The 1976 Cannon Air Force Base UFO Encounters

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
May 17, 2019
Last Updated
October 24, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
9 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Sightings

Over a two night period in January 1976, a student journalist, “Bruce”, alone on the first night and with multiple witnesses on the second, would witness several mysterious objects over Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, as well as a “cat and mouse” chase courtesy of military jets scrambled to pursue these strange and seemingly “trespassing” crafts.

Two superimposed UFOs over a night scene viewed from the hills

Did UFOs hover over Canon Air Force Base in 1976?

What’s more, after finally publicly disclosing these incidents, Bruce would receive very concerning warnings, both from ominous strangers on the phone, and concerned neighbors who witnessed strange events around his home when he wasn’t there.

It is a case, like several others that have come back to the forefront of UFO research thanks to the medium of the Internet. And one that just might prove to be another important piece of the puzzle that we all seek to see complete. Just what happened on those January evenings in 1976? And why did the events remain of such concern to the United States government for decades after?

“Lightbulbs On A String” Hanging Over Clovis, New Mexico

Late on the evening of 21st January 1976, Bruce sat in his truck on the outskirts of Clovis, New Mexico, near to the transmitter of the KMTY FM 99.1 radio station, for whom he worked part-time to help fund his way through college in order to pursue a career in journalism.

He wasn’t supposed to work this evening and was called in last minute as the station wished to perform tests on the transmitter. They required someone to be at the location, and needing the money as always, Bruce agreed to the extra work. Needless to say, it was a night he would not forget.

As a journalist, he was surely thankful for the fact he was placed in exactly the right location to witness the upcoming events.

A superimposed UFO near a radio tower

The incident had multiple witnesses

It was as he was sitting in his truck looking out on the odd patches of light dotted around below, including those of Cannon Air Force Base, when he noticed three strange lights in the sky. The way they appeared would lead him to later describe them as “like lightbulbs on a string”. [1]

Then, two of the lights dropped quickly to the ground, seemingly stopping before collision and hovering. The third light remained stationary above.

Due to his duty as a “storm spotter”, Bruce always carried around his storm spotters kit, which included a pair of binoculars. As he sat watching these strange hovering lights, he reached for them and placed them to his eyes to observe the two lower objects.

An Incident With “Classic Saucer Shaped” Crafts

Amazed at what he was seeing, Bruce took in as much detail as possible. Once magnified, these lights had a “classic saucer shape” to them. Each had a “bluish glow” around them, although the underside sent a “red radiant glow” downwards. Also clear, was the distinct “dome shape” on the top of each craft.

He kept the binoculars trained on the two craft. After several minutes they began to move off, slowing and in perfect parallel unison to each other. He would follow them for around fifteen minutes in total as they moved calmly over the largely unsuspecting citizens below.

A superimposed UFO near a radio tower

Many UFO sightings take place near military bases

Perhaps one of the most bizarre details he would later offer is of witnessing the lights of the buildings and streets below “dimming significantly” as the crafts traveled over them. This would fit in with many other reports of apparent surges of electrical energy in relation to UFO activity.

Furthermore, after calling his employers back at the station to report exactly what he had witnessed he would learn that many residents had also witnessed the strange crafts that evening. Further still, several of those witnesses were active serving state police officers.

While Bruce was there that evening as an employee of the radio station – and hence hadn’t brought his camera with him – the following evening he would return. And what’s more, he would bring several members of the newsroom where he was gaining work experience with him.

Return Sighting From The Rooftops

Using various contacts on the college campus on which he lived, Bruce would manage to obtain keys to the roof of one of the college dorms. From there, he and several other journalists and photographers would sit and wait in hopes of a repeat performance. They wouldn’t be disappointed.

At fifteen minutes before 1 am, the strange glowing objects again appeared in the night sky over Clovis. This time, four of them. Bruce, not wanting to let the moment escape him again, managed to capture a clear picture of the objects.

On this evening, though, rather than merely hover, they were “darting around”. It was as the small group on the dormitory roof watched these dancing lights in awe that they heard the roar and then saw the form of several F-111 military jets launched from Cannon Air Force Base.

A military fighter jet

A military fighter jet

It was clear their mission was to intercept, and they would head straight for the four glowing crafts. However, each time one of the jets would get in the immediate vicinity of the crafts, they would shoot to another part of the sky at breakneck speeding. The jets were, by comparison, clunky and lumbering. And were seemingly no match for these apparently advanced objects.

As the objects made these sharp and extremely precise turns, a strange “plasma-type glow” was briefly visible in the sky. From the tallest building on campus, the small group would watch the desperate attempts of the F-111 jets with an almost unrestricted view.

Everyone Was “Freaking Out” At Cannon Air Force Base

It was around 45 minutes later at around 1:30 am when events ended. The objects, after leading the jets all around the night sky, suddenly “shot up and were gone in a second”. The jets returned to base, their pilots undoubtedly awash with a mixture of bewilderment and frustration.

One of the witnesses, using his powerful telescope, had a clear view of the base, and specifically, the flight line of the runway. He would report that when he followed the objects as they swooped down to the runway, all of the lights would go out, much like Bruce recalled the lights of the town dimming the previous evening as the strange crafts passed over them.

Superimposed UFO on a picture from the inside of a plane

Many pilots report encounters with UFOs

Interestingly, using his many contacts based at Cannon Air Force Base (he would regularly take requests for music on air at the radio station when working as a disc jockey), Bruce would discover that the entire base suffered a complete power outage during part of the incident.

Furthermore, according to Bruce’s contacts, everyone at the base – including superior officers – were “freaking out” due to the sudden appearance of these strange objects. This, as well as the scrambling of the jets would suggest that whoever, or whatever, was behind these crafts, the United States military – at least those at Cannon Air Force Base – were not privy to their plans or reasons.

The contact would also reveal more to Bruce – on the condition that he not reveal where the information came from. He would claim a new, bright lighting system was immediately being put in place (it appeared within days of the incident), and even more intriguing, the base had quietly recorded radar confirmation of activity from both night in question.

A Most Ominous Turn Decades Later!

Although the US military would make no admission of any such radar recordings, or indeed of anything untoward taking place, Freedom of Information Acts would eventually reveal that F-111 jets were indeed scrambled from the base on the evening of 22nd January (early hours 23rd) 1976. The reason for this scrambling, however, remains elusive.

It is, however, perhaps the incidents that would unfold almost 30 years later when Bruce would finally make the decision to go public with his account. He would do so on the Jeff Rense Radio Show on 16th July 2004, during which he would also reveal to the public of the photograph in his possession that he took on the second night’s sighting. Four days later, at 1:30 am, he would receive a telephone call from an unknown person.

A blended picture of UFOs into a man looking at the stars

The 1970s had many UFO reports

What made the call from this mystery person all the more concerning, even before he had said a word, was that it came on his private cell phone. One that is not listed and that only a limited number of people have the number to.

In fact, when he first went to pick up the phone, which had awoken he and his wife from sleep, his first thought was that it was from one of their grown-up children and that something was wrong. However, after picking up the receiver, the voice at the other end asking for confirmation that this was he, was not a familiar one.

The mystery man claimed he wished to meet with him “about a matter of utmost urgency” regarding the photographs he claimed to have in his possession of the Cannon Air Force incident.

“For The Sake Of Your Family…”

It was then that Bruce believed the call to be some kind of joke. To this, the mystery man advised:

…It would be in your best interest to discontinue this line of discussion and do away with those photographs. Destroy them!

When Bruce went to look at the caller display to see who exactly was calling, it simply announced “Number Not Available”. Before he could speak, the mystery man issued another warning:

This is no joke! We feel that this would be in your best interest, and for the sake of your family, that all of this go away!

Attempting to remain calm and in control of the conversation, Bruce again asked for the man’s identity. In response to this, the caller would begin speaking of the careers and daily routines of the couple’s children, as well of those of his wife. He would even claim he could “fax him his entire history in a few seconds”.

It was at this point that Bruce slammed the phone down.

A reproduction of a UFO and military Jet in midair

A reproduction of a UFO and military Jet in midair

For several weeks, things remained quiet. So much so, that Bruce almost began to put the incident to the back of his mind. However, one afternoon a neighbor would inform him of strange activity around his property when he and his wife and left for the day.

Strange cars would pull up immediately outside their home and simply sit there. Sometimes, equally strange men would get out of these cars and proceed to snoop around the property.

Incidentally, the neighbor would warn Bruce that these mysterious vehicles all possessed US government plates.

Renewed Interest And Further Witnesses

In the summer of 2006 stories began to surface [2] regarding UFO researcher Brian Vike, who had investigated Bruce’s reports above and had spoken to Bruce at length, claimed to have the aforementioned photograph in his possession. What’s more he planned to publish it, along with others in the region, on his website.

Incidentally, it would appear these photographs are simply not available online, either at Vike’s website or on others that have carried interviews with him. By all accounts, although grainy, he did manage to capture one of them clearly on film.

Brian Vike

Brian Vike

Was there really an effort to suppress these pictures? Vike himself would withdraw from public life somewhat due to ill-health in shortly after the reports of the pictures being in his possession.

More in-depth information would enter the public arena as a result of his investigations, however. For example, a journalist with the Clovis News Journal claims to have witnessed “23 UFOs sliding in and out of complex formations” the night after the second sighting.

Further still, a discovery of a bizarre circle “burned into the ground” on a New Mexico ranch would surface in the days that followed. Even more intriguing, a “cylindrical object of unknown origin” was also recovered from the grounds of the ranch.

Another report around six months following the incident over Cannon Air Force Base would also come to light around the same time.

Another Multi-Night Incident In July 1976?

While there is no way to establish its authenticity, an anonymous witness would also report to Vike that, while working as a member of the Security Police at Cannon Air Force Base in July 1976, he witnessed very similar hovering lights one evening while on patrol. [3]

They would bring the car to a stop on the base roadside and watch the object more closely. They would later describe these crafts as having a blue glow on top which changed to white in the middle. On the underside, came a green light.

Two superimposed UFOs on a night sky

Where are these strange visitors coming from?

They would check with the control tower to see if there was any of the base’s aircraft in the area. There wasn’t. When Clovis Police contacted the base, though, to report a sighting of the same objects and to enquire of possible aircraft activity, the two security guards knew what they were seeing was very real.

Two further patrol cars arrived with one of them attempting to get closer to the hovering craft. When it did so, however, the object vanished. The witness would state:

It did not fly away! It just disappeared!

This is an interesting detail. Many UFO reports speak of the object (or light) vanishing as if someone “switched off a lightbulb”. Such witnesses usually go to great pains to stress that the craft didn’t fly into the distance.

It would, though, return the following evening amid events that would prove even stranger.

A “Perfect Circle” Of Lights Over The Base

It was around 2 am when the witness awoke the following night amid “a commotion” taking over the barracks. After quickly dressing he ran outside to witness 12 glowing crafts in the sky above. Furthermore, these objects were in a “perfect circle” directly over the base. He would stress in his report to Vike:

Each one was the exact same distance from the other, so I knew that this could not be by accident!

Once more, with almost the entire base witnessing the events, the lights would go off as if “someone had turned off the power to them” one after the other in turn.

The following evening, he was unable to sleep after two nights of witnessing such mind-bending incidents. The witness, instead, would walk around the barracks. As he did so, he noticed one of the strange lights appear overhead. Then another. And another. In only moments, the 12 lights in their circular formation were back over the base.

He turned and ran to inform a superior. However, before he could do so, he witnessed the squads in the courtyards. Some watched the skies attentively, while others were setting up cameras and filming equipment. Once more the lights “switched off” one by one.

They would not appear again after that. And the film’s location, if indeed it does exist, remains a mystery. It’s certainly an account to keep at the back of our minds when researching the events from six months previously. Or indeed, any other similar incidents.

The video below is a documentary looking at the UFO phenomena. It is from 1976, a little after the sightings in question. And so perhaps helps us understand the mindset of citizens and their attitudes to UFO sightings at the time.


1 Cannon Airforce Base UFO Incident – Special Report, Brian Vike, Rense
2 Researcher claims he has photo of 1976 UFO over Clovis, The Eastern New Mexico News
3 Cannon AFB Security Police Watch Numerous UFOs, Sightings Archive

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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  • Terry Gallagher says:

    I was a USAF 2LT working on the Flight Line at Cannon AFB in Clovis the night in January 1976 when we saw unidentified”bright lights” in the night sky over the base. Strange lights were visible for multiple nights to follow.

  • Donald Mercer says:

    I lived near Clovis for almost 2 years and noted how an Air Base was central to the economy of that area! Having my own experiences with anomalous aerial craft during my time in N.M.; I am convinced they are real and Visitors from somewhere else, who may have been here longer than homo sapiens!

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