The McMinnville Photos

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Apparently no reporters followed up on the Trent story after the visit by Lou Gillette on June 10 or 11, 1950. Since there were, at that time, no civilian UFO organizations, there were no further civilian investigations into the sighting until many years later. However, the Trents have claimed that there was a brief government investigation, and that claim is backed in part by Bill Powell. The first mention of a government investigation in a written document (at least the first mention that I was able to find) is in a letter from the late Frank Halstead (an astronomer) to Maj. Donald Keyhoe (a retired Marine pilot,  author of the first popular UFO book and several other UFO books and the first director the civilian UFO organization called the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP)).  (NOTE 2000:  NICAP ceased operation in 1980 and the voluminous files of about 10,000 sighting cases were turned over to the Center for UFO Studies.)  The letter of April 18, 1959 states that Halstead visited the Trents and "I spent about an hour with them and they told me that the FBI came there and questioned them for several hours and some time later a man from the A.F. base from Denver, Colorado... This man spent a considerable time with them asking, but did answer their questions." Halstead also offered to make a tape recording of the Trents' story. Richard Hall, who was the executive secretary of NICAP at the time, responded to Halstead's letter, saying that NICAP  would be very interested in getting a tape recording and "as a separate section of the tape, a description of the interviews the Trents had with the two FBI agents and the Air Force officer."(39)   I don't know why Hall referred to "two" FBI agents since there is no written record of Halstead referring to two agents. Perhaps Halstead telephoned Keyhoe (or Hall) in relation to the interview and conveyed further information that way. (Note: apparently Halstead never did tape the Trents. As late as May, 1961 Halstead informed Keyhoe by letter that he still intended to tape an interview with the Trents, but there is no such tape in the NICAP files.)

The next mention of possible government involvement occurs in two sources in 1967. Mrs. Trent told Look Magazine that "Air Force officials investigated the sighting and took geiger counter readings but they didn't let us know anything." (40)  The second source is the Portland Oregonian of Aug. 3, 1967 which says that Mrs. Trent reported that" 'two detectives' examined their house and furnishings after they reported the pictures. She didn't know why." (41)

In a 1969 phone conversation with Dr. James McDonald, Paul Trent was asked "what he thought it was" and he replied as follows: "Thought it was something the Army was experimenting with. Don't say much about it now... because get so much fuss. FBI checked (us); came right out to where (I) was working and questioned (me). That was right at (the) time, 1950, three weeks after it got out in the papers. (They) gave no reason. (They were) just talking to (me) but (they) showed FBI identification (papers)." (Reconstructed from telephone notes by James McDonald (24).)

In several conversations with me, Mrs. Trent recounted the story of "detectives" who visited the house while she was home. I asked her "Was that during the day when you were home or something?"(42) She answered "Yeah, it was later in the day. I don't know, it was probably about 4:00, say to 4:30 when he came in. Yeah, he went through everything. _Everything!_  (her emphasis) And I don't mean maybe!  He never stopped (until he had everything spread out) on the table."

I asked her if the man said where he was from and she answered "No. He even went where to where my husband was at work, on the Alderman farm there. He asked all different questions there." Mrs. Trent gave a rather graphic description of how the "detective" went through the dresser drawers and other drawers in the house looking for something and generally making a mess of the place and they didn't put anything back where it was supposed to be. She said she wasn't sure that the detective was from the FBI. She also said that there was another man, too, who spent some time outside the house as well as inside. Both men took lots of pictures. They were "throwing stuff up in the air 'n' taking pictures, 'n' trying all different things like that, too, garbage can lids 'n' stuff like that, but they went all through it just to see what they could find, I guess. They didn't find nothin', but that's what they said they had (to do), said it was their job, that's the way they worded it." Mrs. Trent did not recall whether or not they wore uniforms.

Although I have not been able, to find any documents associated with an on-the-spot investigation by the Air Force, it would not be too difficult to imagine that one or more agents of the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI; basically a criminal investigative unit of the Air Force) did investigate the Trent sighting. During the period 1949-1951 the AFOSI was the agency charged with on-site UFO investigations on behalf Project Grudge (headquartered at Wright -Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio; Grudge followed Project Sign and preceded the better known Project Blue Book ). There are no documents on the Trent case in the files of Project Blue Book itself (which include the files of Sign and Grudge; these files are all at the National Archives) other than responses to letters written in the mid 1960's for information on the case. Lt. Col. Hector Quintanilla, Jr., who was in charge of Project Blue Book in the mid 1960's,  wrote to P. Klass in 1969 (44) "the Air Force never officially got involved in the analysis of this case. We don't even have a good print of the alleged vehicle." Actually, Project Blue Book must have had at least one print in 1966 because at that time Quintanilla requested an analysis of the photographs by the photo analysis branch. The photo analysis branch did not provide an analysis, however.

Despite Quintanilla's answer to Klass, it is not impossible that the AFOSI investigated the sighting in 1950 and did not file a report with Project Grudge. A study of the microfilm record at the National Archives (45) has shown that not all of the files of the AFOSI were entered into the Grudge or Blue Book records. In particular, on roll 91 of the microfilm records (45) there is an AFOSI document entitled "Spot Intelligence Report" which discusses the "Flying Saucer Photograph (taken by ) Trent (of ) McMinnville, Oregon ". The spot intelligence report was filed in the records of the 19th AFOSI district office and a copy was sent to AFOSI headquarters in Washington, D.C., but no copy was sent to Project Grudge. (Therefore Quintanilla was not aware of it because it was not in the Grudge/Blue Book file of reports.) The date on the spot report is June 21, 1950. Apparently an agent of the AFOSI saw a newspaper article in the Vallejo (California) NewsChronical of that date. The newspaper article, which was included in the spot report, featured the Trent photos along with a very brief summary of the sighting. The text of the spot intelligence report says that " Sgt. Lawrence J. Hyder", of the 1704th Air Traffic Squadron, Fairfield-Suisan Air Force Base in California, "advised this District that (Mr. Trent) and all the Trents are known to residents of McMinnville, Oregon as being substantial, solid, honest citizens of the community. Hyder said that while he was home on leave, approximately June 8, his home town paper, the 'Telephone Register' published these photographs on the front page with the story that Trent said the 'Saucer' was shining silver, made no noise or smoke, and shortly afterward disappeared over the horizon to the Northwest." There is no specific indication that the AFOSI took any action as a result of this report by Sgt. Hyder. However, I should point out that June 21 was almost three weeks after the photos had been published and that Mr. Trent told J. McDonald (in 1969) that the "FBI'.' men came "right out to where (I) was working and questioned me, three weeks after it got out in the papers."(24)

An independent statement about government involvement was made by a reliable source, Bill Powell, the newspaperman who originally published the Trent's story. Powell volunteered the information (without any question about it from me) in a phone conversation in 1976. Referring to copy negatives and prints which he had retained  at the newspaper office (the original negatives had, by this time, been "lost" in the files of the INS) Powell said, "Anyway, the damn Air Force latched onto them and I never did get them back." (35) He went on to say that "They sent in a plainclothes (man who) had the paper to do it" about "two weeks to a month after the pictures were published". Note that this time period agrees with Trent's claim that he was visited about three weeks after the pictures were published. Powell said that he wrote registered letters and sent telegrams to the Air Force but never got a response and never got the pictures back. Philip Bladine, the editor, wasn't in McMinnville on the day that Powell published the Trent photos, but he heard about the sighting when he returned. In a letter to P. Klass, Bladine stated that, after the negatives were sent to Life Magazine, "they (Life) claimed the negatives were returned but we never received them." (46) Bladine then stated that he had "always been suspicious that they were confiscated by military people."

The military involvement was echoed, in a somewhat distorted manner, by Frank Edwards in an article published in 1965. (47) In 1950 Edwards was a radio commentator who had an interest in saucer sightings. Shortly after the Trent photos were published he arranged with Bladine to send out free reprints of the first page of the Telephone Register of June 8 (1950) to anyone who wrote for a copy. Edwards announced this offer during a radio program and, according to Bladine, the newspaper received nearly 10,000 requests for copies, and hundreds, or thousands, of letters. Because of Edwards' interest in the Trent sighting and his arrangement with the newspaper, he was in close contact with the newspaper in June of 1950. According to Edwards," the Air Force had picked up all the available prints from the McMinnville Tribune (sic), had 'borrowed' the original negatives from Life and tried and failed to secure the two prints in my possession." (47)

The statement by Powell, backed up by Bladine and Edwards, strongly suggests Air Force involvement between two and four weeks after the pictures were published. On the other hand, Trent claimed that he was visited by FBI men. (Note: Mrs. Trent did refer to the visit of an Air Force Officer who spent quite a long time talking with her, but this was much later than three weeks after the sighting.) In order to confirm or deny the claim that FBI investigators were involved, in the fall of 1976 I filed a request under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act. I was informed, in May, 1977, that a search of the files at FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. failed to turn up any information on Mr. Trent. However, from other information in the FBI file on "Flying Discs" I learned that the FBI had been instructed to investigate reports officially during the summer of 1947. The agents had then been instructed to discontinue official investigations, but to pass along any information they might acquire to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.(48)  Nevertheless, agents continued to send "disc" related information to headquarters during the 1950's.  I also learned from agents at FBI headquarters that local FBI offices may carry out investigations and have the option of sending or not sending the results of these investigations to headquarters as the local agents see fit. Thus it is possible that local agents might have investigated the Trents and, having found no evidence of subversive activity (the official FBI investigation of 1947 had been directed toward the discovery of subversive activity), the local agents did not send the results of their investigation to headquarters. I also learned from FBI headquarters that, whereas the main office cannot destroy records (by order of Congress), local offices can destroy records after five or ten years. Thus there would no longer be any evidence of an FBI investigation of the Trents in any FBI files. Thus it is not possible to refute Mr. Trent's claim that he was visited by FBI agents. However, if plainclothes Air Force agents had interviewed the Trents they might have forgotten that they were Air Force agents and thought many years later (e.g., 1959 when questioned by Frank Halstead) that the men had been from the FBI (because they did not wear uniforms).  If the Trents made an error in thinking that they had been visited by the FBI, then their story would agree closely with that of Powell (who said a plainclothes Air Force man visited the newspaper office) and their story would suggest that the report by Sgt. Hyder caused the AFOSI to investigate (although no record of such an investigation has been found). On the other hand, if both the Trents and Powell are correct, both the FBI and the AFOSI were involved.

(NOTE: in the  letter I wrote to the FBI asking for information on the Trents I also included a request for any other UFO related information they might have, under the then-recent rulings of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act.  I didn't expect to receive any other information since, as of 1976, there had never been any publicly available references to the FBI investigating UFO sightings.  (In fact, in the 1960's the FBI had specifically denied being ever involved.)  In May, 1977, I received a phone call from the very suprised FBI agent who had handled my request. He told me there were over a thousand pages of material in the "flying disc" file.  Over the next few years about 1,600 pages were released and are now available on the web at the FBI site:  Some of the sightings investigated in 1947 by the FBI were filed under "Security Matter - X"...the "real X Files!"  The story of the FBI involvement with UFOs is told in my book  "THE UFO-FBI CONNECTION" published in May, 2000, by the Llewellyn Publishing Co.  The genesis of this book is the FBI documents which were released over 20 years ago as a result of my request.  But I would not have made that request had the Trents not said anything about potential FBI involvement so, in some sense the writing and publication of this book is directly traceable to Paul and Evelyn Trent!)


According to the brief story in Life Magazine of June 1950 "none of Trent's neighbors saw (the) saucer." (31) No other witnesses were mentioned in the initial newspaper accounts, although the attempt to contact Mr. Trent's mother by telephone was mentioned in the Portland paper (9). The first mention of other witnesses was made by Mr. Trent in a phone conversation with Dr. McDonald. (24) Mr. Trent said that his father saw the object as it was departing toward the west because he and his wife yelled to Trent's father and mother to look. Mrs. Trent told me that she thought her mother-in-law might also have seen it. She also talked about another possible witness whose name was Chapin or Chaplain.  (Mrs. Trent could not remember the name exactly after so many years.)  According to Mrs. Trent (21), Mrs. Chapin, with whom she was not well acquainted, came to her one day after church several weeks (or months) after the photos had been published and said " 'You know that object that you guys saw and took a photo of.....I think I saw the same object that same day you was (sic) talking about'. And then I ( Mrs. Trent) described it to her 'n' she (Mrs. Chapin) said, 'Yes, that's what it looked like. I just thought at first it was just some parachute. After I read that in the paper, I knew good 'n' well that that was the same thing I saw'." Of course, I do not expect that these are the exact words of Mrs. Chapin, recalled by Mrs. Trent after about 26 years. However, Mrs. Trent recalled the story told by Ms. Chapin in a similar way several times over the several years that I talked to her. The description of the object as resembling a parachute may have been an modification of Mrs. Chapin's alleged account. I say this because Mrs. Trent, in conversations with me and also in an original newspaper report, referred to the object as resembling "a good sized parachute canopy without the strings, only silvery bright mixed with bronze."(9) According to Mrs. Trent, Mrs. Chapin died around 1970, so she still would have been alive in 1967 when Hartmann could have interviewed her as part of his investigation. Unfortunately Hartmann never asked about other witnesses.  McDonald asked Mr. Trent about other witnesses in 1969. Mr. Trent mentioned his father. He may not have known (or did not remember) about Mrs. Chapin, since Mrs. Chapin talked to Mrs. Trent. Although McDonald talked to Mrs. Trent as well as to Mr. Trent, there is no evidence that he asked Mrs. Trent about other witnesses. (24) In many conversations spaced over several years Mrs. Trent repeated her. claim about Mrs. Chapin (Chaplain). If she had been making this story up simply for my benefit, to bolster the credibility of the sighting , she must had have a remarkable memory for detailed falsehoods! (21,26,49,50)


Over the years many people have visited the Trents to ask them about their sighting. Others who know the Trents, or who know of the Trents, have offered opinions as to the truthfulness of the Trents. For those readers who have not actually conversed with either of the Trents the following list of people who have talked to the Trents or who know of the them through intermediaries (friends of friends) will be of interest because of the quotable opinions of these people. I have listed these people in chronological order of their interactions with the Trents.

Bill Powell June, 1950; wrote the original story and published the photos. "I think the photos were authentic. The Trents were telling the truth." (35)
Frank Wortmann June 1950; Trent's banker. He notified Powell about the photos. Publically vouched for Mr. Trent's veracity; repeated his opinion in letters to McDonald (37) and Klass. (51)
Philip Bladine June,1950; editor of the paper knew the Trents, Powell, and Wortmann. Believed the Trents wouldn't fake the photos (5). "We always figured it was legitimate." (53)
L.J.Hyder June, 1950; Air Force Sergeant who provided information to the AFOSI. The Trents were known to residents of McMinnville as substantial,solid, honest citizens. (45)
Frank Halstead April, 1958; retired astronomer who travelled around the country investigating sightings and sending infrmation to NICAP. After an hour long interview he gained the impression that the Trents were "very sincere people". (38)
William Hartmann 1967; photographic case investigator for the Colorado UFO study ("Condon Report"). From his description in the Condon Report and a statement to McDonald in a phone conversation it is clear that he was impressed with the Trents (1).  However he also made it clear that he could not positively rule out he hoax hypothesis.  He later changed his mind on the veracity of the sighting. (6,54)
James A. McDonald 1969-1970; atmospheric physicist at the University of Arizona and independent investigator of UFO sightings. "I find them to be the kind of people who could scarcely carry off an imaginative hoax or fabrication". (55)
Veikko Itkonen 1969; film producer and director; interviewed and filmed the Trents for a UFO documentary that was shown in Europe. "The conclusions made by Dr. William K. Hartmann in the Condon Report... are very close to the impressions we got during our visit to McMinnville and meeting with the Trent family". (56)
Arthur Fryer Dec. 1976; retired high school science teacher in McMinnville who interviewed the Trents at my request. "No question in my mind that they weren't trying to hoax.  She never called it a flying saucer or UFO". (57)
B. Maccabee 1974-1977; physicist and UFO investigator; had 26 conversations with Mrs. Trent (some short, some long; most transcribed for later analysis). "I have never detected any tendency to hold back or distort information intentionally; differences in various retellings of the sighting and surrounding events seem to be no more than what one would expect of a person trying to recall events of more than 24 years before.

This list of people who have interviewed one or both of the Trents is doubtless too short. However, these are the people who have made statements that I have on record. Also of interest are the opinions of two independent investigators who analyzed a tape I made of a conversation with Mrs. Trent. The analyses were made by voice stress analysts using equipment constructed by the Dektor corporation. One test was carried out by an employee of a security system company in Los Angeles (name on record (58)). The opinion of the chief examiner was "that the statements given by Mrs Trent to the interviewer on this tape are true to the best of her knowledge."  An independent study of the tape by C. Andrews of the Dektor Corporation led Ms. Andrews to state that there was little or no detectable stress in Mrs. Trent's voice when she answered questions about the sighting, about other alleged witness and about other subjects (59).  Criticisms of voice stress analysis notwithstanding, the apparent lack of stress suggests that, at the very least, Mrs. Trent believes what she is saying. Perhaps if she were a pathological liar she could have avoided stress, but it would seem that at least one of the people who interviewed her personally over the years would have discovered that by getting her to make a statement which could be proven to be untrue.


The Trent photo case is a classic because of its "age" and also because the object is depicted so clearly that it is either a model (hoax) or it is an "extraordinary flying object" (to use Hartmann's phrase). It certainly is neither a bird, nor a plane, nor Superman (i.e., not a misidentified object). This case is also a perfect illustration of the fact that, when trying to prove an extraordinary sighting is factual, it is not sufficient to have clear photographs and several witnesses. Ever since the photos were published explanations have been offered by people who never spoke to the Trents. These explanations have often been based on imperfect or incomplete investigations of the case. Unfortunately scientists were not interested in the case at the time that the photos were published, so the Trents were not interviewed in depth, the negatives were not carefully analyzed, and valuable data were lost forever. However, even though data are lacking, it appears from the analysis presented in this paper (and in the earlier CUFOS paper (4)) that there is no positive proof of a hoax. Rather, the available data, which do include a "life history" of the Trents since 1950, suggest that the sighting actually occurred as the witnesses claimed. The photos themselves, for reasons discussed earlier, are equivocal on the hoax hypothesis, although they strongly confirm the verbal statements if the case is not a hoax. Since the hard photographic evidence does not positively rule out the hoax hypothesis, the case will have to be resolved by studying the life history of the Trents since the sighting, and/or by a "confession". The preponderance of the information collected and analyzed by this investigator suggests that the life style of the Trents is not compatible with assuming that their very "successful" photographs resulted from a hoax . Only a confession with a description of how the hoax was carried off would now convince me that Mr. Trent did not photograph a large, distant object, the intrinsic nature of which has not yet been established.

For an updated discussion see the ADDENDA.


  1. "Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects,"E.U. Condon, Director (Bantam, 1969, Pg. 396) This is the final report of the Air Force funded investigation carried out at the University of Colorado. (D.S. Gilmore, Ed.)

  2. Klass, Philip J., "UFOs Explained," Random House, New York, 1974

  3. Bulletin of the American Physical Society, 21, 623

  4. Maccabee, B., "On The Possibility That The McMinnville Photos Show A Distant Unidentified Object," Proceedings of the 1976 CUFOS Symposium, pg. 152 , Center for UFO Studies, Evanston, Ill.

  5. Ibid., pg. 234

  6. "UFOs, A Scientific Debate," C. Sagan and T. Page, Ed., pg. 12

  7. Sheaffer, R. "A Further Investigation of the McMinnville, Oregon Photographs", private communication (unpublished), and ref. 2

  8. McMinnville Telephone Register, June 8, 1950

  9. Portland Oregonian, June 10, 1950

  10. Los Angeles Examiner, June 11, 1950

  11. Dept. of Commerce, Ashville, N.C., weather records for McMinnville, Oregon, May 11, 1950

  12. Mrs. E. Trent, private communication (Note: this refers to information obtained during 26 telephone conversations over the time period January 1974 through July 1977.)

  13. Dept. of Commerce, Ashville, N.C., weather records for Salem, Oregon, May 11, 1950

  14. Sheaffer, R., "The UFO Verdict," Prometheous Books, Buffalo, NY 1981, pg. 60

  15. B. Sparks, private communication

  16. E. Trent, July 9, 1976 , private communication

  17. "Feb. 3, 1974"

  18. "Dec. 9 1975"

  19. Key to decoding Aviation  Weather Reports, Dept. of Commerce National Weather Service, Wash., D.C.

  20. W. Hartmann, private communication

  21. E. Trent, Feb. 22, 1976 private communication

  22. "Mar. 9 1976"

  23. "Jul. 9 1976"

  24. McDonald, Dr. James E,  notes made during phone conversations with Mr. P. Trent, Mar. 9, 1969, and with Mrs. E. Trent, Feb. 17, 1970 and Mar. 2, 1970

  25. E. Trent, Oct. 25, 1976, private communication

  26. "May 29, 1976"

  27. Maccabee, B. (see ref. 4)

  28. Maccabee, B., and C. Grover, "Veiling Glare in Camera Lens Systems", Proceedings of the Society of Photo-optical Instrumentation Engineers, Volume 107, 158 (1977)

  29. Claude Poher, private communication

  30. Jones, L.A., and H.R. Condit, J. Optical Society of America, 11, 651 (1941)

  31. Life Magazine, June 1950

  32. Jones, L.A., and H.R. Condit, J. Optical Society of America,38, 123, (1948)

  33. See ref. 1, pg. 37

  34. Life Magazine, June 1950

  35. W. Powell, private communication, July 19, 1976

  36. See ref. 24, Feb. 17, 1970

  37. Letter from F. Wortmann to J. McDonald, May 5, 1969

  38. Letter from F. Halstead to Maj. D. Keyhoe, Apr. 4, 1959

  39. Letter from R. Hall to F. Halstead, May 5, 1959

  40. Look Magazine, Flying Saucer Special, 1967

  41. Portland Oregonian, Aug. 3, 1967

  42. E. Trent, Feb. 3, 1974 , private communication

  43. "Jan.31, 1977"

  44. P. Klass, private communication (letter from Maj. Hector Quintanilla to P. Klass, July, 1969)

  45. Microfilm files of Project Blue Book and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at the National Archives

  46. P. Klass, private communication (letter from P. Bladine, July 30, 1969)

  47. F. Edwards, syndicated newspaper column, Aug. 1965

  48. Maccabee, B. "UFO Related Information from the FBI File" published in monthly issues of the MUFON Journal, International UFO Reporter, NICAP Investigator, APRO Bulletin, during 1977-1979

  49. E. Trent, March 9, 1976, private communication

  50. "July 23, 1977"

  51. P.Klass, private communication (letters from F. Wortmann in 1969 and 1972)

  52. P. Klass, private communication (see ref. 46)

  53. P. Bladine, private communication, April 14, 1975

  54. W. Hartmann changed his opinion about the Trent case after reading Sheaffer's analysis (ref. 7) which discussed three problems with the Trent case. According to Sheaffer: (a) there are shadows on the wall which prove that the photos were taken in the morning rather than as the witnesses stated (in the evening); b) one of the shadows moved on the garage wall between photos indicating a long time between photos (minutes) rather than tens of seconds as the witnesses stated; and c) veiling glare caused by grease on the camera lens could have made the UO image in photo 1 too bright, thus invalidating Hartmann's distance calculation. Points (a) and (c) are discussed at length in the text of this paper and in ref. 4.  Point (b) was found to be in error after the original negatives were carefully investigated and no shadow movement was detected.

  55. Letter from Dr. J. McDonald to W. DeFaria, March 26, 1970

  56. Veikko Itkonen in a letter to Ole Henningsen, 5/19/77 and in a private communication to this author

  57. A. Fryer, private communication, Dec. 10, 1976

  58. Letter on file

  59. C. Andrews, private communication

  60. One may wonder how it happened that Mrs. Trent had the presence of' mind to think of a camera, when it is known that in some cases witnesses who have cameras near by have not thought to use them (see, for example "Missing Time" by Budd Hopkins, Richard Marek Publishers, New York, 1981 , pg 29). Her quick thinking may have been a result of previous sightings . According to ref. 9, Mrs. Trent had seen similar objects three times before. Whether these were bonafide sightings or misidentifications is immaterial as long as she thought she had seen similar things previously. Perhaps in the previous sightings she had wished she had a camera because, according to ref. 9, no one would believe-her. Apparently "no one" included her husband, because he was quoted as saying "I didn't believe all that talk about flying saucers before, but now I have an idea that the Army knows what they are"(ref. 10). But this time when she saw an unusual object she was home with her husband and she could prove it. Moreover, she knew that a camera was available, so she yelled to her husband to get the camera and he did. From the original stories and what she has told me it seems reasonable that she looked in the car while her husband, who was in the house,looked in the house for the camera. Klass (ref. 2) has used her claim to have seen objects three times previously as a "reason" for the presumed hoax, "Now, thanks to the photos, skeptical friends would be convinced." If Klass were correct, she must have convinced her husband before the photos were taken since hoax photos would not be proof for him. Either that or she convinced her husband to put on a blindfold and take pictures in the back yard while, unbeknownst to him, she hung a model saucer under the wires in line with the direction he was photographing. Then, after the pictures were developed, he was convinced. Klass (ref. 2) has also pointed out that the Trents are "repeaters," although, in fact, only Mrs. Trent reported several sightings before the photos and several afterward. This presumably means that the Trents have seen "impossibilities" occur more than once, which is highly improbable if UFOs are real, and, of course, impossible if they are not. Assuming with Klass that UFOs (saucers) are not real, then the repeated sightings must be either misidentifications or hoaxes. Since by this assumption the photos must be a hoax, then it is reasonable to assume that at least some of the   later sightings were also hoaxes to bolster their story. But pushing this assumption to its consistent limit, and considering the success of the 1950 'hoax' photos, the Trents should have produced more photos to back up their claims of further sightings. Instead, according to Mrs. Trent (who, we are to believe, had a need to create a hoax to prove herself right in 1950) "We've seen quite a few since then, but we didn't get any pictures.  They flew away too fast " (ref. 41). If the original photos were hoaxes, then Mrs. Trent's reason for not producing more pictures must be considered to be an excuse ... a "cop out". It would have been easy to produce more hoax pictures and apparently not time consuming since they managed to do it during one of their busy mornings in 1950, assuming the photos are a hoax. Perhaps the Trents were too lazy to produce more photos? But this seems inconsistent, since they are apparently very industrious people otherwise. Actually, the failure to produce further pictures in spite of the later sightings makes it seem more likely that the original photos were not the product of a hoax.

  61. I thank all of the respondents to my requests for information, including especially Mrs. Trent, Philip Bladine, Arther Fryer, Mrs. James MacDonald, and Philip Klass. I also thank Brad Sparks for helpful comments on sighting directions to the UO in the two photos.



The images of the garage wall in both photos have been analyzed using a scanning densitometer to study the variations in brightness (density) of the images of the shadows under the garage eave. The densitometer scans have been done both "horizontally" and"vertically" on the images using scanning slits that are generally very small in the scanning direction (5 - 50 microns) and somewhat wider in the perpendicular direction (30 - 100 microns). The slit dimensions have been adjusted for each scan to maximize the signal-to-noise-ratio for a particular shadow image of interest in a particular scan. Representative densitometer tracings are presented in Figures A1A, A2, and A3.




Figure A1A is a "vertical" scan at 50X (magnification of 50 times) upwards under the eave near Rafter B (second from the right hand edge of the garage image).  Figure A2 is a collection of similar scans at 10X at various places under the eave as denoted by I, II, III and IV. Figures A1 and A2 illustrate data from photo 2; similar data from photo 1 are illustrated in Figure A3. The bottom half of Figure A3 also illustrates "horizontal" scans through the images of the ends of the rafters and also,through the images of the shadows of the rafter ends in photo 1. The scans in the bottom half of Figure A3  give indications of the widths of the images of the ends of the rafters and also the widths of the associated shadows, as well as the brightness variations of the shadows. Figure A4 is a compilation of rafter shadow brightness data from photo 2. It is the result of the analysis of many parallel "horizontal" scans and it clearly illustrates that the shadows of the ends of the rafters get brighter (image density increases) as the distance downward below the eave increases.


Figure A1A shows that the "horizontal" shadow under the eave does not have a steep brightness (density) gradient as one moves upward from the portion of the wall which is fully illuminated to the portion which is fully shaded from the source of light which caused the shadows.  Instead, the gradient region is wide,  apparently about 0.8 mm wide on the original negatives (Figure A1A is magnified 50 times). This is contrary to what would be expected if the bright source were as small in angular size as the sun. If the source were the sun one would expect a very narrow gradient region. One main objective of the analysis presented in this Appendix is to determine just how narrow the gradient region would be if the source were the sun, and to compare that calculated gradient width with the measured width in Figure A1A. Although the calculated width of the gradient will only be compared with one (very carefully made) densitometer tracing of the shadow under eave (Fig. A1A), analyses of similar gradient region density data taken at other locations in photo 1 and in photo 2 lead  to similar conclusions: the width of the gradient region is much greater than expected if the sun were the source.

Calculation of the Expected Width of the Gradient Region if the Sun made the Shadows on the Garage Wall

The geometric optics method of calculating the width of a sun-made shadow is illustrated in Figure A5 (light travels in straight lines; diffraction effects are small enough to ignore).


One can show that the width of the gradient region of the shadow caused by a source of angular size A in degrees, when projected past an edge to a surface at a  distance R from the edge is given by

W = 2R TAN(A/2)  (A-1)

where TAN is the tangent function from trigonometry. Note that the brightness or illumination on the surface increases in a continuous manner from the fully shaded region to the fully illuminated region. The exact shape of the brightness gradient curve depends upon the overall size and shape of and brightness distribution over the surface of the light source.

Figure A6 illustrates actual graphs of shadow edge gradients made by the sun shining through clear and cloudy sky. (The reason for making these graphs is described in the next which considers the effects of thin cloud cover on the width of the brightness gradient.)


These graphs were made by a scanning photometer that consisted of a resistively loaded solar cell with a small aperture and a chart recorder that made a graph of the output voltage as the solar cell was moved across the shadow boundary from the shaded area to the totally illuminated area. The shadow was created by a board that represented the edge of the garage roof. The graph at the right side of Figure A6 is a typical example of the type of graph made by this scanning photometer. The graph shows how the illumination of the simulated garage wall would change with position along the all as one moves to the right (in the graph) from the shaded region to the fully illuminated region. The maximum illuminance ("brightness"), at the "top" of the graph, occurs outside the shadow and the minimum illuminance, at the "bottom" of the graph occurs in the shaded area. The maximum illuminance value divided by the minimum illuminance value is the ratio Rb.  This particular graph was made when the sun was partially obscured by haze or thin cloud.  The ratio Rb, for this graph is 3.17. When the sun is not obscured the ratio can go as high as 20 or so.  As the sun becomes more and more obscured by cloud the ratio drops, as shown in the graph at the left side of Figure A6. The lowest ratio on that figure is 1.20. The effective width of the gradient region is indicated as Rs next to each graph.  These data and many more similar data points were used to create Figure A7.


 In this discussion  I ignore the exact shape of the graph gradient region in the photos because various photographic and instrumental effects have doubtless modified its shape. Instead, in the comparisons described below I use only the effective width of the gradient on the photos and from graphs such as in Figure A6.

The shadow under the eave of the garage roof has a brightness gradient with a width determined by the angular size (width) of the sun, 0.53 degrees (in clear sky), and by the distance from the edge of the roof to the wall as measured along the (optical) path from the sun to the wall. The hoax hypothesis is that the sun was at an angular elevation of B degrees above horizontal.  In this case, from Figure A6,  the distance from the edge to the wall is the slant distance given by

R = L/COS(B),   (A - 2)

where COS is the cosine function. There is one further addition to Equation (A -1) which accounts for the fact that the vertical wall surface is not perpendicular to the light rays . This makes the width W slightly greater than if the wall surface were perpendicular to the light rays. This addition results in the following equation for Wg which is the width of the gradient region on the garage wall:

Wg = W/ COS(B) = 2 L TAN(A/2)/COS^2(B).   (A - 3)

The distance of overhang of the roof beyond the wall is not known, but a reasonable estimate based on standard construction is 6 to 12 inches. Choosing 10" as the distance, L , and with B = 16 degrees and A =  0.53 degrees , the width of the gradient region if the sun were the source would be

Wg,sun = 0.10 inches   (A - 4)
(NOTE 2000: measurements I made of the original garage show that the roof board extended about an inch beyond the end of the eave rafters which, in turn, extended about 6 inches - horizontal measure - from the wall.  Hence the value of L that should have been used is 7" rather than 10". The gradient region  width would, therefore, be 0.07" rather than the 0.10" calculated above. The calculated results based on the original assumed distance are presented here to maintain historical consistancy. The measurement was made May 11, 2000.)

To relate this width on the garage wall to the width of the gradient region in the image of the garage wall it is necessary to make use of the geometric relation between object sizes and image sizes that is established by the (focused) camera optics:

WgIw   (A - 5)

where Wg is the width of the gradient region regardless of what the light source was, Dc is the distance from the camera to the garage wall, Iw is the width of the image of the gradient region, and F is the camera focal length. In Appendix B I have shown that the camera was approximately 30 ft from the corner of the garage . As pointed out in the text, the camera focal length was about 103 mm. Therefore, using 30 ft = 360 inches, the width of the image of the gradient region, if the light source were the sun,   would be (after rearranging Equation A - 5 appropriately)

Iw,sun = F (Wg,sun /Dc) = 103 ( 0.1/360) = 0.0286 mm   (A - 6)
(NOTE 2000: the preceding calculations based on the assumed focal length has been presented here to maintain historical context. The more accurate figures are 0.07" for the roof edge and 100 mm for the focal length. The use of 100 mm makes a trivial difference here. Using the measured value of 7" as the distance from the edge of the roof to the wall makes Iw,sun = 0.020 mm)

Now look at the brightness gradient curve in Figure A5. Note that the width of the gradient region is the distance from the edge of the low light level region to the edge of the high light level (unshaded) region .  Figure A6 further illustrates this measurement on actual solar edge gradients measured using a scanning photometer and graph recorder. Thus the width Wg,sun can be found by measuring, on the image of the gradient region, the distance from the maximum brightness area to the minimum brightness area. Now look at Figure A1A. There I have indicated the expected gradient curve if the sun were the source (unobscured sun--solid line) along with the measured gradient width of about 0.8 mm. Of course the gradient width which one would measure on the densitometer scan graph depends upon where one places the maximum and minimum brightness levels (the unshaded and shaded brightness levels). If we allow for the possibility that the brightness levels as indicated (solid horizontal lines) should be moved closer together, then the gradient width region would be reduced. Perhaps a width as small as 0.3 mm would be barely consistent with the densitometer data. Using this as a minimum measured value we can write the following equations for explicit comparison of predicted and measured image widths:

Predicted Iw, sun = 0.029 mm (approx) (NOTE 2000: as pointed out above, this should have been 0.020 mm)  (A-7A)


Iw,photo = 0.3 to 0.8 mm (approx)  (A-7B)

where Iw,photo is the width of the image of the gradient region on the Trent garage wall.

The conclusion to be reached at this point is that the width of the actual shadow gradient region is more than ten times greater than the width that is expected if the sun were the light source in a clear sky.

Effects of Cloud Cover on the Brightness Ratio and on the Effective Angular Size of the Sun

The calculation just completed makes it clear that the shadow of the edge of the roof could not have been made by the unobscured sun, which has an effective angular size of 0.53 degrees . However, the relative brightnesses of the fully illuminated and fully shaded regions are not very different, which suggests that if the sun were the light source, it was partially obscured by clouds. More specifically, when the sun is not obscured by clouds the brightness of a shaded area (such as shaded area beneath the roof of the Trent garage) is less than 1/20 of the brightness of a fully illuminated area (such as the wall of the Trent garage below the edge of the shadow), i.e. Rb is greater than 20. As thin clouds gradually obscure the sun the brightness of the fully illuminated area drops rapidly, while that of the shaded area (which is illuminated by skylight and light reflected from the ground) drops relatively slowly, so that the ratio of the brightness of the illuminated area to the brightness of the shaded area decreases as cloud cover increases. In the Trent photos the ratio of the brightness of the illuminated area of the garage wall to the brightness of the shaded area under the eave is about 1.75,  whereas the same ratio would be greater than 20  if the unobscured sun were the source. Thus I conclude that, if the sun were the source, it must have been partially obscured by clouds. The shadow-gradient width-related question then arises as to whether or not the effective angular size of the sun is effected by the presence of clouds. Although this might seem "preposterous" at first thought, with further though one realizes that small angle forward scattering of light by ice crystals in the clouds may make the edge of the solar disc more diffuse (i.e., "blur" the edge) and make it appear to be larger in angular size than it actually is. A search of the literature failed to locate any discussion of the effect of thin clouds on the effective width of the sun so, to answer test this hypothesis I did some experiments, described above, in which I made a "model" of the garage wall and used a scanning photometer to scan through the shadow gradient region created by the edge of a shadow, the eave of the model garage. These and other experiments indicate that the effective angular size of the sun (as defined here in terms of the width of the gradient region) does increase somewhat as cloud cover increases. Figure A7 illustrates the experimental results. The brightness ratio, Rb, shrinks from some maximum value (sun unobscured) toward unity when the sun is completely obscured and there is no shadow.  At this time the whole wall surface is illuminated only by skylight and ground-reflected light.  As Rb shrinks the relative effective solar diameter, Rs, increases, perhaps reaching a number as high as 3. For Rb = 1.75, which is the value measured on the Trent photos (for gamma = 0.6; it would be larger if gamma were larger), Figure A7 shows that Rs may be as large as 2.5 - 3, meaning that the effective angular size of the sun might be as large as 2.5 x 0.53 = 1.3 degrees to 3 x 0.53  = 1.6 degrees. However, these measurements must be treated cautiously since instrumental effects and problems with the analysis of the scanning "brightness meter" data may have made the angular size ratios in Figure A7 _too_ large. However, assuming the data of Figure A7 are correct, one can repeat the calculation leading to the expected image size in Equation (A - 6).  Using 1.3 degrees to 1.6 degrees as  the effective angular size of the sun yields

Iw,sun,maximum = 0.072 to 0.086 mm  (A-8)

(NOTE 2000: use of 7 inch roof overhang, as described above, yields 0.050 to 0.060 mm)

This range of values predicted for the width of the gradient region if the sun were the source are still only about one quarter (NOTE 2000:  one fifth) of the minimum estimated gradient width of the image on garage wall,  0.3 mm. Therefore, it appears that, even allowing for the possibility that cloud cover increased the effective angular size of the sun (a hypothesis which may be totally unique to the research reported here, I might add!), the light source which made the horizontal shadow of the edge of the garage roof had a vertical angular size that was four or more times greater than the largest measured effective angular size of the sun.

By reversing the procedure and using Equations (A - 3) and (A - 5) to calculate the angular size of the source in the vertical direction one finds that the source had an angular size of more than 5 degrees, with the actual size depending upon whether the gradient region width on the image is taken to be 0.3 mm or larger (up to 0.8 mm).  The low brightness contrast and the corresponding large gradient region widths of other portions of the horizontal eave shadow (see Figure A2) confirm the conclusion that the light source was not as bright as the unobscured sun and had a vertical angular extent of 5 degrees or more.

The vertical extent of the light source has been estimated from the width of the horizontal shadow made by a horizontal edge (i.e., the edge of the roof).  It is also possible to make an estimate of the horizontal extent of the light source by looking at a vertical shadow, such as is made by the vertical sides of the ends of the eave rafters (2 x 4's). There are four shadows made by the ends of the four rafters (only three appear in photo 1). Figure A3 illustrates densitometer graphs(scans) that were made in a "horizontal" direction through the ends of the rafters and also through the shadows of the ends (lower half of Fig. A3). Figures A2 and A4 contain illustrations of the ends of the eave rafters and of their associated shadows. Figure A3 shows the rafter shadow densitometer graphs at the left of their associated rafter end graphs, and it also shows the rafter shadow graphs below their associated rafter end graphs. Of particular interest are the relative sizes (widths) of the rafter end graphs and the shadow graphs. The relative widths can easily be compared by eye by comparing the width of the graph of a particular shadow that has been shifted to the right (see notations on Figure A3) with its associated rafter end graphs just above it. In general the widths of the shadows appear to be slightly greater than the widths of the rafter ends. This is to be expected if the light source has a finite angular size (i.e., is not a source of zero angular size) as illustrated in the sketch in Figure A8.   With a source of angular size A , the end of the rafter of width s, and the distance from the rafter end to the wall equal to R, the total width of the shadow, from the left side of the penumbra to the right side of the penumbra is given by

W = 2[(s/2)+ R TAN(A/2)] = s + 2R TAN (A/2).  (A - 9)

      If we again use ten inches as the distance of the rafter end from the wall, include the COS(B) factor to account for the fact that the light source is at an angular elevation of about 16 degrees, assume the source is the sun (A = 0.53 deg), and assume that the end of the rafter is 1.5 inches wide (standard for a so-called "2 x 4," then the total width of the shadow would be

W = 1.5" +2(10)TAN (0.53/2) / cos(16)) = 1.6 inches  (A - 10)

(NOTE 2000: using 6 inches as the extension of the rafter end, which doesn't extend as far as the edge of the roof, yields W = 1.56 inches)

This assumes an unobscured sun.. If we allow  for the possibility that the effective angular size of the sun had grown by a factor of three the total width becomes 1.78 inches (NOTE 2000:  1.68 inches). Thus the total width of the shadow of a rafter end is in the range

Wrafter,sun = 1.6 to 1.8 inches  (A-11)

(NOTE 2000: 1.56 to 1.68 inches)

Thus, if the sun were the source the maximum width of the shadow of a rafter end would be about (1.6/1.5) = 1.07 to (1.8/1.5) = 1.20 times the width of the rafter end.  (NOTE 2000: 1.04 to 1.12 times the width of the rafter end.)   Therefore, in order to determine whether or not the sun made the shadows of the rafter end it is only necessary to compare relative sizes of the shadow and rafter end images. Referring to Figure A3 we see that for rafter C the ratio is 0.825 mm/ 0.50 mm = 1.65 (using the average between 0.80 and 0.85 mm as the width of the shadow). For rafter B the ratio is 0.55/0.50 = 1.10. Similar measurements using densitometer scans for Photo 2 yield for rafter D (0.55/0.50) = 1.10; for rafter C, (0.70/0.40) = 1.75; and for rafter B, (0.60/0.40) = 1.50. (The comparable data using rafter A and shadow A have not been used since shadow A is at the edge of the garage wall and so part of the shadow may have extended beyond the wall where it could not be registered by the camera. See Fig. A4. ) The average of these ratios is 1.42, which is noticeably larger than the largest expected value of the ratio if the sun were the source. The large variability in the measured ratios, ranging from as low as 1.1 to as high as 1.75 are indicative of the experimental problems with measuring the widths of images as small as those of the rafter ends and of the shadows of the rafter ends. In particular, the contrast between the brightness of the shadows and of the adjacent illuminated wall is so low that photographic noise plays an important role in determining the "edges" of the images of the shadows. Another important factor in determining the locations of edges is the finite aperture ( slit) size of the scanning densitometer, which tends to blur out very fine details. However, after taking these effects into account it seems that the photographic data do indicate a light source larger in horizontal angular extent than the sun. By reversing Equation (A - 9) to find A, and using K = W/s , it is possible to find A using the calculated values of K given above:

A = 2 ARCTAN (s (K-1)/2(R) )  (A - 12)

With s =  1.5", R = 10", and  K = 1.42 this yields 3.6 degrees, which is much larger than the effective angular size of the sun could ever be. Even the lowest ratio values found, 1.10, correspond to an angular size of about 0.86 deg, which is greater than that of the unobscured sun (0.53 deg).  (NOTE 2000: using R = 6 inches with s = 1.5 and K = 1.42 yields about 6 degrees.)

Darkened Areas Under the Eave: Possibly Other Shadows

Besides the very apparent horizontal shadow of the edge of the roof and the shadows of the eave rafters, there are other darkened areas of the board under the eave . These darkened areas are on the right hand sides of rafters D,C and B. They look like what one might expect if there were a somewhat bright source southeast of the garage causing shadows of the ends of the eave rafters to appear on the board just under the eave. This hypothetical "southeast source" would have been less bright and larger in angular size than the source which made the shadows which I have discussed in previous sections of this appendix. On the photos these other "possible shadows" extend to the right for a considerable distance from rafter D and from rafter C, and for only a short distance to the right from rafter B. They are illustrated in Fig. Al. If they are not shadows but "anomalous" darkenings of the board for some other reason, then they just happen to be remarkably consistent with what one might expect if there were a source southeast of the garage as well as a brighter, smaller source roughly east of the garage. Needless to say, if the sun were the main source east of the garage in the morning it seems inconceivable that there could be another source southeast of the garage that could be bright enough to create shadows, even if the sun were partially obscured by a thin cloud.  Thus these other darkened areas argue against the sun as the source which was east of the garage. On the other hand, there would be no problem with having two clouds, one south of the other, at sunset causing shadows on the garage.

There is one further darkening of a board which appears to be a shadow that would require the source east of the garage to be very narrow indeed, if it is the shadow of the protrucing 2 x 4. This darkening runs downward along a vertical board at the corner of the garage (see Fig A1 and the notation "Shadow of 'Protruding Rafter?"). This darkening, although visible in prints and emphasized in the figure, is much fainter than the shadows of the ends of the eave rafters (that is, there is less contrast between the brightness of this darkened area and the illuminated board to its left than there is between the brightness of a shadow of a rafter end and the illuminated board adjacent to it). It seems that the width of this vertical shadow increases with an increase in distance downward along the board. Such an increase would be consistent with a source larger than the sun, but the shadow is so faint that it would be difficult to say just how much wider than the sun. This darkening could also be the shadow, not of the protruding 2 x 4 rafter, but rather of the immediately adjacent vertical board to the right of the shadow that was apparently nailed to the front surface of the garage and therefore blocks all skylight coming from north of (roughly) due east.


Things may not be what they appear to the "naked eye". Careful analysis of the shadows under the eave suggest that they have characteristics that are incompatible with the sun-shadow hypothesis, but not necessarily incompatible with a hypothesis which includes one or more bright clouds in the sky east (and southeast?) of the wall at sunset. As pointed out in the text of this report, cloud-produced shadows have been observed (and photographed).  Hence cloud-produced shadows similar to those on the Trent garage wall are not "physically impossible," as has been claimed by the skeptics.

(NOTE:  aerial survey photos obtained after this analysis was completed show that east of the garage wall were a chicken house and a pump house and northeast of the wall was the main house. Each of these buildings would have blocked some of the skylight which could compete with light reflected from a cloud. The less skylight there is the more likely that a bright cloud could cause noticeable shadows.)�

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