|l-r: Louise Smith, Elaine Thomas, Mona Stafford [Source]|
January 6, 1976, Stanford, Kentucky, 11:15 PM - Louise Smith, Elaine Thomas and Mona Stafford are in high spirits getting into Smith's 1967 Chevy Nova in the parking lot of the Redwood restaurant off Route 27. The women had been celebrating the 36th birthday of Stafford, but it should be noted here that none of the women consumed any alcohol. As Smith drove south on Highway 78 through the town of Hustonville towards Liberty, where the women all lived, the women saw what looked to Mona like an airplane on fire and crashing. She thought that if they sped up, they might be able to arrive at the crash scene in time to help out. The bright, red object then descended towards them at treetop level. At this point, Smith lost control of the vehicle, which felt to the women like it was going 85 mph. Smith later recalled that, "my foot wasn't even on the gas pedal." The steering wheel also seemed to be locked as Smith couldn't move it even with the help of Stafford, though the vehicle conformed to the contours of the road.
The object tailed the car for a little while, past a drive-in theater, then came in close on the driver's side. The women could now see that the object wasn't "bright, red" at all, but a metallic disc ringed by red lights with a dome top and blinking yellow light on the bottom. The metallic craft then zoomed ahead of the car before shining a white light into the car's interior. It's at this point that the interior of the car seemed to fill with a hazy fog which caused a burning sensation in the women's eyes. The car then seemed to back itself into the entrance of a large field, between two stone railings.
Next thing they knew, they were back on the road to Liberty with a red tint to their skin, as though they had been sunbathing. They were confused and suffering from visible burns on their skin, when Mona went to see her doctor he said that it looked like she had been exposed to radiation. The paint on the hood of Mrs. Smith's car had bubbled and the lights wouldn't work. By the time they got home it was 1:20 AM. The entire distance they traveled was 35 miles, a 45 minute trip.
|Mona Stafford drawing [Image Source]|
It was through this publicity that MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) member Jerry Black caught wind of the Stanford Kentucky Abductions and he contacted the women. They were reluctant to speak with him, unwilling to relive the experience, but eventually they agreed to meet with Peggy Schnell, who represented the organization.
All three women were undergoing symptoms which might today have been recognized as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Elaine Thomas reported that Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Stafford were close to their psychological breaking points and all three had begun chain-smoking. Mrs. Stafford in particular experienced periods of vigilance and psychological difficulty leaving the house.
It's because our accounts of the women's experience come from this UFO-friendly source, and not from local or federal authorities that doubt is cast upon all or part of the story.
But, according to Mrs. Schnell of MUFON, the women appeared genuine. Something strange seemed to have happened to them that night. Aside from the women's obviously distressed behavior, there was physical evidence. Mrs. Smith had a half-dollar sized pinkish-grey blotch on the nape of her neck. All three women reported general ill health, but apparently, the "details" were held back by MUFON, in fear of losing the women's trust. (It should be noted here that Elaine Thomas died around about a year after the experience in 1977, though I was not able to find a cause of death.)
But that was only the beginning of a bizarre turn of events for Mrs. Smith. Her alarm clock broke when she touched it, the minute hand of her wrist watch spun around the dial fast as the second hand and her car suddenly developed electrical problems. Also, Mrs. Smith's pet parakeet began to withdraw and exhibit frightened behavior in her presence. Other people did not elicit such a reaction from the bird and when Mrs. Smith was brought into the presence of other birds, they reacted the same way. Mrs. Smith's parakeet died in March 1976.
|Dr. Leo Sprinkle [Source]|
After the session, but while still in a post-hypnotic state, Mrs. Stafford was shown several pictures of aliens by the MUFON team. It should be noted that this was the first time that extraterrestrial beings had entered the conversation. Stafford settled on one of the pictures saying that she could see the image in her mind, but it didn't "seem solid. It comes and goes ... I mean, fades and reappears like in a fog. It's eyes are far apart and at the bottom ... the chin ... is like that drawing." (my emphasis)
Once the session had ended, the MUFON team had no more funds left to continue researching the case. But on July 1 they enlisted the aid of that most-infamous of sensational American tabloids, The National Enquirer, who agreed to fund further research into the case and pay the three women for exclusive rights to the story. Part of the Enquirer deal was that the women were to undergo a lie detector test. The three women each underwent a polygraph under the direction of Detective James Young of the Lexington police department. All three passed.
As regression therapy sessions continued, the events of January 6 were filled in and elaborated on. All three were seated or placed in different venues within the unidentified craft, or strapped to different devices, but they all reported being scanned and probed, though not sexually. Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Stafford also recalled the application of a warm liquid to the face and body. But the story only gets weirder.
The women began to describe the alien beings they encountered with varying accounts of their appearance, but they were usually described in ethereal terms about shadowy figures who floated by them and floating eyeballs which watched them from above, including one eye that was purple and shot lightning. The alien beings themselves were described as four feet tall without mouths and communicated telepathically.
This case is considered one of the best ever for evidence of actual UFO abductions but it rests on very little actual evidence, if any. All the evidence in this case is anecdotal and what's worse, the overall investigation has been tainted by the dubious practice of regression therapy. Regression therapy is the psychiatric equivalent of faith healing. Because the anecdotal evidence, lacking corroborative elements, it's easy to accuse the women of making the entire story up and even inflicting themselves with burns to back up their claims, if the injuries were actually present at all and not just another made-up element of the story. We don't really know that Mrs. Stafford went to see the doctor and that the doctor claimed she looked like she had been exposed to radiation, we have to go on her word, and that can be a precarious ledge to balance on indeed.
I find it dubious that the UFO people claim repeatedly that the women haven't profited from the misadventure, nor have they sought publicity. Quite, the opposite, supposedly. By most favorable accounts, the women shunned publicity at all turns. But we know that this isn't true because it is stated openly within MUFON's own documents that the women did in fact profit from this story by offering exclusive rights to it to the National Enquirer of all places and their involvement with news media has continued until quite recently (see video below).
In the end, the women themselves, and their conviction about their story is the best evidence there is for this case. The women's conviction is vetted by a lie detector test, which are arguably somewhat useful as an auxiliary to a police investigation, but are absolutely useless in a legal case i.e. establishing proof.
It should be noted that Louise described many different forms for her alien abductors, it wasn't until months later that her descriptions began to conform to those of her friends accounts. And let it be said once more for emphasis that at no point did any of the women mention aliens until Mona Stafford was asked specifically to identify aliens by the MUFON investigators.
Another thing to consider is that most UFO abduction stories involving cars traveling down lonely roads seem to take place in a single cluster of time from the late 1960's through the 1980's, with most stories featuring very little in common in the way of details, for the more famous cases anyway. It seems entirely plausible that the three women were trying to capitalize on the bizarre phenomenon, but one must always wonder about paranormal hoaxers: of all things to do, of all ways to try to make money, why that?
It would be nice if there had been a corroborating witness during the event, a feature that other abduction / close encounter stories have had. There are alleged witnesses who also saw a UFO over the town of Stanford of similar design to that described by the women at about or around 11:30 PM on that night, including two teenagers out for a joyride, but the names of many of the alleged witnesses have never been identified as they are said to not want to come forward. It's the kind of corroborating detail that could be drawn out from thin air by anyone at any time.
I'm wary of calling the three women complete liars however, but based on the reports of MUFON the investigation into this case was bungled from the very start. I'm open to the possibility that the women did see or experience something strange that night, but what that might be is unknown. Stranger things have happened that didn't include four foot tall telepathic beings. The only confirmed truth in this story is that strange things happen to people who can't explain what happened to them and it could happen to you on any given day, the everyday strange.
MUFON Journal January 1977
APRO Bulletin, Vol. 25, No. 4 (October 1976)
Central Kentucky News, 09/24/2010
Kentucky.com about 'High Strangeness' play