Sunday, July 6, 1997
Authors plan Roswell revelation

BY JIM KNIPPENBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Merciful heavens, it's the story that won't die, and never mind what they say.

Roswell, we mean, celebrating its 50th anniversary this weekend. Remember? In 1947, an alien spacecraft supposedly crashed near Roswell, N.M. The Army descended, did a clean-up, then departed with five aliens and a load of space debris.

The government says it never happened. A bunch of others disagree.

Among those differing: Cincinnati engineers Larry Rogers and Curt Robinson. They are even as we speak shopping a book on the topic.

Not your typical UFO buffs, these two, they began Roswell as a hobby three years ago. Two visits, thousands of dollars and dozens of libraries later, Ice Man Down is finished.

And startling, they promise. Very startling, and a story so ugly they don't want to tell but feel they must.

Problem is, Psst! doesn't know what it is and they're not telling until they have a firm publishing deal.

This much we know: Their premise is that it was more than a UFO crash. "That's the tip of the iceberg; the real story is bigger," Rogers says.

We also know the story spreads beyond Roswell, that the authors got lucky and found documentation, and that they consider the UFO bit a red herring tossed out to divert attention.

"I look at what we have," Robinson says, "and I say, Omigosh, what are we dealing with? Tell me it's not true.''

But it is, they both believe, and they promise we'll all find out. Soon.

Keeping up with old friends

Wherein two prominent former locals find a way to say Happy Birthday to Amelia Earhart . . .

That would be Jack Chapman - he was a way-up exec at Taft Broadcasting - and wife Sally Putnam Chapman. One of Sally's grandmothers was Dorothy Putnam, first wife of publisher George Putnam (as in books). George divorced Dorothy and married Amelia.

But throughout her youth, courtship, marriage, friendship with Earhart, George's remarriage, Earhart's disappearance, Dorothy kept diaries - 54 years of details. She gave them to Sally, who spent five years combing them for, you guessed it, a book.

Whistled Like a Bird (Warner Books; $22) is the inside, untold story of Amelia, George and Dorothy. It will be published July 24, Earhart's 100th birthday.

In honor of which, the Chapmans will be in town to visit friends and push the book. Sally will do the radio-talk circuit, then meet fans and sign books at Joseph-Beth Aug. 4.

Ersatz what??

Going to prove once again, build a better scam and the world will beat a path to your door.

That from Cincinnati photographer Mark Schlachter, who was driving home from somewhere two years ago and so bored passing cornfields that he started playing word games.

One thing led to another, and before long, he had concocted the Ersatz & Moot Point Railroad of Grindle, Ind.

More trips, more boring drives, more fiddling with the concept, and soon Schlachter had invented a full fantasy world to populate his fictional town.

Today, the Ersatz & Moot Point Railroad is a major fantasy, complete with a newsletter, fake citizens, even a theme park name of Amish Kingdom.

The line between reality and fantasy now is so blurred that there's a world full of people on Schlachter's native West Side who think Moot is real. No wonder: They see the logo on his truck. They see neighbors in ball caps and T-shirts with the logo.

And getting more blurred: Schlachter now is traveling Indiana, shooting pictures for an art show and calendar.

"I don't know what happened," Schlachter says. "It's virtual fantasy run amok.''

Psst! appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330. And listen to his Weekend Report with Jerry Thomas at 8:30 a.m. Fridays on WCKY-AM (550 kHz).

KNIPPENBERG ARCHIVE