Lubbock Lights: Birds or UFOs over Texas

by Shelly Barclay, July 2012 – Updated August 2019

A photograph of the mysterious Lights over Lubbock.

What are the Lubbock Lights?

The Lubbock Lights sightings were one of the first incidents of UFO sightings popularized by the national media. They were seen in Lubbock, Texas in 1951 on a number of occasions. They were heavily investigated by witnesses, police and even the military. Nonetheless, a satisfactory explanation for whatever witnesses saw in Lubbock in 1951 has yet to be found.

USAF report of the Lubbock Lights.

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The Lubbock Lights were first seen on the night of August 25, 1951. A trio of men was sitting outside one of their homes together when they saw lights flying over them at a very fast rate. They estimated there were roughly 20-30 lights. As the men sat there trying to figure out what they had just seen, the incident occurred again. Neither time that the lights flew over did they make any sound.

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Credible Witnesses

What is interesting about this sighting, apart from the obvious, is that the witnesses were all presumably credible. They were professors at the nearby Texas Technical College. Each of them held a Ph.D. in their respective fields and was involved in what most would consider logical sciences. One was a geologist and the other two were engineers. All three of them were baffled. They reported what they saw and others came forward to claim they had seen the same thing. It might sound like jumping on the bandwagon, but two of these new witnesses also worked at Texas Technical College.

September 5, 1951 Sighting

In an attempt to view the Lubbock Lights again, the three doctors of science and two more Texas Tech professors got together in one of their front yards and put their eyes to the sky. On September 5, 1951, they saw what they were looking for. One of the professors from that evening described them as the size of dinner plates and greenish-blue. He said they were, “. . . absolutely circular . . .” This time, there were only 12-15 lights, but they were again reported to have whizzed over their heads.

August 30, 1951 Sighting

On August 30 of the same year, a freshman at the same college at which the professors taught saw an estimated 18-20 lights fly by while looking out his window. He made a decision then that made the case even more mysterious. He decided to take a camera outside and watch for the lights to return. Given the quality of photos from that time, it is obvious that anything taken of the Lubbock Lights would be open to interpretation, but he got pictures. A total of five pictures were taken as Carl Hart, Jr. watched the Lubbock Lights fly over twice more.

Credible Photographs

A photograph of the mysterious Lights over Lubbock.

Photographs of any UFO encounter are better than eyewitness accounts, particularly when they cannot be debunked. Such is the case with Carl’s photographs. The professors admitted that Carl’s lights were flying in a different pattern than the ones they saw. Theirs flew in a u-shape, while Carl’s took on a distinctive v — like a flock of birds. However, the pictures were studied and nothing was or has since been found to indicate a hoax. Of course, that does not mean the pictures are authentic, however low quality they are, but it does mean that they really could be of the Lubbock Lights. That still does not solve the mystery of just what the lights were.

Were They Birds?

There was some mention of the Lubbock Lights actually being flocks of birds lit up by new streetlights that were recently installed. One witness said he saw the lights and heard the call of plovers as they flew overhead. Another witness reported a whooshing sound. The problem with the bird explanation is that the lights were distinctly circular, even in Carl’s photograph. Therefore, if most witness accounts of the shape and the photos are to be taken into consideration, birds cannot explain the lights. One would expect them to be at least oval and have some hint of wings. Furthermore, the lights were only seen over a short period. If the new lights and birds were responsible, the sightings would have presumably continued until one or both disappeared from the area. Of course, just because birds do not appear to explain it, does not mean there is no explanation.

Booth, B.J., UFO Casebook, 1951, retrieved 7/27/12.

Shelly Barclay

Shelly Barclay writes on a variety of topics from animal facts to mysteries in history. Her main focus is military and political history. She is a writer for the Boston History Examiner, Military History Examiner and the Boston American Revolution History Examiner. She also writes for a local historical society newsletter.