Date: Sat Sep 17 1994 00:00:26 Subj: Roswell - +quot;Durable Myth+quot; UFO - E. T., where
Date: Sat Sep 17 1994 00:00:26
From: Sheppard Gordon
Subj: Roswell - "Durable Myth"
E. T., where are you?
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
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
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank