Fight over UFO photos pits family versus newspaper

By | September 11, 2008

Two shots of a flying saucer over McMinnville are some of the most debated pieces of Oregon history.

Paul and Evelyn Trent took the pictures in 1950, and now their children are trying to get the negatives returned. But the negatives are in the hands of the McMinnville News-Register newspaper, who believes they should be part of a permanent historic display in Yamhill County. The story of how this fight developed begins on the Trent Farm more than 50 years ago.

Evelyn Trent was feeding rabbits, saw something strange in the sky and hollered for her husband, who grabbed his camera and started shooting. And then the saucer was gone. The photos were printed in the local newspaper, which sold thousands of copies across the country. Critics have long said that the Trents pulled off one of the most elaborate hoaxes in UFO history –  that they took a pie plate or a hub cap and dangled it from power lines that run in front of the property.

The Trents always maintained they saw something. But the ridicule took a toll on the family. “We were the alien family,” said daughter Tammie Gochenour. “That’s all that was talked about was the alien family.” When her parents died in the mid-1990s, the location of the negatives was a mystery. Daughter Linda Sayler eventually discovered they had been in the hands of navy physicist and UFO investigator Bruce Maccabee since 1974.

He told KATU he had called the Trents and asked to borrow the negatives so many years ago, implying that he would return them in a few weeks. But it took him longer than that – and he ended up keeping them for 25 years. Maccabee agreed to return the negatives, and Sayler thought it would be safer if he sent them to the News-Register newspaper to pass on to her.

That was 2001, and she’s been trying ever since to get the newspaper to give them back. – katu

See Xeno’s UFO timeline.

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