By Douglas Dean Johnson
Original publication: May 1, 2023
You are in the Crash Story Files, a series of investigative reports examining claims that a UFO crashed and was recovered near San Antonio, New Mexico, in August 1945. To go back to the Crash Story hub story and index, click here.
Over the past three months, I have communicated with a number of people who had contact with one or both of the Trinity “eyewitnesses,” some as believers in their story, others as investigators or in other capacities. From things they reported to me, I have no doubt that Reme Baca thought that the hoax could be a money-maker, and no doubt that he and Jose Padilla repeatedly made efforts to turn it into a money-maker.
However, I have as yet encountered little evidence that they were ever very successful in that regard.
In 2013, Paola Harris herself said, “In that time, about 2012 or so, I could not go down to the crash site because Remy Baca [Remigio Baca] did not want me to and he basically was looking for funding to do the story big-time.” (“Mystery at San Antonio, New Mexico crash site,” by Paola Harris, MUFON UFO Journal, June 2016.)
THE EXCAVATION SCHEME
One angle was what I will call the “excavation scheme.” The hoaxers claimed that they had seen young soldiers kicking metal debris from the alien craft into a “crevice,” and that with sufficient funds, the area could be excavated and alien metals recovered. In 2010, Reme Baca even introduced into the narrative a claim that the boys themselves had visited the site on the day after the crash, and – ignoring the unattended alien craft —threw some alien metal into the crevice “so that we could come back and get them later on.” (Harris interview of July 5, 2010, pages 10-11, 16, 25-26). This second-day visit was edited out of the narrative as it is presented in Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret, as I discuss in detail in Crash Story File: The Shifting Narratives of the Trinity UFO Crash and Recovery.
Alejandro Rojas, UFO researcher and editor at OpenMinds.tv, told me:
In August or September 2009, the owner of Open Minds, John Rao, asked me to look into what is now called the 'Trinity' case. I ended up speaking to Reme Baca and Jose Padilla at the same time, a telephone conference call. I think Reme Baca did most of the talking. Right from the beginning, they asked for money. They didn't want to talk about anything unless we promised to give them thousands of dollars to excavate the alleged crash site, but they apparently did not even have rights to the site. I was already aware of the piece they claimed to have recovered, and it did not have any indication of being anomalous. Without a compelling reason to consider their offer, we dropped it.
In 2019, Jacques Vallee concluded that excavation of the site would be impractical.
But when I was told, “All it would take is a bulldozer digging 20 feet down beneath the ground...” I had to laugh. To me, the idea of digging was unrealistic for several reasons, including the plain requirement to maintain slope stability in the area, and also because that would take a Federal permit, and formal clearance from BLM [the Bureau of Land Management]. Another blind alley. There would be others. We gave up on the idea of recovering artifacts at the site. (Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret, Second Edition, p. 79)
THE SCHEME TO SELL THE FAKE ALIEN ARTIFACT
I believe that Reme Baca, at least, felt that one big payday would come through sale of the artifact – the bracket that Jose Padilla claimed to have pried off an interior wall panel of the alien spacecraft with a crowbar.
Somewhat inconsistent with that theory, perhaps, I note that during an appearance on Coast to Coast AM on December 1, 2010, Paola Harris said, “I’ve offered to take it off their hands for quite a bit of money...they won’t give it to anybody.” However, she did not specify what she meant by “quite a bit of money.”
Two credible sources told me that before he died in 2013, Reme Baca put word out that he wished to sell the artifact, with the asking price reportedly in excess of $200,000. However, I have uncovered no email or other document in which Baca himself offered the artifact for sale, so I regard this allegation as credible but unverified; if any reader has such a document, I would be happy to receive it at douglas.dean.johnson //at// gmail-dot-com.
In 2014, the year after Baca's death, Mexican ufologist Jaime Maussan visited San Antonio. There exists a video clip of Maussan, holding the artifact and remarking to Jose Padilla, "This is very important. You took this from a UFO. I think it is very valuable." Maussan asked Padilla what he intended to do with the artifact, to which Padilla responded that he thought he would place it with a museum. Maussan then said to Padilla, "Reme wanted a lot of money to present this [artifact], but you don't -- why?" Padilla answered, "Money is not important to me. It's just the principle."
(I have the impression, perhaps mistaken, that Padilla's participation in the hoax may have been more motivated by the gratification he has obtained in receiving attention, than by the promise of a big payday, at least in more recent years.)
In an email on April 17, 2023, I asked Jacques Vallee who now owns the artifact, and who possesses it. Although Vallee responded to my email, he did not respond to those questions.
In Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret (Second Edition, August 2022, p. 315), the authors wrote, “[Jose Padilla] entrusted us with the unique object he retrieved from inside the craft, which we had the opportunity to analyze. It has now been donated to a University as part of our records of the case, according to his wishes.” Of course, it would be of interest to know which museum was the recipient, any conditions placed upon the donation, whether anyone assigned a monetary value to the donated artifact for tax-deduction purposes, and if so what that that assigned value was and on basis it was arrived at, et cetera.