“Domed,” “oval-shaped,” “quilted surface,” “lights in the center and on each end,” “fantastic speeds,” “sharp turns,” “dive and climb,” “great maneuverability.” These are some of the words used to describe an unidentified object seen by dozens of witnesses including law enforcement on March 20, 1966 in Dexter.
That night, on Frank Mannor’s McGuinnes Road farm in northwest Dexter, in the midst of hundreds of UFO sightings in Michigan at the time, Mannor, his family and dozens of other witnesses said they saw a domed, oval-shaped object with a quilted surface actually land in a nearby swamp. According to these witnesses, the object had lights in the center and on each end.
According to then-40-year-old Mannor, he and his 18-year-old son Ronald followed the UFO into a swampy area, but as they came closer, it slowly rose up, moved right above their heads and quickly disappeared into the night.
Just after, two officers who had not arrived on scene yet, Stanley McFadden and David Fitzpatrick, saw an object that matched the same description over Mast and North Territorial Roads in Dexter. They said it looked to be about the size of a small house, and they had never seen those types of movements on any air craft as it hovered quickly disappeared into the night moments later.
Dexter resident Louie Ceriani has lived in Dexter since 1928 and recalled the incident as exciting. He said it sparked a lot of intrigue in most citizens whether they believed in UFO’s or not.
“The excitement of all of this caused people for miles around to look skyward looking and hoping to see a UFO,” Ceriani said. “Some said they saw one but never told the press but only to their friends and that was with a smile.”
Jim Koch was a junior at Dexter High School at the time and said he felt the collective excitement that was going around town at the time.
“I remember it was a big deal at the time,” Koch said. “I was in high school at the time, and one of our favorite activities to get out of the house was to go look for UFOs. We would cruise around the back roads and do what high school kids at the time did.”
In fact, Ceriani said people came from miles around to check out Mannor’s farm because the case got so big.
“Even professors came to Frank’s farm,” he said. “Of course, they knew better: that Frank was just making it up. But Frank stuck to his word saying he did see a UFO. The more intelligent people thought maybe Frank was a little tithed, not well-educated. The press even took pictures of Frank and his house.”
Due to the various, alleged UFO sightings in Michigan at the time, the Dexter case attracted national attention as Project Blue Book, set up by the U.S. Air Force, sent Dr. J. Allen Hynek to investigate the sighting reports.
At first, Hynek agreed that there was something going on in the Michigan skies. But after he consulted with Blue Book headquarters, he changed his mind, and said that the sightings were nothing more than swamp gas.
“Marsh gas usually has no smell but sounds like the small popping explosions similar to a gas burner igniting,” Hynek said in 1966. “The gas forms from decomposition of 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.”
With Hynek’s conclusion, the case was closed. Project Blue Book, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, was terminated Dec. 17, 1969. Of a total of 12,618 sightings reported to Project Blue Book, 701 remained “unidentified.”
Then-Sherrif Douglas J. Harvey was angry at the time due to Hynek’s conclusion. He had spent time in army bases in the swamps of Lousiana during World War 2 and claimed he had seen plenty of swamp gas before.
“That’s a pretty weak theory,” Harvey said. “I’ve seen plenty of swamp gas and this wasn’t it. We saw what we saw, all right.”