The year 1966 was notable for memorable fads and trends. On TV, “Batman” was a campy hit, and cigarette packages first carried health warnings. LSD and the Beatles were fodder for tabloid journalism, and sightings of UFOs had reached epidemic proportions. That spring a series of reports of unidentified flying objects made headlines from Michigan to Maine.

Even Vermont was not spared.

The tiny town of Hillsdale, Mich., lies halfway between Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario. With a population of fewer than 9,000, Hillsdale is anchored by a liberal arts college and neighborhoods of stately Victorian homes. On an evening in March 1966, more than 100 eyewitnesses, including seven police officers, reported the sighting of a football-shaped object hovering over several locations around town. Some witnesses reported red and green flashing lights. The March 14, 1966, occurrence was followed by more extraterrestrial manifestations on March 17 and March 20.

On March 22, 1966, 20 more residents reported seeing UFOs, and an Air Force expert, J. Allen Hynek, was sent to Hillsdale. After an investigation lasting less than three hours, Hynek dismissed the eyewitness reports of the phenomena as “swamp gas.” “Swamp gas,” he said, “has no smell but sounds like the small popping explosions similar to a gas burner igniting. The gas forms from (the) 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.”

The Michiganders were offended by what they perceived as ridicule by the Air Force investigator.

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