MUFON and the Stephenville Sightings

Mixed results for MUFON

Published Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 4:20 p.m.
Last updated Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 4:26 p.m.

There’s probably a story on human psychology to be written about January’s UFO furor over Stephenville, Tex. But Ken Cherry won’t touch it with a 10-foot cliche.

As director of the Texas Mutual UFO Network, Cherry spearheaded the investigation of the incident that lured media hordes into north Texas cow town. On May 19, the Associated Press reported how MUFON didn’t find a smoking gun. But a week later, Cherry says MUFON’s critics are slamming the results.

“There are people out there who have a vested interest in keeping this story alive,” Cherry says from his home in Keller, Tex. “But I’m not going to waste my time and energy trying to defend our report. The results speak for themselves."

Among MUFON’s most contentious findings: video footage of a nighttime UFO was simply a star being jiggled by an unsteady hand working the viewfinder. That sequence made the YouTube rounds and was being seriously analyzed as evidence of symbolic alien communication.

“We went to the exact location where the guy shot it, and since it had the date and the time on the bottom, it was pretty easy to determine it was a star,” Cherry says. “It was something a kid with a star map could do.”

Then there was the real-time manifestation of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the idea that observing an event alters the event:

Cherry says the media circus that swamped Stephenville impeded MUFON’s efforts. MUFON began receiving UFO reports from the region in December, but the network coverage immediately created what Cherry charitably describes as a collective “heightened state of awareness.” Not to mention mercenary incentives.

“There are still videos and photos out there we continue to hear about, but some owners expect to be paid,” Cherry says. “This place was descended upon by production companies looking for footage. The asking price would start at $5,000 and it went up from there.”

The MUFON report’s closest approximation of a smoking gun was buried in the tenth graph of the AP piece. MUFON’s Freedom of Information Act queries produced Federal Aviation Administration documents indicating its radar tracked a large object zipping along at 700 mph at 6:35 p.m. on January 8. More ominously in this post-9/11 era, the blip had no transponder.

“Apparently, there was a phenomenon of some sort going on,” says Cherry. “There have always been significant military bases in this area, so the folks who live out there are used to seeing military aircraft. They’re not suddently going to start misidentifying military jets as UFOs.

“The timing (of the radar hit) is important because it comes within 10 minutes of when (freight company operator/pilot Steve Allen) said he first saw it,” Cherry says. Allen described an object of nearly mile long and half a mile wide.

Finally, as Cherry learned from old-timers, that rural tract of Texas has been the scene of UFO events going back decades. Meaning that theories concerning the object’s 60-mile proximity to the Bush ranch in Crawford are irrelevant.

Cherry says the real lesson behind the Stephenville Incident is for the Air Force, which initially denied it had planes in the air that night, only to reverse itself a week or so later.

“If you don’t know the answer to something,” Cherry says, “then just say you don’t know the answer.”

Last modified: May 28, 2008 4:26pm

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