mystery still haunts some (Michigan 1966)
'UFO' mystery still haunts some
1966 Dexter sightings by residents,
officer called swamp gas by U.S. government
Monday, March 20, 2006-BY JO
News Staff Reporter
Forty years ago today, for a
brief but interesting time, Washtenaw County became the flying saucer capital
of the Midwest.
It started when a Dexter farmer
named Frank Mannor and his 18-year-old son, Ronald, told the Washtenaw
County Sheriff's Department that a strange flying object appeared and landed
in a swampy area at Quigley and Brand roads.
Frank Mannor, 46, told authorities
that night that the two went out in search of the object moments after
they saw it touch ground. He said it appeared to be brown, with a "quilted''
effect on the surface. It was flat on the bottom and cone-shaped toward
the top, with 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.
According to the police report,
Mannor said: "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.''
Patrolman Robert Hunawill of
the Dexter Village Police Department reported then that he saw 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.
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.
Professor J. Allen Hynek, a Northwestern
University astrophysicist who consulted with the military, came to Dexter
to investigate, and then reported his findings at the Detroit Press Club.
"It was like a mob scene,'' said
Bill Treml of Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor News reporter who covered the story.
"Then (Hynek) said: 'As near as I can tell, what we're seeing is swamp
"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 is convinced the Mannors
and 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
Treml said he thinks that something
"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
Douglas Harvey, Washtenaw County
sheriff from 1965 to 1972, agrees with Treml that the Mannors clearly saw
And he's never believed the government's
official stance on what that something was.
"Dr. Hynek was sent in from the
U.S. government. He came into my office. We went out to the site where
supposedly this object came down on the ground. Dr. Hynek in the car said,
'There is something. We just can't put our finger on it. We've been investigating
this for quite a while.' ''
They returned to Harvey's office,
where Hynek asked to use the telephone in private.
"He was on the phone for quite
a while, which I found very enlightening,'' Harvey said. "He came out and
I said, 'Well, Dr. Hynek. What do you think?' He said, 'It's swamp gas.'
He tells me one minute he has no idea what it is. And then he makes one
phone call to Washington and comes out and gives a statement that it's
swamp gas. Very strange.''
"And then the Mannor family really
caught a lot of flak, which was very unfortunate.''
He said soon after that, a man
who was out running in Brighton reported a sighting.
"And then that was it,'' Harvey
said. "It just kind of died away.''
Harvey doesn't know what to think
"They did see something,'' he
said. "I'll believe this to the day I die. Somebody has kept something
quiet, and nothing more ever materialized. So we don't know if it was the
government experimenting, or was it really a UFO. I don't know.''
Harry Willnus of South Lyon,
the former state director of the Mutual UFO Network, has investigated the
sightings and wrote a feature article about it for UFO (UK edition) magazine
two years ago.
Willnus has 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.''
So what was it?
"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 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
Jo Collins Mathis can be reached
at email@example.com or 734-994-6849.
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