Several media outlets covered the story of increased UFO sightings in the late summer of 2011, including Fox News, MSNBC and the popular UK paper, the Daily Mail. It all started when the International Director for the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), Clifford Clift, told reporter Benjamin Radford, that over 1000 UFO reports were received in August 2011, doubling the typical 500 or so they receive on a monthly basis. I have collected all of the data I could to take a closer look at this UFO wave to try and determine what might have been the cause.
In the story, Radford and Clift, tried to speculate on some of the reasons reports may have increased. Some of the ideas listed were: more people looking up in the summer, accidental duplication of data or that perhaps the increase in UFO movies this summer has made people more interested in the subject. The data I collected can dispel a few of these otherwise plausible theories.
Some of the stories stemming from Radford’s interview with Clift implied that UFO sightings have increased recently. Some of these headlines even pondered the possibility of an impending alien invasion. Most of these headlines were tongue in cheek jocularity, although some were dead serious. In order to test this I graphed out the number of sightings that MUFON has received over the past few years. I was a MUFON investigator for many years, and a functional Director, and have been accumulating data for a long time from the MUFON’s online database (nothing that isn’t publicly available mind you). MUFON began collecting UFO sightings through the database in mid-2006. There has also been an ongoing effort to scan all old paper reports and get them into the database as well.
However, this data was still not in a form that could be easily exported into a spreadsheet, so I painstakingly ported the information out. Anyone can go query the database, and when you see the results, although great for light perusal, you can see it would be a bear to format it into something you can graph out. It has taken me years to get dates and places. Some of the data also comes from MUFON emails, when you subscribe to the MUFON email list, Clifford conveniently emails monthly statistics. I also put those in the database to get some information regarding sightings this year.
When we look at sightings per year, we can see that 2010 was actually a slower year for MUFON than 2008 and 2009. In fact, it appears that 2011 was on track to come close to the 2009 numbers before the increase in August. With the increase in numbers in August, even if MUFON averages 500 reports for October, November and December, this will be a record year for sighting reports. To me this would indicate that we don’t necessarily have a vast increase in overall sightings, but that this August event pushed this year to the top.
When we look at 2011 month by month, we see exactly what Clifford had described. The average number of sightings per month was steady around 500 until August when it doubled. September ended up with nearly 800 reports, which was also significant. One suggestion was that UFO reports increase in the summer because more people are outside. That makes perfect sense, however, when I graphed out all sightings on a month by month basis, we do see a slight spike in July, but no overall increase for other summer months.
I then decided to graph out the August 2011 reports by state to find out if the increase was regional or not. As you can see in the graph, the year to date data is similar to the August data, meaning that the areas that normally receive more reports also received a lot of reports in August. The only state that received a relatively unusual increase in August was Connecticut. Normally they receive 4 or 5 reports a month, in August they received 38.
I took a look at the individual reports and I did discover something interesting. Only 4 of the reports in August were of sightings that occurred in August. There were a couple in July, but most were historical accounts from last year or the 1980s and older, including one from 1965. To me this would seem that somehow locals became aware of the MUFON and reported these sightings, possibly by local media, but I have not found any local media coverage that may have prompted this. Still, although this would account for an increase of 30 or so, it does not account for the 500 or so overall increase for August. The rest were spread throughout the country.
Since I could find no regional spike in sightings, I decided to look at the shapes that are reported. In Clifford’s monthly emails he also breaks this information out. However, here again I hit a dead end. As you can see in the graphs, the types of shapes of UFOs reported this year does not differ greatly from the shapes reported in August.
In conclusion, I am left with two possibilities. In his interview with Radford, Clifford speculated that perhaps the increase in UFO movies this summer had an effect. I suppose that is possible, I did figure some sort of media attention for MUFON would be responsible, but there was no major coverage that could account for this. So Clifford could be right, of course the other possibility is that there were just more UFOs of every kind flying over our heads this summer. Let us know if you see something in these graphs I missed or have another explanation.
Stay tuned as I will examine some of the other interesting findings I made when looking at these reports and where the true hotspots are.