Irvine-Based UFO Group Marks 50 Years of Watching the Skies
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by Ben Brazil June 26, 2019 (latimes.com)
• The Mutual UFO Network, or ‘MUFON’, is an international research nonprofit that investigates UFO sightings. Headquartered in Irvine, California, the group has spent decades investigating reports and sightings of UFOs worldwide with chapters in all 50 states and about 40 countries. A symposium at Hotel Irvine July 26th to 28th marked the organization’s 50th anniversary.
• Reports are gathered from each chapter and funneled through the Irvine office. Jan Harzan worked as Orange County MUFON section director from 1995 to 2013. He also earned a degree in nuclear engineering at UCLA and worked as an IBM executive for 37 years. Today the 64-year-old serves as the executive director of MUFON.
• For five decades, MUFON’s volunteers have investigated more than 120,000 cases. There are more than 600 trained investigators worldwide, as the organization receives about 500 to 1,000 reports a month. About 30% of them go unexplained. Harzan says the study of UFOs “has had this stigma for years.” “Anybody who saw a UFO was considered a crazy person.” “The military and intelligence community don’t think you or I have the right to know this stuff exists.”
• Harzan believes the stigma surrounding UFOs may be fading as more reports come to light. The New York Times recently reported that several Navy pilots reported encounters with UFOs, and US senators have received briefings on these sightings. “[W]e are entering a new era,” Harzan said. “It’s no longer, ‘Are UFOs fact or fiction?’ It’s ‘UFOs are real, deal with it.’ Now the questions will shift to who are they and why are they here?”
• Harzan thinks that aliens are intergalactic observers, monitoring the activities of the ‘apes with the nukes’. “They are interested in our nuclear capabilities,” Harzan says. “My personal opinion, I think they are watching over us to make sure we don’t kill ourselves.”
• When Harzan was a boy of 10 years old, he saw a UFO in his backyard in Thousand Oaks. The craft was about 10 feet long and 3 feet high, smooth and metallic on the outside with a corrugated metal landing gear. It hummed like a transformer on a telephone pole. Harzan says, “I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t ours.”
• Investigator Linda Flechtner had experiences with UFOs when she was a teenager and started working with MUFON about six years ago out of the Irvine office. She’s always discussed UFOs with her brother and sister who’ve both been MUFON investigators for nearly 30 years. Of the 300 cases she’s investigated, about 20 of them are classified as ‘unidentified’. One of her most memorable cases involved a pilot who encountered an interactive orb as he was flying. “He chased it, and it played with him,” Flechtner said. “He said he tried to get (behind it) but it interacted with him. Then it took off.”
• MUFON will remain a sanctuary for the sky-gazers,” says Harzan, “… for people who have had (UFO) experiences, and … where people can come and get answers.”
The pilots must have been small.
Jan Harzan reckoned the craft was about 10 feet long and 3 feet high. He described it as smooth and metallic on the outside, something similar to a water tank, with corrugated metal landing gear. It hummed like a transformer on a telephone pole.
“It’s like it had been born as one piece,” Harzan said. “I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t ours.”
Harzan said he first saw a UFO at age 10 while standing in his backyard in Thousand Oaks. The experience, whatever it may have been, stuck with him. The 64-year-old Newport Beach resident now serves as the executive director of the Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON, an international research nonprofit.
Harzan works out of MUFON headquarters in Irvine, the central hub of a network with locations in all 50 states and about 40 countries.
The organization is marking its 50th anniversary at its annual symposium, July 26 to 28 at Hotel Irvine.
The group has spent decades investigating reports and sightings worldwide, seeking to provide an answer to one of humanity’s central questions: Are we alone? But the organization has also acted as a refuge for those who believe they have experienced the incomprehensible and wonder what secrets the sky may harbor.
The nonprofit has investigated more than 120,000 cases. Most end up being drones, balloons, a planet. About 30% of cases go unexplained.
Everything is funneled through the Irvine office. Annual reports are gathered from each chapter.
About four people regularly work in the office. The conference room is filled with UFO-related books. The back wall is lined with dozens of file boxes spanning five decades of investigation.
“The military and intelligence community don’t think you or I have the right to know this stuff exists,” Harzan said.
Investigators are volunteers. They are trained with a field investigator manual. There are more than 600 investigators worldwide. The ranks are needed as the organization receives about 500 to 1,000 reports a month.
No one else it seems will listen to their stories without presupposition.
“It has had this stigma for years,” Harzan said. “Anybody who saw a UFO was considered a crazy person.”
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