The Cash-Landrum Incident was a reported Unidentified Flying Object sighting from the United States in 1980, which witnesses insist was responsible for damage to their health. It is one of very few UFO cases to result in civil court proceedings.
It can be classified as a Close Encounter of the Second Kind, due to its reported physical effects on the witnesses and their automobile.
Skeptical ufologist Peter Brookesmith wrote:
“To ufologists, the case is perhaps the most baffling and frustrating of modern times, for what started with solid evidence for a notoriously elusive phenomenon petered out in a maze of dead ends, denials, and perhaps even official deviousness.”Incident
At about 9:00 p.m., while driving on an isolated two-lane road in dense woods, the witnesses said they observed a light above some trees. They initially thought the light was an airplane approaching Houston Intercontinental Airport (about 35 miles away) and gave it little notice.
A few minutes later on the winding roads, the witnesses saw what they believed to be the same light as before, but it was now much closer and very bright. The light, they claimed, came from a huge diamond-shaped object, which hovered at about treetop level. The object’s base was expelling flame and emitting significant heat.
Vickie Landrum told Cash to stop the car, fearing they would be burned if they approached any closer. However, Vickie’s opinion of the object quickly changed: a born again Christian, she interpreted the object as a sign of the second coming of Jesus Christ, telling her grandson, “That’s Jesus. He will not hurt us.” (Clark, 175)
Anxious, Cash considered turning the car around, but abandoned this idea because the road was too narrow and she presumed the car would get stuck on the dirt shoulders, which were soft from that evening’s rains.
Cash and Landrum got out of the car to examine the object. Colby was terrified, however, and Vickie Landrum quickly returned to the car to comfort the frantic child. Cash remained outside the car, “mesmerized by the bizarre sight,” as Jerome Clark wrote. (Clark, 175) He went on,
The object, intensely bright and a dull metallic silver, was shaped like a huge upright diamond, about the size of the Dayton water tower, with its top and bottom cut off so that they were flat rather than pointed. Small blue lights ringed the center, and periodically over the next few minutes flames shot out of the bottom, flaring outward, creating the effect of a large cone. Every time the fire dissipated, the UFO floated a few feet downwards toward the road. But when the flames blasted out again, the object rose about the same distance.” (Clark, 175)
The witnesses said the heat was strong enough to make the car’s metal body painful to the touch—Cash said she had to use her coat to protect her hand from being burnt when she finally re-entered the car. When she touched the car’s dashboard, Vickie Landrum’s hand pressed into the softened vinyl, leaving an imprint that was evident weeks later. Investigators cited this handprint as proof of the witnesses’ account; however, no photograph of the alleged handprint exists.
The object then moved to a point higher in the sky. As it ascended over the treetops, the witnesses claimed that a group of helicoptersapproached the object and surrounded it in tight formation. Cash and Landrum counted 23 helicopters, and later identified some of them as tandem-rotor CH-47 Chinooks used by military forces worldwide.
With the road now clear, Cash drove on, claiming to see glimpses of the object and the helicopters receding into the distance.
From first sighting the object to its departure, the witnesses said the encounter lasted about 20 minutes. Based on descriptions given in John F. Schuessler’s book about the incident, it appears that the observers were southbound on Texas state highway FM 1485/2100 when they claimed to have seen the object. The initial location of the reported object, based on the same descriptions, was just south of Inland Road, approximately at 30.0926°N 95.1109°W.