High Strangeness: The Swamp Gas That Wouldn't Die

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Swamp Gas That Wouldn't Die

My new literary friend Leslie Kean, author of a book everyone should have in their UFO libraries, UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record, has been kind enough to not only write a fantastic cover blurb for The Close Encounters Man, but to post a link on her facebook page to the recent interview I did for vice.com.

Dr. J. Allen Hynek addresses reporters in 1966.
I've been looking in on her page now and then to read the comments people have been making, and the first thing that pops out is that if people know anything about UFOs and Dr. J. Allen Hynek, it's "swamp gas." The second thing that pops out is that people who mention swamp gas in their comments generally have a negative feelings about the term and see it as symbolic of both the failure of UFOlogy and of the government's supposed cover-up of the UFO phenomenon.

Now, I spent a lot of time researching the 1966 Dexter-Hilllsdale, Michigan sightings, because this moment is so pivotal to Hynek's story and because there has already been so much written about it. In fact, I probably spent more time researching this case than any other in the book. It's a fascinating story, with a lot of twists and turns, and once you start digging into is it's almost impossible to stop.

And here's what I found: When Hynek went before reporters and said that the witnesses in the Dexter-Hillsdale sightings quite possibly were seeing swamp gas, he absolutely said the right thing. Hynek always went exactly where the facts took him, and in this case the facts took him to swamp gas. I go into a great deal of detail in the book, but it boils down to one thing: Hynek's swamp gas statement was fully supported by the facts of the case, and I get mighty tired of people still beating him over the head with this.

The thing I kept running across in my research was this really interesting assumption made by so many people that, because there were so many credible witnesses to the Dexter-Hillsdale sightings--well over 100 people in total, among them law enforcement officers, a college professor and a Civil Defense agent--they must have been "real" UFOs. Meaning "real" spaceships from another world. It's easy to see why people would equate a large number of witnesses with proof that that what those witnesses had seen was some kind of unearthly physical object. But there is no connection, and Hynek was smart enough to figure that out.

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