In the mid-1990s most of the developed world was gripped by the phenomenally successful American television series The X-Files. With this came a resurgence in interest in all things paranormal on a level not seen for decades. By far the greatest interest was in Extra Terrestrials, which formed a key part of the over-arching storyline of the T.V. series, and there were plenty of experts crawling out of the woodwork to insist that we were years, if not months, away from full contact being established with our alien brethren.
The catch, several of these experts would insist, was that our governments were trying to keep it all secret while they gradually introduced us to the concept in order to avoid a mass panic. Then at some point, amongst all the chatter of lights in the sky and abductions, it was remembered that just after the Second World War there had been a strange incident in Roswell, New Mexico, USA. 'Something' had crashed there; 'something' unidentified that had been flying, so this 'something' was by definition an Unidentified Flying Object. A U.F.O!
Of course by this time you couldn't use the perfectly non-committal term U.F.O. without people thinking that what you meant was 'alien space craft.' So whatever the truth behind the Roswell incident it was now a permanent part of E.T. Folklore. This association would be given credibility in many people's minds at the time by what would turn out to be one of the most famous hoaxes (or reconstructions depending on who you believe) of the last 20 years.
In 1995 Ray Santilli held a press conference in the Museum of London, England, to announce to the world that he had acquired footage of an alien autopsy dating from around the time of the Roswell incident that had been filmed on an airforce base near the crash site. The footage of the autopsy showed what looked to be small deformed men on an operating table. However, upon closer inspection of the video it became apparent that these were not men at all.
The 'things' on the table were short and squat with large round bellies, small limbs and oversized heads giving them an somewhat Humpty-Dumpty-like appearance. Another distinction that they had from what one would expect from a human subject was that they had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. Were a human to exhibit this degree of polydactylism one would not expect the perfectly formed fingers present on the subjects.
All very strange but surely these things had to be fakes; shop dummies, perhaps? Well, a lot of people thought that until the film showed the scientists examining the bodies properly. They took out what appeared to be real internal organs, and from close-up footage of the injured knee of one of the subjects being moved, a lot of people who had already been nudged into the direction of believing that this was an authentic video of aliens being dissected, began to think that these were too detailed and authentic-looking to be models. Therefore, many of the watchers concluded that this could at last be the genuine article; the proof of the existence of aliens they had long searched for!
Others, however, concluded that it was humbug and called for things like the film to be examined and dated, and for details like the people involved in the filming and acquisition of Santilli's film to come forward. How both these lines of enquiry were dealt with showed off perfectly Santilli's clever planning, ability to think his way out of a crisis and pure dumb luck. In terms of forward planning Santilli had expected there to be calls to test the authenticity of the film and he had probably worked out that if he was unable to provide film for this or if his film did not pass tests then this would just result in a load of smug armchair naysayers sitting back and saying “Do you see? It has to be a hoax or he would have provided evidence to prove it's authenticity!” After that you then get a clammer of people who were fooled by the hoax desperate to rewrite history saying that they weren't fooled and you're left with footage that nobody wants to buy unless it's for the Aren't-people-who-believe-in-things-we-don't-kooky report at the end of the local news. You know the sorts of reports I mean: they are always reported on by the local weatherman, who is inevitably a bit camp and loved by grannies, and end with the weatherman gurning in fear as he is bathed in a green light and some whooshy, beepy sound effects play insinuating that it was true all along and the aliens have beamed him aboard their ship.
Anyway, I digress. Santilli avoided this fate by actually providing a section of film from the 1950s for the tests. That crisis averted, Santilli would have to find other witnesses that could collaborate the story of the autopsy film. It would seem this was something he hadn't planned for but at the last minute he was able to recruit a homeless man who put on a very convincing performance for the cameras. If we are to believe the account of this event put forward in the film Alien Autopsy starring Ant and Dec then it turned out that this homeless man, unbeknown to Santilli and his collaborator, was an out of work actor, which was very lucky for the pair as he was able to provide supporting 'evidence' in a very convincing manner.
So in the end Santilli and his collaborators were able to keep their hoax up long enough to make what must have been a tidy sum of money from airplay on most major TV news networks, still photographs in newspapers and a blockbuster documentary made by Fox, the network responsible for The X-files, without which the hoax would never have reached the dizzying heights it did. In the 00s Santilli came clean and confessed to the hoax and to how he pulled it off.
It turned out that the 'secret military base' in which the autopsies had taken place was the living room of a London flat and that the aliens themselves had been dummies made by artist John Humphreys stuffed with offal from Smithfields Market for that authentic internal organ look and that the convincing looking injured knee joint had been from a leg of lamb. After filming, the 'bodies' were placed, cut-up and in bin-bags, throughout the area so that they would not draw attention. Santilli's confession was made into the aforementioned Alien Autopsy movie, which used some artistic licence to put the story of the hoax into a larger comic story (involving crop-circle-loving gangsters), which still retained most of the key facts but slightly altered a few for dramatic effect such as having them bury the alien 'bodies.'
The final twist is that Santilli insisted that his video was not a hoax but a reconstruction and restoration of a film he had seen that had deteriorated beyond repair by the time he had raised the money to buy it. He claims that scenes from this film that had not degraded are inter-cut with his reconstructed scenes.
If you want to watch the footage yourself and make up your own mind, you can find it here: