By Michael Lindemann
July 10, 1997
The advance billing could have been a setup for disappointment. But in most ways, the six-day city-wide extravaganza called Roswell UFO Encounter 97 was everything the organizers and participants had hoped for.
Crowds were large and enthusiastic. Hotels for more than 100 miles in every direction reported maximum occupancy. News reporters from twelve or more nations covered every aspect of the events. A three-day formal UFO Conference, featuring twelve high-quality speakers in the largest auditorium in Roswell, was well attended and smoothly run. And for those not interested in serious research, there were non-stop activities ranging from outdoor games and rides to indoor trade shows, theatrical events, films, museum displays and planetarium programs.
In the aftermath, many business people in downtown Roswell, New Mexico -- a normally quiet community of about 50,000 -- said they were more than pleased with the increased sales they had seen. All in all, things went very well indeed.
In perhaps the biggest suprise of the week, a Ph.D. chemist from a California university said at a press conference on July 4 that tests on a small artifact alleged to have come from the Roswell UFO did confirm the object to be of extraterrestrial origin. [see following story]
Despite a massive press build-up in the weeks prior to the festival, it was hard for those in attendance to determine how much of Roswell UFO Encounter 97 was being shown to the rest of the world. Even the potentially bomb-shell disclosure of an ET artifact seemed to produce only modest coverage. Local TV focused mostly on the lighter aspects of the multi-faceted festival. Still, all of the UFO conference speakers were frequently interviewed by the press. The Roswell Daily Record, Roswell's newspaper, ran front page stories summarizing many of the conference lectures. And reporters almost mobbed Colonel Philip Corso, author of the newly released book "The Day After Roswell," when he turned up at the official festival banquet Friday night, July 4. [see exclusive interview with Colonel Corso in Part 2]
The banquet, held in Hangar 84 at the old Walker Airfield (former home of the fabled 509th Bomb Group), will be remembered mainly for the terrific thunderstorm that broke in the middle of the evening. Whitley Strieber was just starting his keynote speech. The sound system, hopelessly inadequate in the gigantic, acoustically ridiculous hangar, was completely overwhelmed as thunder began cracking overhead and torrential rain pelted the metal roof. Many in attendance were heard to comment that such a storm could very well have brought down a hapless alien aircraft 50 years ago, as some researchers believe. Strieber, who said he began to fear electrocution as rain leaked onto the floor, cut his remarks short -- just as well, perhaps, since almost no one understood a word he said. "Too bad," he said later. "It was one of my best speeches ever." Strieber offered CNI News an opportunity to print his text in a future issue.
Meanwhile, out on the streets of Roswell, there were lots of people dressed as aliens, as well as make-up artists assisting people to upgrade their alien appearance. There were alien joggers and alien roller-scaters and alien soap-box racers, even alien baby-strollers. The carnival atmosphere also included a full assortment of carnival rides at the Civic Center.
There were signs of commercial enterprise everywhere, too. In fact, there were probably too many vendors for the available dollars, and some participants in the UFO Trade Show inside the Civic Center seemed disgruntled as the festival wound down. Perhaps the most surprising disappointment for organizers was that almost no one attended two days of classic UFO films shown on big screens July 1 and 2.
Still, it was obvious that the town of Roswell, after half a century of hesitation, has made up its mind to embrace its UFO legacy with gusto. On this occasion, and perhaps for years to come, Roswell can lay claim to the title of "UFO Mecca" for earthlings in search of the ever-elusive truth about UFOs.
Despite the inevitable carnival aspects, there was a serious and sober theme running throughout. During the six day festival, over ten thousand people trooped through the completely redesigned International Museum and Research Center on Main Street, which since last summer has been moved into a huge renovated movie theatre and is now one of the most visible enterprises in the downtown area. And up to 900 or more attended the various lectures that comprised the serious UFO conference, featuring Dr. John Mack, Whitley Strieber, Stanton Friedman, Linda Moulton Howe, Erich von Daniken, Budd Hopkins, Don Schmitt, Robert O. Dean, Paul Davids, Michael Lindemann, and Native Americans Rod Skenandore and Lance Strong Eagle Crawford.
Thus, there was something for everyone at Roswell UFO Encounter 97. Head organizers Stan and Deon Crosby, assisted by scores of volunteers, pulled off the biggest, most sustained public event this town has ever seen, and they did it with style. As things wound down on Sunday, it was hard to find anyone who hadn't had a very good time. Stan and Deon Crosby, meanwhile, were reportedly hoping to sleep a large part of the following week.
CHEMIST DECLARES STRANGE ARTIFACT EXTRATERRESTRIAL
"Case Closed" Says Paul Davids; But Link to Roswell Unclear
By Michael Lindemann
For the most part, there were few real surprises at Roswell UFO Encounter 97. But film producer Paul Davids, famous for his lead role in creating the TV film "Roswell," turned his 90-minute lecture on Friday morning into a press conference where Dr. Russell VernonClark, a chemist from the University of California at San Diego, presented evidence that an unusual shard of material acquired from a so-far unnamed source may be, as the source allegedly claims, a manufactured extraterrestrial artifact.
Paul Davids titled his lecture "Case Closed." He stated that the data to be presented by Dr. VernonClark would conclusively show that the object in question could only be of extraterrestrial origin, and manufactured rather than naturally occurring (that is, not from a meteorite or similar object). Davids then turned the microphone over to Houston-based hypnotherapist and abduction researcher Derrel Sims, who briefly explained that the object was believed to have come from the Roswell UFO crash. Sims said the source was, for now, insisting on anonymity, but might come forward at a later time. Meanwhile, Sims said, the object had undergone stringent testing at several different facilities, leaving little doubt as to its extraterrestrial origin. To detail those findings, Sims introduced Dr. VernonClark.
Russell VernonClark is a young scientist currently employed as an Environmental Health and Safety Specialist in the Chemistry Department at UCSD. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1993. He claims expertise in processes of inorganic analysis including Inductively Coupled Plasma/Mass Spectroscopy (ICP/MS), the process he used to test the alleged Roswell sample. His C.V. lists publication of eight scientific papers since 1993.
Dr. VernonClark said that tests run by himself, and a separate set of tests run by other scientists at another institution, confirmed that isotopic ratios of several constituent elements in the sample object were very far different from expected terrestrial values. On this basis, he said, he was obliged to conclude the object could not have occurred on earth.
Most chemical elements exist in two or more isotopic forms. An element is defined by its unique number of protons, but its isotopes differ in having more or less neutrons. In the language of chemistry, each proton and neutron has a weight of one; thus, an isotope with more neutrons weighs more than an isotope with less. Extremely sensitive tests can discern these differences in atomic weight, and thus determine the relative percentage of differing isotopes in a given sample.
Furthermore, it is generally agreed that the ratio of isotopic weights for any given element occurring on earth will always be the same, within a very small margin of variance (about 1%). It is thought that these fixed isotopic ratios might be a product of the original formation of elements during the earliest phase of our solar system, as it gradually organized out of the so-called solar nebula. Thus, even elements on Mars should have very nearly the same isotopic ratios as elements on earth.
Dr. VernonClark reported findings on five constitutent elements in the sample. These elements were silicon, silver, nickel, zinc and germanium. In every case, he said, the isotopic ratios varied from the expected norm by an astonishing degree. He said he was almost unable to believe his own results, but concluded he must be right when a second, thus far unnamed, laboratory turned in almost identical findings.
For example, VernonClark reported the test results for silicon, which was found to comprise over 99% of the total sample. In terrestrial silicon there are three stable isotopes: silicon 28, 29, and 30. In normal silicon, isotope 28 will comprise 92% of any sample, but in the tested sample it was only 27%. In normal silicon, isotope 29 is 5%, but in the sample it was 43%. In normal silicon, isotope 30 is 3%, but in the sample it was 30%. According to VernonClark, these huge variances are unheard of in terrestrial elements.
CNI News contacted a number of scientists at leading research centers including Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and California Institute of Technology to discuss these findings. None of the scientists were willing to be quoted by name, because they did not have direct access to the data. But all of them agreed on two things: the findings, if true, would be astounding -- and the findings were very unlikely to be true.
False findings, they said, would probably be the result of faulty testing rather than a fraudulent sample. Though it is theoretically possible to alter the isotopic ratio in a test sample of a single element, it would be exceptionally difficult -- virtually impossible -- to create a sample containing as many as five different elements all displaying greatly altered ratios. On the other hand, these scientists said, findings this anomalous demand more testing and extensive peer review before they could be taken seriously.
Paul Davids told CNI News he is confident that when the second testing facility is identified, and the other scientists involved in the tests come forward, it will be clear that the tests were not erroneous.
In the same vein, Dr. VernonClark said he would never have risked announcing his own findings if he were not greatly reassured by the findings of the second laboratory. Given the corroboration, VernonClark said, he could state his conviction that the sample was extraterrestrial. Furthermore, he said, the purity of the silicon in the sample was a strong sign to him that the object must be manufactured. Silicon is not known to occur in pure form in nature.
Paul Davids also told CNI News that he believes a paper on these findings will be published in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal soon. He said that a major west-coast university might be involved in this publication, but he said the extreme sensitivity of the subject matter precluded him from giving any more details.
Pressed by many who questioned the findings, Davids conceded that the link between the anomalous object and the Roswell UFO crash was weak at best. "I was told that the chain of evidence linking the piece to the crash would be presented at the press conference," he told CNI News. "It was not." This was to have been Derrel Sims' contribution to the proceedings, Davids said. However, Sims stated that the source of the object could not be revealed at present, for that person's own safety. Thus it cannot be determined if the source was even present at Roswell in 1947, much less in a position to have acquired a piece of the alleged UFO.
In defense of the claim that the object came from the Roswell UFO, crash debris eyewitness Dr. Jesse Marcel Jr. was called to the podium at the end of the press conference. Marcel said the object in question was very similar to material he had been shown in 1947 by Major Jesse Marcel Sr., his famous father. Marcel Jr. has often referred to that material as "like Bakelite," an early form of black plastic. Paul Davids conceded, however, that Marcel's testimony was not sufficient to link the test object to the 1947 crash.
As this story was being prepared for publication, CNI News received a call from television producer Chris Wyatt, who was involved in arranging the original testing of the object. Wyatt invited CNI News to create an exclusive information center at our web site to report on all aspects of this alleged extraterrestrial artifact. We are already taking steps to incorporate information provided by Wyatt and others into the CNI News site (www.cninews.com). We also anticipate directly interviewing Dr. Russell VernonClark within the next week. Further details on this story will be presented as soon as they become available. Check the CNI News web site starting Monday, July 14, for the latest updates.
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