Note: For those who can’t read music, that’s the Twilight Zone theme
Back to the road trip for a post or two.
I had decided to stop by Roswell, New Mexico, since I was already out in that general direction. As a souvenir shop owner I spoke to later that day put it, “Anyone going through Albuquerque with even a remote interest in Roswell tends to come take the detour.”
Roswell is remarkable for its utter unremarkability for 99% of its area. The town is a hell of a lot bigger than I thought, said souvenir store guy estimating about 50,000 people lived there, and from the size of the place, I don’t doubt him.
I had always kind of thought that Roswell was a backwater hole-in-the-wall, but no. As the town’s sign, posted at the entrances to the town (and which says nothing about aliens) proclaims, it is the Dairy Capital of the Southwest.
In fact, if you don’t notice the little alien head symbol on the Roswell Wal-Mart, nothing seems out of the ordinary at all for a medium-sized southwestern town about Roswell…until you get down towards the Alien District.
I stopped at the Roswell Chamber of Commerce to try and figure out where all the weird alien shit was, since I hadn’t seen any of it, although I felt a bit embarrassed about my task. I stated roundaboutly that I was simply from out of town seeking more information about Roswell.
“Aliens, huh?” said the Chamber of Commerce employee.
“Bingo,” said I.
I was directed about five blocks further down the street to the International UFO Museum And Research Center, and the other alien-related areas of Roswell, which for some reason are all concerntrated in about a four block radius of weirdness.
You don’t initially notice anything weird, until you look at the streetlamps. They are the same, bulbous style as the ones in the rest of Roswell, except the ones in this stretch have the Alien Eyes painted on them, so the lamps look like Alien Heads. Very odd.
Before my pilgrammage the Museum, I ended up eating lunch at a place called the Crashdown Diner, complete with flying saucer sticking out of the side of the restaurant, and entrees named after various aspects of the conspiracy theory.
Surprisingly, their food was probably the best (diner food division) I had during my entire roadtrip. Their motto is “Out Of This World Food Made Right Here On Earth.” I would have gone with “Best Cheeseburgers In The Universe,” but I think theirs is probably better.
Anyway, I then made my trip to the UFO Museum and Research Center, which was pretty entertaining. There’s all kinds of stuff about what happened, and they actually offer a relatively balanced view of what happened.
While they do feature “Artist’s Renderings” of the supposed crash, they also talk about a certain type of (at the time) classified military target vehicle that bears a strong resemblence to what people claim they found in Roswell.
They also spend a lot of time participating in one of my favorite activities, making fun of the Government.
The U.S. Military released a stunningly dumb (even for them) report in 1997 (the 50th anniversary of the “crash”) which claimed that people had actually seen test dummies instead of alien bodies, but had actually seen them in 1957, not 1947.
The only problem with this explanation is that there are newspaper archives from all over the country reporting on the incident as taking place in 1947, including follow-up stories about it turning out to supposedly be a weather balloon.
Personally, I think the most rational explanation is that the Army accidentally had a targeting vehicle go down and tried to cover it up, and the locals blew it way out of proportion because of an ongoing scare over “flying saucers” taking place in ’47.
I am far more willing to belive that the U.S. Government panicked and did a piss-poor job trying to cover up the accidental crash of a top-secret test vehicle than that Aliens landed and nobody said a goddamn thing about it to the press.
Bush can’t even keep his goddamn economic plan secret, and people think there’s a massive conspiracy about aliens. Please. Does anyone honestly belive:
a) If Aliens crash-landed here, their friends wouldn’t come back looking for them and cause way more of a stink?
b) If this really happened, after 50 years, the press could come up with something more substantial than hearsay?
There are a bunch of sworn affadavits at the Roswell museum, but most of them are attesting to the fact that either the guy who’s supposed to have seen the aliens told these people he saw them, or that the material that was supposedly the spacecraft was later replaced by the “weather baloon.”
Anyway, it was kind of interesting to learn more about the whole thing, especially the crazy people who believe we are actually under siege by the aliens.
Like the folks who run the “Alien Resistance Headquarters,” across the street from the IUFOMRC. I didn’t even go in, because the sign scared me so much. I’m going to try and post my pictures of Roswell when I eventually get them developed, and you’ll see why I fled this place.
I wound up souvenir shopping (and ended up in a music store and came perilously close to buying a really good acoustic bass for dirt cheap, but I couldn’t even afford dirt cheap), and struck up a converstation with the guy I eventually bought a glow-in-the-dark shot glass for Adam, my roommate.
He seemed like a fairly normal guy, so I asked him how long he had been doing this. Turned out he had been a cop, as I recall somewhere around L.A., though not in L.A. He retired to Roswell, and made an alien refrigerator magnet as a joke five or six years ago.
Within a year, he had sold 10,000. He ended up opening the store I was at shortly thereafter, since he figured out he could make a fuckload of money sitting around selling schmucks like me glow-in-the-dark shot glasses and other assorted tchotchkes, though that wasn’t the way he worded it.
I asked him how many people came through for all the alien shit every year, and he told me they get 20,000-30,000 people every year for their UFO Festival the first couple of weeks in July, and 50,000-100,000 overall.
His numbers could have been off, though he purported to have gotten them from the Chamber of Commerce. This is a smart town. Even the people who think the UFO nuts are loony know better than to say so, since it’s turned the town into a cash cow.
‘Tis a cardinal sin to look a gift alien in the mouth, you know.
Anyway, for more information on all this shit, you can check out the Albuquerque Journal’s entertaining Roswell Site, which has news stories related to various Roswell and UFO type-stuff.
If you’ve got an extra day to waste, it’s an entertaining way to waste it, although I wouldn’t recommend planning your trip around it. Just if you find yourself running ahead of schedule, drop by and get a good laugh and a good Alien Burger.