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The Alien Crew: Dead and Alive
Though an early 1897 airship tale describes 12’ tall alien beings, the idea that strange craft should be piloted by “little men” has had a strong following since the end of the nineteenth century (Bartholomew 1998). The Martian pilot who struck a windmill in Aurora, Texas in 1897 was small. By the saucer era, little men (typically not green) are measured, presumably after recovery by the U.S. military. Like humans, little humanoid aliens have grown in stature through the twentieth century. Pilots described in 1950 ranged from 23” in height to 40” in height (Scully 1950), or roughly between two and three feet.
As little men crash stories start to proliferate again in the 1970s, the little men are taller, at about four feet (Berlitz and Moore 1980; Clark 1998:119-141; Randle and Schmitt 1994). The aliens depicted in the 1994 film Roswell, judging by the dummy displayed at the International UFO Museum and Research Center, stand about 4’8” and Corso (1997) describes his aliens as being four to four and a half feet in height. While the jump in height to four feet might be attributed to the influence of abduction accounts, it does not explain what appears to be a secular trend for increased stature in the alien population. Assuming a linear growth rate, some rough calculations suggest that we will see our alien overlords eye-to-giant-black-eye in about 2040 CE. (click on image to enlarge)
Alien crewmembers of downed saucers are uniformly humanoid in shape, with two arms, two legs, and head with a human set of sensory equipment. This is a lower level of variation than in the general reported population of alien beings. Most of the differences are in specific small bits that hang off of the human body. Though the time depth of this feature is uncertain, modern aliens have larger than human proportion heads, typically light bulb or upside-down-pear shaped. In some cases aliens have relatively spindly bodies.
Only some crash accounts are explicit about the skin of alien bodies. Giant 12’ aliens reported in 1897 had bronze skin (Bartholomew 1998). Frank Scully’s (1950) aliens typically had a fair complexion, but in most cases their skin had become brown from exposure to the atmosphere. As abduction cases grew more popular, Gray aliens started to be described in saucer crashes. The film Roswell specifically describes the skin of one alien as slightly scaly, but stretchable. Corso (1997) goes into detail about the protective capabilities of alien skin to protect against radiation and shock. In Roswell itself, popular depictions of aliens generally follow some variant on the Gray model, but are split between gray and green skin.
Just as aliens have grown through the twentieth century, they’ve lost their hair. Nineteenth-century airship pilots were not particularly hairless, and also sported facial hair in some cases (Bartholomew 1998). By 1950, Frank Scully’s little saucer men had a little peach fuzz on their faces, but this soon disappeared as well. If dressed at all, aliens typically wear a one-piece coverall, often with a metallic sheen.
As alien crash victims began to meld with post-Hill abduction reports (Fuller 1966), they took on their distinguishing characteristics: a small or non-existent nose, small or non-existent ears, a slit-like mouth, and large slanted solid-black eyes. Just this pair of eyes, divorced from the rest of a Gray, can be a potent symbol (either by themselves, or added to another context) and were common in and Roswell in 2002.
While the autopsy of strange beings would seem to be a logical conclusion to a fatal spaceship crash, the explicit description of autopsies or their findings are not common in crashed saucer stories until the early 1990s. During the 1990s, autopsies become de rigueur for crash stories, and videos of such autopsies become a significant part of ufological material culture (Emery 1995; Nickell 1995). Tips for creating your own alien autopsy video can be found here and here. Jerome Clark (1998:119-141) lists one exception, the late 1950s description of an examination of some human-like body parts from a UFO crash. The skeletal or support structure of aliens is rarely discussed, other than to comment on how it is light but strong (like the materials of the saucer itself) in order to deal with the stresses of high-speed travel. Other features are discussed in specific accounts, but are not widespread enough to merit comment in this analysis.
Alien bodies found after days in the scorching sun of New Mexico (whether near Aztec, Corona, or Roswell) are typically roasted to a golden brown. This was particularly true in early SW crash accounts, such as those of Scully (1950) or Los Angeles businesswoman Alma Lawson (Clark 1998:119-141), when in addition to simple exposure, the alien skin was browned perhaps because the air acted as a corrosive agent. Later accounts continue to discuss damage and predator action (as in the Majestic documents). In the 1897 Aurora, Texas case (Bartholomew 1998) and in a fictional 1967 crashed saucer story (film The Bamboo Saucer, discussed in Meehan 1998), local villagers bury the unfortunate crew.
Based on the death toll from fatal crashes, early flying saucers ranged in size from two-seater sports coupes to longer-range sixteen-being craft. Tales of the Roswell crash (and an earlier crash in Missouri) focus on a three to four seat mid-sized sedan.
Early stories of contact with Space People in the 1950s focused on Venus, or previously unknown planets such as Clarion (Festinger, Rieken, and Schachter 1956), as the home world for extraterrestrial visitors. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming number of early crashed saucers came from Venus (apparently not a galactic leader in reliable precision engineering; Scully 1950). The little ship destroyed by a windmill in Aurora, Texas, in 1897 came from Mars (Bartholomew 1998), but most other crashed ships did not. After American and Russian robotic probes began crashing on other planets in the solar system, alien origins became more remote. Leading Roswell researcher Stanton Friedman is also a champion of the claim, stemming from the Betty and Barney Hill abduction, that the small gray abducting aliens come from a planet in the binary star system Zeta Reticuli, as did the dead Roswell aliens. While some researchers or accounts focus on a specific origin for the doomed craft, most crash stories detail the end of the journey, and not the beginning.
A Time magazine article from January 1950 skeptically mentions a story about live Venusians from a crashed saucer being kept alive in a special carbon dioxide chamber (Clark 1998:119-141). The concept of UFO crash survivors is an appealing one, and appears in fictional accounts starting as early as 1951 in The Thing From Another World. Like the frozen pilot of The Thing, crash survivors revive in the early 1980s in films such as The Thing, E.T., Wavelength, and Starman (Meehan 1998), a few years after ufology rediscovered crashed saucers. An influential story of living aliens associated with the Roswell crash originates with Gerald Anderson in 1992, who contacted the television show Unsolved Mysteries and claimed to have seen three dead aliens and one survivor on the Plains of San Agustin as a six-year old boy in 1947. By 1997 (Corso 1997), the surviving alien is a standard part of the story, but is killed on site by military misunderstanding. Surviving aliens can communicate with mental telepathy in Corso’s telling, but such powers are more common in Roswell narratives in other media (Strieber’s Majestic novel, the film Roswell). Fictional aliens have had mind control powers since the 1950s, which re-emerges in abduction accounts stories of telepathy, but this particular element is not a major part of the nuts-and-bolts crashed saucer stories.
Continue to Part 6: Discovery and the Civilian Response