Bizarre Details About Roswell That Still Don't Make Sense

An alien spacecraft did not crash-land in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. It's not that something didn't crash — it unarguably did — but it did so in Corona, New Mexico, 75 miles outside Roswell, and the debris was then brought to the Roswell Army Airfield.

According to ABC News, a Time-CNN poll revealed that, at the 50th anniversary of the crash, 65% of Americans believe that a UFO was grounded. Skeptoid pointed out, however, that the Roswell incident was largely ignored until 1978, when the National Enquirer republished the original news article announcing the flying disc, and that the story was further goosed by a 1989 "Unsolved Mysteries" episode.

It may not have been an alien spacecraft, but try convincing the true believers or the town of Roswell, which has cashed in on the story, glad to no longer just be the dairy capital of the Southwest, according to the New York Times.

Described as "the world's most famous, most exhaustively investigated, and most thoroughly debunked UFO claim," there are still parts of the story that don't quite add up. Here are some bizarre details about Roswell that still don't make sense.

Mac Brazel: the first witness

On June 14, 1947, rancher named William "Mac" Brazel found wreckage on his ranch, around 75 miles outside of Roswell, New Mexico. He didn't know what to make of it, so he brought the debris home and then delivered it to the sheriff in Roswell. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Brazel described the crash site as "a large area of bright wreckage made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, and rather tough paper, and sticks." It sounds less than otherworldly.

The military was soon involved, and Brazel's name was cascading through the wires, attached to the story of a flying disc. According to Skeptoid, in an interview with the Roswell Daily Record the next day, Brazel already expressed regret at the publicity and said that the debris was a weather balloon. He was more than willing to call it something mundane if it meant that people would no longer associate his name with aliens.

This obviously did not work.

Major Jesse Marcel: wreckage recovered

Major Jesse Marcel appeared on the scene, and the image of him holding the wreckage is integral to the debunking of the UFO theory. Only, according to an interview republished by Huffington Post, the wreckage displayed to the press was fake. The actual debris was "types of materials which [he] couldn't identify," including wood-like material with "hieroglyphics" on it, which, though flexible, could neither be broken nor burned.

The military purportedly brought the debris back to base and tried without success to put it back together before Marcel's commanding officer ordered him to load some of the material into a small plane and fly it to Carswell Air Force Base. There, Marcel was photographed with the wreckage but said that he was "careful not to put out anything with detail on it." He claimed that after he left, officers at Carswell created a "mock display with a battered weather balloon" for the press to photograph.

Marcel waited three decades to tell his side publicly. His son, Jesse Jr., told ABC News, "My dad finally came to the conclusion that this is a story that should not be contained or buried." According to the KowPflop Quarterly, skeptics point out that Marcel had a history of boasting of military accomplishments that were verifiably false. Why would Roswell be any different?

Flying disc or weather balloon?

According to ABC News, once the debris arrived at the Roswell air base on July 8, base commander Colonel William Blanchard authorized a press release declaring that a flying disc was captured by the Air Force. Smithsonian Magazine reports the Roswell Daily Record ran a story that said, "The intelligence office of the 509th Bombardment Group at Roswell Army Air Field announced at noon today, that the field has come into the possession of a Flying Saucer." Why would the consistently conservative military state something so incendiary if it were not true?

The next day, Brigadier General Roger Ramey held a press conference in which he aggressively walked this back, saying that it was only "a harmless, high-altitude weather balloon."

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the debris was likely from a train of research balloons that was launched out of Alamogordo Army Airfield on June 4, 1947. The airfield officers lost contact with it 17 miles from the Brazel ranch. Years later, atmospheric scientist Charles B. Moore, who helped launch it, showed the Albuquerque Journal a device much like the photographed wreckage.

Bizarre debris

ABC News quoted Major General Jesse Marcel describing the wreckage: "[Y]ou couldn't even bend it, you couldn't dent it, even with a sledgehammer it would bounce off of it. So it was not anything from this Earth." Marcel showed his son the debris, and years later, the son said that there were "structural members with pinkish violet writing along the inside surface."

If the disc were so sturdy, why would impact with the ground critically damage it? The military had easy answers in the debris they showed on camera. The metal was the balloon material. There were no strange beams, only rubber. And the glyphs? According to Charles B. Moore, speaking to the Albuquerque Journal, they were designs on the reinforced tape from a toy factory that had been used to connect the parts of the reflector kite. It is odd that Brazel initially misunderstood all the commonplace items.

Crash test aliens

The Skeptical Inquirer notes that there was no mention of alien bodies in the 1947 report of the incident, but mentions of alien corpses appear in ufology books and articles from 1978 on. In a 1997 report, the Air Force stated that lifelike dummies that were dropped out of research balloons through the 1950s, after the Roswell incident but somehow potentially including it. According to Washington Decoded, the Air Force report stated, "The object of these studies was to devise a method to return a pilot or astronaut to earth by parachute, if forced to escape at extreme altitudes."

The report noted that one of the dummies "very likely could be mistaken for an alien," a response that was laughable to UFO researchers. This could account for the dummy/alien's blank eyes, bluish-white skin, and bizarre outfits that the military claimed were pressure suits. Also, the dummies weighed 250 pounds each, so they were hard to move. That's why the military employed stretchers to retrieve them, of course. Then, to transport them back to base, they put them in an ambulance. Obviously. Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger said, "Now if somebody is back in the weeds watching this they are going to say, 'Wow, look at that alien they have there.' We think that a lot of the alien sightings were actually us doing our work with the test dummies."

Project Mogul

According to Washington Decoded, the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force admitted in 1994 that there was, indeed, a cover-up. It was never a weather balloon.

Albuquerque Journal explains that the aircraft that crashed was a 600+-foot spy balloon meant to sit above the troposphere and detect if Russia had nuclear weapons, part of an operation called Project Mogul. The military couldn't admit this at the time without compromising the operation. According to ABC News, it was such a secret that it was given the same security level as the atomic bomb project. To Smithsonian Magazine, Roger Launius, the former curator of space history at the National Air and Space Museum, said, "[I]t was better from the Air Force's perspective that there was a crashed 'alien' spacecraft out there than to tell the truth."

Florida Today describes another way that Project Mogul added to the myth. In the early 1950s, Walter Singlevich, Air Force Technical Applications Center director of nuclear technology, and a helicopter pilot appeared in the desert in radiation suits to recover one of the balloons. They were spotted by a woman, who saw them and fainted. After making sure she was not hurt, they left her there because the mission was too classified to do otherwise.

What caused the crash?

No matter the story, the fact is that something caused a crash in New Mexico. If it were a balloon — either weather or spy — it might simply have popped, and the material it was carrying plummeted to the ground, dummies possibly included. However, the amount of debris reported by William "Mac" Brazel doesn't seem to justify this explanation. If the balloon didn't pop, why wouldn't the material have glided gently down in a recognizable form? Wouldn't there be a failsafe or parachute?

Did the military sweep in to seize not alien technology but Soviet? In the book "Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base," Annie Jacobsen suggests that the Soviets created the Roswell incident as a warning that they could spark a UFO panic if they wanted to (via NBC). As History explains, by the early 1950s, the U.S. government was worried about the prospect of a growing national hysteria around UFOs.

Glenn Dennis: mortician to aliens

According to Skeptoid, in 1989 — that's 42 years after the Roswell incident — a mortician named Glenn Dennis saw the "Unsolved Mysteries" episode about Roswell and contacted famed ufologist Stanton Friedman. He told Friedman that he had not only been on Roswell Army Airfield that day in 1947 but that he had seen the aliens. The military needed child-sized coffins — apparently, dead aliens necessitated human funereal customs. Dennis also said that a huge-headed alien was apparently seen wandering around the base. He was threatened to keep quiet on the pain of death.

Much of what is accepted in the modern alien version of the Roswell incident comes directly from Dennis' statements. What is strange is not that he made these claims but that Air Force researchers have corroborated most of them. Sort of. Rather than taking place over a few days, the incidents Dennis described occurred over 12 years, and they did not involve a crashed saucer. There had been wreckage and a threatening colonel, though the former was the steel panels of a canoe, and the latter didn't work at the base until 1956. That same year, mortuary staff struggled to autopsy mangled bodies from aircraft accident due to overpowering fumes. The huge-headed creature wandering around was likely Captain Dan Fulgham, who, in 1959, received a massive hematoma from an injury that inflated his head.

Dennis founded the International UFO Museum and Research Center, with dummies replicating what he claims happened in Roswell.

Deathbed confession reports that, on his deathbed, Lieutenant Walter Haut, the public relations officer on base that day in 1947, admitted in an affidavit to be opened after his death that the weather balloon story was always a cover-up. He had seen the actual object, which was kept in a hangar. He had been in the presence of alien bodies. And, in something that later fell into the canon of the event but was not reported on until later, he knew about a second crash site. Unlike many who spoke of their experiences that day, it is known that he was on-site. At the end of his affidavit, he wrote, "I am convinced that what I personally observed was some kind of craft and its crew from outer space."

Oddly, even in interviews that he gave close to his death, he did not make any of these claims and downplayed that anything much had happened that day.

The best argument against the affidavit being true is that Haut may not have been of sound mind when he wrote it. But what would he gain from making up a false account other than the strange immortality of being forever wrapped up in this story? Perhaps it's relevant that he co-founded the International UFO Museum with Glenn Dennis.

What do presidents know?

Nerdist quoted Barack Obama saying, "It used to be that UFOs and Roswell was the biggest conspiracy. And now that seems so tame, the idea that the government might have an alien spaceship." Still, according to ABC News, when kids ask him about Roswell, he says, "If I told you, I'd have to kill you."

In 2014, Politico reported that, though Bill Clinton "wouldn't be surprised" if aliens one day visit, he only looked into the Roswell incident in his second term. "But there are no aliens [in Area 51]. ... So I had all the Roswell papers reviewed..." As far as he admitted, he found nothing but said that an alien invasion might be the only thing that could "unite us in this incredibly divided world of ours."

The Military Times reported that Donald Trump was less straightforward, saying, "I won't talk to you about what I know about it, but it's very interesting." However, after having received a short briefing on UFOs, he stated, "People are saying they're seeing UFOs. Do I believe it? Not particularly."

If they know something serious, they may not be inclined to divulge, understanding the havoc that would ensue from knowing there are aliens. However, as the BBC noted, the 2020s have brought several public disclosures of unidentified aerial phenomena, most of which have been met with a resounding shrug.

Kodachrome slides: are you my mummy?

The Guardian reports that Joseph Beason found Kodachrome slides among the effects of a woman called Hilda Blair Ray after her death. Two of the slides show a shriveled, small creature in a glass case with an unreadable placard attached, its skull long and its eye sockets large.

Beason contacted his former business partner and videographer, Adam Dew. They contacted Tom Carey, a retired businessman with a background in anthropology who has written books about Roswell. Carey reportedly found the evidence dubious and Beason too secretive, but, once he had a scan, he was nearly convinced.

Beason, Dew, and Carey had a digital illustrator make a 3D image of what the body might look like alive. They sent the slides to Kodak (who confirmed that they were not tampered with and were from 1945–1950), and they tried to find details about Ray's life that would justify her having rubbed shoulders with an alien. Dew brought the photos to Eleazar Benavides, a veteran who claimed to have seen the Roswell aliens. Benavides said, "That's what I saw in 1947."

Emboldened, Carey proclaimed at a UFO conference in 2014, "We have the smoking gun!" They sought money for a documentary, and they held a livestream event titled "BeWitness," charging 7,000 people between $20 and $86 per ticket.

Days after the event, someone involved leaked a high-resolution scan. Using a photo-enhancing program, the placard in the image could finally be read: "Mummified body of two year old boy." Skeptics found who had donated the mummy to the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum and also discovered photos of its initial discovery in 1896.

Alien Autopsy: It's fiction

According to the Times Online, an estimated billion people watched "Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction?," a documentary about the black and white video of the supposed dissection of one of the Roswell aliens. Time reports that Fox acquired the rights to Ray Santilli and Gary Shoefield's 17 minutes of footage, releasing it in 1995. It featured interviews with scientists and special effects experts, all of whom were baffled.

Time highlights how clear it is the video is faked: the camera going out of focus to hide the alien's flaws, the fact that the creators did not submit the film stock for verification, and the cinematic film cuts that don't show any time jumps. Those who were critical in the Fox program had their interviews cut.

On the British program "Eamonn Investigates" in 2006, Santilli confessed that he knew that he had sold a fake video. However, that was only because the real autopsy tape was too severely degraded to be used. As such, he had precisely recreated what that tape had shown. "It's no different than restoring a work of art like the 'Mona Lisa,'" he said. Then he made a comedy movie based on the alien autopsy.

John Humphreys, who did special effects for "Max Headroom" and "Doctor Who," was hired to make the alien using sheep brains, chicken entrails, and bones from a butcher's shop. Once filming closed, the producers chopped the dummies up and dumped them in garbage cans throughout London, which could have made a far better story than an alien autopsy.

Stalinist propaganda?

The Washington Post reviewed "Area 51," a book written by Los Angeles-based independent journalist Annie Jacobsen, which claimed that there were no aliens at Roswell. According to Jacobsen's unnamed source (supposedly a veteran both of the Manhattan Project and Area 51), there were bodies at the scene. They belonged to children who had been stuffed into a fake UFO (a single wing Horton Ho 229, according to the Telegraph) as a false flag event. Who would do such a thing? Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele. The source told Jacobsen that Mengele didn't develop this plan but was directed by Joseph Stalin, inspired by the "War of the Worlds" broadcast.

While the finer points are improbable, History pointed out that a connection between UFOs and political movements isn't. The Robertson panel convened in 1953 to decide "what should be told the public regarding the [UFO] phenomenon, in order to minimize risk of panic." The CIA was concerned not about aliens but that a nervous public would have their fear taken advantage of. "The Soviets would find a way to use the huge level of public interest in UFOs to somehow manipulate, to cause panic; which then could be used to undermine national cohesiveness."