Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Abducted by Aliens

The last thing I remember, it’s late June and I’m sitting at my desk working on a little story about Independence Day, thinking profound thoughts about freedom, the pursuit of happiness, and all that. Then the next thing I know: two weeks have gone by, and I’ve missed the 4th of July... And the All-Star Game. Do you know what happened? No, I wasn’t being lazy, or having too much fun. You guessed it: I was abducted by aliens.

(OK, it’s a weak excuse for not posting much of anything for a long while, but it lets me segue into a strange tale of otherworldly comings and goings...)

If you're one of those who think “Independence Day” is more a movie than a significant historical moment, to whom the name “Roswell” means something extraterestrially special, you’ve probably spent the 4th of July celebrating not 1776 but 1947. Yes, while most Americans were enjoying parades and fireworks shows celebrating our forefathers’ collective bravery in the face of tyranny, way out west in Roswell, New Mexico, more than 35,000 people joined together to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of a very close encounter of the UFO kind.

Seventy-five miles north of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the ranching town of Roswell (pop. 45,293) has become a catch-word for flying saucers, UFOs, extraterrestrials, and a complicated U.S. government cover-up of all the above. The cover-up is the one thing that’s pretty much a given, since the Air Force has gone so far as to deny officially that anything ever happened in Roswell--which is equivalent to a confession, in the minds of UFO believers. Everything else about Roswell is, so to speak, up in the air.

The short version of the Roswell story (for the full account, click here ) goes something like this: In the summer of 1947, at the start of Cold War hysteria, something strange and metallic crashed into a field outside town. Some time later the Army Air Corps (teams of tight-lipped operatives wearing special suits and dark glasses, no doubt) came and recovered it. In early July, reports to the effect that a flying saucer had landed in Roswell appeared in the local paper, and quickly spread around the globe, only to be denied by the government, which claimed the “flying saucer” was actually part of a weather balloon. The whole story was pretty much forgotten until 1978, when a retired military intelligence officer from the Roswell base sold a story to the ever-reliable National Enquirer, repeating tales of the 1947 “flying saucer” crash, and telling of his subsequent capture of extraterrestrial beings. This in turn spawned countless other stories, books, and films and TV shows, and has spurred the growth of a battery of tourist attractions and souvenir stores in and around Roswell.

If all this hype and hoopla hasn't strained your credulity, you’ll want to know that, for the past 60 years or so, the Roswell creatures have been living in the tantalizingly named Area 51, outside Las Vegas along the Extraterrestrial Highway.

As the saying goes: the truth is out there…


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