December 29, 1980
Location: Huffman, Texas, United States
terrifying encounter with a flame-belching UFO on a lonely
road near Huffman, Texas, resulted in appalling injuries
for the three innocent victims. According to Bob Pratt,
"the case remains one of the most important in the
history of Ufology. It has never been resolved. Someone
in the U.S. knows exactly what happened to Betty and Vickie
and Colby but they have remained silent despite all the
suffering - and ridicule - those three endured."
Artist's impression of the close encounter.
Left to right: Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum and Colby Landrum.
TEXAS - On the evening of December the 29th, 1980, Betty
Cash, Vickie Landrum and Colby Landrum had visited several
small towns in the Piney Woods area of east Texas looking
for a bingo game, but discovered that all games had been
canceled while the clubs made preparations for the Christmas
and new year celebrations. Instead, they settled for a
meal in a roadside restaurant in New Caney.
Cash was then a 51-year-old business woman who owned a
restaurant and a grocery store. Vickie Landrum, then 57,
worked for Betty in the restaurant and also occasionally
as a school meals assistant. Colby Landrum, Vickie's grandson,
was then 7.
leaving the restaurant some time between 8:20 and 8:30
p.m., Betty drove them along Highway FM 1485, a road usually
used only by people who live in the area because it is
so isolated. Although only about 50 km from Houston, the
area is sparsely populated and is covered by oak and pine
trees, and dotted with swamps and lakes.
was about 30 minutes later when the three noticed a bright
UFO above the tree tops, some distance away. Colby was
the first to spot it and pointed it out to the others.
As they drove on, it appeared to get larger and larger.
As they realized that the object was approaching the road
only a short distance ahead, they began to get worried
but hoped to get by it in time and leave it behind. But
before they could do so, the object had straddled the
road, blocking their way.
screamed "Stop the car or we shall be burned alive!"
The object, many times larger than the car, remained hovering
at tree top level and sending down an occasional large
cone of fire like a rocked blast. In between these blasts,
it would settle downwards some 7.5 meters or so, only
to rise up again on the next cone of fire. Vickie described
it as being "like a diamond of fire".
Betty eventually brought the car to a stand still, the
UFO was only 60 meters away. It looked as if it was made
from dull aluminum and glowed so bright that it lit up
the surrounding forest like daylight. The four points
of the diamond were blunt rather than sharp and blue spots
or lights ringed its centerline. Had the UFO not come
to rest over the road, the cone of fire from its lowest
point would have set the forest on fire. The object also
emitted an intermittent bleeping sound.
three of them got out of the car to take a better look
at the object. Vickie stood by the open door on the right
hand side of the car, with her left hand resting on the
car roof. Vickie is a committed Christian who does not
believe in UFOs or extraterrestrial life and when she
saw the bright object, she thought it was the coming of
the end of the world. Because she expected to see Jesus
come out of the light, she starred at it intently.
begged his grandmother to get back in the car and hold
him and after about three minutes, she did so and told
him not to be afraid because "when that big man
comes out of the burning cloud, it will be Jesus."
As Vickie held Colby, she screamed at Betty to get back
in the car with them. But Betty was so fascinated by the
UFO that she had walked round to the front of the car
and stood there, gazing at it. Bathed in the bright light,
she stood there even though the heat was burning her skin.
Eventually as the object began to move up and away, she
moved back to the car door. When she touched the door,
it was so painfully hot that she had to use her leather
jacket to protect her hands as she got back in the car.
the three of them watched the departing UFO, a large number
of helicopters appeared overhead. As Betty said, "They
seemed to rush in from all directions...it seemed like
they were trying to encircle the thing." Within
a few seconds, the UFO had disappeared behind the trees
lining the road. It was then that they realized how hot
the interior of the car had become. They switched off
the heater and put on the air conditioner instead.
the effects of the bright light had worn off, Betty started
the engine and they drove off down the darkened highway.
After a mile or so of twisting road, they were able to
join a larger highway and turn in the direction of the
departing UFO. This was about 8 km and five minutes later.
The object was clearly visible some distance ahead, and
looked like a bright cylinder of light. It was still lighting
up the surrounding area and illuminating the helicopters.
this time, the helicopters were spread out over an 8 km
distance. One main group was near the UFO but moving in
an erratic flight path. As they watched from their new
vantage point, they counted 23 helicopters. Many of them
were identified as the large double rotor CH-47 Chinooks;
the others were very fast single rotor types and appeared
to be of the Bell-Huey type but were not properly identified.
A lot of air crew members must have seen the UFO that
soon as the UFO and helicopters were a safe distance ahead,
Betty drove on. When she reached an intersection, she
turned away from the flight path of the UFO and towards
Dayton where the three of them lived. She dropped Vickie
and Colby off at their home at about 9:50 and went home
by herself. A friend and her children were there waiting
for Betty but by this time, she was feeling too ill to
tell them about what had happened. Over the next few hours,
Betty's skin turned red as if badly sun burned. Her neck
swelled and blisters erupted and broke on her face, scalp
and eyelids. She started to vomit and continued to do
so throughout the night. By morning, she was almost in
time between midnight and 2 a.m., Vickie and Colby began
to suffer similar symptoms, although less severe. At first,
they suffered the sunburn-like condition, and then diarrhea
and vomiting. It was a miserable night for all three victims.
following morning, Betty was moved to Vickie's house and
all three were cared for, there. Betty's condition continued
to deteriorate and three days later, she was taken to
hospital. The burns and swelling altered Betty's appearance
so radically that friends who came to visit her in hospital
did not recognize her. Her hair began to fall out and
her eyes became so swollen that she was unable to see
for a week.
appearance of helicopters at UFO sightings is becoming
a common event, and the large number of helicopters at
this incident is just another link in the chain. One thing
is for certain, it is virtually impossible to be mistaken
about the presence of CH-47 helicopters when you are directly
beneath these large and noisy machines. The evidence of
all the witnesses was consistent. They were interrogated
separately about both the UFO and the helicopters and
all gave consistent descriptions and sketches that indicated
they had seen a large number of CH-47s.
out where the helicopters had come from was a more difficult
task than identifying them, according to a official at
Houston Airport. About 350 to 400 helicopters operate
commercially in the Houston area but they are all of the
single rotor type; there are no CH-47s. The official also
said that because helicopters fly on visual flight rules,
they do not have to contact the tower. Other information
provided by Houston was that outside a 24 km radius from
the airport, helicopters must stay below an altitude of
550 metres, and that due to a technical limitation, the
Houston control radar is restricted to a minimum altitude
of 600 metres around the Huffman area.
U.S. army's Fort Hood press officer, Major Tony Geishauser,
told the Corpus Christi Caller that no Fort Hood aircraft
were in the Houston area, that night. "I don't
know any other place around here that would have that
number of helicopters," he said. "I don't
know what it could be..... unless there's a super secret
thing going on and I wouldn't necessarily know about it."
other bases in Texas and Louisiana denied they were responsible
for the helicopters seen at the incident.
Vickie and Colby were not the only witnesses to the strange
happenings at Huffman. An off-duty Dayton policeman and
his wife were driving home from Cleveland through the
Huffman area the same night, and also observed a large
number of CH-47s. A man living in Crosby, directly under
the flight path, reported seeing a large number of heavy
military helicopters flying overhead. Oilfield laborer
Jerry McDonald was in his back garden in Dayton when he
saw a huge UFO flying directly overhead. At first, he
thought it was the Goodyear airship, but quickly realized
it was something else. "It was kind of diamond-shaped
and had two twin torches that were shooting brilliant
blue flames out the back", he said. As it passed
about 45 meters above him, he saw that it had two bright
lights on it and a red light in the center.
their encounter, Vickie and Colby have been plagued with
periodic outbreaks of skin troubles, as if they were more
susceptible to infection than before. But the most far
reaching injury has been the damage to their eyes. Their
eyelids became infected very rapidly and have never fully
recovered. Since the incident, Vickie has had to have
three new pairs of spectacles with successively stronger
prescriptions to match the deterioration of her eyesight.
Her eyesight continues to deteriorate and she still suffers
from periodic infections. She fears she may eventually
go blind. Colby has suffered similar problems but has
needed only one new pair of glasses. Within a few weeks
of the encounter, Vickie had lost about 30 per cent of
her hair, and had large bald patches on her head. When
it grew back, it was of a different texture. Colby lost
only a small patch of hair on the crown of his head; this,
too, grew back in time.
injuries seemed even worse. She experienced a severe sunburn-like
condition and developed large water blisters, some as
large as golf balls, over her face, head and neck. One
of these covered her right eyelid and extended across
her right temple. She also developed a long-term aversion
to warm water, sunshine or other heat sources. In the
year following the encounter, she has spent five periods
in hospital, two of those in intensive care. She lost
over half of the hair on her head and has also had skin
eruptions, many as big as a large coin, which leave permanent
are baffled by these symptoms, but speculate that they
could be caused by some kind of radiation.
day in April 1981, a CH-47 flew into Dayton. As Colby
watched, he became very upset. Vickie decided to take
him to the spot where the helicopter had landed, in the
hope that it would seem less frightening on the ground.
When they reached the landing zone, they found a lot of
people there, already and had to wait some time before
they were allowed to go inside the helicopter and talk
to the pilot. Vickie and another visitor both claim that
the pilot said he had been in the area before for the
purpose of checking on a UFO in trouble near Huffman.
When Vickie told the pilot how glad she was to see him,
because she had been one of the people burned by the UFO,
he refused to talk to them anymore and hustled them out
of the aircraft.
UFO organization VISIT later located the pilot and questioned
him. He admitted to knowing about Vickie and Betty's encounter
with the UFO but maintained that he had not been in the
area in December and had nothing to do with any UFO. Unless
another pilot decides to come forward, it seems that the
source of the helicopters will remain a mystery.