- This week on BuzzFeed Unsolved,
we investigate the Roswell incident,
either the biggest UFO cover-up of all time
or just the biggest misunderstanding of all time.
Either way, 70 years later, we're still debating about it.
This is the Holy Grail of alien stories, in my opinion.
- Yeah, it's a buzzword.
You hear it all the time.
I don't know all the gritty details.
Desert, government, aliens, et cetera.
- Alright, let's get into it.
- Spin a yarn, Tommy Bahama.
- [Ryan] The year is 1947,
a year that saw an unusually large wave
of reported UFO sightings.
In the last six months of 1947 alone,
there were over 300 claims of UFO sightings.
Among these, is the infamous Roswell incident.
Skeptics and believers alike can agree on one thing:
something crashed in the fields of Foster Ranch
located just northwest of Roswell, New Mexico.
Whether that something is something extraordinary or mundane
remains highly debated.
You're clearly on the skeptic side here,
already going in, right?
That's a dumbass question.
Of course you are, you're fucking Shane.
- Don't try to paint me as a--
- I'll paint you however I want.
- I'll paint the hell out of you, however I want.
- You paint me in your free time?
They're good. - Oh Jesus.
- You want to see them?
- [Ryan] Let's go through the official timeline
as played out in the media and through official reports
from the US Air Force.
Sometime before June 14th, a crash occurred on Foster Ranch.
On July 4th, a local rancher named Mac Brazel
visits the crash site to pick up some of the debris.
On July 7th, Mac Brazel decides to take some of the debris
to local sheriff George Wilcox.
Wilcox then contacts Colonel Butch Blanchard
at the nearby military base, the Roswell Army Airfield.
This Roswell base was home to the elite
509th Bombardment Group, which deployed atomic bombs
at the end of World War II.
Colonel Blanchard alerts his superior,
General Roger W. Ramey, and orders Major Jesse Marcel,
the 509th's intelligence officer,
to assess the crash site and recover the materials.
- [Shane] So much bureaucracy here.
- [Ryan] I mean, it's the military.
- You gotta call one guy, he calls a different guy,
who calls this guy, who orders this guy to call that guy,
and then that guy's, this is why information
gets muddled in cases like these
because you got this big shitty chain of command.
- It's like a game of telephone essentially,
but it's the military, it's a ladder structure.
Of course, it's gonna be that way.
- Game of phones.
- Oh my god. - Good, huh?
- No, that was terrible. - It was good.
- I'm actually upset right now.
- [Ryan] Colonel Blanchard is briefed
by intelligence officer Marcel on his crash site visit
and, on the morning of July 8th,
consequently orders public information officer
Lieutenant Walter Haut to issue a press release
stating that they believe they have a "flying saucer"
in their possession.
Soon after, the Roswell Daily Record's front page
ran the headline, "Roswell Army Airfield
captures flying saucer on ranch in Roswell Region,"
where they revealed no details of "the flying disk."
That same day, the Air Force strangely changes their story.
General Ramey orders the crash remains
to be taken to him in Fort Worth, Texas
for his own personal inspection.
He and his staff, including a base weather officer,
identify them as pieces of a weather balloon
and issue a subsequent press release with the correction.
A photo is taken in Ramey's office
of intelligence officer Marcel
with the crash materials he misidentified.
- [Shane] If you're a higher-up,
and you see this press release,
and you're like, "What the fuck are, what is going on?"
"I gotta go clean this up now?"
- [Ryan] Yeah, yeah.
- [Shane] And I knew that we were
pushing our big weather balloons through that area.
- [Ryan] Oh, I see what you're saying.
- [Shane} And I'm like, well they're not gonna believe me
unless I bring in Carl, or whatever the guy's name.
- [Ryan] And make him sit next to his mistake.
- [Shane] Bring in the weatherman,
bring in the idiot rancher,
and kinda rub his nose in it, like a--
- [Ryan] I think it's hilarious that the officer they sent
to go assess the crash, they made him sit
and pose with all of the materials in the office
in the picture.
- [Shane] "You sit here for this photograph.
"You know that's a weather balloon, you idiot."
- [Ryan] The next day, on July 9th, the Roswell Daily Record
runs another article with the headline,
"Harassed rtncher who located saucer sorry he told about it"
in which Brazel reveals that the supposed alien wreckage
was merely "rubber strips, tinfoil,
"a rather tough paper and sticks."
And with Ramey's weather balloon explanation
being corroborated by the case's key witness,
the world promptly forgets about the Roswell incident
for a while.
Enter Stanton Friedman in 1978.
Friedman was a nuclear physicist and leading UFO researcher.
In 1978, Friedman interviewed Jesse Marcel,
the then retired intelligence officer from the 509th,
who was ordered to go assess the wreckage
of the Roswell incident.
Marcel would fully reignite the Roswell controversy,
when he revealed that he still believed
the wreckage was definitively not a weather balloon.
Here's a quote from Major Marcel, in a different interview,
regarding the metal at the crash site.
"It felt like you had nothing in your hands.
"It wasn't any thicker than the foil
"out of a pack of cigarettes.
"But the thing about it that got me
"is that you couldn't even bend it,
"you couldn't dent it,
"even a sledgehammer would bounce off of it.
"I knew that I had never seen anything like that before."
He goes on to say, "It was not anything from this earth,
"that I'm quite sure of.
"Being an intelligence officer,
"I was familiar with just about all materials
"used in aircraft and/or air travel.
"This was nothing like that. It could not have been."
- [Shane] That was some funky, funky metal.
- [Ryan] I mean, they took a sledgehammer to it.
- [Shane] I like the sound of this metal.
- [Ryan] Yeah, it sounds like
I wanna get my hands on this metal.
- I like that he's given some tactile descriptions here.
It's not just something wasn't right.
- It wouldn't go unshining.
- Yeah, he's talking about the weight of it, the feel of it.
I like this.
- [Ryan] After this admission,
Friedman interviewed more witnesses,
both civilian and military,
and in the end, concluded that they had been
in massive cover-up of the Roswell incident in 1947.
A "cosmic watergate".
A cover-up that allegedly includes
details of the crash site, the materials,
the possible spacecraft
and even alien bodies found at the scene.
And with that, let's get into the two main theories.
The first theory is that the events at Roswell
transpired as reported,
and the alien wreck was merely a weather balloon,
as stated by the Air Force.
When you look at the physical evidence available,
this appears to be what happened.
Though, in 1994, the US Air Force released a report
admitting that there was in fact a cover-up.
However, it wasn't a cover-up of extraterrestrials,
but instead, a cover-up of a top secret military operation.
The report states that the remains found on Foster Ranch
in 1947 were indeed the remains of a weather balloon,
but not any regular weather balloon.
This balloon, was part of a then top-secret program
called Project Mogul.
Project Mogul was conceived up by Dr. Maurice Ewing,
at Columbia University.
He theorized that just as underwater microphones
could detect sound waves produced by explosions,
thousands of miles away,
perhaps an airborne monitoring system could do the same.
Thus, as fears of nuclear war proliferated
after World War II,
and intensified at the start of the Cold War,
the top-secret airborne weather balloons at Project Mogul,
were launched to detect any nuclear tests
carried out by the soviets.
- Boy, that's a big explanation.
- Yeah, here's the thing.
If people are already on you for a cover-up,
I don't think it's a good card to play to be like,
"Oh, there was a cover-up,
"that's why we were acting so weird.
"But it was this, not that.
"Don't look over there, look over here."
It's the same thing.
- Yeah, and also,
it's sort of they're trying
to have their cake and eat it too, by saying,
"There was a cover-up,
"but it was just a real nice weather balloon."
"Like you've never seen, made out of
"some real strange metal."
- Very shiny.
- Oh, the shiniest weather balloon you've ever seen.
- [Ryan] Project Mogul's balloons were tested out
at several locations around the US and in the Pacific.
And one of these locations was over New Mexico,
in the summer of 1947.
Project Mogul balloons typically measured over 650 feet long
and had a tail on which various listening
and sensory equipment was attached,
which the military posits,
could possibly be misidentified as a UFO.
Interesting. - [Shane] If it was 600 feet,
it's gonna be a huge pile of debris,
there's gonna be a lot of weird shit there,
you're gonna be very confused.
- [Ryan] At a glance, from far away,
I'd be like, "Holy shit, look at that field,
"littered with debris- - [Shane] No.
- [Ryan] No, no, no, and I'd- - [Shane] You would walk up
to it and be like, "The end is nigh."
- [Ryan] (wheeze) No.
- [Shane] You'd go running through town, ringing a bell.
"The Martians are here,
"lock yourselves in your basements."
- [Ryan] What I would do is, maybe I'd do that,
running towards it.
Then I'd get close and be like,
"Oh, it's fucking tongue depressors and Elmer's glue,"
'cause that's what it was, balsa wood sticks.
- [Shane] You gotta keep it light if you want it to float.
- [Ryan] That's not alien materials, is what I'm getting at.
I would obviously get close and be like,
"Oh, this is just human's shit."
In February of 1994,
the general accounting office of the US Congress,
initiated an audit, at the request
of New Mexico congressman, Steve Schiff, a UFO skeptic,
to locate all government records
relating to the Roswell incident and determine
if these records were handled properly.
The report was published by the US Air Force in 1995,
titled, "The Roswell report: fact versus fiction
"in the New Mexico desert."
The findings of the audit supported the theory
that debris found in 1947 was from a balloon
used in Project Mogul, and found no evidence that aliens
or alien spacecraft were involved.
The report concludes that Marcel and Blanchard's
original flying saucer press release was, in part,
an overreaction, and in part due to the fact
that flying saucer was a new term
that didn't yet have a clear meaning.
- [Shane] Uh, that's fair.
- [Ryan] Are you fucking kidding me?
- So, flying saucer, at that point,
didn't necessarily mean space alien,
it was just literally like,
"That looks like the thing I put my tea on
but it's levitating."
You're saying that they didn't know what they meant
when they said flying saucer?
- I mean, it hasn't always been in the national lexicon,
there weren't people in Ancient Rome saying flying saucer.
- [Ryan] In 1997, the Air Force released another report
titled, "The Roswell report: case closed,"
in which they offered this possible explanation
for claims to alien bodies found at the crash site.
In the mid 1950s, the military tested the effects
of parachute jumping on humans,
by dropping human-like dummies over New Mexico.
The dummies had latex or plastic skin,
and could be mistaken per alien bodies
by witnesses at the Roswell crash.
But, if these dummy drops were in the mid 1950s,
how could this possibly explain the Roswell incident,
that preceded it by several years?
The military has an answer for that, too.
Air Force Colonel John Haynes, explains that
during the recounting of events decades later,
details "tend to become compressed,"
suggesting, both he and the Air Force, actually believe
that witnesses are mixing up events from the mid 1950s,
with what was perhaps, the most horrifying memories
of their lives years earlier.
- [Shane] Eh, we've all done it.
- [Ryan] No.
- [Shane] Right?
- [Ryan] No, I mean,
sure, if I'm trying to remember
what I had for breakfast a year ago,
yeah, I'm gonna be a little foggy on that.
But, if I'm remembering that time
I saw alien bodies thrown from a wreckage,
I think I'm gonna remember that quite clear
and when it happened.
Another discrepancy is the fact
that the bodies are repeatedly described as "little",
often four feet or less,
yet the dummies used on these drops were six feet tall.
It's unclear how this contradiction is also an effect
of time compression.
That being said, one interesting tidbit from the report,
is the fact that, upon requesting files
from the Roswell Air Force base,
from the year of the Roswell incident in 1947,
it was found that all records from that time,
from January to October 1947 had been destroyed.
And even more suspicious, the person or organization
that had destroyed these files,
and the authority under which they had done so,
were not indicated.
- [Shane] Well.
- [Ryan] This is a reach.
- [Shane] It's a bit of a reach.
- [Ryan] There it is, that's all I wanted to hear.
- [Shane] No, it's a bit of a reach.
No, no. Some of this is gonna be baloney,
other bits I might not be so sure.
- [Ryan] This one is certified fresh?
- [Shane] (sniffs) Yeah, I'll take a bite of that.
- (laughs) That's a fresh cut.
And with that, let's get into the second theory,
that the Government engaged in a cover-up
to hide knowledge of alien life.
Actually, before I get into it, I do have one more thing.
- What's? No, no, no.
This is not usually part of the thing.
What are you doing?
Are you putting a tin foil hat? (laughs)
- [Ryan] Before I get into this,
I would like to preface this theory with a fact
that most of this is based off interviews
with those who claimed to have eyewitness testimony.
The amount of witnesses is said to be more than 600 people,
ranging from civilian to high-level military.
Some details of these stories vary between sources,
so we've chosen to mainly focus on interviews conducted
by two respected researchers,
named Thomas J. Carey and Donald R. Schmitt,
for their book, "Witness to Roswell,
"Unmasking the 60-year cover-up."
And while most skeptics will scoff at that notion,
consider this: if there are hundreds of witnesses
to a murder, all recounting similar details of the crime,
would you doubt they were telling the truth?
- [Shane] I don't know,
I guess it depends on the circumstances.
- [Ryan] No, there's hundreds of people.
- [Shane] (laughs) I just don't want you
to have any satisfaction.
- [Ryan] You know I'm making a good point there.
If there's hundreds of people--
- [Shane] I'm not gonna give it to you.
- [Ryan] No, you're gonna give..
By saying, "I'm not giving you the satisfaction,"
means you internally want to agree with that.
- [Shane] If there's only eyewitness proof
and no actual proof of the murder?
- [Ryan] Sure, if there's five people.
But if there's six hundred
that have high-level military fucking people
within that group...
- [Shane] No blood though?
No blood, no evidence, no nothing?
- [Ryan] There's 600 people, why would they all lie?
- The more riled up you get right now,
the worse you come off, because of this accessory.
- Yeah, I realize.. - It's really not helping.
- I realize now that this was a very bad call,
I thought it would be really funny,
but now I realize I look like a fucking fool.
Let's begin by going over suspicious details
around the time of the crash.
Particularly, the contradiction between the official record
and eye-witness testimony.
When Mac Brazel took some of the crash debris
to the sheriff,
debris that crash site witnesses described as otherworldly,
Brazel also reported immediately something significant.
According to a local radio personality,
Frank Joyce, at the KGFL radio station,
Brazel admitted that the crash site was likely a UFO,
and more importantly, that there were alien bodies
on the scene.
According to Jud Roberts, a minority owner
of KGFL radio station,
this admission would be recorded later,
but KGFL did not air the interview due to phone calls
from the FCC and US Senator Dennis Chavez
urging them not to.
- [Shane] If you got a crazy guy still spouting lies,
yeah, I'll put a stop to him.
- [Ryan] Or, you got a very sane guy spouting truth.
- [Shane] Yeah, or that.
- [Ryan] As detailed before, the military would issue
an incendiary press release, saying they had a flying saucer
only to correct themselves, a day later.
Like the military, Brazel would also recant
any statements made about UFOs at this time.
According to researchers Carey and Schmitt,
shortly after Brazel's new statements,
neighbors said Brazel purchased a brand new pickup truck,
and left his job as a rancher to start a business,
in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Also suspicious in Carey and Schmitt's findings:
on testimonies from locals and Brazel's family
that revealed Brazel was detained by the military
around this time, further sugggesting
that he could've been forced
to recant his statements about UFOs.
The military also reportedly threatened locals
to keep quiet, as well as ransacked their homes
for remaining crash site materials.
This is corroborated by the testimony of the foster daughter
of Colonel Hunter G. Penn, an Army Air Force officer,
who's supposedly admitted to his foster daughter
that he was tasked with enforcing an "information blackout",
with a focus on the little bodies.
He was authorized to use physical force
and weaponry if necessary, to get this accomplished.
Another interesting contradiction
was that Colonel Blanchard, the superior to Major Marcel,
who approved the initial flying saucer press release,
strangely went on leave
after he issued the controversial release.
However, according to Lieutenant Colonel Joe Briley,
who was a staff member of Colonel Blanchard,
the reported leave was actually a cover-up
to allow Blanchard to coordinate a cleanup operation
of the crash site.
- [Shane] I mean, if he fucked up and was like,
"Yeah, it's UFOs,"
and they were like, "No, it's not UFOs,
"you stupid piece of shit."
"We'll fix your mess.
"Why don't you take a little time off?"
- [Ryan] "Why don't you leave?"
- [Shane] "Get your shit together, get your life together."
- [Ryan] "Yeah, why don't you leave?"
so people could look at that later and be like,
"Why did he leave, after he makes this weird announcement?"
- [Shane] I don't think they care.
Again, I don't think they care.
- [Ryan] I mean, they should care
if there're people who concentrate on details,
is what I'm saying.
Perhaps the key contradiction is the photo taken
in General Ramey's office
of the supposed crash site materials.
A sealed statement,
apparently written by Roswell Army Airfield's
public information officer, Lieutenant Walter G. Haut,
which was only to be opened after his death,
claimed the photo taken in Ramey's office was a hoax.
Haut wrote that the actual crash materials
were substituted with weather balloon materials,
and then photographed with Marcel, a fact that upset Marcel.
Just to hammer home the possibility of a cover-up,
a man named Ben Games, was a personal pilot,
to then Major General Laurence C. Craigie,
the Chief of the engineering division at Wright field,
the air force base commonly thought to be
where the UFO and aliens were transported and housed.
According to Games' testimony, he flew Major General Craigie
to Roswell, to examine the crash wreckage,
and after a few hours, flew General Craigie directly to DC
to meet with President Truman.
A few months later, Craigie assumed the position
of air force chief director of R&D,
and perhaps, influenced by what he saw at Roswell,
founded Project Sign, the first official investigation
of UFOs by the US air force.
- [Shane] You know, maybe he got there and said,
"This is obviously a weather balloon,
"a UFO wouldn't do this, it's not what UFOs are like."
And they were like, "Oh, this guy knows a lot about
"what UFOs aren't."
- [Ryan] No. (laughs) No, you don't-
- [Shane] This guy's got a good eye for what isn't a UFO.
- [Ryan] So, you're saying they send someone
out in the ocean and be like,
"Oh man, I didn't find Godzilla out here,
"we should start a program about finding about Godzilla."
- [Shane] I mean, clearly he's got a good eye
for detecting what's not bullshit.
- [Ryan] Now that we've established
the cover-up in timeline,
let's quickly go over some of the controversial
and fascinating details of this theory.
Starting with the reported alien bodies at the scene.
The supposed witnesses are consistent in their descriptions
of the bodies as short in stature, maybe 3.5 to four feet,
with large heads, large eyes, only holes for a nose,
and a small slit for the mouth.
Numerous military officials have claimed to hear
secondhand information of the bodies,
or even see the aliens for themselves.
To name a few, there's First Lieutenant
and public information officer at the Roswell Base
Walter G. Haut,
retired Brigadier General Arthur E. Exon
and Tech Sergeant Herschel Grice.
Moving on to the spacecraft,
according to Sergeant William C. Ennis,
he was, at the time, a flight engineer
of the 393rd bomb squadron,
stationed in one of the primary receiving hangars
for the debris, called hangar P-3.
For years, Sergeant Ennis denied the crash,
writing it off as a weather balloon,
like the rest of the military.
However, in 2008, Sergeant Ennis changed his tune,
admitting "It was a spaceship. After all these years,
"I still don't know how that ship flew, there was no engine.
"Before I go, I'd like to know."
- Before I go, I gotta know how their ship flew.
With the honest--
- I like to imagining him talking to his grandson,
"The ship had no wings, did you hear me?
"I don't know how it flew."
- Jimmy, I think that ship was bedeviled.
- [Ryan] The craft was also confirmed
in numerous other testimonies,
notably by Lieutenant Walter Haut,
who described in his affidavit a ship Colonel Blanchard
had shown to him that roughly 12 to 15 feet long
To close this out, let's move on to the scattered debris
from the crash site, which many claimed,
included a mysterious material, that was described as,
Some depth for more than two dozen witnesses testimonies,
ranging from military to civilian.
The metal was said to be weightless, smooth, thin,
and could not be cut, scratched or burned.
Though, the metal was able to be temporarily manipulated.
Here's a quote from Roswell Army Airfield
Sergeant Earl Fulford,
"I picked it up, but once in the palm of your hand,
you could wad it up into a small ball.
Then, when you let it go, it would immediately assume
its original shape in a second or two, just like that."
This free-flowing quality of the metal
was echoed amongst many testimonies.
Retired Brigadier General, Arthur E. Exon, said,
"Some could be easily ripped or changed.
There were other parts of it that were very thin
but awfully strong and couldn't be dented
with heavy hammers."
Exon also explained that these observations
were from his time as a Lieutenant Colonel, when he was also
an administration student in technology
at Wright Field's foreign technology division,
a division whose purpose
was to reverse engineer foreign tech.
Additionally, a memo surfaced in the early 1980s,
detailing a September 15, 1950 conversation
between physicist Robert I. Sarbacher,
a consultant with a US Department of Defense Research
and Development Board and other government scientists.
In the memo, Sarbacher is said to have worked
on a field reverse engineering project, allegedly stating,
"All we know is, we didn't make them,
and it's pretty certain they didn't originate on the Earth."
- [Shane] That's good.
I love it.
- [Ryan] I'm just...
I think right now I'm just punching the skeptics in the face
over and over again.
I'm slowly hammering away.
One last point in favor of a cover-up.
Let's assume that the military is telling the truth,
and that the crash was indeed
a fancy project mobile weather balloon.
That still does not change the fact that the remains
found at the crash site were, apparently,
"rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks,"
as stated by Brazel, in the days after the story broke.
The military has never said
Brazel's description was innacurate,
and you can even see these coming items in the photo
in Ramey's office.
So, let's assume, these were in fact, the items found
at the crash site, and forget about the allure
of the seemingly high-tech project Mogul balloon.
With that in mind, let's return to Major Jesse Marcel,
the intelligence officer tasked
with evaluating the crash site.
Marcel pointed out he was well-versed in
"all materials used in aircraft and/or air travel,"
and was also a graduate from the Army's air force
training command in radar technology.
How could this man mistake rubber strips and tin foil,
per parts of an alien spaceship?
Perhaps the answer lies in a quote from Marcel himself.
"All I could do is keep my mouth shut and General Ramey
was the one who told the newsmen what it was,
and to forget about it.
It was nothing more than a weather observation balloon.
Of course, we both knew differently."
First of, I'd like to tune my own horn a little bit here,
and I'm gonna take this hat off now.
I did say that this would be the most compelling case
I've ever made, and that you, for once,
may believe what I'm saying is true.
Is that not correct?
- You did say that.
It is the most compelling case you've ever made,
but also, you're in advantage here because I already believe
in extraterrestrials and would not rule out
that they have been to Earth.
If that's your total satisfaction, if that's what...
Then great, you've done it, Ryan,
you convinced me on a case that I was already, you know,
pretty lenient on.
- Well, even though that's dripping with sarcasm,
it's definitely not genuine, I'll take it.
Score one for the Bergara, case closed.
Leave my house town dunce.
- Town dunce?
- Yeah, yeah, yeah.
- Because I now believe the things that you believe?
- Oh shit.
- If you say so.
- [Ryan] In the end, no physical evidence
of extraterrestrials or their tech has ever been found.
In fact, two archeological digs took place on Foster Ranch,
in search of physical evidence and found nothing,
only proof that there was indeed a crash.
It's easy to see both sides,
skeptics wonder how it's possible that the military
could have been so absolute in their cleanup
and subsequent cover-up.
Believers wonder how it's possible that there could be
such consistent testimony among hundreds of witnesses,
down to small details of something that, apparently,
One thing is for sure, what truly transpired
near the sleepy town of Roswell, New Mexico,
will keep people debating.
But for now, the answer will remain unsolved.