Saturday, July 17, 2010

Maury Island UFO Crash

It seems that the Maury Island hoax has reared its ugly head once again in an article in which the author proclaims that it is a... HOAX. And this is news?

Captain Ed Ruppelt called Maury Island the dirtiest hoax in UFO history in his 1956 book. Jerry Clark, in the first version of his massive UFO encyclopedia refers to the Maury Island hoax. I call is a hoax in my latest book, Crash: When UFO’s Fall from the Sky (yet another shameless plug).

Here is what I said about Maury Island, in the book, which was officially published on May 20, which is prior to the posting of the lastest Maury Island is a hoax story.

Kenneth Arnold’s "flying saucer"sighting of June 24, 1947, when he learned of it, excited the editor of a science fiction magazine, Ray Palmer. Palmer had taken a science fiction magazine on the verge of folding and turned it into one with wide circulation in a matter of months. One of the stories, or more accurately, a series of stories, were the tales of Richard Shaver that Palmer hinted were true and that he credited with the amazing turn around of the magazine. Shaver, in his rambling style, told of an underworld accessed through deep caves, of a war between the Deros and Teros, two "robot" societies, one good and one bad and of their impact on the human race. Almost all that impact was bad in our world could be traced to the evil robots. By coincidence, the June 1947 issue of Amazing Stories was filled with more of Shaver’s tales.

Palmer had suggested as he published the stories, that these underground entities, good and bad, did leave their caves occasionally, and when the flying saucers first appeared in over Washington state in June 1947, Palmer was convinced that this was the proof of the reality of Shaver’s tales. In fact, in an editorial published in October 1947, Palmer excitedly wrote, "A part of the now world-famous Shaver Mystery has now been proved!"

When the Arnold story broke in the national press, Palmer saw the opportunity to publicize his case and by doing that, validate the Shaver mystery. Palmer, as did so many other times, wrote to Arnold, asking that he, Arnold, prepare a report for the magazine. Arnold didn’t want to do that but did send Palmer a copy of the report that he had written for the Army Air Forces.

In a few days, Palmer wrote again, this time telling Arnold that he, Palmer, had a letter from a harbor patrol officer telling of a flying saucer sighting three days before Arnold had seen anything. Palmer asked if Arnold would investigate and Palmer would pay him $200, which, in 1947, was quite a bit of money.

The story, as it was told by Palmer and later by the harbor patrolmen, was that Harold Dahl, his teenaged son and two other harbor patrolmen sighted six doughnut-shaped objects in the sky near them. Five of the craft seemed to be circling the sixth which was in trouble. As that object passed overhead, no more than 500 feet above them, it started "spewing a white type of very light weight metal," and some kind of "dark type metal which looked similar to lava rock." That injured Dahl’s son and killed the dog. When the object stopped dropping the metal, it took off but not before Dahl took some pictures of it.

In another, slightly different version of the story, the sixth object landed, or crashed, on Maury Island in Puget Sound and disintegrated, leaving behind some strange debris or some kind of residue. Dahl collected some of this material and then returned to Tacoma, Washington.

Now things get a little more confused. According to what Dahl told Arnold, he hadn’t said a word to anyone about the damaged object but the next day a dark-suited stranger who seemed to know everything about the sighting appeared to warn Dahl not to talk about it. But Dahl ignored this warning and told his "supervisor" Fred Crisman about it. Crisman then went out to the beach and found some more of the metallic debris, or so he said. He collected his own samples, which, when you think about it, makes Crisman almost as important as Dahl to the story.

Having interviewed Dahl, or rather talked to him, Arnold and Dahl then headed to Crisman’s home to interview him. Crisman showed Arnold the debris that he had recovered but Arnold was unimpressed. He recognized it as lava and began to suspect the story being told was a hoax.

Even with his suspicions aroused, Arnold wasn’t sure what he should do. He called Captain E. J. Smith, a United Airlines pilot who, along with his crew and passengers, had seen several disk-shaped objects during a flight on the July 4, 1947 weekend. Arnold, as a private pilot, had respect for Smith, an airline pilot, and Smith joined Arnold in Tacoma to assist in the investigation. For those interested in such things, Arnold had Room 502 in the Winthrop Hotel.

The next day Crisman and Dahl visited Arnold at the hotel. Crisman now added a new detail. He told Arnold that when he had gone to the beach, he’d seen one of the doughnut-shaped flying saucers that seemed to be searching the bay for something. Crisman, who hadn’t been on the boat when the six objects had been seen, now dominated the conversation, as if he knew everything about the situation.

Arnold was less than impressed with all this and ordered breakfast in his hotel room. There wasn’t much talk as Arnold ate and read some of the newspaper clippings he had brought with him. Later Arnold would tell others that one story caught his attention. Flying saucers over Mountain Home, Idaho had dropped or expelled cinder or lava ash. Here, suddenly, was another, independent report about a craft, or several craft, dropping the same kind of material that Dahl and then Crisman had talked about.

Sometime in the night, Arnold received a call from Ted Morello, a reporter for the United Press, and who seemed to know everything that had happened in Arnold’s room during his discussions with Dahl and Crisman. Fearing the room was bugged, Arnold and Smith began looking for hidden microphones. They found nothing.

The next morning, at the hotel, but downstairs, Dahl and Crisman introduced Arnold to a couple of tough-looking men who were supposed to be the crew who had also seen the object. Arnold didn’t question them but did study some of the debris that Dahl and Crisman had brought with them. Arnold thought it looked more like aluminum such as that used in large military aircraft rather than something from another world.

That wasn’t all. Dahl, or Crisman, also suggested that photographs of the objects had been taken. Crisman had the film, he said, which had been given to him by Dahl. Once they saw the film, everyone would know the truth. Pictures wouldn’t lie. Well, in 1947, it was believed that pictures wouldn’t lie.

Arnold didn’t know what to do at this point. There was physical evidence and there were photographs, but the story told by the men seemed to have holes in it. During the Army Air Forces investigation of his sighting, Arnold had been interviewed by an officer from the Fourth Air Force, Lieutenant Frank Brown. Arnold decided to call him and let him take a turn at trying to figure all this out.

Ed Ruppelt, one time chief of Project Blue Book, the Air Force study of UFOs, put it this way, "For the Air Force the story started on July 31, 1947, when Lieutenant Frank Brown, an intelligence agent at Hamilton AFB, California, received a long-distance phone call. The caller was a man whom I’ll call Simpson [which, of course we all know was Arnold, Ruppelt changed the name because of privacy considerations] who had met Brown when Brown investigated an earlier UFO sighting... He [Arnold] had just talked to two Tacoma Harbor patrolmen. One of them had seen six UFOs hover over his patrol boat and spew out chunks of odd metal."

Brown left California with another officer, Captain William Davidson and they met with Arnold at his hotel in Tacoma. Arnold showed the two officers the fragments and both apparently recognized it as worthless slag which probably hadn’t come from a flying saucer and lost interest. Neither told Arnold this, apparently not wanting to embarrass him. Ruppelt later wrote, "Simpson [Arnold] and his airline pilot friend [Smith] weren’t told about the hoax for one reason. As soon as it was discovered that they had been ‘taken,’ thoroughly, and were not a party to the hoax, no one wanted to embarrass them."

Davidson and Brown, claiming they had to return their aircraft to California went back to McChord airfield where their B-25 was parked. They spoke, briefly, with the intelligence officer there, Major George Sander, telling him that they believed Dahl and Crisman had made up the tale.

Not long after take-off, the engine on the left wing caught fire and though the two passengers, the crew chief Woodrow D. Matthews and a "hitchhiker" identified as Sergeant Elmer L. Taff, bailed out safety, the wing burned off and smashed into the tail. The aircraft spun out of control and neither of the pilots, Brown nor Davidson got out. They were killed in the crash.

The story had suddenly turned deadly. The Army Air Forces, or maybe more appropriately, the FBI, investigated and learned that contrary to published reports, there was no sabotage of the aircraft and no one had shot it down. It was a tragic accident that seemed to focus more attention on the UFO sighting than it warranted.

Ruppelt in his 1957 book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, wrote, "Both - (the two harbor patrolmen, Dahl and Crisman] admitted that the rock fragments had nothing to do with flying saucers. The whole thing was a hoax. They had sent in the rock fragments to [Ray Palmer] stating that they could have been part of a flying saucer. He had said the rock came from a flying saucer because that’s what [Palmer] wanted him to say."

The Army Air Forces, then, found a solution to the case and although two men had been killed investigating it, that had nothing to do with the UFO sighting. The men were not prosecuted for inventing the story.

According to Jerome Clark, Arnold apparently never learned the truth about Maury Island. As late as 1977, Arnold was still talking about the case. He also used it in an article he did write for the first issue of Fate and in his book, written with Palmer called The Coming of the Saucers.

But there was another problem, as laid out in the Project Blue Book files about the case and in the FBI document that is a part of the file. The mystery caller, who had been telling reporters everything that went on in Arnold’s room, was able to substantiate part of the tale. The first wire stories of the crash didn’t mention the names of the officers killed, but the mystery caller knew them anyway. He suggested that the aircraft was shot down, by 20 mm cannon, and that was because it carried some of the fragments picked up in the Maury Island area. He suggested that if he had the names of the officers killed right, then they could believe that the rest of his information was also correct.

It turned out that the mystery caller had the right names and the Tacoma Times, and a few other newspapers including one in Chicago, carried the story that the B-25 had been shot down. Ted Lantz, one of the reporters learned that both men had been intelligence officers. With that story out, the Army Air Forces, among other agencies now had to find the truth.

But the story turns again. The mystery caller turned out to be one of the two harbor patrolmen, so of course, he knew what had gone in Arnold’s room, knew the names of the pilots killed because he had met them, and, of course, with that information verified, the newspapers printed the rest of his information.

Then, as so often happens, there was still another twist. Fred Crisman, it seems, and according to John Keel, among others, had written a letter to the editor of Amazing, Ray Palmer, in 1946. He warned Palmer about continuing the story of Deros and Teros because he knew it was all true. He had seen them in the caves of Asia while he had been assigned to the Second Air Commando, an aviation unit designed to use special tactics against the Japanese in the China-Burma-India Theater. He wrote:


I flew my last combat mission on May 26 [1945] when I was shot up over Bassein and ditched my ship in Ramaree roads off Chedubs Island. I was missing five days. I requested leave at Kashmere (sic). I and Capt. (deleted by request) left Srinagar and went to Rudok then through the Khese pass to the northern foothills of the Karakoram. We found what we were looking for. We knew what we were searching for.

For heaven's sake, drop the whole thing! You are playing with dynamite. My companion and I fought our way out of a cave with submachine guns. I have two 9" scars on my left arm that came from wounds given me in the cave when I was 50 feet from a moving object of any kind and in perfect silence. The muscles were nearly ripped out. How? I don't know. My friend has a hole the size of a dime in his right bicep. It was seared inside. How we don't know. But we both believe we know more about the Shaver Mystery than any other pair. You can imagine my fright when I picked up my first copy of Amazing Stories and see you splashing words about the subject.

What surprised me here is that Crisman knew about the Second Air Commando, which did serve in CBI Theater, and the place names all have the ring of authenticity. Of course for a con to work, there must be some elements of truth in it and these little nuggets put Crisman into the right place at the right time to tell his otherwise outrageous story. Besides, Palmer now had another man telling "eyewitness" stories of the Deros and the Teros.

Palmer kept that mystery alive as long as he could, but the Army was more than annoyed about the deaths of two officers for what seemed to be nothing more than a magazine article and some science fiction stories. The investigation, that included the FBI, resulted in both Crisman and Dahl saying that it had been a hoax that had gotten out of hand. They had never meant it to be taken nearly as seriously as it was.

In fact, Crisman tried to blame Palmer, saying he only told Palmer what Palmer wanted to hear. But it was Crisman who contacted Palmer with his story of debris from a flying saucer and while it might be suggested that Palmer ignored the shaky nature of the information and evidence, it was Crisman who was there pushing his own agenda. Palmer knew Crisman from his earlier letter, which was published without a name attached. Palmer would later admit that Crisman was the author.

The military investigation, or rather the documents in the Project Blue Book files suggest that neither Dahl nor Crisman were harbor patrolmen, but owned a salvage boat which they used to patrol Puget Sound for anything they could find. Ruppelt suggested they had a couple of beat up old boats they used in their salvage work.

Others who investigated privately later said that the characterization of the boats was unfair. They didn’t have a couple of boats, they had a single boat known as the North Queen which was only five years old and had been renovated not long before the sighting.

Palmer, of course, was not going to allow Ruppelt or the Air Force destroy a good story. He claimed that Crisman wanted investigators to believe the story was a hoax. Crisman suggested that the Maury Island case could not be separated from the Shaver mystery and that flying saucers didn’t come from outer space but from the inner Earth. Maury Island proved that, at least in Crisman’s mind and if Palmer didn’t believe it, he sure wanted to promote it. The Shaver mystery had boosted the sales of his magazine by tens of thousands.

The metallic debris, that everyone had been so concerned about, was identified as slag and suggested it bore a resemblance to similar material from a smelter near Tacoma. Although some suggested the slag had been radioactive, there is nothing in the FBI report to confirm this.

But to show that some things just can’t be simple, Crisman pops up on the radar in the late 1960s as New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison began to investigate Clay Shaw and his relation to the Kennedy assassination. Crisman became one of the minor players when it was claimed that he was one of the three hobos seen in the railroad yards not long after the fatal shots had been fired. Crisman was in the photograph of the hobos that has become part of the assassination legend.

So now we have moved from the possible crash of an alien spacecraft, to the possible crash of a craft from the inner Earth, to a story of a disabled craft that dumped metallic debris and maybe disintegrated, to the Kennedy assassination. But in all that, we have seen no evidence of anything extraordinary. There are only the tales told by Dahl and Crisman and even those are undercut by retractions of the two men. They both told investigators that the story had started as a joke and that it had gotten out of hand.

Dahl’s son, Charles, located years after the event, said that it had never happened. Of Crisman, Charles Dahl said he was a smooth-talking conman and that the Maury Island incident was a hoax.

It should be noted that no material with anything unusual about it has ever surfaced, though Crisman had suggested in the 1960s he still had some of it. The photographs were supposedly taken by the military, through no one ever saw them and in the 1960s, Crisman suggested that he had made duplicate negatives so that the military had not gotten them all, but, of course the pictures never surfaced.

Finally, in Crisman’s obituary, they mentioned his military service and suggested that he had received the Distinguished Service Cross. No record to support this has been found and it is easy to check these things online these days. It’s probably only fair to note that nothing suggests Crisman made the claim. It surfaced after he died.


Bob Koford said...

I can understand the attitude of not wanting to give undo credit to Crisman, but working from memory, I recall from reading the FBI files (thanks to Ryan Wood) that the identity of the mysterious caller could never really be confirmed. There was also only the hotel lobby phone, so if I recall correctly Arnold would be called away to the phone, from their meetings.

These phone calls are what bothers me most in the case. They were obviously meant to spread panic, as if being sponsered by an enemy agency. They moved it way beyond some simple hoax excuse! This, plus the Derogitory Robots stories for Palmer preceeding, and then these calls? Then, actually, there was an incident of Arnold's plane being possibly tampered with. All enough to spread a professional amount of paranoia to be sure.

It just seems to me that there are far too many links in this particular chain of events to be left at a simple "hoax."

But then again, the "who" behind such an endeavor is unfathomable...but still, its the sheer amount of different links that lead up to the event, that go beyond the time period of the deaths of the two AAF Intelligence Officers? Any "hoax" would surely have ended long before that!

Lance said...

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for this article.

Was the interview that Tony did the only original research in his piece? I admonished him for a lack of citations in his piece but I did enjoy it.

But yes, there are still folks talking about this case as part of the UFO canon. No UFO story will ever die.


KRandle said...

Which goes to show that no matter what evidence is presented, including the admissions of those who perpetrated it callng it a hoax, we can never drive a stake through the heart. The guys involved said it was a hoax. Their evidence was never presented, including the alleged pictures. The "mysterious" caller was Crisman. For crying out loud, what is it going to take?

Bob Koford said...

I'm sorry too.

What it would take for me is getting around the fact that the caller knowing about the terrible deaths of the two officers, and actually using that information to make calls about F-51s shooting it down! These are just not the actions of someone who was sorry and let a hoax get out of hand. They were actions of someone wanting to continue fanning the flames, for some reason. As soon as they are killed, the hoax has gotten out of hand, and yet it continues on with more wild stories.

starman said...

What was the exact date that Crisman (and/or Dahl) wrote to Palmer about the phony incident, and the date on which Palmer wrote to Arnold offering money to investigate it?

cda said...

Tony Bragalia has overstated his case. He starts off by labelling Maury Island as 'A hoax exposed!" Exclamation mark included. Big deal. It had been exposed first in 1949 with the Project Sign (or was it Grudge?) Report, plus Ruppelt's book, plus the FBI files released years later. So why the big plug of this hoax in 2010?

AJB has researched a bit more and merely confirmed what the great majority of ufologists knew long long ago. True, there will always be those who refuse to accept it as a hoax (like with the alien autopsy film), but really it hardly merits the big title Bragalia gives it.

Yes Palmer was at one time furious with Ruppelt for daring to suggest that he (Palmer) was a collaborator in the hoax, but I believe the animosity did calm down abruptly when Ruppelt died suddenly, from unknown causes (!) according to some, while still young. And Crisman, like Palmer himself, seems to have adopted several different aliases throughout his colorful career.

smans said...

I frequent the normandy park beach across from Maury Island. Hoax or not, I'd like to know exactly which side of the island, the more or less exact location this allegedly occurred. Does anyone know?

smans said...

I frequent the normandy park beach across from Maury Island. Hoax or not, I'd like to know exactly which side of the island, the more or less exact location this allegedly occurred. Does anyone know?