The 1960 Red Bluff Incident

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
November 10, 2018
Last Updated
November 8, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
9 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Sightings

One evening around midnight in the summer of 1960, in a usually quiet area of California, two police patrol officers would be witness to an encounter very likely out of this world. Furthermore, several other police officers also witnessed the same incident from different locations. And further still, on the night in question, the nearby US military base the Red Bluff Air Station would confirm the presence of an anomalous object on their radar.

Depiction of the 1960 Red Bluff incident

Depiction of the 1960 Red Bluff incident

Strange then, that only hours later the same military base would deny such a confirmation. Nor would they investigate the sighting. In fact, only because of an independent investigation would the military put forth their eventual explanation for the incident. An explanation that, as we shall see, is not only inaccurate but outright factually impossible. With that in mind, then, why did they feel the need to retract themselves from the sighting so quickly? Was it nothing more than official policy? What of the radar operator? Was the confirmation a mistake on his part? Or was the US military involved in covering up the incident as is the accusation of so many other similar sightings?

An Oblong-Object “Surrounded By A Glow!”

Just before midnight on the 13th August 1960, California Highway Patrol Officers, Charles Carson and Stanley Scott were cruising along Hoag Road near the town of Corning when a sudden light came crashing out of the night sky. [1] Their immediate reaction was that an airliner was about to crash to the ground. They stopped their patrol vehicle and stepped out of the car so as to be able to locate and alert emergency crews to the crash site.

However, as the scene unfolded before them, it became apparent that it wasn’t a plane crashing to the ground. In fact, whatever it was, it wasn’t about to crash but was under some kind of intelligent control. The object moved in complete silence, descending to around 200 feet from the ground. Then, it suddenly moved in the opposite direction before ascending to a distance of around 500 feet. There, it stopped and hovered silently.

In his police teletype report, Carson would state the object was in front of them and “surrounded by a glow making the round or oblong object visible”. At each end of the craft were “definite red lights”. Every now and then “five white lights” would shine between the two constant red glows. As the two officers watched the object move once more in the air it “performed aerial feats that were actually unbelievable”.

Deputy Clarence Fry at Tehama County Sheriff’s Office would receive the radio report from the two officers. He would contact operators at the Red Bluff US Air Force radar station. To his astonishment, Red Bluff would soon report back that they had indeed got an “unidentified object” on their radar screens.

Red Lights “Sweeping” The Skies And Ground Of California

Meanwhile, officers Carson and Scott maintained their position near their vehicle. According to Carson’s report, the object would approach their patrol car on two occasions. On each occasion “the object turned (and) swept the area with a huge red light”. When Scott would direct the red light from the patrol car towards the object, however, it would move away from them. From their position, they would observe the object sweep this red beam across the skies and to other locations below around six times.

When the strange craft began to move away and towards the east, the two officers jumped back into their cars and followed. However, as they came up to the Vina Plains Fire Station, a second object appeared ahead and approached the first craft. Both of them hovered, sweeping their red beams across the skies and towards the ground. They would bring their vehicle to a stop once more and watch the proceedings.

They would continue to watch until both of these mysterious crafts moved away to the east once more, this time disappearing over the horizon. It was now after 2 am. Upon returning to their base at Tehama County Sheriff’s Office, they would learn that two other officers, as well as the serving night jailer, also witnessed something strange. Their descriptions all matched with what Carson and Scott witnessed out on the lonely California highway.

Red Bluff Corning California

Corning, California

Sudden Military Denial

The following morning, in reality only several hours later, Carson and Scott would drive to Red Bluff Air Station. Their intention was to add their report to that of the military’s. As well as to speak with the radar operator who had confirmed the sighting to Deputy Fry at the Sheriff’s Office. However, when they arrived at the base, the Air Force would now claim they hadn’t seen the object on radar. And there was no military investigation into the sighting. According to them, there was no sighting.

With the military essentially washing their hands of the affair, Carson would take it upon himself to file a report with the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) in November 1960. It was from this course of action that the sighting remains in the public arena today. In this report, further details of the encounter would emerge. As well as some of the personal reflections of the experience from Carson himself, remember, a trained police officer with experience in taking details in the most pressure-packed situations.

For example, it was Carson’s feeling that there was definite intelligence to, or behind, the object. Whenever he would take the car closer to it, the object “seemed aware of us” and consequently moved away. During the course of the sighting, Carson determined that when they remained motionless and stopped the car, the object would instead come to them. Incidentally, whenever it did approach, they would experience “radio interference”. Lastly, the shape of the object was like that of a football. And the glow most definitely came from inside the object and “was not a reflection of other lights”.

This last point is particularly interesting. Especially when considering the “official” explanation.

Obvious Holes In The Official Explanation

According to the US Air Force, who were forced to respond to NICAP’s investigation, the two police officers witnessed a “refraction of the planet Mars and the bright stars, Aldebaran and Betelgeux”. They would claim “temperature inversions” had caused the “glowing craft” the two officers believed they had seen. They further claimed that a layer of thick smoke from a nearby forest fire contributed to the bizarre conditions. Interestingly, and perhaps tellingly, when NICAP would point out the planet and stars involved would have been below the horizon at the time of the sighting, the Air Force simply changed the star to Capella. This too would have been impossible. Capella would have risen in the skies and not disappeared below the horizon as the objects did.

Needless to say, Officers Carson and Scott rejected these assertions outright. Both of the officers had extensive military backgrounds, with Carson serving in the Air Force, and Scott serving as a paratrooper in the Korean War. Carson would state “both of us are aware of the tricks light play on the eyes during darkness”. Both would take this into account during and after the sighting. Incidentally, when an independent check of the meteorological records was conducted, there was no evidence that “temperature inversion” could have occurred on the night in question.

Perhaps also of interest are the several sightings which occurred in the days following the incident. What was the apparent sudden interest in this otherwise quiet area of California? And whose interest was it?

Sketch of the Sunnyvale sighting

Sketch of the Sunnyvale sighting

The 1965 Rex Heflin Photograph Incident

Just over five years later, 30 minutes after noon on the 3rd August 1965 in Santa Ana area of California, Orange County highway inspector, Rex Helfin, was in his vehicle when he witnessed a “hat-shaped object” with a dome on the top [2]  part of it hovering over the road.

After snapping to his senses, he grabbed his Polaroid camera from the seat of the car and quickly snapped three photographs, all of which captured the strange object perfectly. He would then take a fourth picture of a “black smoke ring”, left in the sky in the immediate aftermath of its sudden departure.

Helfin would also notice several other intriguing details concerning the sighting. For example, his radio that allowed him to communicate with his employer’s main base would suddenly stop working meaning he could not report the sighting as it happened (as soon as the incident was over, the radio would come back to life).

He would also recall how the craft (which you can see in the picture below) had a “rotating band of light” on its underside.

Picture showing an apparent UFO

Does this picture show a real UFO?

Life would remain quiet for Helfin for almost two months following the encounter. Then, however, the ‘Santa Ana Register” would publish one of the pictures in their 20th September edition. Not long after, national newswire services would pick up the story.

It wasn’t long before experts at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were testing the photograph in order to prove or disprove its authenticity. Their findings would essentially suggest the picture was genuine and not the result of manipulation or tampering. Despite this, though, the United States Air Force would claim the incident was nothing more than a hoax.

Following this initial round of verbal punches from each side of the respective argument things would take an ominous turn.

A “Highly Credible” Case Of A “Structured, Craftlike, UFO!”

Perhaps of even more interest was the implication that “unknown parties” obtained negatives of the pictures from Heflin under false pretenses, claiming they were from the North American Air Defense Command.

It would seem the reason for obtaining these negatives was to deliberately make them appear as though they had been faked. This was “achieved” by inserting a “line-mark” which was then “discovered” upon later analysis and so declaring the picture a forgery and a hoax.

However, intense investigation of this apparent line-mark – which was claimed to be a string attached a much smaller object than a “flying saucer” – would reveal it to be the only anomalous part of the picture. In short, it was perfectly obvious to researchers – independent, no less – that the line-mark was inserted after the picture had been taken in an attempt to “discredit Helfin”.

Furthermore, and corroborating these findings of tampering with the negatives, copies of the original photographs as held by NICAP and the regional newspapers that reported on the case, clearly showed no line-mark or anything that might be construed as a “string”.

In short, it is largely agreed that the Rex Heflin pictures are genuine. Veteran UFO researcher, Richard Hall would state the pictures were:

…Highly credible (and a) thoroughly investigated case that meets all the criteria for significant evidence of a real structured, craftlike UFO!

Check out the video below that looks at this apparent picture in a little more detail.

The Sunnyvale Sightings

Whether there is a connection or not is open to debate, but a similar nighttime sighting in California took place two years earlier on 26th September 1963. [3] It was around 4:20 am when Sunnyvale Police Officer, Galen Anderson would observe a strange craft while carrying routine night patrols of the streets of Sunnyvale.

A sudden radio call from other officers on patrol would alert him to look for something untoward. He stopped his patrol car and then, seconds later, a huge object moving from “east to west at an elevation angle of 45 degrees” filled his vision. It was moving at around the speed of a “propeller-driven craft”. The craft was made of a gray metallic material which was brightly lit up along the edge. As Anderson continued to watch, the UFO made a sudden turn and disappeared at a much faster pace. The whole incident had lasted around 45 seconds.

Five minutes before Anderson’s sighting, at 4:15 am in the nearby town of Monta Vista came another sighting. Supervisor at the Permanente Cement Company, George Scott, heard one of his workers calling him. When he came over to the excited worker, he moved his focus upwards. That’s when he saw the glowing craft moving upwards into the sky for around 60 seconds. Another police officer, Lt. Haag, also witnessed the same craft only minutes after Anderson.

Were these alien crafts over California? A state that experiences more UFO sightings than many others? Or might they have been the result of secret military technology experiments? Only further study, research, and pressure for disclosure will begin to answer such questions.

The sightings in this part of California, however, would continue.

The 1964 “McKinley Avenue” Incident

Just short of ten months later on the 2nd June 1964, came another mysterious sighting over Sunnyvale. At a little after 10:30 pm, Mrs. Holmes was driving home along McKinley Avenue when she saw a “strange looking objects” hovering over the picturesque neighborhood below.

She would recall that the object was “cigar-shaped”, although from some angles it appeared as though “it might be the shape of a disc”. She would estimate it was around 150 feet above the seemingly unaware populace below and was approximately the size of a standard 20 square foot living room. The exterior was of a dark material. So dark, that she struggled to keep it in steady sight against the dark night sky.

From the underside of the craft was a “rectangular, flat, box-like area” illuminating a similar sized area on the ground. Bizarrely, around the edges of this illuminated rectangle was what seemed similar to “fluttering flags”. Similar to those one might find at a service station or even a car salesman’s court. You can see a sketch of the underside below.

Sketch of the UFO at McKinnley Avenue

Sketch of the UFO at McKinnley Avenue

The witness would further state the craft itself remained still while hovering. The underside, though, remained in “constant motion” and persistently active. Whether the craft was searching for something below or not she wasn’t sure. She would continue to watch the craft as she moved along the road. A little slower now than before she would keep the aerial anomaly in her sight.

A Perfectly Clear California Evening!

Despite the surreal nature of the moment, Mrs. Holmes managed to continue on to her home, arriving safely several minutes after first noticing the strange lights. She rushed from the vehicle almost before killing the engine such was the rush to get inside. She ran straight to find her husband to inform him of the strange object hovering over the neighborhood.

He stood and followed his wife without question, eager to see this mysterious vehicle for himself. It had started to move off towards San Jose by the time the pair arrived outside. It would remain, however, clearly visible for some time.

The couple watched the object disappear into the distance before it was joined by two identical crafts. They would then vanish out of sight. The pair would estimate that the sighting, from the moment Mrs. Bruce first noticed the strange anomaly to be around ten minutes.

Furthermore, the weather was perfectly clear at the time of the sighting. This, The witnesses would dismiss any notions of a mistaken sightings of a conventional aircraft. Or of some kind of weather phenomena.

So, as we can see the state of California has a long and persistent history with UFO sightings and encounters. And what’s more, that history is being written every day with sightings remaining higher than average.


1 Red Bluff Incident, Red Bluff, California, August 13, 1960 Richard Hall, NICAP
2 Strange-looking object hovers over neighborhood homes, UFO Evidence
3 The UFO Evidence: (unidentified Flying Objects), National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, 1964 (page 63)

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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  • Betty Meyers says:

    I live in Tehama County, CA my children and I ovothe years have had several I counters with UGOs. This area seems to be a hot bed for them. But, we watch the night skies enjoying the beauty of the galaxy.
    They usually move silently in our skies, however, when you get close enough to them. They have a hum. It is from their engine or whatever is propelling them.

    • Marcus Lowth says:

      If ever you manage to capture a photograph or if you have any further encounters, we would love to hear about it here 🙂

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