Don dives into the weird stuff
I don’t know why, but it always has been. When it comes to “interesting” articles, my curiosity is piqued. Maybe it’s because when I was a little razor (i.e. years before I started shaving), a grandfather used to tell scary (but true) stories and his son, Uncle Jim, told wild stories (which may or may not have been created using non-prescription pharmaceuticals. Don’t judge, this was in the early 1970s). Whatever the reason, I’ve always loved weird news. I like ghost stories. I love BigFoot stories. And, of course, I love stories of unidentified flying objects, the UFO still in love.
My favorite TV show as a kid in the 1970s was Kolchak: The Night Stalker. It was about a reporter tracking down and taking care of vampires, werewolves, and all kinds of ghosts and spooky things. This show captured my imagination and, truth be told, set me on the path to becoming a journalist later in life.
So it didn’t surprise me at all that when a message popped up in my email inbox that the Genesee County District Library was having a live virtual program called “UFOs Over Michigan”, I immediately signed up to watch it.
It was released on Youtube on October 27. And, for the record, even though I watched it on the couch that night, I watched the entire program. Yes, I didn’t fall asleep (which I usually do when watching a show or movie on the couch.)
For about 90 minutes, Bill Konkolesky, the Michigan director for the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON for geeks in the know) explained how Michigan is a bit of a hotspot for UFO activity. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, MUFON “is a US-based nonprofit organization made up of civilian volunteers who study reported UFO sightings. It is one of the oldest and largest organizations of its kind, claiming over 4,000 members worldwide with chapters and representatives in over 43 countries and all 50 states. It was founded in 1969.
Get a load of this!
According to Konkolesky, there are about 200 UFO sightings reported to MUFON from Michigan per year. Excuse me, the new term for UFOs is UAP (unexplained aerial phenomena). Whatever you want to call them, I’ll stick with what I grew up with, because I’m that inflexible, unchanging, grumpy old man who keeps wondering why “they” always change the words and change the meaning of words. (But, that’s another column, now where was I?)
So if there are about 200 sightings a year, that’s something over 2,000 in a decade. He also said that about 95% of sightings can be explained or “identified”. That leaves five percent who are still unidentified. That’s still a lot of weird UFO sightings in Michigan’s skies. By the way, I always keep my eyes up in the sky in case something goes wrong up there. Fortunately I can report that I have not seen a UFO, just as I have never seen a ghost (although my aunt does) or BigFoot (although my uncle said he heard one while camped in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina – refer back to non-prescription pharmaceuticals). And, I say “luckily” because even though I’m intrigued by these things, I really don’t want to see them. I’m a coward and I’m not sure I would stay, watch and then report something like this. Kolchak, I am not.
Konkolesky said Michigan was the center of two of the nation’s biggest UFO cases.
The first case dates back to 1966 in the Hillsdale College area. According to the story, a number of female students observed flashing lights hovering over campus. The law was called, college, city and state police converged on campus. Yeah, they saw it. Just like more than 100 people. The United States government got involved and sent its best astrophysicist and scientific consultant for the USAF Project Blue Book, J. Allen Hynek. His investigation concluded that it was not a UFO, but simply swamp gas.
Outraged, then-US Congressman Gerald Ford called a congressional hearing on the matter. And then it’s gone.
The other big case happened in 1994, along Lake Michigan. According to Konkolesky, on March 8 of that year, more than 300 people in Michigan counties reported seeing strange lights in the sky that night. A meteorologist from the National Weather Service station near Muskegon Airport saw the objects on radar. Again, law enforcement officials have also seen the lights. For hours, the weather guy tracked the objects on radar. He said the UFO would move at about 100 miles per hour, stop, then vacuum up and climb to 5,000 feet in the blink of an eye. He said the main object broke up into smaller objects and then tracked southwest over Lake Michigan. At one point he said the objects had to travel around 7,200 mph. Afterwards, government officials told him to shut up, and he was reassigned to another station outside of Michigan. The official response was a temperature inversion on the lake.
Konkolesky said the new Unsolved Mysteries Netflix series dedicated an entire episode to this event. It aired on October 18 and was titled “Something in the Sky”. (Yes, I then watched that episode.)
Konkolesky ended his presentation by inviting viewers to become members of MUFON or even become field investigators for the Michigan chapter. Hmm? I have crazy journalistic skills and I’m known for investigating. Should I?
Check their website for more information (and if you become an investigator, let me know, there’s a story in there): mimufon.org
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