Saucers in My Backyard: Argentina's Trancas Case
If a banner or pennant similar to the kind employed to warn people of storm warnings could be designed for UFO flaps, the citizens of Argentina during the Sixties would have clearly welcomed it. The decade opened with a formidable UFO flap that is still studied today, forty odd years after it occurred, and includes some of the most memorable cases to emerge from this country.
At 7:20 p.m. on May 22, 1962 a squadron of fighters in the vicinity of Bahía Blanca's Comandante Espora Naval Base, reported the presence of UFOs along its flight path. The interception lasted 35 minutes. Direct eyewitnesses to this incident were Lt. Rodolfo César Galdós and his student, Roberto Wilkinson. This was the first official acknowledgement of the phenomenon and would lead to the Argentinean Navy's inception of its first Permanent Commission for the Study of the UFO Phenomenon (COPEFO, in Spanish), headed by a team composed of naval officers and journalists. Not to be outdone, the Argentinean Air Force promptly created its own saucer study group.
A month later, a strange object had landed with impunity in an airfield in the province of Corrientes. A report circulated in Buenos Aires’ La Razón newspaper stated that Luis Harvey, the airfield manager, had been alerted to the landing of an unauthorized flight. Fearing a landing by insurgents or leftist guerrillas, Harvey went out to the runway to confront the problem. But no rickety aircraft filled with bearded milicianos awaited him – a luminous object described as “spherical and spinning on its axis” was now suspended above the tarmac, giving off flashes of blinding green and blue lights. Suddenly, while the airfield manager and his assistants looked on, the object rose vertically into the air and zipped off into the distance.
Platillos voladores were a daily occurrence and a household word during the 1962 Argentinean wave, with 4 cases in the provinces of Córdoba, San Luis, and La Pampa taking place on the same day, May 13. The month of June of that year recorded major incidents in the towns of Crespo, Pedro Luro and Bajada Grande, while August brought sightings to Pirán, Catriló, Chamba Punta, scattered all over the nation’s geography. The fall of 1962 was no less busy, with incidents in Mar del Plata, Monte Leon, Choele Choel and Tucumán in the far north of the country. It may have seemed to many that an invasion from outer space was underway.
Among the most compelling Argentinean cases from the mid-1960s we find the Mar del Plata Case of August 20, 1965, experienced by Eduardo Jacobi and Teresa Acuña, ages 23 and 18 respectively at the time of the event. The event was first mentioned in the La Razón newspaper on August 21, subsequently picked up by author and researcher Roberto Banchs and re-opened by Miguel Angel Gomez Pombo, who managed to interview Eduardo Jacobi in the year 2002.
According to Yacobi - who disputes the date given for the case, claiming
a September 1966 date for it - he was having supper when his brother told him
that word on the street was that the port harbored a "flying saucer base". The
witness scoffed at the notion. He and his wife left the house to catch a midnight bus to downtown Mar del Plata. Walking a distance of "five or six rural blocks" to the bus stop, Yacobi says that the few lights on the road suddenly went out, which didn't trouble him at all. At that point he heard a sound coming high above the eucalyptus trees: the source was an object that would eventually descend over an empty field measuring some 15 hectares by his estimate. Exchanging glances with his wife, both realized that they were seeing the same thing, but a difference of opinion occurred - Teresa wanted to stay behind; Eduardo wanted a closer look. She won out, asking him: "If you get taken by a flying saucer, who's going to believe me?"
"The lights came back on," Yacobi continued, "and fellows from the La Capital de Balcarce newspaper stopped by. They asked me where we were headed and remarked about the blackout, but I said nothing about the sighting. Ten minutes later, the bus came. I told the driver "you're so late!" and he replied that they were on the road and couldn't get the bus started, adding: "I saw a light, too" and they were some 2 kilometers away more or less. The microbus always ran on time and the lights never used to go out back then. The following day I spoke with reporters from La Capital. They told me that they tried to take photos of what they had seen but their cameras wouldn't work. Another day we went back and found a triangular mark on the field. The reporters were there too. The object was hovering above the ground, it never landed."
The unidentified flying - or hovering - object in the Mar del Plata Case was circular in
shape and described as "immense", with a sixty meter circumference. The witnesses were standing some hundred meters away from it. Yacobi, an avowed atheist and unbeliever in anything as outlandish as flying saucers, developed a passion for the subject after his brush with the unknown, although he never had another sighting or encounter. A curious item of information emerged during Miguel Angel G. Pombo's interview - the witness stated that he "received a letter from NASA some three or four days later, but threw it out." Apparently it was a form and a request for a drawing of the object he had seen.
That same month - August 1965 - the Argentinean Navy's COPEFO study group conceived the notion of following the pesky UFOs by means of a combined effort involving radar and chase planes out of the joint Air Force/Navy Base at Punta Indio. During the one particular incident, radar screens picked up an unexplained echo. A Navy interceptor was scrambled after the radar contact, but the UFO repeatedly managed to elude its pursuer. According to the pilot, the intruder had an "ellipsoid" configuration and an estimated diameter of some twelve meters. At one point, this unexplained object came within two hundred meters of the interceptor. However, in spite of its successes, the Navy's UFO panel ran aground in 1967, possibly due to a statement made by one of its directors supporting the existence of unidentified flying objects. A spokesman, making it clear that the director’s opinions did not reflect the Navy’s official stance on the matter, issued a hasty retraction. Another contrast between the Air and Navy services became evident when the commander in chief of the Argentine Air Force, Brig. Gen. Adolfo Alvarez embraced the existence of "flying saucers" in July 1968, cryptically adding, "Otherwise, I wouldn't be an aviator."
No account of the Argentinean UFO situation of the Sixties would be complete without a mention of the “Trancas Incident” of 1963. It has been included in most every book and encyclopedia published since that time, but the most thorough account appears in Los Asombrosos Fenomenos de Trancas by Dr. Oscar A. Galíndez, APRO’s Argentinean correspondent and one of this country’s leading researchers at the time.
At seven o’clock in the evening on October 21, 1963, a generator belonging to the Moreno family – owners of the Santa Teresa ranch, the only dwelling for several miles around, one mile distant from the village of Trancas, Province of Tucuman – ceased to function properly. Loss of the only power source to run the entire property forced the occupants of the farmhouse to resort to flashlights and candles to go about their activities. The evening’s usual activities curtailed by the outage, the Morenos went to bed at eight o’clock.
Around 21:30 hours, while Mrs. Yolié Moreno was in the same room with her sister Yolanda and her young child, Dora Guzmán, a teenaged domestic worker, knocked insistently on the door saying she was frightened, without specifying the cause. Mrs. Moreno dismissed these concerns, but young Dora returned only minutes later, this time saying that she could see “lights at the end of the backyard” whose origin she could not explain. Every time she set foot outdoors, she explained, the surroundings would light up abruptly for a matter of seconds, as though flashes of lightning were occurring on a clear, cold night.
Humoring Dora, Yolié and Yolanda went outside and saw nothing; minutes later they were asked to come outside to look at the strange lights for a second time, and were unable to detect anything unusual. When asked for a third time, the domestic begged them not to leave again, as the lights were flashing with certain regularity. It was a this point that they became aware of two “sources of light” joined by a “glowing tube” measuring an estimated one hundred meters. A number of silhouetted figures – forty, by some counts – were moving hurriedly about. The lights and their mysterious connection were a scant 150 meters away from the Moreno farmhouse on the Belgrano Railroad tracks.
Suspecting that either a train derailment or a terrorist act was in progress, the sisters went back to their room to get dressed while Dora went for a .38 Colt revolver. Yolié tiptoed past the bedroom of her elderly parents – Antonio and Teresa – to avoid waking them up, but deliberately woke her sister Argentina Moreno, 28, to ask her to look after her son while she went for a closer look. The sisters discussed the ruthlessness of left-wing guerrillas who would doubtless open fire on them if their presence was detected.
Interestingly enough, it would be Argentina – characterized as calm and introspective, who would leave her room for a better look of the lights described to her by Yolié. Unexpectedly, the others heard her scream, adding that “there were strange devices near the house” -- cries that shook her parents out of their slumber. With no time to waste, the two older sisters, with a gun-toting Dora taking point, headed for the tracks. Upon reaching the property’s gate, they were surprised to see a faint greenish light. When Yolié shined her flashlight on it (believing it was a pick-up truck belonging to one of the farmhands), six portholes on a disc-shaped object lit up: the bizarre structure was hovering over the ground, barely eight meters from where they stood.
The witnesses would later describe the object as measuring “between eight and ten meters in diameter” and having a surface similar to aluminum, with projections resembling rivets. There were no identifying marks on its surface and the portholes burned with a powerful white light that kept them from looking inside. An unlit dome surmounted the disk’s body, which wobbled slightly without spinning on it axis. A sulfurous odor was also present in the air.
While the three women looked in amazement at the outlandish and somewhat frightening device, it suddenly let off a tongue of flame that toppled the women to the ground, sending them rolling a distance. Stunned and in a panic, Yolié, Yolanda and Dora ran for the safety of the house; the first two had seen and felt the intense heat of the fiery outburst, but it was Dora who took the brunt of the flame, suffering second and third degree burns to her face, legs and arms.
As this occurred, three more powerful sources of light appeared along the Belgrano tracks, bringing the total of unknown objects to six. A sulfurous fog began to envelop the nearest saucer, whose structural characteristics faded away until only an orange cloud was visible. From one of the windows of the Moreno farmhouse, the terrified occupants could see a “tube of light” measuring an estimated three meters in diameter, issue from the craft and project itself against the house, as though scanning every detail of its architecture. Between the larger object on the railroad tracks and its peripheral craft, enough light was being generated for the Moreno family to clearly see what was going on.
Beams of light from the craft projected upon a tractor shed, moving increasingly close to the farmhouse. The solidity of the beams is a remarkable feature of the account, as they were described as “perfectly cylindrical and casting no shadows whatsoever, or emitting any vapor or sound.” Yolié inserted her hand into one of the solid beams of light in the belief that they were jets of water of some sort, held together by unknown means. She suffered no ill effects from doing so.
At this point, the elderly Mr. Moreno made ready to go out and face the situation himself. He had been the mayor of Trancas for a number of years and believed that this display of lights had to do with political adversaries who were hoping to settle a score once and for all by eliminating him and his family. His daughters, however, kept him from engaging in any heroics: the solid beams of light were now concentrating upon the farm and its outbuildings at a rate of two beams per unidentified object. Two such beams from one of the objects headed for a henhouse and fell short of actually reaching it.
The worst aspects of the “siege” experienced by the Moreno family was beginning: the temperature inside the house was quickly approaching 40°C when it had previously barely reached 16°C, and despite the lateness of the hour and the total lack of electricity, the farmhouse’s interior was lit as bright as day by the beams, which seemed able to pierce through the stone walls. Also at this point, the elder Mrs. Moreno reportedly saw a “silhouette” racing past the windows of one of the rooms, but what later unsure if this was a product of her imagination. While her husband and children dealt with the phenomenon, she had been engaged in prayer.
Her devotions perhaps proved helpful. The object nearest to the house redirected its beams of light before retracting them slowly; the intruder carefully glided its way toward the train tracks, where it joined the five other objects. In unison, all six unidentified vehicles flew east at low altitude toward the Sierra de Medina, leaving the horizon bathed in a strange orange light for well over half an hour.
The entire ordeal had lasted forty-five life-changing minutes for the Moreno family, whose place in the annals of the unknown had been assured forever.
Researchers who looked into the case made some interesting discoveries: a number of white spherules had been found throughout the backyard and the train tracks, seemingly left behind by the unwelcome visitors. A chemical analysis performed by Walter Tell at the University of Tucumán proved revealed their composition to be largely of calcium carbonate with traces of potassium carbonate. The family’s guard dogs did not bark before, during or after the incident, and the chickens in the henhouse had also kept their peace throughout the ordeal. Francisco Tropiano, owner of the property nearest the Moreno farmhouse, did not see the objects or their enigmatic beams but had indeed witnessed the preternatural orange glow issuing from behind the Sierra de Medina.
Other witnesses, however, had seen much more. José Acosta, the foreman of the Santa Teresa ranch, asked the Morenos why a fire had been set in the fields, adding that he had witnessed a number of objects heading west, but the presence of trees and other obstacles had kept him from seeing the activities on the Belgrano tracks or the siege at the farmhouse. Renée Vera, a physician from the village of Trancas, experienced an auto breakdown on the road to the community, forcing her to walk the remaining distance to the settlement. At around 23:00 hours she reportedly saw a “fleet of 40 or 50 luminous bodies” at low altitude that covered the area with a smell of sulfur, so intense that she nearly passed out on the roadside.
When interviewed, Yolié Moreno expressed an opinion that may have been considered startling in the light of the experience that she and her family had been through: at no time did she feel in the presence of a technology that was anything other than human, mainly due to the presence of rivets on the disk-shaped craft nearest to her home.
Guillermo Gimenez, who wrote a follow-up on the Trancas incident in 2005 to commemorate the anniversary of the event, reports that Captain Omar Pagani, one of the first officials to report to the scene, noted in his findings that "a glow similar to that produced by a distant city was left at the place in the mountain range where the objects vanished, lasting approximately an hour and a half. I was able to hold in my hands a branch touched by one of these objects, but it was impossible to obtain any results." Giménez, director of Argentina’s Planeta UFO, adds: “I was able to visit this location [Trancas] in the months of July/August 1989 and tour it, thinking back to those events, the experiences that were had, the eyewitness accounts and the important evidence found. Unfortunately the main witnesses of this event were already deceased. All that was left there were the memories of a spectacular UFO case that was still remembered at the time.”