McMinnville, Oregon Photos

An Email Discussion

Here in receiving order are all the messages pertaining to the Trent/McMinnville UFO photo case. This page will be updated. 

Francis Ridge 
NICAP Site Coordinator 

From: Brad Sparks
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2000 07:44:40 EDT 
Subject: Re: McMinnville: A Reappraisal 
X-Mailer: AOL 4.0 for Mac - Post-GM sub 146 

Sign Historical Group -

Hi Vicente-Juan, 

What does that mean to "take into account"?  Automatically discard the case? 
Shouldn't we consider whether it is correct or not first? 

Joel has done a fine job of putting together his web page on the Trent / McMinnville case.  But that doesn't mean he is necessarily correct -- he is not. 

Joel's excellent computer 3-D model proves that Hartmann's markers for the approximate location of Paul Trent when he took the pictures are in fact incorrect.  He has the front yard telephone pole on the wrong (left) side of the Trent's driveway because that is the only way to make the pole visible in Trent's Photo 1.  But the pole is actually on the right side and in good blowups of the Trent Photo 1 it is very obviously on the right.  From Joel's reconstruction of Hartmann's Condon Committee site photo of June 6, 1967, the telephone pole wouldn't even be visible from the marker for Trent in Photo 1 but would be behind the house. 

Since Hartmann's positions are provably wrong then we're back to using Bruce Maccabee's data for triangulating the location of Trent in each photo, which is what should have been done anyway. 

The old car mirrors are a cute suggestion for a hoax model, but there are four main problems with it: 

1.  If it is allegedly a mass manufactured object then it must be possible to find the EXACT MODEL -- NOT JUST AN "APPROXIMATE" likeness.  "Close" and "similar" just don't cut it.  Scientific testability is a two-way street. Skeptical hypotheses must be testable. 

2.  The "pole" in the Trent photos is obviously OFF CENTER.  Yet not a single one of the car/truck mirrors had an off-center mount. 

3.  A heavy car or truck mirror suspended from the telephone wire above would cause the 30-40-foot wire to SAG and/or have a point defect at the spot where the alleged fishing line was attached -- no such sagging or defect occurs. 

4.  Hoaxes must obey the laws of physics.  The dynamics of a hoax model -- whether a suspended car mirror or pie pan or a tossed model -- do not match the object in the Trent photos.  This has been the subject of many years of my research and is not ready for publication yet (no funding available to work on it full-time as it requires). 

But one example I can cite of the inconsistent physics is the fact that the sighting lines from each photo do not and cannot possibly cross underneath the telephone wires.  Contrary to Joel's website comments, the sighting lines cannot be forced to cross below the wires by the expedient of juggling around the locations or by insinuating error here and error there and then trying to make the errors cancel out.  As I have posted on various lists for more than a year now, the location of the wires with respect to a hoax model's sighting line crossing point can be DIRECTLY MEASURED by triangulation. 

The wires can be triangulated by using the identifiable kinks and they are about 15.7 degrees shifted in direction.  The object can be triangulated by using the sighting lines which are about 17.2 degrees shifted.  If the object was beneath the wires these numbers would be the same -- but they are not. 
The difference of about 1.5 degrees is glaringly obvious by simply overlaying transparencies of the two photos -- it is an absolute physical fact and it is DIRECTLY MEASURED (i.e., it is NOT simply a subtraction of 17.2 - 15.7, which can be done but is not as accurate as direct measurement).  The result is that the wires and the hoax model's sighting lines are about 2 feet apart. 

Lastly, I have to say that unlike Joel as shown in his photo trying to demonstrate camera poses, Paul Trent certainly did not have to hold a yardstick while holding his camera!  There is no information indicating that Paul Trent was as tall as Joel.  Crouching to take the photos (as I was the first to discover by being the first to triangulate the low 36-40-inch heights of the camera) is NOT "awkward" but is in fact the most stable position from which to take a photo, almost like using a tripod. 

In addition, the triangulations of camera height are NOT ABOVE GROUND level but with reference to the bottoms of the garage and house, which are merely assumed for convenience to be at ground level.  In actual fact, just a glance at Hartmann's site photo will show that the ground in the Trents' backyard was very uneven.  Thus, Trent could have been holding his camera several inches higher or lower than 36-40 inches above the ground at the actual spots and the 4-inch difference is no doubt due to this unevenness of the ground. 

Brad Sparks 

Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2000 12:25:39 -0400 
From: bruce maccabee <> 
Subject: McMinville: A Reappraisal 
Sender: bruce maccabee <> 

Yes, I have comments. 

Of course, if you decide, based on this evidence, that the photos are a hoax that is your prerogative. 

However, it is much more complex than just noting Joel Carpenter's  suggestion that Trent photographed a truck mirror hanging from the overhead wires and saying ("That's it.  It was a truck mirror,  case closed!") 

My research initially concentrated on analyzing the photos to determine (a) whether or not there was direct evidence of a hoax (e.g., an image of a string from from the overhead wire to the top of the UFO), and (b) whether or not William Hartmann (astronomer) of Condon Report fame was blowing smoke when he claimed that his brightness analysis of the bottom of the UO (unidentified object) in the first photo indicate that the UO was a distant object and hence large. The result of my investigation was (a) no clear photo evidence of hoax and (b) yes, after corrections were taken into acount (veiling glare and the ratio of brightness of a vertical white surface as compared to a horizontal white bottom surface.... read the paper to find out what this means)  Hartmann was  correct in his distance calculations. 

However, as I pointed out, it PROBABLY would be possible to construct a model, probably from paper, that could be consistent with the brightness calculation. 

Then I went on to consider many other aspects of the Trent case. Joel's web site links  to the McMenamin's web site where they posted my first paper but none of the other work. His web site also links to a no-longer existent "page4" on my web site. The correct address to see both major papers on the Trent case plus lots of updating material is  Now click on "PAPERS" and then scroll down to the Trent case. There are three entries.  The first entry in the "trent list" of papers is the photometric analysis paper. The second entry is an appendix to the first paper. The third entry provides supplementary informaion, much of which Joel used to construct the back yard model. 

I have some problems with Joel's presentation. 

1) the first photo of Paul Trent DOES show the left (southwest) corner of the house at the right hand side, although the negative as it presently exists (and as it existed at the time of the Condon report) has been cut slightly at the right side so the the roof image is no longer there.  OK, so you ask, how do you know it was originally there? 

Answer: the TELEPHONE REGISTER (newspaper) versions of this pictures are "wall to wall" uncropped and show the house roof in both photos. Apparently some "nasty slashes" occurred to the negatives between 1950 and 1967. The right edge of th first photo and the left edge of the second photo were cut by someone years and years ago.  (no, the cut edges do not fit 
together)  and only the newspaper reproductions provide the complete photos. 

This has an impact on Joel's  computer model (scroll down on his page) where he shows the field of view of the first photo (white rectangle) superimposed on Hartmann's 1967 photo of the scene. Note that Joel's field of view rectangle on the SECOND photo does show the corner of the house. 

2)  I don't think the camera was as low as Joel assumes based on my estimate of where, on th photo, was the horizon.  My estimate of the horizon was based on a USGS map and trying to locate the tops of  hills several miles away and observing that the contour illustrations of those  hill tops were at some elevation above th Trent farm elevation.  Assuming that I got the correct elevations for the hills actually shown in the picture, then the elevation estimates were a couple of degrees.  The horizon level estimation was then based on working backward from this: mark about 2 degrees down from the top of the mountain (image) on the film and "that's the horizon". 

Unfortunately the USGS map does not show elevations accurately enough to allow certainty that the angular elevation of the mountain was "exactly"  where I estimated. I might have been correct.  But I certainly would allow an error of 6" to 1 ft in my estimate. This is important for Joel's argument that the camera was excessively low,   My own guess would be that the camera could have been 4 ft above ground. Don't know how tall Trent was, but if his eyes were at 5.5 ft, then they would be about 1.5 ft above the "waist level" viewfinderat 4 ft, and not as low as what appears to be 3 ft in Joel's illutrastion..

Unfortunately we don't know how Trent typically held the camera to take  pictures and hence we don't know how he would be most likely to be holding the camera if taking a picture of a slowly moving object at some distance under these circumstances. 

Bottom Line I would place the altitude of the camera 6" to 1 foot higher than Joel. 

3)  My positions for the camera were based on measurements made on the original negatives plus a long chain of reasoning that was needed (at the time, 24 years ago) to make up for missing data.   Then in 1981 information from the aerial survey became available and recently "ground truth" measurements became available.  By using information contained within the photos themselves (fortunately the house roof appears in BOTH pictures) I reconstructed the positions of the camera relative to the house and garage.  I do not believe that Hartmann's locations are correct.   By the time Hartmann arrived the local scenery had changed considerably (in 17 years).   It appears that a lot of the features of the scene in the 1950 photos had disappeared by the time of the 1967 photo by Hartmann.  Hence me may well have failed to locate the exact positions of the camera. 

Bottom line: I accept my locations to within a foot. 

4) Joel writes:  "It is difficult to understand why Trent would have walked well into his back yard and either squatted, kneeled or stooped awkwardly in order to aim his camera up from a very low level at a slow moving object thousands of feet away.  The overall geometry of the positions suggests that he was attempting to frame a nearby object in such a way as to maximuze the amount of sky around it and enhance its apparent altitude." 

AS I pointed out above, I do not accept the idea tha the camera was "extra low" at the time of the photos. 3.5-4 ft wuld be more reasonable, I think,. 

Whether you accept my positions or Hartmann's it is true that Trent walked southward into the back yard quite a distance. This could be because he had decided to photograph his hanging model in such a way that it would be silhoutted against the distant mountains and framed between the house and garage. 

Or it could be because he came on the run and, not knowing exactly where to look, he ran toward where his wife had been standing, or near there (She had been coming from behind, i.e., south of, the garage and was walking toward the back door of the house.).  Perhaps the momentum of his rapid  motion out the back door carried him farther  south than needed. 

5) Joel is the first to suggest a truck mirror (other suggestions have been garbage can lid light shade, pie tin, paper model, etc.). None of the truck mirrors he suggests has exactly the same aspect ratio (length to width) or the same off-center "pole" (attachment post on  the back of th mirror).   Also, a mirror hanging downward and photograped from below to give a (nearly, but not exactly!!!) elliptical bottom image as in photo 1, would provide a mirror reflection of the ground. The image of the bottom of the UO is large enough so that a mirror reflection of the ground should have been apparent. 

6) There is much more to this case than just the photo analysis. I have long pointed out that it would be possible to fake the photos.   My own "preference" would be for a paper model. This wuld require the desire, the time, and the cleverness needed to make up a photo and a story to go along with it. the skeptics have pointed out "inconsistencies" in the Trents' stories as reported in the early newspaper accounts.  These inconsistencies, they say, indicate a hoax in which the ostensible witnesses didn't get their stories straight.  ON the other hand, if each interview had produced exactly the same information from both witnesses (although interviewed separately)  the skeptics would have cried "HOAX!" because no one could remember things that perfectly and different people recall different aspects of the same event. 

Anyway, we have the Trents' whole life story to look at now, since they died several years ago.   Anyone wishing to express an informed opinion of the case should read what I have written and also get a copy of the only video interview of the Trents, made in 1995 (2 years before Evelyn died).   Contact Terry Halstead at 

Considering that this is the only video interview of two of the most famous people in UFO history (I bet that the trent photos have been published more than any others)  -- whether you think them nasty hoaxers or down-to-earth honest people - this is a UFO collector's item. At the very least the skeptics will want this video so that they can refute Mrs. Trent's statements, one by one, and demonstrate how she managed to bamboozle literally dozens of investigators, interviewers and just plain interested people for nearly 50 years! 

Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 09:45:41 -0400 
From: bruce maccabee <> 
Subject: Re: McMinnville: A Reappraisal 
Sender: bruce maccabee <> 

You are exactly right.  There is a big discussion on this on Ufo Updates right now, For the most recent info on the camera see and scroli downt the thrid Trent paper and read nea the end of the paper. The camera has been identified.    It did have the waist - level viewer. 

From: "Bullard, Thomas E" <> 
To: Sign Historical Group <> 
Subject: RE: McMinnville: A Reappraisal 
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 11:53:23 -0500 

Another possibility:  Given the slow shutter speed and consequent risk of blurring the image with 1950s box cameras, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the advantage of bracing the camera on any available solid object--car hood, fence post, anything that might hold the camera steady, even at risk of some bodily contortions. 


From: "jim klotz" <> 
To: "Sign Historical Group" <> 
Subject: Re: McMinnville: A Reappraisal 
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 10:22:08 -0700 

Dr. Bullard and list members, 

With the experience of photography as a small-business (on the "curbstone" as they say), and having had a Brownie box camera as a young fella, I take 1/50 to 1/60 of a second to be a NORMAL shutter speed.  I believe that this is rather easy to hand hold for most people without blur in the photographs, especially with a lens focal length which is not telephoto (commonly referred to as "normal," giving an image close to what is seen with the naked eye).  In fact, I most commonly use 1/60 when using my Nikons today.  I begin to experience problems at 1/30th second, but can achieve steady results at that speed about 80% of the time, and am occasionally successful at 1/15 second. 

However, haste, excitement, physical limitations of the photographer, and inexperience with a camera (not having taken thousands of pics) all contribute to camera shake.  (Think of the videos you see on the TV news when an explosion or gunshot occurs in the background; the camera swings wildly) 

So although it may not seem so at first, I agree that bracing a camera is ALWAYS a good idea if one wants to assure the outcome, and therefore it is reasonable to conclude that Mr. Trent may have done so in some manner...  BUT I don't believe that such action MUST have taken place. Without his direct testimony, (which I know is not possible unless it already exists), this is a conclusion... based on good measurements, but a conclusion nonetheless.  This conclusion is being used to justify the low camera position. 

When one takes snapshots of people, such a low camera position changes what is in the background, and therefore is not a usual position for such pictures.  I submit that many, if not most, casual snapshots taken are of people or of notable (to the photographer) landmarks.  I just don't think that crouching down is the preferred method of bracing a camera, even with a waist-level finder.  This is not to say that crouching down doesn't work, it does, but gives a viewing angle which is often undesirable. 

Now, I have been trying to keep abreast of the Trent photo analysis work being done, (that which is available), over the years, but have not dedicated myself to a study of them.  I think Joel's work has stimulated discussion which is good, and I hope Brad's work will be published. 

- Jim Klotz 

Subject: UFO UpDate: Re: Trent Photos Blowout! - Rudiak 
From: Mark Cashman <> 
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 21:41:54 -0400 
To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <> 

>From: David Rudiak <> 
>Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2000 11:53:25 EDT 
>Subject: Re: Trent Photos Blowout! 

>Carpenter posed this hypothetically to me in e-mail some months 
>back and asked me if I thought it possible that a mirror like 
>this might be reflecting the sky from in back towards the 

>I told him no, this didn't seem possible. Mirrors reflect 
>specularly, not diffusely. In plainer English, that means that 
>if you draw a line from the camera to the plain of a "model" 
>mirror hanging above the camera 15 to 20 feet away, the light 
>bouncing towards the camera had to have come from a direction at 
>exactly the same angle on the other side of the mirror 

>In the case of the first Trent photo showing the "saucer" 
>bottom, any model would have had its bottom surface nearly 
>parallel to the ground. So the light source on the other side of 
>the mirror would have been at an angle towards the ground. In 
>fact, the light source _would have been the ground_, not the 
>sky. The bottom of the "saucer" would have appeared much darker 
>than it does. (A mirror would have been reflecting the dark, 
>lush green grass that would have been growing at that time of 

>The mirror shows nothing but the reflected image of the light 
>source. If the light source is bright, then the mirror appears 
>bright. If the light source is dark, the mirror appears dark. 
>If you reflect the night sky off a mirror, the mirror looks 
>black. It doesn't matter that a mirror has high reflectivity. 
>High reflectivity does not mean it appears bright. 

>I don't think Carpenter understood my argument. A car mirror 
>would have been reflecting an image of the ground towards the 
>camera and would have appeared dark. 

Hi, David! 

Having caught the implication of this from something in one of Bruce Maccabee's papers, Iimplemented a scaled 3D model in Carrara, using a blue sky and a red and black checkered infinite ground. The result was indeed exactly as you state - no part of the sky was visible, only the checkerboard pattern. 

The data was drawn from Bruce's estimates of 30m object size and 1.06km distance. However experimentation showed that to attain an angular size similar to that in the main photo, a simulated distance of 1.2km was needed for the 30m object. The altitude, based on attempting to duplicate the framing of the photo using a simulated 100mm lens, was 250m. The camera altitude was set at 3 feet, as estimated by Joel Carpenter. However, it was interesting to find that the image framing is almost completely insensitive to the camera height at the simulated distance - I tested 3 and 6 foot high camera placements. 

The object in this image is in a bank of about 20 degrees, and a "nose" up of about 9 degrees. 

The simulated images can be found at  

Interestingly, the original photo does not show notable variations from one side of the disk to the other, suggesting that the bottom of the disk is not mirror reflective. 

An indirect comment on this can be found in the Hartmann analysis (at the same URL) 

"Thus the UFO in any interpretation is known to have a brighter surface than the foreground tank. Thus, the photometry at once confirms the witnesses' report that the UFO was shiny, like a fresh, aluminum-painted surface, but not a specular surface." 

In other words, while the object is reflective, it is not a mirror or chrome finish. But it is bright... 

Thus, a mirror such as the A 1911 Ford Model T mirror would not be a candidate for the hoax object, since it is chrome plated on the non-mirror side. Yet, the hoax mirror would have to have a very bright, non-specular surface, for instance, white in color. 

The analysis continues: 

"Fig. 3 graphically illustrates the problem. For example, if the object is a model suspended from the wire only a few meters away,  its surface is some 37% brighter than that of the tank, and the shaded side is probably more than 40% brighter than the shadow on the tank. But this is nearly impossible to maintain in the face of the photometry. Although the distant house's surface is roughly twice as bright as the tank's surface, its shadows can be only a few percent brighter, intrinsically, than those on the tank. This is basically the problem that was suggested by initial inspection of the photos: the shadowed side of the UFO appears to be so bright that it suggests significant scattering between it and the observer. 

"The upshot is that if the top and bottom surfaces of the UFO are made out of essentially the same material, i.e. with the same albedo, the photometry indicates that the UFO is distant, at roughly r = 1.3 ± 0.4 km (est. P. E.). The witnesses referred to a slightly different hue of the bottom side of the UFO: they said it was more bronze than the silvery top side. We have assumed this change in tint had negligible effect on the photometry, although the implication is that the bottom has slightly lower albedo. If so the UFO would be still more distant. " 

I believe these are the essential points that must be addressed by any critique of these photos. 

Note that I am also sending a copy of this to Joel. He may not be aware that his paper is under discussion - to the best of my knowledge, he has not announced its availability, and it may even be a work in progress. 

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