This article was published in the daily newspaper New York Times, on March 26, 1966.
Also check other files on the Michigan 1966 swamp gas story.
'FLYING OBJECTS ARE CALLED GAS'
Air Force Expert Points to Michigan Sightings Being Made Above Swamps
By Walter Rugaber Special to The New York Times
DETROIT, March 25 - An investigator for the Air Force said today that at least two of southern Michigan's mysterious "flying objects" were nothing more than marsh gas.
Dr. J. Allen Hynek , an astrophysicist at Northwestern University and an Air Force consultant on unidentified flying objects, studied reported sightings this week at Dexter and Hillsdale (Hillside in the original article T.L.), Mich.
These were the "two principal events," Dr. Hynek told a news conference here. There have been repeated reports of unidentified flying objects over southern Michigan in the past week, but the Dexter and Hillsdale incidents were the most widely witnessed.
Shaped Like Football
At Dexter, about 10 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, some 50 persons reported seeing lights and a strange flying object, shaped like a football, over a swamp Sunday night. The closest witnesses said they were about 500 yards away.
The next evening, at Hillsdale about 70 miles southwest of Ann Arbor 87 college co-eds took notes on an object that hovered over a swamp outside their dormitory. A college dean and a civil defense official also reported seeing the object.
"It [the object] was in both cases a very localized phenomenon," Dr. Hynek said. "I think this is the most significant point." The consultant, who has investigated unidentified flying objects for many years, added:
"A dismal swamp is a most unlikely place for a visit from outer space. It is not a place where a helicopter would hover for several hours, or where a soundless secret device would likely be tested."
No Craft Observed
Dr. Hynek said that no group of witnesses observed any craft coming to or going away from the swamps. "The glow was localized here," he said. "This could have been due to the release of variable quantities of marsh gas."
Rotting vegetation in the swamps produces the gas, Dr. Hynek said, "which can be trapped by ice and winter conditions. When a spring thaw occurs, the gas may be released in some quantity."
The Air Force's investigator cited other authorities on lights seen in swamps "sometimes right on the ground, sometimes merely floating above it."
"The flames go out in one place and suddenly appear in another place, giving the illusion of motion, " he said.
"No heat is felt, and the lights do not burn or char the ground. They can appear for hours at a time and sometimes for a whole night. Generally there is no smell and usually no sound-except the popping sound of little explosions."
The astrophysicist emphasized that his explanation did not "cover the entire UFO phenomena over the past 20 years" and that very few sightings could in fact be attributed to marsh gas.
Dr. Hynek dismissed pictures of another phenomenon he said were taken on March 17 near Milan, Mich. The consultant said the photographs were "without any question" only time exposures of a rising moon and the planet Venus.
"There has been a flood of other reports from this area and I could not possibly have had the time to investigate all of these," Dr. Hynek said. They were of little scientific significance, he added, because there were no substantial groups of witnesses who agreed on what they had seen.
The consultant said that "over and above the sincere and honest reporting of a very puzzling sighting" by the coeds at Hillsdale, "certain young men have played pranks with flares."
The consultant agreed with a questioner that the "flying saucer" phenomenon could be an interesting field of study for other specialists such as psychologist and sociologists. His investigation here, he said, was over.
Ford to Ask Inquiry
Special to the New York Times
WASHINGTON, March 25 - Representative Gerald R. Ford, House Republican leader, said today he would ask chairmen of the House Armed Services and Science and Astronautics Committees to consider "full blown" investigations of unidentified flying objects.
Several hundred persons have reported seeing mysterious lights in Mr. Ford's home state of Michigan this week.
No Congressional leader has called for such an investigation before. Mr. Ford said he was in Michigan last night and this morning "and I can assure you there is interest and I suspect public concern" over the sightings.
If swamp gas caused the lights, as investigators suggested today, the Air Force should have no hesitancy in explaining that to a committee, Mr. Ford said.
A spokesman for the Science and Astronautics Committee said he thought the problem fell within the Armed Services Committee's jurisdiction, since the Air Force investigates "flying saucers."