Original Air Date: Sunday Nov. 07, 1999
The skies over Lubbock, Texas produced a sensation around the world for a few weeks in 1951 after residents reported a series of UFO sightings that still defy explanation.
Beginning Aug. 25, a strange line of bluish lights were seen flying swiftly over the town.
The first people to see the so-called Lubbock Lights were four college professors from Texas Tech University. They attempted to study what they'd seen (without much success) but concluded, in the end, that the lights were under intelligent control.
"We're not talking about the flying saucer lunatic fringe here. We're talking about professional people who were apparently impressed enough by what they'd seen to go out and try to observe them under scientific conditions," said Roswell, New Mexico college professor and photo analyst Dr. Donald Burleson.
Back in 1951, no one in Lubbock had a home video camera. But an 18-year-old college freshman named Carl Hart was a budding still photographer who was just about to go to bed when he saw the Lubbock Lights.
"Just grabbed my camera, set the exposure at where I wanted it and ran back outside, and waited. Then two more flights came over. I think I got two pictures of one and three of the other," Hart said. "When I first processed them I didn't think I had a thing until I really examined them closely because they didn't take up a lot of room on the negative."
Hart took the photos to his Boy Scout leader, who contacted a reporter for the local newspaper, which eventually published them -- but only after Hart endured the first in a series of grillings.
"Talked to the people at the Avalanche Journal. They were pretty skeptical. Then after they published, first it was the Air Force," Hart said.
Local Air Force investigators turned Hart over to higher-ups from out of town and eventually to FBI agents.
"It was pretty intense questioning. They went over and over my story, I guess, trying to catch me in being inconsistent but apparently they were satisfied, eventually,"
Life magazine published a lengthy article in the spring of 1952. Over the years a number of independent studies were conducted.
After decades of intense scrutiny there is no reason to believe Carl Hart faked anything. His photos are still among the most remarkable and vexing in UFO history. The government's official report was released in late 1951. Its conclusion: Carl Hart captured on film highly-reflective duck bellies.
"Very clearly, this imaging shows that these are not birds," Burleson said.
Burleson, with advanced degrees in mathematics and literature, conducted an intensive computer analysis of Hart's photographs.
"This is, in my estimation, the most spectacular of the photographs. It shows a regular flotilla of 18 large disc-like objects in the sky … I'm inclined to think that these objects may well each have been in excess of 200 feet in diameter," he said.
Burleson also said the objects Hart photographed display what appear to be structures on the undersides that may link them to whatever crashed in nearby Roswell, New Mexico four years earlier.
"A kind of cell-like or beehive structure underneath, which is kind of interesting because it matches nicely with witness descriptions of the Roswell object," Burleson said.
"I think he simply photographed something anomalous in the sky and was treated, frankly, pretty shabbily for his trouble."
Carl Hart has never sought fame or fortune from the photos he took -- just the opposite.
"Got to the point -- just as soon pass on it. Something comes up, I'd just as soon ignore it," Hart said. "I guess there's a group of people that still feels anybody who sees a UFO is some kind of nutcase. I get put in that category part of the time. Part of the people think anything like that has to be faked, so I get a little bit of that."
Even the government's analysis (some of it declassified years later) concluded there was no evidence of a hoax -- that the negatives had not been retouched -- that the lights were brighter than stars and the objects changed position in the formation.
So what was it that Hart and dozens of others witnessed in the skies over Lubbock so many years ago? He is as baffled as the rest of us.
"It's something that's unsolved," Hart said. "I would love to know what they were but after this period of time, I don't think I ever will."
KDFW FOX 4
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