Thursday, Oct 05, 2006
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UFOs sighted locally – for class study, anyway

By Krista J. Stockman
The Journal Gazette

UFOs and alien life forms aren’t just the subjects of science fiction books and movies.

Plenty of people in Indiana claim to have seen them. With such interest, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Division of Continuing Studies is offering its first class on unidentified flying objects.

The class, called UFOs – Perception, Reality and Sightings in Indiana, will cover the history of UFOs, crop circles and recent local sightings.

The course might sound out of this world to some, but it is a legitimate topic of study, said Mike Kelly, IPFW director of personal and professional development.

“It’s not that we’re legitimizing alien life form, per se, but that there are unexplained phenomena and just having a conversation about that is interesting,” Kelly said. “We support critical thinking, obviously, no matter what the topic is, especially something that has far-fetched components and is challenging.”

The three-course class, which begins Tuesday, is being taught by Roger Sugden, assistant state director and chief investigator of the Mutual UFO Network and a member of the Independent Crop Circle Research Association. Eight people have signed up for the class so far – a number that pleased Kelly but disappointed Sugden.

Sugden approached IPFW about teaching the course because no one had ever done it before, he said. He has offered information sessions at the Allen County Public Library and had as many as 75 people attend, so he thought there would be plenty of interest in a three-week class.

Sugden said he has run into plenty of skeptics, but that doesn’t bother him. He simply wants to offer factual evidence of UFOs.

“There’s plenty of interest in it,” Sugden said. “I’m not trying to make you a believer. I’m just here to give you an education.”

Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and the executive director of the Skeptics Society, said a university setting is ideal for critical discussions of claims of UFO sightings.

But a danger exists when institutions such as IPFW affiliate with a class that offers such claims as fact, because “it lends credibility where there actually isn’t,” Shermer said.

“What we try to strive for is keeping an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out,” he said.

The class will include the history of UFOs starting from the first documented sightings by Egyptian pharaohs and Roman emperors. Sugden said the history of UFO sightings includes the stories about Alexander the Great’s sightings of flying objects in 332 B.C. The UFOs helped knock down fortress walls during the siege of the island Tyre, Sugden said.

“(UFOs) have a history of interfering with history,” he said.

The course will extend through modern-day sightings, including those in Indiana. One sighting was in December 2003, when three police officers saw a strange object drifting through the skies over Huntington.

In March and April of this year, Indiana had the highest number of UFO sightings in the world, Sugden said. Reports are collected by the Mutual UFO Network and the National UFO Reporting Center.

“I’ll tell about some of the cases where these things have actually landed and beings have gotten out and been seen and gotten back in and took off,” Sugden said.

If this course is successful, Sugden hopes to someday be able to offer the class for credit. Already, he is planning to teach another non-credit course on UFOs in Warsaw in the spring – for both skeptics and believers.

“It’s an educational thing,” he said. “If you don’t believe it, that’s fine.”

Angela Mapes of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.

If you’re interested

What: UFO course at IPFW

When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10, 17

Cost: $75To sign up, call the Division of Continuing Studies, 481-6619

Angela Mapes of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story. Angela Mapes of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.