Roswell UFO Festival, Roswell, July 2004

How much is that alien in the window?


Every year on the first weekend of July a herd of alien toursits converge on the city of Roswell, New Mexico to celebrate a miracle. It's the day that the aliens crashed, despite all of their interstellar technology, and gave birth to an industry. It's essentially Christmas for alien believers complete with alien researchers, faded country music stars and blow-up alien dolls.


This year’s keynote speaker was Derrel Sims, a self-proclaimed pillar of ufology, Martial artist, hypnotherapist and anaesthesiologist. If Roswell were the Vatican City, then Derrel Sims would be the Pope. Any scientist walking in on his lectures would be the Antichrist.

“The skeptics are really terrible people,” asserts Derrel at his opening lecture on Saturday. “How can you say that you don’t believe in UFOs. I don’t believe that you exist. You say that I can see you and that lots of other people have seen you. I’ve been inside UFOs and spoken to their occupants. Not true. Yes it is. Not true. Yes it is.”

The first 20 minutes of a Sims lecture are pure comedy. There are stories about credible witnesses who realize that they have been abducted when their fingernails start growing faster and they need to trim them multiple times a day. There are rumors about aliens who look like women with blond hair and pale skin sitting patiently in the back seats of Ford excorts. There’s the guy who is having an affair with another man and then discovers that he has an alien scrotal implant that he’s afraid to show to his wife.

Then there’s the alien card tricks. “Oh. You picked the ‘I’m alone’ card. I wanted you to pick the ‘glow in the dark’ card. This is not what the alien intended to do. He intended to make you feel isolated. Pick another card… You picked the ‘sexual dysfunction’ card. Alien operations start at ages two, three and four. Sometimes your sexuality may change. Sometimes you’re attracted to people and you don’t know why. It’s because of aliens. Abductees are strangely attracted to each other.”

“Do you know that scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind where the aliens are playing their music and the little aliens come up to Richard Dreyfuss with their arms outsretched and are like ‘I love you, I love you’? Well, Spielberg was only half right. When the aliens do that, they don’t love you. They’re about to stun you and sedate you before you get abducted. Spielberg was an abductee.” After a while you can’t help but fall asleep. And then you get disturbed.

Derrel has been on a personal crusade against the aliens since childhood when he claims to have been abducted between the ages of 5 and 16. Now he claims his daughter-in-law is also being abducted. He believes abduction follows the family lineage and that parents cannot protect their children but that “kids blame their parents for not protecting them from the aliens… They hate their parents because the aliens tell them to.” The parallels to child molestation, which also travels down the family lineage, causes children to hate their parents and often leades them to invent fictional stories to avoid the painful reality, are spooky.

“People seem to think they are powerless against the alien, but I know one guy who was abducted and ripped out the eye cup of an alien. The amazing thing was that, beneath the eye cup, he saw a digital display.”
- Derrel Sims

Nevertheless, Derrel claims to protect his kids from any alien presence. “You hurt my kids and I will come after you,” he attests. The rest of his lecture is about how to defend oneself against the alien. “Since I’m a Martial artist and self defense expert and have studied Martial arts in two countries and all around the world (sic), I’ve tried to judge whether there’s any skill to their movements.”

He demonstrates the forearm block technique and how to stay balanced during an alien abduction by focusing your chi on the area above the groin. “People seem to think they are powerless against the alien, but I know one guy who was abducted and ripped out the eye cup of an alien. The amazing thing was that, beneath the eye cup, he saw a digital display.”

The next speaker, Lisette Larkins, seemed to belong to another denomination of the alien faith. Lisette believes that “listening to aliens is like getting to know your neighbors… It’s about getting to know those with different appearances, and not all relationships are easy.”

Her relationship with the aliens began when her marriage was going through a difficult period. She went to a psychiatric hospital in Los Angeles and started taking Prozac and other antidepressants and now she associates her alien visitations with a feeling of love and homecoming, “kind of like a family reunion.”

At the conference Lisette introduced her third book, Listening to Extraterrestrials: Telepathic Coaching by Enlightened Beings. Presumably she was the enlightened being referred to in the title of the book, as she proceeded to deliver her 11 steps to having your own alien telepathic experience without divorcing your husband and overdosing on Prozac.

These steps ranged from realizing that we are all one big Universal family in which every relationship has a certain vibration, to being careful of “dangerous metamorphs.” “Clearly Saddam has one vibration while Mother Theresa has another… We must be careful of the Saddam Husseins of the Universe.”


"Clearly Saddam has one vibration while Mother Theresa has another... We must be careful of the Saddam Husseins of the Universe."
- Lisette Larkins


The most minimal speech of the festival was delivered by ufologists Don Schmidt and Tom Carey. Every year these two researchers turn up to the International UFO Museum in Roswell to report the latest research into the Roswell Incident. The problem is that, after the crash, the flying saucer was apparently taken away by the military to a secret base in the Nevada Desert (which, according to Derrel Sims, is now in Antarctica) and so there is not much left to find. Two years ago at the same meeting Don and Tom reported to have found a piece of UFO that was later claimed as a piece of Santa Fe jewelry.

Nevertheless, they continue to dig. Without any genuine findings this year, they spent the first 40 minutes of their lecture showing pictures of themselves digging holes and trenches in the Forster ranch searching for pieces of UFO. Unfortunately the military must have done a great job because, after 57 years, they still haven’t found any evidence.

“What we’re looking for is not 4000 years old, so we need only look closer to the present,” they quipped, boasting their extensive geological knowledge. “Were there differences? Yes there were. There were these bits. We don’t know what they were [shows stones, rocks]. The archaeologists don’t know what they were. Animal fur? No. We don’t know what these are. They are artifacts of uncertain origin.”

The neat thing about being an expert on UFOs is that, if UFOs don’t exist, then you are essentially an expert on nothing. This is quite useful in the UFO arena because the less you know, the more you will find. Tom continues: “Now this is the most exciting thing in the dig to date in my mind. This trench was dug in the Forster ranch perpendicular to the direction of UFO impact and we found this U-shaped indent in the ground.” The ecologist next to me pointed out that this indent looked identical to the sedimentary change left by a burrowing animal that could have lived on the ranch.

The last 20 minutes of the lecture were spent talking about family resemblances between the ranch owners, their grandchildren and resemblances between other families in the Roswell community. The problem is that most of the evidence for the Roswell Incident historically came from human testimony, and as the elderly became more and more senile they would leak out more and more facts. Now, as Don pointed out, “about three quarters of these people are statistically not with us anymore,” so it would seem that family resemblances are all that’s left.

“This isn’t a plug for out book,” they concluded, “but if you want to learn more, we’ve just published The Roswell Dig Diaries 1 and another coming soon.”

The Close Encounters Night Parade down Main Street that evening would indicate that Roswell consists mainly of senior citizens, Star Wars fanatics and people marketing alien-flavored bottled water (rhythmically entitled UFO H2O). Both the festival and the phenomenon seem certain to survive as long as there is still money to be made. The town of Roswell generates money through UFO-related tourism much like the town of Inverness does with the Loch Ness monster. Every hotel is completely booked out during festival season and sales of blow-up alien dolls, alien shot glasses and alien basket balls reach an annual high.

Roswell seems to live by the philosophy that if you don’t have any history then you may as well invent it. It’s a complete waste of time, but if you’re stuck there, why not make the most of it?

John Marshall