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Aerial Phenomena Research Organization

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The Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) was a UFO research group started in 1952 by Jim Lorenzen and Coral Lorenzen.

The group, which was based in Tucson, Arizona but had many state branches, remained active until 1988.

APRO stressed scientific field investigations and had a large staff of consulting Ph.D. scientists. A notable example was Dr. James E. McDonald of the University of Arizona, a well-known atmospheric physicist, and perhaps the leading scientific UFO researcher of his time. Another was Dr. James Harder of the University of California, Berkeley, a civil and hydraulic engineering professor, who acted as director of research from 1969-1982. McDonald and Harder were among six scientists who testified about UFOs before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Astronautics in 1968, when they were conducting hearings on the subject.

Though any UFO-related group attracts a number of uncritical enthusiasts along with a small percentage of cranks, astronomer J. Allen Hynek (Hynek, 1972) cited APRO and NICAP as the two best civilian UFO groups of their time, comprised largely of sober, serious-minded people capable of valuable contributions to the subject.

In 1969, a sizable portion of APRO's membership elected to form a new group, MUFON.

Travis Walton polygraph suppression

APRO's credibility took a major blow in the 1970s. Travis Walton claimed to have been abducted by a UFO in Arizona. He was missing for several days and returned amid a widespread police search and publicity. APRO, in conjunction with the National Enquirer arranged for a polygraph, which suggested Walton was lying about his claims. APRO, Walton and the Enquirer decided to suppress the polygraph results--the examiner was biased, they said, and unprofessional. Walton passed another polygraph, which was publicized.

A few months later, Philip Klass -- long skeptical of Walton's claims -- uncovered the initial polygraph results. UFO researcher Jerome Clark suggests that even if the charges of bias were accurate, the way APRO suppressed the polygraph was "indefensible".