The other day, I was looking at the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) database – the Case Management System (CMS,) and I wondered where it originated? The short version, is that it started when Tomas Karlsson asked MUFON if they needed any programming/database assistance? For the long version, I set out to undertake a little research, mainly using publicly available information; plus communicating with a variety of individuals. I thank those correspondents for their input. An obvious place to start was to explore old issues of the MUFON Journal.
July 2005 issue, page 2. Director’s Message –
“MUFON Case Management System (CMS) debuts.
After much hard work and preparation, the new MUFON Case Management System is ready to use. We applaud and extend our thanks to the volunteers who made this possible, Tomas Karlsson, Bob Rawlinson and Jan Harzan are the architects and implementers of the new CMS.
We are pleased with their outstanding product. It can be used to investigate sightings from all sources, so we view that as a way of unifying the work that is being done in the field. We also thank Don Weatherby and Wendy Ban for all the work they did on WUFOD, the predecessor to the CMS, and to James Carrion for the work he is doing on the Pandora Project which converts past MUFON UFO reports from paper to electronic files which will interface with the CMS.
The new CMS Members User Guide has been sent to all State Directors and assistant state directors and is available to download.”
October 2005issue, page 22 Director’s Message – John Schuessler.
“MUFON Case Management System
The MUFON Case management System is online, operational and maturing rapidly. We are indebted to Jan Harzan, Tomas Karlsson and Bob Rawlinson for bringing the new system from the idea to reality.
We thank Kathy Schuessler for all the hours she works to keep the continually evolving membership database current in the CMS. The team is looking at enhancements and ways to get other organizations to join MUFON in making this a larger and more powerful world-wide system.”
November 2005issue page 2, Director’s Message – John Schuessler.
“Case Management System clarification.
There has been some confusion about how to view the contents of the MUFON Case Management System (CMS.) It is not necessary to use a password just to view the contents of the CMS. Simply, go to and click on “UFO Case Files” and then “Latest MUFON reports” and view the reports.
State Directors (SD), Assistant State Directors (ASD) State Section Directors (SSD) and Field Investigators (FI) are granted another level of access to the database so that they may enter and update cases. This level of access is password protected.
When a member is assigned to one of the aforementioned positions, Kathy Schuessler adds their information to the access database, thereby allowing them access to the system.”
An article by Keith Rowell, of Oregon MUFON, dated 22 March 2013, announced that MUFON HQ had now added the capability to search the MUFON CMS database, by state.
December 2018 issue, page 2, Director’s Message – Jan Harzan.
“Three years in the making and the new CMS front-end is finally ready for prime time. As you know CMS is our Case Management System used to collect UFO sighting reports from the public. It was developed more than 12 years ago, in 2006, and is designed to collect UFO data. It was based on the latest technology at the time and incorporated MySQL as the database manager and the Perl programming language for the logic behind the screens. We also used it to collect related information such as Entity Sightings, Alien Abductions, Animal Mutilations and Crop Circle reports. But it was truly designed to collect UFO reports. This is all changing now
The changes are part of a bigger project that was needed for many reasons. First, more than half the visitors to the MUFON.com website use their mobile phones to look us up and report their UFO sightings to us. The current implementation of CMS doesn’t allow for an easy way to enter a report on one’s phone. In fact, it is downright lousy. To do this right we needed a Responsive Design tool to allow the easy conversion of the data entry screens from platform to platform.
Read that as from your computer to one’s phone or tablet. So regardless of what device one is using it is easy to report a UFO sighting.
The second issue which needed addressing was the ability to report Abduction and Entity cases, especially ones that did not involve a UFO, without having to be presented with UFO sighting screens that are not relevant. With a little magic and a lot of sweat, all of that is changing. Now, when one signs onto MUFON.com and clicks “Report a UFO” the first question that will be asked is “What would you like to report?” One will then be able to click one, two, or three options to report either a UFO, an Abduction or an Entity sighting – or all three if desired.
Depending on what’s selected on the front-end, the question set will be tailored to the type of sighting encounter a person wishes to report.
Big thanks go out to the many people who made this possible. First on the list is Tomas Karlsson, the primary programmer on the project. Also the late Craig Lang for his programming and design work on the front-end, and many others who worked tirelessly to bring this about. Finally, thank-you’s to the following people who helped beta test the site prior to launch: Tom Bowden, Ruben Uriarte, Dinah Lechner, John Gagnon, Tim Martin, Fred Kohler, Jeffrey MacMakin and Ken St. John.
MUFON is about teamwork, and this was a big team effort and one well worth it!”
It is an open source, relational database. SQL is short for Structured Query Language, and is a language used by programmers, both used to control access to the database, and to modify , and pull out data.
Perl is an open source programming language, created by an individual named Larry Wall
“A history of MUFON”
I then visited the MUFON website, and found “article by John Schuessler, which included the following:
“One of the best improvements in MUFON’s handling of UFO reports during this era was the development of the computerized Case Management System (CMS). This system was developed by a team headed by Jan Harzan and revolutionized the way UFO reports were handled. It is available for reporting UFO incidents by the public anywhere in the world via the MUFON website (www.mufon.com). As soon as a report hits the CMS, it is automatically dispatched to the Director of Investigations and to the appropriate State Director for action. A rapid-response team has been organized and is used for high value cases. Another value of the CMS is that it is the repository for all UFO cases coming to MUFON and the results of all investigations are plugged back into the CMS as the work progresses. People everywhere are interested in when and where UFO incidents are reported and they may follow this on the MUFON website where they can see a listing of the latest 20 UFO reports at any time. The CMS also automatically alerts the MUFON investigative team when multiple reports appear to indicate something big is going on and that information also goes to the rapid-response teams. The CMS is continually being improved and many more capabilities are being made that will automate more of the CMS functions.”
Jan Harzan was a guest on “UFO Sunday” on 24 April 2020, and part of the show was about the CMS. Here are my notes from that part of the interview:
– Around 2000 developed WUFOD. Developed by a gentleman in Ohio who worked for Lucit (Phonetic) an offshoot of AT&T. Mainframe based.
– Around 2005/2006 Tomas Karlsson, another individual and I developed CMS. Built on MySQL database, very robust and industry standard. Thousands of hours went into development.
– Have own project MAARS – converting paper reports to digital. Kenny Kabrowski (phonetic).
CMS Powerpoint presentation
Someone uploaded a seven slide Powerpoint presentation to SlideServe.com This provides an overview of the system, including information about WUFOD, the forerunner to CMS.
Who is Jan Harzan?
In April 1965, when he was ten years old, Harzan and his brother Jeffrey aged 9, reported a close encounter with a UFO. In 1991, while working for IBM, in a senior executive role, Harzan attended a MUFON meeting in Los Angeles. Then between 1995 and 2013, he was the State Section Director for MUFON Orange County in California. So, the development of the MUFON CMS came while he was in that position, and as Harzan had no formal qualifications in computer programming, I understand he served in a non-technical capacity on the CMS project. Harzan went on to become the Executive Director of MUFON between 2013 and 2020. His formal qualification was a degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of California – LA.
Who is Tomas Karlsson?
Karlsson was educated at the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University and obtained a Masters Degree, Engineering Physics/Applied Physics, 1986-1992.
On his LinkedIn profile, under endorsements, is one from David McDonald, Executive Director for MUFON.
I found a reference to Tomas Karlsson, where he received a MUFON award “for outstanding service for the implementation of the Mobile version of the MUFON Case Management.”
Who is Bob Rawlinson?
I found almost no information on the Internet, about Bob Rawlinson’s contribution to the CMS other than what I have already provided. One of my correspondents stated that “Bob really only worked on the data conversion of the old WUFOD cases into the new CMS database.”
Who was the late Craig Raymond Lang?
Lang was a certified hypnotherapist, with a practice in Minneapolis. Earlier, he had completed a degree in computing and electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; plus a masters degree in software engineering at the University of St. Thomas. He was the State Director for Minnesota for MUFON; and the author of two UFO related books, namely “The Cosmic Bridge” and “The Other Side of the Sky.” Sadly, Lang passed away on 19 February 2018. According to Harzan (December 2018) Lang assisted with programming and design work on the front-end of the CMS.
“Making a report.”
I found a section on the MUFON website, titled “Making a report.”
“From a computer system standpoint we store your personal information separate from your case information in such a way that the public can’t see it.”
Once you report a sighting what happens?
“We treat your personal information with respect. Your contact information goes to the State Director where your sighting occurred and to the MUFON Field Investigator assigned to your case.”
“Once you complete the form, click Submit button and your report will be assigned an official MUFON case number and will be sent to the MUFON State or National Director where your sighting occurred for follow-up.”
“If you press the SUBMIT button on your sighting report it is automatically routed to the State or National Director where your sighting took place. The State Director then assigns your case to one of his or her Field Investigators for review and further follow-up as needed. This may, or may not, include a telephone or on-site visit and interview depending on the nature of the report.”
“Each case that is investigated is given a formal case disposition by the MUFON Field Investigator assigned to the case. This is the investigator’s assessment of what the investigation found. The four case dispositions that a case can be marked are UNKNOWN; IFO; Hoax or Insufficient Data.”
“What if I don’t agree with the Field Investigator’s findings?
You, as the witness, may request a case review. To do so, send your statement of why you disagree (one page max) and any facts to back up your statement along with your number, or date of your sighting to . Your case will then be reviewed by a committee of three individuals and you will be made aware of their findings. If after this review you do not agree with the finding of the review committee you case may be appealed to the MUFON Science Review Board. The findings of the SRB will be the final word on the disposition of your case.”
“MUFON receives between 500 and 1000 UFO reports a month from all across the globe.”
Checking the system
I went to the MUFON website and clicked on the “report a sighting” button. This brought up a screen which read “Please read before filing a report! The objects described below have been fully investigated and identified as man-made. If you are reporting a sighting of these objects, please do not continue. STARLINK satellite – read more or continue or cancel report.
I chose to continue. Then a second screen appeared which read: “Please select all that apply to your UFO/ET experience by checking the box below.” There were boxes labelled UFO sighting; Abduction; Entity seen. I chose UFO sighting. This then led me onto the main screen, where I was asked for my contact details and details of the experience. I cancelled out at this stage.
So, a witness generates a report in the CMS by imputing details; a case number is assigned and the sighting goes to a State or National Director who assigns it to a Field Investigator. What does the Field Investigator do? For details about this I turned to the MUFON Field Investigators’ Manual, 2013 edition.
The 308 page manual provides details about the MUFON network; a field investigator’s kit list; media policy; and the ten step investigation process: