Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies
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The Roswell Incident is the most famous UFO story on record and is the cornerstone of an alleged government conspiracy to hide alien visits from the world. The initial discovery of a suspected UFO crash site in 1947 played out over a three-day period, then almost completely vanished from view for 30 years, before being resurrected in the 1970s by UFO researchers.

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The biggest problem facing anyone who steps into the Roswell/UFO arena is telling truth from fiction. For every account of the event, someone debunks it. For every so-called fact, there’s a dispute over it, and even eyewitness accounts and deathbed confessions can’t be trusted. And, according to most dedicated ufologists of course, nothing officially released by the government can be trusted at all. Nevertheless, this article covers what’s generally known or alleged and what can be verified — or at least generally agreed on.

Unidentified debris discovered

In 1947, just one month after pilot Kenneth Arnold’s publicized sighting of a UFO over Washington State, a curious report came out of the little town of Roswell, New Mexico. On July 4 (Independence Day) that year, a violent thunderstorm swept through the area. The next morning, a sheep rancher named Mac Brazel, who was employed at the J. B. Foster ranch, set out across the property to look for damage from the storm. What he found was unusual debris that he couldn’t readily identify, stretched out across a large area.

After showing the debris to a neighbor, Brazel took some of the pieces into Roswell, about 70 miles away, and presented them to the local authorities, wondering if it might be wreckage of one of the flying saucers recently reported in the news. (It may have helped motivate him that the press was offering a $3,000 reward for physical evidence of a flying saucer.) Brazel was interviewed by a local radio station, whose reporter contacted the 509th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force at nearby Roswell Army Air Field for a comment.

The base sent Intelligence Officer Jesse Marcel into town and then to the Foster ranch to investigate. Marcel gathered up some of the pieces and took them home for the evening, where he showed some of them to his family. The next morning, he took the debris to the base, and Colonel William “Butch” Blanchard ordered the debris site cordoned off so it could be recovered, then issued a press release about the discovery.

Newspapers and network radio reports appeared quickly, announcing that the Air Force captured a flying disc, but by the next day, a correction was issued changing the story to say that the debris came from a weather balloon. A press conference was held, and debris was displayed that seemed to verify that what was recovered was, in fact, a large rubber balloon and other pieces covered in silver foil.

Brazel himself was dismayed over the publicity. He’d found pieces of weather balloons on the ranch in the past, but this find had unusual composition. Still, the rancher never claimed that what he found was metal. When it was all collected, the wreckage consisted of foil, rubber, wooden sticks, paper, and tape.

Over a period of three days, the remaining debris was collected and flown to the 8th Air Force Headquarters in Ft. Worth, Texas, where it was examined. On July 9, the Air Force issued a press release from Ft. Worth identifying the wreckage as a high altitude balloon carrying a radar target made of wood and reflective aluminum. And within several weeks of the incident, the whole event slipped from the public memory for 30 years.

Roswell resurrected

In 1978, UFO researcher Stanton Friedman was contacted by retired intelligence officer Jesse Marcel, and at this point, the Roswell story was resurrected and it becomes difficult to separate fact, fiction, faulty memory, and fraud. Following, are a sample of some of events, people, and recollections from the Roswell incident. Keep in mind, these examples have only come forth since 1978.
  • Jesse Marcel claimed the wreckage he collected was part of a flying disc and not a balloon. The foil-like material was unlike anything he’d ever seen before, and there were strips of purple tape that contained symbols that looked like either flowers or hieroglyphics. He said that photographs of himself posing with balloon debris were taken after the real pieces were replaced with balloon parts by superior officers. Marcel, however, couldn’t remember the month or year of the events.
  • Frank Kaufman claimed to have been a radar specialist at White Sands Proving Grounds. He stated that he was ordered to the White Sands facility where he tracked incoming UFOs the night of the fabled crash. He was then sent to Roswell, where he witnessed the retrieval of at least one alien occupant — except that Kaufman was really nothing but a civilian clerk in the Roswell Army Air Base personnel office. And there was no radar at White Sands. After his death in 2001, analysis of letters, memos, and other documents show that Kaufman really was an expert at forgery, records falsification, and spectacular lying, but not radar.
  • Glenn Dennis was a local funeral director in Roswell and claimed he’d been contacted by the air base’s “mortuary officer” about caskets and the proper treatment of bodies recovered from the desert. Later, he “stumbled” into an autopsy being performed on one of three alien corpses. He further claimed that a nurse at the Roswell air base named Naomi Maria Selff (or Naomi Sipes — it varied) told him details of the top-secret operation and gave him sketches of the aliens. Dennis said the nurse suddenly disappeared, but there’s no record of any such nurse ever having worked at the base or living in Roswell. His story had enough inconsistencies that he was eventually labeled a fraud by many UFO researchers.
Over and over again, so-called Roswell witnesses have been exposed in major inconsistencies or outright lies. So, what could the motive for all these, and literally a hundred others, have been to make these tales up?

Remember: Aliens aren’t just big business in Roswell — they’re the town’s number-one source of income. There are no less than three UFO museums in the town of only 50,000 people. True believers flock to Roswell, and it has become a UFO mecca. They sell T-shirts, dolls, coffee mugs, inflatable balloons, tours of the competing crash sites, and literally anything else you can think of — raking in millions of dollars in annual revenue to the town. The military base has been closed, there’s no interstate close by, and there’s not a lot of economic opportunities for the town of 45,000. Aliens are very big business.

Tracking the government’s paper trail

UFO researchers and debunkers have both been noisy attack dogs and have made ceaseless requests for reports to be declassified and released to the public under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. A cataclysmic, earth-shaking event like capturing a real flying saucer and its alien occupants would change the course of civilization.

At the very least, a military culture that’s governed by a strict code of procedures and conduct would document such an event with a mountain of paper, photographs, and other physical evidence. Every step in the investigation of alien conduct would be painstakingly chronicled, if for no other reason than to cover the backsides of career officers terrified of making a misstep and bringing down the wrath of angry superiors on them, or worse, the wrath of an angry invading fleet of a superior intergalactic force.

Out of literally thousands of pages of FOI-released documents, there isn’t even the hint of evidence of any such authentic events. In 1995, the General Accounting Office (GAO), at the request of New Mexico congressman Steve Schiff, conducted a search of all documents relating to the Roswell Army Air Base and the events of July 1947. As a result of the GAO investigation, the Air Force was directed to make an internal investigation and to report its findings.

Two Air Force reports

The Air Force released reports about two formerly top-secret programs: 1994’s The Roswell Report: Fact Vs. Fiction in the New Mexico Desert, identified a program called Project Mogul; and 1997’s The Roswell Report: Case Closed described Operation High Dive.
  • Project Mogul: This program was designed to detect Soviet nuclear bomb tests by using very high altitude balloons loaded with sensitive microphones and reflective boxes that could be tracked by radar. Several balloons were clustered together for extra support in case some broke, as well as to assure a constant, standard altitude position. A string of radar targets was tied to the end of the balloon clusters like a long kite tail. The targets were needed to track the experiment because the rubber balloons themselves were invisible to radar. The target boxes were mass-produced, under contract by a toy manufacturer, out of special foil, balsa wood, and tape. The tape, it was claimed, was left over from a line of holiday items and contained gold flowerlike patterns on a purple background, which accounted for the claims that the so-called saucer debris had hieroglyphics on it.The reason for the high security involved in recovering Mogul’s debris in Roswell was that it was a closely guarded, top-secret program, whose complete details weren’t even known by the civilian scientists involved in developing its technology. Likewise, the Roswell Air Base personnel would’ve had no idea what they were looking at. The balloon flights were conducted between 1947 and 1948, and based on the physical description, these may very well have been the objects spotted by pilot Kenneth Arnold the week before the Roswell Incident. The Soviets really did set off their first nuclear blast in 1949, based on secrets stolen from the U.S. program (see the sidebar “The Schulgen Memo” earlier in this chapter).
  • Operation High Dive: This is a little stranger, but the Air Force alleges that this project was the genesis of claims of seeing military personnel recovering bodies from the desert. It was a top-secret program carried out in the 1950s to test extremely high altitude human parachute jumps, primarily in case U2 surveillance plane pilots had to bail out from 70,000 feet or higher. The tests themselves were done on early crash test dummies in an effort to make design changes in parachutes that prevented uncontrolled and fatal spinning. The Air Force believes that witnesses saw these strange-looking dummies being collected in the desert by military crews, who kept the public away because of the secret nature of the experiments (the Air Force didn’t want word to get out to the Russians that they had spy planes that flew so high).
Predictably, the Air Force and the GAO’s reports, along with a subsequent CIA investigation and report, all raised new accusations of a government coverup. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of UFO researchers have begrudgingly accepted that the Roswell Incident is, in all probability, nothing more than a colossal hoax.

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Christopher Hodapp is also the author of The Templar Code For Dummies and a Freemason who has traveled extensively reporting on global Masonic practices. Alice Von Kannon is an author and historian.

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