This article was published in the daily newspaper Hillsdale Daily News, of Hillsdale, Michigan, USA, on March 26, 1966
Also check other files on the Michigan 1966 swamp gas story.
Expert Says UFOs Merely Marsh Gas
Detroit, Mich (AP) - An expert's opinion that some of Michigan's unidentified flying objects - UFO - probably were swamp gases may have convinced the Air Force but not the people who saw them.
"I'm no professor, and I'm not as educated as you but I think he's all wrong," Mrs. Frank Mannor said of Dr. J. Allen Hynek.
Hynek, a Northwestern University astrophysicist and scientific consultant for the Air Force, told a news conference Friday that sightings made on two specific days probably had stemmed from swamp gases.
He said his study had been contained to sightings made near Dexter March 20 by the Mannor family and by officers and at Hillsdale by 87 college coeds and the county Civil Defense Director.
Dexter, a small community, is about 50 miles southwest of Detroit. Hillsdale is about 100 miles west.
Hynek said a photograph taken by a sheriff's deputy March 16 near Milan, several miles south of Dexter, showed the rising crescent moon and the planet Venus. The deputy said the two streaks of brilliant light on had been captured on film by the photograph, identified by Hynek as the moon and planet, his camera in a time exposure as he observed what he considered to be unidentified flying objects.
Numerous UFO sightings have been reported in Michigan, especially the southern lower portion, in recent weeks, many of them by law officers. Hynek said he had not investigated these because large enough groups had not witnessed them.
He said both the sightings he did investigate were in swampy areas, "most unlikely place for a visit from outer space" - and added the UFOs probably had resulted from spring thaws releasing trapped gases resulting from decomposing organic materials.
He added that in the Hillsdale case the sighting might have been assisted by youths playing pranks with flares. The remains of several flares were found near the college shortly after the sightings.
"There were no flares involved in this," said William Van Horn, Hillsdale County Civil Defense director.
He and the Hillsdale College coeds reported watching a white and red object - about 20 feet across - from dormitory wings for nearly three hours.
"I think I will disprove him (Hynek) in a few weeks," Van Horn said. "I also didn't care for the methods of investigation. I know no flares were involved."
Milton M. Ferguson, the college's director of public affairs, did not see the UFO but said he had been told of it by Dean of Women Kelly Hearn and the coeds.
"What they saw had no resemblance to rockets or flares," he said. "I don't know what it was nor do the people who saw it but this is trying to explain it away arbitrarily. The Air Force is going to get into trouble going on in this way. It seems a white-wash."
At Dexter, Mrs. Mannor said "I saw it (the UFO) with my own eyes. And my son and husband wouldn't lie. They saw it too. I think there's something going on the people don't know about. I'm scared. I want to pack up and move."
Said her husband: "There's nothing wrong with my eyes, and my son (Robert, 19) has 20/20 vision. We both can't be wrong."
Dexter Police Chief Robert Taylor, who says he also saw the object, said, "I have no idea what it was, but I don't think it was swamp gas."
Local Official Questions Objectivity of Scientist
Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Northwestern University astrophysicist and scientific consultant to the Air Force has said the Unidentified Flying Objects reported in Hillsdale were marsh gas.
However, William Van Horn, Civil Defense director of Hillsdale County doubts Dr. Hynek's conclusions and his objectivity during the investigation in Hillsdale.
Mr. Van Horn charged Saturday morning that Dr. Hynek evaded questions, made only a cursory investigation an seemingly ignored some of the more logical aspects of witnesses' reports.
Friday morning at 11:05 Mr. Van Horn predicted what Hynek's findings would be. The Civil Defense director made the following statement to The Daily News some three hours before the scientist's news conference in Detroit:
"When the findings are completed with regard to the observation made on Monday evening, March 21 by the United States Air Force, their report will be that what we observed will be one of two things:
1 - Their findings will state that what we were observing was what is commonly known as will-o-the-wisp St. Elmo's fire or marsh gas.
2 - That it was a phenomenon caused by the reflection of some unknown light ray.
"I will go further to state that the findings in the Ann Arbor-Dexter area will be exactly the same."
After publication of Dr. Hynek's conclusions Mr. Van Horn told The Daily News:
"I feel the investigation team, in its very brief visit to the site, which was a matter of approximately 30 minutes, was so short that it made me and the others involved look rather stupid."
"I feel that many of my questions to Dr. Hynek were completely evaded by him."
"A metropolitan newspaper said this morning that Dr. Hynek said no one saw anything arrive at or leave either one of the scenes of reported sightings and that is completely erroneous."
"It was the observation of the 17 girls at the dormitory witnessing a descending lighted object in the sky that caused them to make the first report."
"The first sighting that caused them to make the call was when they saw the object coming toward Hillsdale from the east. It appeared to be an aircraft in distress trying to make a landing at our airport."
"The girls said the object passed the windows of the dormitory heading south and disappeared from sight just as if it had crashed, then rose again and hovered in the area of the Arboretum. This action is what prompted the girls to call me."
"Assuming that the condition was marsh gas, in my conference with Dr. Hynek Thursday, any question that I would ask with regard to this object approaching and being witnessed by the girls in the dormitory was completely evaded."
"Also, Dr. Hynek said the Air Force representative-the closest they went to the scene where this object was Monday night was the middle of Barber Drive where they took some pictures of the general area."
"It is my sincere belief Dr. Hynek had formed an opinion and decided what his report would be before he ever came here. And I say this because of the way the investigation was conducted and the type of question he asked."
"I think the two major factors that cause me to take the position I have is that he was very evasive concerning the movements of the object and also could not give any explanation for the two different colored lights, the approximately 25 foot distance between them, and he could not explain why when these lights rose from the ground, they did so in a uniform level manner- rising to the same altitude at the same time as if they were connected by some mass."
"Dr. Hynek made no effort to explain this."
"Another thing he made no effort to explain was why there was no flame connecting the lights in the air with the source of the gas in the marsh."
"He hasn't proven to me that there was not something there. I'm no expert in this field and have no knowledge in this area other than what I have been able to get in the past, but the two questions make me doubt Dr. Hynek's conclusions."