Alternate Perceptions Magazine, October 2021
The Ethical Role of a UFO Investigator
by: Brent Raynes
Back in 1976, Canadian ufologist John Brent Musgrave made a strong appeal for an ethical and humanitarian ufology in a formal paper that he presented at the CUFOS Conference, held near Chicago. (1) In this paper, Musgrave pointed out how ufologists aren’t just “scientific detectives,” but that they should also function, in certain instances, as “counselors” and even “healers.” Musgrave reported UFO close encounter and so-called “alien abduction” cases, whatever their true nature may be, can reportedly prove to be “extremely stressful.”
Thus Musgrave felt the investigator-experiencer interaction can evolve at times into a “healer-patient” kind of situation. “The percipient comes not only to tell a story and to understand, but also to ‘cure’ or work through an experience,” he explained. “It is in part for this reason that unconscious communication of percipient and investigator can sometimes play a crucial role, not only for the uncovering and understanding of the totality of what occurred, but also for the working out of the experience for the percipient (and also in some cases for the investigator as well).”
Musgrave expressed how ufologists may find some cases a “heavy burden,” adding, “It should be kept in mind that investigators may encounter cases where they have a block in pursuing and uncovering the UFO story – blocks created by fear of working out the experience with the percipients.”
“It may be that a UFO investigator sits on a case, or doesn’t uncover the full story, because the full story would force him to confront his own psyche,” in which case he recommends the ufologist should be “well aware of his own instinctive disposition” as to why he entered this field in the first place.
What sort of mental blocks? I think the answer should be pretty obvious. Many ufologists are ate up with confirmation bias. Many only want to hear and read information that confirms their personal beliefs – their expectations. A so-called “nuts and bolts” ufologist wants solid physical case scenarios of ET craft and visitations. If a Bigfoot wanders across the witness’s lawn or backyard, or worse yet steps out of a UFO, or a sudden rash of poltergeist activity occurs on or around the same time, along with any other “paranormal” phenomena, the ufologist may suffer cognitive dissonance and fail to include any details of such in his or her report.
And thus how do we know how often this sort of thing may occur in such cases and may be a neglected correlation? Objectivity has flown out the window. The best approach is for the investigator is to begin with simply listening fully to everything the “experiencer” cares to share. Let them talk it out without interruption. Let them know you’re genuinely interested and care to hear the whole story. This is an unstructured interview approach.
To make sure, after they’ve told the story you initially came to interview them about, check and see if there’s more. And leave it open to “anything else ever happen to you that you couldn’t explain or understand?” Jacques Vallee once followed up on a case where during a UFO’s departure it flew through the trees nearby, which he failed to tell a group of UFO investigators previously. When Vallee asked the witness why, he was informed how he could tell from things that they had already said that they would not have been open to hearing how the “craft” had flown right through the trees like a ghost.
So as investigators we need to get the whole story, as best as possible. We need to develop a rapport and empathy with the experiencers. They need to know that we really care about them and we’re interested in hearing everything they’d care to share with us.
Musgrave recalled a case where numerous ufologists and curious sight seekers invaded the home of a woman in the Canadian Rockies whose story had appeared in the local news about her seeing a close-range UFO with two beings. Her stress level went up significantly when visiting ufologists informed her that these UFOs often will return and even abduct people. This all proved to be too much for her and she vowed never to report another UFO sighting again, and soon she left town.
Ufologists need to have a professional bearing. They must be good and thoughtful listeners, behave always in a courteous, respectful, honest, and dependable manner. They should be patient and try to be understanding, and make the “experiencer” feel as relaxed and comfortable with the “interview” as possible.
“Any UFO research that harms the witness is morally indefensible and in the long run always self-defeating,” cautioned psychiatrist Dr. Berthold Eric Schwarz in his book UFO Dynamics (2). Sociologist Ron Westrum met Musgrave at the CUFOS Conference and afterwards prepared a follow-up paper of his own for MUFON [Mutual UFO Network] entitled The UFO Investigator As Healer; Some Further Remarks [04/24/77]. In it, Westrum even addressed the “paranormal” component of some of these cases, calling it “psychic amplification,” noting how close encounter experiencers do from time to time become subject to psychic events which can potentially cause personality shifts that may swing from paranoia to a “new religious consciousness.”
Westrum speculated: “The trigger for this psychic amplification seems to be some kind of mental disturbance. Nandor Fodor suggested many years ago that poltergeist cases usually were caused when a disturbed individual’s mind unleashed its own paranormal powers.”
“Not only percipients but UFO investigators also can become the victims of this psychic amplification. Direct contact with the ‘other intelligences’ is of course the strongest releaser of these effects, but closeness to the phenomenon in any way may bring about the same mental conflicts and the same manifestations. It would appear that psychic amplification has been the cause for the withdrawal of a substantial number of major and minor UFO investigators from active work.”
Westrum recommended that we should all talk openly about these situations, urging that we should make the experiencers feel that any psychic development and awareness that may occur is natural and even potentially useful, and that ufologists should familiarize themselves with conventional parapsychological literature. “By learning to see his powers in naturalistic terms, the percipient is less likely to feel estranged from the rest of the community, and is less likely to see himself as deviant.”
1. The UFO Investigator As Counsellor and Healer, by John Brent Musgrave, Flying Saucer Review, Vol. 22, No. 5, 1976, England.
2. UFO Dynamics, by Dr. Berthold Eric Schwarz, MD. Rainbow Books, Moore Haven, FL. 1983.