The fiasco was indistinguishable from a hoax and couldn’t have been more damaging to ufology if it had been sabotage. Photographs of the body of an extraterrestrial being from the Roswell UFO crash were revealed at the National Auditorium in Mexico City on May 5, 2015. Three days later, the story imploded when international news accounts reported it was a fake, just another in a long series of embarrassments to the UFO field.
The whole saga is complex and full of branching controversies, but the focus here is on the real investigation that exposed the “Roswell Slides,” and why it matters to the serious study of UFOs.
The slides were said to be found in Arizona in 1998. While on a job cleaning out a house scheduled for demolition, Catherine Beason saved a box of slides from being thrown away. It wasn’t until 2008 that she noticed two unusual pictures inside that were separated from all the others, two slides of a small alien-looking body laid in a glass case. She didn’t know what to do with them, and later gave the collection of slides to her brother, Joseph Beason, an Internet application developer in Chicago. He recognized the potential value in the slides, but needed specialized help. Beason wasn’t knowledgeable about UFOs, but the body looked extraterrestrial, and it made him think of the famous 1947 New Mexico flying saucer incident. In early 2012, Beason approached Roswell experts Don Schmitt and Tom Carey.
Schmitt and Carey had been writing and lecturing exclusively together as Roswell UFO investigators since 1998 in a decades-long quest for the “smoking gun,” proof that it was the crash of an alien spaceship. In 2011, Carey put together a “Dream Team” to produce the ultimate Roswell book, and recruited Anthony Bragalia and Dr. David Rudiak, both of whom had provided research help on their Witness to Roswell book, as well as UFO researchers Kevin Randle and Chris Rutkowski. The book collaboration was side-tracked due to Schmitt and Carey’s preoccupation with projects of their own, and it was at around this time that Joseph Beason and the Roswell Slides entered the picture. Beason sent Carey an email with two high-resolution pictures of the slides. Carey said that upon seeing them, “a chill ran down my spine.” He thought the body perfectly matched the description of dead aliens from the Roswell UFO crash stories, and instantly he “knew” it was genuine. He and Don Schmitt signed a non-disclosure agreement with Beason and became partners, promoters in the business of bringing the Slides to a public audience.
Adam Dew was recruited by Beason a few months later, in mid-2012. Dew is a Chicago-based filmmaker in the sports video business. Beason showed him the slide collection, and they became partners in control of the slides. Dew took on the role of project manager after Beason moved to the West Coast, and he also had the idea to make a film on the Slides story, one which would also document the investigation into their authenticity. In the following months, Schmitt and Carey brought two of their other Dream Team partners into the group in subordinate roles: Dr. David Rudiak, in July 2012, for his experience in working on the text of the Roswell “Ramey Memo;” and, in 2013, Anthony Bragalia, for his Internet research skills. During 2013, the team obtained an expert opinion that the slide materials themselves were genuine, encouraging the team to move forward towards a public exhibition.
BeWitness was conceived in November 2013, when Schmitt and Carey recruited Mexican ufologist Jaime Maussan to promote and host a spectacular show to exhibit the Slides. Maussan put together a proposal and, later that same month, he, Schmitt and Carey flew to Chicago to meet with Joe Beason and Adam Dew. There the deal was signed, and Maussan said, “I think this is going to change the world… this is going to be the biggest event ever in the history of the UFO.” In December, Beason and Dew formed Slidebox Media, LLC to execute their leadership of the enterprise. Dew was the frontman for Slidebox Media while Beason remained offstage, in a confidential role. The group’s best-kept secret, however, was the Chicago meeting with Maussan, while most of the other details about the Slides leaked and circulated as gossip and rumors.
On November 12, 2014, the rumors were confirmed at a lecture on UFOs at the American University in Washington, D.C., part of an event titled Alien Contact: Science and Science Fiction. The speaker was Tom Carey, who had an important announcement. “I’m going to break news about a smoking gun… we’ve been doing due diligence on for two years… We have come into possession of a couple of Kodachrome color slides of an alien being.” At the time, he mentioned only the highlights but, in the following months, the key points of the story emerged:
• The two slides showed a small, partially-dissected humanoid.
• The body was distinctly non-human, and couldn’t be a deformed child, mummy or a dummy.
• The body lay on a green Army blanket, in a makeshift, hastily-constructed glass case, i.e., could not be a museum.
• On the body was a small sign or placard, but the handwriting could not be read.
• Kodak experts authenticated the slides as genuine and unaltered, from 1947, the year of the Roswell UFO crash.
• The body matched the aliens described by Roswell witnesses, not the popular culture image of aliens from the 1940s (therefore, not a vintage hoax).
• The slides had belonged to a deceased couple, the Rays of Midland, Texas.
• The Rays were VIPs, knew Mamie and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and were well-connected, and may have had access to top-secret facilities.
• Hilda Blair Ray was a high-powered lawyer with a pilot’s license, and possibly involved in military intelligence in World War II.
• Bernerd Ray, was a field geologist who conducted oil exploration expeditions in the Permian Basin, a region that included Roswell.
• The investigators had an endorsement of the Slides from the last living witness to seeing bodies from the Roswell crash.
Tom Carey’s university lecture ended with a teaser: “I have been given permission for the first time to talk about it here, right now, about this event that’s going to take place early next year. So we have a lot more, we’re still working the case, but this is big stuff.”
The news caught the attention of the UFO community. When I renewed my interest in UFOs in 2011, I joined a few online groups and networked with some UFO researchers through Facebook, starting a private discussion group with a few dissident UFO buffs where we could candidly share our views and blow off steam. The group had been following the Slides rumors for months, but, with Tom Carey’s announcement about a public event, we were hooked. In early 2015, when we found out that Jaime Maussan was hosting the event, it was a colossal red flag. Maussan had a reputation for promoting sensational UFO stories, including some spectacular mistakes, frauds and hoaxes.
Jaime Maussan held a two-hour press conference in Mexico City on February 4, 2015 to announce “BeWitness, The Change in History.” Maussan said the show would include several experts on the subject and feature former astronaut, Edgar Mitchell. “Edgar will give credibility to this event, he is a hero in American culture, one of the few who walked on the Moon and also he lived in Roswell…” There were short pre-recorded interviews with his experts, Don Schmitt, Tom Carey and Adam Dew. Schmitt said, “It will certainly be the most important event in our lifetimes.” Carey talked about the value of the Slides, saying, “I think it’s physical evidence. I think we have physical evidence… a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Maussan debuted the trailer for Adam Dew’s documentary, Kodachrome, which gave us the first glimpse of the “alien” slides, but their details were digitally blurred to save them for the reveal. It also showed the slides being examined in a laboratory with an expert calling them genuine and a witness viewing them, saying it resembled the alien body he’d seen at Roswell. It ended with a technician making a “3-D reconstruction of the body” that produced alien features.
Tickets went on sale for BeWitness to be held May 5, 2015 at the National Auditorium in Mexico City, with prices ranging from about $20 to $80 USD. Additionally, it was announced the event would be streamed live worldwide in a pay-per-view basis on the internet for about $20.
Independent Investigation is Initiated
The promoters also launched a Slidebox Media website. With all the new information, our group really had something to sink our teeth into. If even 1/10th of what they’d claimed was real, it would be an amazing discovery. The clock was ticking, and we were in a race against the May 5 deadline. We started digging, checking the story, researching vintage Kodak film and investigating the background on Mr. and Mrs. Ray. This was the moment of conception for the anti-sliders, eventually christened the “Roswell Slides Research Group,” or RSRG.
There was an early leak of Slidebox’s alien picture. In the Kodachrome trailer, a split-second shot of a slide was shown without the digital blurring, and “Narrenschiffer” captured the image.3 The slide was shown at an angle, and he had to adjust it to restore the correct dimensions. He then posted the image online, where it was widely shared. While an unknown amount of detail and clarity was lost, it was clear enough to show the main features. For the RSRG, Nab Lator produced another version in an attempt to produce a clearer image, but his results were only marginally better. Nab looked at other frames of the video, including those showing the placard.
The RSRG started searching for pictures of objects, like real and fake human oddities, mermaid carcasses and mummies, that could prove a match with the leaked slide. Gilles Fernandez sent Kevin Randle two pictures comparing a child mummy to the leaked slide to show similarities in their feet. Tom Carey dismissed the comparison saying, “(it) isn’t a foot at all… the being’s feet actually end behind the placard. Yes, we were on to that almost two years ago. Of course, this will not satisfy what’s going on out there right now on the blogs, which is insane.”
My friend, Spanish UFO researcher José Antonio Caravaca, created a new group on Facebook, called “Roswell Slides,” exclusively for the serious investigation of the BeWitness story. We continued to work within that group, sharing information in real time to members who were spread across various time zones and nations. Along with José, the most active members were Isaac Koi, a UK researcher preserving and sharing UFO history, French skeptics Nab Lator, an “armchair researcher of the paranormal,” and Gilles Fernandez, who holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology. Also active in the group were USA skeptics Lance Moody and Tim Printy (who provided skills including expertise in photography) Roger Glassel of Sweden, Canadian filmmaker Paul Kimball and Texans Ricky Poole and S. Miles Lewis, founder of the Anomaly Archives in Austin.
In a strange twist of fate, our group also included Canadian science writer and ufologist Chris Rutkowski, who had been recruited for Carey’s Roswell Dream Team as “someone with an open mind, who would point out where we might have slipped off the rails.” Chris found himself shut out when the secrecy over the Slides enterprise caused the dream to die.
Along the way, others were brought into the RSRG group for their specialized talents: Alejandro Espino, Aaron John Gulyas, Philippe Hernandez, Irna Osmanovic, Tim Hebert, Jeff Ritzmann and Shepherd Johnson. The group comprised friends, and friends of friends, UFO researchers and skeptics working together to come to grips with an event that was going to “change the world.”
Early on, a possible match for the body in the slides was located. On Feb. 11, Ricky Poole posted a photo, “....showing a child mummy on fabric with a placard.” It was from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and it resembled the body in the leaked photo. Shortly afterwards, Roger Glassel located an illustrated article on the mummy by Dr. David Hunt, the Forensic Anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution.5 Our team contacted Dr. Hunt, and he found the blurry image of the Slides body to be consistent with the one in his studies, saying, “I feel that even if it is not the same mummy, it is strikingly similar.” He also sent us a collection of high resolution photographs of the mummy and CT scan views of its skeleton.
The mummy of the Egyptian boy was catalogued as specimen number 2397; those digits became our name for him. We contacted the Wistar Institute in Pennsylvania, where it was curated prior to its transfer to the Smithsonian in 1958, but they were unable to find a photograph from the era displaying the mummy. We did find one photograph circa 1874 that included the child mummy, but the case it was displayed in was not a match. The size, position, proportions and condition of 2397 were nearly identical to what we could see of the body in the leaked slide. While we could not say it was the same mummy, our findings contested the promoters’ claim of “non-human.”
The BeWitness team was bound by NDAs, and secrecy. The RSRG methods were in sharp contrast to this, operating more like a classroom of eager students, sharing knowledge and challenged to excellence by each other’s efforts. Our early efforts were somewhat unfocused, and we faced the problem of duplication of effort by multiple researchers. For example, I was embarrassed to receive a reply from a specialist indicating that he’d already been contacted, individually, by three other members of our team. To avoid annoying experts who might be reluctant to discuss matters, which they might find frivolous or nutty, we began co-ordinating our contacts with consultants, giving us a simplified and complete record of our correspondence with them.
The group gathered a lot of data, and that presented its own challenges. Tim Printy said, “this is sort of a collective thing. Some of the work has been outstanding and it moves so fast it is sometimes difficult to keep up.” Facebook was fast and convenient, but the platform was not designed to support research projects. The constant stream of new material made finding information difficult. Many of us found ourselves missing the organization options available in online message boards, but, by then, we’d gotten in too deep to make a switch.
Isaac Koi took the lead in organizing the data gathered by the RSRG, creating collections of things like photographs of child mummies, side-show exhibits, human abnormalities, and also museum display cases. As visual data was gathered, I made photo montage collections; with these we could easily show that the BeWitness alien resembled a child’s mummified body and that the skeletal proportions matched that of a child aged between two and three years.
Our work showed that the glass case in the Slides was consistent with period museum displays, and it disproved the promoters’ claim of temporary, erector set-like construction. The shelving provided another clue in the spacing of the holes, which could be used to measure the length of the body. I visited hardware stores and antique furniture shops where similar glass cases and shelving material could be measured and photographed. In studying the shelving, Tim Printy used the data to demonstrate that the body size was significantly smaller than the “gray-sized” 3.5 to 4 feet figure claimed by the promoters.
Members researched the background of the Rays, but found nothing to support the Eisenhower friendship or “well-connected” claims by the promoters. Tim searched Texas newspapers and found additional articles and photos of Bernerd Ray through the decades, evidence that refuted the promoters’ claim he’d become “a ghost in his profession” after 1947.
Publish or Perish
The buzz for BeWitness was building. Roger Glassel said, “If this isn’t stopped before the 5th of May, and even if a solid explanation will be at hand on the 6th after seeing the photo slide, I’m afraid that the damage will already be done. With a Mexican event and a documentary, it will be man bites dog in the news media and no time for mummies.” Most of the press was within the UFO community, but the story received some publicity on Feb. 18, when Chicago’s WGN-TV morning show interviewed Adam Dew and aired his Kodachrome trailer. When asked if scientists were consulted, Dew indicated that work was just beginning, saying “We’re trying to find people that will look at it and give those opinions.” While he talked, the images onscreen were Gilles Fernandez’s pictures of mummified bodies compared with the leaked slide, and, apparently, the producer and the hosts were unable to tell the difference. Dew finally noticed and said, “That image has been out on the internet since we released the trailer, people trying to debunk it, which has been really helpful actually, because they have been putting out—doing a lot of research work for me, that I’ve been trying to do the last couple of years in my free time.”6 Dew’s comments raised questions about just who was researching the case, and if it was only a part-time investigation.
We investigated the alien witness shown in the Kodachrome trailer, introduced by Adam Dew as “an Army lieutenant at Roswell Air Force base in 1947.” That was not true. Eleazar N. Benavides was stationed at Roswell, but held the rank of Private First Class.7 Benavides had appeared before, under the pseudonym “Eli Benjamin” in Schmitt and Carey’s book, and in the UFO shows, Sci-Fi Investigates and UFOs Declassified. The mistake in Benavides’ rank reflected on credibility, either of the witness or of Dew in reporting it. As a result of the alias being exposed, at the BeWitness event, Benavides’ real rank and name was correctly given.
“WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?” by Curt Collins is an extract from his contribution to UFOs: Reframing the Debate edited by Robbie Graham.