Written by Lyndon Froese // Artwork by Seth Heinrichs

#7: The Falcon Lake Incident

By Lyndon Froese

Imagine looking up into the stars on a clear night. There are one hundred billion planets in the Milky Way. Each of these are worlds of their own, with their own mountain ranges, deserts and oceans. Each with details like cliffs, beaches and windy days, just as real as the ones here. They have eccentricities like heavy blanket atmospheres, lakes of acid, ice kilometers thick and even active volcanoes.  Think of all the volcanoes erupting right now, as you read this sentence – the winds blowing, the suns setting. Billions and billions and billions of unique realms, all made up of tiny whirling atoms, all changing over billions of years, hovering in space... far, far away.

Are we alone?

On the afternoon of May 20, 1967, a man named Stephen Michalak stumbled onto the parking lot of the Falcon Motor Hotel. He seemed drunk or something. At least that’s what the Falcon Beach Highway Patrol officer thought when he spotted the man walking down the highway earlier.

Michalak was an industrial mechanic by trade and an amateur geologist on the side. He would often come out to Falcon, stay in the hotel and prospect for quartz and silver in the woods. It was not unusual to see the man around. But something had gone wrong this time. 

On the parking lot, Michalak approached the hotel owner and told her he needed a doctor. His eyes were bloodshot. He was out of sorts.

That day there was no doctor in town, so Michalak rested in his hotel room. He phoned his wife and told her that there had been an accident, but that he was okay. He asked her if she could have their son meet him at the bus terminal in Winnipeg. He would be on the next bus out of Falcon Lake. 

At 10:45pm the bus pulled into the station in Winnipeg and Michalak’s son drove him directly to the hospital.

When Michalak was seen at the Emergency Room, he was nauseous and dizzy. He had severe burns on his upper abdomen. What he told his physician about the injuries was likely the strangest explanation the good doctor had ever heard: He had been burned by a blast of hot air from a UFO.

His account would eventually make its way into almost every encyclopedia of UFO encounters and become the topic of an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. This is the story of The Falcon Lake Incident.

Stephen Michalak had been in the woods near Falcon Lake, across the highway from the townsite. Chipping away at a quartz vein, he looked up and saw two oval objects in the sky, glowing in an intense scarlet.

The objects sunk toward the ground, keeping a constant distance between them, weirdly operating like a single unit – until one stopped and hovered. The other ship continued to the ground, eventually coming to land quite near where Michalak knelt.

The craft still in the air ascended and disappeared. In dead silence, it left its twin resting on a flat section of Precambrian rock.

Still kneeling with pick-hammer in hand, Michalak watched through the protective goggles on his face. The scarlet red of the craft faded to a stainless-steel sheen and he noticed an open hatch on the side of the craft: a lozenge-shaped opening about two feet by three feet in size. 

Warm air came off the craft in gusts, each wave wafting the smell of sulphur Michalak’s way. 

A tiny electric motor whirled. Air hissed lightly. But mostly it was quiet out there in the woods – just a man in goggles and a parked UFO.

Michalak scanned the hull for identifying decals, perhaps of the United States Air Force.

Light poured out of the upper circle of the craft, flooding the ground with purple. It was so bright that it outshone the midday sun, and when Michalak looked away, he vision was obscured by bright spots.

He stood and moved closer. Within sixty feet he listened. There were... voices? He held his breath and strained to hear. From inside the craft came two distinct voices: one with a higher pitch than the other. They sounded human enough, although too muffled to make out what they were saying.

“Okay, Yankee boys, having trouble?” Michalak said aloud, breaking the silence. “Come on out and we’ll see what we can do about it.”

Falcon Lake isn’t far from the American border and these were the Cold War days – there were all kinds of secret military things going on, supposedly.

No reply from the craft. He took some steps closer. He hesitated, then walked right up to the small hatch and peered into the opening. 

There were lights everywhere – focused beams shining across the interior. A series of flashing lights switched on and off in seemingly random sequences.

He stepped away. The craft remained motionless.

There were no signs of welding or seams to be seen anywhere. It was extraordinary. Michalak reached out with his gloved hand and touched its side. It was hot. Burning hot. He pulled his glove away and saw it was melted.

Without warning, the entire craft tilted slightly. Michalak felt a scorching pain across his chest. His shirt burst into flames. Instinctively, Michalak turned away and tore off his shirt and undershirt. He felt a rush of air around him and looked back at the craft. It was already rising above the tree-tops. And then it was nowhere. Gone, like its sister ship.

Michalak felt nauseous. His head began to ache. Then it ached more. He broke into a sweat and vomited on the rocks.

He covered himself with his light jacket and started through the bush towards town. Something was wrong with him. 

The dots in his vision returned, pink dots imprinted over everything he saw. He vomited again and fought to remain conscious as the headache pounded in his skull. He felt burning on his chest. Red marks appeared. His jacket irritated the sores on his abdomen as he moved through the woods. When he finally reached the highway, he flagged down a police officer, the one who reported his apparent drunkenness. Eventually Michalak made it back to the hotel parking lot on his own steam, the place where we began this story.

This whole thing does not sound likely. But, according to archived Royal Canadian Mounted Police documents, this went from a case of “too many wobbly pops” to a full-blown UFO hunt by the police, army and air force.

Locals all remember the military helicopters overhead that spring.

An Air Force chopper with a crew of seven soldiers and two RCMP officers landed on the golf course one evening. They had just spent the day making passes over the woods.

The next day, a Canadian Army helicopter joined the search. They combed the area with teams on the ground and in the air. They found some landmarks that Michalak had described but nothing more. His instructions were too vague.

According to Michalak’s physician, he had been too sick to participate in the initial days of the search. He hadn’t been able to eat solid foods since the incident and had dropped thirteen pounds. But, two RCMP officers drove back to Winnipeg that night and knocked on his door.

The pair convinced Michalak to come out to Falcon Lake with them the next morning.

They took Michalak up in an Army helicopter but nothing looked familiar from above. He didn’t do much better with the ground team, and so after dark, the RCMP drove Michalak back to Winnipeg. After dropping him off at his house, the officers turned around and drove the two hours back to Falcon Lake to regroup with the military. 

In the evening of one of the search days there was a gathering in the hotel lounge with some official looking folks. The hotel owner was curious and asked where they were all from. One of the men said he was with NASA.

The helicopters in the sky continued for a fourth day.

By this time, there were two other foreign groups leading their own investigations. The head of the UFO Project for the United States Government was around, as well as members of the American group ARPO – the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization, which at the time had a large staff of consulting Ph.D. scientists.

Locals really weren’t sure what to make of it all. It was an outrageous sounding report: Some guy wandered into the woods and had been burned by the exhaust of a UFO? Could it really be extra-terrestrials? Was it the Russians? Was this just an elaborate hoax? Maybe Michalak was just a wacko who burned himself with a BBQ. Maybe. But, it could not be denied that there were helicopters thumping in the air and that things were getting weird out at Falcon Lake.

A fun thing to do in the area at the time was to go to the garbage dump in the evening to watch the bears. One night, a server from the hotel was out on a date with her boyfriend doing just that. On the drive home from a romantic time at the dump, they saw a silver object in the sky. It appeared out of nowhere and followed them. The boyfriend stepped on the gas and flew down the road back to the relative safety of town. The server lived in the staff accommodations at the hotel and was so shaken that she would not come out of her room in the morning. 

Some time later, a son of the hotel owners, young Steve Bucek, got a phone call from his friends, brothers Bob and Bill. They told him they could hear an electronic sound coming from the woods near Penguin Resort where they lived. Steve returned the phone to its cradle and walked down the old road to Penguin Resort. It was completely dark. When he came around the bend, down the final hill to Bob and Bill’s house, he could hear it loud and clear: Beep... Beep... Beep… The sound pulsed from in the trees.

The three boys lit their flashlights and ventured into the woods. The source of the sound seemed to move around them. It was right in front of them. Then behind them. Then somewhere else entirely.

Beep... Beep... Beep...

When the sun rose the next day, young Steve talked with Ed Schindler, a local trapper who was a friend of his father, and something of an expert on many subjects. Steve told him about the electronic beeping in the forest.

Ed Shindler laughed. He said he believed them about the beeping. It was the call of the Saw-whet Owl!

Well, that’s one mystery solved anyway.

As for Stephen Michalak, an undated letter from the Department of National Defence summarizes without a satisfying conclusion: “Both the DND and RCMP investigation teams were unable to provide evidence which would dispute Michalak’s story.” Left to our imaginations is what made them so interested in the first place.