Saturday, July 07, 2007

Evolution of the Crashed Saucer Legend, Part 6: Discovery and the Civilian Response

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

Discovery and the Civilian Response


Typically, civilians either stumble upon crashed saucers, or mistake the crash event for that of a conventional plane. On the other hand, from the beginning, fictional saucers have been found by the military, on purpose or by accident, and in later incarnations of the Roswell story, some crash sites are found by the military first. The luck of military search and rescue teams improves through time and begins to mirror the success of their fictional counterparts, though in the 2002 fictional television miniseries Taken, civilians get to find the Roswell sites, but the military makes its own crash site at a later date.

In the case of Roswell, rancher William “Mac” Brazel is usually credited for finding the debris field near Corona. With the exception of his public apology on July 9, 1947 for creating such a stir (Brazel explains he waited several weeks between finding the debris on June 14th and bringing it into town), in most versions Brazel finds the debris field the morning after the crash occurs. In the July 9, 1947 tale by Brazel, he is accompanied by his eight-year old son Vernon, but according to website and the timeline handed out at the International UFO Museum and Research Center in July 2002, he was actually accompanied by another little boy, Dee Proctor, the seven-year old son of Brazel’s neighbors. The presence of a young boy with Brazel mirrors the relationship between Jesse Marcel Jr. and his father’s revelation about Roswell debris in accounts after 1991 (Randle and Schmitt 1991). By 1991, Brazel’s sheep refuse to cross the debris field, perhaps because they sense something otherworldly about the shiny metal?

Since the publication of The Roswell Incident (Berlitz and Moore 1980), the main ship crash site is usually found by an archaeological survey team. There can be minor variations in the specifics (the team may have been geologists, or have included a civil engineer). Peterson (1991) argues through a content analysis of “respectable” and “non-respectable” media that anthropologists are generally associated in the public eye with the strange and unusual. Anthropologists are more commonly represented in the tabloid press (and I would say from a purely anecdotal survey, more commonly in strange fiction such as horror or science fiction) than in the mainstream press. Initially associated with the discovery of a ship on the Plains of San Agustin, the concept of an archaeological team on-site has become a part of the Roswell Incident, though perhaps because of the lack of interest in the Plains of San Agustin crash site (across the state from the town), this team neither shows up in the versions of the story available in Roswell itself, nor in the film Roswell. Of the six versions of the Roswell story analyzed by Ziegler (Saler, Ziegler, and Moore 1997), only one, the original Majestic documents, does not mention an archaeological team, only civilian witnesses that were debriefed.

Speaking of Anthropologists: That's me, seated wearing the white shirt in the middle ground. I'm inside the headquarters of Alien Resistance, a Christian anti-UFO group. Their beliefs and mission are available in more detail on their website, but simply put, they believe "aliens" to be a new guise for an ancient evil, entities referred to as the "Sons of God" in Genesis, who mated with humans and created giant Nephilim. They further believe that modern interest in these creatures is dangerous, most particularly because they are "seeking worship, sacrifice, and some even claiming to be our creators, according to most UFO cults." This stance makes the event in this picture difficult to understand. A representative of the Rael Movement, a religious group based in Canada, was to give a presentation on Saturday, July 6, at the IUFOMRC. At the last minute, this event was cancelled, it appears at the request of the IUFOMRC. Alien Resistance, across the street from the Museum, hosted the event instead. Yet the Raelians are probably the biggest example of a "UFO cult" in existence, and during his talk, the representative laid out a belief system completely in conflict with the stated beliefs and mission of Alien Resistance (Palmer 1995). So bully for the AR guys for letting the other side speak. I would like to thank G. Noel Gross for the photo. He also visited Roswell during the 2002 UFO Festival, where he obsessively retraced the scenes in Six Days in Roswell. Seriously, his site on the festival is amusing and thorough, covering a number of places and events that I didn't visit.

Civilian Response to the Crash

Civilian audience for Stanton Friedman's lecture at the IUFOMRC, July 2002

As stated above, civilians are apt to find more crashed saucers than are military forces, who eventually come along after civilians contact them. In the Roswell case, William “Mac” Brazel waits from one to three days (with the exception of the three week gap he describes in his July 9, 1947 interview) after discovery to contact Sheriff Wilcox in Roswell. In some versions he takes some of the material to the neighboring Proctor household. Most published versions of the Roswell Incident have Brazel contacting George Wilcox on July 6. As earlier versions anchored the crash date to the Wilmot sighting on the evening of July 2, this leaves a three day window between Brazel’s discovery of the material and his contact with Sheriff Wilcox and the Army.

Early versions describe how after finding the debris, he gathered some up and brought it with him on July 5 while taking some wool into Corona. It is here (or on a July 3 visit to his neighbors) that Brazel hears about flying saucers for the first time, including the possibility of a reward for finding one. He then makes a special trip into Roswell the next day with some of the debris, and the chain of events leading to the July 8 press release begins. In these accounts, Brazel is able to show the debris to his family and to neighbors during this time. Starting in 1994, the reassignment of the crash date to July 4, 1947 presumes a much busier Brazel, immediately recognizing the strange qualities of the crash debris (and the gouge in the debris field) and visiting Roswell the day after he discovers the material. Brazel’s own July 9 statements say that he waited several weeks to report the wreckage he found in the middle of June, though this is considered a lie by most Roswell researchers (Berliner and Friedman 1992; Randle and Schmitt 1991, 1994). The exhibits in the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell hint at, but not definitively, a July 4 crash date, though the timeline handed to visitors in 2002 follows the July 4 time sequence.

Brazel himself makes a July 8, 1947 appearance on KGFL radio in Roswell, but at some point is whisked away by military authorities, and coached on lying for his July 9th interview saying he was sorry for causing such a fuss. The exact amount of time that Brazel is in military hands varies in different accounts.

Continue with Part 7: The Military Response

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