By Billy Cox
Morgan Beall has one thankless job as MUFON section director for southwest Florida. The chances of working a case as spectacular as Stephenville ‘08 or Phoenix ‘97 are — as always — remote. He chases sighting reports from his home in Fort Myers without a salary or even reimbursement for mileage. Most of those incidents have unambiguous origins. All too often, when he ventures a prosaic explanation, the witnesses don’t want to hear it, and argue with him.
“When that happens, a lot of times we’re looked at as government agents assigned to misinform,” says Beall of his fellow field investigators. “And to the mainstream media, we’re just crackpots looking for little green men all the time.”
Dude can’t win.
But lately, the environmental consultant is actually getting excited about the future of his research. That’s because, as MUFON’s director of technology, he and his colleagues are looking to unveil a mobile app they hope could be a game-changer. It’s called UFO Connect, and its official unveiling is Nov. 12.
UFO Connect is one component of a MUFON overhaul, which includes an imminent website upgrade. That’s a good thing. The mobile app offers three modules, including limited access to MUFON’s database for free. A more refined search engine is going for $2.99. But its flagship feature is the $3.99 Skywatch Alert, which is being touted as the fusion of Amber Alert bulletins to the old Ground Observer Corps that recruited volunteers to keep an eye open for enemy aircraft during WWII and the Cold War. Skywatch Alert will enable people to report sightings via text, still images or videos as they occur in real time, from any location.
“We’ve had a ton of large object sightings in southwest Florida lately,” Beall says. “Unfortunately, most people who are interested in this stuff don’t find out about it until later. But with Skywatch Alert, you can be sitting at home and an alarm goes off that lets you know there’s a triangle-shaped object in your neighborhood. Then you could run out and try to see it or upload your own photos.”
It’s doubtful Skywatch Alert could build a 1.5 million citizen-sentinel network the way the GOC did. But the potential for triangulating even a small-scale event with photos or videos could prove revolutionary. Or, if nothing else, it could make Beall’s job easier. What appears to be a legitimate UFO mystery to one set of eyes might turn out to be a chain of sky lanterns to someone two miles closer.
“It’s funny how these things can snowball,” says Beall, who did the front-end work on the 2010 Isles of Capri UFO controversy in SW Florida. At one point, nearly 100 concerned residents gathered at a community center to compare notes about what they’d seen. Beall says the initial sightings defied explanation, but that subsequent encounters were as easy to predict as the appearance of the Dog Star, Sirius.
“It showed up on the horizon, right where it was supposed to, but its image looked a little squished because of the atmospheric distortion,” Beall says. “When I pointed it out, there were still people who didn’t want to believe it.”