There was a rash of UFO sightings over the state of Michigan (USA), skies in 1966, being reported not only by many sheriffs and police officers, but also by good reliable people in Washtenaw County and its surrounding counties. But the most notable incident occurred with a Dexter farmer named Frank Mannor, a father of ten children who witnessed a UFO remaining over his swamp for more than four hours. The witnesses included his wife, his children, his in-laws, other residents from the area and the police. In addition, more than 100 other witnesses, including William Van Horn, a civil defense director, and dozens of students who watched the football-shaped object for four hours as it maneuvered near the University of Michigan campus, a nearby airport and a local swamp. Despite the multiple witnesses, the explanation that came from the US government that it was "swamp gas".
The story according to the witnesses:
On March 20, 1966, at approximately 8:30 pm (21:30 hrs.), a Dexter farmer named Frank Mannor (then 46), of Washtenaw County, Michigan was watching television with his family when suddenly he heard his six dogs barking wildly outside his house, which was unusual. He went outside and yelled at them to keep quiet. When he turned around to return to the porch, he looked north to see what appeared to be a fallen star. As he watched the "star" suddenly stopped when it got to the top of the trees, then a white and blue light turned on. Curious he and his 18-year-old son, Ronald, approached the swampy area where the object had landed near Quigley and Brand roads. Father and son then got closer to identified it as being brown, with a "quilted" effect on the surface, cone-shaped on top and flat on the bottom. It also had two small lights on the outer edges emitting a glowing blue-green color that intensified and turned red at times. When it became brightly lit, the entire object was light yellow, with the light running horizontally between the two outer running lights.
Mannor stated: "We then heard the sound of a whistle - something like a rifle bullet makes when it ricochets off something. Then this object went up in the air, passed directly over us and disappeared."
Between 9:30 and 9:45 pm, the same night, patrol Officer Robert Hunawill of the Dexter Police Department reported that he too observed what appeared to be the same object after he parked his car near the area. He said it suddenly appeared over his patrol car at a height of about 1,000 feet, that it had white and red lights on it that at times had a bluish tinge, and that it hovered over the car before continuing sweeps over the swamp.
Officer Hunawill reported that he watched the object for a few minutes before it was joined by three others that flew in formation, with one set of two flying high above the other two. They then disappeared into the sky.
Police Chief Robert R. Taylor and Patrolman N.G. Lee came to the farm in response to the Mannor family telephone call and heard the noise. "I thought it was an ambulance," Lee said. The chief's son, Robert, 16, also saw the red object in the sky at about 10:30 pm "It was going on in the east pretty slow, and then it sped up and went west," he said. "It was flashing red and white."
Meanwhile, Washtenaw County, Sheriff Douglas Harvey, ordered all available deputies to the scene. Six patrol cars, two men in each and three detectives surrounded the area. They later chased a flying object along Island Lake Road without catching it.
Deputies David Fitzpatrick and Stanley McFadden responded, parked their car adjacent to the area and began a search with Frank Mannor. Their written report stated, "While in the forest, a brilliant light was observed from the far edge of the woods, and upon our approach, the light dimmed in brilliance... The brilliant light then again appeared, and then disappeared. A continued search of the area was conducted, through swamp and high grass, with negative results.
Upon returning to the patrol vehicle, the undersigned officers were informed that one of the objects had been hovering directly over the area where our flashlight beams had been seen, and then it departed in a westerly direction, at high rate of speed."
As Officer Robert Hartwell of the Dexter Police Department and other officers were rushing to the scene, they saw a luminous object buzz his car. Robert Taylor, Dexter Police Chief, said he watched an object in the field from Frank Mannor’s home on a knoll overlooking the area. It appeared as a pulsating red, glowing object. Through binoculars, he saw "a light on each end of the thing."
Washtenaw County Deputy Sheriff BuFord Bushroe also observed it. "It looked like an arc, it was round. We turned around and started following it through Dexter for five miles. It was headed west and we stopped. We lost it in the trees. Either the lights went off or it took off with a tremendous burst of speed. It was about 1,500 feet above the ground. It moved along at about 100 mph. We were doing 70 before losing it near Wylie Road."
Carloads of college students from nearby University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University converged on the area after hearing radio reports of the sightings also observed the object.
Frank Mannor was asked if it could have been a college prank. He vigorously denied the possibility. "They couldn't rig rigging to it. There was not anything there; there was no way in the world to get out. There were two scout cars on the hill and more at the house."
"I know every pothole in this county," he said. "I've never seen anything like it. There's nothing wrong with my eyes and my son has 20/20 vision. We both can't be wrong. My wife says we'll move out of here. She doesn't like that. I never lock the doors. Nobody ever bothers us."
The Air Force sent in Project Blue Book astronomer and UFO expert Dr. J. Allen Hynek to investigate the sighting reports. At first, Hynek agreed that there was something weird going on in the Michigan skies believing the witnesses. The Washtenaw County Sheriff Douglas Harvey stated: "Dr. Hynek was sent in from the U.S. government; he came into my office and subsequently went out to the site where supposedly this object came down on the ground. While in the car he said, 'There is something. We just can't put our finger on it. We've been investigating this for quite a while.'"
According to Harvey, they talked for a time about the sightings and Hynek admitted he didn't know what the witnesses had seen on the Mannor farm, but they definitely saw something strange. "That's when the phone call came in".
Harvey said, "It was a call for Hynek and it was from Washington. The dispatcher stepped into the office and said, 'Dr. Hynek, you've got a call from Washington.'"
Dr. Hynek took the call and after a few minutes, he returned from the other office looking a bit perplexed. Then, according to the Sheriff Harvey, Hynek said, "It's swamp gas, they saw swamp gas."
William Van Horn, a civil defense director, a Hillsdale native who grew up on the edge of a swamp, and who witnessed the UFO, was outraged by Hynek's findings, asserting that he knew more about swamp gas than Hynek did. He said Hynek ignored his reports that the lights moved and that there was a convex surface between the lights.
Van Horn, a pilot with a commercial rating, objected to the treatment of what came to be known as "The Michigan affair" by the Air Force, charging that, "A lot of good people are being ridiculed."
Former President Gerald R. Ford, then a Michigan Congressman, said later of this event "In the firm belief that the American public deserves a better explanation than that thus far given by the Air Force, I strongly recommend that there be a committee investigation of the UFO phenomena. I think we owe it to the people to establish credibility regarding UFOs, and to produce the greatest possible enlightenment of the subject." The then congressional representative subsequently called for a congressional investigation on the rash of reported sightings of UFOs in southern Michigan and other parts of the country.
40 years later the following was said of the incident:
"It was like a mob scene," said Bill Treml, the Ann Arbor News reporter who covered the story. "Hynek said: 'As near as I can tell, what we’re seeing is swamp gas.' I remember Mannor saying, 'I was in the Army and we were down in Louisiana and there was swamp gas all the time; this was not swamp gas'".
Treml was convinced the Mannors and Officer Hunawill saw something that night.
"Frank Mannor wasn’t a nut case", he said. "He wasn’t a guy who had wishes of grandeur. He was just telling what he saw. I’m sure he didn’t dream it up. He died thinking that was some kind of UFO, either Air Force-connected or from another planet or something."
Treml said he thinks that something was manmade.
"I’m sure the Air Force has secret files about all their experiments with rockets or whatever", he said. "Sometimes the high officials are so stupid, they think, 'This will create a panic'. That’s their alibi for not saying, 'Hey, we had a rocket ship go round the moon, or something come down'. Each administration continues the charade."
Sheriff Douglas Harvey agrees with Treml that the Mannors clearly saw something and he’s never believed the government’s official stance about that being, "swamp gas".
Harry Willnus of South Lyon, the former state director of MUFON (Mutual UFO Network), has investigated the sightings and wrote a feature article about it for "UFO Magazine" (UK edition), two years ago. Willnus had a copy of the police report from that night, and said there’s no way that it was swamp gas. "For instance, it mentions that the object was observed to rise to an altitude of approximately 500 feet, and then return to the ground", he said. "Swamp gas doesn’t do that. It only goes off the ground a few feet. It mentioned when it took off, it sounded like a rifle shot in a canyon. Again, swamp gas doesn’t do that."
"We can’t be sure", he said. "It was, I think, either a craft that came from off the earth, an extraterrestrial, or some kind of one-dimensional device. And I’m starting to use the word multiverse rather than universe ... Some kind of one-dimensional craft, perhaps, that came into our realm and then left".
Willnus, who is retired from teaching in the Romulus school district, worked for a while as an investigator for Hynek after Hynek started CUFOS (The Center for UFO Studies). "We haven’t solved the mystery", Willnus said. "This case is 40 years old. We still don’t know the answer, and yet it still continues to occur, with sightings every day around the world."
Could hundreds of witnesses mistake swamp gas for something more spectacular? It is ridiculous to think that those sheriffs and police officers were chasing around the state of Michigan, "swamp gas", while it was moving at fantastic speeds, making sharp turns, climbing at 500 feet then diving back down, and hovering. At one point, four UFOs in straight-line formation were observed.
Although it is called, "The swamp gas case", this writer refuses to call it as such, because I feel that the Air Force and Project Blue Book came to that conclusion while discrediting and dishonoring the decent trustworthy people of Washtenaw County, Michigan and the police officers who apparently witnessed the same object(s). People who were accustomed to live near swamps like Mr. Mannor and Mr. Van Horn witnessed something they have never seen before and it certainly wasn’t "swamp gas".
He not only lived nearby and owned the swampy area where the UFO was seen, Frank Mannor was also in the army stationed down in Louisiana where swamps were common and where there was swamp gas all the time. Dr. Hynek was quick to make that observation without taking into account other factors and since debunking is, what the Air Force expected him to do; he may have been following orders after that phone conversation.
Dr. Hynek's opinions about UFOs began a slow and gradual shift. After examining hundreds of UFO reports over the decades (including some made by credible witnesses, including astronomers, pilots, police officers, and military personnel), Hynek concluded that some reports represented genuine empirical observations. Hynek began occasionally disagreeing publicly with the conclusions of Blue Book and his apparent turnaround on the UFO question was an open secret. Only after Blue Book was formally dissolved is when Hynek began to speak more openly about his "turnaround" and became one of the staunchest proponents of the UFO and alien abduction phenomena. He would be credited with coining the phrase, "close encounters of the third kind," and was a consultant on the movie by the same name. He also had a cameo role in the film. Before his death, he created the CUFOS (Center for UFO Studies), whose website is still maintained today.