Monday, January 8, 2007

Hoax-umentary: World’s Greatest Scamboogery Caught On Tape?

The X-Files exposed America to a virulent strain of alien fever, the likes of which hadn’t been witnessed since the Seventies when television executives conspired to deliver Carl Kolchak, the Nightstalker and Leonard Nimoy’s pseudo-scientific In Search Of… into our homes via the seemingly innocuous TV.

A neo-paranormal hysteria is afoot. UfOlogy, cryptozoology and all things unexplained are as popular as extreme sports, extreme fighting championships and extreme stormwatch! A&E’s Unexplained, the Sci-Fi Channel’s Sightings, re-runs of Arthur C. Clarke’s Strange Universe and In Search Of… inundate the airwaves with probings and Yeti and plesiosaurs.

The epidemic culminated in 1997’s fiftieth anniversary of the Roswell Incident with an entire month of alien programming, a Roswell pilgrimage and numerous documentaries. But the whole event was cast with a cloud of negativity. Roswell debunked. Area 51 dismissed as so much fol-de-rol.

A few years prior, Ray Santilli, a rock-and-roll documentarian, came into possession of a film allegedly shot by a US Air Force cameraman. The film “proved” that an alien spacecraft had crashed in Roswell because here, in grainy black-and-white, was an alien being dissected on an operating table by, I guess, military intergalactic forenzic pathologists. The footage was packaged and produced by Robert Kiviat as Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction? for a Fox Special and released on home video with Jonathan Frakes hosting.

Not since the Patterson Bigfoot film of 1967 has a ridiculous claim been held up to such a critical light.

Uri Geller’s televised spoon-bending and Eric van Daniken’s Euro-centric ancient astronauts were never scrutinized so severely. And to what end? To “prove” that Santilli’s film was a hoax? To “prove” that Roswell was in fact weatherballoons or training dummies or whatever equally unbelievable excuse the Air Force can fabricate?

Or to boost the ratings and video sales?

Regardless, the effect it had on Roswell was insignificant as UFO cultists, conspiracy theorists and T-shirt vendors flocked to New Mexico town in the summer of 1997 to commemorate and celebrate an alien crash and a government cover-up. Some even claimed that yes, the autopsy was a hoax, cleverly re-enacting the autopsy as described by the same Air Force cameraman who apparently shot the thing.

The following year, yet another startling videotape emerged. Area 51: The Alien Interview contains footage of living EBEs (Extraterrestrial Biological Entities) shot at Area 51 as well as an interview with “Victor,” the man that brought this top secret footage to light. Still another hoax? Conspiracy? The tape is hosted by Steven Williams, who portrayed ‘X” in The X-files, after all.

Perhaps we’ll never know …but the truth is out there.

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