International UFO Museum
Roswell, New Mexico
Ground Zero for Roswell alien pilgrims is the International UFO Museum and Research Center.
Its motto, "The Truth Is Here," applies not only to its displays about the thing that crashed nearby in 1947, but to other related areas of study: crop circles, alien abductions, Area 51, etc. A replica of an ancient Mayan sarcophagus lid from Mexico, which supposedly shows a man blasting off in a spaceship, backdates the truth timeline to well before the it-was-just-a-weather-balloon era.
Museum director Julie Schuster said that 83 percent of the UFO Museum's visitors came to Roswell just to see this museum, and that it's among the top five most-visited in the state. "The state historian doesn't consider us a history museum," she said, "but he said we're as real a museum as anybody."
Visitors can examine a container of dirt collected from the UFO crash site, and several small models of the terrain and its half-buried space roadster. Many of the exhibits have an impermanent, homemade feel; much of the museum consists of paper displays hung on pegboard walls. There's no need to dress up the facts....
On the other hand, one of the museum's star attractions is a prop alien corpse dummy from the 1994 Showtime movie "Roswell: The UFO Coverup," lying on a hospital gurney inside a glass-walled room.
We were fortunate on an earlier visit to meet the late Lt. Walter G. Haut, father of Julie Schuster, one of the founders of the museum, and the Army PR officer who wrote the first press release about the saucer crash -- which was immediately retracted. We had him pose with a model of the Roswell saucer that The Franklin Mint had planned to mass produce in 2003. Like the original, the model has since mysteriously disappeared.
The museum has occupied an old downtown movie theater since 1997, but plans a new $14 million building several blocks north, across the street from Roswell's saucer-shaped McDonald's, designed to look like a star map popping out of an abstract file drawer. For now it's just a concept drawing and another exhibit in the museum. We hope it gets built before Roswell's next saucer crash.