Real Life X Files: The Mythology of Roswell

Culture Facts

Where: Roswell, New Mexico, Southwest USA
When: 1947
What’s it about: Site of legendary UFO crash landing and alien autopsy, still much reviled and debated
Go There For: 
UFO Museum, and a chance to meet a few eccentric new alien loving friends

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 4, 1947.

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 Within hours, the statement had been retracted and a second statement had been issued claiming that the airforce had erroneously identified the remains of a weather balloon as flying saucer wreckage.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 sources.

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 then.

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 true either.

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.

More Information

The UFO Museum and Research Centre Contains an account of the incident, news of upcoming events and information about the museum.

The Centre for UFO Studies
Definitely a site for believers – there’s plenty of ammunition here to support every argument in favour of the UFO theory

Guide By Sarah Ridrigues