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Looking Up: The Mutual UFO Network

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Half a century and counting

By Donald Burleson

Special to the Daily Record

May 2019 marks a momentous time in the history of UFO studies — the month in which MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network, turns 50 years old.

MUFON has an interesting and eventful past. In a sense, its direct ancestor was the earlier Aerial Phenomena Research Organization, or APRO. This was the organization in which — for a notable example — the now legendary UFO investigator Coral Lorenzen worked, the woman who investigated the Holloman Air Force Base UFO landing incident of April 30, 1964. Without her perseverance, we would know little or nothing about that event.

Another productive APRO member was Walt Andrus, active in the Midwest in the late 1960s, a significant time because in 1968, the famous — or infamous — Condon report came out from a two-year University of Colorado study, financed by the federal government. It was basically a duplicitous propaganda bash that painted UFO research — in the popular press — as being unworthy of serious interest. The Air Force even used this as an excuse to close its project Blue Book in 1969.

Perhaps government secret-keepers hoped all this would squelch popular interest in UFOs forever, but fortunately, that was not to be. Not only did sightings continue to occur, but the Condon report only inspired Walt Andrus and others to double down on their efforts to create a really effective organization to engage with the UFO matter. As a spinoff from APRO, these people on May 31, 1969, formed MUFON, which initially stood for Midwest UFO Network, operative in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The new entity soon outgrew its regional roots, gaining members from all 50 states and many foreign countries. It was renamed the Mutual UFO Network, “Mutual” because from the outset, a critical part of the mission has been to see that information flows not only from witnesses to MUFON, but — as long as witness confidentiality is protected — from MUFON to the public.

The basic approach to investigating UFOs must be scientific, and we MUFON researchers hold the view that science and repositories of evidence are the only good way to know anything, not mysticism or expedience or wishful thinking. Our field investigators are exam-certified, and our consultants hold advanced degrees in many different fields.

Starting from humble pre-computer beginnings where cases often had to be assigned by telephone, the activity has evolved into a sophisticated computer-networking system continually being improved. Through what we call the case management system, sighting reports now lead to instant emails to state directors, who assign cases to investigators for follow-up. We listen sympathetically to all witness accounts, but in the end, the evidence must make sense. Most reports, of course, turn out to be mundane — balloons, blimps, meteors, lenticular clouds, conventional aircraft — but these cannot account for everything witnesses observe, and we still encounter those few unexplainable phenomena that keep us intrigued.

Obviously, UFOs are forever an enigma, but the pursuit goes on with determination as we enter our second half-century. Happy birthday to MUFON!