Sunday, December 16, 2012


Copyright 2012 InterAmerica, Inc. [Permission needed to reproduce, otherwise copyright infringement will be pursued)


Found clues point to a prank behind the most cherished UFO photographs in history. For over six decades the two images taken by Paul Trent of McMinnville, Oregon have continued to generate great debate about their authenticity. But investigation now indicates that the two Trent images were likely ones of invention. If so, how did a farmer fake so many for so long?



Paul Trent and his wife Evelyn were farming folks who lived in a rural area of the Pacific Northwest. On May 11, 1950 Evelyn claimed that she had spotted a disk-like UFO in their backyard and she called out for her husband to retrieve the camera inside their home. Paul managed to run inside, run back out, and then snap two photos of a mysterious aerial object. Those images even today are emblazoned in the minds of those with UFO interest.


Though many UFO researchers (and even the Condon Committee) could see no obvious evidence of hoaxed images, other researchers did.

The essential fact is that the two photographs are gray and grainy. They are of low resolution and they are produced from a simple box camera. Endless techniques, technologies, enhancements and enlargements have been applied to test the veracity of the images by many individuals over many years to varying interpretations. But in real life one cannot always make lemonade out of a lemon.  Simply, the information that is gleaned from a given image can only be as good as the image. And these are poor images from which to work. Conclusively determining whether the object was suspended or thrown- or whether the UFO is actually a rear view mirror, a small scale model or a Dual record changer spindle part from 1940, or whether it is indeed an actual full-sized unknown aerial cannot be accomplished solely by technical analysis.

What we can do is to investigate the photos in a far broader context. We must examine the sequence of events and other elements of the story like this:


Trent Son on Ladder Where UFO Pictures Were Taken (Same Roll)

We must ask, for instance, things like this: What did the other photos taken on the roll containing the UFO photos depict? Well, a picture of Paul Trent’s son is within that roll- and it speaks proverbial volumes.

Often an accompanying image can tell a lot about images that are in question. And in this case, it surely does. On the very same roll that the UFO photos were taken we see a picture of a kid up on a ladder next to the very barn-like structure that was found in the UFO pictures.

And this young man is very interestingly positioned right where the saucer action was about to occur. He is directly under where the UFO was also captured on film.

Why is this kid on a ladder and being photographed in the “UFO spot”? And on the same roll?

And the Trents later contradictions on just when the photographs were taken can be accounted for when we understand that Trent and the boy probably spent a great deal of time extending throughout the day to do it just right. He couldn’t remember the precise time or he was not astute enough to realize the significance of accurately correlating your story to your image.

It is just beyond curious and headed to the obvious: The boy was acting as Daddy’s little helper, assisting in the preparation of the hoax set up in some way, perhaps serving to frame the photos- or helping to angle and position the “UFO.”

It is known that the other pictures on the roll were taken at a time well preceding the photo of the kid on the ladder and the UFO photos. And Trent waited until sometime after the UFO photos were taken to develop the film as he wanted to use up the film exposures that were left remaining on the roll.

The farm boy on the ladder certainly looks appropriately dressed for a cloudy, early day in May in the Pacific Northwest, the time the UFO pictures were taken. And the cloudy gray background sky above him appears suspiciously consistent with and similar to that of the UFO photos. That is, by the looks of things, they could have been taken on the very same day.


The fact that the photo of the child on a ladder (which is taken near the barn-like structure underneath the overhead wires) where a UFO would later also be photographed appears in the same film roll give one more than simple pause. This all clearly points to a prank. It almost appears that Trent was getting a lesson in forced perspective and how to take pictures when your “subject matter” is elevated in the air.



With the boy high atop the ladder under the wires near the barn, Paul Trent could practice his UFO shot by looking through his viewfinder, aiming and framing and composing the shot of the UFO to come. This would be a dry run. To have taken practice exposures using the actual UFO model would of course be too damning.

And Paul may have noticed something about kneeling when taking a picture- you can force the desired perspective. The essential thing missed by most is that they assume that Trent was standing upright when taking the photo. But Trent, in taking shots of his small child off the ground, realized that you could create illusions from varying perspectives.

If Trent crouched down low with the boy high on a ladder, he could make the flying saucer look farther away than it really was:

By kneeling down even a little bit, and by shooting up from that position, he could force the perspective of the resulting photo to make it appear to have greater distance, yet remain reasonably sharp in focus.

And a disc-like object could easily have been thrown from that very ladder by his boy accomplice when the ladder was placed out of view of the shot. Or the ladder could have been used to suspend the object from the overhead wires. Take your pick. But whatever the choice, a ladder, a kid atop it and forced perspective somehow most certainly figure into the prank.



Kim Trent Spencer, the Trent’s granddaughter, told journalist Kelly Kennedy of the Oregonian something of missed importance- the Trents were repeaters. That is, they had multiple UFO “experiences.” Kennedy reports:

“Kim remembers talking about the UFO pictures when she was young, but back then she didn’t know the details- but that her grandmother had said she has seen UFOs before.” And much ignored is that Mrs. Trent herself told the late researcher Philip Klass that she had seen UFOs both before and after the photos were taken.

As Jerry Seinfeld might say, “not that there’s anything wrong with that” –but when you combine her prior UFO interest and prior sightings, her later sightings, her family discussions about UFOs- with the fact that Mrs. Trent reported being the first to see the photographed UFO- it is Mrs. Trent who should have been given more attention when investigating the photos. Paul finally got his wife a photograph of one of her coveted UFOs. She was certainly one darn lucky “repeat witness.”



An intriguing handwritten note has surfaced that was composed by an apparent friend of Paul Trent’s. Trent passed in the late 1990s. The note (in male writing) was directed to Paul and was attached to one of Paul’s UFO photos. The note-writer signs off to Paul by simply using his initials, “CM”- indicating that they knew one another well.

CM writes,

Paul I wish I could have been there shooting with you on this day in 1950. If it’s real, then whoa! But if you faked it, that’s even cooler. We can’t really fake stuff anymore. Years later if it’s all fake… or maybe it’s all real. Same difference. Thanks for this though.” CM

I can’t of course agree with Paul’s letter-writer, CM. There is a big difference between what is fake and what is real- and it is our obligation to truth to distinguish the two. And strange that Trent’s own admirer CM cannot commit to certain belief that his friend is telling the truth.


The Trents have been described in the literature as having been “simple” farm folks.  In 1950 there were only 6000 residents in McMinnville. And the Trents were actually out in the sparsely populated hinterlands of Yamhill County, running their ranch.

“Fun” during those times, in that kind of place, may have encompassed playing around with a new camera, wanting to outwit the city folks, involve the family in some UFO entertainment and satisfy a wife’s saucer interests.

Though Paul Trent is always spoken of in “neighborly terms” as being salt-of-the-earth, Paul Trent was not an “unassuming man” without any interest in attention. He was not humble nor “meek and mild.” And he was not at all shy to pose for the press like an actor in these photos ops, ensuring his name in print and in history:




In fact it would be hard to fathom anyone doing today what Paul Trent did to publicize his photos: Just after the UFO photos were developed, Paul went to his local banker Frank Wortman and allowed them to be displayed in the bank’s window where a local passer-by and reporter would then spot them and have them published locally and wind up carried nationally. Paul never objected to the publicity.

This placement of photos in the window of a business reminds me of confessed UFO hoaxer and barber Ralph Ditter of Zanesville, OH. Ditter placed his UFO photos up in the window of his barbershop. Ditter too involved his child. His little girl wanted to see a UFO. So Ditter “made one” using a toy wheel and captured it on camera for her.

And some say of the Trents that no money was ever sought for the photos. But in reality, in 1970, twenty years later and realizing their accrued value, the Trents insisted on having their negatives back from the McMinnville Register, which held them. According to Register Editor Philip Bladine, the Trents were not shy to note to him that ‘they had never been paid for the negatives and thus wanted them back.”

In the end, a farmer had some fun. He wanted us to join along in the entertainment of trying to solve his puzzle. Thank you for that, Paul Trent. Because I too have enjoyed playing make believe in McMinnville. It was fun while it lasted. And it certainly lasted a very long time.



  1. The boy does seem to be directly under the wires, when you compare that picture with the one immediately following. The object doesn't look like it's hanging from the wire, it seems further away, but that's not proof: would it have been published if it was clearly near and suspended?

    I'd like to see this reproduced. If someone can get the same effect, I'd vote "fake."

  2. The photo of the kid on the ladder was NOT TAKEN BY TRENT and this should be corrected before it becomes yet another false "fact" barnacled onto the ever-growing myth. It was part of a series of photos of the Trents in their back yard taken by a LIFE magazine staff photographer a few days after the photos got national attention. While it certainly is suggestive as to how easy it would have been to suspend a hoax object, it's just not true that it's part of Trent's photo roll.

    1. why did the LIFE magazine photographer ask the boy to climb a ladder? Any speculation? seems odd that his dad (who I'm sure would have been around) would not have sensed there was the ulterior motive to cast doubt on the UFO pics. It doesn't seem relevant to the UFO story to have a boy climb a ladder for no apparent reason.

  3. certainly one of the first pieces of 'evidence' I remember reading about when I was about 12 and fascinated with flying saucers. In retrospect, all the early photos show one thing that now seems so ... ridiculous: the primitiveness of the extra-terrestrial craft. Super-intelligent beings riding around in things that just happen to look like pie tins and hubcaps? The recent faked CGI videos at least show viable spacecraft - but back in the 50's - 70's the people had to resort to common items. Billy Meier seemed to realize that and went to the other extreme - but his were equally ridiculous.

    1. Exactly, jamesrav! Who--except the most naive among us--would believe that ET would arrive in spacecraft that look uncannily like a mass-manufactured object from twentieth-century Earth? No One! Except those already suffering under the delusion that Earth was being visited by ET--across the vast distances between stars--in streamlined personal transport vehicles about the size of a car or truck.

      It's not impossible, it's just so remotely improbable that it's not plausible. Adults at the time knew it was all nonsense, but it sold a lot of papers and magazines.

      ufoolery is history; make popular belief in the myth and delusion history as well.

  4. This would be a great smoking gun if there were any smoke or any gun. All you have is a photo of a kid on a ladder (taken some weeks later, I suspect since the bush in the lower left corner has grown some). The rest is a pile of assumptions strung together by a lot of insinuations and no evidence.

    This is probably one of the most analysed photos in the history of photography. Everyone from the Air Force down to various debunkers has taken a crack at it. The first thing everyone went for was forced perspective and wires. Neither has held up in regards to the image. Further, to do forced perspective with a fixed lens box camera is much more difficult than your example photo (using a wide angle lens). As for the old style funny look of the "craft," was an oddly classic model back in the 50s. It wasn't something that simply appeared in this photo.

    BTW, when they went to the newspaper and informed the paper that they never paid for the negative, they were not trying to make money off of the photo. This is a quick way of establishing your ownership over the negative. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Any one who has ever worked as either a free lance writer or photographer has had to do the same at some point in their professional life. This is just one of the many insulting and just plain stupid insinuations peppered in this piece.

  5. To me Anthony the key to these pictures if they're hoaxes might just be the pole lopsidely sticking up through the centre of the bush just to the right of the shed as we look at it because the bush/pole alert us all these pictures were taken at different times of day if not year from different points in relation to themselves which at first seems to call into question your idea the lad on the ladder's a sort of range finding device.

    But I'm struck by how in the two pics featuring the flying 'bin lid' even though the 'bin lid''s in completely different parts of the sky and being photographed from completely different angles on quite possibly completely different occasions (to go by the lighting and seeming slight variations in the structure of the corner of the roof) in both pictures the 'bin lid' appears to maintain a very similar elevation and a very similar distance from the tip of the lopsided pole.

    So maybe the picture's perfectly innocent and all that's happened's someone's momentarily left the ladder out and the kid's shot up it looking so cute someone couldn't resist snapping him.

    But if there was hoax maybe it wasn't done by dangling the 'bin lid' from one of the wires overhead but by tying it to the pole and flinging it in such a way it not only couldn't disappear out of sight but a succession of shots'd make it look like it was zooming across the sky when it was really whizzing round the maypole.

  6. There aren't going to be any corrections to this pile of misinformation, are there? The preposterous and transparently bogus "confession on the photo" that seems to have been written by a college frat boy last year("Like duude, we totally had some LULZ pranking everybody with those fake photos, amirite? It was like totally awesome! We shd def post to Youtube brah!") Oh COME ON. The apparent cropping of the LIFE photo (NOT taken by Trent) of the kid on the ladder to remove the LIFE watermark? I have copies of several originals from this series, and others probably do too. Who's trying to pull the wool over whose eyes here? Why pollute the story with masses of misinformation? What's the agenda?

  7. Since I now know who UFX is, I know that he knows rather a lot about this case. Will Tony be wise and admit his mistake (which would allow me to love him again:))?


  8. Tony believes you may be referring to Joel Carpenter and if so, to have Joel email him directly.


  9. If one goes into most any subject predisposed to a certain bias, then regardless of what one may find, that bias will remain and even be reinforced. If someone wants to believe or not in this old and very well researched photo... and they have a predispositioned bias, then they will likely find what they go in wanting to find.

  10. I can't speak to the other facts of this case, but as someone who's been shooting photographs for over 40 years, I do have an observation to add on that count. Issues of forced perspective aside, the degree of atmospheric haze involved with the object strongly suggests it is not as close as the hoax hypothesis suggests--my guess would be roughly 75 to 100 yards, or more, judging from other reference points in the picture. Nowadays, of course, that sort of thing is easy to fake with computers, in those days, no. (And I have to wonder, why would anyone not extremely conversant with the intricacies of photography even think to do something like that?)

    -Ray G.

  11. This story is over.

    Evidence has surfaced, supplied by David Rudiak, that completely refutes Tony' claim.

    David has 25+ photos from the same LIFE magazine shoot from which the ladder photo was taken.

    Rich has now also seen these.

    The photos show the ladder boy (presumedly Trent's son) in many other different poses and the exact same outfit. There is an additional ladder photo as well.

    These are all obviously shot by a photo-journalist.

    All of these are in the same square format noted by Gilles.

    The Roamer I camera that Trent owned shoots a maximum of 7 landscape format photos.

    All we are waiting for now is the retraction and apology by Tony.

    Many thanks to David Rudiak and Happy Holidays,


  12. "David has 25+ photos from the same LIFE magazine shoot from which the ladder photo was taken."

    If so, perhaps Mr. Rudiak can post these photos to his own website or otherwise make them publicly available (or, provide a link if these photos are somewhere else online) for others to check and use to come to an opinion.

    If the "ladder boy" photos are indeed from the LIFE magazine photographer's on site visit, on what basis was that verified; it would be nice if more source citations, references, or other bibliographic notations were provided by the various parties arguing this particular issue, so that the conflicting opinions can be more adequately checked against provided references, either way, for independent analysis rather than simply relying on various parties conflicting statements, which establishes nothing factual.

    And, if it is confirmed that the "ladder boy" photos were not taken by Paul Trent, shouldn't that, if vetted as a fact, be noted in a revised blog post by Mr. Bragalia, just as an appropriate point of empirical scholarship?

    Either way, however, that is a minor point compared to the issue of whether Trent faked the photos, and it would seem, given all the data about this case, both pro and con, that the greatest liklihood is that Trent did somehow fake the photos, although that strong probability is not a new revelation.

    1. David Rudiak has posted the images. Here's the link:

  13. I agree that the "ladder shot" was by the LIFE photographer who
    took many pictures of the Trents and their house and nearby
    scenery. These LIFE pictures were probably taken during the second or third week in June, 1950, over a month after the date of the photos.

    David Rudiak has presented his typically erudite response to
    Bragalia and Randle. Here is my response ... written years
    before Bragalia and Randle leapt into the McMinnville Photo

    For complete details on my several year investigation (almost 30 years ago) see

    and two related papers with mostly technical details:

    Unlike the critics, I spoke numerous times with Evelyn
    Trent during the main period of my investigation
    (1974 - 1977, 1980 approx).
    I was able to check on numerous aspects of
    the sighting as reported
    in initial news articles and also I learned from her various
    other details which had not been reported. But perhaps of
    more importance is that I got a "sense of the person" through
    hours (roughly 20 hours) of conversation with Mrs. Trent
    over that time span. (I asked to speak to Paul but he wore
    a hearing aide and didn't like to talk on the phone.)

    I also collected information from other investigators who had
    direct contact with the Trents. These people are listed and
    their opinions presented in the above web paper.

    One of the most important people to speak to the Trents was
    the first person to interview the them about a month after
    they were taken, Bill Powell, photo editor of the
    newspaper (Telephone Register). Powell interviewed
    the Trents at their house, retrieved the negatives from under
    the couch where the kids were playing with them and took them
    back to the newspaper office. According to Powell, when I
    interviewed him in the mid-70's, he "blew them up every which
    way and couldn't figure out how they faked them" or words to
    that effect. But perhaps his most important statement to me
    was his succinct evaluation of the liklihood that the pictures
    were faked: "I finally decided that the pictures must be real
    because they're too stupid (to have faked them),"
    with some emphasis on the last
    three words. (In previous public presentations to avoid
    embarrassing anyone I have used the phrase "too mentally
    challenged" to fake the pictures.)

    In this case there are two types of evidence: "hard" physical
    and "soft" circumstantial. A lawyer once told me that a case
    is usually NOT made based on the physical evidence because
    experts on the evidence can always be disputed by other
    experts. Instead, the case is made by the circumstantial
    evidence history, personality, motive, ability, etc.)

    In this photo case there is physical evidence that could
    prove the UFO was distant (ca. several thousand feet)
    and large (ca. 30 ft) and therefore
    not a hoax, as pointed out by Bill Hartmann (Condon Report
    photoanalyst). The evidence is in the relative brightness
    of the bottom of the UFO image. Hartmann's "Nobel Prize"
    idea was that the shaded bottom of the UFO image
    was brighter than one would expect from the bottom of a
    nearby (ca 16 ft) model (ca. 5" diameter), even if the
    bottom were as bright as a white paper. Using a
    conventional atmospheric optical calculation
    based on data from the negative of the photo
    he estimated the distance. His conclusion
    was that the object was distant. Robert Sheaffer pointed
    out that "veiling glare" due to the lens (optical light
    scattering or thin layer of dirt/grease on the lens)
    could increase the brightness of shaded areas of
    the image. He made a qualitative argument which, through
    research, I improved upon and even quantified. I
    demonstrated that veiling glare was large enough to
    account for the increased brightness if there were no
    other optical effects contributing to the brightness.
    Then I realized that there was another effect that had
    not been incorporated in Hartmann's calculation. Hartmann
    had measured the relative brightness of the image of
    a distant vertical white house wall and equated that
    to the relative brightness of the horizontal bottom
    surface of the UFO if it had a white bottom. I measured
    the relative brightness of a white house wall and the
    relative brightness of a white horizontal surface seen
    from below and found that the horizontal surface was
    about half as bright as the house wall. When this
    factor was included in the calculation the effect of
    the veiling glare was "cancelled" and the result was
    a distance comparable to what Hartmann found.
    (NOTE: if the bottom were dark or copper colored as
    reported by the witnesses the calculation would have
    yielded an even greater distance and size.)


    Thus Hartmann's calculation was vindicated: even if
    the bottom were white the distance was large.
    However, I realized that it could still be a nearby
    model if the bottom were a source of light. It could
    not be a single flashlight inside a model with
    a white paper bottom because that bottom brightness
    is uniform. It would have to be more like a
    translucent model such as made out of paper and
    having the shape as shown in the photo.
    The main point is that it was possible to imagine
    that the Trents had made a model that satisfied
    Hartmann's calculation even though nearby.

    Basically, the photos don't offer positive proof of
    UFO reality because one can always imagine that
    the Trents were clever enough, or lucky enough
    to create a model that appears to be distant. As
    I discovered years ago, the main value of a photo
    is as an aide to the witness when describing the
    reported object. Only in a very rare case would
    a UFO photo contain an absolutely unfakable
    UFO image(a movie or video would be harder to fake).

    That leaves the circumstantial evidence. What is
    the likelihood that they would think of faking a
    UFO photo, and if they did think of it, what is the
    likelihood that they would go to the trouble of
    doing it and making up a story about it and so on
    and maintaining that story "until death?"

    The answers to these questions lie in the life
    story of the Trents. IMHO faking a UFO sighting,
    or faking anything, is not compatible with the
    character and life history of the Trents. The
    circumstantial evidence is presented in detail in
    the above referenced article.

    After all is said and done I would say to the
    skeptics, believe what you will.
    As for me, IMHO it was real.


  16. I seem to be a little bit late to this McMinnville party. (last comment 12-2012)

    Has anyone else noticed that the second 'UFO' photo has two UFO's in it?
    But then when I found two different web pages showing the same picture with this second UFO in it, I noticed the position of the second UFO has changed.

    and combined along side the first one as well,

    Did the person(s) responsible for scanning these photos try to muddy the waters or are there really Three photos taken by Mr. Trent?
    The position of the second UFO in a light 'transition' or semi-cloaked form is along the wire in two different vertical alignments with the more obvious UFO in the dark silhouette form, but maintains it's own orientation with the wire, which is obviously in the fore ground compared to the fainter form.


    1. Your second link was an attempt to disprove without knowing the dynamics of photography.

      At first, one would consider a hoax high in the analysis but, I too had been taking photos in the early 50's and still take photos and I live in Oregon so I'm familiar with atmospheric perspective. The Air Force also fly steal bombers up in this area during the winter, I know what a B-1 bomber looks like when it banks in a turn.

      But for me, the one thing that stands out as making this real is how Mr Trent took photo #2. Look at the pole in #1, just in front of the oil tank. In #2, he had to move some distance to his right as he felt the craft was going behind the roof of the shed.

      If you overlay #2 over #1 and reduce the opacity enough to see it's position. Next, move #2 over until the post is lined up with photo #1. You'll see that the craft moved significantly and would have nearly gone behind the roof from where Mr Trent was standing for #1.

      Also, if a person looks at the haze on the hillside and the haze on photo #2, you can get an idea of atmospheric perspective.

      What troubles me is the lack of motion blur. The focal length of the lens was 100mm or 103mm and the shutter speed was 1/50. The issue would have been how fast the craft was moving. If it was swinging on a line, it would have been soft.

      Last point ~ most that think this is a hoax don't realize the compression a 100 mm lens has on an image. Objects that are far look closer.