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    The Long Tail of Roswell: A Brief History of Our Most Famous Aliens

    Written by

    Ruth Reader

    Image: Wikimedia

    On the 66th Anniversary of the Roswell ncident, Google featured an interactive doodle of an alien spaceship flying through the sky—a playful ode to the first reported UFO landing in the United States. It was celebrating the fact that Roswell is now, of course, the stuff of legend. 

    Since the big crash, the most famous UFO sighting has been examined, debunked, and re-examined, ad infinitum. Newspaper reporters, ufologists, and conspiracy theorists have plumbed the event for evidence that the government is covering up an alien landing. The legacy Roswell, now one of our most durable sci-fi cultural artifacts, has been the subject of paranoid debates and wild speculation for six decades now. Here are the highlights of its enduring public discussion: 

    1947 - A “flying saucer” was captured in Roswell, NM as stated by the Roswell Army Air Field. The headline pictured above quickly becomes iconic. At a press conference the following day, a general for the 8th Air Force, Roger Ramey, recanted. He said it was a surveillance balloon that crashed, not a UFO. The statement will be the subject of controversy for years to come.

    1952 - President Dwight D Eisenhower receives a brief on the 1947 crash.

    1956 - JP Cahn publishes an article in The San Francisco Chronicle detailing the exploits of two Roswell-aping con-men who tried to sell an oil-seeking device purportedly based on alien technology from a supposed crash site in Aztec, NM. Turns out the “special” material was just aluminum.

    1961 - A UPI reporter working around the White Sands Missile Range obtains a copy of a map outlining the Roswell crash that he claims shows two crash sites, not one, according to a timeline by the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena.

    1969 - Beverley Bean claims her father, Sargent Melvin Brown, told her and her family that he pulled bodies from the Roswell crash scene and transported them to a government facility.

    1970 - Stanton T Friedman, the principal civilian investigator of the Roswell incident, leaves his job as a nuclear physicist to pursue UFO research full-time.

    1979 - The film UFOs Are Real is released. In the movie, former Major Jesse Marcel of the RAAF says he believes the U.S. government is covering up evidence of extraterrestrial life. 

    1980 - Charles Berlitz and William Moore publish The Roswell Incident, the first book devoted to detailing the Roswell crashThe authors claim to have interviewed over 90 witnesses to support their theory that two "inverted" flying saucers crashed in the desert.

    1991 - Kevin Randle and Donald Schmitt publish an updated account of the Roswell incident in UFO Crash at Roswell.  

    1992 - Don Berliner and Stanton Friedman release Crash at Corona based on a collection of government documents, interviews, and witness testimony.

    1994 - Randle and Schmitt publish The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell, published by , expands on the original, moving up the date of the crash by a couple days and more specifically addressing alien bodies seen at the crash site. 

    1995 - Alien Autopsy. Filmmaker Ray Santilli “leaks” Roswell alien autopsy film footage supposedly from a military source.

    1997 - The United States Air Force releases its 231-page Case Closed: Final Report on the Roswell Crash. The report says the purported UFO’s found in Roswell, NM were top secret surveillance balloons being used in Project Mogul. The program was attempting to acoustically detect soviet nuclear explosions and ballistic missile launches and develop an early warning system. The experiments were using anthropomorphic dummies, which account for the siting of bodies at the crash site.

    Many reporters of the time cite evidence that Project Mogul didn’t start until 1952, five years after the crash. The government responded that the project actually began in secret in 1946.

    Photo taken of an exhibit imagining the incident at the Roswell museum in New Mexico.

    2006 - Ray Santilli admits that his film, Alien Autopsy, was not original footage, but rather a recreation of a film that he claims to have seen in 1993.

    2007 - UFO enthusiasts get ahold of a 1993 affidavit by RAAF public information officer, Walter Haut, in which he recounts seeing remnants of a UFO and alien bodies. The veracity of this affidavit has never been confirmed.

    2011 - Annie Jacobsen publishes her book Area 51, detailing an altogether different (and equally far-fetched) story about alien life at Roswell. According to her narrative, the Roswell crash was a part of a Cold War strike. She claims that the bodies found at the crash scene were experiments on human subjects akin to Josef Mengele’s Nazi-era exploits and that the crash was a plot to cause hysteria in the U.S.

    Since then, it's been relatively quiet on the Roswell alien conspiracy front—but it's only a matter of time before someone "unearths" new evidence and theories about what really happened that day in 1947. After all, they're out there. 

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