JONAS BENGTSSON (CREATIVE COMMONS)
Earlier this week, we brought you reports
of an alien's plans to land a UFO on Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday. Should you happen to spot the alien — or a UFO at any other time — Reginald Buck, Louisiana's state director of Mutual UFO Network
(MUFON), is ready to document your sighting.
Buck has been involved in UFO investigation since 2009, when a mysterious object appeared outside his window on a flight from Laredo, Texas, to Houston.
"The sun was setting in the west behind us, and I saw this thing pass right by the plane, very close to my window," he recalls. "It was a perfect sphere ... a little bit bigger than a grapefruit, but not as big as a basketball.
"My first thought was, 'That doesn't belong here.' My second thought was, 'If that would have hit the plane I'd be dead right now.'"
Buck was always interested in UFOs, but his sighting kicked a hobby into high gear, prompting him to join MUFON and become one of its investigators.
With two other investigators in Louisiana, Buck checks out about four reports of UFOs each month. Using research, phone calls and interviews, investigators basically go through a process of debunking. They look at weather patterns, check whether the International Space Station was visible that night, ask around to see if anyone in the area used a drone (a particular issue in this state, where Buck says drones often are used for deer hunting), and do everything possible to find a reasonable explanation for what the person saw.
"You want to try to get rid of all the regular things, all the basic stuff ... [to call it] an unidentified flying object," Buck says.
Surprisingly, Buck is kind of an agnostic about whether UFOs come from aliens. He thinks there could be any number of explanations, including alternate dimensions, previously unobserved occurrences here on Earth and more.
"We just know that the phenomenon itself is a real thing. People see things they don't understand. They see them in the ground, they see them in the air, they see them on the water and in the oceans," he says. "As far as we know there's nothing man-made or terrestrial that can do the things that a lot of these reported things can do. ... [Sometimes] the alien hypothesis is really the only thing that fits."
To become an investigator, Buck joined MUFON, acquired its official investigator's manual and took a written exam. There's also a background check and and training with a more experienced investigator. The group is nationwide and always looking for more help; in Louisiana aspiring investigators can visit the organization's Facebook page
for more information. Be warned, it's a volunteer gig — in his day job, Buck is a corporate trainer for oil and gas companies.
And if you're convinced you saw a UFO at some point in the past, MUFON welcomes entries to its historical database. Though Buck says there's not a lot he can do with sightings from prior decades, people report them in great detail more often than you'd think and they sometimes can be cross-referenced with other entries to create a more complete picture of the incident.
Despite a lot of duds, including false sightings of Chinese lanterns and lights from neighbor's parties, Buck says every so often he'll run across something truly unexplainable.
"[Being an investigator is] not as exciting as some people think it is," he says. "But every once in a while, something will happen and you'll think 'wow, this is kinda cool.'"