I have always been in search of that roadside attraction that claims to have the world’s largest lint sculpture, the world’s biggest spoon, plaster casts of Big Foot’s feet, the potato chip that looks like the Virgin Mary. These places are nearly always fronted by dirt or gravel parking lots, are crammed with dusty merchandise and sell soft drinks out of Styrofoam coolers behind the cash registers.
That is why I couldn’t go to New Mexico without going to Roswell. It is, as far as I know, the only roadside attraction that is not a building on the side of the road but a complete and entire town. Even the globes on the street lights are in the shape of alien heads with alien eyes etched on them. Besides, Roswell has been part of my consciousness for as long as I can remember and it has been part of the cosmic consciousness since the July 1947 crash of an alien spaceship in rancher Mack Brazel’s field 30 miles outside of town. I should say `alleged crash’, because since that innocent reporting of unidentified debris in his field the controversy has been at a simmer, occasionally coming to boil when it attracts the media in the form of a movie, story or news report, and then again stirs the public’s (and Leonard Nimoy’s) imagination. The International UFO Museum and Research Center is known throughout the world.
I was there on a Thursday and there was a steady stream of visitors. More than 150,000 people a year visit the museum. The exhibits are a collection of alcoves that contain reprinted newspaper stories and recorded interviews from the time of the landing as well as a history of UFO sightings from around the world. There are artifacts and replicas and many faked and blurry photos with captions that explain how the fakery was carried out. The photos were made before the invention of the Frisbee, which would have been a natural as a substitute for a UFO. One that used an ordinary button as a space ship was especially intriguing, and, to me, looked the most believable. Once I read the caption the fakery was obvious, but before that—
As the old jazz tune asked, Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t? It’s not for me to say. The town’s mortician at the time, a Glenn Dennis, claimed the military ordered three child sized coffins from him and when he inquired of their unusual request they offered no explanation.
There is a replica of The One Who Fell To Earth. If you’re in New Mexico, even if it’s a little out your way, it’s worth a visit. Don’t forget to look at the street lights.
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