Maury Island incident

Maury Island incident
Maury Island incident is located in Washington (state)
Location of Maury Island, Washington

The Maury Island Incident is said to be an early modern UFO encounter incident, which allegedly took place in June 1947, three days before the famous sighting by Kenneth Arnold, widely considered the original encounter with flying saucers. It is also one of the earliest reported instances of an alleged encounter with so-called Men in Black. Opinions remain divided on whether the case was a genuine flying saucer sighting, a hoax or an attempt to cover up the leak of an advanced, classified aerospace project.



The incident took place shortly after June 21, 1947. On that date, seaman Harold A. Dahl, out scavenging for drifting logs, claimed to have seen six UFOs near Maury Island (which is now a peninsula of Vashon Island, in Puget Sound, near Tacoma, Washington, United States; Maury Island is located directly across a narrow section of Puget Sound from Sea-Tac International Airport and Boeing Field). Dahl, his son Charles, an unnamed hand and Dahl's dog were on the boat. Dahl reported seeing four, five or six (the initial FBI report says four or five) "doughnut-shaped objects" flying in formation over the area where his boat was. He said he could see blue sky through the holes in the center of the discs, and that there appeared to be port holes lining the inside of the ring. One of the craft appeared to be malfunctioning, Dahl reported, and another craft edged up to it, then retreated. At this point the troubled craft began ejecting objects through the inner port holes. Slag-like material began hitting the boat and damaged the windshield, the wheel house and a light fixture, and killed his dog on the deck. He said his son was also slightly injured by falling debris. Dahl claimed to have taken a number of photographs of the UFOs, and recovered some type of slag ejected from the craft that malfunctioned. Dahl also recovered samples of sheaves of lightweight white sheets of metal that fluttered like "newspapers" out from the inner ring of the troubled UFO to the ground.

The next morning, Dahl reported a man arrived at his home and invited him to breakfast at a nearby diner; Dahl accepted the invitation. He described the man as wearing a black suit and driving a new 1947 Buick; Dahl assumed he was a military or government representative. Dahl claimed the man told him details of the UFO sighting while they ate, though Dahl had not related his account publicly. The man also allegedly gave Dahl a non-specific warning which Dahl took as a threat that his family might be harmed if he related details of the sighting.

Some confusion and debate over Dahl's statements have occurred. Dahl would later claim the UFO sighting was a hoax, but has also claimed the sighting was accurate, but he had claimed it was a hoax to avoid bringing harm to his family.


In spite of the threat, Dahl had reported the incident to his employee at his sawmill operation, Fred Crisman, who had long claimed to have experience with unusual phenomena (and who was later alleged to be linked to the John F. Kennedy assassination)[1] and who also was the owner, or co-owner, of the boat used by Dahl. Crisman and Dahl also had a joint-venture to retrieve drifting logs from Puget Sound as a source of raw lumber. Crisman sailed to the island the following day and said he spotted a craft briefly, but it went behind a cloud. He gathered more of the slag which he found littering the beach area. He then sent a sample to Chicago with a request it be tested. According to the FBI report, Crisman either sent it to Ray Palmer, science fiction writer and editor of Amazing Science Fiction, or sent it to a friend at the University of Chicago who failed to identify the material and then sent it on to Ray Palmer. While the "rock formation" was being passed around in Chicago, the famous sighting by Kenneth Arnold took place at Mount Rainier in Washington state. Palmer contacted Arnold and asked him to investigate the incident for the story Arnold was writing for one of Palmer's publications (the FBI report states Palmer was the editor of the magazines Venture and Fantacy [sic, given as "Fantasy" elsewhere in the report] at this time, although both Venture Science Fiction Magazine and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction first appeared long after the incident. Palmer inaugurated the first issue of Fate magazine in January, 1948 with a cover featuring flying disks and the article he paid Kenneth Arnold to write [2]).

Arnold flew from Boise, Idaho, to Tacoma and met with Crisman, Dahl and at least three military intelligence officers at the Winthrop Hotel there. During the meetings over several days, an unknown person (the FBI agent who wrote up the main report on the incident believed Crisman was the most likely suspect) began leaking details of the UFO sighting at Maury Island, the meeting in the hotel room and details of the conversation there to reporters at the Tacoma Times and at United Press, the latter reporter also working for Tacoma News Tribune. The anonymous caller also contacted the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Boise Statesman.

The two United States Army Air Corps investigating officers who arrived at Arnold's request, Captain William L. Davidson and Lietuenant Frank M. Brown of Army A-2 Intelligence, decided to fly back to Hamilton Field the same day they arrived in Tacoma after interviewing Crisman in the hotel room. Dahl had decided to leave, citing possible danger to himself if the story got out, presumably because of the warning he received from the man in black previously. The two intelligence officers said they had to return to Hamilton Field in California quickly because the next day was Air Force Day, when the Air Force officially became a new service branch distinct from the Navy, Marines and Army. As the investigators were preparing to leave, Crisman produced samples of the "rock formation" from his automobile and gave it to the investigators to take back to California.[3] The plane carrying the two investigators and the slag crashed near Kelso, Washington, shortly after leaving Tacoma, killing both men.[3] In April 2007 it was reported that the crash site had been rediscovered and some material recovered, although the initial military investigation did recover exhibits and remove the bodies.[4][5] The FBI report notes that investigators from McChord Field near Tacoma had investigated the wreckage and were convinced there was no sabotage involved. The FBI report further mentions that two other people on board the airplane survived by parachuting from the airplane after it lost its left wing and the tail section due to a fire in the left engine. One of the survivors was named as a member of the flight crew and the other was referred to as "a hitch-hiker." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer identified them as Sergeant Elmer L. Taft and Technical Sergeant Woodrow D. Matthews. Initially the Air Force denied the men had been carrying a secret cargo, but in later years admitted that they had been officially investigating the Dahl report.

Crisman alerted Arnold of the crash early the next twenty mornings and Dahl and Crisman returned to the hotel to discuss the situation with Arnold. Arnold had invited another person, accidentally identified in the FOI copy of the FBI report as a Mr. Smith of Seattle (probably Captain E. H. Smith (elsewhere E. J. Smith) of United Airlines, identified in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article under External links below), to Tacoma to attend the UFO conference, and this informant related to the FBI field agent that a Mr. Lantz (elsewhere identified as Paul Lance) of the Tacoma Times contacted Arnold at the hotel and informed him of the leaks, including information that the Army intelligence officers had been shot down in the B-25 airplane over Kelso by 20 mm cannon, and that a Marine airplane whose wreck that had allegedly been found earlier at Mt. Rainier had also been shot down with the same weapon. The anonymous caller claimed knowledge of on-going investigations by military intelligence. He was not identified but claimed to be a switchboard operator. Mr. Smith informed the FBI the switchboard operator at the Winthrop Hotel in Tacoma was not a male. The anonymous caller also said he was not interested in providing a scoop to any certain media outlet but wanted the news "to get back to New Jersey."

Asked to produce the photographs he had made of the UFOs over Maury Island, Dahl and the group left the hotel and went to Dahl's automobile parked outside. Dahl then claimed the photographs had disappeared from his glove compartment. Initially he had said the photographs didn't turn out and were marred by white spots that appeared on them. He didn't change his story and the group knew the photographs were of poor quality. Later UFOlogists revisited the issue of the photographs with Crisman, prompting the claim some copies had survived, but UFOlogists were unable to acquire this piece of evidence.

The ad hoc group in Tacoma in 1947 also decided to sail to Maury Island. This plan failed when the boat failed to start. Asked where the UFO had damaged the boats, Crisman pointed to the windshield, the klaaxon and a light. Smith told the FBI there were signs of recent repair to these parts.

Alarmed by the deaths, Dahl disappeared, although the FBI report mentions his son, allegedly injured by the slag from the malfunctioning UFO, had run away from home to Montana for some reason. The anonymous caller informed the press that one of the two witnesses would shortly be sent to Alaska. Crisman, a WWII veteran, was recalled to service hastily and sent to Alaska (A UFO was spotted northwest of Bethel, Alaska on August 4 by Captain Jack Peck and copilot Vince Daly from a Douglas DC-3 they operated for Al Jones flying service and was reported to the headquarters of the Fourth Air Force in Hamilton, California and the Air Defense Command commander at Mitchell Field in New York.[6]), then posted to Greenland (Thule Air Force Base figures in Milton William Cooper's "Behold a Pale Horse" as a Majestic 12/Operation Majority control terminus). Arnold found himself unable to complete the story for Palmer. Samples of the slag provided to Arnold and Palmer also allegedly went missing. Arnold was allegedly advised by Ted Morello of the United Press: "You're involved in something that is beyond our power here to find out anything about... Get out of this town until whatever it is blows over.".[7]

Arnold decided to fly home. He stopped for fuel in Pendleton, Oregon, and shortly after taking off again, his engine froze in mid-air. He managed to land the plane safely despite the emergency.

Paul Lance of the Tacoma Times died within two weeks of undetermined causes.[8] United Press stringer Ted Morello moved to New York and until his death due to a stroke on September 15, 2007, at the age of 88, was a well-respected newspaper correspondent to the United Nations.

Some believe that the famous case of another allegedly disabled UFO, the Roswell UFO incident, took place about 12 days after Dahl's sighting, although various dates circulate among Roswell investigators and the chronology is less certain than that for the Maury Island Incident.

The story of the mysterious crash of the B-25 and the death of the two men investigating the "disk case" who allegedly had a "top-secret cargo" or even "saucer parts" was carried by the wire services and published by newspapers locally and nationally.[citation needed]

Albert K. Bender later seized on Dahl's story, and printed it in his newsletter. In 1953, Bender claimed three men in black visited him, and warned him to stop his UFO research, which he did for a decade, closing down his International Flying Saucer Bureau. In 1963 Bender published his story, *Flying Saucers and the Three Men*, placing him beyond the pale of even the UFO research community because of his claims about men in black.

Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt, chief of Project Blue Book in the early 1950s, wrote that he was convinced that the entire sighting story was a hoax.[9] The initial FBI field report concluded the story was a hoax as well.

In the FBI report the anonymous caller mentioned an incident involving a United Airlines pilot and his co-pilot flying over Montana and coming under fire.

United Airlines pilot E. H. Smith, the likely identity of the main informant in the FBI report and a key figure in the meetings at the Winthrop Hotel in Tacoma, was named as witnessing a UFO event over Boise several weeks prior (on July 4, according to the FBI report) to the crash of the B-25 near Kelso, Washington, according to an Associated Press dispatch with the dateline of San Francisco, August 2, "2 Flyers died in Crash on 'Disc' Mission" (see Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Is strange rock from UFO or just a piece of poppycock?", April 25, 2007, under External links below). In the FBI report on the Maury Island Incident, Mr. Smith reports he made contact with people he knew inside military intelligence during the meetings with Arnold, Dahl, Crisman and others in Tacoma. Smith reported a meeting between Arnold, him and an unnamed military intelligence figure without Dahl or Crisman present. In subsequent accounts by Arnold a Major Sanders is mentioned as present at the hotel with Crisman. Mr. Smith reported he, his contact from military intelligence and Arnold went to an unidentified Tacoma slag mill to compare the "rock formation" Dahl had collected and provided with generic slag from a smelter, and found they were very alike.


This event took place at the very beginning of the modern phase of UFO sightings, usually connected with Kenneth Arnold's report from Mount Rainier and the Roswell incident. It contains elements that became embedded in UFOlogy until now, including men in black, what appeared to be a government cover up, mysterious disappearance of physical evidence, mysterious disappearances of eyewitnesses (Dahl and Crisman), mysterious deaths and inexplicable situations. Dahl claimed the mysterious dark man driving the black 1947 Buick who visited him retold the events on the boat as if he had been there, although Dahl himself hadn't related the story publicly at that point. Dahl began denying the story only after the two Army Air intelligence officers died in the B-25 crash. Dahl and Crisman told the FBI investigator they had concocted the story at the urging of Ray Palmer who wanted the mysterious rock formation to have originated on an alien saucer. They claimed to be playing along with Palmer who wanted a story to publish, and yet the FBI agent also notes that Dahl and Crisman were "obviously" not telling all they knew and were attempting to cover something up.

Because Crisman was named in the Garrison case on the Kennedy assassination as a friend of the main suspect, Clay Shaw, he has become a useful figure for UFOlogists arguing in favor of the Majestic 12 conspiracy, which also involves military intelligence, UFOs and the Kennedy assassination. Crisman's automobile was allegedly strafed with bullets less than two weeks before he was subpoenaed to testify by Garrison in 1968.[10] Crisman was accused of being one of the three tramps at Dealy Plaza the day Kennedy was assassinated at the Select Committee on Assassinations of the 95th Congress [11] although he was reportedly at his post as a school teacher in Tacoma at the time of the shooting. When in December 1978 the House Select Committee on Assassinations summoned Stanley Peerboom, the principal at Rainer High School, to produce Crisman's employment records from the time, Peerboom confirmed Crisman's presence that day and provided documentation demonstrating no substitute teacher had been called in. Crisman eventually became a popular radio talk show personality known as John Gold on KAYE radio in Puyallup, Washington, before running for public office in Tacoma, inspired as he said to fight for the right of Gypsies. When his political faction was forced out of city government, the departing mayor named him to a post on the Tacoma Library Board and he died without fanfare in 1975.

Ray Palmer did publish the story of Kenneth Arnold's sighting on Mount Rainier, and is considered the father of modern UFOs because of this and other stories and cover artwork he featured in the publications he edited. Palmer has a prior connection with at least one person involved in the Maury Island Incident: he published a series of stories known as the Shaver mysteries, to which Fred Crisman began contributing in the mid-1940s, before the flying saucer sightings. Later Palmer and Arnold co-authored the book "The Coming of the Saucers."

The Maury Island Incident and Kenneth Arnold's sighting ushered in an era or epidemic of flying saucer sightings that gained major momentum during the early 1950s. Edward R. Murrow interviewed Arnold for national radio in 1947. Radio, the major medium of the day, took to the reports of flying saucers with enthusiasm, primed back in 1938 by The War of the Worlds on Orson Welles' Mercury Theater on the Air. Hollywood Star Playhouse dramatized a saucer encounter in the story "The Tenth Planet," alien invasions and abductions became common fare and even hosts of mainstream programs such as Superman began cracking jokes about them ("I don't believe this flying saucer business at all. Why I just read a report that 20 percent of commercial pilots have never even seen them!" one host quipped).

While the radio drama shows went wild with Venusian embassies and Martian invasions, WOR radio's late-night talk show host Long John Nebel popularized the real-life theme on his program "Partyline" in New York, which was heard as far west as Chicago and across the Eastern seaboard into Canada, with guests such as George Adamski, the first "contactee", a term Nebel coined, and numerous other guests, including Ray Palmer, Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp. Nebel's show featured the gamut of positions on flying saucers, hosting the most obvious frauds as well as the most ironclad skeptics.

The flying saucer craze quickly broke out of the late night time slot and went mainstream in a host of Hollywood treatments and on the radio serials. Entertaining Comics treated the topic in both its pulp and scientific aspects, publishing an entire issue of Weird Science-Fantasy (issue 26, carried over from the "Flying Saucer Report" comprising most of issue 25) dedicated to factual accounts of sightings around the country and especially over Washington, D.C., and called on Congress to undertake hearings into the "flying saucer invasion." The new medium of television was accompanied from its very birth by the extraterrestrial flying disc stories.

Confronted on the one side with credible testimony by reliable witnesses and even military personnel with top secret security clearances on the one side and clamor in the public media on the other side, some U.S. military organizations undertook studies to determine the nature of and possible threat posed by the UFOs. Many wondered whether the UFOs were extraterrestrial or whether they were a new Soviet espionage method, and the public and intelligence communities noted the tendency of UFOs to appear over military bases during the early years of the Cold War. One of the earliest investigations was Project Twinkle associated with sightings of green fireballs by scientists and staff with the post-WWII Manhattan Project and at Sandia National Laboratories in the American Southwest. Project Grudge soon followed, which in turn was replaced by Project Bluebook.

See also


  1. ^ Hal Mckenzie. "Fred Crisman:Key Man in JFK/UFO Conspiracy/Coverup". Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  2. ^ FATE magazine, "The Truth about the Flying Saucers", Kenneth Arnold, vol 1, No. 1, 1948
  3. ^ a b Randles, J: "MIB: Investigating the Truth Behind the Men In Black Phenomenon", page 33. Piatkus, 1997
  4. ^ Jack Penning; Joe Vignolo (2007-04-20). "B-25 wreckage found after 60 years, listed as carrying a UFO". KSBY 6 Action News. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  5. ^ Jack Penning (2007-04-21). "Wreckage from secret 1947 mission found". Archived from the original on 2007-10-09. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  6. ^ PROJECT 1947 UFO DOCUMENTS - Bethel, Alaska, 1947
  7. ^ John Keel, Our Haunted Planet, London, 1971.
  8. ^ Kenneth Arnold, "The Maury Island Episode", Proceedings Of The First International UFO Congress, 1980, Warner Books, New York, NY
  9. ^ Edward J. Ruppelt, The Report On Unidentified Flying Objects, New York, 1956
  10. ^ Hanohano, UFO Magazine, v.9 # 1, pp. 30-35
  11. ^ The Investigation Of The Assassination Of President John F. Kennedy, Hearings Before The Select Committee on Assassinations Of The United States House Of Representatives, 95th Congress, 2nd Session. Vol I, pp.120-121; vol IV, pp. 22-26 and 376-383; vol VI, pp 257-273

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