Ronald Story released a TEN BEST UFO CASES list. Notice the complete ABSENCE of Roswell NM and the Arnold case. No case here also appears in the Strange Universe list. Updated 07/03/2006 with new information. As I will show here, most of them have been identified, but not as many as those in the Strange Universe list:
This is a puzzling case. Unless a special spotlight was in use (as Menzel suggests) there is no prosaic explanation. If the case had happened 20 years later, I might suggest LASERs playing on cloud layers. But the LASER was not invented until 1960.
Here is a link to the solution. Cases with mostly RADAR effects are always suspect. RADAR is not the crystal clear picture of what is up there that movies and TV depict. The Moving Target Indicator (MTI) was still new and buggy at the time. A weak temperature inversion can drive that early version bonkers. This is the main reason that most airplanes carry transponders now.
UPDATE: There was an adjustment on the RADAR set that was originally the master-gain control for the receiver. When the MTI was installed, that function was moved to a new knob, and that old knob became the calibration control for stationary target rejection. By force of habit, operators often forgot, and turned the old knob for gain. This decalibrated the set, making stationary targets appear in MTI mode. This same misadjustment was also responsible for the 07/19/1952 and 07/26/1952 Washington DC cases and the 09/06/1967 Kincheloe AFB case.
Some of the objects on the tape are obviously reflections of bright lights off of gently waving water. Others are harder to identify, but could be private (small) squid boats. For some reason, the camera focus changes during the taping. With distant objects, this should not happen, as the camera should be focused at infinity. Fire balloons can be at other than infinity, but should be quickly passed by an airplane if so. Also, there is no launch site for fire balloons, unless they were launched from a boat.
UPDATE: Loss of focus is a common problem for videos taken at night, and for videos taken through windows or screens. These conditions fool the automatic-focus device.
Several interpretations are possible. Ball lightning is a distinct possibility. Since little is known about it, it could possibly have caused the auto stalls and the objects. Engine stalls might be unrelated, or caused by driver inattention. Automatic transmissions were expensive, and were just beginning to generally be accepted by the public in 1957. The page author's father got his first automatic that model year. The drivers might have been so absorbed by the UFO that they forgot to de-clutch. Another possibility is that some of the stories were generated by the Sputnik II launch the next day. The military possibly wanted to deflect attention from their space defeat by stirring up a UFO controversy. The unidentified Stokes case and the unidentified Kirtland AFB case were three days later in an adjacent state.
UPDATE: The page author came into possession of a copy of a strange case that, while having no UFO, duplicates a group of cars stalling at the same time. It happened along a desert road in Colorado in the 1920s. Sand was blowing, and every car on the road died if it had the Kettering-type distributor-and-points ignition. The only cars on the road that still ran were Model T Fords with magneto ignition. Static electricity from the sand caused the spark plugs on the Kettering ignitions to fire continuously, wasting the gas-air charge before the power stroke. The magneto ignition had no distributor on the secondary, so the plugs fired only when they were supposed to. The motorists found that they could drag tire chains on the ground from their cars to get their engines to run again.
This induced malfunction of the Kettering ignition system seems to be the most likely cause of the car engine stalls in Levelland and other places. And headlights do "seem" to go out if the generator quits charging and a 6-volt battery is used. They dim enough that the pools of light are gone. That's why car manufacturers switched to 12-volt batteries in the late 1950s.
A strong possibility is that the UFO was a clandestine intrusion into Iranian airspace. Suppose either the Soviets or the Americans wanted special information about the very politically charged Iran. If a sophisticated fighter plane had been sent into Iran, its actions could duplicate most of the UFO effects reported. The two secondary objects match the descriptions of "stars" dropped to decoy heat-seeking missiles. The effect of returning to the UFO could be caused by a premature burning out of the "star" and a perspective effect of dimming. Electronic countermeasures (ECM) devices could cause the instruments to fail as reported. The second star crashed in the lake bed, but since it's just a flare, it consumed itself, leaving nothing like an aircraft to be found. The rapid strobing could be a device to confuse enemy pilots or disorient them. The fading of the main object could be the more sophisticated aircraft outrunning the F-4. It's also possible that most of the effects were caused by atmospheric distortions of stars and RADAR beams over the desert. A third possibility is an embellishment of the event to secure funding for a military upgrade.
UPDATE: This could have also been a rescue mission (similar to the one in the film "Not Without My Children," but with a decoy fighter). The plane that landed would then turn off its lights to ascend. The rescued person could have been a secret agent.
UPDATE: This could also have also been a wild story by a pilot afraid of what superiors would do to him because he failed to intercept the target.
This was probably a Type III fire balloon. This is an extra large version of the fire balloon that looks like, and can do most of the things reported. The Venus identification the Air Force offered does not fit the facts, especially regarding the beginning of the sighting. The increase in speed might be accounted for by the police car being in traffic, then free, by a dimming of the candles, or actual upper air conditions (which can have winds up to 150 mi/hr). When the last candle goes out, the "straight up disappearance" effect occurs.
Another fire balloon case uncovered. John Fuller printed classic descriptions of these unusual objects in his book, "Incident at Exeter," without knowing what they were. The objects rotated, swung like a pendulum, pulsated, wobbled, and shot away quickly. All of the classic behaviors of fire balloons are there.
According to Philip Klass, this could be a green meteor combined with psychological effects. This seems unlikely (but so do space aliens). It seems unusual that nobody else observed this event - either the meteor or the effect on the helicopter. One possible explanation is a fire balloon that was affected by the helicopter's rotor, along with the false-perspective effects normally associated with fire balloons. See the 02/26/1993 Jefferson Co. KY helicopter case, where the object is now known to have been a fire balloon. The green color is no problem: All that is needed is a blue dry-cleaner's bag, colored cellophane, or a special candle.
Several parts of the accounts do not jibe, especially the estimates of angular size and distance. This is probably due to the untrained observers being influenced by the pro-ET Cruttwell. The drawing usually published was prepared by him, not the witnesses. There are several possible (but not very probable) explanations:
The initial description of the UFO fits a night advertizing plane quite well. The rest of the case developed only under hypnosis. That part of it should be considered extremely suspect, since hypnosis can not just reveal perceived events, but can inadvertently edit them as well. Several UFO contactee cases have been shown to have resulted from "party game" hypnosis pranks, including the well publicized "buckwheat pancakes from outer space" 04/18/1961 Eagle River WI (Joe Simonton) case. Hypnosis and so-called "truth drugs" should not be used as investigative tools, due to the probability that the investigating examiner can accidentally edit the memories.