There has been much discussion of the, now infamous, Roswell Autopsy footage, but how much of it is true, what does it all mean to Ufologists, and where do we go from here?
Let us start with a bit of background information. Where did it come from? It seems to have surfaced around two years ago, when British film producer Ray Santilli began searching to find some old archive footage of the rock singer Elvis Presley. He stumbled across an elderly film cameraman who had some old reels of film in his loft. Thinking he had found some valuable old footage, Santilli got excited. "Oh, that's nothing. What till you see this!" exclaimed the cameraman, digging out some even older film canisters; the now famous Roswell autopsy film.
Not being a UFO enthusiast, but being a businessman, Santilli was unsure what to make of the footage, but was initially unable to pay the cameraman the sum he wanted for the canisters.
This is where the story starts getting a bit vague, for it seems that this was a couple of years ago. It took Santilli until late in 1994 before he found a backer willing to put up the money to secure the film canisters from the cameraman.
The first public announcement of the existence of the film was on Friday January 13th 1995, when on the BBC TV morning magazine show; "Good Morning with Ann & Nick", with Reg Presley (the lead singer of the 60's pop group, The Troggs). He was initially being interviewed about his interest in crop circles, and made the announcement as the programme was going out live - much to the surprise (and interest) of Ann & Nick. Unfortunately, the programme ended before too much information could be given, suffice to say that there was apparently a number of 16mm film canisters allegedly showing an alien autopsy being carried out inside some kind of makeshift tent, or field hospital.
After this announcement, a number of national papers decided to run small snippets of the story, although not much further evidence was being released. Santilli was being rather tight-lipped over the whole affair.
Much confusion then ran riot amongst prominent UFO researchers, with many regarding the footage as a hoax - even though no one had seen it - and a number believing in it's authenticity.
Although one of the first descriptions of the 'tent footage' was released onto the Internet by Paul Damon, a UFO researcher from South Wales, it wasn't until May 5th that the film had it's first public showing, at a museum in London.
Researchers were then surprised to see that the footage now shown was different to the original 'tent footage' ("the first autopsy"?) The alien looked very 'human' (see the photo on the front cover) and there seemed to be a number of discrepancies; for example, researchers argued that the wall-mounted telephone had a plastic coiled lead, which was not available in 1947. Also, the alien was seen to have six toes and fingers. This was in contradiction to original 'eyewitness' reports which claimed the aliens recovered from the original crash only had four fingers.
The telephone has since been verified as being a special order and available from as early as the early 1940's. However, the description of the alien still remains at odds with the original descriptions.
Looking carefully at the alien torso lying on the operating table, the arms and legs appear far too human. For example, the biceps and deltoid (shoulder muscles) have remarkable similarity to those of a human body - as do the Gastrocnemius and Vastus lateralis (leg muscles)
It seems strange to me that some alien species, possibly from many light years away could have evolved into a shape so closely resembling a human being.
Fox Television, who seem to have acquired the rights to this 'second autopsy footage' showed the film across the U.S. timed to coincide with a showing by Channel 4 in the UK, on August 28th 1995.
Although the mainstream media picked up the story, it remained remarkably quiet if it was indeed genuine. However, by now most UFO researchers were beginning to decide that it was an elaborate hoax. It became the most hotly discussed topic on the Internet, as sceptics and believers alike argued as to it's authenticity.
Even those who believed it to be a hoax were undecided as to whom orchestrated it. Was it the Government trying to spread disinformation? Was it Ray Santilli trying to make some money out of the UFO community? Was it a PR stunt for the newly released "Roswell: The Movie", starring Martin Sheen? Was it indeed made by crop circle hoaxers?
The whole subject now seemed to be getting out of hand. People were arguing over the various props, like the coiled telephone cord, and the actual appearance of the corpse.
Even some sceptics believed that the film showed an actual body of some kind, claiming that instead of being a recovered alien it was perhaps the result of some terrible human experiment. And, coincidentally around the same time as the release of this film, the US Government opened an internet site showing the results of the "Office of Human Radiation Experiments"
In fact, the concept of the film being of some secret research into human radiation experiments (HRE) is quite conceivable if we accept that the film is not a hoax. The only discrepancy here is that the 'body' had an extra digit on each hand and foot. This is not consistent with my investigations into HRE. However, during these investigations researching this article, I did discover some interesting information concerning HRE which will form the basis of a future article in Enigma.
Having been unable to find any concrete facts with which to disprove or authenticate the 'Santilli' film, researchers turned their attentions to tracking down the cameraman who allegedly filmed the whole scene. Santilli was initially reluctant to disclose the cameraman's name, saying that he had agreed with the cameraman to keep his identity a secret for a number of reasons; fear of Government retaliation for disclosing secrets, fear that the Government would now know he had kept a copy of the film, worry that tax officials may seek him out, thinking he was making money from the sales of Santilli's video....
I don't go along with these, except perhaps the tenuous tax man one, as surely if the government hired a photographer back in 1947, they would know exactly who they used, with or without his name being made public. Perhaps his name was really being kept secret to stop armies of UFO investigators turning up on his doorstep.
However, not wanting to leave this facet of the case unresolved, investigators started turning over every stone they could find in order to reveal his true identity. One fact Santilli had inadvertently 'let out' was that he was initially trying to track down some old Elvis Presley film - which the cameraman had also taken. This gave UFO investigators a starting point. Who had filmed Elvis?
A breakthrough was to be made early in June 1995 when rumour started circulating on the Internet that the cameraman's real name was Jack Barnett and he was now in his 80's and living in Florida somewhere...
Soon an 'official statement' from the cameraman was to be posted to the Internet, presumably with the hope of quieting down the interest of flying out to Florida to track him down. However, there were more inconsistencies yet to arrive. For a start, the cameraman claimed that the crash actually occurred in June (and not July) of 1947. He also claimed that it occurred just outside of an Apache Indian reservation.
Now, the only Apache reservation which fits his description is the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation which is about 60 miles southwest of Roswell. However, Mac Brazel's (who originally reported finding the crash site) ranch is near the town of Corona which is 84 miles northwest of Roswell.
'Jack Barnett' had now not only changed the date of the crash, but also changed it's location. If the whole thing was a hoax, why change such fundamental details so as to make it harder for yourself?
The identity of the cameraman was again to be questioned in August 1995 when researchers started investigating his claims that he had been assigned to photograph various nuclear tests forming part of the Manhattan Project at White Sands testing ground. According to the book "At Work in the Field's of the Bomb" by Robert Del Tredici (pub.1987, Harper & Row, ISBN 0 245-54600-6) all of the photographic camera work carried out at the Trinity tests on July 16th 1945 were the work of one man - and that man was Mr Berlyn Brixner, not Barnett.
Also, according to the 'official' statement from the cameraman he "flew out from Andrews with sixteen other officers and personnel, mostly medical. We arrived at Wright Patterson and collected more men and equipment. From there we flew to Roswell on a C54."
Wright Patterson did not exist in name until 1948. In 1947, the year of the supposed crash, it was simply known as Wright Field.
The other serious inconsistency in Santilli's claims was that President Truman could be seen in one of the canisters of film. To date, this piece of film has failed to materialise. Various researchers have even confirmed that Truman was not in the area during the alleged time frame.
What's more is that Kodak have so far not verified the footage as authentic. various claims were made by people concerning the authenticity and age of the film. The film apparently had an edge code indicating that it was either made in 1947, 1967 or 1987 - as Kodak rotates it's edge coding every twenty years.
Kodak did release a statement saying that they could probably get an exact date for it if they were allowed to do chemical testing on a segment of film, including some frames showing the alien. However Santilli would not allow Kodak to have any film and subsequently claimed that the film was now in the ownership of a German collector who would not allow anyone access to it.
This 'German collector' is one Volker Spielberg (no relation to the Hollywood film producer) who is currently living in Austria. He was tracked down by the French TV company TF1, to whom he confirmed that he owned all the reels of film.
In fact TF1 were probably responsible for the most damaging information to Ray Santilli concerning the real origins of the film.
On Monday October 23rd 1995, The Jacques Pradel Show revealed that Santilli originally went to Cleveland to purchase the rare Elvis footage from the owner, a Mr Bill Randle. Randle is now an attorney, but in 1955 he was a disc jockey working in the Cleveland area. The actual footage that Santilli was after was one of Elvis' first known recordings, when he shared a billing with Bill Haley and Pat Boone. This footage was obtained by Santilli after negotiation with Bill Randle on July 4th 1993.
The French TV network TF1 conducted an interview with Bill Randle and confirmed that he was indeed the owner of the footage - although he was not the cameraman. Bill then went on to confirm that the cameraman was Jack Barnett who was a newsreel photographer working in the midwest in the 1950's. However, Jack Barnett died of heart disease in 1957 and was never in the military.
As any reader will no doubt be aware of by now is the increasing complexity and discrepancies starting to appear in this whole autopsy saga. There have been literally hundreds of messages flying around the Internet, discussing every minute detail of this film and the claims of various characters.
By late 1995, most UFO researchers had come to the conclusion that the film was indeed a hoax but who perpetrated it and why?
Whilst some film special effects people came forward to say how difficult and costly it would be to produce such an accurate looking fake, many more claimed that it was a reasonably easy job. One special effects group, calling themselves "The Truly Dangerous Company" even produced an entire step-by-step guide as to how they would go about making the model - and even set up an Internet site to reveal the secret.
Some anonymous fakester even went to the lengths of sending a photograph of a model to the offices of the Fortean Times magazine.
Things later got even more out of hand when more photos started anonymously appearing on the Internet. Figure 4 (over page) shows one image which reportedly appeared 'somewhere in the far east'.
This 'alien' is actually part of an exhibit at the Roswell Museum, although it does illustrate the lengths some people go to in order to throw confusion on the whole subject. In fact the biggest problem when researching information obtained from the Internet is that of verifying the original sources of material. It's very easy for someone to anonymously post a picture claiming it to be not what it really is. Subsequent readers then help spread mis-information 'chinese whispers' style.
The most recent developments concern an alleged 'Fourth autopsy film'. A number of images (fig.5) recently surfaced as coming from another anonymous source on the Internet, which I believe to be an elaborate, yet well produced hoax consisting of a mixture of images from the Santilli film and the Roswell Movie starring Martin Sheen. The 'set' seems to be identical to the Santilli footage and yet the alien itself is remarkably like that in the Martin Sheen movie.
This is incredibly easy with today's computer graphics manipulation programs, so the fourth autopsy is most likely someone showing off their 'photo editing' ability.
The whole autopsy film saga has taken many twists over the past year, and even though it is most likely some elaborate hoax, it has certainly served it's purpose as an exercise to test researchers and, hopefully, improve investigation techniques. After all, so many established UFO researchers have had their beliefs and investigations questioned, that I'm sure this whole event will lead to a much more thorough investigation of future cases.
George Wingfield, one of the leading investigative Roswell researchers has even tracked down whom he believes are the perpetrators of the hoax, and has termed the nickname "Hilda" for the 'alien' body, which is an acronym for the three hoaxers allegedly involved. This line of investigation is currently on-going, so expect to see more reports in future editions of Enigma. However, for Internet subscribers, George's full report is available by pointing your WWW browser to the Flying Saucer Review web site.
The only thing we don't yet know - if we adopt the hoax hypothesis - is "Why was it done?" Could be be that various hoaxers, dissatisfied with crop circles and minor UFO hoaxes wanted to pull of the UFO hoax of the century, in order to test (or fool) UFO researchers. If so, how much did the film really cost to produce? It looks reasonably low-budget but, hoax or not, it certainly looks pretty convincing.
One other idea I shared with other researchers early on in the case was that perhaps the original 'tent footage' was the genuine autopsy and when it's discovery was announced by Reg Presley on the Ann & Nick show, the Government, worried that the truth about Roswell may eventually come out, hurriedly released the second footage which Ray Santilli purchased. This would obviously steal the lime-light from the original piece of footage and add much confusion to the scene - a fact which is impossible to deny.
Either way, we can be certain that something did crash on Mac Brazel's ranch back in 1947 and that in all likelihood this film does not depict that event.
We must be rational about the whole event and not get drawn down too many false avenues. We must not forget about the original crash and the fact that the U.S. Government is still covering up after nearly 50 years.
Investigations into both the original crash and the autopsy film are ongoing and Enigma readers can be sure that I'm on the case day after day, bringing the up to date facts to future issues.
Readers interested in finding out more about the original Roswell crash of 1947 may like to obtain a copy of "Crash at Corona" by Stanton Friedman - probably the world's best authority on the Roswell incident. This is published by Marlowe & Company at £8.99 and it's ISBN is 1-56924-863-X. This recently went through a fifth printing in 1995.