You have to hand it to space aliens. Like our most unruly relatives, when they visit they can cause a stir that we just can’t get over. On a recent road trip through southern New Mexico, we couldn’t resist a side trip to Roswell, the center of a classic UFO story that includes an extraterrestrial visit and a government coverup.
The Roswell Incident
Roswell, a ranching town, launched into international fame in 1947 when a sheep rancher northwest of town found strange metallic objects on his property and reported the incident to officials at the local military base. According to the Roswell city government website, “on July 8, 1947, public information officer Lt. Walter Haut issued a press release under orders from base commander Col. William Blanchard, which said basically that we have in our possession a flying saucer. The next day another press release was issued, this time from Gen. Roger Ramey, stating it was a weather balloon. That was the start of the best known and well-documented UFO coverups.” For more, see a history.com explanation.
Little Green Men
Did that rancher find parts of a flying saucer or just a weather balloon? Was it the “cover up” of an alien landing or merely the government explaining away hush-hush scientific research that couldn’t be revealed to the public? Who knows? Still, you can’t beat a good alien story whether it’s fact or fiction and the city of Roswell has made the most of it. The city features two notable art museums, the Roswell Museum and Art Center and the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art and other attractions, but space aliens are it’s claim to fame. Consequently, the city receives thousands of visitors each year who are either true believers or lovers of kitsch. Count me in the latter group. I couldn’t resist.
In Roswell, the globes of downtown streetlights have alien eyes painted on them. The city hosts an annual UFO Festival. The local McDonald’s skipped the golden arches in favor of spaceship architecture. At the Dunkin’ Donuts a green space alien holds the sign inviting you in, much the way high-schoolers advertise their team’s car-wash fundraisers. Even at the nearby Bottomless Lakes State Park, a campground host sign welcomed us with a little green man.
For all things UFO, head to Roswell’s International UFO Museum and Research Center. Whether you’re serious about aliens or not, you gotta go. The price is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for children and they let my dog in for free. It offers a compilation of clippings, letters, and faded photos regarding the Roswell Incident. You’ll find other information about sightings of UFOs, alien abductions and a section about Roswell in the movies. Best, of all, even skeptics enjoy the steam-filled landing of aliens in a display in the museum’s center, pictured above.
If you can’t make it to Roswell, you can indulge your sci-fi side with classic books of the genre. They include H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, that classic of aliens invading earth, anything by Isaac Asimov (I, Robot, Foundation), Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep—adapted for film as Bladerunner), and Octavia Butler (Lilith’s Brood.)
See more about New Mexico’s gorgeous and “alien” landscapes in my next post.