Summary: Despite an intense interest in the UFO phenomenon and its implications since I was ten years old, I have declined to join MUFON or any other organization that has the acronym UFO in its name. To get an update on rumored positive changes within the organization, I finally decided to set aside my prejudices and experience a MUFON symposium for myself.
Despite an intense interest in the UFO phenomenon and its
implications since I was ten years old, I have declined to join
MUFON or any other organization that has the acronym UFO in its
name. I have long been uncomfortable with the idea that we can
learn much of significance about a distant civilization by
exclusively studying its vehicles and methods of propulsion. The
overwhelming preponderance of evidence gathered by MUFON and
related researchers leads inexorably to the conclusion that many
UFOs are the craft of extraterrestrial beings. It has seemed to
me that by essentially limiting research to the study of these
enigmatic craft and the technologies involved, MUFON has been
all about the study of cars. Frankly, I am rather bored by
vehicles but I am intensely interested in those who drive them.
To get an update on rumored positive changes within the
organization, I finally decided to set aside my prejudices and
experience a MUFON symposium for myself. My report follows, in
PART ONE: THE MUFON CONUNDRUM
While public surveys repeatedly demonstrate that a growing
majority of people accept the reality of UFOs, it is ironic that
organizations devoted to studying the phenomenon continue to
decline. A striking example is MUFON International (the Mutual
UFO Network), the oldest and largest surviving citizen-based
research organization of its kind, whose ranks have steadily
dwindled in recent years to some 3,500 members.
Since its birth in 1969, MUFON has struggled to distance itself
from the fringe of UFO interest and overcome the giggle factor
by positioning itself as a legitimate research effort whose
mission is the scientific study of UFOs for the benefit of
humankind. To do this, the organization has adopted a two-fold
research strategy: training and organizing a grass-roots cadre
of volunteer field investigators to document sightings, debrief
witnesses, and file reports; and recruiting an impressive
advisory group mainly comprised of PhDs and MDs who provide
expertise in numerous disciplines (and hopefully some measure of
The premise of this approach is that UFOs represent a complex
scientific dilemma. This orientation drives the primary
activities of the organization, which focus on sightings
investigation and the creation of a massive body of evidence.
This has produced a fundamental quandary for MUFON, summed up
succinctly by International Director and longtime aerospace
consultant John Schuessler at the organization s 35th annual
symposium in Denver, July 16-18: There is more evidence than any
of us can deal with.
According to Schuessler, in a 35-year attempt to prove that UFOs
are real, technological and not ours, MUFON has amassed such a
large collection of data ( sixteen file cabinets full of UFO
reports ) that virtually no one is able to adequately mine this
extensive database in order to connect the dots and draw
In his theme-setting presentation, entitled Unconventional
Flying Objects: The Body of Technological Evidence, Schuessler
detailed the legal characteristics of evidence, such as first-
hand knowledge, expert testimony, witness competency,
authentication, official written statements which, if presented
adroitly, can add up to subjective proof. But proof of what,
exactly (throughout his presentation, Schuessler was very
careful never to utter the words alien or extraterrestrial )?
And who requires this proof other than the skeptics, who will
never be convinced because they choose not to examine the
After more than fifty years of UFO study (somewhat ignominiously
self-proclaimed as ufology ), it is more than apparent that the
phenomenon is real. But much more challenging and increasingly
urgent questions remain: What does it mean? Why are they here?
How should humanity respond? These are questions that MUFON is
most reluctant to address (and indeed they cannot be answered on
a purely scientific or technological basis), which may be part
of the reason why membership continues to decline.
Meanwhile, MUFON relentlessly presses forward with its data
collection, in an attempt to finally prove the reality of UFOs.
For instance, Schuessler spoke wistfully of Project Pandora, the
organization s centerpiece strategy for making its vast database
(once it s all been scanned into digital format) searchable by
researchers. However, lamenting that the process will be
staggeringly costly and time-consuming, he said: At the rate we
re going, it will take forty years.
Here in Colorado, it is undeniable that the Rocky Mountains
continue to hold an abundance of precious metals like gold and
silver. However, the cost of extracting and refining ore is
prohibitive, so the majority of the wealth remains landlocked.
So it is with Project Pandora.
Another telling case is MUFON s infamous Abduction Transcription
Project, arguably the world s most comprehensive compilation of
testimony from alien abductees, painstakingly compiled from
hundreds of victims by more than twenty abduction researchers.
You haven t heard of this study? You d like to read the report?
Don t hold your breath. The project began in 1992 and continues
to languish and may never see the light of day.
Meanwhile, it seems that much of the public has long since
accepted the obvious conclusion of the reality of the UFO
phenomenon and no longer requires the proof that MUFON
investigators and researchers seem so anxious to deliver. As
Schuessler admits, The American people are saying UFOs are real
and that somebody s lying to us.
The tragedy of MUFON is that it stoically sits on a mountain of
data that could be highly valuable in expanding our
understanding of the nature and intentions of the beings who fly
the UFOs in our skies and interfere in human lives. Thus, the
challenge of connecting the dots and reaching conclusions
continues to go unmet. As Schuessler says, It s never going to
get done just with volunteers.
From all appearances at its Denver symposium, MUFON continues to
be in the business of amassing evidence, but steadfastly avoids
all conclusions or even inferences from the data. Worse, the
evidence is so massively unwieldy as to be inaccessible.
Proof of the reality and meaning of the UFO phenomenon requires
a willingness (and ability) to thoroughly examine the evidence
and draw conclusions hard work that skeptics naturally avoid.
Thus the proof is never seen. This is a conundrum that has MUFON
caught in a downward spiral.
Oddly, MUFON has now declared that calling UFOs unidentified is
no longer appropriate, for according to Schuessler the
organization has produced conclusive evidence that UFOs are not
airplanes, rockets, planets, weather balloons, space debris,
ball lightning, remnants of comets or meteorites, or constructs
of the imagination. Now he prefers to call the phenomenon
unconventional flying objects, meaning that they defy
conventional explanation. Well, of course they do. But MUFON
will not dare to offer an unconventional explanation of the
phenomenon; instead, they simply continue to collect more data.
End of Part I