Sunday, September 19, 2010


Radar and Visual UFO Sightings Over Winnipeg in 1967

As I sort through the many documents in my collection regarding UFOs, I sometimes find things that have been overlooked or filed in a "Study Later" folder. I recently discovered some interesting correspondence on some radar UFOs, buried remarkably well in a file containing information on the note "Falcon Lake" or Michalak incident of 1967.

Rather than recap the Michalak case here, I'll simply refer to some online sources. One good one, based on my investigations, is here. Another is here.

The real significance of the case is that it was investigated by many military and government personnel. The USAF-sponsored Condon Report even listed it among its "Unxeplained" cases. We also have access to many pages of official documents detailing investigations and attempts to explain the incident.

Debunkers usually adopt the simple view that the case must have been a hoax. This, despite the fact that there was physical evidence (including radioactive materials) and also that the witness himself did not believe the object which landed and injured him was an alien spaceship. Until his death, he maintained that it must have been some kind of military test vehicle. Claims that he made the story up to publish a book and make money are refuted by the observation that he made no money at all by the publication of a ghost-written pamphlet about his experience and in fact he was irritated by the constant questioning of his character and the harassment of his family.

Among the original official investigators of the case in 1967, one of the most skeptical was Sgt. Paul Bissky, then Squadron Leader for Canadian Training Command within the air force arm of the Canadian military.

As I noted in an earlier publication:

Squadron Leader Paul Bissky of the Royal Canadian Air Force was the investigating officer on the case. His reports to Canadian Forces Headquarters are remarkable in their detail and candid comments about his investigations. But complicating his reports is the fact that Bissky was a devout skeptic, and told researchers he "didn't believe in that stuff [UFOs]." How much his personal opinions may have influenced his reports is not known.

That Bissky thought Michalak was a liar is an understatement. At one point during his investigation, he bluntly asked Michalak if he had been drinking on the day of the experience. He believed that Michalak was hallucinating because of some alcoholic stupor. Bissky appeared sure that alcohol was somehow involved with the case, and he cleverly manipulated Michalak into proving he was not a teetotaller. In his first report, Bissky noted:

"Although the authenticity of Mr. Michalak's report had not been questioned up to the second search, he had appeared genuinely sincere and his story was convincing to those who heard it for the first time, some doubts arose during the last search. . . . Mr. Michalak had staunchly denied having consumed alcoholic beverages at any time while at Falcon Lake. Yet a reliable witness at Falcon Lake advised that he personally had served Mr. Michalak 4 or 5 bottles of beer the night prior to the trip into the bush."

This is an odd note, since the "reliable witness" was obviously a bartender, and Bissky did not state how his source's own reliability had been established. Bissky seemed to want to prove there was at least one inconsistency or lie in Michalak's testimony, and the issue of alcohol consumption seemed to be a choice target. (In retrospect, even if Michalak admitted drinking several beers, there would still remain the problem of the other physical and physiological evidence; Michalak's drinking probably had no bearing on the case itself.)

In his later report, Bissky noted several "discrepancies" in Michalak's story, including this following detailed passage which gives us some insight into Bissky's RCAF investigation:

". . . it was proven that Mr. Michalak does consume alcoholic beverages, in fact to some considerable extent. After coming out from the alleged site, Mr. Michalak was purposely taken to the same bar where he had consumed the five beers the night prior to his initial encounter on the 20 May 67. Although he declined the offer of beer (it could not be determined whether this was done because he did not like beer or not), he did accept the offer of several rye "Presbyterians" (rye and half water/ginger ale mix), in fact he even went so far as to purchase a round of drinks for the group. He appeared to hold his alcohol reasonably well, although it was noticed that he did loosen up after the third drink and become quite gay, telling numerous stories. When questioned about the vast discrepancy in direction the object departed, he just shrugged his shoulders and laughed it off. When last seen, he was in a jovial mood, remaining at the bar, presumably to await the arrival of his two assistants from Winnipeg. Hence it is very possible that Mr. Michalak may have had a private party on his own the night of 19 May, which in turn could have caused hallucinations the following day."

In other words, Bissky resorted to trying a tried and true method for extracting information from informants: get them drunk. Bissky tried to get Michalak drunk in order to break his story. Rather than admit defeat when it didn't work, Bissky simply suggested that Michalak had been having hallucinations because of a presumed (but unproven) party the night before. Of course, this explanation wouldn't explain the physical or physiological evidence, but why let that slow down an investigation?

Anyway, what is most interesting is that while the vehemently skeptical Bissky was working on the case, he was also himself a UFO witness. Documents I located within the Condon Committee files on the Michalak case include some correspondence between Bissky and Roy Craig of the University of Colorado UFO project, dated 12 July, 1967.

In this letter, Bissky helpfully provides Craig with details on not only a visiual sighting of UFOs over Winnipeg by military personnel but also several radar observations of UFOs. What's more, it seems as though the visual observations may be of the objects detected on radar.

Unfortunately, the letter is not accompanied by a supporting document that is mentioned, which must contain further details. What we can gather is that Bissky is writing Craig as a follow-up to a telephone conversation during which he reported a UFO seen on July 6, 1967.

Bissky noted:

As mentioned in our telecon, there was a similar sighting on the night of 6th July as well, and which I had the opportunity of observing myself, after having been alerted by [Group Captain] Fitzgerald. This sighting was also made by Squadron Leader Gary McCowan plus a group of approximately 5 visitors.

Okay, nothing much. Just a UFO seen by eight people including at least three military personnel, one of whom was a devoted skeptic.

Bissky then noted:

Unfortunately, my observation was only of the first object. The brighter and the first to cross the Winnipeg area was observed to be travelling at a high speed, apparently paused for approximately 15-20 seconds directly above Winnipeg, then headed off in an ESE direction, thus altering from the original west to east line of flight. The second object, which was not quite as bright, appeared to be travelling along the same flight line west to east but at approximately twice the speed of the first, overtaking the first just over Winnipeg and continuing on.

So, as we can piece together, Fitzgerald called to Bissky and they and several others watched two UFOs pass over Winnipeg. The second could very likely have been a satellite. The other one. which changed direction, was not.

But then the following note:

On the afternoon of 7 July, I was advised of several radar returns picked up by the Winnipeg DOT [Department of Transport] and the Kenora radars that were unidentifiable.

Unidentified radar returns. Ho-hum. Bissky then quotes a report from Winnipeg radar "Which was made on an aircraft that departed Winnipeg at 1950 local time, (or approximately 060400Z)."

This is odd, because the local and Greenwich times don't match at all for that location. We therefore don't know the time of the UFO sighting by the eight witnesses, nor the time of the radar observation, although in context the two incidents may have been concurrent.

At any rate, the radar operator in Winnipeg reported:

I was operating at the Winnipeg east enroute radar position monitoring flight Air Canada 916, DC-9, Winn. to Montreal, climbing to 29,000 when I observed a radar return 11 o'clock his position at a distance of 70 miles from Winnipeg on an approximate bearing of 093 degrees. The target was observed from 2 miles between sweeps until the last observed sweep vicinity of Vivian [Manitoba, near the American border] showed a distance of ten miles. The target was lost as mentioned in the vicinity of Vivian in the ground clutter breaking through on our radar. The return was observed by three other controllers and two technicians, the latter felt the return was not a "running rabbit" type of interference.

Bissky then added:

The interpretation of the milages [sp.] and sweeps is an acceleration from approximately 720 knots to 3600 knots in one minute 10 seconds. There were no visual reports on this radar report.

So, despite Bissky's note that the radar observations were not confirmed visually, he and several others may have seen something the same night.

He then gave details on three additional UFOs detected by Kenora radar on July 6th, the same night as the visual observations:

070324Z July
Observed target NE bound by the Kenora VOR on the 263 radial at 45 miles. Proceeded on the 263 radial to 40 miles turned SW bound to fifty miles.

One followed Air Canada flight 405, turned NE bound to the Kenora VOR and disappeared off the scope.

One followed AC flight 927 NW bound to the Kenora VOR, turned NE and again disappeared off the scope.

Bissky concluded:

In each of these disappearances, the objects faded from the scope as opposed to running out of range which would indicate they either climbed out of the operating range (approximately 40 to 43 thousand feet) or descended to below radar pick-up. No speeds were given.

So, the space of about half an hour, three UFOs were seen on radar.

What's curious is that Bissky made no effort to further investigate these cases, but simply gave details to the Condon Committee, which as far as can be discerned, did nothing with them. What's more this is the same Bissky who was so convinced there are no such things as UFOs and Michalak couldn't have been telling the truth about his encounter that he tried to get the poor civilian drunk.

Two visual observations by military personnel and four radar observations, all on the same date and possibly about the same time.

But they were never fully investigated.

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are there any verbatim eye-witness accounts of the incident?

I am most curious to read these as this is, iirc, the same summer, possibly a month off, from when my friends and I, at the time just boys at a summer camp some miles outside of the city, saw and then followed (but did not find) a greatly suspicious silent giant luminous craft that passed over the camp and then seemed to settle in the distant woods. We got into a great deal of trouble trying to follow through the woods beyond the camp fence in the pitch dark.
I've never told anyone this story, but back in either the winter of 1969 or 1970 I was on Ste Annes Road in Winnipeg walking, and all of a sudden all the cars stopped in both lanes. And they were all looking up toward the northwest. There was kind of a dome craft of some sort, with fluorecent looking windows, square....that seemed to rotate around the craft. It seemed quite close and large in the sky, and all of a sudden it kind of went straight up, a little to the north west and disappeared. I've always wondered why I never heard anything more about it, and now looking on the internet to see if there's anyone else that said anything about it. I'm sure 100's or more Winnipeg must have seen it.
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