UFOs, the organization tries to find them – The Minnesota Daily

Have you ever lay in the grass on a cool summer night and gazed up at the stars above your head? Perhaps you traced the constellations in your mind and pondered who was the first to play this cosmic game of connecting the dots. You begin to wonder if there is more to the night sky than stars. Maybe there is life behind those lights.

UFOs and other strange aerial phenomena have been observed for centuries. Ever since there were these strange sightings, there have been people and organizations that have sought to explain them. One such organization is the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), which works to investigate potential alien sightings and educate the public about UFOs.

“We’ve been studying these light phenomena for decades,” said Anna Scott, who served as a field investigator with the Minnesota chapter of MUFON for about five years.

Most of the surveys conducted by MUFON are entirely online or by telephone. Sites like Whitepages help verify reports. Otherwise, they try to find planes, satellites or any other aerial phenomenon that could explain the sightings.

In the event of a UFO sighting, a MUFON investigator will contact anyone involved and verify the validity of the sighting and the identity of those involved. Once the people involved have been identified, they will try to find an explanation from the recordings of satellites, weather balloons or anything else that would have been visible from the location of a sighting. Most surveys are as simple as locating a sighting on a map and finding a record of anything flying in that area at the time.

Only about 10 to 20 percent of sightings MUFON investigates are considered unidentifiable, said William McNeff, the chief investigator for MUFON’s Minnesota chapter. McNeff mostly oversees the other investigators and their assignments and picks up some cases himself along the way.

So how do you become a field investigator? First, you must be a member. Membership fees range from $60 to $300, depending on the benefits you are interested in.

“If you want to become a field investigator, you buy a manual, which costs about $100,” said Bob Spearing, MUFON’s director of international investigations. “Then you take an online test after you finish going through the manual. And then we’ll certify you as a field investigator. Spearing has been with the organization for about nine years.

“We make a lot of our money from our memberships. Currently, we have 5,000 members, of which approximately 500 are field investigators. Spearing said.

MUFON sells a lot of merchandise and has a donation page on their website. You can choose your own donation amount, but they have preset donation amounts. These range from the $150 enthusiast level to the benefit-laden $5,000 inner circle level.

It makes sense for a volunteer-based nonprofit to rely heavily on donations, but those numbers seem absurd. Of course, things like their lab in Missouri and the annual symposium need funding. Still, the extent to which their website is monetized seems ludicrous.

MUFON also keeps much of its information and records behind a paywall. This includes access to their members-only section.

For an organization claiming to have an interest in educating the public, these monetary barriers seem counterproductive. But, MUFON needs funding to do its research, and they don’t want funding from sources like former funder and billionaire Robert Bigelow.

Bigelow funded the MUFON Starteam — the first responders to any high-profile UFO sightings or interactions — until he split from MUFON about 15 years ago. This was due to disagreements over the allocation of funds and Starteams’ less than impressive results, Spearing said.

MUFON is trying to bring Starteam back by the end of this year. This time, without funding from a billionaire behind them, investigators will have to provide most of the tools and equipment themselves, Spearing said.

With greater independence, the Starteam will make a fresh start. Although it is unclear how successful a motley group of investigators will be as a first responder organization.

Another of MUFON’s businesses is the Experience Resource Team (ERT), of which Scott and McNeff are both part. The ERT, which helps people who have had encounters like UFO sightings or abductions, organizes support groups and veterinary therapists or other professionals who are open to the possibility of unexplainable phenomena, Scott said. .

As a registered nurse, Scott said she could tell if someone was showing symptoms of mental illness. Scott said if individuals seem to need help beyond an abduction support group or an open-minded therapist, they can refer them to their own psychiatrist.

“Most people with symptoms of serious mental illness already have a psychiatrist,” Scott said. “We can refer them to their own psychiatrist, but we are not a healthcare provider or a referral system.”

Most people MUFON interacts with are relatively sane. That’s a large minority with serious mental illness like schizophrenia, Scott said.

Granting people the ability to talk to other people who will listen and believe them can be a huge benefit, but it should be done with caution. Simply validating extraordinary experiments without concern for the sanity of the experimenter can be dangerous. Even though it is only a large minority of experimenters who experience mental illness, the fact that some are treated means that great care must be taken to ensure that these ideas do not lead to injury or harm. hurt someone else.

It would be unfair to say that MUFON neglects to help those in need. Extreme cases are rare and are usually treated with care by the ERT. However, care must be taken to prevent those in need from falling through the cracks.

Unfortunately, there is more to the MUFON story than Starteam and the ERT.

Former National Director of MUFON Jan Harzan was arrested in 2020 for soliciting sex from a detective Harzan believed to be a 13-year-old girl. He was immediately removed from his post in MUFON. Although the organization acted quickly, this was not the only time it attracted undesirables.

In August, the Minnesota chapter had to cancel a guest speaker at the last minute when the organization discovered he had Nazi ties. Although they quickly pulled him off as a speaker once they found out, Minnesota chapter director Tom Maher said the person had already spoken at one of their previous meetings.

The question is: is MUFON doing enough to prevent these situations?

There’s not much you can do to stop the wrong people from accessing a platform. Often the best thing to do is to right a wrong that you couldn’t prevent. Historically, MUFON has been quick to do this.

Maher called events like Harzan’s arrest “frustrating and disappointing.”

MUFON is an imperfect organization to say the least. Some of their practices are questionable and they have been associated with nefarious characters.

However, the average member simply believes there is more to the sky than planes and astronauts. Can you blame them?

Often, people who believe they have experienced an otherworldly or unexplainable event are labeled as crazy or a liar. But, with so much we don’t understand, how can we be sure these extraterrestrial experiences are fiction?

“Human history is all about being wrong all the time. So I try not to be too attached to being right,” Maher said.

Aubrey L. Morgan