The infamous Roswell incident occurred in 1947 when the recovery of debris scattered on a ranch near Corona, New Mexico, prompted speculation an unidentified flying object (UFO) had crashed there.
Now, 75 years later, conspiracy theories continue to circle Roswell and new ones are emerging as people claim the debris involved a flying saucer, with the truth covered up by the US government.
We explore speculation surrounding the Roswell stories decades later, from ‘craft debris’ to ‘flying disc’ suggestions and more.
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75 years since Roswell ‘UFO’ incident
On 7 July 1947, debris from a highly classified project used by the US Army Air Force to detect atomic bomb tests in the Soviet Union was recovered from a ranch about 75 miles north of the town of Roswell in New Mexico after it was found by ranch worker William Brazel.
Brazel told Sheriff George Wilcox about his find, who reported the encounter to the USAAF base at Roswell, which promptly sent agents to the ranch.
Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) issued a press release stating it had recovered a “flying disc” before quickly retracting the statement and saying the crashed object was a conventional weather balloon.
But it was too late. The Roswell Daily Record published a front-page article on 8 July 1947 with the headline “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer On Ranch In Roswell Region” and The Week reports that led to the birth of the legend of America’s most famous brush with aliens.
An annual UFO festival, otherwise known as AlienFest, takes place in early July dedicated to the findings in Roswell, Rad Season reports.
Reports of a ‘flying disc’ took off
After the RAAF retracted its “flying disc” claim, conspiracy theorists consider the Roswell incident as ‘evidence’ the US government has covered up the existence of extraterrestrial life on Earth.
Following the initial suggestion Brazel’s debris had come from a UFO, the Roswell Daily Record reported a correction that included the USAAF statement a weather balloon had been found at the site. Brazel later went on record to say he regretted the publicity his misidentification had caused.
According to official accounts, the debris Brazel found came from a balloon that was part of an experimental technology trial codenamed Project Mogul.
A Twitter user named @domitius_tan tweeted their own opinion, suggesting the “UFO sighting was a rebuilt German Horten 229 (prototype fighter/bomber) the US was testing”. They refer to a 1947 report by Kenneth Arnold stating: “The UFO was a ‘boomerang-shaped’ craft. It’s just that newspapers later mistakenly called it a ‘saucer’ and the term and imagery stuck.”
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More ‘craft debris’ conspiracy theories explored
Several people have since claimed to have seen debris scattered over a wide area near Roswell and at least one person reported seeing a blazing aircraft in the sky shortly before it crashed.
A key account came from former mortician Glenn Dennis, who claimed in 1989 a friend who worked as a nurse at RAAF had accidentally walked into an examination room where doctors were bent over the bodies of three creatures.
In 1995, “footage” was released of an alleged alien autopsy performed in Roswell in 1947. However, experts labelled it a hoax and it was admitted years later that the footage was fake. The film-maker insisted real footage did exist but its poor condition meant it had to be recreated.
As these conspiracy theories continue to spiral the internet, critics have questioned the validity of some witnesses and pointed out many claims appear to have come from “friends of friends” who supposedly noticed something out of the ordinary.
History reports another theory advanced by the book Area 51: An Uncensored History Of America’s Top Secret Military Base, which states the crashed flying vehicle was neither extraterrestrial nor the work of US spies.
The book instead suggests the strange object was an “unconventional plan to induce widespread American panic”, implemented by Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin.