I know I said I’m taking August as a break from blogging. But last week’s news about Area 51 has brought me in from my hammock.
The CIA, according to Alan Boyle’s article last Friday on the NBC News website–linking to a release from George Washington University that gives access to the official document–has at last admitted Area 51 exists. And that it played a crucial role in the development of the U-2 spy plane back in the 1950s.
It hasn’t admitted a thing about UFOs. Or any connection between Area 51 and Roswell.
Writes Boyle: “Such high levels of secrecy [about Area 51], combined with the occasional sightings of strange aircraft, have fueled UFO tales for decades. For example, in a 2011 book titled ‘Area 51,’ investigative journalist Annie Jacobsen quoted her sources as saying that wreckage from the Roswell UFO incident ended up at Area 51 for study.”
I read Jacobsen’s Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base two years ago, shortly after it came out. The impression Boyle leaves of the book is not quite fair. Although I’d guess most of the people who bought Area 51 did so because of its supposed revelations about UFOs, these are only a small part of Jacobsen’s story.
“Area 51 of the Nevada Test and Training Range appears through most of her book”–so I wrote in a review essay for “The Revealer,” an NYU-based online journal—“as a stage for the deadly arms race between the US and the Soviet Union, testing ground for devices like the U-2 spy plane, the F-117 stealth bomber—all developed in conditions of deepest secrecy, sharing the site with nuclear tests so toxic, so terrifying, that one’s hair practically stands on end to read about them. There are crashes aplenty, harrowing ones, all involving aircraft ordinary or experimental.” This is essentially what’s now been “revealed”–or confirmed–by the CIA.
The disk that (allegedly) crashed at Roswell, and (again allegedly) was stored at Area 51, is “but a thread,” Jacobsen says, in her wider, scarier–and now it would appear, fundamentally accurate–story of the Nevada site. It’s a thread that was never really woven into her book, and might better have been plucked out and discarded. Her theory of the Roswell disk, based on what she heard from an unnamed informant, is eccentric to put it most charitably. The bodies found alongside the crashed disk, Jacobsen says, “were not aliens. … They were human guinea pigs … children … grotesquely deformed … [with] unusually large heads and abnormally shaped oversize eyes.” They were surgical creations of the diabolical Dr. Joseph Mengele of Auschwitz, done to order at the end of World War II for another, equally evil Joseph: Stalin.
Their purpose: to be sent into American airspace, in Nazi-designed flying disks, with the idea they would land, be mistaken for Martians, and create a repeat of the “War of the Worlds” panic of 1938.
I explained in my essay for “The Revealer” why I regard Jacobsen’s story as wildly implausible, more so than any notion of crashed space travelers. I won’t repeat my arguments here. But what is absurd as history may be profoundly true when read as myth. I’ve reflected in a number of contexts on the link between the UFO mythos–so I regard it–and death. In this case, the collective death of the entire human species, which first became possible about the time (1947) UFOs burst upon the world.
“Here lies the key,” I wrote in my “Revealer” essay, “to the real relationship between Roswell and Area 51. Not the transfer of non-existent corpses from one place to the other. Rather, the Roswell myth (like Perseus’s mirror) providing a reflection, distorted enough to be endurable, of the inner meaning of the Gorgon horrors at the Nevada Test Site: the hubris of child-man, fancying himself a god, crashing like Icarus to eternal and irrevocable death.”
Or, as Rochelle Perlmann says to Danny Shapiro in my novel Journal of a UFO Investigator, telling him what she’s learned from her investigation at Roswell about the bodies found in the wreckage:
“They were children, Danny.”
by David Halperin
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Back in two weeks with my next blog post.