Dateline: October 22, 2016
Roswell, New Mexico
This is about Roswell, New Mexico, and what my day-and-a-half stay there meant to me. How it felt. What I got out of it. There will of course be pictures.
Let’s talk about the town first as it is today. Officially there appear to be nearly 50,000 people there, but as the southwestern states don’t lean so much toward high rise buildings and it’s all low the feel is very suburban. The downtown area features all kinds of shops set side to side, many of which, of course, lean toward selling alien-related items. But there’s also all kinds of other neat souvenirs there as well, most prominently the extremely attractive native artworks (paintings, jewelry, etc.) You could easily spend a lot of money. I just got a few T-shirts and a key ring with an alien head on it because…hey, alien head.
The people? They’re great. Of course on a trip you pretty much only end up talking to people who are being paid to chat with you, but the hospitality was excellent. I stayed at the Super 8 Motel on the northern end of town, which features almost all of this vegetarian’s favorite go-to restaurants. Of these I went to Chili’s, Denny’s and of course Taco Bell because…hey, Taco Bell.
The motel was great. After over a thousand miles on the road I found I needed the indoor (but windows open) swimming pool more than the hot tub. I needed exercise. Hilariously, the moment I clicked on the TV in the room I heard the narrator of Ancient Aliens. Of course. Could that have been coincidence? Ancient Alien theorists say yes, and point to the fact that there’s a six foot tall alien statue greeting you in the motel’s breezeway pull-up entrance.
Yes, they tolerate conspiracy freaks and alien fanatics quite well in this town. The smiles seem pretty genuine. And why not? If they’re halfway sharp and have been there a while they know we’re onto something.
Most museums are stuffy and fully of edgy guards ready to take you down if your curious finger reaches out toward the old wrought iron fence that’s too big to go under glass. But the International UFO Museum treats you like humans, not lions to be tamed. Once you pay the absolutely worthwhile entrance fee of five dollars you can come and go as you like. And that’s good because there’s lots to see if you care about what happened there.
And after a visit to that museum, if you can still say you think it might have been mass hysteria, well—you should apply to join the ranks of the folks who covered up the event, because you’re just their kind of soldiers…obedient and willing to put up as many blinders as need be to make some money and enjoy your privileges.
Exhibit A: As far as I’m concerned, there’s one spot in the museum that should shut any skeptic up. Take them to the testimonials (mostly deathbed) of the actual witnesses, the majority of them military, as to the validity of the body and ship recovery. That’s all anyone should need to see. Have your skeptical friend call them liars to their pictures. Should be entertaining.
The museum is fun too, though: A full sized exhibit of Klaatu and Gort and some great stills and movie posters highlight one corner, linking the 1951 classic (one of my very favorites) A Day the Earth Stood Still with the Roswell Event itself. There’s also a lesser exhibit farther along featuring the posters from both War of the Worlds movies. Both feature the faces of Gene Barry and Anne Robinson despite the fact that the second movie only had the couple onscreen for about five seconds at the end. (An aside I feel necessary to drop in here is that the War of the Worlds remake might actually be the worst film I’ve ever seen. With H.G. Wells being my favorite writer, I found that whole film—apart from the visual effects—a disastrous mix of unlikable heroes, screeching children and brain-dead adolescents. The original tale involved a man searching for his beloved wife. That’s Wells’ story. The remake is the opposite: a who-could-care-about-this-guy divorcee forced to take care of his obnoxious (and even dumber) son and his constantly shrieking daughter. Spielbergabysmal should be a word. Gimme the Day the Earth Stood Still remake anytime…that was actually pretty good by comparison.)
Okay, got sidetracked talking about Steven the Sellout. I’m okay now. I promise.
So the museum is great and worthy and there’s a LOT of stuff there because it took me about three hours to take it all in. YES, there are fragments there that have been found at the crash site since the incident. A handful of strange little metal pieces in a glass case, amidst which can be seen a soldier’s button matched from that era. Odd place for a soldier’s button: the middle of nowhere, where nothing ever happened.
The Crash Site
I got SO close to the massive stone marker that was placed there on the 50th anniversary of the event in 1997…so close, but I didn’t realize I was on the right track until I went back to the motel and Googled Bitter Creek Road. That’s the one. Well north of Roswell—about sixteen miles or so—and in fact though it’s a public road, and the crash is not on private land, it ends at a gated ranch. THAT is obviously private property. Feeling a bit self-conscious about having crawled that red rock road several miles to get out to a private residence, I turned around and headed back to Rte. 285. But once I was out of sight of the ranch over the first small rise I parked, took a few pics in the right direction and grabbed a “Roswell Rock” to bring back as a pointless souvenir. I got online and saw that I’d taken the right road, meaning the shots I’d taken were indeed in the right direction. Had I known, and dared to park and walk, I might have found that rock. But who knows how far I’d have had to walk, and besides—it wasn’t my car. The whole purpose of the trip was to deliver my mother in law’s Toyota RAV-4 to her in her new locale, Tucson, Arizona.
Back to the trip. I parked at the road’s junction with the divided four lane highway and walked the highway shoulder for about a half mile to make sure I hadn’t missed the sign that once marked the road to the crash site.
Roswell Army Air Force Base (R.A.A.F.B.)
Once I was sure I hadn’t I came back to the motel, discovered the sign had been taken away and I’d gotten close and was pondering whether to give it another shot. But by then it was already mid-afternoon and I still had to go check out the old Roswell Army Air Force Base to see if the hangar where they took the bodies and craft might still be there.
Pretty sure it is, although it’s been repurposed to keep tanker craft retrofitted and operational and/or to service planes landing and taking off from what RAAFB/Walker Air Force Base is now, Roswell International Airport. That’s right, if you land in Roswell you’re already at one of the three legendary locales. I took a number of hangar pics, and they sure look like the right ones to me…it was obvious they weren’t anything new and had simply been maintained and painted. So you could theoretically stand where the bodies lay or the craft sat if you had a pass into the right hangar there.
That wasn’t on my itinerary though. I had time for a quick excursion through the small museum at the front of the airport lobby, and though for obvious reasons there was nothing there about the UFO there was plenty of pertinent historical info regarding the base and its personnel to be found fitted neatly into a relatively modest amount of space.
Then, I’m pretty sure, I drove over the railroad tracks upon which, according to the now famous Ramey Memo (PLEASE Google that one), the craft was shipped up to Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio.
As you can tell, much of the experience was not physical. It was going on in my mind, which was for several hours, possibly days, transported back to July of 1947; back to post-WWII America, near the base that was the key to delivering the first atomic attack by mankind. (Yeah, it was MANkind that did it…women didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. Suck it up, guys, and take responsibility.) Near that base on the night of July 3 there was apparently a thunderstorm, and either the downed vessel was hit by lightning or two “UFOs” collided, resulting in the infamous crash. The impact or strike blasted a hole in the craft, from which a good deal of strange material fell to earth in a farmer’s field about seventy miles northwest of the small town and adjacent large military base. I can’t say much about the Debris Field, except tours are available. That’s the most fascinating part of the original story, though. In my book Mac Brazel, the farmer who found the debris, is a standup guy. Same with a couple of the others involved, particularly Jesse Marcel, the officer who came to Brazel to see what he’d found. Even Ramey did the right thing, whether deliberately or accidentally, by bringing that memo to the “debris review” and letting it fall open so that, decades later, technology would allow us to read the Truth about the “disc” and “its occupants.” That memo mentions nothing of crash test dummies being used as ballast on surveillance balloon assemblies, by the way. Case Closed Dammit.
Rambled on a bit again, but I was very much inspired by the experience. The feel of the place. Being close to where it all happened. I highly recommend you make the trip if you get the chance. Heck, combine it with Carlsbad Caverns, which isn’t that far south of Roswell. I’d like to have seen that, since a lot of great SF and fantasy movies have used those caves as a backdrop.
One last thing: Roswell was sunny and cheery. But on my subsequent last leg of the journey to Tucson I passed through Alamogordo and White Sands. My stomach felt a bit weird in Alamogordo. The camera had just locked up on me and I was thinking about Holloman AFB and White Sands Proving Grounds (both of which were coming up) and Men with Too Much Brass chowing down in cafes elbow to elbow with Oppenheimer and Teller and even the Good Man Albert Einstein…maybe that was overwhelming me. Envisioning that brain and brain stem of roiling fiery death rising from behind those pristine Pensacola-white dunes, casting its shadow across the jagged San Andres Mountains at about 9 a.m. local time on a sunny morning in July of 1945…families gathered together later to watch the mushroom clouds from their backyards…the mindsets of those who would consider this normal…
Okay, waxed a bit too atomically poetic there. Sorry. Gotta wrap this up.
So in summary, I think the trip proved to me that which I already knew. Same as seeing that silent, low-flying ball of orange fire that cruised over our heads catching Orionid meteors at around eleven p.m. on the night of October 20, 2012.
But that’s a story for another newsletter.
Kevin Candela readily admits fascination with both the paranormal and extreme scientific possibility, which he doesn’t think of as two different things anyway. “From what I can tell,” he says of Season’s Bleedings and his assigned “target,” “Scott Essel Pratt is a very bright, balanced, extremely hardworking guy with technical skills and poise to spare. So I had to make him the ‘straight’ character, the Jimmy Stewart, the Harrison Ford, the Liam Neeson–the one whose considerable wisdom and experience is challenged in my narrative.” To that end, Candela went to one of his favorite all-time enigmas–the mysteries of Coral Castle and its creator–and tossed in his often-favored conspiracy/men in black stuff to boot. He hopes he told a story that its star enjoys. The writer of The Dragon’s Game Trilogy, Weedeaters: The Complete Acropalypse, Sinbad and the Argonauts and A Year in the Borderlands has a bunch of short stories in various anthologies whose subjects run the gamut from Lovecraft-style horror to giant monsters to parodies of the Wizard of Oz. Look up his Author Profile Page on Amazon.com to keep current on his works, including upcoming/soon to be released novels Sinbad at the End of the Universe and Little Women With Big Guns. He actually enjoys helping out new writers as long as they respect his dragonhood. Kevin lives with cats and “a supremely cool woman.”