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Beyond Roswell: The New Mexico Flying Saucer Flap of 1963-1964

By Dr. Raymond A. Keller, a.k.a. “Cosmic Ray,” author of the international awards-winning “Venus Rising” trilogy of books, available on while supplies last

Air Force brass dispatched Dr. J. Allen Hynek of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, to investigate the great New Mexico flying saucer flap of 1964 and calm public fears, in the process.  See


“UFOs Pose No Threat”

        At the close of 1963, the United States Air Force Project Bluebook investigative personnel had checked out 8,128 reported cases of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) in the United States.  This special Air Force program was established 16 years prior for the express purpose of determining whether the UFOs represented some threat to our national security.  Of these reports, 7.7 percent of the cases remained classified as “unidentified.”  The other 92.3 percent of the objects reported turned out to be misinterpretations of celestial or natural phenomena, conventional aircraft or aerospace vehicles seen under unusual atmospheric conditions or outright hoaxes. 

            From the start of 1964 and through the following six months, however, there was an intensification of UFO activity over the state of New Mexico.  The Air Force’s leading civilian consultant was the chief astronomer at Northwestern University’s Dearborn Observatory, Dr. J. Allen Hynek.  For the most part, Dr. Hynek would stay behind on Northwestern’s Chicago, Illinois, campus and just wait for the investigative team to bring in all the amassed data for correlation.  Nevertheless, the epidemic of strange sightings over New Mexico skies required that the Air Force brass dispatch Dr. Hynek to the state, as one of their “big guns,” in order to calm down the local populace and find out what was really happening with the UFOs.   

            The first case that Dr. Hynek investigated in New Mexico, the “Land of Enchantment,” involved a highway patrolman’s encounter with an egg-shaped UFO that landed a little distance off the main state route in the vicinity of his hometown of Socorro.   The officer, Sergeant Lonnie Zamora, was just about to wrap it up for the day.  It was 5:45 p.m. on the evening of 24 April 1964; and his shift was about to end in 15 minutes.  Out of the blue, a speeder raced by Zamora’s position, moving like a “bat out of hell.”   The patrolman was about to chase the speeder when suddenly there was a loud explosion coming from the rear.  Also, when Lonnie Zamora heard the fierce clapping noise, he turned around just in time to catch sight of an eerie light blue flash of light that washed over him, his patrol car and the surrounding desert shrubbery.

            Zamora followed in his patrol car a dirt path to a small shack about 200 feet back from the highway, whence the blue flash and the explosion emanated.   That’s when he spotted the source of all the commotion, a shiny, ovular object descending from the sky with a smokeless blue and orange flame emitting from its underside.  The officer described the object as resembling, “a car turned upside down…. standing on its radiator or trunk.”  At this point, Zamora got out of his vehicle and started to approach the now landed object to within 100 feet on foot.  Two personages in white coveralls had disembarked from the strange object.  “One of these persons,” noted the highway patrolman, “seemed to turn and look straight at my car and seemed startled- seemed to quickly jump somewhat.”

            Patrolman Zamora described the UFO occupants as “normal in shape, but possibly they were small adults or large kids.”  The officer radioed for backup but continued to keep his distance from the object and the beings that descended from it.  The oval-shaped UFO had no visible windows or even the seams for a doorway.  It sat upon girder-like legs.  The craft was marked, however, with a red insignia that was about two-an-a-half feet wide.  The UFO occupants, on the other hand, were not going to remain in the area for long insofar as the armed patrolman was there observing their activities.  In the next five minutes, the two aliens quickly terminated their activities, got back into their craft, and took off.  Zamora witnessed the UFO quickly ascend and then move over a mountain in the distance, whence it quickly sped out of sight, but not out of mind.  Just a few minutes after the aliens’ departure, fellow officer Sergeant Sam Chavez of the New Mexico State Police arrived at the scene in response to Zamora’s radio call for backup.  Officer Chavez, while he did not see the object, did observe the still-smoldering brush the UFO had landed and taken off.  He also noted four burn marks and four V-shaped depressions pushed into the ground where the object had rested.  These impressions were between one and two inches deep and each one measured eighteen inches in length. 

            One of the chief skeptics of the era, Dr. Philip J. Klass, the editor of Aviation and Space Technology magazine, opined that Zamora had simply made up the whole story in order to increase tourism in the area.  However, in a report submitted to the Central Intelligence Agency by the then director of the Air Force’s Project Bluebook, Major Hector Quintanilla, the highest military authority on the UFO phenomenon declared that, “There is no doubt that Lonnie Zamora saw an object which left quite an impression on him.  There is also no question about Zamora’s reliability.  He is a serious officer, a pillar of his church, and a man well-versed in recognizing airborne vehicles in this area.  He was puzzled by what he saw, and frankly, so are we.”  Keep in mind that the Bluebook director came to these conclusions based on the field research conducted by Dr. J. Allen Hynek on his behalf.

Sergeant Lonnie Zamora witnesses landing and takeoff of oval-shaped UFO, to include its occupants.  The officer also noted a bright red inscription on the side of the alien object.  See

            The revelation of Dr. Hynek’s involvement in the Zamora case was leaked in the 30 April 1964 edition of the News-Sun newspaper of Hobbs, New Mexico.  Despite the official pronouncements by Project Bluebook personnel that there was no evidence linking UFOs to extraterrestrial spaceships, the Air Force’s overwhelming interest in this Socorro, New Mexico, UFO landing incident suggested otherwise.  The “genie was out of the bottle,” so to speak, and getting him back in was not going to be an easy task. 

Life on Another Planet Feasible

            Clearly, the nation, if not the entire world, was electrified by Sergeant Zamora’s account of a UFO landing, complete with a sighting of occupants.  In the very day following the news of Hynek’s arrival in New Mexico to investigate the Socorro event, an article appeared in the Salt Lake City, Utah, Deseret News and Telegram newspaper titled, “Life on Other Planet, Researcher Claims:  Let’s Contact Them, Meet Told.”  Remarks made by Dr. Bernard M. Oliver, the vice president in charge of research and development at the Hewlett-Packard Company, at a three-day regional conference of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) held in downtown Salt Lake City’s Hotel Utah, affirmed the feasibility of intelligent life existing on another planet. 

            “Man is not alone in the universe,” said Dr. Oliver, adding that, “If we make the effort, we can contact other life.  Mankind now has the capability to contact life on other planets.” 

Sergeant Zamora’s New Mexico desert encounter with unusual beings emerging from a UFO was certainly causing many to reconsider the extraterrestrial hypothesis.  In Dr. Oliver’s opinion, the universe was abounding with life.  To the crowd of electrical engineers, he offered the belief that life is common in the universe; and that, “The density of life is such that there are, no doubt, several populations within the present radio range.”  Dr. Oliver, when asked why there had been no contacts with life of any significance on these other nearby worlds, speculated that it was “because no real, concerted effort has been made to do so.”

Dr. Oliver felt that, “Such a contact would have as profound an impact on our world culture as did the voyage of Columbus on the culture of the Old World.  With our present sending and receiving equipment, our chances of contacting other intelligent civilizations are really quite high.”  He mused that the cost of such a program would be negligible, at least when compared with the overall impact it would have.  Dr. Oliver was the featured speaker during the banquet session of the IEEE, as well as the recipient of a research award.  Also recognized during the same session was Dr. Obed C. Haycock, director of the University of Utah Upper Air Research Laboratory, for his contributions to research on the upper atmosphere and to engineering education.  Not surprisingly, Dr. Haycock’s considered opinions about extraterrestrial life coincided with Dr. Oliver’s.

“Stay Away from All UFOs!”

        In the weeks before and after Sergeant Lonnie Zamora’s close encounter, sightings of UFOs all over the Land of Enchantment had risen to a fever pitch.  The New Mexican newspaper of Santa Fe, New Mexico, dated 29 April 1964, reported a sorry and unusual incident at an Albuquerque elementary school, where a young girl was out on the playground at recess when an egg-shaped UFO swooped down over the swing sets.  The lass was standing right under the object; and while looking up at it, suffered burns on her face and the exposed portion of her arms.  Upon hearing about this incident, the Santa Fe, New Mexico, police chief, A. B. Martinez, decided to issue a warning to all students and residents of his city to, “Stay away from any mysterious objects.”  The top law enforcement official added that, “I don’t know what these objects really are; but if any are sighted by local residents, they should be treated with respect and caution until more information as to their identity is available.”

Strange Occurrences Afoot in New Mexico

        While the attention of the United States was focused on New Mexico because of this flying saucer flap and particularly Lonnie Zamora’s amazing encounter, news of yet another alien contact case emerged in the pages of the 1 May 1964, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Journal newspaper.  Apolinar A. Villa, Jr. (1916-1982), who described himself as “just an ordinary working man- just a mechanic,” was puzzled as to why the extraterrestrials chose to contact him and establish direct communications.  “They said there was a purpose,” Villa told Journal reporter Martin Paskind, adding that, “What it is, I don’t know.”

            Apolinar Villa’s friends just call him “Paul.”  They don’t know what to think about his claims, however, that he has been visited by extraterrestrials at least five times over the past five years; that’s once a year on average.  On several occasions, he even enjoyed the opportunity of talking to the alien visitors; and he was even allowed to take pictures of the flying saucer that brought them to our planet.   Following one close encounter of the third kind, Villa filled up an entire roll of film with Kodacolor photos of the aliens’ spacecraft.   

            At the time that reporter Paskind interviewed Villa about his close encounters, the still relatively unknown contactee was 47 years old and lived with his son and daughter-in-law in a trailer behind 601 Niagara Avenue in the northeast section of Albuquerque.  Born in Tijeras, New Mexico, the young Villa attended Longfellow Elementary School and Lincoln Junior High School.  He dropped out of high school in his freshman year to work in his family’s gas station and garage.  After a few years, Villa then enlisted in the Army Air Force, where he served as a mechanic in a motor pool on a base in California.  Receiving an honorable discharge, Villa stayed out on the West Coast for a couple of years, securing a job with the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water, before returning home to New Mexico where he began working as a mechanic for N. C. Ribble and Company, where has been employed ever since. 

            Villa showed the reporter some of the photos of the flying saucer.  “The pictures are authentic,” the mechanic asserted, adding that, “They’re the real thing.” 

            The mechanic told Paskind that there were a lot of things he just could not talk about because he did not think that anybody would believe him.  For example, Villa talked about an encounter with the aliens that allegedly took place on 16 June 1963.  From 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. on that day, the contactee supposedly conversed with extraterrestrial men and women aboard their spacecraft that was hovering above the New Mexico desert a few miles to the northwest of Albuquerque.  The space people allowed Villa to bring his Japanese camera along with him in order to take some clear photographs of their interplanetary conveyance. 

Original photo of flying saucer taken by Paul Villa on 16 June 1963 in area to immediate northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Photo from files of Gabriel Green, President of Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America, Yucca Valley, California.


            Onboard the flying saucer, Villa’s extraterrestrial friends explained to him that while they were not gods or even superhuman, they were generally superior to our species in physical qualities and quantity of knowledge.  The UFO crew members also informed him about coming volcanic activity along certain ridges in the Pacific Ocean’s so-called Ring of Fire and commented on the growing economic and military power of the People’s Republic of China, of which they warned that wise politicians should not ignore.  It seemed to Villa that the flying saucer occupants had some inkling of future events.  After his conversation with the aliens, Villa took a rather fatalistic attitude, declaring that he had come to learn that, “We can’t get away from what God has decreed for us. Even they (the extraterrestrials) know that there is a Super Intelligence that governs the universe and everything in it.” 

            Villa sighted his first UFO in 1953 when he was working out on the West Coast with the utilities company.  While he was looking up at the object, he was approached from behind by an androgynous being in a blue jumpsuit with long, blonde hair.  The being tapped the airman on his right shoulder.  Startled, Villa turned to see who it was and what was wanted.  “Now you know that the flying saucers are real,” is all that the mysterious entity said before disappearing in a glint of light.  When he first moved to Albuquerque, he lived at 4187 Edith St., in the northeast section of Albuquerque.  On two occasions, UFOs hovered directly over his home.  On the second pass over his home, the roof caught fire from the intense radiation emitted from the underside of the flying saucer.  And once on his way back from attending a rodeo in Lindrith, New Mexico, the mechanic came across a disc-shaped UFO that he estimated to be about 900 feet in diameter.  This was by far the largest object that Villa had observed.  In second place in this category was a saucer viewed outside Peralta, New Mexico, that he estimated to be about 160 feet in diameter.  This craft landed; and from it stepped several crew members.  In their blue jumpsuits they all had an androgynous appearance, so Villa could make no determination as to their sexes.  Their uniforms displayed no rank; but the one who spoke to Villa emitted an aura of authority and seemed to be in charge.  The being explained that they had just returned from an important mission in a distant elliptical galaxy visible from Earth in the Coma Berenices star cluster and were on their way home to a neighboring planet in our own solar system.  The smaller UFOs were all like the typical flying saucer so commonly reported, about 50 feet in diameter and sometimes referred to in ufology circles as scoutcraft.  Over the years, and through his physical and telepathic communications with the extraterrestrials, Villa gradually acquired fragmentary knowledge of the star people and their operations on Earth.

Conversation with a Master

            On one occasion, Villa asked the extraterrestrials why evidence of their civilization in our solar system had not been detected, now that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has sent probes to some of the nearer planets. “Paul, we are about two million years more advanced than the highest pinnacles of your civilization on Earth; therefore, we understand your inadequacy.  Even if you were to land astronauts on our planet, there would be scarce evidence for our civilization.  In a thousand years, humans from Earth may begin to reach out and meet some of us; but it will take thousands more before you can approach our civilization on something like equal terms.  To you of Earth, our planet is nothing more than a world of dreams.  While it has the texture of reality, it is quite tenuous.  We can modify its presentation at will in terms of color, quality or even shape.  We live just outside your own space-time continuum.  We can take you to realms of the universe that you have not even imagined and even to parts of it where life is just beginning to form and set out on the path of evolutionary progress.  The best way I can put this is that we exist at a slightly higher vibrational frequency than you of Earth.”

            “From your description, it seems like you are gods and live in Heaven,” remarked Paul Villa.

            “I wouldn’t go that far, Paul,” replied his extraterrestrial contact.  “We were humans much like yourselves, once upon a time; but we went on to master the subtleties of the inner dimensions.  One day you will reach the point of cosmic evolution where we are now, provided you don’t go the way of the dinosaurs and bring about your own extinction through warfare or the disregard of your natural environment.”

            “OK, so what brings you to New Mexico, if I might ask?” queried Villa.

            Our other-worldly visitor retorted that, “We star people are interested in New Mexico because of a magnetic fault in Farmington…. Our ships travel along magnetic lines.  They put a lot of stress on New Mexico and parts of Arizona and Utah.  In fact, one of our ships crashed in 1948 near this area when the magnetic lines were warped by atomic testing out in the Nevada desert.  The commander of our Moon base was dispatched to see what she could find out and do something about it.” 

Bad Luck

Like the words of a country music song, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all,” Paul Villa’s life was not an easy one.  Many of his acquaintances gave up on him altogether, at best thinking he was eccentric and at worse, thinking him insane.  He suffered a great steam of misfortune.  By the time of the interview, his home burned down to the ground and he didn’t have fire insurance.  He accidentally shot himself in the arm during a hunting trip; and he had to file for bankruptcy.  For a while, Villa wondered if the extraterrestrials were working some sort of mischief in his life, maybe for something that he should not have said, or something that he did to displease them.  But then he mused, “No, they were a very friendly sort of people.  Their opinion is not that we are good or bad; but they are not about to save us from ourselves.”  This caused me to think that such, I suppose, are the travails awaiting most of us who inhabit this entropic universe.

Villa’s Assertions Vindicated

        News of the New Mexico flap, along with the close encounters of Zamora and Villa, while becoming the butt of jokes in many quarters of the United States, where certainly being taken with a higher degree of gravitas in the United Kingdom.  UFOs were always a hot topic on the airwaves of radio and television news programming of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC).  Many of the contactees like Howard Menger of New Jersey and Paul Villa in New Mexico were claiming that the flying saucers originated from bases on planets in our own solar system.  At the same time, spokespersons for NASA were adamant in pressing their claim that conditions on planets like Venus or Mars were just too unlike those on Earth to support any kind of life, at least as “we know it.” 

            On 28 April 1964, however, the BBC featured an interview with Professor H. Bruck, the Scottish Astronomer Royal, who was attending a conference of the Royal Astronomical Society in Edinburgh and made time to drop into the BBC studios there in the evening to discuss the timely subject of the existence of intelligent life on other planets.  When asked about intelligent life in other solar systems, or even other galaxies, Professor Bruck did not dispute that it probably exists, but argued that if the current laws of physics are correct, it would take many of our lifetimes for a spaceship to reach Earth if it were emanating from such a far point.  On the other hand, the question about life in our own solar system brought the quite unexpected answer that not only does it exist, but that Venus and Mars are likely to have human populations and that, “It is very likely that they are visiting us now.”  A complete transcript of the program was published in the May-June 1964 edition of Spacelink, the official organ of the Isle of Wight UFO Investigation Society in the United Kingdom. 

            Robert C. Gribble, the director of the Aerial Phenomena Research Group in Seattle, Washington, of which I was a member at the time, lamented that space researchers in the United States were not as forthcoming as their counterparts on the “other side of the pond,” so to speak.  Gribble commented that, “It is hoped that other astronomers, in professional and amateur circles, will take note of this enlightened viewpoint, publicly expressed by the Scottish Astronomer Royal.”

Editor’s Note:  Dr. Keller will be part of a panel discussion at the Wednesday, 12 June 2019, 6:30 p.m. meeting of the Paranormal Search organization in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  The subject will be bigfoot and UFO sightings, in addition to UFO disclosure.  He will also have a booth at the 2019 River City Pop Culture Festival in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., 15 June 2019.  For additional information, or to secure Dr. Keller as a speaker for your group or organization, you can write him directly at

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