Mutual UFO Network

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Mutual UFO Network
FoundedMay 31, 1969; 53 years ago (1969-05-31)
TypeNonprofit organization
Purpose"The Scientific Study of UFOs for the Benefit of Humanity"
Key people
David MacDonald, Executive Director;

John F. Schuessler, Founder and Board Member; Barbra Schuessler Sobhani, Journal Editor;

Ruben J. Uriarte, Deputy Director of Investigations

The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) is a US-based non-profit organization composed of civilian volunteers who study reported UFO sightings. It is one of the oldest and largest organizations of its kind, claiming more than 4,000 members worldwide with chapters and representatives in more than 43 countries and all 50 states. The organization has been criticized for its focus on pseudoscience, and critics say its investigators fail to use the scientific method.


MUFON, Inc. was originally established as the Midwest UFO Network on 31 May 1969, in Quincy, Illinois, by Allen R. Utke, Walter H. Andrus, Jr., John F. Schuessler, and others.[1][2] Most of MUFON's early members were associated with the SKYLOOK newsletter of Stover, Missouri and the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), formerly of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. MUFON was renamed the Mutual UFO Network in 1973 because of its expansion to other states and countries.[3]

In July 2020, MUFON Executive Director Jan Harzan, who at a 2013 symposium claimed to have been visited as a child by a "humming" alien, was arrested in Newport Beach, California, on charges of soliciting sex from a law enforcement detective posing as a 13-year-old girl. In response to the arrest, MUFON leadership reported that Harzan had been "permanently removed" as the organization's Executive Director, and "[Harzan] will no longer serve any role in the organization."[4][5]


MUFON is currently headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, has chapters in every U.S. state, and claims to have over 4,000 members worldwide. It holds an annual international symposium and publishes the monthly MUFON UFO Journal. In 2015, MUFON founded Mutual UFO Network University, an unaccredited online institution which seeks to train members to investigate UFO sightings.

The group claims more than 500 field investigators and specialized teams to investigate possible physical evidence of extraterrestrial craft. The network trains volunteers to interview witnesses, perform research, and draw conclusions from the evidence.[2] Although investigators are not paid, they must pass both an exam based on a 265-page manual, and a background check.[6] MUFON features a newsroom and case management system on its website.



According to science writer Sharon A. Hill, MUFON's focus is "decidedly unscientific with talks on alien abduction, conspiracy theories, human-ET hybrids, hypnotic regression, and repressed memories", and reflects "a wide range of pseudoscience". MUFON has been the subject of criticism for drifting away from their original "nuts and bolts UFO investigation" into "bizarre conspiracy and exopolitics talk". The organization receives large numbers of UFO reports every year; the qualifications of the amateur volunteers examining the reports, however, have been questioned. Hill wrote that MUFON's idea of scientific researchers "appears to be people who are not scientists or propose fantastic, anti-science tales".[7][8][9]

Officers and donors with far-right viewpoints[edit]

An April 2018 article in Newsweek reported evidence of "anti-immigrant, anti-trans, and anti-Muslim sentiments" among MUFON officials, including MUFON donor J. Z. Knight and former MUFON State Director for Pennsylvania John Ventre, both of whom have publicly expressed racist and/or anti-Semitic views, and are described in the article as "high-tier Inner Circle donors to MUFON". The expressed far-right viewpoints "kicked off a wave of anger and resignations across MUFON", including former MUFON Director of Research Chris Cogswell (who stated, "My internal conscience would not let me continue") and former board member and Washington State Director James Clarkson (who stated, "Remaining in MUFON in any capacity is morally unacceptable.") Erica Lukes, former MUFON State Director for Utah, is also reported in the article as describing MUFON as "an organization unwilling to adequately address sexual harassment".[10]

In 2020, Vice magazine reported that Ken Pfeifer, head of MUFON's Rhode Island chapter, posted racist memes and comments on Facebook during the height of national Black Lives Matter protests.[5]

Popular Culture[edit]

MUFON has been mentioned in:



  • The New York Times article "People Are Seeing U.F.O.s Everywhere, and This Book Proves It"[11]
  • Forbes article "MUFON, America's UFO Experts, Discuss Roswell And Possible Cover-Ups"[12]


  1. ^ Trares, Ryan (11 October 2012). "Have you seen a UFO? Hoosier investigators aim at identifying unexplained". Franklin Daily Journal. Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2012. When local residents see something in the sky that they can't explain, they call the Mutual UFO Network. The nationwide organization receives dozens of similar reports every year of unusual lights in the night sky.
  2. ^ a b Trares, Ryan (15 October 2012). "Mutual UFO Network investigates sightings". Evansville Courier & Press. Archived from the original on December 3, 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2012. Most often, the reports can be explained naturally. Refracted light in the sky, electric flashes high in the atmosphere or meteors easily can be mistaken for UFOs.
  3. ^ Schuessler, John. "A Brief History of MUFON". MUFON. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  4. ^ Whalen, Andrew (2020-07-15). "UFO Organization Leader Arrested for Allegedly Soliciting Sex From a Detective Posing as Child". Newsweek. Newsweek. Retrieved 2020-07-19.
  5. ^ a b Banias, MJ; Merlan, Anna (2020-07-14). "Head of Major UFO Organization Arrested on Child Solicitation Charges". Vice. Vice Media Group. Retrieved 2020-07-19.
  6. ^ Olanoff, Lynn (15 October 2012). "UFO sightings lead Pa. man to alien sleuth work". New Jersey Herald. Retrieved 15 October 2012. Black triangular objects with three lights are the most commonly seen UFO, not the stereotypical flying saucer shape, Royer said.
  7. ^ Hill, Sharon. "UFO research is up in the air: Can it be scientific? - Sounds Sciencey". Skeptical Inquirer. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  8. ^ Hill, Sharon. "MUFON to rebrand". Doubtful News. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  9. ^ William F. Williams (2 December 2013). Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience: From Alien Abductions to Zone Therapy. Routledge. pp. 254–. ISBN 978-1-135-95522-9.
  10. ^ Whalen, Andrew (29 April 2018). "What If Aliens Met Racists? MUFON Resignations Highlight Internal Divisions in UFO Sightings Organization". Newsweek. Retrieved 7 May 2018. Everything this world is was created by Europeans and Americans
  11. ^ Blumenthal, Ralph (24 April 2017). "People Are Seeing U.F.O.s Everywhere, and This Book Proves It". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  12. ^ Clash, Jim (17 January 2017). "MUFON, America's UFO Experts, Discuss Roswell And Possible Cover-Ups". Forbes. Retrieved 19 November 2018.

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