Marketing UFOs and mysteries in New Mexico
Roswell in 1947; Aztec in 1948...
There’s a reason “the world’s most famous, most exhaustively investigated, and most thoroughly debunked UFO claim” belongs to and in New Mexico.
As Benjamin Radford writes in his book Mysterious New Mexico, America’s 47th state is dubbed the Land of Enchantment because “mystics, artists, outlaws, dreamers, explorers, and scientists have been drawn to New Mexico for centuries…”
Hoaxers too, trading off the world’s fascination with folklore, accounts of paranormal phenomenon, ghosts, mass hysteria and miracles.
So to the 1947 Roswell incident, the alleged recovery of debris from a flying saucer and claims of a US government cover-up in this New Mexico city. The incident worked its magic – on mass imagination and the mass market – enabling Roswell to heavily market itself off the world’s fascination with aliens. In fact Roswell’s official seal still features a little green man and the city has numerous UFO-related statues, attractions and events.
In his book, Mr Radford investigates a similar incident, also in New Mexico, which also allegedly revolved around an alien craft. It was said to have occurred in Aztec in 1948. It’s said, he writes, to have been “the first time that the US government was alleged to have recovered – and then hidden – an intact extra-terrestrial spacecraft and its occupants”. He adds that sceptic or believer, it’s one of the “most bizarre” incidents in the “southwest’s colourful history”.
Mr Radford’s investigation is thorough. He correctly notes that no one would’ve heard about the remarkable events at Aztec were it not for an oil man, Silas Newton and his friend, Hollywood reporter Frank Scully. A third man – ‘Dr Gee’, whose real name was Leo GeBauer – provided the allegedly scientific basis for Scully’s book.
Except that there was none. Newton and GeBauer were “swindlers”, according to Mr Radford’s account. And Scully’s book is now shown to have been a credulous account of a scientific hoax.
Yet the story lived on for a while.
Aztec copied Roswell and started to hold an annual UFO symposium, which was successful for a few years and finally ended in 2011. That’s still a pretty long run of luck for a con story!