Roswell, New Mexico, is out of the way by about 150 miles. To visit means I have drive north then east, rather than continue southeast into Texas. The site of the 1947 “alleged” UFO incident, however, is one of those places I want to see and figure is worth the extra driving. Plus, it will allow me to collect a few souvenirs.
Getting there means driving mostly back country roads as there is no major interstate bisecting the town. Desert, cattle and farmsteads dominate the landscape. The air is crisp and fresh, and the horizon wide open. I imagine that this is as good a sky as any to race unidentified flying saucers, alien or domestic.
My first order of business as I arrive in town is lunch. After reviewing several options, I settle on Sonic Drive In. As I pull in, I make believe that I am a food critic and justify the action of eating fast food with the fact that I have never eaten at this burger joint (though upon reflection wonder if my memory is a little sketchy). I order a double hamburger and tater tots. The cashier brings them right to my window, which makes me uncomfortable because I am unsure whether to tip or not. I don’t, then feel guilty about not giving a dollar or two.
There is not much to Roswell – a few bank buildings, gas stations, restaurants, alien-themed downtown area – and by the time I finish my last tot I decide that I will head south after a walk down Main Street. The area is an odd collection of tourist shops and local businesses selling vacuum cleaners and stationery supplies. Aliens, spacecrafts, and “I believe” sayings are painted on the sides of buildings, street lamps, and store windows. The most ironic of these, in my mind, are little green men wearing ponchos and sombreros on the side of a Mexican restaurant.
The marquis attraction on Main Street is the Roswell International UFO Museum, housed in what used to be a movie theater. A kitschy neon sign flashes from behind a glass window. I walk in. Two elderly men in jeans, faded white dress shirts and suspenders greet me as if I am walking into any normal museum, “Welcome!” they say. The florescent lights flicker above the volunteer desk highlighting the faded army-green interior.
“How much for one person?” I ask.
“Five bucks” one man responds.
“That’s a bargain,” I comment pulling out my wallet.
“If you have any questions, we’re here to help,” the other man says as I enter the hallway.
Now, I don’t know what I was expecting to find in this museum – maybe a bunch of tacky, stuffed aliens, but I’m a little surprised by what’s inside. Most exhibits are made up of photos, documents and newspaper clippings, some blown up for emphasis. No alien fingers or stolen technology. In fact, much of what is here proves the point that some spaceship was found in these parts and the government then tried to cover the event up.
Photocopies of newspaper articles report the incident and are posted next to others which claim no news outlets ever reported such things. Then, as one might expect, there are volumes of “Top Secret” and “For Majic Eyes Only” government documents with lines and lines of blacked-out wording. “Majestic 12” or “MJ12” is the top secret group that supposedly reported UFO incidents. Their documents are stamped with “for Majic Eyes Only.” They look something like this: “On the night of [black streak], Mr. [black streak] witnessed [black streak] [black streak]. [black streak] reported dogs barking.”
I’m not a patient person when it comes to news articles and “Classified” government documents, so I breeze through the front section in search of stuff I don’t have to read. Towards the back of the building, I find something which brings a smile to my face (and those around me); an animatronic alien landing complete with spaceship and large black-eyed, leathery green aliens. At certain times, the saucer lights up, spits out theatrical smoke and beeps and blurps, imitating a B-movie soundtrack. A group of four or five aliens move their heads back and forth. When this happens, everyone in the museum gathers around to take pictures and “Ooh and ahh.” I snap numerous photos. One kid jumps up and down, clapping in excitement.
Heading back towards the front of the museum, among documents and clippings of UFO visitations worldwide, I find the second exhibit which makes me smile. Displayed behind large glass panels, an autopsy is brought to life. A burnt alien lies naked on a stretcher while two men dressed in 1940s street and medical clothes examine the patient. A short distance away a smaller alien is preserved in glass tubing and unidentified green liquid. These are supposed recreations of an actual government autopsy reported in the documents we have just viewed.
Before I leave, I ask the docents a couple questions, “Can I visit the actual crash site?”
“No,” he responds. “The crash site is on private land and not open to the public. They don’t do tours either.”
“So then I have just one other question . . . why would the government work so hard to cover up alien visitations to our planet?”
“Well, imagine if you will what would happen to the worlds’ governments and the institutions of religion if our people knew that we are being visited by an alien race. Everything would dissolve and we would become citizens of earth, not any particular country. Every religion would be challenged to explain this, and some might cease to exist. It would be a very different world.”
His response makes sense, and I think about the possibility of government cover-ups and alien visitation for some time.
Just as I exit the museum doors, a freak rain storm pummels the area. People duck for cover under awnings and inside storefronts. I run a few doors down to a tourist shop. The woman behind the counter, who looks Native American, points me to the case with small green figures and flying saucers. I secure several trinkets. The rain stops and I climb back into my Jeep.
As I drive south I consider my Roswell experience. The town appears to be made up of salt-of-the-earth farmers and ranchers. They are not hippie-dippy, New-Age folks who meditate and chant to the aliens (unless I missed that church), though I am sure they have their fair share of visitors of this type. I have no doubt that something crashed in the desert not far from here . . . and that the government tried to cover it up through a campaign of confusion and misinformation. I respect the notion that the people here are trying to preserve the past and keep the truth alive.