McMinnville UFO Photos: In 1950 Paul & Evelyn Trent Captured Some Of The Most Famous UFO Photos Ever

The McMinnville UFO photographs, also known as the Trent UFO photos, were taken on May 11, 1950, by a farming couple, Paul and Evelyn Trent, above their home near McMinnville, Oregon, USA. The photos were published in various newspapers and magazines across the country and are still considered to be among the most famous UFO photos ever taken.

Paul Trent captured the famous UFO photographs on May 11, 1950.
Paul Trent captured the famous UFO photographs on May 11, 1950.

Around 7:30 p.m. on May 11, 1950, as Mrs Evelyn Trent, who lived on a farm nine miles from McMinnville, Oregon, was returning to the house after feeding rabbits caged in the backyard, she saw a slow-moving, metallic disk-shaped object heading in her direction from the northeast. She called to her husband, who was inside, and he came out and observed the object for a few moments before rushing back in to grab a camera.

Trent snapped a picture, quickly rewound the film, and took one more photograph as the object, 20 to 30 feet in diameter, turned west, gathering speed. Mrs Trent saw her father - and mother-in-law on the back porch of their home 400 feet west of the younger Trent's. She called to them, but when they gave no indication of having heard her, she ran inside to phone them. Hearing the ring, the elder Mrs Trent went into her house to answer the phone and thus missed seeing the UFO. Her husband, however, glimpsed it as it disappeared in the western sky.

The UFO was shaped like a flat-bottomed disk with a sort of superstructure. Years later the Trent's told investigator William Hartmann that it resembled a "good-sized parachute canopy without the strings, only silvery-bright mixed with bronze." One of the photographs showed the object tipped up, exposing its underside. At that moment the witness felt a breeze that they associated with the object's action. They thought the UFO was "something the Army was experimenting with."

Trent UFO photo 1
Trent UFO photo 1

The Trents did not immediately process the film, but Paul Trent mentioned the incident to his banker, Frank Wortmann, and the pictures were put on display in the bank window. The same day Wortmann first saw the photos, a local newspaper reporter, Bill Powell, persuaded the Trents to Loan him the negatives, which the Trent children were playing with.

Powell examined the negatives for evidence of tampering and found none. On June 8 his story, accompanied by blow-ups of the pictures, was published in the McMinnville Telephone Register. On the tenth, the International News Service circulated their story and photographs around the world. Life borrowed the negatives from Powell and published the pictures in its June 26 issue. The Trents appeared on a national television show, We the People. They were promised the returned negatives after the program but did not get them. Life said it had misplaced them.

They were found 17 years later in the files of United Press International, which had bought out INS. The negatives had been loaned to William Hartmann, who was investigating the case for the University of Colorado UFO project (usually known as the Condon Committee), an Air Force-sponsored study headed by physicist Edward U. Condon. The negatives were then given back to UPI. In 1970, at the Trent's behest, Phillip Bladine, editor of the McMinnville News-Register (formerly the Telephone Register), asked UPI to return the negatives, since the Trents had never been paid for them. UPI obliged, but Bladine neglected to inform the couple.

Five years later, optical physicist and ufologist Bruce Maccabee located them in the Registers files when he began his own reinvestigation. "In retrospect," Maccabee remarked, "it is probably a good thing that the negatives were 'lost' between 1950 and 1967 because they were reasonably well protected during this time, and therefore the photographic information was only minimally degraded."

Trent UFO Photo 2
Trent UFO Photo 2

The Trents said that in the weeks after their sighting, they were visited by representatives of the Air Force and FBI and asked many questions. Powell confirmed at least part of the story to Maccabee, saying that two weeks to a month after the original newspaper account, a plainclothes Air Force agent who "had the paper to do it" showed up at the Register office and demanded the pictures, which he never returned, even after Powell sent registered letters and telegrams to the Air Force.

The pictures attracted attention because, unlike many claimed UFO photographs, they depicted not nebulous lights but an artificial, structured aircraft - an aircraft, moreover, unlike any possessed then or since by terrestrial agencies. Consequently, investigators faced a stark choice: either the photos were faked by the Trent's, or they were authentic; if authentic, they comprised significant evidence for the reality of intelligently controlled UFOs.

To the discomfort of skeptics, investigators could not find a single local person who doubted the Trent's sincerity. In fact, some remarked privately that the Trents did not possess the intellectual capacity to pull off a successful hoax. The couple received no money for their photos, nor is there any evidence that they sought any. In common with everyone else who met them in person, Condon Committee investigator Hartmann remarked on their obvious sincerity. He wrote, "This is one of the few UFO reports in which all factors investigated, geometric, psychological, and physical, appear to be consistent with the assertion that an extraordinary flying object, silvery, metallic, disk-shaped, tens of meters in diameter, and evidently artificial, flew within sight of two witnesses."

Subsequently, however, two debunkers, Philip J. Klass and Robert Sheaffer pointed to shadows of the eaves of the garage, depicted in the lefthand corner of the photographs, as evidence that the pictures had been taken in the morning rather than the evening. Neither of the debunkers could provide a plausible explanation as to why the Trent's would have lied about this; in any case, Maccabee found that the cloud conditions in the area that evening could have produced the effect.

You can read the original Condon report on the Trent UFO photographs

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