Go Back Report # 59



Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt, onetime head of Project Blue Book, called it the "dirtiest hoax in UFO history" because two U.S. Army Air Force officers died in the course of their investigation of it (Ruppelt, 1956). Kenneth Arnold, who also investigated it, called it "one of the weirdest things I have ever encountered" (Arnold, 1980). Echoes of the incident, which spawned the legend of the "men in black" (see Bender Mystery), resound even today (Rojcewicz, 1987).

The affair began in mid-July 1947, when Ray Palmer, then editor of Amazing Stories and soon-to-be editor of Fate, wrote Arnold and offered him $200 to investigate a story he had heard about from one Fred L. Crisman. This was not the first time Crisman had told Palmer a wild story. Earlier he had claimed that in a cave in Burma he had had a gunfight with "deros" (Palmer, 1958), malevolent underground creatures central to the Shaver mystery, which Palmer was promoting as fact in his science-fiction magazines Amazing and Fantastic Adventures. As Arnold recalled, Palmer didn't "seem to be real cranked up about whatever happened there" but suggested Arnold look into it next time he was in Tacoma, Washington (Arnold, op. cit.). Crisman reported that he and an­other harbor patrolman, Harold Dahl, had seen flying saucers and had fragments of material that had dropped from them. 

On July 29 Arnold, who was more interested in the story than Palmer seemed to be, flew from Boise, Idaho, where he lived. On his way to Tacoma, as he passed over the area around LaGrande, Oregon, he spotted 20 to 25 "brass-colored objects that looked like ducks. They were coming at me head on and at what looked like a terrific rate of speed.... As this group of objects came within 400 yards of me they veered sharply away from me and to their right, gaining altitude as they did so and fluttering and flashing a dull amber color" (Arnold and Palmer, 1952). He had just experienced his second UFO sighting (see Kenneth Arnold Sighting for details of the first).

Once in Tacoma he immediately interviewed Dahl, who told him that on June 21, while patrolling east of Maury Island three miles from the mainland, he, his 15-year-old son, and two harbor patrolmen sighted six doughnut-shaped objects. Five of them were circling the sixth, which was losing altitude and appeared to be in trouble. When the sixth doughnut was directly above their boat at 500 feet, it started spewing forth a "white type of very light weight metal" along with a "dark type [of] metal which looked similar to lava rock." The fragments broke the boy's arm and killed his dog. As soon as the fall was over, the strange objects departed. Dahl said he had filmed the objects.           

Dahl claimed that the next day a mysterious dark-suited man who apparently knew everything about the sighting warned Dahl not to discuss the incident with anyone. "I know a great deal more about this experience of yours than you will want to believe," he said. Dahl said he thought the man was a crackpot and ignored his advice. He told his superior, Crisman, who soon afterwards went to the beach where some of the material still lay.      

Arnold and Dahl went to the latter's home, where Arnold was shown a piece of the alleged material, which he immediately recognized as nothing but lava rock.

The next morning Crisman showed up with Dahl at Arnold's hotel room. Crisman said that when he had gone out to the beach to retrieve some of the material, one of the flying doughnuts "circled the bay as if it was looking for something." Arnold got the distinct impression that Crisman "definitely wanted to domineer the conversation ... about the entire Maury Island incident" (ibid.). Dahl sat there and said little. The conversation lagged after Arnold ordered breakfast up to his room, and as he ate, he looked over a number of newspaper clippings he had brought with him. One of them referred to a fall of cinder or lava ash after the passage of flying saucers over Mountain Home, Idaho, on July 12. Suddenly he got excited; maybe there was something to the story after all.  

Arnold contacted a new friend, United Airlines pilot E.J. Smith, who had had his own sighting on July 4, and brought him into the investigation. The next day Crisman and Dahl repeated their stories to Smith, who interviewed them at length. Arrangements were made to meet the next day, and Arnold and Smith, who were sharing a hotel room, had just settled down to sleep when a United Press reporter named Ted Morello called to say that someone had been calling his office and reporting "verbatim" what had been discussed in the hotel room. Neither Arnold nor Smith had talked with the press, and so both assumed their room was bugged. An hour's search failed to uncover any microphones.     

The next day Crisman and Dahl brought pieces of lava rock and white metal and brought them downstairs to meet several rough-looking men who were introduced as members of the crew. Arnold unfortunately was more interested in eating breakfast than in asking them what, if anything, they had seen in the harbor on June 21. But he did look over the white metal, which looked precisely like the "ordinary aluminum which certain sections of all large military aircraft are made of" (ibid.).    

It is not clear why by now Arnold did not conclude he was being hoaxed, especially after Dahl said he had given the UFO film to Crisman, who claimed to have misplaced it. What Arnold did next proved a tragic mistake: he decided to call Lt. Frank M. Brown, a Hamilton Field, California, military intelligence officer who had investigated Arnold's June 24 sighting.  

Within an hour or two Brown showed up with a companion, Capt. William L. Davidson, and was shown the fragments. Recognizing them for what they were, the two officers immediately lost interest and left as soon as they could politely do so, without telling Arnold and Smith what they were thinking. They went to McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma, spoke with the intelligence officer there, and boarded the B-25 that had flown them up from California. Half an hour later the plane crashed near Kelso, Washington, after its engine caught fire. Two of the four passengers parachuted to safety, and two went down with the plane: Brown and Davidson.        

A subsequent Air Force investigation brought confessions from Crisman and Dahl, who said the affair had begun as a joke and blossomed into something more. Neither man really belonged to the harbor patrol, and one of them had been responsible for the phone calls to Morello (Ruppelt, op. cit.).       

Never told of the Air Force's negative conclusions, Arnold went on to report it as a genuine mystery in the first issue of Fate ("The Mystery," 1948) and later in a book written with Palmer, The Coming of the Saucers (1952). As late as June 1977, in a speech delivered at a UFO congress sponsored by Fate, Arnold remained convinced that Crisman and Dahl had told him the truth.        

Other writers, notably Harold T. Wilkins (Wilkins, 1954) and Gray Barker (1953, 1956), rejected the hoax explanation and treated the incident as a particularly sinister operation of a shadowy Silence Group possibly associated with the UFO intelligences themselves Palmer noisily disputed Ruppelt's account and claimed Crisman had wanted investigators to believe the story was a hoax. "The Maury Island story cannot be extricated from the Shaver Mystery," he wrote. "The saucers do not come from outer space and Maury Island proves it" ("The Truth," 1958). Years later two British ufologists, Brian Burden and J. B. Delair, speculated that the affair was an intelligence-agency set-up whose purpose was to discredit Arnold and through him the "entire UFO business" (Delair, 1980); moreover, the supposed deaths of Brown and Davidson had probably been faked, the two men parachuting to safety under cover of darkness (Burden, 1980). Four decades after the incident, John A. Keel wrote that Dahl happened to witness an illegal dumping of radioactive waste conducted by cargo planes in the service of the Atomic Energy Commission (Keel, 1987). In common with other would-be Maury Island revisionists, Keel provided no evidence to support his extraordinary claim, and there is no reason to believe it--or any of the others-is true.           


Arnold, Kenneth. "The Maury Island Episode." In Curtis G. Fuller, ed. Proceedings of the First

            International UFO Congress, 31-42. New York: Warner Books, 1980.  

Arnold, Kenneth, and Ray Palmer. The Coming of the Saucers: A Documentary Report on Sky

            Objects That Have Mystified the World. Boise, ID, and Amherst, WI: The Authors, 1952.

Barker, Gray. They Knew Too Much About Flying Saw cers. New York: University Books, 1956.

____Review of Arnold and Palmer's The Coming of the Saucers. The Saucerian 1,1

            (September 1953): 29-31.      

Bloecher, Ted. Report on the UFO Wave of 1947· Washington, DC: The Author, 1967·

Burden, Brian. "MIBs and the Intelligence Commu­nity.'' Awareness 9,1 (Spring 1980): 6-13. 

Delair, J. B. "Some Observations on the Previous Article." Awareness 9,1 (Spring 1980):


Everett, Eldon K. "Saucers Over Puget Sound·" Fly­ing Saucers (July/August 1958): 52-59·    

Flammonde, Paris. UFO Exist/ New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1976. 

Keel, John A. "The Maury Island Caper." In Hilary Evans with John Spencer, eds. UFOs

            1947-1987: The 40-Year Search for an Explanation, 40-43. London: Fortean Tomes, 1987

"The Mystery of the Flying Disks." Fate 1,1 (Spring 1948): 18-48.      

Palmer, Ray. "Space Ships, Flying Saucers and Clean Noses." Fate 3,3 (May 1950): 36-53.   

_____· "We Pick up Mr. Everett's Gauntlet." Flying Saucers (July/August 1958): 59-60.         

Rojcewicz, Peter M. "The 'Men in Black' Experience and Tradition: Analogues with the

            Traditional Devil Hypothesis."Journal of American Folklore 1 O0 (April/June 1987): 148-60.

Ruppelt, Edward J. The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and

            Company, 1956.         

Trench, Brinsley le Poer. "The Maury Island Affair Was No Hoax." Flying Saucers (January

            1963): 16-21. 

"The Truth About the Book." Flying Saucers (December 1958): 35:42, 56.     

Wilkins, Harold T. Flying Saucers on the Attack. New York: The Citadel Press, 1954.               

This reference: The UFO Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 244-246 by Jerome Clark © 1992.

With Thanks to Jerome Clark for his kind permission to post to this site.-CF-

UFOCAT PRN – 114181 [DOS: 06-??-1947]

UFOCAT URN – 011568 Report on Unidentified Flying Objects by Edward J. Ruppelt, p. 41,   

UFOCAT PRN – 114181 [DOS: 06-LL-1947]

UFOCAT URN – 011826 (USAF) Blue Book files counted in official statistics, June 1947 file.    

UFOCAT PRN – 114181 [DOS: 06-21-1947]

UFOCAT URN – 079109 Flying Saucers Have Landed by Desmond Leslie, p. 14, © 1953
UFOCAT URN – 011563 Flying Saucers On The Attack by Harold T. Wilkins, p. 51, © 1954
UFOCAT URN – 011564 Flying Saucers Uncensored by Harold T. Wilkins, p. 20 © 1955

UFOCAT URN – 064791 Inside Saucer Post …3-0 Blue, by Leonard Stringfield, 046, © 1957

UFOCAT URN – 011570 Preliminary Catalog (N=500) by Jacques Vallee #016, © 1966
UFOCAT URN – 179631 Challenge To Science by Jacques Vallee p. 211-016, © 1966
UFOCAT URN – 011566 Ted Bloecher Investigation Files. August 15, 1966
UFOCAT URN – 088097 Flying Saucer Review, July 1967, p. 27
UFOCAT URN – 011571 A Century of Landings (N=923) by J. Vallee # 056 © 1969

UFOCAT URN – 011569 Data-Net Report, May 1970

UFOCAT URN – 013350 UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse by John Keel, p. 174, © 1970
UFOCAT URN – 128692 A Geo-Bibliography of Anomalies by George Eberhart, #0060, © 1980
UFOCAT URN – 114181 Confrontations, by Jacques Vallee, p. 47, © 1990

UFOCAT URN – NONE    Maury Island UFO: The Crisman Conspiracy by Kenn Thomas © 1999

UFOCAT URN – 011572 Computerized Catalog (N=3076), #322, by Jacques Valle, No © date
UFOCAT URN – 068772 World-Wide Catalog of Type 1 Reports, #0174, by Peter Rogerson,
                                        No © date.
UFOCAT URN – 011565 Computerized Catalog (N=3173), #0381 by L Schoenherr. No © date.
UFOCAT URN – 011567 Catalog Through 1950 by H. Edward Hill, #137, © date unknown

UFOCAT URN – 161480 LHatch.net1 by Larry Hatch © 2000  

UFOCAT PRN – 114181 [DOS: 06-23-1947]

UFOCAT URN – 011597 Catalog Through 1950 by H. Edward Hill, #139, © date unknown    

UFOCAT PRN – 114181 [DOS: 06-27-1947]

UFOCAT URN – 011597 Catalog Through 1950 by H. Edward Hill, #143, © date unknown
UFOCAT URN – 055051 Etudes Statistiques Portant sur 1000 Temoignag, Claude Poher,
                                        #2592 undated

UFOCAT PRN – 114181 [DOS: 07-??-1947]

UFOCAT URN – 077577 What We Really Know About Flying Saucers by Otto Binder, p. 108,
                                        © 1967       

Also see “Sources” at the end of the text above-CF- 

North America – United States, Washington

Tacoma                        Latitude 47-15-11 N, Longitude 122-26-35 W (D-M-S)

Reference: http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnis/web_query.gnis_web_query_form  

Maury Island                Latitude 47.3881 N, Longitude 122.3746 W (D.%) [Lighthouse]

Note: Description given of Maury(s) Island’s location is that it is attached by a narrow isthmus to the eastern part of the larger Vashon Island. Both are located directly west of the city of Tacoma, Washington.

Reference: http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=113       

UFO Location (UFOCAT) Latitude 47.38 N, Longitude 122.42 W (D.%)           


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