Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Roswell controversy

To newcomers to ufology, the alleged Roswell UFO crash of 1947 would seem to be the best case on record. If popular wisdom is to be trusted, the Roswell case incorporates everything an investigator might need to conclusively establish an extraterrestrial origin for UFOs: exotic hardware and alien bodies -- hardly the sort of evidence one might expect from even the most ambitious of hoaxes. And the government's schizophrenic stance on the reality of the event positively begs speculation about some form of high-level cover-up -- what nuclear physicist turned UFO researcher Stanton Friedman has repeatedly described as a "Cosmic Watergate."

The events at Roswell in the summer of 1947 -- dawn of the modern era of UFO sightings -- constitute a daunting mystery that has come to adopt the trappings of myth. While some evidence suggests a nonhuman presence in the New Mexico desert, alternative hypotheses abound. Nick Redfern's "Body Snatchers in the Desert," a disturbing book that re-examines the case in light of the military secrecy prevalent at the time of the crash, posits that the supposed "alien" bodies were in fact those of unwitting Japanese test subjects who perished in an aerospace mishap. Although subjected to much criticism (mostly from within the UFO community), Redfern's hypothesis has yet to evaporate. Even if it ultimately fails to explain the eponymous "Roswell incident," it might lead to a broadened understanding of the military's role in the American Southwest at the beginning of the Cold War.

Perhaps the best skeptical study of the case to date is Karl Pflock's "Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe." On the other side of the fence, Kevin Randle's "Roswell Revisited" and "The Roswell Encyclopedia" emphasize the credible witness testimony favoring an ET explanation. For those bothered by the notion of humanoid ETs at the controls of fallible flying saucers, it's worth considering the military's vested interest in the "alien" meme's potential as disinformation, a subject explored in Greg Bishop's revealing "Project Beta."

After grappling with the Roswell case for years, I'm honestly at a loss to explain it to my own satisfaction. We could be dealing with a legitimate UFO crash, a cover story to mask a dark chapter in military history or even a combination of the two. That something unusual happened seems certain, but by itself Roswell is far from the evidential bedrock many assume it is. Like most enduring controversies, the Roswell incident has become inordinately polarized by the credulous and the close-minded. In the face of insufficient data, the arguments advanced by spokesmen from both camps have become little more than embittered rhetoric.

Fortunately for ufology, Roswell is one case among hundreds of others with the capacity to teach us more about the phenomenon's origins.

This piece originally appeared at


Anonymous said...

I personally doubt, due to the rather slippery and anonymous nature of Redfern's sources, his hypothesis of Japanese POW's in some FUGO-like aerial vehicle being the likely actual origin of the Roswell coverup/mythos.

Too many logical inconsistencies.

There is a rather obscure, rarely spoken of story about a place near Roswell that appeared in early July of 1947 to be an aircraft-sized blast circle of melted hazy bluish glass in the desert that supposedly led to a top-secret and still undisclosed reaction and program mobilization, but the details are quite vague, and perhaps intentionally opaque. Could be disinformation.

I'd like to hear more about this latter story if anyone out there knows more, particularly the alleged reaction and project possibly initiated as a consequence.

Nick Redfern said...


Personally (and unfortunately) I doubt we will ever learn the real truth of Roswell to where we have definitive proof.

You may be interested to know, however, that I have a chapter in the next volume (no.3) of Greg Taylor's "Darklore" series that details all of the new "Japanese-Roswell" data that has surfaced since my book was published.

It includes official FBI FOIA documents on the story of a young boy who died at Lincoln County, NM in the 1940s (where Brazel found the wreckage); and who - it was suspected had died from plague that was tied in with Unit 731 research that had been brought to the US.

The files even ask if the death of the boy had resulted from plague-infected rats "delivered by balloon" - to Lincoln County, no less.

I don't pretend to have all the answers, but somewhere at least, I have no doubt at all now that there is a Japanese link to Roswell.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your rapid response, Nick--is there anywhere online where a summary of this chapter data about the Japanese connection is available, such as a prospective UFOMystic post? I'd like to check out the supplementary data.

Anonymous said...

Several years ago, I read online a 'story' of unfortunate Downs Syndrome people used as test subjects in a test craft that begat the Roswell crash. This goes to the descriptions of the appearance of the 'aliens'.

I find all of it a hard pill to swallow - whether Japanese, Downs Syndrome or Aliens. The latter confounds me because if ETs or EDs can manage to get here from wherever 'there' is, why get taken down so easily by a lightening storm and why not have a built-in self destruct mechanism for the craft and themselves?

I wonder if certain parts of Ufology have fixated enough on this particular story and maybe some of it is government misinfo~disinfo.

Kind Regards,


Anonymous said...

There are definitely many threads of both military, government, and civilian mis- and disinformation entangled over the past decades within the woolly skein of Roswell stories.

One key to perhaps beginning to disentangle the conundrums of the ufo phenomena, if not Roswell itself, are the overall patterns, and in a sense, "non-patterns" within the overall history of ufo phenomenology within the best cases, or what is often referred to as a signal within the noise.

No single case, even and perhaps especially Roswell, at this point, is definitive or a skeleton key to turning the myriad of locks and questions concerning ufos.

Allegedly, the USAF itself turned to this philosophy, or winnowing pattern analysis process itself at some point in the early 1950's, when supposedly anecdotal and individual cases were subsumed or overtaken by a more general, but focused, technologically aided approach centering on the collection and analysis of various kinds of targeted and generic sensor and recording technologies, presumably in large part to record external, physically generated phenomena emanations rather than primarily individual or even multiple witness reports. Of course, that was never ignored, particularly when coupled with sensor data, primarily radar, photographic, or electromagnetic emissions. Those are among the best known evidential cases, such as the 1957 RB-47 case, and the Tehran F-4 case from 1976.

Brad Sparks knows more about this approach and its history. Nick Redfern may be right that the waters of the Roswell sinkhole have been so muddied than no clear, authentic picture may emerge, but I would guess someone somewhere may still know what actually occurred, or how the original incident, whatever it was, may have been used and taken advantage of for other cold war and/or psyop purposes.

Nick Redfern said...


No it's not summarized anywhere yet, as I only submitted the chapter about 3 weeks ago, so it's likely to be a few months I think before it's published.

But I'll keep people updated soon as it's available.

One of the other things I stress in the article is the surprisingly quite a few references (some seldom ever discussed) to the Japanese angle that surfaced years before my book came out.

Of course, none of this proves anything definitive about the data I presented, but it does demonstrate that aspects of the story were being told to other people within Ufology pre-Body Snatchers.

purrlgurrl said...

If you're a newcomer to Ufology, you might want to check out the following (listed in no particular order). Some of these are more intriguing and compelling than Roswell.

JAL Flight 1628 over Alaska – 1986
O”Hare (Chicago) United Airlines terminal UFO – 2006
Arizona/Phoenix Lights – 1997 (the early evening sightings)
Kecksburg, PA UFO crash – 1965
Cash-Landrum incident (TX) – 1980
Rendlesham Forest (UK) incident – 1980
Stephensville, TX UFOs – 2008 (and again in 2009)
UK UFO flap – 2008
Hill Abduction (NH) – 1961
Shag Harbor (NS, Canada) UFO crash – 1967
Exeter, NH sightings – 1965

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