It was October, 1997, and the second annual Australian International UFO Symposium had just begun, in the eastern Australia city of Brisbane. There, writers gave lectures on the latest extraterrestrial news and theories, various groups manned booths to offer counseling to alleged former abductees, and the symposium’s organizers presented what they suggested was the first ever filmed crash of a UFO.
No one there seemed to know where the film had come from, but almost all believed that the event it depicted had taken place earlier that year, in the sandy expanses of southern New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range.
This film unrolls in total silence, its every detail shimmering beneath layers of blocky pixels. Starting abruptly in a desert setting of flatly rolling sand and sagebrush, a shining white oval falls from the sky, as if it’s been dropped from a greater height. The oval emits a trail of smoke or exhaust or vapor, and before it gets too near the ground, it levels out a bit, slams into the earth with a sudden flash, bounces, shoots wildly up in a long leftward arc, passes what appear to be three evenly spaced telephone poles, and then shatters against the ground in a sky-filling spray of fire and debris.
From start to finish, the entire episode takes fifteen seconds.
“Crashes of extraterrestrial vehicles are not uncommon,” said Clifford Stone, a New Mexico resident and retired U.S. Army official who claims to have been part of a secret government group tasked with recovering UFOs and alien bodies. “They’re as mortal as we are. They use a technology, and sometimes that technology fails.”
Regarding this particular crash, however, many UFO experts remain skeptical.
Lesley, a New Mexican columnist for UFO Magazine, said, “My guess is that it was one of ours and not alien. It did seem to be purposely crashed. I would also guess that this footage was planned out and filmed by military/government officials and leaked by some government source for a reason probably only known to a small group of people. It could also be a hoax done by just a regular person.”
Louis Martin, of MyUFO.com, said he’s heard the crash was actually a cruise missile—not an alien craft. UFOCasebook.com has stated that “an American researcher who has a highly placed NASA source” said the craft was actually an X-38 Crew Return Vehicle—a small, almost wingless, reusable spacecraft made to carry astronauts from the International Space Station down to Earth. UFO scholar Jay Nelson recalls seeing an earlier copy of the film somewhere, some time ago, that had sound—the voices of military men discussing data, something about the test of a re-entry vehicle, and an intriguing lack of expressions of surprise or astonishment—though he admits that might have shown a different incident.
Also, since no one seems to know who shot the film, where exactly it was made, or who released it to the public, it may be worthwhile to consider that this footage came to light in the same year as the much-hyped fiftieth anniversary of the famous 1947 Roswell Incident, the commemoration of an event in which multiple witnesses swore to having seen a wrecked UFO and its dying alien passengers. Other alleged UFO crashes were also reported in 1997, from Brazil to Russia to England, and it may be that all of these sprang in some way from so much attention being refocused on Roswell.
(Julie Shuster, Director of the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, said the musuem’s research library has found that there was no debris reported recovered around White Sands in 1997.)
Many of these dismissals, though, can be dismissed themselves. Videos of cruise missiles can be seen online, and those cylindrical missiles look nothing like the well-proportioned oval of the film; also, they explode in clouds of dense fire, not in sprays of fat sparks like the craft in the film.
“It’s definitely not a cruise missile,” Clifford Stone said. “The angle of attack is too steep. And you see it skip along the ground. Trust me. Take it if from a former military man.”
It could be an X-38, but the X-38’s first known flight wasn’t until 1999, two years after the film premiered in Australia. And as for it being a hoax concocted solely to cash in on the anniversary of the Roswell Incident…well, it would have to be a pretty good one.
Jack Hickman, Director of the Aerial Phenomena Research Group, has said that in 1948, two round white vehicles were seen making loops in the air above White Sands before disappearing. In 1952, an area local spotted a rounded silver object making a 360˚ turn in the sky above them. And in 1957—around the ten year anniversary of the Roswell Incident—numerous sightings were reported all around White Sands, ranging from a strange craft hanging motionless in the sky, to a glowing object hovering above the site of the first atomic bomb test, to a flying saucer allegedly landing nearby. Also rumored to be a part of the missile range is the clandestine Area 29 where, according to UFO Digest’s Steve Hammons, recovered alien spacecraft were test-flown by the government from 1957 to 1970.
The impressive number of such accounts, along with numerous reported sightings of flying green fireballs, does perhaps give some validity to the 1997 crash, but one thing remains suspicious: that all of these sightings took place around White Sands Missile Range. After all, a missile range is a place where the government tests top secret things that fly.
Getting excited about seeing a UFO over such a place is a bit like getting excited about seeing a plane near an airport.