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Famous cases:

Hillsdale, Michigan, 1966 - The infamous "Swamp Gas" case:

This is the case that convinced the then absolutely skeptic J. Allen Hynek, employed by the US Army to find natural explanation to UFO sightings, that he must now publicly admit that there is something real in the UFO reports that the military minimized.

Michigan 1966

Ufologists sometimes say skeptics are people who haven't had a "close encounter." Josef Allen Hynek, who coined the phrase "close encounter," might agree. As with the Bentwaters site, higher radiation levels were also found at the Hillsdale site.

Hynek was a University of Chicago-trained astrophysicist and confirmed skeptic who served as the scientific consultant to the Air Force Project Blue Book UFO investigation. And then he changed sides. The case that prompted his conversion occurred in Hillsdale County, Michigan, on March 21, 1966, and involves the photo shown here.

At about 10:30 pm a resident of the women's dormitory at Hillsdale College reported a strange object in the sky. County Civil Defense director William E. Van Horn responded and confirmed that a bright glowing object was indeed bouncing across a nearby hollow and then became airborne. Hynek, who died in 1986, dismissed the Hillsdale sighting as "swamp gas." Within two weeks, however, he changed not only his opinion about the sighting, but also sides in the UFO debate.

Perhaps it was the contents of Van Horn's report that sparked the conversion. More likely it was the unbearable situation of this honest man forced to maintain in public that UFOs are nonsense just to continue to have access to the Air Force UFO files. Soil analysis showed that on the very spot where the "swamp gas" had touched down, radiation levels were higher than in the surrounding terrain. More significant still was the finding that the ground was also contaminated with boron, the element used to slow nuclear chain reactions.

The Van Horn report:

New additional information about the famed 1966 Swamp Gas case in Michigan surfaced in 1984 shedding new light on this incident.

The material consists of a news release issued at the time by William E. Van Horn, the Civil Defense Director for Hillsdale County, Michigan. It contains a hitherto unknown laboratory report covering the scientific analysis of soil, water and animal life in the area of the reported landing. Here are excerpts from a statement made at the time by Mr. Van Horn:

On the evening of March 21, 1966 at 10:32 p.m., a call was received from the New Woman's Dormitory at Hillsdale College by the Office Of Civil Defense... from a student reporting that some type of craft had descended from the Northeast, flashed by their dormitory and disappeared to the South. At this time, the girl described as well as later, the observing of red, green and white pulsating lights. There were 17 of the college students that made this observation.

At approximately 11 p.m., a second call was made by the girl to the Civil Defense Office informing them that the object had reappeared and had settled close to the ground approximately one half mile from the dormitory. Van Horn at once called for help from the Police Department and three cars plus himself were sent in a two mile area from the dormitory to the East. Van Horn checked the area at the half mile point and after he was unable to locate anything. He at once returned to the dormitory.

Upon arriving at the dormitory, he was escorted to the second floor and taken to a room facing the east, from where he made the following observation. He observed that there was an object which was at an approximate distance of 1,500 to 1,700 feet away from them... settled into a hollow and was apparently either near or on the ground. The two lights upon his first observation were what he would describe as a dim orange on the right and a dirty white on the left. After observing this for a period of about 10 minutes the lights began to grow in brilliance, the dim orange became red and true in color and the white became a true white. As the lights became more brilliant, the object or vehicle began to rise.

It would rise to a height of approximately 100 to 150 feet, stop momentarily and began to descend. This occurred several times. At one time upon descending, a glow from the side opposite them came from somewhere and he was able to see a convexed surface.

The vehicle was also observed to move right to left, and left to right, and did so in a very smooth manner. The ascent and descent were at an estimated rate of 25 to 30 feet per minute (*). At no time were any of the witnesses able to detect any type of sound or noise.

At approximately 4:30 a.m., those still observing the scene noticed the lights disappear and this was the last that was seen of it.

The area that this was observed in was by no means a swamp but rather an area which is cultivated by Hillsdale College as a park.

(*) This was estimated from Van Horns' experience as a commercial pilot.

Thr lab result on the 1966 "swamp gas" case:


The Report gave the detailed results of tests done on the soil, plants, water, and animals in the vicinity of the UFO landing site. This is only the conclusion reached by the Laboratory. For the full report enquire at CUFON (Computer UFO Network), P.O.Box 832, Mercer Island, WA 98040, USA.


  1. SOIL: The soil had above normal radiation and also had abnormal content of Boron.
  2. PLANT: The plants had above normal radiation. Blue pigments did not show up in the tests and were presumed to be destroyed, but this did not seem to effect the life junctions of the plants.
  3. POND LIFE: Crustacean and Amphibian radiation was higher than normal but the highest radiation was recorded in the Amphibian. Also the Amphibian was affected noticeably where the Crustacean was not.
  4. MINERAL: Sedimentary rocks were slightly higher in radiation than either igneous or metamorphic rocks. There was no other change either chemical or structural.
  5. WATER: All microscopic plants and animals were dead. The water had above normal radiation and abnormally contained Boron.
  6. ENVIRONMENT: The environment had above normal radiation and it contained a small amount of Boron which is foreign to this soil.
  7. MAIN CONCLUSION: The area contained an abnormally high amount of radiation from some unknown source. The area also strangely contained Boron which was found in both water and soil. These two facts are the only ones which would substantiate the presence of a UFO. In our opinion, we're not saying that there was a UFO, but we also do not know how to account for these two facts. However, we believe it could not be swamp gas because of the high winds on the night of the sighting. With these high winds the gas would not have formed a mass and remained stationary. We also do not believe it was pranksters because we searched the area thoroughly for any sign of evidence to explain the phenomenon.

NOTE: Radioactive decay took place at 0.6 milliroentgens per hour over a period of three hours.

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This page was last updated on May 12, 2007.