Close Encounters

Watch the Skies Magazine

An Analysis of the Cash-Landrum Symptomatology

by Brad Sparks © 1999

Editor's note: Per Mr. Spark's request, revisions of this material may be made, as new information becomes available.

It is certainly a sad loss indeed with the passing of Betty Cash. She bravely endured tremendous suffering as a result of her unfortunate UFO encounter on December 29, 1980, outside Houston, Texas, along with Vicki Landrum who also suffered much, and Colby Landrum the then 7-year-old boy, who thankfully did not go through as much illness as the adults.

However, it does NOT appear that the Cash-Landrum symptoms were due to ionizing radiation or "radiation sickness" for the reasons listed below. I reviewed this case for APRO in the early 80's but was not able to publish the results of my analysis for various reasons. Radiation oncologist and APRO consultant Dr. Richard Niemtzow reviewed my findings and agreed that the symptoms did not match those expected for ionizing radiation syndrome. Forgive me if I get some of the case details and radiation research a bit "off" as I'm working mostly from memory.

Betty Cash

18 years to the day, 29th December 1998, Betty Cash passed away.
During those 18 years Betty was in and out of hospital, due to the effects of whatever she was exposed to that fateful night.

(1) Prodromal Onset Much Too Early:
Let me begin with the bottom line first, even though the supporting evidence and argument will follow and I risk being misquoted without the backup: Had Betty Cash really experienced an ionizing radiation exposure with such rapid onset of symptoms she would have been DEAD within several DAYS, uniformly 100% FATAL, yet instead she survived for 18 years and so have the Landrums who would also have been dead within DAYS. There is no "almost" about it, you can't argue that she "almost" died therefore it must have been ionizing radiation because she AND both Landrums ALL THREE should have been DEAD within DAYS if it was a massive dose of ionizing radiation. You can ask any radiation biologist who specializes in the study of ionizing radiation and they will tell you that a 1,000-2,000+ rem dose has NEVER been survived by ANYONE in history -- remember, there were thousands of radiation cases at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In a classic case of sublethal whole-body ionizing radiation exposure, the victim does not experience the GI tract symptoms of nausea-vomiting-diarrhea until 2-3 DAYS after exposure (this is the "prodromal phase"), then there is about a 2-WEEK "latent period" of no apparent symptoms followed by the return of nausea-vomiting-diarrhea along with other effects such as epilation (hair loss), petechiae (hemorrhaging spots under the skin), etc., which constitute the "syndrome".

However, Betty Cash's GI tract symptoms began within about 1/2 HOUR of the UFO exposure and did not let up for WEEKS -- there was NO "latent period." Her hair loss also began much too soon, within a day or two as I recall from the investigative reports, instead of 2 WEEKS later in standard radiation cases. I could not find a single case in the literature of whole-body ionizing radiation causing such an early epilation although DIRECT SKIN BURNS could do so, but then in that case it's not a case of classic whole-body penetrating ionizing "radiation sickness".

The rapidity of onset of the prodrome is a rough indicator of ionizing radiation dosage, with onset about 2-3 days post-exposure indicating something in the 100-rem range ("rem" = roentgen equivalent in man), 1-2 days indicating dosage around 500 rems which is above the LD50 (lethal dosage in 50% of the cases) for humans of roughly 350-450 rems, and the lack of a latent period indicates a dose of 1,000+ rems. In fact I could not find cases of ionizing radiation in which nausea-vomiting-diarrhea occurred earlier than about 1 day because in the indicated dose range range of 1,000-2,000 rems and above, the CNS (central nervous system) effects overwhelm all others and the main symptoms are severe headaches, disorientation and visual disturbances rather than GI symptoms.

(2) Conjunctivitis Not Consistent With Penetrating Ionizing Radiation:
Any ionizing radiation capable of penetrating 120-140 feet of air (as well as car window glass) would also penetrate SKIN without a significantly greater absorption than deeper tissues. Thus, Betty Cash's immediate conjunctivitis, a superficial or surface injury of the mucosal lining of the eye, is NOT explainable as due to penetrating ionizing radiation. Furthermore, the Landrums should also have experienced approximately the same level of severity of conjunctivitis as Cash, if it had truly been caused by PENETRATING ionizing radiation that had already penetrated 120-140 feet of air from the UFO to the Cash-Landrums' location on the road. NON-penetrating ionizing radiation such as alpha or beta rays or heavy ions could not have even reached the Cash- Landrums in the first place, as they are stopped by a few feet of air. (3) Car Body Would Not Provide Significant Shielding from Ionizing Radiation: The Landrums' symptoms were clearly much less severe than Betty Cash's, and they did not require hospitalization. Vickie did get out of the car but stood behind the open door, whereas Betty walked to the front of the car, Colby stayed inside the entire time.

However, ionizing radiation does not propagate in a straight line like a flashlight beam through some 120 to 140 feet of air. There is no strong "shadow" effect. To draw a rough analogy, ionizing radiation always propagates more like an overcast day with sunlight scattered from all directions, in which one can still get sunburned from the scattered rays even though under an umbrella or some direct shading. Thus, Vickie Landrum would have gotten as severe a dose of ionizing radiation as Betty Cash and should have died within days (the slightly closer distance of Betty at one point would not have made a significant difference in what would have had to be a 100% fatal dose). Same for Colby -- he would have also received a fatal dose and died within days.

The car's engine block would not have provided significant shielding to Colby inside the car due to the scattering effect of ionizing radiation. The car's window glass certainly would not have provided any significant shielding to any type of ionizing radiation that had already traversed about 120 to 140 feet of air (glass would have completely stopped alpha and beta rays but so would 120-140 feet of air; glass would not have noticeably affected the doses of gamma rays, x-rays or neutrons of sufficient energy to penetrate that much air).

Even supposing a collimated x-ray or gamma-ray laser beam, it would not be able to avoid the insuperable paradox that if ionizing radiation penetrates 120-140 feet of air it will not be stopped or be significantly absorbed by human skin or 1/4- or 3/8-inch of glass either, although in THAT CASE ONLY the car's engine block MIGHT have provided some shielding for Colby as the collimation of the hypothetical beam would avoid some of the "shadowless" scattering effect and a few feet of iron could reduce x-ray dosage somewhat (though not much for gamma rays which are higher in energy than x-rays and more penetrating). It would still not have protected Vickie Landrum very much because as an adult much of her body would have been above the level of the car engine (unlike Colby whose body was largely below engine level) and thus would not have been shielded from a collimated beam.

(4) Thermal Effects NOT Due to Ionizing Radiation:
The extreme heat noticed by the witnesses, felt directly on their skin and felt in the car body getting hot, cannot be caused by ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation has an enormous physiological effect far out of proportion to its insignificant thermal energy due to its "poisoning" effect at the cellular level caused by formation of highly reactive hydroxyl radicals, etc. A fatal absorbed dose of 1,000 rads would raise the temperature of body tissue or water by only 0.00002 deg C.

The melting of the car's plastic vinyl (?) dashboard indicates a temperature rise of roughly 50 degs C at least. Since the specific heat of human tissue or water is much higher than plastic or metal I'm “guesstimating” roughly on the order of 10 calories (or 40 joules) per cc of thermal energy. ASSUMING isotropic emission of such thermal energy from the UFO out to about 140 feet rather than a directed beam (but we really don't know that), this would indicate a thermal emission of on the order of 10 billion joules. Power output depends on how long it took for this heat to be deposited, but assuming for sake of simple calculation a hundred seconds, then the thermal power would have been roughly 100 megawatts IF isotropically radiated (i.e., in all directions).

A somewhat similar argument eliminates ultraviolet (UV) radiation as it does ionizing radiation, the amount of UV sufficient to cause such 50 C heating would have literally fried human skin causing nearly instantaneous death. Visible light that intense would have caused immediate permanent blindness. Infrared (IR) or heat radiation is indicated as the likely cause. Microwaves are another possibility but such an intense whole-body exposure sufficient to cause a serious thermal effect most likely would have caused cataracts in all three victims, and I don't recall from the reports that that ever happened. (I don't recall that microwaves can cause ionizing radiation-like symptoms in case anyone wonders and there would be a similar question as to how much shielding a car body can provide against microwaves, probably not much depending on the exact wavelength, the car's conductor configuration, the microwave propagation pattern, etc.)

(5) Differential Symptomatology Indicates Shielding of a Possible Chemical Agent:
The significant difference in symptomatology between Betty Cash who was outside the car during most of the landing/close encounter versus the Landrums who mostly stayed inside except for a brief period outside by Vickie seems to indicate exposure to a CHEMICAL AGENT perhaps in vapor-droplet or particulate form, in which the car WOULD have provided significant shielding (a gas agent is not indicated as it would have penetrated the car interior).

It is known that many chemical agents MIMIC IONIZING RADIATION EFFECTS even down to the cellular level, and can create such symptoms without regard to dose-onset-time relations and with considerable individual variability in response (which might obviate the need to suppose shielding by the car from exposure). The immediate contact dermatitis (skin burns) and conjunctivitis seem to indicate a chemical agent exposure.

A massive emission of ionizing radiation would have produced many measurable effects in the immediate environment of the UFO and in the three witnesess, the Cash- Landrums, some of which would be permanent and demonstrable in laboratory testing at any date even 18+ years after the event. Thermoluminescence in the appropriate rock mineral could show a large ionizing radiation excitation at any date (archaeologists and paleontologists sometimes attempt to use thermoluminescence dating based on an assumed background radiation exposure over thousands of years). Neutrons can cause transient induced radioactivity in soil and rock (but not gamma or x-rays), depending on the exact composition, however the half-lives of the radioactive nucleides of soil/rock elements most likely are short and known civilian investigations did not arrive soon enough so far as I can tell. Nevertheless, IF there had been neutron irradiation there would have been a permanent stable (non-radioactive) increase in mass number of the isotopes of soil/rock elements which could be demonstrated by mass spectrometer at any date. I don't know that any such tests have ever been carried out on the soil samples recovered from the Cash- Landrum CE-II site.

If I recall correctly the medical data, Betty Cash had an elevated WBC (white blood cell) count which is not consistent with ionizing radiation exposure which depresses the white cell count. Use of WBC is a classic clinical indicator used to roughly gauge ionizing radiation dosage but can only be done in the first few weeks post-exposure and evidently cannot be used here since the count elevated instead of dropped. HOWEVER, ionizing radiation causes a permanent number of chromosomal aberrations in cell nuclei which can be used for radiation dosimetry any number of YEARS after the event -- the preferred method uses blood samples from a live subject but perhaps could be used with other types of stored cells. Certainly the Landrums could be tested even today.

© Copyright 1999 by Brad Sparks

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