No adequate consideration of American cultural celebrations for the month of July would be complete without a mention of Roswell, New Mexico. In July 1947 on a rancher’s land near the small city of Roswell, an event took place that would give birth to one of the greatest mysteries which would fuel UFO mythology and controversy for decades to come. As Christopher Partridge, editor of UFO Religions (Routledge, 2003), describes:
Within just a few weeks of the [Kenneth] Arnold sighting [near Mount Rainier in Washington], the most famous alleged UFO incident occurred at Roswell, New Mexico. More significant in terms of its cultural impact than in terms of its scientific verifiability, this event, perhaps more than any other UFO event, has spawned a whole body of literature, numerous television documentaries, various movements, a network of conspiracy theories, and many fictional works (e.g., The X-Files, Roswell High and Independence Day).
The event in question involved a farmer finding metallic fragments on his property which he investigated after hearing an explosion. The military soon appeared on the scene to gather the fragments, eventually claiming that the pieces in question were part of a weather balloon. Over the years alleged testimony of those involved in the cleanup would claim that in reality a crashed UFO complete with alien bodies was retrieved which remains in the custody of the military. The conflicting accounts have fueled not only one of the greatest debates in American history, as well as an annual celebration that put Roswell on the national map, but this has also developed into a phenomenon that has taken on religious dimensions at times. Returning again to Partridge:
Roswell is now firmly established as what might be described as a key ufological ‘sacred site’. That is to say, whilst of course many ufologists would not interpret the significance of Roswell religiously, it does tend to inspire the same sort of behaviours as religion. In other words, it inspires implicitly religious attitudes and actions.
So while Americans clean up their streets, driveways, and parks after Independence Day celebrations, let’s not forget the annual anniversary of the Roswell UFO incident. For some, it’s downright sacred.