High Strangeness: UFO Investigating is Hard

Saturday, November 16, 2013

UFO Investigating is Hard

I've been having a serious hangup with my UFO investigation work. For several cases in a row now, the witnesses have failed to respond to my multiple attempts to contact them by email and phone, and I have reluctantly had to close out those no-contact cases with a designation of "insufficient information" and call it a day. To begin with, I was very diligent in trying to contact each witness by email and/or phone at least three times... Then that dropped down to two attempts... now I'm ready to make one attempt then close out the case. Ain't nobody got time for this.

Obviously, this is no good for the UFO research. How can we ever solve the UFO mystery if people report sightings and then shy away from talking to a Certified UFO Field Investigator? I mean, what have they got to lose?
Why can't all UFO witnesses be as sharp as this one?

Facing three more cases this week that seem to have lost their pulse altogether, I did something very rash: I reached out to fellow MUFONers for help. Because MUFON state leaders have a special and very active forum on Facebook where we can all argue about whether we should have color-keyed ID badges, I decided to present my concerns to my colleagues:

"How many times must I try to contact someone," I asked in a post, "when he/she doesn't respond to my emails or phone calls?"

The responses were immediate:
  • "Two emails and a phone call is what I usually attempt," said Rxxxxx.
  • "Yes............three and ur out........I would actually rather you closed it out as...information only," said some guy who I didn't know was my boss.
  • "Mark.... this is a typical response that my team also faces here in PA," said a guy from PA. "Normally, we try to contact via telephone ( when available ) and email at least two times. If no response after that, I recommend to close the case as 'information only' and move on. A clue to how you'll do with witness response is how they answer to question on wanting to be anonymous. If they answer yes, you can bet that you'll not get any response from them.. This is why I suggested a click on button which states 'do not contact me '. If the witness selects this option, then the case should be classified as Information Only 'by default' and not even show up on the CMS for investigators to follow up on, as this would be a waste of time."
  • "I agree. There should be an option 'do not contact me'" said Cxxxx.

Then the conversation took and odd, and some might say, controversial turn:

  • "Cxxxx, as you know, I have been trying to get the option of do not contact me for two years now and the request falls on deaf ears," complained Fxxx. "Many investigators that I have spoken to do not feel that they should have to feel out the complete form when they cannot get a hold of some one or have some type of physical evidence. Some one could be fudgeing the report with informtion for us to file. I believe if we are going to be a scientific organization, we need to verify information not take it at face value and close out the case as information only."
  •  "Agree about 'I do not wish to be contacted;'" said Rxxxx. "I had that discussion with Jan H in 2012 and there is an opposing case to it, that he gave, I won't get into it here. I'm undecided, maybe Jan is right (But good to see others see it). As for what we call No-Replies: I talked to many people at the '12 Symposium, Dave McD., Marie Malzahn, others. May others by email since. Concensus to me was as follows: Make a good faith attempt to contact them, use what they give you (i.e. both email & phone if they provide); and after a reasonable amt of time, close as 'Info Only.' You Do NOT have to fill out the Form1 beyond what they gave; can't, really. I've told the GA FIs no more than 2-3 weeks; 4 absolute tops. We have to move on. I lose 30 to 40% of my reports annually to No-Reply. 'Info Only' is to be used for these, Not Insufficient, has been made clear to me. Hopefully others of you were advised the same!"
  • To which Dxxxxx replied: "So let me get this straight: if we can't get a hold of the witnesses then we can just put info only? I've told my investigators to assess the cases with what has been submitted because sometimes a witness will put a lot of info in the report but doesn't want to be contacted. I want to see evidence in the FIs report that they attempted to get a hold of the witnesses."
  • "I've asked my FI's to use the Investigative Report Section of the CMS case file to essentially document every action they perform ( similar to a log ) with regard to the case," said the guy from PA. "I have them enter date, action they did ( i.e. attempted to contact witness by phone, no response, left voice message. ) and then initial that entry. The next time they attempt to contact witness would be 'logged' into this area, and so on. This way, I and my SD or anyone else can see that there is work being done, even though there is no contact being made. Of course, I use this format for successful contact with the witness as well -- again a log."

I was shocked, and dismayed, and disappointed. Part of me was hoping they would all let me off the hook. "Hey, Mark, you tried your best; time to move on," was what I was hoping for. Instead they all seemed to be saying that I have to work harder to solve the UFO mystery. Ugh.

So, shamed by my colleagues into further action, I decided to contact my three losers witnesses one more time. First thing I found out when I looked through my emails was that one of these witnesses had, in fact, written back to me two weeks ago. Problem was, instead of replying to my email, she had created a new email with no information in it, so I had no idea who the email had come from, or why. So I'm going to try to call her today. Then I emailed the other two on my list to give them one more chance, and, lo and behold, one of them replied this time! I will interview her next Monday. 

So, yeah, more work for me, but maybe it will all pay off. Maybe one of these two cases will turn out to be The Big One. The other one, who still hasn't replied.... screw him.


PS: Replies to my question are still coming in! If anything noteworthy happens, I'll report it to you here. I'm not lazy when it comes to my blog!


Terry the Censor said...

I am surprised how much witnesses resist being contacted. When UFO buffs talk about the UFO database, they say the evidence would stand up in court (John Ventre just did so in a letter to the editor -- see link at bottom).

UFO partisans scoff at how skeptics doubt the reliability of witnesses, Sounds like the witnesses have a bit of doubt too.

John Ventre, MUFON state director, Pennsylvania

Anonymous said...

For me personally, I would probably throttle my efforts to contact a witness based on how compelling their story was. If someone has a mundane sighting of a light in the night sky, it would most probably be one and done. If it's something more interesting, I would ratchet up the efforts accordingly.

I do know that you can push too hard. I came very close to scoring an interview with Paul Trent's daughter several years back, only to have her stop responding (for reasons I still don't understand).

Anonymous said...

Maybe if you changed your attitude, you would have better luck with witnesses. Calling them "losers" & talking other crap about them on a public blog probably does you no good. I have been trying to investigate my own sighting for a long time. I had an encounter unlike any other that I have read about. After discovering you blog, I was thinking of contacting you. After reading your blog, I am rethinking this. Lose the negativity & you might be rewarded with more contact.

Mark UFO'Connell said...

Criticism taken, but if you read more than just the one post you'd see that there's much more to my blog. From time to time I need to vent my frustrations with UFO people, and when I do I usually take on an exaggerated tone... But the majority of the UFO people I run across are pretty cool and I treat them with respect. I hope you keep reading!

Anonymous said...

I did read more than one post, but that doesn't change the fact that you speak rudely about your contact with witnesses. People who have seen things already have to contend with the fact that a lot of people think they are crazy or were hallucinating or saw a bird or what ever. For someone like me, who had an experience so bizarre that I have never found any evidence of another sighting like it, & who has been searching for answers, it is disheartening to discover that the WI mufon investigator speaks disparagingly about witnesses.
Whether you meant it light heartedly or not, it gives someone like me pause in wanting to share with you. I will continue my search for answers as I want to believe that my husband & I cannot be the only people who have experienced what we have. Witnesses need to know that there is a safe place to go to seek answers as we are sick of the name calling & disbelief that we receive.

Mark UFO'Connell said...

I hope you find your answers. Have you reported your sighting to MUFON?