Is it time to move on from MUFON?
When I started writing this article, it was meant simply to be an examination of some of the popular critiques of the Mutual UFO Network. Podcasters and Paranormal Personalities were discussing a variety of scandalous stories on their shows and on social media, in regard to the organization (most commonly known by its acronym MUFON). Over the last few years several stories have broken on outlets questioning the ethics and efficiency of the organization, and for just reasons, as well see in a moment.
However I, like most researchers, have often relied on MUFON databases when uncovering trends and stories. These databases have been crucial to many independent studies of the phenomenon. As such many have decided to ignore or dismiss stories that seemed scandalous or damning. But once I seriously examined these stories and claims, I was left with some really tough and uncomfortable questions about the organization. And when I brought these questions to the MUFON’s attention, I was met with equally uncomfortable answers. The nature of these responses were stunning, to the point where I decided to rewrite my entire article, so I can present them in their entirety.
My initial inquiries were met with this response:
“…I would urge you to be very careful what you report and what you say, as MUFON is no longer tolerating people denigrating our organization with conjecture and incorrect reporting. You will be responsible for your reporting.”
When I asked whether I was meant to interpret that vague statement as intimidation, this was the response:
“There is no “vague attempt at intimidation.” If you publish information that cannot be proven, under certain circumstances you face potential liability. We will not hesitate to take you to court. There’s nothing vague about that…With so much going on in the field and with MUFON so close to much of it, it seems like a waste of energy to focus on anything negative.”
I’m not sure what the logic behind this statement was. By this time I had already shared my sources for the questions asked, sources including popular publications such as; Vice, Newsweek, The Guardian, and Space.com. These publications were never subject to MUFON lawsuits. This claim seemed entirely baseless, and meant as an attempt to bully a smaller publication with made-up legal threats and implied blacklisting. Kudos to our editor Jack, for laughing off this threat and running this story regardless.
Subscribe to Paranormality Magazine
The first question I asked was one pulled from a popular discussion on Twitter. MUFON has been around for over 50 years and claims to be the #1 civilian UFO group. Yet in those five decades, critics have alleged an astonishing lack of results. Especially compared to recent, newly formed UFO groups such as To the Stars Academy. This group was founded only 5 years ago, and has unveiled secret government UFO research programs, witnesses, and videos. These now famous videos are considered the best evidence of the phenomenon to date. MUFON has been around ten times longer, and has never produced a single piece of evidence quite as compelling. I asked why, here was the response:
“MUFON has not been eclipsed by any organization in any way. MUFON is the largest, oldest, civilian UFO investigating group in the world. MUFON has a network of 660 trained , equipped Field Investigators, in all 50 states and 46 different countries. Additionally, MUFON has its own Laboratory capable of handling everything from Metallurgy to DNA. MUFON has its own Dive team and Photography evaluators. MUFON has its own TV productions, publishes a monthly journal and holds public meetings and a yearly symposium. We applaud any group that has managed to “produce content that is revolutionizing the field.” MUFON has been doing exactly that longer than anyone else, and we continue to be relevant in the modern era as we continue to make unique and important contributions and share them with the world.”
I followed up by asking what are some examples they might cite to a financial contributor or former employee that might have the same criticisms about lack of results. This is what they responded:
“MUFON continues its long history as the world’s oldest and largest civilian UFO research group. Our membership is made up of thousands of like- minded people all over the world who simply want to help answer the questions we face regarding UFOs.
Today, we are stronger and more active than ever. Pointing to a “lack of results” is coming from a place of limited knowledge.
Here are some examples:
The MUFON Database and its unique collection of sightings and reports were instrumental in enticing Harry Reid to seek funding for what became the AATIP program. So MUFON was quietly behind the new age of disclosure that is center stage. Without MUFON’s collection of evidence, a case could be made that there would be no Lou Elizondo, no AATIP, no navy UFO video releases, no TTSA, no New York Times story that revolutionized the topic. Perhaps none of the current landscape would be around if it wasn’t for MUFON’s work.
MUFON’s research into the “experiencer phenomenon” has led to some of the best scientific documentation ever in the field.
MUFON has honored its goal to educate by being behind the scenes and providing information to many mainstream TV Shows, including “Ancient Aliens,” “The Proof is Out There”, “Hangar One” and countless other films and productions.
Original Programming on MUFON Television continues to challenge the status quo with unflinching programming you won’t find in the mainstream media, many of which we share for free on youtube.
A true story about Ghosts, UFOs, and Florida’s Strangest Home.
Stories are seemingly separate but connected with threads to a place unlike any other. Set on an Island with thousands of years of history. To some it’s a ghost story; surrounding early European explorers, serial killers born slaves, and a supremely strange haunted castle slowly swallowed by time. To others a story of UFOs; a Naval station harassed by strange crafts, a metal sphere that moved on its own one spring in the 70s which captivated Florida and the nation, as well as famous videos released only a few years ago that has changed the world’s view entirely. A journey through time and high strangeness that ends somewhere between time and space.
MUFON makes its database available to many other researchers and our information has been key to helping evolve many of the theories and established facts regarding the issue that are currently accepted.
MUFON continues to quietly do more for the field than any other single contributing group.”
There were a couple statements that stood out there as odd. The first was the claim regarding AATIP, or the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification program. AATIP was a military organization formed 15 years ago, from which the revolutionary UFO videos were sourced. MUFON left out the following caveats: the public (including MUFON) were not aware of the program until 2017, the news of the program was broke by To the Stars Academy not MUFON, and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any written or recorded statement from late senator Reid sighting MUFON as the inspiration for the program. I asked about these points in a followup question, but did not receive a response.
I also asked a follow up question about the group’s citation of Ancient Aliens. The program is famed for its pseudo-scientific, pseudo-racist, theories of aliens being responsible for all of early man’s architectural accomplishments. While many, including myself, enjoy the program, most of us acknowledge that the pop sensationalism the program petals is far from science. MUFON claims to have a scientific goal. I asked how the organization can support programs like that while still claiming to be science oriented and driven.? I once again did not receive a response.
I next brought up the abundant issues and scandals that have surrounded their executives in recent years. I believe it was this line of questioning that led to the hostility. In April of 2018, Newsweek broke a story about high ranking members and donors who had publicly shared racist and homophobic veiwpoints. This caused many members and researchers to distance themselves. Part of the controversy focused around John Venture, who was the MUFON state director of Pennsylvania, who released a massively racist tyriad about ‘white genocide’ on his facebook page, and then proceede to play the victim stating that he was being perscuted because: “I’m a 60-year-old white man”.
Top brass removed his title, but he still had a large role in the group, as an organizer, preparing and speaking at their yearly symposium as recently as this year. The same top brass did nothing when former MUFON State Director for Utah, Erica Lukes, was the target of sexist rants by fellow members. This inaction led her to leave the group and start her own. Dozens of former MUFON investigators followed in her wake.
The man who ignored her was Jan Harzan. Harzan was head and mouthpiece of the program for several years. That was until July of 2020, when Harzan was arrested for attemtping to solict sex from an undercover police officer, whom he believed to be a 13 year-old girl.
After the Chris Hansen- style sting, court documents stated he was charged with “communicating with a minor with intent to engage in a lewd act,” as well as “arranging a meeting to engage with a lewd act with a minor in public.”
400% Pay Increase
Despite the steady stream of scandals their executives have been producing, they’ve received quite the pay raise in recent years. Between 2011 and 2018 MUFON executives have received a nearly 400% increase in pay from the non-for profit organization. When I asked about Harzan, Ventre, and this pay increase, this was the response:
“The Jan Harzan situation was dealt with by the board of directors within 4 hours all connections with the former director were rapidly dissolved and new leadership was in place. While we consider this a truly difficult and unforeseen situation, MUFON took the necessary steps immediately and decisively. MUFON emerged bigger, better, and stronger and our membership is growing by record numbers…
Running and administering any non-profit organization is many full time jobs. Nearly all nonprofits have paid executive staff. The rates in which our people collect compensation is at the very low end of nonprofits overall.
MUFON’s financials are solid and above reproach. We are accountable to the government, our board of directors and all of the firms that assist us in compliance.
Financial success at MUFON only means that we can do more work for our cause. Hiring and paying quality talent is worth the investment as EVERY company and non profit in the world will agree.”
Clearly we disagree on what ‘quality talent’ looks like. I also noticed the lack of comment on the Ventre situation. The day prior to this exchange, Ventre had given a talk at a MUFON conference in Philadelphia, despite the organization claiming to distance themselves from the noted racist. I couldn’t say I was surprised, as it seems MUFONs racial issues are systematic and have been present for decades.
UFO reports from Africa expected to be more ‘exotic’
Researcher Cynthis Hinds, wrote in her 1997 book UFOs Over Africa she recalls one incident when her research was denied publication in MUFON’s monthly journal. She had written a concise and in depth analysis of the different shapes and styles of craft that were seen over Southern Africa. She was excited to point out that the craft were the same shapes that had been witnessed all over the world. But the Editors at MUFON did not see it that way. In fact, they were annoyed by the similarity. The editor told Cynthia that he was expecting UFO reports from Africa to be more ‘exotic’, and that since they were just the same boring craft sightings that they usually get from the US, none of it was worth publishing in their esteemed journal.
I pushed the issue and asked for a further statement on Ventre and his speaking position at their recent conference. When I did so, they reiterated their right to sue me, before ironically making this statement about John Ventre’s right to free speech:
“Any organization encounters challenges and opportunities for lessons learned as it evolves. MUFON does not condone any racist, sexist or otherwise divisive views. We welcome everyone into our organization.
John Ventre was severely disciplined and lost positions he spent years developing. John Ventre does not now nor has he ever been paid to the best of my knowledge. We will not deny basic membership to someone because of their views. Free speech is a constitutional right.
However, we have evolved a code of conduct, behavior and rules for any member at the state director level and above. No member at any level is allowed to represent MUFON while expressing views that go against our published policies. We have also implemented a formal grievance process in order to swiftly address any issues within our mostly volunteer organization.”
Apparently, investigators and speakers at their conference are allowed to hold whatever views they please, under the first amendment, even if those beliefs include eugenics. Ironically, MUFON does not see a magazine discussing these issues as having the same constitutional right.
Combined with their pride in supporting pseudo scientific shows like Ancient Aliens, it seems that MUFON has abandoned all notions of being a scientific organization. All the while the rest of the world is moving forward and accepting the phenomenon as real and worthy of scientific inquiry.
In hindsight, it is no surprise that the organization fromely run by a pedophile, is still run by predators whose goal seems to be funneling money from the UFO community, into their executives pockets. And as such, it is no surprise that more and more investigators are looking for Ufology resources elsewhere. The same week Ventre spoke to a MUFON crowd, Congress held public and private hearings on the phenomenon. As the field moves forward, it seems clear that it will be leaving MUFON behind.
Due to MUFON’s threats against us, we are doing something we normally don’t. First, all the sources for the information discussed are provided below. As I told MUFON during this interaction, if they have legal concerns about this information, they should go right to the source, instead of trying to bully a community-based magazine.