lives. 

The recording features Vickie leading the reporter to the UFO sighting location. This is notable because in September 1981, investigator John Schuessler told radiation investigators from the Texas Department of Health that the witnesses were unable to pinpoint the site, only say that it was a stretch of road “between a beer joint and some kind of highway warning sign.” After a few years of interviews and reenactments, Vickie could show them a spot. For details, see, The Cash-Landrum Incident: The Suppressed Case Files

The interviewer incorrectly assumes all three witnesses were examined by doctors, not just Betty Cash. Rather than correct him, Vickie implies she did not get medical treatment because she had to stay home to take care of Colby. Later, when asked about what the doctors thought about Vickie’s ailments, she answers regarding Betty's puzzling about if her illness might be from radiation exposure.

John Schuessler's photos documenting Colby Landrum's hair loss.

When he asks her about Colby’s condition following the UFO encounter, Vickie exaggerated it, particularly when saying, “most of his hair come out.” The two photos circulating allegedly showing Colby’s hair loss depict a bare patch about the size of a dime. The missing patch of hair appears more consistent with an encounter with chewing gum and scissors than radiation poisoning.

Vickie told the reporter about a dire warning from a doctor who'd said that in his teens, Colby might develop a disease that mimicked Leukemia. What Vickie didn't say was that she heard that from Dr. Peter Rank, a radiologist who consulted for MUFON that had never examined any of the witnesses, only read Betty's medical reports from his office in Wisconsin. She also neglected to mention that after reviewing the details Dr. Rank wrote to her, "... speaking as one who works with ionizing radiation every day in my practice, let me also hurry to assure you that [if you were exposed] this does not indeed mean you folks will suffer any serious injury. ...Mrs. Cash's normal blood count in the hospital favor that the injury, due to whatever caused, is not severe in an internal sense."

Exaggerations aside, Vickie’s testimony comes off as sincere and genuine. So did Colby’s performance for the most part. However it is a bit stilted at times, as if some of Colby's answers and terminology came from repeating what he’d heard his grandmother say.

When Vickie talks about getting Betty into the hospital, “because she didn't have any people here,” that’s not accurate. Betty’s adult son Bill (Toby) Howard was visiting her house, there the night she returned from the sighting. Also, Betty’s brother, Jesse L. Collins, lived nearby, in Houston. 

Vickie said the helicopters were coming in from all directions, estimating 23 were involved, but admitted her count may have been off. She said miles later when they were almost back home to Dayton they could still see the glow from the UFO and that more helicopters were still “coming, and going toward it.” This is overlooked in most case analysis, and would take the number of aircraft involved to an even more incredible number, and expanding almost everything else from the timetable the UFO should have been visible, the area involved, and multiply the number of witnesses who should have been aware of such an epic protracted and noisy military aerial operation.

Vickie talks about the denials of a National Guard helicopter pilot she met, but that comes from her misunderstanding of his description of having been dispatched in 1977 for another UFO sighting in the area. For details, see:  Exonerating the Helicopter Pilot.

It’s strange that there's no direct mention of the legal case, just Vickie’s talk of “fighting.” The goal of the video was to portray the plight of the witnesses and get the audience to empathize with them, and in that regard, it was a success. If the case had been tried in the court of public opinion, the Cash-Landrum story might have had a different ending.

For Further Study

On Feb. 2, 1981, Vickie Landrum called The National UFO Reporting Center to ask for help with the sighting she'd had with Colby and Betty Cash. The recording of that call and a transcript are at the link below.

Cash-Landrum: Phone report of UFO to NUFORC

On August 17, 1981, Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum,and Colby Landrum visited Bergstrom Air Force Base to tell their story and ask for help. The meeting was recorded and later furnished to the witnesses. The links below are to a transcript made of that tape.

CUFON: Bergstrom Air Force Base C-L Interview Part 1
CUFON: Bergstrom Air Force Base C-L Interview Part 2

There's a myth that the Cash-Landrum UFO had a ring of blue lights, but as Colby said in this interview, there were no such lights. See the article linked below for further details on how the witnesses originally described the UFO.

The Cash-Landrum UFO: The True Picture