|Example of Kodachrome slide mount of the '40's (credit: Zoggavia)|
The chainsaw blues
|By Billy Cox|
There’s a scene in “Parkland,” the new film about the JFK assassination, where a shaken Abraham Zapruder, played by Paul Giamatti, has this horrific moment of clarity. Not only has he witnessed and inadvertently filmed the breathtaking murder of his hero, he understands his life, and his family’s life, will never be the same.
In the blink of an eye, Zapruder has been blasted from anonymity into the glare of multiple law-enforcement agencies. His phone rings off the hook. The media is playing tug-of-war hardball for exclusive publishing rights. Behind closed door, a Life magazine editor has an inside track on fee negotiations. Anguished, guilt-addled, the Dallas clothing manufacturer rightly insists his first priority is to protect the security of his family, whose privacy will be turned inside out through no fault of his own.
Life would ultimately purchase the images for $150,000; Zapruder would donate $25,000 to the widow of Dallas PD officer J.D. Tippit, slain minutes after Kennedy was gunned down. Zapruder would never use the Bell and Howell Zoomatic camera again. Nor would the reluctant eyewitness to history keep a copy of the footage that everyone wanted. He died in 1970 at 65. Time flies.
You may have read about the latest Roswell controversy involving two Kodachrome slides rumored to show a dead alien recovered from the alleged 1947 crash site. The reason we’re hearing about it now is that a member of the small informal group of researchers — known as the “Roswell Dream Team,” an extremely unfortunate moniker — shared information with a trigger-happy outside player, and the whole thing blew up on the Internet before their investigation was complete. It’s easy to get lost in the details, but team member Kevin Randle issued a mea culpa summary last week.
De Void, of course, has no skin in the game and has no idea about what's what. Given the “Alien Autopsy” fiasco of 1995, De Void’s suspicions here are visceral. However. What’s different this time is that, if the tale is true, the owner of the photos isn’t shopping for the highest bidder — he’s apparently scared sh*tless about having his name linked to them. Which, in the context of UFOs, sounds absolutely, perfectly, unambiguously and unremarkably sane.
Tony Bragalia is one of the researchers. He’s a Sarasota hometown guy and we’ve talked on a number of occasions. He’s an executive talent scout and he knows how and where to root out information. He’s been on the Roswell trail for years and financed his research out of his own pocket. He says he’s met the owner of the photos and seen the pix personally. “They’re both in full color and extremely close,” he says.
Story in a nutshell: an estate-cleaning outfit discovers the slides stashed in an envelope inside an attic trunk belonging to a deceased and apparently respected geologist working the Texas-New Mexico region for oil exploration in the 1940s. The geologist and his late wife have no heirs. The slides are brought to the attention of the business owner, who has read Witness to Roswellby Thomas Carey and Donald Schmitt. The guy makes a few calls, out of curiosity. Bragalia gets pulled into the investigation last year.
In many ways, it’s a fool’s errand. Even if, as Bragalia contends, the slides have been authenticated as vintage 1947 stock, the images could’ve been staged. The photographer is unknown. The time and location of the shots are unknown. The geologist is dead. Still, given the potential stakes, research proceeds, delving into the geologist’s friends, professional associates, the paper trail, the gritty thankless stuff that might produce the unanticipated revelation, or maybe another circumstantial payoff.
Then, last month, word of the photos splatters urgently onto the Internet, which forces the researchers to respond. The blogosphere lights up with accusations and invective, character attacks and omniscient screeds from The Excluded, who have no more information than I do. After fielding late-night phone calls from angry strangers demanding to see the photos, Bragalia, who has never possessed them, delivers his own retort. The subsequent comment threads merely validate the slide owner’s aversion to going public. Things like “The slides either don't exist or they're fake and someone is the victim of a scam,” “Pure, unassailable Bullshit,” “put up or shut up,” and “YOU SUCK!!!!!!!!!!”
Yeah, put me in, coach ...
“How people can comment on evidence that hasn’t been presented yet is beyond me. The drama and the politics over this thing have overwhelmed the investigation,” says Bragalia, who drew fire from the "believer" side for proving, last year, to his satisfaction, the famous 1964 Socorro UFO incident was a student hoax. “We’ve found out a lot -- the back story, the chain of custody, the provenance of the film has been well established. But why present the evidence prematurely? An attorney representing clients wouldn’t ask a judge to make an early determination until he’d completed his own investigation.”
Bragalia says the investigation is continuing, but without the photo owner coming forward to explain, this one's stillborn. But De Void gets it. Fifty years ago, confronted with the obligations of justice and history, Abraham Zapruder made the only choice he could. In a real sense, his life was no longer his own. At least his troubles were worth a measure of financial compensation.
But imagine if you stumbled across something far murkier, something potentially Earth-rocking but also, perhaps, no more substantial than a Whoopee cushion. You have no agenda because you honestly don’t know what you’re dealing with. But it defies conventional wisdom. Stepping up will provoke swift and unpredictable emotional reaction, some of it inevitably unstable. Whatever money you could get for it — if you wanted to play that angle — would never be enough to buy back the blessed obscurity you forfeited on the gamble that your exhibit might write, or re-write, history.
Right. Sorry, history -- you lose.
Continue Reading . . .
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