Argentina: The Hopping Phantom of Calchín
The Hopping Phantom of Calchín
By Scott Corrales and Christián Quintero
Reports of strange humanoids resembling the legendary “Springheel Jack” came out of Argentina in the mid-Aughts (2004-2007) and were widely circulated in the local and foreign press, as readers beyond Argentina became acquainted with all manner of “petizos” and “pomberos” and other improbable parahuman creatures.
Our friend and colleague Christian Quintero (co-founder of Planeta UFO with Guillermo Gimenez) has drawn our attention to the reappearance of one of these bizarre humanoids in the town of Calchín, Cordoba Province (pop. 2000). Sightings appear to have commenced in August 2010 and have attracted considerable attention in the print media and on Argentinean radio (Christian has kindly sent us mp3 files of local radio shows featuring witness accounts)
The first of the journalistic sources dates from August 17, 2010 and reads: “Alarm in Calchín Over the Mysterious Apparitions of a Ghost”. This report, written by staff writer Ignacio Martino, notes that local residents have spoken of nothing but the “tall skinny guy” who covers his face with a balaclava and is terrorizing their communities. As occurred in Puerto Rico during the early days of the Chupacabras sightings, bands of citizens have formed to catch the mysterious personage. In the lyrics of the old song by TOTO: “You better watch out / there’s a stranger in town.”
Martino’s article quotes the experience of Gustavo, a youth who has thrown his lot in with the vigilantes who hope to catch the stranger. “20 days ago, a character started going around town between 21:00 and 23:00 hours every night. He bangs on doors, tries kicking them down, runs across backyards screaming and laughing, and no one has been able to identify him. This is happening very often, all weekend, for example. He appeared in various parts of town and always turns up in places from which he can make a quick getaway.” Gustavo (no surname given) was also interviewed on 08.17.10 by a radio program on which he added further details. There are abandoned houses in the Calchín area where inverted cross graffiti can be found, and which appear to have been partly burned down during the course of what we might loosely term “cult activity”.
“I did not see them,” he stresses. “But it is said that there are crosses, that there were names scrawled on the wall, the name of the town among them. What I did see, because I approached the areas, were the remains of fires, several piles of ash.”
Nor is the stranger afraid of the police. He (she? it?) has taken to prowling around the police barracks, and despite sharp commands to halt, officers have only seen him running off into the eucalyptus groves. The vicinity of Calchín has become filled with cars and curiosity-seekers armed with flashlights, but all their efforts have been fruitless.
The next article that Christian has sent us reads: “Police Looks Into Apparitions of Calchín’s “Hopping Phantom” and is dated 08.22.10 with the skyline: “An Unusual Event in Córdoba”. The moniker “hopping phantom” may not have the same ring as “Springheel” or even “Mothman”, but it describes perfectly the agility of a figure allegedly able to leap in excess of two meters in the air, according to those who have seen it. Flooded with phone calls reporting the antics of this unknown entity, the police have had no choice but to open a formal investigation into the matter.
A band of vigilantes perhaps came closer to catching the “hopping phantom” than it may have bargained for. The article reads thus: “ Tired of living in fear, a group of local residents decided to go after it one night. Upon reaching the place (sic) they saw an immense bonfire on a stretch of empty ground. When they approached, the saw a person kneeling before the fire. Perceiving their approach, the figure took off running at incredible speed. There were many candles in the shape of a circle around the bonfire.”
An anonymous witness made a concerned statement to Cadena 3 radio. “Everyone is afraid. It gets into backyards, bangs on doors and windows. Its yells are overwhelming. It has shown up in different parts of town.”
What is interesting about this article is that the authorities “have not discarded the possibility that black magic could be involved” as it is “a customary practice in the area.” This hearkens back to the summer of 2002 and the Argentinean cattle mutilation epidemic, when the presence of “red magic” – blood sorcery – was suggested as the cause for the slaughter. Law enforcement, regardless of the country, tends not to make such candid assertions. Candles and bottles were reported in an Argentinean UFO case in the early ‘00s that suggested that the source of light had been “summoned” through sorcerous means.
On 08.21.10, a woman named Daniela made the following statement on one of the Cadena 3 broadcasts: “Look, all I can say is that I haven’t seen it, but people are truly scared...it appears between nine and eleven at night, it has scared a lot people...people who are credible, whom you wouldn’t laugh at. Yes, it gets into back yards, bangs on windows, screams in a way that truly frightens people.” She goes on to tell the host that the subject has become the subject of conversation “at school, at the grocery store, everywhere you go” although no one directly affected by the phenomenon had spoken to her.”
When asked by the radio show host if the creature (whom he refers to as “el sátiro”, the Satyr) has chosen a particular lurking ground, she replies that the mystery figure does not appear to have any predilections, although the eucalyptus groves have been the area where most of the civilian searches have taken place.
Walter – another caller – states that the police has been forced to look into the “fantasma saltarín” as a result of the volume of calls received from the citizenry. “This person,” says the caller, “he hops beside you as your car is driving into Calchín...he appears out of nowhere in front of you, and according to some, he can jump two meters in the air.” At this point in the exchange, the show host pours the proverbial pitcher of cold water over the subject, saying that when similar things have occurred in other towns, it always turns out to be “someone who isn’t well, let’s say, someone with an imbalance” and that doing such things “occurs often in small towns.”
One wonders if people in small towns leaping two meters in the air are a tribute to clean rural lifestyles.
A trucker driving his vehicle in the middle of the night through the area, twenty five kilometers south of Calchín, told Cadena 3 in San Francisco that a figure made a sudden appearance in front of his truck, dressed all in black and hopping alongside the road. It stopped to look at the driver, who nearly drove the vehicle off the road in fright.
Mass hysteria in the dead of the southern hemisphere coldest recorded winter? An entity summoned by sorcery for some unknown purpose, feeding off the fear of a small, terrified community? The latest manifestation of Springheel Jack, whatever he/she/it was? Perhaps the arrival of warmer weather will allow for further investigation. For the time being, there’s an involuntary curfew going on in Calchín as of nine o’clock at night, when mystery comes banging on the door...