Lubbock Lights were an unusual formation of lights
seen over the city of Lubbock, Texas, from
The Lubbock Lights incident received
national publicity and is regarded as one of the first great
cases in the United States.
Unclassified document on the
The first publicized sighting of the lights occurred on August 25,
1951, at around 9 pm. Three professors from Texas Technological
College (now Texas Tech University), located in Lubbock, were sitting in the backyard
of one of the professor's homes when they observed the "lights" fly
A total of 20-30 lights, as bright as stars but
larger in size, flew over the yard in a matter of seconds. The
professors immediately ruled out meteors as a possible cause for
the sightings, and as they discussed their sighting a second,
similar, group of lights flew overhead (Ruppelt, pgs. 97-99).
The three professors - Dr. A.G. Oberg, chemical engineer, Dr. W.L.
Ducker, a department head and petroleum engineer, and Dr. W.I.
Robinson, a geologist - reported their sighting to the local
newspaper, the Lubbock
. Following the newspaper's article,
three women in Lubbock reported that they had observed "peculiar
flashing lights" in the sky on the same night of the professor's
sightings. Dr. Carl Hemminger, a professor of German at Texas Tech,
also reported seeing the objects, as did the head of the college's
journalism department (Clark, p. 343).
The three professors became determined to view the objects again
and perhaps discover their identity. On September 5, 1951, all
three men, along with two other professors from Texas Tech, were
sitting in Dr. Robinson's frontyard when the lights flew overhead.
According to Dr. Grayson Mead the lights "appeared to be about the
size of a dinner plate and they were greenish-blue, slightly
fluorescent in color. They were smaller than the full moon at the
horizon. There were about a dozen to fifteen of these lights...they
were absolutely circular...it gave all of us...an extremely eerie
feeling." Mead claimed that the lights could not have been birds,
but he also admitted that "they (the lights) went over so
fast...that we wished we could have had a better look." The
professors observed one formation of lights flying above a thin
cloud at about 2,000 feet; this allowed them to calculate that the
lights were traveling at over 600 MPH
The Hart photographs
On the evening of August 30, 1951, Carl Hart, Jr., a freshman at
Texas Tech, was lying in bed looking out of the window of his room
when he observed a group of 18-20 white lights in a "v" formation
flying overhead. Hart took a 35-mm Kodak camera and walked to the
backyard of his parent's home to see if the lights would return.
Two more flights passed overhead, and Hart was able to take a total
of five photos before they disappeared (Ruppelt, 100). Four of Hart's photos
After having the photos
developed Hart took them to the offices of the Lubbock
. After examining the photos the newspaper's
editor, Jay Harris, told Hart that he would print them in the
paper, but that he would "run him (Hart) out of town" if the photos
were fake. When Hart assured him that the photos were genuine,
Harris paid Hart $10 for the pictures. The photographs were
eventually sent to newspapers around the nation, and were printed
magazine (Clark, 346).
physics laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio analyzed the Hart photographs.
an extensive analysis and investigation of the photos, Lieutenant
Edward J. Ruppelt
, the supervisor of the Air Force's
Project Blue Book
, released a
written statement to the press that "the [Hart] photos were never
proven to be hoax, but neither were they proven to be genuine"
(Ruppelt, 105-107). Hart has consistently maintained to this day
that the photos are genuine. Curiously, the Texas Tech professors
claimed that the photos did not represent what they had seen, since
their objects had flown in a "u" formation instead of the "v"
formation depicted in Hart's photos (Ruppelt, 106).
Air Force investigation and controversy
In late September 1951, Lieutenant Ruppelt read about the Lubbock
Lights and decided to investigate them (Ruppelt, 98). Project Blue
Book, founded in 1948 as Project Sign
was the Air Force's official research group assigned to investigate
UFO sightings. Ruppelt traveled to Lubbock and interviewed the
professors, Carl Hart, and others who claimed to have witnessed the
lights. Ruppelt's conclusion at the time was that the professors
had seen a type of bird called a plover
(Ruppelt, 110). The city of Lubbock had installed new vapor street
lights in 1951, and Ruppelt believed that the plovers, flying over
Lubbock in their annual migration, were reflecting the new street
lights at night. Witnesses who supported this assertion were T.E.
Snider, a local farmer who on August 31, 1951 had observed some
birds flying over a drive-in movie theater; the bird's undersides
were reflected in the light (Clark, 345). Another witness, Joe
Bryant, had been sitting outside his home with his wife on August
25 - the same night on which the three professors had first seen
the lights. According to Bryant, he and his wife had seen a group
of lights fly overhead, and then two other flights. Like the
professors, they were at first baffled by the objects, but when the
third group of lights passed overhead they began to circle the
Bryant's home. Mr. Bryant and his wife then noticed that the lights
were actually plovers, and could hear them as well (Ruppelt,
101-102). In addition, Dr. J.
, a professor of astronomy
and one of Project Blue Book's scientific consultants, contacted
one of the Texas Tech professors in 1959 and learned that the
professor, after careful research, had concluded that he had
actually been observing the plovers (Clark, 349).
However, not everyone agreed with this explanation. William Hams,
the chief photographer for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
took several nighttime photos of birds flying over Lubbock's vapor
street lights and found that he could not duplicate Hart's photos -
the images were too dim to be developed (Clark, 346). Dr. J.C.
Cross, the head of Texas Tech's biology department, ruled out the
possibility that birds could have caused the sightings (Clark,
346). A game warden Ruppelt interviewed felt that the sightings
could not have been caused by plovers, due to their slow speed (50
) and tendency to fly in groups much smaller
than the number of objects reported by eyewitnesses (Ruppelt, 102).
The warden did admit that an unusually large number of plovers had
been seen in the fall of 1951. Dr. Mead, who had observed the
lights, strongly disputed the plover explanation: "these objects
were too large for any bird...I have had enough experience hunting
and I don't know of any bird that could go this fast we would not
be able to hear...to have gone as fast as this, to be birds, they
would have to have been exceedingly low to disappear quite so
quickly" (Clark, 344). Curiously, in his bestselling 1956 book
The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
, Ruppelt himself
would come to reject the plover hypothesis, but frustratingly
refrained from explaining what
the lights in fact
"They weren't birds, they weren't refracted light, but they weren't
spaceships. The lights ... have been positively identified as a
very commonplace and easily explainable natural phenomenon. It is
very unfortunate that I can't divulge ... the way the answer was
found.... Telling the story would lead to [the identity of the
scientist who "finally hit upon the answer"] and ... I promised the
man complete anonymity" (Ruppelt, 110).
The flying wing
While investigating the Lubbock Lights, Ruppelt also learned that
several people in and around Lubbock claimed to have seen a
" moving over the city
(Clark, 347). Among the witnesses was the wife of Dr. Ducker, who
reported that in August 1951 she had observed a "huge, soundless
flying wing" pass over her house (Clark, 347). Ruppelt knew that
the US Air Force did possess a "flying wing" jet bomber, and he
felt that at least some of the sightings had been caused by the
bomber, although he could not explain why, according to the
witnesses, the wing made no sound as it flew overhead.
Lubbock Lights publicity
The Lubbock Lights were one of the best-publicized events in
American UFO history. In April 1952 LIFE
magazine published a popular article about
the UFO phenomenon; the Lubbock Lights were a prominent feature of
the article. Lieutenant (later Captain) Ruppelt devoted an entire
chapter of his bestselling 1956 book to the incident (Ruppelt,
96-110). A novel, by Dr. David Wheeler, focuses on the Lubbock
In 1994, the Albuquerque-based progressive rock band Skumbaag
staged a rock opera called "The Lubbock Lights- a melodrama and
interpretive ballet" inspired by the 1951 sightings with music and
words by John Bartlit and Wm. Craig McClelland.
The Lubbock Lights were featured prominently in the award-winning
2002 Sci Fi Channel
, in which one
alien poses as a human in the Lubbock area for a brief period of
In 2005, a film called ["Lubbock
Lights[http://www.lubbock-lights.com]"] was released about the
music scene in Lubbock which describes some theories about the
lights by the musicians from the area.
In 2006, Lubbock-based alternative
band Thrift Store
wrote and recorded a song entitled "Lubbock Lights" on
their third album, Lay Low While Crawling or
- LIFE link 1; LIFE link 2
- Clark, Jerome. "The Lubbock Lights", from The UFO
Book. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1998. ppgs. 342-350.