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Photo of Philip Klass Aliens Have Landed -- Philip Klass

In July 1947, an alien spacecraft crash landed in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico. Or did it? Frontiers viewers learned more about what really happened in Roswell when prominent UFO skeptic Philip Klass answered their questions.

Q How did you first get interested in the Roswell incident and why did you decide to take up the role of presenting what you think are the true facts?

Before commenting on Roswell, I must set the stage. I first became interested in the "UFO mystery" in mid-1966, spurred in part by a surge of public interest, including the U.S. Congress. At the time I was one of the senior editors of Aviation Week & Space Technology (AW&ST) magazine -- which has published more articles on space technology and space travel than any other publication in the world. If I could find any UFO case which could not be explained in prosaic/earthly terms, I could write -- and AW&ST could publish--the greatest story of the millennia. (I might win a Pulitzer Prize, a giant bonus from my employer and eternal fame.)

And so I began investigating then famous, seemingly mysterious UFO cases -- such as the 1964 "UFO-landing" case at Socorro, N.M., and the South Hill, Va. UFO-landing case of 1967, among others. But alas, these and other cases turned out to have prosaic explanations. (The explanations are contained in my book, "UFOs Explained," published by Random House in 1975, which is no longer in print.)

The claim was first made in 1980 that the U.S. Government had recovered a crashed extraterrestrial craft and ET bodies in 1947 in New Mexico in the book "The Roswell Incident," by Charles Berlitz and William L. Moore. I knew that claim was flatly contradicted by once "Secret" CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) documents that had been declassified and made public in late 1969. These documents, prepared in mid-1952, had been used to brief the Director of Central Intelligence so he could respond to a recent inquiry from the White House. There was no mention of these CIA documents in the Berlitz/Moore book--nor in any of the books, articles or TV shows which followed and which made similar claims.

For example, one briefing document dated Aug. 14, 1952, cited several possible explanations for what UFOs might be, including the following: "The third theory is the man from Mars -- space ships -- interplanetary travelers. Even though we might admit that intelligent life may exist elsewhere and that space travel is possible, there is no shed of evidence to support this theory at present."

A second once "Secret" CIA briefing paper, dated Aug. 15, 1952, stated" "Finally, no debris or material evidence has ever been recovered following an unexplained [UFO] sighting."

In studying the first Roswell book, and those that followed, I discovered that all of them quoted from a Sept, 23, 1947, letter by Lt. Gen. Nathan Twining -- then commander of the Air Force's Air Materiel Command at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, where books and TV shows claim that the crashed saucer and ET bodies were sent for analysis. Twining's letter was in response to a query from a high Pentagon intelligence official seeking to find out what UFOs might be. All of the Roswell books quote Twining's comment that "the [UFO] phenomenon reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious."

But not one of the books quotes a subsequent sentence in the same letter in which Gen. Twining cautions that "Due consideration must be given to the following: The lack of physical evidence in the shape of crash recovered exhibits which would undeniably prove the existence of these objects. And this Twining letter was written nearly three months after the Roswell incident had occurred.

In my more than eight years of research into the Roswell incident, I have discovered other once "Secret" and "Top Secret" documents which prove beyond any doubt that what crashed on the ranch near Roswell was not an ET craft. My lengthy research has shown there is indeed a cover-up -- not by the U.S. Government but by those who write books and produce TV shows which falsely accuse the government of cover-up to "brainwash" the public.

The results of this research are detailed in my new book "The REAL Roswell Crashed-Saucer Coverup," published by Prometheus Books, Amherst, N.Y.

Q Do you think you are making progress in disproving or debunking the alien incident -- or does this myth seem to be as strong as ever?

When I was in high school and college, I performed magic Assuming this question pertains to the TV-movie "Alien Autopsy," the recent Scientific American Frontiers TV show demonstrated how easy it is to create an "Alien Autopsy." More than two years ago, Eastman Kodak offered to analyze a small piece of the original film to determine if it had really been processed in 1947, as its promoter claims. To date, the promoter has not availed himself of Eastman Kodak's generous offer. Very few "serious UFOlogists" who believe some UFOs are ET craft give any credence to the Alien Autopsy film.

Q On the show we saw what seemed to be a tour guide telling people about bodies and their location after the crash. Since there is no scientific evidence to prove this, how can the tour company get away with presenting this false account of what really happened? Have you and others made any attempts to stop this information?

The owner of the ranch on which some persons claim the UFO crashed -- Mr. Miller ("Hub") Corn -- did nor himself make this claim. But when many UFOlogists began to visit the site, without Corn's permission, he decided to turn it into a tourist attraction and join the many others who have "lined their pockets" by exploiting the credulosity of the public. I have made no attempts to halt Corn's enterprise, other than presenting the truth in my new book.

Q In your scientific opinion, could aliens really exist?

With "jillions" of stars in the vast universe, it would seem probably that there are many others with planets and that some of these would have intelligent life. It is for this reason that the SETI Institute employs giant radio telescopes to "listen" for signals from distant civilizations. Most probably such ET civilizations would use radio signals to search for and locate other intelligent life before sending a craft to this planet.

However, suppose than an ET civilization beamed a radio message toward earth some 2,000 years ago -- some 1,900 years before we first invented radio. When they got no response, they may well have concluded: "There's no intelligent life on that planet" and have beamed their radio messages in other directions. Then, perhaps 1,000 years ago they decided to try again -- again with no response from us. They may have given up for good, or perhaps they plan to try again but last year they engaged in nuclear was and destroyed all life on their planet.

There are some UFOlogists who claim the government knows that we have ET visitors but are keeping it secret because they fear the public would panic, that Wall Street would crash, and that our traditional religions would suffer. I have far more confidence in the American public -- and the peoples of our planet.

Q In your opinion have there been any events that indicate any REAL evidence of alien life in the solar system?

To the best of my knowledge, there is no scientifically credible evidence or events that would indicate ET life in our solar system or elsewhere in the vast universe. However, hope persists and research continues via giant radio telescopes and sensitive radio receivers by the respected SETI institute.

Q Why, after 50 years, are people still so interested in the Roswell incident?

If an extraterrestrial craft with ET occupants had really crashed near Roswell it would have been the most extraordinary event of all time. And if 10 American Presidents starting with Truman had been so foolish as to try to keep such an event under cover for 50 years, that would be almost as extraordinary. People are, understandably, influenced by what we read, what we see and hear on TV.

The city of Roswell, seeking to attract tourist dollars, scheduled and publicized a week-long 50th anniversary "Roswell Incident" celebration last July. This attracted more than 30,000 tourists and more than 200 news media representatives from TV, newspapers and magazines Most of the news media chose to report the "party line" of crashed-saucer and government coverup rather than devote the effort to investigate such claims. A notable exception was the recent Scientific American Frontiers TV program which offered viewers the most accurate account of what really crashed and provided once "Secret" government documents to validate that there was no government coverup.

QI am a middle school teacher in San Diego, teaching a unit in astronomy. I have one student who insists, not only that aliens exist, but that she has been abducted-twice. She is not joking, and sites various "evidences" to support her claims. One for example, is of cave drawings in South Africa? She is a bright girl and may some day learn to be more skeptical of these sorts of claims. She is now, however, more apt to be skeptical about the Government and conspiracy theories. What can I say to her that she will hear?

This is an interesting case and I invite this teacher to write me and provide more details so that we can jointly offer wise counseling for this student. This student risks being psychologically scarred for life by her current beliefs.

QHow do you feel about TV shows, like the X-Files?

I have mixed emotions about TV shows such as X-Files, which give viewers the impression that what they are seeing is based on fact when in reality the show is based on a few real facts and a great deal of fictional fantasy. I am much more critical of TV shows, such as "Unsolved Mysteries," which claim to be based on fact but whose producers knowingly and intentionally withhold key facts from viewers that would "solve" the "unsolved mysteries." Specific examples are documented in my recent book, "The REAL Roswell Crashed-Saucer Coverup" (Prometheus Books, Amherst, N.Y.)

Q Theories of government conspiracy always seem to a part of any discussion about alien encounters. If there really were an alien landing, do you believe the government would try to cover it up?

If any UFOs were ET craft and if UFOs only were reported over the United States, it is conceivable that an ET landing or crash might be kept secret for a few hours or for several days -- until word of the extraordinary event leaked to the news media. But because UFOs are reported around the globe, and an ET craft could land or crash in London, Paris, Baghdad or North Korea, any effort by the U.S. to keep such an event secret would require the cooperation of leaders of every country in the world. And since most countries are eager to attract tourists and have seen how Roswell has benefited from a 50-year-old myth, I'm confident that the first country to receive ET visitors will announce that fact promptly -- and will be deluged with news media and tourists.

QWhat sources do you suggest for accurate and analytical reports about suspected UFO sightings, etc.

TRegrettably, because books that promote belief in UFOs as ET visitors sell vastly better than those that offer prosaic/earthly explanations, there are relatively few sources that offer "accurate and analytical reports" on UFOs. Once of the best is "The UFO Handbook: A Guide to Investigating, Evaluating and Reporting UFO Sightings," by Allan Hendry, published in 1979 in softcover by Doubleday/Dolfin. In the book, Hendry reports on his personal investigation into 1,307 UFO reports submitted to the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) for which he served as chief investigator. Regrettably, the book has been out of print for more than a decade.

Two of my own books also report on my investigation into many UFO incidents, which involved a variety of "trigger mechanisms."

"UFOs Explained," published in 1975 by Random House. (No longer available for purchase but may be found in some libraries.)

"UFOs: The Public Deceived," published in 1983 by Prometheus Books, Amherst, N.Y. (Available in quality soft-cover. Current price: approximately $20. Autographed copies available from author.)

Another commendable book is "Watch the Skies: A Chronicle of the Flying Saucer Myth," by Curtis Peebles, published in 1994 by the Smithsonian Institution Press. If you chance to visit the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, Pebbles' book is on sale there.


Scientific American Frontiers
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