Sixty-three years ago, a rancher named W.W. Mack Brazel checked his sheep after a thunderstorm and found debris made of a strange metal scattered in many directions. He noticed a shallow trench cut into the desert floor.

As the story goes, Mac Brazel drove his rusty pickup down to the county seat of Roswell to inform authorities that something had crashed and scattered metallic debris across his ranch land.

Figuring it must have come from the nearby Army airfield, officers accompanied him back to the ranch, and what they witnessed in the desert has, in the decades since, mushroomed to become the most widely publicized event in UFO lore.

There had been 16 reported unidentified flying object sightings reported that year during the several months preceding what would be known as the Roswell Incident.

The Air Force issued a press release stating that a UFO had been found. That statement was quickly rescinded and another was issued indicating that the debris came from a top-secret weather balloon test.

Adding to the mystery, the Air Force ordered sealed coffins from a Roswell undertaker, fueling speculation that aliens had been recovered.

Roswell Army Air Field became Walker Air Force Base two years after the flying saucer flap. In 1967, the military vacated altogether, leaving what would eventually be developed into an industrial air center.

It’s also home of the notorious Hangar 84 where legend has it, the Roswell wreckage and bodies were stored before shipment to their new digs at the even more notorious Hanger 18 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Roswell has wisely embraced its extraterrestrial past. Once-empty storefronts in downtown Roswell overflow with E.T. and UFO everything. The cornerstone of it all is an old movie house converted into the world’s foremost center for UFO information and study.

Its walls are filled with detailed exhibits examining the Roswell Incident and beyond. Radio broadcasts from 1947 repeat the sensational story. A gallery of UFO-themed artwork lines the wall facing an actual alien corpse. In reality, the skinny gray guy on a hospital gown is from the made-for-Showtime movie aptly named Roswell.

Hours can easily be spent pouring through the neatly organized photos, dioramas, murals, and texts. But a quick trip through the highlights will do for most.

Beyond UFOs

Roswell, however, boasts much more, historically.

The cattle industry brought settlement to the Pecos Valley when John Chisum founded the Jinglebob Ranch in 1878. Growth was slow at first.

Added to the usual frontier lawlessness, hostile Comanches east of the Pecos and Apaches to the west was the violence erupting from the Lincoln County War.

Roswell has been famous in agricultural circles for its high-quality alfalfa, in scientific circles for the rocket experimentation of Robert H. Goddard between 1930 and 1941, and in academic circles for New Mexico Military Institute.

Roswell has a varied economy based on agriculture, shipping, manufacturing, and oil production. Large artesian water supplies have enabled farmers to grow alfalfa, cotton, chili peppers, corn, and pecans, while cattle, sheep, and goats thrive on local ranch lands.

Roswell’s food processing industries include the nation’s largest producer of mozzarella cheese and a lollipop factory.

According to Will Rogers, Roswell was the prettiest little town in the west. Money magazine has called it one of the 10 most peaceful places to retire. Hugh Bayless, in his book, The Best Towns in America, listed Roswell as one of the 50 most desirable communities in which to live.

The Downtown Historic District covers approximately 40 city blocks and contains homes of more than 22 architectural styles. Roswell’s early history explains this unusual architectural style mix. Many styles—Prairie-style, Bungalow, Mediterranean, California Mission, Pueblo Revival, Simplified Anne, Period, Federal, Colonial Revival,


The International UFO Museum and Research Center

Admission: $5; military/seniors, $3; ages 5-15, $2

Address: 114 North Main Street, Roswell, New Mexico 88203

Phone: (800) 822-3545


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  1. Thanks so much for the wonderful post!! i have always wanted to go to ‘area 51’ but never made it.. my family and i always find too much to see in Utah and Arizona, we love it out west as we have lived in florida our whole life. We plan to take a nice long drive out to California next year, i might just make a detour!

  2. Oh yea, we watched it flying around for more than two hours!

  3. Three others, and myself, saw an unidentified flying object on Friday, Nov. 18. We were hiking up the Snow Flake Talc Mine Road and had made camp for the night. We were headed to the ghost town of Beveridge, making a video for a Youtube series called The REAL Desert Dogs.

    It was a clear, moonless night and we were overlooking Saline Valley. While discussing the constellations, which were ridiculously bright that night, we noticed across the valley in one of the mountain passes a bright white light flying around, making weird circles and lighting up the mountain sides. It began to move counter-clockwise (think of the valley as a circle), it then stopped and started moving clockwise, hugging the mountains and getting closer to us. I saw the reflection of the light in the salt lake as it flew over it.

    There was a mountain ridge next to us, and the light moved out of sight. We estimated in about 10 minutes it would appear in front of our canyon. Sure enough, it did in approximately 10-15 minutes. It appeared to be hovering just above the valley floor, and shining a beam forward, it would move in a strafing motion (left and right), forward and backward, and even up and down. It started moving up the canyon we were in, but then veered again and continued on past us.

    We were at an elevation of 3,500 feet, it was below us at an elevation of roughly 1,300 feet (near the valley floor). It made no sound. We think it may have been some sort of rover or other experimental scientific craft. We figured a military craft wouldn’t bother with having a light.

    Good news, though. I did video tape it. Unfortunately, it was so dark out that what I captured on film just looks like a white light against a black background, but I did narrate to give it some context. I’ll be putting this into a future video, that will be coming out in January or February, when I finish the episode.

    I’m a journalist, the other three people were a biologist, a geology expert (biologist with a geologist background), and a historian. We were all understandably freaked out by this.

    Andrew Perry
    The REAL Desert Dogs

  4. butterbean carpenter

    Howdy Rex,