Happy Birthday, Roswell Incident

The tiny town of Roswell, New Mexico, is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Roswell Incident, in which a crashed flying saucer was allegedly recovered by the military back in 1947.

The original story had some legs because Lt. Walter Haut, the public relations officer for the Roswell AAF Base, sent out the following press release:

The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the co-operation of one of the local ranchers and the Sheriff's office of Chaves County.

The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone action, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the Sheriff's office, who in turn notified Major Jesse A. Marcel, of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence office.

Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher's home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters."

A few days later, the military changed its story, saying it had recovered an errant weather balloon.

About 12 years ago, the military 'fessed up that there had been a cover-up: The wreckage was from an atomic spying balloon which was part of Project Mogul.

That hardly dissuaded the folks who knew the truth was out there. They said it was just another Big Lie.

Now we learn that Haut died last year and left behind an affidavit that he handled parts of the wreckage way back when.

I met Haut some 12 years ago, at the first Roswell Encounter in 1994. He was a heck of a nice guy, and one of the founders of the Roswell International UFO Museum and Research Center.

Back then, Roswell was just beginning to embrace its reputation as hallowed ground in the UFO community. The city fathers had transformed their normal Fourth of July activities into the Roswell Encounter; instead of a soapbox derby, kids built UFOs. In the place of a fun run, they had an alien chase. Rather than dressing up as our nation's forefathers, the kids put on alien makeup. It was a great weekend.

At the time, Haut told me he had never seen a UFO, though he did believe they existed. I can't say I buy his deathbed confession, which strikes me as an effort to boost the Roswell legend. Or maybe Walter convinced himself that he really did handle saucer wreckage.

That said, if you're in the neighborhood, you should pop into Roswell. There's still time to drive out for this year's Roswalien Experience 2007, which starts on Thursday, July 5. It's a heck of a fun time and the last time I was in the museum, it was filled with evidence--if, by evidence, you mean drawings and Hollywood props.