March 7, 2021

Is ‘The 37th Parallel’ really the UFO Superhighway?

On Nov. 6, 2016, USA Today published an article by Jon Swartz titled “The 37th Parallel makes a strong case for UFOs.”

When Ben Mezrich published his book “The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America’s UFO Highway” was released, Linda Miller Costa and I were deep into crunching data related to our UFO Sightings Desk Reference: 2001-2015 book. Our first impression of Mezrich’s book: “It’s an interesting theory” but we were too busy at the time to look into the matter.

At various UFO conferences where I have spoken over the past three years, the question kept coming up from audience members: “What about this whole 37th Parallel UFO superhighway thing?”

I could only shrug my shoulders and offer guesswork based on my familiarity with the states and counties in various regions of the United States. My gut opinion has been that I did not think the claim would hold up to “statistical science.”

In April 2019, I was preparing for a series of nationwide speaking engagements. The process required formatting and sanitizing of raw 2018 UFO sighting data for the United States. Curious about the 37th parallel claim, I went to the time-consuming step of adding latitude information for the thousands of reporting municipalities in our 2018 database.

The 2018 data was combined from both UFO reporting services, the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), and the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) totaled 6,929 of reported UFO sightings. For the latitude measurement, I removed 284 sightings records where municipal locations were not specified, or about 4 percent. This left 6,645 UFO sighting reports with measurable locations.

The result was that some 10 other latitude parallels in the United States have many more UFO sightings reported. Many of these other parallels have nearly double to triple the UFO sightings reports than does the 37th Parallel.

Of course, some will want to point out, as the book did, that there were instances of cattle mutilations and paranormal activity along the 37th Parallel.

Yet if we google “cattle mutilation and specify a state,” we quickly find that just about every state has some degree of livestock mutilation activity. Interestingly, I could not find any evidence of the existence of a cattle mutilation database. This surprised me, especially when you consider that so many folks claim to be studying the livestock mutilation phenomena.

Also, I did a similar exercise regarding paranormal issues. Simply browsing the subject matter “paranormal for any state or county,” you get a robust list of the most haunted places, Ghost walk routes and scariest hiking trails.

I am not trying to shoot holes in the UFO sightings. After all, we have had 146,800 UFO sightings reported from 2001 through 2018.

What I am shooting holes in is this much hyped 37th Parallel notion. On the surface, it sounds cool, but it does not stand up to statistical analysis. It is high time that some of these UFO folk myths get tested by measurable data about where UFOs are really being reported and where they are not.

On the 7th of March 2019, the Syracuse Newtimes newspaper-online edition published a similar story to what I have related above.

As a result, I received a lot of social media responses and email staunchly assuring me that the 37th parallel was indeed the UFO superhighway. Many UFO people complained that the 6645 events from 2018, was “an insignificant sample size” to make such a definitive judgement. I let the issue rest until recently.

From early August 2020 through 7 January 2021, I have logged about 500 hours augmenting our USA 2001-2018 UFO database with Latitude and Longitude information. This was done to support another type of analysis to be included in our 2021 edition of our UFO Sightings Desk Reference: 2001-2020.  

The data reflected UFO sighting reports from 2001-2018, a total of 146,800 UFO sighting reports. I ran the same query report against the 18 years’ worth of data.