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Dr. Allen Hynek’s Classifications of UFOs and Alien Encounters

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Dr. Allen Hynek’s Classifications of UFOs and Alien Encounters
It is quite the understatement that when it comes to UFOs there is rift between skeptics and ufologists. Very rarely do these opposing sides meet in the middle or concede to one another. However, when these two factions do meet in the middle or cross so-called enemy lines, UFO research reaps the greatest benefit.

This is exactly what happened when J. Allen Hynek, a once UFO skeptic, began classifying the most compelling and promising scientific cases of UFO sightings and alien encounters.

As he studied and categorized the various UFO/Alien cases, Hynek began to become less of a skeptic. It his research and expertise that led to the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which is considered to be one of the most accurate portrayals of alien/UFO eyewitness accounts in a fictional movie. (1)

Just about any investigator (UFO, Criminal, Paranormal, etc.) will tell you that the eyewitness account of an event is normally the most unreliable piece of evidence gathered during an investigation. Yet, often times, it is the only piece of evidence that investigators have to go on.

Moreover, the more complex or traumatic an event is, the more difficult it is to rely on these accounts. Additionally, it is even more difficult to categorize and organize these accounts into a coherent fashion which would allow others to study these accounts. This difficulty in categorization definitely holds true for eyewitness accounts of UFO sightings and alien encounters.

Differing Eyewitness Accounts

The difficulty lies in how different each eyewitness account is from one another. As the UFO CaseBook put it:

“Witnesses to UFOs report many different shapes and sizes. From discs to cigars to triangles and almost anything you could imagine.”

Such varying accounts make it almost impossible to categorize them into any sort of neat classification system. However, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a UFO skeptic, set out to do so. According to Hynek, even though UFO sightings and alien encounters vastly differ from one another, there is usually some common thread that can tie various sightings/encounters together, such as distance, time of day, shape of object, etc. From this theory, the Hynek Rationale was born.

In all honesty, Hynek was not a true believer when he began his research into UFO sightings as a scientific consultant for the U.S. Air Force’s Project Sign (Sign would later become what is now known as Project Blue Book).

It was Hynek’s job to basically debunk the eyewitness accounts by labeling them as either natural phenomena or man-made objects. When he was brought onto the project, Hynek described the entire idea of a UFO eyewitness as, “the whole subject seems utterly ridiculous”.

However, as he continued to study these eyewitness accounts and implemented his own classification system, Hynek’s overall views toward the subject began to change. As stated, Hynek found that “The UFO enigma could not be explained away so easily…” (3)

allen hynek

Father of Modern Ufology

Hynek said, “And once you open the gates to the possibility that all these people can’t possibly be mistaken, then you see a lot of other cases in a totally different light.” (4)

He began looking at eyewitness accounts under a new light. Once he made his break with the Air Force, the former skeptic began to study these various accounts on his own; still categorizing them in his home-grown classification system. To date, the Hynek system is the most widely used UFO/Alien sighting classification system. Hynek, because of his classification system and the validity he brought to the subject, is considered to be the father of modern Ufology.

Dr. J. Allen Hynek was brought in as a consultant on the 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. His expertise on what actual eyewitness accounts entailed gave the movie a sense of realism concerning UFO eyewitness claims that was unheard of in fictional films of the time. Hynek even went as far as appearing in the film for an eight-second cameo. (4)

There is no doubt that Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a former UFO skeptic and government UFO debunker, and his UFO classification system brought a certain amount of credibility to the field of Ufology.

References & Image Credits:
(1) YouTube
(2) UFO Casebook
(3) UFOS About
(4) CSI Cop
(5) Movies Pictures
(6) Wikipedia: Allen Hynek

Originally published on


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