In the 1990s TV series The X Files, FBI agent Fox Mulder was on a quest to discover the facts about UFO sightings and alien abductions. "The truth," he insisted, "is out there." And in the series, that truth involved a labyrinthine conspiracy between some powerful earthlings and extraterrestrial invaders that went all the way back to the UFO crash at Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947.
Something definitely crashed at Roswell in 1947. Local people saw the wreckage and saw government men swoop in to remove it. Then the whole affair disappeared behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy. Now a recently published book, Area 51, by an established mainstream journalist, Annie Jacobsen, has reopened the case. The book's title refers to an ultra-secret U.S. military installation in the Nevada desert to which, according to UFO lore, the craft and alien bodies recovered at Roswell were removed. And Jacobsen's book suggests that the truth is further out there than even Fox Mulder ever imagined.
It's always been difficult to separate myth from reality regarding the strange events around the Roswell crash. The UFO sightings of the era blend in history with all the mutant monsters and alien invaders that dominated so many popular movies of the time, from Godzilla to The Day the Earth Stood Still to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and beyond. There was, of course, a reason for all these fantasy mutations and incursions. America had just entered an undeclared war in which each side threatened to destroy all life on the planet. Nuclear radiation -- the silent, odorless, colorless, and tasteless poison that the atomic bombings of Japan had unleashed -- had entered the ecosystem through atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. And, according to the leading politicians of the day, the enemy -- The Communist -- was within, hiding among us, perhaps disguised as a benign left-leaning Democrat, or even a do-gooder clergyman.