Roswell Incident

Among people who believe that UFOs are alien spacecraft, the Roswell incident is considered to be proof not only that aliens exist but also that the government has been covering up the truth about them. These believers say that in 1947 a UFO crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, and that afterward the U.S. military hid the spacecraft and the bodies of its extraterrestrial occupants from the American public, then created an elaborate story to hide the truth of what had happened. Indeed, dozens of people involved in the Roswell incident also say that this was the case.

Debris Discovered

The Roswell incident began on the night of July 2, 1947, when rancher Max Brazel heard a loud crash near his home during a thunderstorm. The next day, while visiting his fields, he discovered hundreds of small pieces of a strange metallic material. Some of these pieces were shaped like I-beams, the horizontal girders used in building construction. Therefore, his first assumption was that the debris came from a human-made object that had crashed on his property. However, when he studied one of the pieces he found it was extremely lightweight and thin yet could not be bent, cut, or burned. He had never seen any similar material, so he concluded that it must have come from some kind of experimental military aircraft. The fact that there was a military airfield nearby made this seem likely.

Brazel gathered up some of the pieces, and on July 6 he took them to the sheriff, who called officials at the airfield. The army immediately sent two intelligence agents to investigate the matter. One of them, Jesse A. Marcel, studied the debris and concluded that, given the amount of material, it had to have come from something very large. Years later, when he finally gave a full report of his experiences at Roswell, Marcel said that whatever the debris represented, it could not have been manufactured by the U.S. military. It was more lightweight, thin, and rigid than any metal he had ever seen, yet it could not be dented with a hammer, nor burned even when subjected to an intense flame over a long period of time. Marcel also reported that one of the pieces had strange, unidentifiable geometric marks inscribed on it. This fact, along with the other characteristics of the debris, convinced him that it had come from an alien spacecraft.

Securing the Crash Site

At the time of the Roswell incident, however, Marcel was not allowed to tell anyone this because the army ordered everyone to keep quiet about the event. As part of this secrecy, army troops surrounded the crash site to keep other people away. Meanwhile, samples of the debris were sent first to an army installation at Fort Worth, Texas, then to the Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. The remaining debris was taken to the Roswell, New Mexico, airfield, where some people say it was put on air force planes and flown to various military bases across the United States. What happened to the debris after that, no one knows or will report.

The military was unable, though, to maintain secrecy about the crash site. Brazel and the sheriff told local newspapers about the incident, and soon rumours were spreading about the strange nature of the debris. Consequently, reporters demanded that the military provide details about the crash, and government officials obliged by holding a press conference. This was conducted in a room where photographers were shown what supposedly was the debris. Pictures from this event clearly show the fragments of a weather balloon.

Witnesses who had seen the debris prior to the press conference, however, insist that what was in the photo was not what they saw. Marcel privately accused the military of substituting the weatherballoon debris for the crash-site debris, and Brazel publicly echoed this view. Brazel’s opinion is particularly significant because he had seen many weather balloons. Indeed, prior to the time of the crash, several had landed on his property; he routinely turned them in to authorities for a five-dollar reward. Thus, his publicly voiced suspicions about a government cover-up of the true nature of the debris fueled others’ suspicions.

Alien Bodies

Another aspect of the Roswell incident also created rumours regarding the true nature of the crash. While Marcel was in Fort Worth, military searchers found a second area of debris—but apparently, civil engineer Grady L. “Barney” Barnett and some student archaeologists, all of whom had been working in the area, came upon the wreckage first. Later they claimed it was not more weather-balloon debris but a crashed spaceship with four aliens lying on the ground beside it. The aliens were less than 5 feet (1.5m) tall, they said, with large heads and odd, leathery skin and they wore one-piece jumpsuits with no buttons, snaps, or zippers. Most witnesses said that the aliens were all dead, but some said that two were dead, one was dying, and one was seriously injured.

Other witnesses say that they saw all of the aliens after the aliens were taken to the Roswell air base hospital. Both a nurse and a pathologist claim to have personally examined the dead aliens, and several military officers contend they saw the pathologist’s report, which included photographs of the aliens. A local mortician insists he got a phone call from someone asking how to preserve the aliens’ bodies. One woman, Norma Gardner, says that she typed the autopsy reports and saw the alien bodies once they had been preserved in a chemical solution. Both Gardner and the base pathologist, Dr. Jesse Johnson, provided the same basic description of the aliens as the witnesses who claimed to have found the second crash site: The aliens were hairless, slightly less than 5 feet (1.5m) tall, and had large heads. In addition, according to Gardner and Johnson, the aliens had big eyes, slits instead of ears, tiny mouths with no lips, skinny bodies, long arms, and short legs, and their hands had only four fingers, two long and two short.

The nurse also stated that the bodies seemed to have been attacked by small predators before being recovered because certain areas appeared chewed, and they had clearly been out in the sun for quite some time. She added that the bodies reminded her of mummies because they were dry and fragile, but unlike mummies they gave off a strong odor that was almost intolerable to everyone who came in contact with them. Many other witnesses reported smelling this odor as well.

More Witness Reports

Air Force pilots have also come forward to report that they eventually flew the bodies from Roswell to the Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, by way of Fort Worth. They and other witnesses claim that the military ordered them not to talk about the aliens. Some witnesses even say that the government threatened them with violence if they revealed what they knew. Perhaps as a result of this secrecy, no one associated with the military spoke about the Roswell incident for many years.

Then Jesse Marcel learned that he was dying of cancer and decided to tell reporters everything he knew about the incident. Soon other witnesses came forward, and since Marcel’s death in 1986, more than 350 people have talked about seeing either the aliens or their spaceship. One of these witnesses was Brigadier General Arthur E. Exon, who was stationed at Wright-Patterson at the time of the Roswell incident. Exon reported that although he never saw the bodies or the spaceship, he knew that they existed, knew the men who tested the strange debris, and heard details about the alien craft and its occupants. He also said that the military created a secret intelligence group to control access to all information and materials related to the Roswell incident, and that this group was very aggressive in its efforts to cover up what happened.

Fu-go Bombs

Sceptics dismiss all claims related to the notion that the Roswell crash involved anything other than a weather balloon, saying these were tall tales made up long after the event. They also say that the reason Brazel and Marcel did not recognize the debris as being from a weather balloon is because it was from a type of balloon that the men knew nothing about. Specifically, sceptics theorize that the debris was a fu-go, a balloon used by the Japanese during World War II to carry bombs long distances. These sceptics say, therefore, that the strange writing was actually Japanese. Since the Roswell incident occurred just two years after the end of the war, experts believe there could have been some fu-go balloons, which were released in hopes that they would explode over the U.S. mainland, still afloat. The U.S. government, these experts say, would not have wanted the public to know that these incendiary devices were still in the air. People who disagree with this theory, however, point out that fu-go balloons are made of rice paper, which would have caught fire easily when Marcel tried to burn the debris. If indeed Marcel was correct about the strange characteristics of the debris, no one has yet suggested what they could have been made of that would account for their properties.


  • Descriptions of Aliens
  • Government cover-ups and conspiracy theories
  • UFOs


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning

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