A Brief History of MUFON
By John F. Schuessler, Former International Director [2000 – 2006]
MUFON officially began on May 31, 1969. At that time it was known as the Midwest UFO Network. As it outgrew the Midwestern state boundaries to become a world class UFO organization, the name was changed to Mutual UFO Network. That allowed the acronym MUFON to remain as the organization matured. Allen Utke, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Wisconsin State University was selected as the first MUFON Director. A year later Walter H.Andrus, Jr., replaced Dr. Utke as the MUFON Director, a position he held until 2000 when he retired and John F. Schuessler took over as International Director. John retired in November 2006 and James Carrion became the International Director. Clifford W. Clift, Jr. took over in February 2010.

MUFON is Born

During the 1960s Walt Andrus worked hard as a member of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) to develop a cadre of qualified field investigators living in the Midwestern states surrounding his home state of Illinois. In 1967, he organized the Tri-State UFO Study Group operating in the states of Missouri, Iowa and Illinois and he recruited John Schuessler to join him as an investigator and become a consultant to APRO.

During 1968 and 1969, a number of events took place that had impact on the UFO field. The University of Colorado completed the government-financed UFO study, with the study head Edward Condon presenting a very negative picture of the worth of further UFO studies. These results enabled the U.S. Air Force to close its administrative UFO office dubbed “Project Blue Book.” The press didn’t bother to look at the details of the University study and reacted only to Condon’s summary of the study by using the media to declare that the UFO mystery was solved.

At the same time the APRO management reacted to the government’s words by reinforcing their centralized management approach. They wanted to direct the work of each investigator in the field from the office in Tucson, Arizona; thereby eliminating the need for mid-level management in the field. They were not aware that industry was turning to the decentralized management style.>br/>
Walt was still getting a flow of UFO reports from the Midwest in spite of the government’s declarations that nothing was going on. To respond with alacrity, Walt needed the latitude to induct and train field investigators and to make decisions about how investigations were conducted in his own back yard. Pleas to the APRO management only made them more determined that the Midwest contingent was a threat rather than a help to APRO.

Walt coordinated with a number of the affected Mid-western workers and finally concluded that it would be necessary to add some grassroots structure to the organization. After all, the sightings were taking in local areas. The only way to deal quickly and effectively was to have people ready and enabled to respond when a report came in.

On May 31, 1969, Walt convened a meeting of a number of the active UFO investigators from Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas. In the interest of improving and correlating UFO observation reports, Allen R. Utke, Ph.D., Consultant to APRO in Chemistry and Associate Professor of Chemistry at Wisconsin State University in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, proposed the organization of the Midwest UFO Network to include the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.

MUFON, then to be known as the Midwest UFO Network was born as the grass roots organization envisioned by Allen & Walt. An observer network in community areas formed the basic investigating level in MUFON. The observers reported through geographical state section directors to the State Director. The State Directors made up the Board of Directors who reported to the Midwest UFO Network Director. Dr. Utke was selected at the first MUFON Director. It was decided that MUFON would be affiliated with APRO, but not controlled by APRO. This was seen as an early step in inter-organization cooperation, a hallmark for the future of MUFON.

For some time Walt, John and several others had been an active contributors to SKYLOOK, a Missouri-based UFO newsletter edited and published by Mrs. Norma Short. As a result, SKYLOOK quickly became the official organ of the Midwest UFO Network. Although the name was eventually changed to Mutual UFO Network UFO Journal, publication continues and issues are still distributed monthly.

The Annual Symposiums Begin

During the first year it became obvious that MUFON should host an annual conference where full-length detailed papers could be presented. It was a way for investigators and researchers to meet face-to-face to share the results of their work with each other, the MUFON membership and the public in general. The first day-long conference was held in Peoria, Illinois, on June 13, 1970.

The conference began with Dr. Utke speaking to a near capacity crowd on “UFOs and the Problem of Scientific Evidence”. Ted Phillips then presented “Burned Circles and Saucer Nests: What is Their Significance?” John Schuessler followed with “The UFO – Just Beyond the State of the Art.” Then came professional photographer Robert Smulling with an interesting UFO slide show. APRO secretary Coral Lorenzen presented “UFOs – 1970, An Up-to-Date Report.” The evening session featured Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who concentrated on the future of UFO investigation. Dr. Hynek advised the “progress in UFOs will be made by dedicated individuals in the next few years, using their own funds and specializing in one area.” In the final analysis, he said, bringing scientific recognition to the UFO problem boils down to upgrading the data about UFOs.”

At the second Midwest UFO Conference, held in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1971, the presenters were required to submit copies of their planned presentations before the conference. These papers were bound as the proceedings of the conference and were made available to the conference attendees. That policy continues and a very professional set of conference proceedings is available at every MUFON Annual Symposium. This is a fantastic record of the outstanding work done by UFO researchers.

Walt Andrus Takes Over As Head of MUFON

Soon after the 1970 Peoria conference, Dr. Utke resigned his position as the Midwest UFO Network Director and the Board of Directors unanimously selected Walt Andrus as his successor. The selection of Walt as director was a wise choice. Walt was employed by the Motorola Company, as Assistant Plant Manager for the facility in Quincy, Illinois. Coupled with his experience in UFO investigations, aviation experience, weather monitoring experience, and ham radio experience; Walt brought his strong business management and human resources knowledge to the leadership role of MUFON.

Under Walt’s leadership, MUFON soon outgrew the Midwest. Individuals from around the world recognized the potential of the grass roots nature of MUFON and clamored to join. In 1973, the name was changed to eliminate the regional connotation of “Midwest.” The acronym “MUFON” was retained, as was the organizational concept of “UFO Network.” Since the word “mutual” best described MUFON’s dedication to sharing UFO information and research data, the new name for MUFON became the Mutual UFO Network.

MUFON Recognized the Need for Cooperation and Communication

While some organizations were telling their members they couldn’t belong to other organizations at the same time or that they should avoid cooperating with other organizations, MUFON was looking for ways to increase cooperation in the UFO field. While I cannot even to begin to list all the cooperative ventures that were undertaken, some examples will serve to illustrate the importance of cooperation.

MUFON’s credentials and summaries of MUFON activities were continuously presented to hundreds of writers, newspaper reporters, radio and television program representatives, television producers, independent researchers and MUFON members. By June 1974, MUFON’s growth had been phenomenal, with state section representatives in 38 of the 50 states. Along with the growth in MUFON, it became obvious there was a need for growth in cooperation between MUFON and other organizations. In an article entitled “How MUFON Will Interact With UFO Study Center,” published in the June 1974 issue of SKYLOOK, Walt described a vision for cooperation with Dr. J. Allen Hynek’s Center for UFO Studies. He said: “The Center for UFO Studies is basically a research center without the benefits of an organized field investigative network needed to secure the raw data. MUFON ideally fulfills this essential function and thus complements the Center.” Contact information for MUFON state directors and state section directors was provided to the Center’s administrative office. When the Center received notification of UFO activity, they could trigger an investigation by contacting the nearest MUFON state representative. When the investigation was finished, copies of the investigative reports went to both the MUFON and CUFOS headquarters.

In 1982, when members from several UFO organizations called for greater cooperation between organizations, the 1982 MUFON UFO Symposium in Toronto became the ideal vehicle to bring the leaders of the various UFO organizations together to discuss the issue. MUFON hosted a one-day meeting following the symposium where 50 people met in a brainstorming session to chart the direction for a proposed federation for North American UFO groups. The theme of the meeting was: “Cooperation, Sharing, and Establishing Ufology as a Science Through Professionalism in Investigation and Research.” The meeting resulted in the formation of a steering committee comprised of representatives attending the summit conference to meet, develop an organization structure, address the goals and objectives, and communicate this information to participating groups. John Schuessler was elected to head the steering committee.

One year later, at the 1983 MUFON UFO Symposium in Pasadena, California, the steering committee’s work resulted in the formation of the North American UFO Federation (NAUFOF). Dr. Richard Haines was selected as the first director of the new organization. Although the federation lasted less than two years, due to lack of financial support from other organizations, it was a very important test case for bringing people with an interest in UFOs together.

When Dr. Haines saw an opportunity for cooperation between Russian and U.S. ufologists and formed the Joint USA-CIS Aerial Anomaly Federation, MUFON pledged support this new venture. A major meeting of the participants, including representatives from Russia and the Ukraine, was held in conjunction with the 1994 MUFON UFO Symposium in Austin, Texas.

In 1994, Robert Bigelow suggested working with a coalition of U.S. UFO organizations comprised of MUFON, the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) and the Fund for UFO Research (FUFOR). By 1995, the groups involved had formed the UFO Research Coalition (URC), and they have continued working together on a number of very successful projects including the Ambient Monitoring Project aimed at measuring environmental changes during on-going abduction experiences.

When an organization has several thousand members, it is difficult for the leader to communicate sufficiently enough with the members to satisfy their needs. If he/she responded to letters from all the members, then nothing else would get done but letter writing. To alleviate this problem a “Director’s Message” was added to each issue of the MUFON UFO Journal. The MUFON UFO Journal is one of the best and most reliable UFO publications in the world. This is not by accident. We have been blessed by a series of excellent and dedicated Journal editors. And the International Director has the additional task of assuring that the Journal goes out on schedule. Only a few times in the history of MUFON has that not the case. In addition to the monthly distribution of the Journals, all back issues are available on CD-ROM.
MUFON publishes a book each year. That book is the Proceedings of the annual MUFON UFO Symposium and it is always one of the finest UFO documents to grace any library. Unlike most conferences, however, each year MUFON has the Proceedings available when the symposium opens. These books are available for purchase from MUFON Headquarters in hard bound editions or on CD-ROM.

When it became obvious there was a need for training MUFON UFO investigators and some consistency in the way they conducted investigations and made reports, MUFON developed the MUFON Field Investigator’s Manual, with the first edition being published in December 1971. The current version, the fifth edition, will be available in mid-2008.

John Schuessler Takes Over as Head of MUFON

In 2000, Walt Andrus retired and the MUFON Board of Directors selected John Schuessler as the new MUFON International Director. Prior to this, John had held the position of Deputy Director of Administration, so he was ready to keep the organization running. The headquarters office was moved to Littleton, Colorado. The Board of Directors was restructured to take on a business management role and improvements in the way MUFON operated continued.

By 2005 all past issues of the MUFON UFO Journal and the annual symposium proceedings had been scanned and were available in word-searchable CD-ROMs. This was an instant benefit to researchers.

At the same time James Carrion volunteered to head up a project MUFON called the Pandora Project. It was aimed at scanning all MUFON UFO data and reports dating back to the beginning of the organization in 1969. He personally defined the project and assured that MUFON would have a useful UFO database at its conclusion. Following the successful completion of the Pandora Project, he has been working with other organizations to get historical information scanned and available to researchers.

James Carrion Takes Over as Head of MUFON

In November 2006, John Schuessler retired as MUFON’s International Director and James Carrion was selected as his replacement.

The headquarters was relocated to Fort Collins, Colorado. In 2008, James Carrion, Jan Harzan, Chuck Modlin and John Schuessler met with Robert Bigelow and his team to seek ways to establish cooperation between the organizations. Later, Carrion negotiated a contract with Bigelow Aerospace that allowed MUFON to organize a funded rapid-response effort that could put investigators in the field on high value UFO cases within 24-hours. It also gave Bigelow Aerospace access to the MUFON Case Management System. Unfortunately, dissident UFO buffs quickly came up with nonsense conspiracy theories about the cooperative agreement and spread malcontent and disinformation about it across the Internet. James Carrion resigned in 2009.

Clifford Clift Replaced James Carrion as Head of MUFON

MUFON board member Clifford Clift volunteered to head MUFON after the loss of James Carrion and was able to keep MUFON moving forward. He immediately moved the MUFON headquarters to Greeley, Colorado, hired an accounting firm to handle MUFON’s finances, and obtained funds from the MUFON Board Members to keep the organization afloat. He had to make some difficult decisions in replacing some state directors that were not working in the best interests of the organization and that again riled the dissident UFO buffs and they used the Internet to rail against Clifford Clift and the MUFON Board of Directors. Even so, he was able to cut operational costs, stabilize the MUFON financial situation, cut the financial losses associated with the annual MUFON International UFO Symposium, and continue the improvements to the Case Management System, the MUFON UFO Journal, and field investigations. Cliff led the organization until the end of January 2012 when he stepped down for personal reasons.

The MUFON Business Board Intern System is born

To assure continuity in membership of the MUFON Board of Directors, an intern program for future board members was implemented in 2011. As a result MUFON continues to have a 9-member board supplemented by three intern board members. The interns have all of the privileges of other board members except they are not voting members. This change assures that as current board members step down, there is always an intern member that is up-to-speed on all MUFON issues ready to step up.

David MacDonald Replaced Clifford Clift as Head of MUFON

David MacDonald, an intern Board Member, was selected to replace Clifford Clift in February 2012. MacDonald has a strong business background and a life-long interest in UFOs. He moved the MUFON headquarters to Cincinnati, Ohio. He runs Flamingo Air, Inc., a full-blown Air Carrier Operation and Flamingo Air Academy; the nation’s largest FAA approved Aircraft Dispatcher Certification School. He is a professional pilot and an avid scuba diver. His business background includes establishing the MacDonald Defense Company, the largest independent security firm in the region, opening a manufacturing firm which produced an array of wireless microphones, listening devices, and other clandestine gizmos. He served eight years as a peace officer in Kentucky. His involvement in MUFON includes: State Director for Kentucky, Field Investigator Administrator, STAR Team Administrative Director and Assistant Director of Investigations and in 2011 he was selected as an Interim Board Member.


MUFON is currently the largest and oldest UFO organization in the world that publishes a monthly journal, holds an annual symposium, has a structured field investigator training program and currently has more than 900 trained field investigators, has a nationwide rapid response team for high value investigations, has a membership of 3,000 people, has a continually improving computerized UFO case management system, has a trained underwater dive team, and has an active business board of directors.

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