Category Archives: Tacoma History

UFOs and Men In Black in Tacoma


Being out on the water on Commencement Bay gives one time to think about things. If you are like me, you might think, “What if there were a sea monster under the boat?” or “What if I saw a Sasquatch on the land?” or “What if I saw a UFO?” These fantasies have been with us forever. We are excited by stories of the unknown and the mysterious. And I’m going to tell you just that sort of story.

It was June 21, 1947. Howard Dahl was operating a salvage boat attempting to haul in some logs near Maury Island. He had his 15-year-old son, Charles and his dog with him. He suddenly noticed six gigantic craft in the sky moving at a high rate of speed. They were at least one hundred feet in diameter. They were donut shaped and flying in formation. He watched as one of them ran into another one, damaging it. It started spewing hot slag. The slag hit the boat as the craft crashed onto the beach on Maury Island. Howard’s dog was killed by the slag. His boat was damaged. And his son received burns that had to be treated in the hospital.

Howard detailed what happened to a 27-year-old coworker named Fred Crisman. Fred was an avid fiction reader and a frequent writer of letters to Amazing Tales Magazine run by Ray Palmer. A few weeks after the incident, Fred wrote to Ray Palmer to tell him what happened.

By the time Fred’s letter had reached Palmer, there was quite a bit of excitement about UFOs. On June 22, 1947 Kenneth Arnold, a local pilot encountered nine high speed craft flying near Mr. Rainier. This was what most people knowledgeable about the subject call the very first reported UFO sighting. On July 8, 1947 the Roswell crash was reported in the media. Palmer had an idea. What if he got Kenneth Arnold to write an article about Howard Dahl’s story? He contacted Arnold. Arnold somewhat reluctantly agreed to do it.

Arnold flew out to Tacoma. He contacted Howard Dahl only to find that Dahl didn’t want to talk about it. When pressed, Dahl explained that a man in a black suit with a black hat driving a black 1947 Buick had visited him and told him that he should say nothing of the incident if he wanted him and his family to remain healthy. Arnold also talked to Crisman who was similarly reluctant to share information but eventually told him what happened.

It was at this time that Arnold decided he needed some help. He contacted the Army who sent two investigators to look into these UFO claims. Their names were Captain William Davidson and Lt Frank Brown. Arnold and the Army investigators interviewed Crisman. (Howard Dahl refused to talk to government agents.) At one point during the interview both investigators stood up and announced they were leaving. The others tried to convince them to stay but they refused claiming they had to be at an Air Show the following day.

The intrigue increased when the plane the two investigators boarded crashed and both men were killed. An investigative reporter looking into the crash also died, apparently from natural causes.

Both Crisman and Dahl told Arnold they had photos, but neither was able to produce them. One of them gave him a piece of slag. A close look at the slag showed a square rivet.

Years later after some documents were declassified, it was revealed that Howard Dahl had in fact talked to a government agent about the incident. That person was an FBI agent. During his initial interview with Dahl, Howard’s wife screamed at him to ‘stop making things up’ and threatened him with a knife. The FBI would also fail to find any evidence that Dahl’s son was harmed, that the boat was damaged, or that their dog was killed. In other words, the FBI found that there was absolutely nothing to back up Dahl’s story. What to make of Dahl saying he was threatened? I would be willing to bet that what happened was the agent heard Dahl’s silly story and said something to the effect of, “If I were you I wouldn’t tell people about this.” like one does when someone says something crazy like, “I talk to a monkey on the moon every night.”

Subsequent interviews with Dahl’s son and his sister revealed that neither of them had any recollection of anything remotely like what I have described happening. It was found that the slag likely came from the Asarco copper smelter in Ruston. It is exceptionally clear that this incident which supposedly took place before any other UFO event never happened at all.

It is said that Fred Crisman took off to Alaska after the incident fearing for his life. There were rumors he was working with the CIA and other intelligence agencies. In 1968 Jim Garrison had him come to New Orleans because he thought that Crisman might have been one of the three men on the grassy knoll when John F. Kennedy was shot. In the late 1960s and early 1970s Crisman would reinvent himself in Tacoma as ‘Jon Gold’, a controversial and opinionated local radio host.

This story known as the Maury Island Incident in UFO circles would just be a weird little local historical footnote except for one thing. Howard Dahl’s mention of being visited by the FBI agents was the very first mention I can find of Men In Black investigating UFOs. This is Tacoma’s own little contribution to American pop culture. It’s worth noting that though the story of the UFO was bogus, the FBI guy sent to investigate it was real though likely not nearly as nefarious as Dahl described.

The next time you’re out on the water in Commencement Bay, keep your eyes on the sky and think of the possibilities.
– Jack Cameron

Seventh Tacoma Homicide of 2016: Samuel Cruces Vasquez


I have operated as a one-man website for ten years in one form or another. In that time I have made media, police, and government contacts, but my resources remain limited. This means that sometimes a homicide happens in Tacoma and I don’t find out about it until weeks or months later because it was never in the news. Such is the case with the death of 24-year-old Samuel Cruces Vasquez. His homicide went unreported in the media until a man was charged with his murder two weeks ago.

On April 28th, Samuel ended his shift at a restaurant in Southcenter Mall at around 10:30pm. He made a phone call to a friend saying he was going out for drinks. A little less than an hour later Samuel was found in 7800 block of South Trafton in Tacoma on the ground outside of his car. A butterfly knife was nearby. He had been stabbed multiple times. Paramedics arrived and took him to the hospital where he later died.

A friend of his was later arrested for the stabbing. The friend claimed it was part of a gang initiation. Samuel Cruces Vasquez was the seventh Tacoma homicide this year.

His girlfriend says that he was a very caring person who always put others before himself. He was also the father of two children.

As always the comments section is reserved for friends and family who knew him to share any thought or memories they might like to share.

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday Regarding The Proposed Methanol Plant

port of tacoma

If you live in Tacoma, you’ve probably heard something about the methanol plant being proposed for the Port of Tacoma. There have been recent meetings about the topic. The Tacoma City Council has been notably quiet about the issue. (Though it is worth noting that the idea for this 5 Question Friday came from a Tacoma City Councilperson who contacted me.) The neighboring Federal Way City Council just last night held an emergency session to condemn the plan.

Over the last few weeks, I have contacted many people about this issue. And for this week’s 5 Question Friday I contacted the Port of Tacoma (the location where the plant may be built), NW Innovation Works (the company building the plant), and Redline Tacoma (a grassroots activist group against the plant). I asked them each the same five questions. The idea here is to get different perspectives on the same topic from people closer to this project than I am.

Here we go: 

1.What is the basic plan at this time for the proposed methanol plant?

Port of Tacoma: I’ll defer to Northwest Innovation Works on its plans for the proposed facility.

NW Innovation Works: NW Innovation Works proposes to construct a two-phased, $3.4 billion gas-to-methanol plant at the Port of Tacoma. Methanol produced at this facility will be exported to Asia, where companies will convert it to olefins, which are the building blocks of products we use every day like medical supplies; safety and industrial equipment; consumer electronics like smartphones, televisions and computers; and clothing. The plant will include up to four methanol production lines, each with a production capacity of 5,000 metric tons per day, for a total of 20,000 metric tons per day. At the peak of construction, the project will create up to 1,000 jobs. Once operational, the facility will employ approximately 260 full-time jobs.

The plant will utilize ultra-low emissions (ULE) reforming technology, which will emit substantially lower greenhouse gas and other air pollutants compared to conventional technologies for reforming natural gas to methanol.

The facility is planned for the former Kaiser property, returning the site to productive use for industrial manufacturing that generates jobs and local revenue. Nearby facilities include Schnitzer Steel, Targa Sound Terminals, and Port of Tacoma breakbulk- and containerized cargo facilities. The Port of Tacoma approved a lease agreement with NW Innovation Works in May 2014, allowing the permitting processes with the appropriate regulatory agencies to begin.

Redline Tacoma: NWIW Tacoma LLC proposed the largest methanol refinery in the world for the heart of our city. NWIW LLC never built anything, anywhere. The refinery is proposed to consume 14.4 million gallons of fresh drinking water per day, 450 MW electricity and 524 million cubic feet of fracked gas per day. It would pump about 1.4 million gallons polluted waste water each day into the City of Tacoma water treatment facility and it would release toxins such as sulfur dioxide, benzene and formaldehyde. The sole purpose for the refinery would be to feed a plastics manufacturing facility in the city of Dalian, China, who is also a financial backer of the project.


2. What aspect of this project do you feel is most misunderstood by the public?

Port of Tacoma:  When the studies are complete, the data may well show the facility has a significant net environmental benefit. Facts about a proposed development are fleshed out during the environmental review process, but, in this case, misinformation without any basis in fact has been allowed to overshadow data and rational conversation. Here are some of the reasons the Port of Tacoma considered this proposal a good fit for the former Kaiser Aluminum smelter site.

  • Environmental benefits: Many of the products we use every day—cell phones, eyeglasses and contact lenses, exercise clothing and gear, medical devices, carpeting, toys, camping gear, the plastic components in buses, trains, airplanes and other common items—have traditionally been made with coal and oil. Replacing coal and oil with methanol, a clean, biodegradable manufacturing feedstock, would improve global air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Environmental regulation: I have heard some people express concerns that the facility would pollute our air, water and land. Washington state has among the most stringent regulations in the nation. A manufacturing facility that cannot meet or exceed these hundreds of regulations could not be built. The contamination the Port removed from the property after purchasing it from Kaiser occurred before these regulations existed.
  • Proven commodity: Methanol facilities have operated safely all over the world for decades. The Methanol Institute, an industry association, reports there are more than 90 facilities all over the world, and each day more than 80,000 metric tons of methanol is shipped from one continent to another. More information about methanol facilities and uses is available on the Methanol Institute’s website:
  • Environmental review process: Many people professed shock that they hadn’t heard of the proposal until now, when, in fact, the environmental review process is the first step in examining the feasibility of a development. The steps generally are environmental review (scope, draft EIS, final EIS) and permit applications—all of which have public comment periods—before any construction can begin. A typical comment period is 30 days with one public hearing. This process is more than twice the standard.

NW Innovation Works: The NW Innovation Works Tacoma facility offers a more environmentally responsible way to produce the items we all use every day. By using natural gas instead of coal, emissions are reduced 70 percent. NWIW is taking an even bigger step by using ultra-low emission technology, which result in an even greater (up to 75 percent more) reduction in emissions compared to coal.

Methanol is water-soluble, bio-degradable, and non-carcinogenic. You can buy methanol at your grocery store, gas station, hardware store and even on The methanol produced at the Tacoma facility will not be used just for cheap plastic products, but instead for several important products we use every day, like insulin pumps, hearing aids, smartphones, eyeglasses, contact lenses, clothing, industrial equipment and more.

Redline Tacoma: The Pacific Northwest and in particular the Puget Sound region is becoming a major through way for massive fossil fuel exports. Tacoma already has the distinction of being traversed with the most oil trains, 80,000 barrels a day and climbing, rattling away on underinsured, publicly owned Tacoma Rail. Also proposed for the port of Tacoma is a Bellevue-based, Australia owned PugetSoundEnergy LLC Liquefied Natural Gas export facility. This LNG tank would be 18 stories tall and hold 8 million gallons of liquid fracked gas held at MINIS 260 degrees. LNG is very dangerous and international standards say it can only be built 3 miles away from civilians. We are not just dealing with methanol, but with becoming the toxic petrochemical kitchen for exporting our natural resources at an unprecedented scale.

3. Residential use of water in Tacoma is 5.7 million gallons a year. The new plant requires 3.8 million gallons a year. We had a drought last summer where we were all told to conserve 10% of our water. If similar conditions should occur in the future, what assurances do we have that residential use of water will have the priority?

Port of Tacoma:  I’ll defer to Northwest Innovation Works and/or Tacoma Public Utilities on the proposed facility’s water use and availability and sources of water.

NW Innovation Works: Tacoma Water has 242 million gallons available on a daily basis and an additional 183 million gallons in storage, according to the Tacoma Public Utilities website (

And according to data available from the TPU’s publicly available 2014 Financial Statement, this is the breakdown of water use on an annual and daily basis:

Data from 2014 Financial Statements

Customer class Billion gal/year Million gal/day
WestRock (papermill) 6.05 16.6
Residential 7.97 21.8
All other, Commercial and Industrial 3.17 8.7
Total 17.19 47.1

NWIW will employ innovative design features that allow for greater volumes of water to be reused throughout the process. The majority of the water at the plant will be used for cooling and will be released back into the atmosphere as water vapor, with small percentages consumed in the methanol production process.

We will work with the Port of Tacoma and Tacoma Public Utilities to make sure we are responsible during regular and potentially changing conditions.

Redline Tacoma: There are no assurances at this point. Who will get the water? Hospitals, schools, Metro Parks, breweries, hotels, farmers, salmon, vegetables, paper industry, export facilities or the already fastest water bottling plant in the world Niagara Bottling? Niagara’s water use went up drastically during the drought, see below: Niagara water use '14,'15.


4. What infrastructure will be in place to handle the practical and financial consequences if something goes wrong at the plant and there’s an explosion or other dangerous incident?

Port of Tacoma: Here’s what we know so far. A new fire station is scheduled to open in the Tideflats area as a result of Puget Sound Energy’s planned liquefied natural gas facility. An Intelligent Transportation System, which will help guide traffic through the industrial area, is also planned for the Tideflats. The Environmental Impact Statement will determine what other enhancements might be required.

NW Innovation Works: We absolutely understand that safety is a community concern, and it’s one shared by the project team. Safety is always our first priority. Methanol is safely produced, manufactured, stored and transported within the United States and internationally. NWIW will maintain this strong safety record and is committed to working with stakeholders and community members to build a facility that meets or exceeds applicable safety standards.

We are working with appropriate emergency responders and authorities to plan state-of-the art safety systems as we plan our system design. We will develop emergency preparedness and response plans for local and state approval to address potential spills, fire and security at each site. In addition, each facility will have a dedicated and trained on-site fire brigade and equipment to support emergency response.

Redline Tacoma:  NWIW Tacoma LLC is a limited liability corporation. LLC’s take the profits and pay it out to investors. The money is gone. Should something go wrong, they simply declare bankruptcy and Tacoma and the Port will have to deal with it. Should the accident be bad enough we can call FEMA. NWIW Tacoma LLC is not just one corporations, it is made up of several LLC’s, or shell companies. They can re-incorporate every year and can have a tax shelter somewhere in a tax-free heaven. Tacoma in its history always let industry pollute and when they made enough profit, they pull out and leave the toxic mess for Tacoma to clean up and live with it.

5. Do you see the methanol plant as a good thing for the future of the city and port of Tacoma and why?

Port of Tacoma: Tacoma has the opportunity to reduce global greenhouse gases to address climate change by providing cleaner alternatives to the coal and oil currently used to produce consumer goods we use every day. It’s important for us to fully understand the potential impacts of any development. I hope people will keep an open mind as we gather all the facts because we have an opportunity be a global climate leader, helping build a bridge to a cleaner future while creating valuable jobs for our community.

If the environmental review demonstrates the proposal’s feasibility, this could be a positive transformational project that provides global environmental benefits, hundreds of family-wage jobs and sizable city and school tax revenues.

NW Innovation Works: Tacoma has a proud history of pioneering innovation and being at the forefront of embracing the opportunities of our ever changing world.  With the NWIW proposal, we have the chance to build on that foundation and create a better future not just for ourselves, but for everyone who is concerned about climate change.

NWIW is proposing to pioneer a technology that that can transform how methanol is produced, removing coal from the equation and providing the world a cleaner way to manufacture goods essential to our daily lives.

This facility provides a way for Tacoma to be part of the global fight to reduce climate change. In addition, the project represents a $3.4 billion investment in the local economy that will create approximately 1,000 jobs during construction and 260 full-time jobs during operation of the facility.

Redline Tacoma:  Turning our publicly owned natural resources into a toxic chemical for export and plastic manufacturing is stunningly short sighted.


I want to thank the representatives at the Port of Tacoma, NW Innovation Works, and Redline Tacoma for taking time out of their schedules to answer these questions.

You can find further information about the Port of Tacoma on their website at

You can find further information about NW Innovation Works at

You can find further information about Redline Tacoma at

What are your thoughts on the methanol plant? Feel free to comment. All comments are moderated by me, but I’ll be fairly open to whatever you want to post as long as it’s substantive. 

– Jack Cameron

Keeping Tacoma

The streets of Tacoma are safer than they've been in years.

The streets of Tacoma are safer than they’ve been in years.

It’s been 94 days since there was a homicide in the city of Tacoma. In 2013 we only had ten homicides. Tacoma earned its reputation as a dangerous city in the early 1990s when California gang members relocated to Tacoma’s Hilltop. In 1995 I was in Los Angeles and ran into some gang members there. I told them I was from Tacoma and they respected that. Now, a generation later, Tacoma has changed in a lot of big ways.

Downtown isn’t quite the ghost town it used to be. You’ll still find empty shops, but it’s a far cry from the mid-1980s when there were just blocks of empty buildings including Tacoma’s Union Station. Similarly, Hilltop isn’t nearly the crime magnet that it was years ago. You’ll still find gangs and street crime in Hilltop but it’s the exception rather than the rule.

One of the reasons I write about homicides in Tacoma is to simply show how rare they really are. I’ve seen bumper stickers and t-shirts that say, “Keep Tacoma Feared” and while I can relate to that sentiment, I don’t think that’s what Tacoma needs.

I’ve also seen people talking about Tacoma being a ‘second city’ with some sort of endless comparison to Seattle. We’re 30 miles away from a much bigger, much more-well-known city. This is true. Half the time when a movie is filmed in Tacoma, they call it Seattle. Recently when the mayor of Tacoma was interviewed on PBS after the State of the Union, they did it against a backdrop of Seattle’s skyline. There seems to be this idea that we are somehow the Randy Quaid to Seattle’s Dennis. I disagree with this idea.

Tacoma has never been interested in being Seattle. We’ve never tried to be. As a life-long Tacoman, I’ve spent almost no time comparing Tacoma to Seattle. We’re entirely different cities. Yes, Tacoma is smaller and less well known, but what most of us Tacomans know is that we don’t care. We’re too busy doing our own thing to worry about what Seattle’s doing.

Part of the issue as I see it is that Tacoma refuses to be identified by any one major thing. We aren’t just the Port. We aren’t just the Tide Flats. We’re not just our museums. We’re not just our poets. We’re not just our bars or our breweries. We’re just our incredible waterfront or our world class Pt. Defiance Park & Zoo. We’re all of these things and more. The one thing we can shed if we cared to is our reputation as a dangerous town. We simply aren’t anymore. I’m not saying bad things don’t happen here, but compared to a lot of places, it’s a rarity.

You can keep fearing Tacoma if you like. For the rest of us, we’re just going to keep Tacoma.

– Jack Cameron

Sixth Tacoma Homicide of 2013: Frank Rossiter, Jr.

FrankRossiterJrThe text came a little after 8pm on Thursday night. One of my close friends who lives near North 46th and Ferdinand sent the following message: ‘Wow. Someone just shot up our neighborhood!’  I quickly called him. He told me that he was working in the back yard when he heard a series of gunshots then silence, then a few more gunshots. He went inside the house and told his wife and infant son to get on the floor. He then went into the bedroom, got his pistol, and locked the doors.

Outside what had happened was that a neighbor had fired off his pistol from his back porch before walking up and directly confronting 55-year-old neighbor Frank Rossiter, Jr. He then shot and killed Frank and threatened other neighbors before leaving the area. The shooter was a known heavy drinker who neighbors called ‘a bit crazy’.

Tacoma police swarmed the area and would later discover the shooter went to a friend’s house in Gig Harbor where he killed himself.

Frank Rossiter, Jr. by all accounts was a well liked guy. He was the father of a 12-year-old boy. He liked fishing. His son and my friend’s older son are friends.

This is the sixth homicide this year in the City of Tacoma. Sadly, this is about average for our city. Most years we have between 12-15 homicides. Each loss is felt by hundreds of friends and families. In this case a boy has lost his father. The purpose of this site is to focus more on the victim than the perpetrator because the shooter tends to get most of the attention from the media.

On Saturday I had dinner with my friend. We talked about the recent murder. While not a close friend of the victim, he knew of him. My friend mentioned that his older son told him after the murder that the shooter would frequently threaten to shoot kids who cut through his yard. His son had never bothered to tell him until after the murder. Every neighborhood has a crazy guy in it. Unfortunately this one was actually dangerous.

As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family of the victim. Share your thoughts and memories of Frank with us. His Tacoma Story deserves to be told.

–       Jack Cameron

An Important Announcement About


Shannon Tank

Last Friday, 38-year-old Shannon Tank was not feeling well. Hours later she’d be at the hospital. Over the next few days they’d discover she had uterine cancer and substantial tumors as well as an infection. She unexpectedly passed away this morning.

About two years ago Shannon was my new coworker at Guardian Fall Protection in Kent. Soon after I met her we learned this was not the first time we’d seen each other. She went to Wilson High School in Tacoma. Class of 1992. I was class of 1993. We didn’t know each other back then but we knew of each other.

As I worked with Shannon I found her to be funny, opinionated, and utterly unafraid. You never wondered where you stood with Shannon Tank. She talked often about her family. She loved to share. And she was a native Tacoman.

Today Tacoma also lost firefighter Al Najmeh. He’d been a Tacoma Firefighter for the last ten years. He was well loved and respected. He was on a call earlier today and collapsed. He was taken to St. Joseph’s hospital where they were unable to revive him.

For years now I’ve chronicled the last stories of the people in Tacoma who lose their lives to violence. My initial reasons for this were to show how infrequently homicides happen in Tacoma and more importantly, share the lives of the victims rather than the murders. But I’ve been acutely aware that I was leaving a lot of final Tacoma Stories out of this site.

The people Tacoma has lost include everyone who commits suicide, all vehicular homicide deaths, accidental and natural deaths, and deaths that occur outside of Tacoma but whose lives still revolved around Tacoma. Given that I don’t have the time or the resources to research all of these deaths, I’ve chosen to stick to homicides.

But today, another former coworker of mine asked me if I was going to write about Shannon Tank on my site. I didn’t really know what to say; “No, because she wasn’t murdered, only taken way too young.”?

And so from here on out, I’d like to invite anyone who has lost someone from in or around Tacoma to send me any Tacoma Stories I miss. This city is made by its people. When we lose one, no matter the cause, it changes our city. Tacoma was different when they were here. We should share those stories and I invite you to do that here.

Send any stories you’d like to share of those who pass away in and around Tacoma to

–          Jack Cameron

Fourth Tacoma Homicide of 2013 Chayson Colley-Jones

Chayson Colley-JonesTwo-year-old Chayson Colley-Jones spent his last night in a downtown apartment building on Saturday, March 30th. His mother was going out to celebrate her birthday. Chayson was being watched by his mother’s 19-year-old boyfriend who had moved in five weeks earlier. At 4am Sunday morning someone called the police because they saw the boyfriend with a badly injured Chayson in the lobby of the apartment building.

The police arrived and found Chayson not breathing. His mother’s boyfriend told them that the child had fallen. Chayson was taken to the hospital where he died hours later. His injuries were extensive and extreme. The two-year-old’s blood alcohol level at the time of his death was .12. There was also evidence that he’d been raped. The boyfriend has been arrested and charged for his crimes.

It’s difficult to imagine a worse crime than the death of Chayson Colley-Jones. There is no rational understanding of horrific final hours of Chayson. Murders such as this are often shown as an example of why we must continue to have the death penalty. Here in Washington we still have the death penalty and that did not deter Chayson’s murderer which may be just as powerful an argument against such a practice.

Chayson’s murder is tragic. He was someone who never got to show Tacoma what he could have been. He has been lost to us and the city is a little worse off for it. The only consolation is that the person responsible has been apprehended and that events such as this are rare.

Typically I ask that comments be left strictly for those who have memories to share of Chayson. Sadly, I fear his life was far too short for any comments at all. If friends or family of Chayson are reading this, please share your favorite memories with us. My thoughts are with you.

Rest in peace, Chayson. You are not forgotten.

–          Jack Cameron