In 1995, the Fox television network aired a special called "Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction?" which became a surprise ratings bonanza and a pop culture phenomenon, catapulting the topic of UFOs back into the national conversation.
Capitalizing on the popularity of its cult hit "The X-Files," Fox bought 17 minutes of grainy footage from British TV producer Ray Santilli claiming to record a secret U.S. military autopsy of an alien life-form recovered from a UFO crash site near Roswell, New Mexico.
The footage, reportedly bought from a retired military cameraman, shows the bloodied corpse of a hairless, large-headed alien with reptilian eyes being roughly dissected by a team of doctors in protective surgical gear. The shaky camerawork and blurred close-ups lend a sense of realism to the footage while making it exceptionally difficult to get a good look at the creature or its gooey innards.
Although most TV viewers immediately dismissed the footage as fake -- the light, rubbery "flesh" of the alien was hard to ignore -- producer Santilli vouched for its authenticity. At least until 2006, when Santilli began promoting a second "Alien Autopsy" film, this one a mockumentary about the filming of the original.
In press interviews, Santilli confessed the "truth," that the original footage was irreparably damaged during transport from the U.S. to England, and that he hired a team of special effects artists and actors to "restore" the lost footage for the special [source: Barton]. Good one, Ray.