Training to Become a “HANGAR 1” UFO Investigator

4Myel8G5n_Q.market_maxresI am a big fan of  the History Channel’s highly acclaimed TV show, Hangar 1: The UFO Files. I’ve had my own UFO sightings over the years and agree with over 50% of the general public that we are not alone in the Universe. So when I heard that the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), who created the Hangar 1 show, was conducting a full day training for field investigators at their recent MUFON Conference in Irvine, California, I decided to check it out. As a life-long enthusiast of strange and other-world anomalies, it was like offering crack to an addict.

First off, I had no idea how much detailed scientific analysis and interviewing goes into verifying each Hangar_1_The_UFO_Files__Crashes__CoverUps__173317reported MUFON case. Their database contains over 60,000 cases since they began amassing data in 1950 and their infamous (and very secret) Hangar 1 warehouse contains trace evidence samples along with a host of other corroborating materials. Approximately 20 new reports come in to their online database daily and, once verified by their expert scientific team, some of the more interesting stories make it on to the Hangar 1 show.

The day started with Alabama and Mississippi MUFON State Director, Rich Hoffman, telling us how he became involved with MUFON’s predecessor, the Midwest UFO’s Investigations Network, when he was 13 Richard-Hoffmanyears old in Dayton, Ohio. His teacher gave him a “D” on a written paper after Hoffman dismissed UFOs as having no scientific merit (the teacher was a true believer), which then prompted the teenage to find out more on the subject. He read research books and was intrigued to learn that Project Blue Book, the military’s (now defunct) UFO investigative arm, was located right in his home town. Coincidence? By age 15 he was participating in area investigations and was clearly hooked. A UFOlogist was born. He’s been doing this work now for over 50 years and is well-respected in the field.

Hoffman related how he once gave a briefing on UFO investigations to military personnel at Wright Paterson AFB. He asked the assembly whether any had witnessed a UFO. Only one brave soul raised his hand. Hoffman recalls that during the break, “I was deluged with other men wanting to tell me their own UFO stories. One man even told me his job was to take pictures of retrieved UFO craft.”

According to statistics, only one out of every 12 sightings gets reported. Fear, ridicule, and career sabotage are the most common deterring factors, but that seems to be changing as more military men are coming forward and going on the record (see The Citizens Hearings on Disclosure).

MUFON has an extensive list of technical experts to draw upon on their Scientific Review Board. They gather data from the FAA, local police, weather services, airport radar, military personnel, laboratory analyzers, and usually file numerous Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIA) to get all the data needed to make a determination. They check NOAA to rule out weather balloons and, from what Hoffman claims, the swamp gas explanation is “extremely rare.”

Today’s field investigators rely on a wide range of modern-day phone apps for measuring such things as gauging magnetic fields, altitude, distance, determining hoax photos, identifying commercial aircraft, satellites, and iridium flares, scouting terrain, metal detection, and other electronic applications I had no clue what they actually did. We were given a list of over 30 apps (imagine that!) which can be useful tools to collect data during field research. Years ago they had to carry all this equipment around with them. I had no idea my iPhone had three magnetic sensors already built into it, making a field investigator’s life much easier. However, the paperwork involved is daunting and interviewing techniques were extensive to maintain witness consistency. When there are multiple witnesses present, it becomes even more complex to gather their stories without interference and collusion.

Marc D'Antonio with UFOTOG-2 Prototype

Marc D’Antonio with UFOTOG-2 Prototype

I talked with MUFON’s Chief of Photo & Video Analysis, Marc D’Antonio. He’s ferreted out plenty of hoaxes, like the UFO that was sighted over Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock in January 2011. Film students were responsible for this hoax that went viral, but the inconsistency of their multiple angle footage tripped them up.  D’Antonio can tell a PhotoShopped picture quite easily with simple tools.  He is currently working on a sophisticated UFO detector that can be placed on any mountain top or a tall pole. Teamed up with Academy Award winning special effects inventor, Doug Trumbull (responsible for the effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey), the two have designed and developed the UFOTOG-2 for MUFON field investigation.

The unique gadget tracks moving objects in the sky, can differentiate and screen out all planes and satellites with a decoder (i.e., that’s United Flight 482), and hone in on real ET craft. The invention has seven high-resolution cameras for overlapping fields and 360 degree viewing 24 hours a IMG_2928day. It includes infrared cameras for night vision and poor visibility. It can detect gamma rays, measure magnetic fields, employs a spectrum analyzer and even has a cell phone antenna so investigators can call it and ask what it’s currently seeing. Since the UFOTOG-2 can signal a GPS satellite, MUFON can send a picture to everyone who has a cellphone and is signed up to receive real UFO pictures. And it all operates on solar cell energy.  It’s still in prototype stage, but I want one!

As a clinical psychologist, I wondered about how they handled “the experiencers” of such close encounters of the third kind. The Director of Experiencer Research, Kathleen Marden, just happens to be the niece of  Betty and Barney Hill (the most famous and controversial abduction case in history). Marden is a social worker who heads up a team of helpful therapists across the country specializing in PTSD and clinical hypnosis to aid the experiencer, if needed.

Between learning interviewing techniques, how to process data, and keeping clear professional and objective boundaries, I found the entire training to be very enlightening. I hear they also have an investigator’s Boot Camp. Hmmm?

Dr. Kathy Forti is a clinical psychologist, inventor of the Trinfinity8 technology, and author of the book, Fractals of God.


3 replies
  1. Aubyanne Meletio Poulter
    Aubyanne Meletio Poulter says:

    Former (well, mostly inactive) MFI here — that’s MUFON Field Investigator — specifically, the North Texas chapter, from 1998-2008.
    I was their go-to skeptic, faithful debunker, and proud naysaying auburn. And, just as I was sure I’d hung up my spurs, I was brought back on for the Stephenville investigation; sans partner and flying solo. It got quite a bit of press, and I was glad to lend my discerning eye and familiar head-shaking. Truth is, it’s a tiny percentage, less than 10%, that can truly be considered inconclusive. But, just as I’d said for The TeX-Files interview, it’s not the scientific inquiry that got me into the field of ufology, but rather the distinct lack of it.

    I was once the youngest MFI in the organization’s history, having received my certification at eighteen; I hope that isn’t still the case, though the numbers seem to be way down from our heyday. Perhaps, in the digital age, scientific research and investigation isn’t the hot hobby it used to be. That’s troubling, as we need all of the scientists, engineers, and psychologists we can get. I’m one of them, having continued into the field of psychology (forensic) in my higher formal education. But, without a doubt, I cut my teeth during that decade of driving all over North Texas, and interviewing folks from all walks of life about lights in the sky. And I wouldn’t change a day.

    Okay. Maybe what I thought was a too-close alignment of the organization’s alignment with the tinfoil-hat wearing crowd. But, hey, Occam and I are buds; his Razor is my trusty default weapon, and Sagan’s candle — don’t leave home without it. Fortunately, that’s what MUFON was about, and in many ways, continues to be. Oh, yes, for sure, you were going to get your weekend warriors who were watching a little too much X-Files and the abduction ‘documentaries’ that always ran during the time when insomniacs are at play. But what kept me were the dedicated volunteers (such as myself) who were truly devoted to the application of good science to get to the bottom of whatever case fell upon the State Director’s desk. They had the greatest of intentions. What they lacked was a solid method of consistently applying the good science they desired.

    That’s where I (gladly) came in. The young pup who was just a bit too done up with the scientific method and the latest research into EVERYTHING. Thanks to my burgeoning formal education, I was flabbergasted at how little actual science was being employed in the field of ufology. The training program, however, was excellent. It absolutely prepared me to be a very capable investigator: able to exercise my own independent judgement, and close cases sufficiently. And, immediately, I introduced that latest research into the most troubling or ostensibly inconclusive cases. How entire communities were primed to report more sightings given news of other sightings reported in the news; the extreme confounding variable that is mental illness, and how it must first be cleared when evaluating the competency of a witness in an interview (and exploring their case history). Luckily, most witnesses were relieved to have their fears put to rest; the greater likelihood that they experienced an episode of hypnagogia or hypnapompia — sleep paralysis — rather than any abduction scenario. Advances in neuroscience and neuropsychology allowed me to both educate and inform them of the myriad of things it could be outside of what they were afraid it might’ve been.

    That’s not to say we didn’t get some very interesting cases, from time to time. But, in respect to confidentiality as well as certain investigations which remain open, I’ll leave it at this; so many of the top brass in MUFON had — as you’d mentioned — either relatives in Blue Book (like yours truly) or former military careers — namely USAF. That’s what held my interest most as a skeptic; developing and honing techniques and methodologies that allowed for greater identification of IFO (identified objects) versus the more ‘glamorous’ UFOs — which was always just anomalous aerial phenomena; the implication of extraterrestrial origin came from media coverage and the basic word association of ‘UFO’ with ‘alien’ over time.

    I worked pretty tirelessly, with the rest of the amazing investigators at the NT-MUFON OFI — that’s Office of Field Investigation; weren’t we fun, with our alphabet soup? — to remove that automatic association, and return the ‘scientific’ part to scientific investigation. Our meetings ran the gamut — from quantum thought and hyper-dimensional theory to presentations on local phenomena and brainstorming current cases we’d occasionally tackle as a group. Though, it was usually you and your partner, and an SFI (Senior Field Investigator) overseeing. I assert that ours was one of the absolute best — and I tell him that sometimes, even now.

    In reflection, the MFIT program remains one of the best for those interested in exploring the field of scientific inquiry, especially as it relates to analysis and investigation covering subject matter which still holds some ‘ooh!’ and ‘ahh!’ to it for most. I freely admit, saying ‘I used to be a certified field investigator for MUFON’ still lends me some cool points and geek cred. Getting to talk about what you REALLY do as a researcher, interviewer, and scientific investigator sheds a light into what’s a mostly misunderstood — and even mocked — field by most of the scientific community. It doesn’t have to be that way; we’re all in it for the science — the truth — and MUFON was always clear in its mission statement about that. And that was what hooked a hardcore training scientist and psychologist such as myself; not just the truth, but getting there using what I already loved: the scientific method.

    Just my $0.03 from one who was in the trenches; with the trace evidence, witness interviews, and case reports — and recalls it all fondly.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.