MUFON seeks UFO truth

In 2014, two fisherman lost three hours of time in Salt Fork Lake, Ohio; photo: Ohio MUFON

By Lisa Bennett

UFO’s. Aliens. Crop Circles. It’s the stuff that fantastic fiction is made of. Could any of it be real? An intrepid group of researchers here in Ohio called MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) aims to discover the truth behind bizarre sightings and stories that seem to defy all logic.

The group, which has an international network of investigators, started in 1969. Surprisingly, the goal of the group isn’t to prove that aliens from other worlds exist. They’re leaving that for NASA. Their goal is to rule out all possible explanations for sightings and encounters and to reach out to experts to try and explain what they can’t. Many sightings are easily explained by things like lens flares, insects, birds, rare cloud formations such as Lenticular clouds, and even water droplets and hot air balloons. Then there are those cases that really beg the question, “What on Earth?”

An alien in Texas

A good example is a rather well-known case that MUFON investigated. The actual event happened long before the agency formed, so investigation was difficult. The case was called, “The Aurora Texas Crash”.  According to “The Dallas Morning News”, April 19, 1897[1]; an “airship” was flying around the country when it collided with the local Judge’s windmill. The paper described the event as “a terrific explosion, scattering debris over several acres of ground, wrecking the windmill and water tank and destroying the Judge’s flower garden.” The debris was described as “an unknown metal resembling somewhat a mixture of aluminum and silver, and it must have weighed several tons.” What makes this case so fascinating is that the first manned rigid airship didn’t take flight until November of that year, but the engine failed, causing it to make an emergency landing that rendered it irreparable. Until that time, the only manned airships were balloons, dirigibles, winged craft, and hang gliders, none of which were made of all metal. Initially, the thought was that the airship could have been an experimental aircraft. It would certainly seem plausible enough since the great airship race was going strong. However, the original reporter, a man named S.E. Haydon, went on to describe the pilot, saying “While his remains are badly disfigured, enough of the original has been picked up to show that he was not an inhabitant of this world.” His statement raised the question, could the pilot have been an extraterrestrial, or had the hapless reporter simply mistook the massive, gruesome injuries as alien? What can be said of the “unrecognizable hieroglyphics” that were found among the remains? Since there is no longer any trace of the crash to examine or live witnesses to interview, we are forced to shelve the incident in the annals of great historical mysteries – at least for now.

Facts vs Furphies

Those mysteries, however, are part of what drive volunteers like Thomas Wertman, Director of the Ohio Chapter of MUFON. Tom is also currently the co-director of the Cleveland Ufology Project, which opened in 1952. “We are the oldest operating group running consistently in the world.” That he has been with CUP since its inception, shows his incredible level of dedication to the research. Like many other researchers, Tom views the work as a process of ruling out possible explanations, rather than trying to prove that little green (or grey as the case may be!) men exist. Tom says, “When it gets down to a point where we truly don’t know what it is, it gets put into the label of “Unknown”. This is where sometimes individuals get confused because when they see “Unknown” they think alien craft.” The fact is that it could very well be an airplane, a bird, or something else entirely. There simply isn’t enough data to verify it one way or another.

Investigators face other challenges as well. Perhaps the most difficult challenge they face is the constant stream of people who fabricate stories, pictures and/or videos to make money or because they are mentally ill. Tom described an incident where he received a report from a man who claimed to be in the military. The man pulled out his cell phone and showed Tom a photo of the alleged, “Area 51” to prove it. “Turns out, it was a photo you can buy on Ebay.” Tom laughs. Despite all the fake reports, lack of detail to research, and confusion over terminology, however, the desire to weed out fact from fiction, to discover new ways of looking at things, and new possibilities has continued to inspire and encourage people to get involved and do the research. “The problem ,… ” Tom says with a chuckle, “ … is finding good investigators. You get people who say, “Man, I really want to do investigations, I really love this stuff”, and then they find out it’s volunteer work.” Most of them persist, however, which is why MUFON has the incredible resources that it does today.

Do UFO’s exist? The answer is yes. UFO’s are simply objects that haven’t been identified. They could be nothing more than a flare from the sun or they could in fact, be extraterrestrial visitors from our own cosmic backyard. We just don’t know. Until we do, UFO’s and ET’s will remain a mythopoeic part of our culture, hopefully lending inspiration to generations to come.

To contact the Ohio Chapter of MUFON to volunteer, attend workshops, to report a sighting or encounter, or get more information, please visit: www.MUFONOhio.com

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Lisa Bennett
Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at LisaBennett@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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