ROSWELL, N.M. — A peculiar ranch incident near Roswell, New Mexico nearly 75 years ago still intrigues UFO enthusiasts about the possible presence of extra-terrestrial life on Earth.
Amid a violent summer thunderstorm in July 1947, a large flying object fell out of favor with the gods and crashed on a ranch about 75 miles northwest of the military town. The events to follow gave rise to Roswell as a tourist attraction for UFO conspiracies comparable to the likes of Nevada’s Area 51.
Local rancher Mack Brazel was the first to stumble upon the field of debris that stretched wider than a football field. Reports of flying saucers were rampant at the time, and while Brazel hadn’t heard of them at first, sightings began to captivate the public nationwide.
Several days later, Brazel reported the crash site to local authorities and described the scene as “a large area of bright wreckage” where he found “rubber strips, tinfoil, [and] a rather tough paper and sticks” to the Roswell Daily Record in a story published on July 8, stoking rumors of a flying saucer.
The story, headlined, “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer On Ranch in Roswell Region,” was primarily provoked by Roswell Army Air Field public information officer Walter Hunt’s now-infamous press release quoted below, emphasis added:
The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence officer of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disk through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff’s office of Chaves County.
The story was later retracted after the government released a follow-up explanation that the downed aircraft was a weather balloon. For years, that was that. The government’s position has remained the same ever since.
Eyewitnesses to the early events began to challenge the government’s official position 30 years later. Nuclear physicist and UFO researcher Stanton Friedman interviewed an intelligence officer involved with the case, Major Jesse Marcel, in 1979. He claimed the downed aircraft was of another world and that the government kept him quiet.
Countless other researchers and “ufologists” have called into question the government’s narrative for decades, highlighting inconsistencies in its subsequent reports. The International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell has become their campus.
While a bit corny to attract tourists, the people who run the museum are serious, with an entire library dedicated to the academic study of alien UFOs, to which the U.S. military has dedicated an entire program within the Pentagon.
Public access to the library is currently closed off under the Democrat governor’s order. The gift shop across the hall, on the other hand, was wide open.
Beth Wiegand has worked at the museum since 2010 and doesn’t buy the government’s story of a downed weather balloon.
“A weather balloon does a lot of remarkable things, but it doesn’t come careening out of the sky in a great big ball and go splat in the desert,” Wiegand told me, highlighting testimony from other eyewitnesses who reported what she described. “If what they saw was a weather balloon, it was the most remarkable weather balloon in history. They just don’t do that.”
If a weather balloon were hit by lightning, Wiegand maintained, it would merely shrivel into a ball and burn, not crash in a pile of debris out of Star Trek film and wider than a football field.
I left the museum convinced something bizarre happened at the nearby ranch more than 70 years ago. As a natural skeptic of government claims based on classified intelligence, I don’t buy its claim that what fell was a weather balloon either. That being said, my own imagination of the universe prohibits the idea that intelligent life as we understand it exists beyond our solar system at the same moment in time.
I drove 20 miles outside Roswell the night before my museum visit to catch a glimpse of the cosmos under the darkness of a new moon at its peak. As I gazed upon the long arm of the Milky Way stretched across the New Mexican desert sky, I pondered our improbable existence, evolved on a planet born more than 4.5 billion years ago after five mass extinctions reset life within the last 450 million.
Considering the vast expanse of the universe, I wonder if life is actually common in the cosmos, except it takes the shape of microorganisms in the beginning stages of evolution of creatures more similar to the dinosaurs that once ruled the Earth. But our conventional conception of time is also limiting. How often do other planets with the qualities to possess life experience mass extinctions?
By the time we made it to other star systems, would life have already run its course, as may have happened on our planetary neighbor Mars? Will life exist on planets we detect today millions, even billions of years from now?
So when I stepped into the Roswell UFO Museum, suffice to say I was skeptical of the idea aliens had touched down nearby. But in another sense, we are the ancient aliens of the universe, landing machines and equipment on other worlds in preparation for deep space travel to answer the questions I’ve just outlined.
Some astronomers theorize the universe will eventually die out 100 trillion years from now in the “Big Freeze” when star formation comes to a close. As far as we know, our universe is only 13.8 billion years old. With that timeline, we remain very much in an ancient era.
I don’t know what exactly happened in Roswell, but no one knows exactly what’s happening in the cosmos.