The Roswell Incident is the most famous UFO event in the history of humankind. It spawned countless conspiracy theories and caused many people to believe that aliens are among us. How much do you know about the Roswell UFO incident?
The famous incident happened in 1947. It's become a cultural touchstone for people all over the world.
Roswell is a dusty town in southern New Mexico. Its relatively remote location adds to its incredible allure.
In 1947, a rancher found unidentifiable debris strewn about parts of a sheep pasture. He called the sheriff to try and figure out what the weird jumble of stuff might be.
The sheriff called the local air force base. Soldiers arrived, searched the property and confiscated all of the debris -- an act that helped to trigger larger conspiracy theories.
The rancher's neighbors saw the debris and were wowed by the items. They told the rancher to report the incident in case it was an alien craft or a secret military project.
The military's press release was an outright lie. It said that the debris was simply a weather balloon, but that was not even close to the truth.
No one had any real reason to question the press release. Most locals simply accepted the government's story and then went about their lives.
Roswell's local paper did run a top story about the crash, indicating that a "flying saucer" had crashed into the ground. However, the military's press release helped douse the rumors.
The debris that the rancher found? Yeah, well, it didn't look anything like a weather balloon. The miliary's cover story eventually unraveled because even casual observers could see through the lie.
The balloon was part of Project Mogul, an operation that used high-altitude balloons (and sophisticated technologies) to detect sound waves generated by Soviet atomic tests. The project lasted about two years.
The cover story worked. For about three decades, no one, not even hardcore UFO believers, really gave Roswell much thought. Then, things changed.
A regular guy named Stanton Friedman decided to poke around the crash site and conduct a few interviews. The project began taking on a life of its own.
He's no uneducated crackpot. Friedman is a physicist with a natural sense of curiosity who wanted to know more about what happened at Roswell -- he couldn't have known that his initial inquiries would spark a world-famous UFO legend.
The contraption (before it was ripped to shreds) was perhaps around 700 feet long. The amount of debris, and its strange components, no doubt played a role in making the incident famous.
The tropopause is a section of the atmosphere between the troposphere and the stratosphere, and it transmits sound quite well. The military's balloon was meant to pick up atomic testing sound waves that traveled through the tropopause.
The project was highly classified espionage. Local officials actually didn't understand the nature of the debris when they collected it, a fact that made it harder for them to concoct a believable cover story.
In the post-WWII era, many Americans were freaked out about the Soviets. Some local military types though the debris might actually be Soviet spy gear of some type.
The reporters wanted a look at the debris field, but soldiers turned them back. The secrecy surrounding the site eventually fueled conspiracy theories.
Mack Brazel, lived an isolated life on a huge ranch. He wasn’t the UFO type and didn't know that other UFO sightings had recently been reported around the country.
Brazel said he didn't notice any sort of metal in the debris. It was an odd jumble of rubbery material, tape and other weird junk.
The troops that gathered up the materials drove them off into the sunset. Whatever happened to the wreckage, it is not public information.
The now-famous book is simply titled "The Roswell Incident." The book contains many dozens of witness interviews that add credibility to the UFO story.
Marcel was a major at the local base, and he is perhaps the only person who witnessed the debris being transported from the crash site to a press conference, which many people suspect was staged.
Interviewers have suggested that Marcel was known to exaggerate certain aspects of his life. Some find his interviews to be unreliable -- either as support or denial -- in terms of the Roswell incident.
Most stories regarding the incident revolve around witness interviews that may or may not be reliable. Very few actual scientific inquiries have been built to really address the incident.
In the '50s, the Air Force equipped human-shaped dummies with parachutes as part of high-altitude experiments. The military sent in troops to gather up these dummies in the desert -- some think these tests contributed to UFO sightings.
In the late '90s, the Air Force finally admitted that it lied about the crash and cleanup. The delay in releasing the truth surely only added weight to conspiracy theories.
No one reported any alien bodies that year. It wasn't until the '50s (when Operation High Dive took place) that people first reported body sightings.
The Roswell incident, although intriguing, has been debunked as thoroughly as possible. There may indeed be aliens wandering our area, but Roswell isn't evidence of their presence.
Most -- but not all -- of the project's files have been declassified. Because there are still secret files hidden away somewhere, some people will never believe the government's public stance on Roswell.