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UFO researcher, tour provider journeys into retirement

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A well-known UFO researcher whose tours of the “Alien City” have intrigued thousands of people is retiring.

Dennis Balthaser listens as some of his guests talk before a tour in this photo taken about two years ago. Balthaser, a well-known independent UFO researcher and founder of Roswell UFO Tours, has announced his retirement. (Submitted Photo)

Dennis Balthaser has been described as an ambassador for the city. The Roswell UFO Tours he started seven years ago have shared in-depth and personal knowledge about the 1947 Roswell Incident and other historical aspects of the city with people from every U.S. state and from such countries as Yugoslavia, Russia, Australia, Italy and Germany.

He also helped keep the Roswell name in the international media by participating in more than 300 TV, magazine, newspaper and website pieces.

“I have a lot of knowledge about the Roswell Incident, because I knew some of the guys involved back in 1947, so I would share that research with people,” he said, “and also a lot of history about Roswell that a lot of people don’t know about.”

Some of the people Balthaser interviewed were Walter Haut, Glenn Dennis and Jesse Marcel Jr. They were key witnesses regarding that July 1947 incident when strange materials recovered from a crash site on the Foster ranch near Corona were brought to the Roswell Army Air Field.

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Haut was the Army public information officer involved in writing the famous press release headlined “RAAF captures flying saucer at ranch near Roswell,” an account the military reversed the next day. Glenn Dennis was the local mortician who many interviewers have said talked of calls he received in July 1947 from military personnel asking about embalming chemicals and child-sized caskets. Dr. Jesse Marcel Jr. was the son of the Army investigator who went to the crash site and reportedly showed some of the recovered materials to his family.

“It is still a mystery about what actually happened,” Balthaser said. “There are a lot of rumors and lot of theories about what happened, but, as far as actual information, all I know for a fact is that something happened that is still covered up.”

Balthaser worked as a civil engineer for 33 years, doing quality control and quality assurance for infrastructure projects with the Texas Department of Transportation. He began reading books about the Roswell Incident in the mid-1980s. Upon retirement in 1996, he moved here and began work as a volunteer researcher with what is now the International UFO Museum and Research Center on North Main Street.

“Dennis Balthaser’s contributions to the field of UFO studies have been many and varied,” said Donald Burleson, who now serves as New Mexico state director of the Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON. Burleson notes that Balthaser is an exam-certified MUFON field investigator.

“His many magazine articles and editorials have always been enlightening to read,” Burleson said. “His retirement from the field leaves a space that will be hard to fill.”

Balthaser and his wife, Debra, plan to remain in Roswell, and Balthaser said he might still give lectures or participate in media interviews. But he plans to discontinue his research, writing and website postings and the Roswell UFO Tours.

He said the decision can be attributed to a number of reasons, including recent health concerns, his age of 78, the passing in March 2019 of his friend and research partner Stanton Friedman, and the pandemic, which dealt his business a difficult hand.

“I had 35 prepaid tours that I had to reimburse, starting in March,” he said. “I felt obligated to give their money back because it wasn’t their fault that they couldn’t do the tours, and I don’t anticipate this pandemic thing correcting itself any time soon.”

He said that he considered the state health orders regarding social distancing and face coverings to be prohibitive conditions for his single-car tours.

Up until the coronavirus, the tours were given two times a day for four or five days a week and had been well received. They were featured in travel magazines and given a “traveler’s choice” designation and “certificate of excellence” by a major online trip planning website.

“It has been an enjoyable 30 years,” he said. “At times I have been frustrated dealing with the government and the military. But, overall, I have enjoyed it. The tours have been great. I have been able to share so much information with so many people all over the world.”

When it comes to his UFO research, Balthaser has arranged to continue sharing. He has donated eight boxes of research materials, including about 150 books, to the International UFO Museum and Research Center on North Main Street.

Museum Deputy Director Karen Jaramillo said that the museum has not yet had time to look through the boxes, but she said the organization appreciates the additions to its special collections library, which is expected to reopen to visitors after the coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

Donald Schmitt, a UFO Museum board advisor and one of the principal investigators of the Roswell Incident, worked with Balthaser for years.

“Whenever we would complete a research trip, Dennis was always there for us to follow up on new leads, new potential witness,” Schmitt said, “and provided us with wonderful follow-up reports that we were able to work on on our subsequent research trips. He was a tremendous asset in that regard.”

While Balthaser said he thinks it would be close to impossible to find someone else with both the knowledge and willingness to comply with state regulations to restart the tours, he thinks the pre-pandemic demand proved that whatever happened in 1947 continues to intrigue.

He said that, as far as he is concerned, whatever crashed wasn’t something created by the U.S., Russia, Germany or Japan. He said he remains a Christian, but doesn’t find that to be at odds with the belief that intelligent life could exist elsewhere in the universe.

“We can’t get there, so if they can get here, they have technology that would blow us away,” he said. “So I think for that reason, if they exist — and I use the word if — there is no way we could communicate because I think they would be so far ahead of us.”

While the Roswell Incident was a major focus of Balthaser’s research, it wasn’t the only one. He also investigated other UFO sightings, the Giza pyramids of Egypt and government facilities veiled in secrecy, such as underground military installations and Area 51 in Nevada.

With the pyramids and Sphinx, he doesn’t think they were built by Egyptians and is convinced they are much older than commonly thought.

“Again, you have a situation that in my lifetime, we don’t know the truth,” he said. “Hopefully for some of the younger people, they will know the truth, but for me, it’s past.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.