Michigan at the Millennium:
Crowds turn out to chase UFOs near Milan
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
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
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
"A lot of good people are being ridiculed," Van Horn