Interview With a UFO Investigator

Discovery Channel's "UFOs Over Earth" series follows Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) investigations into reports of strange sightings and alien encounters. Discovery Space producer Dave Mosher interviews John Ventre, a MUFON investigator appearing on the show.

MUFON Guy (9:14 AM): Hi Dave, I'm on.

Dave on Earth (9:14 AM): Hey there -- strange, but I can't see you on my buddy list.

MUFON Guy (9:15 AM): I hit invisible.

Dave on Earth (9:15 AM): Ah, well there's our explanation. An unidentified typing object.
Jokes aside, you're appearing in a new Discovery Channel show called "UFOs over Earth." What did you do in the episode?

MUFON Guy (9:17 AM): Yes, I'm the Pennsylvania state director for MUFON and I helped conduct an investigation.

Dave on Earth (9:18 AM): MUFON... What is that ?

MUFON Guy (9:19 AM): The Mutual UFO Network. We have 3,000 members and 950 certified investigators.
We interview witnesses and conduct scientific investigations to explain their UFO sightings.

Dave on Earth (9:20 AM): UFO -- unidentified flying object -- sightings, correct?

MUFON Guy (9:20 AM): Yes.

Dave on Earth (9:21 AM): Is MUFON a full-time gig for you, or something on the side?
Also, you said "certified investigators." What would I have to do to get my MUFON investigation driver's license?

MUFON Guy (9:23 AM): As state director, I spend around two hours per night running the organization. I get involved in cases that seem to be significant.
As for becoming certified: You have to read a field investigators manual, then take a 100-question test and score at least an 80.
Many of our investigators are retired or active law enforcement, pilots, etc.

Dave on Earth (9:24 AM): Sounds fairly straightforward -- thanks.
Now, based on what I saw in the three "UFOs Over Earth" episodes, you guys seem like people who are hopeful of finding UFO evidence.
At the same time, you aren't dismissive of that which contradicts what witnesses are telling you...

MUFON Guy (9:25 AM): Right -- we usually start out with the premise that it is a misidentification. We're always hopeful that we'll find hard evidence, but our goal is to explain the sighting.
We're able to scientifically explain 85 percent of the cases we receive. In two of the three episodes, we disprove that it was a UFO.

Dave on Earth (9:26 AM): What are some of the common explanations?

MUFON Guy (9:27 AM): We check each case against satellite and space station movements, which explain 10 percent of them. Another 10 percent are hoaxes.
The rest are aircraft, stars, etc. BUT 15 percent are really interesting!

Dave on Earth (9:30 AM): What motivates you and other people to spend time on this after working a normal job, especially when the odds aren't in your favor?

MUFON Guy (9:32 AM): There's a curiosity or belief that there is more going on than we're told.
The more time you spend researching this, the more you are convinced it is real.
Many of our investigators will tell you that they have seen stuff on the job that doesn't make sense.

Dave on Earth (9:34 AM): I see. You said before that there's a curiosity about not being told everything that's going on.
Could you elaborate a little?

MUFON Guy (9:36 AM): I believe there is a small group in government that controls this info, that there has been a large effort to debunk and hide the truth.
Most people giggle when you mention UFOs. If you make fun of the reporter, no one takes him seriously.
By the way, France and Great Britain have opened up their UFO files this year. Most countries are open about these sightings except the United States.
The British files aired on the news, and one Alitalia pilot spoke of an object that streaked past his plane. Another military pilot spoke of being ordered in the 1950s to shoot an unidentified object down.

Dave on Earth (9:38 AM): Now to be perfectly honest -- as you might have gleaned -- I'm skeptical of a lot of things. Especially of UFOs.
On the other hand, I find the concept of UFOs fascinating and would love to believe the stories; still, it all comes down to evidence.

MUFON Guy (9:39 AM): I can give you a few facts that might change your mind...

Dave on Earth (9:40 AM): You can certainly try!

MUFON Guy (9:41 AM): The Brookings Institution did a study in 1960 and concluded that the public can't handle the truth, so don't tell them.
The Rand Institute in 1968 concluded the same and recommended debunking and making fun of the subject.
Hold on, phone rang and shouldn't have answered it...

Dave on Earth (9:41 AM): No worries.

MUFON Guy (10:04 AM): Sorry about that. More facts for you:
1. There is a Federal law, Title 14 section 1211, that says that you can be fined and imprisoned without a hearing if you come in contact with an extraterrestrial or its craft and refuse quarantine.
2. The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs included UFOs in its physics 370 class for three years They described the 50,000-year history and cases in it.
3. Every fire department has the Fire Officer's Guide to Disaster Control. Chapter 13 is on UFOs (the author witnessed the 1942 "Battle of Los Angeles" with a UFO). The chapter describes cases and what to do if in contact with a craft.
My point is, you won't find that on ghosts, werewolves or bigfoot. There were also congressional hearings on UFO's in 1968 started by Gerald Ford.

Dave on Earth (10:06 AM): Very interesting facts, but I don't think I'm budging today :)
Now to backtrack a bit, you said two of the three cases/episodes were disproven. Was the episode you appeared on -- "The Bucks County Flap" -- disproven?
If I remember correctly, you had a witness who said she saw a UFO sprinkle a glittering substance onto a tree, and you recovered it (supposedly high in boron).

MUFON Guy (10:07 AM): The Bucks case is significant because yes, there is physical evidence on the tree, and the Philadelphia airfield tower confirmed that a large object appeared on radar with no transponder.
Airports are geared to pick up transponders. This wasn't a high altitude sighting. They should've been able to identify it.
The more I've researched this, the more I'm convinced.

Dave on Earth (10:09 AM): Could the transponder on the object -- I would assume an airplane of some sort -- have been broken? Turned off?
Based on the animation I saw, it looked to be a pretty typical, rounded aircraft pattern.

MUFON Guy (10:10 AM): The tower controller said it was moving too slow to be a plane. It was too large. It should've dropped from the sky.
And he did say that when lightening flashed, it didn't look like anything he'd ever seen before.
That was also a comment from other witnesses. Even a pair of on-duty cops (who asked to remain anonymous) said that they saw it.

Dave on Earth (10:10 AM): Interesting. Still, you have radar signature in a thunderstorm and witness testimonies.
Which leads me to my next question...

MUFON Guy (10:12 AM): Sure.

Dave on Earth (10:12 AM): In the first episode -- "The Fayetteville Incident" -- there is essentially no evidence other than witness testimony.

MUFON Guy (10:13 AM): Correct, and he did fail a polygraph.

Dave on Earth (10:13 AM): Still, the investigators are still left dancing the line of whether or not to believe their witness(es).
Investigators in the show say "he's got nothing to gain from telling us this, and everything to lose" quite a bit (granted, editing can make things seem more prevalent).

MUFON Guy (10:14 AM): It's hard to tell what motivates people.
Again, we disprove 85 percent of cases and stick with the facts.

Dave on Earth (10:17 AM): Seeking attention, I think, is a pretty basic human motivation -- and when a TV camera crew shows up, you might be compelled to put on a real show :)
They also get attention from the investigators, of course. As social animals, we love attention.
Do you agree with that?

MUFON Guy (10:19 AM): Hard to tell, many witnesses are firm in what they saw; some stay anonymous and come forward while others go public.
I think we're conditioned to laugh about UFOs. I've found many uninformed skeptics but am surprised how many people believe... 91 percent on an AOL poll of 136,000 people.
91 percent believe in life out there, 63 percent believe we've been visited and 14 percent believe they've seen a UFO.

Dave on Earth (10:20 AM): Hmm... Most Internet polls aren't scientific.
But it does indicate at least 91 percent of those 136,000 votes were from visitors who think life exists elsewhere in the universe. I personally think life is out there, but believing it has visited Earth is something else entirely.
Without any incontrovertible evidence, why do you think so many people -- 63 percent according to this Internet poll -- believe we've been visited?

MUFON Guy (10:21 AM): Maybe it comes down to faith, as in God... not much proof there either.
But the Vatican has announced twice that they believe God created life in his image out there, and that they have sinned and fallen from grace also.

Dave on Earth (10:25 AM): I see. I think that might be the closest description to UFO phenomena -- a belief.

MUFON Guy (10:25 AM): I think there's plenty of radar and sonar evidence.

Dave on Earth (10:27 AM): I don't doubt that there is. But forming hypotheses to explain those observations, I think, is where it can get dicey.
You'd peg me as a non-believer in UFOs visiting Earth, though I would be flattered if some alien beings find the planet we live on important enough to visit.
So let me ask you this: If you had the chance, what would you say to all of us non-believers?
Something to convince us that alien life is both willing and able to make the trip to Earth, come very close to contacting humans, and yet be only be a blip on a radar screen.

MUFON Guy (10:30 AM): Hold on, answered the phone again.
It's a business man who saw the Bucks sightings three times... hold.

Dave on Earth (10:30 AM): Again, no worries.

MUFON Guy (10:37 AM): Back.
You can see how I spend two hours a day on this!

Dave on Earth (10:39 AM): Yes :)

MUFON Guy (10:41 AM): The answer to your question: I'd say that it is ok to be a skeptic, just don't be an uninformed skeptic.
I believe the subject of UFOs could bring us together as one human race and lead to many more medical and technical breakthroughs, such as curing disease and finding alternatives to fossil fuels.
They don't burn fossil fuels...

Dave on Earth (10:42 AM): I see -- I'm very skeptical of that, but looks like our time is short.
A couple more questions: Have you ever seen a UFO that you couldn't explain?

MUFON Guy (10:45 AM): I saw a UFO once. June 29, 2008 at 10:15 pm.
I went to the satellite and space station sites and there was nothing that night.
I know what I saw and it was unnatural. They next day at work I started to tell the people at work and a female finished my sentence. She said that she saw the same thing.

Dave on Earth (10:45 AM): Thanks. Last one:
When you're not hunting down UFO claims, what do you do for a living?

MUFON Guy (10:47 AM): I'm the security director for Pennsylvania and West Virginia for a very large international company (over 400,000 employees).
I sit on two boards and my companies liaison to a congressman.

Dave on Earth (10:47 AM): Thanks.
Anything else you like to add before we sign off?

MUFON Guy (10:48 AM): No. I think that was good! Thanks for the chat.

Dave on Earth (10:48 AM): Thank you, and have a good one.

Article posted November 24, 2008 here
Photo: CIA

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