I don’t know why it is, but it has always been. When it comes to “interesting” items my curiosity is piqued. Maybe it was because when I was but a wee shaver (which was years before I started shaving) I had a grandpa tell scary (but true) stories and his son, Uncle Jim told outlandishly wild stories (which may or may not have been created with the help of un-prescribed pharmaceuticals. Don’t judge, it was the early 1970s). Whatever the reason, I always liked news of the weird. I like ghost stories. I like BigFoot stories. And, of course I like stories about unidentified flying objects, the ever-lovin’ UFO.
My favorite TV show as a kid in the 1970s was Kolchak: The Night Stalker. It was about a newspaper reporter tracking down and taking care of vampires, werewolves and all sorts of spooks and scary things. That show captured my imagination and, truth be told, set me on the path to becoming a reporter in my later life.
So, it surprised me not one little bit that when a message popped up in my email box reporting the Genesee County District Library was having a live, virtual program called “UFOs Over Michigan” I immediately signed up to watch.
It aired on Youtube on Oct. 27. And, for the record, even though I watched it on the couch that evening, I watched the entire program. Yup, I didn’t fall asleep (which is what I usually do when I watch any show or movie while on the couch.)
For about 90 minutes Bill Konkolesky, the Michigan Director for the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON to the geeks in the know) told how Michigan is kinda’ a hotspot for UFO activity. Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, MUFON “is a US-based non-profit organization composed of civilian volunteers who study reported UFO sightings. It is one of the oldest and largest organizations of its kind, claiming more than 4,000 members worldwide with chapters and representatives in more than 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 a year. Excuse me, the new term for UFOs is UAPs (Unexplained Aerial Phenomena). Whatever you want to call them, I will stick with what I grew up with, because I am that unbending, unchanging, cranky, old guy who keeps on wondering why “they” always change the words and change the meaning of words. (But, that is 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 about 95% of the sightings can be explained, or “identified.” That leaves five percent which are still unidentified. That’s still a lot of weird UFO sightings over the sky of Michigan. By the way, I always keep my eyes to the sky just in case something is amiss up there. Luckily, I can report I have not seen a UFO, just as I have never seen a ghost (though my aunt does) nor have I seen a BigFoot (though my uncle said he heard one while camping in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains – refer back to the not prescribed pharmaceuticals). And, I say “luckily” because while I am intrigued by those things, I really don’t want to see ‘em. I’m a coward and I am not sure I would stick around, observe and then report anything like that. Kolchak, I am not.
Konkolesky said Michigan was the center in two of the biggest UFO cases in the nation.
The first case was in 1966 in the Hillsdale College area. So the story goes, a number of college girls observed flashing lights hovering on campus. The law was called in, college, city and state police converged on the campus. Yup, they saw it. So did over 100 people. The United States government got involved and sent out their top astrophysicist and scientific consultant for the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book, J. Allen Hynek. His investigation concluded ‘twas not a UFO, rather it was merely swamp gas.
Outraged, then US Congressman Gerald Ford convened a Congressional Hearing on the subject. And, then it went away.
The other big case was in 1994 along Lake Michigan. According to Konkolesky, on March 8 of that year over 300 people in Michigan counties reported seeing strange lights in the sky that night. A weather dude at the National Weather Service station near Muskegon Airport saw the objects on the radar. Again, law enforcement officials saw the lights, too. For hours the weather dude tracked the objects on radar. He said the UFO would travel at about 100 miles per hour, stop, then hoover and shoot up 5,000 feet in a jiff. He said the main object broke into smaller objects and then headed southwest over Lake Michigan. At one point he said the objects had to travel about 7,200 mph. Afterwards, government officials told him to shut up and he was reassigned to another station out of Michigan. The official response was a temperature inversion over the lake.
Konkolesky said the new Unsolved Mysteries Netflix series dedicated an entire episode on that event. It aired Oct. 18 and was titled, “Something in the Sky.” (Yes, I then watched that episode.)
Konkolesky ended his presentation inviting viewers to become members of MUFON or even become field investigators for the Michigan chapter. Hmm? I have mad reporter skills and have been known to investigate. Should I do it?
Check out 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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