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Urban Legends: The UFO Sighting of McMinnville, Oregon

One of the most famous pictures of a UFO was taken in 1950 on a farm near McMinnville—this controversial photograph showed what looked to be a flying saucer in the sky and was even printed all across the country in both newspapers and magazines, including Life. The problem is, is that it has still not been disproved and there is still no one who really knows the truth of the photograph.

One of the most famous pictures of a UFO was taken in 1950 on a farm near McMinnville—this controversial photograph showed what looked to be a flying saucer in the sky and was even printed all across the country in both newspapers and magazines, including Life. The problem is, is that it has still not been disproved and there is still no one who really knows the truth of the photograph.

Timeline of Events and Investigation

1950

UFO Sighting 1950 - McMinnville, Oregon
Photography by Paul Trent

Between 7:30 and 7:45 pm in May, Evelyn Trent was out feeding their rabbits in the yard of the couple’s farm and saw “… a good-sized parachute canopy without strings, only silver-bright mixed with bronze,” which prompted her to yell for her husband. When her husband didn’t come out, she ran into their house to find him and their camera, before they both raced back into their yard. When Paul saw the object as well, later describing it as, “a round, shiny, wingless object,” that was hovering in the sky. Evelyn would later describe what they had saw that night, “as pretty as anything [she] ever saw.”

That night, the 43-year-old farmer was able to take two photographs before the flying object disappeared into the evening mist, and there has never been a more popular photograph to ever come out of Yamhill County. The images weren’t published until about a month after they were taken, because they wanted to finish off the roll before getting the images developed, in The McMinnville Telephone Register and The Oregonian. Life magazine followed up with publishing the story and images after the Oregon publications, which allowed the entire nation to marvel over the unidentified flying object. It didn’t take long for an investigator from the U.S. Air Force to make a trip to visit the Trents on their farm outside of McMinnville. “The object was coming toward us and seemed to be tipped up a little bit,” Paul Trent offered up to the investigations officer, “it was very bright—almost silvery—and there was no noise.”

This particular investigator had heard about these kinds of stories before, it was the Golden Age of UFO sightings, after all—however, most of all the other alien sightings had been easily debunked. Unlike the others, this was no weather balloon, private planes, or otherwise obvious hoaxes.

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1965

In 1965, the Air Force finally found a legitimate university with a well-credentialed physicist, Edward Condon of the University of Colorado, who was willing to thoroughly study the matter.

1967

In 1967, Condon led an exhaustive UFO study and finally finished a 950-page report under the name, “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects,” which dismissed most of the reported sightings, but then stated that, “at least one, showing a disk-shaped object in flight over Oregon, is classed as difficult to explain in a conventional way.” This study determined that the photos were genuine and that the Trents were honest in their reports.

Condon’s study declared that it was, “one of the few UFO reports in which all factors investigated—geometric, psychological and physical—appear to be consistent with the assertion that an extraordinary flying object, silvery, metallic, disk-shaped, tens of meters in diameter and evidently artificial, flew within sight of two [credible] witnesses.”

1968

When Condon’s report was released, it was firmly established by 1968 that UFOlogy was a border science that lay well outside of the mainstream sciences. His results were, of course, argued with, because UFO enthusiasts believed that if he had confirmed the existence of UFOs, then he would have ruined his reputation.

1998

Until both Evelyn and Paul passed away in the late 1990s (Evelyn in 1997 and Paul in 1998), they maintained that their story was genuine and even modern analysis doesn’t provide absolute results as to whether or not the images can be debunked. It seems that skeptics believe it’s a hoax, whereas believers assert that it’s evidence that cannot be discounted on the existence of UFOs. The only thing that has been proven over the years since the photograph was taken, is that even under intense scrutiny it can neither be definitively debunked nor confirmed.

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2004

Researcher Joel Carpenter (1959-2014) attempted to recreate a plausible UFO picture on the Trents’ farm, but it was clear the picture was shot using optical illusions to make it seem as if a near object was actually in the distance.

2013

A group of French skeptics also did an in-depth investigation and attempted to recreate the photographs that the Trents had taken–their conclusion was that the original photographs were of a small model and not of an actual UFO.

Aliens in a Car
Photography by Miriam Espacio

What are your thoughts on this very long-survived UFO sighting that still refuses to be debunked with confidence? Do you believe that these 70-year-old pictures could possible be authentic, or are they the best surviving hoax that has ever been captured on film? Let us know your thoughts below!

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