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Founded in January 1952 in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, "to conduct investigations and research into the phenomenon of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and to find a scientifically acceptable solution to this phenomenon." Led by Jim Lorenzen and his wife, Coral Lorenzen, who authored several popular UFO books, APRO emerged as one of the most outstanding UFO investigation organizations. Through the 1950s the Lorenzens and APRO moved successively to Los Angeles (1954), Alamogordo, New Mexico (1954), and Tucson, Arizona (1960). Beginning as an association of flying saucer clubs that collected accounts of UFOs and commented upon them in the APRO Bulletin, APRO grew into a substantial research organization. It was distinguished from the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), the other main UFO research organization of the 1950s, by its coolness to the idea of a government cover-up of UFO data and its interest in sightings of humanoid-like creatures associated with the UFOs.
APRO membership peaked in 1967 with 1,500 members. Then in 1969 it suffered two disasters. First, the University of Colorado report of its study of UFOs, popularly known as the Condon Report, struck Ufology (the study of UFOs) a significant blow with the conclusion that nothing was likely to be achieved by further study. As a result, the Air Force dropped its semipublic data collection effort, Project Blue Book. Then APRO suffered a major schism when Walt Andrus, who led a regional office in Illinois, broke away and founded the Midwest UFO Network (now the Mutual UFO Network). Membership began a decline from which APRO never recovered. Jim Lorenzen died in 1986, and Coral followed two years later. The board voted to disband the organization shortly thereafter.
Clark, Jerome. The Emergence of a Phenomenon: UFOs from the Beginning through 1959; The UFO Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1992.
Lorenzen, Coral E. The Great Flying Saucer Hoax: The UFO Facts and Their Interpretation. New York: William Frederick Press, 1962. Rev.: Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of Invasion from Outer Space. New York: New American Library, 1966.
Lorenzen, Coral, and Jim Lorenzen. Abducted! Confrontations with Beings from Outer Space. New York: Berkley, 1977.
——. Encounters with UFO Occupants. New York: Berkley, 1976.
——. UFOs: The Whole Story. New York: New American Library, 1969.
——. UFOs Over the Americas. New York: New American Library, 1968.
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The Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) was a UFO research group started in 1952 by Jim 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.
Astronomer J. Allen Hynek (Hynek, 1972) cited APRO and NICAP as the two best civilian UFO groups of their time, consisting 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.
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 proved inconclusive and, point in fact, had no bearing on the credibility of APRO. The results only measured stress levels, not truth per se. APRO, Walton, and the Enquirer decided to suppress the polygraph results—the examiner was biased, they said, and unprofessional.
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