Earthquakes and the Unknown
by Scott Corrales
During an exchange of internet communications in the hours shortly following the massive 7.0 earthquake that devastated the Haitian capital city, Port-au-Prince, which left death and destruction in its wake, mention was made of the “far out” theories that have emerged in the 2000s to account for such disasters: scalar weaponry, alien craft concealed as passing asteroids, HAARP and other culprits that have gone on to become the “usual suspects” on paranormal radio and Web discussions. Let there be no mistake – the Haitian disaster is not a matter for idle speculation as people lay dying or desperately waiting for help that may not arrive. But for the record, there was a time when strange lights would be reported in connection with earthquakes, leading many to assume that they were triggered by unearthly forces or monitored by benign creatures from beyond.
The early morning hours of August 28, 1973 should not have been memorable to anyone in Mexico City. The pre-dawn darkness was disturbed only by the sound of a few cars speeding along Insurgentes Sur avenue – the great north/south artery that bisects the city – and the only people awake at the time would have been the cleaning staffs of the various office buildings that dotted the avenue and the odd reveler coming from a late dinner or night spent with friends. The previous day had been sunny despite the persistent smog and remarkably warm for the season. But that was all about to change.
At 3:51 a.m., something happened deep under the earth, unmindful of the sleeping souls above. The forces that make of Mexico a land of volcanoes and towering mountain ranges made themselves felt under the borders of the states of Puebla and Veracruz, unleashing an earthquake that would cause chaos and terror in the cities of Cd. Serdan and Orizaba, leaving a total of 500 dead and many more injured. By the time the seismic wave reached Mexico City, the tall apartment buildings rocked, waking up their occupants and sending a bleary-eyed population for the dubious shelter of the door frames, popularly believed to be the safest place to be during an earthquake. The awe-inspiring sound of creaking girders and the cracking of plaster added to the fear, even among the tenants of buildings supposed to be resistant to tremors.
Out on the street there were screams as occupants took to the streets, fleeing older structures that were known to be less than impervious to the rolling earth. Then everything stopped – there was silence but for the fearsome, roaring sound of what must have been a transformer shorting out in the darkness, echoing down the avenue. Within the apartments there were tears of relief and the knowledge that going back to sleep was virtually impossible at this point. In one of those buildings, a boy peered out of a curtain at the avenue, only to see strange red lights in the sky, dancing a secret dance over the heads of the crowd that had taken refuge right in the avenue’s median, where they felt they would be safe from any toppling structures.
The boy was this author, and I remember the lights.
In the early days of the UFO phenomenon, and even up to the present time among certain contactee circles, there was the moderately generalized belief that if UFOs were manifesting themselves during earthquakes or volcanic eruptions (such as the spectacular Decepción Island eruption of 1965, resulting in a now-famous photo of an unknown object), it must be because alien scientists must be reconnoitering our planet and studying its geological processes as part of a survey of not only our world, but perhaps our entire solar system. On the other hand, were the same UFOs perhaps collecting as much information as they could before our planet destroyed itself or underwent a sudden transformation? Psychics and those who professed being in touch with the space brothers were quick to reassure a worried populace that there were entire armadas of UFOs on standby for an evacuation to a better place, and yes, there would be seats aboard the spaceships for everyone, even the family pets. There was even the more reasonable suggestion that the UFO mission was a preventive one, as they allegedly de-fused greater disasters
In later years, the matter of “lights seen after earthquakes” was addressed by the more reasonable Tectonic Strain Theory, involving the piezoelectric effect and energy released by the pressure of rock and static electricity. But the relationship between UFOs and disasters is still present in many minds. In January 2006, airline pilots of the TACA company, flying over the Pacific Ocean, reported a veritable wall of water—eighty kilometers long and between fifteen and twenty meters tall -- heading inexorably toward the shores of Central America, specifically El Salvador and the Gulf of Fonseca, triggering understandable alarm among civilian and military authorities only a year after the Great Sumatra Earthquake. The tidal wave failed to materialize, but it coincided with the sightings of UFOs in Costa Rica and more specifically, the daytime sighting of a brilliant object on January 14, 2006 at noon over San José, that nation’s capital city.
Had the “space brothers” (or benevolent nonhumans, at the very least) stepped in to keep the disaster from happening by dispersing Poseidon’s might? If so, it was merely another day’s work to them, as the phenomenon appears to have been attracted to the tectonic activity of the Americas for centuries.
In June 2005, the eruption of Mexico’s Volcán de Fuego, located on the borders of the states of Colima and Jalisco, 300 miles from Mexico City, began a phase of activity that caused the country’s CENAPRED agency to mandate an evacuation of the surrounding communities. Internet sources mentioned that there was a certain strangeness about the volcanic earthquakes that being felt in the area, as they were “harmonic and regular”, leading some seismologists to suggest that the activity had been set in motion by artificial means. One possibility, according to the ubiquitous India Daily, was that “the volcano’s hot spot had been disturbed by some extraterrestrial experiments [...]
Following a strong earthquake in the town of Quintero, Chile on November 23, 1822, diarist Maria Graham, would make the following entry in her journal: “The earthquakes diminished in their intensity and frequency during the night and the early hours of the day. Only one was felt before 4 pm, and between this hour and 10 in the morning there were four. The weather was cloudy but pleasant. More news has come in from neighboring towns. Local fishermen and those from the beaches close at hand say that on the evening of the 19th they had seen a light at a great distance over the sea; it moved swiftly toward the coast, split in two, and then vanished. The credulous populace has turned the light to [an apparition] of the Virgin who has come to save the country. A holy woman predicted the catastrophe in Santiago the previous day. People prayed and the city escaped almost completely unharmed. They sent a courier to Valparaíso to spread the alarm, but he arrived to late, despite having worn out two horses to make the journey.” (Graham, M. Diario de Mi Residencia en Chile, Santiago, 1953).
Nor would the year 1861 be particularly kind to South America as a whole. Earthquakes were plentiful that year in Paraguay, Chile and Argentina, with the northern city of Mendoza being among the hardest locations to be hit. The burgeoning community of twelve thousand souls was turned to dust after a mighty earthquake which was followed by a nearly a month’s worth of aftershocks. The population scattered into the hills and desert, seeking shelter where they could, hearts freezing whenever they heard the rumbling noise that came from the ground under their feet. On May 11, 1861, chroniclers reported that a “luminous body” had crossed the skies over Mendoza from north to south, shining and clearly visible despite the brilliance of the sun (the recorded time of the sighting was 11:30 a.m.). “Travelers from the nearby province of San Juan to the north of Mendoza also reported seeing the light in those lands.” The official report also mentions the loud report that accompanied the object. Could there be a prosaic answer to this phenomenon, worthy of notice amid the calamity of the earthquakes and their aftermath? A meteorite burning up in the planet’s atmosphere would be the likeliest choice, but there’s the matter of the object’s luminosity being clearly visible at such an early hour. The “loud report” suggests a sort of sonic boom not characteristic of meteorites, but proper to aircraft...or perhaps even spacecraft.
Sightings of strange objects over Mendoza were not circumscribed to the 19th century, either: in 1957, residents of the Puente del Inca region of Mendoza reportedly saw numerous UFOs prior to the seismic activity that unleashed catastrophic landslides. In July 1968, the objects reappeared over Mendoza as another earthquake caused its inhabitants to flee their buildings for the imaginary safety of the streets.
Brazil is not a country readily associated with earthquakes, of all natural disasters, but Pereiro, a small community in the state of Ceará (northeastern Brazil) has repeatedly experienced earthquakes throughout the 20th century produced by the collapse of vast limestone caves that exist under the town, formed by the activity of subterranean water flows. From 1968 onward, seismic events were accompanied by the manifestation of immense greenish-blue bolides twice the size of the moon, described by local residents as being as bright as very large automobile headlights. Other descriptions classified them as being conical in shape and blindingly bright, moving silently over buildings or the countryside. Argentinean UFO researcher Roberto Banchs, writing in Las Evidencias del Fenómeno Ovni (Buenos Aires: Cogtal, 1976) notes that the strange lights of Pereiro were at one point seen on a regular basis and landing in the spiky, inaccessible “caatinga” vegetation that surrounds the area.
A reputable eyewitness – a local councilman – was riding his horse at night through the area in July 1968 when he encountered a green light that he first believed to be a truck, only to find it was an object hovering over the treetops. Other reports soon emerged of an enormous solid object accompanied by lesser ones, projecting a beam against the ground “like a giant spotlight”. This prompted representative Ernesto Valente to say: “Many UFOs have appeared over the skies of Ceará in recent months. The government should send observers to conduct an in-depth study to find out if UFOs are indeed related to earthquakes.”
According to Banchs, word was received from Pereiro a month later, stating that the manifestations of these luminous objects indeed precede seismic activity by a matter of hours, causing townspeople to remark that “the objects appeared to know when and where the earthquakes were going to come about.”
While at first blush the following may appear to have nothing to do with strange lights in the sky, it is connected, in a strange way, with the belief expressed by many theorists on the subject of UFOs that the presences behind the phenomenon feed off the energy released by human suffering – whether as a consequence of war, disaster or other tragedies. If we follow this line of thought, first articulated by Spanish paranormal researcher Salvador Freixedo, could we go as far as to say that these are somehow involved in bringing an end to the unimaginable destruction caused by the seismic activity in exchange for a single life?
On May 22, 1960 the Pacific coastline of Chile and Perú was devastated by a series of earthquakes and aftershocks which rank among the strongest ever recorded on instruments: a mind-numbing 9.6 on the modified Richter scale (7.25 on the original). Rivers abandoned their beds, new lakes appeared coastal cities like Valdivia were reduced to rubble, dropping to three meters below sea level in parts, and the hills themselves had shifted, proof of the unimaginably vast forces at work. Five thousand died and two million were left homeless; a tsunami lashed the ruins, causing even further destruction,
A total of nine separate quakes occurred over the following two weeks as the the rest of the world looked on in horror and amazement. There was no question, in the minds of the terrified population, that they were living through the last days of the world.
The Mapuche Indians offered prayers to their traditional deities, sacrificing all of their flocks to appease the anger of their tutelary gods. Ritual fires could be seen all along the coast, morning and evening, as the reek of burned offerings filled the dusty air. Yet the earthquakes continued, unmindful of the sacrifices and orisons of even the most devout.
It was then that a local seeress (machi, in the Mapuche tongue) received a revelation: sacrificing dumb beasts would not suffice – it would be necessary to offer the precious gift of a child, as in the long-ago time when the twin serpents Cai Cai and Treng Treng had respectively destroyed and rescued humankind. Treng Treng’s species-saving assistance had been procured at the cost of human sacrifice.
According to newspaper reports, the human sacrifice took place at eight o’clock at night on June 5, 1960 near Colliileufú. Most astonishing of all is that the crushing seismic activity ended on the following day. In discussing this case, anthropologist Myriam Rios states : "What occurred was part of their ancestral religion, emerging in exactly the same context. From the Mapuche perspective, it is nothing but the culture expressed in its purest belief--the origin myth."
The five people involved in the sacrifice were arrested and two of them eventually imprisoned for murder, although eventually released. The judge who tried the case, far from believing in the supernatural, ruled that the murder had taken place not out of devotion for the gods, but out of fear for the clairvoyant’s supernatural powers.