MUFON, America's UFO experts, discuss Roswell and possible cover-ups
The subject of UFOs has always been controversial – still is. To get a look at the subject from the perspective of MUFON, America’s premier investigator of the phenomenon, we sat down with its executive director, Jan Harzan.
You may know MUFON from Hangar 1, a popular TV series recently on the History Channel about the organization and its work with unexplained UFO sightings. In part 1 of our chat below, Harzan discusses two big UFO cases, possible cover-ups, Roswell, NM, and his own encounter with a UFO. You and I may or may not agree with Harzan but his arguments are interesting.
A purported UFO over New Jersey in 1952. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Jim Clash: Briefly, what is MUFON?
Jan Harzan: A membership-based 501.c.3 non-profit whose mission is, “the scientific study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity.” We offer a place for the public to report UFO sightings, and then we assign trained MUFON field investigators to contact the witness(es) and investigate the reports and determine exactly what happened. The information is then available to the public. We have over 100,0000 cases on file now, with that number growing rapidly. We are 100% publicly funded through two primary sources, memberships and donations.
JC: Give us two compelling UFO cases.
JH: One of the best-documented cases of an extraterrestrial encounter is Travis Walton from Nov. 5, 1975, near Snowflake, AZ. Travis and six co-workers had just finished clearing brush in the mountains and were heading back to town when they encountered a glowing, silvery disc-shaped craft in the forest. Travis exited the cab of the truck they were in, and approached the craft. In doing so, he was struck by a beam of light knocking him to the ground unconscious. His buddies filled with fear high-tailed it out but returned a while later to find both Travis and the saucer gone. Five days passed when Travis suddenly reappeared to tell the story of where he had been. He reported being aboard a craft and seeing creatures that did not look human. All seven of the crew and Travis took, and passed, lie-detector tests regarding their ordeal.
The second is known as the Rendlesham Forest case involving the U.S. military in Suffolk, England. Around 3 a.m. on Dec. 26, 1980, strange lights were reported by a security patrol near the east gate of RAF Woodbridge apparently descending into nearby Rendlesham Forest. Servicemen initially thought it was a downed aircraft but, upon entering the forest to investigate, they saw a strange glowing object, metallic in appearance, with colored lights. As they approached, it moved through the trees and left three impressions in the ground that were visible the next day. One of the servicemen, Sgt. Jim Penniston, later claimed to have encountered a "craft of unknown origin" and to have made detailed notes of its features, touched its "warm" surface and copied the numerous symbols that were on its body. The object flew away after their brief encounter.
Jan Harzan, executive director of MUFON. (Courtesy of Jan Harzan)
JC: Why do you think governments have been buttoned up regarding the possibility of visits to Earth?
JH: Well, the real answer is we don’t know. One possible reason is because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that Earth’s population is not ready for such a revelation. Other thoughts are that the knowledge would create widespread panic, cripple the stock market and end religion as we know it. Another possible reason is that the technology these beings have is so far advanced - whether it be faster-than-light travel, time travel or other far-advanced technology - that it poses a national security threat to America, especially if these capabilities were to fall into enemy hands. I tend to think it is this latter reason.
JC: Roswell, NM - real or hoax?
JH: Real. Get a copy of the video presentation of “Recollections of Roswell” filmed by MUFON member and well-known UFO researcher Stanton Friedman. It is interviews with some 30 survivors of Roswell, including first-hand witnesses, their spouses and their children. What they tell you will send chills up your spine. If you don’t believe something extraordinary happened after watching this video, then nothing will convince you. I can tell you this: It was no weather balloon.
JC: Have you seen a UFO yourself?
JH: I had the good fortune of having a close encounter with a UFO as a kid. I was 10 years old at the time with my brother Jeff (age 9) when we witnessed a landing craft in our backyard in Thousand Oaks, CA. It was 30 feet from us, hovering 10 feet off the ground, making a humming noise much like a transformer on a telephone pole. There were four landing gear on the craft, and it was completely smooth and seamless. It was a life-changing experience, to say the least.
JC: Why should we believe extraterrestrials are interested in our planet?
JH: Well, first off I don’t think one has to believe. Just read our sighting reports - it’s happening. Why is anyone’s guess. If I had to make an educated guess, I would say first that our planet is unique, at least in our solar system, as three-quarters of it is water. And second, we are abundant in resources and rare-earth metals. Another thought is we might be known as the "vacation spot" of the universe. Seriously though, it could be for any number of reasons, perhaps even just wanting to observe and study us as humans.
(Forbes Editor's Note: For more of our interview with MUFON's Jan Harzan, including the possibility of re-engineering UFO technology, Area 51, famous people who have seen UFOs and Hangar 1, stay tuned to the Forbes channel.)