Should Hillsdale College Commemorate 1966 UFO Sighting? Sept 8, 2017 18:28:33 GMT -5 Sam likes this
Post by Joanna on Sept 8, 2017 18:28:33 GMT -5
Should Hillsdale College Commemorate 1966 UFO Sighting?
HILLSDALE, Mich. – Hardly anyone on campus remembers that Hillsdale College once had its own close encounter with a UFO – and that’s why the college should put up a plaque to commemorate this extraterrestrial event.
Around 10:30 p.m. on March 21, 1966, several women (pictured above) living in the McIntyre residence noticed unusually bright lights floating over the Slayton Arboretum. In an account written three days later for The Collegian, Gidget Kohn (class of 69) described the event as a UFO encounter. “I ran to my window and there it was, radiating intense silver-white light and heading directly for the dorm,” she wrote. “A brief flash of lightning illuminated it for just a second and in that second I saw what appeared to be a squashed football or basketball.”
The women in McIntyre were not the only ones to report UFOs over the Arb that night. Harold Hess, then a Hillsdale police officer, and his partner, Jerry Wise, were parked in a lot on West Carleton Road. At some point during the night, the two noticed an almost-blinding light hovering somewhere over the college. When Hess and Wise drove around campus to investigate, they discovered the same shining disc-like object that had excited the women in McIntyre hanging over the Arb. In an interview with The Collegian in 2015, Hess described his experience as an encounter with unearthly technology. “It wasn’t a chopper. There was no humming,” he recalled. “I took my weapon out. Jerry told me to put it back. ‘Whatever it is, I don’t think it’ll be bothered one bit at what you’ve got at your side,’ Jerry told me.”
Then, Hess continued, the light split into two, and went in opposite directions. This action damaged the equipment in the patrol car so that when the two turned the radio on, they only got static. “It’s one of those things that runs your hair up on the back of your head just thinking about it,” he said.
All told, 87 people in the Hillsdale area reported a UFO in the sky that night. In the days following, more reported seeing objects in the sky in nearby towns, including Ann Arbor, Dexter and Battle Creek, making the incident the center ring of a national news circus.
The UFO sightings became a subject of controversy when the Air Force sent J. Allen Hynek, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University, to make an official report several days later. After interviewing the college women and Hillsdale citizens, Hynek dismissed the incident as “swamp gas” – a phrase he coined – which has since become a popular explanation for many UFO sightings. Hynek’s swamp gas explanation prompted then Michigan Congressman Gerald Ford to take an interest in the event. After receiving numerous letters from residents who claimed to have seen the UFOs, Ford looked into the matter himself and decided it deserved the attention of the federal government. “These are incidents which many reliable good citizens felt were sufficient to justify some action by our government – and not the kind of flippant answer that was given by the Air Force when they passed it off as swamp gas,” he announced. Ford petitioned Congress to commission the Air Force to officially investigate the Michigan UFOs, which prompted the Air Force to delegate the investigation to the University of Colorado, which after several years of study, came up with negative results, making it possible for the Air Force to close down Project Blue Book, its own UFO research project.
Half a century later, Ford’s questions, along with many other uncertainties about the UFO sightings in southern Michigan, still occasionally appear in pop culture. My favorite is Christopher Buckley’s 1999 political satire, Little Green Men, which makes reference to Hynek’s Michigan research. Director Whit Stillman was slated to turn the project into a film in 2006, but sadly, nothing came of it.
More recently, however – actually, this week – Stephen Spielberg’s 1977 film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, was re-released in theaters across the country. By the 1970s, J. Allen Hynek had become a believer and served as the movie’s technical advisor to ensure the aliens seemed as real as possible. None of this could have happened if not for the Hillsdale incident.
Something inexplicable happened here, and the college should memorialize it. All we need is a little plaque in the Arb, reading something like: “Welcome to Hillsdale: It’s the UFOs.”
Source: Nicholas Rowan, The Hillsdale Collegian, September 7, 2017.