“It would be many years later, in front of the firing squad, when Col. Aureliano Buendía remembered that remote afternoon in which his father took him to see the ice…” ~Excerpt from the novel ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’.
2015 marks the first anniversary of Gabriel García Márquez’s death. Without a doubt the most popular Latin American writer of his time, his literary style constitutes one of the best examples of the artistic movement known as ‘Magical Realism’, which is characterized by the insertion of fantastical events into common circumstances, thus transforming the extraordinary into ordinary and vice versa. It’s no wonder the Colombian-born Nobel laureate ended up writing One Hundred Years of Solitude –his most famous novel– during his stay in Mexico city; a place even more outlandish than Macondo, the fictitious Caribbean town he created as the setting of most of his stories. Salvador Dalí once said of Mexico, that he couldn’t stand being in a country that was more surrealist than his own paintings.
I’m sure the eccentric Spanish artist would have felt vindicated, had he been present at the spectacle I attended on the night of May 5th. That evening UFOlogist Jaime Maussan –even though he keeps insisting he’s merely a journalist– invited the Mexican citizens along with the rest of the world to beWITNESS: The event that would “change history” by showing for the very first time “physical evidence” confirming the famous Roswell saucer crash of 1947, and the extraterrestrial presence in our planet. At the National Auditorium no less, the most illustrious public forum in the country with a total capacity of 10,000 seats, during a presentation which ended up being worthy of a García Márquez’s novel.
But not for the reasons the organizers intended…
From the onset the whole thing seemed bizarre enough. After a couple of years of rumors concerning the recovery of 2 old Kodachrome slides purportedly showing a genuine corpse of an alien being, allegedly recovered after the Roswell crash –the be-all and end-all of all UFO cases according to American researchers, given their obsession with this particular 68-year-old mystery– the story finally irrupted into the mainstream in early February of this year through the involvement of Jaime Maussan, the most visible figure in the Mexican UFOlogy scene for the last 25 years or so.
Up until then, the story of the slides had been known only by a handful of UFO buffs following the progress of the ‘Roswell Dream Team’ formed by researchers Tom Carey, Don Schmitt, Kevin Randle, Chris Rutkowski, David Rudiak and Anthony Bragalia, who had joined forces to conduct the ‘definitive investigation’ of the famous UFO case, see if new information could be uncovered, and try once and for all to solve the mystery surrounding… whatever it was that crashed near that small town in New Mexico in 1947.
But then the slides cometh and with them a schism within the group: Due to the demands of the slides’ owner, non-disclosure agreements were apparently signed by a few members of the team, which impeded them to freely share what they knew with the rest of their colleagues –hardly the ideal method to conduct a proper investigation. When Randle and Rutkowski learned about the slides through separate channels, they were skeptical and pointed out to numerous problems with their ‘chain of provenance’. The rest of the ‘Dream Team’ decided to carry on their own, while focusing their full attention in getting their hands on this piece of evidence.
When he was told about the slides in 2013, Maussan immediately offered his assistance to the remaining members of the seceded team, who eventually welcomed him on board. Doing what he does best, Maussan organized a press conference in Mexico, and with a lot of fanfare announced that at long last the ‘smoking gun’ of UFOlogy had been recovered. The slides had been analyzed by several film experts, he proclaimed, who confirmed their authenticity; furthermore, the morphological characteristics of the being shown in them proved without a shred of a doubt it was not a human being –ergo, it had to be an extraterrestrial.
All this and more would finally be revealed in front of a live audience and the world at large… provided you purchased a ticket or paid for the live streaming, of course.
Why Mexico? Adam Dew, the man who is friends of the owner of the slides and holds their copyright through his company Slidebox Media, candidly admitted to Open Minds that in the United States he was not able to get the amount of monetary compensation he was expecting:
“There was a major respectable U.S. monthly magazine that wanted to publish the slides years ago, but they weren’t offering any money and we wanted to at least find a way to bring some bit of funding into this project. People talk about these substantial packages and I just roll my eyes and laugh about what people think is the kind of money that’s involved in this. This has been a process that has cost me money out of my pocket, and I would certainly like to tell my wife that we at least broke even on this in the worst case scenario,” says Dew
Why the National Auditorium? Again, Dew says it was due to Maussan and his ‘big vision’ for the event; since then, many people have accused the Mexican UFOlogist –who is no stranger to controversy surrounding dubious cases— of deliberately organizing a con, even though I personally suspect his motivations were more influenced by his eagerness to embed himself into the Roswell legend than any kind of monetary profit. Perhaps he wanted to go down in history as the only person who was able to fill the auditorium with a UFO-related spectacle; or perhaps he genuinely believed the slides could become “the smoking gun” Carey and Schmitt assured him they were –in this field you can never underestimate “the will to believe.”
Right after Maussan’s big announcement in February, accompanied by the trailer of the Kodachrome documentary produced independently by Dew, it looked as if the organizers had shot themselves on the foot: They had not counted on the acumen of armchair researchers, who noticed how on the trailer one of the actual slides was briefly shown; it was enough to create a screen grab, and thus the big ace on the sleeve of the Roswell team was leaked into the world wide web months in advance of the May 5th event, free of charge.
Although blurry, the captured image was clear enough to get a good assessment of what the ‘alien body’ pictured in the slide looked like. And what it looked like was… disappointing to say the least: Instead of showing some kind of secret Air Force base and the alleged extraterrestrial corpse being carefully preserved for future analysis –the kind of things you would expect the Military to do, with what undoubtedly would amount to be the most valuable biological specimen in the entire world!– what actually could be observed was a small cadaver in very poor conditions, enclosed in some cheap glass showcase.
In short, the ‘base’ looked more like a small-town museum, and the ‘alien’ more like a mummified child. Many individuals in the UFO field started to raise their voice in discontent against what they perceived as yet another hoax.
When Maussan learned about the leak, he quickly went into damage control mode: He tried to enroll more ‘big names’ in UFOlogy for the event, such as Stanton Friedman and Richard Dolan, and added more medical experts to confirm the ‘otherworldliness’ of the body; he also launched a very aggressive promotional campaign, appearing on radio and TV programs to dismiss the skeptics and naysayers, charging them with ‘piracy’ and illegally obtaining “that ‘grotesque’ image” –he even went so far as accusing them of tampering with it to distort the body, making it look like “Tweety” (!).
The slides that would be presented on May, he promised, would be much more nitid and impressive; they would clearly show the ‘alien’ to have “43 anomalies” detected by experts from the Mexican National Institute of Forensic Medicine. Why were the skeptics attacking them before they had the chance to present the evidences? he complained. How could the debunkers possibly believe Tom Carey and Don Schmitt –who were the first among the Dream Team to learn about the slides’ existence– along with Richard Dolan –who did accept Maussan’s invitation, although wasn’t necessarily obligated to endorse their authenticity– and himself, would be willing to risk their careers and reputation over something as mundane as the mummy of a child? he fumed during a radio debate against Spanish researcher José Antonio Caravaca, one of the critics of the slides, all while the poor radio host tried his best to calm him down and moderate the discussion.
My personal goal for attending the event was not so much because I was expecting to see conclusive proof’ of extraterrestrial visitation to our planet –for even if the slides turned out to be ‘the real deal’, in the XXIst century a simple image cannot possibly be considered conclusive proof of ANYTHING– but because I was curious to see what could have possibly convinced all these notorious personalities in the UFOlogical microcosm to risk their collective reputation in one big show-down.
I had asked my cousin Fernando, who has a lifelong interest in UFOs to come with me, since I wanted to have the honest, independent opinion of a smart person with a genuine interest in UFOs, who would still be ‘unstained’ by all the innuendo and controversy already surrounding the slides.
The ticket prices ranged from 1300 pesos (US$ 86) to 300 pesos (US $20) not counting the Ticketmaster charge (20 dollars was also the fee for the live streaming). I had purchased 2 seats on the left balcony (US $50) and after we took our seats we both noticed there were quite a few senior citizens all around, which made me wonder if the demographics of UFO conferences in the United States also applied here in Mexico. In any case, However, I suspected the greater bulk of the audience was probably conformed by middle-aged individuals like myself: Those who were in our teens when the Mexican UFO flap of the 1990’s was in full swing, and eagerly watched TV to see the videos of weird lights in the sky gathered by a young and energetic Maussan, who was by then starting to build his career as the spokesperson of the phenomenon in Mexico.
You’ve got to give it to the guy: Despite all those many years, we had all still responded to his calling.
Although beWITNESS wasn’t able to fill the National Auditorium to its full capacity, it was by no means an empty hall. Given my own personal estimates, along with the figures published by some newspapers, it’s fair to say that between 6500 to 7000 persons attended the event that night. And if there were any skeptics around, their voices were never heard amid all the cheers and clapping welcoming Maussan’s presence to the stage at around 7:40 pm. “Finally we have the evidence we’ve been waiting for all this time,” was his way to start his speech. He then went on to say how “skeptics demand physical proof [about extraterrestrial visitation], which is a difficult request because the Military have made sure to conceal the evidence” –a rather convenient excuse, a skeptic would argue– and he continued with his passionate message by saying how the investigators involved in the event welcomed any criticism and questioning with regards to the ‘evidence’ they were about to present.
“Be careful what you wish for,” amirite?
With that he proceeded to present the 1st speaker of the event: James J. Hurtak PhD, a scientist and futurologist who had also collaborated with the late John Mack with the investigation of the famous Zimbabwe school close encounter of 1994. All well and good, I thought, but why was he asked to join in the Roswell reveal? Maybe Maussan wanted someone with a fancy degree to add ‘legitimacy’ to the event?
Ditto with the Skype conference with Paul Hellyer, the former Canadian minister of Defense who’s now turned into a vocal advocate of UFO disclosure; although I’m sure most of the people in the audience had never heard him talk about how accepting the reality of UFOs could potentially move the world toward a new paradigm of global peace and collaboration, nevertheless his inclusion felt like unnecessary ‘foreplay’ before the long-awaited ‘alien money shot’.
Well, given that I already ousted myself with the porn metaphors, let’s just say that from foreplay we moved on to full fellatio with “the two investigators who put Roswell on the map,” as Maussan welcomed Tom Carey and Don Schmitt to the stage –really Jaime? What about Stan Friedman and Kevin Randle? Oh, that’s right: Since neither of them had accepted to participate in beWITNESS, during the 30 minutes-long general overview of the case provided by the co-authors of Witness to Roswell, they never bothered to mention the man who actually re-discovered Jesse Marcel in the 1970’s (Friedman) and Schmitt’s former colleague and writing partner (Randle). The two had been scratched out of Roswell’s history by the beWITNESS Ministry of Truth.
After Carey and Schmitt rushed through the last Power Point images to finish their presentation, a few recorded interviews of Roswell witnesses were shown –or rather, what passes as ‘witness’ in a 68-year-old case in which practically all of the ‘major players’ (Mac Brazel, Jesse Marcel, even Jesse Marcel Jr.) have passed away: Sons and daughters of those who might have actually seen something interesting, telling their stories of how they were threatened into silence by the Military through different intimidatory tactics –like sending them and their families to the few POW camps which were said to be still operating in New Mexico at the time.
9:11 pm. Still no slides, but now the event proceeded to ‘full penetration’ with the introduction (Heh!) of Adam Dew. The man who was initially responsible for the whole of us sitting there, gave a brief summary of how from running a production company dealing with sports and college football, he ended up getting involved in the Roswell affair. Accompanied by a cinematic recreation and a recorded interview with “Cathy” (later known to be Catherine Beason through independent research), the woman claimed with the serendipitous discovery of the box containing some 400 old Kodachrome slides while she was cleaning a house in Sedona, AZ. in 1998, the ‘mythology’ of the slides started to unfold: While she kept the box on her kitchen occasionally looking at them a few at a time, eventually she began to recognize some of the people in the slides: celebrities like Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, and even general Dwight D. Eisenhower, before he became president of the United States.
Eisenhower plays a big role in the mythology of the slides, and that’s because of who is believed to have originally owned them: Enter Hilda and Bernerd Ray. He was an oil geologist whose zone of activity was the Permian Basin of west Texas and eastern New Mexico; she was an oil attorney in Midland, Texas, and an accomplished pilot who died in 1988. The Rays were a well-connected couple acquainted with the movers and shakers of their time –including the Eisenhowers and even the Bushes seniors. So the case attempted to be established by the promoters was: a) The Rays lived near the ‘scene of the crime’; b) They were buddy-buddies with Mamie and Ike Eisenhower; therefore c) They MIGHT have been privy to very sensitive material, like perhaps the retrieval of alien corpses from the Roswell crash.
The argument is sustained by rather tenuous assumptions, which in my opinion were never satisfactorily proven during the presentation. A few people have even pointed out how the story is unsustainable in the first place, given how a man like Eisenhower, who was once in charge of coordinating the entire invasion to Normandy during WWII, was clearly someone who wasn’t in the habit to divulge classified information to his buddies. Then again, the idea of an interstellar vessel malfunctioning and crashing in the New Mexico desert seems ludicrous enough to many people both inside and outside the UFO field…
Oh, but the slides had to be special, you see, because they were found (again) by happenstance hidden inside the 2 cardboard pieces of the box’s bottom. ‘Cathy’ was so freaked out by what was shown in the 2 slides, we are told, that she gave them to his brother who was a friend of Dew, and eventually became his partner in Slidebox Media.
Incidentally, by this point came Adam Dew’s first mention of the infamous placard next to the alleged alien body, and how “every attempt to read what was written on it was a failure.” Initially this didn’t set off any alarm bells in my head, but by the time the presentation was over I started to recognize this incongruent claim for what it was: A red herring.
Next the promoters had to prove the slides were not forgeries, and for that they showed the testimony of a few film experts, including professor Rod Slemmons from the Photography department at Columbia College in Chicago, who was recorded saying how due to the slides frame numbers and several other technical features, they were “completely authentic;” meaning they were indeed manufactured and exposed between 1947 and 1949. As we shall see next, the promoters’ obsession to fit the slides within the Roswell narrative may have skewed their perspective…
The slides still needed to be connected to Roswell, though; not just chronologically but directly. The promoters did that –or at least tried to– by invoking the testimony of their ‘star witness’: Eleazar Benavides, who was a member of the 509th Operations group stationed at the Roswell Army Airfield. Incidentally, Benavidez was the cause of an acrimonious feud between Anthony Bragalia –a remaining member of the former Dream Team– and one of the skeptic researchers looking into the story, Canadian filmmaker Paul Kimball, who through some detective work was able to recognize Benavides in the Kodachrome trailer, and published his name when it was still not revealed by the slides’ promoters; Bragalia lambasted Kimball for ‘endangering’ the witness, while Kimball simply pointed out that if they wanted to keep his identity a secret, they shouldn’t have shown his face on the trailer in the first place –and besides, it’s not as if he hadn’t publicly spoken about Roswell before…
In a recorded interview, Benavides told the story of how he was ordered to guard one of the alien bodies kept in a base hangar, and regularly taking it to the base’s hospital for study, even though he wasn’t told by his superiors what he was actually guarding, and was even forbidden to look directly at it. Curiosity got the better of him in the end and finally took a brief glimpse of it, which greatly disturbed him.
“These people appeared quite strange,” he said, and when he was asked to explain what he meant by that in the interview, he proceeded to describe the unusual head and other weird physical features of what he saw –or claims he saw– all those years ago. Finally they showed him the slides –which were off-screen in order to stretch the event’s tease– and what caught my attention was how Benavides’ reaction was not one of deep shock or instant recognition. Instead of exclaiming “OMG this is what I saw all those years ago!!” he was more like “weeell… it kinda looks like what I saw.” He pointed out how the body kept in the base hangar had “more body” or fat on it –keep in mind how the Roswell promoters’ argument is that the slides were taken between 1947 and 1949, so there wasn’t really enough time for the bodies to become emaciated through the passage of time.
So, not a 100% confirmation IMO. In fact it looked to me as if the poor old man was pressed into admitting there were some similarities between the slides and the 1947 bodies. Yet this was enough for Maussan to claim: The star witness recognized the body, therefore ALIENS.
10:00 pm: I hadn’t expected the event to last that long, and by then even my butt was starting to beg for some Disclosure. But FINALLY the moment we were all waiting for was here: The alien money shot.
The 1st slide was shown on screen. Instead of a collective gasp or people standing in ovation, there was just silence emanating from the audience; I suppose everyone was attentively studying the features of the body, since it was presumably the first time most of them laid eyes on it. That was not the case with myself, so my initial reaction was “oh, so this is what it really looked like” given how I could finally perceive the eyes, mouth and nose (or lack thereof) with sufficient clarity.
But my second reaction was “man, it still looks like a mummy!”
Next came a brief explanation of how Antonio Torres, a CGI artist, had performed a ‘forensic reconstruction’ based on the body in the slides, supported by the analysis performed by one of the experts consulted by beWITNESS. On the screens appeared the head of the ‘being’ and everybody was taking pictures with their cell phones. Curious how Maussan decided to give his alien the typical ‘black eyes’ of the modern stereotype, even though that could clearly not be ascertained from the slide alone.
A brief intermission was announced, and before I rushed to the restrooms I noticed how on the screens appeared the promotion of a documentary prepared by Maussan’s company, Tercer Milenio, about the infamous UFO over the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, a story that made its run through the web in 2011 –you know, the one which was proven without any doubt to be a hoax? Like always, Maussan must have missed the memo…
The second part of the show started with a major disappointment for me: Maussan announced that due to health issues Dr. Edgar Mitchell, one of the Apollo astronauts and perhaps the most notorious advocate of UFO disclosure, wasn’t able to make the trip to Mexico and appear on-stage as promised. Instead, they showed a recorded interview they’d previously filmed from his home in New Mexico –which meant his cancellation had not been made at the last minute– with Maussan showing him the slides and telling how “the last remaining eye-witness to Roswell had confirmed this is what he saw.”
“It looks like what I thought the Grays would look like,” said Mitchell, explaining how they are only one of the many groups visiting our planet. Dr. Mitchell has never claimed to have actually seen an alien, though; he’s just been informed about their presence through his many contacts in the government and his conversations with the Roswell ‘old timers’ after he returned from his historical trip to the Moon.
We then proceeded to the ‘scientific’ aspect of the show, which would be conducted by 2 Mexican experts and one from Canada –remember how prior to the slide’s leak there was only going to be one expert– given how according to Maussan, no one in the United States had accepted to even look at the slides. Miguel Angel Alvarez, a representative of the Mexican Institute of Forensic Sciences (INACIF) appeared on-stage to present Maussan with a copy of the 33-page report elaborated by José de Jesús Zalce Benítez, a medical examiner who among his several specializations and degrees, including forensic anthropology, is also a lieutenant commander in the Mexican Navy. Alvarez made it clear to the public that the INACIF had not asked any money for their work and neither had Zalce, who spent 2 months analyzing the slide. It was not only to avoid ‘payola’ suspicions but because, as Alvarez stated, they had warned Maussan beforehand that “you might not like what we find.”
Well, Maussan certainly liked Zalce Benítez’s findings –“that’s why I invited you,” he joked when he ceded the podium to him– so the young medical examiner proceeded to enumerate all the ‘morphological anomalies’ detected in the body which, in his opinion, discounted the possibility that it could be the desiccated mummy of a child; things like how with mummies the ocular globes tend to recede within the eye sockets, whereas it was not the case here; how the clavicle and the elbow were very anomalous, and the length of the femur was much shorted than the tibia and fibula, which is the complete opposite of normal human anatomy; how any pelvic bones were not discernible, as well as an opposable thumb in the hands. Zalce Benítez’s conclusion: The specimen doesn’t have the characteristics of a primate, and not even a mammal, therefore its morphology is “incompatible with human life.”
Not even a mammal? Yes, Zalce Benítez’s said, based on the fact that “no mammary glands were discernible” in the body. This obviously ensued a lot of satirical comments among the people viewing the event through the live stream –“ZOMG, aliens with no nipples!”
As for me, 2 things struck me about the young forensic anthropologist: The first one was that he sounded proficient enough when explaining all those anatomical details in technical jargon, which forced me to dust off my High School Anatomy lessons from my mental files; the second one was that he was sweating more than Nixon during the debate with JFK, which I conceded was not necessarily a sign of deception, but likely the kind of nervousness triggered by standing up in front of 7000 pairs of eyes.
“Did you believe in ETs before?”, Maussan asked Zalce Benítez after he concluded; “I’d never bothered to look into the matter prior to this”, he replied, “but now I am convinced that they do exist and are here” (applause from the audience).
This opens up an interesting question: Did Maussan approach the INACIF and Zalce Benítez from a neutral position, saying something like “can you study this Kodachrome slide and tell me what’s your opinion of it?” or did he say right off the bat “we think this body is an extraterrestrial, can you prove us wrong?”, thus initiating the study with a biased preconception.
Next came the turn of Richard Doble, an anthropologist with studies in comparative anatomy and the evolution of vertebrates, who was shown on-screen explaining how, even though they don’t have a body as a definitive proof, he could nonetheless see a lot of features which made him think the ‘creature’ “presumably came from outer space in a spaceship”. And if that’s not an outlandish enough conclusion coming from the analysis of *one* single image, he also said the body was evidence of ‘convergent evolution’ of a gecko-life like form, which he suspected to be vegetarian and “able to communicate electromagnetically.”
To me, the only interesting contribution Doble added to Zalce Benítez’s analysis, was how he thought it unlikely that the body was a mannequin or Hollywood prop of some kind; that’s because he believed a great deal of anatomical expertise would have been needed to pull off that kind of trick. This is somewhat reminiscent of the decades-old discussion surrounding the famous Shroud of Turin, and how its defenders point out how if it’s a hoax, it would have required a sophisticated anatomical knowledge of how the Romans crucified their prisoners; and yet for the skeptic-minded this is not enough to convince him the shroud is nothing more than a Medieval forgery.
The last of the experts was Dr. Luis Antonio De Alva Galindo, a professor of anatomy and physiology, who in my mind was even less credible than Doble. His explanation on how the body was not a child because the bones of its skull were welded together like an adult, reminded me of ATA: The tiny corpse presented by Dr. Steven Greer in his documentary Sirius which was studied by a couple of scientists, only to be later found as nothing more than an aborted fetus buried in the Atacama desert, and yet the heat of the sand had caused anomalies in it which had managed to fool some experts; I wondered if a similar explanation could apply with this specimen.
When Dr. De Alva Galindo claimed that the being might have evolved in a low-gravity, low-atmosphere environment, I once again suspected these ‘experts’ were extrapolating waaaay too much information from just one simple image, showing the body from just one single angle; giving those kinds of out-there conclusions made the ‘forensic report’ sound like a bunch of wishful thinking.
The presentation was (mercifully) coming to an end, but not before the holographic ‘re-animation’ of the being as promised by Maussan on his promotional campaign, which to me was the most boring part of the whole event, perhaps because due to the position by which I was viewing the stage –up in the left balcony, as I’d mentioned earlier– any kind of ‘3d’ effect that was supposed to appear on the rectangular screen they used was completely lost; also, Maussan’s assurances on how “the alien would come alive and walk on stage” had made me imagine the little guy would start to dance like Tupac in Coachella; instead, the computerized Gray-like alien was mostly moving in one place, as if it was looking at the audience in confusion. Also, I think that instead of projecting it like a ten-foot-tall giant, they should have shown it on a ‘natural’ scale for a few seconds, if only to add a bit more realism to the whole thing.
But realism was the last thing on the promoters’ mind. The fact that the being was shown covered in a tight, one-piece silver suit underlined the fact that the CGI prop was more based on preconceptions and a desire to fit with the Roswell narrative, than any actual forensic reconstruction. “Keep in mind that this is our interpretation,” said Maussan; indeed, I later noticed how his ‘computer alien’ was somewhat different from the one shown in the Kodachrome trailer, which left me wondering if Dew had relied on any forensic analysis to make his. Given how the trailer had been released since February, I suspect he didn’t.
By now I realized the event was about to end, and as Maussan presented UFO researcher and historian Richard Dolan, a question started to nag me: All along they’ve been talking about 2 slides; so far they’ve only shown one, so what the hell happened to the 2nd one?
As stated earlier, Maussan hadn’t asked Richard –of whom I’ve always had the highest regard– to validate the authenticity of the slides; however, his mere presence alone on that stage could be interpreted (or misinterpreted) as a de-facto endorsement. Perhaps Dolan was aware of that, since he started his speech by saying how it took him a while to decide whether to accept Maussan’s invitation or not –he finally accepted after talking at length with Schmitt and Carey. Unlike the slides promoters however, he was the only one that night who stated having issues with linking them to the Roswell event; he was also the only one to mention how there were limitations to the ‘evidence’ presented –this was not the ‘home run’ the Disclosure advocates were waiting for– and that questions remained concerning the ‘chain of custody’; however, it was his opinion that the slides were compelling enough, and that they would prove to be “difficult to debunk.” Later that night he would use the same phrase when interviewed by George Noory on Coast to Coast A.M.
Dolan then went on by suggesting how a possible authentication of the slides by independent investigators, could have a “ripple effect” to help erode the wall of secrecy surrounding the UFO phenomenon, imposed by the highest echelons of power. He pointed out how this cover-up has not only denied citizens of their right to know the truth, but has also harmed our society in many other ways; if clandestine funding was required in order to conduct the reverse-engineering of recovered alien technology, he submitted, then it was not a stretch to consider how narcotraffic –a sensitive topic to the Mexican citizenship– also played a part in those machinations.
After the wall of secrecy crashes down, what happens next? According to Dolan, the world would enter into a ‘post-Disclosure’ age; a topic he personally has discussed in length ever since he co-wrote the book A.D. with Bryce Zabel. To Richard’s credit, most of the audience in the hall stayed until the very end to listen to his words, despite the fact that the big reveal had already happened and there weren’t any more surprises in store.
Or so I thought. Because right after Dolan finished, Maussan approached the podium and instead of announcing the end of the event, he said they were going to project the other slide as promised, which was just as the 1st one (from the same angle) but much darker since it had been taken without a camera flash. Why they waited so long to show it to the audience is a matter of speculation; maybe Maussan’s team was checking out the reaction to the event on Twitter, and noticed that many were asking about the 2nd slide, so either they were counting on not having the need to show it or they genuinely thought it wasn’t worth the trouble.
Even Maussan himself seemed a bit surprised when he laid eyes on the projected image beside him, claiming to the audience how this was the first time he could see the 2nd. slide with such clarity, since up until then he’d always observed it through a computer monitor. He mentioned the placard next to the body, which now showed that it clearly had some writing on it, and stated how “hopefully one day it could be read.”
Again, be careful what you wish for…
The Roswell Reveal was over, and as we walked away toward where my cousin Fernando left his car, I asked him his impressions; Had he been convinced by what he was shown? His answer was that he found everything interesting;unlike me he didn’t feel the event had been tiresome –although he too was surprised it had lasted so long– and above all he hoped Richard Dolan’s words would come true, and that the slides’ “ripple effect” would force the appearance of more supporting evidence. Like my cousin, I suspected that the bulk of the live audience left the National Auditorium with an overall positive impression.
I couldn’t say the same about me. That night, as I was rereading my notes, I felt were still a lot of questions needed to be answered, the writing in the placard being the first among them. I also questioned their provenance, or the fact that even if the story of the 2 slides being found inside an envelope hidden underneath the box was true, why weren’t they accompanied by some letter explaining their nature and origin? And what was that thing BEHIND the alleged alien body? Did the Army keep Bigfoot heads in that hangar too?
During the whole event I had tried to perform a ‘live-tweeting’ coverage, and my final post was how either the slides became a rehash of the infamous Santilli ‘alien autopsy video’ –i.e. a deliberate hoax– or as a best case scenario, they would turn into the Roswell version of the Patterson-Gimlin film of 1967 –i.e. inconclusive, since a body was needed to provide definitive proof.
Neither myself nor the slides’ promoters were counting on a 3rd alternative, courtesy of the Roswell Slides Research Group (RSRG), a group of independent researchers started after Maussan’s February announcement, who got together through the power of social networks to analyze beWITNESS’s material. Unlike the slide promoters though, the RSRG employed an open-source format to freely share their information with anyone involved; also unlike the promoters and most UFO groups, this one was eclectically formed by people in both sides of the discussion: From hardcore skeptics to pro-UFO investigators, and a few ‘radical centrists’.
Once they got their hands on a post-event image of the 2nd slide the RSRG went diligently to work, and in 48 hours they managed to accomplish what the beWITNESS promoters failed to do in 2 years: Decipher the enigmatic text in the placard next to the body, which read
MUMMIFIED BODY OF TWO YEAR OLD BOY
At the time of burial the body was clothed in a xxx-xxx cotton
shirt. Burial wrappings consisted of three small cotton blankets.
Loaned by the MR. Xxxxxx, San Francisco, California
How could this be, when the slides promoters claimed on-stage that the placard was ‘unreadable’? Simple, the RSRG responded, through the use of the computer program SmartDeblur.
Ironically, it was once again Adam Dew the one who provided the final nail in beWITNESS’s coffin, by posting a better version of the placard on the Slidebox Media website in an attempt to ‘prove’ how the skeptics had created a Photoshop hoax. Now the RSRG could also establish a clear provenance when replicating the result. Check, and mate.
Thus endeth the Roswell slides saga, and yet the aftermath has proven to be even more surrealist than the May 5th event. The first of the promoters to cave in was, strangely enough, the one who had distinguished himself for being the most virulent attacker of any criticism towards them: Anthony Bragalia, who conceded the placard deciphering was genuine, and was quick to pinpoint the exact location of the mummy at the Mesa Verde National Park Museum –something which was independently corroborated by Micah Hanks; he also seemed to display more remorse in the exploitation of an indigenous boy, than in his previous libelous insults against people like Paul Kimball, whom he falsely accused of being an alcoholic and of having accosted Dr. Mitchell in order to dissuade him of traveling to Mexico.
At first, Richard Dolan was willing to give some credence to Dew’s allegations that the deciphered placard had been photoshopped, and kept urging the promoters to release a translated version of the forensic report so it could be properly analyzed by third parties –which hasn’t occurred as of today.
Eventually he was convinced of the soundness of the RSRG work, admitted his mistake in letting his personal opinion of the slides’ skeptics cloud his judgment about their arguments, and proceeded to distance himself from beWITNESS. Of all the people involved in the event, he is probably the one who had more to lose in this affair, because his was the only reputation that remained untarnished by scandal; because of this some of his critics are not satisfied with what they perceive as a timid retraction.
I see it differently: Richard shouldn’t have let himself be involved with someone like Maussan, yes; he was also too trusting of Schmitt and Carey’s assurances that the slides were genuine, while instead he should have demanded to be shown hi-def copies of them BEFORE making up his mind. But taking a stance and supporting something will always be riskier than taking the skeptical approach.
He took a chance, and bet on the wrong horse. That stain will always remain in his trajectory, but UFOlogy will not be able to move forward if it doesn’t change its self-destructive nature, and allow its members to make honest mistakes.
Speaking of honest mistakes, can the same be said of Don Schmitt? He was the one in charge of determining whether the placard could be read or not, and allegedly submitted them to several expert — including employees of the Adobe company and even an analyst in the Pentagon (!)– who all concluded the placard was ‘unreadable’. Had these experts never heard of SmartDeblur before, or were they sent poor copies of the slides? Were they even sent copies of BOTH slides, or just the one taken with a flash?
Schmitt was the 2nd Roswell team member to publish a Mea Culpa, and with this being the 3rd strike in his UFOlogical career –the first one was the embarrassment over the ‘Roswell nurses’ mystery, as published in the OMNI magazine article of 1995, and the 2nd the false claims over his professional credentials— will he be finally sent to the dugout?
As for Maussan, he’s behaving exactly as I suspected he would: Seeing any kind of attack against beWITNESS and the slides as a disinformation campaign against ‘the Truth’, perpetrated by the powers that be. Anthony Bragalia’s apology? He doesn’t even believe the man exists(!). Schmitt’s caving in? He was forced to release the apology because of legal pressures. The deciphering of the placard? Completely irrelevant! “The only thing that really matters is the forensic report submitted by the experts.”
Oh, yes. So what about these so-called experts? Some skeptics have been able to determine how the Canadian anthropologist Richard Doble, is actually an old schoolmate of Tom Carey. Maussan doesn’t seem to think that is a conflict of interest though. I suspect he’d say the same about Dr. Luis Antonio De Alva Galindo, who I was able to watch on May 10th during the Sunday transmission of Maussan’s TV show Tercer Milenio, promoting the corrective eye clinic Omnilaser.
As for Zalce Benítez, I admit he remains the one single aspect in this whole kerfuffle that gives me pause, and actually makes me wonder whether there was something truly anomalous about that mummified body in the 1st place –even if it had NOTHING to do with Roswell. Indeed, it seems Maussan himself seems to be moving toward that idea, and is now even offering a $5000-dollar reward to anyone able to provide a second photograph of the body, whether it’s actually the mummy once exhibited at the Mesa Verde museum, or at the Texas Million Dollar museum, as suggested by Nick Redfern right after May 5th. If enough evidence is given so that the body is actually found, Maussan will raise the price to $10,000 dollars –let’s see if the RSRG takes him on his generous offer.
The problem is that señor Maussan seems to be forgetting how it was HE who deliberately promoted the slides to be directly connected to Roswell to the Mexican public, both on national TV as well as radio and the beWITNESS website. And if he needs to be reminded of that, allow me to share an image taken from the pamphlet I received after I was shown my seat at the National Auditorium.
Like the promotion of a simple chunk of ice as the 8th wonder of the world to the people of Macondo in García Márquez’s novel “A Hundred Years of Solitude”, the sad spectacle beWITNESS turned out to be was arguably the lowest point in the public perception of UFOlogy; a bombastic embarrassment which could have been easily avoided, had the promoters been more willing to share their information with their peers, instead of keeping them close to their chest. But what it’s also true is that with the rise of the RSRG beWITNESS could in a way become a rare blessing, forcing the UFO community to move forward in a very positive way.
The deciphering of the placard showed what small groups, working together through the power of social networks can accomplish, and it could very well prove to be the model for a new UFOlogy in the XXIst century –moving from The Invisible College into The Open Source College.
What we need is find a way to harness that initiative, which was focused on solving a very specific problem, and see if it can be replicated on other cases. For that, new strategies for funding research like the one accomplished by the RSRG as well as other independent studies like Project Core –which was carried out by Jeff Ritzmann, Jeremy Vaeni and a group of scientsts as an attempt to gather data about the ‘close encounter experience’– will have to be explored and applied. One thing is for certain though, and that is those small groups will need to move AWAY from exploiting the UFO phenomenon merely as a source of entertainment for the masses –I’m looking at you, Ancient Aliens and Hangar 1!
UFOlogy as a carnivalesque ‘showbiz’ industry should be left to die and rot once and for all; a freak curiosity of the XXth and early XXIst centuries, which hopefully will amaze and amuse our future descendants when they learn about it in history books –provided it’s explained with legible text, of course…
May 25th, 2015