One of the first UFO sightings to be captured on film was recorded right here in the Treasure State. For roughly twelve seconds, the Mariana UFO footage depicts two bright, silvery objects moving horizontally across the sky at a speed relative to one another. It was taken by Nick Mariana around 11:30am on August 15, 1950 in Great Falls.
Mariana, who was the general manager of the Great Falls Electrics (the local minor-league baseball team), was conducting a morning inspection of Legion Stadium when a bright flash caught his eye. He looked up to see two silvery, rotating objects that appeared to him to be about fifty feet wide and moving south. They were much slower than a jet and stopped midair, giving Mariana time to run to his car to retrieve a 16 mm movie camera. Along the way he met his secretary, Virginia Raunig, and asked her if she’d seen anything. She confirmed that she had seen two large, silvery objects in the sky as well.
When Mariana reached his car, he adjusted the settings, found the UFOs in his viewfinder and pressed the record trigger. Although no sound was recorded, the footage was captured in color. The objects disappeared shortly after Mariana began recording, moving behind the General Mills grain building, vanishing into the blue sky beyond.
After showing the film to numerous locals, U.S. Air Force Captain John P. Brynildsen of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio travelled to Great Falls to investigate the matter. Captain Brynildsen interviewed Mariana and Raunig, and with Mariana’s permission, sent the film to Wright-Patterson AFB for analysis. After a brief examination, the objects caught on film were determined to be the reflections from two F-94 jet fighters and the matter was not investigated further; however, controversy arose when Mariana claimed the first 35 frames of his film were missing – a claim supported by multiple people who had witnessed the footage prior to its return. Mariana and his supporters stated that the missing frames clearly showed the objects spinning with a notch or band around their outer edges. Air Force personnel insisted only a single frame had been damaged during analysis.