||McMinnville UFO Case
Considered to be Among the most Famous Photo Ever Taken of a UFO
A clip from my film "Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings", which was
made for Space: The Imagination Station in Canada (and is also showing
on TVNZ in New Zealand). Case #4 was the 1950 McMinnville, Oregon UFO
The McMinnville UFO photographs were taken on a farm near
McMinnville, Oregon in 1950. The photos were reprinted in LIFE magazine
and in newspapers across the nation, and are often considered to be
among the most famous ever taken of a UFO.
The photos remain controversial, with many UFO researchers claiming they
show a genuine, unidentified object in the sky, while many UFO skeptics
claim that the photos are a hoax.
At 7:30 pm on May 11th, 1950 Evelyn Trent was walking back to her
farmhouse after feeding rabbits on her farm. Mrs. Trent and her husband
Paul lived on a farm approximately nine miles from McMinnville.
reaching the house she spotted a "slow-moving, metallic disk-shaped
object heading in her direction from the northeast."
She yelled for her husband, who was inside the house, and he came out
and also saw the object. After a short time he went back inside the
house to obtain a camera.
He managed to take two photos of the object
before it sped away to the west; Paul Trent's father also briefly viewed
the object before it flew away.
It took some time for Paul Trent to have the film developed, and he
apparently sought no publicity immediately following the incident. When
he mentioned the incident to his banker, Frank Wortmann, the banker was
intrigued enough to display the photos from his bank window in
Shortly afterwards Bill Powell, a local reporter, convinced Mr. Trent to
loan him the negatives. Powell examined the negatives and found no
evidence that they were tampered with or faked.
On June 9th, 1950 Powell's story of the incident - accompanied by the
two photos - was published in the local McMinnville newspaper. The story
and photos were subsequently picked up by the International News
Service (INS) and sent to other newspapers around the nation, thus
giving them wide publicity.
LIFE magazine published the photos in July
1950. The Trents had been promised that the negatives would be returned
to them; however, they were not returned - LIFE magazine told the
Trents that it had misplaced the negatives.
In 1967 the
negatives were found in the files of the United Press International
(UPI), a news service which had merged with INS years earlier.
negatives were then loaned to William Hartmann, an astronomer who was
working as an investigator for the Condon Committee, a government-funded
UFO research project based at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Trents were not immediately informed that their "lost" negatives had
been found. Hartmann interviewed the Trents and was impressed by their
sincerity; the Trents never received any money for their photos, and he
could find no evidence that they had sought any fame or fortune from
In Hartmann's analysis, he wrote to the Condon Committee
that "This is 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 witnesses."
After Hartmann concluded his investigation he returned
the negatives to UPI, which then informed the Trents about them.
the Trents asked Philip Bladine, the editor of the McMinnville
Register, for the negatives; the Trents noted that they had never been
paid for the negatives and thus wanted them back.
UPI to return the negatives, which it did. However, for some reason
Bladine never told the Trents that the negatives had been returned.
1975 the negatives were found in the files of the Register by Dr. Bruce
Maccabee, an optical physicist for the U.S. Navy and a ufologist.
did his own extensive analysis of the negatives and concluded that they
were not hoaxed and showed a "real, physical object" in the sky above
the Trent's farm.
He then ensured that the negatives were finally
returned to the Trents.
In the 1980s two UFO skeptics, Philip
Klass and Robert Sheaffer, would argue that the photos were faked, and
that the entire event was a hoax.
Their primary argument was that shadows on a garage in the left-hand
side of the photos proved that the photos were taken in the morning
rather than in the early evening, as the Trents had claimed.
Klass and Sheaffer argued that since the Trents had apparently lied
about the time the photos were taken, their entire story was thus
They believed that the Trents had suspended the "UFO" from
power lines visible at the top of the photos; and that the object may
have been the detached rear-view mirror of a vehicle.
When Sheaffer sent his studies on the case to William Hartmann, Hartmann
withdrew the positive assessment of the case he had sent to the Condon
However, Dr. Maccabee offered a rebuttal to the
Klass-Sheaffer theory by arguing that cloud conditions in the
McMinnville area on the evening of the sighting could have caused the
shadows, and that a close analysis of the UFO indicated that it was not
suspended from the power lines and was in fact located some distance
above the Trent's farm; thus, in his opinion, the Klass-Sheaffer theory
Today the Trent/McMinnville photographs remain among the best-publicized
in UFO history; and are among the most-discussed and debated. To many
ufologists, the two photos rate as being among the most reliable and
persuasive in arguing for the existence of UFOs as a "real", physical
To many skeptics, however, the photos are likely hoaxes and/or fakes.
Evelyn Trent died in 1997 and Paul Trent in 1998; they both insisted to
their deaths that their sighting, and the photos, were genuine.
The interest surrounding the Trent UFO photos led to an annual "UFO
Festival" being established in McMinnville; it is now the largest such
gathering in the Pacific Northwest, and is the second-largest UFO
"festival" in the nation after the one held in Roswell, New Mexico.
is known among UFO researchers for photographs published on the front
page of the June 9th, 1950 edition of the city's newspaper, the
News-Register (then known as the Telephone-Register), reportedly of an
unidentified flying object seen almost a month earlier, May 11th.
A debate has raged for decades between UFO researchers, who claim that
the photos are genuine and are among the best ever taken of a UFO, and
UFO skeptics/debunkers, who claim that the photos are a hoax.
Both sides in the debate have hired photographic experts numerous times
to do a professional analysis of the photos, but so far neither side has
offered convincing evidence to prove their case.
The Trents' background was also thoroughly checked, and to date no
evidence has surfaced implicating them in a hoax. The whole sequence of
events has led to a "UFO Festival" being held in McMinnville each year,
which is the biggest such gathering in the Pacific Northwest, and second
in the country only to Roswell, New Mexico's.
The Trent Photos
The McMinnville UFO - Portland Channel 2 News
Fighting for Pieces of History
The McMinnville UFO photographs were taken on a farm near McMinnville, Oregon in 1950. The photos were reprinted in LIFE magazine and in newspapers across the nation, and are often considered to be among the most famous ever taken of a UFO.
The photos remain controversial, with many UFO researchers claiming they show a genuine, unidentified object in the sky, while many UFO skeptics claim that the photos are a hoax.