Wednesday, April 01, 2009

No Trespassing: UFO CE-2's

No Trespassing: UFO CE-2Ks
By Scott Corrales, Institute of Hispanic Ufology (IHU)

UFOs don’t come as close to us as they used to.

Time was where a bright-eyed saucer buff could read stories of unidentified objects coming close enough to the surface to singe treetops, set off home alarms, cause car and truck engines to sputter and die, o else inflict strange physical symptoms on innocent bystanders. In the Aughts, they either fly high over our heads, teasing digital cameras and camcorders, or else go straight to business and engage in the sordid business of abductions. No candy and flowers first.

In fact, it’s hard to sit down to write an article about what used to be one of the most exciting topics of the early years of UFO research: the moment when the objects that have so captivated our interest for fifty years ceased to be “lights in the sky” and became objects – solid, semisolid, transparent – that touched the surface of our world and left behind measurable effects.

Salvador Freixedo, the Spanish Jesuit priest whose interest in the paranormal led him to become one of the world’s foremost thinkers in matters ufological, once subtitled a book “cuando aterrizan los OVNIS, los dogmas vuelan” – which translates as “when UFOs land, dogmas fly away”. A strange light in the night sky can be dismissed as a rogue airplane, a balloon, a star, and lest we forget, the planet Venus; the same strange object, seen in daylight hours, can be conveniently dismissed, again, as some sort of manmade contraption or a misinterpretation of a natural occurrence by an inexperienced or untrained viewer. But once the object descends, dismissal becomes harder. It is impossible to tell Stephen Michalak of the legendary Falcon Lake UFO case of the mid-1960s that he misperceived the object that blasted him with an unknown quantity of radiation; it is equally unlikely that one can tell “Jeff Marx” of the Cranberry Township PA case of 1965 that the paint on his car was destroyed by a weather balloon or Venus.

Granted, CE-2s are not as impressive as CE-3s, or otherwise Spielberg's 1977 blockbuster would have probably not achieved the levels of success it did. In his study The UFO Book (Visible Ink, 1997) UFO historian Jerome Clark rightly suggests that "by their nature, CE-IIs ought to be the most important of all UFO cases," (p.83) given the fact that the physical traces left behind by putative alien craft may actually lead to a better understanding--if not prove--the phenomenon's existence and origin. Overshadowed by more compelling accounts of alien contact and abduction, CE-IIs have been relegated to "supporting actor" status and have played a minor role through the 1990s and right into the 00s. But the very few cases that have come to our attention in these years of UFO fly-overs—and outright abductions—are nonetheless intriguing.

Mexico: CE-2K hotspot

In 1957, when most ufologists were still debating the wisdom of publishing reports indicating that UFOs could in fact land and leave ground traces, Mexican newspaper El Universal Gráfico published a comprehensive account on the alleged landing of a discoid object in the community farms of San Juan de Aragón, an event witnessed by farmer Gilberto Espinoza. Although the incident had taken place in November of the preceding year, the newspaper ran its story in January 1958.

A decade later, while on their way to visit a number of South American locations, Jim and Coral Lorenzen took advantage of a layover in Mexico City to meet with APRO correspondent Jesús H. Garibay. APRO's "man in Mexico" proceeded to brief the organization's directors on the most significant cases at the time. One of them involved two witnesses (a father and daughter) to the landing and takeoff of a UFO, with the added benefit of the photographs taken of the event.

"The principal witness," wrote Coral Lorenzen, "is a mechanical engineer, and the other is his daughter. On May 6, 1967, the two were driving between Durango and Mazatlán. At 11:00 a.m., they spotted a disc-shaped object on the ground off the highway. They stopped the car and took three photos as the object was taking off. The first shows the object at the level of the treetops, partially hidden by a tree. Two parts of its landing gear are clearly shown. The second shows the object apparently in flight against the clear sky: no landing gear is visible in this exposure. The third photo showed nothing. APRO is still on the track of this set of photos, and not knowing if the principals want publicity or not, we have decided not to release any names at this time." (UFOs Over the Americas, Signet, 1968 p.65)

A glance at Mexico's ufological history reveals a number of cases in which fly-overs by unexplained vehicles resulted in physical effects. A fair share of such cases occurred in the 1960's, when widespread electrical blackouts appear to have been UFO-induced. During the month of September 1965, the city of Cuernavaca, some fifty miles south of Mexico City, would suffer three separate power failures. The Ultima Hora newspaper indicated that the blackout had been caused by a large luminous flying saucer which crossed the heavens over the city--an inverted soup-bowl device which was seen not only by thousands of citizens but by city mayor Emilio Riva Palacios, who was attending the opening of a film festival with members of his cabinet. The lights went out during the showing, and upon going outside, the city fathers were treated to the sight of the massive object's glow, which reportedly filled all of Cuernavaca valley.

But the force behind all these aerial phenomena appeared to be enamored of la capital, Mexico City, with its juxtaposition of massive colonial structures, modern skyscrapers and ancient ruins: it chose September 16, 1965-- the one hundred fifty-fifth anniversary of Mexico's independence from Spain, to manifest half a dozen luminous objects over the city's skies, casting downtown Mexico City into unbreakable gridlock as drivers left their vehicles to take a better look at the phenomenon. Newspapers reported that aviation authorities had received in excess of five thousand telephone calls from people asking if they had also seen platillos voladores. On September 25th, a citizenry weary of craning their necks skyward endured another leisurely display of the unknown as a vast luminous body passed overhead, remaining motionless for a while before shooting out of sight at a terrific speed. Only days later, two smaller objects would buzz the gilded dome of Mexico's Palacio de Bellas Artes, a turn of the century structure that dominates La Alameda park. A few dozen people waiting at a bus stop witnessed the early evening sighting; they described the objects as "enormous luminous bodies with intermittent sparkling lights."

By this point in time, some of the world's major newspapers had picked up on Mexico's saucer situation. Paris's Le Figaro reprinted an editorial from Italy's Corriere della Sera on the subject: "Mexico City International Airport has officially recorded, of late, some three thousand cases of mysterious apparitions described in detail. At nightfall, people gather on the terraces and balconies of their homes to search the skies...a clamor of voices can occasionally be heard, saying: "There goes one! Can you see it?" Invariably, what follows is this: traffic is paralyzed on neighboring streets, since drivers also want to partake of the spectacle. The roadways grind to a halt, leading to monstrous traffic jams. After a while, witnesses to the event are willing to swear that the presence of platillos voladores causes engines to stall and plunges homes into darkness. Throughout Mexico, the number of blackouts has been inexplicably high..."

Incident at Azcapotzalco

Thirty five years later, police officers Enrique Torres Sedeño and Israel Valdivia Gutiérrez found themselves on a routine patrol: the seemingly endless beat of the Gustavo A. Madero delegación (precinct) driving through the darkened streets of the world's most congested city in squad car 16156. The city's police force had been on the receiving end of controversy in recent years, with allegations of kidnapping and murder being brought against its officials, and the less-than-glowing reputation that its supervisors and lieutenants had earned since the 1970s excesses of Superintendent Durazo's corrupt tenure. But like in any other city in the world, the patrolman's lot remained to serve and protect the community...even in situations that escaped any police academy training.

At around two o'clock a.m. on the morning of February 14, 2000, a bright light coming from a soccer field located within the Center of Technical Research and Investigation facing Vocational Scholl #8 in the Santo Tomas drew the patrolmen's attention. Suspecting a fire, the police cruiser headed straight for that direction. Now, months later, the officers wish it had indeed been a fire or something similar. At first, they could not believe what they were seeing: suspended in mid-air, some ten feet off the ground, was a strange artifact projecting an array of intense multicolored lights and two searchlight beams which changed hues from red to green and blue. In spite of their astonishment, the patrolmen managed to estimate the unknown object's diameter at some 10 meters. The powerful lights suddenly became intermittent, and a slight buzzing described as similar to the sound "produced by whirling a stick at the end of a piece of string" became apparent. This was too much already, even for seasoned veterans of the mean streets of Mexico City. One of the patrolmen grabbed the microphone from the dashboard and promptly radioed the dispatcher for assistance. The local time was 02:13 a.m.; the object remained visible for a little longer before staging a sudden disappearance at 02:20 a.m., leaving Gutiérrez and Dueñas with the only tangible evidence of their close encounter with the unknown: both officers' analog wristwatches were frozen at 02:20 a.m., magnetized by whatever strange energy issued from the shining object. As in hundreds of UFO cases before this one, the timepieces would never work again.

Perhaps the most curious note the encounter is that when the patrolmen left their vehicle to enter the research center and get to the football field above which the vehicle hovered, they were prevented from doing so by members of the building's security force--evidence of a basic lack of trust in the city's watchmen and their motives.

Mexico's Secretariat of Public Safety's dispatchers did not tarry in alerting other units throughout the city about the bizarre events which had just taken place in Santo Tomás: the crews of police cruisers 16079 and 11616 of the Azcapotzalco Precinct, along with units 01127, 01899, 01875, 01127 y 13843 of the Gustavo A. Madero precinct, would eventually radio in to report contact with the multicolored intruder, which was seen again at 02:45 local time in another neighborhood of the same area. The crew of unit 01127 reported having seen the object flying over the Palmititla neighborhood, not far from Chiquihuite Hill in the Gustavo A. Madero precinct, where it would remain for 12 minutes.

At 03:10 local time, the purported UFO was already on the other side of the city, this time over the rural area known as Desierto de los Leones, not far from a police station. Here, the object remained in view for only three minutes before vanishing suddenly, as it done earlier. By 03:13 a.m., the dispatcher for the Secretariat of Public Safety would advise its patrol cars that the unidentified flying object had disappeared in a southerly direction behind Tenayo Hill in the municipality of Tlanepantla, state of Mexico, and that its whereabouts were unknown.

As if the 16 pairs of eyes belonging to the "trained observers" prescribed by ufological dictum were not enough, there was independent corroboration for the case from a third trained observer, newspaper photographer Saúl Navarro, who managed to take photographs of the object while covering a story involving protesters from Mexico's national university (UNAM) outside a detention center known as Reclusorio Norte.

While capturing the images of the protestors and their tent city erected outside the jail, Navarro became aware of a "bright light which remained perfectly still beside Chiquihuite Hill," as he would later testify.

His task in the area completed, was heading toward his car when he noticed that the lights on the strange object next to the hill were beginning to blink. "It was still, and couldn't have been an airplane, given an airplane's inability to remain suspended in mid-air. It suddenly resumed motion until it hovered above the rooftop of a nearby house for some 10 to 15 seconds. After that, the object lost itself behind the tree line." Navarro also confirmed the multicolored flashes of light seen by the patrolmen.

It could perhaps be argued that the Azcapotzalco event does not represent a "true CE-II" because the unidentified object in question never actually touched the ground. Still, the stopping of the patrolmen's wristwatches would meet the criterion of "exerting temporary or permanent effects on machinery" that the definition calls for.

Curiously enough, Officer Valdivia would later relate that he and his partner were equipped with photo cameras as part of their standard gear for photographing suspects at the time of arrest, but that none of the photos taken of the Azcapotzalco saucer came out. Another of the police cruisers--16105--was also unsuccessful in taking photos of the object. The effects on machinery also extended to a cellular phone aboard squad car 16074, whose battery was completely drained at the site. The phone itself is allegedly inoperable as well.

The Azcapotzalco events were submitted to the court of public opinion on July 11, 2000, when Mexico's Marta Susana talk show held an open forum on the event, featuring the tried-and-true "skeptics vs. believers" format which has come to characterize UFO debates in that country. The police officers were joined on the stage by two air traffic controllers--Enrique Kolbeck and Alfonso Salazar--who stressed the importance of the UFO phenomenon and the fact that it is a classified matter in most countries. The controllers mentioned the startling fact that some three hundred UFO incidents had occurred over Mexican air facilities in the past five years, most notable among them being an incident in which an airliner's landing gear was struck by an unknown object.

Much research has yet to be conducted in this case (as of this writing, no medical information been forthcoming about any effects on the patrolmen's health), but the fact that the event occurred over Mexico's Center of Technical Research and Investigation has created a compelling rumor: Dr. Rafael Lara Palmeros, research coordinator for the Center for the Study of Paranormal Phenomena (CEFP, in Spanish) has been advised that biological specimens in the institution's laboratories experienced "mutation and growth" as a result of the object's presence. But until confirmation for this can be obtained, it remains just another tantalizing rumor.

A Landing in Mezcala

A spectacular CE-2K occurred in late December 2007 – early January 2008 as a massive UFO landed at Cerro Pie de Minas at the town of Mezcala in the state of Guerrero. Tourists who take the bus from Mexico City to Acapulco are probably aware of this town as one of the stops on the way to the silversmithing town of Taxco. La Cronica Vespertina, a daily from the state capital of Chilpancingo, reported that the object touched ground at this particular location and was visible for a mind-bending thirty hours, both in pitch-blackness and bright daylight. This was a truly democratic sighting, as it cut across all distinctions of age, gender and occupations: schoolchildren, housewives and engineers and laborers working the mines reported seeing the same thing: a saucer-shaped craft that flew silently over the Sierra Madre and came to rest on the hill, flashing its lights to the amazement of onlookers.

”Ground effects” became immediately apparent: even though the object was at a distance from the town, viewers complained of eye irritation from looking at the unknown object; power levels in the town fluctuated even though the meters at the local utility showed no apparent changes; people trying to take photos of the object, or record it with camcorders and cellphones, found their instruments affected by a supposedly electromagnetic source. There were reports that even cameras using standard photographic film yielded nothing but overexposed images.

According to journalist Francisco Rangel, who covered the story for La Crónica Vespertina: “The object was seen by most of the population, ranging from small children to the elderly and entire families, seen at considerable distances by the luminosity that affected the eyes of many residents and the fact that the electric levels of all the homes dropped whenever the light’s intensity increased, ranging from a soft shade of light blue to a white and phosphorescent blue, acquiring yellow, orange and soft red tones...”

The bizarreness of the situation did not keep people from wanting to turn the CE-2 into a CE-3: locals streamed toward Cerro La Mina in a string of pickup trucks – 20 or 30, by some counts – as a makeshift welcoming committee. One can easily imagine a top-hatted municipal president getting ready to read out a hastily improvised proclamation declaring it “Alien Friendship Day”, but the light turned off as they approached. In the cold, pitch dark of the Mexican sierra, some claimed that now blackened visitor was roughly saucer shaped with a surface reminiscent of sheet metal. The hardy souls who braved the road found that their photo equipment was useless and worse yet, their pickup trucks had had their power drained as well. According to Rangel’s article, two youngsters displayed their teenage recklessness by coming as close as they dared to the saucer: they claimed hearing two “dry, metallic sounds emerging from within the alleged craft” and these sounds prompted them to turn tail and return to the imagined safety of their vehicles where – amid tears – they regretted their hasty decision, now afraid that unearthly beings would emerge from the featureless bulk to spirit them away to an unknown destiny. “This fear,” writes Rangel, “prompted them to flee from the site as best they could, and they refuse to talk about it.”

Power Interference in Argentina

This account takes us from Mexico to the Southern Hemisphere--namely Tandil, Argentina--where UFO activity restarted in earnest in early 2000, attracting national and international attention.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2000, Hugo Macías, 60, faced the task he had been performing--some might say heroically--for the past 37 years: delivering the city of Mar del Plata's La Capital newspaper to a number of locations along national highway 226. As he woke up in the pre-dawn hours to do his job, Macías began his paper route at the Gendarmería Nacional (national police force) building in Puerta del Abra on the road between Tandil and Mar del Plata. After dropping off copies of the paper, Macías drove on for a quarter of a mile when he felt a loud, unusual sound approaching him from behind. He stated that a cylinder of light "encircled" his vehicle, and placed the light's diameter at some 50 meters (160 feet). The unknown beam of energy "seemed to pierce the rooftop", according to the deliveryman.

At that point, explained Macías to an interviewer from the Diario de Tandil newspaper, his car radio inexplicably shut off, with the vehicle's engine and headlights following suit. Despite the engine shutdown, the cone of light transported the car an estimated 600 meters (1700 ft.) before abruptly disappearing and leaving the automobile by the roadside. "Everything came back to life," stated Macías, referring to his vehicle's electrical system, "and I found myself staring into a dark but starry night. In the sky above, [at an altitude] of some two thousand meters (6000 ft.). I could see a cylinder-shaped light heading toward a nearby mountain range...the whole ordeal lasted a matter of seconds, but they seemed endless. There were no other vehicles on the road that night: I may have passed two cars during the remainder of the trip."

Macías retold his experience to a group of friends and an Army officer. The duty officer at the Gendarmerie building later advised him that similar phenomena had been seen "five or six times" and that a burned circular shape had been found in a nearby prairie.

But the deliveryman was also made privy to a highly intriguing piece of information that appears to be a constant factor in Latin American UFO cases. The Gendarmerie, he was told by a local sheriff, discourages talk of UFOs out of a fear that stories "will attract NASA's attention, a fact which creates disturbances [given the fact] that NASA has an airplane with six scientists and an all-terrain vehicle which can go anywhere in the world to inspect different sites...many locals are troubled by the presence of such strangers." Stories of official-looking foreigners flashing NASA credentials and in clearly marked vehicles constitute a common experience in UFO cases from Mexico to Puerto Rico to the Southern Cone. Does the great esteem in which the U.S. space program is held outside the country represent a perfect cover for military or governmental investigators?

Hugo Macías cherished his brush with the unknown, and was proud of "having the satisfaction of having been contacted by something which many researchers would like to see and yet never have." His only complaints in the wake of the CE-2 were of a physical nature: while he felt no bodily effects at the moment of the incident, he came down with a migraine, laryngitis and a number of other ailments two days later. Such side-effects have been reported in cases around the world: during a wave of "boomerang"-shaped saucers in Pennsylvania and western New York (1994), many eyewitnesses complained of similar physical maladies (cold or flu-like symptoms).

Another Police Sighting

No physical symptoms, however, were reported during the January 2006 incident involving seventeen officers of the San Salvador police department and their deputy chief. These law enforcement agents reportedly found themselves enveloped by “powerful silent radiation” for a brief span of time. As they returned from a police operation in a rural area, the trained observers saw a strange, powerful light in the sky that did not appear to be a floodlight from a helicopter, airplane or any other artifact. Amir Methey, the deputy chief, even added: “The poweful light wasn’t a floodlight at all...nor was it any other device or aerial optics.”

The light allegedly rose to a great hight before vanishing, leaving behind an afterglow or white cloud that slowly dissipated. The engines of their vehicles were never affected and communications between units showed no interruption, either.

The officers from the San Salvador barracks would have been interested to learn that residents of their district had been reporting enigmatic lights in the sky to the media. The manifestations had occurred at Nandubaysal Beach in the town of Gualeguayco (a source of UFO reports as of this writing, January 2009). Local resident Enrique Hurtado complained about being awakened by the sensation of something touching him on the face and arm in the middle of the night; the next day, he found that the grass outside his house bore two perfectly circular burn marks, measuring “15 paces in diamter” He later told media that the neighborhood dogs had not stopped barking all night, and that a flock of birds appeared to have been scared away from a nearby stand of trees.

The circular burn marks would also be a prominent feature of the August 2006 case in Santa Rosa, the main city of the Argentinean department of La Pampa. Researcher Salvatore Carta reported to Inexplicata that a “Mrs.O” had witnessed a dark red object, having the aspect of a plow disk, and surrounded by lights. The object remained suspended in the night sky, but the woman entered her home due to the prevailing cold temperatures that evening. In the morning, she noticed that the soil was drier than normal and seemed more compacted. When Carta visited her property, he saw a “fairy ring” type burn.

Perhaps the UFO flap that has been affecting Argentina since 2008 will bring us more cases of this type to mystify witnesses and experts alike.