flying SAUCER: Mystery Sighting Over Mineral Coined One of Pop Culture’s Most Enduring Idioms
By Cody Neuenschwander
“Everyone says I’m nuts, and I guess I’d say it too if someone else reported those things. But I saw them and watched them closely. It seems impossible, but there it is,” said Kenneth Arnold sometime after an incident on June 24, 1947, that would birth one of pop culture’s most popular idioms.
Arnold, that day, was making a solo flight from Chehalis to his hometown of Boise, Idaho. Somewhere over the town of Mineral, he saw nine mysterious flying disks hovering near Mount Rainier.
At a pit stop in Yakima, Arnold told other pilots what he saw. News spread fast, and when he arrived in Pendleton, Oregon, reporters were ready, eager to hear about the encounter firsthand.
Arnold likened their movements to that of a saucer skipping over water. And thus, the term “flying saucer” was born.
On Sept. 21, the Lewis County Historical Museum plans to host an event honoring Lewis County’s deep and peculiar history of UFO lore.
“Since the Kenneth Arnold incident was such a big deal … in the UFO world, we decided to kind of focus on that for the event,” said Jason Mattson, director of the museum.
The Flying Saucer Party is the first of what Mattson hopes becomes an annual event. There will be a speaker series of UFO experts at the City Farm. The Chehalis Theatre is set to host a science-fiction movie marathon and other downtown businesses are being wrangled to host their own alien-themed festivities. The museum will hold exhibits exploring Lewis County’s UFO heritage.
Tickets for the speaker series and movie marathon will go for sale sometime in June, said Mattson. He advised that anyone interested get their tickets quickly — if last year’s mythology event at the museum was any indicator, the folks of Lewis County have a ravenous appetite for the weird.
Mattson, during a recent interview, said he wasn’t quite ready to identify the list of experts who will be speaking. Some things needed to be finalized, he said, but he was able to name one.
Vince Ynzunza, the co-host of the online documentary series “Pacific NorthWEIRD”, is set to open the speaker series and MC the event. Ynzunza said he planted the idea for the event a while back, saying that he had a vision for what an event of this sort would look like. Mattson contacted him sometime after, saying that he wanted to make that vision a reality. Pacific NorthWEIRD is a large sponsor of the event.
Lewis County has a number of UFO stories, Ynzunza said. Beyond the well-known story of Arnold, there’s the time a guy in Morton talked with a group of naked aliens in the woods, who told him the secrets of the universe. Numerous people have, at different times, reported seeing strange, seemingly unexplainable craft in the night sky.
These are the sorts of things Ynzunza has studied for a while, and he said Lewis County seems to have a higher concentration of these happenings than other places.
Why? A sense of rural seclusion might have something to do with it, he thinks.
“Out in the wilderness, out in parts of Washington or Oregon where you’re not consumed by light pollution or late-night activity in a big city, you tend to notice things more. You tend to look up in the sky a bit more and see more,” he said.
That theory applies to more than just UFOs. Lewis County has a rich surplus in stories about the mythical Bigfoot and creepy ghost stories.
And people are into it, he said.
During the museum’s mythology event last year, Ynzunza said he was happy to see the diverse crowd it drew. Seemingly everyone is at least a little interested in hearing some weird stories.
And even if UFOs aren’t really your thing, Ynzunza said there should be something for every level of interest. If nothing else, he said, it should be good for people-watching. It’s not out of the question that some will choose to attend in a wacky costume, like Bigfoot or an alien.
Someone should be around to help kids make their own flying saucers out of pie tins. A replica of R2-D2 from the “Star Wars” series will be there, hanging out, too, said Mattson.
“The idea that there are still mysteries in the world is one of the very few things that unites us. Beyond the political divisions and the cultural binds,” said Ynzunza.
“It’s one thing that we can all get behind — that we don’t know s***.”