by Michael Lauck
A Summary of Events
On June 21, 1947, three days before the Kenneth Arnold sighting and a little more than two weeks before the recovery of a flying disc was reported near Roswell, Harold Dahl, his son and two crewmen saw six ring shaped flying objects from their boat near Maury Island in the Pugent Sound. Five of the metallic craft circled the sixth, which wobbled as if somehow damaged or disabled. As the crew watched, the apparently damaged craft slowly lowered to about 500 feet. One of the other objects approached closely, perhaps even touching, to apparently assist the damaged object. Debris fell from the center of the craft, some of it very hot. The crew ran for cover from the rain of debris, which was hot enough to create steam when it hit the water, but Dahl’s son was burnt and a dog onboard the boat was killed. After a few minutes the falling debris stopped and the six craft flew off over the ocean. Two days later Dahl’s partner Fred Crisman investigated the scene.
He saw the debris on the shore and even briefly sighted a single ring shaped UFO. The encounter was not widely reported until after Arnold’s sighting. This, combined with photographs that were never produced and admissions of a hoax to the FBI have led many people to dismiss the Maury Island Incident as a fabrication.
Flying Doughnuts and Falling Slag
Located in the Pugent Sound and part of King County, Washington, Maury Island has been home to gravel mines and logging companies. At the time of their alleged sighting, Harold Dahl and his companions were out on the water recovering floating timbers for resale. Dahl was an experienced seaman and was very familiar with the area. Other than his son, the names of the other men aboard Dahl’s boat at the time of the sighting are unknown and only Dahl’s descriptions of the craft are known to exist. Dahl’s boat, the North Queen, was an 83 foot fishing vessel that had been converted into a minesweeper during World War II and refinished after the war to return to service as a fishing vessel. It was equipped with a radio, but during the encounter it did not transmit and received only static, preventing the vessel from reporting the UFOs.
Dahl described the objects as shiny, metallic doughnut shaped craft approximately 100 feet in diameter. The holes in the middle of the UFOs were approximately 25 feet in diameter. He also stated that there were visible windows, or portholes, in each of the six craft. There were no visible means of propulsion and the craft, with the exception of the apparently damaged UFO, moved smoothly through the air. The crew saw the UFOs for at least five minutes and took several pictures as the distressed craft was being assisted. Two types of debris fell from the UFO, according to Dahl, a white metallic material he likened to newspaper and the hot, black slag-like substance which not only killed the boat’s dog and burnt his son Charles’ arm but also damaged the North Queen. After the objects disappeared, Harold Dahl took his son for medical treatment in Tacoma. Records of this treatment have never been found.
When Dahl told Fred Crisman, who seems to have some financial stake in the timber but was not a registered owner of the North Queen, the man was skeptical. He went to check out the area of the sighting himself and found the two types of debris described by Dahl littering the shore. Supposedly, Crisman also briefly saw a single ring shaped UFO during his investigation. Crisman seems to have reported the doughnut shaped UFOs to Ray Palmer, then editor of Amazing Stories. Kenn Thomas reports in his book JFK &UFO that Crisman had written Palmer before, claiming to have battled the underground “dero,” the race made famous by the Richard Shaver stories published by Palmer, in both Asia and Alaska. Palmer had challenged Crisman to present evidence of these claims but there had been no response.
Kenneth Arnold and Maury Island
When he first heard of Crisman’s UFO story, Ray Palmer had already been in contact with Kenneth Arnold, hoping to get Arnold to work with his publishing company in some way (they would eventually co-author a book and when Palmer left Amazing Stories to found Fate he featured Arnold in the first issue). Given that the Crisman sighting was close to Arnold’s own area of operation, Palmer was able to hire America’s most famous flying saucer witness to investigate the claims of the slag spewing doughnut shaped craft. The FBI and military also investigated the supposed Maury Island sightings. After a few meetings with Dahl and Crisman, during which it was discovered that the photographs taken of the object had disappeared, the investigators left. Harold Dahl later claimed that he had been visited by a mysterious man in black who warned him over breakfast to stop talking about what he had seen. Soon after, Charles disappeared only to be found later in with
amnesia in another state. Given these events, Dahl warned Kenneth Arnold that he should not investigate the UFO sighting any further and just go home. On his return trip, Arnold had trouble with his plane but was able to land safely. The plane carrying the military investigators, however, crashed and killed the men.
Aftermath and Legacy
Most people regard the Maury Island Incident as a hoax. Charles Dahl has stated that it was indeed just that and that Fred Crisman was behind it all. Harold Dahl admitted that it was a hoax and apparently retracted these statements, blaming them on government pressure. Fred Crisman went on to become a radio personality in Tacoma and was eventually tied up in the investigation of the Kennedy assassination. Modern researchers are divided on the issue, with some pointing out that J. Edgar Hoover was highly interested in the Maury Island Incident and that Kenneth Arnold seemed to believe that there was an actual encounter when he spoke about it at the First International UFO Congress. Also, Fred Crisman was not stripped of his Air Reserve status, as Air Corps investigators recommended because of his statements, and later served in Korea.
For Further Information
Thomas, Kenn: UFO & JFK: Military-Industrial Conspiracy and Cover-Up from Maury Island to Dallas
UFO Hunters: Episode 101 The UFO Before Roswell