• Tazmen Couie

The Roswell Incident: A Broken Conspiracy



Hell yeah, I had a lot of fun doing the mass hysteria special but I’m so excited to be able to talk about some more lighthearted stuff again. And honestly, I’m really excited to talk about aliens. I fucking love aliens, and the concept of them, the mystery, fucking everything. But you know what else I love? So, Roswell New Mexico, I know we haven’t touched on the topic yet, but they really knew how to capitalize on the incident we’ll be going over in this episode in a way to gain tourism - which isn’t an uncommon thing - but they have a fucking McDonald’s that looks like a UFO and I so wish we could be recording this episode in that McDonald’s fucking double fisting big macs and sweet tea, but regardless, Bryson, and everybody who isn’t driving while listening to this, I want you to google the Roswell McDonald’s and tell me what you think about it.

Fuck yes, right? I love it.

Anyways, as always, we want to thank you for tuning into these episodes every week. If you haven’t already, make sure to click that subscribe button wherever you get your podcast on for the easiest way to get notifications when our episodes are ready every Wednesday. While you’re at it, I’d implore you to check out our Patreon as well. For the months of January and February, our base tier is only $1 for you to check it out - we post all of our episodes as soon as they’re finished being edited, usually about a week early, as well as the scripts to the episodes so you can see just how many tangents we really do go on. We also have bonus exclusive content over there like our weekly power hour, for example this weeks will be us chatting after this episode about the existence of aliens and whether we believe they’ve visited and all that fun stuff - plus we do a monthly Tangent Takeover episode where we do an episode topic chosen by our patrons in a poll. We hope to see you there.

So, bada-bing, bada-boom - what do you know about that boom boom crash alien wrack in Roswell, Bryson?

Cool, cool, cool. Aliens. Fuck yes. So, let’s get into those beautiful, beautiful, juicy little aliens. So I’m not gonna lie, I read a lot of articles and shit and have a lot of sources on this incident, but I did use Wikipedia and quote it a lot to help me consolidate on this one since it’s so over-covered. So for all you school teachers out there, you can flunk me now.

So sometime between mid-July and early June an unknown flying object crashed onto W.W. “Mac” Brazel’s ranchland, and on June 14th Mac and his son Vernon were driving across their land, about 80 miles away from Roswell, New Mexico and discovered, in Mac’s own words, “a large area of bright wreckage made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, and rather tough paper, and sticks.”

The metallic-looking fabric was scattered and shredded throughout the wreckage area, though Mac didn’t have any idea what to do with it or what it was. He initially had left it there, but when he went to town he heard people talking about seeing something in the sky - so thinking may be what people had seen, he went home and collected some of the wreckage and on July 7th he went to Roswell and asked Sheriff George Wilcox about it.

Sheriff Wilcox was just as confused as Mac on what it may be, but agreed to contact someone for help; Colonel “Butch” Blanchard, commander of the Roswell Army Airfield’s 509th Composite Group, located just outside of town. Butch too was dumfounded. Working his way up the chain of command, he decided to contact his superior, General Roger W. Ramey, commander of the 8th Air Force in Fort Worth, Texas.

Without waiting on his superior’s answer, he had sent Major Jesse Marcel to check it out with the Sheriff and Mac. While collecting the wreckage and investigating the incident, the army made a press release about the incident. Here’s a quote from the press release: “The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff's office of Chaves County. The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff's office, who in turn notified Maj. Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office. Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher's home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.”

The next day, they back-tracked. Saying instead, that they recovered a crash weather balloon - not an alien ship.

A major from the 8th Airforce had said: "The disc is hexagonal in shape and was suspended from a balloon by cable, which balloon was approximately twenty feet in diameter. Major Curtan further advices advises that the object found resembles a high altitude weather balloon with a radar reflector.”

Here’s another quote about the aircraft regarding that phone call: “The balloon which held it up, if that was how it worked, must have been 12 feet long, Mac felt, measuring the distance by the size of the room in which he sat. The rubber was smoky gray in color and scattered over an area about 200 yards in diameter. When the debris was gathered up, the tinfoil, paper, tape, and sticks made a bundle about three feet long and 7 or 8 inches thick, while the rubber made a bundle about 18 or 20 inches long and about 8 inches thick. In all, he estimated, the entire lot would have weighed maybe five pounds. There was no sign of any metal in the area which might have been used for an engine, and no sign of any propellers of any kind, although at least one paper fin had been glued onto some of the tinfoil. There were no words to be found anywhere on the instrument, although there were letters on some of the parts. Considerable Scotch tape and some tape with flowers printed upon it had been used in the construction. No strings or wires were to be found but there were some eyelets in the paper to indicate that some sort of attachment may have been used.”

Their intention with this was for the public to forget that the event ever happened, and for the most part - it worked. For more than 30 years.

Between 1978 and the early 1990’s, interest would again begin to peak. But hey man, you know what peaks my interest?

So in 1978, nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman interviewed Major Jesse Marcel, the only known person to accompany the debris from the crash site to Fort Worth, where they showed the press the supposed recovered debris. I’m going to quote from an article from the TIME released in 1997 here:

“Stanton Friedman, a former itinerant nuclear physicist now living in New Brunswick, Canada, who has long been, in his words, “a clear-cut, unambiguous UFOlogist.” In 1978, while waiting in a Baton Rouge, La., television station for an interview, Friedman was told that Jesse Marcel, long retired from the Air Force and living nearby, had once handled the wreckage of a UFO. After quizzing Marcel, who still believed the debris he retrieved was extraterrestrial, Friedman reviewed the old stories about Roswell, painstakingly sought out and interviewed other witnesses, and came to a dramatic conclusion: there had been a cover-up of “cosmic Watergate” proportions. His research and conclusions became the basis of the 1980 book The Roswell Incident, co-written by Charles Berlitz (author of The Bermuda Triangle) and UFO investigator William Moore. Its publication put Roswell back on the map.”

Speaking of the 1980 book, The Roswell Incident, lets rub our genitals up on that a bit, eh?

I mean, we can rub our genitals up on these ads if you’d prefer that.

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Okay, let’s get back to clapping those alien cheeks.

So, the Roswell Incident was written by Charles Berlitz and William Moore, authors who had previously written popular books on the Philadelphia Experiment and on the Bermuda Triangle, so obvious conspiracy theorists, but it's fine.

Historian Kathy Olmsted writes that the material in this book has come to be known as "version 1" of the Roswell myth. Charles and Williams narrative claims that an alien craft was flying over the New Mexico desert observing US nuclear weapons activity, but crashed after being hit by lightning, killing the aliens on board; a government cover-up duly quickly followed. This isn’t the only time that aliens will be linked to studying nuclear weapons, either.

So the authors claimed to have interviewed over 90 witnesses. Though he was uncredited, Friedman carried out some research for the book. The Roswell Incident featured accounts of debris described by Marcel as "nothing made on this earth." Additional accounts by Bill Brazel, the son of Mac Brazel, neighbor Floyd Proctor and Walt Whitman Jr., son of newsman W. E. Whitman who had interviewed Mac Brazel, suggested the material Marcel recovered had super-strength not associated with a weather balloon. The book introduced the contention that debris which was recovered by Marcel at the Foster ranch, visible in photographs showing Marcel posing with the debris, was substituted for debris from a weather device as part of a cover-up.

The book also claimed that the debris recovered from the ranch was not permitted a close inspection by the press. The efforts by the military were described as being intended to discredit and "counteract the growing hysteria towards flying saucers". Two accounts of witness intimidation were included in the book, including the incarceration of Mac Brazel. (side note, this is the only claim I can find of him being arrested, so I have no confidence that this is a real thing.) The book also introduced the secondhand stories of civil engineer Barney Barnett and a group of archeology students from an unidentified university seeing alien wreckage and bodies while in the desert.

In 1992, a book of his own called Crash at Corona, co-authored with Don Berliner – an author of books on space and aviation. Goldberg writes that Friedman introduced new "witnesses", and that he added to the narrative by doubling the number of flying saucers to two, and the number of aliens to eight – two of which were said to have survived and been taken into custody by the government.

Former Lt. Col. Philip J. Corso had also reported in his autobiographical book that the Roswell Crash did happen and that when he was assigned to Fort Riley (Kansas) in July 1947, 5 trucks of 25 tons and some semi-trailers entered the base from Fort Bliss, Texas. He claimed while he was patrolling the base he was brought into the medical facilities by Sgt. Brown and shown the remnants of bodies that were from an "air crash". However, Philip Klass, American journalist and UFO researcher, analyzed his claims line by line and exposed many inconsistencies and factual errors.

There were several other books published throughout those years as well, often slightly changing facts based on “new witnesses” and the like, some claiming that there were 8 bodies with two being alive, that there wasn’t just one ship - but two, and the like. The existence of so many differing accounts by 1994 led to a many disagreements among ufologists about the events at Roswell. The Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) and the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), two leading UFO societies, disagreed in their views of the various scenarios presented by Randle–Schmitt and Friedman–Berliner; several conferences were held to try to resolve the differences. One issue under discussion was where Barnett was when he saw the alien craft he was said to have encountered. A 1992 UFO conference attempted to achieve a consensus among the various scenarios portrayed in Crash at Corona and UFO Crash at Roswell; however, the publication of The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell "resolved" the Barnett problem by simply ignoring Barnett and citing a new location for the alien craft recovery, including a new group of archaeologists not connected to the ones the Barnett story cited.

Don Schmitt held that variations in narratives between different writers was not, however, an essential problem, commenting by way of comparison, "We know Jesus Christ was crucified, we just don't know where."

So one of the biggest problems with the Roswell incident was that so, so many people were interviewed. You may think that that isn’t necessarily an issue, and may actually help its case, but over 300 people in total were interviewed and only a tiny fraction of these people had seen the wreckage, and an even smaller fraction claimed to have seen alien bodies - most of the claims were from word of mouth, which in the court would immediately be dismissed as hearsay, so you can’t really count it as evidence.

And even the accounts from people seeing actual aliens, most of them were secondhand. People claiming to know somebody who has, or making contradictory claims, or anything of the like. It’s just so wishy-washy. There is absolutely no hard evidence. The most “hard evidence” is Marcel claiming to the day he died that it had to have been extraterrestrial, or the alien autopsy video that was later discredited and admitted to be fake.

But there is one thing we know for sure. It was, in fact, a cover-up. It wasn’t a weather balloon.

Because of all of these reports, books, and the like - accusations of a cover-up were loud, and eventually, the government couldn’t ignore it and the Airforce were ordered to perform an investigation on the incident. This report would be broken up in two - the first of which was released in 1994.

The 1994 report concluded that it was in fact a cover-up, but it was a then classified - now declassified - crashed Project Mogul balloon. So, Project Mogul was designed to be able to monitor nuclear testing - specifically to monitor the Soviet Union.

The second report, released in 1997, claimed that the supposed bodies that people remembered being recovered was a combination of transforming memories over time of military accidents and the recovery of anthropomorphic dummies in military programs such as the 1950s Operation High Dive, mixed with hoaxes perpetrated by various witnesses and UFO proponents. The psychological effects of time compression and confusion about when events occurred explained the discrepancy with the years in question.

As time wore on, it became harder for Roswell researchers to find new evidence to publish; there was potential though in the prospect of deathbed confessions from those originally involved in 1947. In 2007 Donald Schmitt and Tom Carey published the book Witness to Roswell, which prominently featured a document said to be a sworn affidavit written by Walter Haut, who had written the first Army press release about the Roswell crash in 1947. The document, apparently kept under seal until Haut's death in 2005, described how the 1947 crash debris had been discussed by high-ranking staff and how Haut had seen alien bodies. The claims, however, drew an unimpressed response even from ufologists: Dennis Balthaser said that the document was not written by Haut, and that by 2000 Haut's mental state was such that he could not recall basic details about his past, making the detail contained in the affidavit seem dubious.

So, as we’ve discovered, there is no credible evidence that a UFO crashed at Roswell, but it’s still wildly believed that one did. Author B. D. Gildenberg has called the Roswell incident "the world's most famous, most exhaustively investigated, and most thoroughly debunked UFO claim".

Karl T. Pflock, CIA intelligence officer, said, "the case for Roswell is a classic example of the triumph of quantity over quality. The advocates of the crashed-saucer tale ... simply shovel everything that seems to support their view into the box marked 'Evidence' and say, 'See? Look at all this stuff. We must be right.' Never mind the contradictions. Never mind the lack of independent supporting facts. Never mind the blatant absurdities."Kal Korff, another author, suggests there are clear incentives for some people to promote the idea of aliens at Roswell, and that many researchers were not doing competent work, he was quoted saying: "[The] UFO field is comprised of people who are willing to take advantage of the gullibility of others, especially the paying public. Let's not pull any punches here: The Roswell UFO myth has been very good business for UFO groups, publishers, for Hollywood, the town of Roswell, the media, and UFOlogy ... [The] number of researchers who employ science and its disciplined methodology is appallingly small."

Gildenberg also wrote there were as many as 11 reported alien recovery sites and these recoveries bore only a marginal resemblance to the event as initially reported in 1947, or as recounted later by the initial witnesses. Some of these new accounts could have been confused accounts of the several known recoveries of injured and dead servicemen from four military plane crashes that occurred in the area from 1948 to 1950. Other accounts could have been based on memories of recoveries of test dummies, as suggested by the Air Force in their reports. Charles Ziegler argued that the Roswell story has all the hallmarks of a traditional folk narrative. He identified six distinct narratives, and a process of transmission via storytellers with a core story that was created from various witness accounts, and was then shaped and molded by those who carry on the UFO community's tradition. Other "witnesses" were then sought out to expand the core narrative, with those giving accounts not in line with the core beliefs being repudiated or simply omitted by the "gatekeepers." Others then retold the narrative in its new form. This whole process would repeat over time.

Prominent skeptics Joe Nickell and co-author James McGaha identified a myth-making process, which they called the "Roswellian syndrome". In this syndrome a myth is proposed to have five distinct stages of development: incident, debunking, submergence, mythologizing, and reemergence and media bandwagon effect. The authors predicted that the Roswellian syndrome would "play out again and again", in other UFO and conspiracy-theory stories.

Some prominent UFOlogists including Karl T. Pflock, Kent Jeffrey, and William L. Moore have become convinced that there were no aliens or alien spacecraft involved in the Roswell crash.

So now we’re going to get into some of the modern findings or comments on the roswell incident. One thing I found interesting, though, was on October 26, 2007, Bill Richardson (who at the time was a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. President) was asked about releasing government files on Roswell. Richardson responded that when he was a Congressman, he attempted to get information on behalf of his New Mexico constituents, but was told by both the Department of Defense and Los Alamos Labs that the information was classified. "That ticked me off", he said, "the government doesn't tell the truth as much as it should on a lot of issues." He promised to work on opening the files if he were elected president. He wasn’t.

In October 2002, before airing its Roswell documentary, the Sci-Fi Channel hosted a Washington UFO news conference. John Podesta, President Clinton's chief of staff, appeared as a member of the public relations firm hired by Sci-Fi to help get the government to open up documents on the subject. Podesta stated, "It is time for the government to declassify records that are more than 25 years old and to provide scientists with data that will assist in determining the true nature of the phenomena."

When asked during a 2015 interview with GQ magazine about whether he had looked at top secret classified information, President Barack Obama replied, "I gotta tell you, it's a little disappointing. People always ask me about Roswell and the aliens and UFOs, and it turns out the stuff going on that's top secret isn't nearly as exciting as you expect. In this day and age, it's not as top secret as you'd think."

American journalist Annie Jacobsen's Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base released in 2011, allegedly based on interviews with scientists and engineers who worked in Area 51, dismisses the alien story. Jacobsen quotes one unnamed source as claiming that Josef Mengele, a German Schutzstaffel officer and a physician in Auschwitz, was recruited by the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to produce "grotesque, child-size aviators" to be remotely piloted and landed in America in order to cause hysteria similar to Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds, which we touched on in the Satanic Panic. According to Jacobsen’s narrative, the aircraft crashed, the incident was hushed up by the Americans, and bodies found at the crash site were children around 12 years old with large heads and abnormally-shaped, oversized eyes described as “human guinea pigs”.

The book was criticized for extensive errors by scientists from the Federation of American Scientists. Historian Richard Rhodes, writing in The Washington Post, also criticized the book's sensationalistic reporting of "old news" and its "error-ridden" reporting. He wrote: "All of [her main source's] claims appear in one or another of the various publicly available Roswell/UFO/Area 51 books and documents churned out by believers, charlatans and scholars over the past 60 years. In attributing the stories she reports to an unnamed engineer and Manhattan Project veteran while seemingly failing to conduct even minimal research into the man’s sources, Jacobsen shows herself at a minimum extraordinarily gullible or journalistically incompetent."

So, Bryson. Final thoughts?

For the longest time, the Roswell incident was considered the best proof of extraterrestrial visitation, but it honestly just doesn’t add up to me. I want it to. I want it to be real, but I just don’t think it was. I think that the airforce preemptively talked to the press as they weren’t informed of Project Mogul and then were told to withdraw their previous claims and to put out a statement that it was just a weather balloon, which of course just made it worse. Of all the UFO encounters out there, I just don’t think this is the most believable one.


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