Central New Mexico

The little green men of Roswell, New Mexico

A discovery near Roswell in 1947 led to this small city becoming the UFO capital of the world.

Patti Begin in Roswell, New Mexico.

Roswell is known within the state of New Mexico for its agriculture, dairy, manufacturing and oil industries, but many visitors seem only interested in what’s called the Roswell Incident of July 7, 1947. As a result, New Mexico is often called the UFO State or the Alien Capital of the World.

The Roswell Incident actually took place near Corona, 75 miles northwest of Roswell. A foreman on a ranch, William Brazel, came across a field of debris including rubber strips, strange tinfoil, wooden sticks and tape holding it together. Not sure what he found, Brazel turned over the items to the Roswell sheriff and later to the air force base in Roswell. An officer claimed the items to be a flying disk, later termed an Unidentified Flying Object or UFO.

Only four hours later, the army announced the material was not from a flying disk but the remains of a weather balloon. The controversy was established: was it a UFO or a weather balloon? Some 47 years later, the U.S. military finally admitted it was not a weather balloon but a high altitude helium surveillance balloon from the Mogul Project. Put into context, 1947 was the beginning of the Cold War and the air force was not about to admit that they were spying on the Russians.

UFOs and the government

Sightings of UFOs are really nothing new and have been recorded throughout history and around the world. Following what happened near Roswell, the U.S. air force began to investigate and record sightings in its Blue Book project from 1948 to 1969. The Blue Book concluded that of 12,000 reported sightings, only six per cent could not be explained and 94 per cent were caused by natural atmospheric events.

By 1969, the Condon Report concluded that there was no scientific evidence of UFOs and Operation Blue Book was cancelled. In addition, the air force concluded in its 1997 Final Report on the Roswell Crash that what William Brazel found was from Operation Mogul.

Regardless of what really happened near Roswell, millions around the world were now fascinated. Time magazine conducted its own poll, finding that 66 per cent of people believed a UFO crashed near Roswell and 80 per cent felt there was a government coverup.

Ufology—the study of UFOs

The Roswell Incident would have been forgotten had not physicist Stanton Friedman in 1977 started interviewing the individuals involved. Ufologist Charles Berlitz and William Moore published a book called the Roswell Incident in 1980. Eleven years later, Kevin Randle and Donald Smith published UFO Crash at Roswell, further adding to the controversy. These sources revealed there was a second flying disk or space ship that also crashed near Corona, with dead humanoid bodies inside. Witnesses now came forward such as Major Jesse Marcel, who handled the original debris, Roswell mortician W.G. Dennis, and a mysterious Nurse X who claimed to have seen the alien bodies in the hospital.

Movies and UFOs

The movie and television industry further cultivated this fascination with little green men. Hollywood has produced over 60 movies about extraterrestrials. Some of these movies include the Flying Saucer (1950), War of the Worlds (1953), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T. (1981), the Abyss (1989), Independence Day (1996) and documentaries such as Six Days in Roswell (1998). A television series called the X-Files claimed “the truth is out there,” and dealt with conspiracies and a government coverup.

Roswell and the UFO Museum

The UFO Museum in Roswell opened in the fall of 1992, occupying a few rooms over a bank. By 1997, the old Plains Movie Theater became its present home. The museum does an excellent job with the 1947 Incident. The museum also features displays of the paranormal, crop circles, Area 51, alien abductions and models of deceased aliens. The museum is a research centre, with books, newspapers, videos, magazines and private UFO collections throughout their library.

The city of Roswell has made a conscious effort to become the mecca of ufology and the UFO theme has proven to be very profitable and popular.

“Roswell was only a drive through city, but people now stop,” said Mark Briscoe, executive director of the UFO Museum. “The UFO theme brings millions of dollars yearly into the Roswell economy, with 175,000 people visiting the museum every year.”
Businesses started to revamp their store fronts, from McDonalds’ spaceship design to Walmart windows. This unique city of 50,000 people has embraced the theme approach, which in turn, has created a strong sense of community and public pride.

Events such as the annual UFO Festival in July attracts 10,000 participants each year, putting $1.25 million into the local economy. The festival consists of a parade, trade show, lectures, custom contests and plenty of alien beer.

What really happened?

So what really happened at Roswell in 1947? That conclusion rests with the individual. But with an open mind, you can enjoy the experience of Roswell. As for ongoing research on this topic, the Center for UFO Studies or CUFOS, established by Dr. Hynek at Northwestern University, continues the scientific analysis of UFO sightings.

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