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Maury Island incident

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Artist impression of the Maury Island UFO incident

The Maury Island incident refers to claims made by Fred Crisman and Harold Dahl of falling debris and threats by men in black following sightings of unidentified flying objects in the sky over Maury Island, Washington, United States. The pair claimed that the events had occurred on June 21, 1947. The incident is widely regarded as a hoax, even by believers of flying saucers and UFOs.[1] [2]

On August 1, two Air Force officers tasked with investigating the incident were killed when their plane crashed outside of Kelso, Washington. Project Blue Book chief Edward J. Ruppelt characterized the story as "the dirtiest hoax in the UFO history."

The Maury Island incident has inspired an eponymous film, artwork, and local celebrations in Des Moines, Washington. In 2017, the Wasthington State Senate acknowledged the 70th anniversary of the event.[3]



On June 24, 1947, private pilot Kenneth Arnold claimed that he saw a string of nine shiny unidentified flying objects flying past Mount Rainier at speeds that Arnold estimated at a minimum of 1,200 miles an hour (1,932 km/h). Arnold's report garnered nationwide news coverage and his description of the objects also led to the press quickly coining the terms flying saucer and flying disc as popular descriptive terms for UFOs.[4][5] Ten days later, Capt. E.J. Smith, his co-pilot, and a stewardess reported witnessing unidentified objects in the Pacific Northwest.[6]

After his story was publicized, Arnold was contacted by Raymond A. Palmer, the current editor of the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, who is often credited with inventing the concept of the UFO. Palmer relayed to Arnold the story of two harbor patrolmen in Tacoma who reportedly possessed fragments of a "flying saucer". Palmer requested that Arnold fly to Tacoma to investigate, and on July 28, Palmer wired $200 to Arnold to fund the investigation.[4][1]

Initial story

Maury Island incident is located in Washington (state)
Maury Island incident
Location of Maury Island, Washington

On July 29, Arnold interviewed Harold Dahl, who reported:

On June 21, 1947 in the afternoon about two o'clock, I was patrolling the east bay of Maury Island [...] I, as captain, was steering my patrol boat close to the shore of a bay on Maury Island. On board were two crewmen, my fifteen-year-old son and his dog. As I looked up from the wheel on my boat I noticed six very large doughnut-shaped aircraft.[1]

Dahl said that one of the objects "began spewing forth what seemed like thousands of newspapers from somewhere on the inside of its center. These newspapers, which turned out to be a white type of very light weight metal, fluttered to earth". According to Dahl, a substance resembling lava rocks fell onto their boat, breaking a worker's arm and killing a dog.[1]

Dahl said his superior officer, Fred Crisman, investigated the incident. Dahl also claimed he was later approached by a man in a dark suit and told not to talk about the event.[7] Crisman, when interviewed, reported having recovered debris from Maury Island and having witnessed an unusual craft.[1]

Further investigation


Arnold first recruited Captain E.J. Smith of United Airlines, who had reported witnessing a flying disc on July 4. Crisman showed "white metal" debris to Arnold and Smith, who interpreted it as mundane and inconsistent with Dahl's description.[1] Arnold then decided to contact Lieutenant Frank Brown of Military Intelligence, Fourth Air Force, Hamilton Field, California.[1] Brown arrived at Arnold's hotel in Tacoma along with Captain William L. Davidson.[1]

Davidson and Brown conducted interviews, collected fragments, and prepared for the return flight to California out of McChord Field. In the early hours of August 1, the B-25 Mitchell the two officers were piloting crashed outside of Kelso, Washington, killing both men.[8]

The FBI then began a formal investigation into Dahl and Crisman's claims, and quickly determined that they were false, noting that Dahl stated "if questioned by the authorities he was going to say it was a hoax because he did not want any further trouble over the matter." FBI files also detail a few alternate stories communicated by Crisman and Dahl to local newspapers and other media outlets, and conclude that the two men had contacted a variety of publications "in the hope of building up their story through publicity to a point where they could make a profitable deal with Fantasy Magazine, Chicago, Illinois."[9]



Writing in 1956, Air Force officer Edward J. Ruppelt concluded, "The whole Maury Island Mystery was a hoax. The first, possibly the second-best, and the dirtiest hoax in the UFO history."[2] Ruppelt observed:

The majority of the writers of saucer lore have played this sighting to the hilt, pointing out as their main premise the fact that the story must be true because the government never openly exposed or prosecuted either of the two hoaxers. This is a logical premise, but a false one. The reason for the thorough investigation of the Maury Island Hoax was that the government had thought seriously of prosecuting the men. At the last minute it was decided, after talking to the two men, that the hoax was a harmless joke that had mushroomed, and that the loss of two lives and a B-25 could not be directly blamed on the two men.[2]

A 2014 public mural depicting the incident

Despite the FBI promptly determining that the entire incident was a hoax, the tale has been retold numerous times. Gray Barker's 1956 book They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, which helped to popularize the concept of "men in black", cited the supposed event.[10] The debunked Majestic 12 documents also referenced the story, claiming that the metal fragments were part of a nuclear reactor, and had been turned over to the CIA.[11] In The UFO Investigator's Handbook, published in 1999, Craig Glenday gives the Maury Island incident and Arnold's sighting as examples of notable UFO encounters in the area of Mount Rainier, which he describes as a "UFO laborator[y]".[12]

The story continues to be noted locally as well.[13] The 2014 short film The Maury Island Incident depicts the hoax and resulting events from Dahl's point of view.[14][15] Art patron John White commissioned a mural by Nancy and Zach Pahl depicting the incident.[16] The artwork is in Des Moines, which is East of Maury Island, on the opposite side of Puget Sound.[17][18] In 2017, the Washington State Senate passed a resolution acknowledging the 70th anniversary of the alleged event.[19] In 2024, the city of Des Moines held their third annual "Men in Black Birthday Bash" on June 22.[20]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Arnold "The Coming of the Saucers" (1952)
  2. ^ a b c Ruppelt, Edward J. (20 November 2019). "The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects".
  3. ^ https://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2017-18/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Resolutions/8648-Maury%20Island%20Incident.pdf
  4. ^ a b Nickell, Joe (26 October 2016). "Creators of the Paranormal". The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  5. ^ Sheaffer, Robert. "The First "Flying Saucer" Sighting – Kenneth Arnold Mt. Rainier, Washington – June 24, 1947". The Debunker's Domain. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  6. ^ "8 Jul 1947, 1 – The Spokesman-Review" – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ Harrison, Albert A. (2007). Starstruck: Cosmic Visions in Science, Religion, and Folklore. Berghahn Books. pp. 123–. ISBN 978-1-84545-286-5. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  8. ^ "The Maury Island UFO Incident". HowStuffWorks. 8 February 2008. Archived from the original on 26 March 2018. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  9. ^ ""FBI's real-life "X-Files" documents strange connection between UFOs and the JFK assassination". MuckRock. 5 December 2016. Retrieved 17 July 2024.
  10. ^ Patton, Phil (24 June 1997). "Modern Myth Men In Black Movie Offers New Twist On Flying-Saucer Folklore". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  11. ^ Klass, Phillip J. "Skeptics UFO Newsletter 74" (PDF). The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Center for Inquiry. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 April 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  12. ^ McGaha, James; Nickell, Joe (May 2014). "Mount Rainier: 'Saucer Magnet'". The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  13. ^ "KOMO 4 News on Maury Island incident".
  14. ^ "The Maury Island Incident | Before Roswell". www.mauryislandincident.com. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  15. ^ "The Maury Island Incident". IMDb. Archived from the original on 20 August 2023. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  16. ^ https://www.seattlesouthside.com/directory/maury-island-incident-mural/
  17. ^ "Maury Island Incident Mural".
  18. ^ Wright, Virginia H. (8 December 2014). Burien. Arcadia. ISBN 978-1-4396-4881-0.
  19. ^ "Washington State Legislature". apps.leg.wa.gov. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
  20. ^ "Men in Black Birthday Bash Fest Pays Homage to Maury Island's Freaky UFO History". South Seattle Emerald. 20 June 2024. Retrieved 17 July 2024.