By a strange coincidence, I had invited MUFON Board Member Rob Swiatek on the show to talk about the history of MUFON and what is happening in the world of UFOs today. Less than twenty-four hours before we sat down, Jan Harzan, MUFON’s Executive Director, was arrested for attempting to engage in sexual
with a minor, according to the Huntington Beach Police. That was, of course,
the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room. As Rob mentioned, we could not not
talk about it.
I began the show with a brief history of MUFON, starting with its creation in the late 1960s. I mentioned that Walt Andrus, the original International Director but a one time member of APRO, had approached Coral Lorenzen of APRO with the idea that he would organize the field investigators in the Midwest into a network to prevent duplication. This was the genesis of MUFON. Coral Lorenzen was furious about Andrus break with APRO to start his own organization.
After that very brief history, we moved onto the discussion of Harzan and what it meant for MUFON. You can listen to that discussion here:
During the interview, we did get some insight into the reactions of those inside MUFON and on the Board to the police report. It shocked nearly everyone who heard the news. My first reaction was that it was some sort of a hoax, but I made contact with some of those I know in the UFO field. It became clear, quickly, that
information was true and that it had been released on the Huntington Beach Police
website. There was a mug shot and a few additional details.
According to Rob, MUFON had prepared for some sort of a catastrophic event at the top before this happened so that there was a plan to pass the leadership to another if necessary. Their thinking, frankly, seemed to be that a natural disaster at MUFON headquarters in California would be the culprit. Leadership would then pass to another at the push of a button. The new Executive Director, selected by the Board in the hours after the news about Harzan broke, was David MacDonald, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
There were those in the UFO community but not necessarily members of MUFON, who wondered if this wasn’t a somewhat tone deaf (a term that will probably offend someone in the world today) move. MacDonald had run, and may still run, an aerial charter service that helped consenting adults join the “Mile High Club.” One of those commenters wondered, “I mean the guy ran a company for aerial sex. Is this going to smooth over the bad publicity over the reprehensible sexual activities of the previous International Director?”
Now, I confess that I’m a little concerned about this rush to judgement because, to be fair, Harzan has not been convicted of anything at this point. Arrest does not translate into guilt. I talked with Rob McConnell and in X-Zone Radio Show a few hours after I had interviewed Rob Swiatek (what are the odds there would be two Robs in this story?) and mentioned this. You can listen to our discussion here:
I think we make it clear that MUFON had no choice, and given the facts as they developed. The accusation was enough to require action by the Board. More to the point, it doesn’t seem as if there is any error in the arrest. Still, Harzan has not been convicted of a crime.
The other thing that has come up, as both Robs and I discussed is that in the last several years, MUFON has been rocked by a number of scandals, from racist rants by state directors, to similar statements held by members of what is called the Inner Circle. I did explore some of this a number of years ago and you can read about some of that here which links to the interview:
There was another part of the discussion as well. I was concerned that the mission of MUFON had changed from investigating UFOs to a more business-oriented strategy of filling the corporate coffers. Rob Swiatek said that the mission hadn’t actually changed, but in thinking about it, I believe that it has. Investigation was secondary to creating income streams. In other words, speakers at a recent MUFON Symposium were invited, not for their scientific credibility but for their ability to put butts in the seats. For those who wish to learn a little more about this, you can read some of my thoughts here:
For those in the UFO community, the latest scandal, is important even though it has nothing to do with UFO research. When the leadership falls, it sometimes takes everything down with it. This just might be one of those times. There are already rumblings by some of the membership that this was one step too far and some of those have said they will sever their connections to the organization.
Next week I’ll be talking with John Greenewald about Eric Davis and Admiral Wilson. What is the true story here? John has an interesting theory. And, we’ll probably talk about the latest from the AATIP program. If you have questions, let me know in the comments section.