An Alien in the Post

An Alien in the Post

16/06/2019Written by Hannah Baker

The mystery surrounding our Roswell Alien Head.

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In early 1996, a large box arrived at the Fulham offices of the ‘Fortean Times’a magazine dedicated to investigating unexplained phenomena. Despite the magazine’s preference for the weird and wonderful, you can imagine the shock on publisher Mike Dash’s face as he opened the box to find a severed alien head.

Roswell Daily Record - 8 July 1947

The events leading up to this unusual discovery began over 50 years earlier. In 1947, 30 miles from Roswell, New Mexico, a rancher reported finding strange debris on his land. After hearing rumours of flying discs in the area, he told the Sheriff he thought he’d found one. This led the local newspaper to publish the headline:

“RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region.”

At a press conference shortly after, the RAAF (Roswell Army Air Field) claimed that the debris came from a crashed weather balloon. This prompted the paper to print a correction, sparking rumours of a government cover up.

Roswell restricted area warning sign - Credit: X51

As the decades passed, the story was picked up by various writers, documentary makers, and news outlets, becoming one of the most infamous conspiracy theories. Witnesses came forward claiming to have seen the crash itself and even the UFO’s alien inhabitants.

In 1980, the writer Charles Berlitz published a book called ‘The Roswell Incident’. It claimed there had indeed been a UFO crash at Roswell, with substantial strange debris and alien bodies recovered. In 1989 former mortician Glenn Dennis claimed that his friend, a nurse at RAAF, had walked in on doctors examining three small, humanoid bodies with large bald heads.

The biggest revelation came in 1995 when a film emerged which appeared to show an alien autopsy, just as Dennis had described. The black and white footage was provided by film maker Ray Stantilli as part of a Fox network special ‘Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction’. It caused quite a sensation.

However, to the more discerning eye it was clear the footage was a hoax. Among many questionable details was the autopsy technique. The way the scissors were held was consistent with a tailor rather than a pathologist, who is trained to use the forefinger to steady the blades – a fact that would be obvious to anyone in that field.

Warning! Some people might find the footage disturbing.

Object on loan from the Charles Fort Institute

Only a few months later, the disturbing package arrived at the Fortean Times. On further inspection it was clear that the alien head was made of rubber. Accompanying it was a note, which stated that the head was the actual one used in the autopsy film and was being sent to the magazine to discredit the footage.

But something didn’t quite add up. Staff at the magazine took measurements from the head and compared them to the proportions of the alien in stills from the autopsy film. While it looked good and was clearly professionally made, they concluded it was not a match to the alien in the film. The sender of the package or maker of the head were never identified.

Stantilli later admitted that the footage was a “reconstruction”. He claimed to have obtained actual autopsy footage from a retired military cameraman, but it was in too poor condition to be useable. So, he hired the sculptor John Humpreys, who later worked on Dr Who, to faithfully recreate the alien he had seen in the original. They turned to the local butcher for the alien’s insides, reportedly using a sheep’s brain set in raspberry jam for the head scene.

The magazine’s alien head has been on loan here at the National Space Centre since 2001. It is undissected and thankfully free of animal parts, which further confirms it was not the prop used for the film. Its origins remain a mystery…

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Learn more: See the alien head in The Universe gallery

About the author: Hannah Baker is the Assistant Curator at the National Space Centre.