Roswell Alien Autopsy: The Truth Behind the Film that Shocked the World
pub. CreateSpace, 318 pp. 2012, £14=95
REVIEW: Joe Dormer
I don't know about 'the film that shocked the world' - frankly, I don't think the world was aware of its existence. Of course, a few ufologists saw the film, though not many managed to sit through it without making involuntary snorting noises. What did surprise the UFO community though, if not exactly the world, was Philip Mantle taking it seriously enough to write a book about it. Not a satirical book, not a comic exploration of the outer limits of human gullibility, but a book aimed at 'giving the film a fair trial...presenting a fair, balanced view', which is a bit like giving the Tooth Fairy a fair trial, balanced view etc.
I have known Philip since the early days when he, Andy Roberts, Dave Clarke and the Birdsall brothers, all indefatigable investigators of the West Yorkshire UFO Society, would scour the moors in all weathers in pursuit of the truth about UFOs...well, maybe not all weathers. Anyway, Phil helped crack some difficult cases (Cracoe Fell and the Beardsley case spring to mind) and he had an exceptionally good nose for sniffing out hoaxes. Why, then, was he taken in by a claim so transparently silly that it scarcely warrants a rebuttal?
The story behind the film is this: Some time in the early nineties, a character by the name of Raymond Santilli, who ran a video business in London, allegedly purchased some footage from an American cameraman known as Jack Barnett (pseudonym). He claims that Barnett was serving in the US Army in 1947 when he was called upon to film autopsies on some dead aliens retrieved from the Roswell crash. Barnet managed to nick a few reels for himself and it is these that he sold to Santilli.
Now I don't know whether you find this story at all credible, but that's not really the issue. It's the film that you cannot, just cannot, give any credence to. Leave aside the upright posture and muscular structure of the alien laid out on the table that makes it look like a plaster-cast of a body in the standing position. Ignore the absence of any proper internal organs in this otherwise so human-looking alien. Forget the anthropomorphic argument which asks just what the odds are of it drawing an almost identical ticket to us in the cosmic genetic lottery. Just take a look at the hieroglyphics on the 'I-beam' structure that appears in the film and you'll see they spell the words VIDEO TV, though a rather pathetic attempt has been made to transform the letters into alien symbols. The damage this alone does to the film's credibility could scarcely have been greater if it had read FAKE HA HA.
Anyone with a discerning eye will have noticed, as the Sunday Times' Maurice Chittensen did, that the security coding that used to appear on the screen at the beginning of the so-called tent footage was patently bogus. It read: RESTRICTED ACCESS A01. SUBJECT 1 OF 2. JULY 30th 1947. Santilli and his accomplices simply did not bother to do their homework. If they had, they would have realised that 'restricted access' is not a recognised military code and the A01 classification is pure Hollywood. Also the US military dating system, unlike the civilian, uses a day-month-year format and so the date should have read '30 July 1947'. I said it used to appear because when attention was drawn to these inconsistencies they mysteriously disappeared.
When experts from Kodak said they would be willing to examine the film, Santilli said, sorry it was...er, in the hands of a wealthy collector. So who was this wealthy collector? Er...he had requested anonymity. Undeterred, a canny French investigative team from French Television One tracked him down in a poky little office in Hamburg and asked him if, in view of the momentous significance for mankind of authenticating the film, he would be willing to allow Kodak to look at it. The wealthy collector replied that he was weary of all the media attention and just wanted to be left alone. Well, what he actually said was: 'I don't want to support no fucking TV or radio station, I want out. I got what |I want and that's it.'
It would have been a fairly routine matter for Kodak to have analysed the chemical compositionof the film and thus determined its date, but naturally they needed the original film, if only a few frames of it. None of this was forthcoming.
No one will be in the slightest surprised to learn that this is not the first time that Santilli has tried to pull one over on a gullible public. The Daily Mail, for instance, have old Ratface on their files for claiming sensational information relating to, on one occasion, the Dead Sea Scrolls and, on another, the Turin Shroud. I'm sure there are others that have not come to light.
It's difficult to see how anyone can take this sort of thing seriously. Yet in Open Skies, Closed Minds, Nick Pope describes how at the film's inaugural showing, '...there were gasps of amazement and horror...people headed ashen-faced to the toilet'. That's not how I remember it. If people were leaving the room it was because they'd had enough of this nonsense. There was the odd gasp, yes - of disbelief. Hoots too, of derision.
It's true that people will believe almost anything. At one UFO conference, I witnessed adult men and women listening in open-mouthed and credulous wonder to tales of alien dolphins commuting on a daily basis from Sirius (oh yes, I did!). Yet only one percent of this same audience - four people on a show of hands - were able to suspend their critical faculties sufficiently to convince themselves that the Santilli film was authentic. That's one percent of UFO enthusiasts, not one percent of the public.
I don't know whether this will make you laugh or cry, but on the cover of the book is a quote by Nick Pope which says that the film '...is either proof of an extraterrestrial presence on earth and an associated government cover-up or the greatest hoax of all time.' He goes on to praise the book as 'a fascinating and comprehensive investigation into the greatest and most comprehensive mystery of our time.' Did the former head of Airstaff 2a really believe this? Not a bit of it! Pope admitted to me recently that (and these are his exact words): "It was a deliberately open-ended cover blurb, designed to intrigue potential readers. I knew from day one the film was a fake."
I cannot pretend that this book is worth spending a penny on - perhaps I ought to rephrase that, there again perhaps not - much less that far more precious commodity, time. On a personal note, I'm getting fed up with making polite noises and conciliatory gestures about what even a blind bat can see is bogus or delusory - it just doesn't do ufology any good. Enough is enough. If there are any readers expecting to find in these pages 'proof of an extraterrestrial presence on earth and an associated government cover-up' then the most charitable thing I can say is that I hope Staff Nurse continues with their medication.
Review by Joseph Dormer