Fantasy Island

Kenn Thomas. Maury Island UFO. Illuminet Press, 1999.

1947 is dominated by two famous cases: Arnold and Roswell. A third one, Maury Island, due to its weirdness and dubious origins, is seldom mentioned. You will find nothing on the case in the contemporary press; nothing that is until six weeks after its supposed occurrence, and even then it only got a mention due to an unfortunate plane crash which killed the two USAF officers who had been summoned to investigate the case.

The story allegedly began three days before Arnold, i.e. on June 21, 1947 when a Mr Harold Dahl witness six doughnut shaped UFOs when out in his boat near Maury Island, in Puget Sound, a few miles from Tacoma, Washington. One of the UFOs suddenly exploded showering a lot of debris onto the boat and the island, killing his dog and injuring his son. The remaining UFOs then disappeared. Dahl and his crew immediately sailed back and told Fred L. Crisman, his superior (they were both said to be in the Harbour Patrol at the time). A small amount of the ten tons or so of debris was collected and taken back to Tacoma.
Many weird events then followed. Dahl was visited by a mystery man who told him to forget the affair. Dahl had taken some photos of the UFOs but these didn't come out; later the photos disappeared. Sometime in July Dahl and Crisman decided to send the fragments to a magazine Crisman was familiar with. This was Amazing Stories, edited by Ray Palmer. (In 1946 Crisman was a keen science fiction fan, and had written to Palmer as a result of reading the 'Shaver Mystery' stories in the magazine. (Crisman said he had encountered one of Shaver's deros in a cave in Burma during the Second World War, and had fought his way out with a submachine gun!)

By July Arnold's sighting was known world-wide and Palmer, who had already been in touch with him, asked Arnold to check the Maury Island story for him before he published it. Amold did his best but soon got bogged down and called a friend of his to help out; he then went further and involved two USAF intelligence men he had met earlier. They flew to Tacoma, spoke to the originators and even, so it is claimed, took some UFO fragments away.

The affair ended in tragedy when their B-25 crashed on the return trip to California. The intelligence officers died, although two other passengers escaped in time. Press reports hinted the plane was sabotaged due to the nature of the material (i.e. saucer fragments) it was carrying.

The case was soon hushed up and not mentioned again for two years when the USAF dismissed it as a hoax, as part of their Project Grudge release. The plane crash was an accident, the 'fragments' were nothing but slag from a copper smelter and the UFO story was pure invention. Neither Dahl nor Crisman were harbour patrolmen at all. They were actually partners in a timber business. Palmer, although not mentioned by name, was said to have encouraged the hoax.

So much for the original UFO story. What of the sequel? It seems that one of the originators, Fred Crisman, led a very chequered life thereafter, using various aliases. He was at various times a teacher, businessman, oil technician, writer, broadcaster, personnel officer, political agitator, and even an alleged CIS 'disruption agent', whatever that is. He seemed to have acquired a number of enemies, one of whom wrote an anonymous letter to the New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison in 1968, telling Garrison, who was then preparing to prosecute Clay Shaw over the JFK assassination, that Crisman might also be implicated.

Crisman narrowly escaped an attempt on his life that same year. He was subpoenaed and duly testified before the court but Garrison's whole case collapsed soon afterwards, with Shaw being acquitted in short order; and Crisman's involvement, it transpired, was a total red herring.

But wait a minute: we now have an established 'connection' between Maury Island and JFK. the author also claims that an FBI agent, Guy Banister, who had a detective agency in New Orleans, was involved with both Maury Island and, later, was interviewed by the Warren Commission. So we now have two such 'connections'. the plot thickens. Or does it?

In fact a close reading shows that Banister had nothing to do with Maury Island; he was only involved with another story (also a prank as it turned out) at about the same time. Crisman's own post 1947 career, if we can believe his claims, was so bizarre that it is not in the least surprising that he created a few enemies and that someone might try and frame him for the JFK assassination.

Crisman had the nerve to write an article in Palmer's Flying Saucers magazine in 1958 (under a pseudonym), claiming that the Air Force had since put an armed guard on Maury Island, that bound volumes of the Tacoma newspapers of summer 1947 had been seized by the military from the library, then returned with new pages replacing the originals; and that Keyhoe's Flying Saucers are Real had been bought up in large numbers by the military from the bookshops (presumably to prevent the public getting hold of it)! In 1967 it appears that Crisman lectured to a UFO group in Seattle, telling them that he still had the Maury Island photographs (Naturally nobody ever saw them).

The book contains many appendices, including FBI reports released under the Freedom of Information Act. Nobody reading these reports could have the slightest doubt that Maury Island was a UFO non-event. Nobody reading the Crisman 'file' as presented in this book could have the slightest doubt that Crisman was a master bullshitter.

This book will be very useful for conspiracists, of which there are quite a number. Also, there is no mention of Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana or Monica Lewinsky, so don't buy it expecting any revelations about them. -- Christopher D. Allan, from Magonia 69, December 1999.

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