Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Evolution of the Crashed Saucer Legend, Part 4: The Crash Site and the Ship

If you haven't, you should probably start with the introduction to this article

The Crash Site and The Ship

Crash Site
By nature of the story, if a saucer crash-site is to be covered up at a later date it should be in a rural or remote area. This was not so much the case with crashed airships in 1897, which could come down in reservoirs, gullies, cow pastures, and even outside of bars. In most cases, the site may be remote, but access is not difficult. The Roswell crash site at Pine Lodge told in the mid-1990s is an exception, requiring a new road to be cut into the wilderness to allow the passage of military trucks. In the case of Roswell, we have a debris field, and a crash site.

The Foster Ranch Debris Field, as Depicted by Larry Elmore. Please visit Elmore's site for more information on the use of his paintings. The appearance of the debris field, the gouge, and "the plain-clothes operative" are similar to that depicted in the 1994 film Roswell. News photographs serve as inspiration for Brazel's face, Marcel's appearance and pose, and for the appearance of the debris Marcel is holding. This image is on display in the IUFOMRC.

The impact of the ship into a rocky outcrop originates in the Roswell literature of the early 1990s, but the details of the ship and other elements of this scene can be attributed to Elmore. Also on display in the IUFOMRC.

The debris field has become larger and more elaborate over time. In his July 9th, 1947 interview, William “Mac” Brazel describes the field as being about 200 yards (180 meters) in diameter. In 1991, the field is only 70-100 (60-90) yards wide but ¾ of a mile (1.2 kilometers) long. By 2002, the field is 300 yards (270 meters) wide and still ¾ of a mile long. In 1991, the debris field also features a gouge and a burned and vitrified circle. Apparently, the craft crashed or crash landed, and took off again before either blowing up or crashing somewhere else. The gouge is roughly 130-160 (120-145 meters) yards in length. It was this gouge that the archaeological investigation sought in 2002 using remote sensing techniques and excavation. The description of the Roswell Incident offered by the IUFOMRC website in 2002 includes a shallow trench or gouge, several hundred feet in length. A similar kind of linear field or gouge is described by a National Guard pilot in 1950 for the site of a saucer crash two years earlier in Ohio.' The following figure is a scale representation of the three descriptions of the debris field and gouge.

Crash sites aren’t as well described as the Corona debris field. In the earliest accounts, a saucer crashed “in a mesa” in 1949 (Clark 1998:119-141), or gently glided to earth in 1950 (Scully 1950). The description of a saucer wedged up against the side of an arroyo is only described in a small number of Roswell accounts (Corso 1997; Randle and Schmitt 1991), but it is one of the most important images of the Roswell incident (as seen in the centepiece mural of the IUFOMRC, below), and ranks only second in iconography in Roswell itself behind images of aliens.

Though the shape of the saucer can change, this image is repeated again and again on restaurant and hotel marquees, in models and dioramas, paintings and murals. The abstract design of the future International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell appears to be inspired by the crashed saucer symbol. Like a religious icon, it can be boiled down to a single element and still be recognized. Any business wishing to attract UFO-related costumers in Roswell need only create a thee dimensional representation of a saucer, and place it in contact with the roof or wall of their building, canted at something approximating a 45 degree angle, and that communicates the message.

The only other equally or more reducibly simple icons in UFOlore that I have encountered are the image of the saucer itself in profile or in ¾ view, and the slanted almond-shaped eyes of a Gray alien (see above).

Debris is at the heart of any crashed saucer story. A UFO that can crash is a physical thing, and a fallible thing at that. In many ways, the fascination with the Roswell Incident amongst ufologists in the 1980s and 1990s was a rebuke of other schools of thought within the field that proposed UFOs to be psychic phenomenon, social hallucinations, or other equally immaterial and inaccessible creatures. In these stories, UFOs are mechanical objects that can malfunction and be destroyed, meaning that their creators are like us, fallible beings that rely on machines for transport and survival. In fact, the death of alien beings in such a crash is a sorrowful thing, it can be related to human tragedy, and is in several actions and accounts of crashes.
Even though these machines are machines, the debris they produce demonstrate technology far superior to comparable earthly vehicles, to the point that the debris holds magical properties. Since 1897 the materials from crashed spaceships have proven to be of metals not found on this world, as in the case of a ring recovered from a crash (Bartholomew 1998). While the Roswell materials in particular are much lighter than they should be if made from earthly metals, the debris from UFO crashes has been abnormally strong and could not be cut since 1949 (Clark 1998:119-141).

The International UFO Museum and Research Center exhibit on the debris, including replicas of the foil, I-beams, symbols, and black rubbery material, as well as documentation of descriptions of the debris.

Early reports of the Roswell material in the late 1970s describe how the metal cannot be broken or bent or burnt, though by the early 1990s, the metal (especially foil) can bend, but immediately returns to its original form, and is compared to shape memory alloy or "memory metal" invented in the 1960s. Strips and beams, of metal or wood, have also been found in crash debris since 1950. These strips or beams have been covered with symbols, engravings, or even alien hieroglyphic writing since 1979, though Frank Scully’s 1950 saucer crashes produced booklets with written script. According to Jesse Marcel, Jr., the writing was purple. Several renderings of these symbols have been made, and the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell has a replica of a symbol-laden I-beam (see the above image). Though written books are not found in crash debris after 1950, paper or parchment-like material is described in a few accounts of the Roswell crash, including Whitley Strieber’s (1989) fictionalized version of the crash in Majestic. By far the Roswell crash is the best well described UFO crash when it comes to debris, again perhaps because debris is central to the original July 8, 1947 media accounts.

The Craft

Crashed airships, saucers, and UFOs typically measure about 30-40 feet in diameter, but have generally gotten slightly smaller over the years. The turtle shaped saucer which crashed in the Sierra Madre of Mexico in 1949 (Clark 1998:119-141) was 100 feet in diameter, and other saucers from 1950 range from 36—99.9 feet in diameter, and around 6 feet in height (the diameter in feet of all of Frank Scully’s saucers is divisible by nine). In later years, UFO size is not as frequently described, but when it is, it typically hovers around 30 feet in diameter.

Early crashed airships, like their flying counterparts, were galvanized metal cylinders, equipped with wings and propellers (Bartholomew 1998). Shiny aluminum-esque round discs dropped out of the skies in the late 1940s and early 1950s (Clark 1998:119-141; Scully 1950). By the 1970s and 1980s, captured discs were elongating again, becoming ovoid or teardrop shaped (Clark 1998:119-141, 1986 film Flight of the Navigator). With the advent of the Roswell Incident in ufology, a plethora of shapes come into vogue, but most fall into the category of the classic disc saucer (Clark 1998; McDermott 1998; 1994 film Roswell),

Diorama of a crashed disc, donated to the IUFOMRC.

or a delta-winged craft with a narrow cylindrical body vaguely reminiscent of the bat-winged stealth aircraft fielded by the U.S. Air Force starting in the 1980s, and mirroring the growing popularity of triangular UFO reports (Randle and Schmitt 1994; Corso 1997).

Diorama of a delta-winged craft, crashed near Corona, New Mexico

While lights in the sky are still probably the most common UFO report, triangles (typically black) have become pre-eminent in reports of structured craft. But modern popular depictions of the crash in Roswell are almost completely dominated by the icon of the classic saucer.
The propulsion and performance characteristics of crashed saucers are rarely described in crash accounts, with the major exception of Frank Scully’s 1950 saucers that propelled themselves along by manipulating gravity waves. Corso’s 1997 Roswell delta-wing craft uses a very similar principle, though the concept of magnetic “waves” is replaced by “vectors.” The Majestic documents state, though, that the propulsion unit of the Roswell craft was destroyed in an explosion. Discussion of the craft interior is also minimal or non-existent in most non-fictional accounts, and the accounts that do describe interior details do not seem to have had much reproductive success. These sorts of details seem to be more in line with stories of crashed saucer research sites, such as the details given by Bob Lazar concerning the saucer he claims to have worked on at Area 51 in the 1980s.

Continue to Part 5, the Alien Crew

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