Ah, Roswell. Perhaps there is no greater alien conspiracy theory that has captured the hearts and minds of the world. But does anyone know what actually happened? Why yes, yes they do.
It all began on a fateful day back on July 7, 1947. That was when a rancher in Roswell, New Mexico called Mac Brazel discovered some strange debris on his sheep pasture. This consisted of sticks, bits of metal, and a foil-like sheet that regained its structure when crumpled.
Unsure what it was, he spoke to the local sheriff, who in turn got in touch with the Roswell Army Air Force Base (RAAF). They sent out Major Jesse Marcel, who excitedly thought he might be seeing the remains of an extraterrestrial flying saucer.
Flying saucers were big news at the time, with the term only originating two weeks before. It was accidentally coined by aviator Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947, when he described seeing flying objects in the sky moving like a saucer skimming on water. These comments were taken out of context, and the flying saucer was born.
So when, on July 8, the RAAF sent out a press release saying they had recovered a “flying disk”, people were understandably excited. The following day, the Roswell Daily Record published an infamous front page story: “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region.”
The US Air Force sought to quell speculation by stating the next day that the debris was from a weather balloon. At the time, this seemed like a satisfactory explanation and the story was dropped. But decades later, it would be the catalyst for UFOlogists to run wild.
“Roswell has got everything really,” Nigel Watson, author of the Haynes UFO Investigations Manual, told IFLScience. “It’s got government conspiracy, it’s in a remote location, it’s got stories of aliens and spaceships, and there’s the [idea] this wreckage was perhaps taken to Area 51.”