Dear Tiki Lounge Blog Pals,
Last year about this time, I wrote a column for the Waterloo Region Record (you may recall that in an earlier Blog I mentioned I'm a regular Record columnist) about the 60th Anniversary of the alleged Roswell UFO Incident. It turns out that I scrapped the column and wrote something else instead (I can't remember why I decided not to run it -- maybe I thought readers would think I was a crackpot if I weighed in on the Roswell UFO Incident.) At any rate, I re-read the column the other day -- it being the 61st Anniversary of the UFO Incident and all (I know 61st does not carry the same well-rounded meaning as 60th, but hey, go easy on me). I know this sounds self-promoting and self-congratulatory, but liked the column and I regret not running it. Oh well. What better place to put it than Andrew's Tiki Lounge? I hope you enjoy it!
Sixty years ago, something happened in a lonely stretch of desert near
As a general rule, academics are loathe to comment on the incident. For the most part, they’ve consigned it to the realm of supermarket tabloid sensationalism. Yet the mystery of what happened in the
The legend of
The drama proved short-lived, though. Within days, the Army revised its story. The debris came from a downed weather balloon, insisted top Army brass at a press conference. The dramatic newspaper headlines abruptly ceased. The story faded. People stopped talking about crashed “flying saucers” and moved on. And for more than thirty years, the Roswell UFO Incident was largely forgotten.
The Roswell Incident has also found a prominent spot in pop culture. The 1996 blockbuster Independence Day referred to it repeatedly. The cult television hit X-Files contained Roswell-related plotlines. When Fox television aired grainy, black-and-white footage allegedly showing a
The city of
“Little green men” are everywhere, including towering inflatable aliens at car lots, waving greeters in alien costumes, and toy aliens sold by street vendors. Each year, geeky UFO researchers invade the city to butt heads, holding roundtable discussions and attacking each other’s research and conclusions. In 2010, a multimillion dollar, alien-themed amusement park will open in the town.
The actual Roswell UFO Incident remains shrouded in mystery. We’ll never know what happened sixty years ago. But the lasting popularity of the legend highlights some important truths about contemporary society.
It’s no surprise that
But there’s also a dark side to the tale. Stories of a government cover-up, of alien bodies being whisked away to secret locations and dissected, and of malevolent government agents in suits intimidating eyewitnesses, are also key elements of the narrative. If the enduring Roswell story underscores a widespread hunger to know what else lurks in the heavens, it also highlights a pervasive lack of faith in governing institutions to help solve this most profound of riddles.
Andrew Hunt is the Chair of the Department of History at the