"Clearly this was not a document written by Anderson's Uncle Ted," Randle and Schmitt conclude triumphantly in their new book. "Ted Anderson could not be reached for comment. He had died several years prior to 1974."
This is a recurrent theme in Roswell research--the unfortunate disappearance of firsthand witnesses due to natural attrition. As the years go by, those who devote themselves to seeking the truth about Roswell face ever greater challenges from fading memories and failing hearts.
The Randle-Schmitt duo took on the Roswell Incident in 1988, thinking they could expose it as a hoax, or at least a harmless flap over something that never happened. Now, after six years and 25 trips to the town, they believe the claims that first struck them as extraordinary. As Randle told me early in our talks, "No mundane explanation fits.
"I'd be extremely disappointed if it turned out to be terrestrial," Randle later said of the Roswell debris, "but I'd accept definitive proof." Since no one saved any of the original debris--at least so far as anyone knows--Randle is unlikely to encounter enough evidence to make him deviate from his current career path.
A resident of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Randle is a former Army helicopter pilot who flew over Vietnam. He has demonstrated a flair for fiction by writing some 70 novels (mostly science-fiction and men's adventure) in addition to his two Roswell texts and consultation on the screenplay for Showtime's ROSWELL movie. Randle looked briefly into cattle mutilations before finding his metier in Roswell. Now he also hosts a weekly two-hour radio program out of El Paso, "The Randle Report," which covers the full gamut of paranormal subjects from past lives regression to the Bermuda Triangle.
When Randle and I met for lunch in Roswell, he chose the restaurant. And when we paid our separate bills at the cash register, he presented a special card that procured him free food from the establishment, in any amount, at any time. This hospitality, like his free room at the motel he recommended to me, is the way the townspeople thank him for his efforts on their behalf. Stanton Friedman may have put Roswell on the map, but Kevin Randle put it in the movies.
Randle's co-author, Don Schmitt of Hubertus, Wisconsin, once served as an assistant to the late J. Allen Hynek, founder of the Center for UFO Studies in Chicago (the first UFO group dedicated to scientific analysis of the phenomenon). Schmitt, who describes himself as a medical illustrator, actually works as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Milwaukee, a position he has held since 1974. (This came as a surprise to many of his fellow UFO researchers, who simply were not aware of his "day job.")
Like Friedman, neither Randle nor Schmitt has ever seen a UFO.
Having dismissed Gerald Anderson as "a hoax," Randle and Schmitt originally put their faith in the eyewitness testimony of their own Jim Ragsdale of Carlsbad, whom they found around Roswell on one of their research trips. Ragsdale said he was camping north of Roswell on the night of July 2, 1947 with a female companion, Trudy Truelove, when a bright object roared overhead and hit the ground. The couple hunted down the wreck that night and identified it in a flashlight's dim beam as a flying saucer, with alien corpses nearby. They returned the next morning, Ragsdale claimed, but couldn't get close because the place was crawling with military police who had cordoned off the area.
This scenario, presented early in THE TRUTH ABOUT THE UFO CRASH AT ROSWELL, includes an asterisk next to Trudy Truelove's name. I glanced at the bottom of the page, expecting to find the usual disclaimer about aliases made up to protect the identity of actual individuals. Instead, I read:
"The story told by Jim Ragsdale has been well corroborated by various family members, including Clint Brazeal, Wendelle and Willard Ragsdale, his wife Mary, and his mother-in-law, `Grandma Lucky."' Now I was not only being asked to accept the existence of Trudy Truelove, but also Grandma Lucky, who was soon joined on following pages by a matriarch called "Big Mom."
Randle rues the fact that Ragsdale has now aggrandized his story and has thus discredited his own testimony. As Randle explained at last October's UFO conference in Pensacola, "The story he [Ragsdale] tells now is much more exciting than just seeing the bodies in the distance. He's now talking about going down and trying to pull the helmet off one of the dead aliens and seeing big black eyes, which is not consistent with what we have learned about what the aliens look like."
I asked Randle if he could get me an interview with Ragsdale, but he pooh-poohed the idea. "Jim, last we heard," Randle said, "was living in a trailer near Carlsbad. He's from there. He's an irascible old man."
Meanwhile, another witness has come forward to fill the gap, adding a weight of new evidence to Randle and Schmitt's new book. His name is Frank J. Kaufmann, although he is called "Steve MacKenzie" in the book. Kaufmann served in the Army in Roswell until 1945, and then stayed on in some paramilitary capacity. He saw the craft firsthand, he says, when he took part in a secret search for it, accompanied by high-ranking officers on a reconnaissance mission through the desert. His name withheld and his face blurred for his first television appearance, Kaufmann pointed out the actual impact site during a Roswell segment of "48 Hours" aired on April 3, 1994.
Secrecy, or shyness--or both--still characterizes Kaufmann, who parcels out his story in installments, like a staged rocket. Nonetheless, he invited me to interview him in his Roswell home. Surrounded by his oil paintings of landscapes, he described the spaceship he saw as being shaped like a wingless airplane, not a round saucer. It was stuck at an angle in a sandy hill. Though still intact, it had popped a side seam, and through this portal he could see the bodies.
"I did everything in the world to try to block it out of my mind," Kaufmann said of the image that still haunts him. "I kept that secret till a few years ago, when Randle and Schmitt came to me. I made them wait a year before I gave them anything. I just told them a little even now. I just told them the outside version." I understood him to mean that he had more to reveal, but could not risk the consequences of telling all, and also feared being branded a kook.
Since Kaufmann offered no documentation for the secret group he said he'd belonged to, or of the debriefing where he was sworn to secrecy--and how could he be expected to produce evidence of such things?--I had to rely on my instincts to judge him credible or otherwise. As I listened to his account of the quickly deteriorating alien bodies, I believed his anguish to be real, though the story did not convince me the event had taken place. When he mentioned that he had personally spoken to Wernher von Braun (the Nazi German rocket whiz who brought the V-2 to White Sands) about the events at Roswell, he tipped the balance for me. I could not follow him that far.
Kaufmann is to Randle and Schmitt what Gerald Anderson is to Stanton Friedman. Strong ties bind each Roswell researcher to his star witness, forsaking all others. I have even heard the researchers attack each other's witnesses--and one another--with insults the likes of "flaming ass," "clown," and "liar." Within the community of Roswell researchers, angry contention surrounds the discussion of conflicting crash sites, the descriptions of saucers, as well as the number, condition, and appearance of recovered aliens. Try as Randle does to portray the dispute as a scientific debate--on a par with paleontologists wrangling over the precise shape of a Brontosaurus head--the rancor weakens the arguments on all sides.
The sole witness who remains everyone's darling is Glenn Dennis, a mortician at a Roswell funeral parlor during the late 1940s. Since Dennis never claimed to see the crashed craft, his story meshes well with all other accounts.
Dennis remembered that fateful July 4 weekend (now changed to the middle of the following week, according to his most recent recollections) as the time he received several unusual phone calls from the base mortuary officer. One inquiry concerned the availability of child-size caskets. (The aliens, all witnesses agree, were as short as ten-year-old children.) In another call, Dennis said he was asked about preservation techniques for deteriorated bodies, and also about the effects of embalming fluids on bodily fluids such as blood and stomach contents. Even more startling, Dennis recalled, an Army nurse at the base told him tearfully how she had been ordered by visiting doctors to assist at the autopsy of three mangled aliens. The nurse had been sworn to secrecy, and she made Dennis give her an oath that he would never reveal her identity.
Dennis, now vice president of the two-year-old International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, no longer grants interviews with the news media. These days he speaks only to Karl T. Pflock of Placitas, New Mexico, who has interviewed him for OMNI in the article titled Roswell: Star Witness.
Pflock is a former employee of the CIA. While living in Washington in the 1960s, he became active in NICAP (National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena)--an early pro-UFO study group founded in 1956. Before moving to New Mexico, Pflock worked as a congressional staff member, and served four years, from 1985 to 1989, as a deputy assistant secretary of defense. He traces his lifelong interest in UFOs back to his own childhood sighting of one. He is married to Mary Martinek, a senior staffer in the Albuquerque office of Congressman Schiff--the same U.S. representative who requested the GAO study of the Roswell Incident.
Pflock believes Dennis's testimony is the key to the conundrum in Roswell.
"I'm firmly convinced Glenn is telling the absolute truth as he remembers it," Pflock told me, after making short shrift of the testimony of other witnesses. (Pflock on Kaufmann: "His story has evolved over the years. How could anyone be comfortable accepting it?" Pflock on Ragsdale: "Ragsdale claims he and his friend saw the flaming craft drop out of the sky during a violent thunderstorm, yet local newspaper weather forecasts and reports for July 4 say nothing about significant lightning or thunderstorm activity in the Roswell vicinity.")
The key to the Dennis testimony, as revealed in his OMNI interview, is the long-lost nurse--how he met up with her on base while aliens were being autopsied; how he met with this same nurse the following day over lunch at the Officers' Club on the base; and finally, how she vanished, never to be heard from again.
Indeed, Roswell researchers have claimed that five other nurses at the base also vanished--hinting foul play or destruction of military records. However, all have since been tracked down by OMNI reporter Paul McCarthy (see the article titled Roswell: The Case of the Vanishing Nurses), and shown to have led eventful lives after the Roswell Incident. All except Dennis's nurse, who remains at large.
Dennis gave her name to Pflock as Naomi Maria Selff. But Pflock concedes that he has been unable to find any records of her presence at Roswell Army Air Field in July 1947--or anywhere else, for that matter.
"Similarly," writes Pflock, "no record of her family has been located. The search continues, but so far, she seems to have disappeared without a trace."
Another possibility is that all efforts to find her have failed because she does not exist. Or she goes by a different name. Los Angeles obstetrician Richard Neal, who investigates UFO events for a hobby, has been hot on Naomi's trail since 1990, when he learned her name from Friedman. In a recent conversation with Dennis, Neal told me, the mortician hinted that Naomi's last name wasn't really Selff.
"From what I gather," said Neal, "Selff was just a name to throw off the researchers." If so, the ploy has certainly succeeded.
Naomi by any other name aside, Dennis's version of the Roswell Incident is singular in regard to the atmosphere at the scene of the action. As he tells it, the Army base was jumping that July afternoon he first sensed something out of the ordinary. Dennis saw Army ambulances parked outside the hospital, chock-a-block full of strange purplish debris, and MPs milling about, even before he encountered the hubbub inside the hospital. But former public relations officer Walter Haut, Dennis's friend of 40 years, who was at his desk on the base that day, recalls no unusual activity whatsoever--except for Colonel Blanchard's asking him to issue a press release about a flying saucer.
As soon as I got to Roswell, I visited Walter Haut, now 72, and to all appearances extremely robust, clear-headed, and affable. I met him at the new International UFO Museum and Research Center, of which Haut is president--and, as I mentioned earlier, Dennis is vice president. This museum, right across from the courthouse on Main Street, opened its doors in October 1992. It is the second such institution to take advantage of tourist interest in the Roswell Incident. The older (by six months) UFO Enigma Museum, on the outskirts of town, features a life-size diorama of the crashed saucer, complete with flashing lights, soft-sculpture alien figures in the sand, and a rifle-toting store mannequin in an MP uniform.
I was pleased that Haut spent two hours talking to me, since he is about as busy as he can be making television and radio appearances, granting press interviews, presenting after-dinner talks, and running the new museum, which is open every afternoon, and has already welcomed more than 44,000 visitors from all 50 states and 54 foreign countries. On broadcasts, he said with a weary sigh, he has been asked everything "except whether I wear boxer shorts or jockey shorts." On occasion, the local police dispatcher awakens him in the night to check out a reported sighting by a concerned citizen.
"I think 99.9 percent of the time such things are explainable," said Haut, who recently had to convince a young policeman that what he identified as a UFO was actually the bright star Sirius--and that it appeared to be moving across the sky because the earth was turning.
I asked the obvious question: "Is Roswell the .1 percent?"
Long pause. I thought I saw Haut torn between his down-to-earth training as a navigator and bombardier, and his public duty as museum president.
"I would guess so," he conceded at length. "Maybe .005 percent."
On a Haut-guided tour of the premises, I was surprised to find two dozen copies of my book on radio astronomy, IS ANYONE OUT THERE?, prominently displayed in the gift shop, cheek by jowl with titles such as UFO CRASH AT ROSWELL, not to mention souvenir Frisbees, hats, T-shirts, key chains, string ties, earrings, and even guitar picks emblazoned with the features of dark-eyed aliens. (I bought three of these for my son, the gilt flying-saucer earrings for my daughter.)
"Walter, do you recognize my name?" I asked him, pointing proudly to the book's cover.
"Well, I'll be," he replied. "I don't think we sell too many of those."
Undaunted, I asked Haut about the original press release, without which there would be no Roswell Incident even now--no matter how hard Stanton Friedman tried to breathe life into the event. The press release had generated the newspaper articles and wire stories that linked the U.S. Army Intelligence Office of the 509th to a flying saucer crash near Roswell. Those reports had given the Roswell Incident a greater reality than any other sighting report. Haut seemed to know this, too, for he had souvenir copies of the front pages of the Roswell Daily Record from July 8 and 9, 1947 on sale in the gift shop. They were the only genuine relics in the whole museum.
(Continued in The Truth About Roswell (Part 3))