Expert explores UFO legend

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A weather balloon? A test aircraft? A UFO?

Local astronomer and archaeologist Woody Printz explored those questions in a lecture at the EPOCH Assisted Living Center last night.

"At the time, I wasn't a believer (in UFOs)," said Printz, who was studying archaeology at New Mexico Highlands University when the incident happened. "But for every long-standing myth or legend, there is a grain of truth somewhere."

During his talk, "The Roswell Incident: Fact or Fiction?," the Richmond resident sought to focus on facts, steering away from the sort of kitsch that inevitably is associated with anything alien- and conspiracy-related.

'That's the question'

"I'm not going to give you any off-the-wall experiences and thoughts," Printz told the 25 people in the audience. "But it is no secret to me that there is life beyond us. But is it visiting us? That's the question."

Printz began by summarizing the facts behind the case: the "Flying Saucer" report issued to the press by Army brass; the way that report was quickly replaced by stories about a downed weather balloon; and Roswell's relatively close proximity to atomic bomb and missile test sites.

He then presented his findings, which included a slideshow of photographs Printz took in 2000 when he visited Roswell and the nearby White Sands Missile Test Range.

Suspicious over plaque

At the White Sands museum, he saw a primitive-looking, mushroom-shaped spacecraft that looked like it had been built by a "boilermaker," and when he noted that its plaque stated the contraption was part of the Voyager mission to Mars, he became suspicious.

"(The plaque) said it had a top speed of 1,100 miles an hour," he told the group. "Hovering would have been a major feat for that thing."

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Printz, who has his commercial pilot's license and worked as a "human factors engineer" on NASA's Gemini space program in the mid-'60s, thought "it made absolutely no sense."

He recalled cringing in embarrassment as he went inside International UFO Museum in Roswell, which featured a flying saucer sculpture plastered against the side of the building.

"I thought, 'oh, this is dippy,' " he said.

His embarrassment disappeared when he was introduced to two key Roswell players: Lt. Walter Haut, the information officer on the base who was told to release — and later bury — the flying saucer story, and Glenn Dennis, the mortician on the base who was ordered to leave the scene immediately after he commented on the crash debris he saw in a military ambulance.

"I was no longer the total skeptic," Printz said. "I believed something crashed there. Was it one of our own? I believe there was a cover-up."

He concluded the lecture by showing segments from a SciFi Channel special about an archaeological dig that took place at the Roswell crash site in 2002 — which proved that something had, indeed, struck the ground some years ago.

"Was it the saucer bouncing off? We don't know," he said.

Despite the inconclusiveness of the findings, John Kusmech of Sandisfield said he appreciated Printz's level-headed approach to a decidedly flighty issue.

"I liked that he had a critical mind, and he wasn't nutty about it," he said.

His 11-year-old daughter Evangeline — also an alien buff — agreed.

"We all know it wasn't a weather balloon," she added.


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