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One of the six New Mexicans directly affected by the crash of what was first called a UFO, then a weather balloon, shares memories of the event 50 years ago


Glenn Dennis, 72
"He said he needed caskets about 3-foot-6 or 4 feet, hermetically sealed baby caskets."
Dennis, who had grown up in Roswell, got his start in the mortuary business by washing the local funeral home's hearse to make money to take a girl to the movies. He had graduated from mortuary school and returned home to work for the Ballard Funeral Home in 1946. As the largest funeral home in town, Ballard had a contract with the U.S. Army Air Forces to handle deaths and respond to medical emergencies at the base south of town.
Dennis, president of the board of directors of the International UFO Museum & Research Center in Roswell, does not remember the date, but he does remember the telephone calls he answered at the funeral home in July 1947.
"It was sometime right after lunch when this man from the base called and asked whether we had any small caskets. I asked whether there had been some kind of an accident. He didn't say much. He said he needed caskets about 3-foot-6 or 4 feet, hermetically sealed baby caskets, and he wanted to know how many I could get. I had one in display and one in storage. He said, 'How long would it take to get more?' ''
The man called again to ask Dennis what type of chemicals were contained in embalming fluid and his advice on how to store a body without changing its chemical composition. Again, Dennis says, he asked what was going on.
"He said, 'We're just having a meeting here to see if we ever have an epidemic, what we have on hand.' ''
Later in the afternoon, Dennis responded to a call to transport an injured airman to the base hospital. On his way in, he saw a number of old field ambulances parked outside. The doors of one were open slightly and Dennis saw something he describes as looking like shiny, slick stainless steel except with pink, purple and black shadings. Dennis delivered the airman, then went looking for someone to approve his voucher so he would get paid. He noticed the hospital was bustling with activity and that people seemed tense. He headed for a lounge reserved for doctors and nurses where he often stopped for a Coke.
"There was a captain standing there leaning against the door.
"I said, 'It looks like you got a crash. Do we need to get ready for it?' This old boy got mad. He wanted to know who the hell I was. He said, 'Don't take a step' and he ordered two MPs to escort me off the base. One drove the ambulance and the other one followed in a truck. When they were taking me out is when I saw the nurse. She had a thing on her face, like a mask, and she said, 'Get the hell out of here.' ''
The next day, the nurse he had encountered, a friend of his, met him in a coffee shop and told him about the strange creatures that had been brought to the hospital.
The nurse was upset and crying, he said. She drew what the creatures looked like on a napkin, small creatures with large heads and eyes and four fingers with suction cups on the ends. Dennis took the drawings and put them in a file folder in a cabinet at the funeral home, a cabinet that later was taken to the dump.
"I didn't talk about it until 1990. I just didn't want to get involved in it. I never told my wife or anybody else. If I'd told this in 1947, who would have believed it anyway? I didn't want my kids getting made fun of because their old man saw flying things."

All their stories:

  • "To my way of thinking, if we're here why can't somebody else be out there?" Loretta Proctor, 82.
  • "The first or second of July, the radar screen lit up." Frank Kaufmann, 80
  • "He said he needed caskets about 3-foot-6 or 4 feet, hermetically sealed baby caskets." Glenn Dennis, 72
  • "He told me that he wanted me to put out a press release which in effect stated that we had in our possession a crashed flying saucer." Walter Haut, 74
  • "They were carrying boxes of strange-looking material." Robert Shirkey, 74
  • "The phone started ringing. I took the story off the wire and read it (on the air) as a bulletin a couple of times." Frank Joyce, 74


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    Copyright © 1997 Albuquerque Journal