By: David Bloomberg
Re: Alien Autopsy Hoax 1/2
'Alien Autopsy' hoax.(Investigative Files)
11/21/95 Skeptical Inquirer
It keeps going and going and. . . . The Roswell crashed-saucer myth has
been given renewed impetus by a controversial television program "Alien
Autopsy: Fact or Fiction?" that purports to depict the autopsy of a
flying saucer occupant. The "documentary," promoted by a British
marketing agency that formerly handled Walt Disney products, was aired
August 28, and September 4, 1995, on the Fox television network.
Skeptics, as well as many UFOlogists, quickly branded the film used in
the program a hoax.
"The Roswell Incident," as it is known, is described in several
controversial books, including one of that title by Charles Berlitz and
William L. Moore. Reportedly, in early July 1947, a flying saucer
crashed on the ranch property of William Brazel near Roswell, New
Mexico, and was subsequently retrieved by the United States government
(Berlitz and Moore 1980). Over the years, numerous rumors, urban
legends, and outright hoaxes have claimed that saucer wreckage and the
remains of its humanoid occupants were stored at a secret facility -
e.g., a (nonexistent) "Hangar 18" at Wright Patterson Air Force Base -
and that the small corpses were autopsied at that or another site
(Berlitz and Moore 1980; Stringfield 1977). [See the SI Special Report
on Roswell by Philip J. Klass in this issue.]
UFO hoaxes, both directly and indirectly related to Roswell, have
since proliferated. For example, a 1949 science fiction movie, The
Flying Saucer, produced by Mikel Conrad, purported to contain scenes of
a captured spacecraft; an actor hired by Conrad actually posed as an
FBI agent and swore the claim was true. In 1950, writer Frank Scully
reported in his book Behind the Flying Saucers that the United States
government had in its possession no fewer than three Venusian
spaceships, together with the bodies of their humanoid occupants.
Scully, who was also a Variety magazine columnist, was fed the story by
two confidence men who had hoped to sell a petroleum-locating device
allegedly based on alien technology. Other crash-retrieval stories
followed, as did various photographs of space aliens living and dead:
One gruesome photo portrayed the pilot of a small plane, his aviator's
glasses still visible in the picture (Clark 1993).
Among recent Roswell hoaxes was the MJ-12 fiasco, in which supposed
top secret government documents - including an alleged briefing paper
for President Eisenhower and an executive order from President Truman -
corroborated the Roswell crash. Unfortunately, document experts readily
exposed the papers as inept forgeries (Nickell and Fischer 1990).
Sooner or later, a Roswell "alien autopsy" film was bound to turn up.
That predictability, together with a lack of established historical
record for the bizarre film, is indicative of a hoax. So is the
anonymity of the cameraman. But the strongest argument against
authenticity stems from what really crashed at Roswell in 1947.
According to recently released Air Force files, the wreckage actually
came from a balloon-borne array of radar reflectors and monitoring
equipment launched as part of the secret Project Mogul and intended to
monitor acoustic emissions from anticipated Soviet nuclear tests. In
fact, materials from the device match contemporary descriptions of the
debris (foiled paper, sticks, and tape) given by rancher Brazel's
children and others (Berlitz and Moore 1980; Thomas 1995).
Interestingly, the film failed to agree with earlier purported
eyewitness testimony about the alleged autopsy. For example, multiple
medical informants described the Roswell creatures as lacking ears and
having only four fingers with no thumb (Berlitz and Moore 1980),
whereas the autopsy film depicts a creature with small ears and five
fingers in addition to a thumb. Ergo, either the previous informants
are hoaxers, or the film is a hoax, or both.
Although the film was supposedly authenticated by Kodak, only the
leader tape and a single frame were submitted for examination, not the
entire footage. In fact, a Kodak spokesman told the Sunday Times of
London: "There is no way I could authenticate this. I saw an image on
the print. Sure it could be old film, but it doesn't mean it is what
the aliens were filmed on."
Various objections to the film's authenticity came from journalists,
UFO researchers, and scientists who viewed the film. They noted that it
bore a bogus, non-military codemark ("Restricted access, AO1
classification") that disappeared after it was criticized; that the
anonymous photographer's alleged military status had not been verified;
and that the injuries sustained by the extraterrestrial were
inconsistent with an air crash. On the basis of such objections, an
article in the Sunday Times of London advised: "RELAX. The little green
men have not landed. A much-hyped film purporting to prove that aliens
had arrived on earth is a hoax" (Chittenden 1995).
Similar opinions on the film came even from prominent Roswell-crash
partisans: Kent Jeffrey, an associate of the Center for UFO Studies and
author of the "Roswell Declaration" (a call for an executive order to
declassify any United States government information on UFOs and alien
intelligence) stated "up front and unequivocally there is no (zero!!!)
doubt in my mind that this film is a fraud" (1995). Even arch Roswell
promoter Stanton T. Friedman said: "I saw nothing to indicate the
footage came from the Roswell incident, or any other UFO incident for
that matter" ("Alien or Fake?" 1995).
Still other critics found many inconsistencies and suspicious
elements in the alleged autopsy. For example, in one scene the
"doctors" wore white, hooded anti-contamination suits that could have
been neither for protection from radiation (elsewhere the personnel are
examining an alien body without such suits), nor for protection from
the odor of decay nor from unknown bacteria or viruses (either would
have required some type of breathing apparatus). Thus it appears that
the outfits served no purpose except to conceal the "doctors'"
American pathologists offered still more negative observations. Cyril
Wecht, former president of the National Association of Forensic
Pathologists, seemed credulous but described the viscera in terms that
might apply to supermarket meat scraps and sponges: "I cannot relate
these structures to abdominal contexts." Again, he said about contents
of the cranial area being removed: "This is a structure that must be
the brain, if it is a human being. It looks like no brain that I have
ever seen, whether it is a brain filled with a tumor, a brain that has
been radiated, a brain that has been traumatized and is hemorragic. . .
." (Wecht 1995). Much more critical was the assessment of nationally
known pathologist Dominick Demaio who described the autopsy on
television's "American Journal" (1995): "I would say it's a lot of
Houston pathologist Ed Uthman (1995) was also bothered by the
unrealistic viscera, stating: "The most implausible thing of all is
that the 'alien' just had amorphous lumps of tissue in 'her' body
cavities. I cannot fathom that an alien who had external organs so much
like ours could not have some sort of definitive structural organs
internally." As well, "the prosectors did not make an attempt to
arrange the organs for demonstration for the camera." Uthman also
observed that there was no body block, a basic piece of equipment used
to prop up the trunk for examination and the head for brain removal. He
also pointed out that "the prosector used scissors like a tailor, not
like a pathologist or surgeon" (pathologists and surgeons place the
middle or ring finger in the bottom scissors hole and use the
forefinger to steady the scissors near the blades). Uthman further
noted that "the initial cuts in the skin were made a little too
Hollywood-like, too gingerly, like operating on a living patient"
whereas autopsy incisions are made faster and deeper. Uthman faulted
the film for lacking what he aptly termed "technical verisimilitude."
The degree of realism in the film has been debated, even by those who
believe the film is a hoax. Some, like Kent Jeffrey (1995), thought the
autopsy was done on a specially altered human corpse. On the other
hand, many - including movie special effects experts - believed a dummy
had been used. One suspicious point in that regard was that significant
close-up views of the creature's internal organs were consistently out
of focus ("Alien or Fake?" 1995).
"American Journal" (1995) also featured a special effects expert who
doubted the film's authenticity and demonstrated how the autopsy
"incisions" - which left a line of "blood" as the scalpel was drawn
across the alien's skin - could easily have been faked. (The secret
went unexplained but probably consisted of a tube fastened to the far
side of the blade.)
In contrast to the somewhat credulous response of a Hollywood pecial
effects filmmaker on the Fox program, British expert Cliff Wallace of
Creature Effects provided the following assessment:
None of us were of the opinion that we were watching a real alien
autopsy, or an autopsy on a mutated human which has also been
suggested. We all agreed that what we were seeing was a very good fake
body, a large proportion of which had been based on a lifecast.
Although the nature of the film obscured many of the things we had
hoped to see, we felt that the general posture and weighting of the
corpse was incorrect for a body in a prone position and had more in
common with a cast that had been taken in an upright position.
We did notice evidence of a possible molding seam line down an arm in
one segment of the film but were generally surprised that there was
little other evidence of seaming which suggests a high degree of
We felt that the filming was done in such a way as to obscure details
rather than highlight them and that many of the parts of the autopsy
that would have been difficult to fake, for example the folding back of
the chest flaps, were avoided, as was anything but the most cursory of
limb movement. We were also pretty unconvinced by the lone removal
sequence. In our opinion the insides of the creature did not bear much
relation to the exterior where muscle and bone shapes can be easily
discerned. We all agreed that the filming of the sequence would require
either the use of two separate bodies, one with chest open, one with
chest closed, or significant redressing of one mortal. Either way the
processes involved are fairly complicated and require a high level of
Another expert, Trey Stokes - a Hollywood special effects "motion
designer" whose film credits include The Abyss, The Blob, Robocop Two,
Batman Returns, Gremlins II, Tales from the Crypt, and many others -
provided an independent analysis at CSICOP's request. Interestingly,
Stokes's critique also indicated that the alien figure was a dummy cast
in an upright position. He further noted that it seemed lightweight and
"rubbery," that it therefore moved unnaturally when handled, especially
in one shot in which "the shoulder and upper arm actually are floating
rigidly above the table surface, rather than sagging back against it"
as would be expected (Stokes 1995).
CSICOP staffers (Executive Director Barry Karr, SKEPTICAL INQUIRER
Assistant Editor Tom Genoni, Jr., and I) monitored developments in the
case. Before the film aired, CSICOP issued a press release, briefly
summarizing the evidence against authenticity and quoting CSICOP
Chairman Paul Kurtz as stating: "The Roswell myth should be permitted
to die a deserved death. Whether or not we are alone in the universe
will have to be decided on the basis of better evidence than that
provided by the latest bit of Roswell fakery. Television executives
have a responsibility not to confuse programs designed for
entertainment with news documentaries."
Alien or fake? 1995. Sheffield Star (England), August 18.
"American Journal," 1995. September 6.
Berlitz, Charles, and William L. Moore. 1980. The Roswell Incident.
New York: Grosset and Dunlap.
Chittenden, Maurice. 1995. Film that 'proves' aliens visited Earth is
a hoax, the Sunday Times of London, July 30.
Clark, Jerome. 1993. "UFO Hoaxes." In Encyclopedia of Hoaxes, ed. by
Gordon Stein, pp. 267-278. Detroit: Gale Research.
Jeffrey, Kent. 1995. Bulletin 2: The purported 1947 Roswell film,
Internet, May 26.
Kurtz, Paul. 1995. Quoted in CSICOP press release, "Alien Autopsy:
Fact or Fiction?" film a hoax concludes scientific organization. April
Nickell, Joe, and John E Fischer. 1990. The crashed-saucer forgeries,
International UFO Reporter, March/April 1990, pp. 4-12.
Stokes, Trey. 1995. Personal communication, August 29-31.
Stringfield, Leonard, H. 1977. Situation Red: The UFO Siege. Garden
City, N.Y.: Doubleday, pp. 84, 177-179.
Thomas, Dave. 1995. The Roswell incident and Project Mogul, SKEPTICAL
INQUIRER 19(4) (July-August): pp. 15-18.
Uthman, Ed. 1995. "Fox's 'Alien Autopsy': A Pathologist's View,"
Usenet, sci.med.pathology, September 15.
Wallace, Cliff. 1995. Letter to Union Pictures, August 3, quoted in
Wallace's letter to Graham Birdsall, UFO Magazine, August 16, quoted on
ParaNet, August 22.
Wecht, Cyril. 1995. Quoted on "Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction?" Fox
Network, August 28 and September 4.
Joe Nickell is Senior Research Fellow at CSICOP. This is his
inaugural Investigative Files column.
'Alien autopsy' show-and-tell: long on tell, short on show.
C. Eugene, Jr. Emery
11/21/95 Skeptical Inquirer
There's nothing more maddening than having someone invite you to make
up your own mind about a controversy, only to have them refuse to give
you the tools to do it.
That's precisely what the Fox television network did August 28 and
September 4, 1995, when it presented a one-hour special "Alien Autopsy:
Fact or Fiction?" that was billed as the network premiere of a
17-minute film purporting to be the autopsy of a space creature found
near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. [See also the SI Special Report on
Roswell by Philip J. Klass in this issue, p. 20 and Joe Nickell's
column on p. 17.]
Instead of simply showing the 17 minutes, viewers got to see maybe
three, four, or five minutes of footage chopped up into MTV-sized
snippets that were repeated throughout the hour.
Instead of a tough skeptical analysis of a film that has been kept
tightly under wraps by its owner, executive producer Robert Kiviat -
whose resume includes being a coordinating producer on Fox's
pseudoscience newsmagazine program "Encounters" - "Alien Autopsy"
tended to showcase interviews from people who seemed convinced that the
footage was either real, or a complicated hoax that would have been
extremely difficult to pull off.
"Alien Autopsy" was far from one-sided. Kiviat repeatedly had the
host, "Star Trek" actor Jonathan Frakes, note that the movie could be a
hoax, and Kiviat addressed some key criticisms. But other important
criticisms were muted, ignored, taken out of context, or simply brushed
It's understandable that some people would be impressed by the film.
The snippets the producers chose to air looked convincing in many ways.
Scalpels seemed to cut flesh. A skin flap from the skull seemed to be
pulled over the face. Dark innards were removed from the brain area and
the body cavity, and placed into pans. The tools and equipment seemed
to be from the right era.
Yet when it comes to exposing a clever fraud, the devil is in the
By failing to show the entire film, one was left to wonder whether
Fox was leaving out the portions that might have flagged the movie as
"Alien Autopsy" comes at a difficult time for UFO enthusiasts.
Today's cutting-edge UFO tales have become so extraordinary, they're
often met with derision, even by people in the increasingly
That's why the focus seems to have shifted to Roswell, where the
details are still intriguing enough to fire the imagination, and the
facts and recollections have been polished' bright by the passage of
time. With its simple tale of a crashed saucer, a few space aliens, and
a government cover-up, the Roswell story seems far more plausible
(relatively speaking) than today's tales of aliens passing through
walls, millions of Americans being abducted by sex-obsessed space
creatures, and extraterrestrials who create alien-human babies.
UFO believers thought they had the Roswell affair pretty well figured
out. "Alien Autopsy" has shaken things up because the in, ages in the
film don't always conform to the picture the believers have
painstakingly constructed over the years. The creature on the autopsy
table is tall, its eyes are too small, it has too many fingers and
toes, and it looks too humanlike, complete with humanlike ears and
Some enthusiasts had expressed the fear that "Alien Autopsy" would
discredit some of the work that has gone into uncovering the truth at
Roswell. Such fears may be justified. In the media, it's the images,
not facts, that shape public attitudes and debates these days. Long
after people have forgotten the details of a Roswell book or article,
they're going to remember the video of this six-fingered "alien"
undergoing an "autopsy."
The film snippets that were shown raised all kinds of questions, and
provided few answers. Some examples:
* One small part of the film shows someone making a cut in the skin
along the neck. Did the full-length film include the showing of any
dissection of the cut area? Was this cutting of skin simply done for
effect, possibly with a trick knife that makes a glistening mark on the
body that appears to be the blood from an incision?
* One section of the film shows an intact body (except for a large
leg wound). Another shows the thorax and abdomen cut open. Were there
any steps in between, or did possible hoaxers making the film simply
cut open a latex dummy, dump animal guts inside, and pretend to take
* There were film clips of organs, such as the brain, being removed.
But organs can't be pulled from a body like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.
They're held in position by sometimes-tough connective tissue that must
first be cut away. The film snippets on "Alien Autopsy" showed no
evidence of that type of dissection. That flaw - if it is a flaw - was
most obvious when the doctor plucked the dark covering off the eye.
Unless these were simply extraterrestrial contact lenses, a piece of
the eye isn't going to come away that easily without some connective
tissue being sliced first.
* Where was everybody? How many people would turn down the chance to
watch the historic autopsy of a creature from another world? Yet there
were only two people in this room, in addition to the cameraman.
* Why did the person watching from behind the glass partition, and
not in the room, need to be suited up?
* For such an extraordinary autopsy, why did there seem to be so
little effort to document it? There was no attempt to weigh or label
the specimens, and there were just a few shots of someone putting data
on a single sheet of paper.
* Why was the supposedly experienced cameraman - who also claims to
have been present when three alien creatures were found - trying to
take close-ups that invariably made the film go out of focus? Good
photographers know when they're getting too close to their subject and
need to switch to a lens with a more appropriate focal length.
The fact is, an autopsy on a creature this extraordinary wouldn't be
done the way this one was. The being would have been turned over so the
back could be examined (in fact, the "doctors" seemed reluctant to move
the body much at all). The skin would have been carefully stripped away
to examine the pattern of the musculature. The origin and insertion of
individual muscles would have been documented. Samples would have been
taken, weighed, recorded and photographed. Only then' would the people
behind the protective hoods have gone deeper into the gut, repeating
the documentation process.
When critics have questioned the quick removal of the black sheath on
the eyes, the argument has been made that this was the third or fourth
alien autopsied, so the procedure was becoming easier. The argument
doesn't wash. Unless this was one of scores of alien bodies,
researchers would want to handle each case with excruciating care so
they could compare and contrast the individuals.
Unfortunately, the people who were skeptical of the film -
ironically, including people prominent in the UFO movement - were given
little time and almost no opportunity to explain their skepticism,
making them appear to be little more than debunkers. Kent Jeffrey, who
argued months earlier that the film is a hoax, only got to predict that
it will probably eventually be exposed as a fraud. The criticisms of
one Hollywood filmmaker, who thought the movie was bogus, were quickly
countered by a cameraman from the era who said it wasn't surprising
that this autopsy cameraman would allow his view to be blocked or parts
of the movie to be out of focus.
Then there were things the show didn't tell viewers.
"Alien Autopsy" quoted Laurence Cate of Kodak, who said the markings
on the film indicate it was manufactured in 1927, 1947 or 1967. The
program didn't make it clear that Cate is not an expert in
authentication, according to the Sunday Times of London.
Paolo Cherchi Usai, senior curator at George Eastman House, a
photography museum, based his observation that the film would be
difficult to fabricate on seeing the 17 minutes of film and about five
frames of leader film that carried no date coding and was supposedly
clipped from the beginning of one of the rolls of film. Conclusive
tests on the film had yet to be done.
The Hollywood special effects team led by Stan Winston gave the most
impressive testimonial. But I got the impression they were being asked
to gauge the difficulty of staging a bogus alien autopsy back in 1947.
Winston and his associates said the special effects were good, even by
today's standards, but from the clips shown on "Alien Autopsy," this
television program didn't seem to come close to rivaling the quality of
films you could rent in any video store.
The bottom line is that if the film is legitimate and this is the
first solid evidence of life on other planets, it deserves real
authentication, not the casual checking the program provided.
Independent experts need to pinpoint the date of the frames, then
examine all the reels to be sure the entire film has the same date
code. For all we know, most of the film is from contemporary stock.
Checking the whole film would dramatically narrow the range of
possibilities for a hoax.
The cameraman needs to be identified and questioned to confirm that
he exists, that he was in the military, and that he really was the
cameraman. There's been talk that he wants to avoid being prosecuted by
the government for keeping a copy of the film all these years. That's
claptrap. If the film is a hoax, why would the government bother him?
If the film is real, dragging a more-than-80-year-old military veteran
into court would be an admission by the government that the footage is
real, and that would spark some tough questions about who or what was
on that examining table. The government, not the photographer, would be
on the hot seat.
But instead of insisting on authentication first, Fox seemed intent
on milking the movie for every penny possible. The network repeated the
program one week after its original showing and tried to drum up
renewed interest for the rerun by promising more footage from the
17-minute film. Those who turned in saw about three additional minutes
of footage, but Fox still didn't show the whole 17-minute film. In all,
the autopsy sequences were only on the screen for 13-1/2 minutes and,
once again, that total included clips that were shown repeatedly.
It was not what you would expect from a major network that thought it
was broadcasting a history-making film.
It was, however, what you would expect from a network trying very
hard not to spoil an illusion.
Gene Emery is the science writer for the Providence Journal-Bulletin,
75 Fountain St., Providence, RI 02902.