When the Arnold story first appeared in print, several corroborating stories immediately surfaced from earlier months in 1947 and, in some cases, even before. People who had recently witnessed a strange sight in the sky that they could not explain came forward and reported their stories to local newspapers. Most never caught the attention of government investigators. The incidents also occurred outside of the United States. International stories of the phenomenon are rare, but they do exist. Sightings occurred over Bombay, in Budapest, in Belgium, and in South America. The hundreds of sightings that occurred in the United States in 1947 are more readily available because US newspapers eagerly documented them during the height of the wave. Many of the anecdotes can be easily dismissed as meteors, misidentified military aircraft, drifting weather balloons, and even unusual cloud formations. Some of the stories, however, seem to describe encounters with the type of unexplained phenomenon witnessed by Kenneth Arnold.
Charlie T. Hamlet began reading reports about Kenneth Arnold and the flying saucer phenomenon in early July because he was in charge of the news copy room for the Kingsport Times News of Kingsport, Tennessee. He read the stories coming over the newswire with great interest; he had experienced something similar two years earlier. In the summer of 1945, not long before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Charlie Hamlet saw several discs “burning the wind” over his house. The Associated Press picked up his retelling of the story, and it circulated in papers around the country.
“They were disc-like in shape and looked to be the size of a man’s head,” he said. “They were of a bright aluminum color, were going at terrific speed and disappeared over the high school, about three blocks down the street.”
Hamlet explained that, at the time he saw the objects, he had not reported it to anyone “because of all the rumors going around then about what they were doing down at Oak Ridge.” In 1945, Oak Ridge, Tennessee was known as the “Secret City” and “The City Behind the Fence.” Oak Ridge was a sprawling industrial complex and research center under strict guard and high security. The US Government established it in 1942 as a production site for the Manhattan Project. Hamlet assumed that the objects he saw pass over Kingsport might have something to do with the secret work going on at Oak Ridge, just over 100 miles southwest of Kingsport, so he “kept mum” about the sighting.
Lloyd Kenyon, a twenty-six-year-old Portland man, claimed to have seen “flying pie pan objects” several times in 1946 while fishing on Johnson Creek, a tributary of the Willamette River in the Portland metropolitan area. He also claimed to have seen the same or similar objects once while serving overseas in the Navy during World War II as a shipfitter. Kenyon said that, in 1943, he and several other sailors on board a navy vessel in the Russel Islands had seen the same type of discs travelling through the sky “at an unbelievable speed.”
Kenyon wasn’t the only one to see flying pie pans over Washington in 1946. Some nine months before Arnold’s experience in the Mount Rainier vicinity, a Longview woman and two school girls saw something in Ellensburg sky that they could not explain. Ellensburg, Washington is located just east of the Cascade Range. Mrs. W. H. Eagen, the wife of a theater manager in Longview, declared that she saw what appeared to be a “flying pie pan” travelling at high speed and at a great altitude. She reported her October 1946 sighting to the papers only after reading about Arnold’s experience.
She saw what appeared to be a “flying pie pan” travelling at high speed and at a great altitude.
Far away from Longview, WA, an object appeared in the Marshall and Longview, Texas area shortly after 5 PM on December 4, 1946. J. F. Hawkins, superintendent of the Arkansas Fuel Oil Company in the Waskom, Texas oil field, saw a “real bright-colored” saucer-shaped object come out of the west around sunset. At first, Hawkins assumed the object was the setting sun, but he changed his mind when he saw it moving eastward. He called it to the attention of his brother and sister-in-law, who were visiting him. Together, they watched the object disappear in the east, “leaving a long bright trail.” The object flew directly over the refinery at about 4,000 feet on an easterly course. Hawkins said the mysterious object was the subject of speculation for several days as some fifteen others had seen it pass over. He and the locals watched the papers to see if there would be a report about the flyover, but when no story appeared, they passed it off as some strange phenomenon of nature, such as a meteor, until Hawkins saw the stories about the sightings on the West Coast. He said, “They sounded just like the one we saw here.”
After reading various theories attempting to explain away Kenneth Arnold’s story, a Del Rio, Texas woman contacted her local paper to offer her own corroboration:
I saw exactly what those pilots have been reporting but it was January 26 or 27 that I saw it. It was the same shape they describe and shining so brightly I had to close my eyes, then look ahead. It was flying very fast. When they find out those objects are they’ll know they were seen here as early as January. Because I saw them myself and called the attention of a 17-year old boy to them at the time and later reported seeing it in broad daylight to my friends. It makes me mad that the paper said the man who reported seeing them just had an optical illusion.
Fred Ash of Putnam, Connecticut claimed that, in March 1947, while working a night shift, he saw a yellow light “shaped like a disc” move across the sky, from east to west, travelling from horizon to horizon in about four seconds. The sighting took place at 3:00 AM. Three weeks later, he saw the same phenomenon. On March 30, a seven-year-old child, her mother, and her grandmother, driving from Ocala to Orlando, Florida, saw several silvery discs appear and disappear in the morning sky. In April, Pearl Linton and Thomas Atkinson of Alberta, British Columbia, were alarmed by the sudden cackling of the chickens and quacking of their ducks. Looking up, they saw two bright aluminum-colored objects, at high altitude, seemingly “travelling on edge.”
Another story from early 1947 came to light thirty years later. On a dark night in March of 1947, sixteen-year-olds Don Fingado and Douglas Thomas moved stealthily over the rooftops of Alamosa, Colorado. Well above the level of the streetlights, they scurried along, leaping from roof to roof. What they were doing on the rooftops that night at 9:00 PM, Fingado did not say, but he did report what may be the first sighting in the North American wave of 1947.
It happened that, while he hung from his fingertips, preparing to drop from one roof top to a lower roof, he saw a glowing object, radiating a dull deep red color, rapidly approaching in the sky from the northeast. Frightened by the speed of the hurtling object, he called to Thomas, “Duck! A Meteor!” The object did not strike. Instead it decelerated, leveled out and quickly passed overhead toward the south at what appeared to be about 1,000 feet of altitude.
The object moved smoothly. It made no sound whatsoever. It’s color seemed to shift from red to yellow.
Fingado described it as oval or circular as it passed overhead, but Thomas, who only caught sight of it after it had already passed over, described it as triangular. The object moved smoothly. It made no sound whatsoever. It’s color seemed to shift from red to yellow, perhaps reflecting the city’s lights, as it flew over Alamosa. Fifteen seconds or less from the initial sighting, the object disappeared over the southern horizon. The boys reported the encounter to their high school science teacher. A year later, Fingado submitted a report to a government agency. Thirty years later, he was still thinking about the night on the rooftops, and he submitted the story to the UFO Examiner.
Sometime during the last week of May, a prominent Augusta Georgia physician, Dr. Colden R. Battey, was enjoying a morning of fishing about two miles offshore at St. Helena Sound, near Beaufort, South Carolina when he spotted four bright discs overhead. They appeared silvery and “highly polished.” They travelled southeasterly at what he guessed to be an altitude of more than 20,000 feet, traversing the sky in less than twenty seconds. They made no noise at all. He described them as extremely bright, spinning on their axis with a circular rim around their lower quarter.
In Vancouver, BC, the story about Kenneth Arnold inspired one woman, who refused to allow the newspapers to print her name, to report her own encounter from a month earlier. She told the newspaper that “she saw some vaporous disc-shaped objects swoop over her house.” When asked why she had not reported it then, she replied that she did not tell anyone because “people would think I was crazy.”
As the month of June began, the frequency of sightings seems to have increased. Bloecher compiled forty-nine UFO reports from more than seventy-five witnesses for the period spanning June 1-June 24. While on a June 2 camping trip along the Red River, Carl Achee and John Scales of Shreveport, Louisiana saw a strange circular object in the sky. Achee could describe only the object as being “circular and silver” hovering in the sky in the direction of the sun. He said it disappeared and reappeared several times, but he felt confident that it could not have been an optical illusion.
Seven Union Pacific railroad workers observed nine silver colored objects flying over Hollister, Idaho about June 6. Crew foreman B. G. Tiffany said, “They were shaped much like planes and had faint black markings at the tips of the wings.” Yet the flight inspired an argument among the men as to the exact nature of the craft, suggesting that they were something other than conventional aircraft. Tiffany explained, “They were in V-formation, approaching from the direction of Nat-Soo-Pah, absolutely silent … They had no propellers or other visible means of locomotion. Their direction was three points south of due west, which we checked with a compass.” The crew watched the formation of silver colored objects move over several miles at a speed they estimated to be around 200 miles per hour. The formation passed “quite near the Amsterdam elevator” which might imply that the objects flew at a low elevation. Tiffany said, “Then about one mile west of the railroad track, they went into a tight spiral, without breaking formation, and climbed clear out of sight.” Some of the crew members argued that the objects must of have been enormous birds, and they maintained that the wings seemed to flap as they objects climbed, but Tiffany insisted that this was only an illusion as the objects banked to turn. When reports of similar sightings began to become front page news, Tiffany sent his story to the Twin Falls Times, stating that he and the other men were reading the stories with great interest, hoping that they might settle the argument as to the nature of the flying objects they had seen in early June.
Mrs. Emma Shingler of Bremerton, Washington saw more than one “platterlike” light-reflecting object flying west out over the Pacific at tremendous speed on either June 17 or 18. “I thought surely nothing could travel so fast,” she said. On the evening of June 17, two additional Bremerton witnesses, Mr. and Mrs. Howard K. Wheeler, reported seeing three flying discs heading out to sea. Mrs. Wheeler said she called her husband out of the house to see the phenomena, and he arrived just on time to see the last one before it disappeared from sight. Her observation that the objects wavered from side to side seemed similar to Arnold’s description of the object’s skipping motion.
Professor E. B. McGilvery, professor emeritus of Philosophy and “one of the most respected and conservative men ever connected with the University [of Wisconsin, Madison],” reported that he too had seen one of the so-called flying saucers, several days before the Kenneth Arnold story appeared. After a night of cards at the house of a friend, he stepped out of the house and into the late summer night. A bright object racing across nighttime sky caught his eye. It looked to be a “round illuminated object about two-thirds the size which the moon normally appears.” At first he assumed it to be an unusually large meteor, but it moved too slowly, left no trail of light, nor did it appear to be burning through the atmosphere but, rather, it looked as if it was self-illuminated. He lost sight of the rapidly moving light when it disappeared behind tree tops.
One week before Kenneth Arnold reported seeing that strange formation of unidentified objects, a resident of the city of Eugene, Oregon climbed Skinner’s Butte, a prominent hill that rises two hundred feet above the city, to take advantage of the view while testing his new camera. It was Wednesday afternoon, June 18, 1947, around 2:15 PM. The June 26, edition of the Eugene Guard identified the photographer as E. H. Sprinkle of 503 Pearl Street, and it further reported that he had paid a handsome sum of three and a half dollars for the new camera.
Mr. Sprinkle spotted a formation of high-flying objects moving rapidly to the northeast. He caught only a fleeting glimpse, but not so fleeting that he did not have time to snap a photograph.
From his vantage point atop Skinner’s Butte, Mr. Sprinkle spotted a formation of high-flying objects moving rapidly to the northeast. He caught only a fleeting glimpse, but not so fleeting that he did not have time to snap a photograph with his new camera. Half a dozen other Eugene residents saw the same formation racing overhead, but none of them happened to have cameras in their hands.
Mr. Sprinkle thought the sighting strange, but he said nothing about the event until a week later when he read about Kenneth Arnold’s June 24 sighting of a similar phenomenon. Sprinkle wondered if he might have captured on film the same objects described by Arnold. Mr. E. H. Sprinkle’s chance snapshot may be the first photograph of an Unidentified Flying Object ever taken—certainly the first photograph taken in the 1947 wave.
The Eugene Guard said that “enlargements of the pictures failed to show anything,” and when the Associated Press picked up the story, they said that the photograph showed “nothing but clear sky.” The following day, however, the Eugene Guard retracted its statement that Mr. Sprinkle’s photograph showed nothing but sky. A closer examination of the photograph “revealed seven dots apparently ‘V’ or ‘X’ shaped. They were grouped in what could be military formation.” That description probably means to imply that the seven dots seemed to be arranged in an V or X formation, not that the dots were V-shaped or X-shaped.
The Eugene Guard also had more reports of local sightings to add. For example, when neighborhood children alerted Mrs. L. Stuart to the presence of “round, silver things moving real fast” that “looked real high,” she came out from her house and observed the objects herself for a few minutes. She assumed the silvery objects were part of some sort of advertising stunt, as did W. J. Seaver who reported more than two hundred silvery objects leisurely drifting over his farm around June 21-22. He thought the objects to be some type of gimmick launched from an advertising plane, but he could not identify the type of plane from which he presumed the objects had come. Nor could he determine the size or speed of the strange objects. To him, they looked like a flock of geese in flight. They did not lose altitude but rather drifted along with the wind, fluttering in the sunlight, disappearing to the south.
When examined under a microscope, the negative revealed that the dots all showed a similar shape.
Newspaper photographers objected that the small, nearly indiscernible dots on Mr. Sprinkle’s photograph might simply be explained as imperfections on the negative created by improper developing, but when examined under a microscope, the negative revealed that the dots all showed a similar shape. The photograph was never published, and as the summer sightings became more ubiquitous, E. H. Sprinkle and his ambiguous photograph were forgotten.
In early July, as the wave of sightings and media reports approached its crest, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Housel of Richfield, Idaho told the Twin Falls Times News that the people of their community had seen one of the “flying objects” pass over Richfield on June 20. An additional witness by the name of Sherman Coffman corroborated the report. “The Richfield residents said it was headed west at a high rate of speed and seemed to be whirling. A thin trail of white smoke was left behind the ‘flying disc’ as it skimmed extremely high through the air.” All three witnesses declared that they were “certain it was not an airplane,” but the vapor trail left in the object’s wake suggests that the residents of Richfield might have seen a jet passing over. Most of the discs and flying saucers reported in 1947 had no vapor trails. It’s impossible to know whether the witnesses reported the object’s motion as “whirling” or the news writer added that description as an embellishment. 
Four days before Kenneth Arnold sighted nine discs whizzing through the atmosphere above Washington State, Mrs. Annabel Koons Mobley and her daughter Luanne saw nine discs cartwheeling above Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Truth or Consequences has something of a reputation for the unusual and the weird. Originally a geothermal spa city with the predictable name Hot Springs, the city changed its name in 1950 when Ralph Edwards, the host of the popular radio show Truth or Consequences, announced that he would air the program’s tenth anniversary broadcast from the first town to take the name of the show. Hot Springs officially became Truth or Consequences on March 31, 1950. Today the quirky spa town has sci-fi associations, having achieved notoriety as the site of a major Zygon invasion in the British TV series Doctor Who. (It also features the world’s first commercial spaceport, Spaceport America, which is to be the headquarters of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority in cooperation with Virgin Galactic.)
In the late 1940s, the location had associations with nuclear testing. Truth or Consequences is in the middle of nowhere, 120 miles north of El Paso and 150 miles south of Albuquerque. It’s also in the vicinity of both the Trinity Atomic Bomb Site where the world’s first nuclear device was exploded on July 16, 1945 and the White Sands Missile Range. That may be why Annabel Mobley assumed that the aerial phenomenon she saw might be best explained as the byproduct of nuclear testing.
Mrs. Mobley read the AP story about Kenneth Arnold’s sighting in the June 26 edition of the Albuquerque Journal. The June 27 edition followed up with an additional front-page AP feature including the story of E. H. Sprinkle on Skinner’s Butte and a several other early sightings. The June 28 edition of the Albuquerque Journal also had the first New Mexico sighting to report. Mrs. Mobley read about Dr. R. F. Sensenbaugher, a dentist at Silver City, New Mexico who claimed that he and several members of his family had seen an “extremely brilliant” disc about half the size of a full moon sail out of the north around 8:00 PM Wednesday, June 25—the day after Arnold’s sighting. The disc disappeared over the southern horizon a few seconds later.
In the same edition of the paper, Lt. Col. Harold R. Turner, commander of White Sands Proving Grounds, speculated that the discs might be nothing more than jet plans with a “circular exhaust pipe” that “when heated might give an illusion of discs.” Two days later, Turner abandoned that theory in favor of the explanation that the objects were meteors “coming closer to the surface of the earth.”
The accumulation of speculations and additional stories about local sightings inspired Mrs. Mobley to take her daughter on the 150-mile road trip to Albuquerque for the purpose of reporting her own sighting to a reporter at the Journal. She described how, on June 20, she and her daughter had seen three groups of three discs, nine altogether, moving from the south in a northeasterly direction over Hot Springs. She knew that what she had seen was neither the circular exhaust of jet planes nor meteors coming close to the surface of the earth. Instead, the Mobleys initially assumed that they saw some type of huge balloons, tethered together: “Seemed to be fasted together by invisible cords.” The discs turned “in a wheel-like circle all at the same rate of revolution.”
A sober-minded and religious woman (a charter member of her Baptist Church), Mrs. Mobley did not suggest that she and her daughter had seen anything otherworldly. When asked for her opinion, Mrs. Mobley suggested that the discs might be some sort of “globules of gas or metal” returning to earth after having been created by an atomic bomb explosion.
On Sunday, June 22, just two days before Kenneth Arnold’s sighting, H. E. Hammond and his son, L. V. W. Hammond, the secretary manager of Eastern Oregon Federal Savings and Loan Association, saw what they described as a “flying pie plate” over Radium Springs, Oregon. That same day, Dr. G. Oliver Dickson of El Paso, Texas saw an object near the outskirts of El Paso. He said the object “looked like a blimp” travelling over the top of Mount Franklin. “Although it appeared bright and shiny, it did not reflect the sun’s rays.” He observed the object for about fifteen seconds, estimated its speed to be about 150 miles an hour and its size to be thirty to forty feet across and five feet thick. “It hurtled over Mt. Franklin and disappeared over Mexico.” A photograph distributed by NEA Telephoto depicts Dickson holding two pie pans together to show the shape of the disc he saw.
The Project Blue Book Files contain a report for that same day from Edward L. de Rose of Greenfield, Massachusetts who claimed to have seen a “brilliant, small, round-shaped, silvery white object … that reflected the sunlight very strongly as though it were of polished aluminum or silver” flying swiftly to the northwest at an estimated altitude of 1,000 feet or more. He kept the object in view for eight or ten seconds until it was obscured by a cloud bank. The witness insisted that the object did not resemble a weather balloon. He added, “I can assure you, it was very real.” 
Mrs. Hanna Smith lived with her son Earl on a farm in the North Platte valley, about eight miles northwest of Northport, Nebraska. The day before the Kenneth Arnold incident, she had her own sighting of flying discs. She did not report the incident until more than a week later when she began to see similar stories in the newspaper. On Thursday, July 3, she contacted the Scottsbluff Star-Herald and told them her story. On the morning of June 23, Mrs. Smith was in the yard of her home when she noticed that something had spooked her chickens. As the disturbed chickens retreated into the safety of the chicken house, Mrs. Smith noticed two disc-shaped objects, which she described as “flatter than a pancake,” flying over-head. She estimated their height to be about two miles. By comparison, when an airplane passed over a short time later, she noted that it flew at a much lower altitude than the discs.
The publicity around Kenneth Arnold’s sighting encouraged E. B. Parks to report his own. On June 23, the day before Arnold’s encounter, Parks saw two illuminated discs fly at high speed, low over Hazel Green, Alabama. Whatever it was that he had seen, he felt that the phenomenon was so unusual that, until he read the story of Arnold’s encounter, he did not report it for fear that others would disbelieve his account. According to the article in the Huntsville Times, however, a dozen other witnesses saw the flyover too. That same evening, in Wapakoneta, Ohio, Richard Bitters, the editor of the Wapakoneta Daily News was returning home from a movie with his wife when they both saw a “saucer-like object flying an uneven course in the sky, and weaving in and out of view.” Bitters did not report the incident or run a story about in the Daily News until two weeks later, at the height of the wave, when virtually every newspaper in America was publishing stories of sightings. Bitters explained that, at the time, “I didn’t think it was a news story.” When he finally did print the story, the United Press picked it up as follows:
The nation’s most embarrassed saucer-seer today was Richard L. Bitters, editor of the Wapakoneta Daily News. Bitters revealed that he and his wife saw a number of the flying objects on the night of June 23—two days before they were first reported in the Pacific northwest. But Editor Bitters sat on his scoop for two weeks before he could get up the nerve to report it.
Read the whole story of the 1947 UFO Wave, “Flying Saucers 1947.”