13 May, 2015

UFO photos taken near McMinnville in 1950 still raise questions

They were just two black and white photos taken with a simple Kodak camera by a Yamhill County farmer 65 years ago Monday.


But the controversy stirred up by those images still lingers in the minds of many:  Did the pictures that Paul Trent snapped the evening of May 11, 1950, really show a flying saucer?

Or were the photos fakes, simply a bid by Trent and his wife to jump on board the runaway wagon of UFO mania that gripped the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s?

The McMinnville photos weren't the first reports of UFOs, but they are considered by many who study the topic to be among the best photographic evidence of flying saucers.

And even skeptics see them as the best fake photos of flying saucers ever found.

The UFO craze in the United States is generally thought to have started three years earlier in June 1947 when a Boise salesman flying his small plane near Mount Rainier reported seeing nine shiny objects flying at high speed near his craft.

Over the next few days, his story exploded.  It also was the first of multiple UFO reports around the world.

Then, in July that year, an Air Force  colonel announced that 509th Bomb Group had captured a flying saucer.

His superiors immediately denied the report, but it fed the mania.  And for the next several years, those sightings and stories led to a cascade of sightings, U.S. Air Force investigations, science fiction books and movies and a constant stream of claims and rebuttals that still goes on today.

Then came the Trents and their photos.

Trent and his wife Evelyn lived on a farm between McMinnville and Sheridan.  On the evening of May 11, Evelyn Trent had been walking back toward their house after feeding some rabbits when she said she looked up and saw a flying metallic disc moving in her direction.

She told her husband, and he took two photos of the object, which they said then quickly flew away.
Trent apparently didn't think too much about the incident because he didn't get the black and white film developed until a few days later when he had used up the roll.  It wasn't until he told a friend about the sighting and showed him the photos that the incident was widely reported.

The photos soon appeared on the front page of the Telephone Register, which was the local paper. Before long, the national media was on to the story.

The Trents became celebrities for a time and were flown to New York to appear on TV.  They loaned the photo negatives to the International News Service, which circulated them worldwide.

Eventually, the photos appeared in LIFE magazine, which was the nation's largest-circulation magazine at the time.

The Trents never received any money for the photos and the negatives weren't returned to them for decades, supposedly having been misplaced by INS or LIFE.

Meanwhile, researcher after researcher has looked at the photos and declared them authentic -- or fake.

In 1997, the Trents were interviewed by Bryan Denson of The Oregonian for a 50th anniversary story he and Jim Long, another reporter for The Oregonian, were doing on the UFO craze.

Evelyn Trent told Denson of seeing a "magnificent disc hurtling toward the house," handing the camera to her husband, who then took the pictures.

By then, they were living in a McMinnville apartment and were interviewed together.  It was clear that while she was willing to still talk about the sighting, he'd had enough.  The following is from Denson's and Long's story:

''After you took the picture of it coming in, and then goin' back out, the wind that came down (had) no motor or no smoke or no nothin' -- JUST THE WIND.''
''S'all there was,'' she confided to a visitor. ''No motor or sound to it at all.''
Paul Trent groaned and stiffened in his recliner. ''I told you to forget all about that,'' he said.
''I know you did,'' she said. ''You told me to forget about it.''
Quietly, she added, ''We've been bugged so much.''

The Trents have both since died, but they never changed their story about the sighting.

Link:  http://www.oregonlive.com/history/2015/05/past_tense_oregon_ufo_photos_t.html

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