3 Aug 1965 - Santa Ana, California, USA

3 August 1965 12:38
Santa Ana, California, USA

Renowned case of a hat-shaped UFO photographed four times from with a Polaroid camera by a county employee. The pictures have been shown to be a hoax many times over the years. But the photos attracted the attention of a intriguing cast of characters.

Heflin Sequence

The Heflin UFO sighting and photographs are one of the classic UFO cases. Heflin was a highway maintenance engineer for California's Orange County. In 1965 he produced a series of four Polaroid photographs, showing a hat-shaped UFO travelling across a road just south of the Santa Ana Freeway, and the smoke ring left after its departure from the area. He estimated the object to be 30 feet in diameter and 700 feet away as it crossed the road in front of him. A new take on the photo analysis is provided below, which again concludes they are fakes. But completely obscured in the accounts to date were the extraordinary nature of a nearby military installation, its relationship to the location of the sighting, and the unusual interest by aerospace contractors in the photographs.

The Location

What was then known as Marine Corps Air Facility Santa Ana was located less than a mile southwest of the sighting location. The base originally began operations in 1942 as a US Navy lighter-than-air (LTA) vertical-takeoff-and landing (VTOL) airship base. Two immense hangars, Buildings 29 and 29, were built. Each hangar was 189 feet high, 1,088 feet long and 297 feet wide. They are registered as historical monuments and remain to this day among the largest wooden structures ever built. They can be seen for miles from the ground, tens of miles from any nearby elevation and from as far away as visibility will allow from the air. The Heflin investigators, although mentioning other minor local military facilities, make no mention of this remarkable site just a mile away.

LTA Base from the Air

From 1951 the base was used by the US Marine Corps for helicopter training and operations. The layout was suited for VTOL operations and the cavern-like hangars were used as helicopter maintenance shelters.

Hangar 28 Interior

Although today being engulfed by industrial parks and shopping malls, in 1965 the area was still largely open fields, allowing helicopter training in preparation for the buildup in Vietnam. A Marine history noted:

LTA has always been considered the ‘pearl’ of Marine Corps bases. In addition to its perfect location among the Southern California orange groves and proximity to all of the Southern California amenities, it also provides a nearly perfect environment for training helicopter pilots...The nearby Saddleback mountains and adjacent foothills have 13 confined area mountain landing sites that every PUI (Pilot Under Instruction) has learned to hate and love.
Overhead of MCAS Tustin

So we have a facility that is already built for VTOL operations, with enormous hangars where an experimental VTOL craft could be tested far from prying eyes. Now if we superimpose the excellent sketch in the Condon report on a 1972 aerial photo of the base and the sighting location, we find that the Heflin craft was first sighted at a position exactly at the base runway bearing, but coming from Building 28 or one of the adjacent turning circles. Heflin reported the craft seemed to have stability problems. After it recovered, it accelerated away - at the same heading as the heading from the base, and towards the Saddleback mountain landing training area used by the Marines:

As the UFO traveled, it maintained a relatively level altitude (150 ft.) in relation to the flat terrain, however the UFO acted similar to a gyroscope when losing its stability. The UFO continued moving away slowly gaining altitude, tipped its top toward me slightly. It seemed to gain stability, then it increased its velocity (speed) and altitude more rapidly leaving a deposit of smoke-like vapor….The UFO disappeared in a northern direction toward Saddleback Mountain.
Heflin Object Course

Unusual Interest

Now in the aftermath of the photographs becoming public, Heflin received some unusual contacts (aside from Marine Corps investigators, US Air Force investigators, Men in Black, NORAD, NICAP, Condon Report, and other UFO investigators!). The Condon Report notes:

Among numerous telephone calls, the witness says he received … one from … a man who identified himself as a representative of the Boeing Airplane Co. … The … man identified himself as an "engineer with the L.A. office of Boeing Aircraft… not representing Boeing, but personally interested, asked that his name not be mentioned or the fact that he had phoned. He also suggested that it might be better if [the witness] did not talk about the case …" Later "A letter came from a vice-president of McDonnell Aircraft, St. Louis, requesting technical information".
Forty years later, aerospace writer Nick Cook was interviewing Boyd Bushman, an engineer who was involved in heavily classified antigravity propulsion projects for Lockheed Martin. Cook noted, in his book The Hunt for Zero Point, page 254-255:
I spotted something among the collection of papers Bushman had given me. Tucked beneath the patents and company brochure material on weapons technology was a grainy photocopy of a UFO flying low over a straight stretch of desert road. A handwritten caption underneath identified the location as Santa Ana, California, and the date as 1966.
In 1965, according to his resume, Bushman was working as an engineer on the Redeye missile at General Dynamics at nearby Pomona, California.

This is all very interesting, but there is an obvious objection. Why would a heavily classified craft be tested in daylight from a Marine training base? One could theorize the craft was usually tested at night, but in this case went out of control in a daytime in-hangar test, and there was no choice but to let if fly out of the hangar on a course toward the usual landing test area?

Does the quick action of USAF investigators to discredit the photographs mean they were anxious to squelch the case to cover up the fact a classified craft had gotten loose? Can assertions by the Marines that nothing was tracked by radar be believed if this was the case? The Condon Report stated:

A check made by the Marine Corps investigators indicated that no UFO was observed on the Marine Corps Air Facility radar at the time of the reported UFO observation…the "Facility" referred to by the Air Force investigator is a relatively small base within direct sight of the Myford Road site, but contains only a sporadically used training radar installation. Marine officials interviewed 15 January 1968 were unable to determine whether radar was in service 3 August 1965.
One can wonder if it is fair to characterize a base with the some of the largest buildings in the world as a 'relatively small base'. Heflin himself noted the prevalence of Marine helicopter operations: "…the witness noted that nearby helicopters from the Marine Corps Air Facility could be heard, and that their noise could have drowned out sounds the UFO might have made…"

Even if the photographs were faked, we have an unusual interest from engineers in at least three aerospace companies in the event. Does this indicate there was industry scuttlebutt of some kind of a classified program with testing underway in Santa Ana…?

The Photographs

Conventional analysis has concentrated on the photographs. The official analyses concentrated on seeing if it was possible to fake the photographs, in which case they could be ignored as they proved nothing.

First up was US Air Force Foreign Technology Division "Photo Analysis Report 65-48" dated 14 August 1965. Controversially this report was dated one month before the photographs were made public. The Condon Report noted: "This raises the possibility, then, that without the knowledge of any of the principals, the Air Force was involved in the case less than two weeks after it happened… Officials of Project Blue Book informed the Colorado project in March 1968 that this question had been raised before, and that the Photo Analysis Report was in error, and that month should have read October".

Not mentioned but perhaps even more controversial was why FTD would be involved. At any rate, the report itself indicated that "…A test was conducted by the FTD Photo Analyst and Photo Processing personnel with the results shown on the attached photos… The object seen in the photographs was a 9" in diameter vaporizing tray, tossed in the air approximately 8 to 12 feet high at a distance from the camera of approximately 15 to 20 feet. The result of the test shows a surprising similarity between the object on the test photography and the object on photography."

The same figures appear in a Air Force release on 17 October 1965, except now they are characterized as coming from a careful analysis of the photo: "The camera was probably focused on a set distance and not on infinity as the terrain background was blurred… The center white stripe on the road and the object…have the same sharp image. Therefore it is believed that the object was on the same plane as the center white stripe (or closer) to the camera and could not possibly be the size quoted in the report. Using the width of the road as a factor, the size of the object was estimated to be approximately one to three feet in diameter and 15 to 20 feet above the ground." So it seemed that the rationale was 'backed into' based on a model test. In fact, examination of the photo does not show the background blurring the Air force statement alleged. Objects in the distance do fade into the haze, but they are not blurred.

The Condon Report did a different test: "In the course of my study I was able to simulate effectively the first three photographs by suspending a model [a camera lens cap] by a thread attached to a rod resting on the roof of a truck and photographing it. Without assuming the truth or untruth of the witness's story this has led me to conclude that the case is of little probative value…"

Both of these studies concluded that the photograph could be faked. However the methods and conclusions were different and contradictory. The Air Force used a thrown model 9" in diameter thrown 15 to 20 feet away, while the Condon investigator used a 3" lens cap suspended around 5 feet away. Normally a thrown object exhibits motion blur while a near object is out of focus if the background at infinity is in focus. However the Polaroid camera used had an uncommonly good depth of field and fast shutter speed (1/3000). It seems nothing in these analyses proved anything except that it was possible to make similar pictures using smaller nearby objects.

In 1967 researcher James McDonald believed the photographs represented a large, real object, except perhaps the last photograph of the smoke ring. McDonald became obsessed with studying how this photograph differed from the others, since if it was taken later at a different location in different weather, as he believed, it would undermine Heflin's credibility.

In 1975 an analysis concluded the photos were fake based on observation of a string supporting the object when the photos were enhanced. However this seems to have been an artifact in the particular copies of the photos analyzed. It does not appear in earlier or subsequent analyses of the original photos.

In 2000 a new digital analysis was conducted on the original Polaroid photos. This however emphasized enhancement by level equalization to bring out certain features on the base and exhaust from the object described by Heflin in his original description of the objects. No analysis was conducted on the distance of the object. A 'blur analysis' was promised for a second paper, still said to be forthcoming in 2006. However no such paper was ever produced, and in the meantime the originals have been withheld from research.

In 2005, a researcher noticed that the second and third Heflin photos could be considered as a single stereographic image since Heflin moved in the seat between the two images. Still some researchers didn't buy it or couldn't see it. Another look at this is provided below, which should convince skeptics.

By 2010 an acquaintance of Heflin named Edward Riddle reported that Heflin had told him that he had faked the photos using a model train wheel (Heflin was a known model train aficionado). Overlays of the photo with such wheels showed a good match.

A new examination by ufodna of the first photo considers the distance of the object according to the amount of haze. Items farther from a camera will generally have dimmer brights and lighter darks than those closer. A calibration is provided by the telephone poles, which are very dark indeed at the base; and the white stripe on the road median. Observing the darkest dark and lightest light at the distance of each pole provides a calibrated yardstick to measure the distance of other objects in the picture. The distance to the poles is known exactly thanks to the sketch of the site in the Condon report. The analysis proves the object is very close to the camera indeed:

Heflin Distance Analysis

An analysis of the parallax between the second and third pictures, similar to the 2005 3d image but showing the logic behind the conclusion, also proves without a doubt that the object was a small one, at the same distance from the camera as the rear view mirror:

Heflin Distance Analysis

The inevitable conclusion is the that Heflin photographs, as striking as they seem, and as sincere the photographer seemed, were fakes.

Now What?

So the photographs were evidently faked, but the sighting evoked extraordinary interest among aerospace contractors and many government agencies. Did Heflin accidentally initiate a hoax that seemed like a security breach to those who had a need to know about a government program?

Condon Report discussion: Case 52

Santa Ana, Calif.

August 1965

Investigator: Hartmann


While he was on duty, a Traffic Investigator observed that his two-way radio had been cut off just before a metallic-looking disk allegedly moved across the road in front of him. He took three photographs of the object before it moved off into the haze and emitted a ring of smoke. He drove down the road about a mile and photographed the smoke cloud. The evidence regarding the object's reality is inconclusive and internally inconsistent.


Date: 3 August 1965

Time: Approx. 12:37 p.m. PDT (Early reports give the time as 11:30 a.m. PDT. This was later corrected to 12:30 on the basis of studies of telephone pole shadows (6,8). The observer had no watch (8).

Position: Myford Road, Santa Ana, Calif., approx 0.3 miles southwest of the Santa Ana Freeway, ENE of the Santa Ana U.S.M.C. Air Facility and within the flight pattern of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

Terrain: Flat farmland.

Weather Conditions: Ground observer: No wind, "some haze overhead" (1). G.W. Kalstrom, Meteorologist-in-Charge at the Los Angeles Airport, wrote, "We do not have an observational report from Santa Ana at 11:30 AM…but from surrounding reports it would appear that the sky was hazy and the horizontal visibility was between 2 1/2 and 5 miles… reduced by haze and smoke. Earlier in the morning there had been low overcast conditions but these clouds had apparently dissipated leaving considerable haze." (2). The photographs suggest considerable haze or smog. The investigator visited the site on 9 September 1967 and found heavy smog, apparently comparable to that shown in the witness's photographs; visibility was estimated at one to two miles.

The following analysis of weather conditions is an independent study by Loren W. Crow, consulting meteorologist, Denver:


Hourly surface observations from--

El Toro Marine Base, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Burbank, Ontario, March AFB, and Norton AFB, California.

Early morning radiosonde and upper wind observations from--

San Diego, August 3, 1965, and Santa Monica, August 3, 1965.


The general weather situation during the forenoon hours of August 3, 1965, in southern California was made up of a stable air mass with onshore flow of air during the daylight hours and a low level inversion near the coast.

The air flow during the early morning hours was a light drainage wind from the land toward the coast. The inland stations of March Air Force Base and Norton Air Force Base near Riverside and San Bernadino respectively remained clear in the drier air over these stations. Ontario remained clear, but visibilities were less than three miles between 6 a.m. and 11:40 a.m. with a mixture of haze and smoke.

Ground fog and fog formed in the moist air at Burbank, Los Angeles International Airport, and El Toro Marine Corps Air Station during the hours of darkness just prior to sunrise. Overcast cloud cover with bases measuring from 300 to 600 feet were most common for near the coastal stations until after 8 a.m., when surface heating began to dissipate the cloud cover.

Between midnight and 4 a.m. the air flow at El Toro was from the east with velocities ranging from 2 to 4 mph. This was followed by a calm period lasting from 4:30 through 11 a.m. with only a brief period at 9 a.m. registering a velocity at 2 mph from the northwestimated

At Long Beach the airflow was primarily from the east southeast between midnight and 6 a.m. It gradually shifted through southerly directions and developed an onshore flow beginning at 10 a.m.

The direction of air flow at Los Angeles International Airport was quite variable between midnight and 6:30 a.m. Velocities were generally less than 5 mph with ten different directions being reported in this period. From 7 a.m. through midnight of the third, an onshore flow prevailed with the direction of flow being generally from 140 deg through 280 deg.

The dissipation of the fog and low cloud was directly related to the increase in surface temperature. Cloudiness would have disappeared earliest several miles inland from the coast and the cloudiness at any one point within 20 miles of the coastline would have gone from overcast to broken, then to scattered and finally to clear as heating took place near the earth's surface. Unfortunately, haze and smog increased and held surface visibilities to low values after the cloud cover had been dissipated by the warmer air.

The relationship between rising temperatures and the dissipation of cloud cover is well illustrated in the vertical cross sections shown in Figure 8 for the four stations nearest the coast. The time period covered by these cross sections is from 5 a.m. through noon. At the approximate time of the UFO sighting (11:30 a.m.), scattered clouds were still being observed at Los Angeles International Airport. Scattered stratus clouds at 1200 feet had been reported at the Long Beach airport at 11 a.m. but were not observed there at noon. The record does not indicate when they were last seen but their final disappearance would have been some time between 11 a.m. and noon.

Figure 8. Temp/Cloud Cover Diagrams


By 11:30 a.m. on August 3, 1965, all overcast cloud cover would have been limited to over-the-ocean or a very narrow belt of land area nearest the coast where the onshore flow of air could carry it before the heated land surface would cause dissipation. At the forward (landward) edge of the cloud mass the cloud cover condition would change rapidly from overcast to broken to scattered to clear. The small cloud parcels making up the scattered condition could have seemed to appear and disappear rapidly. The disappearance would have been caused by the change of state from liquid water to vapor as mixing with the surrounding warmer air took place.

The forward edge of the scattered cloud condition would have been limited to the coastal side of the Santa Ana Freeway and probably was at a distance of 4 to 8 miles from the sighting point. Surface visibility reported at both Long Beach and El Toro Marine Corps Air Station at 11 a.m. was limited to 5 miles. Thus, any clouds which may have been sighted could only have had a rather vague outline as seen several miles away through the haze.

Sky conditions inland from the Santa Ana Freeway are believed to have been totally cloud free at this time.

Sightings, General Information:

Setting. On 3 August 1965 the witness, Traffic Inspector Tech 2 for the Orange County Road Department, Calif. (1) was driving southwest on Myford Road in his official car, a Ford van bus (8,9), inspecting overhanging growth along the roadside. He proceeded southwest on Myford Road, turned around and drove slowly northeast , at about 5 mph along the right-hand shoulder of Myford Road, about 0.3 miles southwest of the Santa Ana Freeway (3).

Radio disturbance. At approximately 12:30 p.m. PDT (estimated P.E. plus or minus 10 min.) the witness began trying to contact Orange County Road Maintenance headquarters by radio. According to the witness, about three words were received by base station "8" on East Fruit Street after which "The radio went completely dead (l)." An Air Force investigator later recorded notes that the witness stated "that he had attempted to use his two-way radio once or twice just before he sighted the UFO and could neither transmit nor receive any signal although the radio panel lights indicated that the radio was operational. Detailed questioning indicated that this definitely occurred before the UFO sighting and not during the UFO sighting (5)."

Both the witness's supervisor (4), and the Road Maintenance Superintendent were in vehicles (3, 7c, 14h). The superintendent was located about 0.5-1.0 miles from the witness on the Santa Ana freeway, and states that he heard the witness trying to contact station "8." He heard the transmission begin, but after about three or four words there was a complete, sudden, sharp cutoff. He stated that the sudden cutoff was unlike normal radio interference or disturbance.

The cutoff he heard could not have been produced by simply switching off the truck radio (7c). The Santa Ana FCC Facility reported no UHF or VHF interference on this day (5).

Visual and photographic sighting; description of object. The witness states:

At this time, I became aware of the UFO, however I thought it was a conventional aircraft…The UFO moved from my left to in front of me and momentarily hovered there. At this time I grabbed the camera (semi-automatic-Model 101 Polaroid), from the seat of the truck and took the first photograph through the windshield of the truck.

The object then moved slowly off to the northeast. I then snapped the second picture through the right door window (window closed). This is when I saw the rotating beam of light emitting from the center of the UFO on the bottom side. [See below-WKH]

The UFO positioned itself to another angle of view and I snapped the third picture through the same side window as in picture two…

As the UFO traveled, it maintained a relatively level altitude (150 ft.) in relation to the flat terrain, however the UFO acted similar to a gyroscope when losing its stability. The UFO continued moving away slowly gaining altitude, tipped its top toward me slightly. It seemed to gain stability, then it increased its velocity (speed) and altitude more rapidly leaving a deposit of smoke-like vapor.

The smoke-like vapor was blue-black in color and circular in shape as though it had emitted from the outer ring of the UFO. This doughnut shaped vapor ring remained in the area in excess of thirty seconds. The UFO disappeared in a northern direction toward Saddleback Mountain (this is known on the maps as Santiago Peak and Modjeska) (1).

Plates 42, 43, 44 show the three photographs in the order mentioned above.

Plate 42: Santa Ana Photo 1

Plate 43: Santa Ana Photo 2

Plate 44: Santa Ana Photo 3

Although the above reference does not mention it, a fourth photograph (Plate 45), of the smoke cloud, was later produced by the witness. The earliest document mentioning this photograph is a report by the witness and a NICAP investigator (2), and a letter by a local member of NICAP (3), both dated 25 September 1965.

15-18 September 1965. On 15 September the witness was interviewed by reporter Frank Hall from the Santa Ana Register (9). According to Hall's recollection two years later, the witness brought his three prints to the paper on the next day. These prints, the witness said, were not originals, but Polaroid copies of the originals which had been made by the witness's close friend (7d). They were good copies in the sense that they filled most of the frame; the second showed the "rotating light beam (7d)." It is not clear which copies these were. On Friday, the newspaper staff visited the site (7d).

The Air Force chronology states that on or about 18 September the Santa Ana Register borrowed the three original prints from the witness, returned them to him, and published an article with one UFO picture on 20 September 1965 (5). This account is compatible with the reporter's recollection, except that he believes the photos were not originals.

Chief photographer of the Santa Ana Register gives a similar account of the meetings with reporters (3): "The first photographs I saw…were copies of the originals…To me the photos looked clear, with all parts of the picture being in focus from the windows and [rear-view] mirror to the UFO and then farther on down the road to the cars…As far as I could tell the photos were authentic and had not been altered in any way whatsoever."

During the newspaper interviews, the reporter recollects, the witness suggested a polygraph test, but wanted the Register to pay the cost. The newspaper management, however, refused (7d). The Marine report carries this account: "During the interview with the Register reporter, the question was asked whether [the witness] would submit to a polygraph examination, concerning the UFO. He stated that he would…only if the Register or someone put up $1,500.00 with no results guaranteed. [The witness] feels that from his experience as an investigator [sic] that the polygraph is not reliable enough and that if the examination turned out negative, it would endanger his job (9)." It is difficult to choose between these two accounts.

18 September 1965. The witness was "prevailed upon to allow the Santa Ana Register to make six sets of negatives from the original Polaroid prints. He watched while negatives were being made. These were cropped (12)." The NICAP chronology (12) dates this as 18 September. The reporter however, spoke of these pictures as the Polaroid copies, not the original prints (7d). Thus it is not at all clear that the Register negatives were made from the original Polaroid prints, although the witness insists that the negatives were made from his originals (14).

On the same day the El Toro Marine Air Station investigator then interviewed the witness at his residence (9, 5) .

20 September 1965 The Santa Ana Register carried an account of the witness's story with the first photo (5, 1, 12). The Bulletin, in Anaheim, also published at least one photograph (12). The Los Angeles NICAP Subcommittee first learned of the case on this day (12).

Two of the three photos were released by the Register to UPI (5).

The witness lent his prints to the Marine Corps investigator (12), who confirms that he did so without hesitation and without verifying the investigator's credentials or asking for a receipt (5). According to NICAP (12), these were the original prints. The Marine advised the witness "not to talk about his sighting (12)."

Among numerous telephone calls, the witness says he received two of special interest: one from a man who identified himself as a colonel attached to NORAD, the other from a man who identified himself as a representative of the Boeing Airplane Co. (5,12). The first caller allegedly asked the witness "to refrain from further comment until they have an opportunity to discuss the matter with him." A tentative date for the discussion [was] set for September 22 -- but no more was ever heard from the 'colonel' (12). The other man identified himself as an "engineer with the L.A. office of Boeing Aircraft… not representing Boeing, but personally interested, [he] asked that his name not be mentioned or the fact that he had phoned. He also suggested that it might be better if [the witness] did not talk about the case (12)." These calls are described in the same way in the Air Force report (5), though in less detail. Source (1) also describes the "NORAD" call, placing it between 18 and 25 September.

20 September to 21 September 1965. The witness received a number of calls in this period, in addition to the two described above. These included apparent hoax calls and two bomb threats (5). A letter came from a vice-president of McDonnell Aircraft, St. Louis, requesting technical information (7f).

21 September 1965. The Santa Ana Register "reported that [the witness] had been 'muzzled' by the government. Dale Kindschy of the Public Affairs Office at NORAD's Colorado Springs headquarters said "We can find no one in our organization who contacted [the witness.] This wouldn't normally be in our scope anyway." Col. D. R. Dinsmore, Air Force public information officer in the Pentagon, said, "We have not yet confirmed that [the witness] was contacted by one of our people, but it would be normal procedure if they had (12)."

The fourth (smoke ring) photograph. The witness mentioned the fourth (smoke ring) photo to very few people up to this point in the chronology. The witness indicated the UFO merely left the area, toward the NE. One reporter recalls his saying that it went off to the right of the road (7d). The Marine report, apparently based on the interview of 18 September (although not prepared and dated until 22 September) says merely that "the object accelerated eastward toward the Saddleback mountains…he lost sight of the object due to the haze and distance (9)." The report carries only the first three photos. It would appear unlikely that the Marine report would have omitted an incident so remarkable as the "smoke ring cloud" had it been mentioned during the interview of 18 September, or during the transfer of the photographs on 20 September.

22 September 1965. The Marine Corps G-2 investigators returned the original prints (5) and obtained a signed receipt of return (12).

Later in the evening according to the witness, (source 12 places it two or three hours after the photos were returned) "two men, claiming to be from NORAD, arrived at the witness's home and asked to borrow the original Polaroid prints. They showed identification cards identical in appearance to those shown to him by the El Toro Marines. The witness turned the photos over to them. These three original Polaroid prints have never been returned (12)."

The Air Force account of the witness's version of this incident on 23 September is substantially the same, except that the witness mentioned only one visitor: ". . .on the evening of 22 September a man in civilian clothing visited his house, flashed an identification card, and announced that he was 'an investigator from the North American Defense Command.' [The witness] said that he did not examine the man's credentials closely but recalled that the man's I.D. card was in a special card case about 4" x 5" and that the single I.D. card appeared to consist of two sections--the upper half being orange or pink in color, and the lower half being blue or blue-green in color in the dimness of the porch light. [The witness] stated that he gave the original prints of the photographs to this man, again without receipt (he being a trusting soul), and assumed that he would eventually get the pictures back."

On 15 January 1968, the witness insisted that there had been two men (14).

The original photographs are unrecovered. The fourth "original" was lent to a NICAP investigator and eventually misplaced. A later investigation by NORAD resulted in a denial that any official of theirs had visited the witness. The witness's description of the I.D. card was likened to a gasoline credit card (11).

Some time on 22 September apparently in the evening after the photos had been surrendered, a NICAP member interviewed the witness. Neither this investigator nor any other NICAP member ever saw the three original photos.

Comment on the "NORAD visitors." The fact that on the day following the alleged visit of the NORAD officers, an Air Force investigator would leave with the clearly recorded impression (5) that only one man had visited the witness is of special interest. Further, a NICAP report dated 25 September 1965, signed by the witness, declares that "a man with a briefcase later called…and said he was…and that he would like to see… [The witness] agreed to loan the pictures to him providing he would…(2, my emphasis W.K.H.).

An attempt to clarify this on 15 January 1968 (14) was made by asking the witness in essence "Why is it that you are now clear on there having been two NORAD visitors, while on the very next day the Air Force man came away with the idea that a man came up and flashed his card…?"

He immediately replied in effect that only one man showed his card. He repeated that there were two men, in their early thirties, but that one stood back while the other did most of the talking. Since two independent reports from the next three days clearly indicate one visitor, while the witness has since insisted there were two, the "NORAD episode" is still regarded as open to serious question.

J. E. McDonald (15) has found an additional discrepancy concerning the "NORAD visitors." In 15 January 1967 discussions with Dr. McDonald and the Colorado investigator, the witness repeated that the I.D. cards shown him had no photographs of the bearers, although he described them as like those of personnel from El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. McDonald has learned from official sources that all I.D. cards carried photographs at this time. Indications are that if the two visitors did exist in fact, they were imposters.

25 September 1965. A letter dated 25 September to NICAP in Washington D.C. accompanying supplementary notes contained the first NICAP reference to the smoke ring photograph: "One item of interest is, that [the witness] retained what he calls his ACE IN THE HOLE. A fourth picture. This picture shows clearly the vapor ring that was left by the UFO. [The witness] asked me to keep this information in confidence the night of the interview, however, if nothing came of the mysterious phone call asking [the witness] not to speak, then I would be allowed to pass on this information with a copy of the picture (2)."

A Los Angeles NICAP official wrote to NICAP headquarters: "You will see that there is a fourth photo: the smoke ring. I don't know what [the witness's] motive was in holding this picture back in the beginning. Perhaps he thought it was unimportant--and as time went on and the furor began, he hesitated to complicate the situation further and cause more problems for himself. -- He seems to be sick of the publicity and this weekend is moving and getting a new telephone number."

"Blaring headlines (12)" in most local newspapers announce "AIR FORCE LAUNCHES COUNTY UFO PROBE."

Further comment on the fourth (smoke ring) photograph. We have already seen that (the witness) was allegedly somewhat hesitant in showing the smoke ring photo when he returned to the road department office on 3 August and that he did not mention the smoke ring in early talks with the Marines or the Santa Ana Register. During the early NICAP interview the presence of a fourth photo was not recorded, although the ring was apparently mentioned. During the Air Force interview, the witness not only did not mention the smoke ring or fourth photo, but gave a somewhat different description of the disappearance of the UFO. The Air Force account states: "Just after taking the third picture… [the witness] heard a vehicle approaching from the rear. Concerned that he might have parked in an awkward position, he turned around to see if there was enough road clearance for the vehicle to pass him. Noting that he was on the shoulder of the road, he immediately turned again to look at the UFO but found that it had 'disappeared into the haze' (5)." This is the only account that mentions a diversion by another vehicle. It has been suggested by a NICAP member that this was probably a falsehood. On 5 June 1967 (7a) the witness said he had been advised by NICAP to withhold information from the Air Force to this end. An attempt was made to check this discrepancy in more detail on 15 January 1968 (14) by asking if the incident about the approaching vehicle had been manufactured as a cover for the fourth photo, and the witness denied that he had fabricated any of the testimony to the Air Force. He did not remember any passing vehicle, however (14).

27 September 1965. The witness sought advice from County District Attorney, Kenneth Williams, regarding the harassment resulting from the UFO report and publicity (12).

4 October 1965. NICAP headquarters received a preliminary report from their photo analyst, Ralph Rankow, supporting the authenticity of the sighting.

A Saturday in mid-October (7f). The witness, a geodetic engineer, and two NICAP investigators visited the alleged site of the smoke ring photo and "identified the part of the tree appearing in the lower left corner of the picture (7f)." Additional measures and photographs were taken for the purpose of establishing the geometry of the sighting (12).

Clearly, the first allegation is of extreme importance, since the existence of such a peculiar vortex smoke ring above Myford Road, if it could be established from photo four, would be strong evidence in favor of the UFO report. As can be seen in Plate 45, very few physical details (part of a tree and a wire), are available to confirm the Myford Road location of Plate 45. With this in mind, on 15 January 1968 J. E. McDonald, R. Nathan, the Colorado investigator, questioned one of the NICAP investigators in detail about the identification of the tree. It became quite clear that the witness had taken them to the site, and that they had come away convinced by the gross geometry that this was indeed where photo four had been made. This is easy to do: having picked one of the several trees as the one in the photo, one can pick the "spot" within a few feet, using the parallax of the tree and wire (Plate 46). However, it was also clear that the NICAP men and the geodetic engineer had not carried out the extremely critical procedure of comparing the tree, branch by branch and twig by twig, with that on the photograph, and that on geometric grounds it could not be said that it was absolutely certain that the photograph was made on Myford Road. As the NICAP man has pointed out (7f), "trees along the road have since been trimmed back," and it is no longer possible to perform this test.

17 October 1965. The U.S. Air Force released an official statement disputing the UFO's dimensions as estimated by the witness (12), reading in part: "The…evaluation…is based on enlargements made from copies of the original prints. Although it is not possible to disprove the size of the object from the camera information submitted, it is the opinion of the Air Force that the following is the true case.

"The camera was probably focused on a set distance and not on infinity as the terrain background was blurred… The center white stripe on the road and the object…have the same sharp image. Therefore it is believed that the object was on the same plane as the center white stripe (or closer) to the camera and could not possibly be the size quoted in the report. Using the width of the road as a factor, the size of the object was estimated to be approximately one to three feet in diameter and 15 to 20 feet above the ground (3)."

The statement appears to be based on, and quotes almost directly from, an internal U.S.A.F. "Photo Analysis Report 64-48" requested by Project Blue Book (10). The only significant additional information in the analysis is a final paragraph describing an experiment to reproduce the Santa Ana photos. "A test was conducted by the FTD Photo Analyst and Photo Processing personnel with the results shown on the attached photos… The object seen in the photographs was a 9" in diameter vaporizing tray, tossed in the air approximately 8 to 12 feet high at a distance from the camera of approximately 15 to 20 feet. The result of the test shows a surprising similarity between the object on the test photography and the object on [the witness] photography (10) ."

On 27 October 1965, Maj. Hector Quintanilla, Jr., of Project Blue Book, told the Santa Ana Register that the Air Force had "classified it as a photographic hoax on the basis of extensive photo analysis (12)." Ralph Rankow, NICAP's photo analyst, immediately announced strong disagreement with the Air Force analysis.

1 November 1965. On the basis of analyses by Rankow and Don Berliner (an aviation magazine photographer in Washington, D.C.) NICAP issued a press release calling the Air Force "hoax" classification "an insult to the intelligence of the public… [The witness] holds a responsible position and has suffered considerable embarrassment upon being accused of being a hoaxer, without evidence… We welcome independent analysis of the photographs by a qualified expert… Our own photographic advisers have found no evidence of trickery, but if someone else can find such evidence, we would like to settle the matter, one way or the other (12)."

9 December 1965. The Santa Ana Register quotes a letter from Air Force Col. William E. Poe to Rep. Alphonzo Bell (R-Santa Monica, Calif.) stating "We have not classified the photograph as a hoax (12)."

According to the witness, on 11 October 1967, during the period when our own investigation was beginning, an officer in Air Force uniform came to the witness's home in the evening and presented his credentials. Mindful of past experience, the witness studied them carefully. They gave the name Capt. C. H. Edmonds, of Space Systems Division, Systems Command. The witness reported this encounter within a few days to NICAP; he was sure about the rank and spelling of the name (14).

The man allegedly asked a number of questions, including "Are you going to try to get the originals back?" The witness claims that the man appeared visibly relieved when the witness replied "No." The "officer" also assertedly asked what the witness knew about the "Bermuda triangle" (an area where a number of ships and an aircraft have been lost since the 1800s) (14).

This alleged encounter took place at dusk on the front porch. During the questioning, the witness says he noted a car parked in the street with indistinct lettering on the front door. In the back seat could be seen a figure and a violet (not blue) glow, which the witness attributed to instrument dials. He believed he was being photographed or recorded. In the meantime, his FM multiplex radio was playing in the living room and during the questioning it made "several loud audible pops (14)."

In order to investigate this report, NICAP sent a letter to "Capt. C. H. Edmonds," Space Systems Division (the office from which the original Air Force investigating officer had come), but received no reply. Robert Nathan, an independent investigator, phoned and talked to people who remembered the original Air Force investigator of 1965 but could not identify "Edmonds." Robert J. Low of the Colorado project obtained from the Air Force data on officers of similar name.

The list contained four "C. H. Edmonds," but none with the correct rank and spelling. All were of rather high rank and none should have had any connection with the Santa Ana case (14).

The significance of this report is still unclear but suggestive.

Other alleged inquiries. During an interview with the witness, 15 January 1968, he indicated that he believes his phone had been tapped, that many friends had reported they could not reach him on occasion, and that the phone company found that only his wires had been tampered with. He also stated that on three or four occasions his neighbors had advised him that men in military uniform had come to his door during the day, when he was not there.


Rather than recount in detail the long series of interviews, experiments, and questions that were involved in analyzing the Santa Ana case, only the value of the case in terms of the UFO problem and the possible reality of extraordinary flying objects will be considered here.

From the point of view of the Colorado study the principal question of concern is: does a case have probative value in establishing the reality of unusual aircraft? In a case like this, where both the observer and photographs clearly allege an extraordinary vehicle, a second question is, of course, automatically implied: does the case represent a fabrication or was the object a true unknown? But it is not in general our purpose to make a judgment on that question. We are concerned only with establishing evidence as to whether or not there exist extraordinary flying objects.

In that context, this case is equivocal.

In the course of my study I was able to simulate effectively the first three photographs by suspending a model by a thread attached to a rod resting on the roof of a truck and photographing it (Plate 47). Without assuming the truth or untruth of the witness's story this has led me to conclude that the case is of little probative value.

Plate 47: Suspended lens cap


The evidence for the reality of the UFO is not sufficiently strong to have probative value in establishing the existence of extraordinary flying objects. The strongest arguments against the case are the clouds in photo four and the inconsistent early records regarding the "NORAD" visitors. The photos themselves contain no geometric or physical data that permit a determination of distance or size independent of the testimony. Thus the witness's claims are the essential ingredients in the case. The case must remain inconclusive.

Although the authenticity of the UFO in this case is still open to question owing to internal inconsistencies in the early testimony, and inconsistency of the photographs and weather data, this case is still held to be of exceptional interest because it is so well documented. This is a result of early attention from the U. S. Marine Corps, the U. S. Air Force, NICAP and the press. Regardless of the existence or non-existence of extraordinary flying objects, this case supplies good documentation of the dealings between our society and a man who claims to have seen one.

Hynek rating: CE2
Vallee rating: MA2
Vallee reliability rating: 343
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Sources: 17; 45; 55; 69; 73; 81; 84; 104; 105; 109; 125; 145; 156; 184; 196; 197; 222; 250; 265; 305; 429; 473; 521; 563; 588; 615; 676