The Ariel School UFO: A Dust Devil?

My article on the Ariel School UFO incident was recently published in SUNlite (Smith, 2023).


Although I am the first to explain the Ariel School UFO incident by the misperception of a dust devil, the Socorro UFO incident (which is also categorised as a close encounter of the third kind) was suggested by Donald Menzel to be a dust devil. However, in my opinion, a fire whirl seems more probable. On July 3, 1970, Menzel debated Raymond Fowler on the Socorro UFO. Menzel argued what the eyewitness, Lonnie Zamora observed was in fact, a dust devil, but he made a misidentification because his glasses had fallen off during the observation (Zamora had a 20/100 vision) and he initially reported seeing the UFO from a long distance of about a mile away, while driving; later from 450-600 feet. Fowler (1974) quotes Menzel:

In 1966, I was in Peru to observe an eclipse of the sun. I was driving along a road with a native driver, and all of a sudden, in front of me, I saw an object that looked almost identical with what they described – the little legs, the two little men in white around it – and I was fascinated and surprised. I recognized it immediately from the Socorro case, and, ah, my driver did not stop at all! And this thing moved across the road, and then as we went past it, I saw it take off and go up in the atmosphere. It was what we call a dust devil of a very sharply defined character. And dust devils are very frequency out in this area of Socorro, and I think that could have been what he saw. The two little men in the white suits were just part of the dust devil around the bottom of it, where you are looking through the edges of the places where the dust was being picked up from the dusty road.


  • Fowler, Raymond. UFOs: Interplanetary Visitors (New York: Exposition Press, 1974).
  • Smith, Oliver D. “The Ariel School UFO: A Dust Devil?,” SUNlite 15, no. 3 (2023): 7-10.