The image from video provided by the Department of Defense labelled Gimbal, from 2015, an unexplained object is seen at center as it is tracked as it soars high along the clouds, traveling against the wind. Credit: Department of Defense via AP / Department of Defense via AP

The much-anticipated Congressional report on UFOs was released on Friday. For all of its buzz, it doesn’t provide much in the way of conclusive findings. And it’s receiving mixed reaction among UFO enthusiasts in Maine. The report says the federal government will continue to search for answers and local field investigators say they will too.

Being a UFO field investigator may sound exciting. But Fred Richards has been doing it for close to a decade in Maine, and he says the work is not what most people imagine.

“People think, ya know, that we’re in khakis out in the woods looking for evidence, right? Like the movies, or TV shows. A lot of the work we do is right from home,” Richards said.

Richards is the Maine state director for the Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON. It’s a national non-profit that enlists volunteers to investigate UFO sightings. When someone reports a sighting to MUFON, it’s sent to the state of origin, and people like Richards try to figure out what the UFO could be.

“Like is it a celestial object? Is it a piece of space debris? Is it a satellite? Is it the ISS? The ISS gets called in a lot,” Richards said.

ISS…that’s the International Space Station. Richards said that MUFON received nearly 300 reports of sightings in Maine between 2015 and 2020. Most could be identified, he said. But about 100 cases were closed as unknown.

“We just could not identify what that was,” Richards said.

The report that the U.S. government recently released also could not identify more than 140 sightings of what it calls Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, or UAP’s. The sightings are from military aviators dating back to 2004. Nomar Slevik, the author of three books about UFO sightings in Maine and New England, said he was disappointed that there weren’t more conclusive findings in the report.

“I was hoping for some sort of admittance that – I guess, simply put, that we are not alone. I really don’t know what that sounds like officially,” Slevik said.

But there is one aspect of the nine page report where Slevik found consolation. It says that with more information, the incidents of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena will likely be resolved, and could fall under five categories. The first four offer specific explanations: Airborne clutter. Natural atmospheric phenomena. Government or industry development programs, or systems deployed by foreign adversaries.

“But the fifth category is other. And that’s really interesting,” Slevik said.

Because it can’t be explained, at least not yet. This ‘other’ category includes phenomena that had unusual movements, such as appearing to be stationary despite the presence of wind, and maneuvering abruptly with no discernable method of propulsion.

“Ya know, it’s a big step, I think, for the government just to even admit they don’t know what it is,” said Christopher Gardner, who runs the Facebook group Eastern Maine UFO enthusiasts. He said that he’s been investigating UFOs as a hobbyist for 40 years.

“Got quite the history, just here in Maine alone,” Gardner said.

That history, said Gardner, ranges from sightings by fishermen to perhaps the most famous UFO story in Maine: the Allagash Abduction of 1976. Four young men on a canoe trip claimed they were abducted by aliens. The story garnered national attention, but in recent years one of the men denied the abduction, though he maintained they did see a UFO.

The National UFO Reporting Center, another organization that collects reported sightings, lists more than a thousand in Maine going back decades. The most recent one is from May of this year. A person from the town of Bowdoin reported seeing an extremely large line of lights moving silently in formation. The witness wrote that it “Gave me the chills. I’ve never seen anything I couldn’t somewhat explain.”

UFO enthusiasts like Gardner hope that more information from the government will come out in the future to possibly help to explain such sightings.