Transcript of podcast episode 54
Josée Arnold (JA): Welcome to Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage. I'm your host, Josée Arnold. Join us as we showcase treasures from our vaults; guide you through our many services; and introduce you to the people who acquire, safeguard and make known Canada's documentary heritage.
In the second part of this two-part episode, we discuss the evidence and investigation into the Falcon Lake Incident. Stefan Michalak's son Stan and researchers Chris Rutkowski and Palmiro Campagna once again join us to discuss Canada's most infamous UFO case. If you haven't heard part one yet, go back and take a listen.
[CBC clip from 1983]
Harry Brown (HB): Has anybody ever come back with the marks of having been on one of these ships?
Edward Barker (EB): Very definitely. Right here in Manitoba, we have one of the finest cases on record. It's a very interesting case. It took place at Falcon Lake. This is back in '67. The gentleman involved, Michalak, was prospecting. As he was prospecting, he stopped for lunch, and he saw these bright lights. He looked up. As he was looking, a thing came down. One of them came down. One flew off, came about 160 feet away from him, made all kinds of light changes like a light show.
"It was the most magnificent thing," he said. Turned into a silver shaped object of 35 feet in diameter. As he watched it, it went through further colour changes. He decided to go up closer to it. He walked up almost within touching distance, started calling it. As he looked at this thing, a hatch opened up according to his story. He was hypnotically regressed. This is all…
HB: Have you talked to him, personally?
EB: Personally, yes. This is about, as I said, in '67.
HB: Is he still alive and in Manitoba?
EB: Yes, he is. The upshot of this whole thing is that as he stepped back from viewing this thing, it was very hot and very bright. The thing tilted, started swinging around in a counter-clockwise direction, bringing some vent holes or what appeared to be vent holes in front of him. These hit him in the chest, knocked him down, and this thing took off. To shorten the story somewhat, he eventually became very ill. He started nauseating, he started seeing spots, he lost everything in his stomach. Eventually, over the next few weeks, he lost a great deal of weight. His lymphocyte count went down drastically, almost lethal.
All of the signs were either of a cancerous kind of thing or of radiation burning. He was taken to Pinawa, it's a local establishment. No radiation whatsoever. Eventually, this thing calmed down and he went back to work. About nine months later, he collapsed at work. When they rushed him into the hospital, there was a series of dots on his chest. These proceeded to come back every three months for about 14 months, about a year and a half, there about, let's say.
HB: Five times or so?
EB: Yes. Now, in trying to explain this, none of the doctors here in Winnipeg could do so.
JA: That 1983 clip was the CBC show, "Take 30," featuring Edward Barker of Ufology Research of Manitoba, and host, Harry Brown. Here's Stan Michalak.
Stan Michalak (SM): Dad was a very complex and interesting character. I think there is another book here. The book tells the story of him in Europe before the Second World War, during and immediately after. That really describes who he was, that really casts him and sets him for his later years. I don't suppose that many people today can really appreciate the kind of turmoil that the war caused in the lives of people who lived it. My mother spent time in a concentration camp with her sister and mother. My dad was sent to a concentration camp when he was finally caught.
When you look at their background, and I think I've tried to make that point as clear as I could in the book, when you look at their backgrounds and you look at the fire that forged them and what made them who they are, it's easier to look at the incident in '67, to look at his actions, reactions, his state of mind, the way he went about dealing with this.
It's easier to understand that if you know the man first and know what he went through in his earlier years. Understanding him and understanding the man and realizing what he went through. And that's one of the reasons why I wanted to make sure that some of the things that he went through were in the book so that you could get a better handle on what kind of a guy he was. That makes it a little more understandable.
I grew up believing and understanding that here was a man who went through war experiences and traumatic events and horrible loss and pain and suffering and all those things, and came out at the other side with this incredible love of Canada and the great outdoors and the wilderness. He basically put all that stuff behind and compartmentalized it into a cubby hole where it would stay. It's not until you're faced with something that's unexplainable or dangerous that those things come out. This was my dad pretty much to a tee.
You look at a traumatic event. It really shows you who a person is when a person is faced with something very either dangerous or unexplained.
His post-event problems that he had with the investigators, with the RCMP, it just shows that he was struggling to deal. He didn't have any reference for this other than his life, which was weird and odd to begin with, the whole war thing. He was struggling with trying to figure out: Who do you satisfy? Who do you make happy here? Who needs to know what? My mother, who was infinitely patient, was starting to lose her patience because she didn't know how to deal with this either. She was struggling just as much as he was, to keep him sane and to keep him okay. He was struggling to try and figure out how he should best handle all of this.
That's what made the story so traumatic to the family because it was a very difficult time after the event. The event itself took a matter of a few minutes to a few hours, one weekend in May. The rest was the years of trying to deal with all of this.
JA: Stan said, "It really shows you who a person is when they're faced with something very dangerous or unexplained." Unexplained indeed. What did Stan Michalak see? Was it something "other worldly" or "terrestrial"? Can the records held here at LAC help us figure this out? Here once, again, is Palmiro Campagna.
Palmiro Campagna (PC): This is in the report by Corporal Davies where they have this set of questions. There's a general portion where they just explain Canadian Forces Headquarters as responsible for processing these types of reports, et cetera. Then, under Reporting: messages shall be addressed to Canadian Forces Headquarters. The first words in the text shall be "For Canadian Forces." I'm not sure what the "OC" stands for… Anyway, UFO Report. All reports shall include the following: date and time of the sighting, condition of the sky, identification of the observer, location of the observer at the time of the sighting. Identification of other persons who may have also observed, description of the sighting, shape, color, et cetera, duration, and any other relevant information.
This is something that was produced by the RCAF 7th of October '66 and it's part of their instruction. As a cursory piece of initial information, that's great. You say "Oh yeah, there's a report. Maybe it's worth looking at." Once you get into the details, you have to start really posing a lot of other questions and following the leads, looking at the inconsistencies—if there are any—and really getting into the in-depth of what's happening…
JA: The incident was investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Royal Canadian Air Force. The main investigators were RCMP Corporal J. Davis and Investigating Officer Squadron Leader Paul Bissky of the RCAF. On May 23, three days after the sighting, Corporal Davis and another officer, Constable Zacharius, came to Stefan Michalak's home to take his statement. Also present at the house that day was Barry Thompson, a member of APRO (the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization), a civilian group that investigates UFO sightings. The two RCMP officers spoke to Mr. Michalak for about two hours. The RCMP came back the next day and he once again gave a full account of what had happened to him during the sighting on May 20, and everything that had happened afterwards. Officers Davis and Zacharius reported that he appeared to be suffering from an unknown illness and, therefore, unable to bring them out to the site of the incident at Falcon Lake.
[PC in background, beneath the narration] …The Colorado questionnaire I think was a little bit more in-depth, but I still think that it too was a bit not as detailed as what I would expect a typical police investigation would be all about.
If this was a crime scene and there was a body, the whole thing would be cordoned off and nobody would go anywhere near it, and the forensics guys would be in there, and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The chances of the stuff being compromised would be hopefully reduced. We know that that happens in those types of incidents as well, but at least it would be a whole different procedure I think that would have been invoked.
SM: The book is entitled When They Appeared. It's got nothing to do with the two UFOs. When They Appeared is about all the people that showed up at our door. [I've] got to tell you, once it started, it's like it wouldn't end. It started with, naturally, the RCMP, who showed up first. Then they involved the Royal Canadian Air Force, they showed up next. Then Atomic Energy Canada got involved. Then there was a series of doctors, none of whom could do much for Dad. Then there was the interesting organization that came out of the United States called APRO, which stands for Aerial Phenomena Research Organization.
These people basically fed the fire of the UFO hysteria. These were the cult people, I guess cult's probably not the right word, but it sure felt like it. These are people who liked to retell all the stories of UFOs and speculate as to what planet these people were from and how many light years it takes to get to earth and all that jazz. It was pretty unusual stuff. We had a Canadian wing of that organization in Winnipeg. There was a representative who came to the house. And then there were the believers. No matter what dad says, "I believe you."
He frankly didn't care whether people believed him or not but they wanted to make sure that he knew that, "Oh yes, you have supporters out here. We believe you." Almost to a religious extent. There were people who believed that he was communicated to by an otherworldly god who— It just began to really get ridiculous. The reporters who camped out on our lawn and who visited us almost daily, you can't really blame them. They were doing their job and their job at the time was to get as much as they could on the story. But that involved chasing me to school or that involved talking to my neighbours, our neighbours, about what kind of guy Dad was, all of that.
It got intrusive and it got personal but there was a long, long, long list. We got a phone call at three in the morning from BBC London. Things just started to get so out of hand, but in all of that, there were a few people in the investigative group that became quite friendly and quite—I looked forward to them. One of the RCMP constables, Constable Davis, Corporal Davis rather, he was a fabulous guy. Constable Zacharius. These are two guys who were very sympathetic and they understood that this was traumatic and they treaded very lightly. They were doing their job. They were very efficient, but they recognized that Dad was having issues with all of this and having trouble.
I guess the silver lining was there were a few people in this group that were sympathetic and caring and seemed to care about what this was doing to the family. Generally speaking, the people who investigated were out of their element. They had no reference material for this, they had no paradigm, there was no protocols established for investigating this sort of thing. They were coming in and basically groping in the dark and hoping that they would, I don't know, find something out. The RCAF, certainly—the Air Force—they really had not much to go on.
It was very easy for them to say, "Yes, you know what, I don't believe this guy but we're going to do what we got to do anyway because we got to do it. We're going to go through the motions and when it's all over, we'll write our reports." You could see this, you could feel it, you could hear it from them when they spoke.
JA: We asked Stan if he thought there was any way the investigation into the incident was aimed to discredit his father.
SM: No, not really. I think not as a general rule. No, I think what came out is individual personalities. I think individuals who said, "You know what, I just don't believe this. I can't believe this. Therefore, I'm going to go out of my way to not be helpful or not be thorough or I'm just going to form an opinion and that's that." One of the opinions that came up was that Dad has been drinking…
JA: That theory was first suggested by RCAF Squadron Leader Paul Bissky. He brought forth the idea that Stefan Michalak was hallucinating from consuming alcohol the night before the incident.
[SM in background, beneath the narration] …Again, if you sit down and analyze and just look over the facts in their correct order and sequence, it's impossible to believe that anybody could hallucinate the next day, at around noonish of the next day from a bender the night before.
SM: It doesn't matter if Dad went into the pub and had a beer, that means nothing. But to one of the guys in the RCAF—who incidentally had his own history with liquor—that was a problem for him. He was bound and determined that he was going to prove that Dad was a fall down drunk. When that didn't work and when the RCMP investigation actually showed that it wasn't possible for Dad to have consumed a whole lot of liquor, then that just disappeared. The problem was the moment he raised that concern, and the moment he began his campaign to see if dad truly was a fall down drunk, that became a focus of attention.
As soon as that happens, and as soon as the media or somebody gets a hold of that, then once again it becomes an issue and it gets blown out of proportion and, oh my God. It wasn't an actual campaign to discredit him. It was more that everybody who touched this story from the official standpoint, every investigator who touched this story, unless they were completely willing and completely non-biased and completely accepting of the facts as they were, they would form an opinion. As soon as they did, they would follow that opinion.
For example, we had a gentleman come up named Stuart Hunt. He was from Atomic Energy, I believe, or Health and Welfare Canada, one of those places. He came to Manitoba because there was a radiation scare. They said, "Oh, there's radiation at the scene. Oh my god." He came and he did extensive testing and researching and looking and poking and prodding. He actually went out of his way to search Manitoba. I'm talking about going to known radioactive waste disposal sites, to Dad's work, to medical facilities around the city to find out whether he could have stolen any radioactive material so he could take it up with him and see the site where the UFO landed.
Now, I'm sorry, do you really think that's necessary or do you just deal with what you got. As it turns out, the radiation at the scene was a little higher than normal, unusual. Dad's blood cells and lymphocyte counts were a little off, yes, that's true, that's a fact, but there wasn't enough radiation to close the entire Whiteshell Provincial Park or form any kind of a public safety issue. But as soon as he arrived, that was his number one priority. When you talk to people like that, and when you read their final reports, and you read the bias that they're putting in there, you wonder whether or not these people were just simply following their own agendas and really had no interest in finding out what the truth was of the story.
JA: Back to the records at LAC with Palmiro Campagna.
PC: All the RCMP was trying to do here was just trying to confirm what state he was in. The whole thing with Bissky happens later. Because there is an indication… In fact, I think Bissky even writes somewhere that, in his personal opinion, he thought that maybe Mr. Michalak had been drinking and might have been subject to hallucination [or] what have you from that, but that that was his opinion. He's very clear about that and he says given all the other facts of the case that he can't really make any real determination about what happened to Mr. Michalak. Even he backs off a little bit on the drinking thing but I think that whole part of it is a bit of a red herring.
JA: Here's Chris Rutkowski
Chris Rutkowski (CR): Yes, certainly Paul Bissky had an arrogant attitude that there was nothing to this. He was convinced that Michalak had made up the story somehow, to the point where Bissky checked the hotel liquor logs to find out exactly whether Michalak would have been drinking heavily that night. In fact, in the accompaniment of other military investigators, they went and offered him something to drink at the bar to find out whether he was lying, because Mr. Michalak said that he wasn't a drinker and yet he was gladly willing to take drinks that were offered to him.
Probably there's a difference there and I think most of it would get that distinction that Michalak certainly wasn't an alcoholic. He didn't drink to excess but he drank socially. To suggest that having a few drinks or even three or four drinks the night before his experience would make him imagine something to the point where he would be physically burned and leave radioactive debris behind is, I think, quite a quantum leap.
PC: The other thing that we learn from the records has to do with the radioactivity that was found at the site. In that regard, I'm not sure how it was portrayed in the media. This might have been prior to the radioactivity being reported but, in any event, what they indicate here is that yes, there was a small, very tiny patch of soil in the landing zone that demonstrated a radium-like type of radiation which they likened to the luminous paint that used to be used back in the day for letting your watch glow at night and that kind of thing. Nothing major.
He had collected samples from that area when he had found the site. Those samples demonstrated the same type of radium-like radiation. They did indicate that he was a bit careless with the samples and that he handled everything with his bare hands. The debate being the RCMP and the RCAF were quite concerned about that. But he didn't seem to be overly upset with it. There is one other curious part about the radioactivity. Here again the APRO fellow figures into it. He claims that he received some of the samples from Mr. Michalak, sent them independently to be analyzed. At least one of them came back indicating a higher level of radioactivity than this radium stuff, which is fine, but here again we've got a sample that's been compromised.
Although he says he was told it came from the site, it would have been nice if they investigated and said, "Okay, exactly where did this sample come from? Exactly where did that sample come from? Show us on the diagram." Because they went through the entire landing zone area with three different types of meters, if you can believe the written record, and they found nothing other than that tiny little bit of radium paint-type of area. Here again, we have another piece of evidence which gets compromised and we don't really know where and what the pedigree of it was, and they didn't investigate it. Another one of those loose ends, that they didn't really get into more detail.
JA: In order to obtain these radioactive soil samples, Stefan Michalak went to the site in June, a full month before he would go with the RCMP and RCAF.
PC: As for me, it is neither here nor there. What's more important is that Michalak ends up finding the landing site with another fellow. A fellow by the name of Mr. Hart and together they did find the site. Now, why is that important? It's important because the RCMP specifically says that they had asked Michalak [that], if he should find the site, not to touch it. Not to disturb it but to just call them so that they could go and check it out. What they find out is that he not only goes there with this Mr. Hart, but he finds and removes basically all of the material that was there. The burnt outer shirt, his steel tape that he supposedly dropped—a measuring tape, I guess, that he dropped when he left the area—and they cleaned it out.
Now, somewhere in here[PC refers to an archival document]— This talks about the whole incident with Mr. Hart and so on. In any event, embedded in here, they basically say that they had specifically asked him not to disturb the site. What's happened, here, by removing all that material is he's just compromised the entire landing site. When the RCMP finally does go to the site, they say in the written record that they look for any kind of remnants of the outer shirt and such. They can't find anything. Either everything was removed or—at least one of them and maybe, in that case, it might be Bissky who says—maybe it wasn't there to begin with, because the sites compromised.
Now, yes, there had been rainfalls prior to [this], but even with that, I think the RCMP felt they'd be able to find something. Certainly, if he hadn't touched anything and left things the way they were, they would have found the undershirt or the outer shirt, they would've found the steel tape and so on.
JA: We asked Chris Rutkowski if there was any more physical evidence found at the site.
CR: Although there certainly was some physical evidence, material evidence found in 1967 [and] a year after that, in 1968, [when] Mr. Michalak returned to the site. He and an associate had found some silver pieces that were in cracks in the rock over which the UFO [was] said to have hovered. These pieces were retrieved and when they were given to investigators, they too were found to be radioactive. In fact, the analyses that have been performed on them found that the pieces were fairly pure silver that had been coated with some sticky substance, and some radioactive uranium ore had been stuck onto them, perhaps from being within the cracks in the rock.
They're very, very unusual and they're radioactive to this day. In fact, I had one of the metal pieces tested just a matter of a month ago and they are still quite energetic to the point that they have to be kept relatively shielded. Certainly, they're very, very puzzling and we're certainly at a loss to explain exactly how they got there. The metal piece that still exists for examination is bent in a W shape. Not the type of thing that one would imagine occurs naturally in a crack in a rock. The fact that the pitchblende is apparently attached to the silver with some sticky substance— Who fabricated this? It's unlikely, in my opinion [chuckles], that aliens themselves went to this length to do this.
Is it possible that somebody was trying to enhance the case? Or to, in fact, put it in some red herrings to make it look as if there were hoaxers involved? It certainly lends itself to adding to the mystery and it makes one really step back and say, "What really went on?"
JA: We asked Palmiro and Chris if they felt the investigation of the incident was thorough and carried out properly. Here's Palmiro Campagna.
PC: That's a good question. It's hard to figure because on the one hand, they expended a lot of effort in looking into this thing and you see that just from the number of times they went out there, from the way they did go and investigate and talk to witnesses and such. It may have been more of a lack of experience or just simply not really knowing which way to or how to proceed because this thing was so different from a typical crime scene type of event.
It's unfortunate because it comes through in the documentation. You read this stuff and you say, "Jeez, they should have asked this man." In hindsight, of course, you can say those things. At the time, they probably thought they were covering all the bases. For all we know, there may be additional records out there that never were turned over or were destroyed. Who knows?
CR: I think, because there are so many agencies involved and… I think it would be difficult to reason that the investigation wasn't thorough. The fact that the RCMP had been out there, the Canadian Forces personnel were out there, and then there was a whole host of civilian investigators who were out there. I think that there were a lot of hands involved in this particular case. Could it have been a little more rigorous? It's hard to say. We have the analyses of the metal, there are photographs from this site. We have a fairly good description of where this occurred. The site we found relatively easily, even today, to the point where one of the local riding stables actually offers an escorted horseback ride out to the site with accompanying description by a guide.
It's the type of thing where we do know something occurred. People interviewed Michalak himself, they interviewed the family. They went to his place of employment. Certainly, people were interviewing the doctors. In fact, the biggest hindrance that probably occurred for the civilian investigators is that many of the individuals involved, such as the people on the base and the RCAF investigators and so forth, were really inaccessible. You have the civilian investigation and the military investigations going on completely apart from one another and it really would have been good to get some collaboration, although that certainly would have been impossible at the time.
JA: After the investigation into the event, the RCMP concluded that there were "certain facts, such as Mr. Michalak's illness and burns and the very evident circle remaining at the site, which are unexplainable."Also, they found that radioactive contamination of rock and soil were found at the alleged UFO site and that the origin of this contamination was never determined. Despite being examined by countless doctors and scrutinized by reputable scientists, the RCMP, the federal and Manitoba departments of Health and Welfare and the Royal Canadian Air Force, no one has been able to disprove or prove Mr. Michalak's claims.
We asked Stan if his Dad's story ever changed over the years.
SM: Not once. It's interesting, I spent time in the military and the media. If people lie or if they cheat or if they put up a hoax, sooner or later, either they're going to crack or they're going to let something slip or, if they have confederates, someone's going to fink on them. Something's going to come up that's going to suggest that this is not the case. Nothing ever happened like that. In the 50 years and to this very day, there has been nothing that has come up that has suggested that Dad was capable or that there was any way that one could do this.
I think probably one of the biggest things that I've always used to counter the skeptics is if you think it's possible to hoax something like this, then go out and give it a try. In fact, we'll even do it with modern technology and see if you can do it, and you can't. There is no way to physically produce this thing, this result. By that, I mean the injury to dad and the evidence that was pulled later. There's no way to do this. You have to be either a genius, which my father was not, or a scientific wizard, which he was not, or have a team of people who can help you hoax this.
Obviously, over the years, nothing has come forward. No one has said a word and Dad never changed his story once. There was never a slip. He was even put under hypnosis and while under he recounted the entire incident exactly as he described it when he was awake. How does a person do this? You either have to be the world's greatest liar or you have to have some incredible capabilities which he did not have. In the absence of anything that proves positive, one has to say that's the story
JA: We asked Chris Rutkowski what he thinks of the claims that all this was an elaborate hoax.
CR: Indeed. In fact, even the Condon Report, which was the report from the United States Air Force, said that if this case could be proven true, it would definitely show the existence of unidentified flying objects in the atmosphere. But there was a sense that somebody had simply perpetrated this hoax. I've made this point in one of my books as well: If it was a hoax then it would be a hoax to rival some of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated anywhere because it would involve Michalak injuring himself deliberately, physical effects in the ground not just in an easily accessible area.
We have a witness who was judged by a psychiatrist to not fabricate stories. A person who was a good member of society holding a good job, a background in the military himself, and no reason to perpetrate such a hoax at all. He maintained until he died that this is what happened to him. He did not have a history of seeing aliens around every corner, like so many contactees and abductees maintain these days in their own stories. This was a very unusual experience that happened to him and he was as puzzled as anyone.
Whether somebody would go to great lengths for something that he certainly did not, I don't know, financially gain through… In fact, he suffered considerably in terms of the embarrassment, the social ostracization that he and his family endured. It seems really, really unlikely because the motive just simply doesn't really appear in any way obvious.
I have to also state that it's fine to be skeptical about the topic of UFOs because there's a lot of false information and fake news that is out there about a lot of stories on UFOs. It's a good way of looking at and considering cases. But when you actually investigate and you analyze the data and the evidence, you find out that just because we can't explain something doesn't mean that we're dealing with alien visitation.
Mr. Michalak certainly never talked in terms of spaceships from other planets. He had always talked in terms of some sort of military craft. I believe that's what he maintained right until he died. I think a lot of the skeptics look with disdain upon this case because they believe that the evidence points towards an alien visitation…
JA: Chris goes on to mention that, in their book, he and Stan were very careful to present only the facts and data of the case, and leave the interpretation to the reader.
[CR in background, beneath the narration] …and that's not what we're talking about at all. In fact, we're very careful in our book to present only the facts and only the data and leave the interpretation up to the reader.
CR: …because I honestly don't know what happened to Mr. Michalak back in 1967 in Falcon Lake. I know what he said happened to him, and I know the evidence that suggests something remarkable did occur, but I simply can't say for sure that this was a visit from an alien spacecraft, neither can I say that it was some sort of American or Russian secret vertical takeoff craft. I simply don't see the evidence pointing in any direction, but it's scientifically allowable to simply say you don't know. It's a scientific stance that simply says we don't have the final answers and the data doesn't lend itself to an absolute.
JA: Back to Palmiro Campagna.
PC: …done something, we don't know. I'm not trying to provide an explanation to disprove what occurred, I'm just pointing out what's in the written record and all of these unanswered questions that have been swirling around. As far as the otherworldly nature of the event, my own conclusion was that it's not something otherworldly. For that, I look at Mr. Michalak himself, who claimed that he felt it was a man-made object that he saw and he is the principal witness.
What's interesting is that shortly after this sighting, there was another sighting out West. In that one, one of the military officers from headquarters basically made a statement that what was seen could have been a secret military aircraft. Now, why would that guy say that [chuckles] and draw attention to something that he didn't have to? He could've just said, "That sighting, it was just like all the rest. It was nothing." He actually makes that statement.
Where I was coming from was simply to say that if one believes the story that Mr. Michalak has provided, then maybe what he saw was some kind of man-made craft. Now, people have asked and said, "Okay, if you had something that could take off vertically and hover and do all these kinds of things, why don't we see more of them?" Whatever. You can make a prototype pretty much do whatever you want when you're just trying to demonstrate a concept, but that in no way, shape or form means that what you produce is something that's viable and can go for production.
I made the comment that maybe what he saw was something like the Avrocar, which was a circular flying saucer that was being developed by Avro back in the early '50s for the U.S. government. That project was cancelled. The Avrocar never got more than three feet off the ground, suffered all kinds of instability problems and such. We don't know if that project was, perhaps, continued in some way when it was cancelled. Not sure.
JA: The Avro Canada Avrocar was a vertical take[off] and landing aircraft, developed during the Cold War by Avro Canada and the U.S. military. It was powered by a single turborotor that blew exhaust out of the rim of the disk-shaped aircraft.
PC: What's interesting about the Avrocar, not to deviate too much from Falcon Lake, is that the concept that was used to get that thing three feet off the ground is, basically, the same concept that is now being used in the F-35 hovering version that they're building for the Navy. The description is all there.
Now, I'm not saying that they looked at the Avrocar and they stole the idea. Physics is physics, aerodynamics is aerodynamics. They came up with a similar kind of concept and this one works. [chuckles] The F-35 does hover. Yes, it makes a lot of noise and everything else, which Mr. Michalak says his thing didn't make a lot of noise until he got that blast of air.
Here's the interesting part. He gets a blast of air. Okay, when one looks at UFO reports, typically, when there's a discussion about propulsion, it conjures up ideas of anti-gravity, some kind of electromagnetic propulsion, some kind of geomagnetic effect where they're counteracting the magnetic pole of the earth. Whatever, esoteric stuff.
Here he's talking about a blast of hot air, like a jet engine or a rocket engine, very terrestrial, very conventional. He talks about the burning smell of wires and whirring of motors and this kind of stuff, very terrestrial. Even the radioactivity, if we move away and think that, "Okay, maybe it was a residue from this thing that landed. Okay, so it has some kind of radio, atomic propulsion." Very terrestrial. None of the concepts that one normally thinks about in terms of otherworldly craft utilizing, distorting space and time, or whatever, none of that factors in here. It's all very terrestrial explanations, coming from a guy who claims to have known machinery and such.
If he saw something, chances are it was something terrestrial. If he didn't, then it leaves the open questions: What really happened to him? Who made the circular depression that was there? People saw it. So, bottom line, yes, we have a bizarre incident, we have an individual who was ill, we have some kind of depression in the soil. Final conclusions are nobody knows what really happened.
JA: In 2018, the Canadian Mint commemorated the Falcon Lake Incident with an "out of this world" egg-shaped coin. The one-ounce pure silver coin actually glows in the dark with the help of a black light flashlight [that is] provided.
We asked Chris if he uses any resources at Library and Archives Canada for his research on UFOs.
CR: Absolutely. I visited Library and Archives Canada many times over the course of my UFO research. I visited the National Research Council Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics on a number of occasions, where I viewed the Non-Meteoric Sightings file. That was the file in which the UFO reports were kept before being transferred to Archives at the end of the year. The resources were really quite remarkable.
In fact, it's curious that there's a movement called the Disclosure Movement where many people who are really into UFOs believe that some of the information that's coming out in media right now is part of a government or elite government agency-controlled disclosure where we're being prepared slowly for the news that the aliens really are here. And they're offering as evidence the fact that documents from various agencies and governments around the world are being leaked out slowly and [they're] waiting for the ultimate release of documents which will definitely prove that the aliens are here.
The problem with that, is that in Canada the Archives have always had the documents available and it's just a matter of—in the past 10 years or so—when the Archives was able to scan them in and produce them as online PDFs that people can view themselves. It's not a matter of anything needing to be disclosed because the government files on UFOs in Canada have been readily available.
JA: Is there a difference in how these documents are made available in Canada, compared to other countries? The United States, for example?
CR: The United States does, in fact, have a different view. In fact, Canada has relatively free access to these documents. The United States Project BLUE BOOK completed its investigations in 1969. It was closed in 1970. The BLUE BOOK documents in the United States Archive were made available a little while after that, initially on microfilm and later in other versions. Past 1970 there is no information about UFO documents or UFO investigations in the United States.
JA: You just heard Chris mention "Project BLUE BOOK." This was a study of UFOs conducted by the United States Air Force. Started in 1952, it sought to determine if UFOs were a threat to U.S. national security and to scientifically analyze UFO-related data. By the time Project BLUE BOOK ended in 1969, it had amassed 12,618 UFO reports. Of these, 701 remain "unidentified." These files have all been declassified and are available for researchers at the U.S. National Archives.
CR: Actually, Canada has an advantage over other countries, especially the United States, in that there is a record of UFO investigations—and the documents available—following that point.
I would say that the fact that documents are available online as well in Canada makes these documents so readily accessible. In fact, just over the past few months or so, I made blog posts in which I've highlighted some of the information that's readily available in the Canadian Archives about UFOs. Pointing out some interesting details such as a briefing report from 1967, which includes a mention of the Falcon Lake case but also a series of other cases that were reported.
JA: Our last question goes to Stan. Do you think we'll ever have a definitive answer to what happened to your father that day?
SM: I do not. If you're a clear-thinking person, if you're a logical, normal individual—you don't have to be a scientist or a genius or a physicist—if you just think and you can do it logically and realistically. If this is a traveller from beyond our galaxy or our space, then we have incidents across the globe of unexplained events, unexplained sightings, unexplained stuff. If you are even remotely logical, you have to say to yourself "We can't be the only ones here." If that's the case, then that's the case. So what?
It doesn't matter what you believe. If that is truly true, if there are really are beings from other worlds visiting the planets to see who we are, to see what stage our evolution is at, to check in on us after we've exploded nuclear bombs and sent out radio signals… If that's true and if you believe that, good for you. That doesn't explain this incident at all. It doesn't give enough detail, it just simply says, "Well, the craft could have come from another galaxy." Yes, sure, great.
If you believe in government conspiracies and the gunman on the grassy knoll and all the other secret tales of "We never landed on the moon" and all that jazz. If you believe in those things, then you believe that this craft came from the United States. That they were test craft, that they really did have technology back in 1967 that could do this. That they were lying to us all along, area 51 blah, blah, blah. If you believe that, good for you. Great, that's wonderful. Well, that really also doesn't help us with the story, it just gives you an idea of what the origin of the craft may have been. This doesn't answer all the questions. It doesn't answer why Dad got burned. Why there? There's a gravel pit three miles away. You'd think that if somebody was in trouble they would have landed in a nice big flat open area. Why pick the most obscure spot in the middle of the Canadian Shield, really?
There are too many questions that have absolutely no logical, sane, realistic answers for this to ever be explained. Unless, as I said, unless you subscribe to a particular theory. And if you do, well, good for you. Then you have something that satisfies you. But I can tell you it doesn't satisfy us. To this very day, if Dad was still here and if I said to him, "Dad, what did you see on that day?" He would answer exactly the same way: "I don't know, you tell me." That's exactly how this story is. It's a story of, I have to believe my father because he can't possibly make this up and he can't hoax it. He has no skills to do this. What he says must be true, so I believe him. What he tells me, I believe.
Anything else after that, whether I believe there are aliens or not, or secret government projects or not, doesn't matter. I believe him and I believe that the events of the day happened as he described them and beyond that, I can't speculate. It would only make me happy, but it wouldn't really answer the riddles that come with the story.
JA: To this day, the Canadian Department of National Defence identifies the Falcon Lake incident as unsolved.
If you'd like to learn more about UFOs and the Falcon Lake Incident at Library and Archives Canada, please visit us online at bac-lac.gc.ca.
Thank you for being with us. I'm Josée Arnold, your host. You've been listening to Discover Library and Archives Canada—where Canadian history, literature and culture await you. A special thank you to our guests today: Stan Michalak, Chris Rutkowski and Palmiro Campagna.
A special thanks as well to Carolyn Cook and Ellen Bond for their contributions to this episode.
This episode was produced and engineered by David Knox and Tom Thompson.
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SM: My dad, he died in 1999 so anything after that would have been, "Well, we want to interview your father but unfortunately he's not here." My mother absolutely would not have anything to do with any interviews. It fell to me. Then I would contact Chris and say "Look, a news outlet has contacted me they want to do an interview. What do you think we think we should do?" Chris would offer some suggestions and we would have a chat [about] whether to do it or not. There were a few productions over the years that, either they were just for news stories or they were little mini-documentary-type reports.
The one that probably was the best of all of them was "Unsolved Mysteries." A show out of the United States that travelled North America looking at bizarre stories. They came to us and… They approached and they said, "We'd like to do a piece on your dad's story. We will put out phone numbers"—as they always did—"we will ask for witnesses, we will ask for people to comment or to add, but we'd like to do the story." It took them two years and they finally got us to go to Deadwood, South Dakota. Because in those days it was financially impossible for them to cross the border to do the shoot in Canada, so they did it down there.
We went and they actually did a very credible job of recreating the incident. They interviewed my dad, me, Chris and they did a balanced story that had nothing but the facts, very little speculation, and it turned out to be the best piece. That was 1992, I believe, when it first aired. You can see how many years had passed from 1967 before we finally had a decent, well-treated, well-written story. There was the initial wave, there was the crashing of those waves and then as they receded, the story began to recede. All the stories that followed, all the little updates were kind of lukewarm, they were okay. There wasn't anything special about them until the "Unsolved Mysteries" piece.
We were prepared, the family was prepared that yes, there would be again an upsurge in interest. But surprisingly, it was very short and it wasn't very dramatic. There was a little bit of interest and then it too kind of died away. After that time, we were very happy that the story really didn't surface much. Nobody really wanted to talk to us and we were perfectly content with that.