|Photograph of Stephen Michalak showing geometric pattern burned onto his body by the exhaust gases of an alleged UFO. Mr. Michalak's burns where treated but continued to re-appear for many years after his encounter with a mysterious craft in the Canadian wilderness.|
|The events at Falcon Lake, 1967.|
|The Condon group investigation report.|
|"Too close an encounter", the detailed report by Chris Rutkowski (This page).|
|Insoluble mysery, an article by Chris Rutkowski.|
|Obituary: Stefan Michalak.|
Too Close an Encounter: The Falcon Lake Case
Throughout the UFO literature, there are many stories of alleged physiological effects associated with UFO encounters. There are several published reviews of these cases, including Aggen (1969), Crain (1971), Tokarz (1978) and the definitive summary by McCampbell (1987). In addition, reviews of close-encounter cases often include details of medical reactions and effects associated with UFO experiences. The most well-publicized and investigated physiological-effect case in recent ufological history was the A HREF="cashlandrum.htm">Cash-Landrum encounter, in which two women said they were confronted by a diamond-shaped object and suffered various injuries as a result (Schuessler 1984).
One of the most intriguing cases of serious injury attributed to a UFO experience is that of Stefan Michalak.* He returned home from a prospecting expedition with serious ill effects that he claimed were a result of an extraordinary UFO encounter (Rutkowski 1981a).
The incident occurred on May 20, 1967, in an area near Falcon Lake, Manitoba, Canada, approximately 75 kilometers north of the American border in the rocky edge of the great Canadian Shield. Falcon Lake is a resort town at the southern boundary of Whiteshell Provincial Park. The park is largely uninhabited wilderness, about the same size as the state of Rhode Island. The Whiteshell is known for various mineral deposits, and several small mines were established in the surrounding region. Stefan Michalak was an amateur geologist and had worked the area many times. Some prospectors had found several quartz veins nearby that were associated with silver deposits, and Michalak had even staked a few claims himself. On May 19, 1967, he traveled from his home in Winnipeg to Falcon Lake, where he spent the night in a motel on the Trans-Canada Highway. He had expected to enjoy a quiet weekend of prospecting.
Stefan Michalak left his motel at 5:30 that morning and headed north into the bush. By 9:00 a.m., traveling under a bright, cloudless sky, he had found a quartz vein near a marshy area, close to a small stream. At 11:00 a.m. he had lunch, then went back to his examination of the quartz formation. At 12:15 p.m., with the sun high and clouds gathering in the west, Michalak was startled by the cackling of some geese, who were obviously disturbed by something. He looked up and was surprised to see two cigar-shaped objects with "bumps" on them, an estimated forty-five degrees in altitude, descending and glowing red. As they approached, they appeared more oval and then disc-shaped.
Suddenly, the further of the pair stopped in midflight, while the other drew nearer and appeared to land on a large, flat rock which was later determined to be about 160 feet away. The one in the air hovered for a short while, then later departed, changing from red to orange to grey as it flew into the west, where it disappeared behind the clouds. Focusing his attention to the object on the ground, Michalak saw that it, too, was turning from red to grey, until it finally was the color of "hot stainless steel," surrounded by a golden-hued glow. As he observed the object, he knelt beside a rock where he had been chipping at the quartz. He had been wearing welding goggles to protect his eyes from flying rock fragments. The goggles proved to be very useful, as brilliant light shone from openings in the object, blinding him and creating red afterimages in his eyes.
For the next half-hour he stayed near the rock, making a sketch of the object and noting various features. The craft was saucer-shaped, about 40 feet in diameter and approximately 10 feet thick. Its upper cupola or dome was an additional three feet high. Michalak became aware of waves of warm air radiating from the craft, accompanied by the "smell of sulphur." He also heard the whirring of what sounded like a fast electric motor, and a hissing, as if air were being taken in or expelled.
A door had opened in the side of the craft, revealing some lights inside. This door was about two by three feet in size. Michalak approached to within 60 feet of the craft, and heard two humanlike voices, one with a higher pitch than the other. He was sure that the craft was an American experimental test vehicle, and walked closer to it, sarcastically asking, "Okay, Yankee boys, having trouble? Come on out and we'll see what we can do about it." Getting no response (the voices had subsided), and becoming flustered, he asked cautiously in Russian, "Do you speak Russian?" There was still no answer, so he gave greetings in German, Italian, French and Ukrainian, then once again in English.
At this point, his curiosity got the best of him, and he walked closer to the craft, ending up directly in front of it. Poking his head into the opening, he saw a maze of lights on what appeared to be a panel, and beams of light in horizontal and diagonal patterns. There was also a cluster of lights flashing in a random sequence "like on a computer."
As Michalak stepped away from the craft, he saw that the wall of the craft was about 18 inches thick. Suddenly, three panels slid over the opening, sealing it "like a camera shutter." He examined the outside of the craft and touched the side of it with his gloved hand. There were no signs of welding or joints; the surface was highly polished, and appeared like colored glass with light reflecting off it, and made "silvery spectra" out of the sunlight. Drawing his glove back, he saw that it had burned and melted when it brushed the side of the object. Unexpectedly, the craft shifted position, and he was facing a gridlike exhaust vent which he had seen earlier to his left. This vent was about nine inches high by six inches wide, and contained a uniform pattern of round holes, each about 1/16 inch in diameter. A blast of hot gas shot from these holes onto his chest, setting his shirt and undershirt on fire and causing him severe pain. He tore off his burning garments and threw them to the ground. He looked up in time to see the craft depart like the first, and felt a rush of air as it ascended.
When the craft had left, Michalak noticed a strong smell of burning electrical circuits mixed with the original smell of sulphur. Looking down, he saw that some moss had been set on fire by his smouldering shirts, and so he stamped it out. He walked over to where he had left his belongings, and saw that the needle on his compass was spinning erratically; after a few minutes, it became still. He went back over to the landing site and immediately felt nauseous and a surge of pain from a headache.
The landing spot looked as if it had been swept clean (no twigs or stones). However, piled up in a circle 15 feet in diameter was a collection of pine needles, dirt and leaves. As he looked around, his headache became worse, he felt more nauseous and he broke out in a cold sweat. Feeling very weak and dizzy, he vomited. He decided to head back to the motel. On the way back, he vomited several more times and had to stop to regain his strength.
When he finally reached the highway, he was about a mile from where he had entered the woods, so he started off down the road in that direction. He saw an RCMP car coming towards him and tried to flag it down. It passed by, apparently to turn around, because a few minutes later, Michalak heard a voice calling beside him. Michalak told the RCMP officer what had happened. Michalak says the officer listened but recalls the uncooperative constable told him: "Sorry, but I have other duties to perform." Then the officer got in his patrol car and left.
After walking for what seemed to be an eternity, Michalak reached the motel. Thinking he was somehow contaminated, he did not go in but instead remained outside in a clump of trees. He tried to get help at the nearby park headquarters but it was closed. At 4:00 p.m., he finally ventured towards the motel and entered the coffee shop to inquire whether or not a doctor was available, as his pain had become considerably worse. He was told that the nearest doctor was in Kenora, Ontario, 45 miles east of Falcon Lake. Not wanting to travel even farther from home, Michalak decided to return to Winnipeg.
Thinking that there might be danger for other park visitors and that his encounter was certainly newsworthy, he called the news desk of the Winnipeg Tribune. He had expected them to send someone to pick him up and take him a doctor, hearing his story on the way. But as it was a Saturday, the news department was short-staffed and unwilling to comply with his request, especially since he wanted assistance "but no publicity." He went to his room, where he waited until the next bus to Winnipeg arrived at around 8:45 p.m. He called his wife, telling her that he had had an accident and not to worry, but to send their son to meet him at the bus terminal. When he arrived back in Winnipeg around 10:15 p.m., his son immediately took him to the Misericordia Hospital.
Throughout the next two years, Michalak was examined by more than one dozen physicians in the United States and Canada. Site investigations were made by members of the RCMP, RCAF, government officials and numerous civilians. The number of government departments and officials who were involved in this case is staggering. In the ground party which traveled with Michalak to the site there were representatives of: the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) Training Command Headquarters; CFB (Canadian Forces Base) Winnipeg; RCMP CID (Criminal Investigations Division); the federal Department of Health and Welfare; and the Manitoba provincial Department of Health and Welfare. In addition, the University of Colorado Condon Committee investigated, Life magazine reporters came to Manitoba and two connected but separate civilian groups, APRO (Aerial Phenomena Research Organization) and CAPRO (Canadian APRO), became involved. Furthermore, the federal Department of Mines and Natural Resources took an interest, as did the Whiteshell Nuclear Research Establishment (WNRE), the Manitoba Cancer Institute, the Mayo Clinic, and a host of other medical establishments.
The scope of this intense investigation cannot be understated. The Falcon Lake case may well be one of the most intensely investigated well-documented on record. The case presents a number of elements of particular interest to researchers:
All of the available data associated with each of these elements will be examined in turn.
Character of the Witness:
At the time of the incident, Stefan Michalak was an employee of an industrial facility in Winnipeg. He was an industrial mechanic, with knowledge of automotive machinery, welding, and metalwork. With regard to Michalak's mental state, an examining psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic noted:
Michalak had never before reported observing anything like the UFO he encountered in 1967. During World War II, he had been an intelligence officer and was very familiar with the appearance and behavior of military vehicles.
In the RCAF report on the incident, much was made of Michalak's association with a man named Gerald Hart (RCAF 1967a). Hart was known to the RCMP as a "subversive" individual, so when Michalak told them that Hart had assisted him in his quest for the site of his encounter, officials became suspicious. (Among other eccentricities, Hart refused to pay income tax and in fact wrote a popular book on how to avoid paying the government anything.)
Furthermore, the actions of civilian UFO investigators were cause for concern in the minds of officials. In particular, Barry Thompson, described by a former CAPRO member as a "liaison between CAPRO and APRO," was:
However, there was never any "monetary gain" from the incident. Michalak's own narrative account was privately published in late 1967. His manuscript, written in Polish, was translated and printed as a 40-page booklet which quickly sold out. But Michalak saw little of the money recovered after publication costs, and to this day is bitter that "others have made money from my experience, but not me" (Michalak 1980). Actually, because of the small run and limited circulation, it is thought that the publisher lost money. (In the early 1970s a civilian investigator of the case wanted to have the manuscript retranslated and the booklet reprinted, but this never occurred.)
Squadron Leader Paul Bissky of the Royal Canadian Air Force was the investigating officer on the case. His reports to Canadian Forces Headquarters are remarkable in their detail and candid comments about his investigations. But complicating his reports is the fact that Bissky was a devout skeptic, and told researchers he "didn't believe in that stuff [UFOs]" (Bissky 1980). How much his personal opinions may have influenced his reports is not known.
That Bissky thought Michalak was a liar is an understatement. At one point during his investigation, he bluntly asked Michalak if he had been drinking on the day of the experience. He believed that Michalak was hallucinating because of some alcoholic stupor. Bissky appeared sure that alcohol was somehow involved with the case, and he cleverly manipulated Michalak into proving he was not a teetotaler. In his first report, Bissky noted:
This is an odd note, since the "reliable witness" was obviously a bartender, and Bissky did not state how his source's own reliability had been established. Bissky seemed to want to prove there was at least one inconsistency or lie in Michalak's testimony, and the issue of alcohol consumption seemed to be a choice target. (In retrospect, even if Michalak admitted drinking several beers, there would still remain the problem of the other physical and physiological evidence; Michalak's drinking probably had no bearing on the case itself.)
In his later report, Bissky noted several "discrepancies" in Michalak's story, including this following detailed passage which gives us some insight into Bissky's RCAF investigation:
Bissky was convinced that Michalak had drunk heavily the night before his alleged experience, causing him to have imagined the entire UFO encounter ten to twelve hours later. However, Bissky described an alternative theory to the author: Michalak had been drinking and burned himself on a hot barbecue grill. Support for this new theory came from another of Bissky's unnamed but "reliable sources," in this case a woman who was awakened by Michalak pounding on her cabin door at 2:00 a.m. Unfortunately, Bissky said that the woman was at Falcon Lake for a "tryst" and could not come forward publicly. It is interesting that this explanation was never mentioned in any official report, and has no other evidence to support it. (Bissky 1980) Despite all of his attempts to find flaws in Michalak's story, Bissky was forced to concede that:
Even under the intense scrutiny of biased military investigators, the case appeared sound. As of the time of this writing (January 1994), Michalak still stands by his original story and insists that his experience occurred as he described.
When asked by the examining doctor how he had been injured, Michalak said he had been "hit by exhaust coming out of an aeroplane." In the narrative of his account, Michalak explained that he had not told the doctor about the UFO because neither he nor the (Chinese) physician were fluent enough in English to make the fantastic story understood, and because Michalak was very tired and wanted to go home. He was given a sedative and went home, where he took a bath to cleanse his wounds then went to bed. (Michalak 1967: 23) The next morning, Michalak was still in some pain and his family noted he had extremely bad body odor and halitosis. He could not hold any food down, but he was not hungry anyway. He said that according to the bathroom scale he had lost six pounds during the previous two days, and he became concerned.
It was not until that evening that his own physician, Dr. R. D. Oatway, examined Michalak and was told the saucer story. Michalak noted: "He looked at me with what one may call a professional discretion" (Michalak 1967: 24). Oatway's detailed report, prepared for APRO consultant Dr. Horace Dudley, describes Michalak's physical condition at that time:
Oatway examined the burns and prescribed antinausea tablets and codeine painkillers. Later, he referred Michalak to a dermatologist who gave him some antibacterial skin cleanser for the burns. During the next two weeks, Michalak's condition improved gradually. He kept a diary of his health during this time. He noted that his weight decreased from 180 lbs. before his UFO encounter to a low of 158 lbs. on May 27, one week later.
Unfortunately, since Michalak had not seen his personal physician for more than one year before his UFO encounter, there was no official record of his preencounter weight. During this time, he also experienced several fainting spells, which he had never had before in his life. He continued to vomit occasionally, but his appetite slowly returned to normal. As a result of prompting by civilian UFO investigators, Michalak went to a radiologist on May 23. No evidence of radiation trauma was found.
On May 30, Michalak was taken by a UFO investigator to the Whiteshell Nuclear Research Establishment, where he was given a whole-body count. Again, nothing above normal background readings was found. During the period immediately following his encounter, Michalak had a slight drop in blood lymphocyte count, from 25% to 16%.
As noted by one investigator, the specific values and corresponding times were:
May 30, 1967 21%
January 15, 1968 31%
After four weeks, the white-cell count was reportedly back to a normal level. During this time the platelet counts were consistently normal. If Michalak had been affected by radiation, as some have suggested, the counts would have varied more significantly. Brian Cannon, a founder of CAPRO, reported to that group's membership that the healing of Michalak's burns was "a characteristic trait of radiation burns" (Cannon 1968). One hematologist's report, however, indicated "no abnormal physical findings," although Michalak had "some atypical lymphoid cells in the marrow plus a moderate increase in the number of plasma cells" (Oatway 1968). These minor variations do not support some published accounts that claim Michalak had impurities in his blood (Naud 1978).
But Dr. Horace Dudley, a radiologist and APRO advisor at the University of Southern Mississippi, observed that Michalak's ...
Others did not believe that symptoms of radiation poisoning were present, and the issue has never been fully resolved (Michalak 1967: 27-28; Rutkowski 1981b). Michalak's skin problems also had different interpretations. His upper chest, having been diagnosed as thermally burned, healed fairly rapidly. His abdomen, where the grid pattern appeared, went through periods of fading and recurrence. It had been suggested that these welts were radiation burns.
Michalak also had a rash which broke out on his upper torso. One investigator said this was due to insect bites, and this is supported by the fact that investigators were indeed bitten by large numbers of black flies at the site. However, it does appear that Michalak had more than just a simple patch of bites. Medical records noted he had skin infections that were "hive-like areas with impetiginous centers" (Oatway 1968). In another report, he had "generalized urticaria" (Oatway 1967). Along with the recurrence of the rash and urticaria, Michalak reported feeling weak, dizzy and nauseous, and he experienced numbness and swelling in his joints (Michalak 1967: 35-36).
It is possible that Michalak had an allergic reaction to something in the environment. On September 21, 1967, four months after his UFO experience, Michalak was at work when he became very ill. He felt a burning sensation on his chest and neck, his throat constricted and he became very flushed ("turned violet"). His hands swelled "like a balloon," he became dizzy, then fainted (Michalak 1967: 35). Upon examination, doctors concluded that Michalak had had an allergic reaction of some sort. However, considering that he had never had such reactions before his encounter, one might wonder what had triggered the episodes.
Michalak gradually recovered from his injuries and stopped having his recurring allergic reactions. To this day, however, the strange array of burn scars can still be felt underneath the skin of his lower abdomen.
The Mayo Clinic:
In August 1968, Michalak went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The purpose of his visit was to undergo tests in order to determine exactly what was ailing him, since the doctors in Winnipeg appeared to be unhelpful. It is worthy to note that Michalak paid for the Mayo tests entirely on his own, as Canadian medical insurance would not cover such a trip. He traveled south and stayed for two weeks at a motel near the hospital, walking across each day and entering as an outpatient. He reported that he was given a thorough physical and psychological examination by various doctors, then sent home.
Michalak waited for several weeks, but received no word on his results. He complained to his own doctor and told CAPRO representatives of the lack of results. CAPRO investigators appealed to APRO for help. Eventually, ufologist John Keel intervened and as a result, Dr. Berthold Schwarz, a psychiatrist and ufologist, assisted by sending a letter of inquiry to the Mayo Clinic, asking about the medical reports. In reply, he was sent what has been referred to as the "letter of denial." Dated (perhaps significantly) April 1, 1969, the letter bluntly stated:
This immediately spurred shouts of "cover-up!" from some individuals who learned of the letter, and rightly so, as this appeared to be a deliberate attempt to mislead the investigation. However, Schwarz tried again, with a different tactic; he asked Michalak to sign a simple medical records release form and forwarded that to the Mayo Clinic in January 1970. The reports came immediately.
Michalak had been found to be in good health but with neurodermatitis and simple syncope (fainting spells due to sudden cerebral blood pressure losses). The syncope was suggested as having to do with hyperventilation or impaired cardiac output (Rovelstad 1970). This is interesting, as Michalak has indeed had heart problems during the past decade. Furthermore, the Mayo Clinic report described Michalak's physiological problems in more detail:
His condition was viewed as being quite serious, especially given the following information:
On June 30, 1967, Michalak traveled to Falcon Lake with Gerald Hart. Hart had offered to help in the search, and told Michalak he visited the area frequently on his own. Michalak took him up on his offer.
They found a ring of debris, thought to have been made when the object lifted off. In addition, they found bits of Michalak's shirt and his tape measure which he had left behind. When they returned to Winnipeg, they informed the RCAF of their findings.
On July 2, RCMP, RCAF and CAPRO investigators accompanied Michalak to the site, gathering samples and taking photographs. The RCMP analyses of the samples showed significantly high radiation readings. On their recommendation, consideration was given to cordoning off the area due to a possible health hazard.
This was noted in an Incident Report from an inspector with the RCMP Crime Laboratory in Ottawa, the result of tests on some samples sent by the RCMP to the Department of National Health and Welfare. They found:
Samples taken from the site by Michalak and Hart were eventually tested by the Radiation Protection Division of the Canadian Department of National Health and Welfare. They examined samples of "soil, burned shirt and steel tape for possible radioactive contamination." The initial gamma analysis showed significant levels of "Ra 226 or its equivalent."
In a report prepared by Stewart Hunt for A. K. DasGupta, the head of the Safety Assessment and Control Section of the Division, details of the radioactivity assessment were described. Hunt outlined very clearly and cautiously the reasons his Division was involved:
Hunt flew to Winnipeg and met with various other officials on July 26, 1967. They had a brainstorming session, during which they arrived at a complicated plan of action that included a thorough investigation of the site, analyses of the physical effects and a detailed background check not only of the principal witness but also of the civilian investigators. As part of their investigation, the team traveled to East Braintree, Manitoba, near the Whiteshell, where hazardous waste from the Manitoba Cancer Institute was buried. The reason for this was the suggestion that someone had "seeded" the landing site with commercially produced radium. If it had not come from a radium watch dial, they reasoned that it must have come from a nuclear waste disposal site. Again, the seriousness with which the case was regarded is evident. Tampering with a nuclear waste disposal site is a very grave matter. No indication of tampering was found, however.
The team also visited Michalak's place of employment to see if it used radium in any of its products. They then visited Michalak at his home to check for radiation in the samples he had in his basement. Hunt noted:
Hunt was both horrified and suspicious. How could an amateur geologist and trained engineer not be concerned by radioactive debris? Hunt's visit was what helped convince Michalak to visit the site with Bissky and the others. Hunt went along to verify that radioactivity was present. He found that:
After examining the site, he felt there was "no serious health hazard involved." The fact that only a small area was radioactive conflicted with the fact that Michalak's steel tape measure was radioactive, yet it was found "40 paces" from the site. The explanation offered for this was that everything taken from the site had been left together in a pile in Michalak's basement, so that unaffected items could have become contaminated after the fact.
In an undated Department of National Defence Minute Sheet, an official in the office of the Chief of Defence Staff in Ottawa noted:
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the "radium seeding" scenario was Hunt's visit to the provincial Environmental Sanitation Laboratory in Winnipeg:
This was puzzling. If Michalak or Hart had seeded the radium, then they would surely have had some luminous paint in their own radioactive samples. Yet this was present only in the later samples.
Further confusing details were found when Hunt visited the home of Barry Thompson, the APRO investigator. Hunt checked some soil and vegetation samples Thompson had in his possession. Thompson had been given the samples by Michalak when he accompanied him during a separate visit to the site on July 17, 1967. Hunt noted that one sample:
This raises the possibility that "emulsion splashes" were also the cause of the luminosity found in the RCAF samples from the landing site. Hunt learned that Thompson had given some samples to George Dyck, a technician at the Nuclear Medicine Department of the Winnipeg General Hospital. On his own time, Dyck had tested the samples using his department's standard laboratory equipment. One sample was said to have shown a "1.4 MeV peak" and two other weaker peaks. Hunt visited Dyck and was introduced to nuclear medicine specialist Dr. F. Helmuth, who had examined Michalak's burns when he had been brought in following his other medical tests. Hunt also interviewed other nuclear medicine specialists at the hospital. Dr. R. Walton, executive director of the Manitoba Cancer Clinic, was apparently embarrassed to have his organization involved in such tests because "they weren't particularly interested in becoming involved in work of this nature." The stigma of UFO investigation was too much for the medical establishment.
Between July 1967 and May 1968, the landing site was visited by a variety of individuals. One of these was Mr. E. J. Epp, who searched the area for radioactivity as part of a check by the provincial Department of Mines and Natural Resources. They were concerned that Michalak had misdirected the earlier searchers to protect his claims. However, not only did Epp not find any radioactivity, but Michalak didn't file any claims until the fall of 1967.
The lack of radioactivity at the time is important, because on May 19, 1968, Michalak again visited the site with a friend. In his report to the Condon Committee, Roy Craig said Michalak found:
In his own teletype to headquarters, Bissky said that when he examined the metal pieces at Michalak's home:
Again, there was speculation that radium was implicated in the radioactivity of the metal. It is ironic that it came from Bissky's own watch. Bissky also observed that:
This last observation is curious, since a four-inch chunk of dense metal would not necessarily ring when struck. Bissky's concern that the matter still was very suspicious was obvious as he concluded:
And, most importantly:
An understatement, indeed!
A number of institutions performed analyses on the metal pieces. Biospace Associates apparently had some samples tested through Colorado State University. They noted that:
In a note from the UFO Research Institute, located in Pittsburgh, Dr. J. Roesner reported that:
In his report to the Condon Committee, Craig quoted the conclusion of R. J. Traill, head of the mineralogy branch of the National Research Council of Canada, who reviewed the WNRE findings:
Craig further noted:
However, CAPRO insisted otherwise:
Brian Cannon, a civilian investigator for CAPRO, was rightly concerned that the metal samples seemed to undermine the credibility of the case. It looked as if the metal bars were unrelated to Michalak's experience. To check this, CAPRO had the metal bars tested for the presence of radium. According to their report:
This latter point is particularly disturbing. Could experienced nuclear technicians have made such a mistake? The matter becomes more curious when one considers the results of reanalyses by the Ufology Research of Manitoba (UFOROM) during 1977 to 1983. Soil samples allegedly from the Falcon Lake site were provided by a former CAPRO representative and tested for UFOROM at the University of Manitoba. The samples showed natural uranium activity but no radium signatures. This suggested that earlier indications of the presence of radium were in error.
In an internal Whiteshell Nuclear Research Establishment memorandum, lab analyst J.D. Chen reported on the analyses of "chared [sic] fabric," native silver, mineral fragments, twig fragments and jack pine needles. He wrote that:
A further analysis of a soil sample was done in 1994 by UFOROM associate Greg Kennedy of Montreal. Gamma-ray spectroscopy found four radionuclides: U235, Pb214, Bi214 and Cs137. The cesium was probably due to fallout from nuclear weapons tests. Again, no enriched uranium was found, and no metal particles.
The soil was simply naturally high in uranium, a typical finding in the Whiteshell region. The original soil samples retrieved from the site contained only natural radioactivity. However, radium 226 was detected by some investigators. It is not clear whether or not this was an error. The metal samples, on the other hand, are definitely mysterious and do not appear natural. To solve the puzzle, it would be most useful to obtain a small metal sample for reanalysis.
The most scientific report on the case was published by the infamous Condon Committee. Dr. Roy Craig and Mary Lou Armstrong of the University of Colorado both visited Michalak in June 1967. Accompanying them was John Fried of Life magazine, which wanted to do a feature on the incident. Unfortunately, when Michalak tried to lead them to the site on June 4th, he was unsuccessful.
As he explained:
Michalak noted that the investigators were "disenchanted" with his inability to find the site. Who could blame them? Their first visit was only two weeks after the incident, and already the story had a serious flaw. (It is probably because of this that the case was not regarded very highly by the Condon Committee and the USAF. Indeed, if Life magazine had found the site, the story would have attracted much more attention and might have been more carefully documented.)
Access to Information requests by several ufologists (including this writer) have uncovered documents which provide more insight into the incident but also raise many more questions. In some cases, there are outright contradictions between civilian and government or military records of the investigations. The official RCAF report is undated but is thought to have been submitted in mid-June 1967 by Squadron Leader Paul Bissky.
Bissky noted he first led a search party to Falcon Lake on May 25, but could not find the site. On May 30, he visited Michalak to see if he felt well enough to accompany an investigation team. Michalak declined, but he drew a sketch of the area, described the site in detail and identified the likely area on an aerial photograph. On May 31, four RCMP, two RCAF and one other set of investigators in an H112 helicopter searched for the site, with no success. In his report, Bissky wrote:
It should be remembered that this was a joint investigation by military and police officers, armed with sophisticated rescue and detection equipment. Their search on June 2 was also unsuccessful. The RCAF team did not return to the area until July 28, when they had convinced Michalak to lead them to the site that he and Gerald Hart had found on June 25. In his supplemental report, dated September 1, 1967, Bissky wrote:
In other words, it was Bissky's opinion that Michalak did not want to take the officials to the site until they convinced him that radioactive contamination was a serious possibility. Michalak's distrust of officials and hesitancy was noted in Bissky's earlier report as well:
However, when they finally did convince Michalak to lead them to the site on July 28, they were baffled by its appearance and location.
In other words, there was a reasonable explanation why the site had not been found by earlier searchers. This seemed to quell some doubts based solely on the inability to locate the site. They found:
The investigators took samples of the dirt, rock and vegetation and also examined trees within a few yards of the circle. This latter point was because there was some concern that the alleged size of the UFO (35 to 40 feet in diameter) would infringe upon several trees and saplings. There was no indication of burns or other "disturbances." This in itself was curious, since Michalak said he brushed against the craft, burning his glove. It seems logical that, at the very least, some leaves or limbs would have been seared or broken.
One possible explanation is that the burned leaves fell and decayed during the two months since the event. None of the investigators were plant pathologists, so some evidence might have escaped them. However, some investigators (and Michalak) insist that some trees were damaged and the evidence ignored. This is borne out by the following description of the site in the CAPRO Bulletin:
As this tree was not mentioned in the official report, this issue has not yet been resolved. But Craig had noted that there were no signs of any disturbances on the trees or other flora. When Michalak visited the site again in the fall of 1967, he found ample evidence that something had occurred there:
If someone had tried to make the site look "good," the embellishment of a circle of affected vegetation would certainly have been an excellent idea. What didn't escape the investigators was the complete absence of physical evidence besides the ring of debris:
Hart and Michalak appeared to have taken confirmatory evidence that might have bolstered the credibility of the story. However, had "burned shirt particles" been found, they would likely have been thought to be suspicious as well, perhaps planted by someone to support the case. One can ask whether or not any evidence would have been considered bonafide, given Bissky's personal conviction that the case was a hoax.
The Canadian government seemed to refuse access to information about the Falcon Lake incident when a question was raised in the House of Commons in 1967. On June 29, 1967, it was reported that a member of parliament, Edward Schreyer, asked about UFO investigations, specifically with regard to the Michalak case. The Speaker of the House immediately "cut off the subject without government reply." On November 6, 1967, Defence Minister Leo Cadieux stated:
This was in response to requests by several cabinet members to obtain information on the incident. On November 11, 1967, Schreyer formally placed a written question on the Commons order paper seeking information on UFOs. However, the question did not solicit a useful response. On October 14, 1968, House Leader Donald MacDonald again refused an MP, this time Barry Mather, access to reports on the Michalak case. However, on February 6, 1969, Mather was given permission by a member of the Privy Council to examine their file on UFOs "from which a few pages have simply been removed." It was reported that outright release of the file "would not be in the public interest," and could create a dangerous precedent that would not "contribute to the good administration of the country's business." (House of Commons 1969).
Bondarchuk (1979) reported that "portions of the complete government report are available for public scrutiny" at the National Research Council in Ottawa. However, "noticeably missing are the RCMP study of the burned items, as well as the government's final conclusion, if indeed one exists."
Possible Corroborative Reports:
When Michalak's experience was covered by the local media, many people reported their own UFO sightings from around the same time and area. On May 19, 1967, residents of Lockport, near Winnipeg, reported a UFO with a "glowing ring of heat" moving at "indescribable speed." On May 21 three people watched a "round reddish glowing object at treetop level" from their cottage at Eleanor Lake in the Whiteshell. They reported it to the RCMP on May 23, after Michalak's story was published. Two men watched a "large, cigar-shaped object travel across the horizon at a tremendous speed" on May 25. That same night, a large, orange, egg-shaped object was seen near Souris, and two other witnesses saw "two very brilliant stars in close proximity to each other" over Winnipeg. (All cases in UFOROM files.)
In 1978, a man contacted UFOROM with information about his encounter at West Hawk Lake one night in May 1967. Although he could not recall the exact date, he claimed it had occurred "the same time as Michalak." He and a companion were walking from West Hawk Lake to Caddy Lake along a highway. They had walked three of the four miles to their destination when his companion stopped to tie his shoelace. The man, looking straight ahead, was startled to see a large, disc-shaped object glide silently into view above the trees and move across the highway. It flew over the trees on the other side of the highway and was lost to sight. Needless to say, the man's companion did not look up in time to see the object. The man's detailed sketch of the object had some resemblance to the Michalak's drawings, with some discrepancies.
In July 1992, a woman called UFOROM with information that she and her daughter had observed a UFO as they were traveling home from Falcon Lake along the Trans-Canada Highway the same weekend as the Michalak case. Around 4:00 p.m., they had left their cottage at Star Lake and were heading west when they saw a "perfect flying saucer" over the trees on the north side of the road. It was hat-shaped, with windows on its upper surface which were giving off "pinkish-mauve" light. The rest of the object was silver, and it appeared to be spinning counterclockwise. Her daughter sketched the object, and as they watched, it "disappeared into thin air." Independent sketches of the object by both witnesses agree in detail and seem to show a craft similar to that encountered by Michalak.
In 1989, a producer of the NBC program Unsolved Mysteries contacted the Michalaks and other individuals (including the author) for information relating to the Falcon Lake case. In June 1992, Mr. and Mrs. Michalak, their son Stan and the author were flown by NBC to a remote set in South Dakota for a re-creation of Michalak's UFO encounter. The segment aired on November 4, 1992.
On the air date, 22 calls were received by UFOROM and 20 were received by the NBC operators in California. None of the local calls provided any information directly relating to the Falcon Lake case, but seven callers reported their own UFO experiences. One caller reported seeing a bright orange light over Winnipeg "the same night as Michalak did." The next day, November 5, 1992, the author was interviewed on a radio talk show devoted to the case. Only one caller provided any relevant information. This woman claimed that she was a former employee at the Whiteshell Nuclear Research Establishment at the time of the incident. She said that her supervisors candidly noted that the Falcon Lake site was "very radioactive." The Unsolved Mysteries segment was rerun on March 17, 1993, with similar results. No new solid leads were received.
In the report of the United States government-sponsored UFO project, Michalak's experience was described as "unknown," meaning there was no explanation. Their concluding remarks were impressive:
What really happened at Falcon Lake? There is no question that some level of radiation was found at the site where Michalak said he had his experience. As well, he did exhibit some very unusual ailments, including reported weight loss, peculiar burn marks on his chest and stomach, charred hair, an odd rash and recurrent dizziness.
Some UFO investigators have said he had met alien beings; some say he stumbled upon a secret government or military craft. Skeptics have proposed the only other explanation that would explain many of the facts: a hoax. The only published comment by a skeptic about the incident was that by Donald Menzel and Ernest Taves, who dismissed the case by noting:
Since the RCAF conceded that the site was difficult to find and since Michalak's illness was substantially more than insect bites, this dismissal appears somewhat abrupt. And, while there are certainly many incongruities in the case, these tend to heighten the mystery and not force dismissal by themselves. Even if the case was a hoax, it is not clear as to who might have been responsible, what was the motive, or the gain. In fact, even Bissky conceded the hoax was of a high caliber.
If it was a hoax, its execution was quite elaborate, as it fooled several different levels of investigation, and there are still many unanswered questions today. If the incident is a hoax, there are several possibilities for the identity of the perpetrator. If Stefan Michalak alone was the hoaxer, he would have needed many resources in addition to the stamina to stick to his story under intense questioning for more than 25 years.
The silver pieces found at the site are definitely suspicious. The hoaxer would have needed to have visited the site at least once prior to the placement of the items in order to locate a suitable position to hide them. The hoaxer would also have had to have had access to pitchblende ore and a way to cast the silver bars in order to give the appearance of "found" objects. (For its re-creation of the incident, Unsolved Mysteries used an amalgam of solder and other materials to make convincing replicas of the metal pieces.) In addition, the hoaxer would have known that someone with a Geiger counter would return to the site so that the items could be discovered. Since the metal bars were not discovered after a thorough search of the area by the official investigators in 1967, the hoaxer had several months to prepare the site for discovery by Michalak in 1968. During this period, dozens of persons likely had access to the site.
Other inconsistencies make the story problematic. It is interesting that the location of the encounter was within view of a forest ranger tower. Craig reports that the forest ranger on duty at the time of the incident did not observe either the landing or flight of the UFOs, or the smoke which resulted from the ignition of vegetation. This would seem to flaw Michalak's story effectively, although the individual in the tower might not have been looking in the direction of the site constantly. But since the object was landed for at least 45 minutes, and if it gleamed in the sun or emitted an "intense purple light" (as it was said to have done), it is puzzling as to why the individual in the tower did not see it.
Another problem that the Condon report noted was the direction in which the object departed. This direction was 255 degrees, which would have the object pass within a mile of the local golf course. No objects were reported by anyone from the golf course, although if the speed of the UFO had been great, this is not necessarily unusual. Craig noted that a northward-opening gap in the trees was inconsistent with the 255 degree bearing. However, Michalak clearly stated that the object rose vertically before departing.
If Michalak made the story up, why would he have gone to so much trouble to make it appear authentic? The Mayo Clinic psychiatric report concluded that Michalak was not the type of person to fabricate stories of this nature. If he had "fallen on a barbecue" (suggested by one skeptic) and burned himself while partying at Falcon Lake, why would it be necessary to claim it was the result of a UFO encounter? If he wanted to make it look good, would he not have made sure the site was found easily, especially since Life magazine was going to give the story publicity? A hoaxer of this caliber would certainly have wanted that kind of attention.
Another possibility is that Michalak had a real encounter with something, but someone else decided to improve the evidence so that the case seemed better. Given the number of people involved in both the military and civilian investigations, this is much more likely than a solo hoax attempt on Michalak's part. The problem is in the elimination of suspects.
Finally, a note should be made about the use of hypnosis in the investigation of the case. CAPRO investigators located two clinicians who used hypnosis in their practices. In one of the earliest examples of hypnosis employed in ufology, Michalak underwent at least one hypnosis session in the late 1960s. Recently, a tape recording of a session was made available for study. Unfortunately, little information that Michalak had not already recalled consciously was uncovered during the session. (The issue is complicated by the fact that one of the hypnotists now denies that Michalak ever underwent hypnosis, yet the tape recording clearly indicates such a session took place.)
If we assume that Michalak's story is truthful, then we have a solid report of a landed UFO, complete with physical and physiological effects. Personal interviews with the Michalaks have shown them to be sincere people. They are intelligent, levelheaded individuals, and well-read on many subjects. Their annoyance at their notoriety is apparent, and their defensiveness at further proddings show that they have been subjected to severe ridicule and criticism since the incident first hit the media in 1967. It is likely that much more information about the case is still in various files_lost, hidden or otherwise yet unavailable to researchers piecing together the puzzle of that afternoon in 1967. It is hoped that anyone reading this report will reexamine their files and perhaps make researchers with UFOROM, CUFOS or other bodies aware of the relevant material.
Investigations are continuing. If officials were convinced Michalak was a hoaxer, why was he not prosecuted for public mischief? There was definitely evidence towards this end. It certainly would have been an interesting court case, arguing about the existence of UFOs. It is even possible that Michalak would have won.
It has proven very challenging to recover useful documents and piece together the Falcon Lake investigations. I would like to thank the following people for their kind cooperation and assistance in the preparation of this article: Roy Bauer, George Eberhart, Greg Kennedy, Maria Michalak, Stanley Michalak, Stefan Michalak, Mark Rodeghier, Berthold Schwarz, Vladimir Simosko, and Michael Swords.