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.
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.
THE LAB RESULTS OF 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.
- SOIL: The soil had above normal radiation and also had abnormal content of Boron.
- 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.
- 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.
- MINERAL: Sedimentary rocks were slightly higher in radiation than either igneous or metamorphic rocks. There was no other change either chemical or structural.
- WATER: All microscopic plants and animals were dead. The water had above normal radiation and abnormally contained Boron.
- ENVIRONMENT: The environment had above normal radiation and it contained a small amount of Boron which is foreign to this soil.
- 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.
IN THE NEWSPAPERS:
- "More saucers are sighted", sheriff deputies also report UFOs in several counties. The Hillsdale Daily News, March 17, 1966.
- "Flying saucers reported in area", more sightings with multiple witnesses. The Hillsdale Daily News, March 19, 1966.
- "'UFO' mystery has another episode", more sightings with multiple witnesses, the Hillsdale university sighting and Ann Harbour sightings by police officers. The Hillsdale Daily News, March 21, 1966.
- "Police, others sight UFOs near Ann Arbor", the sighting by the Mannors and the police in Dexter. Daily Tribune of Royal Oak, March 21, 1966.
- "AF calls in expert in UFO sightings", and advertising seachlights taken for saucers at Royal Oak. Daily Tribune of Royal Oak, March 22, 1966.
- "Congressman Will Request Investigation of 'Saucers'", close sightings in Dexter with multiple policemen witnesses, congressman want enquiry, Sheriff cannot get in touch with the Defence. The Hillsdale Daily News, March 22, 1966.
- "40 in Michigan report mysterious flying objects", close sightings in Dexter with multiple policemen witnesses in the national Press, Air Force knows nothing. The New York Times, March 22, 1966.
- "87 coeds saw a flying object near a dormitory in Michigan", the sighting of the Hillsdale University. The New York Times, March 23, 1966.
- "AF expert filters UFO information", Hynek investigates, Selfridge AFB tells nothing, other observations. Daily Tribune of Royal Oak, March 23, 1966.
- "Reports indicate 'Objects' returned", more sightings with multiple witnesses, the Hillsdale university sighting, hypothesis of marsh gaz by a local professor, Ann Harbour sightings, arrival of J. Allen Hynek, Blue Book's Quintanilla says insufficient information but no space visitors. The Hillsdale Daily News, March 23, 1966.
- "More 'Saucers' spotted in area", more sightings, and pranks, and confusions, in Hillsdale, the Hillsdale university sighting, hypothesis of marsh gaz by a local professor, Ann Harbour sightings, arrival of J. Allen Hynek, Blue Book's Quintanilla says insufficient information but no space visitors. The Hillsdale Daily News, March 24, 1966.
- "Washtenaw Deputy 'Snaps' Flying Object - Captures UFO On Photograph", more sightings, and photograph by policemen. The Hillsdale Daily News, March 25, 1966.
- "Expert says gaz marsh caused UFO 'sightings'", Hynek's gaz marsh explanation, and testimonies by policemen that Selfridge AFB lied and detected UFOs on their radar equipment. Daily Tribune of Royal Oak, March 25, 1966.
- "Expert says UFO merely marsh gaz ", Hynek's gaz marsh explanation, local official questions objectivity of scientist. The Hillsdale Daily News, March 26, 1966.
- "Flying objects are called gaz - Air Force expert points to Michigan sightings being made above swamps", Gerald Ford asks for congresionnal enquiry. New York Times, March 26, 1966.
- Bad Axe, observation of blue luminous UFO by three policemen of Bad Axes after calls. Huron Daily Tribune, March 27, 1966.
- "Saucer sightings vex Capitol Hill - Investigating flying objects might cause public alarm". New York Times, March 27, 1966.
- "New flying objects sighted in Michigan". New York Times, March 28, 1966.
- "UFOs reported in Ohio and Wisconsin over weekend", more sightings. The Hillsdale Daily News, March 28, 1966.
- "Sighting of UFOs continues throughout state and nation", more sightings, and scientists opinions. The Hillsdale Daily News, March 29, 1966.
- "Air Force claims open mind about UFOs, denies hush up efforts", Air Force claims openness, which is proved not that obvious since. The Hillsdale Daily News, March 30, 1966.
- "Experts Say Blinking Only Twinkling Star", latest reports, droll reply, colors of stars. Daily Tribune of Royal Oak, March 31, 1966.
- "CD Chief firm in stand on UFOs", the debate between Van Horn and Allen Hynek. The Hillsdale News, April 3, 1966.
- "Local UFO case still open Air Force consultant says", J. Allen Hynek gives UFO lecture in Hillsdale in front of this case's witnesses and admits that the case is not really closed. The Hillsdale News, April 3, 1967.
- "Disagreement with conclusions by Air Force gives spectacular publicity to UFO sighting", the article by Clifford D. Simak, December 12, 1966.
- "Are flying saucers real?", Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Air Force's UFO consultant astronomer, finally publicly states UFOs are more than march gaz. The Saturday Evening News, December 17, 1966.