In 1978, a former nuclear physicist called Stanton Friedman happened to meet Marcel while waiting for a television interview in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He heard Marcel’s story of the Roswell incident in 1947, and decided to investigate for himself. Friedman already had quite a vested interest in extraterrestrials by this point.
“I have concluded that the earth is being visited by intelligently controlled vehicles whose origin is extraterrestrial,” he told a committee of the House of Representatives previously in 1968. “This doesn't mean I know where they come from, why they are here, or how they operate.”
He spoke to supposed witnesses about Roswell, some of whom told him fantastical stories. There were tales of alien autopsies, secretive extraterrestrial technology, and more. Thinking he had found a monumental government cover-up, he made his research public, which became the basis of the book The Roswell Incident in 1980.
Interestingly, Friedman had actually discovered a cover-up. But sadly, it had nothing to do with aliens or flying saucers.
What he inadvertently uncovered was a secretive US Cold War program called Project Mogul. This had involved using high-altitude balloons equipped with microphones to monitor atomic bomb tests being performed by the Soviet Union.
Unfortunately, this information was not made public by the US Air Force until 1994. This meant that there was more than a decade of speculation about Roswell until the real story actually came to light. Perhaps somewhat understandably, given how much information was being withheld, imaginations ran wild.
"If you look at the eyewitness testimony, a lot of it was either deathbed confessions, or things related years later," said Watson. "You'd think, for something so important, people would have written in their diary at the time, or taken pretty good notes."
It wasn't just a crashed flying saucer getting people worked up, though. There were also stories of alien bodies being recovered and taken to Area 51 for autopsies.
Again, there was a simple explanation, revealed by the US Air Force in 1997. Around the time of the Roswell incident, the military had been using dummies in high-altitude test programmes like Operation High Dive. This involved dropping dummies with parachutes from high altitudes that would be fatal to humans, to see what happened.
Some of these dummies, along with the balloon from Project Mogul, appear to have accidentally fallen near the small, unassuming town of Roswell. And with no official explanation coming for almost 40 years after the Roswell incident, things got a bit out of hand.