The death of a horse was popularly believed to be related to UFO sightings, but professional investigation disclosed nothing unusual in the condition of the carcass. No significant conclusions could be derived from numerous reports of UFO sightings.
During the early fall, 1967, news of a series of events that were popularly held to be related filtered in to the Colorado project. One such event had been the death of a horse under allegedly mysterious circumstances a month before. This death had become associated in the public mind with recent UFO sightings in the area.
The horse, owned by a woman and pastured on her brother's ranch, had not come in for water one day and had been found dead two days later. It was reported that all the flesh and skin had been removed from his head and neck down to a straight cut just ahead of the shoulder, and that crushed vegetation, strange depressions in the ground, and dark "exhaust marks" had been found nearby. The owner of the horse was a correspondent for a local newspaper, and a spate of releases had rapidly inflated public interest in the case.
When, a few days later, word came through that a second dead horse had been found, amid persistent rumors of unreported UFOs, it was decided that project investigators should go to the area.
The area about the carcass had been trampled by several hundred visitors. The investigators therefore considered it was not worthwhile to try to investigate anything at the site except the carcass. When they learned that no veterinarian had examined it, they called in a veterinarian, who examined the carcasses of both of the horses. His essential findings were:
The horse's carcass was extremely old for an autopsy, but there was evidence suggesting a severe infection in a hindleg that could have disabled or killed the animal. There was evidence also of a knife cut in the neck, possibly made by someone who found the horse hope- lessly sick. Absence of nerve tissues and viscera was normal for a carcass dead several weeks.
Magpies and other birds ordinarily cannot peck through the skin of a horse, but will eat the flesh and skin if they can get into it. In this case, they evidently had taken advantage of the cut and removed all accessible skin and flesh from the neck and head before the carcass had been found.
The second horse carcass showed evidence that death had resulted from encephalitis.
It had been reported that a forest ranger with civil defense training had found a high level of radioactivity near the "exhaust marks." When questioned by an investigator, he said that his meter had indicated only "slight" activity two weeks after the carcass had been found. The investigators concluded that the activity he had measured on his simple survey instrument had been no greater than the normal background radiation they measured three weeks later.
There was no evidence to support the assertion that the horse's death was associated in any way with abnormal causes.
The investigators then turned their attention to the numerous reports of UFO sightings in the same area. Many were vague or involved direct lights at night. Only the more interesting cases are reported here.
1) A service-station attendant and former aircraft gunner reported three sightings in ten years. The second, about 1962, occurred while he, with three companions, was driving west at 65 mph., about 3:30 a.m. They noticed on the slope of a nearby mountain a point of blue light that moved toward the highway and then turned parallel to it, pacing the car a few feet from the ground. It soon pulled ahead and vanished over the valley. Suddenly, the witness saw what he assumed was the same light appear in the middle of the road some distance ahead and approach at high speed, so that he ran the car off into the graded ditch to avoid collision. As the light approached, it grew to at least the size of his car. As it passed, it shot upward a few feet, turned south, and disappeared.
In the spring of 1967, the same witness, with his wife, was driving west when he saw an object that resembled a box kite crossing the highway from the left. He associated it with a helicopter, although he was familiar with them and the apparition was silent. Thinking that it was some kind of aircraft that might land at the airport, he drove directly there. During this part of the trip, the object disappeared behind some buildings. When they arrived at the airport, it was nowhere in sight.
2) About 5:15 a.m., late summer, 1967, a couple were driving south when they saw two extended objects outlined with a dull glow, at an altitude of about 15°. One was directly south over the road, and the second was south-southwest. The objects moved northwesterly until they were apparently "directly over [the mountain]." There the second moved up beside the first and they hovered for several minutes before descending rapidly to the ground, where they merged with the vegetation and disappeared. The witnesses
estimated that the minimum distance to the objects was one mile, and presumably was never very much greater; however, they hovered "directly over [the mountain]," which was at least 8 mi. away.
3) On an unrecalled date, late in the summer, 1966, about 5:30 a.m., two boys, ages 13 and 17, were traveling north when they saw an extended bright light in the road. The UFO kept ahead of them for about 20 mi., then disappeared.
4) At 10:15 p.m., early fall, 1967, the owner of the horse mentioned above, with her husband, was driving west. They saw three pulsating red-and-green lights pass over, moving generally southwest.
After five to ten minutes, the third object seemed to explode, emitting a yellow flash, then a second flash nearer the ground, and a puff of smoke that the witnesses observed for ten minutes. Several fragments were seen to fall to the ground after the second explosion.
The husband and wife disagreed as to the location. He said the wreckage should lie somewhere between the second and fifth hill south of a nearby town, but she said she saw the explosion over a brown hill ten miles east of the same town. The explosion was also seen by a farmer, and his times and bearings supported the husband's account. Ayer drove between the second and third and the third and fourth hills, and he flew over the region south of the fifth hill, but he saw nothing of interest.
The data on this sighting were sent to Major Quintanilla, who reported that no satellite re-entries had been seen or predicted at the reported time. This finding, however, did not preclude the unobserved re-entry of a minor fragment that had not been tracked.
5) Another couple reported several sightings, one of these, between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m., fall, 1967, considered by them to be a "meteor." Its location was not given. This sighting was also reported to Major Quintanilla, but no satellite had been observed to re-enter on that day.
6) In the fall, 1967, "ten minutes before dark," two ranchers driving west saw a small cigar-shaped cloud, vertically oriented in a sky that had only one other cloud in it. The cigar was about the size of a thumb at arms length, 200 above the "horizon" and 45° south of the road, that is, southwest of the point of first sighting. It was slightly boat-tailed at the bottom and its outlines were not sharp. The second cloud was obviously a cloud, at a slightly greater altitude in the south. The two men drove about three miles while the "cigar" tilted slightly toward the other cloud and moved slowly toward it. They stopped the car to observe more closely. Pointing toward the larger cloud, the "cigar" continued to approach it. After a few minutes the witnesses drove on, and a few minutes later the "cigar" melted into the cloud.
None of these sighting reports were considered to be current or strange enough to warrant detailed investigation.