Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Michigan Swamp Romp - Part 1

Hillsdale, Michigan attained instant fame in March of 1966, when national headlines made much of UFO reports in the area. This very blog has featured press releases and personal letters from then-Congressman and House minority leader Gerald Ford regarding his comments about the Air Force investigation and the government's official attitude about the UFO subject in general.
Furor over the Hillsdale sightings precipitated a visit from astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek, at that time the Air Force's chief UFO investigator, and witnesses became outraged when Hynek suggested some activity was marsh gas -- an important semantic distinction, by the way, because to this day various sources list Hynek as saying "swamp gas." UFO researcher Wendy Connors (see her Faded Discs link in the margin) , in possession of audio recordings of Hynek's own statements at that time, shook the UFO research world recently when she offered Hynek's own words, and the words he used were "marsh gas." The erroneous swamp gas term, of course, is now commonly used in society to delineate subjects in a light vein or to foster ridicule.
Back in September of 1966, I received from Mr. William E. Van Horn, Hillsdale's civil defense director, his widely distributed report concerning the UFO sightings and Hynek's brief visit (during the "good old days" -- the report cost me 75 cents and Van Horn paid 10 cents for postage!). To say the least, he wasn't pleased with Hynek or the Air Force's discouraging position on the UFO reports. However, incidentally, it should be noted that Dr. Hynek at that time was still experiencing a significant turning point, a dramatic catharsis, relative to his opinions about the UFO phenomenon, with his formerly predominant skepticism influenced, if not trounced, by 1964's Socorro, New Mexico incident involving patrolman Lonnie Zamora's UFO encounter and resultant physical evidence on the ground.
You may know that I'm not very active with the UFO subject anymore, and I'm sure some of the visuals I put up on the blog are available at other web sites, perhaps even better copies, but I do what I can. Today, I'm going to start posting Mr. Van Horn's report, which comprises 30 pages. Unfortunately, some of the pages are quite faded with age, but I believe I can sharpen them enough to get by.
In 2008, I can easily report that I've come to despise the fade quality of mimeographed documents, though I fully understand the importance of this technology back in the fifties and sixties. Mimeographing was the standard method of printing elementary and high school papers handed out to students decades ago, and I suppose one could say that the best thing about the process was the pleasant odor of the chemical ink required -- and I suspect that a good many school secretaries who operated mimeograph machines day in and day out enjoyed the "buzz" acquired via the instant "high" created by the ink fumes. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure may also have caused illness or death. Talk about legalized drug sniffing. . .
I always must keep the question of copyrights and literary property in mind, and the brief statement on Mr. Van Horn's signed cover letter states that no part of the report is to be reproduced or used in any commercial manner without his consent. Because my blog is free, I don't believe "commercial" applies. Further, I believe Mr. Van Horn is deceased. Additionally, his next page indicates that the report is to be released to "Press, Radio and Television," so right there it appears we're talking "press release" incarnate, thus wide public dissemination appears to have been the civil defense director's intent from the start.
As is my general approach, I'm not commenting further as pages are presented because the reader may visit numerous other web sites, books and varied sources to "fill in the holes" and receive updated information on the Michigan sightings. Mr. Van Horn's statements are his own and subject to interpretation and revision by others who are in the know, now that more than 40 years have passed. Be aware that he may not have included all of the pages that members of the media received. Also note that Blogger sometimes posts visuals out of sequence, and if there is any confusion about which page follows which, I will label the jpegs with consecutive numbers for the readers' convenience.