Roswell, the Quintessential UFO Case
Who hasn’t heard of Roswell? It’s a UFO case so famous that it has become a part of our culture and folklore. Star Trek, DS9 did an episode about it. In fact there was even a short lived sci fi series named “Roswell.” It’s not an exageration to say that the Roswell case is possibly the most important UFO case ever in the USA, and is responsible for a huge percentage of the population not only believing in UFOs, but believing that the government is concealing information about them. Again, cultural references to this are so common as to be essentially mainstream, the scene in the movie Independence Day for example, when it is revealed that the USA has a captured alien spacecraft from Roswell. Roswell is common knowledge.
The basics of the Roswell case are fairly simple. In the summer of 1947 a ranch hand found some strange debris about fifty miles north of Roswell, New Mexico. He brought some to town, the local Air Force base was called, they recovered the debris and announced that a “flying saucer” had been captured. See above headline. To put it mildly, this generated some national interest, and headlines in many papers in the west also announced the capture of the flying saucer. Alas, the next day the Air Force announced it had all been a misunderstanding, and that actually only debris from a weather balloon had been found. And that was that, for the next thirty years Roswell was forgotten about. Until the late nineteen seventies when some UFO researchers starting looking into the case. They found hundreds of witnesses, and a vast array of stories about a variety of crash sites, recovered alien bodies (or even living aliens,) and evidence of a massive government cover up. Books were written, people got on talk shows, and the rest, shall we say, is history.
OK, there’s a lot to cover here, but I’m going to simplify it. I’m not going to discuss all the witnesses and such that were discovered or came forward in the nineteen seventies and later. I’m sorry, but human memory is very fallible, and very susceptible to suggestion. And I know it’s hard for some people to fathom, but plenty of people lie and make stuff up all the time to get attention. So trying to wade through the later recollections and figure out what is what is a minefield at best, and since not a single one of these later witnesses had a shred of empirical evidence to back up their stories, I feel justified in saying “who knows” and ignoring them for the scope of this post. The one aspect of the later day witnesses which does seem interesting to me is that the Air Force’s first man on the scene, Major Jesse Marcel, insisted that the material recovered, while superficially resembling that from which a balloon was made, nonetheless had unearthly characteristics. “Paper” and “wood” that wouldn’t burn for example, or metal as thin as tinfoil that couldn’t be bent with a sledgehammer. Curious, nu? And to the day he died he maintained that something unearthly had crashed at Roswell.
With this as our only data set, IE the basic crash and the Major’s insistence, what can we speculate? Well, the “official” version for one. What crashed was a contemporary top secret balloon project the US Army Air Force was conducting, a Project Mogul. The Flying Saucer and then weather balloon story we’re concocted to hide the fact that a rancher had found pieces of a top secret project, put them in a pick up truck, and brought them to town and passed them around. It doesn’t take much imagination to see why the Army might want to be a bit coy about this. And the Major’s insistence the material was extraterrestrial? That was just the army running a disinformation campaign for the benefit of the Soviets. It couldn’t hurt to have the Russians wasting their intelligence efforts seeking non-existent information on a US recovered flying saucer. That’s the sceptical version in a nutshell, it explains the original evidence, and Occam’s Razor says it is the most likely explanation. I certainly wouldn’t want to debate someone who maintains this position, because logically, it’s the soundest position.
However, and it’s a pretty big however, just because it is the most logical explanation doesn’t mean it is the correct one. Occam’s Razor says that the simplest explanation is the most likely to be correct, but it does not in any way shape or form “prove” that it is correct. It’s like criminal profiling. A suspect may fit the profile of a crime to a T, but that isn’t “proof” of anything, merely an indication that that suspect should be investigated very carefully. This is a point that a lot of people, even very smart and educated people, founder upon. And frankly, if everyone thought this way, we’d still be living naked in the woods eating grubs, because sometimes the simplest most logical approach lacks, shall we say, imagination. And looking outside the lines is how all discoveries are made. Sceptics have their place, but they aren’t always right.
So in that vein, here are my two alternate theories about what may have happened at Roswell. The first is that an alien unmanned probe crashed. And a probe that may very well have been some sort of balloon like device. Instruments suspended from a balloon would be a great way to explore an alien planet. One could explore vast amounts of territory, vastly more than a stationary probe, or even a rover, could explore. And it would avoid hazards on the ground, and could gather data on weather as well. And if such a device was built by aliens who were hundreds or thousands of years ahead of us technologically, we’d learn basically nothing from it. Even if it had wonderful exotic materials in it, we wouldn’t have a clue how to make them. I like this explanation because it also explains all the available evidence, including the good major’s insistence that it was extraterrestrial. And why we haven’t learned anything from it, because trying to figure out anything from the broken pieces of a device vastly in advance of our technology would be hopeless. If for example one dropped a car out of an aeroplane over an ancient Greek or Roman town, would the best scientists of their day be able to glean anything from the pieces? Likely they wouldn’t have a clue. So I like this explanation, and hope that if it’s true, someday a piece of material from the crash site comes to light. We may not learn anything from it, but modern science could at least determine it wasn’t made by humans. And that indeed would be something.
The second possibility is that aliens or alien bodies were recovered. OK, let’s assume that happened. Well, if a couple of alien bodies or even living aliens were recovered, wouldn’t that strongly imply that there was a serious alien presence on Earth? I mean, they wouldn’t just send a couple of fellows on a interstellar voyage would they? It would seem likely that there would be a mother ship or an alien base around if we captured a small ship with a small crew of aliens. And what would these aliens do if such occurred? Especially since we are talking beings who have considerably more advanced technology than us? I would assume that within hours of the capture/crash … alien “special forces” would have recovered the bodies/aliens and spacecraft debris, likely in ways that we simply wouldn’t even notice, let alone be able to counter. This explanation also has the beauty of neatly explaining all the evidence. I mean, imagine the confusion, Army personnel have what are clearly actual aliens and debris from an alien space craft in their possession … and within hours it all simply vanishes.
Those are my three possible Roswell scenarios. Note than the alien special forces could also account for the lack of evidence in the unmanned alien probe scenario as well. I will freely admit that my take on aliens here is highly anthropomorphic, but for the purposes of this series of posts, I’m assuming that aliens are somewhat like us. Otherwise, there’s no point even speculating. So yeah, I’m looking where the light is best, but hey, we still might find a key here. And who knows what lock it may fit. Tomorrow, the fourth Roswell possibility. Maybe living aliens were involved, and the incident resulted in contact, possibly ongoing contact, between some alien entity and the US government. I’d say cue Twilight Zone Music, but in this case it is be more accurate to say cue “The Outer Limits” music. Stay tuned.
(The above image is such an iconic and oft reproduced image that I’m sure it falls under the aegis of Fair Use under US copyright law. And yes, I’ve waited years to use “aegis” in a sentence. It’s one of those incredibly cool words, like defenestration or treppenwitz, that almost never get called into play. Moving right along, for the sake of argument, I’m going to claim that all three of my options presented above are possible. The Project Mogul argument, the unmanned probe argument, and the manned crash/alien special forces argument. Prove me wrong.)