Oregon’s extraterrestrial history: The 1950 Trent UFO sighting

20 May 2023

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Scientists have long been kept up at night by one question: are we alone in the universe?

Oregon’s McMenamins UFO Fest is celebrating its 23rd year this weekend, but did you know that the state’s extraterrestrial roots run much deeper?

The UFO Fest found its home in McMinnville in 1999, 49 years after a local UFO sighting became national news.

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As the story goes, on May 11, 1950, Evelyn Trent was feeding the chickens and rabbits on her farm just outside of McMinnville when she looked up to the sky and saw the disc-shaped object floating in the sky.

She quickly ran back to the farmhouse, yelling for her husband, Paul Trent, to get their camera.

When the pair emerged from their house, camera in hand, they said the disc could still be seen in the sky moving west. That is when Paul raised the camera and took the now infamous photos.

According to the UFO Fest’s website, it took another month for Paul to develop the photos and even longer to share them with anyone, because he was worried about exposing a government experiment or secret project.

Finally, Paul shared the photos with his friend Frank Wortman who then went on to share the story with the local newspaper, the Telephone Register.

From there, the story blew up spreading from the small-town paper to other local sources in nearby Portland and then going national with features from the Associated Press and Life Magazine.

The whole situation became a media circus, with the Trents traveling and appearing on multiple national news shows, and of course, with the photo’s popularity came skeptics of their authenticity.

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Eventually, the media attention settled down, but that didn’t stop investigators from the Air Force and Federal Bureau of Investigation from allegedly looking into the situation and later sharing that they couldn’t find anything to convince them that the photos were fake.

Later in the 1960s, The Condon Committee, a U.S. Air Force-funded UFO research project based at the University of Colorado and led by physicist Edward U. Condon, also looked into the sighting.

The original negatives that Paul had developed in 1950 had disappeared sometime during the original media frenzy, allegedly misplaced by the New York television program “We The People,” however it was during Condon’s investigation that the negatives reappeared.

The Condon Committee also went on to state that there was nothing leading them to believe that the photos were fake.

There is no way to know for sure if the UFO sighting was real or a hoax, but those negatives have still never been debunked to this day.

UFO Fest is already underway at various locations around McMinnville and ends on Sunday.

“It is probably the best people-watching you could ever imagine,” Dani Chisholm, district manager for McMenamins Historic Hotels and board president of the McMinnville Downtown Association, told KOIN 6 News. “You’ll see some great costumes. You’ll see people who speak their own little alien language. And you get to come to one of America’s best downtowns in McMinnville.”

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