Date: Sat Sep 17 1994 00:00:26 Subj: Roswell - +quot;Durable Myth+quot; UFO - E. T., where

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Date: Sat Sep 17 1994 00:00:26 From: Sheppard Gordon Subj: Roswell - "Durable Myth" UFO ------------------------------- E. T., where are you? 09/13/94 THE BALTIMORE EVENING SUN In ancient times, people believed that the night sky was an enormous vault pierced by tiny holes through which light from a great outer fire shone. Some of the lights moved across the inner surface of the vault, and they were called "planets," from a Greek word meaning "wanderers." The planets, along with the Sun and Moon, indicated the presence of gods who periodically visited the earth to intervene in the affairs of mankind. Modern astronomy has transformed our understanding of planetary motions, but not our predisposition to expect celestial visitors. In one of the longer-running controversies of recent times, a band of enthusiasts has charged the government with deliberately covering up evidence suggesting we have been visited by beings from outer space. The idea seems to have taken hold in the 1940s, when there was a rash of sightings of so-called "unidentified flying objects," or UFOs. Most of the sightings were easily explained as weather phenomena, military test aircraft or other familiar objects. But one or two remained just enough of a mystery to fuel speculation -- and keep alive a combative cult of true believers. Last week, after 40 years of denials, the Air Force again tried to put to rest the durable myth that military authorities have been covering up a grand extraterrestrial event. In a report released last week, an Air Force investigator concluded that the debris a rancher found near Roswell, N.M., in 1947 probably came from a once top-secret balloon designed to monitor the atmosphere for evidence of Soviet nuclear tests. UFO buffs had long contended that the site marked the crash of a flying saucer and that the Air Force had secretly recovered the bodies of its extraterrestrial crew. "The Roswell Incident has since grown to mythical, if not mystical, proportions," wrote the Air Force investigator. Nevertheless, he concluded, UFO theories are generally "undocumented, taken out of context, self-serving or otherwise dubious." But there's no way to convince some people. UFO groups quickly denounced the findings as another government whitewash. Like aficionados of Kennedy assassination conspiracies, UFO buffs won't be satisfied until the government tells them what they want to hear. As a practical matter, that means we're likely to keep seeing such stories on the covers of supermarket tabloids for a long time to come -- or at least until a real "E.T." finally manages to find his way to earth, pick up a telephone, and tell the Air Force where he's hiding.


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