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Roswell and Annie Jacobsen — “They Were Children”

“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.

7 Responses to “Roswell and Annie Jacobsen — “They Were Children””


    David — I understand your interpretations.

    However, I have questions about the basic premises.
    Have the Russians acknowledged that the “UFO” came from them? And for what purpose?
    It seemed from your essay that it was conjecture, unsupported by true, verified facts..

    Did I miss something?

  • David:

    Carol — The story rests upon the testimony of an unnamed engineer from EE&G. The Russians have never confirmed it, nor has their supposed disk left the slightest trace in the subsequent history of the arms race (or any hint of it come to light after the breakup of the Soviet Union). The “purpose” that Jacobsen alleges is, as I point out in the “Revealer” essay, quite absurd: to pass the disk’s pilots off as space aliens, and thereby to start a panic like the “War of the Worlds” panic of 1938. I think it’s clear the events of the story never happened. It’s truth is mythical, not historical.

  • David VanHook:

    Interesting points, David!

    And isn’t that the most powerful kind of truth, in many ways: the power of mythological truth? Study after study has found that the human brain, when confronted with new and unknown data, will almost always try to interpret it in a fashion that goes along with already established (and rarely — if ever — challenged) “truths” it knows. Which is why arguing with someone who has already made up their mind about something (the existence of UFOs, global warming, whatever) can be an exercise in futility: any fact, no matter how obvious, can be either invalidated by or turned into proof of an already established (and often mythological) truth.

    If only more of our myths were more helpful to the human cause!

  • I agree 100%. Damn, what a way to look at the truth.

  • C. Fernandez:

    I understand where you’re coming from in regards to the mythic content of the UFO phenomena. I think that Jung was right about something, and this something has to do with other areas of paranormal events. However, I am left with a lingering doubt, which I cannont put to rest. It is the following, in the UFO events (as with other paranormal phenomena), there is not only a disturbance in the consciousness of the observers, but a disturbance in actual macroscopic phenomena. Radars, geiger counters, photographic films, terrain, etc.

    How can one conciliate both? If it is exclusively a result of the unconscious, where the archetypes harness power over the interpretative instances of mental activity, something akin to a collective hallucination, why would there ever be some kind of physical trace to the events? Either our ontological models are deeply mistaken, in that idealism would seem more fitting than physicalism, material monism or panpsychism (maybe not neutral monism), or whatever UFOs are cannot be said to be strictly dependent on the consciousness, supra or subliminal, of the human kind. Now, im not saying that we divorce archetypes and consciousness from it, not at all, but it doesnt follow that intelligent, independent entities are not associated with the events, either from other places in this physical world, or other ‘realms’ or ‘dimensions’. What do you think, David?

    • It’s a good question, Mr. Fernandez. And I have no very good answer.
      Jung himself, as you’re no doubt aware, struggled with it in the final chapter of “Flying Saucers.” “If weightlessness is a hard hypothesis to swallow, then the notion of a materialized psychism opens a bottomless void under our feet.” I’m too much of a materialist to be willing to go that direction.
      I have no choice, then, but to fall back on the sort of dogmatic denial that used to so infuriate me, coming from the UFO skeptics. That is, to suppose that wherever we have radar returns, photographs, or traces there MUST be some prosaic explanation–the radar returns are false echoes, the photos faked, the traces created by human agency. I am not very comfortable with this, but I see no way around it.
      I would draw some support from a web posting I only recently came across, that provides the first wholly convincing explanation I’ve seen for the Betty/Barney Hill sighting of 1961: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/009378.html. (I mean, the sighting that triggered the “abduction” memories; the memories themselves seem to me to require some psychological accounting.) And this explanation depended on the accident that the light in question was still in existence when the author of the post retraced the Hills’ journey. Otherwise, we’d still be stuck with the weak “planet Jupiter” explanation, or else just have to shrug our shoulders.
      Of course, we could also say there’s both a physical phenomenon AND a psychological one, the two interacting. (I think this is where Jung was heading.) If so, the physical phenomenon would seem to me an insoluble mystery, at least until some unimaginable development takes place. Whereas, studying the psychological phenomenon, we’re able to get somewhere. Which is why that’s where I prefer to direct my attention.
      Thanks again for all your very thoughtful comments.

  • C. Fernandez:

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply, David.

    From the brief incursions I have taken into this field, some cases stick out like a sore thumb. Since I have studied other phenomena like apparitions (of the living and the dead), poltergesit cases, mediumship, PSI (psychokinesis, telepathy, etc) I can see how the archetyepes of Jung meddle around and about, but there certainly is a physical phenomena which acompanies the events which would otherwise demand very specific circumstances for it to ocur naturally. These simply were not present in those cases.

    In any case, I agree with you that the study of the physchological effects and causes is certainly a fruitful avenue. And yet I still enjoy toying around with metaphysics and trying to discover which helps us make all of this intelligible. Ill follow the links and keep an eye to your blog, encouraging you, while at it, to continue your work. It certainly is appreciated.

    Hope that all is well.

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