Note: This story was first published in the Albuquerque Journal, and can be viewed here.
By David Lynch
Just before 11 a.m. on July 5, 2018, Candelaria “Candy” Ruiz walked across a crater about an hour and a half’s drive from Roswell in southeastern New Mexico to find some shade.
She settled under a small tree at the crater’s edge and watched as a small group walked around the remote area, which, on this day, compensated for its lack of cell service with multitudes of historical significance and wonder.
Ruiz hadn’t traveled far to the site; it’s about 115 miles from her hometown of Hobbs to Roswell. But in her own way, being among the first outside visitors to the site of an alleged and iconic UFO crash 71 years later brought things full circle.
About 10 years ago when she was taking a break at work, she said, she saw something that turned her into a wholehearted believer.
“There was something like a spiral in the sky coming down, but on the bottom it looked like a red basketball – like a firestorm, I think,” Ruiz said. “I stared at it for like three minutes. I was just staring and staring at it. And after that, it took off real fast. Just shot up.”
Although it’s not known what it was Ruiz saw, it was impossible for her to doubt the belief the close encounter solidified. “There’s a bunch of stories of what happened (in 1947) – that somebody crashed or burned down, or lightning hit them,” she said. “But I know it happened.”
Countless theories have arisen over what “it” was that did or didn’t happen on Mack Brazel’s ranch in 1947.
That mysticism is part of what drew three members of the family that has owned the ranch since the 1950s to open it to the public. It happened rather quickly, too – in a matter of months, according to Abby Bogle.
“Back in January, we were heading home from a skiing family trip and we started brainstorming and talking about all these ideas,” said Bogle, also the chief executive officer of L.A.M.B., the company organizing the tours. “Didn’t really know if it was going to come to fruition; we were just kind of joking around.
“And then, in late February, we all got on a call and said, ‘Let’s pull this off,’ and now we’re here.”
For the first go-rounds, they said, they strived for the experience to be intimate, not corny.
“We wanted it to be treated like it was just another added experience for the festival as a whole,” said Lauren Bogle, L.A.M.B. chief operating officer. “We hope they walked away feeling like they were a part of our family and they were brought back to the night of 1947.”
They knew what they were driving to would mirror the miles and miles of rural land around it.
But for the first time, knowing wasn’t enough on this day. It was about being there.
“It’s like meeting God,” she said.
Before “The Avengers” filmed in New Mexico and Walter White started cooking meth, the “Roswell Incident” inked the state as a pop culture mecca.
Nearly all of them bought a ticket as soon as they heard.
“Over my dead body I wasn’t going to come here,” said Rylan Bernard, who arrived the night before from Toronto and was sporting a lime-green Roswell Invaders baseball jersey on this warm summer afternoon. “It’s like meeting God, almost. Seriously. Unreal.”
This wasn’t the first time Bernard’s been to New Mexico, this close to the site. He’s made two prior pilgrimages in the 12 years since YouTube first pushed him down a rabbit hole he has yet to emerge from.
“I think you have to believe 100 percent to take this in like I think I’m going to take in. You have to actually envision it as it happened, like there actually were alien bodies dead on the ground, there was one walking around,” he said. “There’s always more you can learn, but it’s cemented in my mind 100 percent at this point.”
You can draw your own conclusions.