We all know about the Roswell UFO incident, but do you know about the UFOs in your own cloudy Pacific Northwest sky? In Oregon, the most famous and controversial sighting occurred one overcast day in May 1950. Evelyn Trent was feeding her rabbits when she saw a flying object in the sky. She described it as “shiny, but not as bright as a hub cap…resembling a dull, aluminum-painted tank…awful pretty.”
Trent shouted for her husband Paul, who ran out, saw it, and ran to his car to fetch his camera. Not only was there a mysterious sight in the sky, but as Evelyn Trent related, a strong wind came out of nowhere. “The wind that came down [had] no motor or no smoke or no nothin’—just the wind.” What became known as the Trent sighting went on to give inspiration for the annual UFO Fest in McMinnville, which has been going strong since 1999.
However, Oregon’s neighbor to the north, Washington, can claim to be home of the first modern (post-war) UFO sighting. Kenneth Arnold, an American aviator, was flying near Mount Rainier when he “observed a chain of nine peculiar looking aircraft flying from north to south at approximately 9,500-foot elevation and going, seemingly, in a definite direction of about 170 degrees.” The objects were flying a “V” formation above the mountain. Arnold clocked their speed—an astounding 1,700 mph—and believed what he saw would easily be explained by military aircraft testing. There were, however, no test flights at that time.
The military took this fairly seriously but concluded that what Arnold had seen was a mirage. Arnold’s story is notable because his recollection spurred more and more reporting of UFOs. Whether he intended to or not, Arnold’s “nine peculiar aircraft” gave birth to the modern UFO phenomena.
The government began Project Sign, which turned into Project Grudge and finally into Project Blue Book, an official UFO inquiry group. Blue Book gathered UFO reports and was able to change 94 percent of them from UFOs to IFOs: identified flying objects. The project was disbanded in 1970.
Today, if you want to report a UFO, you would go to the Mutual UFO Network, which has a strong chapter in Oregon. More than a simple UFO organization, it’s an investigative group that looks at UFOs academically, often dismissing sightings as hoaxes or deciding whether an aircraft, planet, or satellite makes the most sense as an explanation. As a result, things become identified objects, rather than UFOs.
Yet many sightings do remain unidentified. MUFON doesn’t believe all the UFOs are necessarily alien related, but they are indeed unidentified. The Oregon chapter compiles reports of UFOS and their conclusions on them.
The most recent UFO sighting in Albany, Oregon was “a bright, star-like UFO that hovered, wiggled, shifted about above the moon, and traveled with the moon as if tethered.” From Mount Rainier to Albany, the Pacific Northwest is not without the unexplained.