What Bruce Maccabee DOESN'T Tell You About His Investigation of the Famous
McMinnville/Trent UFO-Photo Case

by Philip J. Klass

(Copyright © 1995 by Philip J. Klass - Web Version Published by Author’s Permission)


The most extensive investigation into the classic McMinnville, Ore., UFO-photo case of 1950 was conducted by Bruce Maccabee during the late 1970s and early 1980s's. A very detailed report on Maccabee's findings were contained in a 46-page single-spaced typewritten report in June, 1982, and six-page addendum dated May 1984. Maccabee's paper, titled "The McMinnville Photos," was included in "The Spectrum of UFO Research, published in 1988 by the Hynek Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS).

Maccabee admitted that his time-consuming efforts to analyze the photos to determine if they were authentic were "not completely definitive." Maccabee conceded that "argument over the truth" of the account of the incident told by Mr./Mrs. Paul Trent "must be based in large part on their own testimony given to reporters, investigators and friends over the years." Maccabee admits that different versions of the incident were reported in the McMinnville Telephone Register, The Portland Oregonian and elsewhere, but he characterizes these as "slight differences." Maccabee opts not to provide examples or these "slight differences."

Maccabee offers the following explanations for such discrepancies:


In Maccabee's paper, under the heading of "On the Possibility of Other Witnesses," he cites a brief story in Life magazine in June, 1950, which said: "None of Trent's neighbors saw (the) saucer." And he admits that none of the contemporary media accounts reported any other witnesses. The first mention of any other witnesses did not come until 19 years later when Paul Trent was being interviewed by (the late) James E. McDonald who asked if there had been any other witnesses. Paul Trent responded that his father had also seen the UFO. (Trent's father and mother lived about 450 ft. west.) When McDonald expressed an interest in talking to Trent's father, he was informed that he was now deceased.

In Maccabee's paper he reports: "Mrs. Trent told me that she thought her mother-in-law might also have seen it." [Emphasis added.]

Following are excerpts from transcripts of Maccabee's telephone interviews with Mrs. Trent in the mid-1970s, which he provided me as part of our data exchange on the McMinnville case:

Feb 3, 1974: Maccabee asked Mrs. Trent: "Did you ever hear of anybody else seeing anything like what you saw..." Mrs. Trent replied: "Well, I don't know. There have been several of them that have seen different lights and things like that."

April 15, 1975: Maccabee asked Mrs. Trent: "Do you know if anybody else saw the some object- -the same thing at the same time you did?" Mrs. Trent replied: "Gosh, I don't know...people were talking about it."

Feb. 22. 1976: When Maccabee--in response to my suggestion--once again asked if there had been any other witnesses to the original incident, he got quite a different answer. Mrs. Trent responded: "Well, the people that saw it, they're both dead." When Maccabee asked who these two witnesses were, Mrs. Trent identified them as her husband's father and mother. Mrs. Trent went on to say that there was still another witness "a neighbor that lived about a mile away....She saw the same object what (sic) I did." But Mrs. Trent quickly added that this other witness, a Mrs. Chaplin, also was deceased.

When Maccabee asked Mrs. Trent how she had first learned of Mrs. Chaplin's UFO sighting, Mrs. Trent replied: "Word got back to me through Mrs. Worth." Mrs. Trent explained to Maccabee that Mrs. Worth had learned of Mrs. Chaplin's sighting indirectly through a mutual friend. But a few minutes later, Mrs. Trent changed her story and said she had learned of Mrs. Chaplin's sighting directly from her: "She come up to me one time in church after the service was over and she said 'you know that object...that you guys saw and took a photo of, I think I saw the same object that same day." Maccabee expressed an interest in talking to Mrs. Worth and asked if Mrs. Trent could provide him with her telephone number. Mrs. Trent agreed to "try to get in touch with her, but she usually gets in touch with me instead of me with her."

During Maccabee's March 9. 1976, telephone interview with Mrs. Trent, he asked if she had been Able to obtain Mrs. Worth's telephone number. Mrs. Trent replied: "She has moved since the last lime she called here...Her sister- -I got ahold of her- -and she said she would try to find the address for me so I could write to her [Mrs. Worth]. But she didn't know....She said she's been moved for about a month....So I don't know her new address or anything yet." Later in the Interview, Maccabee asked: "How was it that Mrs. Worth found out about it [Trent's UFO sighting]?" Mrs. Trent replied: "She read it in the papers.. .then she said she'd seen something that looked like what we were talking about."

Maccabee, understandably; was surprised that Mrs. Trent seemed to he claiming that Mrs. Worth also had seen the same UFO, so he asked: "Mrs. Worth said she had seen something?" Mrs. Trent replied: "Said she had seen things like it too but not that close. But she thought that she had probably seen something that looked like it--same time..."

Clearly Mrs. Worth was an important person for Maccabee to interview and so when be next talked with Mrs. Trent on May 29, 1976, he again asked if she had been able to locate Mrs. Worth via her sister in McMinnville. Mrs. Trent responded: "She [Mrs. Worth's sister] was gone. She was gone to her sister- -out of state. " Maccabee said: "I hope you will try to get in contact with Mrs. Worth when she [sister] comes back so that I could try to call her up if she's got a phone." Mrs. Trent replied: "Yeah, I’ll try to find out if she has one or not...They’ve moved two times since they lived here" (Yet only two months earlier. on March 9. Mrs. Trent told Maccabee that Mrs. Worth had moved out of McMinnville a month earlier.)

Eight months would pass before Maccabee again called Mrs. Trent. on Jan. 31, 1977. CURIOUSLY, HE DID NOT ASK IF MRS. TRENT HAD BEEN ABLE TO LOCATE MRS. WORTH, AND MRS. TRENT DID NOT MENTION THE MATTER.

More than five years later, on Sept. 6, 1982, during a telephone conversation with Maccabee I asked if Mrs. Trent had ever been able to locate Mrs. Worth- -the last living witness who might corroborate Mrs. Trent's story. Maccabee told me that he had not talked with Trent in more than five years. I urged Maccabee to call Mrs. Trent to try to locate Mrs. Worth before the 'Grim Reaper' robbed UFOlogy of this important (alleged) witness.

But it would be three months before Maccabee got around to calling Mrs. Trent on Dec. 9, 1982. When Maccabee asked about Mrs. Worth, Mrs. Trent responded that, alas, Mrs. Worth (like all the other alleged witnesses) had also died—about a year and a half earlier.

How sad that Maccabee was too busy writing his lengthy report on his investigation into the Trent/McMinnville UFO photo case--a report which omits most of the insightful details of his telephone interviews with Mrs. Trent which are highlighted above.

In Maccabee's report, he said that he decided to evaluate Mrs. Trent's truthfulness by means of Voice Stress Analysis (VSA). He submitted one of the tapes of his telephone interview with Mrs. Trent to two VSA analysts. One VSA analyst concluded: "that the statements given by Mrs. Trent to the interviewer on this tape ore true to the best o/ her knowledge." A second VSA analyst concluded that "there was little or no detectable stress in Mrs. Trent's voice when she answered questions about the sighting, about other alleged witnesses, and about other subjects."

Philip J. Klass, Washington DC

Nov. 26, 1995

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