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,
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
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
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.
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,
Arnold, Kenneth, and Ray Palmer. The Coming of the
Saucers: A Documentary Report on Sky
Objects That Have Mystified the
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
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
Hypothesis."Journal of American Folklore 1 O0 (April/June 1987):
Ruppelt, Edward J. The Report on Unidentified Flying
Objects. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and
Trench, Brinsley le Poer. "The Maury Island Affair
Was No Hoax." Flying Saucers (January
"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
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.
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,
UFOCAT PRN –
114181 [DOS: 07-??-1947]
UFOCAT URN – 077577 What We Really Know About Flying Saucers by Otto Binder, p.
Also see “Sources” at the end of the text
North America – United States, Washington
47-15-11 N, Longitude 122-26-35 W (D-M-S)
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,
UFO Location (UFOCAT)
Latitude 47.38 N, Longitude 122.42 W (D.%)