Shanelle Schanz 

'In the UFO field, my grandfather is the godfather'

June 24, 1947, changed everything.

Go ahead, type the date into Google and you'll see more than 29 million results, many of them associated with Kenneth Arnold.

Arnold was a top salesman for the Boise-based Great Western Fire Control Supply, an accomplished aviator and an active member in the Idaho Republican Party--he would meet President Dwight Eisenhower and run an unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor of Idaho in 1962.

But it was what happened in June 1947, while Arnold was assisting in the search for the wreckage of a downed military plane near Mt. Rainier, Wash., that changed everything.

Nearly 70 years later, Boise Weekly met Boise native Shanelle Schanz to talk about her grandfather's legacy--leading him to be known as the "godfather of the modern UFO movement."

What's the best memory you have of your grandfather?

I was 6 years old in 1984. He sat me down and told me four things: He told me to think for myself, not to trust the government and... Sorry, but I don't remember the other two.

Did your grandfather have any interest or knowledge of UFOs before the 1947 incident?

Not at all. Honestly, his first instinct when he spotted the flying objects was that they were some kind of Russian intelligence aircraft.

So take us back to what he said about the original sighting.

It was a clear day over Mt. Rainer. He was part of a recovery effort of a crashed military aircraft. He actually coined the term "flying saucers" because he described them as saucers skipping on water. There were nine of them.

So how did all of this become public?

He landed in Pendleton, Ore., and went straight to the newspaper. Within two days, he innocently became the most famous man in the world. Two weeks later, the Roswell UFO incident took place [when an unidentified object crashed on a ranch near Roswell, N.M.].

How did his life change instantly?

There were people who wanted my grandfather to be the leader of a religion. And other people who had the same type of experience flooded him with mail. Soon after his own sighting, there was the Maury Island incident near Seattle [where there were new claims of UFOs in the sky over Puget Sound]. My grandfather was asked to help investigate, but two military officials and their documents were lost in one plane crash while my grandfather's plane was also sabotaged and almost crashed.

But your grandfather's sighting in June 1947 wasn't his only incident.

He had seven more sightings, but he didn't go public with them because he was so ridiculed after telling people about the first sighting.

It's my understanding that your grandfather's estate included a number of documents.

There's the famous Project Blue Book.

I have no idea what that is.

There were thousands of reported sightings and the government debunked most of them, but by 1969 there were still 701 unsolved cases. Project Blue Book details those 701 incidents.

What else do you have?

After his sighting, my grandfather received a letter from Mount Olympus that says...

Hold it. Where is this from?

Mount Olympus. The Illuminati Society wrote it and it said the world will someday know what's going on. They said, "We know that the aliens have been here forever."

But one more time, where was that postmarked?

Mount Olympus. And it was in purple ink.

And what is the significance of purple ink?

It's an aura, a spiritual color. It's the color of Jesus.

Have you been planning on turning your grandfather's story into a feature film?

My mom is working on that. There's a book that hasn't been published yet because we're still working out the copyright issues.

At what point did this become your passion?

When I was born.

But it was probably just a bedtime story when you were a young girl.

You're right. It probably blossomed as I got more involved on Facebook in 2009 and have met some of the children and grandchildren of some of the first men and women to report UFO sightings. I have friends all over the world.

And I'm presuming that you continue to meet many people who embrace your story.

People all over the world know who my grandfather is. In the UFO field, my grandfather is the godfather.

Was there ever a time in your life when you were reluctant to tell his story?

Never. I've always been proud of him.

Can you appreciate those of us who have to see or touch something to believe it to be true?

Well then, you would just have to be abducted.

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