Saturday, August 09, 2008

Pedal to the Metal: UFO Car Chases

Pedal to the Metal: UFO Car Chases
By Scott Corrales - INEXPLICATA

While we marvel at the flood of new cases (and visual evidence) that reaches us every day through a variety of websites and YouTube, it’s hard not to forget the simpler cases of the past, such as one which occurred in a summer much like this one, but thirty years ago and in a country far, far away...

It was July 24, 1978--mid-winter in South American landmass—when a cab driver picked up a fare that would change his life forever. At around 3 o’clock in the morning, Carlos Brandi,19, called for a cab to get him back to his home in Guaymallén, a community in the Argentinean province of Mendoza. As fate would have it, Aldo Nieves, scarcely older than his passenger and driving a white Peugeot 404, was dispatched to pick up the waiting passenger.

Brandi boarded the car and after exchanging the usual pleasantries, sat back in seat in silence. Nieves drove along the empty streets until they came to a crossroads near the Belgrano Train Station in the town of San Jose. Completely unaware of the importance of crossroads in the esoteric tradition, passenger and driver both noticed a white source of light moving along at an estimated altitude of 500 meters. They exchanged words as to what the nature of the light could be, and then dismissed the matter...until both noticed that the white light was shadowing them, much like a feline matching the pace of its prey.

Perhaps it was their youth, perhaps it was the excitement that the UFO phenomenon has always caused in Argentina, but the passenger made the cabbie a bold proposal: to steer toward the object to have a better view. Stranger still was that the cabbie should accept, turning off the meter and heading his Peugeot in the object’s direction. Aldo Nieves dutifully radioed this back to Leonardo Argañaraz, his dispatcher, who in turn told all his other units to rendezvous with Nieves and his passenger at the location in question, taking care to contact the authorities as well. The young driver gave a blow-by-blow account over his car radio to all the other vehicles as he approached the glowing unknown.

Meanwhile Carlos Brandi, the passenger, had his torso halfway out the window as he stared at the object, which now acquired more defined proportions and resembled “ a giant mushroom”. Suddenly inspired, the driver began flashing his lights at the unknown presence in a form of improvised semaphore, hoping to make contact. His improvised signals were more successful than he could have anticipated; as the object appeared to take notice, speeding up ahead of the taxicab and then slowing down to remain still at a distance of roughly a thousand meters. At this point, Brandi and Nieves were in a position to make out some details: the object, whose diameter was guesstimated at ten meters with a height of 5-6 meters, had a white light on its upper section and four “navigation lights” around its edge.

The craft – for it was now possible to speak of it in terms of a structured vehicle – moved side to side across the road, pausing briefly over a service station and then weaving out sight into a residential area and becoming visible again. And it was at this location – the Santa Ana district – that pedestrian onlookers became witnesses to the otherworldly presence. Two women waiting for the bus gazed skyward at the erratic object; one of them was seized by a sudden panic that made her cling to the trunk of a nearby tree and scream in terror at the unknown

But the game was afoot, and the young hunters pursued their prize with gusto. Upon reaching the road linking the villages of Corralitos and Rodeo de la Cruz, the Peugeot’s engine began to sputter. The taxicab’s headlights dimmed, then died out completely, as did the radio link to the other units and the dispatcher’s base station. Brandi and Nieves suddenly found their roles reversed – the hunters unwittingly turned into prey – as the object wheeled around towards them. Brandi opened the rear passenger door and ran out of the cab into the darkness, seeking shelter behind a nearby house. Nieves was frozen in his seat, unable to move his legs, until he managed to overcome this paralysis and desert his Peugeot, taking shelter next to his companion at a distance of some thirty meters from the car.

The craft was now in sight: seized by fear, both humans could do little else but keep their eyes riveted on the unearthly structure. Featuring large windows or portholes, the presence of occupants – tall, slender humanoid silhouettes – could be made out clearly enough for a detailed description to be made. The figures were described as hooded and wearing close-fitting garments; one of them appeared to operate some kind of instrument panel that was suspended in the air. No noise issued from the vehicle as the figures scurried around inside.

Thoughts raced furiously through Nieves’s head, as he feared harm from these presences, which looked down from above at the Peugeot “much like doctors observing a surgical procedure from the gallery above,” as he described it. But any fears that the slender, hooded figures would whisk him away to an uncertain fate were dissipated when the object pulled away into the distance. After a while, still in the clutches of terror, passenger and driver returned to the taxicab, whose engine turned over normally, but with a curious detail: the intensity of the car’s lights was so strong that the dome light burst; the lights of the car radio short-circuited as well.

Perhaps feeling a modicum of relief, the erstwhile hunters returned their attention to the craft, which was now motionless and at quite a distance. There was a flash and an explosion – perhaps a sonic boom? – and the vehicle vanished from sight. It was at this point that Nieves passed out, overcome by the sound. At this point, some of the other livery vehicles arrived at the scene, offering assistance to the unconscious driver and to Brandi, the distraught passenger. Nieves was taken to Mendoza’s General Hospital, where he awoke in such a state of nervous excitement that it became necessary to put him in restraints. The explosion and subsequent disappearance of the strange object was confirmed by three other cab drivers, the same ones who took Aldo Nieves to the hospital.

Veteran Argentinean researcher Carlos Banchs, who interviewed both witnesses and wrote a report on the case, notes that the Argentinean Air Force dismissed this case as “a mistaken observation of its nocturnal training exercises over the area.”

Calling Mr. Goodwrench

The belief that UFOs were able to cause "electromagnetic interference" (alternatively known as EM effects) on Earth goes back to the early days of the phenomenon, when it was noticed that the proximity of these unknown forms could cause car headlights to dim or turn off completely, produce radio interference and cause wide-scale blackouts in different parts of the world. Whether this effect is a deliberate test of man-made devices or a purely accidental remains unanswered, naturally.

Researchers interested in the "vehicle interference" aspect of the phenomenon believed at first that only gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines were prone to being affected by UFO electromagnetism. Then cases involving diesel engines succumbing to the proximity of an unknown object became known.

Spanish UFO researcher Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos devotes a comprehensive chapter to EM effects in his landmark Enciclopedia de los encuentros cercanos con ovnis (Barcelona: Plaza y Janes, 1987). Ballester describes the effects produced by a UFO as following a fairly standard pattern with certain variations: engine failure followed by a dimming or darkening of headlights; diesel engines continue running but their operation becomes haphazard, stopping and starting. "It frequently becomes necessary," he observes, "to restart gasoline-fueled engines altogether [...] this succession of effects appears to correspond, at least from the theoretical standpoint, to the presence of strong ionization. This could account for failures in the electrical system by hindering the proper operation of spark plugs and draining batteries."

Endless Summer – The Marx Incident

The American love affair with the car – featured in such cinematic experiences as George Lucas’s “American Graffiti” – usually conjures up images of long hot summer nights and days, convertible coupes and sedans and young men and women enjoying each other’s company to the sounds of an AM radio. But what holds true for the silver screen often falls flat in real life, and this is certainly true for the following case.

Pennsylvania, a state with a long history of UFO sightings, boasts a vehicular persecution case that has not been widely discussed at all, and is in fact known only to a few. It involves a person known to this author and to others Pennsylvania UFO and paranormal researchers; at his own request, we have identified him with the pseudonym of "Jeff Marx" and the names of the other parties involved in his hair-raising story are aliases as well.

In June 1965, Jeff Marx and three companions--his best friend Alan and their respective girlfriends, Mary and Lily--were driving at night aboard a brand new convertible in Cranberry Township, north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Tooling around in the warm summer evening, only a week after graduating from high school and with the prospect of the future before them, the foursome had no idea that the unknown was about to execute an unwelcome intrusion into their lives.

"I had a convertible that plays a major part in this sighting," adds Jeff Marx, "what one would call...evidence."

That evening, he recalls, he stopped by to collect his friends and they went off to enjoy a few rounds of miniature golf followed by a visit to a pizza parlor. Given the lateness of the hour, they decided to begin the return home. Alan, however, asked his friend to drive down a few country roads to partake of a bottle of beer he'd placed in the car. "I was northbound on Route 19 and I turned onto Freedom-Cryder Road. Back in 1965 it was a very rural area. You had farmhouses further down the road toward Freedom. We turned down this road about ten or twenty five minutes after ten [o'clock]."

As convertible made its way down the country road, Alan asked Jeff to pull over, since something very unusual was going on. "That light's been following us for a while," he explained, after the car had halted on the curb. "That light up there. It's getting awful close and I don't hear anything."

Jeff Marx admits that he could not hear anything either, but the size of the light in the black sky appeared to be increasing, coming toward them. "We decided to get out of there," Marx recalls, "but I couldn't get the engine started. We jumped out of the car, ran across the road into a field, and hid under a [fallen] tree. By now the object was over the car, illuminating the area. As dark as it was, I could see my car. Alan said the object reminded him of a teardrop, and to me it looked like an upside-down ice cream cone."

Nearly forty years after the events, Marx is still amazed by one particular aspect of the uncanny unknown object: "It was white hot, really bright, brighter than anything I've ever seen in my life. It wobbled and swayed back and forth. I wanted to get a better look at it, and I stood up to take a better look. Then I felt this wave of heat hit my face."

His passengers weren't as awestruck as he: Mary was on the verge of terror, shouting that they were all going to die; Alan and Lily had to pull Jeff down behind the apparent safety of the fallen tree after his effort to examine the phenomenon more closely.

"Mary was really upset," adds Marx. "It really freaked her out."

What seemed like an hour went by before the pellucid object finished its inspection of the convertible. It drifted away from the car and into the night sky, moving upward and picking up speed, vanishing out of sight in a matter of seconds. Marx remembers that the object acquired a reddish cast as it disappeared.

"We were pretty shaken by the incident," says Marx. "Another car came down the road in the opposite direction, stopped by my car and looked at it, and then sped away. I don't know if he was a witnessed to what happened, but after looking at my car, he didn't waste much time getting away from it."

Walking over to the car, the shaken teenagers tried to get back inside, only to find that the door handles were hot. Once inside, the young women in the rear remarked that the seats were warm; the same strange warmth emanated from the dashboard and the steering wheel. "The chrome strip around the windshield was so hot I couldn't even touch it--it burned my hand."

The convertible started up normally and the four witnesses to the unusual luminous phenomenon returned home in silence. "Alan and I dropped the girls off...they said they never wanted to discuss this again, and that we shouldn't say anything to anybody, since who would believe four teenagers with alcohol on their breaths," explains Marx. "Mary said she never wanted to talk about it--it didn't happen, and if anyone ever said anything, she would deny having ever been there."

Marx and his friend spoke about the incident, wondering what the light could have been. Alan replied that it could have been "something from another world." To this day, Jeff Marx has no idea or explanation to what the luminous intruder could have been.

But his experiences were not over. Not by a long shot.

"I got home feeling real warm, as though I had a temperature, but after checking with the thermometer it was normal. I looked at my face in the bathroom mirror and I looked sunburned, but it didn't hurt." His parents would ask him about the sunburn during breakfast, but Marx dismissed it as the result of driving with the convertible roof down.

"Then my dad walked," says Marx, "says: you'd better take a look at your car, something happened to it."

Thinking that the convertible could have been rear-ended during the night by a careless motorist, Marx stepped outside to inspect the damage. "I was really shocked. My car was white; the hood and the trunk lid had bubbles all over them; the chrome around the windshield was burned to a bluish color." The car's red upholstery had been faded to an orangeish hue.

Taking the vehicle to an auto body repair shop, the mechanic asked if Marx had spilled acid over the car, since the paint was flaking off easily. "I didn't want to explain anything to him," notes the driver of the hapless convertible, "because he might have thought I was some sort of nut."

The automobile was sanded down, primed and painted with two coats of paint, and Jeff drove it around for a whole day. On the following day, the bubbles appeared on the paint again, resulting in two further visits to the body shop that week. "He didn't know what to make of it," says Marx, remembering the auto body mechanic's bewilderment. "he thought it might be a defect in the metal from the factory, since the paint wouldn't stay on the car. I kept the car for about two more months, then I got rid of it--I just couldn't stand being in the car."

Several months after the incident, the four experiencers got together to discuss the event, but the women balked at recalling the strange summer night. "Alan went on to become a UFO investigator," says Marx, "and also was involved with governmental cover-ups. Lily got married and moved out to the Midwest; Mary I saw about a year ago and we spoke about old times. When the sighting came up, she repeated that she didn't want to know about it, it never happened."

"That night in 1965 changed Mary, Lily, Alan and myself," Jeff Marx concludes with an unmistakable air of sadness. "Our lives would never be the same...I have a lot of questions about life on Earth as it is, as how we know it, as how we were raised to know it. I've talked to a lot of people who've had encounters with UFOs and it has changed their lives, and put questions in their minds about life on Earth. I may never know the answer, I don't know."

Jeff Marx's candid story, and his assertions about not knowing exactly what it was changed the course of his life in mid-1960's, could have been echoed a year later by other Pennsylvanian drivers who had their own brushes with the unknown.

On April 17, 1966 Anthony Matteo and John Roth, with their respective spouses, were driving along Route 422 between the communities of Sharon and New Castle in the pre-dawn hours. One of the two women became aware of what she first thought might be a "reflection" of another light source, but suddenly realized that it was an object paralleling of the car's movement down the road. The vehicle stopped on two separate occasions to confirm this suspicion. The object, whose brightness was compared to that of a spotlight, had been on the right side of the car and had later shifted to the left, always staying an estimated 1/4 of mile up in the air. This shadowing continued for a number of miles until the vehicle and its nervous occupants reached New Castle. The object then grew faint and vanished.

Two days later, four boys from Clarion, Pennsylvania, claimed that their car's radio had been subjected to interference allegedly originating from a bright light in the sky, which engaged in the rapid maneuvers for which the UFO phenomenon has become know.

The four youngsters pulled their vehicle over to get a better look at the nimble celestial object, which remained in view for some five minutes before vanishing altogether. Not unexpectedly, the radio static disappeared and the local station could now be heard normally. The most unusual feature to color their experience was that they were subjected to an unusual "rainfall" produced by the object as it hovered above them. There was no word if they or the vehicle were harmed by it.

UFO Pursuit in Spain

A UFO/automobile close encounter, which was reported by the newspaper La Voz de Galicia in November 1985, pitted a 34-year-old newspaper layout specialist who was heading home from La Coruña to his home village of Piadela. While driving along the Cecebre Reservoir, he suddenly became aware of a greenish, rectangular vehicle hovering above him in the night sky. The boxlike object descended vertically some 50 feet away from his car, causing the witness to bring his car to a halt. Quietly, the UFO flew over his car, disappearing shortly thereafter. The witness claimed to have experienced symptoms akin to hypnosis immediately after his experience.

On January 25, 1996, at during the heated days of the Galician UFO wave in northwestern Spain, Bartolomé Vázquez of the town of As Pontes, filmed a triangular UFO as two Spanish Air Force fighters pursued it. He would be treated to the sight of other strange objects in his native skies and undergo a harrowing close encounter: on one occasion, a UFO hovered directly over his vehicle while he traveled along with his wife and children. The unknown craft allegedly damaged the car's roof. Vázquez also claims that his brother had a similar encounter around the same time, but in that incident, "his car's engine died when the UFO flew over it, and all the car doors opened at once..."
Another landmark case involving vehicular interference occurred during the same UFO wave: Andrés Landeira had no idea he was about to become the star of UFO drama on the night of February 26, 1996, when he discovered that his sedan was unable to climb the steep hill which led back to his home in the city of Lugo.

Shifting gears with a perplexed expression on his features, Landeira noticed that the sedan refused to budge. It was only then that he realized that his car was rising into the air.

Panicking, he opened the door, hoping to jump to safety from whatever nameless fate awaited him, but he realized he was well over thirty feet in the air. "I held on to the steering wheel with all my might," Landeira would later tell UFO investigator Manuel Carballal, "I forced my back into the driver's seat and thought I was going to die, being taken to God knows where...Hell! I was really scared."

But the car was not spirited off into the black skies. Landeira observed that whatever had picked him up deposited him back onto the road just slightly ahead of his original position, but sideways. Aside from being badly frightened by the experience, the driver wasn't negatively affected. The only reminder of the event was the car's dashboard clock, which froze at precisely ten minutes before two o'clock in the morning.

Andrés is a "trustworthy man," in the words of his friends and neighbors, who argue that there is no reason whatsoever to believe that he is lying or otherwise dissembling.


In August 2008, this author spoke to “Jeff Marx” about UFO activity and research in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the conversation eventually drifted to Marx’s unforgettable incident in the summer of 1965 – the “endless summer” that still troubles him to this day. Not knowing the exact nature of the phenomenon – whether extra or ultraterrestrial, military or even meteorological – is only part of the equation. He feels that the strange object stole something from him -- maybe a feeling of innocence about the world, trust in government, or even his faith. In spite of the considerable dose of radiation he took from the object, leaving him as sunburned as the protagonists of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, his health never suffered from it. Perhaps what troubles him the most forty-three years later is that he is the only one who actively remembers the incident and worries about it.

“This summer,” he told me, “I ran into one of the girls from the incident, and after we exchanged our hellos, I asked her when we were going to talk about that night. She simply stared at me and said: “That night never happened.”

There is no closure for Jeff Marx. The summer of ’65 will haunt him to the end of his days.