true story of
PART SIX OF TEN PARTS
Above: Aerial view of the Winthrop Hotel in Tacoma, Washington at night, across from a brightly-lit theater, circa 1940.
ON THE NIGHT OF July 29, 1947, Kenneth Arnold -- according to an account he wrote five years later -- found himself in room 502 of the Winthrop hotel in Tacoma, Washington, listening intently to the weirdest flying saucer tale yet of the then-new phenomenon.
Telling the strange story to Arnold was Harold Dahl, a lumber salvage man who had reported that while on his salvage boat near Maury Island in Puget Sound on June 21, 1947 he, his son, and two crew members had witnessed five giant flying discs apparently attempting to give aid to a sixth. The discs were huge, at least 100 feet in diameter with a hole in the center. Their exteriors had the look of brightly polished metal and each of them had portholes five to six feet in diameter all around. Dahl reported the craft "had no motors, propellers, or any visible signs of propulsion, and to the best of our hearing they made no sound".
The sixth one, said Dahl, seemed to be having trouble holding altitude, and was just 500 feet above the surface of the water. Afraid it was going to crash, Dahl pulled the boat over to the beach, where he said he took pictures of the weird discs. Then suddenly the sixth craft ejected "a white type of very light weight metal" which "fluttered to earth", followed by "black or darker type metal which looked similar to lava rock", much heavier and raining down. In the shower of metal, Dahl said, his 15-year old son's arm was injured, and his dog killed. There had also been damage to the boat. But almost immediately afterwards the six strange craft rose to a great height and "disappeared out to sea".
Although his son was injured and his dog killed, Dahl still took some time to collect samples of the metal. Taking off again from Maury Island, Dahl told Arnold he had tried to contact his "base" by radio, but that there was too much interference, which Dahl attributed to the presence of the now-departed discs. When he returned to his dock at Tacoma, Dahl said, he reported the incident to Fred Crisman, his "superior officer", who at the time seemed skeptical of Dahl's account.
For Kenneth Arnold -- who according to his later account had checked into the Winthrop only hours earlier -- it had already been an extremely long day. Taking off at 5:30 that morning, he had flown his private plane from Boise, Idaho to Tacoma specifically to hear Dahl's story. He had done so at the request of Raymond Palmer, a publisher from Chicago. Palmer had first contacted Arnold seeking Arnold's own account -- it had been Arnold's report of sighting nine flying discs near Mt. Rainier on June 24, 1947 that had set off a national uproar, with "flying saucers" reported over the following two weeks across 45 states and Canada. But then days later Palmer wrote Arnold that he not only wanted Arnold's story, but would pay Arnold two-hundred dollars to fly to Tacoma and check out Dahl's story as well.
And so there Arnold was, listening.
And Dahl's story would get stranger still, as Arnold would later write...
Harold had moved from the chair to the bed and sat rather stooped over, wringing his hands as if terribly worried about something. I asked him what he was worried about and he said that he only hoped that in relating his experience he wouldn't have any more bad luck or that he would wish any on me. He seemed to hesitate, then he started talking again.
Harold Dahl went on to tell me that early the very next morning after he had his experience a gentleman called at his home and invited him to breakfast. It was about seven o'clock. According to Dahl this wasn't particularly unusual. He said that many lumber buyers did call on people in his type of work with the purpose of buying salvaged logs and that they frequently called on him very early in the morning. This gentleman, Dahl continued, wore a black suit, was of medium height, and there was nothing unusual about his appearance. However, he seemed more the type of man who would be an insurance salesman or who followed a less strenuous type of work than logging. He appeared to be about forty years of age.
Dahl accepted his invitation and they walked out to the curb. Dahl noticed that he drove a 1947 Buick sedan. Since Dahl had to go downtown anyway, this average looking gentleman suggested that Dahl drive his own car and follow him. While driving downtown Harold was unable to get the license number of the car he was following. He made no special point to do so. He felt sure the fellow wanted to buy some salvaged logs or equipment from him. It happens almost every morning in harbor patrol work.
It did seem rather funny, as Harold put it, that this gentleman was taking Harold to breakfast in the uptown section of Tacoma rather than in the lower dock section which is the usual place where loggers and salvage operators congregate. Finally he stopped in front of a little nook cafe and motioned for Harold to follow him.
By this time Dahl's curiosity was aroused, almost to the point of asking him right on the curb what he wanted. They went inside and ordered their breakfast. The minute this man sat down in the booth he began relating in great detail the experience that Harold and his crew had had the day before. He did this with such accuracy, Harold said, it was shocking. This man talked as if he had been on the boat with them the entire trip. Harold knew he had never seen the man before. He was completely baffled at what he was hearing.
After the man finished he made the remark, "What I have said is proof to you that I know a great deal more about this experience of yours than you will want to believe." He made the flat statement that Harold and his crew had made an observation that shouldn't have happened for some mysterious reason, and he was giving him some sound advice. This man told Harold that if he loved his family and didn't want anything to happen to his general welfare, he would not discuss his experience with anyone.
Harold told me, "I didn't put much stock in what this fellow said. He sounded like some kind of a crackpot to me. I did think it was amazing how he knew somehow what we had seen. Why a total stranger would make such an issue of something no one could help did have me rather puzzled. I didn't have any intention of keeping my experience a secret when I went back to the docks that morning.
"I discussed my experience openly and truthfully with many other seamen at the pier that morning. I asked for Fred Crisman, my superior officer, and found out he had taken one of the boats out alone. The last anyone knew of him that morning was that he had headed toward Maury Island."
Though neither Dahl nor Arnold could know it at the time, that part of his story would launch the notorious "men in black" legend, when in 1956 Gray Barker published his book They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers pointing to Dahl's story as the first known encounter with a "man in black".
But unaware of the legend he had just launched, Arnold continued with Dahl's story...
That afternoon Fred L. Crisman returned with the boat and, according to Dahl, he didn't have much to say. He did stop criticizing Dahl for seeing things, and he started making arrangements for the repair of the boat that Harold had been operating.
I sat there on the edge of the bed looking at Dahl. I was thinking that before I came to Tacoma I was sure I had heard everything. Dahl's story was the wildest thing I had ever listened to and still, as far as I could tell, he was deadly earnest about every bit of it.
There was quite a long silence. It must have been about five minutes. I, frankly, couldn't think of anything to say. Finally Harold Dahl got up from where he had been sitting on the edge of the bed. He suggested that he take me out to his secretary's house where he had quite a few of the fragments he had brought back from Maury Island, that is, if I would care to see them. I did. By this time I had completely forgotten about maybe saving any of my $200 expense money.
We left the hotel and drove in Harold's car out to his secretary's home. It was a rather unpretentious looking little house, standing all alone on a corner. The evening was bright and clear and it only took us ten minutes to get there. I noticed particularly the streets and the avenue we took. I thought to myself, "I may go out there in the morning and look it over in the daylight."
This was the first time I had ever played investigator and I guess I thought investigators would make notes of that kind. I know now I would have been better off to let Perry Mason do the job. I couldn't completely believe Harold Dahl's story, even though I could see absolutely no reason to doubt his sincerity and could find nothing that he could gain from telling a lie.
We pulled up in front of a house, got out and walked up a rather cracked sidewalk to a wooden porch. The porch had no screens and there were no rugs on the floor. I remember the white spindle-like porch supports. Harold knocked on the side of the doorway and then opened the screen door. It was hinged on the west and opened on the east. There was enough light from the street light so that I could see the house was of about a 1912 vintage and could have used another coat of white paint.
I turned the doorknob of the main door. It was hinged on the east and opened inward from the west. The door was of a dark wood like mahogany. Although not hand carved, it gave a hand-carved effect. The doorknob was oblong with little raised grapes or insignia on it. The window in the front door was the etched picture kind of glass.
Upon entering the house, I saw a piano to my left against the wall. A bedroom led directly off to the right of the front room. The entire front room was very narrow with a slight archway between the farther end of the front room and a small open dining room. Another archway tunneled into the kitchen in the rear. Next to the piano by the west window was a large radio, about a 1937 model, with its wires trailing through the edge of the window panel to the outside. I could see from the reflected light of the room the aerial going up outside the house. The base of the aerial was made of two 2 x 2s. There was a piano bench at the piano. On top of the piano were several kewpie dolls such as you win at sideshows, trimmed with ostrich feathers, and some inexpensive plaster-of-paris animal figurines.
Harold went directly through the front room and dining room into the kitchen. A woman about forty years of age, Harold's secretary, was in the kitchen. She was deeply engrossed in writing checks and doing book work. Papers, receipts, and notes were laid every available place in the kitchen.
I was following close behind Harold. I thought he was leading me to the fragments he had spoken of. He introduced me to his secretary. I can't recall her name. I had been told she was a widow and had several children and that this was her home. I gathered that her book work was generally done down at some office at the docks, but that she had brought the books and the check book home to catch up on her work since it was nearing the end of July.
Harold turned from his secretary and asked me to return to the front room and help myself to a chair. Within a few seconds he followed, sat on the edge of the piano bench and handed me a dark colored rock ash tray. He said, "Here is one of the fragments from Maury Island. We've been using it as an ash tray."
I remember saying, "Why, Harold, that's only a piece of lava rock!"
Harold said, "Well, I don't know much about metals, but this is some of the stuff that hit our boat and there must be about twenty tons more of it over on the shores of Maury Island. I don't have any of the white metal here but Fred Crisman has a whole box full in his garage. We'll go over there right away if you'd like to see that, too."
"Oh, that isn't too important," I said. "Not tonight. I'll have a look at it tomorrow." If I had only read some of the clippings I had stuffed into my coat pocket before I left Boise this lava rock would have really rung a bell in my mind. Since June 24 I had been collecting and listening to stories so hot and heavy that I had little chance to digest some of the things I should have known.
The rest of the evening we spent talking about hunting and fishing. Harold drove me back to my hotel a little after midnight. Just before parting with Dahl that evening in front of the hotel. I asked if he would have Mr. Crisman come to see me in the morning.
I was really tired that night and went to bed completely forgetting that I had no supper.
Why the lava-rock-like metal was kept at the house of Dahl's secretary can only be surmised. But it may well have to do with the fact that weeks before Raymond Palmer made his request for Arnold to investigate, Associated Press reporter Elmer Vogel had visited Dahl at Dahl's home to do a story, only to be shocked when Dahl's wife "came into the kitchen... in a considerable rage, telling Dahl to admit that the entire story was a plain fantasy which he had dreamed up", causing the reporter to high-tail it out of there.
But if Arnold was unaware of this piece of the puzzle, he was about to meet the biggest puzzle piece of all face to face, a fast-talking enigma of a man named Fred Lee Crisman.
Left: Fred Lee Crisman in later life.
THE DETAILS of the life of Fred Lee Crisman from that time are sketchy at best. The most complete account of his life comes from an FBI investigative report dated September 13, 1947, apparently after he applied for work which required a background check "in accordance with the provisions of the Atomic Energy Act of 1946". The investigation revealed that Crisman -- born July 22, 1919 in Tacoma, Washington -- attended Vale High School in Oregon, where he was an average student. From there he went to Eastern Oregon State college in La Grande, but "maintained a poor scholastic record".
Leaving college without graduating, Crisman worked for a year or so for Union Pacific railroad in La Grande. His work was satisfactory, but he left to join the military in 1942. This may have been to escape mounting financial pressures -- a local credit bureau told the FBI that "he left La Grande owing many small debts" and that "he was sued for payment of one account prior to his leaving La Grande".
Following the war Crisman went to work from March 20, 1946 to March 31, 1947 for the State Veterans Rehabilitation Council in Washington. His work was praised by all who knew him, and he was apparently a vigorous advocate for veterans. But Crisman was terminated because of a reduction ordered in the workforce.
During the war, according to the FBI background check, Crisman "was a pilot and it is believed presently holds a Reserve Officer's commission as a captain".
Although there is no particular reason to doubt that Crisman was indeed a pilot in World War II, Crisman's path to the rank of captain in the Reserve is unclear. It is known that by 1942 the Army Air Force had reduced its educational requirements to attend pilot school, and that candidates needed only to have had a high-school diploma. But the demanding educational and physical training forced many cadets to be reassigned as non-pilot gunners, bombardiers and navigators. And even those who successfully completed flight training came out with a ranking of second lieutenant if they lacked a college degree -- as in the case of Crisman -- and were generally assigned to flying transport and liaison aircraft. In later life Crisman also said he had been called back as a reservist to be a pilot in the Korean War, his obituary adding that he had "been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart". Again, although there is no particular reason to doubt it, it is known that in an August 18, 1947 investigative report Lt. Colonel Donald L. Springer of the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, A-2 Intelligence, 4th Air Force had recommended "consideration be given to revoke his Air Reserves commission and flying status as an undesirable and unreliable officer".
But if he was a fighter pilot with the rank of captain in World War II, the story of a letter written in 1946 only adds mystery to the Crisman legend. The background for this relates to Raymond Palmer -- the publisher who had sent Kenneth Arnold to investigate Harold Dahl and Fred Crisman. Palmer was editor-in-chief of Amazing Stories, and had been variously praised and excoriated for pushing the "Shaver mystery", a tale of an ancient evil race called "deros" who lived underground in vast caves and caused vast misery to surface dwellers. In June, 1946, Amazing Stories published the following letter to the editor...
I flew my last combat mission on May 26 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. 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.
The name of the letter writer wasn't printed in the magazine, but according to researcher John Keel, Palmer would later reveal that it was Fred Lee Crisman.
The FBI background check on Crisman also revealed an odd story told by one of Crisman's references, whose name was blacked out on in the declassified file...
[Blacked Out] stated he became acquainted with applicant while applicant was handling Veterans matters for the State. He stated that it was his opinion that applicant was the only person in the city who was conscientiously attempting to assist Veterans, particularly those in trouble with the law, and he did an excellent job in this respect. [Blacked Out] stated further that he knew of no undesirable associates of the applicant while he was employed by the State of Washington, but following the termination of this work he went to work for one HAROLD DAHL, piloting DAHL'S personal plane. He stated that DAHL, in his opinion is crooked, although the Prosecutor's Office has never had anything on DAHL for which he could be prosecuted. [Blacked Out] stated that DAHL was rumored to be a black market operator during the war, but nothing concrete of this nature ever came to light. [Blacked Out] added that he did not know of applicants association with DAHL until CRISMAN came to him for advice, stating that he had developed an idea for a log patrol and beach patrol which would involve the recovery of unmarked logs from Puget Sound and also the patrolling of valuable summer beach cottages for private owners. He related to [Blacked Out] that DAHL stole this idea from him and formed a company from which applicant was excluded. At this time [Blacked Out] told applicant of his opinion of DAHL's character and advised him to sever his connection with him. This applicant did, and so far as he knows, applicant has had no contact with DAHL. He added that he encounters DAHL on the Tacoma streets occasionally and he apparently has not seen applicant as he always inquires about applicant.
The above FBI background check -- completed just six weeks after Arnold landed in Tacoma -- adds only more layers of obfuscation to the nature of the relationship between Crisman and Dahl, with both of them telling Arnold that Crisman was Dahl's "superior officer" while according to the FBI investigation Crisman told others that Dahl not only owned but had stolen from him the idea for the enterprise. But beyond even that was the extremely curious charade Dahl apparently carried out in asking Crisman's reference about Crisman -- who he believed had severed relations with Dahl -- though the truth of the matter was that Dahl and Crisman were obviously still closely allied.
And then there is the matter of Dahl owning a private plane -- which apparently never came up for discussion with Arnold, himself a pilot-owner, and who went to such extraordinary lengths to memorize the details of Dahl's secretary's house (the reasons for which will come into play much later).
But none of this was in Arnold's sightline at the time when he first met Fred Crisman, picking up from the night after Arnold had first met Dahl and gone to his secretary's house...
I would probably have slept until noon the next day if I hadn't been awakened by a banging on my door. It was about 9:30 in the morning. Both Crisman and Dahl had come to see me.
Fred Crisman was a short stocky fellow, dark complexioned, a happy-go-lucky appearing person, very cheerful and extremely alert. He was practically bubbling over to tell me his story. Up until this time I hadn't heard about his experience.
Crisman began telling me how furious he was with Harold Dahl when he returned to the docks with his "wild tale" and the damaged boat. He said he had cussed Harold out for damaging the boat.
Harold broke in, saying, "Yeh, Crisman thought we'd all been drunk."
Fred Crisman piped up with, "I certainly did think they had gotten drunk. The only thing I couldn't figure out was how poor navigation could account for all the damage to the boat -- all of it done on the wheelhouse and that upper dock. It looked like they had taken a sledge hammer and tried to sink it from the top down."
Crisman was evidently talking from experience. I guess that in times before when liquor was aboard one of his boats it was always the bottom of the craft that had been damaged from crashing into rocks or whatever men do with a boat when they are drunk.
"My curiosity rose," Fred Crisman continued, "when I considered the peculiar way the boat had been damaged. I sneaked off the next morning early to go over to Maury Island and see if there actually was twenty tons of this debris on the beach like Dahl said. On arriving at Maury Island I did find all the debris, lava rock and some of the white metal that Harold had told me about.
"Now," Fred said, "to make the story worse, while I stood looking at these fragments holding a few pieces in my hand, one of the same kind of aircraft that Harold described to me came right out of a large fat cumulous cloud and made a wide circle of this little bay.
"The aircraft was banked at about a ten degree angle. It had no visible means of propulsion. It was more like a large inner tube with round eyes or portholes around it on the outside. It made no noise, and circled the bay as if it was looking for something. It did not seem slightly squashed as Harold described the six he saw the day before.
"I hold a commercial pilot's license. I flew over a hundred missions in fighter aircraft over Burma in the last war and I feel qualified to describe it accurately. Harold doesn't know how to fly. I would say the portholes around this strange airplane were about five feet in diameter. Also I would say it had a definite observation window and the whole surface appeared to be metal, burled and of a brassy color -- almost golden. As the sun hit it, it showed more brilliance than a solid polished surface would show."
Here were two new wrinkles in the story, each incredible in their own way. Crisman now stated that he had seen one of the craft return the next day, though this was never part of the story before -- not even the night before, when Dahl had first told Arnold the story face to face.
And just as intriguing, Crisman now claimed to hold a commercial pilot's license, which begs the question why Crisman chose lumber salvage work over the far more varied opportunities available to professional pilots, some of them quite lucrative.
Neither of the above points apparently occurred to Arnold...
I had the feeling as Crisman talked that, solid as he appeared, he definitely wanted to domineer the conversation and trends of thought about the entire Maury Island incident. Harold Dahl seemed more and more in favor of taking little or no part in further discussion of the subject. Dahl in no way attempted to sell his story to me or to review it any further. He didn't try to convince me of the truth of what he had already told me.
This was July 30, 1947 and by now it was about eleven o'clock in the morning. I had gotten dressed during the discussion and ordered breakfast to be sent up to all three of us. While eating breakfast I reached in my coat pocket and took out a number of newspaper clippings and odds and ends. I had hurriedly put in my pocket in Boise. Oddly enough, the top clipping of the handful, which I had barely glanced at before, mentioned cinder or lava ash particles that had fallen from the sky near Mountain Home, Idaho the twelfth day of July after a formation of flying saucers had passed over that area. The man who picked up portions of this ash sent it to the state chemical laboratory for analysis.
Right then and there I became inwardly excited about the fragments I had seen the night before. I wanted some immediately and even though our meetings had been entirely in the talking stage I put a great deal more credence in Dahl's and Crisman's stories of their experiences. I seemed all of a sudden to wake up and wanted to get to doing things. I told Dahl I would like to see the photographs he had taken, even if they were bad, and asked Crisman for some of the white metal as well as other fragments he had stored in his garage.
Then I really got an idea -- Smithy! I asked Crisman and Dahl if they would mind if I asked Captain E.J. Smith of United Airlines to come down and help us try to get to the bottom of this thing. I explained to them that Big Smithy had become involved in this thing innocently, too. I was sure he would be as anxious to obtain some physical evidence of flying saucers as I was. Somehow at the [sic] point I completely forgot about Mr. Raymond A. Palmer back in Evanston, Illinois. Suddenly I was finding out things for myself, not for Mr. Palmer.
And as a result, according to Arnold, a new player would be added to the mix.
Above: A July 6, 1947 wire photo of United Airlines pilot E.J. Smith.
CAPTAIN E.J. SMITH was a relatively new friend of Arnold's. The friendship had come about through coincidence -- on July 4, 1947 Captain Smith and his crew had sighted nine flying discs while on a flight from Idaho to Washington, and Arnold and Smith had serendipitously been at the office of International News Service in Seattle, Washington at the same time the next day. Arnold thereafter referred to Smith as "big Smithy" owing to the captain's physical stature...
Dahl and Crisman said they didn't care if I asked Big Smithy over. I got busy on the telephone right then and called United Airlines, Flight Operations, at Boeing Field in Seattle. They gave me Captain Smith's phone number and luckily I was able to reach him. I told Captain Smith what I had bumped into in Tacoma and asked him if he would like to come over. He told me he had the afternoon off and would like to join in the investigation. I said I'd fly up to Seattle right away, meet him in front of the Terminal Building, and fly him back to Tacoma. Not only did I like Captain Smith's company, but felt he was much more qualified to determine the authenticity of Dahl's and Crisman's stories than I was.
Dahl had some odds and ends to take care of down at the dock so Fred Crisman drove me to Barry's Airport in his Ford roadster. I climbed in my plane and took off for Seattle. By the time I got there Smithy was waiting for me. We had a hurried cup of coffee and I sketchily told him why I was in Tacoma and how completely puzzled I was. I didn't know exactly what to believe. Big Smithy seemed to be enthusiastic about the whole thing. After paying our check at the newsstand we went out, climbed in my plane and took off for Tacoma.
I bet big Smithy will never forget that flight. He'd been flying DC-6s from Seattle to Chicago and what a comedown it was to the funny looking little one engine plane I own. About the only thing on my ship that is metal is the engine. I'll never forget Captain Smith chuckling at my airspeed only registering a hundred and five miles per hour. After a number of assurances on my part that my plane was really safe, he settled down to enjoy the ride.
We arrived in Tacoma about three o'clock and parked my airplane at Barry's Airport. Fred Crisman was waiting and drove us up to my hotel. He let us out, saying he would go down, pick up Dahl and be back in about an hour. I told Captain Smith as we were walking into the hotel that I, for one, didn't want any newspaper reporters around or any publicity about what we were doing. I asked him not to tell United Airlines what he was doing in Tacoma with me. There were a number of things about the stories of Crisman and Dahl that didn't quite ring true but at that time it was beyond me to evaluate what I had heard and seen. We went directly to my room. I phoned an order for coffee and rolls and then brought Captain Smith up to date on everything that had happened.
A little over an hour and a half later Crisman and Dahl arrived. Dahl and Crisman told Captain Smith their stories separately. I showed him the news clipping about the disks and lava ash and told him that neither Crisman nor Dahl had seen the clipping or knew anything about it.
I recall Captain Smith taking off his suit coat, throwing it on the back of a chair, and saying to me, "Ken, whether you like it or not, you've got a roommate. I'm going to stay here until I find out what gives!" I was tickled to death. I thought, "Boy! Now we're going to get to the bottom of things!"
We were engrossed with our coffee and rolls for about fifteen minutes. No one said too much, but I know everybody was doing a lot of thinking. Captain Smith finally broke the silence, thereby starting a cross examination which covered every possible phase of everybody's relationship and experiences up to the present date. It took an hour and a half and I don't think J. Edgar Hoover could have done a better job.
Smith would later tell FBI Special Agent in Charge Pierre Levec essentially the same details of Dahl's and Crisman's stories. Smith's statement to the FBI also revealed the following...
...HAROLD DAHL arrived at the Hotel room and the discussion began among the four men present as to what DAHL and CRISMAN had seen on Maury Island. DAHL professed reluctance to tell the story, claiming that several unfortunate incidents had occurred subsequent to his seeing the flying discs, and he believed that the entire incident had brought him bad luck. In this connection he stated that that four or five days subsequent to his sighting the flying discs, a man called at his home and had a conversation with him the course of which DAHL was warned to forget all about everything he had seen on or near Maury Island. In addition to that, DAHL stated that his sixteen year old son had run away from home following the incident and had been picked up by the police somewhere in Montana. After some further discussion DAHL finally agreed to tell his story of the flying disc incident in front of SMITH after eliciting a promise from SMITH that he would not discuss the matter for at least two weeks. It should be noted that DAHL had previously told his story to ARNOLD and CRISMAN. At this point DAHL related the incident which has already been described and which he alleged had taken place on or about June 23 or 24. While relating the incident DAHL mentioned that he had taken pictures of the flying disc which he had seen but that the printed films were marred with white spots. When DAHL had concluded his story, CRISMAN related that he had gone the following day to Maury Island to verify what DAHL had told him concerning the fragments and had at this time picked up several fragments and taken them with him. At this time CRISMAN related that he also saw one of the flying discs hovering over the Island but that it had disappeared into a cloud.
Smith's version of Dahl and Crisman's stories obviously had some variations from what Arnold reported. First, that the incident occurred on June 23 or 24, rather than June 21. And second, the mysterious stranger who warned Dahl about speaking out had been not appeared the day after Dahl's reported sighting but instead several days afterwards, nor was there any mention of Dahl's breakfast with the stranger at a cafe. On the one hand, it is possible that in the rush of events and details Smith simply mis-heard or mis-remembered what he had been told. On the other hand, Smith's version was given within three weeks of the events, while Arnold's recollection wasn't published until five years later.
Whatever the truth of the matter, Arnold would later give his account of what happened next...
When Smithy got through we weren't any farther ahead than we were when we started. Somehow Crisman's and Dahl's stories couldn't be broken down. After this Smithy was more convinced than ever that he wanted to stay a few days with me to see how everything came out. He asked Crisman to drive him up to Seattle so he could get his automobile and a toothbrush. I know he didn't tell United Airlines what he was doing. He and Crisman left, saying they'd be back within a couple of hours.
Harold Dahl made the excuse that his wife wasn't feeling well and that he had to go home to supper. He said he would come back later on in the evening. I locked the room and went out for a cup of coffee. I was gone about an hour. I'll never forget the feeling I had in the pit of my stomach. Somehow it seemed like we weren't getting any place and I kind of wished I was back home.
It must have been about seven-thirty or eight o'clock when Captain Smith returned. He hadn't had any supper and he suggested we drive someplace. His car was a light green super deluxe model Town and Country Chrysler. I told Smithy that no one but plutocrats could afford buggies like that. We drove out to the edge of Tacoma, talking about the events of the day. We had dinner in a rather secluded cafe that I think Captain Smith knew about for it was strange to me.
We got back to the hotel just a little before Crisman and Dahl arrived. I sort of relaxed and let Captain Smith take over as he seemed to have a good system. I remember that before Dahl and Crisman left Smith asked to see a bunch of the fragments, both the white and the lava rock kind; he also wanted to see the pictures, and he wanted to go to Maury Island and see the debris that had been so talked about and that was supposed to be there on the beach.
Dahl and Crisman agreed to everything he asked. They invited us to have breakfast with them the next morning at a little logger's cafe where we would have the opportunity to meet their harbor patrol crews. We accepted their invitation and they left. It was about ten o'clock. Smithy and I thought that now we were getting someplace.
We were both pretty tired. Smithy walked over and flopped on my bed. In doing so he knocked the pillow off my bed, revealing that I had a .32 automatic pistol. He became very interested in it and asked me if I was worried about something. I remember feeling rather sheepish about it. I said that I honestly didn't know why I had brought it along, that I rarely carried it with me.
I explained to Smithy that it had been a present from Colonel Paul Wieland of Provo, Utah. Smithy sure liked that pistol and asked me if I would sell it as it was just the size he would like to carry with him when he flew. The conversation drifted from Colonel Paul to red tides to the crashed C-46 Marine transport which had finally been found that month on the southwest side of mount Rainier. We did a great deal of laughing and joking about the crazy things people were saying about flying saucers.
We were, in fact, laughing and joking just a little bit artificially. We both had a peculiar feeling that we were being watched or that there was something dangerous about getting involved with Crisman and Dahl. First was our suspicion of a hoax. Second was our suspicion that Russian espionage was baiting us on the whole affair for a very simple reason -- to find out if actually we knew that these flying saucers were made in the United States and were a military secret.
We reasoned this way, that our relationship with Russia was not on too friendly a basis and we both knew we had given reports that were accurate and correct as far as we had observed these strange craft. It was publicly known that we had been interrogated by Military Intelligence. Russian agents might assume that we had been secretly assured that these craft were of our own manufacture. By watching us or getting us involved in something of this kind, we might privately confide in each other what, supposedly, the military had secretly assured us. Thus a foreign government would have an assured knowledge of what these things were and where they came from in case they were being sighted over their own country. At this time we didn't even dream of the possibility that they could come from another world. Although Smithy and I did not talk much about it that evening, we both felt safer with a gun in our possession.
According to Arnold it was now July 30th, the end of Arnold's first full day in Tacoma after his first night on the 29th at the hotel, while Smith had arrived the afternoon of the 30th and was about to spend his first night. They had heard tales of giant flying discs and metal rains, and of a mysterious man who somehow knew all about it issuing dark warnings to Dahl not to reveal what Dahl had seen. Both nervous and excited but tired, they were ready for bed. But as Arnold would later write...
We had just settled down to go to sleep when the phone rang...
The strange events of Maury Island -- as told by Arnold -- were about to get stranger still...
...though the most curious event of all would turn out to be found -- as will be seen -- in Arnold's telling of the tale.
1. The title of this series is taken from two statements made by Kenneth Arnold -- once to the press and once to the military -- stating that his story was "positively true".
2. The article about falling ash referred to by Arnold can be found in the July 29, 1947 edition of the Mason City, Iowa Globe-Gazette
Flying saucers continued to make news this week.
A Mason Cityan, Oliver Gregerson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ole Gregerson, 1210 4th S.W., made the front page of the Boise, Idaho, Statesman, with this story:
"Fragments of ashes floating down from objects which 'turned red and vanished' were given The Statesman by Oliver Gregerson and Vesta Mitchell, both of Boise," the newspaper stated.
"The fragments were recovered about a mile and a half from Boise on Highway 20.
"Gregerson said that he saw a number of objects 'twirling in the sky, large and very high.' Two of the objects, he said, were quite large. They were shiny as though reflecting the rays of the setting sun.
"He and Miss Marshall watched the objects as they came closer to the earth and then reported they turned red and vanished.
"A minute or 2 later, he said, fragments of ash came floating to the ground. He and Miss Mitchell caught 2 portions of the ash before they hit the ground.
"The ash was pearl gray in color and one fragment was a combination of a shell like material with bits of the ash plastered over it.
The other fragment was about the size of a rose leaf. The ashes will be turned over to the state chemist for analysis."
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