In early July 1947 -- the exact date is unknown -- something fell out of the sky, hitting the ground on a ranch 70 miles from Roswell, New Mexico.
Was it an extraterrestrial craft? A weather balloon? A top-secret, high-altitude military device used to detect Soviet atomic tests?
Nearly 70 years later, those questions persist, with decades of speculation and conjecture fueling the now-legendary case of what's commonly called the Roswell UFO crash.
Roswell marks the event each year on the first weekend in July, attracting a variety of speakers and presentations that aim to shed light on what really happened all those years ago.
Speakers at this year's two-day Roswell Incident include this reporter, a longtime writer on the UFO beat, with a presentation called, "Close Encounters of the Military Kind."
The 125-year-old Roswell Daily Record launched the UFO crash legend on July 8, 1947, when it published a startling headline announcing a "flying saucer" had been captured, as seen above. The next day, the paper printed a contradictory article, quoting the military as claiming the crashed object was merely a weather balloon.
"We have a lot of tie-in with this whole Roswell incident and we wanted to help make it a more serious exploration of the UFO event as kind of a springboard for that topic," said the newspaper's publisher, Barbara Beck, whose family has owned the Roswell Daily Record since 1935.
"There’s only so much you can talk about the Roswell incident, because most of the people who were associated with it are dead and we really don’t know what happened," Beck, pictured below with this reporter, told The Huffington Post.
Here's how it unfolded in 1947, as told to this reporter four decades ago, by military participants in the original events:
"Col. [William] Blanchard called me and said, 'We've found something northwest of Roswell. We don't know what it is, but you ought to put out a release on it so that we don't get caught with our pants down,'" said Lt. Walter Haut, who was public information officer of the 509th Bomb Group based at Roswell Army Air Field. (It was the 509th that delivered the atomic bombs on Japan, ending World War II.)
Haut said he was never an overly inquisitive person, and didn't talk much about any of this to anyone.
"I do not ask a bunch of questions, unless I need the information for a specific thing," Haut said. "I'm not going to go beyond the scope of what I'm working on. I think that the public would appreciate knowing if it's a true fact, that there are intelligent beings outside of our own Earth, and I don't think it would create any panic."
This brings us to Maj. Jesse Marcel, who at the time was in charge of intelligence and security for the base. He was assigned the initial task of going out to the debris field to collect some of the wreckage -- it was scattered over an area about three-quarters of a mile long, and several hundred feet wide.
"We went out to the scene of where the crash was and started picking up the debris," Marcel recalled. "It's almost indescribable. It's not the kind of material I'd ever seen in my life, nor have I seen it since.
"There were little pieces that looked like they were made of wood, but it wasn't wood, and it had some kind of writing or hieroglyphics that I couldn't decipher and nobody else could. It was flexible, but you couldn't break it and you couldn't burn it.
"Also, I found a piece of metal, which was about the thickness of the foil in a pack of cigarettes. But the amazing part about it was you could put it on the ground, hit it with a sledge hammer and you couldn't even put a dent in it! That astounded me, and I knew it was nothing from here. I was convinced it was not from anywhere on Earth, and I'm still convinced of that."
The video below shows Marcel 30 years after the 1947 events of Roswell, sticking to his story.
Marcel said that, after gathering the wreckage, he was told by Gen. Roger Ramey at Carswell Air Force Base in Forth Worth, Texas, "'Don't open your mouth to the press. Put some stuff on the floor and let them take a picture of it.' But I was careful not to put out anything with detail on it. So, they took pictures, and one picture appeared in the papers."
Here is that photo:
"Gen. Ramey told news reporters this was nothing but a crashed weather balloon, but I do know this: Later on, I went back to Roswell to resume my duties, but what they did at Carswell was to make a mock display with a battered weather balloon, and they let the press take pictures of that. The whole thing was a cover-up to begin with, and that was the last I heard of it."
There are many more aspects to the original Roswell UFO story, including eyewitnesses to related events. All are overshadowed by the military claim that the crash had nothing to do with an alien ship.