9/1/95--Like a tenacious computer virus, dead aliens have invaded the
Internet--and now the television airwaves. We speak of the notorious
Roswell "autopsy" film, which purports to depict the 1947 postmortem
of an actual, albeit dead, space alien. For several months, Internauts
have had access to grainy frame captures of the black and white film.
And earlier this week, the footage made its North American television
debut on a FOX network one-hour special. (FOX will rebroadcast the 
program on Monday night, Sept. 4.) Hours before that, the extraterrestrial 
stiff was the subject of television events in Britain, Germany, Holland,
Brazil, and Italy. Of course, we tuned in Stateside to witness what is
either the event of the millennium or a cheesy money-grubbing hoax.

So which is it? Ray Santilli, the British impresario who claims to have
discovered the long-lost films while scouring America for vintage Elvis
footage (you knew Elvis would figure into this story), continues to defend
the films as authentic. Most American ufologists are skeptical, although
British saucer trackers like Philip Mantle of the British UFO Research
Association are more supportive.

Here's the background: Per Santilli, a documentary film producer, 
he purchased 91 minutes of 16mm (for an undisclosed price) from the
former army cameraman assigned to record the monumental event of an alien
autopsy.  50 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time--the book--details the
famous Roswell story: In 1947 something weird crashed outside of
Roswell, New Mexico. It's an absolute fact that the Army announced to 
the world it had recovered a crashed "flying disk." But the very next 
day, military brass recanted and claimed the object had been a mundane
weather balloon. Decades later, a string of researchers would interview
the aging witnesses of the event, who claimed to have handled strange,
otherworldly saucer debris and to have heard accounts of alien bodies 
being recovered from the wreckage.

According to the cameraman (whom Santilli refuses to name), shortly after
the crash, he was called to Fort Worth, Texas, to film the autopsy of 
one of the Roswell EBEs ("Extra-Biological Entities"). In the most 
suspicious part of the story, the cameraman claims that the military 
neglected to collect several cans of the exposed film footage--which 
sat in the now-elderly lensman's attic for nearly five decades. Of 
course, as more than a few skeptics have pointed out, the only thing 
linking the newly discovered footage and the Roswell incident is the 
"testimony" of the anonymous cameraman. The footage--at least the 
portion aired on FOX--features two apparent doctors in hooded hazardous
material suits cutting open the corpse of a big-headed "humanoid." 
But there are no identifiable military personnel in the footage, and 
the "operating room" is blandly nondescript.


The FOX special dispatched some of the suspected anachronisms that
might prove the film a fake: the clock and telephone and operating 
instruments glimpsed in the background are consistent with technology 
of the late 1940s. But other nagging problems remain: the camera work
seems a tad melodramatic for military documentary work--the photographer
used a hand-held camera rather than a tripod--and the camera dodges key
scenes like the sawing open of the skull, focusing on the doctors' backs
instead. At times, the "alien" body looks organic, but from other angles
it looks like it might be a dummy.

As for the provenance of the body, there are only three possibilities: 
It's either a real alien, a faked dummy, or a deformed human being 
passed off as an ET. The FOX show consulted Hollywood special effects
wizards, who seemed impressed with the organic look of the body, 
especially when it was sliced open. They concluded that if it was a fake,
it was a better fake than they could construct. As for the deformed human
being theory, various researchers have pointed out that the body has
features that resemble the morphology of assorted human genetic disorders:
the low ears, enlarged head, the bulbous eyes. Several of the genetic
diseases that might account for these deformities--depending on which
skeptic you talk to--include Patau's syndrome (chromosome 13 trisomy),
Edward's Syndrome (trisomy 18) or Turner's Syndrome. Still, the body's
six fingers and six toes are perfectly proportioned, an unusual occurrence
in humans with birth defects.

Most troubling were the gaping omissions in the FOX special. According to
reports circulating around the Internet, in some segments of the raw footage
President Eisenhower can be glimpsed in the background. It certainly sounds
implausible, but the FOX special made no mention of this rumor. And in one
scene, the doctors remove a flimsy black film from the eyes of the creature,
revealing white eyes and irises rolled back into the head. What's going on
there? Are the oft-reported black eyes of aliens merely soft-lens contacts?
Had the surgeons earlier placed film over the eyes to preserve them? The
FOX special didn't explain.

Of course, in dismissing the spectacle as a hoax, many skeptics are looking
no further than Ray Santilli's lucrative sale of TV rights to his alien
cash cow. The FOX program's producers hadn't returned our query at press 
time, but 50 Greatest Conspiracies has learned that an independent 
Italian documentary filmmaker paid Santilli's production company $35,000
for rights to still photos of the autopsy. With Santilli selling moving
footage to TV producers in Europe, South America and the United States,
well, you get the picture. Santilli, no slouch as an entrepreneur, is
also offering videotapes of the footage to the public, for 35 British 
pounds a pop. Santilli even has a ""
Web site where you can find out how to place an order.


Skeptics of a particularly conspiratorial bent (folks after our own hearts)
have postulated that a hoax might go beyond the coarse profit motive.
They contend that elements of the U.S. government might have concocted
the film with the intention of later revealing it to be a hoax, thereby
chilling the public demand for further disclosures regarding the Roswell

OK, so the verdict is still out on the Roswell film. So you might want
to hold off on plans for a proper alien wake. We'll keep you posted on
the story as it continues to materialize. 
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