The eerie lights filled the sky along nearly 200 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, from Ludington south to the Indiana border.
Source: Detroit Free Press
On March 8, 1994, calls flooded 911 to report strange sightings in the night sky. The reports came in from all walks of life — from police and a meteorologist to residents of Michigan’s many beach resorts. Hundreds of people witnessed what many insisted were UFOs — unidentified flying objects.
Cindy Pravda, 63, of Grand Haven remembers that night in vivid detail — four lights in the sky that looked like “full moons” over the line of trees behind her horse pasture.
“I got UFOs in the backyard,” she told a friend on the phone.
Today, the mystery of one of the largest UFO sightings in Michigan history remains unsolved, but it continues to fascinate extraterrestrial researchers, psychologists and history buffs alike.
Pravda still believes the lights were UFOs.
“I watched them for half an hour. Where I’m facing them, the one on the far left moved off. It moved to the highway and then came back in the same position,” Pravda told the Free Press on Thursday. “The one to the right was gone in blink of an eye and then, eventually, everything disappeared quickly.”
She still lives in the same house and continues to talk about that night.
“I’m known as the UFO lady of Grand Haven,” Pravda laugh.
The Detroit News and Free Press, March 20, 1994. The newspapers printed a combined Saturday and Sunday paper at the time. (Photo: Detroit Free Press)
Where it started
Daryl and Holly Graves and their son, Joey, told reporters in 1994 they witnessed lights in the sky over Holland at about 9:30 p.m. on March 8.
“I saw six lights out the window above the barn across the street,” Joey Graves told the Free Press in 1994. “I got up and went to the sofa and looked up at the sky. They were red and white and moving.”
Others gave similar accounts, including Holland Police Officer Jeff Velthouse and a meteorologist from the National Weather Service Office in Muskegon County. What’s more, the meteorologist recorded unknown echoes on his radar the same time Velthouse reported the lights.
“My guy looked at the radar and observed three echoes as the officer was describing the movement,” Leo Grenier of the NWS office in Muskegon said in 1994. “The movement of the objects was rather erratic. The echoes were there about 15 minutes, drifting slowly south-southwest, kind of headed toward the Chicago side of the south end of Lake Michigan.”
In 1995, The Free Press published the conversation between the National Weather Service and Velthouse.
“What do you think it is?” said the weather service radar operator.
Velthouse described witnesses seeing five to six objects, some cylindrical with blue, red, white and green lights.
The radar operator said, “There were three and sometimes four blips, and they weren’t planes. Planes show as pinpoints on the scope, these were the size of half a thumbnail. They were from 5 to 12,000 feet at times, moving all over the place. Three were moving toward Chicago. I never saw anything like it before, not even when I’m doing severe weather.”
Hundreds of reports of suspected UFOs were called in not only to 911 dispatchers but also to the Mutual UFO Network’s (MUFON) Michigan chapter.
MUFON, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization founded in 1969, bills itself as the “world’s oldest and largest civilian UFO investigation and research organization.”
In 1994, the network received UFO reports from Ludington south to the Indiana state line, spokeswoman Virginia Tilly told the Free Press in 1994.
“We’re getting 10 or 15 new sightings a day,” Tilly said. “We have probably 20 people in various stages of investigating these reports.”
The reported UFO sightings was the largest since March 1966, Bill Konkolesky, Michigan state director of MUFON, told the Free Press this week.
The Detroit Free Press, March 8, 1995 (Photo: Detroit Free Press)
“It was one of the big ones in the state. We haven’t seen a large UFO (reported sighting) wave since that time,” Konkolesky said.
Konkolesky joined the network in 1993. He was not part of the investigation team but still has a copy of an article about the sightings with a picture of the Graves family on the front cover.
MUFON interviewed dozens of witnesses, Konkolesky said, many of whom remain in contact with the organization.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm into the UFO field (then) because of the amount of press coverage. It was outstanding,” he said. “They were paying attention to the phenomenon.”
Konkolesky said the flying objects reported in 1994 are characterized as “unexplained” and the sightings remain a mystery.
Not so far-fetched
The idea of alien life isn’t as farfetched as once thought, with a number of recent discoveries pointing raising the possibility.
In a series of reports from USA TODAY, researchers have studied whether life could exist on a recently discovered “Super Earth” about 30 trillion miles away.
Villanova University astrophysicists Edward Guinan and Scott Engle told USA TODAY that the planet, known as Barnard b, has a temperature of 274 degrees below zero, but “niches of life” may be possible under the ice.
Another group of researchers is studying whether a mysterious object entering the Earth’s solar system from interstellar space at a high rate of speed actually is a probe intentionally sent here by an alien civilization. Scientists later decided that the weird object actually was a comet.
And another study reports that more “fast radio bursts” – bright, short-lived pulses of radio waves that come from across the universe — have been detected by astronomers. Some researchers have considered the idea that these bursts could be signals from intelligent aliens, according to Science News.
The UFO frenzy of 1994 was one in a string of unexplained phenomena in Michigan history.
In 2016, a mysterious phenomenon known as the Paulding Light was reported in the western Upper Peninsula.
Witnesses reported seeing a bright white light, glowing deep inside the woods, changing size and shape before fading into the darkness. Although many individuals believed the flickering lights was because of a car driving over a hill, others believed it to be something supernatural and too bright to be headlights.
A light shines off in the distance seen off of Robbins Pond Road in Paulding, MI where the mysterious Paulding Light appears on Wednesday June 13, 2016 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. (Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)
That same year, a photo of a furry creature in the Upper Peninsula surfaced, sparking conversation about a possible Bigfoot. At that time, the Upper Peninsula Bigfoot/Sasquatch Research Organization also reported a sighting near the community of South Branch in Ogemaw County.
In December 2016, the organization led a search for the beast in the Seney National Wildlife Refuge.