In 1975, Dr. J Allen Hynek, formerly of the Air Force’s Project Blue Book, was called upon as a consultant regarding a UFO sighting in Durand, WI. The recently-cancelled History Channel show Project Bluebook has now made Hynek famous through a fictionalized and sensationalized telling of his story, but he was a real scientist leading UFO research in the mid-1970s.
The story kicks off on a cold January day in Durand, Wisconsin, a small town on the banks of the Chippewa River near its confluence with the Mississippi River. In 1975, the town had a population of 2000 or so, just a few hundred more than it does today. Durand sits near the Minnesota border, 25 miles south-east of Elmwood.
On January 21, 1975, Mitch Doverspike and Scott Fedie, two sixteen-year-old boys of rural Durand, saw something in the sky about five miles south of town. The two boys were apparently out of doors when they saw what appeared to be some type of craft moving through the sky. The Winona Daily News reported, “It was big and covered with lights, and when it left, it zoomed away with a hissing sound.”
NOTHING BUT NOTHING of this earth could move THAT FAST from a silent dead stop to GONE… in a split second.
After seeing the original version of this post on UFOdays.net (May 2020), 45 years after the incident, Mitch Doverspike contacted us to set the record straight. He and Fedie had been in the car when they saw a bright round object hovering in the air some 200 feet above. They shut off the car and got out to take a look. The object made no sound at all. A few moments later, it shot off with a loud noise and almost instantly disappeared beyond the horizon.
Here’s how Doverspike remembers that night:
I witnessed this. At first it was standing completely still about 200 ft or less in the air and completely silent. We shut the car off and got out. The lights were EXTREMELY bright and NO NOISE AT ALL. When it took off it sounded like a jet airplane SHHHHWOOO and in a SPLIT SECOND it went from JUST ABOVE OUR HEADS TO BEYOND THE HORIZON. NOTHING BUT NOTHING of this earth could move THAT FAST from a silent dead stop to GONE… in a split second.
Doverspike also corrected the descriptionin the Winona Daily News, stating, “It wasn’t filled with lights. It was just one big round very, very bright light that was about 200 feet or less above our heads.”
If that had been the whole story, it might not have gone too far, but several more witnesses claimed to see “odd things” in the sky the subsequent night, and more again a week later. On January 26 in nearby Chippewa Falls, Kevin Guibord reported a light in the night sky, and back in Durand, Mrs. Al Gund observed an unusual light in the sky on the nights of January 29 and again on January 31.
The Winona Daily News (2/7/1975) contacted the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for answers. Faculty members of the astronomy department suggested that the witnesses might have seen the planets “Venus and Mercury, which were within a half a degree of each other Jan. 23,” and besides, “there were some satellites visible last week as well.” Those are the same sort of contrived and forced explanations that the Air Force’s Project Blue Book hired astronomer J. Allen Hynek to concoct. Hynek used to supplement his income by helping the Air Force debunk UFO sightings as meteors, stars, planets, weather inversions, and even “swamp gas.”
Hynek’s experiences with Project Blue Book forced him to reconsider.
By 1975, Project Blue Book had been already closed for five years, and J. Allen Hynek was no longer a skeptic in the business of debunking UFO sightings. Instead, his experiences with Project Blue Book had forced him to reconsider the possibility that there might be something more to the UFO sightings than just misidentifications of common astronomical phenomena. Interactions with serious scientists like Dr. James McDonald and Dr. Jacques Vallée encouraged him to go public with his research. In 1972, Hynek published a book titled The UFO Experience: A Scientific Study which introduced the public to the term “Close Encounters” and their various kinds. In 1973, he started the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) and served as its scientific director.
The Winona Daily News contacted Hynek with the details of the Durand sightings. The reporter apparently asked him for his perspective and told him about the explanation offered by the Astronomy department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
This was definitely something NOT OF THIS EARTH OR A PLANET
At the time, Hynek was the chairman of the Astronomy Department at Northwestern University as well as director of CUFOs. Hynek must have been amused to recognize the same type of debunking rhetoric that he himself had so often employed while working on the Blue Book files. He told the Daily News that it was highly unlikely that a planet could be mistaken as an object covered with lights and zooming away with a hissing noise. Hynek added, “And planets don’t hiss.”
In his comment on the post, Doverspike adds, “Planets don’t hover 200 feet or less above the earth. This was definitely something NOT OF THIS EARTH OR A PLANET. I am now 62 as is Scott Fedie and I will NEVER FORGET THAT EXPERIENCE.. NEVER!”
Doverspike still wonders about that night, 45 years ago. He says, “I would give anything to relive that day and have a camera or video camera.”
Examined in isolation, the Durand UFO story isn’t particularly significant or compelling, but when placed into the broader context of the subsequent 1975 UFO sightings, a pattern emerges. The Durand sightings took place just a month before the Forster case in neighboring Elmwood.
There’s probably a lot more to the Durand story. If you know more or any of the original witnesses from Durand, get in touch with us here at UFOdays.net.
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