|By Clyde Lewis
We all know about UFO lore. However the history that gets buried beneath the Roswellian overkill is the first wave of UFO accounts. The Modern UFO era actually begins in the Northwest. From the Mountains of Washington on down to the farms of Oregon the alien infestation was already heating up long before the alleged alien crash at Roswell.
When thumbing through dime store book about UFO's the genesis always seems to be the crash of a flying disc in July of 1947somewhere near Roswell New Mexico. It seems that it all can be recited verbatim and most people will somehow let the story just fly over their heads never absorbing the details.
UFO cases become so academic at times that they can be a big yawn fest. Most UFO researchers have probably studied the Roswell crash over and over.
The on going investigation into the case can be tedious. Once you have nailed the history the case seems to trail off into all sorts of claims and hushed up witnesses. Most of them are dying off and so eventually there will be a tainted history that will eventually become "fact."
Perhaps the salvation of UFO history is to take a look at the first wave of the modern UFO stories. When we do so we trace them back to the American Northwest.
It seems that 1947 was the year the UFO pre history in the United States was centered in the Areas of Washington and Oregon.
On June 21, 1947 Harold A. Dahl was cruising in a boat that he operated with his partner Fred L. Crisman. During the afternoon Dahl and his 15-year-old son were in the Puget Sound area near Maury Island Washington when they spotted six round objects that looked like flying doughnuts.
The doughnuts were circling one that looked like it was in trouble. It started sinking towards the boat. As the unknown aircraft was spinning it began to emit hot metal. The metal hit the boat and some of the slag burned his son. Other white hot metal ejecta landed and killed a dog that was on board. Dahl pulled towards Maury Island and began taking pictures of the event with a camera.
Dahl tried to radio for help, but it seemed that while the objects were overhead, the radio had too much interference and so the radio was of no use to the panicked harbor patrolman and his boy. Dahl took his son to Tacoma to treat his burns. He then told his partner Fred Crisman that the metal that damaged the boat was caused by some unidentified craft.
Later Dahl was visited by what could only be described as a stereotypical Man in Black. That man wore the black suit and also drove a brand-new 1947 Buick sedan. The MIB treated Dahl to Breakfast at a waterfront café and then after their meeting threatened Dahl. The MIB was also a witness to the UFO sighting and told Dahl that if he loved his family he would keep his mouth shut about the whole event.
Dahl Told Crisman again and Crisman demanded the photographic evidence. The film was useless. All of the exposures were fogged. Crisman then went to Maury Island and claimed that there was metal slag strewn all over the Island. While he was surveying the area a similar Doughnut shaped craft came roaring out of the clouds. Needless to say Crisman finally became a firm believer in Dahl's story.
On June 24, 1947 Roy Timm a 12 year old boy and his 18 year old brother were working on their Pendleton Oregon Ranch. His mother was on the porch observing he and his brother raising the telephone lines in front of the house in order to make room for hay trucks that pass through. Suddenly, three saucer shaped objects appeared in the sky above their ranch. The Objects whizzed by at a low altitude. Roy recalls that they were so low that he and his family could see windows along the side. They claim the saucers came form the southeast.
The next day the papers reported that a pilot saw nine objects in the sky above Mount Rainier. The Associated press released this article on June 25th, 1947.
PENDELTON, Ore., June 25 (AP) -- Nine bright saucer-like objects flying at "incredible speed" at 10,000 feet altitude were reported here today by Kenneth Arnold, a Boise, Idaho, pilot who said he could not hazard a guess as to what they were.
Arnold, a United States Forest Service employee engaged in searching for a missing plane, said he sighted the mysterious objects yesterday at 3 P.M. They were flying between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams, in Washington State, he said, and appeared to weave in and out of formation. Arnold said he clocked and estimated their speed at 1,200 miles an hour.
This was the story that gave birth to the term "flying saucer." A rash of UFO's seen in the Northwest in 1947 long before anything ended up in the Roswell Record. However contrary to popular belief the objects seen by Arnold were not saucers at all. In 1977 a memoir of the incident was given by Arnold for the First International UFO Congress. In a statement Arnold revealed that the flying saucer label came about because of a mistake. The reporter for the press, Bill Bequette asked him how the objects flew and Arnold answered that, "Well, they flew erratic, like a saucer if you skip it across the water." He used a metaphor to describe the objects and so the term was a misunderstanding. Arnold stated countless times that the objects "were not circular."
A few quotes from Arnold show that there was a great deal of UFO activity in the skies of the Northwest on that day in 1947:
"There was a DC-4 to the left and to the rear of me approximately fifteen miles distance, and I should judge, at 14,000 foot elevation. The sky and air was clear as crystal. I hadn't flown more than two or three minutes on my course when a bright flash reflected on my airplane. It startled me as I thought I was too close to some other aircraft.
I looked every place in the sky and couldn't find where the reflection had come from until I looked to the left and the north of Mt. Rainier where I observed a chain of nine peculiar looking aircraft flying from north to south at approximately 9,500 foot elevation and going, seemingly, in a definite direction of about 170 degrees.
They were approaching Mt. Rainier very rapidly, and I merely assumed they were jet planes. Anyhow, I discovered that this was where the reflection had come from, as two or three of them every few seconds would dip or change their course slightly, just enough for the sun to strike them at an angle that reflected brightly on my plane. These objects being quite far away, I was unable for a few seconds to make out their shape or their formation.
Very shortly they approached Mt. Rainier, and I observed their outline against the snow quite plainly. I thought it was very peculiar that I couldn't find their tails but assumed they were some type of jet plane. I was determined to clock their speed, as I had two definite points I could clock them by; the air was so clear that it was very easy to see objects and determine their approximate shape and size at almost fifty miles that day."-Kenneth Arnold
A few weeks later a crash of a "flying disc" was later reported in New Mexico near Roswell. However after later research this so called saucer was definitely not a saucer but a craft that looked more like a flying chevron aircraft. The focus on the Roswell case and the strange craft that crashed there was an eager interest into the origins of where these craft had come from. Were they from another world? Or were they secret experimental craft that would eventually be revealed at a later date, or during a later military conflict?
While the saucer has shown up in many photos turned over by anxious witnesses it is interesting to note that saucer hysteria had gripped Hollywood after the initial reports out of the Northwest.
Saucer shapes turned up in movies like "The day the earth stood Still" and "Earth vs. the flying saucers."
Then came a controversial photo again out of the Northwest.
The Mcminnville Oregon/ Trent photos have always been a contentious case and for decades many debunkers have claimed that the photos are hoaxes. However there has been no concrete proof to show that Paul and Evelyn Trent, the farmers who snapped the photos in May of 1950 were perpetrating a hoax.
Paul and Evelyn Trent snapped these photos on their farm just before sunset on May 11th, 1950. The negatives of the pictures were situated in the middle of the film roll. Upon inspection there were no practice photos indicating that the Trents had developed a hoax. The photos sat in the camera an entire month before they were developed at a drugstore. The photos were featured in Life Magazine in June of 1950.
The photos sat in the Trent home before they garnered any notoriety. It is told in the annals of UFO lore that the Trents had waited until the roll of film was finished before they even said anything.
Funny how they waited.
Maybe they were not UFO nuts and actually waited until they were sure of what they caught on film. The other interesting thing to note is that the photos were in the middle of the roll of film. There were no practice shots of the UFO and no other evidence to show that they were trying to create a hoax. Just two photo negatives showing an anomalous object buried amongst the mundane pictures of family and friends.
The photos turned out to be some of the first that ended up in a newspaper. If the people wanted to see a disc this was the best one, it was the closest one anyone ever captured.
On June 8, 1950 the McMinnville, Oregon Telephone Register displayed on its front pages two photographs of what is now known as the McMinnville Oregon UFO.
There have been many debunkers who have claimed that the stories had changed at every report. However as I pointed out earlier Kenneth Arnold never said that he saw a flying saucer. The media said so and it stuck. The stories given by the Trents could have changed as well and the question still stands as to why it took them a moth to get the photos developed. Obviously they didn't see it as news worthy or of urgency.
In fact the photos themselves would not have even made it into the McMinnville Telephone register if it weren't for the eye of a reporter who saw them hanging in a bank window.
Later people would actually show up on the farm to look around. Some would even throw hubcaps in the air to see if they could get the same effect. It obviously didn't work.
The Trents were just simple farmers. They obviously weren't flying saucer seekers, or UFO nuts out to make a fast buck. Paul Trent even said at one time that he believed that the picture that he captured was that of a secret Military aircraft.
There was no talk of alien beings or men from Mars at the time. You can leave all of that cosmic talk to the journalists of the day. The Trents may have received some fame from the photos. But it seems that they never really made much money. You can also sit and ponder why these photographs and the other stories out of the Northwest have been downplayed in UFO lore for some reason.
They were actually the first UFO events that pre dated UFO hysteria brought on by the events at Roswell.
There is always a prevailing attitude amongst smug debunkers that flying saucer photographs were snapped with the same zeal back in the early days of the "flaps" as they may be today. In the Trent case it seems that these attitudes do not wash. When was the last time a physicist has written books about the Northwest UFO cases? When have you seen documentaries that have set the record straight about the unidentified aircraft spotted in the Northwest in the 1940's and 1950's? They get a quick mention in most presentations and the details of the mistakes that were made in reporting these cases get overlooked.
If the cases were reopened would we have a different attitude about unidentified flying objects? Would it have a more mundane explanation? Would it have changed history? Would there have been a better attitude about these aircraft and the investigation?
I believe that the answer is yes.
Both Paul and Evelyn Trent died in the late 1990s. The house where the photographs were taken has long since been torn down.
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