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(originally published Oct 2009)

New investigation reveals that the likely culprits behind the Socorro UFO hoax in 1964 were part of a highly secret group of student pranksters at New Mexico Tech. It is now learned that so extreme were some of these Techie "pranks" during the 1960s that they even caused physical endangerment. One especially sophisticated UFO hoax at that time led to the severe reprimand by U.S. military base officials of a Techie whose prank had caused the emergency scrambling of jet interceptors! This intensely private group existed at the College under various code names and leaders for decades.


A co-conspirator to many hoaxes at NM Tech in the 1960s now details the remarkable "flying saucers" that were created by students during that time- and how they were made. A former Techie prankster offers a stunning clue about the true nature of the "aliens" sighted by Officer Lonnie Zamora. Other "insider insight" provided by NM Tech alumni furthers the case that the Socorro UFO was one of the most extraordinarily engineered hoaxes in history. This "extreme prankster" cabal reflects a technological "caper culture" that was unique in all the world and that has remained hidden- until now.


Officer Zamora (left) examines landing site with USAF

In April of 1964, Socorro Police Officer Lonnie Zamora reported sighting a landed craft outside of town. In pursuit of a speeder, Zamora was diverted by an explosion he had heard that led him over a hill. There he viewed an egg-shaped 20 foot craft the color of "aluminum white" that was "smooth" and which had a red insignia or emblem on its side. Zamora reported two small figures clad in white nearby the craft. Zamora says that the figures "jumped from view" and the craft rose with a roar and out of view.

In an earlier article by this author that can be viewed here, the discovery of a letter was related. It was written by Nobel-Laureate Dr. Linus Pauling. The letter was found buried within the Pauling Archives at Oregon State University, and was addressed to Dr. Stirling Colgate, President of NM Tech in Socorro in the 1960s, Los Alamos legend and associate of such

luminaries as Oppenheimer and Teller. At the bottom of the letter, Colgate wrote back to his friend Pauling (who had taken an interest in the case) explaining that the Socorro UFO sighting was a hoax that "was engineered by a student who has left the college."


In an email to this author written 40 years after his reply to Dr. Pauling, Dr. Colgate (who still maintains a Los Alamos office at age 84) confirmed the letter's authenticity and then stated a bit more:


  • He knew the event to have been a prank. He called it a "no brainer"

  • One of the pranksters was in fact a personal friend of his

  • That friend and the other students "didn't want their covers blown"

  • He would see if they would now come forward


Dr. Colgate had no idea that his knowledge of the incident would be made public many decades later. He would never have imagined that his private communication to Pauling would be openly revealed. He was "caught" by me and had no choice but to reply- sparingly. Dr. Colgate is not "guessing" about this- a friend of his is one of the hoaxers. He writes with the certainty of a scientist. He is either 1) a liar 2) believes liars or 3) is telling the truth. There really is very little "wiggle" room to draw any other conclusion. I do not believe that Colgate would lie to his associate Pauling- and continue to lie about this to me in the winter of his life- if it were not true. And why would his personal friend (himself now elderly) continue to lie over decades to Colgate that he "and others" were the hoaxers? That leaves us only with option number 3- Colgate is telling the truth.


Two other noted NM Techies, Dr. Frank Etscorn (who is the inventor of the Nicotine Patch) and Dave Collis (who directed NM Tech's renowned Energetics Lab) related their understanding- gained from their lengthy time at NM Tech- that the Socorro UFO was in fact a student-perpetuated hoax.


Etscorn's grad student (for a credit project to study the incident) had located a suspected hoaxer who admitted the prank but would not allow use of his name. Collis was told in 1965 in confidence by his trusted NM Tech Professor that the famous sighting of a landed UFO in Socorro from the year before was a hoax devised by a Techie prankster. Collis explained that this was not his Professor's "guess"- the Professor had personal knowledge of the perpetrators. Only 45 years later did Collis break the confidence to tell what he learned from his Professor.




As a vocal advocate of ET visitation, this author struggled with release of this information. I did not look for this story, it fell upon me when I discovered Linus Paulings's archived secret UFO studies. I did not intend on dousing this campfire story. It is hoped that in reporting this, readers understand that I am simply following the evidence where it takes me. I am obligated to report what I find and have no "hidden agenda." I remain firm in my conviction that life from elsewhere visits Earth. But I am also firm in my conviction that many UFO researchers simply do not appreciate the extent and sophistication with which UFOs are pranked by our nation's college youth. This was especially true in the 1960s at places like NM Tech.



John W. Shipman came to NM Tech in the summer of 1966 as a Freshman. John- an admitted serial prankster- remains so enamored of his college experience that he recounts events of the time in an online blog. John offers keen observations about this most unique school in the mid-1960s: "The spirit of technological uproar rubbed off on the students. With limited opportunities for recreation, the happiest students were the ones that made their own fun."

John mentions his accomplices to hoaxes- with code names "Joe Hat" and "Harry Hat." Both he says, were extremely competent with electronics. Shipman says, "They were nerds long before the term was invented." Shipman says that during that summer, the Hats bought a surplus radar and began working on it. The school paper featured them on the cover with the caption, "They've Landed." Harry had found out that jets from


Holloman AFB often used Socorro Peak as a radar target for simulated bombing runs. Apparently the Hats were able to devise a jamming device and then left it on a nearby mountain to the base. Shipman says that the bombing scores "all went to hell" because of this jamming device. Shipman explains that the Air Force had tracked down the problem. As Shipman understands, two MPs came into the Tech classrooms and physically hauled Harry to the Base Commander. After over an hour of scolding, an officer admitted to Harry Hat that, after graduation, he would like to hire Harry because he was better at radar research than most of his people at the base!


Shipman recounts that "Harry also experimented with making Flying Saucers, a popular diversion for dorm residents." He says that an even more impressive student-made "saucer" was "specifically designed to upset the folks at White Sands." Shipman explains, "The envelope was a surplus weather balloon filled with natural gas. The payload consisted of a highway flare, a hundred-foot surveyors measuring tape made of steel, and a long fuse. The measuring tape was weighted at one end, rolled up and secured with a piece of waxed string. After the prevailing wind had blown the balloon out over the north end of the range, the fuse burned to the end and lit the highway flare and burned the string around the steel tape. The radar operators were rather upset when a hundred-foot long radar target appeared suddenly on their screens. They scrambled several interceptor jets. The interceptors never found what they were looking for."


Though Shipman came to NM Tech a couple of years after the Socorro UFO event, the information he provides is invaluable in understanding how such a thing could have ever happened. From Shipman we learn that in the 1960s, Techies were making "Flying Saucers" that even fooled military men. This brand of brilliant "merry pranksters" was of an entirely different order found at other schools, then or now.


The Techies of the 1960s were so "ballsy" and rebellious- and had such little regard for safety or legality- that they would even jam sensitive radar and disrupt military exercises! To cause a "hub-bub" with town cop Zamora paled by comparison!


New Mexico Tech logo

Mr. Thomas Jones graduated from NM Tech with a degree in Physics. For a period of time in the 1980s and 1990s, Tom led a closed group of Techie pranksters called "Stealth Beta Force." The group's "memorial site" can be viewed at or simply Google keywords 'Stealth Force Beta'. His site is an extraordinary read. The complexity and technical sophistication of the pranks he and his team accomplished is nothing short of astonishing. The organization had rules, code names and a "magician's code" of secrecy. It's an illusion, but never own up to it- and never tell how it is done, that is how they worked.


Jones's time at NM Tech was years removed from the Socorro event. But he is considered even today by the NM Tech Public Information Office to be the foremost expert on the history and breadth of NM Tech pranking. We gain needed insight into that unusual and special world by listening to Jones.


We learn from him that such hoaxing at NM Tech was a pastime from the school's very inception, up through his time at the school. Jones indicates that today such physical pranking has given way to "digital pranking." Though such grand physical pranks are rarer on campus now, the spirit of the prank remains in digital form. The "glory years" of such physical pranks ran from the 1960s through the early 1990s. There is a certain "camaraderie through the generations" when it comes to such Techie pranking. There is silent homage given by pranksters today at the school to the illustrious who walked those same prankster steps at NM Tech before them. Like a geek "Skull and Bones" society, these Techies made tight, secret circles.


Tom said to me that- given his intimate understanding of the school and his inside knowledge of the institution of pranking there- "I think it is highly likely that Tech students hoaxed the Socorro UFO incident." Tom adds cryptically, "and there was institutional memory of the Socorro UFO hoaxers at NM Tech."


We can all learn from Tom's instructive ideas on how this event happened: "If you haven't lived in the environment of a top-tier science school, it may be very difficult to understand the culture. You get used to weird things happening all of the time. Students built long-range water cannons, explode bombs made of butane and model rocket engines, build colossal armor-piercing toys, and handle radioactive rocks- just because it's interesting. And that's only the tip of the iceberg." He says, "Many pranks are deliberately configured to appear that they were done by others- rival schools or space aliens." Retaliation is often a motive, he explained. Zamora was intensely disliked by students at the school at the time.


He adds that NM was a strange and wondrous place "for a kid from Maryland." Even the landscape lent itself to thinking about the surface of other celestial bodies. Space pranks were a natural at a place like Tech, he says. Tom says that the school is very small, very protective of its own and that "outsiders" simply cannot ever understand the intense techno-geek culture that would lead to such a prank as the Socorro UFO. They cannot appreciate the psychology of these closed circles of "brilliant and bored kids" who loved to fool the foolish.


Speaking more specifically of Socorro, Tom says that one of the things that frustrates him is that people have the idea that the area is flat and featureless, leaving no possibility for escape of the hoaxsters. But Tom says that the area is in fact filled with arroyos, rolling and rocky hillettes, and large brush and shrub. He told of a pastime at Tech- playing "hide and seek" in the maze of such arroyos outside town. Staying out of view of others out there was easy, he says.


Tom also explained certain elements of the Socorro UFO mystery that can be accounted for by campus-based activities:


Weather balloon

It was enlightening to learn from Tom that in the 1960s NM Tech was looking for funded research opportunities "on the cheap." They wanted to expand their mining and geology science programs to include the Atmospheric Sciences. The decision was made to create within the Physics Department a much more formalized group to study Atmospheric Physics. Graduate degrees in the discipline would now be offered and grants would actively be sought for such research. The school would obtain military funding and expand its work in the field. It received an incredibly vast array of balloons and floating devices that were used in weather, radar and related research.

By 1964, the College had every type of "inflatable" available in the world at the time. This new influx of balloons, gases and inflatable materials was known to have been a "new source for play" for these 1960s student scientists. Tom said that without doubt these advanced inflatables caught the attention of the prank-minded.



Tom gives a hint about the "aliens" that were viewed by Lonnie. Zamora described the two "beings" walking outside the craft as:


  • Short in stature (the size of boys or small adults)

  • Clad in white "coveralls"

  • Of "normal shape" (like a human)


Tom and I discussed what could possibly account for such a strange sight. The explanation -though unfamiliar to Zamora- was very "down to earth." Early laboratory outerwear very much resembles today's lab suits. From head to foot they cover laboratory workers in white, appearing like space-age attire. They are used to help prevent contamination of the individual- and the specimens- when conducting laboratory experiments. Radiological suits (as were found at NM Tech in the 60s) were even more elaborate affairs.

Lab suits

Examine the photo to the left. Squint while viewing and move back a bit from the screen- Lonnie was at a distance from the craft. Remove your eyeglasses if you have them- Lonnie lost his. Note the shortest figure in the middle. Is this an "alien" - or is it a "short in stature" student scientist of "normal shape" who is clad in "white coveralls" as described by Lonnie Zamora? Next try covering up the other figures in the picture with your hands so that only the middle figure remains in view. Squint and place yourself a distance from the screen. The "alien"- precisely as described by Zamora- will appear even more vividly.


In a future article I hope to conclusively identify the white-clad students who walked the arroyos outside Socorro in 1964- fooling a town, a nation and the world for decades.

Early Photo of Physics Lab Techies
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