Dexter man's passing recalls UFO sighting
By WILLIAM B. TREML
The death this week of Frank E. Mannor of Dexter Township recalled for many in Washtenaw County a series of bizarre “Unidentified Flying Object” episodes which occurred 17 years ago and which have never been fully explained.
Mannor was 64 when he died Tuesday at the Veterans Administration Hospital on Fuller Road. Funeral services are scheduled for 1 p. m. Friday at the Hosmer Funeral Home in Dexter. Burial will be in Forest Lawn Cemetery.
It was on the Mannor farm on McGinnis Road, northwest of Dexter, that the most spectacular of the UFO sightings was reported. About 8:30 p.m. on the night of March 20,1966, several persons living in the Quigley-Brand Road near the Mannor property reported seeing a bright, shining object fly overhead. The object, which witnesses said did not have the characteristics of an airplane, appeared to land in a swampy area on the Mannor farm.
Mannor and his son, Ronald, then 18, also saw the lighted object when it first appeared overhead. When the object appeared to have landed they dashed from off their house to investigate. When the Mannors reached a marshy area on the farm they reported seeing a lighted, brown, sphere-shaped object which appeared to have a “quilted” effect on its surface.
Two small lights at the outer edges of the object issued a glowing, bluish-green color which intensified and turned a brilliant red at times, they later told Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department deputies. The entire object turned yellow-white at times, and the light ran horizontally between the two outer lights, they said.
The object disappeared at one point and reappeared seconds later across the swamp, about 500 yards from its original position, the Mannors reported. As deputies and Dexter police approached the area with flashlights, the lights on the object went out.
Mannors said he and his son then heard a sound like a whistle, similar to that of a rifle bullet richo-cheting off an object. They said the UFO then went up in the air, passed directly over them and disappeared.
Moments later Robert Hunawill, then a patrolman with the Dexter Police Department, saw what he later assumed was the same object the Mannors had observed. The officer had parked his patrol car at the Quigley-Brand Road intersection while the late Dexter Police Chief Robert Taylor and Patrolman Nolan Lee entered the Mannor property to aid in the police search.
Hunawill said the object appeared over his patrol car at a height of about 1,000 feet, hovered there and then began a series of sweeps over the Mannor swamp. The object had red and white lights which changed to a blueish tinge at times, Hunawill said. While the officer watched, the object was joined by three other flying ships and the four flew off together, he reported later.
A short time later in the same general area two sheriff’s deputies, Stanley McFadden and David Fitzpatrick, saw a lighted object in the sky at North Territorial Road near Mast Road. The officers turned their scout car’s spotlight on the object.
“It was the size of a small house, kind of pushed down flat,” McFadden would report later. “It had red-green lights on it and movements which could not possibly have been made by any aircraft I’d ever heard of.”
The object disappeared moments after the deputies saw it.
In the week that followed, a number of other sightings of UFOs were reported, the most outstanding coming from Hillsdale County, 70 miles southwest of Ann Arbor.
Defense Director, William Van Horn.
The students called Van Horn after spotting a strange, flying light over a swamp near their campus dormitory. The CD director said he watched the object through binoculars for more than an hour. He said it emitted wavering orange, red and white lights and hovered over the swamp less than a thousand yards from a college dormitory.
The local reports were so widespread that the U.S. Air Force, which at that time had a section for the investigation of UFOs, called in Dr. J. Allen Hynek, an astrophysicist from Northwestern University. Hynek was a scientific consultant for the Air Force and had investigated and explained scores of UFO sightings.
In a press conference held in Detroit on March 26,1966, Hynek said the Mannor sightings and the one at Hillsdale College were “probably swamp gas.”
The scientist said gases, created from rotting swamp vegetation, are ignited into flame when a thaw occurs and releases the gases from ice and frozen ground. He said the flame of chemical luminescence moves quickly and freely about the air over a swampy area, giving the appearance of a solid object.
Then-Sheriff Douglas J. Harvey was doubtful about Hynek’s explanation.
“That’s a pretty weak theory. I’m not ready to accept it,” Harvey said. Frank Mannor was equally dissatisfied.
“I spent time on army maneuvers in the swamps of Louisana during World War II,” he said. “I’ve seen plenty of swamp gas. This wasn’t it. We saw what we saw, all right.”
William B. Treml
1966 UFO Sightings
Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department
Veterans Administration Hospital
United States Department of Defense
Unidentified Flying Objects
U.S. Air Force
Hosmer Funeral Home
Forest Lawn Cemetery
Dexter Village Police Department
Frank E. Mannor
Dr. J. Allen Hynek
Douglas J. Harvey
William Van Horn