“I need to tell you one thing. I never saw the bodies. To get down into the vaults, you have to do more than drink a few beers with a second lieutenant. I did see some photos, though, in the archives, that they’d taken back in ’47, when they first found the wreckage [at Roswell]. And I must say—”
“What?” I said, after I’d waited for her to finish the sentence.
“They were children, Danny.”
—Journal of a UFO Investigator
“They were children.” This is the essential thrust of Annie Jacobsen’s new “take” on Roswell, in her recent best-seller Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top-Secret Military Base. When I wrote the dialogue I’ve just quoted from my novel, I’d never heard of Annie Jacobsen. I certainly had no idea she was going to come up with what she did. Can I claim that, in the confluence of her “Roswell” and mine, there’s confirmation for both of us? You be the judge.
I won’t go into detail about Jacobsen’s book, or my responses to it. I’ve already done that in an essay posted on July 1 to the website of The Revealer, an online publication of the NYU Center for Religion and Media (“ ‘The Myth is the Mystery’: Reflections on Annie Jacobsen’s Area 51”). But here’s the crux of what she says:
The Roswell crash of July 1947 was real. The disk was real. It wasn’t from outer space but from Soviet Russia, designed by Nazi scientists whom the Soviets commandeered at the end of World War II to work for their own military machine. The disk’s passengers were also real: human children, “grotesquely deformed … [with] unusually large heads and abnormally shaped oversize eyes”—surgical creations of the unspeakable Dr. Josef Mengele of Auschwitz, done to order for Joseph Stalin.
Jacobsen knows all this because she was told it by an unnamed engineer for EG&G—Edgerton, Germeshausen, & Greer, Inc., a defense contractor with close ties to the horrific experimentation done over the past six decades at Area 51 in the Nevada desert. I do not believe a word of his story—if it’s taken literally.
For me, this engineer is one of the unsung mythmakers of Roswell. He’s a worthy successor to the mortician Glenn Dennis, whose “recollection” of (among other things) a telephone query from Roswell Army Air Field, concerning the smallest hermetically sealed coffins the Roswell funeral home had available, is the germ of the Roswell story as we know it. In some mythmakers’ Valhalla, Dennis and the engineer will no doubt lift a glass with Gray Barker (1925-1984), the mythmaker extraordinaire of the UFO tradition. And all will sit at the feet of their remote forerunners, Homer and Hesiod, and the unknown authors of the Hebrew creation myth that peeps through the cracks in the Book of Genesis.
Liars? Yes, if you’re a literalist; but also, more profoundly, no. More like speakers-of-truth-in-disguise. Conscious of what they’re doing? That’s the great enigma. I wish I could ask them; but I can’t, and if I did they wouldn’t tell me. Probably they don’t know themselves.
Me, I’m not a liar. Not unless fiction is a lie. And independently I wrote the same perception of what’s at the heart of the Roswell mystery, spoken to the protagonist of Journal of a UFO Investigator:
“They were children, Danny.”
Children—dead, slain, murdered. Grotesquely warped and deformed. A powerful image from the unconscious, surfaced this summer in our cultural fascination with the Casey Anthony trial. What’s its meaning? I began to explore that in my Revealer essay. But there’s vastly more than I was able to say, than I’m now capable of putting into words. This is one of those images that penetrates and descends, as the Talmud says, to the very abyss (Sanhedrin 97b).
“Deep calleth unto deep” (Psalm 42:8). Unconscious, individual and collective, calls to unconscious. Myth is the language of its cry.