Writing Prompts: Roswell

Of all the UFO stories, perhaps the most famous by far is the notorious narrative about Roswell, New Mexico, in the USA. It could well have innocent explanations, but that has not stopped conspiracy theorists from clinging to the idea that an extra-terrestrial craft crashed near the ranch of W.W. “Mac” Brazel, in mid-1947. Mr Brazel gathered up debris from the crash, and took some of it to the local sherriff, George Wilcox, who in turn contacted nearby Roswell Army Air Field. Major Jesse Marcel and Captain Sheridan Cavitt were assigned to investigate further. They collected more material from Brazel’s ranch, and on the 8th of July, a press release, issued by the base, claimed that a flying saucer had been captured.

A day later, the base retracted this claim, instead insisting they had found something no more spectacular than a weather balloon. Weather balloons were constantly being launched around this time, and some of them would pass near Brazel’s ranch. Sometimes, these balloons could fall off the radar, and they were known to pop at certain altitudes, so the idea was not implausible.

It would be decades before the Roswell Incident re-entered the public consciousness. Between 1947 and 1978, other stories of crashed UFOs and alien bodies would come and go, but what sparked a revival of interest was a statement from Jesse Marcel. In an interview in February 1978, Marcel claimed that the weather balloon story was a cover story, and that he believed the recovered material to be extra-terrestrial in origin. Following his claim, countless others came forward with various, and sometimes contradictory, claims of alien bodies, deep conspiracies, threats, and so forth. Some even produced fake footage of alien autopsies, that they claimed were based on real-yet-lost footage!

Where does the truth lie on this incident? Some of the claims might have originated via confusion over other incidents. There were claims of alien bodies at different sites, in the years between 1947 and 1978. Some of those ideas have found their way into the Roswell narrative, perhaps misleadingly so. The original claim of a flying saucer might have been confusion in its own right, though one would expect a military man to recognise a weather balloon. The entire UFO story might be a cover story, to hide the details of Project Mogul (a mission by the US military to try and assess the Soviet nuclear program).

UFO enthusiasts have never given up on the idea that an alien ship crashed in New Mexico. They cite all kinds of conspiracies and evidence, but the trouble is, definitive proof is impossible to come by, and the idea of a ship is, as mentioned, a great cover for other, genuine clandestine activities. Area 51, which is legendary in UFO circles, is said to hold captured alien craft, and even alien beings, yet the secrecy surrounding the facility is likely down to highly sophisticated military research, none of which has anything to do with aliens. That sounds boring, but alas, Occam’s Razor and all that!

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