The Lonnie Zamora Incident: A 1964 Close Encounter

Most UFO sightings are, to put it nicely, frustrating. Whether it be blurry, shaky cellphone footage, vague claims on paranormal websites, or those extremely fake CGI videos we’ve all seen on YouTube, ufology suffers from a terrible case of noise.

However, there are some UFO reports out there that have a little more going for them than others. Take, for example, what one man witnessed in New Mexico in 1964.

“A flame in the sky”

It was about 5:45 p.m. on Friday, April 24, 1964. On-duty police officer Lonnie Zamora was in the middle of a high-speed chase outside Socorro, New Mexico, when he heard an explosion in the distance. He then witnessed a “blueish orange” flame, shaped like a funnel, descending in the sky about a mile southwest from him.

The explosion – or “roar” as Zamora described it – lasted for a full 10 seconds. He thought it had possibly originated from a nearby dynamite shack. But when he decided to pull away from his ongoing car chase to investigate, what he found was something very peculiar, indeed.

Once over a steep hill, Zamora discovered a large round object – shiny, white, and shaped like a football — some distance off the road, with two small individuals wearing white coveralls standing nearby. One of them appeared startled at the sight of him.

“Not like a jet…”

Despite its odd appearance, Zamora initially believed the object was an overturned vehicle, so he stopped and radioed the situation back to his dispatcher. He then exited his car, thinking to approach the overturned vehicle to provide assistance. That’s when he dropped his radio.

Picking it back up and turning around to face the object again, he heard another very loud roar. The two people were gone.

The following quotes are from Zamora’s publicly available official report on the encounter, which you can read in its entirety (courtesy NICAP) here. All of the related documents, including photographs and newspaper clippings, can also be found in an archive of the official Project Blue Book collection.

I think it’s always most interesting to dive into the official records themselves, but continue reading here for a brief summary.

“Not like a jet […] Started low frequency quickly, then roar rose in frequency (higher tone) and in loudness – from loud to very loud. At same time as roar saw flame. Flame was under the object. Object was starting to go straight up — slowly up. Object slowly rose straight up.”

Amid the flames and incredible roaring, Zamora hid behind his car for cover, then began running away to the north. He saw that the object had no windows and no doors. It also had a mysterious “red lettering” near its middle, an insignia of some kind. He would later draw a sketch of the object.

Image: Sketch by Lonnie Zamora, from Project Blue Book
Image: Sketch by Lonnie Zamora, from Project Blue Book

“Insignia was about 2 1/2′ high and about 2′ wide I guess. Was in middle of object. Object still like aluminum-white.”

When the roar stopped, so did Zamora, but he could only watch the strange craft as it hovered in the air, about 20 to 25 feet high. It continued off into the distance until it ultimately – silently and with no fire, smoke, or trail of any kind – faded away. The entire event, according to Zamora, lasted only about 20 seconds.

“I was still running and I jumped just over the hill — I stopped because I did not hear the roar. I was scared of the roar, and I had planned to continue running down the hill. I turned around toward the object and at same time put my head toward ground, covering my face with my arms. Being that there was no roar, I looked up, and I saw the object going away from me. […] It seemed to rise up, and take off immediately across country.”

As Zamora watched the object disappear into the distance, he radioed back to his dispatcher and gave them directions to the location. He then went to investigate the area where the object had lifted off the ground.

There, he found scorched bushes. A colleague, Sergeant Chavez, joined him at the location, and Zamora explained what he’d seen and showed him the burnt bushes.

Chavez, himself, noticed tracks on the ground, as well as four marks. Zamora would later remember that the object had possessed two legs, upon which it had seemingly rested.


Later investigations, by local police, the FBI, and the U.S. Air Force, confirmed the existence of the burned bushes and strange marks. There were also metal scrapings found on a nearby rock.

Other witnesses, from various vantage points in Socorro, were able to corroborate Zamora’s story of the mysterious craft, including a group of tourists who claimed the object flew over their car. Several other sightings of the object were reported at the same time.

Another entirely separate sighting occurred in La Madera, New Mexico, which also left evidence of a landing of some kind. However, despite all of this, Project Blue Book, in its final determination, only lists the Socorro incident as “unidentified.”

* * *

Lonnie Zamora is considered a reliable witness, a police officer who stood to gain nothing from concocting such a story. Still, his strange account has been deemed a hoax – or even a prank – by skeptics. That said, the case, now known commonly as the Lonnie Zamora Incident, was at the time covered a great deal by the media, and is perhaps one of the best-documented UFO encounters we have.

This brief summary doesn’t even begin to cover everything. Here are a few links to more information:

There’s much more to say regarding Zamora’s potential alien encounter, especially about the claims that it was nothing but a college prank. One suggested possibility was also that Zamora may have witnessed the test of a lunar lander, though this couldn’t be determined (and seems unlikely, in my opinion). Check out the official documents and draw your own conclusions. What do you think he saw that day?


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.

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