The Search for Physical Evidence: Maury Island. John Harney


Since 1947, the hypothesis that UFOs are spaceships from other planets has been popular. Accordingly many ufologists have devoted much time and effort to attempts to obtain physical evidence of such visitations. Physical evidence can take many forms and, unfortunately for the protagonists of the interplanetary spaceships theory, can be subject to many different interpretations. In this series an attempt is made to review some of the physical evidence and alleged physical evidence which has come to light during the past twenty years. There is no doubt that during this period, ufologists have come across a certain amount of physical evidence during their researches – but physical evidence of what?

The Types of Evidence to be Considered

In this series we will confine our attentions to the following types of evidence real or alleged:

  1.  Substances or objects said to have been jettisoned by, ejected by, or fallen from, UFOs.
  2.  Reports of captured UFOs and their occupants.
  3.  Markings on the ground, damage, etc, allegedly caused by UFOs.
  4.  Physical injuries to witnesses allegedly caused byUFOs.

The Maury Island Case

Strangely enough, as in several other aspects of the UFO mystery, we must consult Arnold’s account of his investigations of the alleged Maury island sighting of 1947 (1) to find the precedent for subsequent reports of physical evidence of UFOs.

The main physical evidence in this case was described as locking like slag, and was said to have been seen falling from a UFO. Some of this material was given to Kenneth Arnold and he kept it in his hotel room during his stay in Tacoma for his investigation of the incident. During his investigations Arnold, who had already called in his friend, Captain Smith, an airline pilot, to assist, felt that he was getting out of his depth with all the mysterious incidents which were, apparently occurring and he called in Lieutenant Brown and Captain Davidson of Military Intelligence.

Brown and Davidson saw the fragments, but, according to Arnold, seemed to suddenly lose interest, after one of the witnesses in the case, Fred L. Crisman offered to go home and get a box of fragments from the ‘UFO’ to present to the officers. The officers insisted that they had to get back to their base at Hamilton
Field California and Arnold pleaded with them to stay the night, especially in view of the fact that they were both obviously tired.

Just as the transport arrived to take the officers back to their aircraft at McChord Field, Crisman arrived with a cardboard box full of chunks of material which, Arnold noticed seemed to be somewhat different from the fragments in his hotel room. The fragments were handed over to Brown and Davidson and they drove away.


The next morning Kenneth Arnold and Captain Smith were horrified to learn that Brown and Davidson were dead. Their aircraft had crashed some twenty minutes after take-off from McChord Field.  Two other men who were in the aircraft had parachuted to safety. One of the survivors told how Brown and Davidson had loaded a heavy cardboard box on to the plane. When one of the engines caught fire and the extinguishing device failed to operate, Lt. Brown ordered him and the flight engineer to jump.

It is said that the survivors watched the burning plane for a period of from nine to eleven minutes during their descent This observation has naturally caused much speculation as to why Brown and Davidson did not jump out. A local newspaper, the Tacoma Times, published a sensational report of the tragedy, containing suggestions that the plane had been sabotaged in order to prevent the shipment of flying disc fragments to Hamilton Field.

The next major development, so far as the physical evidence is concerned in the tortuously complicated story of Arnold’s adventures in Tacoma came when Captain Smith went to McChord Field to consult Major Sander of S-2 Army Intelligence, and brought him back to the Tacoma hotel to see Arnold. After hearing everything from Arnold and Smith, Sander remarked that he was positive that the two men were victims of a hoax.

Major Sander then made a remark about the fragments, which were lying on the floor. He started to pick up a few of them and told the two men that he would take them for a drive and show them thousands of tons of the stuff. However, he said that Arnold’s fragments would have to be analysed “for the sake of being thorough”. He then began to gather the fragments together and insisted that all of the pieces should be handed over to him.

Sander then placed the fragments in the boot of his car and drove Arnold and Smith to a place which was apparently a dumping ground for slag from blast furnaces. The slag looked somewhat like the fragments, but Arnold felt sure that it was not the same sort of material, and Sander did not offer to compare it with the pieces in the boot of his car. Arnold thought that the slag was more like the material he had seen Crisman giving to Brown and Davidson.

Ruppelt refers to the Maury Island case in his book,  The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects.(2) For some obscure reason he gives fictional names to the characters involved, and refers to Arnold as “Simpson”. He gives the impression that he believes that Ray Palmer who sent Arnold to investigate the incident for a fee of 206 dollars was a party to a hoax devised by Crisman and his colleagues Dahl. The official Air Force report on the incident concluded that it was merely a hoax.

Apparently, Palmer had already obtained samples of the original material in question in this cases as well as a sample of the slag. He published analyses of both substances in the book, The Coming of the Saucers, but, strangely, although he gives a detailed analysis of the slag only a vague indication of the make-up of the other substance is given, merely indicating the metals said to be present.

After the lapse of over 21 years it is doubtful if we shall ever know the full and true story behind the events at Tacoma but the fog of confusion created either deliberately or unintentionally and the peculiar actions of the people involved together with the failure to publish a proper analysis of the material in question is typical of many reports which followed



1. Arnold, Kenneth and Ray Palmer. The Coming of the Saucers. Privately published by the authors, 1952.
2. Ruppelt, Edward J. The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. Ace Books Inc. New York.


One thought on “The Search for Physical Evidence: Maury Island. John Harney

  1. Presumably John Harney knows about the FBI file on Maury Island. This would not have been known at the time of the article as it was only released in the early 1980s. The FBI spent some time with Dahl & Crisman in early August, after the fatal plane crash. Palmer went a bit wild over the allegation, by Ruppelt, that he had encouraged the hoax, but it is likely that Palmer, too, was unaware of the FBI connection. Also, the story appeared in, of all places, a Madras (India) newspaper called “The Hindu” on July 10, 1947, datelined Chicago, July 8. Chicago University had received samples of the fragments (presumably from Palmer) and were about to analyse them.

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