The UFO Iconoclast(s)

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Trent/McMinnville “Ladder Boy” Brouhaha by Anthony Bragalia

A McMinnville UFO article has stirred some up recently when I ran an image of Paul Trent’s boy standing on a ladder. The kid was perched up in the very area where his father had taken two UFO pictures. These pictures are believed my many today to have been hoaxed. The ‘ladder boy’ photo is a very provocative photo that could impact the authenticity of two highly controversial UFOs photos made in Oregon in 1950 by farmer Trent.


James Oberg is a well-known space journalist who has professional ties to NASA .

Oberg admitted just earlier today to researcher Lance Moody that he is indeed responsible for having posted the incriminating ‘ladder boy photo’ on a website a long time ago. He has agreed that was wrong to have done so.

Moody has conceded that Oberg was “mistaken” to have posted the photo. We can all certainly agree that it has caused many problems.

Oberg is known to be rabidly skeptical about “things UFO.“ So much so that in 2009 Oberg deliberately planted a troubling photo on an ATS website forum. It was a picture of Paul Trent’s boy on a ladder. The kid had a mischievous grin and was posed directly under the area that a UFO had been captured on film by his father. Oberg is the first person to have ever placed this image on the net. When Oberg was asked about the origin of the photo, Oberg replied that LIFE had bought the rights,’- that the image had been acquired by them. Of course LIFE photographer Loomis Dean, who went to the Trent farm, was a LIFE employee. His pictures did not have “rights” that could be “bought” or “acquired.”

More importantly, Oberg did not post the other LIFE Trent farm images, just the ‘ladder boy’ photo. Why? He had to have known that there was a series of Trent farm photos, but he chose to selectively post only the one that would immediately suggest a hoax.


Oberg’s “mistake” was apparently repeated on another site some years later. I next saw the Oberg image posted this past summer on another well-known paranormal website, Unexplained Mysteries. A long-time, respected poster there had reproduced the ladder boy image, adding the statement: “from the same roll of film as the UFO photos.


I reviewed the online LIFE gallery of work by photographer Loomis Dean before I had published the article. There were several wonderful LIFE photos that Dean did over the years, but nothing on McMinnville. An individual emailed me after the article had appeared. He explained that the reason that I could not access the Trent farm photos is because LIFE had since removed them from their site and had apparently archived them. I could not get what I did not even know existed.


That is it, the sum total on the matter. There was no nefarious intent on my part despite what some have maintained (and in sometimes unprofessional and even profane terms.)

And despite Oberg having posted this very same image on the net before I did, no one had ever seen fit to correct him in the three years in which he did so. Lance Moody has asked me for an apology on this , I wonder if he asked the same of Oberg?


The ‘boy on the ladder photo remains a provocative one, no matter the provenance. And if you examine the photos in the LIFE series of the Trent farm closely enough it becomes evident: it would be very easy place in which to fake a UFO. And a ladder and a helpful kid would certainly come in handy for a hoax…



  • I want to show you just what Bragalia brand "research" really is.

    Gilles Fernadez and I began asking about Tony's story right when it came out. I had never seen the ladder photo before and I wondered how in the world this had missed everyone's attention who had investigated the case.

    I (along with Gilles) just asked him how he had confirmed the story.

    With Bragalia, everything is drama and he never actually answered.

    Here is one of his responses:

    I simply cannot comment further than I have in a public forum on my sources on this for several reasons. But no, this was not done by a LIFE photographer, it was done by Paul.

    See the silly drama? How does it compare to his story today? His new story is that, uh, he saw it on the internet!

    In an email to me, Tony cried:

    ""You will not force me to reveal sources. It is unconscionable to do so."


    So Gilles and I had a good time researching various parts of this case together over FaceBook. We began to smell a rat.

    Here is what Gilles and I posted here on this site on Tuesday :

    "Here is our current conclusion:

    The ladder photos (and several others apparently part of the same set) have not been confirmed to be on the same roll as the famous UFO photos as Tony claims.

    Indeed, there are details that tend to contraindicate the claim:

    A. The ladder photos (and the others) are presented as square in format. The Trent UFO photos are a wider landscape format. And yes, we realize that the photos could have been cropped.
    B. The poses bring to mind photojournalism, particularly the one of (presumedly) Mrs. Trent.
    C. Life photographer Loomis Dean definitely came out to the farm and took photos (his photos are square in format).
    D. No connection other than Tony's ever more dubious word has been offered as support of the idea.

    As far as we can tell, the idea that they were on the same roll may have originated with James Oberg on the ATS site but we suspect that he was mistaken. None of this discussion should be necessary. Tony made the claim but doesn't back it up."

    As you see, we mentioned the Oberg post right at the start. But for days after, Bragalia still INSISTED that he had other proof. Here is one of the many things he claimed:

    "My retired LIFE employee source indicated LIFE indeed had access to all of the negatives of pictures that were also on the UFO picture roll, confirming Oberg and the two Unexplained Mysteries researchers."

    Yes, Tony is saying that he independently confirmed the Oberg story.

    Maybe he realized that saying that his only source was just a post at a conspiracy discussion site with no attribution looks ridiculous?

    But notice that here today in Tony's new disingenuous post, there is no mention of his LIFE magazine source. I wonder why?

    Additionally Rich told me that Tony said that his LIFE source indicated that we were wrong about the photographer's name for the Mrs. Trent photo.

    Of course it did turn out to be Loomis Dean, just as we had suggested.

    Where is that LIFE magazine source? Hmmm...

    One of the first things I did was write to Oberg.

    Oberg immediately admitted he was mistaken when he heard the whole story and saw the evidence.

    My guess (which may be wrong) is that Oberg misunderstood an attribution on the LIFE photos.

    But then one has to wonder what Oberg told Tony before Tony rushed his claims to publication?

    You did contact Oberg first, didn't you, Tony? I mean he is your main source.

    Yeah, that's what I thought.

    I also need to mention that David Rudiak is the one who actually furnished the real evidence that finally caused Tony to cave. I offer many thanks to him.

    And Best Wishes for the holidays to him and whomever else is reading this crazy stuff!


    P.S. Please write to me if you want any part of this confirmed or if you have questions. I don't have any fake or secret sources.

    By Blogger Lance, at Friday, December 21, 2012  

  • Tony,

    Awesome... You have an uncredible very bad faith to now reject the entire fault to Jim Oberg. I dont find the words... Do yo remember what you said/wrote here, or you have yet forgotten? You need a refresh? Do you have already false memories few days after? Imagine 60+ years after...

    When Lance and myself doubted the pictures coming from the same roll for several reasons we have pointed in the other thread (or myself in UFO-Scepticisme forum in French), wasn't you who? :

    YOU CONFIRMED here black on white (or by PM) to have INDEPENDANT sources corrobating/confirming the pictures were from the very same roll, and particulary LIFE Magazine sources, but you cant reveal it. BTW, when dicovered this 'excuse", I wroted in the other thread "hoo, what a wild card" or something like that.

    In public then and here, in Richie's Blog, I quote you about this (SEE and TAKE how you pretexted independant and direct LIFE source(corroborating Oberg):

    "My retired LIFE employee source indicated LIFE indeed had access to all of the negatives of pictures that were also on the UFO picture roll, confirming Oberg and the two Unexplained Mysteries researchers."

    And now, your wild and "Magic the Assembly" supra-super card is that you have been abused by a vile Skeptic, Jim Oberg? Pffff, that's awesome...

    In essence, YOU INDICATED YOURSELF to your readers to have independant sources CORROBORATING/CONFIRMING J. OBerg and that the pictures are from the very same roll. It is black on white in this blog.

    And now, you find a new pale excuse, althought how you have operated here and to say:

    "Why I know the pictures comes of the very same roll? Hoo, I read it in a forum. So that's right and let it be."
    Seriously, if a DreamTeam investigator reads/heards something/a claim in a forum/the net (or anywhere) and TAKES IT as the VERY WELL TRUE, it says enough imho...

    On the other hand, we (Lance here) contacted Jim Oberg (and others) because we found here there was something not realy clear and probable mistake regarding the picture coming from the very same roll. There was none UFO-drama.

    Notice too how it was stated at the beginning e of our discussion by Lanc here in Rich'blog that we find that Jim Oberg was probably mistaken.
    We were in the very same way discussing it in Facebook too, without any drama
    When "we" wrote this in the blog commentaries, you replied to have independant source(s) and that Oberg was right (the quote I gived above). You have strangely forgotten. Hum...

    And now, your pale excuse is that you have been abused by J. Oberg? Uncredible bad faith...

    You corroborated "immediatly" him, invokating independant source(s)/proofes when we pointed to you he could probably mistaken.

    Allow me to think you read/heard the pictures come from the very same roll, and asked yourself none question about.

    Dunno if it is exactly how you generaly operate in your investigations, but this example says enough imho...


    Happy end of the year hollidays to each and all, best things and wishes to you, your family and closers.


    Gilles Fernandez

    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Saturday, December 22, 2012  

  • I wouldn't call it "crazy stuff", unless you think all ufology is crazy stuff. (Zoam, where are you?)

    Tony has done himself no favors, even though his thesis was that Trent's photos are a hoax.

    He simply fell into the trap of getting (probably) the right answer but using the wrong methodology to do so. Doing this opens you up to getting shot at by both skeptics and believers.

    In the case of Roswell, however, he gets the wrong answer (and will continue to do so in the 'dream team') by using similar methodology.

    As for secret, or confidential, sources, I think that for a 60 or 65-year old case this excuse is wearing very thin. Exceedingly thin indeed.

    His "retired LIFE employee source", eh?

    By Blogger cda, at Saturday, December 22, 2012  

  • Hello, all... a few various comments:

    Lance, I thought you did an excellent job during your recent podcast interview. I also thought the fundamental areas of contention were indeed at the heart of the matter of ufology 'research': those who selectively cite hearsay, fail to acknowledge whether or not they can, in fact, produce their alleged paradigm-shifting evidence for public/peer review and so on.

    On a related note (and now considering myself to have significant experience arguing about such matters, for better or worse), I personally feel a top factor in communication breakdown and resulting arguments is when discussion participants fail to provide direct answers to direct questions. This annoys those asking reasonable questions. The problem is greatly compounded when other discussion participants treat those asking the direct questions as if it is unreasonable for them to expect direct answers. Such dynamics, in effect, suggest we should not expect one another to be able to communicate clearly and directly (among other things it suggests).

    Perhaps solutions might include giving a bit more effort to providing direct answers to direct questions, whomever the participants may be and whatever the subject matter may include. Solutions might also include giving a bit more consideration to the extent we are willing to be held accountable for our assertions (prior to making them).

    Personally, I do not envision solutions include either failing to ask direct questions or supporting convoluted, indirect answers to such questions. I am of the opinion such options only add to a prevailing challenge: members of the UFO community failing to clearly understand alleged evidence is either available for public review or it is not. Such considerations of course take us into understanding differences between hearsay and fact, etc... and I personally feel that a big part of the problem is that most people simply neither understand nor accurately identify such differences. Most people just do not understand the difference between what they actually know and what they are told they know.

    @ Gilles:

    Thanks for your work on such issues. I appreciate it.

    You recently mentioned august11... Like you, I think he does good work. Actually, to an extent I wrote about him and his partners on my blogs.

    @ RR:

    Thanks for facillitating such discussions. It is appreciated.


    By Blogger Jack Brewer, at Saturday, December 22, 2012  

  • Anthony a great deal of your work's perfectly justified querying or critiquing of various cases.

    Many of your pieces maybe even all of 'em may be perfectly accurate takes on what actually happened.

    The problem for me though's you tend to oversell your wares and this tends to distract from what may be perfectly valid positions or even powerful insights.

    Trent's kid on the ladder may not've been on the original film but given the peculiar placing of the ladder it may've been Loomis Dean's way of signaling to the astute his own misgivings.

    This possibility alone made reviving the issue well worth your and our while but unfortunately your guerilla journalism style of rolling grenades in the room that go pop instead of bang sometimes makes it look like all you're delivering up're damp squibs.

    Then again if your approach's solely intended to get everyone's attention focused on issues of concern to you then I must commend you for being wildly successful.

    ps I'm constantly astounded at the irrationally manipulative levels supposedly rational scientific types like James Oberg and Carl Sagan're capable of stooping to. If the boot'd been on the other foot they'd've been screaming.

    According to Sagan us Anomalist/Daily Grail following types spend our nights haunted by demons but nowhere near as much as apparent rationalists like Sagan himself apparently.

    By Blogger alanborky, at Saturday, December 22, 2012  

  • Alan:

    See latest post here about LIFE photographer's "intent."


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, December 22, 2012  

  • Lance's #1 post:

    ...I respectfully suggest that you do NOT smell a rat.... but just a sad little mouse....

    Meow, baby...

    By Blogger Kurt Peters, at Thursday, December 27, 2012  

  • No secret about how I found the image, it was via a routine google image search on old UFO images, while looking for some other case photos. There was a photo archive from LIFE stating that it contained never-published file photographs. But recently the URLs seem to have changed along with the indexing. You're right, seeing the image on the same Life photo archive page as the saucer images, I did jump to the conclusion it was part of the same roll. The ladder issue 'fell into place' [too conveniently, as it turned out], because of on-going suspicion the object was a model hung with fishline from one or two spots on the overhead wire. A rough mapping of the yard and the different locations and lines-of-sight to the object raised the possibility -- but did not prove -- that the lines of sight could have criss-crossed under the wire, a suggestive but hardly definitive indication of a prosaic explanation. Your smarmy semantics aside, your description appears to be a useful contribution to better understanding the evidence, so good for you. It's not the first time, nor likely the last, that I get off-factual [but it IS mighty rare, all the same], so I'm grateful to folks checking up and complaining.


    By Blogger JimO, at Tuesday, January 01, 2013  

  • JimO...

    We've all moved on, considerably, debating some of the issues you bring up.

    The newer postings above with comments should help clarify the matters relevant to the topic.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, January 01, 2013  

Post a Comment

<< Home