Highways to High Strangeness
By Scott Corrales
We’ve all driven in the dark of night. On our way to college at the start of a school year, off to see relatives, or simply to catch the earliest flight out of a distant airport. Our companions are the radio and a cup of coffee – or the beverage of choice – as we hold on to the wheel and stare through glass at the expanse of road ahead. We do so with certain information in the back of our minds: that there will be exits off the expressway where food or fuel can be secured, rest areas at which we can close our eyes for a few minutes, and the security of calling a towing service if our vehicle should break down.
There are parts of the world, however, where driving is truly an adventure. Highways stretch though the emptiness for hundreds of miles, bereft of services, with only the moon providing the least bit of illumination. Drivers in some of these countries are necessarily mechanics, as the possibility of assistance is slim at best. Even the legendary Pan-American Highway, while fully paved and marked, traverses some of the most unforgiving landscapes on earth, from terrifying mountain heights to vast silent deserts like the Salar de Atacama in northern Chile.
These are the distant roads that beckon to us as we seek the unknown...
Chile: Two Cases, Decades Apart
One of these roads – a 40-mile stretch of asphalt in Northern Chile between Salitrera Victoria and Quillagua - has acquired a reputation as place where strange events befall drivers. The particular location is the aptly named Pampa Soledad
(the “pampa of solitude”), a bleak desert environment where the horizon stretches out to infinity and mind reaches even further, conjuring up all manner of possibilities.
On August 16 1974, the last thing on Tito Fernandez’s mind was the unknown. Chile had just undergone the violent overthrow of the Allende regime and the military junta held the country in its clenched fist. Army units fanned out across the country searching for subversives and enforcing martial law. At the time, Fernandez was part of a troupe of itinerant young singers, going from one small town to the next with their show, singing a mixture of pop and folk songs – the kind of thing that was sure to attract negative attention from the regime. A total of five performers were driving to their next gig through the vast emptiness of Pampa Soledad between one thirty in the morning to three in the morning, tired but happy after their successful show at Quillagua.
At one point, the driver and the front seat passenger – humorist Jorge Cruz – became aware of an orange light in the distance, fast approaching their position on the road. Some speculated that the light was that of a locomotive, although no train tracks ran perpendicular to the desert road at any point. Of more concern was the likelihood of a military patrol that would stop the vehicle and challenge them, demanding to see their safe conduct documents.
The performers pulled over and got out of the car to see the orange light, convinced that it was being directed at them from an army spotlight. But after watching its maneuvers, Fernandez became more convinced that it was “one of those UFOs” that people were talking about. So impressed were the young singers that some of them began to pray. This was understandable, as there were now two lights visible – one joining the other down the road and approaching the apprehensive group.
Their apprehension gave way to fear as they quickly boarded the Volvo and sped away down the asphalt, as though an internal combustion engine could somehow provide enough distance between their vehicle and the inexorable lights. One of the performers took a crucifix out her handbag, holding it against the orange lights through the window, hoping to ward off their unwholesome presence. “At this point,” observed Jorge Cruz, “we were all in tears.”
As fate would have it, the terrified quintet saw the lights of an approaching tractor-trailer. Flagging down the driver, they blurted out their experience to him, somewhat incoherently, somehow managing to convey the fact that they were being chased by a set of lights. The bewildered trucker eventually saw them, and at the insistence of the young performers, turned on all of the trailer’s lights and made intermittent flashes with his high beams at the not-so-distant orbs. To everyone’s astonishment, the orbs merged into a single brilliant source of light, matching its pulsations to the deliberate flashes of the tractor-trailers headlights. The trucker, a veteran many years of desert driving, had to admit he’d never seen such a thing before.
Had this desert encounter been restricted to the CE-1 event, it would have probably been forgotten as merely another “high strangeness in the high desert” situation, albeit one with a total of six witnesses. The best, as they say, was still to come.
The merged orange light emitted an overwhelming pulse of light, after which the onlookers were able to see that they were dealing with a structure divided into two hemispheres “like the halves of an orange”, with twin structures holding up each half. Suddenly, Jorge Cruz pointed at an even more distressing revelation: a tall, thin humanoid figure was now visible. Terror seized the group.
Overwhelming fear gave way to self-preservation, the mother of all emotions. Tumbling into their car, the performers wasted no time in speeding away, abandoning the trucker to his fate even as he pleaded not to be left alone to face the unknown entity. But the lights – or the glimpse of a possible occupant – appeared uninterested in the trucker and his cargo: they followed the speeding Volvo as the driver floored the pedal to a hundred thirty kilometers per hour (80 mph). The mad pursuit went on until they were within distance of the Carabineros
(state police) station, when the lights abruptly disappeared.
Once inside the station, and having composed themselves, the performers explained their ordeal to the policemen, who listened to them kindly and told them that such experiences were not entirely unheard of in Pampa Soledad. Minutes later, the terrified truck driver pulled into the station, saying that he too was being followed by the unknown sources of light....
Two decades later, another group of travelers would share a similar experience in the desert. Curiously enough, there were also five witnesses to the sighting, as in 1974, and the event occurred at roughly the same time (between one and two o’clock in the morning). It was June 1991, and the new witnesses were aided by a powerful ally -- their video camera.
Nelson Alvarez and his passengers weren’t itinerant performers. Their reason for braving the lonely desert road was a mission of mercy: on June 18, 1991, a three-hour long rainstorm had provoked a massive mudslide (aluvión
, in Spanish) resulting in well over ninety deaths and an estimated $70 million USD in losses. Alvarez was one of many citizens bringing much needed supplied to the relief effort.
Driving along the dark road, Alvarez and his passengers became aware of a green light in the distance that appeared to make a beeline toward their car, prompting the driver to step on the brakes as the greenish light headed down the highway. This prompted the driver to give chase at a speed of 170 kilometers per hour(105 mph) – a complete reversal from the situation faced by the performers in 1974. Alvarez woke up his son, urging him to pull the video camera out of its case. Grumpy at having been suddenly stirred from sleep, Alvarez Jr. turned on the camcorder and demanded to know what exactly was he supposed to be recording, as there was nothing but darkness ahead – and what seemed to be a strange headlight.
Captured on tape was the presence of two lights forming a shape roughly akin to bar bells, joined by a shaft. The light maintained an estimated distance of two kilometers from the pursuing van. The voice of young Alvarez can be heard as he calls out the – June 23rd – and the time of the sighting (12:41 a.m.) as it appeared on the videotape. The light remained in the middle of the highway for at least seven minutes. An interesting note is made that the video camera’s battery, having a normal endurance of 45 minutes, lasted only seven minutes before being fully drained.
Argentina: A Persistently Haunted Stretch of Road
“La Recta de Tin-Tin”
may sound like ruler used by the French comic book hero, but it is in fact an eighteen kilometer long stretch of road in the Province of Salta, flanked by two mountains – Cerro Negro and Cerro Tin-Tin – at an elevation of nearly eight thousand feet. The almost perfectly straight segment of road is not a product of modern highway engineering, as it existed before European settlers arrived in this section of Argentina. It is believed that the Inca Empire (1480-1535) must have created the road using a series of blazing campfires to create the alignment, but nothing is certain. The fact is that readers of INEXPLICATA have long seen this region mentioned in connection with UFO and other paranormal phenomena.
Walter Aban, mayor of Seclantas, one of the communities linked by this unusual road, shares the belief in the strange events that have characterized the area. "Look, anyone traveling between Salta and Seclantas knows that strange lights appear in the sky from the Recta de Tin-Tin onwards. Are they UFOs? I don't know. But I can assure it's no fantasy."
Aban's words were confirmed by another area mayor, Hector Legoburo of Payogasta. "It's true, the Recta de Tin-Tin is a mysterious place at night. The lights that can be seen crossing the skies overhead are not a product of human engineering. Traveling from Salta to Payogasta I witnessed, I was tailed by a luminous object for a number of minutes. The people with me thought it was the lights of a construction vehicle, but it was impossible for a wheeled machine. And when the glare became brightest, we saw it vanish into the sky. I have no explanation for this."
In 2006, Diario El Tribuno
published an article on the UFO reports emerging from the area.
A group of six people driving along National Highway 33 near the Amblavo crossroads claimed seeing “moving lights and flashes in the sky” on Friday, June 6, of that year. Upon reaching the city of Salta, the witnesses headed straight for El Tribuno’s newsroom to share the bewildering experience with staff writers:
"We can't all be wrong. We saw a light that moved and emitted flashes. It surprised us as it emerged from the straight road to Tin Tin and then again from Cuesta del Obispo," said Marcelo Tomas Aranda, an agronomist who works in Cachi and who visits Salta every Friday for the last 14 years.
The witnesses, who traveled aboard a van, agree with the report of a strange incandescent light that appeared up above. "The skies were clear and the moon lit the outline of the mountains. Suddenly, a circular light appeared, four times larger than a star." To Monica Cuevas, a technical secretary, and Adriana Laiseca, a supervisor with the Ministry of Education, the experience took them from total skepticism to questioning things that are said about UFO manifestations in the area.
Horacio Nolasco, the van's driver, travels back and forth from Cachi on a daily basis for years and had never seen anything like it. "It was a very shiny light with a straight-line motion from North to South that vanished between the mountains. We later saw it much closer as we descended halfway down Cuesta del Obispo," he explained.
Cesar Miguel Naranjo is an Ecuadorian national who has lived in Salta for 10 years. He is a parapsychologist and was among the witnesses to the event. "It's a wonderful sensation -- one is left dumbfounded by the knowledge that what is being seen is not a product of the imagination."
The other passenger, Nancy, who works in the Amblayo school, also saw the light but unlike her travel companions, did not wish to get off the vehicle. "The truth is that is frightened me a lot," she admitted.
Even stranger is the case involving a trio of motorcyclists who reported an unknown vehicle to El Tribuno in May 2002 as they made their way back to the city of Cachi along Route 33."We saw an enormous cigar-shaped unidentified flying object measuring some 100 meters in length."
Martin Oliver, Ruben Chihan and Antonio Rodo, young bikers well known throughout the area, claimed that their experience occurred on May 1, 2002 as they headed back from the capital. "We want our names to be included, because for a long time we've been hearing similar stories from fellow residents who out of a sense of shame or sheer cowardice do not want their names printed in the paper.”
"We were finishing the Tin Tin stretch when we saw a strange light from the east, in the vicinity of Payogasta. We stopped our rides and saw it: an enormous cylinder measuring some 100 meters in length, shining like a mirror in the reflected light of the setting sun. It was shaped like a giant cigarette and flew slowly some 200 meters from the ground. We couldn't believe it but it was real. It made no noise whatsoever and appeared to be made of a material similar to polished steel, " the cyclists reported. "Suddenly, it stopped and remained suspended in mid-air. A few seconds later, it began flying at an astonishing speed and lost itself in space."
Was the vast aerial cylinder -- reported by the three motorcycling enthusiasts -- the conveyance employed by a number of alleged humanoids a year later, also on the Tin Tin stretch?
Julio Rafael Espinoza was riding along with six other passengers in a bus on the evening of December 15, 2003. A farmer from the village of La Poma, he was accompanied by his young daughter Tamara, Benito Salva and his father, and four other men. As the bus entered the Tin Tin stretch, four hundred meters from the foothills of Cerro Negro, driver Benito Salva pointed at an unusual sight on the otherwise featureless landscape: “Hey fellas, look at that!”
"It was incredible,” Espinoza would later tell the El Tribuno newspaper. “We could see an object with impressive lights, side by side, spinning in a circle at high speed. Other lights turned up later, joining the first ones at the same spot. It made our jaws drop."
Alarmed but by no means afraid, Benito Salva pulled the bus over and parked it. He and the other passengers were content with looking at the display of lights from the imagined safety of the vehicle, but this wasn’t enough for the farmer from La Poma: Espinoza climbed onto the roof for a better look, but then jumped to the ground and walked toward the unknown display, seemingly unconcerned about his daughter’s safety.
"The landscape was very well-defined in spite of the darkness,” Espinoza continued. “I couldn't go on any further. I was moving away from the road and I was beginning to get scared when my eyes started seeing something that wasn’t readily visible at a distance. There was a device measuring some 100 meters wide resting over some kind of struts or legs that kept it some 10-12 meters off the ground. Some sort of hoses emerged from its middle, with lights on their tips. Suddenly, the lights on the object went out and these strange beings appeared. They walked slowly in single file, they were thin and their glow was so powerful they blinded me. At that moment I hid behind a bramble and I could see when one of them jumped onto a bramble--don't know how he did it--and began pulling pieces off it, as though taking samples."
Twenty minutes elapsed between the time Espinoza had gone off on his solo scouting mission and his return to the bus. "When I told them what I'd seen, they told me that they couldn't see the creatures because they were very far away. However, they saw the luminous phenomenon, which was visible from the roadside," he concluded.
From a strictly numerological standpoint, the number five appears to be a constant in these Chilean and Argentinean sightings. Five witnesses (or six) in these cases, with the added detail the Espinoza’s daughter Tamara was five years old at the time. An intriguing observation, but a feature that we see repeated in an earlier case involving the “trained observers” whose opinion is so valuable in UFO cases. The details on the Corimayo-Flores sighting were kindly provided to us by UFO researcher Guillermo D. Giménez; the original investigation was conducted by Paco Martínez, Patricio Parente, Juan Pablo González of Gaceta OVNI
On May 9, 2001 – placing it much earlier than the other incidents along the Tin Tin stretch – deputies Ramiro Corimayo and Humberto Flores of the Cachi sheriff’s office were on duty, driving along Route 33 from Cachi past Los Cardones National Park in the company of three others. The interesting feature of the case is that two of the passengers in the police car were detainees (one of them female) being transferred to a detention center, and their personal information was held in strict confidence. The identity and rank of the third officer was also kept confidential.
With Flores at the wheel of the car, they were expected in the city of Salta at seven o’clock in the morning. As they entered the Tin Tin stretch, the deputies became aware of a bright point of light in the distance, described as much larger than a star.
“We drove along Route 33,” said deputy Corimayo, “and once were in the Recta, where [the sign] for the Los Cardones National Park is located, toward the east, more or less around Cerros Tirados, which are some 20-30 kilometers away (12-18 miles), Flores said to me: “Look, it’s a farol
Officer Corimayo detected the luminous dot at Flores’s indication and recalled the oft-mentioned faroles that tend to appear to travelers at night. The considerable mentions of these objects made by people leads them to look at the object fixedly, because neither man had hitherto run into a “Spain: Cars Bedeviled by UFOs
The roughly ten miles that separate the southern reaches of the Americas from Spain have not proven an obstacle to this phenomenon – extraterrestrial to some, interdimensional to others – that displays an unabashed interest in human vehicles and roads.
In November 1985, northwestern Spain’s La Voz de Galicia
newspaper reported a brush between an unidentified flying object and a passenger car on a road along the Cecebre Reservoir. The driver, a newspaper layout technician whose name was never released, was driving back to the village of Piadela from his job in the city of La Coruña. As he approached the reservoir, he noticed a “greenish, rectangular vehicle” hovering overhead in the darkness. The object, described as box-like, made a vertical descent some fifty feet away from the astonished driver’s sedan, prompting him to slow down to a complete stop. The rectangular unknown vehicle passed silently over his car and vanished. The witness subsequently experienced symptoms “similar to hypnosis” after the 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 it was pursued by two Spanish Air Force fighters. 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 was described as a "trustworthy man" by his friends and neighbors, who saw no reason at all to believe that he was being anything but truthful.
On April 13, 1993 a 28-year-old man identified only as Alfonso R.A. from the city of Lérida claimed that "extraterrestrials" had forced him to alter the course of the car he was driving at the time. If that wasn't bad enough, Alfonso R.A. alleged that the ET's "held him against his will" for a total of 8 hours.
The story, carried by the EFE news agency, reported that "a strange impulse" caused the driver to change course from his intended destination toward the village of Fraga. Shortly after this, Alfonso R.A. was "attracted toward a strange light" and felt a penetrating sensation in the back of his neck. "I am convinced", Alfonso told reporters, "That my attackers were aliens and that I remained some eight hours with them."
The alleged abductee had no independent recollection of what transpired during the missing-time event and was found at his home in a semi-comatose state, which a health care professional described as "a serious case of depression."
According to Alfonso's relatives, he left the town of Alcoletge, where he works as a farmer, and headed toward Lérida, where his brother awaited him to do some shopping. He never turned up.