Strange tales of rats? The Roswell affair? And biological warfare? You might justifiably wonder: what on Earth am I talking about? Well, I'll tell you: a couple of very strange stories that are steeped in controversy and conspiracy, both of which have a connection to rats. Yes, really! It was in November 2010 that I lectured at the Denton, Texas-based Emily Fowler Library, on the subject of strange creatures in the Lone Star State. It was a lecture organized by Lance Oliver, the founder of DAPS: the Denton Area Paranormal Society. As for the lecture, we're talking about the likes of the Texas Chupacabra, Bigfoot, lake-monsters and more. During the Q&A session that followed the lecture, both I and the rest of the audience listened to a story from Lance that was, I believe, second or third-generation. So, yes, we are delving deeply into definitive friend-of-a-friend territory. With that in mind, read on.
Lance’s source told him that when military personnel were cleaning up the infamous Roswell, New Mexico “UFO crash site” in July 1947, the team involved also found something else on the Foster Ranch and among the wreckage. That “something else,” we were told, was a pack of large, rat-like animals, that appeared to be very intelligent, that moved and acted in group-fashion, and that were highly vicious and very weird. And that was about it: a fragmentary story of truly strange proportions. Later on, I did some research into this story and came across a weird project the Japanese had in the final months of the Second World War. It was a plan to send high-flying balloons to the United States - balloons that would be filled with plague-infected rats.
The idea was to have the huge balloons come down in the United States, and unleash bubonic plague across the land. Certainly, Japan's Unit 731 - which performed terrible, unforgivable experiments on people - could achieve such a thing. The big question is: did they achieve it? Was the story told to Lance a significantly distorted tale of Japanese balloons and infected rats? To this day, I still don't know the answer to that question. Whether or not the story has even the merest grain of truth to it, or if it’s just some odd folkloric tale, I have no idea at all. But, for what it’s worth, that was the tale. Notably, the account that follows also has a connection to rats and New Mexico - and in a conspiratorial fashion. Maybe, in some strange and presently unclear way, it's somehow even connected to the affair above.
In the latter part of the 1940s, the FBI got very concerned about rumors suggesting that attempts were being made by communists to infect the cattle of the United States with bacteriological warfare agents. That was not all, however. Indeed, the FBI didn't just focus its attentions on cattle. Of great significance is the fact that one of the cases that the FBI examined – and that is described in a heavily-redacted memo of May 29, 1950 – dealt with the finding of plague-infected rats at the highly sensitive Sandia Base, New Mexico. It was a highly sensitive installation that existed from 1946 to 1971, before being merged into Kirtland Air Force Base. As for the FBI's concerns, they revolved around what was viewed in some quarters as being nothing less than a deliberate attempt to clandestinely introduce a widespread plague on Sandia by hostile, unknown sources. And using rats, no less.
As an example, a document prepared by the FBI’s Special-Agent-in-Charge at its Albuquerque, New Mexico on June 22, 1950, titled Bacteriological Warfare – Espionage-Sabotage (Bubonic Plague), refers to rumors then flying around the official world that a recent outbreak of bubonic plague in New Mexico’s rat population may have been the result of deliberate, bacteriological warfare-related activities by hostile, unknown forces. The FBI noted with respect to its interview with a plague expert, who is identified only as a “Miss Greenfield” that: “…[She] is acquainted with the presence of the plague among wild rodents in New Mexico and in the United States for several years. It has now reached an area from the West Coast to a line running north and south at approximately the border of New Mexico.”
The FBI continued: “From August 1949 there were four cases among humans in New Mexico. Briefly, these four cases, one of which was fatal, were reported in New Mexico. Each case indicated that the victim had shortly before the illness, handled wild rodents which he had killed. The one case in New Mexico which was fatal was not diagnosed as the plague until after death.” Notably, the FBI subsequently received from the Public Health Service two charts displaying the outbreaks of plague in both New Mexico and the continental United States during that period. And as the FBI noted with respect to the Public Health Service: “…they have found positive evidence of the plague among wild rodents in the states lying west of a line directly north of the east boundary of the state of New Mexico.”
The FBI’s Special-Agent-in-Charge at Albuquerque concluded his report thus: “Miss Greenfield has been requested to advise this office concerning any pertinent developments of the plague in New Mexico or in the United States that may come to her attention. In the event such developments are received, the Bureau will be immediately advised.” And although it was never conclusively proved that the outbreak of bubonic plague at the Sandia Base was the work of subversives or terrorists, the whole thing left everyone involved in the investigation very uneasy.