By Marlena Hartz : CNJ staff writer
Thirty years after UFOs were reportedly sighted hovering over Clovis skies, another photograph of the event has surfaced.
A UFO researcher said this week he has a photo — albeit fuzzy — of a tubular shaped craft that danced above Clovis on Jan. 21, 1976.
Canadian resident Brian Vike said he obtained the photo about a week ago from a former Eastern New Mexico University journalism student.
Vike would not reveal the identity of that photographer, but said his source was threatened in 2004 after discussing the events on a radio talk show.
“His attitude now is ‘people need to know.’ And ‘if anything happens to my family, people definitely need to know,’” Vike said.
Vike plans to post the photograph on his Web site, www.hbccufo.org. He is also searching for more eyewitness accounts of the events.
“I want to try to figure out what these people are seeing,” said Vike, who said he has investigated scores of reports of UFO sightings.
“We don’t have the answer: Is there life out there?”
Another photo of a UFO sighted in Clovis that same week appeared in the Jan. 23 edition of the Clovis News Journal. That photo, which shows a lightning-like streak in the sky in the shape of a telephone receiver, was taken by amateur astronomer Steve Muscato.
Muscato, who now lives in Las Vegas, Nev., remembers the reported sightings caused quite a stir.
“I received dozen of calls from all over the country,” said Muscato, who took the photograph through a window from the top floor of the Clovis Hotel.
“I honestly thought it was Saturn,” recalled Muscato, who was a high school senior at the time. Muscato said he checked with a noted astronomer, who told him Saturn would not have been visible at that time.
To this day Muscato’s not sure what he saw that night.
“I remember him coming home all excited,” said Frank Muscato, Steve’s father, who then owned a doughnut store at 14th and Mitchell. “The only thing I was concerned about was whether (the UFOs) wanted carry-out doughnuts.”
The elder Muscato said the buzz in town lasted awhile.
“Everybody was excited about it,” Muscato said. “All the major networks were in town and they were all on the top of Hotel Clovis.”
A document from the National Military Command Center confirms UFO sightings on Jan. 21, 1976, but does not offer an explanation as to the origin of the crafts.
“Two UFOs are reported near the flight line at Cannon AFB, New Mexico,” the document reads. “Security Police observing them reported the UFOs to be 25 yards in diameter, gold or silver in color with a blue light on top, a hole in the middle, and red light on bottom.”
The Military Command document on Cannon is lumped in with 11 other declassified, military reports of UFO sightings which occurred across the nation near military installations, and in Iran, from 1975 and 1976.
Following the Jan. 21 UFO sightings in Clovis, other strange events were reported in the area, according to the CNJ.
UFO sightings continued in Clovis for the next two days, according to CNJ archives. On Jan. 22, 1976, the strange objects zipped around Cannon F-111s that were sent into the air to investigate them, according to testimony that appears on Vike’s Web site. The objects darted out of the reach of the jets, cutting through the air at 90-degree angles, and racing at phenomenal speeds, the Web site reads.
A CNJ staff writer reported seeing 23 UFOs, sliding in and out of complex formations, the next night.
Also, an unexplained circle was burned into the ground of a New Mexico ranch and a cylindrical object of unknown origin was discovered in the grass in the days following the initial UFO sightings, according to CNJ archives.
Several UFO investigative teams, including Project Starlight International, swarmed into Clovis after the sightings, according to CNJ archives. But most concluded that the sightings were likely a result of a weather inversion, or some other weather phenomenon. One suggested they could have been glimpses of a planet.
Clovis resident John Fondrick was a senior in high school when the UFOs were sighted and a series of articles on the events appeared in the CNJ. He said he doesn’t recall seeing the mysterious crafts. He and his friends attempted numerous sky vigils atop Hotel Clovis, but were always intercepted by police, he said.
At the time of the alleged sightings, Clovis resident Bill Gaedke was an advisor to the commander of the 27th Fighter Wing. He spent six years stationed at the base and retired in 1979 as a chief master sergeant, he said.
“I didn’t hear anything about (the UFOs). I vaguely recall something about the crop circles, but I couldn’t relate the details,” he said.
The deputy chief of Cannon Public Affairs, 1st Lt. James Nichols, said the base could provide “no information” on the UFO sightings of 1976, or on whether or not there have been subsequent UFO sightings around Cannon since.
Several other longtime area residents contacted for the story said they were either unaware of the reports or had no first hand knowledge.