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On July 7, 1947, personnel from the Roswell Army Air Field recovered materials from a ranch outside Roswell, New Mexico. Their initial press release stated that the materials resembled a "flying disc"; later the same day, they issued a correction that it was in fact a weather balloon.
The Roswell Incident was forgotten for over 30 years, until ufologist Stanton Friedman interviewed Major Jesse Marcel about it in 1978. Marcel claimed that the government had pressured him and other eyewitness into silence about what they had seen: the object recovered from Roswell was a spacecraft containing alien bodies. Interviews with other witnesses added to the story until it grew into a major piece of UFO lore. In the '90s, the government offered a new explanation of the events: there was a coverup, but it was to hide the existence of Project Mogul, not aliens (Note that in both versions of the story, the debris was from high-altitude balloons.) In light of this, and the questionable research of some Roswell conspiracy theorists, even most serious pro-UFO advocates have become convinced there were no aliens involved.
Regardless of what actually happened (The Other Wiki has a good overview of what's known), the idea of a crashed alien spacecraft--and a subsequent government coverup - has become permanently associated with the city of Roswell in the popular imagination. The fame and ambiguity of the original incident have inspired every Speculative Fiction series ever to explain (or just make an oblique reference to) "what really happened", with varying amounts of seriousness. The town itself, meanwhile, has capitalized on this, building a lucrative tourist industry around the event and aliens in general.
Named after an Emmy award-winning episode of Futurama, which posited that the entire incident was caused by the Planet Express ship accidentally travelling back in time and showing up in Roswell on that fateful day. The "flying disc" in question is actually a deconstructed Bender.
The wreckage and bodies from Roswell may be stored in Area 51. At least one Alien Autopsy was performed and videotaped. The Men in Black may be involved in the coverup. And we may have reaped the wreckage for our own technological benefit.
Compare The Tunguska Event.
Anime and Manga
- Serial Experiments Lain gives a discussion on the Roswell incident and conspiracy theories, and implies that the Wired might have been created using alien technology. Whether that's true, and how relevant it is to the story, is left entirely open, since Lain's world is one where consensus reality is in full swing.
- Axis Powers Hetalia has a strip for this, in which the arrival and existence of America's friend Tony are explained.
- The Roswell Incident figures big in the second volume of The Invisibles.
- Roswell Little Green Man from Bongo Comics. The series followed the misadventures of an extraterrestrial who arrived at Earth via the 1947 Roswell UFO incident.
- Roswell, Texas is all about the Roswell crash in an alternate Texas. Turns out there was only one alien, the rest were humans from Mars.
- Hellboy: Scenes involving Hellboy's childhood and the early years of the BPRD are sometimes set at the Roswell Army Air Field, where the Bureau was based until the famous 1947 spaceship crash. (It's possible that they might've been able to stay there, were it not for an incident involving kid Hellboy, his dog Mac, and some of the residue from the ship. In the aftermath, it was decided that the time had come for the Bureau to go its own way, at which point it moved to the Connecticut facility seen in stories set during Hellboy's tenure as a BPRD agent.)
- Independence Day: the crashed spaceship from Roswell (stored in Area 51) proves vital to humanity's battle against the alien invaders.
- In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, debris from Roswell is seen in Area 51.
- At the end of Lilo and Stitch, Cobra Bubbles is revealed to have saved the Earth from aliens by convincing them mosquitoes were an endangered species; this occurred at Roswell... in 1973.
- In The Rock, the secrets that John Mason stole include the truth about Roswell.
- The below-mentioned Roswell series was based on Melinda Metz' Young Adult book series Roswell High.
- Stargate SG-1: Roswell.
- Mario Acevedo's The Nymphos of Rocky Flats is (apparently) about a soldier who is now a vampire, stuck between vampire hunters and the Roswell aliens. Sounds awesome.
- In Neal Shusterman's novel Everlost, Roswell is explained to have happened when a "Afterlight" boy who died in the Hindenburg crash ended up flying the ghost of the Hindenburg to Roswell for sixty years. Somehow it ends up being seen by non-Afterlights...in 1947.
- In Animorphs, their version of Roswell (many things were renamed ostensibly to obscure the character's location from Yeerks) explained the object that they found was... an Andalite toilet.
- Little Green Men explains that the Roswell "crash" was one of the first events faked up by MJ-12 to prove that aliens existed and imply that the United States possessed their technology in the Cold War.
Live Action TV
- Roswell, natch. The protagonists are alien survivors of the Roswell Incident, masquerading as humans.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "Little Green Men": The aliens were Quark and co., sent back in time by accident.
- Seven Days: the Time Travel machine was reverse engineered from alien technology salvaged from the Roswell crash.
- In Doctor Who, "Dalek", the mileometer from the Roswell ship is seen in a museum of alien artifacts. In the same episode, Van Statten claims that alien tech from the incident ended up creating Broadband.
- The Expanded Universe has multiple and contradictory takes on Roswell, most recently in the animated Dreamland. (Older instances include the New Adventures novel First Frontier and the Past Doctor Adventures novel Devil Goblins from Neptune.) It is Doctor Who, after all; the Time-War and universal cracks have pretty much left us with a great big Timey-Wimey Ball (and even before then, the show favoured Broad Strokes).
- Dark Skies
- The X-Files
- Stargate SG-1: Lampshaded in "Prometheus". A group of reporters are told by Sam that Prometheus was designed from reverse-engineered parts of an alien crash in Fairbanks, Alaska. Jonas, knowing the truth, inquires "Fairbanks?" Sam answers that it sounds a lot better than Roswell.
- Eureka makes mention of it during one episode. Apparently, it was just a weather balloon, and is a constant embarrassment to the visiting bowling team from Area 51.
Subverted in the Babylon 5 spin off Crusade has the episode visitors from down the street. Were they meet 2 aliens who claim that events similar to the Roswell crash and subsequent cover ups are all done by order of Earth. It turns out that the aliens are all paranoid and their leaders use Aliens as a way to divert blame and responsibilities from themselves in order to prevent civil war, mainly caused by their leaders being corrupt. The Captain takes steps to reveal the truth by the end.
- Tabletop RPG Conspiracy X. The Roswell Incident was the reason for the creation of (and split between) Aegis and the Black Book. The scientists who later formed Aegis wanted to make peaceful contact with the aliens, but the soldiers who formed the Black Book shot the ship down.
- After which Black Book accused Aegis of responsibility in order to sign a treaty with The Greys.
- The Call of Cthulhu spin-off Delta Green plays with this.
- Two different GURPS worldbooks - Atomic Horror and Black Ops - mention the event. As the books are not set in the same continuity, the exact details are different; in AH it was an actual starship crash, whereas in BO the event was a hoax created to divert public attention from a real paranormal event elsewhere.
- A third, GURPS: Warehouse 23 claims that the crash, while genuinely alien, was not a spacecraft - it was a classroom, with technology designed to be easily reverse-engineered by humans, dropped as something of a bribe to the CIA and similar forces.
- In Destroy All Humans!, the alien protagonist travels to "Rockwell" to free a comrade.
- Historical in-jokes are par for the course in Shadow Hearts. In the third game, Roswell is where the heroes find septucentenarian Roger Bacon and vampire Hilda Valentine, having crashed when their flying machine ran out of gas.
- Not historical, but definitely an in-joke. Wild Arms 3 featured a side-quest where your heroes fend off alien invaders, complete with Flying Saucers. The name of the paranormal investigator you speak to for the quest? Roswell.
- ~Star Ocean: The Last Hope~ implies that the party member Meracle Chamlotte is the Roswell alien.
- In The Pandora Directive, Tex finds out from a former Area 51 scientist that World War 3 was started using Antimatter salvaged from the Roswell craft. Area 51 itself is on lockdown, after most of the staff were infected with an alien parasite and were gunned down by the guards. Worse, there's a larger vessel hidden somewhere in jungles, and its fuel tanks are full of anti-matter.
- In Pokémon Black and White, the alien Pokemon Elgyem and Beheeyem's Pokedex entries highly imply that they were the survivors of the Roswell, New Mexico crash.
- Supposedly, if one takes the map of the world of MOTHER 1 (a game about an alien invasion), turns it upside-down, and places the city of Ellay where L.A. would be in real life, the protagonist's house roughly corresponds to Roswell, New Mexico.
- A story arc of Irregular Webcomic has the Myth Busters travel to Roswell in 1947 and innocently convince the local Army Air Field commander that what crashed in the nearby desert is just a weather balloon. (It isn't.)
- Futurama: in the episode that gives this trope its name, the Planet Express crew accidentally Time Travels back to 1947 and causes the Roswell Incident.
Bender: That's no flying saucer! That's my ass!
- Tripping the Rift: One of the main characters is the alien responsible for the original incident.
- Ditto American Dad.
- Max and Xylene from Ben 10 use the phrase "we'll always have Roswell." However, Max was still a very young child in 1947, so there must have been a different alien incident in the same area...
- Buzz Lightyear of Star Command plays this out in reverse when Team Lightyear crash-lands on the home planet of the aliens responsible for the original Roswell Incident(possibly), which happens to be an awful lot like 1950's New Mexico.
- The entire Roswell Conspiracies animated series, of course.
- The Roswell UFO crash appears in the prologue of one The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest episode taking place in the Anasazi region of the US Southwest.
- In Dan Vs. "New Mexico," Elise sneaks into Area 51 and steals a spaceship in order to take her revenge on the state.
- If this troper's memory serves correctly, there was an episode of Arthur Postcards from Buster that visited, among other places, Roswell.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), it is revealed that the Roswell incident occurred when the Earth Protection Force, led by Agent Bishop, shot down an alien ship belonging to the aliens that initially abducted him.