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MUFON- A Commentary


Staff member
The following is in response to a question I received from one of my radio show listeners, asking about my feelings toward MUFON as a UFO research organization. My thoughts went back to my first appearance on “Larry King Live” which was being hosted by political commentator and former staffer on the Nixon administration Patrick Buchanan, who was filling in for King that evening.

The topic that night was the reported landing of a UFO in the Soviet Union city of Voronezh. At the end of the broadcast, I referenced General Douglas MacArthur’s last public address at the Military Academy at West Point, where he warned the cadets that at some point they may face aggression from E.T.s. Buchanan almost went ballistic, claiming “I never saw that! I have his speech hanging on the wall at home!” I had a copy of the speech with me, but of course we were then out of time. In the next issue of the MUFON Journal, then-editor Dennis Stacey castigated me. Reacting to my MacArthur reference on King’s show, he said words to this effect: “I could see UFO research going down the drain!” He soon regretted his remarks as readers snowed him under with MacArthur’s quote. For your reference:

"We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier. We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy, of making winds and tides work for us, of creating unheard-of synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics, to purify sea water for our drink, of mining the ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food, of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundreds of years, of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine, of spaceships to the Moon, of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations, of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy, of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.”--General Douglas MacArthur at West Point, 1962 (emphasis added)

Stacey never offered a “mea culpa,” so that one instance that told me more about MUFON than 30 years of the MUFON Journal or all those yearly symposiums.

MUFON: A Commentary

“Don, what's your take on MUFON ?”
This question was sent to me by a user of my Dark Matters Radio Fan Page, along with an attachment, a resignation letter written by Virginia MUFON Field Investigator Ben Moss. In it, he expressed major discontent over the direction that MUFON has been taking for quite some time now.

Moss’ letter reminded me of my own “brush” with MUFON in the mid-1970s. Some background: I had returned home from my military service in 1972 and joined a Pennsylvania police dept. in January of 1974. Somewhere along the way that year, I came across a copy of the MUFON Journal (I do not recall the date of the issue) that described a police officer’s wife being run off a country road in Pennsylvania by a very low-flying UFO. I knew about UFOs, of course, as I had a spectacular sighting in 1966 (also in Pennsylvania), knew about the Condon Committee Colorado study, Major Donald Keyhoe, Frank Edwards and so on, but that was about it. What I do remember vividly is that the issue had included the area’s police department 800 phone number to call in the event of a UFO sighting or sightings. Where did that number go? I have no idea, because we never had any sightings reported while I was working there.
As the 1970s moved along, more and more UFO stories began to hit the public, including Steven Spielberg’s massive hit move, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” On the heels of that the biggest UFO story of all finally surfaced, the “mother” of all UFO stories, Roswell. The UFO “event” that happened in 1947 outside of Roswell, New Mexico was suddenly being reported in newspapers and books. It made a huge splash, particularly in the UFO community. Notable researcher Stanton Friedman was running with it, and Bill Moore and Charles Berlitz wrote “The Roswell Incident.” The “new” saucer chase was on. Also in the wings, so to speak, other UFO-related stories sprung up and added to the excitement. Sensational items included animal mutilations and claims of human abductions by aliens, all helped along by additional stories of UFO events at the USAF base in Bentwaters and the 1986 sighting by pilots of the Japanese JAL Flt. 1628 in the skies above Alaska. Even with all this going on, it was barely the tip of the UFO iceberg.
In the ‘80s there were really only two major UFO organizations in the U.S. One was APRO, the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization that was begun in January, 1952 by Jim and Coral Lorenzen. APRO was one of the very first civilian UFO research organizations in the U.S., if not the first. It stressed scientific field investigations, hosting Ph.D. scientists to call upon. The second major UFO organization was MUFON, Mutual UFO Network, originally established as the Midwest UFO Network. Most of the founders were APRO members or associated with APRO, and included Walter H. Andrus, Jr. and John F. Schuessler, among others. Years later, Coral Lorenzen, a woman with a fiery temper, claimed Andrus stole membership lists and files from APRO in order to begin his new group.
I made my very first steps in ufology as a state section director in Idaho. Not long after I medically retired from law enforcement, I met then-State Director/MUFON Don Mason. He and I hit it off, finding we had a common interest in the question of UFOs. Mason was a real go-getter and as state Director he had a lot of ideas he wanted to try out. He paid for all of his work out of his own pocket. He came up with an idea to network the MUFON chapters in Washington State, Oregon, Nevada, Montana, and perhaps some other states, into some type of rapid response organization. At the time, MUFON did not have a master membership directory where the various offices were listed, so Mason called Walt Andrus and requested the lists so he could contact the various officers. Andrus flat out refused to give him anything. Hearing this became my first exposure to the MUFON mindset. (In hindsight, I suspect Andrus refused because he feared someone else might do to him what Lorenzen accused Andrus of doing to her.)
cont. ...
During the 1987 MUFON Symposium held in Washington DC, one attendee generated some real excitement among the throng. One of the attendees was John Lear, son of William Lear of Lear Jet and Lear Siegler Corp. Lear was an accomplished commercial pilot who held numerous aviation certificates, honors and awards. MUFON saw an opportunity and invited Lear, who lived in Las Vegas, NV to become its state director for Nevada. Lear accepted, and with that the UFO field was to take a giant step into what UFO historian Jerry Clark calls the “Dark Side Hypothesis.”
Since the 1989 MUFON Symposium was to be held in Las Vegas, State Director John Lear was to host it. I received a call from State Director Lear, asking me if I would be interested in presenting my research on human mutilations before the MUFON audience. At that time, this related topic was pretty provocative, but after checking with my sources I decided to accept. My decision was not welcomed by many. I found this out the hard way when I arrived in Las Vegas and checked into the hotel.

My first impression upon arriving in Vegas was how hot and dry it was. Intending to check in, I walked up to the hotel’s front desk, as where I noticed three men standing off to the side. I gave the hotel clerk my name, then saw one of them approach me. A very short and much older man reached me, then asked, “Are you Don Ecker?” I told him yes, and smiled. He then said, “I am Walt Andrus, the International Director of MUFON, and if you speak here this weekend, I promise you that you will NEVER speak at another MUFON event … EVER!” I had held out my hand to shake his but he ignored it. “Okay,” I told him, trying to remain neutral. Then I ignored him until I received my key and left for my room. “What an ignorant bastard,” I thought to myself. But if he thought that threat would move me, make me change my mind about my presentation, he was wrong. I was the Director of Research for UFO Magazine. I thought, “screw you.”

The 1989 MUFON Symposium was notable in the UFO community for many reasons. State Director Lear was under fire from many in the field because of his original “John Lear Hypothesis” featuring outlandish conclusions about dark military secrets and dangerous grey aliens. Lear’s paper upset many of the old guard, as it veered way out of credible bounds that the long-time researchers wished to maintain. Later it was to come out that much information had been funneled to Lear from research scientist Paul Bennewitz, who himself had been the original victim of an AFOSI disinformation operation. One of the “agents of disinformation” directed to influence Bennewitz was none other than William “Bill” Moore, co-author of “The Roswell Incident.” Moore, also an invited speaker at the MUFON gathering, chose that venue to spill the beans about his own participation in the operation against Bennewitz.

After his disclosure before a wide UFO audience, the UFO field was never the same. Moore stood before hundreds of attendees and admitted to actively giving Paul Bennetwitz documents that Moore knew were fraudulent. In sum, Moore disclosed that at the behest of his government handlers, he had knowingly committed an act of disinformation directed at Paul Bennewitz. His only excuse being that it was his way of successfully entering “the center of the beehive.” Audience outrage was loud and long, with cat calls, booing and hissing. At the end of his talk, Moore bolted out the door, taking no questions. I often wondered what exactly Moore thought would happen with his admission. But more drama was waiting in the wings, and the next day that would happe when John Lear, William English, Milton Wm. Cooper and I were each schedule to speak. At first, it turned out, we went behind the podium not as formal presenters happily hosted by the main conference. Shunned by Andrus and other MUFON honchos, ours was considered the “alternative.”

At the time, Andrus was facing an open revolt by the MUFON upper echelon. One of those people was the late Richard “Dick” Hall, an elder statesman in the annals of UFO-dom. Hall’s involvement went back to the days of NICAP and Major Donald Keyhoe. I knew Hall, and to say he could be irascible is a total understatement. Hall was not happy with Lear, me or anyone else connected with Lear’s alternative conference. Everyone was still in shock from Moore’s admission, and Hall resigned from MUFON right then and there. He demanded his name be taken off everything connected with MUFON. Andrus forbade Lear to have the alternative talk. Lear, not only the host of this symposium but the state director, rebelled by arranging to have the talks held at another hotel on the Strip. Andrus knew most of the audience would have followed Lear down the Strip, so he folded like a cheap suit. The alternative talks went on as scheduled. One final note on this event: Andrus was as good as his word; from that day to this I was never invited to any MUFON event except on two occasions at the Los Angeles local MUFON, where I gave a couple of talks on my lunar research.

Starting in the 1990s, abduction research really began to take center stage. MUFON appointed John Carpenter, a Missouri licensed clinical social worker, to work with abductees. Various people who believed they had undergone the alien abduction, many demonstrating problems connected with this experience, went to Carpenter believing that all his work would be kept confidential. Later it came out that Carpenter sold 140 case files to Robert Bigelow, founder of Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace and known for funding research into paranormal events.
While resulting in value for both parties, the transaction between Bigelow and Carpenter apparently dispensed with ethics and could feasibly have had unwanted consequences for the many unaware abductees. From a posting on “The UFO Trail” blog of UFO investigator Gary Hart, dated August 13, 2013: “The series of events involved the betrayal of some 140 individuals who sought the support and services of John Carpenter and the Mutual UFO Network during the 1990s. The 140, including Leah Haley, underwent regressive hypnosis facilitated by Carpenter, a former MUFON director of abduction research. It was later learned Carpenter received some $14,000 in funding from Robert Bigelow in exchange for ongoing activities and providing him and his associates, which included Colonel John Alexander, with the case files of the 140. This was done entirely without the knowledge or consent of the 140 individuals.”

Hart brought this information to the public’s attention after abductees told him that Carpenter was planning to write a book about them while at that time was selling a video showing some hypnosis sessions, all for his personal profit. Also quoting from Hart’s blog: “Carpenter got to a point in the mid-‘90s where he double-billed abductees. He asked them for personal payment for their hypnosis sessions and billed their insurance and there is proof of this.” Later Carpenter claimed he did this as an amateur, even though his professional credentials were on display.

cont. ...
A formal complaint was filed against Carpenter, and after a hearing found he his license placed on five years probation. Hart’s final blog entry on this matter: “MUFON still throws out the ‘we want to stop the backbiting and infighting in ufology’ line as if there never has been a legitimate legal issue with how MUFON board members and representatives (as John was as their then- director of abduction research). This was the case MUFON still would like to forget. This is also the case that caused MUFON's Board in 2001 to vote and throw out the ‘member’ designation. From then on, persons affiliated with MUFON would be ‘subscribers’ only and have no voting rights as to how the organization does business.”

In more recent times, MUFON has been plagued with the criticism of having lost or violated its claim to scientific legitimacy (assuming they ever had that). One prime example involved the panel discussion held at the 2017 MUFON Symposium. Panel members were Richard Dolan, Andrew Basiago, Corey Goode, Michael Salla and Bill Tompkins. In recent years, both Goode and Basiago have created waves with their specious claims of time travel and trip to the planet Mars. Basiago claims he went there with a young Barack Obama and also time traveled back to the year 1863 to witness President Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address. Goode claims he was selected to be an interplanetary soldier, pulled out of his bedroom and sent to Mars where he served 20 years (something called a “20 and back” program) and then was returned to his bedroom after he was “age regressed” . . . on the same day he left! His family never missed him, he says. All this, but no Martian military discharge forthcoming and no proof of anything he claims. Nor has there been any proof for Basiago’s claims. Neverthless, we in the public are supposed to take all of this on blind faith when “credible, scientific” MUFON approved it all for public consumption . . . and in so doing poured out any credibility they may have had left.

Dolan, a well-respected UFO historian in my very humble opinion, should have never shared a stage with these obvious hoaxers because of the potential damage to his reputation. While researching and writing this paper, I wondered several times what people like Donald Keyhoe, Dr. James MacDonald, Richard Hall--and others I could name--would have thought about the collapse of MUFON’s standards and what they have now become.

Here we have arrived at my final example of how the organization of MUFON has devolved: The Inner Circle.
In 2017, MUFON Pennsylvania State Director John Ventre wrote a post on his personal Facebook page that ignited a firestorm of monumental proportions. Before I proceed with his post, let me add this: In the United States we have a constitutional guarantee of something called freedom of speech. This freedom affirmed by the First Amendment to the Constitution isn’t confined to comments or remarks we agree with, but equally for things we may not agree with. In response to the ideas reflected on the Netflix series “Dear White People” and perhaps other media, Ventre wrote, “Everything this world is was created by Europeans and Americans. F*ing blacks didn't even have a calendar, a wheel or a numbering system until the Brits showed up. Google serotonin by race, I.Q. by race and violent crime by race and then compare that to the F*ing message the media protrays. Time to turn off the TVs." Ventre made these remarks as a private citizen, not as a MUFON official. However, his comments in a public venue were neither wise nor in good taste, and immediately ignited charges of racism from coast to coast. At first, MUFON gave a decidedly tepid response, but as time progressed, current MUFON Director Jan Harzen removed Ventre from his position in MUFON. But he was apparently allowed to remain in MUFON’s “special” group The Inner Circle; interestingly, his comments didn’t affect his membership there.

What exactly was and is The Inner Circle? Well, until this racially-charged incident, most MUFON members--or perhaps more correctly “subscribers”--had never even heard of it. Membership is limited to those who have an extra five grand that they can pay MUFON each year to buy their place in the Inner Circle. This seems to be the only real qualification for membership. On his blog “A Different Perspective,” Kevin Randle, Ph.D., quotes MUFON explaining, “The Inner Circle status is obtained through a yearly donation of $5,000. Whether you have had a UFO sighting or are just interested in UFOs, you are welcome to join.” At that time there were 13 members in the Circle, including a very questionable member, J. Z. Knight. Knight is a New Agey, guru type leader who claims to channel a 35, 000-year-old Lemurian Warrior named Ramtha. Knight, per her channeled warrior Ramtha, is also not known for his (or her) open mind. During an incident called a “wine ceremony,” Ramtha, via Knight, stated, “Fuck God’s chosen people [meaning the Jews]! I think they’ve earned enough cash to have paid their way out of the goddamned gas chambers by now.” (Quoted from Randle’s blog) MUFON once again suffered another black eye, appearingto stay willingly tone deaf while watching more members drop from the fold. In full disclosure, neither J.Z. Knight nor John Ventre is currently listed as a member in good standing of “The Inner Circle.”

cont. ...
If you are interested in what your $5,000 would buy you if you joined this elite member-only group . . . well, actually it’s not too much, and certainly not for $5,000. But here is what MUFON offers:

“-Lifetime membership in MUFON which includes the MUFON e-Journal and access to the Members Only section of the MUFON website.
-Free admission to the MUFON Symposium each year you donate.
-Special reserved seating for two at the MUFON Symposium.
-Breakfast with other Inner Circle members and the Executive Director at the MUFON Symposium.
-Personal Photos with MUFON Director and Keynote Speaker at the MUFON Symposium.
-10% Discount in the MUFON Store.”

I suppose there is one additional benefit if you would like to lay out a bit more cash. MUFON’s Board of Directors includes one David MacDonald and his charter air service Flamingo Air, and so if you wish, you may hire an aircraft to fly you and your honey a few thousand feet up where you can join the “Mile High Club.” Yep, that Mile High Club!! As for me, I think I made the correct decision roughly 30 years ago when I allowed my MUFON membership to lapse after one year.
But to each to their own, I suppose.

Don Ecker
I knew Keyhoe slightly and had a few opportunities to talk with him. I also read enough of his books to know that he was very circumspect in being politically correct, particularly in the days when he ran NICAP and was lobbying for Congressional hearings on UFOs. He was very reluctant, for example, to consider the Hill abduction but finally relented.

In that light, he probably would not have approved of some of the things MUFON has done in the interests in getting the message out.

Thanks for all the great work.