The Big Sur UFO Film Incident

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
May 12, 2019
Last Updated
October 13, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
14 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Cover-Ups

While the incident in question took place early one September morning in 1964, it wouldn’t really come to light in the public arena until a quarter of a century later in 1989 following an article in that year’s January edition of the MUFON UFO Journal by Bob Jacobs.

Titled Deliberate Deception – The Big Sur UFO Filming the article not only examined the bizarre events that would unfold that morning and captured on video camera, no less, but would also use Jacobs’ direct involvement with the Atlas missile experimental launches – one of which would result in an “intelligently controlled flying device” would fire a “beam of energy” towards such a recently launched test missile, disabling and destroying it.

A still frame from the Big Sur footage

A still frame from the Big Sur footage

What’s more, Jacobs was of the opinion that the device was highly advance and most likely of “extraterrestrial origin”. Further still, according to his experience, high-ranking and shadow members of the United States government were, quite possibly, in contact with such extraterrestrial entities.

Perhaps even stranger is Jacobs’ feeling that this “demonstration” had been a purposeful display by these alien forces, although the reasons for this remain a mystery. Was this apparent example of advanced technology issued in a threatening manner? Or might it be – if we accept for one moment the claims of deals with such alien races involving such technology – more akin to an arms dealer putting on a public display before entering into the “bidding” process?

While such claims are bordering on preposterous for some, they continue to come from one-time members of such circles, who far from exploiting their former positions for monetary gain, make themselves intentional targets of ridicule. Or worse.

A Reminder Of “UFO Interest” In Nuclear Facilities!

Such missile experiments have been taking place for some time at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc in California. And it is perhaps these tests on experimental nuclear devices that make the UFO sightings even more intriguing than they already are.

We have, for example, written on several occasions of the apparent interest these UFOs, or more specifically the intelligence behind them, have in military nuclear facilities, not only in the United States but around the world.

We have examined such cases as the Woomera incident in Australia in July 1960, for example. Or the incidents at the Minot and Malmstrom Air Force Bases in 1966 and 1967 respectively. Perhaps one of the most prominent such sightings took place over Rendlesham Forest just after Christmas 1980. Although they wouldn’t admit it, there would appear to be genuine reason to suspect that nuclear weapons were stored on the base.

With that in mind, then, let’s turn our attention back to Santa Barbara County in the late summer of 1964 and the Vandenberg military facility.

Before we move on to look at the incident of September 1964, check out the video below. It looks at the apparent connection between nuclear facilities and UFO sightings and encounters.

Just After Dawn, 22nd September 1964 – The Provocation Of A Government Cover-Up!

On the morning of 22nd September 1964, Robert Jacobs prepared to oversee a test launch of an Atlas missile. It was perfect conditions for viewing any aerial object in the sky. While it was still dark on the ground, objects at a certain altitude in the sky above would catch the rising sun’s light and glow magnificently against the still dark background. And what’s more, this is the case for objects hundreds of miles away.

These conditions were very much present on this morning. And further still, only if viewed from one spot – Big Sur, to the “north and west of Vandenberg”. The brief that Jacobs and his team were working too was to get “side-on” shots of the missile launch and more specifically its climb and “stages of flight”. Specifically, Jacobs would state that their mission statement, in part, was to:

… (provide information) on the minute events following propellant depletion – at a distance of from 300 to 800 nautical miles! [1]

In fact, so serious was the desire to capture such fine and detailed imagery that the Boston University telescope was literally hauled onto a truck and transplanted to a very specific spot at Big Sur.

Pictures from the Atlas Missile launch

Pictures from the Atlas Missile launch

Incidentally, we should note that Jacobs was unsure of the exact date, but subsequent research suggests the 22nd September is accurate. Whatever the date, the events that would follow were very real. And what’s more, according to Jacobs, would “inspire an official government cover-up and provoke an investigation and search for the filmed record”. A search which continues still.

Missile And Anti-Missile Technology Against The Back Drop Of The Cold War!

The small team gathered at a safe distance, ready to watch the events they were about to record on the monitors. The launches themselves were part of the Nike-Zeus project, which looked to develop “anti-missile” technology – at least officially. Against the ever-present threat of the Cold War, such experiments and projects would face very little questioning.

The team could hear the mechanical-like countdown for the launch of the Atlas missile. Then:

…Ignition…Lift off!

And with that, a blast of flames and smoke burst out from under the missile before it began its steady ascent. All eyes, including that of the Bost University telescope camera, focused on the commotion. And what’s more, as was perfectly obvious to Jacobs and the team, as the missile traveled in excess of 100 nautical miles, the conditions and the focus of the shot could “not have been more clean”.

The team at the Big Sur sighting, September 1964

The team at the Big Sur sighting, September 1964

In fact, it was perfectly obvious that they had achieved their objective to the letter. As they shook hands, offering and accepting congratulations from each other, the 35mm film continued to film. Jacobs would take this film with him in the two metal “cans” to the processing laboratory back at the base. He would process the film immediately so it would be ready for his superiors to view the following day.

However, before he could bask in the sense of achievement that was quietly building inside of him, he would receive a phone call at his desk.

The Movie Projector And The Men In Plain Grey Suits

On the other end of the line was Major Mansmann. He would order Jacobs to the headquarters building where his office was immediately. Upon arriving there, Jacobs noticed two strange men waiting with Mansmann. He also noticed a movie projector, very purposely set up for this meeting in the middle of the room.

Each of the men donned “plain, gray suits” and although they said little, their presence was almost palpable. Within seconds of the office door closing, the lights dimmed, and the projector was clicked into action.

Artist's impression of the Atlas rocket launch

Artist’s impression of the Atlas rocket launch

On the wall from the light of the projector, the footage they filmed from Big Sur played. Despite the bizarre nature of the events unfolding, Jacobs remembers feeling a further sense of achievement at how clear the footage was. He continued to watch the footage. When it neared the end, however, Mansmann would tell him to “watch carefully now”.

He did and immediately saw what the men were drawing his attention to. He would state:

Another object flew into the frame, from left to right. It approached the warhead package and maneuvered around it. That is, this…’thing’…flew a relative polar orbit around our warhead package which was itself heading toward the South Pacific at some 18 thousand miles an hour!

Then, an already bizarre incident took an even more bizarre twist. At approximately the “four compass points of its orbit” this strange object emitted “four distinct flashes” towards the missile. In fact, the flashes, Jacobs would argue, must have had sufficient power and intensity as the flashes were clearly visible, almost like a “strike” which caused a “halo” to briefly form.

A “Classic Flying Saucer” That “Shot Down” An American (Dummy) Warhead!

Furthermore, as the object “departed the frame” back in the direction it entered it, Jacobs could see it was “a classic flying saucer” with a clear dome in the middle of the top part, from which the beams of light had emerged.

However, the missile itself, or more specifically, the warhead, “tumbled out of suborbit” falling to the ground. He immediately understood the gravity of the situation. As he would later state:

…This…unidentified flying…’thing’ had apparently ‘shot down’ an American dummy atomic warhead!

Jacobs would later attest his belief that the technology on display was obviously highly advanced. However, in the room, the lights would suddenly come on and Mansmann would enquire whether he or any of his team were “fooling around up there at Big Sur”. When he responded that this certainly wasn’t the case, Mansmann would ask, “Then what the Hell was that?”

It was then that Jacobs, perhaps without thinking, replied as a matter of fact:

It looks to me like we got a UFO!

The silence that would follow his statement was almost deafening in itself. Both of the mystery men continued to stare at Jacobs without saying a word. He noticed Mansmann looking at the men also. Then he turned his attention back to Jacobs, stating:

Let’s just say it never happened. You are to say nothing of this footage to anyone! As far as you and I are concerned, this never took place!

Jacobs flipped his attention back to the two men for a moment, perhaps hoping against hope that the whole situation was some kind of bizarre joke. Their rigid, serious manner told him it wasn’t.

The “Most Fantastic Event Of My Life” That “Did Not Take Place!”

Jacobs wasn’t sure how long he sat there staring into space. It could have been a few minutes. It was most likely only a few seconds as he relayed everything that had happened over the last 24 hours to this very surreal moment now. He couldn’t escape the feeling that what was “the most fantastic event” of his life was something he was being asked to not only keep secret but to deny altogether.

Major Mansmann

Major Mansmann

Then, Mansmann’s voice would bring back to his senses, reminding him that he didn’t “need to remind him of the seriousness of a security breach”. Jacobs agreed, indicating he would acquiesce to their request. As Mansmann walked Jacobs out of his office, he would state to him:

What you just saw did not take place! It never happened!

Before Jacobs could agree, Mansmann would offer a final piece of advice. That if he were ever to be questioned to the point where he could not “get out of answering”, he was to them the flashes were from “laser tracking”.

And with that, Jacobs was “helped” out of the room and the door shut behind him. What is interesting here, as Jacobs himself would state, such technology as “laser tracking” didn’t exist in the early 1960s. At least not publicly anyway.

Jacobs would remain silent for a considerable amount of time following the incident that September morning in 1964. He would, though, begin researching the subject of UFOs and similar sightings privately. And at the heart of this research was the frustration that some figures in the powers that be wished to “obfuscate the whole field of discovery”.

Before we move on, check out the video below. It is an animated reproduction of the incident based on the descriptions and account of Robert Jacobs.

Tentative And Discreet “Leaks” Of Information

Not that Jacobs was critical of the United States government only. He would also fire accusations against “The Press” as a whole for failing to pick up and investigate the Big Sur incident, as well as several others, choosing instead to focus on the bizarre with over-sensationalist headlines and angles.

We should note here that there are many researchers who see this approach from the media – particularly in America – as an intentional way of discrediting the UFO question in general.

It was around 1973 when Jacobs began to discreetly let knowledge of the incident “leak” out into the public awareness. While hosting a late-night radio talk show on KFML-FM in Eureka, California, he would speak of the encounter at the Vandenberg military base. However, rather than it be of interest to few and far between listeners, the response was “almost as astonishing as the event itself”.

Several people, including his own program director would tell of their own encounters on air. Even a physics professor at California State University would speak of his “firm belief” that alien intelligence was behind the waves of UFO sightings across the United States and around the world.

What was common about the many people eager to tell their stories was of how they led such “normal” lives otherwise. With a great many in positions that might open them to ridicule following their public declarations.

By 1982, six-and-a-half years before the 1989 MUFON article that would truly bring his account before the entire world, Jacobs was seeking a larger audience than the nighttime listeners in the California region.

An Overall Big, But Hidden In Plain Sight Picture

By this time, with Ronald Reagan – himself a big and open believer in UFOs with two encounters of his own – was two years into his first of what would be two terms in the White House. More…

By the time the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) – better known by its moniker, the Star Wars Programme – Jacobs, like many other researchers had noticed much of the technology creeping into the public awareness seemingly had its roots in black budget and even reverse engineered alien technologies.

Indeed, we have written before of the apparent “Lab Shopkeepers Notebook” to this technology – a result of the Roswell crash of 1947 – and how it was farmed out to various businesses across the United States (many of whom had little or no knowledge of its origins) and asked to study and develop it.

Aerial map of the site

Aerial map of the site

It was also becoming increasingly obvious to Jacobs, even if he couldn’t prove it, that the incident and footage at Big Sur that September morning somehow fit into this overall big, complex, and largely hidden in plain sight picture.

Jacobs had largely talked himself out of speaking more openly of the incident due to the “security angle”. However, the more he went over events in his mind, particularly given he was told the incident officially “never happened” he would make the decision that he was “free to tell the story of a non-event”.

Whether intentionally or not, though, only one media outlet would show significant interest to publish it, The National Enquirer. Perhaps because of the newspapers – mostly rightly – reputation for distributing obviously untrue and purposely sensationalized stories, the account appeared to drift under the radar of the mainstream public. However, when MUFON picked up the incident, it would take on another level of interest.

A Surge Of Interest From “Investigators, Buffs, And Cranks!”

Although the appearance of his account in The National Enquirer did bring some attention to Jacobs, it was from a “variety of investigators, buffs, cranks, proponents and detractors alike”. And, as is the case many times, some of the most vicious assaults would come from “debunkers” who, as they often do, would use hyperbole and extreme arguments to make them appear the “reasonable” objectors when in reality they are simply “shouting down” and shutting down discussion and debate.

However, perhaps the one person who would lend Jacobs a certain amount of credibility was the aforementioned Major Mansmann. He would state that he had “opened Pandora’s Box” by telling his account. However, he would also verify that what he said was categorically true.

Still frame from the Big Sur footage

Still frame from the Big Sur footage

Following such public and supporting statements, more and more serious UFO researchers would begin to look at the case. Slowly, more and more theories were put forward.

It appeared that most who examined the case were in agreement that the object that entered the frame was a “three-dimensional, intelligently controlled flying device”. What’s more, this device managed to cause a malfunction and part destruction of a dummy warhead, possibly with a “plasma beam” or some other force of energy.

What is perhaps interesting here is that some of the recent weapons of the twenty-first century appear to display such technology. And what’s more, as we have examined in previous articles, some of these “new” weapons have paper trails that lead back to the mid-twentieth century.

That would, for example, be the only explanation for the claims that the incident showed “laser tracking devices”. That such technology, while not available publicly was available behind closed doors to the US military. Jacobs, however, doesn’t believe that to be the case.

The First “Terrestrial Demonstration” Of The Star Wars Programme!

As we mentioned previously, Jacobs’ belief is that what was on display that September morning was of extraterrestrial origin. That the object “was not anything of which our science and technology in 1964 was capable”. Therefore, an alien origin was the “most probable explanation”.

However, perhaps one of the most intriguing claims was the device used to record, film, and photograph the event. The Boston University telescope was transferred to California at great expense and effort. And was the only known device that could have captured such clear images. Was the fact that such effort into moving the device worth looking at? As Jacobs asks, did someone in the United States’ government know this incident was about to take place?

Artist's impression of the Star Wars programme

Artist’s impression of the Star Wars programme

Jacobs certainly isn’t the first person to make the accusation of the active involvement in UFO sightings by the United States government. However, given his stance that the technology was both of extraterrestrial origin and an active demonstration by extraterrestrials.

In fact, this last point is one that Jacobs would continue to come back to over the years. That the sole purpose of the encounter was “put on, for some reason for our benefit by extraterrestrials”. In fact, not only that, but this technology was the “first terrestrial demonstration of what would come to be called the SDI”. Or the Star Wars Programme.

This is quite a claim. However, as truly outlandish as it will be for some, might this be a continuation of the apparent deal for technology that began with meetings between President Eisenhower and gray aliens at Edwards Air Force Base, coincidentally also in California.

The short video below looks at this apparent meeting in a little more detail.

An Unnerving Connection Many Don’t Wish To Know About?

We will not go over the details or circumstances around that meeting here. Might it be, however, if we accept that such a deal with the grays is true, that this active demonstration was the final part of sealing such a deal? And allowing such a race to exercise their sudden negotiated “right” to begin the  “temporary abductions” of citizens of the United States for their own experiments before returning them with no memory of their encounter?

Again, this is quite a claim. And almost certainly speculation too far for many even in UFO circles. However, let’s accept that the alleged meeting with Eisenhower did take place in 1954. And that a deal was reached for the trade-off of advanced technology in exchange for “access” to American citizens. The timing of the Big Sur incident and the wave of abductions that would follow as the 1960s bowed out to the seventies would fit closely enough for further consideration.

Still frame from the Big Sur footage

Still frame from the Big Sur footage

It would certainly seem that the US Air Force would ultimately go out of their way to discredit the incident. For example, Freedom of Information Requests proving different. They would deny that Jacobs had ever been in the Air Force. Or that he had been stationed at Vandenberg.  Why would they go to such lengths to cover up a “non-event” or something that didn’t happen?

And, if they did indeed cover up the events that took place at Big Sur in September 1964, what else might they have covered up? What else in our recent history regarding UFO incidents might have been covered-up, denied, and lied about?

A “Legend-Type Status” For A Denied Incident That Didn’t Happen!

What is perhaps further interesting about the Big Sur film incident is that there are several incidental comments on record that would appear to further endorse Jacobs’ version of events. Of even more interest are the – according to some – discreet attempts at planting disinformation within the UFO community.

For example, an apparent document by Kingston “King” George dated 13th October 1964 would state that the missile tests did indeed go ahead during September. A total of eleven such tests. However, in and around this corroborating evidence was the notion that “all that happened” was a “missile malfunction”.

Newspaper clipping showing investigators at the scene

Newspaper clipping showing investigators at the scene

This, according to some, was another last-ditch attempt to lead researchers and investigators astray. That the military was prepared to admit to the tests but would claim it was nothing more than a malfunction.

Of the entire film itself it has taken on legend-type status. Many have researched its location. Many have attempted to track down the original cans of reel-to-reel footage. It remains elusive. So much so that the sighting and incident itself has taken on an urban legend-type status. This is perhaps a shame, given that many sightings of perhaps lesser merits and credibility receive much more attention.

Bizarre And Far-Reaching Claims And Suggestions!

And what should we make of the apparent connections to the Star Wars Programme? Might this really be one of the ultimate end goals of that meeting between the President of the United States? And the alleged “Free World”, no less? With an extraterrestrial race from elsewhere in the Universe? With technology so in advance of our own that we – collectively – would strike a deal for it? A deal in exchange for access to our own people?

Might the idea that the technology of our contemporary world could, in fact, be the result of an interaction between the “leaders” of the human race and a cosmic equivalent from elsewhere in the galaxy. A race with an agenda, if we are to believe some researchers, that is far from the benefit of humanity. In fact, it is an interaction that might be decidedly against the betterment of all of us.

These types of thoughts and suggestions are – for want of a better word – alien to most people. The fact is, though, these rumors have remained persistent for more than half a century. Why is that? Why do these apparently “crazy” ideas continue to permeate our collective society? And why do they continue to fascinate people around the world? In the minds of people from all walks of society?

An Important Case That Still Divides Opinion

We should note, despite Jacobs’ apparent heady position and seemingly credible background, there are many, even some in the UFO community, who remain unconvinced with his version of events.

We should perhaps ask, though, what would someone with such an apparently distinguished career within the military have to gain by making such claims unless they were true. And after all, he is but one of many such people with military or government backgrounds who are saying very similar things.

The fact is, though, after all of the arguments, for and against, the case remains a complete mystery. Was this the result of a genuine extraterrestrial visitor? If so, what was the purpose of the apparent disabling of a dummy missile. Was it to warn humanity against the use of nuclear weapons? Or, as Jacobs claims, was it a purposeful display? One the United States government was aware of in advance?

Might the Big Sur UFO incident be one of the biggest UFO cover-ups of all time? One so successful, in fact, that it remains little known by comparison to other cases. Such as the Roswell Crash or the Phoenix Lights, for example. As we have said before, the best way to keep people away from such encounters is to ridicule them. To make sure that just to contemplate them is to align oneself with people “society” dubs “crazy”.

Check out the video below. It features Jacobs speaking at length about the incident.


1 The Big Sur UFO Filming, A Critical Analysis of the Curious Events at Vandenberg Air Force Base in September, 1964, Bob Jacobs, NICAP

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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