Alienation: UFO groups clash over credibility
Paranormal center owner files police complaint accusing rival group of watching, stalking her
By JENNIE TUNKIEICZ
Posted: Feb. 2, 2005
Burlington - Mary Sutherland, owner of the Burlington UFO and Paranormal Center, says she is being watched.
Mary Sutherland, owner of the Burlington UFO and Paranormal Center, has complained to police that she suspects a rival UFO group is stalking her.
"I have a UFO center. Doesn't it make sense if you see a UFO to come to me? "- Mary Sutherland , UFO shop owner
But it's not by little green men or even ghosts. Those kinds of close encounters she would welcome.
Sutherland thinks a human, perhaps associated with a rival UFO group in Wisconsin, is stalking her. She reported her concerns to police this week.
Burlington police are investigating the suspicious circumstances that have nothing to do with the increased UFO activity in the area that Sutherland says she has documented. Her downtown store features everything from alien kitsch, such as inflatable green goblins to published research on UFOs and paranormal activities.
She learned of the possible stalking when someone forwarded to her a Web link to an unidentified group that is attempting to debunk Sutherland's work and the photos on her own Web site. The group questions why UFOs make nightly appearances over Sutherland's store, yet no one else reports such sightings.
What frightened Sutherland was the rival group's claim that "our group spent good money and hired a professional to do surveillance on Mary & the Burlington UFO every night (all night) from Jan. 22nd through Jan. 30th," according to the posting.
For a woman who looks for UFOs, who seeks out places where there has been paranormal activity and who goes looking for ghosts, the "stalker" crossed the line.
"When I read that they paid someone to be out there and watch me, that scared the heck out of me," Sutherland said Wednesday.
Then, just like a UFO in the night sky, the group's Web site disappeared Tuesday after Sutherland posted a message letting people know she had contacted police.
Work was criticized
Jennifer Hoppe of Sheboygan, who has been associated with UFO Wisconsin, a group interested in UFO sightings across the state, just happened to be reading Sutherland's Web site Tuesday morning when Sutherland posted the Web page that is critical of her work. Hoppe sent Sutherland an instant message suggesting she answer the group's questions. Hoppe then found her name on Sutherland's Web site.
"I had nothing to do with the accusations from the Web site," Hoppe said. "I sent her an instant message saying that those were pretty good questions and asking, 'Are you going to answer them?' Apparently, she isn't."
Hoppe and her husband ran UFO Wisconsin for three years. Part of their mission was to try to get people to take UFOs seriously, she said. But she said she can't take Sutherland's photos seriously, and she wonders why there have been no reports to police about UFO sightings. "The reason people don't take UFO research seriously is because of people like Mary," Hoppe said. "There have been legitimate cases in the world that defy logic. What responsible, respectable professional is going to research that when people like Mary are blathering this hokey-pokey crap as the truth?"
Burlington activity questioned
Pat Champeau, owner of Background Plus Detective Agency in Sheboygan, had participated in Sutherland's Web site, but recently asked for her contact information to be removed from the site.
Champeau questioned how there can be so much alleged activity in Burlington.
"It is outlandish," Champeau said. "There are five million places to land, and it's always over her business. It's nuts."
Sutherland said she has no idea who is behind the unidentified Web site, but she challenges all of her detractors to come to Burlington and do their own research.
"I welcome anyone to come down here and take pictures," Sutherland said. "Come here at 3 a.m. and see what is lighting up the sky."
There is also a legitimate reason why people have not been calling the police about UFO sightings or paranormal activity, she said.
"I have a UFO center. Doesn't it make sense if you see a UFO to come to me? If you see paranormal activity, you don't go to the police, you would go to a paranormal center, it only makes sense," Sutherland said.
Sutherland said she has been researching UFO and paranormal activities for more than 20 years. She opened a virtual UFO and paranormal center and started hosting a Web radio show in Burlington four years ago. Last spring, she turned her collectibles and doll shop into the Burlington UFO and Paranormal Center.
The bulk of the store is devoted to research on everything from ancient races and burial mounds to UFOs. She has a library and a video viewing room to watch documentaries that she has made of people who say they have seen UFOs and who claim they have been abducted by aliens. Isn't space, the final frontier, big enough for all UFO enthusiasts?
Sutherland believes it is.
"It shouldn't have to be this way," Sutherland said.