The Roswell Mystery – Part 3

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As we have seen in Parts 1 & 2, there is no incontrovertible hard evidence for the crash and recovery of an alien craft at Roswell in 1947. The 1950 Hottel FBI memo is almost certainly tied to the activities of convicted con-man Silas Newton, the Roswell slides do not show an alien, the Roswell autopsy film footage is a fake, an extended dig at the supposed crash site failed to unearth any identifiably alien fragments, any reading of the enlargement of the Ramey memo is ambiguous at best and the Majestic-12 and Project Serpo papers are almost certainly fakes. The many photographs which have emerged since 1980 purporting to show a crashed alien craft or alien bodies recovered at Roswell have all been shown to be fakes. The only authenticated photographs from 1947 show Jesse Marcel, General Ramey and Colonel DuBose with what could possibly be the remains of a balloon train in General Ramey’s office. All we have to support the UFO/alien theory is testimony from a number of eyewitnesses. The problem for anyone trying to dispassionately evaluate this evidence is that it is often contradictory and that many alleged witnesses have made statements which have subsequently proven to be untrue or have changed their accounts so dramatically over time that it’s difficult to take them seriously.

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This photograph is claimed to show alien bodies recovered at Roswell in storage at a secret US Air Force facility. It’s generally accepted to be a fake.

The testimony of Glenn Dennis, Jim Ragsdale, Gerald Anderson and Frank Kaufmann for example, has been generally discredited for the reasons explained in the previous part. The testimony of Lydia Sleppy seems to be based on a technical impossibility. Barney Barnett’s account of seeing a crashed flying saucer and its occupants was recounted many years later and at second hand. In its original version, no date was provided and it was only after 1980 that Roswell researchers attempted to conflate this with the collection of debris from the Foster ranch by placing it on 4th or 5th July 1947. This now appears to be impossible (due to the evidence of Ruth Barnett’s dairy) and the lack of supporting witnesses means that we can’t really accept this as significant evidence. Sheridan Cavitt changed his account so completely between 1990 and 1994 that it is very difficult to take his final version seriously.

What does that leave us with? In terms of witnesses who provided major testimony, it leaves the testimony of Frank Joyce, Lewis “Bill” Rickett and Thomas DuBose. Let’s start with Frank Joyce. As noted above, no-one has produced any valid reason to doubt his statements, but it has to be said that these directly contradict the statements given by Jesse Marcel who met with Brazel and went to the Foster ranch on 6th July and didn’t mention seeing alien bodies when he spoke to Bob Pratt in 1979. It’s also difficult to reconcile Joyce’s claims with the fact that Brazel appears to have found the debris some days before reporting it to Sheriff Wilcox. There are varying accounts of when the debris was found (Brazel claimed 14th June in the interview with the Roswell Daily News on 9th July, the initial Press Release said “last week”) but we do know that on 4th July Brazel took his family to the ranch to help collect some of the debris (his daughter Betty has confirmed this). Whatever the date that he first found the debris, it seems to me inconceivable that, had he found wreckage and bodies (human or otherwise), Brazel would not have immediately reported this. It’s also very difficult to reconcile his taking his family to help gather debris if there really had been putrefying alien bodies in the vicinity. Instead, it seems that it wasn’t until sometime on the 6th July that Brazel even considered that what he had found might be worth reporting. This behavior simply does not fit with Joyce’s account of a nervous and concerned Brazel (Joyce at one point described Brazel as sounding “terrified” during the first telephone conversation) who had found the bodies of aliens.

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An old video is sometimes shown from which this frame is taken. It’s occasionally claimed to show a crashed UFO at Roswell, but it’s a fake.

The testimony of Bill Rickett is, for me at least, very convincing. He talks in detail about many things about his military service which subsequent investigations have proved to be accurate and his accounts of his visit to the crash site and his later involvement with Dr Lincoln LaPaz sound reasonable. However, we do have to mention a couple of issues. First, his description of the journey to the crash site with Sheridan Cavitt is detailed and seems to describe a journey that is much too short to be a trip to the generally accepted site of the original collection of debris on the Foster Ranch (a journey from Roswell AAF to the debris site would have covered around 100 miles and should have taken at least three hours). Second, his description of the scene at the site is quite different to the recollections provided by Jesse Marcel and Sheridan Cavitt. Third, no-one has been able to find evidence to back-up Rickett’s claim to have worked with Dr LaPaz on an analysis of the Roswell crash later in 1947 (though, to be fair, no-one has been able to produce evidence that completely rules this out either). It’s known that Rickett did work with LaPaz later, in early 1949, on an investigation into sightings of green fireballs in New Mexico (Rickett assisted in writing the final report on this investigation) and it has been suggested that Rickett may later have conflated his memories of this event with Roswell.

The evidence of Thomas DuBose is primarily concerned with his assertion that the weather balloon explanation was simply a cover story. However, even if this was true, it doesn’t mean that a UFO was involved. It’s entirely possible that the Air Force would use the weather balloon explanation to cover-up the recovery of a secret Project Mogul balloon.

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Another claimed photograph of a crashed UFO at Roswell.

Now, these aren’t the only witnesses to Roswell, but I think they are typical of the fact that trying to reconcile Roswell witness statements is like walking through a hall of mirrors set in quicksand. Just when you think you have established some anchoring fact, something else comes along that seems to undercut this. Just take the initial visit by Air Force personnel to the Foster ranch. We aren’t even certain on which day (or days) this took place. Marcel is certain that the initial visit involved only himself and Sheridan Cavitt and that both men stayed on the ranch overnight. Cavitt is emphatic that they didn’t stay overnight and can’t remember Marcel being there at all – the only person he is certain was there on the first occasion was Bill Rickett. Rickett is certain that he wasn’t there on the first occasion and that he only returned later with Cavitt though he did see Marcel at the site. Marcel described the debris field as extending “about as far as you could see – three-quarters of a mile long and two hundred to three hundred feet wide” while Sheridan Cavitt described something that was just twenty feet square. These are fundamental elements of the story and the fact that we can’t even establish these with certainty is a major problem.

In these circumstances it’s tempting to believe that the two US Air Force reports released in 1995 and 1997 should provide a reliable source of information, but even that doesn’t appear to be so. Even the initial Roswell Report is itself an anomaly. The February 5th letter from the GAO to the Secretary of Defense which initiated the report requested:

“In response to a congressional request, the General Accounting Office is initiating a review of DOD’s policies and procedures for acquiring, classifying, retaining and disposing of official government documents dealing with weather balloon, aircraft, and similar crash incidents. The review will involve testing whether DOD, the military services, specialized defense agencies, and others such as the National Archives, have systematically followed the proper procedures to ensure government accountability over such records.”

That seems pretty clear – what the GAO was requesting was an audit of whether policy and procedures pertaining to the retention and publication of records had been followed by the Air Force in relation to documents relating to balloon, aircraft and other crashes. There is no mention here of Roswell or events in 1947. And yet, what the Air Force produced instead was a 1,000 page explanation of how there was no substance to the stories of the recovery of a UFO or aliens at Roswell while almost completely ignoring record keeping procedures. Duh?

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To make matters worse, The Roswell Report was very selective in what it. The only witness statement was from Sheridan Cavitt who gave an account that generally confirmed the Air Force version of story (though his description of a debris field of just twenty feet square just isn’t nearly big enough to account for the very long train fitted to Project Mogul balloons). The fact his later statement directly contradicted what Cavitt had previously said wasn’t mentioned and there was no attempt to discuss, for example, the very detailed statement given by Bill Rickett in 1990 (other than to include Cavitt’s unsubstantiated remark that Rickett was “prone to exaggeration”). There are also factual errors in the report: the date of Brazel’s initial visit to Sheriff Wilcox is given as 7th July, for example, rather than 6th July which is generally accepted by most other researchers. The date of the National Enquirer article on Roswell is given as 1978 (it was actually in 1980) which might just lead the unwary reader to suppose that an article in the National Enquirer (which is, let’s be honest here, not the most highly respected news publication), started the whole resurgence of the Roswell story. And there is the final sentence in the main body of the report which reads:

“It is recommended that this document serve as the final Air Force report related to the Roswell matter, for the GAO, or any other inquiries.”

Which made it a little surprising that just two years later in 1997, the US Air Force published a second lengthy paper on Roswell titled The Roswell Report: Case Closed which included in its introduction the following statement:

“Our objective throughout this enquiry has been simple and consistent: to find all the facts and bring them to light. In July 1994, we completed the first step in that effort and published The Roswell Report: Fact vs Fiction in the New Mexico Desert. This volume represents the necessary follow-on to that first publication…”  

It seemed that perhaps the original Roswell Report wasn’t so final after all? Case Closed dealt mainly with the subject of alien bodies and used the testimony of Glen Dennis, Barney Barnett and Gerald Anderson (which by 1997 had been largely discredited by many serious researchers anyway) and explained how Air Force experiments which began in 1950 using crash test dummies could account for misperceptions of dead aliens (because when recounting later, people might have mis-remembered dates). Even if you are willing to accept this, the report fails to explain how these dummies, which were modeled on strapping, six foot, two hundred pound air force pilots, could be mistaken for three foot tall aliens with oversized heads. Just like the original report, Case Closed reads like an attempt at de-bunking awkward testimony rather than an objective attempt to recount what Air Force records might tell us about what happened in 1947.

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US Air Force personnel with a test dummy. According to Case Closed, people mistook these for three-foot tall aliens.

But surely the US Air Force wouldn’t deliberately lie or try to mislead people about UFOs? Sadly, it appears that, for reasons that aren’t always immediately apparent, it might do precisely that. I realise that by now you are probably thinking that the story of Roswell couldn’t possibly get any stranger, but I’m afraid we’re about to slide down yet another Roswell rabbit hole, this one labelled “disinformation”.

At the 35th annual symposium organised by the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) in Las Vegas in July 1989, William Moore (co-author of The Roswell Incident and one of the researchers most involved with publicising and authenticating the Majestic-12 papers) amazed attendees by giving a keynote speech in which he admitted that, since 1980, he had been working with a covert Air Force intelligence agency to spread disinformation about UFO cases including Roswell. Moore claimed that when he was first approached by this agency, he believed that, in exchange for information about UFO researchers and groups, he would be given access to secret Government information on UFOs:

“In early September, 1980, I was approached by a well- placed individual within the intelligence community who claimed to be directly connected to a high-level project dealing with UFOs. This individual told me that he spoke for a small group of similar individuals who were uncomfortable with the government’s continuing cover-up of the truth and indicated that he and his group would like to help me with my research into the subject in the hope and expectation that I might be able to help them find a way to change the prevailing policy and get the facts to the public without breaking any laws in the process.”

However, by 1989 Moore had become convinced that he was instead being used as conduit to spread Government disinformation about UFOs:

“Disinformation is a strange and bizarre game. Those who play it are completely aware that an operation’s success is dependent upon dropping false information upon a target or `mark’, in such a way that the person will accept it as truth and will repeat, and even defend it to others as if it were true. One of the key factors in any successful disinformation scheme is that it must contain some elements of truth in order to be credible. Once the information is believed, the work of counterintelligence is complete.”

Moore ended by telling the stunned audience that they had been “…had by elements of United States counterintelligence.” That effectively ended Moore’s association with UFOs but the ramifications of his speech echoed round the world of UFO believers for many years.

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William Moore (left), Jamie Shandera (middle) and Stanton Friedman (right) in a press conference about the Majestic-12 papers in 1987.

The person that Moore claimed had recruited him was Sergeant Richard Doty, an agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI), the Air Force successor to the Counter Intelligence Corps which had employed Sheridan Cavitt and Bill Rickett. In the years following his “outing” by Moore, it became apparent that Doty had been involved in providing information related to several UFO cases. In particular, Doty passed information (via Moore) to UFO researcher and physicist Paul Bennewitz. Bennewitz had observed and photographed UFOs over the Manzano Nuclear Weapons Storage Facility, east of Kirtland AFB in New Mexico. The OSI, through Doty and Moore, fed Bennewitz increasingly bizarre disinformation regarding aliens which had been captured by the Air Force and were kept at a secret underground facility near Dulce, New Mexico. The story also included a whole mythos about evil “grey” aliens and their constant battle with friendly “whites”. Bennewitz became increasingly paranoid, believing that greys were coming into his house while he slept and injecting him with chemicals. He took to behaving erratically and carrying guns and knives in his house and was eventually hospitalised in a psychiatric institution. After that, Bennewitz rejected all involvement with UFOs and refused to give any interviews before his death in 2003.

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Richard C. Doty

Doty also appeared in a television programme (UFO Cover up? Live! ) in October 1988 where he explained (with his face hidden and his voice disguised) that aliens were not just being held by the US Government, but that they enjoyed Tibetan music and Strawberry ice cream! In 1988 Doty retired from the Air Force, but that didn’t end his involvement with UFOs. During the 1990s he was a consultant to the hit TV show The X-Files and there is good reason to believe that Doty, using the pseudonym Paul McGovern, was at least partly behind the absurd 2005 Project Serpo papers which claimed that US Air Force pilots had been sent on an exchange scheme to another planet. In 2005 Doty co-authored a book, Exempted From Disclosure, with Captain Robert M. Collins (another former member of OSI who had been involved in UFO disinformation). In this book he admitted providing disinformation to Paul Bennewitz but denied any responsibility for the researchers’ subsequent breakdown. In 2013 Doty was featured in the documentary Mirage Men (based on a 2010 book of the same title) in which he explained how the Air Force deliberately created a myth about crashed saucers and captured aliens.

Excerpt from UFO Cover up? Live!, 1988

It seems that there is good reason to doubt any UFO information originating with or through Richard Doty. And although there is no direct evidence to link Doty with the Majestic-12 papers, there seems good reason to believe that he may have been involved. We know that, in the early 1980s Doty was feeding Moore disinformation and the Majestic-12 papers were sent to Shandera, a friend of Moore. In February 1981, Doty provided William Moore with a document which has become known as the “Project Aquarius Telex”. This purported to be a telex sent by OSI HQ in Washington and included the line “The official US Government policy and results of Project Aquarius is still classified and with restricted access to ‘MJ Twelve’.” This was before the appearance of the Majestic-12 papers and it generally recognised as the first mention of this group. If as now seems to be the case, there really was no such group as MJ-12, this can only mean that the Majestic-12 papers also originated from the OSI and most probably from Richard Doty.

This means not only that we should disregard the Majestic-12 and Project Serpo papers as evidence for Roswell (though to be fair, serious researchers had grave doubts about both even before Doty’s involvement was known), it seems that both were examples of deliberate disinformation originating from Doty and/or OSI. After all, Doty worked for the OSI and his UFO disinformation activities must have been known to that organisation. Which means that we must view both Air Force reports on Roswell within the context of an organisation is known to be focussed on undercutting and undermining belief in UFOs. While I wouldn’t want to suggest that the authors of these reports told deliberate untruths, it’s notable that all the evidence presented in the two Roswell Reports backs up the official Air Force view and any evidence that might contradict this is simply ignored.

Where does all this leave us? It leaves us completely without any physical or reliable documentary evidence to support the Roswell UFO/alien conspiracy theory. Almost every book that has been written to support this theory is based to some extent on flawed data. Either these books include testimony from witnesses who have subsequently been discredited and/or they use doubtful evidence such as the Majestic-12 papers which are now known to have been part of an OSI disinformation campaign. Mind you, it also has to be said that those books which seek to debunk Roswell also simply ignore testimony from witnesses who we have no valid reason to doubt and the two Air Force reports cannot be regarded as objective.

Perhaps instead what we need to do is to step back and try to take an objective, common-sense attitude to evaluating the two theories. If you start out with the viewpoint that you just know that aliens are real and that US Air Force has been covering up their existence for many years, you can’t be dispassionate about this. Likewise, if you start with the notion that aliens are bunkum and those who believe in them are deluded idiots, any evaluation is skewed.

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A model of the Roswell crash site at the International UFO Museum & Research Center in Roswell

So, let’s start by considering the idea that a crashed UFO and possibly aliens (either dead or alive) were recovered in 1947. If that happened, the operation must necessarily have involved dozens or perhaps hundreds of Army (and later Air Force) personnel to secure the crash site(s), recover any debris and bodies, clean-up the site, transport recovered items to wherever they went and to provide security and investigative personnel for the recovered items at their final location. And we’re not talking here just about trained intelligence personnel and scientists: such an operation must also have involved at the very least drivers, equipment operators, radio operators, clerical staff, pilots and Military Policemen.

In the 1950s and 1960s UFOs were huge news. A myriad of books were published on this topic, so many groups sprang up to investigate UFOs that it’s impossible to list them all and newspapers and television programmes regularly covered UFO events. All the people involved in the Roswell operation would have known something that the general public (and writers, researchers, television stations and newspapers) were passionately interested in finding out – that UFOs were not only real, but that they were extraterrestrial craft piloted by alien beings. But if we are to believe the Roswell UFO recovery theory, we must accept that virtually none of the people involved in this operation ever mentioned their role to a reporter or investigator, or spoke to a friend or family member who later passed this information on. And this state of silence continued for more than thirty years without a single whisper emerging. In addition, the Air Force must have suppressed or forged every relevant piece of paperwork which might give a clue, not just to the recovery of a UFO, but also the presence at Roswell AAF of heightened security and additional personnel.

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I find it very, very difficult to believe that any Government is capable of keeping such a huge secret for an extended period of time without any hint or rumour slipping out and I find the almost complete lack of witness reports prior to 1978 a major barrier to believing the Roswell UFO/alien recovery theory. For me, there is also another important obstacle to believing this theory – the Majestic-12 papers. It now seems clear that these papers were a hoax perpetrated by or on behalf of OSI and the US Air Force (and probably involving Richard Doty) and which specifically referenced the recovery of a crashed UFO and aliens near Roswell in 1947. If the US Air Force had been completely successful over thirty years in hiding the fact that they had indeed recovered such things, why on earth would they fake papers which directly led to an increased interest in this topic? When the Majestic-12 papers were first released, there had been only one book published about Roswell – The Roswell Incident. Without these papers fanning the flames of interest in this subject, it’s entirely possible that this case might have dropped entirely from view or at least not assumed the massive proportions that it did. Is it really credible that the Air Force worked desperately hard to conceal the fact that they had recovered a crashed UFO and then, almost forty years later, launched a disinformation campaign that focussed attention on that very thing? Not to me.

And yes, I’m aware of the theory that the Majestic-12 papers are a clever double bluff containing just enough clues to prove that they are not real, and that this is a fiendishly clever plot by the Air Force to encourage interest in Roswell, and then to undercut this when it’s finally revealed that the papers are a hoax. I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t work for me. These papers were convincing enough that for many years serious researchers including Stanton Friedman believed that they were genuine (many people apparently continue to believe this). To me, the Majestic-12 papers prove only one thing – that, whatever its attitude to UFOs and whatever it may be concealing, one thing that the US Air Force isn’t concerned about is focusing attention on the notion that it recovered a crashed UFO and/or aliens at Roswell. And that can only logically be because they don’t care if people are encouraged to investigate this because they have nothing to hide about this particular case.

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What then of the eyewitness accounts which support the Roswell UFO/alien recovery theory? The first problem is that so many of these accounts seem to contradict one another. For this reason, those who support the UFO/alien recovery theory have been forced to change the number and location of crash sites and dates over the years. Those who reject this theory have used the lack of corroboration to suggest that these witness statements aren’t true. But is it credible to believe that so many seemingly sensible and genuine people would claim to have seen something if they hadn’t?

To consider this, let me digress for a moment to talk about the story of the Angel of Mons in World War One (you’ll find a link to an article about that mystery at the end of this article). From April 1915 this was a huge story in Britain and elsewhere and was widely believed to be true. During and after World War One many, many witnesses came forward to describe either seeing an Angel at Mons or elsewhere or to provide second-hand testimony of this event which they claimed to have heard from friends, family members and wounded soldiers in 1914. The overwhelming number of seemingly reliable witness accounts meant that the story was generally perceived to be true and in mid-1915 a British newspaper approvingly printed a comment from a popular preacher noting that:

“… when soldiers and officers, who were in the retreat from Mons say they saw a batch of angels between them and the enemy… no thoroughly modern man is foolish enough to disbelieve the statement or to pooh-pooh the experience as hallucination.”

The general view seems to have been that, if so many people reporting seeing something, then surely there must be some basis of truth in it no matter how fantastic the story seemed? Even up to the 1980s many elderly British soldiers were still providing emotional and moving testimony of seeing the Angel (and those who believe in the reality of Angels often use this case a prima facie evidence of their existence). But there was no Angel. And we’re not talking here about exhausted soldiers misperceiving an odd cloud formation and thinking it was an Angel (as is sometimes suggested). There was no original event of any kind behind this story. The myth of the Angel of Mons was invented six months after the event to bolster British morale and only then did witnesses start to come forward. And in another parallel to Roswell, there is reason to believe that the Angel of Mons story may have originated as a piece of disinformation produced by British Military Intelligence.

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Cigarette card from World War One depicting “The Angels of Mons

One of the notable features of the “eyewitness” testimony of the Angel of Mons is that witnesses provided a range of versions of when and where this event took place and precisely what form the Angel (or Angels) took. Believers were forced to develop theories that there had been more than one Angel in more than one location to account for this but we can now be certain that it was because these witnesses weren’t remembering a real event – they were conflating later newspaper accounts and second-hand stories repeated by others and developing false memories of an event that never actually happened. There is no doubt that eyewitnesses to the Angel of Mons (particularly those talking long after the event) truly believed what they remembered, but there is equally no doubt that these were not memories of a real event.

Doesn’t that all sound rather familiar? A range of seemingly sincere and genuine witnesses giving accounts of something fantastic that they remember, but confusingly these accounts don’t seem to corroborate one another? Either we must develop increasingly complex theories to take account of all these different versions of events or we have to start to wonder whether, just like the Angel of Mons, the Roswell incident has seeped into popular culture to the extent that people are falsely remembering things that didn’t actually happen?

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Sir Frederick Bartlett

The idea that human memory doesn’t work simply as a recorder of past experiences was first proposed by British psychologist Sir Frederick Bartlett in the 1930s. Bartlett’s theory of reconstructive memory suggested that:

“Memory does not work like a video recording, meaning that our memories of an event are often incomplete, as we only recall the important points. Reconstructive memory suggests that in the absence of all information, we fill in the gaps to make more sense of what happened. This means that our memories are a combination of specific traces encoded at the time of the event, along with our knowledge, expectations, beliefs and experiences of such an event. “

From http://lca-psychology.weebly.com/reconstructive-memory.html

Since the 1930s a great deal more research has looked at this issue and False Memory Syndrome (FMS) is now an accepted and well-attested psychological fact. FMS came to general notice in the 1980s and 1990s following several court cases based on memories of apparent childhood sexual abuse that were subsequently proven to be false. The following quotation comes from the webpage of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, a group established in the US in 1992 which includes a Scientific and Professional Advisory Board comprising prominent researchers and clinicians in psychiatry, psychology, social work, law, and education:

“Because of the reconstructive nature of memory, some memories may be distorted through influences such as the incorporation of new information. There are also believed-in imaginings that are not based in historical reality; these have been called false memories, pseudo-memories and memory illusions. They can result from the influence of external factors, such as the opinion of an authority figure or information repeated in the culture.” 

That last phrase “information repeated in the culture” seems to me directly relevant to any discussion of Roswell. Human perception is a flawed and little understood mechanism and human memory is known to be unreliable and subject to external influences. The longer the period that elapses between the original event that formed the memory and the recall, the more the memory can come to include pseudo-memories. Roswell is an overarching paradigm encompassing Government duplicity and the purported existence of UFOs and aliens and has become so embedded in the general consciousness that almost everyone has heard of it. Given what we know about false memories and their relationship to popular culture, we should not be surprised that elements of the Roswell story may have falsely taken root in the memory of some witnesses recalling events many years later. If this is true, Roswell eyewitness testimony suddenly becomes much less reliable as an indicator of what actually happened in 1947.

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Images associated with Roswell are abundant in popular culture – this is the Roswell crash site, as depicted in The X-Files

One of the issues with false memory syndrome is that witnesses are telling the truth, that is to say, they are accurately describing their memories even though these memories may not be of a real event. For this reason these people will appear completely convincing and can, for example, pass a lie detector test. According to the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, the only way to be certain that a memory is accurate is to find independent, external corroboration.

So, I am forced to conclude that, while I don’t doubt the sincerity of the many Roswell witnesses, the conflicting stories told long after the event and the existence of False Memory Syndrome mean that I don’t believe that we can accept this testimony without some form of external corroboration as hard evidence for the UFO/alien theory. And so far at least, any form of reliable independent external corroboration is completely lacking.

Does this mean that I completely go along with the recovered balloon theory? Well logically, given that I said that there are only two theories here and I have just rejected one of them, that should be true, shouldn’t it? But hey, this is Roswell we’re talking about here, so who said that ordinary logic must apply? Because the thing is, I find the Air Force balloon theory just a little too pat. If what was recovered on the Foster ranch was really a weather balloon (or even a Project Mogul balloon, which was basically a whole bunch of balloons joined together along with some balsa wood reflectors) that should have been immediately apparent to Air Force personnel (Cavitt, you’ll recall, said that he immediately recognised the debris as coming from a weather balloon). OK, Mogul was a secret project, so the people involved might not have recognised precisely what the train attached to the balloons was for, but surely it must have been obvious that the debris was from some type of balloon? In that case, why the hell would Colonel Blanchard authorise a Press Release saying that what had been found was a flying saucer?

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Preparing a Project Mogul balloon for launch. The kite-like things in the foreground are radar reflectors.

That makes no sense to me. And the initial Air Force Roswell Report in 1995 spent almost 1,000 pages “proving” that the object recovered was a Project Mogul balloon. Preparing that report must have taken considerable time and effort, and yet it wasn’t what had been requested. The Air Force were in effect answering a question that no-one had asked them which sounds rather as if they were instead trying to sell a particular story about Roswell. And several witnesses (notably Bill Rickett, though there were others too) described the debris as including pieces of light-weight metal. No metal was used in Project Mogul balloon trains, so if there was any metal debris on the Foster ranch, it simply can’t have come from one of these balloons. And what about the testimony of reliable witnesses who report that Mack Brazel was detained by the Air Force for anything up to a week after reporting the debris? This just doesn’t fit with his finding of any type of balloon.

So, there you are. Something left debris on the Foster ranch in early 1947 but I am not convinced by the available evidence that it was a UFO or that the bodies of aliens were recovered. However, nor am I convinced that what was recovered was simply a balloon of some sort. I’m not certain what it could have been, though the evidence certainly seems to suggest it was something the Air Force didn’t want to publicise. An experimental aircraft? A missile? Neither really seems to fit the bill and it’s difficult to imagine why the Air Force would have been so careful to cover-up the crash of either. It doesn’t help that the US Air Force has a proven track record of producing UFO disinformation, undermining the credibility of witnesses to UFO related events and proposing patently silly “solutions” for UFO sightings (see The Swamp Gas Mystery for more information). None of these things do them credit and they mean that it’s much more difficult to be confident about any information on UFOs originating from the Air Force.

Roswell is a complex and completely fascinating case. It is possible that in the future someone may find some compelling evidence to support one of the existing theories, or even to develop an entirely new theory, though the chances of that happening probably get less with every year that passes. Until that happens, I believe this case provides more of an insight into human psychology than it reveals about visitors from another planet.

Related pages

The Roswell Mystery – Part 1

The Roswell Mystery – Part 2

The Swamp Gas Mystery

The Angel of Mons Mystery

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A Different Perspective, blog site run by author Kevin Randle in which he discusses Roswell and a number of other topics. Link to an article about a particular Roswell witness which illustrates some of the problems in evaluating witness testimony.

The website of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation

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