Journal: In your bio, you state you’ve been with MUFON about a year. Why did you join?
Mark: Well, I’ve been interested in the UFO phenomenon since my encounter back in the 1980s. When I joined MUFON I wanted to have a lot of time to dedicate not only to cases, but also to the study of UFOs. Finally, in 2014 things came together that gave me the time I needed to be a full time researcher.
Journal: You relate an encounter that happened while you were a member of a Coast Guard cutters crew. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Journal: Since joining MUFON, have you found any answers to your encounter with the UFO?
Mark: I think that the main thing I have discovered is that I am not the only one. When the incident first happened, I couldn’t help feel like I had been selected to witness this event, and even though I have had no further encounters, that event sparked something that brought me to this point.
Journal: Being a Certified Field Investigator and Chief Investigator, you’ve had the opportunity to look into a number of cases; is there one that stands out in your mind?
Mark: Actually yes, there is one case that I remember more than any other one. We had a witness in North Mississippi who spotted two craft; one very large and moving slowly, and one small and moving very fast. The witness was outside playing with his son and the two craft flew over them. The large one appeared to disappear in a wooded area behind his house. Because it was getting dark when he witnessed these two objects, he waited until the next day to investigate. When he entered the woods, he encountered several strange men, all of them military black pants, and carrying equipment that he didn’t recognize. When he asked what they were doing they basically told him it was none of his business and to forget that he saw them there. What makes this case unusual at least for me, is what happened in the days that followed. The witness contacted me by email to let me know what had happened. When I answered him, and asked some more questions I got no response. After a few days I called the witness to see if everything was alright, and I was told by the witness not to call or email him anymore. Apparently the men he encountered had somehow gotten copies of our email conversations, and knew everything we had discussed over the phone. They left the impression with him that if he talked to me again or mentioned what he had seen, some unpleasant things might happen to him or his family. This was one of my first cases as a Field Investigator, and it scared me a little. I have never forgotten that man, or that case. Hopefully someday we will find out what he really saw that day.
Journal: That is frightening, but I’m sure it had to pique your interest. On that note; interest in MUFON seems to have greatly increased since “Hangar 1: The UFO Files.” Has it impacted the amount of reports coming into the Mississippi chapter of MUFON?
Mark: “Hangar 1” has had an impact on our case load, but not dramatically. I think the biggest thing that has come out of “Hangar 1” is that people are starting to look at the stars a little differently. Some of our cases are people that see “Hangar 1” and remember a UFO incident from their past, and the show has prompted them to finally report it, sometimes many years later.
Journal: In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about discloser; and transparency in the UFO phenomenon. In your opinion, are we any close to it than we were in the past?
Mark: Yes, I think every year more and more people are witnessing strange phenomenon in the skies. The government is beginning to declassify UFO sighting reports from the 1950s and 60s, and shows like “Hangar 1” are getting those reports out to the public. In addition, reports from NASA, and other government agencies, are finally starting to come to light, thanks to the efforts of UFO researchers. I believe the time will come in the very near future, when only full disclosure will satisfy the public, and I hope I will be around to see that day.
Journal: I hope so too. If you could go back in time and be the lead investigator in any case in UFO history, which one would you choose?
Mark: I think the Lonnie Zamora case from April of 1964. That was a rare case in many respects, not the least of which was the fact that Mr. Zamora was a New Mexico State Trooper. He not only saw the object from a distance of about 150 yards, but he saw two beings, which he took for small adults or large children. There was a lot of physical evidence at the scene, as well as the eyewitness account from Officer Zamora. It’s the kind of case that every investigator dreams of having.
Journal: I agree that the Zamora case is a fascinating one. Do you feel that your experience and research into this field has changed through the years?
Mark: Even though I haven’t really been an investigator for very long, I do think that my outlook has changed. When I first started as an investigator, I envisioned myself travelling all over the state, collecting physical evidence, and working really major cases. However, the reality is a little different. The “Area 51” type cases are very rare, but all cases are important in expanding our knowledge of the UFO phenomenon. I have learned that even if the case seems like a run-of-the-mill “lights in the sky” type sighting, it can turn into a major sighting, and it’s up to the investigator to dig into the report and find the truth. That’s what I like most about being an investigator.
Journal: As a Chief Investigator, you have the opportunity to work with new field agents coming into the field. What are the qualifications of a good investigator?
Mark: A good investigator needs to be a great researcher. You have to know where to look for things like historical weather data, and if any cases similar to yours have been reported to other UFO sites. In addition, I think investigators need to feel comfortable calling local police departments, military bases, and news media, in an effort to find any reports that have been filed about the sighting. So I guess, a good investigator should be an outgoing person, and you should have at least a basic knowledge about the things that a UFO can be confused for. Things like how the lights on an airplane are arranged, and what the brightest stars in the sky in your area are, and where they are on any given night. This kind of information can narrow down what the sighting might be. Good investigators know what they don’t know, and are willing to ask for help if they need it, or know where to go to find the information they are lacking. Even experienced investigators can use a helping hand once in a while.
Journal: Those are all excellent qualities to have. Do you have any advice to someone new to the field? Any pitfalls to look out for?
Mark: MUFON has just started a new program call “MUFON University.” There are a number of courses available online that would be tremendous to a new investigator, or for the seasoned investigator. My advice to new investigators would be to learn as much as you can from your mentor. These are experienced investigators who are more than willing to share their knowledge with new FIs, so use them. Although hoaxes are relatively rare, they do happen once in a while. This means that it is important for the new Field Investigator to research their cases thoroughly, and not just assume that because it sounds good that is a good case. The Case Management System (CMS) is the primary source of information for FIs all over the country, so make sure you know it inside and out. The information that you enter into the CMS might be used on another case, so it’s important that the information is accurate. Finally, the FI needs to remember that the people you talk to are part of an investigation; they really are not your friends. It is easy to forget that especially if the person is upset. If you need to meet the witness always do so in a public place, and don’t give out your personal information to the witness. Remember that you have no idea who these people are or what they are capable of.
Journal: Excellent advice for the newbie and the seasoned investigator alike. Thank you very much Mark Bort for sitting down with us for the MUFON One-On-One.
To suggest someone from within MUFON as the next One-On-One guest – please get in touch with Marie Cisneros at firstname.lastname@example.org.