Michigan at the Millennium: Crowds turn out to chase UFOs near Milan

Source: The Detroit News Online
for Wednesday, March 17, 1999

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

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

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.