- Say I'm slightly unhinged or even that I'm trying to
kick back and relax a little after all that Goldschmidt stuff. But I'd
still like to know what really happened on July 4, 1947, when scores of
flying saucers were spotted over Portland.
- And I'm not making this up, either. It was on the
front pages of both newspapers.
- Two police officers, Walter Lissy and Robert Ellis
- both World War II vets and civilian pilots - saw the first ones over
Oaks Park. They were fast-moving, silvery discs, traveling in formation,
Ellis and Lissy said.
- According to the newspaper stories, the Portland Police
Bureau was immediately placed on full alert.
- That same day, Thomas Berry, who lived on Northeast
Killingsworth, saw something, too. So did M.A. Deaton, who lived on Northeast
- Deaton said it was a disc, flying due east "faster
than an airplane."
- Downtown on Broadway at the Jackson Tower, where The
Oregon Journal was then located, several employees saw a flyby of discs
and if you can't trust a reporter to know a flying saucer when he sees
one, I don't know who you could.
- Three sheriff's deputies assigned to the harbor patrol
spotted a cluster of discs at about 10,000 feet.
- Another policeman, Earl Patterson, radioed in from
his car at Southeast 82nd and Foster with another report of flying discs.
He said they were aluminum or eggshell in color, traveling at a high rate
- * * *
- That evening, more strange discs were spotted by the
pilot and crew of a United Airlines flight en route from Boise to Portland.
Nine flying saucers, which they all described as bigger than their airplane,
cruised along with them for 15 minutes.
- The next day, The Oregonian, obviously looking for
a positive angle on the story, reported that despite the numerous sightings
of unidentified flying objects, no damage to the city had occurred.
- Whatever it was, though, it was catching.
- * * *
- The Portland flyby came hardly a week after the first-ever
recorded flying saucer sighting, by a private pilot near Mount Rainier
in Washington. On June 24, one Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine shiny
objects, which, as he told the first reporter he saw upon landing, skipped
through the atmosphere like saucers at speeds of up to 1,700 miles per
- Although, as a check of the original news stories
indicates, he also said they were shaped like boomerangs, the reports of
"saucerlike" flying objects spread throughout the world. Over
the next month or so, flying saucers were sighted in 23 states.
- We can, nevertheless, take pride in the fact that
the Portland sighting is generally acknowledged as the largest.
- As you might expect, the newspapers sought out expert
opinions on the subject.
- Frederick Courts, a psychology professor at Reed College,
thought it was a hallucination, brought on by "the nervousness of
the public over reports of atomic warfare and guided projectiles."
- The Rev. Jessie Falmer of Portland's Assembly of God
church took it as a portent that the end was near.
- Myself, I kind of lean toward the mass hallucination
theory, if only because it's been 57 years now and the world's still with
- And of course it could have been visitors from outer
space, too. You tell me.