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Weird Commerce: MUFON, Investigating UFOs Since 1969

Ever seen a UFO?

Could it have really been a bird, plane or you-know-who?

That’s where 47-year-old non-profit MUFON comes in to debunk or detail what you saw.

“Sometimes, people say they saw a UFO, and immediately, people think they said, ‘I saw a flying saucer,’” said Rodger Roeser, spokesperson for MUFON, which literally investigates unidentified flying objects. “I mean this in the truest sense of the word or phrase.”

Founded in 1969 on the eve of the historic moon landing, MUFON — Mutual UFO Network — is the world’s largest organization that provides scientific research and investigation into the UFO phenomenon. Based in Southern California, the 501(c)(3) is now 4,000 members strong across the globe, with a board of directors and an executive director. The life blood may indeed be the researchers, field investigators and volunteers, which keep the organization off the ground.

“They are a scientific research organization,” said Roeser. “It’s not like it’s a bunch of crackpots living in their basement. It’s honest-to-God scientific research.”

And all that research is funded via digital payments, to which Roeser said: “Technologically, MUFON has a lot going on, just to make the organization run through those online programs and payments.” There’s a CRM system for memberships, which start at $179, with opportunities to pay to learn and become a field investigator through additional classes, as well as UFO-related merchandise and the opportunity for people to underwrite a certain research project or area.

“Probably the most interesting is the underwriting opportunities, where you can go online and search which research they’re working on — such as UFOs in the ocean,” said Roeser. “You can designate dollar amounts to specific projects or areas.”

So, how do those dollars prove their worth? Let’s say you see an unidentified flying object — something suspect, something mundane — but you’re just not sure. Submit a picture or a video, or really any information that you have.

“MUFON researches it. They investigate claims, which, as you can imagine, there are hundreds of claims daily that come in,” said Roeser. “The organization takes a look at the ones that may be interesting, may be worth looking into. And debunk the vast majority of them. Obviously.”

Some sightings — Roeser quickly added — are indeed found to be genuine UFOs. But that’s meant in the true sense of the word: unidentified flying objects, meaning they simply just don’t know what that thing you saw was. But, it could be something unexplainable.

“99.99999 percent are debunked fairly quickly: It’s either a hoax, or it’s pretty obvious what it is,” said Roeser. “But there are those that are worthy of taking a deeper look into and further investigating.”

The cases are detailed on the website and range from the UFO that may have stopped traffic on Alabama’s I-20, to the reasoning for a “bar of soft light” appearing in Florida, to the deliberation of clarifying what that image was in the background of a vintage photograph taken in Quinlan, Texas.

“It runs the gambit — everything from folks talking about Roswell to something that happened in Washington, D.C., recently,” said Roeser. “It’s just like being a detective in a police force. Anyone can report the crime, but you have to go out and investigate to see if it’s real and it’s accurate, and if it is, MUFON will send out the report and see what we’ve found or what we’re investigating.”

The trickiest parts of this organization are twofold, which tend to work against each other: funding and skepticism.

“There is always some hiccup or challenge in that some folks think that MUFON is advocating for UFOs or that MUFON is some weird conspiracy theorists group. And that’s not true at all,” said Roeser. “Just enthusiasts willing to give up their time, talent and treasure to something that they think is interesting and fun. And they’ll actually go out and investigate it and share it. That way, you or I can take a look at this and draw a conclusion for ourselves.”

And whether you believe in UFOs or not, that’s not really part of the equation.

“It’s OK if folks don’t believe. I don’t think the goal of this group is to make someone believe. All they’re saying is if you share a healthy curiosity or skepticism that this is a worthwhile endeavor to investigate,” said Roeser. “There’s no government agency liberating us from our tax dollars to go search for UFOs or debunk any of this stuff. So, MUFON is more mainstream than people think.”

What it boils down to, according to Roeser, is a “catch-22.” Folks want to have access to vetted information and all the UFO-related information, but that all needs funding. “If an organization like MUFON wasn’t out there, we’d all be bombarded by who knows what, seen by who knows who.”

Bottom line is, whether you believe in aliens or are interested in the research side, Roeser said most people are shocked that they can be involved: “People may know this organization is out there, but they don’t realize they can join it.”

And if nothing else, you could be just craving to know what that blurry image is in the back of your family vacation photo.

“You might think you saw a UFO in this picture,” said Roeser. “And the investigators may say, ‘Nope, that’s just a DC-10 going across the skyline, and here’s why.'”


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