Roswellian Syndrome is the Bandwagon effect from giving attention to the Roswell incident, that results in its current mythology. The phrase was coined by prominent skeptics, Joe Nickell and co-author James McGaha.
According to Nickell and McGaha, the myth-making process of any reported UFO incident can be outlined by five factors, using Roswell as an example:
- Incident: The initial incident and reporting on July 8, 1947
- Debunking: Soon after the initial reports, the mysterious object was identified as a weather balloon, later confirmed to be a balloon array fromProject Mogul which had gone missing in flight.
- Submergence: The news story ended with the identification of the weather balloon. However, the event lingered on in the ‘fading and recreative memories of some of those involved’. Rumor and speculation simmered just below the surface in Roswell and became part of the culture at large. In time, UFOlogists arrived, asked leading questions, and helped to spin a tale of crashed flying saucers and a government conspiracy to cover up the true nature of the event.
- Mythologizing: After the story submerged, and, over time, reemerged, it developed into an ever-expanding and elaborate myth. The mythologizing process included exaggeration, faulty memory, folklore and deliberate hoaxing. The deliberate hoaxing was usually self-serving for personal gain or promotion (for example, the promotion of the 1950 sci-fi movie The Flying Saucer) and in turn fed the folklore.
- Bandwagon Effect: Publication of books such as The Roswell Incident by Berlitz and Moore in 1980, television shows and other media coverage perpetuated the UFO crash story and cover-up conspiracy beliefs. Conspiracy beliefs typically mirror public sentiments towards the US government and oscillate along with those attitudes.