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That time people thought they saw a UFO on Lake Superior

This week Remember This tells us the story of the mysterious disappearance of an F-89 fighter jet over Lake Superior. A mystery that remains unsolved

From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library: 

On the evening of Nov. 23, 1953, an unidentified flying object was detected on radar flying over 500 miles per hour in restricted airspace above the Soo Locks. In response, the Kinross Air Force Base, located a few miles south in Michigan, launched an F-89 Scorpion jet in hot pursuit to investigate the anomaly at 6:22 p.m.

Piloted by Second Lieutenants Felix Moncla Jr. and Robert Wilson, the American fighter jet rose to an altitude of 30,000 feet and soared across Lake Superior to intercept the UFO. Between heavy snowfall and radar malfunctions, the pilots required assistance from operators on the ground to track the target which was constantly changing course.

After 30 minutes of flight, the F-89 Scorpion was guided down to 7,000 feet, about 100 miles north of Kinross. Moments later, operators back at base watched as the two blips, the jet and the UFO, converged on the radar at 7:53 pm.

Then, the jet disappeared. Both radar and radio communications ended abruptly. The unidentified blip veered in another direction and vanished.

In the days to follow, the United States Air Force stated to the Associated Press that the jet “was followed by radar until it merged with an object 70 miles off Keweenaw Point in upper Michigan.”

However, that statement was soon retracted and a new story emerged. The radar operator had apparently misread the scope, and the F-89 Scorpion had completed the mission.

The UFO turned out to be a C-47 aircraft belonging to the Royal Canadian Air Force flying from Winnipeg to Sudbury. Investigators believed Lieutenant Moncla suffered from intense vertigo and crashed into Lake Superior while returning to base.

According to the RCAF, no flights had taken place over Lake Superior that night. The crew aboard the C-47 jet reported no signs of an American aircraft during their flight. In fact, the alert for an unidentified object was first transmitted to the RCAF.

Both air forces searched far and wide for the missing jet, covering 29,600 square miles. However, heavy snowfall and strong winds made the task next to impossible. By Nov. 28, the search was called off. Two days later, Algoma Central Railway workers said they heard a crash 100 miles north of Sault Ste. Marie, at approximately the same time Kinross lost contact with the Scorpion. The search resumed but nothing was found.

Fifteen years later in 1968, 106 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie, prospectors were exploring Cozens Cove when they discovered aircraft wreckage on the shores of Lake Superior.

Ontario Provincial Police identified a stabilizer from the wreckage and determined it was of military construction. A spokesperson for the Sault Ste. Marie Airport agreed with the assessment, noting the plane was designed with heavier metal to withstand heat from a higher acceleration. Major J.H. Parker of the USAF Kincheloe Air Base confirmed the stabilizer belonged to a military jet. However, unknown reports later determined it was unlikely to be the missing F-89 Scorpion.

Stranger still, in September 2006, Adam Jimenez of the Great Lakes Dive Company had reportedly discovered the wreckage of an F-89 fighter jet in the depths of Lake Superior. “Sonar scans” revealed filtered images of a plane at the bottom of a lake.

The news was delivered to a UFO organization in the United States and quickly circulated on paranormal forums, blogs and websites. Eventually, the company revealed that a radioactive “metallic disc”, presumed to be from a flying saucer, was located not far from the underwater wreckage. When pressed for details, the company claimed the Canadian government had quarantined the site from further access.

Skepticism was raised when investigations showed there was no company registered in Michigan under Great Lakes Dive Company. Furthermore, Canadian officials confirmed the area in question was never off-limits. Without warning, the fake company’s website went completely offline and Adam Jimenez stopped responding to phone calls and emails. The discovery was a hoax.

Almost seventy years later, the disappearance of the F-89 Scorpion and the pilots onboard remains a mystery. The truth appears to be buried beneath strange circumstances, unanswered questions and conflicting reports from both sides of Lake Superior. Or perhaps the unidentified object flying above the Soo Locks was never truly identified that night, and the encounter was of the strangest kind. We may never know for certain.

Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provide SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Public Library has to offer at and look for more "Remember This?" columns here.

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