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(originally published July 2010)

After six decades the truth has emerged about the infamous Maury Island UFO incident of 1947. It was a hoax. It finds its roots in fiction and fantasy, as revealed in candid and damning interviews with Maury Island UFO "witness" Harold Dahl's own son and daughter. The hoax is further detailed in a careful re-examination of the "mysterious" figure Fred Crisman.

It is alleged that in June of 1947, seaman Harold Dahl was with his son scavenging for drifting logs near Maury Island in Puget Sound in Washington State when Harold sighted several "donut shaped objects" flying in formation over his boat. He claimed that one of the discs appeared to lose control after being tapped by another disc, spewing out slag and strange pieces of light metal material which hit his boat. The falling UFO debris supposedly injured Harold's son Charles and

Maury Island, Piner Point

killed the family dog. His story was reported to his co-worker Fred Crisman and was later promoted by publisher Ray Palmer.


The event- which has stirred the imaginations of many over decades- was itself born of imagination. It simply never happened. Harold Dahl's own family and the sage perspective of history now reveal: The only reality about the "incident" was that it was conjured up in the mind of an enterprising and attention-craving 27 year-old schemer and amateur fiction writer.



Though this incredible sighting was alleged to have occurred on June 21, 1947 (just days before pilot Kenneth Arnold's seminal sighting and just weeks before the Roswell crash) no real verification exists of this except the say-so of Crisman and Dahl. It was not until July 22, when Kenneth Arnold himself received a letter from Ray Palmer, publisher of Amazing Stories, requesting that he investigate the incident, that it became publicly known. It was later still when Army Air Corps officers came to investigate the event at the behest of Arnold.

Dahl reports (depending on the source) having observed between 4 to 6 donut-shaped metallic discs about 100 feet in diameter. He said that he could see circular portholes around them, with blue sky showing through the craft's center holes. The UFOs, Dahl said, had been flying together in a pattern from about 2000 feet down to just 500 feet above. He said that one appeared to have been in distress when bumped by a nearing disc. After the hot slag from the crippled disc rained onto the boat, boy and dog, the damage was assessed. The dead dog was buried at sea and the boy had apparently sustained a burned arm.


Rather than calling an official resource, Dahl elected to immediately contact his co-worker about the incident. The co-worker (with whom he retrieved errant floating logs for return to a sawmill to be used as raw lumber) was one Fred Crisman.


Crisman seemed to control the information about the incident from the beginning- and allegedly even wrote letters to

inquirers about the incident on behalf of Dahl or even pretending to be Dahl. Crisman- whom it will be shown was a hustler and pathological deceiver- held a strange hold on the meeker Dahl. This is especially interesting in that it has been confirmed that it was Crisman who actually worked for the older Dahl. Little-appreciated is that Crisman was an adventuresome 27 year old at the time of the "incident." It was in fact Dahl who had title to and owned the vessel used for salvaging (which was in fine condition and not decrepit, as some have erroneously reported.) Dahl was an independent businessman sometimes working in tandem with the Harbor Patrol Association.


Still, Dahl was somehow induced to go along with a lot of things said by Crisman. Dahl even later stated that he had taken photos of the saucers. When asked by Kenneth Arnold to produce them, Dahl went out to his car where he said that he had stored them in his glove compartment, but reported back that he could not find them. Crisman would state some twenty years later that he too had copies, but could not find them.


Dahl also stated that he was visited the day after his UFO sighting by a man in a black suit driving a 1947 black Buick. The mystery man told Dahl that he best keep silent about the incident if he knew what was good for him. Upon learning that the two Army Air Corps officers whom Arnold brought in to investigate had perished in the plane taking them back, Dahl made himself very scarce for some time. He later would say that the whole story was made up, but seemed to recant that in later years when reached for comment.

Maury Island slag
Only known photo of Maury Island UFO debris - August 1947 Tacoma Times

When evaluated, the flying saucer debris material itself was found to be totally terrestrial. It was likely volcanic or mill slag. It possessed no unusual characteristics to make anyone seriously believe that it was from another world. Pilot Kenneth Arnold – though not a trained investigator – said that the metal part of the debris reminded him of aluminum scrap and that he even had noted a square rivet on one piece!




In all retellings of the Maury Island tale, it is said that Harold Dahl's then 15 year old son Charles Dahl had "come along for the ride" on one of the log retrieval expeditions. It is further alleged that during the encounter, one of the saucers had ejected a slag material that hit and severely burned Charles' arm, requiring medical treatment.

There is only one problem with this stunning scenario: Charles Dahl himself said that it never happened! The very child who was supposedly struck by slag from a saucer- as an adult says that he was never even there! He was likely as perplexed as all of us about why his father would ever have involved him in such a tall tale. But he gives a clue as to why this may be so in describing an amateur Svengali named Fred Crisman. And it is now known that Harold's claims and sudden change in behavior were upsetting to the Dahl family.


Some time ago a husband and wife research team located Charles Dahl and conversed with him about the incident. Kalani Hanohano is a long-time UFO researcher. Back in the late 1960's he was MUFON Washington State Director, a civilian UFO research organization. Having lived in Hawaii, WA and CA, Hanohano is now an ex-pat retiree living on Spain's Canary Islands with his wife Katiuska. Hanohano and his wife still remain UFO enthusiasts though are not as active in the field as they were many years ago.


Hanohano, having lived in Washington State, had long been fascinated by the Maury Island story. He and his wife had undertaken to closely examine the lives of Fred Crisman and Harold Dahl. He and his Katiuska had in fact even managed to locate Harold Dahl's son Charles, who has since passed. When found and reached at his home in Hammond, LA, Charles Dahl spoke sparingly and cautiously to the Hanohanos. But he did confirm for them that Crisman, "was a smooth-talking con artist" for whom he had no respect- and Charles directly and unequivocally confirmed to them that "the Maury Island incident was a hoax." It is evident that Charles Dahl did not like Crisman for having involved him and his father in the whole thing.


Likely embarrassed by his father Harold having been so easily and so fully "taken in" and influenced by Crisman, Charles rarely spoke about the"event" - even to family. Charles Dahl was curiously never interviewed at the time of the event. He appeared to have been kept away from it all by the adults, including by Crisman. There appear to be no hospital records to verify Charles had medical treatment for being struck and burned by falling hot slag.


On the very face of it, the account makes no sense: If a child suffered the horrendous impact of rock and metal raining down upon him from hundreds of feet above- so hot that it burned skin, and falling so fast that it killed an animal- the child would probably have been killed. Minimally the boy would have been permanently disabled. And there appear to be no police, fire, or property or accident insurance records that would support the occurrence of the incident as described. As will be shown next, Charles's own sister said that her brother was never maimed in such a way.


Based on his research and his interview of Charles Dahl, Hanohano says: "If there is a term that continually characterizes Fred Crisman, that term would be con man." Hanonhano's professionalism and accuracy is apparently vouched for by respected researcher Jerome Clark, who also briefly notes this Hanohano-Dahl interview in Strange Skies.


Little known too is that a stringer and informant for the FBI met with Harold Dahl at his house. Dahl's wife was very upset and perplexed by her husband's tall tale and was heard to say "Quit lying about this!." She then attacked Dahl with a knife! The father's lies- and Crisman's scheming- were obviously not welcome by Dahl's wife and his son. The father's behavior under Crisman's "spell" seemed to have brought them to the breaking point.




More recent confirmation comes from Harold Dahl's daughter, who is still living. She too says that "nothing ever happened."


She echoes the information obtained by the Hanohanos' interview with her brother Charles. Louise Bakotich (maiden name Louise Dahl) of Aberdeen in Grays Harbor County in Washington State is now nearly 80 years old. She has stated flat out to a Seattle Post Intelligencer (Seattle PI) reporter on April 23, 2007 that her brother Charles did not have such an encounter.


Still clear-headed, she told journalist Casey McNerthney- and others who have inquired- that her brother never mentioned anything at all about a mysterious death of their family dog or that he was ever injured by hot slag in such an incident. It would have been a traumatic event that she surely would have remembered had it happened to one of her own brothers. Charles was never rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment of burns. Louise was just a couple of years older than Charles at the time of the Maury Island sighting, and knew nothing of her brother's "involvement." She dismisses the whole thing as ridiculous.


It is likely Louise Dahl is telling the truth. She should be supporting the Maury story in support of her father, not denying it. And Dahl's daughter did not come forward with this information, rather she was sought out and approached. So untainted was she in speaking about this that one person had to mail to her the details on an event she never knew or believed to have happened.


And it is of course inconceivable that- had such an event really transpired- Louise would not recall the loss of her own family dog knocked dead at sea! It is equally inconceivable that she would not remember the simultaneous burning and wounding of her own kid brother! If such events had truly occurred, it would have mentally scarred her for life. Perhaps out of respect for a now elderly lady, no one has seemed to dare ask Louise why she thinks that her father told such a strange story in the first place.


Given the venomous characterization of Crisman by her brother Charles, we likely have the answer: When she much later learned all of the details and hoopla surrounding the "incident", Louise probably realized just how impressionable, trusting and easily "drawn in" her beloved father had been as a young man. Like her late brother, she surely wishes her Dad had never gotten involved with such a man as Crisman, who would take advantage of someone for self gain.



Over the years, many authors have tried to make Fred Crisman "mysterious." And Fred Crisman himself liked to appear "mysterious." He has been variously linked to the JFK assassination, as having been one of the "three tramps" at the Grassy Knoll, and to have been at the center of other "conspiracies." None of this is true- and nothing could be further from the truth than Fred Crisman.

Fred Crisman
Fred Crisman

Fred Crisman's story of Maury Island was told in 1947. And 1947 is also the very year that the movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was released. It starred Danny Kaye as a daydreamer who wanted to be somebody other than himself...and Fred Crisman was a real-life Walter Mitty.

A critical review of Crisman's life reveals an individual who indulged himself and others in his fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs and intrigue. There was nothing "official" about Fred Crisman. He was a self-promoter and teller of tall tales. He was similar to such

latter-day con men as Richard Doty, Bob Lazar, Phil Corso and Gordon Novel. All of these types feel compelled to insert themselves into history and have others play into their Mitty-like "mysteries." They are not "official" disinformers acting under government auspice- nor do they have any "special knowledge" about the UFO "core story." They are simply jesters and underachievers who crave attention. They often play off "six degrees of separation" relationships with people of real accomplishment. The only thing "deep" about them is perhaps their mental pathology.

The sad truth is that Crisman was a lonely "only child" and the son of an old-school salesman. Like many "only children", Crisman probably developed a rich fantasy life early on in his life. This is surely in evidence by his 20s when he was a hobbyist fantasy writer. And Crisman needed the attention as an adult that he had received when growing up as a child without siblings.


He mastered his mad skills in conmanship from his promoter-father, whom he idolized. The power of persuasion and over-claiming was learned well by young Crisman. It was his Dad whom he was named after and for whom he named his own son. In 1947, Crisman was a young man, 27 years old and hungry to make a name for himself- and maybe a little money while he was at it. How could a young college grad- reduced to picking up scrap for lumber- combine his dull life scavenging logs on the water with his penchant for fiction writing (see below) into something more exciting? He could tie it in to a spectacular flying saucer event seen from the boat that he worked on!


A man of minor achievement when older, Fred Crisman was a failed politico and media wannabe who had loose and accidental connections to some in government and intelligence. He used alias names, such as "Jon Gold" and imagined himself as more important than he ever would be in reality. He hosted a poorly-received and short-running radio talk show under this name on the KAYE radio station in tiny Puyallup, WA. He also wrote a dreadful book under the name Jon Gold on imagined conspiracies in Tacoma politics called "The Murder of a City, Tacoma." One reviewer described Crisman's writing: "He manages to tie corruption in Tacoma to everything from Communist infiltrators to the Kennedy assassination." The reviewer laments Crisman's "paranoid tone of the writing and shameless personal attacks."


Some uncritically conspiracy-minded say that Crisman himself was at the scene of the JFK murder. But records clearly indicate that Crisman was actually teaching high schoolers at Ranier High. Researcher Larry Hancock found the principal of the High School that briefly employed Crisman. In fact Hancock states that the principal truly disliked Crisman and that he had even sought to have him dismissed.


Crisman held many jobs, and none for long and none done well. He ran for City Council once and lost big, but was once given a seat on the board of the local library by the Mayor (Crisman's only "government appointment.") He worked at schools, libraries and radio stations. He was in the scrap business and he ran record promotion schemes. If you shift jobs and if you scheme for dollars and attention long enough, you are bound to run into all kinds of "intriguing" players. And Crisman did. But when critically examined, any "associations" that Crisman may have developed with politicians, the underground or other "colorful characters" were just coincidental, casual or embellished connections- or resulted from tangential relationships. There was nothing "mysterious" about Fred Crisman, just sad.


Researcher Larry Hancock has done a deep study of Fred Crisman. He observes: "There was a clear pattern of Crisman trying to create mysteries around himself, anything to give himself visibility. He was also a devotee of picking up government stationary and writing 'official' letters [author: like Rick Doty]. In one of his efforts he appears to try to associate himself with a mysterious domestic intelligence network." Hancock notes that Crisman even tried to scheme and dream up international plots of infiltration and influence of local Washington State school boards! Crisman appeared to enjoy creating controversy and conflict, playing strange roles in even local matters like schools and city government.


But the most telling things about this fantasy-prone, sorry man are the childish letters that he had written to publisher Ray Palmer that were composed before he had ever reported to Palmer on the Maury Island UFOs. In fact, when he was just 25 years old, Fred Crisman had written stories for publication in fiction pulp magazines about encountering an evil cave-dwelling race called "Dero." Like asylum patient Richard Shaver- a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic- Crisman promoted fantastical stories about "inner earth creatures" that dwell beneath us like devils, seeking to do us harm. Crisman wrote Palmer in the mid-1940s in published, delusional "Letters to the Editor" that- like Shaver- he too was fortunate enough to have successfully fended off these underground raygun-wielding beings! Crisman even claimed that he had fought his way out of a cave in Burma during WWII with a submachine gun, fighting off the underground meanies! So craven for attention was Crisman that he would support the certifiably insane Shaver and even involve his own boss Dahl and his family to get that attention. No wonder Dahl's son Charles loathed him. No wonder Dahl's daughter does not believe the tale he told.

Little-known is that Crisman (writing under a pseudonym) published an article in Palmer's Flying Saucers magazine in 1958- more than a decade after the Maury Island "sighting." He claimed that the Air Force had since installed armed military who were still guarding Maury Island! Of course this is a Crisman "fact" that was untrue, if checked! Even as late as 1967 he was trying to milk the Maury Island myth that he had created by

lecturing to a small Seattle UFO group. He said that he still had the Maury Island UFO photographs- but he never could produce them, even after two decades had passed. Crisman died young at 56 in modest circumstance and in relative obscurity in 1975.




The key to the answer to the Maury "question" is this: Crisman was an opportunist. He saw the "Shaver Mystery" with its "Deros" as a big attention-getting opportunity, so he latched on to Shaver and Palmer. He spun his own, grander tale about Deros to build on Shaver's. Crisman wrote to Palmer, "You can imagine my fright when I picked up my first copy of Amazing Stories and see you splashing words about on the subject." Crisman then "one-upped" Shaver in recounting a terrifying episode. Crisman said that he was inflicted with "two 9 inch wounds" from a Dero weapon- and that he still had the scars to prove it! Crisman had developed a hackneyed literary device – he had a "thing" about non-humans inflicting wounds on humans. Remember that Harold Dahl's son Charles was also "wounded" by the actions of ET.


In the same way that he had copied Shaver's Dero concept, Crisman saw the Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting as an opportunity to again gain personal attention, but now in an even bigger way. He quickly latched on to the then-emerging flying saucer mystery, and to saucer celebrity Kenneth Arnold (and again, to receptive Palmer.) He told them lies that his associate Dahl was involved in a sighting of flying saucers that even pre-dated Arnold's and that was even more dramatic!



The diminitive publisher Ray Palmer thought big. He relished such fantastic stories as Shaver's and Crisman's. It did not matter to Palmer that he mixed credible accounts like Arnold's with incredible accounts from those like Shaver and Crisman/Dahl. The only thing that mattered was the money made from increased sales to a gullible and eager readership. His stories and magazines were tailored to target adventure-loving teenage boys. Crisman himself was an overgrown kid, an immature adult.

In Crisman's scheming mind, the Maury Island UFO sighting would have to be "bigger than Arnold's." It was important to Crisman that "his sighting" was seen as even more spectacular than Arnold's- and that it had

occurred even before Arnold's. Of course, the incident did not happen before Kenneth Arnold's sighting because the Maury Island UFO incident never happened. The Maury Incident did not pre-date Kenneth Arnold's sighting or the Roswell crash, rather its false story was inspired by them and then backdated.




Crisman drew upon elements of genuine UFO encounters such as Arnold's and Roswell because Crisman was good at copying. Crisman was not capable of such an original recounting as would be found in a real UFO sighting. Instead, he stole elements of Arnold's story (and likely from elements of the Roswell crash) and built on them- inserting his easily-persuaded co-worker into the tale. Note that the UFOs reported by Dahl were circular saucers. They were not curved all-wing shaped like Kenneth Arnold's. It was only after the Arnold sighting was reported that the "saucer" term was used to describe UFOs. This shows that the Maury Island "UFO motif" was derived from "saucer" descriptors that were used after the Arnold sighting, though Dahl's sighting was supposedly from days before Arnold's sighting.




And Crisman was no "secret agent" either. Crisman's own son said that he did not believe that his father was "CIA" or in intelligence- because they never had enough money for that to have been true! The most "sinister" thing about Crisman is that he needlessly involved others in his attention-grabbing schemes. Crisman's folly caused two people to get involved in his hoax who were were killed in an air accident in so doing. These officers, Captain William Davidson and Lt Frank Brown, lost their lives when the aircraft that they flew back after investigating Maury Island had crashed. More than a prank gone wild, this prank had killed.

It is now time to "kill" the Maury Island flying saucer story. Charles Dahl- like his father Harold Dahl- got entangled in a web woven of lies. And the son's own words offer the simple solution to the Maury Island UFO mystery: It was a mystery imagined "by a smooth-talking con artist" named Crisman.

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