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Maury Island

21st day of June 1947


The Maury Island UFO Case

Maury Island
A majority of the incidents surrounding UFO's deal with a fairly simple premise. Someone, somewhere reports a sighting of unknown origin. A brief investigation is made and under "normal" circumstances, the story fades away.

In June, 1947, off Puget Sound, a mystery began to unravel that boggles the senses, so complex, so surreal and so unnerving.

In 1947, two men operated a boat in Puget Sound. On June 21st, one of the men, "Harold A. Dahl" took with him two crew members, his son and his son's dog and they began a water tour around Maury Island. At approximately 2:00 PM, out of nowhere, they spotted six large objects above them. All six were identical, round with a hole in the center. The most unusual sight was the fact that five of the six were going in circles around the sixth object. The latter one seemed to be experiencing difficulty remaining aloft.

"Mr. Dahl" aimed the boat for shore, and began taking photographs. Shortly thereafter, one of the objects began to lower itself and touched the sinking object. Immediately after  the "touch" the men reported hearing a loud noise,  a  THUD.  The next thing the men knew, material was ejected from the ailing object and hot debris began to rain down. So hot was this material that the boat was damaged,  Mr. Dahl's son was burned on the arm, and the dog was killed by the falling debris.

Once all the material stopped falling, the sixth object rejoined the other crafts and all six disappeared out to sea.  Being in shock, "Mr. Dahl" returned to Tacoma, took his son for treatment, and reported this incident to his boss, "Mr. Fred L. Crisman". From then on, "Harold Dahl's" life was never to be the same, again.

The next day, "Dahl" was visited by a man, knocking on his door. This man, described as "imposing, six foot two and 200 pounds, wearing a black suit." He and "Dahl" had breakfast, and talked about what had occurred the previous day. It seems this "imposing" man knew all about the incident and told Dahl NOT to discuss any details about what he had seen or heard. In fact, you could almost consider this a warning or a threat. "Dahl" had the photographs developed and found that they were totally of no use. It's as if the film had been damaged in some way, foggy...  almost as if touched by radiation.

The same day this stranger walked into "Dahl's life, Dahl's" partner, "Fred Crisman" took it upon himself to check out, as best he could, the story his friend had relayed to him.  Near Maury Island, "Crisman" found the beach was covered with an estimated 20 tons of slag. During this time, another round shaped object appeared, the first sighting by "Crisman".

For some reason, known only to both men, they did not notify any authorities until the following month. That July, both men wrote to the editor of "AMAZING STORIES" magazine, giving details of what had been witnessed in June. The editor, "Ray Palmer" then contacted "Kenneth Arnold" about this unusual situation. Together, they decided to further this investigation and "Mr. Arnold" then flew to Washington, in his private plane.

"Arnold" met with a hesitant "Dahl" and a reluctant "Crisman". It was then that strange circumstances began, the gist of which was that the local media started to contact "Arnold," even though "Arnold" had not informed anyone other than these three people that he was even in Tacoma, "Dahl, Crisman" and a good friend, "Lt. Frank M. Brown," an Air Force Intelligence Officer, located at the time, in California. How did anyone else know he was there? Brown contacted another Air Force Officer, "Capt. William Davidson." It was decided by "Brown" and "Davidson" they should travel to Washington State. Out of the blue, a UP reporter, "Ted Morello" contacted "Arnold" to inquire what he was investigating.

On July 31, 1947, several of the aforementioned gentleman, excluding "Dahl" met at the "Winthrop Hotel."  In view of what appeared to be serious leaks to the press and the fact that the boat owned by "Dahl" and "Crisman" was old and worn out, "Arnold" began to doubt that anything out of the ordinary had happened at all. It became clear to Arnold that this was a hoax and total waste of his time and energy. However, before leaving, "Crisman" gave "Brown" and "Davidson" a carton, presumably containing fragments of the slag that was found from the round objects at Maury Island. Shortly thereafter, the B-25 containing "Brown" and "Davidson" crashed, twenty minutes after takeoff. They were both killed in the crash near Kelso, WA   Other members of the crew survived.

Two weeks later, "Paul Lance," a reporter who had covered the Maury Island sighting and the crash of the B-25, who had seemed to be in good health, died of meningitis. The slag and metal was analyzed and it was determined that the content was actually aircraft alloy, with one puzzling detail hard to fathom. One of the pieces examined clearly exhibited the fact that it had been riveted.  Not so unusual you say?  The rivet was SQUARE, and according to all who are in the know, AIRCRAFT RIVETS are ROUND.  And, to top that, the slag was also radioactive.

Now we have a square rivet, 20 tons of radioactive slag, a son with a burned arm, a dead dog, threats to keep quiet "or else" two dead Air Force men, and a stranger who came out of nowhere to threaten "Harold Dahl." We have no answers. We have no explanation. What we do have is an unusual set of circumstances that make us wonder and ask, Why? Are the actual facts about these six "crafts" so horrible and so Alien, that perhaps, our government thinks we can not handle the truth?

Somewhere, even now, almost 52 years later, someone knows the details.  Secrets are just that...    secret.  What we would give to know what happened that 21st day of June 1947 on Puget Sound, near Maury Island.

Fred Crisman and the Maury Island incident

Of the many and varied entries contained within the 1st Annual Report, point 6 of Annex C is certainly one of the most intriguing and refers to an incident that occurred at Maury Island, Puget Sound, Washington State in June 1947. According to a local resident, Harold Dahl, a UFO was seen to malfunction over the harbor and spewed a large amount of unidentified debris into the water. Dahl, his son and two colleagues collected the debris and showed it to Dahls boss, Fred Crisman. The story was passed on to Ray Palmer, a magazine publisher, who subsequently arranged for Kenneth Arnold (the pilot whose 24 June 1947 sighting was largely responsible for the coining of the term Flying Saucer) to interview Dahl and Crisman.

Following the publicity that the case attracted, two Army A-2 intelligence personnel from Hamilton Field (a Captain Davidson and a Lieutenant Brown) arrived at Maury Island on 31 July 1947. They interviewed Dahl and Crisman and flew back to Hamilton Field on the next day with some of the disc fragments on board. However, on the journey back, their aircraft caught fire, crashed and Davidson and Brown were killed. Supposedly, the disc fragments were never recovered. Speculation has existed ever since the events in question that the aircraft was sabotaged to prevent Davidson and Brown from reaching their destination. There is also much speculation surrounding Crisman, and rumors suggest that he was not an innocent party in the affair and was linked with the world of intelligence and may have been tied to the wartime Office of Strategic Services. Below is the relevant extract from the 1st Annual Report:

The death of two Air Force counterintelligence officers in the crash of their B-25 aircraft enroute to Hamilton AFB, California, after interviewing two auxiliary CG men who reported six UFOs over Maury Island, Washington, in June 1947. CIC agent Crisman had spoken to Kenneth Arnold, who on 26 June 1947, had reported a flight of UFOs over Mt. Rainier, Washington, and filed his report after he had spoken to Captain Davidson and Lieutenant Brown. The material given to Davidson and Brown was believed to come from Maury Island and may be celestial fragments containing metal from a nuclear reactor from a UFO. Fragments were turned over to CIA agent Shaw, and Crisman was ordered to the Alaskan ADC for assignment in Project IVY.

In our ongoing validation project, we are posting here the FBIs officially released file on Fred Crisman and the Maury Island incident all of which combined reveal a wealth of information on the events in question and on the life of Fred Crisman. More importantly, the data backs up that contained within the 1st Annual Report. The file is 40 pages in length and contains: (a) an August 1947 employment application that Crisman made for a position with the Atomic Energy Commission; (b) information on Crismans wartime work in the US military; (c) his post-war employment; (d) his relationship with Harold Dahl who was the prime witness to the UFO incident; (e) the recovery of the unidentified debris at Maury Island; (f) Kenneth Arnolds involvement in the case; (g) the media coverage of the events in question; and (h) the involvement of Davidson and Brown and the mysterious crash of their aircraft that resulted in their deaths and the loss of the debris.

 Maury Island Ufo:

Fred Crisman and Covert Infiltration

 Of Ufology

by Kenn Thomas ( - July 19, 2001

Editor's Note: Kenn Thomas publishes Steamshovel Press, the conspiracy theory magazine. Four issue subscription: $23; single issue: $6, from POB 23715, St. Louis, MO 63121. Maury Island UFO: The Crissman Conspiracy (IllumiNet Press, 1999), is also available.

In 1947 a man named Fred Crisman said he witnessed a UFO at Maury Island, near Seattle. New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison subpoenaed Crisman in 1968 as part of his investigation of the JFK assassination. The infamous Torbitt Document named Crisman as one of the three tramps in the railyard behind Dealey Plaza. In between, Crisman became a known figure on talk radio in Tacoma, a precursor to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and G. Gordon Liddy, and a known figure in the ufological community.

Crisman started at KAYE radio in Puyallup, Washington, on August 1, 1968, under the on-air ame of John Gold. According to his 1970 autobiographical book, Murder of a City, published under the Gold pseudonym, he had been attracted to the radio station because he felt it was a way to express his concern over the Gypsy minority and that it would be useful in his political cause: the elimination of the city management style of government in Tacoma, Washington. According to one source, Crisman's zeal in this matter stemmed from orders given to him in 1968, "but there is no reason given as to why it is felt by the East section of the CIA that this form of government is wrong for this area." [1] Crisman's reasons, as well as his general philosophy, described by Crisman as "Liberal Democrat" but seen by moist as anything but, although he had run for office as a Democrat, and a detailed look athis political and business associations, provided the basis for his book. Murder of a City reviews the struggles between Tacoma's city manager, Dave Rowlands, and its mayor, A. L. "Slim" Rasmussen-a struggle that Crisman viewed as having lost.

In March 1969, Fred Crisman helped create non-profit corporation to pursue this ambition of eliminating city management government in Tacoma. It failed, of course, and by January of the following year Mayor Rasmussen was administering his final session, having lost the previous November election. One of his final acts was to appoint Fred Crisman to Tacoma's library board. The move received criticism for all that Crisman had done in local politics and his infamy as a right-wing radio commentator, but he assured his critics that "I respect the library and use it frequently for my own studies as well as for background . . . and would not think of attempting to influence [the library director] in his choice of books." [2]

Crisman's change of fortunes continued when a defamation lawsuit against KAYE involving him was dismissed. [3] He got involved with cable-TV franchising to no success, however, and lost his bid for election to the Civil Service Board of Pierce county by 1559 votes [4] in September 1971. Shortly thereafter, charges of mismanagement began to circulate about the library manager, apparently emanating from Crisman, who believed that his opposition to city manager government kept him from being made the board president of the Tacoma Public Library. [5]

Petty bickering about library politics continued in the Tacoma press until Crisman resigned in October 1973 [6] As early as 1967, however, he began to again turn his attention to the events at Maury Island of 1947. On July 22 of that year he lectured on the topic at the annual Northwest UFO Conference in Seattle. [7] lectured the group about the seriousness of the subject, apparently a bit disgruntled at some of the carnival-like atmosphere that attends UFO gatherings (then as now). He made the claim that he had been the first person to photograph the UFOs and that he still had prints of the Maury Island photographs. He discussed the flying saucer slag that supposedly had spewed forth from the saucers he witnessed and insisted that it was quite different from the discarded product of the local smelter works. He talked at length about the press distortion of the subject and how he hoped the true facts would someday emerge. If Crisman was making a bid to become a UFO celebrity like Kenneth Arnold, he did little after that to further the cause.

When Crisman finished lecturing in Seattle, a young UFO researcher named Gary Leslie approached him anxiously to get copies of the Maury Island photographs. Crisman declined to offer his own address due to his distaste for publicity (a claim contradicted by his soon-to-come career as a shock jock, if not by the lecture itself), but he did provide an address for Harold Dahl. Dahl, after all, had the photos in his possession, according to Crisman.

Leslie found Dahl to be an amicable correspondent. He offered to provide copies of the photos and a written statement about his experiences at Maury Island, plus one from his son. He forwarded Leslie's inquiries to Crisman's New Orleans address, [8] and reported that he had photographs of the North Queen boat taken at the time of the incident. Dahl also spoke very glowingly of Crisman, comparing him, in fact, to the character played by Roy Thinnes in the then current TV show The Invaders, a character hunted for his secret knowledge of flying saucers-and explained that nothing could be done without his partner's approval.

A few days later, Leslie received an angry response from Crisman. "I do not want this matter in public print!" he declared and expressed his anger that Dahl was so forthcoming. "He will not correspond with you again." [9] Leslie had the ambition of collecting information from the pair and publishing an unvarnished version of the Maury Island story. He was quite disappointed in Crisman's hostility and tried through several letters to both Dahl and Crisman to ameliorate the controversy, if indeed it was "Dahl." Some researchers suggest that the letters from Harold Dahl, the Easy Papers, and much of the other written documentation of this story may have actually been written by Crisman, even though the address was in Tenino, Washington, not New Orleans. [1O]

In any event, "Dahl" caved in to Crisman's concerns immediately, but he kept in contact with Leslie for other purposes. He had an interest in promoting the work of Dr. Frank E. Stranges of Van Nuys, California. "Dahl" sought the help of Leslie's UAPRO group to organize a showing a film by Stranges. Leslie obliged and continued to pursue the photographs and written statements from "Dahl." In a last letter from Crisman/Dahl ("I am irrevocably tied to Hal in any questions that arise on the Maury island incident"), he claims that he has only shared his views and research materials on Maury Island with small business and academic groups "that have extra and advanced knowledge" about UFOS. "I travel widely and this allows me to be in areas that do have certain of the extra 'attentions' of the UFOS. It has always been a type of precise 'high-wire' balance act to keep up an investigative and reporting interest and at the same time deal with the areas of a business world that has no interest in such matters."

With reluctance, Crisman acquiesced to "Dahl's" interest in sharing with Leslie, but no record exists that the contact continued. Crisman closes with a report that he went to the original Maury Island UFO site, and found it barren of plant growth and surrounded by signs that the area would be razed for the sake of an unnamed federal project. "Why? . . . A bit of inquiry revealed that government men of some agency have returned over the years . . . many times for soil samples and pictures."

The name of Dr. Frank Stranges, still a personality in UFO circles in 1999, came up once more in research surrounding Crisman. The director of the National Investigations Committee on UFOs (NICUFO), Stranges was approached by an investigator for famed Kennedy assassination researcher and author Bernard Fensterwald. Fensterwald had received a leaflet from another noted author in the field, Paris Flammonde, that had Crisman's business partner-and a suspect in the anti-Castro milieu according to Jim Garrison-Thomas Beckham listed on NICUFO's board of directors. The investigator determined that Beckham met Stranges through Crisman. [11]

The August 1993 release of an interview transcript with Beckham affirmed that Crisman managed his singing career and had introduced him to the UFO world. One other UFO circuit personality had a non-encounter with Crisman: Wayne Aho. Aho had remained active in the ufological community since his spaceship encounter in the Mojave Desert on May 11, 1957. Crisman invited him to attend the First Midwest UFO Conference in Omaha, Nebraska on August 12, 1967. Aho showed, but Crisman did not. Aho had previous involvement with shady characters on the UFO fringe. He and a business associate named Otis T. Carr were indicted in the late 50s for an investment scheme to develop a flying saucer that ran on free energy. The two were indicted for selling hundreds of thousands in illegal stocks, but charges against Aho were dropped. Carr was convicted and given a $5,000 fine. Like the money that Beckham and Crisman allegedly raised, the final disposition of Carr's profits remains unknown.

Aside from these instances, Crisman kept to his principle of avoiding publicity with regard to Maury Island and UFOs. He returned to his traveling and "the areas of a business world that has no interest in such matters."

After the radio show, the Garrison subpoena, and his career with politics and the public, Crisman tried to start a public television station in Tacoma in 1975.[13]

The charge that he was one of the mystery tramps at Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963 arose again in the mid-70s in articles that appeared in True magazine and Crawdaddy. Crisman maintained his story that he was teaching high school in Rainier on that day. [14]

The next time Fred Crisman ran for office, for a seat on the City Council; he lost by over 10,000 votes. [15] In September 1974, he was hospitalized for kidney failure. In April 1975 he married Mary Frances Borden, an ally in his library political battles. On December 10, 1975, Fred Crisman died at the age of 56. [16]


[1] This is found in something called the Easy Papers, discussed at length in the book, Maury Island UFO (IllumiNet Press, 1999).

[2] Wilkins, Jack, "Slim Praises Pals, Raps Detractors as Era Ends," Tacoma News Tribune, January 7, 1970.

[3] "Hodges Halts Libel Suit," Tacoma News Tribune, February 4, 1970.

[4] "CTV Firm Plans To Sue City Council," Tacoma News Tribune, April 16, 1971; "Complete Unofficial Councilman Vote," Tacoma News Tribune, September 22, 1971.

[5] Gibbs, Al, "Mismanagement Called Cause of Libraries Woes," Tacoma News Tribune, October 13, 1971; "Library Director Answers Critic," Tacoma News Tribune, October 13, 1971; "Three Attend Library Meet," Tacoma News Tribune, January 26,1972.

[6] Wilkins, Jack, "Politics Looms In Affairs of Tacoma Library Board," Tacoma News Tribune, August 7, 1973. Gibbs, Al, "Library In Hubbub: Jarstad, Crisman Exchange Invective," Washington News Tribune, August 22, 1973); Anderson, Win, "Crisman Resigns Position, Charges Library Politics," Tacoma News Tribune, October 7, 1973.

[7] The Hahanos say that this actually took place at a meeting of something called Understanding Incorporated at the Tacoma Public Library on February 4. Correspondence from Gary Leslie indicates the July date. In either case, this was two years before Mayor Rasmussen appointed him to the board and a year before he started broadcasting on KAYE. (UFO Vol. 9, No. 1, p. 34.)

[8] The Hanohanos note that this establishes Crisman's connection to New Orleans a year before Garrison's subpoena (UFO Vol. 9, No. 1, 34.)

[9] The Hanohanos quote Dahl's widow Helen as saying "Something happened in the late 1960s to change the relationship between my husband and Fred. Fred began calling the shots. It's possible that Fred was blackmailing Hal." It should be recalled, however, that Dahl owned the boat upon which he had his UFO encounter but nevertheless reported it to his "boss," Fred Crisman. Crisman dominated the relationship even in 1947.

[10] Support for this notion comes in the form of other letters written by "F. Lee" to noted UFO researcher Lucius Farish in Plumerville, Arkansas from November 1967 to January 1968. The correspondence discusses technical particulars of a well-organized but small and invite-only paranormalist study group called Parapsychology Research, including that its new director would be Crisman chum Robert Lavender, and gives a detailed report about Maury Island. The letters also make mention of the Loch Ness monster and the San Juan Lights and of networking with over 200 Fortean societies. They contain Crisman's complaints about the UFO community, repeat the allusion to The Invaders TV show, and note that "Any letter sent to Hal Dahl is usually answered by Crisman - if he bothers to answer at all."

[11] Hanohano, Kalani and Fatiuska, "Beckham Talks About Crisman," UFO Magazine, Volume 9, Number 1, 1994, pp. 36-38. The Hanohanos also discuss Milton Northdruft, who had lunch with Stranges and Beckham. Northdruft reports, "Beckham was quite an enterprising individual and gave me the impression of operating rather smoothly, having some solid people on which he could depend when things actually got under way at 8:00 p.m. that evening, with Frank Stranges speaking." Also according to the Hanohanos, Stranges "was very hesitant to discuss the matter" with investigator Bill La arl when approached about it at Timothy Beckley's 1992 UFO conference in Phoenix.

[12] House Select Committee on Assassinations transcript 014888, Thomas eckham interviewed by Robert Baras and L. J. Delsa.

[13] Sypher, Richard, "TV Station's Promoters Assail TNT Coverage," Tacoma News Tribune, January 10, 1975.

[14] Shomshak, Vem, "True Magazine Less Than True-Crisman Says of Article on JFK's death," Tacoma News Tribune, May 22, 1975. "Secret Agent Man Meets The Mystery Tramp," Crawdaddy, November 1975. In December 1978, the House Select Committee on Assassinations summoned Stanley Peerboom, the principal at Rainer High School, to produce Crisman's employment records from the time. Peerboom complied, producing a two-page list with a single handwriting demonstrating that no substitute had been called for Crisman on November 22, 1963. It does reflect several absences for Crisman the following February through May. The accompanying letter from Peerboom points out that "Since the school district did not keep very extensive records at the time, I cannot supply the exact information which you requested. I am supplying all that is available. "In a separate letter, however, Peerboom includes the remark, "I can also verify that on the day of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I was teaching at the school and Fred Lee Crisman was also teaching at the school on that day." He concludes, "I might mention that I regard Mr. Crisman as a person lacking in truth. I can only say if it is important, I can give reasons for the above statement." Peerboom also doubted the authenticity of a letter he received from Crisman's wife Mary, asking for copies of the same records, but included the letter with the materials he sent to the HSCA.

[15] "Elections At A Glance," Tacoma News Tribune, November 5, 1975.

[16] Obituary, Tacoma News Tribune, December 11, 1975. "Council Critic Crisman Dies," Tacoma News Tribune, December 11, 1975. "Crisman Native Tacoman," Tacoma News Tribune, December 16, 1975.