Any list of classic UFO sightings assigned the greatest degree of credibility almost certainly includes the incident on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan on the night of March 8, 1994. The Lakeshore event, as it’s come to be known, has been featured in countless television programs, books, and interviews with UFO researchers. It’s also referred to as the Holland sighting (because of the large amount of activity reported over Holland, Michigan) or just the 1994 Lake Michigan UFO event.
It is frequently cited as one of the most solid, well-researched reports of UFO activity in the history of ufology. Today, The Debrief will examine just how solid the evidence in support of this event is.
On the evening in question, local police 911 lines began lighting up with calls from citizens reporting strange lights in the skies. More than 300 calls were received from civilians and multiple police officers reported seeing the objects after being dispatched to investigate. The objects were variously reported to be cylindrical or round, displaying a variety of different colored lights. The presence of some large objects in the sky over the lake was confirmed as the event was unfolding by a National Weather Service radar operator.
The event lasted for at least fifteen minutes by most accounts. The objects were tracked moving to the south and southwest, heading in the direction of Chicago. This event wasn’t a singular aberration. A spokeswoman for MUFON would later tell reporters that the network had been receiving an average of ten to fifteen calls per day during a period of two to three weeks, including the activity on March 8th. But this event was clearly the most widely viewed and reported.
WHAT LENDS SO MUCH CREDIBILITY TO THIS SIGHTING?
The Debrief examined the Japan Airlines Flight 1628 incident in June of 2021, an encounter that is as storied as the Lakeshore event, if not even more so. There was a significant amount of data collected and archived from the incident, adding to its legendary status. But a careful examination of the radar data, pilot to cockpit recordings, and transcripts of interviews with the witnesses didn’t support the claims being made about it as strongly as the legends would suggest. The Lakeshore event also offers similar supporting data and we will look at how well that stacks up in this report.
Some of the most compelling and easily verified evidence comes to us through several channels. These include the sheer number of witnesses who called the police emergency lines, many of them recorded. The involvement of law enforcement officers in multiple precincts who responded also lends weight to the report, with at least one police officer seeing the phenomena himself for an extended period of time. MUFON eventually published a collection of these recordings between alarmed citizens and responding police dispatchers.
Perhaps some of the best data we have to draw on comes from the interactions between Holland, Michigan Police Officer Jeff Velthouse, and Jack Bushong, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service Office in Muskegon County. In the MUFON recording linked above, the citizens’ calls are followed by the conversation between Velthouse and Bushong.
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CONNECTION
The conversation between Officer Velthouse and Jack Bushong goes on for some time, beginning with both participants discussing mundane explanations for the calls. These include a radio tower in the vicinity with new lights installed on it. But as the call progresses, you can hear Bushong growing more and more animated as he describes the inexplicable movements of the objects on radar, their large size, and the way they demonstrate “instantaneous movement” at various altitudes. You really need to listen to the full conversation to grasp the impact of this recording.
Bushong’s equipment couldn’t produce paper records, but he created line drawings that are available at the links above. Perhaps most interestingly, however, at the 22:35 mark in the recording, Bushong says “I wish we had a recording of what I could see. You know, actually, there are some blips showing up on the computer part and this is being recorded, so… there is going to be a recording of this so if they can… you might be able to see movement on this if we can play this back.”
What happened to that record? MUFON claims to have the radar data, but it apparently doesn’t reveal much more than what Bushong described. One year after the event, the Chicago Tribune spoke to Leo Grenier, the director of the National Weather Service in Muskegon. He said, “I don’t believe for a minute that it was any kind of alien structure; I think there is a fairly strong earthly explanation for what occurred.” But he failed to offer any explanation as to what that “earthly explanation” might be. At the time, he told a local reporter that he had “a pretty good idea” of what it was, but he refused to offer his opinion, saying that he might tell people after he retired from the National Weather Service.
THE AFTERMATH OF THE MICHIGAN EVENT
Shortly after the day of these sightings, meteorologist Jack Bushong stopped talking to the press and didn’t speak of the March 8th events again for many years. He told friends and associates that he seriously feared he would be fired for having commented on the incident in public. That, fortunately, didn’t happen, and he went on to receive a promotion and win awards for the accuracy of his forecasts. He stayed with the NWS until his retirement a few years ago.
Now that the United States government has verified the physical reality of UFOs and is setting up new offices to investigate them, Bushong’s attitude has changed. During an interview he gave in July of 2021, he told a reporter that he now feels “vindicated” after the skepticism and abuse he endured in the wake of the original event. He also claims to be working on a scientific paper covering the 1994 events and other instances of meteorologists recording UAP-related data.
In a separate interview with News Channel 3 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Bushong revealed additional information that he did not share with the press following the original event. He described how he had taken manual control of the radar system, using the antenna “like a spotlight” to track the movement of the objects. He reported that they had “jumped” upward by five or ten thousand feet at a time, causing him to scramble to regain a lock on them. They also “blinked” significant distances horizontally before he eventually lost track of the targets. The relative size of the radar returns indicated to him that the objects were significantly larger than any commercial aircraft.
A MOST COMPELLING AND WELL DOCUMENTED EVENT
Unfortunately, the only videos of the Lakeshore event recorded by private citizens showed little more than dots of light in the sky, as so often happens with UFO sightings. This fact leaves room for the skeptically-minded to offer alternative, mundane explanations for what was witnessed over Lake Michigan in March of 1994. And to be fair, we still can’t say with 100% certainty what the objects were.
With that said, however, the combined weight of all of the data that is available to us suggests that a very strong case can be made in favor of this incident being exotic in nature. The sheer number and quality of the witnesses are almost impossible to ignore. These are people who live in close proximity to O’Hare Airport and they know what planes flying over the lake look like. That many people couldn’t have all reported a misidentification of a commercial aircraft. Further, the radar operator’s confirmation that the returns displayed objects far larger than conventional planes argues against the commercial airliner theory.
If the FAA knew that there were flights of any sort in that high-traffic airspace they could have settled the matter easily enough. And yet they have never commented on the question. Some might suggest that these were some sort of black-budget military craft. But would the American military test anything so secret over Lake Michigan during primetime on a Tuesday?
We may not be able to definitively prove that the objects reported during the Lakeshore event were extraterrestrial or otherwise exotic in nature, but this case remains a contender for one of the most thoroughly researched and verifiably documented mass UFO sightings on record. And the only mundane explanations offered to date seem to strain credulity.
Follow and connect with author Jazz Shaw on Twitter: @JazzShaw