The Col­legian pub­lished a cartoon UFO in its April 10, 1997 edition. Col­legian Archives. Col­legian Archives | Courtesy

Due to a tough Hillsdale aca­demic schedule, I realized I won’t be able to attend the upcoming rush of Area 51. Instead of falling into a pit of alien-absent dev­as­tation, I decided to see if Hillsdale had an Area 51 or at least an area of alien activity of its own.

Sure enough, the Col­legian Archives pro­vided me with yet another incredible story.

In March 1966, there was a UFO sighting in Hillsdale College’s arboretum. 

A dra­matic ren­dition of the sighting was written by Gidget Kohn and later repub­lished in The Col­legian on April 10, 1997. 

The story begins, “UFO! The scream echoed down the hall of the second floor east wing of the New Women’s Dorm.” 

This better not be clickbait, or if we were to speak in the lingo of the day, buy-this-news­paper bait. 

The story con­tinued, “I ran to my window and there it was, radi­ating intense silver-white light and heading directly for the dorm. A brief flash of lighting illu­mi­nated it for just a second and in that moment I saw what appeared to be a squashed football or bas­ketball.” 

Stu­dents praying for an excuse to stop studying have never had such a perfect answer to their inter­ces­sions. 

The author then made this obser­vation: the light “started to flash red then white, or so it appeared to my startled eyes. After about the third series of flashes, I realized that it wasn’t really flashing at all but that the light was increasing in intensity so quickly that it appeared to be doing so.” 

Then the author said, “At this point I called Civil Defense.”

Well that esca­lated quickly. 

Our author soon turned into quite the inves­ti­gator. 

She wrote, “I went down to Pinky Poffenberger’s room to get her story since she said she had seen it when it first approached.”

Come on. The author’s name is Gidget and the number one witness is Pinky? This story is not doing favors for the cred­i­bility of aliens. 

Pinky reported that “She had been sitting on her bed watching the lightning since about 10 o’clock. At approx­i­mately 10:25 she saw these blinking lights outside, northeast of the Arb … She screamed for her roommate Sam who came running in as did a number of other girls. They had all seen it…” 

If you thought that I added that second ellipses, I did not. The tes­timony just omi­nously drains away. 

The girls went to the arboretum to get a closer look. 

Gidget reported, “It is not really nec­essary to describe all the move­ments. Let us suffice to say that it moved like nothing earthly.”


Gidget con­cluded, “Finally I saw it dis­appear. I had gotten out of bed again at about 5:10 a.m. and as I watched it move from the northeast to almost due east and then get smaller and smaller until it com­pletely dis­ap­peared. It never came back in the half hour longer that I watched.” 

On January 29, 1981 The Col­legian pub­lished a more objective account of the extrater­res­trial vis­i­tation, writing, “The event received imme­diate attention from the national media and appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, U.S. New and World Report.”

The article con­tinued, “The U.S. Air Force, who at the time main­tained ‘Project Blue Book,’ a special agency to inves­tigate UFO sightings, sent the famous Astro-Physicist Dr. J. Allen Hynek to inves­tigate.”

The Col­legian reported the findings of the inves­ti­gation, writing, “The official press release first made the statement that ‘…in Hillsdale, over and above the sincere and honest reporting by young ladies at Hillsdale College, certain young men have played pranks with flares.” 

That is not a good look for Gidget and Pinky. 

A second report was later released, and The Col­legian wrote, “The report stated that what the girls saw was actually marsh gas which was pro­duced by the swamp in the Arboretum.”

Ok, sec­ondary expla­na­tions that are extremely vague and don’t quite make sense? It turns out that aliens are real after all. 

The author of the article appeared to agree with me, writing, “There was much spec­u­lation that Hynek had meant this verdict as a mere sug­gestion and not a final decision. There were even reports, like that of Mort Young in the New York Journal-American, which stated that Hynek had even been tempted to leave Project Blue Book because the Air Force had forced him to issue the expla­nation con­cerning marsh gas.”

And the con­spiracy theory thickens. 

If the aliens that visited Hillsdale way back in 1966 are still alive (real question here: what is the life-span of an alien?) and are reading my column (I’d like to think they take a peek at The Col­legian every so often, even if just to com­mem­orate their good old days), please come back to Hillsdale and visit us.