The two greatest challenges facing the objective study of Unidentified Flying Objects are 1) obtaining hard evidence, and 2) establishing the reliability of said hard evidence. From the earliest days of the flying saucer flaps in the late 1940s, eyewitnesses by the thousands have seen UFOs. Hundreds of photos have been taken, but the end result of five decades of UFO reports is at best indecisive. We have evidence of unknown objects in the sky, but no certain identification of these objects.
The idea that UFOs are extraterrestrial spaceships has taken root in our popular consciousness so deeply it may never be dislodged or supplanted. For a great many people "UFO" equals "spaceship." After all, no terrestrial technology seems to account for the mysterious abilities of UFOs to fly, maneuver, and vanish at will. No terrestrial race matches the (varying) descriptions of UFO occupants. But are UFOs hardware from another civilization not of this Earth?
In the past fifteen years the focus of UFOlogy has turned away from simple sighting reports to lines of investigation that seem to promise reliable, testable evidence of ET visitation. One line of inquiry concerns alleged abductions by UFOnauts. Another area of investigation -- almost a cottage industry in its own right -- is the ongoing investigation of the Roswell Incident.
Roswell is a small town in Chaves County, located in the southeast quadrant of New Mexico. It's a rather remote spot, and its chief claim to fame prior to 1945 was as the site chosen by Dr. Robert H. Goddard to test his liquid-fuel rocket designs. Goddard was run out of crowded Massachusetts after one of his infernal machines crashed in a field, starting a small fire. In 1930 Goddard moved to Mescalero Ranch, near Roswell. Fifteen years later the U.S. Army brought captured German V-2 rockets to White Sands Missile Range, 100 miles west of Roswell. Alamagordo, on the eastern edge of the White Sands range, was the site of nuclear weapons research. And the United States' first atomic weapons delivery unit, the 509th Bomb Group, was stationed at Roswell Army Air Field following World War II. The southeastern corner of New Mexico became one of the United States' most vital defense zones, and as the Cold War settled firmly over both hemispheres, anxiety and security reached unparalleled peacetime highs.
On June 24, 1947, a fire extinguisher salesman and private pilot named Kenneth Arnold spotted a formation of nine objects traveling at apparent supersonic speed while flying near Mt. Ranier, Washington. Arnold described the objects' skipping motion as being like saucers skipping across the surface of water. News accounts of subsequent sightings of similar objects in the Northwest led to a new term, "flying saucers," being applied to any unknown aerial objects regardless of shape.
On July 2, 1947, an unidentified device crashed near Corona, N.M., during a violent thunderstorm. The next day rancher William M. "Mac" Brazel found a large deposit of unknown wreckage in one of his pastures. The junk did not resemble the remains of a conventional airplane or rocket, since it consisted of small metallic fragments, odd plastic beams, snarls of string, foil, and some sort of fabric. Two days later Brazel visited his uncle Hollis Wilson in Corona and heard about flying saucers for the first time from him. Brazel decided to report what he'd found on his property to Chaves County sheriff George A. Wilcox. Wilcox called Roswell Army Air Field because he could not identify the debris Brazel brought in to validate his report.
The air base sent the 509th Bomb Group's intelligence officer, Major Jesse Marcel, to survey the crash site. He went out on July 7, taking a jeep and a staff car. Samples of the wreckage were collected (filling both vehicles), and he returned to the base. On the basis of the recovered material -- foil, fabric, beams, bits of metal, and string -- Colonel Blanchard, base commander at Roswell, okayed a press release saying the military had recovered a "flying disk."
The sensation this news caused led to some backtracking by the authorities. The thing that crashed on Mac Brazel's land was dismissed as a weather balloon that had been carrying a Rawin target (a flimsy array of aluminum panels used to train radar operators).
Well-known photos of Major Marcel with this debris were circulated. Marcel would later complain that the rubbish he posed with was not the same debris he'd recovered from the desert.
The Roswell Incident was closed, as far as the military was concerned.
The Word Made Flesh
Ray Santilli and Appearance of the "Alien Autopsy" Film
[The story of the alien autopsy film is both complex and on-going. Many of the reported 'facts' contradict each other. The following account is pieced together from many sources, primarily articles posted on Usenet. ]
Ray Santilli is the head of a British-based video production company called the Merlin Group. For a number of years their stock in trade were "Tin Tin" cartoons, some Disney merchandise, music oriented videos, "rockumentaries," and the like. According to his own account, in 1992 Ray Santilli was in Cleveland, Ohio, searching for the earliest known film footage shot of Elvis Presley . There he met the cameraman who allegedly had the Elvis film, an octogenarian American named Jack Barnett. After negotiating for the Elvis film, Barnett told Santilli he had some other film the British producer might be interested in . He then supposedly showed Santilli 22 canisters of 16 mm black-and-white film (at other times the count of film cans has been given as 14, 15, or 29) which were outtakes, as it were, from a top secret film Barnett shot in 1947 for the U.S. Army . The subject of the film: recovery of an extraterrestrial craft and the autopsies of dead aliens!
Santilli was intrigued by Barnett's claims, but was only persuaded of the truth of the old man's story when Barnett showed him papers and photos proving he had indeed been a cameraman for the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1952. Little else has been disclosed about Barnett's past; because he was revealing government secrets he desired anonymity to forestall prosecution. In a statement posted on Usenet in August 1995, Barnett says that his father was in the movie business, and he (the younger Barnett) had polio as a child. Despite this handicap he joined the army in 1942 and became a combat cameraman. In 1944 Barnett claims he was assigned to "Intelligence" under the "Assistant Chief of Air Staff." He also claims to have filmed the atomic tests at Trinity Site (July 1945), but a search of personnel records of the Manhattan Project reveals no "Jack Barnett" was present .
In 1947, according to Barnett's statement, he was summoned to White Sands, New Mexico, and on June 1 went to Washington, D.C. on orders from Major General Clements M. McMullen, deputy chief of the Strategic Air Command. From D.C. Barnett and sixteen others ("mostly medical" personnel) were sent back to New Mexico to a crash site southwest of Socorro. Roswell is 163 miles from Socorro. Barnett's orders were to film the removal of debris from the crash site. He had clearance to all areas, which at that time he was told was the scene of a Soviet spy plane crash.
When Barnett got to the crash site the area was sealed off by the military. It was obvious upon arrival that the device in the desert was no Russian warplane. It was a "large disc," a flying saucer, lying upside down. (One wonders how Barnett could tell if the disk were right side or wrong side up, disks usually being described as symmetrical) .
The soldiers could not approach the wreckage for some time, as it was radiating a lot of heat. Even more extraordinary were the four beings lying beside the crashed saucer. Barnett's account sensitively refers to these beings as "Freaks." The "Freaks" were screaming and clutching small boxes close to their chests. Barnett apparently arrived while it was still dark, since he says the army could not move in on the downed saucer and the "Freaks" until six A.M. The "Freaks" screamed louder as the GIs approached, and refused to give up their mysterious boxes. One soldier hit a "Freak" with the butt of his rifle and thereby persuaded the creature to part with its apparatus .
Three of the beings were taken away still alive. The fourth was dead (killed by the blow of an M1 butt?). The medical team was reluctant to treat the strange beings for their injuries, but they overcame their fear and rendered assistance. Barnett went on to film the wreckage. His statement describes the broken-up debris as being from exterior struts that supported a smaller disk on the underside (now up?) of the large saucer. The corpse of the dead "Freak" was packed in ice .
The loose wreckage was catalogued and hauled away in trucks. Three days later more experts arrived from Washington, and an effort was made to remove the main craft. None of the men could stand being inside the disk for long--the atmosphere inside was "very heavy" and breathing it made the men sick. The whole craft was loaded onto a "flattop" (?) and driven away to Wright-Patterson air base in Ohio for detailed analysis. Barnett went there too .
Barnett stayed at Wright-Patterson for three weeks filming the study of the wreckage. He was next ordered to Fort Worth, Texas, to film the autopsy of a dead "Freak." Fearing contamination, the pathologists and Barnett were required to wear protective suits. This made camera work difficult, according to Barnett. Contrary to orders, he removed the suit to facilitate filming. Apparently other aliens died in the interim since their capture, because he filmed two different autopsies in July 1947 .
Hundreds of reels of film were exposed, and Barnett culled out a few that needed special processing (his account claims he did his own film processing). He sent the processed film to Washington in batches, but incredibly, no one bothered to pick up the last shipment of problem canisters. Barnett says he notified his superiors about the leftover film, but got no response. Despite all the high level attention and strict secrecy, no one at the Pentagon could be bothered to collect Barnett's last rolls of film! So Barnett put them away, sat on them for thirty-five years, until Ray Santilli showed up searching for lost footage of Elvis Presley.
Santilli offered to buy the problem reels, especially (he said) after he saw footage of President Harry Truman observing one of the proceedings . Santilli later amended this claim, saying instead that he only saw a can labeled "Truman." Barnett didn't want to sell at first, so Santilli pressed him, calling him so frequently Barnett's wife refused to take his calls. When he finally agreed to sell, Barnett put a stiff price on the film -- either 100,000 pounds (0,000, roughly) or 100,000 dollars -- reputedly so that he could pay for his granddaughter's wedding . Santilli didn't have that kind of money lying around, so he enlisted the help of an investor, a shadowy German named Volker Spielberg .
Now the actual date of Santilli's purchase of the film is in dispute, but the commonest version says he bought the footage in June 1993 . During that same period, May-June 1993, Santilli talked with Philip Mantle about the possibility of doing a UFO documentary. Mantle is Director of Investigations for the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA). Santilli and Mantle happened to meet at a press conference in London for the Travis Walton UFO abduction movie Fire in the Sky, and Santilli apparently mentioned the autopsy film, which he was as yet unwilling to show to Mantle . In the fall of 1993 UFO researcher and writer Jenny Randles began to hear rumors of an autopsy film . Mantle tried to get Santilli to show him the footage, but Santilli evaded Mantle's requests, making appointments with Mantle, then bowing out later. Mantle naturally assumed his leg was being pulled.
In an effort to smoke out the autopsy film, Carl Nagaitis, Philip Mantle's press agent, floated a rumor in the U.K. that linked the unseen autopsy footage to a new big-budget project by Steven Spielberg . According to gossip pieces published by British tabloids in December 1993, Spielberg was planning a new movie called Project X, based on the Roswell Incident and the Majestic-12 papers . Steven Spielberg's production company, Amblin Entertainment, issued a press release denying the maker of ET and Jurassic Park was doing anything connected with Roswell .
By now the rumor mill in British UFO circles was humming. The first outsider to see the autopsy film appears to have been Reg Presley, who in the Sixties had been the lead singer of the rock band The Troggs. Presley was well known for his interest in UFO and crop circle phenomena, and perhaps stimulated by news stories about the spurious Spielberg feature, managed to convince Santilli to let him see the autopsy film in late '93 or early '94 . Presley mentioned seeing the autopsy film while on the BBC-TV show "Good Morning with Anne and Nick" in early 1995. On March 17, 1995, Philip Mantle and his wife Sue went to the London offices of the Merlin Group and were given a short sequence of the film, said to be "on-site examination footage" .
The film segment was of pretty poor visual quality, but a few salient details were discernible. The camera seemed fixed in one position, facing the corner of a room. Lying on a table was a body, apparently not human, partially covered by a sheet. Two men in white coats took tissue samples from the corpse while a third figure in dark clothing stood in the foreground with his back to the camera. The thing on the examination table was not a diminutive "Gray" so common in UFO lore. It was moderately sized, and the most striking feature Mantle could make out were large, dark eyes .
Interested but unenlightened, Mantle asked Santilli if he would speak at the upcoming BUFORA conference, scheduled for August 19-20 in Sheffield. Santilli agreed . Not long after this Mantle happened to speak to a friend of his, David Clarke, and told him about Santilli and the alleged autopsy film. Clarke was once on BUFORA's council, but currently works as a reporter for the Sheffield Star. Sensing a good story, Clarke wrote a piece about the BUFORA conference, highlighting Santilli's appearance with the film. The item was picked up by the Whites Press Agency, who contacted Philip Mantle for confirmation. He did so, and in the ensuing days Mantle was bombarded with calls from radio, TV, and newspapers for more information on the alleged Roswell film. Mantle referred them to Ray Santilli. The cat, so to speak, was out of the bag for certain .
Mantle and his wife went back to the Merlin Group's office on April 28, and were shown an actual autopsy sequence, clearer than the "on-site examination footage." This was not the segment now known so widely from the Fox TV broadcast "Alien Autopsy -- Fact or Fiction?" Mantle does not say if the body in the April 28th screening was the same as the one he'd seen in the earlier fragment, but the image subsequently made famous on Fox -- big head, female genitalia, bloated abdomen, six fingers per hand and six toes per foot -- is the one he described seeing that day, with one major difference. In the April 28th footage the body on the table did not have the seriously damaged right leg the Fox TV segment alien does .
Eight days prior to the April 28th screening, Mantle put several proposals in writing and submitted them to Santilli, with copies going to John Spencer of BUFORA and Walt Andrus of MUFON. Mantle requested: 1) a copy of the film; 2) copies of all the documentation Santilli possessed; 3) serial numbers from the film canisters; and 4) one complete reel of the original film. Kodak UK and Hasan Shah Films agreed to undertake independent analysis of the film stock. Santilli reportedly agreed to the proposals, but did nothing about them, so the film stock was never analyzed .
Curiously, almost a month earlier, on March 26, 1995, Mantle told the press "We have already had the film checked out by Kodak, who confirm it is fifty years old ... . Ray Santilli was making similar claims to BBC's Channel 4 on April 11: "The film stock has been tested and the opinion is that it is authentic" . Why then, one wonders, would Mantle be asking Santilli to submit the film to testing nine days later, on April 20?
People were already muttering "hoax," including many firm proponents of the crashed UFO version of the Roswell Incident. Stanton Friedman was skeptical, and Kevin Randle was on record as saying "the circumstances still suggest that it is a hoax" .
In order for a radical and startling document to be taken as factual, certain strict criteria must be met. The origin of the document must known and identified. Santilli refused to provide more information about Jack Barnett, claiming the U.S. government would retaliate against him for revealing their momentous secret. (This argument has a serious flaw; whistle blowers and tipsters always fare better by going fully public with their revelations.)
Next, the age and physical characteristics of the document must be verified. Despite Santilli's and Mantle's claims, this had not yet been done, and has not been done to this day. Santilli's whole case for proving the age of the autopsy film rests on the "edge codes" Kodak puts on its film stock. The edge code on the autopsy film supposedly consists of a square and a triangle, which in Kodak's records indicates film stock made at twenty years intervals in 1927, 1947, or 1967. Santilli showed strips of clear leader film with this edge code to some people, along with frames of an empty (no alien visible) operating room. There is no direct link between these film fragments and the autopsy footage itself. Imagine trying to authenticate a controversial document--like the Hitler Diaries--based on a photocopy of one page. No paper analysis, no ink analysis, just some possibly forged handwriting. No sound decision could be made with such evidence.
The final method of authenticating a document is by outside references. Does the new find explain old questions? Does it fit with the evidence given by other witnesses? Hitler's surviving confidants were adamant the Nazi leader did not keep a personal diary. In the case of the Roswell Incident, the testimony of those who claim to have seen saucer wreckage and alien corpses does not tally with the images on Santilli's film. The Roswell witnesses said the dead ETs had four fingers on each hand, not six. They were little more than three feet tall, not over five feet. The Roswell aliens were spindly creatures without the robust build of the things photographed by the elusive Jack Barnett.
So what was going on here? The first public screening of the autopsy film was arranged for May 5, 1995, at the Museum of London. Only journalists and UFOlogists were invited to view it. Ray Santilli would be there to present the film, but the proprietary secrecy surrounding the screening was so heavy all attendees had to submit to the indignity of being frisked for cameras and recorders. More than truth was at stake now -- so was big money.
The Spirit is Willing, but the Flesh is Weak
The first showing of the alien autopsy film to a large audience came on Friday, May 5, 1995. Shortly after 1 p.m., approximately 100 people filed into a small auditorium in the Museum of London . It was an invitation-only crowd consisting of members of the press (including the BBC), representatives of some TV networks interested in buying rights to show the film in their respective countries, and assorted UFOlogists from Britain, America, and the Continent.
Security was tight. The guests had to submit to the indignity of being frisked for cameras before they were allowed to enter the hall. After passing the search, they were required to sign in (no gate crashers allowed!). Some printed material was passed out to the attendees: a fact sheet about the Roswell Incident and the 509th Bomb Group, and a copy of the MJ-12 briefing papers, themselves widely acknowledged as a hoax .
The hundred guests entered an empty auditorium. Ray Santilli did not introduce the film--indeed, no introductions were made at all. The crowd was alert and anxious to be initiated into the big secret. The lights went down at 1:05 p.m., and the projector started.
Prior to the actual film, a few titles appeared on the screen. These stated that the film had been acquired from the man who originally shot it, and that the copyright was "exclusively owned" by Ray Santilli's company, Merlin Communications . Another clarification followed, informing the audience that the autopsy footage was contained in fifteen canisters of 16 mm black-and-white film, each three minutes long. This was in direct contradiction to a previous statement given out that the film ran in ten minute reels. The discrepancy was not explained .
The film began. What was shown was the famous "white room" sequence, later shown on Fox TV in the U.S. as "Alien Autopsy -- Fact or Fiction?" The film opens with a strangely shaped, naked corpse lying on a table in a small white-walled room. Two people appear, clad head to foot in white decontamination suits. No facial features are visible, as the two have only small rectangular windows in their hoods through which to see out. Soon a third person appears, staring into the room from outside, through an apparent glass window. Though he is on the outside, this man is gowned and capped like a surgeon, and even wears a cloth face mask. He never enters the room, but stands there throughout the sequence, staring at the body on the table.
The body is both strange and unexpectedly human in form. It is not a stereotypical "gray," nor is it particularly small. It seems to be about five feet long and robustly built, with meaty arms and legs, a swollen head, distended belly, and an enormous wound on the right leg. Some of the those in the Museum of London audience recoiled at the sight, thinking they were seeing a deformed or deliberately disguised human body.
All the body's features can be described in entirely human terms. It was bald, and had no hair anywhere else. The eyes were large and dark, and seemed to lack features like an iris or pupil (this appearance would change during the autopsy). The morphology was human; bilateral symmetry, upright bipedal stance, and apparent female genitalia. The oddest details were mere footnotes to the general picture: the subject had six fingers per hand and six toes on each foot. Once the examination began, the solid dark membranes over the eyes were easily removed with forceps, revealing rolled-back white sclera.
Other visible details worked against the alien identification. The multiple digits had nails, just like human fingers and toes, some teeth were visible for an instant during the preliminary exam, and the ears, though small, were of distinctly human shape. What were the odds that an extraterrestrial being would so closely resemble Homo Sapiens?
After a gingerly examination by the hooded figures, the cutting starts. An incision is made along the right side of the neck, from behind the ear to the base of the throat. Dark fluid oozes out. The cut is repeated on the left side. A T-shaped incision is made on the cadaver's chest, the long axis of the cut going down to the navelless belly. As our intrepid cameraman moves in for close-ups of the alien viscera, his camera goes out of focus -- again and again. This was explained as being due to the fact that the camera did not have through-the-lens focusing (i.e., the cameraman couldn't see the picture going blurry), and also because the cameraman was swathed in a full coverage protective suit like the doctor and his helper. Still, it is very convenient for him to obscure the telling details of the subject's anatomy.
Jump-cuts also obscure some of the most interesting procedures. The opening of the chest cavity occurs off camera. When the doctor begins to open the skull with a Victorian era bone saw, the camerama stations himself behind the doctor, where he can see nothing but the man's back and his right elbow sawing back and forth. When organs are removed from the body, they are dark glistening masses, which might be alien viscera or slaughterhouse leavings -- it's impossible to tell.
The autopsy room technician piles these bits of offal into dishes and bowls. The dark lenses from the eyes are placed in the same beaker of liquid, thus ruining their scientific value. After all, there would no longer be any way to distinguish which eye they came from, which side touched the eye and which side faced out, etc. The doctor makes written notes on a clipboard using his (presumably) bloody gloves, even though a microphone is hanging over the body to record his remarks. Having gone to the trouble to totally cover themselves against possible alien bacteria, the doctor's notes would have been completely contaminated and only accessible to other decon-suited people!
The overall effect of this sequence is sordid and unsatisfying. Where are the scientific experts of the U.S., who would be eager to witness the autopsy of an extraterrestrial? Where is the still photographer to record the procedure for any written reports? Assuming the event is top secret is no answer. Dozens were present when the first atomic bomb was detonated at Trinity Site. Reports on the alien autopsy, even if restricted to the members of the mythical Majestic 12, would certainly require still photos for illustration. The white room autopsy smells of haste and cheapness -- two faults the U.S. government is seldom guilty of.
Reaction to the Museum of London screening was mixed. Interest was high, but many were not impressed by what they saw. Kent Jeffrey, the only Roswell researcher present, said later: "I would like to state up front and unequivocally that there is no (zero!) doubt in my mind that this film is a fraud."
Ray Santilli wasn't concerned. In a statement posted on Compuserve on June 3, 1995, he expressed amazement and disappointment that "so-called" UFOlogists indulged in what he felt was gossip, rumor, and misinformation about his film. He reiterated his belief in the authenticity of the cameraman, Jack Barnett, and stressed he had seen the man's official discharge papers, photo albums, etc. He repeated that the film Barnett had supplied had the edge code appropriate to 1947 (a square and a triangle), and he vowed not to release more information about Barnett because the old man feared prosecution by the U.S. government, feared a dispute over ownership of the film (if real, it's U.S. Army property), and he didn't want to report the 0,000 Santilli paid him to the IRS.
There are a lot of logical problems to these objections. The sensation caused by the revelation of a UFO crash in New Mexico in 1947 would far outweigh any attempt to prosecute an octogenarian photographer--imagine the headlines if the government tried to indict Barnett! As far as the IRS goes, the story of Jack Barnett getting his money is out there. Did Santilli think the IRS could not find Barnett if it wanted to? They caught Capone, after all.
Santilli claimed the May 5 screening was held to quiet speculation about the alien autopsy film (it had the opposite effect), and that it was timed to happen along with the fifty year anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe . To those critics who had seized on details in the white room footage--the wall clock, the telephone with a curly plastic cord--he asserted all these items were available in 1947 . The phone in particular would come under considerable scrutiny as the summer wore on and autopsy buffs had little else to study.
One disingenuous statement Santilli made on June 3 is demonstrably false. He claimed he was a disinterested party, that it was sheer luck that he stumbled across the alien autopsy film, and that he had no real interest in UFOs. This does no gibe with remarks made by BUFORA's Philip Mantle, who said that in 1993 Santilli contacted him about making a UFO documentary. This was apparently not about the alien autopsy footage, for as Mantle stated, the discussed documentary didn't materialize, and then Santilli brought up the matter of this strange film he said he'd acquired in America. Clearly UFOs had been on Santilli's mind for a while .
The rumor mill ground into high gear after the May 5 screening. Many false stories were circulating, such as the rumor that the American TV show "Unsolved Mysteries" had positively identified the film as a South American B-movie ("Unsolved Mysteries" denied any such knowledge) . UFO researcher Jacques Vallee was alleged to have been offered the film before the Santilli, but had declined to touch it. Vallee denied this ever happened . The rumor about Vallee may have been sparked by his own account of how he and J. Allen Hynek were offered a supposed film of UFO contact by members of the Defense Audio-Visual Agency in 1985. This film never materialized, and Vallee wrote off the encounter as an obscurely motivated hoax . A second showing of segments of the autopsy film was scheduled for the Third International Symposium on UFOs, to beheld in San Marino, Italy, on May 20-21. Far from allowing the drumbeat of interest in the film to die down, as he claimed, Ray Santilli was in fact building interest in the news media and the international UFO community. He had plans to market the film on video tape, sell the TV rights in specific countries, and a deluxe screening of the footage would be the centerpiece of the August BUFORA conference, which was to be held in Sheffield, England.
As was said in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, "the dead travel fast."
At the beginning of this series, it was my intention to follow the labyrinthine story of the alleged "alien autopsy" film from start to finish. By now, however, it should be abundantly clear that this film is a hoax, and that no amount of backpedaling, side-pedaling, or wishful thinking by those concerned can alter that fact. Conclusive evidence, in the form of the alleged original film, is not forthcoming from Ray Santilli, Volker Spielberg, or anyone else.
That being the case, I will wrap up the "Abra Cadaver" series with this fourth and final original piece, based on the opinions, experiences and insights of several qualified medical men.
Dr. Koch Dissects the "Alien Autopsy"
Though anatomists have been dissecting the dead for centuries, the science of forensic pathology is little more than a hundred years old. The main purposes of pathology are scientific and social; it serves science by expanding our understanding of the processes of the body in life and in death, and it serves society by uncovering the truth about the causes of death. Medical doctors learn much of their art from studying the lifeless body, much as archeologists learn about the architecture of the ancients by studying their ruined buildings.
As with most branches of science, more advances have been made in the past thirty years than all the previous centuries together. In the first seventy-five years of the modern era of forensic pathology, most work was done on the gross level -- dissecting organs, making chemical tests on tissues and body fluids. Today investigations can be conducted on the most minute levels, right down to the DNA itself. Much of this ultra-detailed work does not even require a scalpel, relying instead on imaging systems using ultrasonic waves, atomic particles, and advanced X-ray techniques.
The state of the forensic art was not as sophisticated in the 1940s. World War II provided an unhappy wealth of corpses to study, and the catalog of death grew larger as new weapons were added to the world's arsenals. Even so, the level of detail available to pathologists of the later 1940s was not significantly greater than it had been ten or twenty years before.
Ray Santilli's "alien autopsy" film immediately came under the scrutiny of medical professionals. One of the first and best equipped to analyze the UFOlogical aspects was Dr. Joachim Koch, a general surgeon practicing in the Berlin suburb of Spandau, who firmly believes in the possibility of alien visitors. Dr. Koch is a leading member of the International Roswell Initiative, a grassroots organization dedicated to bringing out the truth about the original Roswell Incident. His comments were posted on Usenet on August 12, 1995.
Dr. Koch has been working at a seven hundred bed hospital in Germany for the past nineteen years. As a medical student and surgeon he has attended his share of autopsies, an experience he says still moves him. His first objection to the Santilli film was a personal one. Assuming the body was not a prop, its exploitation, whether extraterrestrial or not, offended Dr. Koch.
Dr. Koch compared the Santilli alien to descriptions given by various Roswell witnesses and noted a number of discrepancies between them. Glenn Dennis, a mortician in Roswell, was informed about the autopsies of the recovered alien corpses by a mysterious nurse he claimed to know, who worked at the air base hospital. She told Dennis the dead aliens had four fingers on each hand, not six. Other Roswell witnesses have noted this difference in digits.
Moreover, if autopsies were done at Roswell Army Air Field, it is unlikely that they would be conducted again at Fort Worth, as Santilli's cameraman alleges. If the procedure at Roswell was merely preliminary, the corpses in the Santilli film would show signs of an earlier medical examination. Dr. Koch noted that preliminary or gross autopsies are usually done in a rough, cursory manner. Corpses are opened, examined, then stitched back up for transferal to some better equipped facility. The bodies in the Santilli film show no signs of earlier attention. Someone -- either the film or the Roswell witnesses -- is wrong.
The protective suits worn by the personnel in the film struck Dr. Koch as wrong. They could not be anti-radiation suits, because earlier tent footage from the Santilli reels shows bodies being worked over by men not in total body suits. Presumably Army technicians would be aware of the danger of radiation from the outset and would have checked for it. Major Marcel indicated that no residual radiation was found at the site of the Roswell crash.
Had the men in the film required protection from unknown bacteria or noxious odors, the hooded suits they wore would not have provided either safeguard. Respirators, masks, and gloves would have been used, and the suited dissectors are plainly not wearing respirators (in some scenes the tops of their hoods can be clearly seen billowing in and out as they breathe).
Dr. Koch's conclusion is that the suits have but one undeniable purpose -- to obscure the faces of the men in the film. It is worth remembering that in all the other sequences of the Santilli film shown on Fox TV, not one recognizable face is ever shown. This is all the more remarkable (and damning) when you consider that these reels of film are meant to be outtakes. It would actually take careful preparation to shoot so many minutes of film and not get anyone's face on camera.
Dr. Koch also supports the view that so momentous an event as an alien autopsy would have been attended by a much larger group of observers. Even under conditions of strict secrecy, many scientists should have been present. Compare the vacant autopsy room to the scene at Trinity Site when the first atomic bomb was detonated. Scores of witnesses were on hand for the historic, top secret event. In the Santilli film there is one observer: the masked man at the window.
Considering the corpse itself, Dr. Koch points out there are thirty-four syndromes in which polydactylism of the hands occur, and thirty-six syndromes that can cause a person to have more than ten toes. There are specifically twelve syndromes that feature hexadactylism (six digits) of the hands and a further thirteen that can affect the feet.
One form of genetic defect described by Dr. Koch is "C-Syndrome," or Opitz trigonocephaly syndrome. C-Syndrome is characterized by an oversized head, widely spaced eyes in deep sockets, a wide, flat nose, mongoloid shaped eyelids, little or no body hair, low placement of the ears (which are often also abnormally small), and underdeveloped jaw, and polydactylism. This sounds quite like the body in the Santilli film, although C-Syndrome cases tend to die in infancy.
It is apparent from Dr. Koch's remarks that he thinks the body in the alleged alien autopsy film to be human, possibly with rare genetic defects. He recalled that in his student days it was possible to bribe the attendants in the dissection lab for extra time with a corpse. Might it not be, he wondered, that some students made the "alien" autopsy film as a prank, or as a way to make some cash on the side?
Dr. Uthman's Prognosis
Dr. Page Hudson was Chief Medical Examiner of the state of North Carolina for eighteen years. He received his M.D. from the Medical College of Virginia, located in Richmond. After spending four years on the faculty at his alma mater, he served two years (1958-59) as an Air Force medical officer, performing general medical duties as well as pathology and surgical pathology while stationed at Tachikawa, Japan. (Surgical pathology is the analysis of tissue taken from a patient during surgery -- biopsies and so on.)
Following his Air Force stint, Dr. Hudson finished his residency at Johns Hopkins and at Kingman County (New York) Hospital, which is affiliated with the State University of New York. At SUNY Dr. Hudson again specialized in surgical pathology. He received advanced training in forensic pathology during a fellowship at Harvard's Department of Legal Medicine.
In 1968 Dr. Hudson was recruited to become the state medical examiner for North Carolina. In the course of the next eighteen years he personally performed 4,000 autopsies, and assisted in or directed another 4,000. By the time he retired in 1986 his office was responsible for 7,500 to 8,000 autopsies a year, including 600 suicides and 800 homicides per annum.
Upon retirement Dr. Hudson accepted a post at East Carolina University, in Greenville, N.C., as professor of pathology. Four and half years later he retired as an emeritus professor. Dr. Hudson remains a sought-after consultant on forensic matters and often testifies as an expert witness in court.
Clearly Dr. Hudson would be a valuable man to consult regarding the alien autopsy film. I arranged for him to view the home video version of the Fox TV show "Alien Autopsy -- Fact or Fiction?" and relate to me his opinion of the scene, the people, and the body shown in the film.
As other forensic professionals have noted, the operating room struck Dr. Hudson as quite bare and spartan, but that alone was not suggestive of fraud. Dr. Hudson said some facilities maintain similar small rooms as "dirty" rooms, where potentially dangerous procedures can be carried out. "Hot" cadavers -- such as those dosed with high levels of radiation or infected with AIDS -- are examined in dirty rooms so that the larger facilities won't be contaminated. Such rooms have only minimal equipment (to minimize contamination) and are often in isolated wings of the hospital.
The surgical instruments were standard and appropriate, too, with one notable exception. The handsaw used to open the "alien's" skull was very out of place. Dr. Hudson's medical career began in the early 1950s, not long after the film was allegedly made, yet he said electric saws were universal in autopsy rooms then, and had been for some time. This is the same type of saw used by orthopedists to remove plaster casts. It uses an oscillating blade that will not cut unless pressure is applied to the handle. Thus the saw cuts through hard bone (or plaster) but will stop cutting when soft tissue is reached. The only place Dr. Hudson has ever seen a handsaw being used in an autopsy was in Bangkok, Thailand.
I asked Dr. Hudson if it would be hard to find surgical implements if one were staging a fake autopsy. He said no; any supply house will sell you scalpels, hemostats, clamps, and probes. The design of surgical tools has not changed very much in the last half century; most of the advance in basic instruments has been in the form of new materials -- plastics, composites, disposable sterile blades. Stainless steel instruments are still widely used, however, and are not hard to obtain.
But when Dr. Hudson critiqued the film doctor's technique, a surprising fact surfaced: the incisions made by the prosector in the alien autopsy show that he was European.
American pathologists always have to consider that the bodies they examine will eventually be embalmed and shown at a funeral. As a result, American pathologists have evolved a style that does not disfigure the corpse, assuming the body will be dressed later by the mortician. American medical examiners make a Y shaped incision, beginning at each shoulder. The two cuts converge and meet at the bottom of the breastbone. From there a single incision is made down the stomach.
European pathologists don't do this. Embalming is far less common in Europe than America, and open-coffin funerals are almost unknown. The incision pattern of a European doctor is T shaped; a horizontal cut is made along the collar bone, or slightly above, and a long perpendicular incision goes down the breastbone to the abdomen -- exactly as the "American" army doctor does in the autopsy film.
The long parallel cuts made by the film prosector down the sides of the "alien's" neck are also indicative of European technique, part of a later procedure that allows the doctor to remove the skin from the neck and face. Dr. Hudson said, "I've never seen anyone [American] make an incision like that. I've seen diagrams of it in Europeans texts."
It might be countered that the prosector in the Santilli film knew his subject wasn't going to be embalmed or presented to grieving relatives at a funeral, but the fact remains that the style of cutting is not typical of what an American medical man would have learned -- and it is illustrative of a European doctor's method.
Dr. Hudson extended Dr. Uthman's remarks about the use of a body block.
"I didn't see one," Dr. Hudson said. "In this country a head block, or body block, usually starts out under the back to make the body arch. A block is nearly always used. In some parts of the country autopsies are done in funeral homes. Even there the funeral directors have a virtually identical type block. I think that's where they originated."
What of the table shown in the film? Was it a typical autopsy table?
"It was hard for me to evaluate the table," Dr. Hudson said. "The traditional autopsy table, the older style in this country and quite a few I've seen in Great Britain -- the older ones -- were very simple, and I never thought at all adequate. They were big rectangles with a shallow trench maybe an inch deep and an inch in from the edge, with a single drain hole at one end."
This description is totally at odds with the table in the Santilli film, which looks like a wooden table with some kind of covering nailed in place on the top (nail heads are visible between the body's legs).
Dr. Hudson disagreed with Dr. Uthman's observation about how pathologists hold and use scissors. "I've never seen that done," Dr. Hudson said. "There may be surgeons who do that in the operating room, but I don't recall doing that."
Dr. Hudson was puzzled by the total-coverage decontamination suits. "I don't think I've ever seen anything even close to them," he said. "I don't know where they dug those up! I've seen autopsies on contaminated bodies, bodies that were suspected of carrying a lot of radiation, bodies in which there was live ammunition, even a small rocket buried in one of them... I've seen various kinds of special protective gear used, most of it pretty doggone makeshift. That's what I would expect to see in the '40s. Nowadays, particularly in the past ten years (mostly generated by AIDS anxiety -- AIDS is really a bete noir), there have been a lot of closed gowns in use. [But] that sort of thing in the '40s? Hardly."
Dr. Hudson agreed that the hooded suits in the film were convenient for obscuring the faces of those involved. Who, then, were the two gowned figures? Did they behave like real doctors?
"It looked to me like one of those two was probably a physician, maybe a pathologist, maybe a surgeon," Dr. Hudson said. "The other one, I think, is strictly an assistant. That would be fairly typical. If I were to do an autopsy tomorrow I would expect to have an experienced technician to work with me."
Dr. Hudson thought the prosector was a medical man because "he looked reasonably comfortable with a knife, but he was very mincing with it. He used very short strokes... it's usually easier, cleaner, and simpler to take long strokes. It made me think he was a surgeon. Surgeons, of necessity, cut that way, as opposed to long cuts."
Is it feasible, I wondered, for an actor to be trained to behave this way in a short time? Dr. Hudson agreed it was possible, and added, "You could get a lab tech or an autopsy room assistant," and have them play the role of pathologist as well.
What did Dr. Hudson think of the third person watching the procedure through the window?
"The fact he was there didn't surprise me. If anything, I would expect to see two or three people observing. I saw no reason for the person to be gowned and masked."
Upon reflection Dr. Hudson continued, "It could be (if it were real) that they wanted a 'runner' of some sort. This would be the person, if they needed some solution or piece of equipment, this would be someone they could call on to bring it into the contaminated room."
Dr. Hudson had mixed opinions about the way the "alien's" organs were handled. "That struck me as a little odd, but again it made me think of the stripped room, a contamination room, where they might not have had any more equipment than they needed. It was something to wonder about, but if I tried I could explain it away; they took things to the next room where they did have scales [to weigh the organs]. It is hard to shoot pictures of an autopsy room without showing the dissecting area, that is, a little elevated table where the organs are put for further dissection, for really opening them up and exploring the blood vessels and channels."
What did Dr. Hudson think of the cameraman's technique?
[Laughs] "Oh jeez... well, he certainly had no experience of autopsies. He found it terribly hard to stay out of the way. I've seen so many ill-trained people taking pictures in an autopsy room (typically law enforcement people), who are experienced with a camera but not in the autopsy room. I wondered most when the head was being opened. It was almost as if the photographer was hiding behind the person who was opening the head. I don't know why we never get a better view of the head."
Dr. Hudson was surprised that there was no still photographer present, but did not find it odd the procedure was filmed without sound. "[Sound] wasn't much used in the '40s," he said.
When I asked Dr. Hudson for his impressions of the body, he laughed and said, "I certainly can't explain everything I saw, but you've got a large, gaping, crater-like defect in the right thigh, with a lot of changes in the soft tissues around that. That darkish coloration around the crater is -- I don't know if we're looking at infection, or what. It's just excavated. It does not appear simply traumatic. It did not look like anything I've ever seen before in an airplane crash, an automobile crash... it looked to me like the left thigh would have looked the same in a couple more days. Something was going on in the left thigh. It was about to give up or break down."
I reminded him of the cameraman's story about the crashed UFO. Did the damaged leg look like an impact wound?
"No," Dr. Hudson said, "[and] I couldn't tell if there were fractures or not."
Dr. Hudson did not believe he was looking at the body of an extraterrestrial. "I don't believe in ghosts or aliens," he said wryly. When I asked him to comment on the stranger features of the body, he fell back on his medical knowledge. Most of the MDs who have commented on the Santilli film have couched their answers in terms that suggest they think the body is a body, not a manufactured theatrical prop.
What about the unnatural number of fingers and toes?
"I give up on that altogether. I've never seen such a well developed case of polydactyly. I've seen my share of folks with six fingers, but they're usually rudimentary or vestigial; they're not really fingers. I've never seen one that approached being as well formed as this. If that was fudged -- and I assume it was -- I don't know anything about how it was done. It may have been started with someone who actually had twelve toes and twelve fingers."
Pursuing the altered-corpse theory, Dr. Hudson continued: "I wondered if this wasn't a person, a doctored body who had a pretty severe infection. What we were seeing in the abdomen was partly organizing pus. That was peritonitis; peritonitis can easily obscure the organs. It would give them the appearance of what we were seeing... a coating of pus or fibrin would involve the omentum and mesentery, which are large membranes, and gloss them over with pus. The organs would be covered over, at least from the front, and would lose their individual identity.
"The head looks oversized, but I'd carry on my infection notion. When they started opening it, it looked like the soft tissues, particularly between the skin and the bone, were thick and looked different... fibrin is a blood protein that's involved in coagulation. When there's an injury, fibrin is released and [the "alien" body] really looks like someone who had developed a tremendous infection under their scalp, so that it covered the whole cranium. [An infection] would give that rough, formless appearance and increase the thickness [of the skin]. Before the skin of the head is opened, the head would look enlarged because of the increase in material between the skin and the bone."
What about the infamous black membranes over the eyes?
"[Laughs] I have no idea what that was about." But Dr. Hudson noted that both eye membranes would not have been put in the same bowl, because it would be impossible to later determine which eye each was removed from. Beneath the oval lenses were seemingly human white eyes, rolled back. "It's unusual to see eyes that are rolled back," Dr. Hudson said.
Was the body in the film an altered human corpse, designed to resemble the big-headed, big-eyed alien 'grays' so common in UFO lore?
"I lean in that direction, yes," he said. "Even with today's technology it would be pretty tough to create from plastic, whatnot, or non-human material anything that would look that good. I've been playing with the idea that they had someone who, either because of radiation exposure or whatever reason, died of an overwhelming infection. Radiation wipes out the bone marrow. People exposed to heavy radiation usually die of infections. They're very susceptible."
Any other general impressions about the body?
"I thought at some angles the neck didn't really look human," Dr. Hudson said, "that and the number of fingers and the breastless chest. Absence of body hair makes me think of radiation exposure [again]."
Dr. Hudson thought it was unlikely that the body had been shaved. "The only thing you'd shave for in an autopsy is to expose wounds, wounds in the head where hair might obscure the fine detail of the wound."
If the corpse was human, Dr. Hudson said that the leg injury would have certainly been life-threatening, but he noted no other signs of trauma, "with the possible exception of the right thigh. I really don't think that right thigh [wound] was traumatic."
The cameraman's story implied that the aliens had a different atmosphere than ours, but Dr. Hudson did not notice any external signs of asphyxiation or pressure damage on this body.
To sum up, I asked Dr. Hudson his general opinion of the whole alien autopsy affair. He was, in a certain sense, puzzled by the film. Dr. Hudson has no interest in UFOs and is so innocent of the lore of flying saucers that at one point he asked me if UFOs were reported anywhere but in the United States. I assured him there were reports from every corner of the globe.
"Well, I wonder why anyone would [film a hoax]," Dr. Hudson said. "What motivated them to want to do this? I think somehow they had a running start, a peculiar looking body that they may have helped to look 'alien.' By really capturing the imagination of some people it became a little game, a hobby, to confuse the news media."
"I don't know what is so discomfiting about this film," Dr. Hudson concluded. "It just doesn't hold up. Talking about the combination of how the people [in the film] act or don't act, what the corpse is like, what is seen or not seen -- I feel like it's telling me something, only I don't know what. I feel I ought to get more out of it.
"It all has a touch of reality, but it also has a touch of unreality, [of] needing explanation, needing an excuse for it to be the way it is."