Saturday, July 26, 2014

The James Stokes UFO Sighting, November 1957

As should be obvious, I have spent some time looking into the November 1957 UFO sightings, especially those in the desert southwest. I have been through what I can find, including the original reports that appear in The A.P.R.0. Bulletin, the NICAP UFO Investigator, the Project Blue Book files, and the skeptical end of these cases including Watch the Skies! by Curtis Peebles.

What I find interesting is how the Project Blue Book investigators seemed to miss basic facts, made allegations that were never corroborated (which is a nice way to suggest they just made up stuff), and wrote off cases based not on the evidence but on their own personal bias. The James Stokes case of November 5, 1957, proves the point.

What prompted this is what I read in Watch the Skies!. The information is right out of the Project Blue Book files, reported as if this was an unbiased search for the truth, the only credible source for information and dismisses Stokes as a liar. That allegation is based on trivia, much of it coming from the mistakes made by the Air Force which could have been corrected if they had cared anything for the truth.

The first point is the claim that Stokes, after his sighting and before he did anything else, called the media, in this case the Alamogordo radio station to describe what he had seen. But the evidence, available at the time, is that Stokes first called his superior, Major Ralph Everett, at Holloman Air Force Base to ask if he could talk about the case. When he received the affirmative, he didn’t call the radio station. He called his friend, Jim Lorenzen. But the radio station news director, Terry Clarke, having learned Stokes’ name from Everett, was looking for Stokes so that even if Stokes hadn’t called Lorenzen, who then called radio station, the story would have gotten out. So, Stokes story can’t be criticized for his the media contact.

Much is made by the alleged misidentification of Stokes as an engineer. The Air Force suggests that we can reject Stokes because of this resume inflation. But the idea that he was an engineer is again traced to Holloman and his superiors who identify him as such. Even the base PIO, in a statement released that is in support of Stokes’ credibility and is not part of the Blue Book file, identifies him as an engineer. Of this, Michael Swords in UFOs and the Government wrote, “the pettiness of part of this attempt at personality assassination is a little disturbing.”

From there we move into the real trivia. According to the Air Force, Stokes changed the number of cars along the side of the road from ten to several and finally settling on six. But in that first interview, in the radio station, Stokes didn’t give a number. He just said several.

Or the idea that he made contradictory statements. This apparently revolves around the “severe” sunburn that Stokes reported. Terry Clarke, in his December 1957 magazine article (written within weeks of the sighting) mentioned the sunburn, but didn’t call it severe. There are several newspaper clippings in which it is described as severe, but in the documentation from the time frame, and from Clarke’s description of it, the sunburn was mild. It had faded by the next morning and by the time the Air Force investigator arrived, there was no sign of any sort of burn. To the Air Force, this observation, days later, and the change from severe to mild is evidence of Stokes changing his statements. This is the second contradictory statement noted in the Blue Book file, the first being the number of stalled cars.

As those of you who visit here regularly know, I try to get to both sides of the controversy. I published information that refutes some very interesting Foo Fighter sightings based on evidence I found in the ship’s deck logs that do not confirm the sightings. I believe that Chiles and Whitted, who said they saw a cigar-shaped craft with a double row of lighted, square windows, saw a bolide, a very bright meteor. I have corrected inaccurate information with the latest data, and have taken heat for being a debunker and an anti-abduction propagandist…but the real search should be for the truth, whatever that truth might be.

But here, in the Stokes case, I say the skeptics have it wrong. Those who had looked at the case, used the Project Blue Book files as their source of information, ignoring other sources such as Clarke’s 1957 article (or probably not locating it during their research which isn’t quite the same as ignoring it) don’t have an accurate and complete picture. If we are going to learn anything about these UFOs, the very least we can do is make sure that our sources of information are accurate, that they are not biased, and most importantly, that these sources use the best information available. Repeating a conclusion created by someone else because you like it is not doing research, it is merely following the party line, whichever party line that happens to be.

Stokes deserved better than he got from his own government. He had served in the Navy for 24 years, he had served in World War II, and there is no evidence in the accounts gathered at the time that he changed his story, recanted part of his story, or that he invented it out of whole cloth. This doesn’t mean he saw an alien spacecraft, only that he saw something he couldn’t explain and reported that to his superior the first chance he got. But there is nothing to prove that he made the thing up for the publicity that he received and nothing to validate the claim that it was a hoax. This should have been marked “Unidentified” by the Air Force, not “Mirage and Psychological.” 


Rusty L. said...

Kevin, you make a point that has been bothering me as I've read this site and others that consider ufology and related topics: The overuse of the term researcher and investigator. My problem is that describing someone as a researcher implies the use of some rigorous method. The scientific method or at least something beyond conjecture and opinion based on review of other conjecture and opinion. I would suggest that most of these "researchers" are better described as "hobbyists" or "enthusiasts". In my OPINION, labeling these repeaters on non-research as researchers really undermines the credibility of a number of otherwise compelling articles and publications. I imagine that others would have similar problems with use of the term investigator unless the individual demonstrates a search for the truth that involves some rigor.

While I know you don't go out of your way to antagonize the hobbyists and enthusiasts, I think you are certainly qualified to make the distinction.

cda said...


I quote the exact press release from the USAF on this case:

"ALAMOGORDO, NM (10 stalled autos, radio fadeout, "heat" light and "sunburn").

"Investigation of originator's report revealed no "sunburn" effect from "heat" light; originator admitted radio fadeout previously in same area; none of witnesses originator cited in other automobiles could be found after extensive search".

"EVALUATION: Hoax, presumably suggested by the Levelland, Texas reports".

Coral Lorenzen has a lot to say about the case in her book where she accuses the AF of skullduggery but she wrecks her case by suggesting the other witnesses had given false names to Stokes in order to avoid being involved in the incident! She then tells how she visited her son in hospital some months afterwards, spoke to doctors & nurses there and learned second-hand that one of these supposed witnesses was a civil service employee, who therefore couldn't talk about it!

What BS. First they give fictitious names then one of them couldn't talk about it because he was a civil servant(!), at least so says Mrs Lorenzen of APRO.

Just plain BS (as per your previous topic). Lorenzen is as guilty of the BS as probably was Mr. Stokes and, possibly, the AF.

Have you any names (real ones) of any of these witnesses? Has anyone else? Why have they never come forward? Or was the USAF right all along, that Mr Stokes made the story up?

I do not believe they would easily label someone an outright liar and risk ruining his career.

KRandle said...


In the only report from a disinterested party, Terry Clarke, and written shortly after the event, Clarke mentioned the mild sunburn. Coral Lorenzen said that by the next morning it had faded. By the time the Air Force investigator, Captain Patrick O. Shere, arrived, the sunburn had faded.

Air Force skullduggery is evident with their claim that Stokes was the one who called the media which is not true.

According to the information from a couple of sources is that it was a fellow named Duncan and another named Allan D. Baker... and no they have not been found.

And while you might not believe they would label someone an outright liar, this is what they did. And what they did to Air Force lieutenant Joseph Long is even worse. They smeared him because he was only a "Reservist" so he wasn't a "real" officer and besides he was about to leave the Reserve (Sighting November 23, 1957 that included a stalled car engine).

You might not like it, but the evidence is that the Air Force did smear a number of witnesses in an attempt to reduce interest in their cases. Or, as they used to say in the military, if you don't llike something, ignore it. If you can't ignore it, belittle it.

While you might object to Coral Lorenzen's analysis (and without names of those witnesses she found in the hospital, though she claimed to know them you have a good argument), my point was that the Air Force was supposed to be doing a real investigation, not smearing the witnesses to UFOs.

Anthony Mugan said...

The absence of any other witnesses on the record or any other form of data makes these cases hard to assess.
It's a shame - but basically I don't think we can draw any conclusion from these events, one way or the other in terms of the physical nature of the events.

Kevin's main point though, about the inappropriate way in which witnesses were treated is well made. It may simply reflect the assumption that such sightings are actually impossible and therefore had to be wrong - and at the level of the BB officers concerned I would suggest that is probably the explanation, but this approach was within a wider policy context that was far more subtle and nuanced.
Even in an entirely sceptical interpretation it was necessary to make people feel embarrassed or nervous about reporting such things, in the cold war context, but that is almost certainly (in my opinion - can't be bothered with an argument about it at the moment) not the full context.

albert said...

Terms like 'researcher', 'investigator', 'enthusiast', and 'hobbyist' have little real meaning in these sorts of situations, but they do strongly influence the readers of the reports.
Most Americans, in that era, probably felt a duty to report any strange or unusual airborne objects. (Military personnel were no doubt required to do so) "Smearing the witnesses" is a hell of a way to handle it.
Whether by accident or design, the AF bungled their policy decisions on how to handle UFO sightings, managing to appear incompetent and deceitful.
The decision to cut back on investigations and minimize 'unknown' conclusions had to have come from high up in the command structure. If you take them at their word, all sightings are identifiable and mundane, and not a threat to national security. AFAIK, this wasn't always the case. What changed? Did the AF, at some point, finally find out everything they needed to know about UFOs? Did they finally succumb to their own propaganda? Surely, not everyone agreed with the Condom committee report.

I gotta go...

albert said...


(Kind of 'on topic')

First Global Deception Conference:

The abstracts are well done, and there are plans for another next year. It will be at Cambridge University on August 22-24, 2015, in case anyone is interested in attending.

I gotta go...

Kurt Peters said...



Anthony Mugan said...

Strictly speaking off topic but very interesting, and not off topic in the wider sense so thought I'd mention it regardless

Anthony Mugan said...

ps - to expand on my earlier link regarding apparent thrust from the RF device tested at JPL and elsewhere...the media hype on this is absurdly over the top...

It is a very interesting result ( in terms of our specific area of interest re possible relevance to updated versions of Petit's thinking on MHD) but way too early to be certain about this.

It may turn out to be relevant or there may be an experimental artefact that is very subtle.
We can safely assume quite a few groups will be looking at this and we should know more over the coming year or two. So please do treat with caution and be wary of a lot of media sensationalism around this.