Sunday, December 23, 2012

The McMinnville UFO Photos; A Scientific Analysis By Dr. Bruce Maccabee (Redux)

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At Long Last - Authentic Photographs of Flying Saucer Telephone-Register 6-8-1950

Trent Saucer 2

Bruce Maccabee Dr Bruce Maccabee
© 1977-2012
NOTE: The main text of this paper was started in 1977 and completed in 1981 and then submitted to the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) for presentation at the Second CUFOS UFO Symposium. The intent of this paper was to supplement the previous paper on the Trent photos, "On the Possibility that the McMinnville Photos Show A Distant Unidentifed Object," published by CUFOS in the Proceedings of the 1976 CUFOS Symposium. For various reasons this and the other papers presented at the Second CUFOS Symposium were not published until 1989 in the "Spectrum of UFO Research." Therefore, the previously published version includes the Addendum (1984) which provided further information on the analysis and further testimony regarding the Trents. Some modifications, clarifications and and additions to the original text have been made in April and May, 2000 and are designated by "(NOTE 2000:....)" . An Addendum (2000) has also been added to bring the status of the Trent case up to date (as of my own site visit to the "remains" of the Trent farm, May 11, 2000!)


On June 8, 1950 the local newspaper in McMinnville, Oregon (USA) published two photos of a "flying saucer" which had been taken by a farmer, Mr. Paul Trent. There was also a brief description of the sighting of the object by the farmer and his wife. Copies of the photos are presented in Figure 1 and Figure 2 shown below:


(NOTE 2000: see the photos associated with the previous paper.) Several other newspapers published reports of the Trent sighting based upon independent interviews and an International News Service (INS) newswire story about the sighting. The INS also obtained the original negatives, which were never returned to the Trents (nor did INS pay for the photos). The Trent photos subseqently appeared in many UFO books and articles. (NOTE 2000: as of the year 2000 the Trent photos have been published hundreds of times in newspapers, journals and books worldwide.) They achieved a unique measure of official recognition in 1968-1969 when the "Condon Report" (1) was published. In the report of that Air-Force funded study at the University of Colorado the photoanalyst, Dr. William Hartmann, stated that the photographic and verbal evidence in the Trent case was essentally consistent with the claim of the witnesses that " extraordinary flying object... tens of meters in diameter and evidently artificial, flew within the sight of two witnesses." Despite this strong endorsement, Hartmann admitted that a hoax could not be positively ruled out. (NOTE 2000: this was the first scientific analysis of this sighting even though the photos had been available for study for 17 years as 1967.)

Several years later an investigation by Philip J. Klass and Robert Sheaffer (2) argued that the photographic evidence used by Hartmann (1) was not conclusive and that, furthermore, there seemed to be some discrepancies between the photographic evidence and the witness' story. Moreover, the stories published in the newspaper accounts seemed to be inconsistent with what Klass would have expected if the story had been true, leading Klass to indicate that the photos were probably a hoax. After seeing the analysis of Klass and Sheaffer, Hartmann revised his opinion: "I think Sheaffer's work removes the McMinnville case from consideration as evidence for the exstence of disklike artificial aircraft...(and it) proves once again how difficult it is for any one solve all the cases. Perhaps no one has the experience for that because there are too many phenomena and methods for hoaxing."(2)

My subsequent investigation (3, 4) of the original negatives confirmed Hartmann's original conclusion about the excessive brightness of the bottom of the image of the Unidentified Object (UO) and eliminated the claim (2) that there was a relatively long time lapse between the photos. Dr. Robert Nathan, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasedena, CA (NOTE 2000: now retired), also searched for, and failed to find, indications of a suspending thread. (NOTE 2000: in recent years the original negatives have also been studied by interested persons at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and also at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA. None of these independent investigations has turned up evidence of a hoax.)

At the same time I was carefully studying the original negatives and improving upon the photometric analysis of Hartmann and Sheaffer (between January 1974 and November, 1977, when the first version of this paper was written), I carried out an intensive investigation into the background of the sighting and into the subsequent developments . (NOTE 2000: I continued the investigation into the early 1980s and again in the late 1990's, long after the original version of this paper was presented at the 1981 CUFOS conference. Pertinent results of those investigations are included in this presentation.) I have concluded, from communications with many people who have talked to the Trents, that no one who has met them personally would believe that they would think of creating any hoax or perpetrating a hoax as successful and long lasting as their flying saucer report. Dr. Hartmann, who interviewed them in 1967, was convinced of their veracity (1). However, as mentioned above, he later changed his mind (2,6) after reading Sheaffer's analysis (7). I have further concluded, contrary to the opinions expressed in Reference 2, that it cannot be proven from either verbal or photographic evidence that the case was a hoax. Instead, the available verbal and photographic evidence indicates that the sighting was not a hoax. (NOTE 2000: Evelyn died in 1997 and Paul in 1998. They were last interviewed in 1995 by Terry Halstead for a video documentary. They repeated their story once again and avowed that it was the truth.)

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