Opinion Brief

Was Stalin behind the Roswell UFOs?

A new book suggests that a favorite incident of UFO conspiracy theorists was really just a Cold War attempt to scare Americans

UFO conspiracy theorists may be in for a letdown. A new book — Area 51 by Annie Jacobsen — says no alien spacecraft crashed to Earth in the famous so-called Roswell Incident of 1947. According to Britain's Telegraph, Jacobsen says the craft that smashed into the desert in a terrible storm was actually a top-secret Soviet plane with "grotesque, child-size aviators" bred in horrific human experiments and sent by Joseph Stalin to create panic in the U.S. Is that possible — or is this story even harder to believe than tales of shipwrecked aliens?

This is even harder to believe than the UFO stuff: "Does this whole story sound too outlandish to be true? Obviously," says Cyriaque Lamar at i09. But given "the extraterrestrial hysteria following Orson Welles's 1938 War of the Worlds radio reading," this alleged plan might have been "just crazy enough to work." And the addition of Nazi eugenics scientist Joseph Mengele to the story, as the monster who created the mutant child-pilots, is a nice touch."Was Area 51 a conspiracy between Stalin and Joseph Mengele?"

Well, Jacobsen comes by her account honestly: The author of Area 51 is no nut job, says Chris Matyszczyk at CNET. She's a Los Angeles Times Magazine contributor who conducted interviews with eyewitnesses — some of them former scientists from the top-secret former CIA base in New Mexico. She also cites previously classified documents. At the very least, "the words of Jacbosen's book make for splendidly disturbing reading" — she says the bodies found on the crashed craft were "grotesquely deformed," with "unusually large heads and abnormally shaped, oversize eyes.""Roswell 'was plane full of alienlike children sent by Stalin'"

This theory is not the book's focus: "Although this connect-the-dots UFO thesis is only a hasty-sounding addendum to an otherwise straightforward investigative book about aviation and military history," says Janet Maslin in The New York Times, "it makes an indelible impression." So despite Jacobsen's exhaustive and well-documented look at the weaponry and espionage programs at Area 51, her inclusion of a strange tale of human guinea pigs means this book "is liable to become best known for sci-fi provocation.""A military post's secrets: Espionage, not aliens"

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