Opinion- MUFON's rash dismissal of recent OC orb sightings raises questions

By Ted Bonnitt on March 4th, 2014
Opinion- MUFON's rash dismissal of recent OC orb sightings raises questions

A leading MUFON investigator has declared that ALL recent reports about mysterious light orbs being pursued by helicopters over Orange County (OC), are nothing more than military exercises and beleaguered police air patrols being hassled by pranksters launching sky lanterns.

The senior investigator's statement, published today as "breaking news" by MUFON was not backed by any evidence or investigation by the grass roots UFO research organization.

Cinde Costello, who carries the title of Southern California Chief Investigator for the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), where the sightings occurred, concluded that the sightings appear to be a combination of military training exercises and area residents "who love to launch sky lanterns."

Costello apparently made her snap judgement when she watched a video taken by a witness on the evening of February 27, 2013. She called the video "my Rosetta Stone for figuring out what was going on down in Orange County."

"The minute I watched the video, everything clicked into place," Costello continued. 

"That was no military helicopter - it was a law enforcement helicopter. I could tell just by the sound of the engine and rotors. The LE helicopter did appear to check-out the 'orb,' but the orb was a sky lantern and nothing more. The minute that it winked-out the officer continued right on with his patrol. By the way, the Anaheim Police Department has a very busy Air Support Unit, which is stationed at the Fullerton Airport, just west of Anaheim Hills."

Does this extemporaneous assumption constitute a MUFON senior investigation? Did Costello make any calls to local police agencies to validate her supposition?  

What about the other witness reports that stated that the helicopters were flying "at max speed...trying to keep up with the orbs," or that the orbs made sudden, rapid moves?  Since when do sky lanterns and helium balloons outrun helicopters and suddenly jump to distant positions as stated in multiple witness reports? Costello did not support her claim with any weather or high wind data from the times of the sightings to reasonably dispute witness observations that the UFOs were moving unusually fast.

Costello goes on to explain away the witness reports of very low flying helicopters illuminating orbs, some of which appeared to one witness reports as looking metallic.

"I feel it was more probable in this event - Case 54168 - that the witness did see two military helicopters, because it's not unusual to see military helicopters in this area, as they often travel to the one of the many bases we have here."

Costello reaches further out on a limb by speculating that the sightings may be related to military exercises with Japan.

"Most recently there's been some increased military activity here from January 23, 2014, to February 24, 2014, due to 'Exercise Iron Fist 2014.' This was a joint U.S. and Japanese military training exercise based out of Camp Pendleton."

Again, no substantiation of her claim that such maneuvers were underway in the area at the time of the sightings. And her guess that what witnesses were seeing were low altitude US and Japanese military aircraft maneuvers of over a densely populated civilian population center stretches the limits of credulity.

Breezily moving on, Costello quickly takes down the witness report of a military jet pursuing a white orb at low altitude just off the coast of Orange County.

"He first heard, and then saw, a military jet traveling off the coast approaching up from the south, and heading north. This was out over the ocean, where it is extremely common to see all sorts of military activity, including routine air patrol. He claims that he saw a white 'orb' ahead of the jet, and it seemed to him like the jet was chasing the 'orb.' This scenario is consistent with military live fire exercises, but alternately it's also possible that he may have confused the bright landing lights from an incoming airliner for an 'orb." 

She concludes with a pronouncement, "Either way, not technically UFO-related as both are man-made."

Granted, this case was the one of the weaker accounts of the bunch, but how could a senior investigator so lazily dismiss the report with completely unsubstantiated speculation about it being incoming aircraft lights or low attitude, live-fire military training exercises a mile off civilian shores? What evidence makes her so sure that the reported object in front of the jet was "not technically UFO-related as both are man-made"?  

Costello's rash dismissal of the recent reports included a pejorative, personal opinion. 

"Yes, I do feel that many of these lanterns are connected with a group of hoaxers - probably teenagers or young adults, and it's quite possible that they may be launching them with two things in mind. First, to get a rise out of people - these lanterns are being launched at around the same time of day, in the early evening, and in locations near a major freeway - usually the '91.' And second, to annoy and distract the local Police Air Support Units."

Costello, who has worked as a bookkeeper at a southern California exterminator company for 33 years, sounds like the only one annoyed.

Perhaps Costello is correct in that some, if not all of the orb sighting reports are nothing more than sky lanterns. They are quite common. But how many times do multiple witnesses see helicopters chasing after them at high speed?  How often, if at all, do military helicopters perform low-altitude training exercises with foreign military forces over densely populated US civilian centers? 

Costello's sloppy conclusions are every bit as "far out" as the original witness reports, and are peppered with personal remarks, like "I feel," and "I could tell" instead of factual findings. 

Costello owes the people who count on MUFON for reliable UFO information, some substantiation for her claims that every one of the related witness reports can be quickly explained away, if she wants to keep her credibility as a senior investigator. If she did make some calls to police and military agencies for confirmation (or official denials) and included it with her statement, MUFON should make her findings available to the public. UFOGrid was unable to find the full text of her statement on their website or in a news release.

Witnesses go out of their way to report their sightings to MUFON, not only to get answers but perhaps to add to the conversation about UFOs. Too many times, witnesses who step forward to explain what they've seen have been discouraged by curt dismissals and outright ridicule by the media and law enforcement agencies. It is odd for a top investigator at MUFON to be so incurious about a compelling series of independent witness accounts.

Hopefully, Costello's rush to judgement is not all we'll hear from MUFON on the recent wave of OC sighting reports. The witnesses who submitted the reports and the interested public deserves better from an organization with a mandate to seriously investigate the UFO phenomenon.

For more coverage of the OC orb flap, read the UFOGrid story.

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