95% of UFO sightings can be written off as nothing: weather phenomena; misidentified aircraft; mistakenly identified stars or planets. 5% cannot be explained. In this series we’ll be looking at the mass sightings. The abductions. The unexplained deaths. Real cases, with real people.
These are the 5%. These, are the UFO files.
The Roswell Incident is arguably the most famous of all UFO cases, but more than that, it is seen as the start of the modern UFO era. This next incident took place in June 1947 - two weeks before Roswell, and three days before Kenneth Arnold reported seeing UFOs while flying over Mount Rainier, objects that he claimed moved like a saucer skipping across water - birthing the phrase ‘Flying saucer’.
Puget Sound in Washington state is a 2800 square mile complex of bays, islands and coves. Logs from nearby “jams” escaped and floated on the surface of the waters creating a hazard for any boats. Harold Dahl takes his son, his dog and two men out to salvage the logs, taking them to nearby mills to claim a fee. They are in the waters just south of Maury Island when suddenly, something unusual appears in the clear skies above them: 6 metallic donut-shaped UFOs estimated to be 100ft across.
The objects are flying in formation, five of them circling the sixth, which seems to be in trouble. Worried that the UFO will hit his boat, Dahl quickly takes it ashore. They watch from the beach as the object veers from side to side, dangerously close to crashing into the water, when a huge explosion rips through the bay. The central object ejects hot, metallic debris which rains down into the water, onto the beach, and onto the boat. His son is struck, burning his arm. The dog too is hit, killing it instantly. The event goes on for a few minutes, time enough for Dahl to grab his camera and take photographs. Whatever was wrong with the struggling craft, the ejection seems to fix and it is once again surrounded by the others. They speed out of sight in silence. The stunned men regain their senses and collect some of the jettisoned debris. They report their finds as black, lava-like stone.
They hurriedly board the boat and head back to the dock where Dahl gives the camera to his boss, Fred Crisman. He told Crisman what had happened, but the boss was naturally sceptical. However, when the photos were developed they did show unusual flying craft. Still not convinced, Crisman went out to Maury Island himself and collected some of the strange debris.
One morning shortly after the sighting, Dahl got a knock at his door. He was shocked to open it to a man wearing a black suit. The man invited Dahl to breakfast. It was at this breakfast meeting that the man in the black suit issued a chilling warning: bad things would happen to Dahl and his family unless he kept his mouth shut.
This is the first reporting sighting of a Man in Black.
As time went by Fred Crisman wanted answers. He contacted Chicago publisher Ray Palmer, editor of sci-fi magazine Amazing Stories, who then sent Kenneth Arnold $200 (over $2,200 in 2018) to investigate. Arnold of course had by now had a very famous sighting of his own. So pleased was he with the sum of money mentioned, that he was overheard at the office of the Idaho Daily Statesman bragging about his fee.
Being a good citizen, the editor immediately sent a telegram to Air Force intelligence. The Air Force sent two Air Corps Officers, Captain Davidson and First Lieutenant Brown, from Hamilton Field up to Tacoma. They gathered the strange material from Dahl and Crisman and according to some reports they also took the photographs. They boarded a B-25 bomber with a crew of two other men for the return flight back to Hamilton Field and took off just after midnight.
That flight would never reach its destination.
Around twenty minutes after take off the flight got into difficulties over the town of Kelso. It crashed just outside Kelso, killing Davidson and Brown. The other two crew members parachuted to safety.
There are reports of suspicious deaths surrounding the aftermath of this incident, involving newsmen and reporters, and also an attempt on the life of Kenneth Arnold. I was unable to find any reliable sources to substantiate these claims. One interesting factoid that did emerge was that Fred Crisman, Dahl’s boss at the salvage company, was one of many people accused of involvement in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Crisman even testified in front of the Grand Jury in the trial of Clay Shaw, the only prosecution connected with the entire assassination plot. Shaw was acquitted.
Subsequent searches of the crash site have yielded nothing. None of the debris, nor the photographs were seen again. This was at a time before UFO reports were common and leaves us with more questions than answers; was this an elaborate hoax? Who was the strange man in the black suit? Would the army go to the trouble of sending anyone to recover evidence unless they were convinced something happened? One thing is certain: on the 1st August 1947 Captain William Lee Davidson and First Lieutenant Frank Brown died in a plane crash. We may never find out if that crash had anything to do with a UFO.
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In this blog I'll be bringing to you short tales of things that go bump in the night, true stories of weird and unexplained events, and the real-life news of all things odd and macabre, and entertain you along the way.