Haunted Deserts: UFOs in the Emptiness
By Scott Corrales (c) 2017
Many years ago I wrote an article for FATE magazine about lost civilizations in our planet’s desert areas – regions that may have once been suitable for large, organized communities, even cities, but had which had succumbed to erosion and were now simply uninhabitable. Even in the Sahara Desert we find the ruins of Roman settlements in desert oases, otherwise hospitable locations that settlers had to abandon due to a proliferation of scorpions, for example.
They may be the repository of lost civilizations, but it can also be said that our desert regions appear to be teeming with something else – unusual happenings that fall under the loose mantle of UFO phenomena, in the strictest sense. Are these luminous manifestations the residual energy of the peoples who once occupied this region, reduced to flickering lights in the dark? Perhaps even manifestations of the spirits of the empty lands that kept them in abject terror during the long desert nights? Or are we more inclined to think in terms of extraterrestrial visitors availing themselves of these hostile, recondite areas to shelter their spacecraft and operating bases on our small blue marble?
Colombia’s La Tatacoa desert in one of these locations, nestled in the heart of the mountains. The first report we have of its existence comes from Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada, one of the lesser-known Conquistadors, entrusted with the mission of “reaching the Kingdom of Perú by following the course of Magdalena River, demanding gold from local natives to finance the expedition.” Easier said than done, as the explorer traversed some of the most astonishing badlands in the South American continent, known as the “valley of sorrows” due to the overwhelming presence of rattlesnakes. Later researchers would find in La Tatacoa a startling deposit of Pleistocene fossil remains.
The odd geographical feature has also been become known for its constant UFO sightings. A woman named Orfanda Soto, a permanent resident of this forsaken location, claims having seen these spectacular lights from her farm. “On two separate instances,” Orfanda told journalists from Colombia’s Huila Extra website, “me and my family have witnessed flashing lights and objects shaped like Chinese hats flying directly overhead. The light emitted by these UFOs is tremendous. It can even go straight through rock surfaces.”
Expanding on her UFO sightings in this desert region, Mrs.Soto told listeners of Colombia’s NCN Radio that fifteen years ago, she and her family were gathered around seven o’clock in the evening when a ‘flying saucer’ staged an appearance. The shock caused a pregnant woman present at the gathering to lose consciousness. The object made a noise similar to that of an airliner ‘as it takes off’, according to her description. Orfanda Soto made it clear that these things do not frighten her, nor is she worried about being abducted by one of the objects – on the contrary, she would like one of the nocturnal visitors to carry someone away ‘in order to make sure that we’re really dealing with flying saucers.’
The prevalence of these lights led to the creation — at a cost of five million Colombian pesos and fifteen truckloads of stone – of a platform that has been dubbed an “ovnipuerto” (UFOport), but is more correctly described as a place where people gather to obtain healing from earth energies. It has been a success with the contactee set, who assure that only “those who manage to tune into the vibratory frequency to be found within the five concentric stone circles will be able to contact the higher goals of other worlds”, whatever that means. There are suggestions that a Sasquatch-type creature may also live in the area – El Mohán, described as a monstrous, hairy humanoid.
Riddles of the Atacama Desert
As we head deeper into South America, we come to the better known salt deserts of Chile and Bolivia. The Atacama Desert is notorious for being one of the driest places on Earth, although abnormal weather conditions – such as the event in the year 2015 – have caused it to become covered in desert flowers, despite receiving less than half an inch of rain in a twelve month period.
Archaeologist Juan Schobinger has written in his Prehistory in the Americas (NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2000) that Chile faces one of the richest seas in the world and is backed by one of its most forbidding deserts. The dryness of the salt desert, where rainfall is measured in inches per century, made it ideal for preserving cultural artifacts such as baskets, textiles and even food.
It also preserved something darker—the rituals of forgotten shamans who would bury sacrifices deep in the desert for the “gods” to feast upon. The sacrifices would be held at night and the victim, usually a llama or a dog, left out. At daybreak, the ancient medicine men would return to the site to insure that the gods—the meandering lights of the desert—had accepted the offering. The carcass would be utterly exsanguinated and a puncture mark could usually be found somewhere on the body, which was then transported back to the primitive settlement to be consumed by the community. Subsequently, evidence of this communion between man and his deities was buried under a cairn known as an apachetca, a tangible link of the trade between ancient man and supernatural forces. It is easy to dismiss this as the savagery of ancient man until we remember that the books of the Pentateuch mentioned that the blood of the sacrifice belonged to the godhead. Contemporary thinkers of the paranormal like Salvador Freixedo have written at length about this curious aspect of the human worship (Defendámonos de los dioses, Spain: Quintá, 1985).
The first contemporary UFO account from this part of the world dates back to the year 1868, when a local newspaper, El Constituyente, reported on a strange even in the Copiapó Valley. The news item, dated November 14 of that year, reports: “Yesterday, around five o’clock in the afternoon, the time when work is over at the mine, all of the workers were gathered together, expecting our evening meal, and we saw a giant bird flying through the air, having taken it at first to be a cloud. As the object came closer, we were rightly startled, realizing that it was an unknown flying entity, perhaps even the Djinn from The Arabian Knights. Flying a short distance over our heads, we became aware of the odd structure of its body. Its large wings were covered in dark feathers, the monster’s head resembled that of a lobster (or locust), while its body only displayed glittering scales that sounded like metal as the strange animal pulled away”. A compelling description, but of a cryptid or an unknown vehicle?
Centuries later, miners toiling in the same copper mines as those of the 19th century took a spectacular video of something bearing no relation to anything in The Arabian Nights. In 2013, a survey team photographed an apparently cylindrical object resting on one of the nearby mountainsides. Voices captured on the tape can be heard to say that ‘no one would believe this is actually happening’ as the large object flew across the skies. A corroborating photograph from the Cerro Negro region was also taken in 2013 by workers of the Grupo CAP mining concern.
Perhaps even more startling than these events was the alleged CE-3 involving Argelio Araya, a desert hermit who witnessed an enormous “spaceship” disgorging its crew complement of so-called Grey aliens. The terrified loner braved the distance that separated him from the local police station, where he was met by senior warrant officer Claudio Ramirez, who documented the event and ordered search of the landing area where the object and its occupants had been reported.
In March 2005, local newspaper El Chañarcillo reported that a blackout in the city of Copiapó had supposedly been caused by two unknown objects flying at high speed over the city, submerging the community into stygian gloom between eight and nine o’clock in the evening on the third of March of that year. The story gained traction in spite of the usual denials from the area power utility, the Empresa Eléctrica de Atacama, particularly when a witnessed stepped forward to tell his story. Gonzalo Delgado told the newspaper that he was returning to the city along the Cuesta de Cardone when he saw how the two objects in question “crossed the sky at high speed, and when I turned around to look at the city, I realized it had vanished. That leads me to believe that it was at the time that the power failure occurred. Two trucks were also coming down the road at the same time, whose drivers could have also seen the phenomenon.”
Hostile UFOs in the Brazilian Desert
When 16th century Portuguese explorers reached the northwestern corner of Brazil, they were faced with a surreal landscape – impossibly blue green waters and enormous dunes of white sand. Accustomed to the sands of North Africa, they promptly referred to the area as Ceará (the Sahara Desert, or Saara in Portuguese, although this etymology has been challenged). Its spectacular dunes aside, this semi-arid region of caatinga-type vegetation has also been a hotbed of UFO sightings, something that can be said for the entire Brazilian northeast.
A UFO “invasion” allegedly occurred on March 3, 1996 when a still-unexplained blackout plunged the community into darkness at 6:45 p.m., and 26 UFOs cruised through the skies unmolested. Wellington Santos, director of EPUC (Equipo Pesquisa Ufologica Guarabira), observed that “the UFO situation in Guarabira is one of a kind in Brazil and the whole world, since never have there been so many collective sightings involving people of all ages, sexes and occupations, having repeated sightings over a long period of time.”
Massive cigar-shaped craft flew over the region of 23 cities. According to EPUG’s report, a farmer went out in the middle of the night to fire a shotgun-blast at one of the smaller discoidal craft which came closer to the ground than their putative “motherships.” His hostile gesture was duly reciprocated by the UFO, which aimed a beam of light at the assailant, inflicting third-degree burns. In Mamamguape, fifty-five miles from Joao Pessoa, one of the cigar-shaped objects (known locally as charutos) reportedly fired a gas weapon against a hapless man who was running away from it. On October 14th, three hundred Guarabirans witnessed another UFO invasion, which included a massive craft reportedly as big as a twenty-floor building. “Had this been a southern city,” Santos noted ruefully, “journalists would be raining out of the sky.”
In 2015, the town of Santa Quitería in Ceará would face a similar wave of hostile UFOs. Car and motorcycle drivers would complain of being chased in the dark of the night by strange fiery objects along the stretch of road linking communities in this remote region, prompting some to leave their cars at home and use rail transportation instead to cover the distances involved. The A Voz de Santa Quitería news portal (www.avozdesantaquiteria.com.br) presents the following quote from an anonymous local driver: “I was on my motorcycle with my wife, heading for my parents’ home. Suddenly, a reddish light approached us…we felt a wave of powerful heat, prompting me to head into the bushes and get off the motorcycle. We were very frightened by that thing. We decided it was probably the device that chases people to suck their blood. Once the lighted vanished, we resumed our journey to my parents’ house.”
The news portal adds another case from the same region. A married couple motoring along the road leading to Trapiá was confronted by a shining object “engaged in making pirouettes” over the treetops. They were so taken aback that they wondered if it was prudent to continue their trip, but the bizarre craft – if craft it was – made the decision for them by flying off into the darkness. Reporters advised their readers to avoid taking any violent action or retaliation against the objects, “since we are uncertain as to how they might react.”
The town of Almecegas – a sandy fishing community of two hundred souls, whose homes are sheltered by languid palm trees against a cloudless blue sky – has also become a UFO hotspot. A place that looks peaceful and inviting in the light of day becomes an island of fear in darkness, as its residents look to the sky for signs of abnormal lights. Fishermen have narrowly escaped from the strange objects when their boats are offshore at night – a situation reminiscent of the infamous Ilha de Colares attacks of the ’70s, involving the mechanical “chupas”.
Prof. Humberto Sales is responsible for most of the research being conducted in this remote area. He writes: “Stories like this are striking, because even one such isolated case would suffice to prompt us to look into the apparitions at Riacho de Meio, the location where the bulk of the sightings occur.” Another reported case involved bikers on their way back from the locality of Aprazível. As they rode along, a powerful light appeared, flying low over their heads, causing one biker to fall off his motorcycle out of sheer panic.
Mysteries of the Mexican Desert
On July 11, 1970 the world turned its attention from the ongoing lunar exploration missions and worldwide political crises to focus on a relatively small region of the deserts of northern Mexico.
An Athena rocket V-123 rocket launched from Utah’s Green River missile base went astray and landed in the Mexico’s Bolsón de Mapimí, a desert region covering roughly forty-seven thousand square miles of the states of Coahuila and Chihuahua and is considered the southern reach of the Chihuahua Desert. The rocket, originally aimed at the White Sands range, somehow deviated twelve hundred kilometers to land in the so-called “Zone of Silence” or vértice de trino, as it is also called in Spanish due to the fact that it occupies the place where the states of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua come together.
Quick diplomacy by the Nixon Administration averted an incident between the neighboring countries. Some Mexican sources, however, questioned the nature of the “accident” and suspected the Athena misfire could have been deliberate effort by the U.S. aimed at exploring the mysterious area. American communiqués stated that the rocket’s payload contained Cobalt-60 in an airtight container that would have almost certainly survived the impact, but a gargantuan effort was made not only to recover the payload, but also to remove and containerize supposedly ‘irradiated’ soil to be returned across the border. Nearly seven hundred U.S. and Mexican personnel combed the desert for a month, collecting all manner of specimens.
UFO researcher Santiago García, the undisputed expert on the subject, believed the U.S. had left behind a remotely guided vehicle, perhaps similar to the Soviet Lunakhod that would remain idle during the day and operate in the cooler desert night. García was of the opinion that this putative probe was looking for uranium deposits, but keeping an eye out for more interesting phenomena was not out of the question.
In 1975, a businessman known only as “Mister Wong” was making milk deliveries along an established route one night. When he came to the village of Nuevo Delicias, he was blinded by a tremendous light ahead on narrow desert road. Wong’s eyes adjusted to the sudden flash, and he was startled to see a saucer-shaped object hurtling toward him. He promptly began rolling up his truck’s windows, as if doing so could save him from a certain impact with the unknown object.
The incoming object, however, avoided the truck with ease, flying overhead, turning around, and returning whence it came at low altitude, vanishing into the darkness. Wong – who was accompanied by his wife at the time, noted that the object made a shrill noise “like that of an old blender.” He was more fearful of the possible collision than of the strange object itself, since according to his testimony, the local ranchers and truck drivers were quite accustomed to seeing these strange objects, which landed at a rocky outcrop at a location known as Cuatrociénagas in the state of Coahuila, where it was possible to find evidence of their landings in the desert sands.
Wong conveyed all this information to researcher García, who would find it corroborated by an even more incredible event. In early 1976, Jesús Berlanga approached the ufologist with a series of photographs purportedly showing a UFO landing less than two hundred feet away from Berlanga’s father, who was exploring the promontory known as Cerro del Imán (Magnet Hill), when he came across the glowing, hat-shaped object. As though startled by the human’s presence, the object rose into the air with a thunderous roar, allowing young Jesús and the other members of the expedition to see it.