Secret FBI File Exposes Roswell UFO -- Or Not?

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Brig. General Roger M. Ramey, Commanding General of 8th Airforce, and Col. Thomas J. Dubose, 8th Airforce Chief of Staff, identify metallic fragments found by a farmer near Roswell, New Mexico, as pieces of a weather balloon. This is the basis of the Roswell Incident, the supposed crash of an alien spacecraft
Bettmann/CORBIS

The UFO blogosphere has been burning up over the past few days with news about a recently-discovered Top Secret FBI file proving that flying saucers and alien bodies were recovered in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.

The information, which appears in an apparently genuine FBI file, is being called the real deal. One (typical) blogger crowed that the “FBI secret memo says Roswell flying saucers were legit.”

The March 22, 1950 document from Washington bureau agent Guy Hottel to the director of the FBI, has the subject line “Flying Saucers, Information Concerning,” and states that:

Is it a hoax? Or final proof that flying saucers and their alien occupants are on ice somewhere in Area 51? The Sun newspaper ran a story headlined, “Aliens exist, say real-life X-files,” and quoted a UFO expert named Nick Pope as saying, “These are the real life X-Files. This document could be the smoking gun that proves UFOs are real.”

Or it could be the smoking gun that proves that Pope and many journalists didn’t look at the document very closely.

First of all, the supposedly “secret document” is instead a non-classified, ordinary office memo. This seems odd given the supposedly explosive nature of its contents; you might think that the FBI would do a better job of making sure that anyone in the office wouldn’t have access to a document admitting that they are hiding three crashed saucers and nine alien bodies. The memo has also been known about for years.

Second, Roswell is not mentioned anywhere in the memo. It merely says the saucers were “recovered in New Mexico.” Since the alleged saucer crash in Roswell, New Mexico, is the most famous in the world, it’s easy to assume that it’s referring to Roswell. However, none of the Roswell eyewitnesses described “flying saucers…circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter,” nor nine, three-foot tall aliens wearing metallic cloth space suits.

Instead, the informant’s words match a description given in a proven UFO hoax in Aztec, New Mexico, a year after the supposed Roswell incident. David Thomas, a New Mexican physicist and UFO researcher, found exactly that story was spun by a con man named Silas Newton and an accomplice, who fabricated a UFO crash hoax as part of a scam. Newton was arrested in 1952 and convicted of fraud in connection with the UFO hoax.

The Hottel memo is merely an agent reporting a third-hand story he heard about a crashed saucer that turned out to be part of a hoax. It may be that, as they say, “the truth is out there,” but sometimes it’s not that far out there.