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Conspiracy - Radio 5 Live Friday, 2 October, 1998, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Aliens: a conspiracy out of this world
Is it a bird, is it a plane, or is it the Roswell UFO?
In the second of a three-part series, Paul Vickers of BBC Radio 5 Live, asks if the truth really is out there.

First the facts. Something really did crash to Earth near the New Mexico town of Roswell on the night of 2 July 1947.

And the United States Air Force was very quick to seal off the area and police up the wreckage.

Now the conspiracy theory. The mystery object that hit the dirt with a shattering explosion was in fact a flying saucer, piloted by extra-terrestrials.

The Air Force took away wreckage from the impact zone for study and "back-engineering" alien technology to use in its own planes and weapons systems.

Roswell is to this day shrouded in mystery
All of this has been kept hidden from the American people on the orders of a super-secret military, political elite, known as the Majestic-12.

You'll find evidence for this conspiracy theory at the town's exhaustive UFO Museum and Research Centre and in the first-hand accounts of the few people still around who became part of the story.

News travels fast

Walter Haut, now 76, was an Air Force officer based at Roswell AFB, home to the 509th bomb Group and one of the first to be equipped with atomic bombs.

When the crash happened, the officer in charge of the Air Force team sent to retrieve the craft, General Ramey, ordered a press blackout.

But Mr Haut had already sent a press release out: "I said that the Air Force had recovered a flying disk and that General Ramey was flying it back to Ohio."

Mr Haut's phones went red hot with calls coming from as far away as the UK. In neighbouring Albuquerque, a radio news bulletin picked up his release, relaying the information in a newsflash.

Within moments the FBI sent back a wire ordering them to cease transmission "for reasons of national security".

The next day, the Air Force called a hasty press conference. This time, though, they insisted that they had not recovered a flying saucer at all - but a weather balloon. And so what is seen by conspiracists as the Roswell Cover-Up was born.

Seeing is believing

For many that was the end of the story. Back in 1947 people thought that the Air Force that had fought so gallantly in the European and Pacific theatres during World War II could never stoop to deceiving the American people.

It must have been a weather balloon - period. But there were other witnesses.

Glenn Dennis was the town's undertaker at the time. He says he was asked by a "mortuary officer" all sorts of questions about embalming techniques over the phone.

Finally he was ordered to take six infant-sized coffins to the base where, he says, he saw three trucks full of some kind of wreckage.

As he tried to take a closer look, a captain blocked his way, warning him not to reveal what he'd seen, "otherwise somebody will be picking your bones out of the sand".

Conspiracy theorists have long believed that a secret autopsy was performed on alien bodies.

At the Roswell Museum, UFO investigator Dennis Balthazar believes that a cover-up still continues.

He says he was prevented by mysterious agents from recovering a fragment of metal from the downed craft, smuggled from the site by a witness in Oklahoma, agents who bugged his phones and threatened him.

But he's determined to carry on his research: "I'm a civilian. They have no authority over me unless I have violated national security. And if I've violated national security it wasn't just a weather balloon that crashed here".

Aliens have taken over life in Roswell
Roswell is not the only town in the American West to boast an alien crash site. Four hundred miles away in Aurora Texas, a ship crashed to Earth back in 1896.

The Dallas Morning Herald reported that its pilot was "not of this world" and that the unfortunate "being" was buried in the local cemetery. The grave is there to this day, although somebody has long since stolen the headstone.

Roswell has become the alien capital of the world with its museum, crash-site tours - even an annual alien funday.

Will the conspiracy industry that drives the town of Roswell change the face of Aurora as well?

Most locals are wary of drawing attention to the story so for the time being, whatever lies buried under a gnarled old oak tree, will be able to rest in peace.


What do you think about the Roswell mystery?

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23 Sep 98 | Conspiracy - Radio 5 Live
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