By Don McAlavy
UFO SIGHTINGS FOLLOWED SPUTNIK IN 1957
The UFO sightings around Clovis and other places in 1957 were probably touched off by the Russians’ first satellite, Sputnik, which was launched into space in October of that year.
Odis Echols Jr., of Clovis, was in a car with his wife and his parents. Odis “Pop” Echols was driving south of Prince Street and was about to turn off on East Seventh to head for the Country Club for dinner.
This was Saturday evening, Nov. 2, 1957. Odis Jr. looked out a side window in the back seat and saw an object in the sky headed in a southeastern direction. He described it as a “bulky object,” which made a trail and dipped down parallel with the Earth. Everyone in the car supposed it was a falling star.
After dinner that evening, Odis Jr. took his wife to Eastern New Mexico University for a homecoming dance. It wasn’t until the next morning that he was informed of a mysterious object that allegedly landed on a highway just west of Levelland, Texas.
A witness there said he saw an object sitting in the road. He said it was oval shaped, about 200 feet long, and glowed like a neon sign. He got out of his car about 200 feet away when the object suddenly took off with a roar straight up into the air. Two other witnesses saw the object too. The engines of their cars died and their headlights went out.
Five people got a glimpse of this egg-shaped object — the sheriff at Levelland, three people from Midland, Texas, and Odis Echols Jr., from the car window in Clovis.
On Thursday, Nov. 7, 1957, H. Lee “Tommy” Thompson’s article about this “Whatnik” that Odis Jr. saw was published in the Clovis News Journal. Thompson had interviewed a few Clovis citizens about it. Here are a few of the comments he received:
“I don’t know what it is but if it ever bothers me I’ll sic my dog on it,” said Mrs. Ralph Hart, a housewife.
“Of course I know what it is,” said Paul Newman, truck driver. “You often find ’em toward the bottom of whiskey bottles.”
Sam Covington, insurance salesman, came up with his complete analysis of spook craft reports in two concise words: “Mass hallucination” and apologized for his redundancy.
John Benson, educator, agreed with a “fireball” theory, pointing out that fireballs are nothing new to New Mexico.
One Cannon Air Force Base airman confided, “It may be a new secret weapon, or maybe not. I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t tell you if I did. You may quote me, but withhold my name.”
“I think it’s a big hoax, inspired by someone’s illusions. The world still belongs to God,” said Mrs. W. I. Haley, a housewife.
Jack Siddens, printer, was willing to settle for a harmless crew of space creatures making some sort of mundane survey. “I’d rather trust a friendly planet than an unfriendly nation,” he concluded.
In October of 2000, this columnist got a call from the BBC-TV in London. Wanda Koscia at that station said she saw reference to the Clovis-Levelland UFO sighting in the New York Times in November of 1957 when it was covering the Sputnik flight.
She wanted other UFO stories from Clovis. I gave her some, but later she notified me that the BBC documentaries staff had put the Clovis-Levelland story on hold.
I wonder why?
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: