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Close encounters:

Falcon Lake, Canada, 1967:

At 12:15 p.m. on May 19, 1967, Stephen Michalak, who was engaged in some amateur prospecting near Falcon Lake, on the Manitoba/Ontario border, was startled to see two cigar-shaped objects with "bumps" on them, glowing red and descending. One object stopped in mid-air, hovered, and then silently rose and disappeared into the clouds. The other object, about thirty-five feet in diameter and twelve feet high, landed about 160 feet away from Michalak. A door opened in the side of the craft and Michalak heard voices within. He called out in English and Russian and other langages, but got no response. He was able to walk up to the craft and actually touch it, but it took off as he stood near it, burning his chest and setting his shirt on fire. He went to a doctor, who found a pattern of burn marks in a grid on his chest. He suffered from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss. Radioactive contamination of the site was much debated, as was the truth of his story.

Steven Michalak
Steven Michalak

Above: 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.

In this case file:

Click! The events at Falcon Lake, 1967.
Click! The Condon group investigation report.
Click! "Too close an encounter", the detailed report by Chris Rutkowski.
This page. Insoluble mysery, an article by Chris Rutkowski (This page)
Click! Obituary: Stefan Michalak.
Click! Sources references.

Insoluble miseries:

An article by the excellent Canadian UFO researcher Chris Rutkowski.


By now, many of you will have seen my appearance as a "U.F.O. Researcher" on the Unsolved Mysteries segment aired on November 4th, 1992. The segment concerned the strange story of Stefan Michalak, who claimed he was injured by an encounter with a saucer-shaped craft in May, 1967.

Long ignored by most ufologists, the case may very well be one of the best on record. According to his story, Michalak was doing some amateur prospecting near the resort town of Falcon Lake, Manitoba, Canada, examining the many rock outcroppings for signs of quartz. The area is part of the Canadian Shield, quite rugged and covered with evergreens. Numerous lakes and swamps exist there, and the forests are protected by Federal and Provincial programs.

Around noon, Michalak heard the sounds of agitated geese on a pond below his perch on a rocky plateau. He looked up to see two red cigar-shaped objects flying slowly through the sky. One descended toward him, and appeared to land about 150 feet away in a clearing. After it landed, it appeared to change colour from red to orange to silver, as it "cooled down". It was now a classic flying saucer, about 35-40 feet in diameter, with a dome on its upper surface. The other object in the sky flew away.

Over the next hour, Michalak observed the object from a hiding spot behind a large rock formation. He sketched the object and puzzled over its nature. He couldn't see any markings on the side, and he didn't believe in "little green men" at the time. He concluded it was an experimental American aircraft which had landed for repairs. His theory seemed correct when he heard some high-pitched voices coming from the craft. A door opened in its side, and brilliant purple lights flooded out of the portal.

He decided to sarcastically ask the Americans if they needed help fixing their ship, so he cautiously walked toward the vehicle and shouted his offer for assistance. The voices ceased abruptly. Edging closer, he reached the side of the craft and poked his head into the opening. He noticed that its walls were about eight inches thick, and had a honeycombed appearance. Inside the ship, he could see what he described as a myriad of small flashing lights, like those on a computer panel. Stepping back, he found that when he touched the side of the craft with his rubberized work glove, the glove had melted from intense heat.

Suddenly, the door closed and the craft rotated counterclockwise. In front of him was some sort of "exhaust" grille. A blast of hot gas shot out of the grille, striking him in the chest and knocking him on his back. His shirt was set on fire, and he struggled to remove it. The craft quickly ascended and flew out of sight.

As the Unsolved Mysteries segment showed, a dazed Michalak staggered back to civilization with his fantastic story. The story of the investigation is itself a fantastic tale. Michalak was beleaguered by reporters, UFO buffs, loonies and other characters all wanting the REAL story or to give him their own advice on how to deal with the aliens.

Much has been published about the Michalak case, some of it inaccurate and contrived. An excellent series of articles had appeared in Canadian UFO Report in the late 1960's and early 1970's, but it did not receive much attention outside of Canada. After I had reopened the case files in the late 1970's, I wrote a series of articles about it for FLYING SAUCER REVIEW, whose editors were astounded that a full report on the case had never seen international print before. Yet, I have found the Michalak case recounted in various versions in many books and zines, often repeating claims of radiation sickness and alien death rays.

I had re-opened the case because the original team of investigators had broken up, and the case files were unavailable. I re-interviewed Michalak and his family, and tracked down several hundred pages of government documents about the case. Dr. Berthold Schwarz was invaluable in his assistance in tracking down much of the information, especially the medical reports.

The case had been investigated by the RCMP, RCAF, USAF and Edward Condon's Colorado UFO Project (which listed it as "Case 22": unexplained). The incident had been debated several times in the Canadian House of Commons because the public wanted to know what the government had learned about the injury to a Canadian citizen. An official announcement was made that the files would never be made public because of a danger to "the public interest".

This, of course, fueled the belief that the craft had been an alien spaceship. The government was obviously covering up the affair, and the whole thing smacked of conspiracy. It didn't help when a UFO buff asked the Mayo Clinic for Michalak's medical records, and the response was that Michalak had never been there. Of course, Michalak had the bills to prove his stay there had been real.

Another often-repeated story is that Michalak had some sort of radiation sickness or had radiation burns. This isn't supported by the medical reports. If the pattern of burns on his abdomen was caused by radiation, he would have had many other symptoms of this. The pattern was considered by dermatologists to have been caused by chemicals, more like an actual exhaust such as Michalak had described. Another story in circulation (particularly in the four-volume set of UFO books by Yves Naud) is that Michalak was suffereing from impurities in his blood, brought on by the UFO's radiative effects. Again, this is not supported by the medical evidence. In fact, it is often repeated that Michalak lost a great deal of weight and that his lymphocyte count was reduced, more symptoms of radiation poisoning. The trouble is that Michalak had not been to a doctor for many months before his experience, and there were no records of his pre-experience weight or blood count available for comparison. Michalak believed that he had lost weight the same way we all think we might have lost weight - he guessed and looked at his own bathroom scale. Considering he had severe nausea and vomiting, this wouldn't be too unusual. As a matter of fact, this is more evidence in support of his having ingested a chemical mixture of gases.

Still, we're left with a curious case. Physiological and physical effects, an unchanging story over 25 years, and yet there are no definite answers to what happened to Michalak at Falcon Lake in 1967. If it was a hoax (and psychological testing suggests that Michalak didn't do it), then it is certainly one of the best on record. Why would a hoaxer physically harm himself and put up with 25 years of ridicule by making up a saucer story? Publicity? No. The Michalaks shy away from publicity. Money? No. The Michalaks haven't made a bankroll from the experience, as some might claim. Notoriety? No. In fact, the Michalaks have threatened to take action against some people mentioning the case in public because they just want to be left alone.

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This page was last updated on February 3, 2005.