The Cash-Landrum incident was an alleged UAP sighting and experience that resulted in health problems for the witnesses, which led to historic civil court proceedings.
At around 9 p.m. on the evening of Dec. 29, 1980, Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum, and Vickie's 7 year-old grandson Colby Landrum were driving home to Dayton, Texas not too far from Houston’s Intercontinental Airport. They witnessed a large light in the sky above the trees. As they drove, they noticed the light getting brighter and closer, and claimed the light was coming from a diamond-shaped object hovering above the trees. At the base of the object,a flame was emitting according to the witnesses.
A few minutes later on the winding roads, they saw what they believed to be the same light as before, but thought it was now much closer and brighter. They said that it came from a huge, dark diamond-shaped object, which hovered at about treetop level, and that its base was expelling flames and emitting significant heat. They exited the Oldsmobile reasoning that they would potentially get burnt if approaching closer to the object. Landrum (a born-again Christiian) believed the object to be “the Second Coming of Jesus Christ,” and referred to the object as “Jesus” to Colby, and that it would not hurt them. Small blue lights were seen on the object, and as flames continued to come out the bottom of the craft forming a cone-like shape, the witnesses felt the heat from the diamond-shaped object.¹
The heat was strong enough to make the car's metal body too hot to touch, and the car handle also felt scorching, according to Landrum. When she touched the dashboard, she claimed her hand pressed into the softened vinyl of the car’s interior and left an imprint that was used as evidence later on (no photograph of this imprint exists). ¹
As the object ascended higher above the trees, 23 Boeing CH-47 Chinooks helicopters arrived to surround the object in a tactical formation.
Later on that night, the witnesses reportedly experienced similar symptoms of generalized weakness, nausea,vomiting, diarrhea, a burning sensation in their eyes, and a sunburn-like afterglow. Cash said her symptoms worsened days later with many large, painful blisters forming on her skin. In the HBO documentary, "UFOs: What's Going On" (1985), Cash said she was treated for breast cancer after being exposed to a "radioactive UFO". The Landrums reported lingering weakness, skin sores, hair loss and eventually severe cataracts.²
Cash's personal physician Dr. Brian McClelland said to the Houston Post that her condition was a textbook case of radiation poisoning. McClelland likened it to being comparable to being "3-5 miles from the epicenter of Hiroshima.”²¹
Cash and Landrum decided to contact their U.S. Senators Lloyd Bentsen and John Tower. Per the advice of the U.S., they filed a complaint with the Judge Advocate Claims office at Bergstrom Air Force Base. After they were interviewed by personnel at Bergstrom Air Force Base, they were advised that they should hire a lawyer, and seek financial compensation for their injuries from the incident on Dec.29.
In 1986, the case was dismissed by the U.S. District Court Judge. The judge argued that the plaintiffs could not prove their case that what they encountered was not related to the U.S. federal government, and the army did not have a pyramid-shaped aircraft in its arsenal.
Although what was depicted that night outside on the outskirts of Houston seemed to be right out of science fiction or the pop comics from the 1960s, the case became a polarizing one within those interested in UAP cases. The eyewitnesses testimony from Cash and Landrum that was collaborated by a local police officer, the physical ailments alleged from the incident, and the military helicopters that arrived on the scene, make the case sound credible enough to investigate further. Ultimately, many experts in UAP studies, as well as news outlets like Texas Monthly, consider the outcome of the Cash-Landrum incident as inconclusive.³
The Cash-Landrum incident is still a popular subject today, and has been featured in HBO documentaries, and major news outlets like Texas Monthly and Hearst.
HISTORY Channel's “UFO Hunters” featured the incident on season 2, HBO highlighted the story on the documentary "UFOs: What's Going On,” ABC’s “That’s Incredible,” Landrum and Cash both appeared on the 1989 U.S television special “ UFO Cover Up? Live!,” “Unsolved Mysteries,” “Sightings,” and more.⁶
Interested parties and skepticism
Despite heavy skepticism, and the case being dismissed by a U.S. judge, the case continues to be contested among UAP researchers.
NASA aerospace engineer John Schuessler and Astronomer Allan Hendrey from Center for UFO Studies both investigated the case, as well as Lt. Col. George Sarran of the Department of the Army Inspector General. A local policeman and his wife also witnessed the helicopters around the same time in the area, which helped collaborate what Cash and Landrum reported.⁴ While Sarran considered the witnesses credible, skeptic and “UAP journalist” Phillip J. Klass referenced Schuessler’s geiger counter investigation of the Oldsmobile that found no signs of radiation. Brian Dunning investigated for the Skeptoid podcast, and said Cash's doctor's notes attribute her hair loss to the autoimmune disease alopecia.⁴
The Cash-Landrum case was historic due to the litigation that followed. This isn’t the first UAP case that also involved military crafts, but one of the only reported incidents of civilian health issues after a UAP experience in the United States at the time.²
Cash died 18 years after the alleged encounter at the age of 69 on Dec. 29, 1998. Landrum died Sept.12, 2007.