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UFOs in the Press:

The few links I added to the original article point at relevant pages of my site, and these linked pages are not part of the original publication.

I, along with several ufologists and scientists, also do not share all the ideas presented in the article (the Washington sightings of 1952 are not explainable in terms of "temperature inversion.") Neverthless, this mainstream magazine article is a document of interest in UFO litterature.

Article by Popular Mechanics

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Skeptics say it is easy to make a UFO crash. Just poke it with a pointed question. Consider the legendary Mantell incident in which a UFO supposedly shot down a F-51 Mustang in broad daylight. Ask if any other military aircraft were aloft over Kentucky that fateful Jan. 7, 1948 afternoon. You will discover that Capt. Thomas F. Mantell Jr., a pilot in the Air National Guard, died after running out of oxygen while chasing the Sun's reflection off a then-secret Navy Skyhook balloon.

Radar has proven as fallible as the human eye, producing headlines describing fleets of UFOs over Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and sensitive military installations. In each case the real invaders were overlapping radar signals, air masses of differing densities, or flocks of birds that suddenly tightened formation. Each anomaly can cause multiple targets or blimp-size objects to appear one second and disappear the next.

At times, differences in interpreting the "facts" of a case can make ufologists and skeptics seem like members of warring tribes. There is, however, one point on which they agree: Most UFO sightings are aircraft, planets or other natural phenomena.

Most sightings doesn't mean all sightings. And while government investigations have repeatedly assured the public that UFOs pose no danger to national security, the very same reports also detail dozens of sightings that neither science nor the skeptics can adequately explain. Among these cases are six sightings that are more puzzling now than when they were originally reported.

POPULAR MECHANICS offers no opinion on whether these mysterious flying machines originate from secret military airstrips here on Earth or spaceports somewhere "out there." We do, however, feel comfortable making one prediction: When the shell of security surrounding UFOs finally cracks, it will be because one of the sightings we present here provided the wedge.

Asked to pick the most credible UFO photos ever taken, ufologists select the simple black-and-white snapshots taken by Paul Trent, a farmer in McMinnville, Oregon.

The photos allegedly confirm a sighting that occurred on May 11, 1950, when an inverted pieplate flying machine was seen by Trent, his father-in-law and his wife.

Mrs. Trent saw the craft first. She told Air Force investigators that she first spotted it about 7:30 pm as she walked across her yard. About 30 ft. across, it floated noiselessly toward her from the northeastern sky, creating a wake that rustled her dress.

Trent described the UFO that he photographed as "a good-size parachute canopy without strings, only silvery bright mixed with bronze." A colorized computer enhancement of the photo reveals no evidence of strings, and a smooth bottom and sharp edges that suggest an artificial, rather than natural, object.

Thinking it was "something the Army was experimenting with," she shouted for her husband to bring the camera. As he darted outside and began snapping photos, she ran inside to phone her parents, who lived next door. Thus alerted, her father caught a glimpse of the craft a

When the film was developed, Trent showed it to his friend Frank Wortmann, a local banker, who displayed the pictures in the bank's window. A local reporter saw and published the photos. Within a month the main photo was circulated by news wires and printed in Life magazine. The FBI and Air Force interviewed the Trents. And then the photos disappeared.

Found in a news wire photo archive after 17 years, the misfiled pictures were sought out by skeptics. "The pictures attracted attention because they depicted not nebulous lights but an artificial,

structured aircraft," says Jerome Clark, of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (JAHCUS). He investigated the case while researching an encyclopedia titled The UFO Book.

Skeptics found nothing to disparage the Trents' integrity, and no financial motive for having faked UFO pictures. The strongest criticism of the photos to date has come from Philip J. Klass, an aviation journalist who has published several books and a newsletter debunking UFO claims. Klass says the Trent photo shows a shadow pattern that could be produced only if the picture was taken in morning light. Bruce Maccabee, an optical physicist more sympathetic to ufologists, says the same effect could have been created by cloud cover.

And so the mystery continues. "If authentic, they comprise significant evidence for the reality of intelligently controlled UFOs," says Clark.

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This page was last updated on February 22, 2002