64 Years On, The Mariana UFO Footage Still Has Experts Divided
August 1950 - On a clear morning in Great Falls Montana, Nick Mariana, the manager of minor-league baseball team was surveying an empty ballpark with his secretary Virginia Raunig when the pair were alerted to the presence of two strange objects in the sky. The objects were so bizarre that Mariana felt compelled to film them with his 16mm color video camera. Almost 64 years on, the Mariana UFO footage remains one of the most heavily investigated pieces of UFO evidence in existence. Dozens of experts from the Air Force, the US Government and documentary film projects have studied Mariana's footage, and only a handful think they have even the slightest clue what is contained within it.
Mariana describes the objects - seen in the clip above- as being bright, silvery and approximately 50 feet in diameter. He added that they appeared to be rotating as they hurtled across the sky at speeds of around 400 mph. As the General Manager of the Great Falls Electrics baseball team, Mariana was a prominent member of the community and it is believed that he showed the footage to a number of people following the incident. The incident soon became the talk of the town and was covered by local newspaper, The Great Falls Tribune. Clearly excited by what they had seen, a member of staff at The Tribune contacted officials at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. At the time, Wright-Patterson was the home of Project Grudge, the Air Force's official UFO investigation mission that would eventually give way to Project Blue Book. Upon hearing of the footage, representatives from Project Grudge immediately reached out to Mariana and his colleague Raunig for permission to commence their investigation.
Both Mariana and Raunig gave their testimonies to Captain John P. Brynildsen of the US Air Force. They remarked that prior to the sighting, they had both seen a pair military fighter jets flying in the same area, but both stressed they did not believe these were the objects on Mariana's film. After much cajoling, Mariana agreed to hand over the footage to Brynildsen and an official investigation was soon underway. It would eventually transpire that this investigation was somewhat of an anticlimax. Mariana was given a straightforward response by investigators who said his film showed nothing of note and that the objects were simply reflections of the aforementioned fighter jets. But when the film was returned to him, Mariana claimed that the most important frames of the film were missing. These frames reportedly showed the objects rotating as the flew across the sky. The matter was never resolved and is, to this day, drawn upon by believers as a rebuttal to the arguments of sceptics who claim Mariana's footage is unremarkable.
Over the next 20 years, Mariana's footage would be subjected to at least three more official investigations. In 1952, analysts at Wright-Patterson once again studied the footage for the purposes of Project Blue Book. The fresh investigation yielded a different conclusion to that of its predecessor with investigators refuting the 1950 claims that the objects were fighter jet reflections. However, when it came to providing an answer for what the objects actually were, the investigators drew a blank. Captain Ruppelt, one of the men who studied the footage was quoted as saying "We drew a blank on the Montana Movie, it was an unknown".
In 1966, the waters around Mariana's footage were muddied even further when Doctors Roy Craig (Physicist) and David Saunders (Psychologist) were tasked with investigating it for the US Government's Condon Committee. After studying the footage and interviewing both Mariana and Raunig, the pair came out on different sides of the argument. Saunders was convinced that Mariana's footage served as proof that alien beings had visited our planet, even going as far as saying that it "was the one sighting of all time that did more than any other single case to convince me that there is something to the UFO problem."
Craig disagreed. He believed Mariana was a fraud and drew confidence on his stance from conversations with Raunig who had labelled her old boss a "promoter". Craig was shocked that his colleague could be so convinced that Mariana's grainy footage represented evidence of extraterrestrial visitation.
Perhaps most interestingly, the two investigators couldn't even agree on which date the footage was shot on. Mariana had claimed the footage was shot on the morning of August 15th, but documents from Craig's investigation showed that the Physicist had done some digging and revealed that not only were the Electrics not scheduled to play at home that day, but they weren't even scheduled to play in the state and were instead playing 500 miles away at Twin Falls, Idaho. This added credence to Craig's questioning of Mariana's character. If he had lied about the date, what else had he tried to cover up?
But is calling Mariana's character into question enough to throw this case out? The fact is, official analysis of the footage has not been able to comprehensively conclude what exactly the objects are. This fact alone makes the Mariana UFO incident such a compelling story, a story that will likely be debated for years to come.