Nearly 60 years after its supposed occurrence, the UFO crash-landing
near Roswell, New Mexico, is still debated, proved, disproved,
derided and revered. Despite the "incident" being
fodder for the chemically-altered imaginations of computer
game nerds and drop-outs (you know who you are) and irrefutable
proof of military and political cover-up to paranoid government
conspiracy theorists (the same ones who believe that a master
race of reptiles is being genetically engineered to one day
take over the world), the fact remains that something somewhat
unusual occurred in this otherwise unremarkable place on July
Fact or Fiction? The Truth is 'Out There'
Firstly, the "facts" as we know them.
Following a heavy storm, rancher Mac Brazel rode out to check
on his livestock. Along the way, he noticed scraps of metal
debris littered across a large area, as well as a long shallow
gouge in the earth. Presumably abandoning his concern for
the well being of his sheep, he hauled a piece of the scrap
metal over to show his neighbours who advised him to report
it to the sheriff. Apparently Mac felt no particular sense
of urgency about doing so, because he waited a few days, until
the next time he was in town, to let the sheriff in on the
occurrence. The site was closed off to allow for a clear up
of the debris, and on July 8, the commander of the local airforce
- a Col. William Blanchard - issued a press release stating
that the remains of a crashed flying disk had been retrieved.
Mayhem ensued, with the phone lines being jammed by the influx
of callers from all over the world. Within hours, the statement
had been retracted and a second statement had been issued
claiming that the airforce had erroneously identified the
remains of a weather balloon as flying saucer wreckage.
Other "witnesses" got in on the act. Enter Glenn
Dennis, a young mortician working at a small funeral parlour
in Roswell, who received a few odd phone calls from the morgue
at the airfield, asking if they could get their hands on a
few small, hermetically sealed coffins. They were seeking
advice on how best to preserve bodies that had been exposed
to the elements for a few days, without causing tissue contamination.
Hmmm, strange. Even stranger things were about to happen
to the young Mr Dennis, if only he had known it. With his
curiosity piqued, he drove out to the airforce base hospital
that night, where he saw large pieces of scrap metal, engraved
with odd symbols, protruding from the back of a military ambulance.
Entering the building, he started to chat with a nurse he
knew, at which point he was threatened by the military police
and forcibly ejected from the building.
Meeting with his friend the nurse the next day, he was struck
by how visibly shaken she was. She described her participation
in some alien autopsies to him, drawing diagrams on a prescription
pad. The next day she was spirited off to England, never to
be (gasp!) seen or heard from again.
Major Jesse Marcel was the individual who had been sent by
Col Blanchard to check out the scrap metal on Brazel's land,
once Brazel had seen fit to report it. Marcel described an
unearthly material the thickness of aluminium foil that would
neither bend, break, burn nor dent and that was covered in
strange, indecipherable inscriptions in two colours.
Filling his car with scrap, Marcel apparently stopped off
at his home to show his family the odd material before reporting
back to Col Blanchard, who had never seen anything like it
before. It was at this point that Blanchard made the order
for the "crashed disk" press release to be issued.
Blanchard then packed Marcel off to Texas to see a General
Ramey, Commanding Officer of the Eighth Air Force. Ramey inspected
the pieces of debris that Marcel had taken with him and then
demanded to be shown the exact site of Brazel's farm where
the wreckage had been found. Traipsing off to the map room
down the hall, Marcel left the scrap in Ramey's office - and
when he returned, discovered that not only had it been removed,
but that it had been replaced by a weather balloon.
"Ah ha!" said General Ramey, "That's no flying
saucer, by Jove - it's a weather balloon!"
And from this point on the military did their utmost to convince
the sensation-hungry public and media that what had been found
really was, in fact, no more and no less than the wreckage
of a failed weather balloon experiment. Despite their efforts,
the UFO story just won't die.
Unravelling the Mythology
So what really happened? Layer upon layer of research, claims
and reports have served merely to further shroud the incident
in confusion - although pro-UFO types seem to be adept at
pulling out isolated "facts" and crowing that THIS
is the thing that will substantiate the claim that the debris
was of non-terrestrial origin. For example, it transpires
that during June and July in 1947, there was an influx of
reports of unidentified flying objects, many from credible
So what of the weather balloon story? It was apparently a
hastily patched together cover story, formulated by Ramey
to discredit Blanchard's statement. However, character witnesses
claim that Blanchard was not a fanciful type of fellow. His
later career achievements were certainly impressive, all of
which would tend to indicate that he would not be the sort
to release a statement to the media claiming evidence of alien
activity if he was not, in fact, sure that this were the case.
And what of Marcel? Was he just an early species of X-File-omaniac?
Apparently not. It seems that he, too, was a highly-credible
kind of guy - the intelligence officer of the world's only
atomic bomb group at the time, trained, competent and experienced.
Believers in the incident point to the fact that even if Marcel
had been so incredibly shortsighted as to mistake the remnants
of a weather balloon for a UFO, he almost certainly would
have realised his error at some point.
The testimony of the Dennis, the mortician, is apparently
given weight by the fact that he went on to become a respected
businessman and member of the community - despite his claims
of receiving threats from the military that he and his entire
family would be killed if he ever spoke about the incident.
The fact that he obviously did go on to speak about it, and
still lived long enough to go on to become an upstanding member
of society is in itself vaguely interesting, is it not? As
for his disappearing nurse friend - how about those autopsies?
If alien bodies had been found with the debris on Brazel's
ranch, surely he would have reported their presence immediately?
Well, blow me down if what Brazel found was not the main
scene of the crash. The bulk of the wreckage - and those poor
little mangled bodies - were apparently found some distance
away. And, again unsurprisingly, none of the witnesses to
this have consented to be named for fear of nasty repercussions.
The Roswell Revival
In 1997, as thousands of people - some curious, some well-informed
believers, some merely weird - flocked to Roswell to celebrate
the incident's 50th anniversary. The US Air Force simultaneously
released a report revealing that the crashed weather balloon
had been monitoring the atmosphere for evidence of Soviet
nuclear activity and that the bodies sighted were in fact
anthropomorphic test dummies attached to these balloons. In
a response to this report compiled by the Centre for UFO studies,
one of the arguments against the veracity of the Air Force
report is that it attempts to make itself appear weighty and
impressive by the use of large font and broad margins. Yep,
compelling stuff. Looks like it really must have been a UFO
On the other hand, it is interesting to note that all air
force dummies used at the time were the size of adult males,
as only grown males were pilots at the time. Yet all witnesses
to the alien bodies concur in their assertion that the bodies
were small and childlike in size. The airforce also seems
to labour the point by claiming that all witnesses to the
Roswell incident were competent but confused - that they have
managed to blend several disparate memories from distinct
events into one coherent memory. Somehow that doesn't ring
Undoubtedly something happened in New Mexico in the July
of 1947. But what?
Believers were beside themselves with excitement about the
fuzzy documentary footage of the alien autopsies, released
in 1995. However, a quick visit to the International UFO
Museum in Roswell will show you a model of the aliens
used to simulate this autopsy in the movie Roswell. Looking
at it, one is simply left thinking that something similar
was used in the documentary.
When all is said and done, the Roswell Incident remains a
frustrating merry-go-round of questions, answers, claims,
counter-claims, fact, theory and fiction. The truth may be
out there, but so are a lot of mighty odd people. Go to Roswell
for the anniversary sometime and see for yourself.