Crowds Chased UFOs
In Michigan This Day In 1966
By Vivian M. Baulch
The Detroit News
UFO sightings often come in bunches, like the spate that tantalized southeast Michigan in 1966.
After a few days of sighting reports by civilians, on March 17 two Washtenaw County Sheriff's deputies, Sgt. Neil Schneider and Deputy David Fitzpatrick, said they saw three or four red, white and green circular objects oscillating and glowing near Milan about 4 a.m.
They called Willow Run Run Airport officials but radar could not confirm the report.
Two more Washtenaw deputies, Buford Bushroe and John Foster, chased the same types of objects three days later. Livingston and Monroe County residents also reported seeing the objects.
The Detroit News carried the police chase story and a drawing of a quilted football-like UFO with lights, dome and antennae.
When Dexter Patrolman Robert Huniwell saw the object at 9:30 p.m. at Quigly and Brand, Washtenaw County Sheriff Douglas Harvey ordered all available deputies to the scene. Six patrol cars, two men in each, and three detectives converged on the area. They chased the flying object along Island Lake Road without catching it.
Farm owner Frank Mannor and his family said they came within 500 yards, "It wasn't like the pictures of a flying saucer and it had a coral-like surface," Mannor said.
Carloads of students from nearby University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan converged on the area after hearing radio reports.
The Air Force sent in "Project Blue Book" astronomer and UFO expert J. Allen Hynek, who drove around for two hours and 45 minutes. "Swamp gas" he concluded.
"Marsh gas usually has no smell, but sounds like the small popping explosions similar to a gas burner igniting. The gas forms from decomposition of vegetation. It seems likely that as the present spring thaws came, the gases methane, hydrogen sulfide and phosphine, resulting from decomposition of organic materials, were released."
But William Van Horn, a local civil defense director and pilot who claimed he had seen the UFOs, was outraged by the report. A Hillsdale native, Van Horn said he grew up next to a swamp and knew more about swamp gas than Hynek.
"A lot of good people are being ridiculed," Van Horn concluded.
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