By Scott Corrales
There is no shortage of strange or haunted locations on our planet, and Argentina’s Calingasta Valley is definitely among them, located near the town of Barreal in the province of San Juan. Drivers who have to cross this arid region out of necessity have reported seeing a variety of strange lights in the darkness: orbs of yellowish or white energy described as being around the size of a soccer ball which can be mistaken for the lights of a distant, oncoming automobile. Much like the Marfa Lights of Texas, these Argentinean orbs appear and vanish only to reappear further down the road. On some occasions they engage in frantic pursuits of trucks and cars along the road; on others, they stand in the way of traffic, causing understandable consternation.
Journalist Patricio Parente mentions the case of a schoolteacher anxious to return home and, lacking a car, hitched a ride with a truck driver. After the vehicle was on its way, the teacher mentioned that she could see distant lights like small candles, which appeared to be following the truck. But even more alarming than this was the fact that a bigger light had already placed itself above the truck’s cab, endeavoring to slow it down or bring it to a halt, in spite of the driver’s best efforts to maintain speed. Are we dealing with a normal “earthlight” phenomenon or some kind of South American ignis fatuus of the desert, or something stranger?
Parente also mentions another of the region’s unusual features – a vast dry lakebed known as the Barreal Blanco or Pampa del Leoncito. Measuring some seven miles long and three miles wide, the plain is popular among those who are engaged in wind sports involving wheeled vehicles (“carrovelismo”, in Spanish) or just anyone interested in putting a four-wheeled vehicle through its paces, making it a famous location for racing and shooting television commercials, or for calibrating airborne and satellite sensors. But aside from its popularity, it has also become known as a place haunted by the strange lights. A driver and his wife, lost in the dry lake at night, managed to find their way out thanks to the sudden manifestation of a white ball of light that appeared to try to guide them toward the road leading out of the area. When he discussed the event with others, he was told that the “fools’ lantern” had come to his aid. Intense flashes of light of unknown origin have also been reported in this curious area of the Andean foothills. Alfredo Cruz, a resident of this inhospitable region, remembered seeing these “lanterns”, which he could see in the distant Andean foothills. Some believed that the sources of light were “flying bags of bones” – as weird a concept as that may seem – that could be either good or bad, either lending assistance to stranded travelers or accosting them for no reason at all.
Other folklore preserved from pre-European and Colonial times maintains that the strange lights are supernatural indications of the presence of lost mines or buried treasure – something to tantalize Indiana Jones with, perhaps. But other traditions hold that the Barreal Blanco lights are far from sanguine and fall under the classification of luces del mal (evil lights) and are the handiwork of the Devil. Any would-be treasure hunter would have to make a pact with the dark forces before coming across the promised treasure. The belief in the unwholesome nature of these structures is such that the residents of Albardón, a village on the edges of the Barreal Blanco, have erected a formidable cross to ward off witches and vampires, and the lights whose very presence is a cause for distress.
We can add Salta’s enigmatic Valles Calchaquíes to the list of haunted places in South America. Spanning the length of the provinces of Salta, Tucuman and Catamarca, these geological features consist of at least six lesser valleys or chasms, and the Calchaquí River itself. Reaching the town of Cachi, one of its better known UFO hotspots, for example, involves a hair-raising ascent to four thousand feet above sea level along truly terrifying precipices.
In May 2008, the COPENOA news service reported that Residents of the town of San Carlos had seen a small creature no taller than forty centimeters in height, with an unusual characteristic: the little creature appeared to produce some kind of force field that kept people from approaching it.
Walter Lopez and Omar Ferlatti, the witnesses to this high-strangeness event, told the authorities about the creature, describing it as “small, glowing and wearing pants”, seemingly protected by “a magnetic field” – this apparent close encounter of the third kind took place as the entire valley region was in commotion over a large UFO reported in the area.
“Kids aren’t going out at night out of fear of the strange creature and the UFO,” claimed a resident of San Carlos in a statement to the COPENOA news agency. Ferlatti and Lopez’s account dovetails with the one given by a shepherdess on the hills, who was startled by the strange visitor. Police have stated that both stories coincide and that local residents are indeed frightened. “It hasn’t been seen again. It would be good for it to return, to ascertain that the events were indeed as described,” said deputy sheriff Luis Comenares.
Not all locals were as agitated about the diminutive visitor. Andean peoples have an extensive tradition of small creatures usually lumped under the classification of imps or goblins, and they are purportedly the spirits of children who died unchristened or attacked their parents. Pablo Villarubia, a tireless journalist of the occult, visited the Cafayate Museum in the city of Salta to speak to curator Elga Brabo, who was very forthright in their discussion on the subject of these half-magical, half-real subhumans. When asked if imps had ever been reported in Cachi, she replied affirmatively, adding that the creature was even known as “el duende de Toma Colorado” (the Toma Colorado Imp) – an entity that was more playful than perverse, but which hadn’t been seen for years.
Some of these “neighbors”, for want of a better term, aren’t so engaging. Brabo told Villarubia that some doctors from the village of Angastaco were forced to seek the help of a local witch doctor to banish the presence of a duende who had taken up residence in their home, apparently fascinated by the couple’s baby, which it would turn around in its crib, or else prompt the child to scream or laugh for no reason at all.
The Diario El Tribuno newspaper carried an even more impressive account: on July 19, 2008, residents of the town of Cachi (marveled at the sight of a colossal UFO, “an extraordinary vision”, in the newspaper’s opinion. Evangelina Romero, a schoolteacher, was among the witnesses who gave a detailed description of the sighting. Ufologist and mountaineer Antonio Zuleta, the author of a number of startling videotapes of UFO activity in the high Andes, discussed the sighting on his morning show, interviewing Evangelina Romero and her husband, Ruben Guitian. The general description of the object was “a disk-shaped metallic object that projected white, purple and orange light from its mid-section as it moved from South to North in perfect silence despite it size, which the couple compared to that of a soccer pitch.
Another witness, Hugo Alcoba, a well-known folk composer, corroborated the Romero sighting, adding that the object had been a “classic flying saucer like something out a movie from the 1950s”. Many locals were perhaps reminded of another colossal UFO –measuring two hundred fifty meters in diameter - that allegedly crashed in the area on August 17, 1995 in the Sierras Coloradas region.
For his part, Antonio Zuleta was probably thinking about his own giant unidentified flying object, the one he recorded in June 2001 as it moved placidly over one of the mountain ridge known as Nevados de Cachi, the second highest of its kind in the world after the Himalayas. Zuleta had been at home with his wife on June 23, 2001, just about to take his young daughter to the hospital at 21:00 hours when he saw the massive unknown structure sailing over the mountain range. “It gave off lights like streamers of red and green,” he said at the time. This one, the first of many such recordings, had a duration of 20 minutes before the object accelerated became lost from sight.
Zuleta’s video of the strange phenomena common to the Calchaquí Valleys became a worldwide sensation. Saltan ufologist Daniel Quiroga of the Red Argentina de Ovnilogía (RAO), was of the opinion that the Cachi UFO video was "a document of undeniable scientific value.” Quiroga studied the videotape for three hours and reached the conclusion that "it is one of the best recordings I've seen," noting "I have no doubt that it is a mothership, in other words, an extraterrestrial device of gigantic proportions, capable of transporting lesser units and which have been repeatedly seen in different parts of the planet for years.” After analyzing the filmed material, I'm able to state that it is an unconventional phenomenon. The object makes intelligent movements that are impossible for known human technology. It accelerates and decelerates at prodigious speeds, is surrounded by a green outline, has a white core and produces red and blue flashes while projecting violet and sky-blue beams. It is oval in shape, although in the video, its movements give it
the appearance of changing shape constantly."
Elsewhere in the World
When it comes to these enigmatic regions, perhaps the strangest of them all is the rocky mountain canyon known as Barranca de Badajoz on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Unlike other mystery places, photographic evidence has substantiated the high strangeness that makes the fog-enshrouded canyon so famous. Lush vegetation protrudes from harsh, ancient lava flows that lead to the sea. The Guanches, Tenerife's original inhabitants, considered the canyon to be the dwelling place of Chaxiraxi, "the mother who bears the world."In 1912, states Padrón, a crew of ore miners was about to drill a hole in a mineshaft when three humanlike creatures, as white as a sheet of paper, emerged from the rocks. The terrified miners abandoned the works and ran for the nearest Guardia Civil station to notify the authorities of the frightening event. Padrón points out that to this very day, local residents believe that the "beings in white" are real and even leave offerings of food for them. Newcomers and explorers are advised to leave these eldritch creatures alone, "since they mean no harm." Local lore also includes enigmatic references to two non-human races, the lunos or "lunar people" with their gleaming whiteness and the nanos, a dwarf race living in the tunnels that allegedly exist under the region. While the existence of these tunnels has not been established by geologists, Canarian legend speaks of a bet between two friends in the 1890's, concerning who could reach the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife faster: the one on horseback or the one on foot through the tunnels. Needless to say, the latter won.. A group of vacationers who visited the ancient step-pyramids of Chacona at nearby Güimar chose to spend a night in the canyon when their camping excursion was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a colossal creature heading straight for them. Terror gripped the campers as they made for their vehicle, leaving their possessions behind. Thinking the worst was over, the campers stopped at Socorro Beach to recover themselves from the fright. Their brief respite was interrupted by the appearance of large, glowing light in the sky that appeared to be chasing them. The hysterical vacationers fled to the city. Perhaps the most interesting piece of information gathered by Padrón in his investigation of this haunted area is the photograph of an enormous winged creature, made up of pure energy, which flew over witness Teyo Bermejo in July 1991. Bermejo took a photograph of the creature, which clearly shows a winged, golden-orange figure against a black background. Another photograph shows a group of children completely unaware of a towering white humanoid walking behind them at an angle. A closeup of the image shows a blurry but rather well defined figure: a denizen of the hidden world?