Chair Force Engineer

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Truth is out There

Last Friday, I stopped in the tourist trap that is Roswell, NM (on my way down US 285 to Carlsbad.) I take a detached view of the UFO phenomenon in general, with the perspective that, whether real or fake, it's an entertaining part of the American national mythos and cultural heritage.

The "International UFO Museum" has "tourist trap" written all over it and appears very chintzy. The building isn't very large, and the exhibits are hung on a series of pegboard walls that line a central aisle. There are plenty of photos and artifacts from the era, plus framed affidavits from alleged witnesses to the UFO crash. It certainly reminds me of the roadside "rattlesnake museums" and other shady, small-town attractions. Roswell's Main Street has a foul odor, reminiscent of horse manure. Perhaps it's from the aircraft boneyard at Roswell's airport.

In an attempt to be "fair and balanced," the museum does have a significant portion dedicated to Project Mogul (the balloon train that listened for Soviet nuclear tests in the late 40's) and a frightening orange test-dummy named Harold.

My idea of a "fair and balanced" UFO museum would include the "Hall of Hoaxers," chronicling the people whose lies and tall-tales have made the Roswell incident even more sensationalized. Of course, museum co-founder Glenn Dennis would have to take his place in the "Hall of Hoaxers," having made up the story about the nurse who told him about alien bodies before mysteriously disappearing. My bet is that the alien bodies are being served as burgers at the saucer-shaped McDonalds in Roswell.

So what really caused the Roswell incident? If the statement given by rancher Mac Brazel to the newspapers on July 9, 1947 is accurate, the Project Mogul balloon is the best fit. I'd certainly trust the newspaper statement of 1947 instead of the faded memories, the details brough out under unreliable hypnotic techniques, and the stories that have been tainted by desires for monetary gain.

Even the original reporting of the Roswell Incident was tainted by money. When Mac Brazel first found the debris in the pasture, he didn't think it was worth reporting to the authorities immediately. It wasn't until he talked to the Proctor family that he heard about the flying saucer phenomenon (which had only started during the previous month) and a $3000 reward for the recovery of a flying saucer.

At the same time, you have to wonder why the Army Air Force would treat a balloon with such an extreme degree of secrecy. Then again, even the modern Air Force goes to extreme lengths to protect the taxpayers from finding out how much of their money is being wasted. During the early Cold War, secrecy and paranoia ran hand-in-hand. In such an atmosphere, it's easy to see how a balloon could inflate into a flying saucer.