1. Case 9. Farmington, N.M., March 17, 1950
In the course of checking this famous case that made short-lived press headlines in 1950, I interviewed seven Farmington witnesses out of a total that was contemporarily estimated at "hundreds" to "over a thousand." It became clear from my interviewing that the streets were full of residents looking up at the strange aerial display that day. It was not only a multiple-witness case, but also a multiple-object case. My checking was done seventeen years after the fact, so the somewhat confused recollective impressions I gained are not surprising. But that unidentified aerial objects moved in numbers over Farmington on 8/17/50 seems clear. One witness with whom I spoke, Clayton J. Boddy, estimated that he had observed a total of 20 to 30 disc-shaped objects, including one red one substantially larger than the others, moving at high velocity across the Farmington sky on the late morning of 8/17/50. John Baton, a Farmington realtor, described being called out of a barber shop when the excitement began and seeing a high, fast object suddenly joined by many objects that darted after it. Baton sent me a copy of an account he had jotted down shortly after the incident A former Navy pilot. Baton put their height at perhaps 15,000 ft. "The object that has me puzzled was the one we saw that was definitely red. It was seen by several and stated by all to be red and traveling northeast at a terrific speed." Baton also spoke of the way the smaller objects would "turn and appear to be flat, then turn and appear to be round," a description matching an oscillating disc-shaped object. No one described seeing any wings or tails, and the emphasis upon the darting, "bee-like" motion was in several of the accounts I obtained from witnesses. I obtained more details, but the above must suffice here for a brief summary.
Discussion. -- This once-headlined, but now almost forgotten multiple-witness case has been explained as resulting from the breakup of a Skyhook balloon. Skyhooks do shatter at the very low temperatures of the upper troposphere, and occasionally break into a number of smaller pieces. But to suggest that such fragments of transparent plastic at altitudes of the order of 40-50,000 ft. could be detected by the naked eye, and to intimate that these distant objects of low angular velocity could confuse dozens of persons into describing fast-moving disc-shaped objects (including a large red object) is simply not reasonable. However, to check further on this, I contacted first Holloman AFB and then the Office of Naval Research, who jointly hold records on all Alamogordo Skyhook releases. No Skyhooks or other experimental balloons had been released from the Holloman area or any other part of the country on or near the date of this incident. A suggestion that the witnesses were seeing only cotton-wisps was not only unreasonable, given the witness accounts, but was in fact tracked down by a local journalist to comments casually made by a law enforcement officer and overheard by another reporter. From my examination of this case, I see no ready explanation for the numerous disc-shaped objects moving in unconventional manner and seen by large numbers of Farmington residents on 3/17/50.