KS Across America-Day 3, UFO Capital of the World

Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
Trip End Aug 20, 2009

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Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

UFO Boosts Roswell From Sleepy Burg to Alien Capital of the World

In July 1947, Roswell, New Mexico was given the greatest marketing tool--a city could ever ask for--short of an appearance buy the Virgin Mary. Something unexplained crashed next to it.

The unusual debris, recovered by a rancher named Brazel, was then taken by the military to the Roswell Army Air Field. An Army public information officer put out a press release saying they were in possession of a flying saucer. The next day they changed their minds. Another release went out stating it was a weather balloon. And that's where the alleged-UFO government coverup began--giving rising to countless cheesy books, documentaries and eventually, David Duchovny's ticket to fame on "The X Files."

For the city of Roswell -- "The Roswell Incident,"  as it was known--would become  a license to sell UFO/Alien branded everything, from t-shirts and pendants to bobble-headed little green men and bumper stickers. My favorite reads: Fasten your seat belt. It makes it harder for the aliens to suck you out of your car." 

While Roswell does attract true believers and those who think they've been singled out for an intergalactic joy ride with complimentary anal probe--most, townspeople included--are just happy for a distraction from the anxiety and oppression of modern life. Especially when that distraction creates a steady stream of visitors renting hotel rooms, eating out and buying tickets to the UFO Museum and Research Center -- the heart of Roswell's Alien identity.

The museum, inside a former movie theater, opened for business in 1992 and Roswell native, Julie Shuster has been Executive Director for nine of its 17 years.

No-wild-eyed aposte of ET, Shuster is more Chamber of Commerce than Star Chamber. She knows her business is the stuff of myth, legend and good old fashioned showmanship. Though I'm unannounced, she takes the time to give me an interview and tour of the museum and research facilities.

She shows me a colorful mural, painted by local high school art students depicting their interpretation of the "UFO crash." There are bright orange flames shooting up from a metalic disk, injured and dead aliens are scatterd on the ground. There are books and videos, newspaper clippings and other things sent in by the public--including a jacket from NASA.

Shuster is candid and good humored when I ask her about the "kook" factor. She says there are dozens of people calling in to claim UFO sightings, but only about five or six a year--insisting they're victims of an alien abduction.

"We had a women from England call last year," she tells me, "She believed she had been abducted by aliens and said she was going to commit suicide."

"What did you do," I ask.

"We called the authorities in her town--even though we didn't know specifically where she
lived. Hopefully she got the help she needed"

While certainly not a mental health facility--it seems The UFO Museum could easily become a help-hotline for those struggling to hold on to the fringes of reality.

Thee lighter side of the Roswell's Metropolitan Identity is the annual Roswell UFO Festival held the first week of July and a tradition since 1996. It draws both the costumed cut-ups, Hollywood celebs and serious UFO researchers.

While I'm at the museum,  a film crew for the ReelzChannel is shooting promotional tie-ins for "District 9" a film about aliens stranded on earth--an obvious indication that our curiosity has not yet been satiated about that eternal question of whether we're alone in the universe? 

In Roswell the answer is a resounding -- "who cares," as long as you buy the t-shirt.

For more information contact the Museum at 114 N. Main, Roswell, NM 88203; 575-625-9495  or  www.roswellufomuseum.com 
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