Michigan’s “Swamp Gas” UFO: Real, Imagined, or a Government Cover-Up?

By Isaac Constans

March 7, 2023

MICHIGAN—It all started with the mysterious object the US military shot down over Lake Huron.

The pilot who took it down said it appeared octagonal in shape, and about the size of a four-wheeler. And although the US Coast Guard spent 60 hours conducting 23 different searches over 4,000 square miles—aided by the Canadian Cost Guard and the Canadian Royal Mounted Police—the object could not be recovered from Lake Huron.

We’re pretty sure this and the other unidentified flying objects that have floated over the country in recent weeks weren’t sent by aliens, but if you’re skeptical, you’re not alone. A recent survey found that Michigan ranks in the top 10 states in the nation for UFO sightings.

When we at The ‘Gander started digging into the Lake Huron object, we learned that Michigan has one of the most curious UFO cases in US history—so mysterious that a future president asked the federal government to take a deeper look. How could we not go down this rabbit hole?

That’s why, every other week, we’re bringing you “Extraterrestrial Tuesdays: UFO Sightings in Michigan.” Never forget, ‘Ganders: The truth is out there.

The “Swamp Gas” Sightings

A composite drawing by Cpl. David Severance from witnesses’ descriptions of the Dexter UFO. Photo: Project Blue Book

Dexter—March 1966

On a farm tucked into the marshy land of Washtenaw County, Frank Mannor and his son Ronald were watching television when their six dogs began barking. The two Mannor men went outside and saw an object the size of a car floating in the air—it was “scaly” or “waffled” in appearance, with a flat bottom, two legs, and a top shaped like a football.

As they approached, Mannor said, the object hovered in place, ascended, and then flew away at a great speed.

They called the sheriff’s office,  where deputies had reportedly seen the same object. They dispatched to the Mannor farm, where they found the grass flattened in a circular imprint.

“These are respectable people. They’re not nuts,” said Doug Harvey, the Washtenaw County Sheriff, in an interview with the Ann Arbor District Library

The Mannors weren’t the only ones to file reports of flashing lights and a hovering object on that night. Police agencies from Livingston County, Monroe County, and Sylvania, Ohio, also reported “red-green objects…moving at fantastic speeds.” 

Forty miles away and a day later in Hillsdale, college students claimed to have seen a flying saucer. It possessed a similar shape to the one that appeared at the Mannor farm, had flashing lights, and left a circular pattern in the grass, according to the groundskeeper. 

March 31, 1966 edition of The Dexter Leader. Photo: Dexter District Library Archives

A federal astrophysicist, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, showed up in Dexter on March 23 to investigate on behalf of the Air Force’s Project Blue Book—an account of investigations into UFOs. According to Sheriff Harvey, Hynek went down to the farm, spoke with the Mannors, and drove back with the sheriff saying that he didn’t know what to make of it.

A short time later, Hynek received a call from federal authorities, which he took in Harvey’s office. When he exited, he declared that they’d determined the sightings were caused by “swamp gas.”

Following Hynek’s assertion, the Mannors became the center of ridicule. Their home was vandalized, with bottles thrown and windows broken.

But many people in the area refused to believe that they had just seen “swamp gas” and pushed for greater investigation. One man who took up the call was US House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford, a Republican from Michigan.

Ford described Hynek’s swamp gas explanation as “flippant” and pushed for further Congressional inquiry into the events.

“I think we owe it to the people to establish credibility regarding UFOs and to produce the greatest possible enlightenment on the subject,” Ford said.

Later that year, the Air Force asked the University of Colorado to investigate the claim. The report reaffirmed the swamp gas explanation, saying that nothing of scientific merit indicated any presence of a UFO.

Everything in this news report is real, but we’re bringing it to you in the name of fun. Look for our second edition of “Extraterrestrial Tuesdays” in two weeks.

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