The world of UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) research is full of conspiracy theories and partial truths that color its history all the way back to when the modern UFO era began with the reported crash of a UFO outside of tiny Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. Jan Harzan, executive director at MUFON (Mutual UFO Network), described by Forbes magazine contributor Jim Clash as "America's premier investigator of the phenomenon," showed no reluctance in proclaiming that the Roswell Incident was not just some easily dismissed mass hallucination or collective delusion over a man-made object. He also has some strong thoughts on why the government insists on leaving the truth out there.
After talking about a couple of high-profile UFO cases, the Travis Walton abduction and the Rendlesham Forest Incident, Clash asked Harzan if the Roswell Incident was real or a hoax?
"Real," he replied. "Get a copy of the video presentation of Recollections of Roswell filmed by MUFON member and well-known UFO researcher Stanton Friedman. It is interviews with some 30 survivors of Roswell, including first-hand witnesses, their spouses and their children. What they tell you will send chills up your spine.
"If you don't believe something extraordinary happened after watching this video, then nothing will convince you. I can tell you this: It was no weather balloon."
The story of the Roswell UFO crash, although not the beginning of government conspiracy theories (for a more complete history on such, read Kathryn S. Olmsted's 2011 treatment of the subject, Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11), was the nexus event that would marry conspiracy theories and UFO sightings. This was due to the actual incident itself, the crash, being reported in a local newspaper, according to the Roswell UFO Museum, as the recovery of the U.S. Army Air Force's recovery of a "flying disk."
The original press story was rescinded later the same day (July 8, 1947) and replaced with a second press release on July 9 noting that a crashed experimental weather balloon had been mistakenly identified by the military as a downed flying saucer.
Over the years, though, eyewitnesses and people who worked on or claimed to have an association with the Roswell Incident have shared accounts of UFO wreckage, the existence of aliens at the crash site, and various military machinations and cover-ups that sometimes lead to Area 51 in Nevada or Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, sites with UFO stories and conspiracy theories of their own.
About those government cover-ups. Clash wanted to know Harzan's thinking on why governments were so reticent to disclose information about the possibility of alien visitation.
Harzan admitted that "the real answer is we don't know."
He went on, "One possible reason is because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that Earth's population is not ready for such a revelation. Other thoughts are that the knowledge would create widespread panic, cripple the stock market and end religion as we know it."
It has long been contended that just the knowledge of intelligent aliens being extant in the universe will shake the very foundations of the world's great religions, causing a worldwide crisis of faith. But not all religious leaders believe aliens will necessarily upend religions. Back in 2014, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, the just-appointed new president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, said, according to Catholic News Service (via the Christian Post) that he believed it was just a matter of time before aliens were discovered. He said that, instead of prompting pandemonium, the discovery would likely facilitate the questioning of God's relationship to intelligent beings outside our own planet.
But the world's religions and financial systems are but a couple of the many organizational and cultural underpinnings that might become unmoored. Jan Harzan believes there is a more urgent reason for governments to cover up the existence of UFOs and aliens.
"Another possible reason is that the technology these beings have is so far advanced – whether it be faster-than-light travel, time travel or other far-advanced technology – that it poses a national security threat to America, especially if these capabilities were to fall into enemy hands. I tend to think it is this latter reason."
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