GREAT FALLS — Tuesday marked the 73rd anniversary of one of the most famous UFO sightings — and it happened in Great Falls.
At 11:30 am on Aug. 15, 1950, Nick Mariana — the general manager for Great Falls' Pioneer League baseball team (at the time named the Selectrics) — was at Legion Park when something unusual caught his eye.
Mariana described seeing two objects with shiny bright metal about 50 yards apart. Both were the same size and were moving at the same rate of speed. He called his secretary out to be another witness before running to his car and grabbing his 16mm camera. He was able to film a couple seconds of footage before losing sight of the mysterious objects.
The story intrigued the general public for years — not because it was the first UFO sighting, but because it was one of the first to have video evidence.
That October, Mariana turned over the footage to the Air Force to study. Less than a week later Air Force officers said they couldn’t make out any flying saucers from Mariana’s film, and that it was too dark to distinguish any recognizable objects.
Mariana then claimed that there were frames missing from the film when it was returned to him. The Air Force said that a single frame was damaged in transportation, but other than that they returned the tape as they found it.
Whether Mariana saw UFOs or not, the sighting became famous for its video evidence.
Several years ago, the Great Falls baseball team used the supposed sighting as inspiration for updating its name from the White Sox to the Voyagers, and their mascot, Orbit.
“Now, what you don’t know in the footage is there may or may not have been an alien aircraft that landed here at the stadium,” said Scott Reasoner, president of the Voyagers. “And Orbit had been living at the stadium for quite some time. So, when the Voyagers were rebranding our name in the early 2000s, they were like, ‘What do we do, we can’t be the Great Falls White Sox anymore?’ And so they realized a UFO landed here at the ballpark and they went after that.”
Regardless of what you believe Mariana saw, the sighting is still famous and relevant in Great Falls today thanks to the Great Falls Voyagers.