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Still a Mystery, and a Big Question: The Trent Farm/McMinnville Oregon Case
by Regan Lee

Posted: 00:33 January 25, 2007

The "Trent farm" UFO event (May 11, 1950 McMinnville, Oregon) is a well known case. Photos of the UFO witnesses Paul Trent and his wife saw that day can be found all over the internet and in many UFO books. It's a familiar case to anyone studying UFOs.

Living in Oregon, and just a little over an hour away from McMinnville (McMinnville UFO Fest 2007 here I come!) I have an affection for this case, as I do all Oregon UFO cases.

On May 11, 1950, at approximately 7:00 p.m., Mrs. Trent was outside checking on her hens and rabbits. She saw a flying saucer; naturally excited, she called for her husband, Paul, to come outside. Paul Trent took two snapshots of the flying saucer.

Plenty of efforts to debunk this sighting have been made by skeptics, debunkers and anti-UFOists, but the case holds its own. No one has successfully īproven the photos to be hoaxes.

But more than that, for myself, what makes me believe the case to be a genuine UFO event are the witness, Paul and Evelyn Trent. Recently, I watched a DVD about this case. Simply titled The Trent Photos,1the DVD is a blend of reenactments and interviews with Evelyn Trent along with the newspapermen who wrote about the story at the time, and Dr. Bruce Maccabee. I was impressed by the matter of fact way Mrs. Trent told what happened that day decades ago. And while she was straightforward, a glimmer of wonder, of quiet amazement, came through. I had the feeling Mrs. Trent was still wondering, after all these years, just what it was that flew over their farm that day. Dr. Bruce Maccabee,2 who interviewed the Trents after his analysis of the two UFO photos, was convinced of their honesty, as were other UFO researchers and journalist who interviewed the Trents.

Before Maccacbee's analysis, the photographer and newspaperman for the Telephone Register, Bill Powell, did his own analysis from the negatives. Powell didn't find any signs of tampering or hoaxing with the images, and remains convinced the Trents did not fake the photos.

One thing that happened in the weeks following their sighting was the visit of 'military' men to their home. Mrs. Trent's accounts of their visits and their behaviors has a ring of truth to them. There wasn't any over the top hysteria, but Mrs. Trent's feelings, after all these years, about these thuggish men going through their possessions, making threats, and demanding information, were clear: She didn't like it much. As reported in Leonard Stringfield's , Situation RedPaul Trent was anxious about giving his photos to anyone. 'I'm afraid I'll get in trouble with our government.' 3 (Paul Trent considered that what he saw might have been a classified military object. In the DVD The Trent Photos, Mrs. Trent reiterates this concern.)

There's something else about the Trent Farm UFO sighting: the date. Western Oregon was experiencing a 'flap' of UFO sightings from roughly 1959 to about 1961. (Another subject but an interesting side note: there were quite a number of UFO sightings seemingly in connection with Bigfoot encounters in Oregon at during this time.) This flap was also nation wide. 4

The Trents did not make any money off of this sighting. The images we're familiar with are in the public domain; neither the Trents or the newspaper made any legal claim on the images, and so no money changed hands. Their lives were forever disrupted by visits from government agents, who seemed to drop in whenever they felt like it, flying saucer investigators and researchers, reporters, and the curious.

Even the magazine Popular Mechanics, which has published many an anti-UFO article, considered the Trent Farm UFO event as a genuine UFO case. 5

Dr. Bruce Maccabee, physicist and UFO researcher, analyzed the two photographs. Maccabee determined that the photos were genuine; not hoaxes of any kind: "The bottom line, from my point of view, is that they are real," he said. "Now, what do we do about it." 6

More than fifty years later, we're still asking that question. (But that's another topic for another day.) UFOs are real. That's a fact. What they are , is a different question. In the Trent's case, they saw - and photographed -- something real and solid, something that withstands analysis and disproves any fakery. The fact of the thing exists, and yet, we are still left with a mystery; what was it the Trents saw that day?

Other questions persist: why was the government so interested? Was it because the UFO was one of theirs? Either a man-made object, or one of "theirs" meaning a recovered alien craft? Or because it was as unknown to them as it was to the Trents and others?

We may never know. We probably won't ever know. In typical Trickster fashion, when it comes to UFOs (and Fortean phenomenon in general) we are witness to a binary opposition, a tension, between two opposites: the solid evidence of the UFO on film, as well as eye witness (solid craft, machine, object, etc.) vs. the unknown. A UFO is what?, objects, machines, craft -- what are they, what's their origin, their purpose?

We have solid evidence, but no answers. We have solid eevidence of something, but what that something is, still eludes us today.


1 - DVD: The Trent Photos TK Productions, Oregon

2 - Interview with Dr. Bruce Maccabee: News-Register, McMinnville, Oregon, USA on May 13, 2000.

3 - Leonard Stiringfield,:Situation Red: The UFO Siege!, 1977 p 57

4 - Richard Hall:Signals, Noise, and UFO WavesThe International UFO Reporter, Winter, 1999,

5 - Stephen J. Spignesi:The UFO Book of Lists , Citadel Press 2000 p32

6 - Interview with Dr. Bruce Maccabee: News-Register, McMinnville, Oregon, USA on May 13, 2000

Visit Regan Lee's website at

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