Four accounts from our extraterrestrial past
If you’re craving more UFO goodness, view our slide show of baffling photos taken by fellow Oregonians over the years.
CASE: THE FIRST “FLYING SAUCER”
Date: June 1947
Location: Oregon and Washington
Rescue pilot Kenneth Arnold (left), was flying east from Mount Rainier when he spotted nine silvery objects flying in an echelon formation at supersonic speed ahead of him. The objects moved in an “eerie” side-to-side fashion for about two minutes before jetting out of view, Arnold said. When he landed, Arnold recounted his tale in exceptional detail, noting the angle of the objects’ trajectory, their speed, and estimated size. The crafts, according to Arnold, were more triangular than circular—like curved wings. However, in his discussion with a reporter from the East Oregonian, he described the crafts as moving like saucers “skipping across water.” The paper ran a story about “flying saucers,” and the term was born. Arnold’s sighting may have been the first of its kind, but a veritable deluge of UFO reports across the country followed. The infamous Roswell “crash” occurred only one month after Arnold’s tale was published, and in 1947 and 1948 the military received hundreds of similar reports.
CASE: THE FIRST PHOTO EVIDENCE
Date: May 1950
Location: McMinnville, Oregon
On a cool May evening, Evelyn Trent was feeding chickens on her McMinnville-area farm when she saw something unusual in the sky and called for her husband, Paul, to grab the camera. The two black-and-white snapshots the Trents took—the first photos of a UFO in the US—are grainy and dark, but the disc-like object hanging in the center of both images is crystal clear. Every grain of the Trents’ two black-and-white photos has been examined, analyzed, and reanalyzed over the past 62 years. Debunkers have argued that the Trents must have hung an object from the power line near the top of the photo, but UFOlogists have concluded the pictures are real. Despite the publicity storm that followed them, the Trents lived out their next 40 years (they passed away in the ’90s) quietly: they never sought to monetize their fame, never asked for their negatives back, and never reported anything similar again.
CASE: MUTILATED COWS
Date: October 1990
Location: Vancouver, Washington
Between June and October, Richard Fazio, owner of New Columbia Garden Farms on the banks of the Columbia River, found five of his cattle dead and scattered across three different pastures. Many cows’ organs and parts had been carefully removed —eyes, ear, tongue, rectum, udder, genitals, belly skin. Oregon State University analyzed tissue samples and determined the wounds were consistent with “electrosurgical excision” and “heat-induced injury,” possibly from laser. None of the injuries matched the typical explanations for cattle deaths (disease, weather, or predators). Two neighbors testified they had heard unusual sounds in the night before the carcasses were discovered. One of them said she had been startled by a “little man” carrying a “flashlight” in one of the pastures. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office quickly closed the case—without ever charging a suspect in the crime.
CASE: CROP CIRCLES
Date: July 1998
Location: Hubbard, Oregon
On his approach into Hubbard’s Lenhardt Airport, a pilot saw an intricate pattern of circles, lines, and arcs in the wheat fields below. Farmer Doug Aamodt claimed to not know anything about the design on his land, igniting a media frenzy and sending dozens of UFO experts to the site. After analyzing the formation’s measurements (about 250 feet long and 170 feet wide), soil samples, and swirls, researchers determined that it was consistent with other crop circles, but they remained uncertain about how it got there. No official explanation was ever found, but at least one witness claimed to have seen an unusually bright object in the area at night, just before the circles were discovered. Since then two similar crop circles have been reported in the same field. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the field had a history of crop circles as early as the 1920s, well before UFOs became part of popular culture.