Monday, February 12, 2018

Who's Been Running MUFON?

The Mutual UFO Network recently announced a new Director of Research, Dr. Christopher Cogswell. He holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering and "hopes to bring a seriousness and strong research focus to this field," according to the MUFON website.

While we wish the doctor the highest degree of success, we would be remiss if we failed to observe the organization where he chooses to volunteer has an infamous history of substantially obstructing the very efforts he claims to undertake. His predecessor, Robert Powell, bailed for reasons reportedly including the MUFON choices of speakers at its annual symposium in 2017. In a nutshell, the organization's mission statement of dedication to scientific study is miles apart from many of its actual activities. If Dr. Cogswell is going to help the situation a number of circumstances will need to be addressed, from employing hypnosis as a memory retrieval tool to endorsing psychic channeling, and those are just some of the problems.

A lack of transparency and public accountability has long plagued MUFON. We have explored it at length on The UFO Trail, including posts such as UFO Community Members Weigh in on Dubious MUFON Speakers. Long before Powell's concerns became more widely known, writers and researchers such as Nigel Watson, Frank Warren, Robert Sheaffer, and several more expressed relevant points about the quality of MUFON speakers and contributed to the 2015 post. 

Back in 2014 we attempted to obtain explanations of what MUFON termed a collaboration with a French government agency, GEIPAN, that investigates unexplained aerial phenomena. Statements from MUFON leadership arguably were embarrassingly vague, while, in stark contrast, the head of GEIPAN proved quite willing to discuss the circumstances when contacted.

Other posts, such as parts one and two of the 2013 offering, MUFON, Science and Deception, further demonstrated the leadership's lack of willingness to field questions. MUFON's Jan Harzan has been contacted numerous times, including for comment on how an org dedicated to scientific study could promote such entirely speculative notions as Barbara Lamb's claims surrounding ET-human hybrids, but did not respond. 

Likewise, Harzan failed to respond to inquiries about the criteria used to grant David Jacobs a lifetime achievement award. Jacobs is a historian who practices hypnosis as a memory enhancer, claimed to have been harassed by an ET-human hybrid that sent him instant messages, and suggested to Emma Woods to wear a chastity belt during a long distance telephone hypnosis session, among numerous other dubious actions.

In preparation for a 2013 article on a reported UFO crash in Casselberry, Florida, attempts were made to consult several MUFON personnel. Multiple emails inquiring about the case were sent to the Executive Director, Director of Investigations, Florida State Director, and a former Florida Chief Field Investigator. None responded. We could go on at length, but the issues run even deeper still than irresponsibly promoting unsubstantiated conjecture under the guise of science or failing to share information about investigations.

From where I sit, it is significant that the Pentagon indirectly admitted funneling funds to MUFON via Robert Bigelow. This was clearly done through Bigelow's now known receipt of funds and subsequent MUFON-BAASS initiative, yet it is virtually a non-story in UFO Land. Community members for years accused MUFON of acting as an arm of the federal government, and are now validated for all practical purposes, yet the wheels of sensationalism continue to turn with hardly a pause. You can't say we weren't warned.

After serving as MUFON International Director from 2006 to 2009, James Carrion wrote in a 2011 blog post that it was not Robert Bigelow who funded MUFON's work for Bigelow Aerospace, but "sponsors" Bigelow revealed to John Schuessler but not the rest of the MUFON Board of Directors. Carrion's statements have aged well (See my post, Pentagon-UFO Story Reflects Fundamental Problems, for further info and commentary).

The Pentagon acknowledges the Defense Intelligence Agency invested money in the UFO community. Up until that time, such interests and circumstances were officially denied. They were taboo, scandalous. It was out of bounds to so much as speculate the IC was in bed with UFO researchers and their organizations. Capital "S" Skeptics cried conspiracy and called for proof. Now it's confirmed and met with a shrug on both sides of the UFO community aisle.

I'd like to direct our attention for a while, please, to the fact the intelligence community has full on acknowledged involvement in the UFO community - this century, here and now. Others told us so and they are now validated, yet it's seemingly not a story, in lieu of analyzing film clips, exchanging opinions on inconclusive claims about alleged aliens, and minimizing its potential significance. In my opinion, if funding sources for one project are called into question, then funding sources for many projects are called into question, especially those involving the same individuals and organizations.

MUFON has a long way to go to gain any credibility, not to mention competently addressing who's been running its organization. Please join me in considering some of the circumstances that brought us to the point in which the Pentagon casually confirmed what amounts to funding the Mutual UFO Network.

Carpenter Affair

The Carpenter Affair. Let's start there. 

During the 1990's, the org's lead alien abduction researcher "confidentially," as he put it to me in a series of emails, provided Robert Bigelow - the guy who would later play point man on the DIA's Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program - with data from case files of alleged abductees in exchange for a reported $14,000. John Carpenter, a Missouri social worker and hypnosis advocate, defended his actions, which included choosing not to obtain consent from the 140 people prior to releasing their files to Bigelow and his National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS). 

MUFON officials, including John Schuessler, who sat on a NIDS board, primarily chose the stance of silence on the topic. Col. John Alexander, a former employee of the Bigelow-founded NIDS, declined comment in 2013. Alexander was asked about any interest he may have had in the files; why he suspected his employer, Bigelow, may have desired to obtain them; if other alien abduction researchers also shared files with Bigelow as Carpenter claimed may have been the case; and if Alexander was at liberty to discuss any relationships between Bigelow corporations and intelligence agencies. Alexander, a man who has repeatedly presented himself as willing and able to talk inside baseball on UFOs and the intelligence community, didn't want to discuss it.

The above image is a copy of the second page of a 1996 letter apparently composed from Carpenter to Bigelow, discussing copying and sending 140 case files, as well as expressing thanks for payment. The image was obtained from researcher Gary Hart, who included the letter and other items in complaints filed to MUFON and the State of Missouri Division of Professional Registration. Read more in the 2013 blog post on the Carpenter Affair linked above.

NSA Memo

In 2017 I published a post about NSA largely releasing a document via my FOIA request about an NSA assignee's attendance at a UFO symposium. The existence of the document, though previously withheld, was long known to researchers such as Philip Klass. Although we did not previously know its specific contents, Klass confidently suspected it was authored by Tom Deuley. Klass was in all likelihood correct for reasons provided and linked in my 2017 post. The document proved to be a memo, titled Information request solicitation, in which its author informed NSA of events and actions of researchers at the 1978 MUFON Symposium. From the now mostly declassified memo:

Ambient Monitoring Project

In 2014 I did a blog post on the ill-fated Ambient Monitoring Project (AMP). The undertaking was initially titled the Abduction Monitoring Project, but was changed for reasons that reportedly included efforts to increase credibility and attract qualified researchers. The initiative involved placing instruments to measure environmental changes in the homes of individuals reporting alien abductions. It was headed up by long time ufology staple and career intelligence officer Tom Deuley, who likely composed the above NSA memo and served in leadership capacities of multiple UFO organizations, including MUFON. Funding sources for the AMP were not clearly disclosed and details of project results were never released. From the 2014 blog post:

Deuley wrote in the 2008 Journal article that the AMP was jointly proposed to MUFON, FUFOR [Fund for UFO Research] and the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). The collaboration reportedly resulted in the UFO Research Coalition, or the URC, as Deuley dubbed it. Exactly where the funding originated, however, was not clear, and Deuley did not at all address the amount and specific terms of project funding.
The proposal was given to the Fund for UFO Research, Deuley stated in the article, “with the intention that they in turn offer the idea to some prospective donors who might be interested in this project.”
“Over time,” he continued, “the Fund’s efforts led to sufficient funding for the work.”
“With a good prospect for a sponsor,” Deuley not so clearly explained further, “the URC continued to fine-tune the proposal. After several rounds of changes and negotiation with the prospective funding organization, the proposal for the Ambient Monitoring Project was accepted.”
Who ever the “prospective funding organization” of which Deuley may have been referring, how ever the proposal may specifically have been “accepted,” and where ever reported “sufficient funding” may have actually originated, Richard Hall told UFO Updates List the project was out of money. Hall informed them of that nine months before Deuley's July, 2008, article which suggested funding was in hand and data was in the process of being analyzed.
In 2008 I emailed inquiries about the project to various board members of the UFO organizations involved. An email was sent to Deuley, who I requested provide details that might be available for public release, particularly concerning such information as final analysis and project personnel. He replied August 2, 2008: 
The analysis is in progress and will include a full report when all of the cases have been analyzed. Until then we feel it is prudent to not publicize who is doing the analysis or where it is being conducted. The report is most likely to be printed in the MUFON Journal, and if extensive to be published for sale by the UFO Research Coalition.”
I sent a similar inquiry to David Boras of CUFOS, who briefly replied on August 3, 2008, “Statistical analyses are ongoing and not yet available.”
Astronomer Dr. John Carlson, also of FUFOR, and I exchanged some brief messages. Even after I made him aware Deuley had just days prior stated in an email to me that AMP data was in the process of being analyzed, Carlson wrote in an August 5, 2008 email there were no funds to analyze the data, so he believed the project was effectively dormant.

Such discrepancies and contradictions within MUFON and UFO orgs have now become common to the point of no longer attracting meaningful discussion. Inaccuracy and a lack of direct answers from leadership have come to be expected. 

UFO Research Coalition

Robert Bigelow
It was repeatedly stated by those familiar with and involved in the AMP that it was a collaboration of CUFOS, MUFON and FUFOR. Tom Deuley reported in his 2008 MUFON Journal article that the collaboration resulted in the forming of the UFO Research Coalition. The FUFOR website indicated the Coalition was formed at the suggestion of Robert Bigelow.

"Disagreement over control of the UFO Research Coalition lead to a complete break with Robert Bigelow," the website further stated, indicating the "disagreement" culminated in 1994. The conflict was apparently resolved by the time of the MUFON-BAASS venture of 2009, when many of the same organizational leaders were on deck, as can be explored in detail at the bottom of the 2014 blog post, What Happened to the Ambient Monitoring Project?


There may be some events of interest under the descriptions of high strangeness or things in the sky. I don't claim to know, and as regular readers are aware, my primary area of focus migrated into social aspects of the UFO community. While I don't profess to conclusively know much about what all is being reported and witnessed, I'm pretty confident you aren't going to get any substantial explanations from the latest crowd of self-proclaimed insiders, researchers, and disclosure activists. We simply have no reason to think so, barring extreme changes of operating procedures. It is more than reasonable at this point, if not arguably naive not to call into question the funding sources and agendas of those directing the UFO research community.

It is also reasonable to desire financial accountability from tax-funded projects, such as the AATIP, and nonprofit corporations, namely MUFON, that collect public financial support while enjoying tax benefits. You are entitled to expect accurate and reasonably transparent reporting of budgets and activities. We clearly have a long, long way to go to achieve such transparency in the UFO community. I am strongly of the opinion its obstruction and the related issues are much more worthy of attention than the unsubstantiated sensational claims promoted by the involved parties.


  1. Great post.

    It triggers so many questions. For example, why did MUFON latch on to unsupported claims about a decades-long secret space program (often associated with Richard Dolan's also unsubstantiated "breakaway civilization"), making it a centerpiece at its 2017 conference? Was it only to attract more attendees and make more money, or was it also about another agenda entirely? What relationship does this have with Walter Bosely, a UFO podcast darling and self-identified “former” FBI and AFOSI agent, now becoming involved in promoting the secret space program?

  2. Speaking of secret space programs, my local MUFON chapter recently hosted a report by Mark Richards on Secret Bases in Africa. Mark could not be there because he is serving a life sentence for masterminding a murder, so his wife presented it.

    At one time I thought the local folks must be an embarrassment to the national organization, since a scientific search for the truth could not possibly fit in with presentations about psychic Bigfoot connections. But since the organization has featured Basiago, Maussan, Jacobs, and other similar speakers, it is clear that they have claimed fringe as their own.

    I suppose there could be an agenda behind this. But what I see locally is people taking pride in presenting "all things fringe." Whether that or not that is an agenda, it points to problems with who is minding the store. Maybe it would have been more honest if Kerry Cassidy had taken the research job instead of Dr. Cogswell.

    1. The UFO/paranormal community has demonstrated itself over and over again to be gullible in falling for any wild hare story that dovetails with its deeply cherished but unsubstantiated beliefs. I now suspect, thanks to Jack and a few other researchers, this community has been a reliable seeding ground for spreading stories meant to achieve earthbound intelligence objectives. I’m not convinced the community itself is or has been a target of these intelligence operations (maybe an individual or two here or there for reasons we’ll never be privy too), but I do think the community’s beliefs have been purposely manipulated as a means to an end.

      There are valid questions in this blog post about MUFON’s relationship with Bigelow as well as MUFON’s and Bigelow’s relationships with the US intelligence community . . . and where the big money is actually coming from and how it’s being channeled.

      Frankly, I don’t think those at the top of MUFON who are involved with or have knowledge of its intelligence connections give a rat’s patoot about what insanities go on at MUFON’s local or state level or even care what the state directors do or claim no matter how crazy (the former PA state section director keeps claiming there are human mutilations based on one case that local police solved as being connected to drug-related activities). I believe this is why local lunacies are tolerated with nary a peep from MUFON leadership.

      Meanwhile, if you read Jack’s piece how can you not at least consider that MUFON is something more than it claims to be, shilling for entities that have nothing to do with UFOs?

  3. There's not a hair's-breadth difference between the current crop of UFO fans at MUFON and those who left to form their own saucer fan clubs.

    Robert Powell for instance is a perfect example of a UFO buff who operates from a biased world-view in which everything always seems to be related to his UFO religious beliefs.

    His SCU laughably pretends to espouse real science (their real concern is apparently the APPEARANCE of being scientific just like the execrable NARCAP). When several research groups and individuals exposed laughably inept mistakes in their faux-scientific paper on the Aquadilla thermal video, Powell proved to be unable to respond to reasonable criticism without getting angry and calling the other parties liars etc., while never dealing with the facts at all.

    I'll debate him ANY time on the facts of that silly case.

    In fairness these old guys try to do a good job. They just can't recognize their own lack of critical thinking.


    1. Your debunker bias is showing Lance. When you cannot cite facts, you resort to character attacks. Robert Powell is much more of a scientist and more objective of the phenomena than you will ever be. In your worldview where there are NO UFOs, No cases that are worthy of scientific scrutiny, anyone who expresses the slightest curiosity is a UFO buff and obviously jaded. As I know about the interaction between you and Powell about Aguadilla on Facebook, it was clear from the conversation that you got it wrong, something I have witnessed in other conversations. The facts are that you seek to debate on Facebook and none of us choose to use this media as a debating media. he was not unable to respond - he chose the sensible thing which is to not debate. As you can see from your comments, discussions are not your intent - you wish to debate your worldview and most of us care less about it and instead focus on doing the objective analysis and hard work, while others, just want to argue. We do quite fine at critical thinking - Thanks! Rich

    2. This is the kind of dishonesty you have to deal with when dealing with Flying Saucer Superfans. Notice that Rich doesn't bring up any actual facts.

      Rich says:

      "The facts are that you seek to debate on Facebook and none of us choose to use this media as a debating media"

      Really? Did I not make a presentation to your own saucer fan club group via skype? Did I not share our computer model with a member of your group? Did I not patiently answer questions? You had no disputing facts then either except at the end of the presentation you made an astounding counter-claim (that sounded preposterous) and I asked you if you could supply more details, which you promised to do (and have never done some two and a half years later). That is how you operate: you make a claim and then hide when asked to back it up. Same thing that Powell does.

      " In your worldview where there are NO UFOs" Respectfully, I think I know my own worldview better than you. And regarding UFO's, I only think that the evidence for your Saucer Jesus is lacking. You could be right but you cannot show robust evidence.

      I know you think that you are doing objective work. But your efforts are laughable.

      If you want to talk facts (as you disingenuously claim above) Name a single fact that I got wrong on Aguadilla. C'mon, let's talk facts!

      Now I will offer one: Powell's faux-scientific white supplement on Balloons is easily refuted. Tim Printy published a good refutation of it in Sunlite. SCU members like Rich dishonestly repeat the assertion that we only wanted to debate via Facebook (which I should add that Powell is happy to do until he is shown to be in error) but the fact is that we have published videos and written up our findings.


      Here is the Sunlite where many of our objections were written up:

      There are several followups.

      Unlike Rich and his cosplay scientist friends, I am happy to answer any questions.


    3. "This is the kind of dishonesty you have to deal with when dealing with Flying Saucer Superfans."

      Hi Lance,

      You are 100% correct of course. Sadly, a large part of this I believe is by design and has actually been nurtured by the intelligence communities and in turn these groups. They encourage far out, dubious stories and assist in circulating them. Why? Well 1) to help keep serious researchers at bay/confused/misinformed and 2) (probably more likely) to keep ACADEMIC interest minimal.

      I just finished reading The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel. Excellent work. What I found most interesting was that the "Mothman" topic was rather minor and instead the focus was on the UFO wave that was occurring in Point Pleasent at the time. Keel made a number of observations, including 1) The similarities between the contractee experience and post-hypnotic suggestion 2) Flashing lights/beeps/pulsating sounds (which typically occur with the phenomena) and how these can potentially be utilized to alter human memory and/or place individuals in a trance state 3) The "deceptive" nature of the phenomena. Brightly lit disc shaped objects on set schedules which would gain the attention of anyone watching. 4) Bizarre animal "mutilations" where the animals were completely drained of blood. These occurred while said UFOs were being observed. As such, it would seem that the intelligence behind the phenomena is using it for (at least one reason) keeping peoples attention away from possible testing. Whatever this testing is for ;-)

      For those who haven't read the book, Point Pleasent is in West Virginia. West Virgina has one of the highest recorded instances of nuclear fallout from Project Plowshare:

      IMO, The similarities between the pheneomen Keel wrote about in his book and what Gabe Valdez wrote about in "Dulce Base" should be investigated further. Valdez wrote about the instances of animal mutilations and UFO activity occurring in Dulce, NM in the late 70s early 80s. Dulce is not far from where Project Gasbuggy occurred and the related nuclear fallout.

      Sorry for the long-winded post. Just thought it might be necessary to fully support the opinion I stated in the first paragraph.


  4. Thanks to each of you for your comments. Your interest is appreciated. I think you're all correct in your thoughts expressed, depending on the specific circumstances. Sometimes people are simply gullible, sometimes we suffer from confirmation bias (and well-educated people certainly aren't exempt), sometimes people might be less than completely honest, and so on. It just depends on the specific instance.

    As for the IC involved in ufology, exploiting the community, and so on, let's not forget that the Bigelow chapter also involves what I've come to consider the Skinwalker Shuffle. As I covered on this blog and in my book, Col. Alexander told the AP he wouldn't provide details or purposes of research conducted at the ranch in the same interview he stated they wanted to do good work and provide data. Moving right along...

    Let's also bear in mind, please, that James Carrion's revealing blog posts included explaining he was interviewed for a security clearance investigation on MUFON founding member and long time staple John Schuessler. The clearance was reportedly for consulting work to be done for Bigelow.

    It's really not that tough a read in these circumstances, whatever it ultimately indicates.

  5. This is a superb article! I think MUFON has gone corporate like so much of everything else. You adopt Mission statements, etc. that make everything seem to be dedicated to serious investigative work, but at the HQ level, it's all about whatever will bring in the most revenue. In fairness, how else can you operate a national organization except to be as efficient as possible which means never letting your ethical standards get in the way of enhancing the revenue stream? That's how you get Corey Goode and Andrew Basiago at a MUFON Symposium as featured speakers.
    This is at the heart of why I quit. I saw and heard things that once revealed, could not be ignored.
    The sad part is that at the State level, there are many very dedicated, sincere researchers. But State Directors are plowhorses that are kept in harness until they drop over and are forgotten. MUFON is one of the only volunteer organizations where its key members, the State Directors don't get anything. They have an annual meeting at the Symposium which is very short and not really a meeting and they get ZERO discounts on anything. Not every State Director has 2 grand to blow on flights, hotel, and Symposium tickets.
    I will always be looking for the next great UFO case like so many others, but the entire process of "investigating UFOs" when it is considered economically, politically, and psychologically has left me way more skeptical than when I started.
    The one great amusement right now is watching the Tom DeLongue circus. I salute his organization for so totally exploiting UFOs as a corporate economic venue.
    So between MUFON and the To the Stars Academy, and way too numerous information sources on social media, whatever Signal there may be from the investigation and reporting of UFO events is all but drowned out by the Noise.
    Oh, Brave New World!

  6. "Meanwhile, if you read Jack’s piece how can you not at least consider that MUFON is something more than it claims to be, shilling for entities that have nothing to do with UFOs?"

    Back in the 1950s, NICAP proudly proclaimed links to the intelligence community on its letterhead, with former CIA director Hillenkoetter on its Board of Governors. I don't think it's that surprising that MUFON has gone down a rabbit hole, and that the fingers of the intelligence community can be found in its operations. I have long thought that the more the UFO community focuses on disclosure or seeks inside information that claims secret knowledge, the easier it may be to manipulate it.

    On the other side, Jason Colavito's recent article exploring exploring the role of a Russian intelligence in promoting UFOs and ancient astronauts should also be considered. Jason concludes, "By keeping such material circulating and enhancing its reach and effectiveness, Russian propaganda outlets serve to generate and enhance internal discord in the United States by encouraging anti-government and anti-science views."

    Where the end game might lie with either side remains an open question, but I think there are interests that have nothing to do with UFOs.

    1. Deserves mention in the convo, IMO:

      While the crashed saucer "plant" is indeed interesting in itself, I consider the contents of the State Department memo potentially quite relevant. The author of the memo described to State the various views held on UFOs by Russians. It's reasonable to suspect the views - and their manipulation - were a primary interest.

    2. Hi Jack,

      I might be wrong on this, but didn't deliberation over Soviet influence occur right from the beginning? I seem to remember a few declassified documents from the 47 and 48 which discussed and rejected the idea. The idea of manipulating UFOs seemed to come of interest later in the 50s.

      Great post, btw. Keep up the good work.

    3. Thanks, Adam! Glad ya find the post a worthy read.

      It's my understanding that many instances from the 1940's era that we might today consider UFO-related involved intelligence and counterintelligence themes. The 'ghost rockets' and James Carrion's work particularly comes to mind, as cat and mouse exchanges between various global intel agencies were clearly taking place.

      IMO, the most common error in considering such circumstances, as well as one of the most crucial points, is that each instance stands alone. Each circumstance from one era to another should be researched carefully, as there are certainly many motives for IC involvement from one event and decade to the next; there is not one all-encompassing operation or conclusion.

  7. There could be something to the idea erikson offers, but I doubt it. It would really have to be a long con with very little in tangible results.

    No, the guys the various flying saucer fan clubs are dumb enough to not need any help to make make bad decisions.

    Former MUFON muckety,muck, Rich Hoffmann just kicked me out of his UFO FB group (which he, without a hint of understanding the irony, calls "A Serious Look". My crime was questioning and making fun of a guy selling a UFO detector. Rich suggested that the detector "furthers UFOlogy in a positive direction". Christ! The delusion.

    Rich took the cowardly way out to be sure that no one in his silly group is ever challenged on their claims. I'm sure he thinks that he is doing science.

  8. Excelent blog. Please, let's try a look on "Operação Prato" (Operation Dish), a Brazilian UFO affair, and the strange aura around it.

  9. Dr. Cogswell already resigned effective April 13 as MUFON Director of Research:

  10. I was on their Board for 3 years and never saw anything like this. Your imaginations have gotten the best of you.

    1. You never saw anything like what, MUFON's lack of scientific integrity or MUFON being in bed with intelligence agencies? The 2018 MUFON Symposium that just ended featured CIA ATTIP head Luis Elizondo who refused to acknowledge that the pilot in the so-called UFO video promoted by ATTIP spin-off To the Stars Academy identified the object as "a (blank) drone."

  11. Michael Salla

    The guy who insisted Source A was the real deal AFTER all the evidence that he was a fraud

    He is a walking talking example of confirmation bias of a pathological degree