I am not one for conspiracy theories, and the idea of beings from other worlds contacting us feels far-fetched to me. Not that I don’t believe in extra-terrestrial life. As Dr. Stephen Hawking said, “To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational.”

I take issue with the alleged manner of alien contact reported on our planet – particularly in the good ole U S of A. Why would intelligent beings travel all those light years just to make crop circles and abduct country bumpkins? That’s like a fun-filled redneck evening of doing donuts in a parking lot, followed by cow tipping. No, I doubt aliens have been to this planet … on purpose … yet. Dr. Hawking: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the American Indians.”

Still and all, even with my doubts and misgivings, the 1947 incident in Roswell, New Mexico, to my mind, has the most potential to be science fact rather than science fiction.

Now I’m not talking about the Roswell depicted in Doctor Who or The X Files or that cheesy teenager television series in the 1990’s, or that even-cheesier alien autopsy video. I’m talking about what we know to be certain. Fact: On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Daily Record newspaper reported a UFO crash in Roswell.

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Fact: By the next day, the military denied the report, stating the debris was the wreckage of a weather balloon.

Yes, it was 1947. The country was teeming with Cold War paranoia and sci-fi fantasies. And nothing has ever been printed in the newspaper that wasn’t true or accurate, right? But, have you ever read any transcripts or listened to any interviews of people who claim knowledge of the event? They’re not all cuckoo.

Lieutenant Walter Haut, public relations officer at the 509th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, Roswell Army Airfield, signed an affidavit at the age of 80, to be opened at the time of his death, that the crash was real. The affidavit was opened three years later. (I guess a deathbed affidavit is supposed to lend an air of credibility, on the theory that you know you’re going to die and want to see God, so you stop lying. Well, maybe. Tell that to Bill Cosby.)

Colonel Phillip J. Corso, a decorated officer with an illustrious military career and a former Pentagon official, claims that he held in his own two hands, researched, and studied alien technology from the Roswell crash. I have listened to a radio interview with that guy, and he sounded entirely normal, and intelligent, and credible.

Then, allegedly, there is Matilda O’Donnell McElroy, a nurse who claims to have interviewed the surviving alien in Roswell. She turned the transcripts over to author Lawrence R. Spencer when she was in her 80s, before she moved to Ireland and passed away. Many, if not most, say that nurse McElroy is a figment of Spencer’s imagination.

Compelling to me about the Roswell story is the aliens did not intend to visit, only to reconnoiter, but they crashed. But if the military did cover this up, you have to admit, it’s the only thing the United States military has not bungled in its entire history.

Grab yourself a cup of tea and go spelunking on the Internet if you want to learn more. The sheer amount of information and misinformation will spin your head.

Which finally leads me to my trip to Roswell!

En route from Seattle to New Orleans, I mapped an intentional course to Roswell because of my fascination with it. Traveling along Highway 285, which becomes Main Street, I was dismayed to find the typical urban sprawl of Walmarts and chain stores and restaurants along North Main. But, the town certainly exploits its alien fame for all its worth.

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An alien is the logo of its Pecos League baseball team, The Invaders.

Right where North Main becomes Southeast Main is the old downtown of Roswell. Many of the storefronts are boarded up; I parked the rig in an empty and weed-filled parking lot of a prior auto parts store. A store owner warned me not to walk farther down Southeast Main; just last week, the bakery next door to him was held up at gunpoint.

The epicenter of modern-day Roswell UFO activity is the UFO Museum and Research Center, though I doubt any research is going on in there. The museum is located in an old movie theater.

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In front is a depiction of the rancher finding the crash debris on his property:

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Catching a glimpse of the “exhibits” from the entrance, I opted to visit the gift store only. And, souvenir shops abound in this part of town.

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I was taken aback by the accents of the proprietors, reminding me of the close proximity of Roswell to West Texas.

All in all, the alien experience to be had in Roswell is emaciated and fake and sad. It’s all inflatable alien dolls and sunglasses and cheesy T-shirts.

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Along with more infrastructure, a better economy, and a revitalized downtown, Roswell needs true believers to run the alien stores and museums – folks who can talk about the story, the players, and the aftermath. Drawlin’ Fox Mulders who debate and debunk. Hell, when I visited the Doctor Who store in East London, which is clearly science-fiction, the owners of that place are truer believers in that lore than anyone operating a cash register in Roswell.