By Douglas Perry
Evelyn Trent started yelling for her husband at about 7:45 that evening. She was feeding their rabbits in the yard of the couple’s Dayton farm when she saw it — “like a good-sized parachute canopy without the strings, only silver-bright mixed with bronze.”
“It was as pretty as anything I ever saw,” she recalled later.
She ran into the house, found her husband — and their camera — and they raced back into the yard. Paul Trent spotted it too — “a round, shiny, wingless object” hovering in the sky.
The 43-year-old farmer managed to take two photographs before the flying object disappeared into the evening mist.
They’re the most famous photos ever to come out of Yamhill County.
The McMinnville Telephone Register and The Oregonian published the images in June of 1950, a month after Paul Trent took them. (He had to finish off the roll before getting the images developed. The final three photos he took were of a family picnic on Mother’s Day.)
Life magazine followed the Oregon newspapers, offering its national audience a gander at the unidentified flying object. Soon, a U.S. Air Force investigator came to the Trent farm outside McMinnville. “The object was coming in toward us and seemed to be tipped up a little bit,” Paul Trent told the officer. “It was very bright — almost silvery — and there was no noise.”
The investigator had heard such stories before. This was the Golden Age of UFO sightings. But while most alien-craft tales were easily debunked — they were discovered to be weather balloons or private planes or obvious hoaxes — that wasn’t the case with the Trents’ photos.
In 1967, the Air Force commissioned prominent nuclear physicist Edward U. Condon to lead an exhaustive UFO study. The 950-page report, titled “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects,” easily dismissed most of the reported sightings, but, it stated, “at least one, showing a disk-shaped object in flight over Oregon, is classed as difficult to explain in a conventional way.” The study determined that the photos were genuine and the Trents truthful.
“This is one of the few UFO reports,” the study declared, “in which all factors investigated — gemetic, 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.”
Paul Trent’s second photo of the UFO. (Oregonian archive)
The Condon report reached this conclusion even though Evelyn Trent had a history of spotting strange objects in the sky. She had told The Oregonian in 1950 that she’d seen flying saucers at the coast three separate times, “but no one would believe me.”
On this occasion, however, her husband backed her up and never wavered about what he saw, though he admitted, The Oregonian wrote, that he had “no idea what the object was, how fast it was flying, how high it was nor where it came from.”
Eventually, McMinnville embraced the sighting, with McMenamins launching a popular annual UFO festival in the city. The 19th event will take place next May.
Kim Spencer, granddaughter of UFO photographer Paul Trent, in 2000. (The Oregonian)
Paul Trent — who died in 1998, a year after his wife — eventually just wanted to put the whole UFO thing behind them. When two Oregonian reporters asked for recollections some 40 years after the sighting, he chafed at Evelyn’s willingness to talk again about what they had seen. “I told you to forget all about that,” he said.
Evelyn nodded at her husband, and then continued her story, telling the reporters about the “magnificent disc hurtling toward the house.”
This article (Oregon UFO photos fascinated Air Force; farmer wanted to forget them) was originally published on Oregon Live and syndicated by The Event Chronicle.