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CYBERSPACE / TERRY SCHWADRON

Alien Encounters of the Net Kind

June 23, 1997|TERRY SCHWADRON

I'll admit it. I haven't decided for sure whether aliens crashed 50 years ago in the desert outside Roswell, N.M. Then again, I don't worry about it too much.

Why interplanetary travelers would pick such a spot is beyond me, but for lots of folks, the question seems consuming. Next month, thousands of people are expected to descend on Roswell for a celebration and quasi-scientific debate over exactly what did happen half a century ago.

Whatever you want to believe, be sure of this: You can find supporting evidence on the Web.

There are several sites questioning whether a large dent in the ground was caused by an out-of-control weather balloon or a misguided spacecraft, whether a quartet of extraterrestrials were inside and later autopsied and whether the government is covering it all up.

The Web is the perfect forum for the believe-it-or-not quality of the Roswell debate. For the casual visitor, facts may matter less than presentation; the story may have to be sort-of-true-enough to support the sales of UFO-related paraphernalia and excitement.

I am pretty certain that these sites are assembled by earthbound terrestrials who want to control your personal computer. Here's a rundown of some of what you might find:

Perhaps you can avoid my mistake. I started at the Popular Science site (http://www.popsci.com), thinking that the magazine-sponsored site would probably have a solid and fun presentation. I was right, with one exception.

The magazine's Web Roswell special report has been turned into a game--an intelligent, informative scavenger hunt--that actually demands that we know some of the significant or silly facts about the event. The presentation was great, but only a real fan of the debate could possibly know the answers. A survey about whether I would agree to join aliens on a romp through interplanetary space was easier to handle.

Instead, I pressed my Web controls and moved--admittedly at something less than warp speed--to a site calling itself the Roswell Incident site (http://www.roswell.org). It looked quite official, and in most serious tones, the site walks visitors through all of the evidence, testimony, myths and counterclaims of alien invasions.

Not to spoil things for you, but these are folks who don't believe.

Within the site is a copy of the definitive 1995 Government Accounting Office Report on Roswell (http://www.roswell.org/gao.html), ordered by Rep. Steven H. Shiff (R-N.M.) who wanted to find if the government had covered up the Roswell events.

The report itself is pretty plain by Web standards, all text and no fun. But the hard-core fan of the debate will probably appreciate its many juicy tidbits.

Several entertainment sites weigh in, among them Hollywood On-Line, (http://www.hollywood.com/holiday/roswell/html), which is owned by The Times. There is absolutely no information about Roswell, but there are recommendations about good UFO-type movies. Others offering Roswell links are http://www.id4movie.com for the "Independence Day" movie site and http://www.marsattacks.com for the movie of similar name.

At an Air Force links site (http://www.af.mil/navigate), one can do a site search for Roswell information and retrieve some original Roswell Army Air Field documents about the New Mexico brouhaha. By now, I was having trouble believing in any government documents.

By contrast, I loved visiting a site at http://www.sierra-vista.com/roswell, which came complete with java applets carrying the 50-year-old news from the Roswell Daily Record across the bottom of the screen as if it were breaking news, along with some well-executed graphics and music.

This site provided links to various documents and commentary, and was the first of several sites I visited to offer the chance to buy a memento of the occasion.

A site called Eyes on the Sky (http://www.aracnet.com/~eyessky/maindcs/roshirts.htm) skipped content about interplanetary life altogether, and went right to the T-shirt sales. I must admit, they were good, with aliens and characters from the various Roswell stories in almost every combination. Sites at http://www.image50.com/ufo and http://www.futureone.com/~alien/giftshop.html followed suit with retailing as the main event. The former offers certified, authentic soil from the crash site.

An area calling itself the Roswell Autopsy Film site (http://www.execpc.com/~vjentpr/jroswell) has lots of anonymous analysis of photographs and films taken in and around Roswell to argue that something happened.

For the basic UFO aficionado, there is a plethora of space-wandering sites. I'd start at UFO Resources (http://www.newageinfo.com/res/ufo.htm), which has enough link information to hold reader attention until ET gets home.

For the record, the government's 1995 conclusion was that the investigating Air Force officer is "100% sure that the Roswell sightings are a hoax." Of course, the next thing the government will be telling us is that the Internet may be harmful to our health.

*

Terry Schwadron is editor of Life & Style. He can be reached via e-mail at terry.schwadron@latimes.com

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