UFO Crash at Roswell: The Genesis of a Modern Myth / Edition 1

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In the summer of 1947 something mysterious crashed in the New Mexican desert near the town of Roswell. Whether it was an alien spacecraft manned by tiny humanlike beings or—the US government's official explanation—a scientific research balloon has long been a subject of passionate debate. Transcending the believer-versus-skeptic debate, anthropologists Benson Saler and Charles A. Ziegler contend that the Roswell story is best understood as a modern American myth. They show how the story—and its continual retelling—tap into modern fears about the power of technology, the duplicity of the government, and the power of the media. UFO Crash at Roswell also includes physicist Charles Moore's meticulous account of how 1947 experiments to launch balloon-borne radar reflectors may have led to the Roswell UFO myth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Illuminates an intriguing fact of what it means to be human: to want—to need—stories, tall tales, myths, answers . . . hope.”—San Diego Union-Tribune

“A sound case study of contemporary . . . mythmaking, as well as an excellent and objective account of a very curious, and potent, period in American history.”—Journal of American Folklore

UFO Crash at Roswell . . . searches for answers about why so many believe in the crash of a flying saucer at Roswell, how these beliefs came to be, and their meaning. Highly recommended.”—Curtis Peebles, author of Watch the Skies!

UFO Crash at Roswell persuasively explains the wreckage that is key to Roswell; the later tales of alien intrusion; and the varying assumptions, hopes, and fears that likely motivate these tales.”—Stewart Guthrie, Professor of Anthropology, Fordham University

“After reading this groundbreaking book, you can’t look at the Roswell Incident the same way, whether you’re a believer, a skeptic, or uncommitted.”—Albuquerque Journal

“Thought-provoking reading.”—Anthropological Forum

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's not just skeptics who will relish this examination of the supposed crash of a UFO near Roswell, N. Mex., in 1947, and of the myth that has grown up around it. The crash and the alleged ensuing cover-up by the U.S. government has become a lynchpin among conspiracy theorists and those who believe in invading aliens. The three authors, all university professors, never deny the possibility that there was in fact a crash of an alien spacecraft, with alien victims (though they point toward the crash of a military balloon as a more likely explanation for the Roswell phenomenon). They argue, however, that the Roswell "technomyth" serves several functions as a "folk narrative," including the reinforcement of beliefs in omnipotent beings, and the channeling of anti-government sentiment. The myth, they say, is carefully and contentiously tended by a community of "ufologists" who act as "culture heroes" in attempting to liberate the truth from the government's clutches. One chapter further argues that the myth and community have many of the hallmarks of a religion. Despite its impeccable explanations about myths, however, the book's turgid prose will do little to dissuade the vast number Americans who believe that extraterrestrials have landed on Earth. (Aug.)
Library Journal
The UFO community strongly believes that the U.S. government has suppressed information about a supposed flying saucer crash near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. Here, a group of anthropologists look at the mythological aspects of the modern-day folk tale and show how accounts of "documented" events can evolve over time: a portion of the account remains accurate, while other parts get distorted, repressed, or expanded. They note that an event's mythological aspects are perpetrated by television docudramas and UFO authors. Cited among the latter group are Kevin D. Randle and Donald R. Schmitt (The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell, LJ 6/1/94) and Stanton T. Friedman (Top Secret Majic, LJ 10/1/96). Both groups reinforce conspiracy theories by using supposition and conjecture as fact. A detailed analysis of 1947 balloon flight experiments provides a possible basis for the myth. The book's academic tone, however, will appeal to a scholarly audience rather than UFO buffs. [In this anniversary year, see also Philip Corso's The Day After Roswell and Michael Hesemann and Phillip Mantle's Beyond Roswell, both LJ 7/97.Ed.]Gary D. Barber, SUNY at Fredonia Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781588340634
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2003
  • Series: American Studies
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Benson Saler is professor emeritus of anthropology at Brandeis University and the author of Conceptualizing Religion. Charles A. Ziegler is a senior research associate in anthropology at Brandeis University. Charles B. Moore is professor emeritus of atmospheric physics at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Tables
1 Mythogenesis: Historical Development of the Roswell Narratives 1
2 Analysis of the Roswell Myth: A Traditional Folk Motif Clothed in Modern Garb 30
3 The Early New York University Balloon Flights 74
4 Roswell and Religion 115
5 Three Images of Roswell 150
App. 1 The Origins of the ML-307B/AP Pilot Balloon Targets 169
App. 2 Later Experiences Pertaining to the Roswell Incident 175
Notes 181
Bibliography 185
Index 193
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