The Arizona Death Star

From the perspective of a motorist driving up Interstate 40, it might look like some sort of odd, geodesic moon, its glitter-speckled surface slowly climbing above the horizon. Upon closer inspection, though, one would find that this moon has its own moons — smaller orbs on smaller sticks, which honestly look more like enormous tetherballs than satellites.

Most people say the sphere looks like a giant golf ball, but I personally think it looks more like a proto Death Star. Come to think of it, it would make a terrific centerpiece for a really great, though remote, space-themed miniature golf course. The place even has the motif already set up, with flying saucers and everything.

The structure has been balancing on this spot since the 1970s. It originated as part of a shady real-estate venture gone sour when less-than-scrupulous developers bought up some desert acreage and, hoping to conjure images of riparian living in the minds of potential investors, named the location Lake Havasu Estates.

They even went so far as to send out ads featuring pictures of lakeside residents happily water skiing. The fact that Lake Havasu is almost 40 miles away was a detail they apparently just didn't consider worth mentioning.

The plots they were selling didn't even have utilities, let alone a shoreline. In reality, it was, and still is, nothing but dry scrubland. What's more, as it was later discovered, the developers hadn't even obtained building permits for the project.

Not surprisingly, the development went bankrupt by 1972. Federal officials called the scheme the worst land swindle in history.

The only thing to come of the whole ordeal was the 40-foot-wide globe, then known as the Dinesphere. It was intended to be a restaurant and nightclub for future residents, but once Lake Havasu Estates went bust, the place was abandoned. And there it stood for the next decade, as useless as a dented ping-pong ball.

In 1981, a Wyoming resident named Hank Schimmel bought it for his wife Ardell as a birthday present. The couple then spent several winters making the diminutive Death Star fully operational.

They installed all the household essentials and split the building into three levels to create 3,400 square feet of living space: the kitchen on the bottom, the living room in the middle and the bedrooms, with the best view, at the top. And each floor was equipped with its own bathroom so nobody had to climb the stairs.

As for the numerous spacecraft parked outside, those were surprisingly not part of the Dinesphere's original theme. Hank added those. There are, however, one less than there used to be. According to sources, there was once a flying saucer 30 feet in diameter hovering next to the sphere, but it started causing traffic problems on the highway and had to be removed. Apparently, by itself, the huge, tessellated bubble somehow falls within an acceptable level of inconspicuity.


Jan. 5, 2008 | 8:37 pm
Area 66 wrote:

Thanks for the write up. My mother lives there now (having bought the dome from the Schimmels) and I am there on occasion. Because so many people stop and take pictures or want to know about it, we will open a small business on the site selling UFO and Alien-related products including beef jerky, dried fruits and nuts, and honey. The place is called "Area 66" due to it's proximity to Route 66. Note: the saucer that you say was 30ft in diameter was actually closer to 12ft. The wind gusts become so strong in Yucca that it took the saucer off it's pedestal and it flew down the road. We're keeping it down until we can reattach it with a stronger system.

Jan. 7, 2008 | 9:22 pm
Wesley Treat replied:

Hi, Area 66. Welcome to the Roadside Resort and thanks for the update!

Now that you mention it, I remember seeing something when I stopped by months ago that referred to "Area 66." I must've neglected to put it in my notes.

The 30-foot saucer I referred to, however, was removed by the Schimmels sometime prior to 2003, according to another author's interview with the couple. I'm sorry to hear the 12-footer is down as well, although I bet that would've been quite a sight, it flying through the air. Let us know when you get it back up.

(What on earth was it originally supported by, anyway? Looked like some sort of carnival-ride contraption.)

Also let us know when you open the gift shop so everyone will know when to start coming by!

Feb. 2, 2009 | 9:54 pm
John Grady replied:

Hello Wesley,
I am visiting your site again to let you and everyone else know that the store on the site of the "Arizona Death Star" is open. We will soon have postcards, t-shirts, etc. for anyone interested. We also have a website: The website gives some of the history of the sphere, photos, and visitors can buy the jerky that has become as well-known among travelers as the sphere itself. Thanks.

Jul. 13, 2013 | 8:04 pm
Juliana replied:

John Grady, are you available for a short interview via email or phone? I'm writing a piece for my series on Yahoo called "Strange RV Encounters." If your family stills owns the property, I'd like to include any updated information.

Nov. 5, 2010 | 5:24 am
Lawrence Harris wrote:

I first came across the dinosphere on 16 OCT 1976. My car had a pressurized gas tank and the gasline vapor locked and the engine would'nt start until 0200 hours. I was towed off of Interstate 40 by the owner of the Stage Stop Steak house. They had a gas station and an auto impound yard. The next evening after midnight I was sleeping in my car parked behind the restaurant and was woke up by a loud arguement between the owner and 4 California Highway Patrol officers from either Barstow or Mohave, CA trying to let the car down off of the tow truck to steal the car. The 4 CHP officers came extremely close to being shot to death without getting to see who killed them. A week later I discovered the small building behind the Dinosphere had a special generator that was modeled after the kind NASA used in their vehicle they drove around in their moon landings and generated electricity by cycling natural gas through titanium plates and had 2 500 gallon natural gas tanks outside the back of the building. When I told the man that towed me off of I-40 he stated that a woman had died inside the Dinosphere on the largest second floor and the man that strangled her dumped her body out of the door on the bottom floor less than 6 hours before. The wrought iron circular stairway was no longer a part of the Dinosphere and was being towed behind a pickup truck to screed the thick sand between the restaurant and the fence to the Ford Yucca Proving Ground. The restaurant owner and the two men that worked for him all spent quality time incarcerated in an Oklahoma State Penetentary for 10 years or longer. Two were from Oklahoma and one was from Waco, Texas. I recently discovered that everything that I knew about Yucca, AZ no longer existed through satellite photos of Interstate 40 on websites like Terra-Server(Microsoft and the U.S. Geological Survey) and Google Earth. 10 in all. I had contacted Mojave County Assessors Office in July 1979 for information about the Dinosphere and got to look at it once before other interests kept me from buying it.

Aug. 1, 2013 | 3:02 pm
John Grady replied:

I have no idea where Lawrence Harris got his information. No one ever died in the structure, her body was not dumped out from the bottom floor landing, and there were no 500 gallon tanks holding natural gas. Those tanks are the septic tanks.

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