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1980 Northern Michigan UFO Flap

In a rare occurrence, this is a personal story. One that I have never shared outside of close friends and family. The summer I turned five was filled with Sunday night Disney movies on ABC (one of three channels that reliably came in through our giant console t.v.), picnics on the shore of Lake Huron and endless hours playing in the yard. It was as normal a summer for a child as you could imagine, except for one thing, how we spent our evenings when the sun went down. Almost every night after dinner, we cleaned up the kitchen and went outside where our next-door neighbors would meet us for hours of sky gazing. With all the adults settled into 1970s iconic metal folding chairs with the wide pieces of woven colorful plastic, us kids would lay out on blankets slightly oblivious to why we were there. We saw the moon and the stars and little lights that would race across the sky, then stop, then move slowly, then race again. That’s all I remember.

I did know that the lights were called UFOs, my only understanding of which was that they were exciting to see and they weren’t airplanes. Outside of being woken by a light as bright as the sun one night in 1991 while living in a house surrounded by woods, this was the only sighting I remember experiencing as a non-adult. 

I never really talked about this, not because it was necessarily taboo, but because no one else brought it up. During a recent visit with my Dad, it did come up and we both wondered, how many other people saw what we did? While we’re sure that many did, not a single account exists on the internet today. 

I did however, get a few responses to a query I posted on the Michigan MUFON Facebook page. There was a UFO flap in Detroit in 1978 and an account of a sighting in Wixom (not far from Detroit)  in 1979. There were also sightings at the Oscoda MI Wortsmith Air Force base in 1975 1 and 1976 (closed in 1993), which is much closer to where we lived. In 1975, the Minneapolis Star reported on a first-hand account of a Colonel who had seen the objects as they hovered only ten to fifteen feet above the ground.2 Could all the sightings have been connected, despite being so far away from each other?

A little over a decade previous there was a UFO flap that is fairly well documented. Most of the March 1966 sightings3 came from the Dexter, MI area which is just northwest of Ann Arbor. According to Ray Szymanski, Author of Alien Shades of Greys, one of the UFOs was chased by Air Force pilots. Due to their erratic flying capabilities they struggled to keep up with it before it suddenly disappeared. When the sightings were published in newspapers and made the national nightly news, Americans were told they were all an optical illusion caused by swamp gas. Sounding hokie, an investigation into the sighting was ordered by Gerald Ford who was a congressman at the time. Nothing public came from this investigation. The 1975/76 sightings were also investigated by NORAD, the Air Force and Ground Saucer Watch as reported by the Minneapolis Star. The CIA, despite having records stated they had ceased investigating UFOs in 1953. 

I may never know how many other people saw those same UFOs we saw that summer. I may never know if they were only in our literal neck of the woods or if they were visiting a much broader area. I do want to thank the wonderful people on the Michigan MUFON Facebook page who shared what information they could, I couldn’t have written this without their generous help. 

Do you have a UFO mystery? Please share your moment in the comments section or in our Facebook Group.

Violet Wisdom

  1. The Alpena News, "UFOs over Northeast Michigan Skies", July 16, 2021, Jeffrey D. Brasie

  2. The Minneapolis Star, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Friday, January 19, 1979 pg.4

  3. "Swamp gas' or UFO? Michigan author believes aliens flew over Dexter, HIllsdale in 1966" March 30, 2021

Photo Credit- "Michigan" Simon King Flick

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