November 3rd, 2011
Roswell a name that immediately brings to mind the ultimate conspiracy theory, the UFO Incident of 1947. Located in Eastern New Mexico up until that time it was probably mainly recognised for its nearby Walker Army Air Field (closed in 1967) and not much else other than ranch farming, but on July 4th, 1947 everything changed for Roswell.
On that date a UFO was alleged to have crashed on a ranch north of Roswell, strange metallic debris was discovered by ranch worker W.W. “Mack” Brazel, who notified the local sheriff, who in turn notified the Air Force. If it was not for “Mack” no one probably would have ever heard about the incident. He took the military to the site and over the next few days they searched the area and collected all the debris.
On July 8th, 1947 Colonel William Blanchard (commanding officer at Walker) authorised a press release stating that a “flying disk” had been recovered. Hours later his commanding officer General Roger Ramey issued another press release stating that a mistake had been made and the wreckage was actually from a weather balloon! They even displayed parts of a balloon and a battered radar reflector that was attached to the balloon. The cover-up had begun!
Now over 60 years later no-one is any the wiser as to what happened out there, but in the years following the incident many alleged eye witnesses both civilian and military have said that the parts were swapped for the press conference (the UFO metal was said to be very light in weight), that 4 Aliens were recovered from the crash site (one still alive – it is said the base asked the local mortuary if they had small hermetically sealed coffins and also asked for information on preserving bodies!), that certain parts had strange symbols on them and that all the UFO parts and bodies were flown out of Roswell to various secret military locations for further study. “Mack” Brazel was apparently detained by Military Police for about 5 days after the press release to stop him discussing the matter further! This has become the stuff of legend in the world of Sci Fi and has been the subject of many books, movies and television programs. People can not get enough of such a story (or is it the truth???).
Other explanations were offered by the military to counter the various eye-witness accounts including that the alien bodies were in fact special human like dummies used to test the effects of high altitude on a person’s body (they were parachuted back to earth from high-flying aircraft). The strange alien writing was countered with an explanation that a “Project Mogul” radar target panel had been part of the wreckage, this had sections held together by tape which had symbol patterns on it that were mistaken for writing! The debate may never end.
None the less based off my visit there Roswell businesses are making the most of it and sell all manner of alien souvenirs, there are alien statues and props outside shops and in their windows and the best of all there is the International UFO Museum and Research Centre which displays information on the Roswell UFO Incident, other UFO and Alien sightings, Alien like gods in ancient cultures, Sci Fi pop culture, photos, movies and various Alien props and models. Roswell also hosts a UFO Festival which falls on the anniversary of the incident each year, it looks like crazy good fun (may have to come back for that someday)!
After a quick lunch at the KFC guarded by a green Alien statue at its front door, I headed north on US285 to try and find the general location of the alleged UFO crash. I had read there was a sign at the junction of CR39 (about 23 miles/27 kilometres out of town) to indicate the site, but at first I accidentally went past this road as it was obscured by some major road works. I doubled back and stopped on this road, but there was no sign, I could see where it had been, but it was totally gone! It’s just a sign but it would have been cool to see (it said something like “UFO crash site 8 miles west of here – No trespassing!”). Oh well, at least I got some idea of the terrain in which the incident was meant to have taken place.
From there I headed further north to the town of Fort Sumner to visit Old Fort Sumner a civil war era fort used to facilitate the internment of Navajo (9,500) and Mescalero Apache (500) Native Americans in a reservation known as Bosque Redondo (1863-1868). A terrible chapter in history where on one hand the government were fighting to end slavery, yet on the other hand were forcing these Native American tribes from their homelands onto reservations making them travel vast distances even from other states (much blood was spilt by the military in the process of forcing them onto this reservation). Eventually they were allowed to go to reservations in their homelands. Today the Bosque Redondo Memorial remembers the tragedy of these government actions, and also displays information around the former fort site (washed away in floods back in the early 1900’s).
The fort was also the site where William H. Bonney aka “Billy the Kid” the outlaw and gunman, who according to the old tales was responsible for the deaths of up to 21 men (possibly some liberty had been taken by him in the numbers he claimed, but it makes for a good legend), was gunned down coincidently at the age of 21 by sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881. His grave lies nearby (the real one, a replica is displayed in the Billy the Kid Museum in Fort Sumner) and interestingly the tombstone has had quite a history in itself. Stolen in 1950 it did not turn up again until 1976 in Texas, then it was stolen again in 1981, but was found a few days later in California! From then on a sturdy steel cage has been built around the grave!
Quite a diverse day of history and intrigue, New Mexico really is a fascinating place! My next couple of days will be further north around Santa Fe and Albuquerque exploring early Native American and Spanish life in this state and then the later atomic history that has dominated the world ever since.