Amidst all the hoopla and partying in Roswell this weekend, I hope people take a moment to pause and think about what it all means. Because it isn't a celebration of Roswell's 60th anniversary that's going on there - it's both a wake, and a rebirth.
I say a wake, because the "Roswell Incident", as a serious UFO case, is dead. It's been on life support for quite a while now, but it's finally given up the ghost. Oh, sure, as with Elvis, there will always be a few people who think the "case" is still alive and kicking. New "evidence" - like the occassional Elvis sighting - will pop up from time to time to give them hope (the Walter Haut affidavit shows just how desperate some people are to keep it going, as does the fact that Donald Schmitt is still considered a top Roswell researcher). But the truth is that it's over folks. If the "Roswell Incident" was the crash of an alien spacecraft, we'll never know - at least not until the government admits it, or the aliens reveal themselves. If it was something more prosaic, like Project Mogul, or Nick Redfern's theory, or some other super-secret project, then there will always be those who don't accept that explanation, no matter how much proof the government or researchers might show them. The "case" is dead in the water, because there is no resolution in sight that will definitively answer everyone's questions.
Making matters worse, Roswell has been hit by a number of "bullets" in the past couple decades that have wounded it beyond saving. The Alien Autopsy, Majestic-12, Philip Corso, Frank Kaufmann, Glenn Dennis - any one of these things undermined it as a serious "case" worth investigating. The cumulative effect has been fatal.
So, to Roswell the serious UFO case, I say - rest in peace. Better that people focus their attention on better cases, like Tehran, or RB47, or the 1996 Yukon sightings, or Shag Harbour, or yes, even Rendlesham. Even better still, with Roswell dead to all but the most ardent "Elvis" fan, perhaps researchers can get back to the business of investigating modern sightings more thoroughly. In the process, as we have seen with the O'Hare case, they might discover that interest in the UFO phenomenon, which has waned in recent years, could rise again. After all, the maxim that all politics is local at the end of the day applies in a temporal way to the UFO phenomenon - the "here and now" is the "local". A sixty year old case like Roswell is the equivalent of Timbuktu.
What will this mean for the serious study of the UFO phenomenon? I confidently predict that not only will it survive Roswell's passing - in the long run, it will be better off without it.
But I also said that this weekend is a rebirth. Why? Because while Roswell as a serious UFO case might be dead, Roswell as a legend is just really being born, as my good friend Nick Redfern has recently pointed out. And it is as a legend that Roswell will continue to fascinate people for many years to come, much the same way that the insoluble Jack the Ripper case still fascinates visitors to London, or some of the disappearances in the so-called Bermuda Triangle continue to fascinate people, or the various stories about bandits like Billy the Kid still captivate us, even though we'll never really know which ones are true and which ones aren't.
That's good news for the city of Roswell, of course, and for the people there who make money off of the Roswell story. And there's nothing wrong with that - anymore than there's anything wrong with people making money off of Jack the Ripper walking tours in London.
So, here's to the "Roswell Incident". No matter how hard people tried to crack it to everyone's satisfaction, it remained until its dying days a mystery. It left this world (er... no pun intended) the same way it came in - as a ball of confusion, with a wink and a nod, no compromises and no answers.
And here's to the "Roswell Legend". I predict it will have a long, and profitable, life from hereon in.
Call it the "Elvis" of ufology.
Long live the King!