Dec 28, 2016 I Paul Seaburn

Object Falls From Sky Right Before Christmas and Smashes Van

Does Santa Claus or his head elf in charge of sleigh maintenance ever take the old present-hauler out for a test ride just to make sure everything is in good working order … especially that new part added on for an extra turbo boost? That’s one of the explanations for what happened a few days before Christmas when something strange fell from the sky and smashed a van in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Let’s hope the owner asked for a new vehicle for Christmas … or at least for a good insurance policy that covers unidentified falling objects.

I was like, what is that?! What happened?! I kept looking around and I couldn't see where it came from. It had to have come from the sky.

Milwaukee resident Michael Robinson told a local TV station that his neighbor called on December 20th to inform him she heard a loud noise, looked out the window and saw that the roof of his van was smashed in. She also wished him a “Merry Christmas.”

Robinson found his neighbor’s report to be true … there was a big dent in a rear top corner of his van. While it didn’t look human-made, he checked anyway and saw no footprints around the van. Instead, he saw a UFO ... that was no longer flying or falling.


It looked like a barbecue grill in the snow.

That’s a good description. It was hollow and heavy and big enough for a few steaks. However, it smelled more like diesel than charcoal. Did male aliens find it, attempt to use it inside their ship without reading the directions for lighting it and blow themselves up … smashing Robinson’s van in the process?


That's a lot of force to put a dent in the top of the van like this.

OK, Mike, we know you’re upset about your van, especially since you didn’t ask Santa for a new one for Christmas. Unfortunately, the FAA didn’t respond to the local TV station’s request for comment and the police hauled the unidentified-but-grill-like falling object away.


Fortunately, there are sites that track the re-entry paths of old satellites, rocket parts and space debris and it looks like Robinson’s space barbecue may have been a part from a Russian military “communications” satellite that was predicted to re-enter the atmosphere on December 19th on a path that would take it directly over – you guessed it – Mike Robinson’s van. Well, the site isn’t quite that precise but it showed re-entry over Wisconsin, and that’s close enough for government work.


Speaking of government work, what was a Russian military “communications” satellite doing over the U.S.? The Molniya 3-51 (Molniya-3K-1) Military Communications Satellite spent over 15 years in orbit over the northern hemisphere. The “barbecue grill” appears to be a COPV – a carbon overwrapped pressure vessel used on satellites and rockets. Where’s the rest of Molniya 3-51?

Maybe the question should be: What kind of strange or secret things was Michael Robinson doing inside of his van?

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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