The Roswell UFO Incident refers to the recovery of an object that crashed in the general vicinity of Roswell, New Mexico, in June or July 1947, allegedly an extra-terrestrial spacecraft and its alien occupants. Since the late 1970s the incident has been the subject of intense controversy and of conspiracy theories as to the true nature of the object that crashed. The United States Armed Forces maintains that what was recovered was debris from an experimental high-altitude surveillance balloon belonging to a classified program named "Mogul"; however, many UFO proponents maintain that an alien craft was found and its occupants were captured, and that the military then engaged in a cover-up. The incident has turned into a widely known pop culture phenomenon, making the name Roswell synonymous with UFOs. It ranks as the most publicized and controversial of alleged UFO incidents.
On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) public information officer Walter Haut in Roswell, New Mexico, issued a press release stating that personnel from the field's 509th Bomb Group had recovered a crashed "flying disk" from a ranch near Roswell, sparking intense media interest. The following day, the press reported that Commanding General of the Eighth Air Force (Roger M. Ramey) stated that, in fact, a radar-tracking balloon had been recovered by the RAAF personnel, not a "flying disc." A subsequent press conference was called, featuring debris said to be from the crashed object, which seemed to confirm the weather balloon description.
The incident was quickly forgotten and almost completely ignored, even by UFO researchers, for more than 30 years. Then, in 1978, physicist and ufologist Stanton T. Friedman interviewed Major Jesse Marcel who was involved with the original recovery of the debris in 1947. Marcel expressed his belief that the military had covered up the recovery of an alien spacecraft. His story spread through UFO circles, being featured in some UFO documentaries at the time. In February 1980, The National Enquirer ran its own interview with Marcel, garnering national and worldwide attention for the Roswell incident.
Additional witnesses added significant new details, including claims of a huge military operation dedicated to recovering alien craft and aliens themselves, at as many as 11 crash sites, and alleged witness intimidation. In 1989, former mortician Glenn Dennis put forth a detailed personal account, wherein he claimed that alien autopsies were carried out at the Roswell base.
In response to these reports, and after congressional inquiries, the General Accounting Office launched an inquiry and directed the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force to conduct an internal investigation. The result was summarized in two reports. The first, released in 1995, concluded that the reported recovered material in 1947 was likely debris from a secret government program called Project Mogul, which involved high altitude balloons meant to detect sound waves generated by Soviet atomic bomb tests and ballistic missiles. The second report, released in 1997, concluded that reports of recovered alien bodies were likely a combination of innocently transformed memories of military accidents involving injured or killed personnel, innocently transformed memories of the recovery of anthropomorphic dummies in military programs like Project High Dive conducted in the 1950s, and hoaxes perpetrated by various witnesses and UFO proponents. The psychological effects of time compression and confusion about when events occurred explained the discrepancy with the years in question. These reports were dismissed by UFO proponents as being either disinformation or simply implausible. However, numerous high-profile UFO researchers discount the possibility that the incident had anything to do with aliens.
On June 14, 1947, William Ware "Mack" or "Mac" Brazel noticed some strange clusters of debris while working on the Foster homestead, where he was foreman, some 30 miles (50 km) north of Roswell. This date (or "about three weeks" before July 8) appeared in later stories featuring Brazel, but the initial press release from the Roswell Army Air Field said the find was "sometime last week," suggesting Brazel found the debris in early July. Brazel told the Roswell Daily Record that he and his son saw a "large area of bright wreckage made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks." He paid little attention to it but returned on July 4 with his son, wife and daughter to gather up the material. Some accounts have described Brazel as having gathered some of the material earlier, rolling it together and stashing it under some brush. The next day, Brazel heard reports about "flying discs" and wondered if that was what he had picked up. On July 7, Brazel saw Sheriff Wilcox and "whispered kinda confidential like" that he may have found a flying disc. Another account quotes Wilcox as saying that Brazel reported the object on July 6.
Sheriff Wilcox called Roswell Army Air Field. Major Jesse Marcel and a "man in plainclothes" accompanied Brazel back to the ranch where more pieces were picked up. "[We] spent a couple of hours Monday afternoon [July 7] looking for any more parts of the weather device", said Marcel. "We found a few more patches of tinfoil and rubber."
As described in the July 9, 1947, edition of the Roswell Daily Record,
The balloon which held it up, if that was how it worked, must have been 12 feet long, [Brazel] felt, measuring the distance by the size of the room in which he sat. The rubber was smoky gray in color and scattered over an area about 200 yards in diameter. When the debris was gathered up, the tinfoil, paper, tape, and sticks made a bundle about three feet long and 7 or 8 inches thick, while the rubber made a bundle about 18 or 20 inches long and about 8 inches thick. In all, he estimated, the entire lot would have weighed maybe five pounds. There was no sign of any metal in the area which might have been used for an engine, and no sign of any propellers of any kind, although at least one paper fin had been glued onto some of the tinfoil. There were no words to be found anywhere on the instrument, although there were letters on some of the parts. Considerable Scotch tape and some tape with flowers printed upon it had been used in the construction. No strings or wires were to be found but there were some eyelets in the paper to indicate that some sort of attachment may have been used.
THE DISC IS HEXAGONAL IN SHAPE AND WAS SUSPENDED FROM A BALLON [sic] BY CABLE, WHICH BALLON [sic] WAS APPROXIMATELY TWENTY FEET IN DIAMETER. MAJOR CURTAN FURTHER ADVISED THAT THE OBJECT FOUND RESEMBLES A HIGH ALTITUDE WEATHER BALLOON WITH A RADAR REFLECTOR, BUT THAT TELEPHONIC CONVERSATION BETWEEN THEIR OFFICE AND WRIGHT FIELD HAD NOT [unintelligible] BORNE OUT THIS BELIEF.
Early on Tuesday, July 8, the Roswell Army Air Field issued a press release, which was immediately picked up by numerous news outlets:
The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff's office of Chaves County. The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff's office, who in turn notified Maj. Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office. Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher's home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.
Colonel William H. Blanchard, commanding officer of the 509th, contacted General Roger M. Ramey of the Eighth Air Force in Fort Worth, Texas, and Ramey ordered the object be flown to Fort Worth Army Air Field. At the base, Warrant Officer Irving Newton confirmed Ramey’s preliminary opinion, identifying the object as being a weather balloon and its "kite," a nickname for a radar reflector used to track the balloons from the ground. Another news release was issued, this time from the Fort Worth base, describing the object as being a "weather balloon".
In Fort Worth, several news photographs were taken that day of debris said to be from the object.
In 1978, nuclear physicist and author Stanton T. Friedman interviewed Jesse Marcel, the only person known to have accompanied the Roswell debris from where it was recovered to Fort Worth where reporters saw material said to be part of the recovered object. Over the next few years, the accounts he and others gave elevated Roswell from a forgotten incident to perhaps the most famous UFO case of all time.
By the early 1990s, UFO researchers such as Friedman, William Moore, Karl T. Pflock, and the team of Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt had interviewed several hundred people who had, or claimed to have had, a connection with the events at Roswell in 1947. Additionally, hundreds of documents were obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests, as were some apparently leaked by insiders, such as the disputed "Majestic 12" documents.
Their conclusions were that at least one alien craft had crashed in the Roswell vicinity, that aliens, some possibly still alive, were recovered, and that a massive cover-up of any knowledge of the incident was put in place.
Numerous books, articles, television specials and even a made-for-TV movie brought the 1947 incident fame and notoriety so that by the mid-1990s, strong majorities in polls, such as a 1997 CNN/Time poll, believed that aliens had visited earth and specifically that aliens had landed at Roswell and the government was covering up the fact.
A new narrative emerged, which was at strong odds with what was reported in 1947. This narrative evolved over the years from the time the first book on Roswell was published in 1980 as many new witnesses and accounts emerged, drawn out in part by publicity on the incident. Though skeptics had many objections to the plausibility of these accounts, it was not until 1994 and the publication of the first Air Force report on the incident that a strong counter-argument to the presence of aliens was widely publicized.
Numerous scenarios emerged from these authors as to what they felt were the true sequence of events, depending on which witness accounts were embraced or dismissed, and what the documentary evidence suggested. This was especially true in regards to the various claimed crash and recovery sites of alien craft, as various authors had different witnesses and different locations for these events.
However, the following general outline from UFO Crash at Roswell (1991) by Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt is common to most of these accounts:
A UFO crashed northwest of Roswell, New Mexico, in the summer of 1947. The military acted quickly and efficiently to recover the debris after its existence was reported by a ranch hand. The debris, unlike anything these highly trained men had ever seen, was flown without delay to at least three government installations. A cover story was concocted to explain away the debris and the flurry of activity. It was explained that a weather balloon, one with a new radiosonde target device, had been found and temporarily confused the personnel of the 509th Bomb Group. Government officials took reporters' notes from their desks and warned a radio reporter not to play a recorded interview with the ranch hand. The men who took part in the recovery were told never to talk about the incident. And with a whimper, not a bang, the Roswell event faded quickly from public view and press scrutiny.
What follows is accounts of the sequence of events according to some of the major books published on the subject.
The first book on the subject, The Roswell Incident by Charles Berlitz and William L. Moore, was published in 1980. The authors at the time said they had interviewed more than ninety witnesses. Though uncredited, Stanton Friedman did substantial research for the book. The book featured accounts of debris described by Jesse Marcel as "nothing made on this earth." Additional accounts suggested that the material Marcel recovered had super-strength and other attributes not associated with anything known of terrestrial origin, and certainly not anything associated with a "weather balloon" which was the official description of the object. The book also introduced the contention that debris recovered by Marcel at the Foster ranch (visible in photographs showing Marcel posing with the debris) was substituted for debris from a weather device (visible in pictures with Gen. Ramey, Marcel and others) as part of a cover-up. The actual debris recovered from the ranch—which, the authors claimed, was from a crashed UFO—was not permitted a close inspection by the press. Also described were efforts by the military to discredit and "counteract the growing hysteria towards flying saucers". Additionally, various accounts of witness intimidation were included, in particular reports of the incarceration of Mac Brazel, who reported the debris in the first place.
A report of Roswell residents Dan Wilmot and his wife seeing an object "like two inverted saucers faced mouth to mouth" passing overhead on the evening of July 2 was included, as were other reports of mysterious objects seen flying overhead. The book also introduced an alien account by Barney Barnett who had died years earlier. Friends said he had on numerous occasions described the crash of a flying saucer and the recovery of alien corpses in the Socorro area, about 150 miles (240 km) west of the Foster ranch. He and a group of archaeologists who happened to be in the vicinity had stumbled upon an alien craft and its occupants on the morning of July 3, only to be led away by military personnel. Further accounts suggested that these aliens and their craft were shipped to Edwards Air Force Base (known then as Muroc Army Air Field) in California. The book suggested that either there were two crafts that crashed, or debris from the vehicle Barnett had described had landed on the Foster ranch after an explosion.
Marcel said he "heard about it on July 7" when the sheriff whom Brazel had called him, but also said that "[on] Sunday, July 6, Brazel decided he had better go into town and report this to someone," who in turn called Marcel, suggesting, though not stating, that he was contacted July 6. In 1947, Marcel was quoted as saying he visited the ranch on Monday, July 7.
Marcel described returning to Roswell the evening of July 7 to find that news of the discovery of a flying disc had leaked out. Calls were made to his house, including a visit from a reporter, but he would not confirm the reports for the press. "The next morning, that written press release went out, and after that things really hit the fan."
The book suggested that the military orchestrated Brazel's testimony to make it appear a mundane object had landed on the ranch, though the book did not explicitly say that the military instructed Brazel to give a mid-June date for his discovery. "Brazel... [went] to great pains to tell the newspaper people exactly what the Air Force had instructed him to say regarding how he had come to discover the wreckage and what it looked like ..."
In 1991, with the benefit of a decade of publicity on the incident and numerous new witness interviews, Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt published UFO Crash at Roswell.
Timelines were slightly altered. The date that Brazel reported the debris and Marcel went to the ranch was said to be Sunday, July 6, not the next day as some of the original accounts suggested, and The Roswell Incident had left unclear. Additionally, Marcel and an unidentified counter-intelligence agent spent the night at the ranch, something not mentioned previously. They gathered material on Monday, then Marcel dropped by his house on the way to the Roswell base in the early hours of Tuesday, July 8.
Significant new details emerged, including accounts of a "gouge... that extended four or five hundred feet" at the ranch and descriptions of an elaborate cordon and recovery operation. (Several witnesses in The Roswell Incident described being turned back from the Foster ranch by armed military police, but more extensive descriptions were lacking.)
The Barnett accounts were mentioned, though the dates and locations were changed from the accounts found in The Roswell Incident. In this new account, Brazel is described as leading the Army to a second crash site on the ranch, where the Army was "horrified to find civilians [including Barnett] there already."
New witness accounts added substantially to the reports of aliens and their recovery. Glenn Dennis had emerged as an important witness after calling the hotline when an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” featured the Roswell incident in 1989. His descriptions of Roswell alien autopsies were the first to place alien corpses at the Roswell Army Air Base.
No mention, except in passing, was made of the claim found in The Roswell Incident that the Roswell aliens and their craft were shipped to Edwards Air Force Base. The book established a chain of events with alien corpses seen at a crash site, their bodies shipped to the Roswell base as witnessed by Dennis, and then flown to Fort Worth and finally to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, the last known location of the bodies (accounts assembled in part from the testimony of Frank Kaufmann and Capt. O. W. Henderson).
The book also introduced an account from General Arthur E. Exon, an officer stationed at the alleged final resting place of the recovered material. He stated there was a shadowy group, which he called the Unholy Thirteen, who controlled and had access to whatever was recovered. He later stated:
In the '55 time period [when Exon was at the Pentagon], there was also the story that whatever happened, whatever was found at Roswell was still closely held and probably would be held until these fellows I mentioned had died so they wouldn't be embarrassed or they wouldn't have to explain why they covered it up. ... until the original thirteen died off and I don't think anyone is going to release anything [until] the last one's gone.
In 1992, Crash at Corona, written by Stanton Friedman and Don Berliner, suggested a high-level cover-up of a UFO recovery, based on documents they obtained such as the Majestic 12 archive. These documents were anonymously dropped off at a UFO researcher’s house in 1984 and purported to be 1952 briefing papers for incoming President Dwight Eisenhower describing a high-level government agency whose purpose was to investigate aliens recovered at Roswell and to keep such information hidden from public view. Friedman had done much of the research for The Roswell Incident with William Moore, and Crash at Corona built on that research. The title contains Corona instead of Roswell as Corona is geographically closer to the Foster ranch crash site.
The time-line is largely the same as previously, with Marcel and Cavitt visiting the ranch on Sunday, July 6. But the book says that Brazel was "taken into custody for about a week" and escorted into the offices of the Roswell Daily Record on July 10 where he gave an account he was told to give by the government.
A sign of the disputes between various researchers is on display as Friedman and Berliner move the Barnett account back to near Socorro and introduce a new eyewitness account of the site from Gerald Anderson who provided vivid descriptions of both a downed alien craft and four aliens, of which at least one was alive. The authors note that much of their evidence had been dismissed by UFO Crash at Roswell "without a solid basis" and that "a personality conflict between Anderson and Randle" meant that Friedman was the author who investigated his claim. The book, however, largely embraces the sequence of events from UFO Crash at Roswell, where aliens are seen at the Roswell Army Air Field, based on the Dennis account, and then shipped off to Fort Worth and then Wright Field.
The book suggests as many as eight alien corpses were recovered from two crash sites: three dead and perhaps one alive from the Foster ranch, and three dead and one living from the Socorro site.
In 1994, Randle and Schmitt published a second book, The Truth about the UFO Crash at Roswell. while restating much of the case as laid out in their earlier book, new and expanded accounts of aliens were included, and a new location for the recovery of aliens was detailed. Additionally, an almost completely new scenario as to the sequence of events was laid out.
For the first time, the object was said to have crashed on the evening of Friday, July 4 instead of Wednesday July 2, the date in all the previous books. Another important difference was the assertion that the alien recovery was well under way before Brazel went into Roswell with his news about debris on the Foster ranch. Indeed, several objects had been tracked by radar for a few days in the vicinity before one crashed. In all previous accounts, the military was made aware of the alleged alien crash only when Brazel came forward. Additionally, Brazel was said to have given his news conference on July 9, and his press conference and the initial news release announcing the discovery of a "flying disc" were all part of an elaborate ruse to shift attention away from the "true" crash site.
The book featured a new witness account describing an alien craft and aliens from Jim Ragsdale, at a new location just north of Roswell, instead of closer to Corona on the Foster ranch. Corroboration was given by accounts from a group of archaeologists. Five alien corpses were seen. While the Foster ranch was a source of debris as well, no bodies were recovered there.
Expanded accounts came from Dennis and Kaufmann. And a new account from Ruben Anaya described New Mexico Lieutenant Governor Joseph Montoya's claim that he saw alien corpses at the Roswell base.
More disagreement between Roswell researchers is on display in the book. A full chapter is devoted to dismissing the Barnett and Anderson accounts from Socorro, a central part of Crash at Corona and The Roswell Incident. "...Barnett's story, and in fact, the Plains [of San Augustin, near Soccoro] scenario, must be discarded", say the authors. An appendix is devoted to describing the Majestic 12 documents, another central part of Crash at Corona, as a hoax.
The two Randle and Schmitt books remain highly influential in the UFO community, their interviews and conclusions widely reproduced on websites. Randle and Schmitt claimed to have "conducted more than two thousand interviews with more than five hundred people" during their Roswell investigations.
By the publication of The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell in 1994, a serious split had emerged within the UFO community as to the true sequence of the events and the locations of the alleged alien crash sites. The Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) and the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), two leading UFO societies, were at odds over the various scenarios presented by Randle/Schmitt and Friedman/Berliner, so much so that several conferences were held to try to resolve the differences. One of the issues under discussion was where, precisely, Barnett was when he saw the alien craft he was said to have encountered. A 1992 conference tried to achieve a consensus among the various scenarios as portrayed in Crash at Corona and UFO Crash at Roswell, but the publication of The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell in 1994 "resolved" the Barnett problem by simply ignoring him and citing a new location for the alien craft recovery, including a new group of archaeologists not connected to the ones the Barnett story cited.
Film footage claimed to have been taken by a U.S. military official shortly after the Roswell incident, and purportedly showing an alien autopsy, was produced in 1995 by Ray Santilli, a London-based video entrepreneur. The footage caused an international sensation when it aired on television networks around the world. In 2006, Santilli admitted that the film was mostly a reconstruction but continued to claim that it was based on genuine footage now lost, and that some frames from the original remained. The story was retold in the comedy film Alien Autopsy, released in 2006.
In the mid-1990s, the United States Air Force issued two reports that, they said, accounted for the debris found and reported on in 1947, and that also accounted for the later reports of alien recoveries. The reports identified the debris as coming from a top secret government experiment called Project Mogul, which tested the feasibility of detecting Soviet nuclear tests and ballistic missiles with equipment on high-altitude balloons. Accounts of aliens were explained as resulting from misidentified military experiments that used anthropomorphic dummies, accidents involving injured or killed military personnel, and hoaxes perpetrated by various witnesses and UFO proponents.
The Air Force report formed a basis for a skeptical response to the claims many authors were making about the recovery of aliens, though skeptical researchers such as Philip J. Klass and Robert Todd had already been publishing articles for several years raising doubts about alien accounts before the Air Force issued its conclusions.
While books published into the 1990s suggested there was much more to the Roswell incident than the mere recovery of a weather balloon, skeptics, and even some social anthropologists instead saw the increasingly elaborate accounts as evidence of a myth being constructed. After the release of the Air Force reports in the mid-1990s, several books, such as Kal K. Korff's The Roswell UFO Crash: What They Don't Want You To Know, published in 1997, built on the evidence presented in the reports to conclude "there is no credible evidence that the remains of an extraterrestrial spacecraft was involved."
Critics identified several reasons for their contention that the Roswell incident had nothing to do with aliens:
Hundreds of witnesses were interviewed by the various researchers, a seemingly impressive figure, but a comparable few were true "witnesses" who claimed to have actually seen debris or aliens, critics point out. Most "witnesses" were in fact repeating the claims of others, and their testimony would be inadmissible hearsay in an American court, says Korff. Of the 90 witnesses claimed to have been interviewed for The Roswell Incident, says Korff, the testimony of only 25 appear in the book, and only seven actually saw the debris. Of these, five handled the debris.
Karl T. Pflock, in his 2001 book Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe, makes a similar point about Randle and Schmitt's UFO Crash at Roswell. Some 271 people are listed in the book who were "contacted and interviewed" for the book, and this number does not include those who chose to remain anonymous, etc., meaning more than 300 "witnesses" were interviewed, a figure Pflock said the authors frequently cited. Of these 300-plus individuals, said Pflock, only 41 can be "considered genuine first- or second-hand witnesses to the events in and around Roswell or at the Fort Worth Army Air Field," and only 23 can be "reasonably thought to have seen physical evidence, debris recovered from the Foster Ranch." Of these, said Pflock, only seven have asserted anything suggestive of otherworldly origins for the debris.
As for the several accounts from those who claimed to have seen aliens, critics identified problems with these accounts ranging from the reliability of second-hand accounts (Pappy Henderson, General Exon, etc.), to serious credibility problems with witnesses making demonstrably false claims or multiple, contradictory accounts (Gerald Anderson, Glenn Dennis, Frank Kaufmann, Jim Ragsdale), to dubious death-bed "confessions" or accounts from elderly and easily confused witnesses (Maj. Edwin Easley, Lewis Rickett).
Pflock, writing in 2001, noted that only four people with firsthand knowledge of alien bodies were interviewed and identified by Roswell authors: Frank Kaufmann; Jim Ragsdale; Lt. Col. Albert Lovejoy Duran; Gerald Anderson. Duran is mentioned in a brief footnote in The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell and never again, while the other three all have serious credibility problems, said Pflock.
A basic problem with all the witness accounts, charge critics, is that they all came a minimum of 31 years after the events in question, and in many cases were recounted more than 40 years after the fact. Not only are memories this old of dubious reliability, say the critics, they were also subject to contamination from other accounts they may have heard.
Finally, the shifting claims of Jesse Marcel, whose suspicions that what he recovered in 1947 was "not of this world" sparked interest in the incident in the first place, cast serious doubt on the reliability of what he claimed, critics charge.
In The Roswell Incident, Marcel stated: "Actually, this material may have looked like tinfoil and balsa wood, but the resemblance ended there." And, "They took one picture of me on the floor holding up some of the less-interesting metallic debris...The stuff in that one photo was pieces of the actual stuff we found. It was not a staged photo." Timothy Printy points out that the material Marcel positively identified as being part of what he recovered is material that skeptics and UFO advocates agree is debris from a balloon device.
After that fact was pointed out to him, Marcel changed his story to say that that material was not what he recovered. Skeptics like Robert G. Todd argue that Marcel had a history of embellishment and exaggeration, such as claiming to have been a pilot and having received five Air Medals for shooting down enemy planes, claims that were found to be false, and his evolving Roswell story was another instance of this.
Critics point out that the large variety of claimed crash flights suggest events spanning many years have been incorporated into a single event and that many authors uncritically embrace anything that suggests aliens, even when accounts contradict each other. Said Karl Pflock, a one-time advocate of an alien incident at Roswell: "[T]he case for Roswell is a classic example of the triumph of quantity over quality. The advocates of the crashed-saucer tale... simply shovel everything that seems to support their view into the box marked 'Evidence' and say, 'See? Look at all this stuff. We must be right.' [emphasis in original] Never mind the contradictions. Never mind the lack of independent supporting fact. Never mind the blatant absurdities."
Kal Korff suggests there are clear incentives for some to promote the idea of aliens at Roswell, while many researchers are not doing competent work: "[The] UFO field is comprised of people who are willing to take advantage of the gullibility of others, especially the paying public. Let's not pull any punches here: The Roswell UFO myth has been very good business for UFO groups, publishers, for Hollywood, the town of Roswell, the media, and UFOlogy ... [The] number of researchers who employ science and its disciplined methodology is appallingly small."
Gildenberg and others said that, when added up, there were as many as 11 reported alien recovery sites and these recoveries bore only a marginal resemblance to the event as initially reported in 1947 or recounted later by the initial witnesses. Some of these new accounts could have been confused accounts of the several known recoveries of injured and dead from four military plane crashes that occurred in the vicinity from 1948–50. Others could have been recoveries of test dummies, as suggested by the Air Force in their reports.
Charles Ziegler argued that the Roswell story has all the hallmarks of a traditional folk narrative. He identified six distinct narratives, starting with The Roswell Incident (1980) and a process of transmission via storytellers with a core story that was created from various witness accounts, and was shaped and molded by those who carry on the group's (the UFO community) tradition. Others were sought out to expand the core narrative, with those who give accounts not in line with the core beliefs repudiated or omitted by the "gatekeepers." Others retold the narratives in new forms, and the process would repeat.
One of the immediate outcomes of the Air Force reports on the Roswell UFO incident was the decision by some prominent UFO researchers to view the Roswell incident as not involving any alien craft.
While the initial Air Force report was a chief reason for this, another was the release of secret documents from 1948 that showed that top Air Force officials did not know what the UFO objects being reported in the media were and their suspicion they might be Soviet spy vehicles.
In January 1997, Karl T. Pflock, one of the more prominent pro-UFO researchers, said “Based on my research and that of others, I'm as certain as it's possible to be without absolute proof that no flying saucer or saucers crashed in the general vicinity of Roswell or on the Plains of San Agustin in 1947. The debris found by Mac Brazel...was the remains of something very earthly, all but certainly something from the Top Secret Project Mogul....The formerly highly classified record of correspondence and discussions among top Air Force officials who were responsible for cracking the flying saucer mystery from the mid-1940s through the early 1950s makes it crystal clear that they didn't have any crashed saucer wreckage or bodies of saucer crews, but they were desperate to have such evidence ..."
Kent Jeffrey, who organized petitions to ask President Bill Clinton to issue an Executive Order to declassify any government information on the Roswell incident, similarly concluded that no such aliens were likely involved.
William L. Moore, one of the earliest proponents of the Roswell incident, said this in 1997: "After deep and careful consideration of recent developments concerning Roswell...I am no longer of the opinion that the extraterrestrial explanation is the best explanation for this event." Moore was co-author of the first book on Roswell, The Roswell Incident.
Around the same time, a serious rift between two prominent Roswell authors emerged. Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt had co-authored several books on the subject and were generally acknowledged, along with Stanton Friedman, as the leading researchers into the Roswell incident. The Air Force reports on the incident suggested that basic research claimed to have been carried out was not carried out, a fact verified in a 1995 Omni magazine article. Additionally, Schmitt claimed he had a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and was in the midst of pursuing a doctorate in criminology. He also claimed to be a medical illustrator. When checked, it was revealed he was in fact a letter carrier in Hartford, Wisconsin, and had no known academic credentials. At the same time, Randle publicly distanced himself from Schmitt and his research. Referring to Schmitt’s investigation of witness Dennis’s accounts of a missing nurse at the Roswell base, he said: "The search for the nurses proves that he [Schmitt] will lie about anything. He will lie to anyone ... He has revealed himself as a pathological liar ... I will have nothing more to do with him."
Additionally, several prominent witnesses were shown to be perpetrating hoaxes, or suspected of doing so. Frank Kaufmann, a major source of alien reports in the 1994 Randle and Schmitt book “The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell” and a witness whose testimony it was charged was “ignored” by the Air Force when compiling their reports, was shown, after his 2001 death, to have been forging documents and inflating his role at Roswell. Randle and Mark Rodeigher repudiated Kaufmann’s credibility in two 2002 articles.
Glenn Dennis, who testified that Roswell alien autopsies were carried out at the Roswell base and that he and others were the subjects of threats, was deemed one of the “least credible” Roswell witnesses by Randle in 1998. In Randle and Schmitt’s 1991 book “UFO Crash at Roswell,” Dennis’s story was featured prominently. Randle said Dennis was not credible “for changing the name of the nurse once we had proved she didn't exist.” Dennis’s accounts were also doubted by researcher Pflock.
UFO researcher David Rudiak, and others before him, claimed that a telegram that appears in one of the 1947 photos of balloon debris in Ramey's office contains text that confirms that aliens and a "disk" were found. Rudiak and some other examiners claim that when enlarged, the text on the paper General Ramey is holding in his hand includes key phrases "the victims of the wreck" and "in/on the 'disc'" plus other phrases seemingly in the context of a crashed vehicle recovery. However, pro-UFO interpretations of this document are disputed by independent photoanalyses, such as one facilitated by researcher James Houran, Ph.D., that suggest the letters and words are indistinct. Other objections question the plausibility of a general allowing himself to be photographed holding such a document, raise issues with the format of the memo, and ponder the logic of Ramey having in his possession a document he, as Rudiak argued, has sent, which says "...the wreck you forwarded..." yet is supposedly addressed to the Headquarters of the Army Air Force in Washington, not the Roswell Army Air Field.
In 2002, the Sci-Fi Channel sponsored an excavation at the Brazel site in the hopes of uncovering any missed debris that the military failed to collect. Although these results have so far turned out to be negative, the University of New Mexico archaeological team did verify recent soil disruption at the exact location that some witnesses said they saw a long, linear impact groove. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who headed the United States Department of Energy under President Clinton, apparently found the results provocative. In 2004, he wrote in a foreword to The Roswell Dig Diaries, that "the mystery surrounding this crash has never been adequately explained—not by independent investigators, and not by the U.S. government."
On October 26, 2007, Richardson (at the time a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. President) elaborated when he was asked about releasing government files on Roswell. Richardson responded that when he was a Congressman, he attempted to get information on behalf of his New Mexico constituents, but was told by both the Department of Defense and Los Alamos Labs that the information was classified. "That ticked me off," he said "The government doesn't tell the truth as much as it should on a lot of issues." He promised to work on opening the files if he were elected as President.
In October 2002 before airing its Roswell documentary, the Sci-Fi Channel also hosted a Washington UFO news conference. John Podesta, President Clinton's chief of staff, appeared as a member of the public relations firm hired by Sci-Fi to help get the government to open up documents on the subject. Podesta stated, "It is time for the government to declassify records that are more than 25 years old and to provide scientists with data that will assist in determining the true nature of the phenomena."
In February 2005, the ABC TV network aired a UFO special hosted by news anchor Peter Jennings. Jennings lambasted the Roswell case as a "myth ... without a shred of evidence." ABC endorsed the Air Force's explanation that the incident resulted solely from the crash of a Project Mogul balloon.
Stanton T. Friedman continues to defend his view that the Majestic 12 documents, which describe a secret government agency hiding information on recovered aliens, are authentic. In an afterword dated April 2005 to a new edition of his book Top Secret/Majic (first published in 1996), he responds to more recent questions on their validity and concludes "I am still convinced Roswell really happened, [and] that the Eisenhower Briefing Document [i.e., Majestic 12] ... [and others] are the most important classified documents ever leaked to the public."
In June 2007, Donald Schmitt and his investigation partner Tom Carey published their first book together, Witness to Roswell. In this book, they claim a "continuously growing roster of more than 600 people directly or indirectly associated with the events at Roswell who support the first account - that initial claim of the flying saucer recovery." New accounts of aliens or alien recoveries were described, including from Walter Haut who wrote the initial press release in 1947.
A new date was suggested for a crash of a mysterious object—the evening of Thursday, July 3, 1947. Also, unlike previous accounts, Brazel took debris to Corona, where he showed fragments to local residents in the local bar, hardware store and elsewhere, and to Capitan to the south, while portions of the object ended up at a 4 July rodeo. Numerous people are described as visiting the debris field and taking souvenirs before Brazel finally went to Roswell to report the find on July 6. Once the military was alerted to the debris, extensive efforts were undertaken to retrieve those souvenirs: "Ranch houses were and [sic] ransacked. The wooden floors of livestock sheds were pried loose plank by plank and underground cold storage fruit cellars were emptied of all their contents."
The subsequent events are related as per the sequence in previous books, except for a second recovery site of an alien body at the Foster ranch. This recovery near the debris field is the same site mentioned in 1991's UFO Crash at Roswell. The authors suggest that Brazel discovered the second site some days after finding the debris field, and this prompted him to travel to Roswell and report his find to the authorities.
Neither Barnett nor the archaeologists are present at this body site. While noting the earlier "major problems" with Barnett's account, which caused Schmitt and previous partner Randle to omit Barnett's claim in 1994's The Truth about the UFO Crash at Roswell, the new book further notes another site mentioned in the 1994 publication. This site closer to Roswell "turned out to be bogus, as it was based upon the testimony of a single, alleged eyewitness [Frank Kaufmann] who himself was later discovered to have been a purveyor of false information." Jim Ragsdale, whose alien account opened that book and who was claimed to have been present along with some archaeologists, is not mentioned in the new book.
The book includes claims that Major Marcel saw alien bodies, a claim not present in the previous books mentioned. Two witnesses are cited who say Marcel briefly mentioned seeing bodies, one a relative and another a tech sergeant who worked with Marcel's intelligence team.
Much additional new testimony is presented to support notions that alien bodies were found at the Foster ranch and at another main crash site along with a craft, then processed at the base in a hangar and at the hospital, and finally flown out in containers, all under very tight security. The book suggests Brazel found "two or three alien bodies" about two miles east of the debris field and describes the rest of a stricken alien craft along with the remainder of the crew remaining airborne for some 30 more miles before crashing at another site about 40 miles north/northwest of Roswell (but not the same site described by Kaufmann). The authors claim to have located this final crash site in 2005 where "an additional two or three dead aliens and one live one were discovered by civilian archaeologists," but offer no more information about the new site.
Walter Haut, as the Roswell Army Air Field public affairs officer, had drafted the initial press release that went out over the news wires on the afternoon of July 8, 1947, announcing a "flying disc". This was the only direct involvement Haut had previously described in public statements and signed affidavits. The book presents a new affidavit that Haut signed in 2002 in which he claims much greater personal knowledge and involvement, including seeing alien corpses and craft, and involvement in a cover-up. Haut died in 2005.
Another new first-hand account from MP Elias Benjamin describes how he guarded aliens on gurneys taken to the Roswell base hospital from the same hangar. Similarly, family members of Miriam Bush, secretary to the chief medical officer at Roswell base, told of having been led into an examination room where alien corpses were laid out on gurneys. In both accounts, one of the aliens was said to be still alive. The book also recounted earlier testimony of the Anaya family about picking up New Mexico Lt. Governor Joseph Montoya at the base, and a badly shaken Montoya relating that he saw four alien bodies at the base hangar, one of them alive. Benjamin's and Bush's accounts, as do a few lesser ones, again place aliens at the Roswell base hospital, as had the Glenn Dennis story from almost 20 years before. The book notes that Dennis had been found to have told lies, and therefore is a supplier of unreliable testimony, but had nevertheless told others of incidents at the Roswell base long before it became associated with aliens in the late 1970s.
The publishing of the Walter Haut affidavit in Witness to Roswell, wherein Haut described a cover-up and seeing alien corpses, ignited a controversy in UFO circles. While many embraced his accounts as confirmation of the presence of aliens from a person who was known to have been on the base in 1947, others raised questions about the credibility of the accounts.
UFO researcher Dennis G. Balthaser, who along with fellow researcher Wendy Connors interviewed Haut on-camera in 2000, doubted that the same man he interviewed could have written the affidavit he signed. "[The 2000 video] shows a man that couldn't remember where he took basic training, names, dates, etc., while the 2002 affidavit is very detailed and precise with information Haut couldn't accurately remember 2 years after he was video taped." Witness to Roswell co-author Don Schmitt, he notes, admitted that the affidavit was not written by Haut, but prepared for him to sign, based on statements Haut had made privately to Schmitt and co-author Tom Carey over a period of years. And further, notes Balthaser, neither he nor Carey were there when Haut signed the affidavit and the witness' name has not been revealed, casting doubt on the circumstances of the signing.
He had further questions about what he saw as problems with the 2002 account. If the cover-up was decided at a meeting at Roswell, he asked, "why was it necessary for Major Marcel to fly debris from Roswell to General Ramey’s office in Ft Worth, since they had all handled the debris in the meeting and apparently set up the cover-up operation?" He also wondered which Haut statements were true: a 1993 affidavit he signed, the 2000 video interview, or the 2002 affidavit.
Bill Birnes, writing for UFO Magazine, summarizes that whatever disagreements there are about the 2000 video and the 2002 affidavit, "I think Walter Haut's 2002 affidavit really says it all and agrees, on its material facts, with Walter's 2000 interview with Dennis Balthaser and Wendy Connors. Dennis said he agrees with me, too, on this point."
A comparison of the affidavit and interview shows that in both Haut said he saw a craft and at least one body in a base hangar and also attended a Roswell staff meeting where General Ramey was present and where Ramey put a cover-up into place.
Birnes also says that Carey told that while Haut may not have written the affidavit, "his statements were typed, shown to him for his review and agreement, and then affirmed by him in the presence of a witness... The fact that a notary was present and sealed the document should end any doubt as to the reality of its existence."
Julie Shuster, Haut's daughter and Director of the International UFO Museum in Roswell, said that Schmitt had written the affidavit based on years of conversations he and Carey had had with him. Writing in the September 2007 MUFON newsletter, she said she and Haut reviewed the document, that "he did not want to make any changes," and in the presence of two witnesses, a notary public from the museum and a visitor, both unidentified, he signed the affidavit.
In April 2011, the FBI posted a document from 1950  on their website written by agent Guy Hottel which discussed a report forwarded by an investigator from the Air Force of three alien craft and their occupants having been recovered in New Mexico. The memo stated that "three so-called flying saucers" were recovered, each circular in shape with raised centers, each about 50 feet in diameter. Three occupants of "human shape," each about three feet tall, were found in each craft, and all were dressed "in metallic cloth of a very fine texture." The memo said that reports were "high-powered radar" had affected the alien crafts' control systems, causing them to crash. No date was mentioned, though the memo was date-stamped March 22, 1950, and no location more specific than "New Mexico" was mentioned. The memo stated that "no further evaluation was attempted" by the person who supplied the information.
Other sources said the memo had been in the public domain for years and was revealed as a hoax as far back as 1952 in an article in True magazine. They said the hoax was perpetrated by several men who were peddling a device purported to be able to locate gold, oil, gas or anything their victims sought, based on supposed alien technology. The two men, Silas Newton and Leo A. Gebauer, were convicted of fraud in 1953.
The book Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen, based on interviews with scientists and engineers who worked in Area 51, dismisses the alien story. Instead, it suggests that Josef Mengele was recruited by the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to produce "grotesque, child-size aviators" to be remotely piloted and landed in America to cause hysteria in the likeness of Orson Welles' 1938 radio drama War of the Worlds, but that the aircraft crashed and the incident was hushed up by the Americans.
Jacobsen writes that the bodies found at the crash site were children. Grotesquely but similarly deformed, aged around 12, each under five feet tall, with large heads and abnormally shaped oversize eyes. They were neither aliens nor consenting airmen, but human guinea pigs. The book was sharply criticized for extensive errors in an essay by two scientists at the Federation of American Scientists.
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The Roswell incident has become a popular subject of many science fiction movies, television series, video games, and books.
Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt's 1991 nonfiction book UFO Crash at Roswell inspired the 1994 American television film Roswell, which starred Martin Sheen and Kyle McLachlan. The film depicts Major Jesse Marcel trying to discover the truth about strange debris found on a local rancher's field in Roswell in July 1947. The film received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, but did not win.
Several novels have been written about the Roswell incident, including Whitley Strieber's Majestic (1989), Kevin D. Randle's Operation Roswell (2004), and Sonny Whitelaw's "Stargate SG-1: Roswell" (2007), "Alien Interview" (2008) Edited by Lawrence Spencer, "The Day After Roswell" (1998) Col. P. J. Corso. and "The True Meaning of Smekday" by Adam Rex
An American television series, Roswell High, later renamed Roswell aired from 1999 to 2002, originally on The WB Television Network and later on UPN. Based on Melinda Metz's Roswell High children's book series, the program followed the lives of four extraterrestrials who had survived the Roswell crash and assumed the form of human teenagers.
The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Little Green Men" reveals that this incident was the unintentional crash of a Ferengi vessel from the 24th century, owned by main character Quark who was accompanied by his brother Rom, nephew Nog, and nemesis Odo.
The 1996-97 NBC television series Dark Skies featured an interpretation of the Roswell incident as the starting point of the super-secret government agency Majestic 12 which was involved in a covert war between humans and an alien conspiracy. In Dark Skies, President Harry Truman was present at the Roswell site in 1947, when an alien representative demanded humanity's unconditional surrender. A fictional version of Jesse Marcel, played by actor Richard Gilliland, appeared in several episodes of the series.
The 1998 - 2001 UPN television series Seven Days featured a top-secret government time travel project based on alien technology recovered from the Roswell crash site. One episode of the series featured an alien survivor of the UFO crash.
The comic book series The Invisibles (1994–2000), by Grant Morrison, made extensive use of the Roswell incident in its second volume. A humorous Bongo Comics series, called Roswell, Little Green Man, ran from 1996 to 1999 and followed the misadventures of an extraterrestrial who survived from the craft. The graphic novel Roswell, Texas features an alternate history in which the site of the UFO crash was part of the still-independent republic of Texas. In the anime, webcomic and manga Hetalia: Axis Powers, the personification of America has an alien friend named Tony, who began living with him after the Roswell incident. In the 2007 American comic book Atarian Conquest, an alien named Irvyll, rescued from Area 51 by his home race, claims to be the descendant of the aliens who "crashed in a nearby Eartian desert in the mid 1900's".
The American band Foo Fighters takes its name from an old term for UFOs, specific to "ghosts" that trailed the wings of fighter planes, and has named its record label Roswell Records. The band has performed concerts on the site of the Roswell Air Force Base and at the site of the crash. Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl is known for having an interest in supernatural phenomena.
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