Argentina: The Vidal Case Exposed
by Guillermo D. Gimenez, Director, Planeta UFO (Necochea, Argentina)
Editor’s Note: The Vidal Case was deliberately excluded from the INEXPLICATA monograph on the subject of UFOs in the 1960s in South America and Spain due to its complexity. This article by our good friend and contributing editor, Guillermo Gimenez, will give readers the most complete approach to one of South America’s most fascinating and controversial cases.
The story concerning the teleportation of a car from Chascomus, Province of Buenos Aires, to Mexico in 1968, became world famous and it remains today an undisputed classic of Argentinean ufology. Furthermore, it was a the catalyst for the tremendous Argentinean UFO wave of 1968, when all newspapers took to publishing UFO accounts, including older cases that had never appeared in the press.
Chascomus is halfway between Buenos Aires and Necochea, the beachfront city that is the home of Guillermo Gimenez, the author of the following article. There can be no doubt that explaining this case was always among his goals, but the alleged witnesses were always impossible to locate and the rumor mill would kick up people who claimed having known them or were otherwise relatives of the Vidal family. When researchers endeavored to delve into the subject, they would find that these were all false leads. The tip of the iceberg was found by Alejandro Chionetti in the 1980s and it subsequently it was his namesake, Alejandro Agostinelli, who managed to solve a plot that involves the presence of well-known figures from the [Argentinean] entertainment industry, such as Pipo Mancera, Anibal Uset, el Muñeco Mateyko and Tito Jacobson, an entertainment journalist.
Date: May 1968
Place: Chascomus, Prov. of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Summary: A dense fog enveloped a Peugeot 403 belonging to the Vidal couple. The next thing they remembered was finding themselves on a rural road in Mexico, some 6,400 kilometers away, 48 hours later and still aboard their car.
A Report by Guillermo Daniel Gimenez.
There have been countless incidents within the Argentinean UFO case histories that have called attention at the domestic and international level alike due to the characteristics of the events. One of them is without a doubt the Vidal Case, which occurred in May 1968 when a family surnamed Vidal drove along Buenos Aires Route No.2 from the town of Chascomus to Maipu, blacking out upon driving into a fog bank and awakening 58 hours later in the vicinity of Mexico City, in North America.
This incident received global attention and weeks later a “cloak of silence” fell over the events. Neither journalists nor researchers could secure access to the main protagonists, and those upon whom the mantle of silence fell were no longer inclined to speak. Conjectures and suppositions would surround the event.
The Vidal Case would remain among one of Argentina’s spectacular cases of teleportation or teletransportation, a term employed in Ufology to describe cases involving persons and/or objects (in this case the vehicle and its occupants) when they are transferred in a short space of time through means unknown from one place to another, disregarding the space-time barrier. Here, from Argentina in South America to Mexico in North America.
Numerous Argentinean newspapers took note of the story. La Razon, the Buenos Aires daily newspaper published the information under the headline “Que es esto? (What is this?) – others did the same, such as La Nacion (which did not mention the fog bank) and La Mañana (the only one to report the presence of UFOs in this case), among many others.
Renowned Argentinean ufologist Dr. Oscar A. Galíndez, who looked into these events, details the episode in Flying Saucer Review Vol. 14
No. 35 Sep-Oct 1968 as "Teleportation from
Chascomús to México" which reads thus:
“...in early May 1968, a well-known Buenos Aires attorney, Dr. Geraldo Vidal, decided to attend a family get-together with his wife, Mrs. Raffo de Vidal, to be held in the city of Chascomus, less than 120 km distant from Buenos Aires and to the south. The left the gathering shortly before midnight and decided to drive to Maipu, a community some 150 km south of Chascomus, as they had friends and relatives there.
“Driving along national highway No. 2, they had in front of them another car, containing another couple that also had relatives in Maipu. This other family, whose name is unknown, reached Maipú without incident, but this was not the case with the Vidals, whose delay became a cause of concern for those who awaited them. Then, the other couple decided to retrace its steps along the same route in an effort to find them, but had to return to Maipú without achieving this goal or having found the slightest trace of the car or its occupants.
“Forty-eight hours after the Vidals disappeared, at the home of the Rapallini family in Maipú, a phone call came in from the Argentinean consulate in Mexico City, 6,400 km away as the bird flies. In this phone call Dr. Gerardo Vidal told his friends that they were well, and gave them the exact time of his arrival at the Ezeiza International Airport in the capital of the River Plate.
“The Vidals reached Ezeiza at the right time, expected by friends and relatives. Mrs. Vidal was taken directly from the airport to a private clinic, since she was in a state of nervous shock. Dr. Vidal told his relatives of the strange event that had befallen them. He said that when they were in the outskirts of Chascomus on the evening of their disappearance, a “dense fog” materialized suddenly before them, and from that moment onward, they were unable to account what happened to them during the next 48 hours. When they regained awareness of their surroundings, it was daytime and their car, with both of them inside, was parked along an unknown road. They had no physical injuries, but both complained of pain in the nape of the neck and had the sensation of having slept many hours.
”Stunned, they stepped out of the vehicle and noticed that the paint on the chassis appeared to have suffered the effects of a blowtorch. The engine, however, worked perfectly. Putting the car in gear, they drove along the unknown road, crossing a landscape that was utterly unfamiliar. They asked several persons they found along the way and all of them told them the same thing: they were in Mexico.
“Mr. and Mrs. Vidal’s watches had stopped, but using a calendar, they ascertained that they had been gone from Argentina for 48 hours.
“In due time they reached Mexico City, where they asked for the Argentinean Consulate. The retold their incredible adventure there, and the consul allowed them to make a phone call to notary Martin Rapallini in Maipú. Next, the consul, Rafael Lopez Pellegrini, asked them to remain completely silent about the case in order to allow the authorities to investigate.
Dr. Vidal’s car, a Peugeot 403, was shipped to the United States for research, agreeing upon the delivery of a vehicle of the same make and model, paid for by the U.S. authorities.”
These are the facts. Once again, the “cloak of silence” enshrouded the case as confirmed by Dr. Galindez himself, who reported that no one dared speak of the events.
In Search of the Truth
Around this time, the Argentinean press continued reporting on the incident and La Razon explained that the Vidal family had spoken from the Argentinean consulate in Mexico City with a family surnamed Rapallini in Maipú.
All associated this with the notary, Martin Rapallini, a friend or relative of the Vidals (it was later known that this was not their real name, but a pseudonym used to protect the real experiencers), although the notary later professed being completely unaware of this matter.
This “denial” by the notary served as a “confirmation” of the events, as there was a ban on speaking about the case. Only a few weeks later, an alleged witness and relative of the Vidals, a young man surnamed Mateyko, appeared in the news program “Sabados Circulares de Mancera” hosted by journalist Pipo Mancera, to discuss the case
It was also known that Mrs. Vidal, allegedly surnamed Raffo, according to some sources like those of Dr. Galíndez, had been hospitalized due to a nervous breakdown arising from the events, and even Patrice Gaston says in his book “Disparitions Mysterieuses” (Plaza y Janes, Barcelona, 1975, p.72) has her say: “But, what have they done to us in these days? What manner of creatures have had us in their grip?”
Meanwhile, other authors hinted at her death in 1969 – specifically from leukemia – as a result of the uncanny experience. The case continues to add on more mysteries.
28 years would elapse before the truth would emerge, and over 36 before it could be reported.
There had been so many obstacles in gaining access to the true protagonists, and given the case’s characteristics, the incident became a classic in world ufology. Authors all over the world took it as a spectacular UFO case. Subsequently, numerous teleportation cases would occur all over the world.
So much was written about the incidents in newspapers, and subsequently books, and presented in conferences and TV programs that even skeptics reported it.
It was Peter Rogerson in "Notes to a Revisionist History of Abduction
(Part 4): Recovering the forgotten records", Magonia No. 50,
September 1994, who reported having learned in Buenos Aires that the case had been a lie employed to conceal Mrs. Vidal’s missing days while she was committed to a mental health clinic.
Sooner or later the truth would emerge.
Alejandro C. Agostinelli, an Argentinean journalist and researcher, looked into these events and confirmed that it had all been a sham designed to promote an Argentinean science fiction film at the time
In his report “Coches Voladores a Estrenar: Fraudes,
Rumores y Ciencia Ficción" co authored with Luis R. González
(Spain) and appearing in Anuario, Cuadernos de Ufología, No. 29, 3ra Epoca 2003.
Fundación Anomalía, España, he states that he interviewed filmmaker Anibal Uset in 1996, who confessed to having invented the Vidal Case with the assistance of entertainment journalist Tito Jacobson and other friends to promote a movie that opened 2 months after the events, titled “Che OVNI”
The cast of the film included Marcela López Rey, Jorge
Sobral, Perla Caron, Juan Carlos Altavista, Javier Portales, Erika
Wallner, among others, directed by Aníbal Uset from a screenplay by Gius.
Che OVNI was pulverized by critics of the time. The film went by unnoticed and was only recognized years later when some granted it cult status for its role in the early years of Argentinean science fiction.
The movie tells the story of how a hitchhiking Tango singer is picked up by a stunning blonde driving a Peugeot 403, just as in the Vidal Case. After a love scene, he takes the wheel and as he drives, a beam of light from a UFO stops the car and puts the driver to sleep. The frightened blonde leaps from the car and is stripped naked by the UFO. The film moves on, now showing the driver at the wheel of the car during the day, but with a brunette beside him – supposedly an alien – on a road in the outskirts of Madrid, Spain.
The teleportation had taken place along the lines of the Vidal Case. Other scenes and teleportations lead the car to London, and the movie ends at Ezeiza International Airport, where the protagonist is attracted to an airplane – a camouflaged UFO – filled with lovely flight attendants. Uset also told reporter Alejandro Agostinelli that the alleged witness who appeared on the “Sabados Circulares de Mancera” show had been none other than Juan Alberto “Muñeco” Mateyko, his personal assistant and character actor in the movie, who is today a well-known television host.
Uset expressed alarm at how the Vidal Case had gained notoriety and that the “snowball effect” had been among the reasons that led to his silence.
“So many people approached me to say that they had known the Vidals that I began to have doubts. What is more, the confusion was such that I began to think that our story coincided with something that had really happened,” he stated.
Uset is uninterested in revisiting the subject. Even more, it was very hard to secure his story, says Agostinelli.
The entire plot was confected with the aid of journalist Tito Jacobson to promote the movie, which was cooked up by both during a trip between Montevideo and Buenos Aires.
He cannot remember the sources for the events, although he thinks they could have come from a case in either Argentina or England, where he lived for several years. Almost 40 years have gone by since those events and we now know the truth. It was all a lie.
It is important to stress these events. The truth must be known in spite of the case having become a classic of world ufology. Today the Vidal Case will go down in history as a sad reminder in which untruth governed from the start, woven by journalists hoping to provide notoriety to an Argentinean science fiction film. In spite of all this, I wanted to confirm these events myself. The case deserved it. It had been so spectacular, and so much had been written about it, that I wanted to learn more of it. So it was that in January 2004 I got in touch with Alejandro Agostinelli, my friend (editor of www.dios.com.ar, a Spanish-language website devoted to extraordinary beliefs), who first looked into these events and “spoke” to the person directly responsible for the case. At my request, he said the following about the incident:
Guillermo Gimenez: How did you come across the Vidal Case?
Alejandro Agostinelli: It was an intriguing and popular case when we began to develop an interest for the subject of UFOs in the mid-‘70s. Everyone knew – to a lesser or greater extent – someone who claimed having dealt with the protagonists of the case, “the Vidals”, but when you tried to get to the core of the matter, you found out that that person had not been with the Vidals, but had only gleaned it from a third party. It was an endless rumor loop. At the time we were not only unaware of the characteristics and transmission process of a rumor, but that we were actively feeding into it, albeit innocently. I then followed the adventures of my friend Alejandro Chionetti when he visited Maipú around 1980 to interview the Rapallini family, who were the “only indirect protagonists” who could be located. No one knows how this family was involved with the mysterious couple that was “teleported to Mexico”. When notary Martin Rapallini claimed having no knowledge of the matter, the “La Razon” and “La Capital” newspapers (the media outlets that confected the alleged scoop) published the denial with a considerable air of skepticism, as if saying that by denying the matter, he was in fact “covering up for the Vidal – Raffo couple”, arguing that “there was a strict ban on disseminating the case.” If memory serves, it was the La Capital newspaper from Mar del Plata who christened the heretofore anonymous experiences as “the Vidals” to protect them from the rapaciousness of the press, since “Dr. Vidal” was “a distinguished professional.” This ironclad anonymity assured that the case could not be verified, and would later become essential in turning it into an urban legend.
GG: Would evidence confirm that it was in fact a hoax?
AA: It can be said, with a wide margin of certainty, offered by many students of the subject and the passing of time, that there was never solid evidence regarding the existence of a couple that experienced an adventure of such characteristics at that time and place.
It has also been confirmed that Che OVNI was slated to open two months later, a movie with ingredients copied from the case, and which had begun shooting long before “the story” broke in the news. If memory serves, it was Anibal Uset, Che OVNI’s director, who in the early Nineties told Chionetti that the case was a ruse to promote the film. Alex was in the U.S.A at the time and I was following the leads. In 1996 I came across Uset and we started to hold meetings. Between our second and third encounter, when we had developed mutual trust, he began to tell his version of the events. Uset’s testimony was critical. But even without him, the parallels between the film’s content (teleportation of a car to a distant country, with was a white Peugeot 403 both in the movie and in the Vidal Case) and the structure of the story offered by the media, it can be clearly seen that the relation between story and movie is quite obvious. More coincidences? The only “indirect” witness of the events, who appeared on television (specifically in “Sabados Circulares...”) was a youth who Pipo Mancera presented as “a direct relative of the Vidals.” That witness was Juan Alberto “Muñeco” Mateyko, a now prominent TV host who worked with Uset and was a supporting cast member in the film.
GG: So what’s your opinion about it today?
AA: I think that there’s enough evidence to state that one of the cases that contributed to the 1968 UFO flap in Argentina was a journalistic fraud aimed at promoting a movie. Thanks to the story’s exacting structure and the cultural predisposition toward accepting it at the time, the tale’s credibility grew when it became part of popular imagination, becoming what we now call an urban legend. What is persuasive about the story is that it ran away from its creators and acquired a life of its own. Scholars of this subject at the time considered it genuine despite having never interviewed “the Vidals”. Articles appeared in magazines like Flying Saucer Review or Lumieres Dans la Nuit, books were written, the story was mentioned a thousand and one times in UFO conferences, radio and television shows, and of course, there were also “skeptical counter rumors” such as the one by Peter Rogerson in Magonia, who cited an anonymous source and wrote that the case had been “a fraud to justify Mrs. Vidal’s absence while she was committed to a mental health clinic.”
But what surprised me the most isn’t that people believed it so readily at the time, but a passing remark made by Uset. When he realized the story’s magnitude, the director told me that he began to think the case had been real! “So many people came to tell me that they had known the Vidals that I began to have doubts,” he said. “What’s more, the confusion was such that I began to think that our story had dovetailed with an actual event.” At the time, the fact the questioned his own creation startled me. But I think that this helps to understand how UFO stories are built along with many other modern myths. If even a hoaxer can be led to doubt, this means that mysteries are able to overcome any denial. That’s why I think myths are indestructible. Countless teleportation cases have occurred in Argentina and around the world, but the Vidal Case was a lie.”
And this how “Ale” reconfirmed these events.
Today, the Vidal Case from May 1968, in which a family was teleported from an Argentinean road in the province of Buenos Aires to Mexico, has been explained. We know the real story to be another.
All of this proves the importance of carrying out UFO re-investigations, even in those cases that are considered landmarks in Ufology.
It falls to researchers, ufologists, to be open to all possibilities. To be flexible in conducting new research, dispensing with unquestionable notions and reformulating, if need be, our own ideas. See the alternate possibilities, no matter how dark, and weed out cases. All of this in benefit of Ufology. We should thus separate the truth from lies to undertake serious communication and research into the UFO phenomenon, unmasking cases such as this one.
(Translation (c) 2007, Scott Corrales, Institute of Hispanic Ufology (IHU)