The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) is a US-based non-profit organization based in the United States composed of civilian volunteers who study alleged 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. In 2015, MUFON founded Mutual UFO Network University, an unaccredited online institution which seeks to train members to investigate UFO sightings. 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. 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 internationally.
In 2019 MUFON celebrated its 50th anniversary.
MUFON is currently headquartered in Irvine, California, under the direction of Jan Harzan, with chapters in every U.S. state. The organization claims to have more than 4,000 members worldwide, with a majority of its membership base situated in the continental United States. It holds an annual international symposium and publishes the monthly MUFON UFO Journal. The group now has more than 500 field investigators, as well as specialized teams to investigate possible physical evidence of any extraterrestrial craft. The network trains volunteers to be investigators and teaches them how to interview witnesses, perform research, and how to draw conclusions from the evidence. Although investigators are not paid, they must pass both an exam based on a 265-page manual, and a background check. MUFON’s features a case management system on its website, produces a monthly UFO journal (print and on-line), provides investigator training, and hosts a web-based newsroom.
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”.
Association with far-right viewpoints
An April 2018 article in Newsweek reported evidence of “anti-immigrant, anti-trans, and anti-Muslim sentiments” among MUFON officials, including 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”.