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A Flying Saucer (Maybe) and Four Martinis

The story of the crash of an alleged UFO in May 1953 – on the fringes of the town of Kingman, Arizona – is one of the most controversial of its kind. But, how many people really know how the “crashed saucer” saga began? I thought today I would share with you just how the whole thing took off, so to speak. The genesis of the story can be traced back to early February of 1971. At the time, Jeff Young and Paul Chetham were two new and enthusiastic UFO investigators who were digging into a truly sensational story that, if true, strongly suggested intelligent life existed outside of the confines of our own world. These amazing revelations came from a man named Arthur Stansel, who was a good friend of Young’s family and who claimed to have had personal, firsthand knowledge of a crashed UFO and alien body recovery near Kingman on May 21, 1953.

During the course of a face-to-face, tape-recorded interview with Young and Chetham, Stansel – who held a master’s degree in engineering and who took part in the D-Day landings at Normandy, France, during the Second World War – recounted that in 1953, he was working at the ultra-secret Nevada Test and Training Range. It was the location of a then-recent atomic bomb test that had been a part of a larger series of tests known as Operation Upshot-Knothole. This operation was just the latest in a whole series of atmospheric nuclear weapons-based tests that fell under the jurisdiction of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), all of which were conducted on land overseen by the NT&TR from March 17 to June 4 of 1953. Still on the issue of the matter of Operation Upshot-Knothole, on several occasions Stansel speculated that perhaps the incredible blast from one of the bomb tests inadvertently caused the UFO to go wildly out of control, cascading and finally crashing in the next state over, Arizona.

Stansel began by telling the astonished but excited duo that late one night, he and a colleague observed nothing less than an honest-to-goodness UFO soar across the skies near the site. Ultimately, however, Stansel had much more to impart than a sketchy story of a hard-to-define aerial encounter. As Stansel felt more and more comfortable telling his story, he gradually divulged the details of what would become known as the Kingman affair to the unsuspecting Young and Chetham.

Stansel stressed that the incident had taken place during his brief tenure with the U.S. Air Force’s UFO investigation program, known as Project Blue Book. He had received a telephone call from the base commander at Wright-Patterson in Dayton, Ohio, with orders for him to fly to Phoenix, Arizona. From there, Stansel was driven to the crash site of what he was told was a secret Air Force project gone awry. Upon his arrival at the site – which he was certain was situated on the fringes of Kingman – Stansel could not fail to see the unusual object. This was no classic flying saucer, however; rather, the object was shaped like a cross between a teardrop and a cigar. Moreover, it was small, barely twelve feet long. But that was not all: There was a body. According to Stansel, this was no human body. Yes, it had arms, legs, a torso, and head, but it was only about four-feet-tall, its skin was dark, and its facial features were manifestly different than those of a human being. The truth soon dawned on the shocked Stansel: A spaceship from another world had just crashed at Kingman.

Aside from being mentioned in an April 23, 1973 article in the Massachusetts-based Middlesex News, not much else came of the Kingman story – for a while, anyway. Things eventually changed: a man named Raymond Fowler, a well-respected UFO investigator and author, read the article and was intrigued. As Fowler began to dig into the story, he discovered something amazing and near-synchronistic: both he and Arthur Stansel were employed by the very same company. Needless to say, Fowler wasted no time in contacting Stansel, and the pair met in Stansel’s office at noon on May 4, 1973. The Kingman case was about to be taken to a whole new level.

Fowler, admittedly, had some deep concerns about both the witness and his story, since it soon became clear that the tale Stansel told to him was radically different from what had been imparted to Chetham and Young, two years previously. Stansel explained, somewhat awkwardly, and with a degree of embarrassment, that this discrepancy arose from a basic confusion regarding the dates as well as from the fact that he had been under the influence of four martinis when he was interviewed back in 1971. Stansel admitted that when the booze kicked in, he was often prone to exaggeration. Not a good thing when you’re trying to convince someone you saw a dead alien, whose craft may have been brought out of the sky from an atomic bomb detonated on the Nevada test and Training Range.

Although these issues raised some justifiable suspicions about the legitimacy (or otherwise) of the Stansel account, as related to Fowler it was still one that cried out for scrutiny and investigation – which is precisely what Fowler did. On June 7, 1973, Fowler procured a signed affidavit from Stansel, albeit one in which Stansel’s name was changed to the pseudonym of “Fritz Werner” – which, of course, rendered the affidavit wholly meaningless and worthless. Nevertheless, the very fact that Stansel had been willing to put at least something in writing was encouraging, if nothing else.

According to Stansel’s new – or, to be precisely accurate, modified – version of events, it was while on a very short assignment with the Air Force’s Project Blue Book that, on May 21, 1953, he was flown to Phoenix, Arizona, and then driven in a bus with blacked-out windows to a location not too far from the nearest significant landmark: Kingman. When Stansel spoke with Fowler, however, what he had originally described to Young and Chatham as a twelve-foot-long teardrop/cigar-shaped object had suddenly been transformed into an oval-shaped craft with a diameter of at least thirty-feet – a definitive flying saucer, Stansel stressed to Fowler. That’s quite a difference. The exterior of the vehicle resembled brushed aluminum, Stansel added, and the craft had only penetrated about two feet into the ground, which suggested a light, semi-controlled descent had occurred, rather than a violent crash.

The affidavit also described some kind of a hatch, about three-feet-high and roughly one-foot wide, on the side of the craft that provided entrance to its interior. Looking inside, the investigative team spied an oval-shaped cabin, two swivel chairs, and a variety of instruments and screens that did not resemble conventional aircraft technology. Most significant of all, a small body was retrieved from the interior of the vehicle and was taken to a nearby, hastily constructed tent. Very human-like, if small in stature, the presumed pilot had a pair of eyes, two nostrils, a small mouth, and two ears. It wore a silver-colored, one-piece suit, and atop its head sat what appeared to be a small skull-cap made out of the same material as the suit.

Quite naturally and wholly understandably, Fowler had some concerns about the differences between the two narratives, but he did not discount Stansel’s story entirely. Quite the opposite: he continued to investigate it – and Stansel, too – with vigor. What he uncovered added a degree of credibility to Stansel’s new or reworked version of the events. Fowler was able to confirm that between June 1949 and January 1960, Stansel held a variety of engineering and management positions at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and that during the period in which the incident supposedly took place, Stansel worked within what was known at the time as the Air Materiel Command Installations Division, within the Office of Special Studies. Stansel certainly did not appear to be a fool or a fantasist; quite the opposite, in fact. These welcome discoveries with respect to Stansel’s career did not negate the fact that he had clearly told one story to Young and Chetham (after having had a good old, head-spinning time quaffing a few martinis with his new buddies) and a very different one to Fowler. And, that’s how it all began – a weird and controversial case which continues to provoke interest.

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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