A Flap Overlooked: Argentina's 2002-2003 UFO Wave
A Flap Overlooked: Argentina’s 2002-2003 UFO Wave
By Scott Corrales
Few things can seize a reader (or viewer)’s attention like a carcass of an animal mutilated in ways that challenge our understanding. In the summer of 2002, the Argentinean cattle mutilation epidemic – a question open to debate to this day – cornered all publications on UFO/paranormal subjects and set the conventional media ablaze as well with raging arguments of the source of the slayings: was a non-human agency at work in the dark fields of the Pampas and Patagonia, or was the red-muzzled mouse more powerful than anyone had previously suspected?
Almost imperceptibly, UFO activity had been taking place throughout the Southern Cone, going largely unnoticed. Was the old belief – first posited by John Keel – that mutilations were a distraction for UFO activity actually true? This question was never fully answered, and twelve years later, it is unlikely to be, unless a new wave of mutilations erupts on the scene.
The seasonality of UFO flaps in Argentina has been documented by researchers like Luis Burgos. "Our databank," he writes, "which covers the period of 1947 to the present, including 4500 Argentinean UFO cases, arises clearly from the flap seasons. For example, no sooner had the phenomenon manifested itself in our country on 10 July 1947, only sixteen days after Kenneth Arnold's sighting, the flaps could be reckoned in three to four year intervals: 1947, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1959, 1962, 1965 and 1968. They became less regular after that, and we faced UFO waves in 1974, 1975, 1978, 1985/86, 1988/89, 1995, 1998/99, 2002 and 2005/06. In other words, we cannot extract constants from these cycles. To some UFO researchers, we live in a period of constant UFO activity."
The 2002 summer flap actually occurred in the winter season of the Southern Hemisphere and during one of the worst economic crises that Argentina had ever faced. Entire communities faced having their utilities cut off in the bitter cold. As we can see below, the Andes did not constitute an obstacle for these sightings, as neighboring Chile was also reporting unusual events.
Chronicle of Events
May 6, 2002. Martin Oliver, Ruben Chihan and Antonio Rodo, youthful motorbikers from the city of Cachi, reported having an experience involving "a fantastic sight" on National Highway 33. Their story appeared in El Tribuno newspaper, informing the world that they had seen "an enormous cigar-shaped unidentified flying object measuring some 100 meters in length." They added: "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."
June 11-14, 2002. A UFO reappeared over the community of Fernandez Robles at various times during the evenings, haunting residents of the Norte, 12 de Octubre, Juan Domingo Peron, Camping, Roca and 102 Viviendas neighborhoods. Marcelo Coronel, a mechanic, reported seeing an object resembling "a headlight surrounded by a red halo which increased and diminished in hue, and moved slowly from north to south without making any sound." Townspeople pointed out that TV signals are interrupted, television sets shut themselves off without any interruption to the flow of electricity, or the sets change channels without the remote control having been touched, whenever the object appeared.
July 6, 2002. Residents of Carmen de Patagones in Viedma, Argentina were able to see a strange object flying over their remote community, stunned by its amazing clarity. The luminous object's appearance occurred shortly after 21:00 hrs. and it remained visible until 21:30, at which time it receded from view until it vanished in the horizon. According to the locals who saw it, the object approached and receded "like some sort of zoom lens" and changed colors as it did so. Other locals followed the luminous object with their own eyes, while others used binoculars. One villager informed a relative in the city of Viedma, who confirmed that the object was visible from said city. One of the eyewitnesses was Anibal Benitez, owner of a business on Calle Mexico, who stated with regard to the light that "the light was very potent and changed colors every so often to red, blue and bright white," adding that: "We were able to see how an airliner in the distance appeared to pass over the object, which vanished into the horizon following a zigzag pattern."
July 12, 2002. Chile's Diario Austral de la Araucania newspaper reported the unexpected appearance of a UFO at 21:00 hours on Wednesday (July 10). According to witness Patricio Castillo, 28, "I looked and I saw a luminous object with three red lights in one of its sides. It was still for a few seconds and then made a very swift movement. I stopped looking at it for a few seconds because I ran in to play a song and when I returned it was gone," he explained. He had been working for 9 years in radio and had never had a similar experience. "I used to not believe in these things, but my opinion changed after this." Pilar Castillo, the host of the "Morning Talk with Pili" segment, stated that after 21:00 hours she had left a meeting when she realized that there was something strange in the sky. Some of the persons with her were astonished as the luminous object vanished suddenly. "It was like a shooting star that changed colors as it went away. It came from the direction of Nancul to Villarica. It was red for some minutes and then turned violet."
July 13, 2002. The Province of Entre Rios – a hotbed of UFO activity to this day – issued reports of strange lights at the heart of the province. Witnesses in Sola, Rosario del Tala and Mansilla claimed seeing low altitude maneuvers by objects they were unable to identify. According to Paraná’s Diario Uno newspaper, one case involved police officers aboard two squad cars at a highway truck stop. The lawmen reportedly saw “a powerful light engaged in maneuvers on Monday, July 1st.” The object approached the squad cars, “producing sparks similar to those of a photographer’s flash.” When the unknown light pulled away, both squad cars ceased to function. Engines refused to turn over and their lights were out for half an hour, when power was suddenly restored and the vehicles’ sirens came to life. According to the Paralelo 32-Digital Edition publication, the officers reached for their sidearms when the light approached their cars.
July 13, 2002. Chascomús has always been mentioned in UFO chronicles as a place where strange things happen. Living up to its reputation, reports emerged of strange lights in the vicinity of the Chascomús Lagoon, fed by the waters of five local streams. According to Diario El Cronista, strange lights were changing colors and landing in the vicinity, seen by some locals who spent forty minutes at the water’s edge enthralled by the display. “Other lights seemed to land in the Monte Brown area and also in the vicinity of the Fish and Nautical Club, where guests at a dinner held in honor of racing fans caused the number of witnesses to be even larger.”
July 14, 2002. Researchers from the Circulo Ovnilogico Riocuartense (COR) interviewed Pedro and Estela Moine of the community of Adela Maria (pop. 7000), a busy agricultural center in Rio Cuarto, Argentina. The couple had allegedly seen a “flying entity over a cereal plant”. Pedro and Estela had been on their way to the town’s business district, a journey that involved crossing an old railroad switching yard, at 21:00 hours on July 3, 2003. The couple suddenly heard “a strange and incomprehensible conversation between many voices” which gave way to “strange ‘O’ sounds.” Turning their eyes to one of the silos in the rail yard, they were startled to see a “humanoid” lacking upper and lower extremities. In spite of his wife’s entreaties, Pedro took off at a run toward the silo to have a closer look. Estela soon joined him, and both managed to see the “entity” which now appeared to conceal itself behind the control booth of a truck scale. The apparition rose into the air “like a plane taking off” to an altitude of 15 meters, disappearing behind a metal shed. Pedro Moine would later describe it as “a thing with human shape” that either emitted or reflected some sort of light. The entire mass of the apparition gave the appearance of being a body “covered head to toe in some sort of mantle” giving it the appearance of “wearing a hat, but covered with a long raincoat.”
July 21, 2002. A large UFO allegedly caused a commotion in Campamento Vespucio, an oil drilling encampment 7 kilometers west of General Mosconi and some 350 km north of the city of Salta (a prominent location in South American UFO chronicles). The incident occurred on Monday between 20:50 and 21:30 hours on July 15 and was visible to the naked eye. Residents of Vespucio took to the streets to see the object, which remained in view for forty minutes before zooming off westward at an amazing rate of speed. Some witnesses described it as “oddly beautiful” and not a source of fear. Residents of the neighboring village of Tablillas, 3 km into the canyon where the oil encampment is located, were not at all surprised by the sighting, which disrupted telephone service and power outages throughout the region. “We are used to seeing these singular luminous events since 1999, and the fact remains that whenever they appear, they cause failures in motor and electrical systems. Gabriel Olima, 22, a resident of Tablillas and a former engineering student, added: “People didn’t believe us out of sense of skepticism, but the apparitions are so customary we have been able to determine that they’re visible between July and August. Not before, not after.” He mentioned that a film crew from Buenos Aires had visited the area to record the phenomena, but had departed in fright, saying the objects were “nothing known to them.”
July 21, 2002. The website for the community of Chacabuco asked the question: Are UFOs flying over Chacabuco? "Two sightings in less than a week lead us to wonder about the certain possibility that we are being visited by aliens." A driver taking three young women back to their respective homes on a Sunday morning saw a powerful light hovering over the local houses, motionless and changing colors from light blue to green. "When I stopped the car to see if I could hear something, I couldn't start the engine again. So I got out [of the car], fooled around with the engine a bit, and finally made it start. The girls were scared and holding hands, but we went over to the side of the road to get a better look."
July 21, 2002. The El Comercial newspaper reported a strange light seen over the community of Formosa, described as "a spotlight with an intense white color". Luis Fernández told the paper: "I saw lights on the horizon in the places where the mutilations occurred. The light looks like a large flashlight that points down from above. We thought they were helicopters belonging to some agency touring the area. We went to look and couldn't hear or find anything. That always happens around these parts., but we pay it no mind, otherwise one runs the risk of being called fanciful or a liar. We pay it no mind. But we will try to find what is really happening in those places. Some ten boys survey and comb the area with me. Someday we'll find something." Local residents concerned about the mutilation epidemic brought up the subject of cows that appeared to have been burned by the mysterious light. "It's true, from here we saw giant lights land in the area several times. Then they rise quickly to become lost in swift movement. At high speed. No one believes us, but it’s true. It doesn't happen very often, but it happens after a rain shower or storm, and on cold nights, and always in the area where Don Luis found his dead animals."
July 22, 2002. Researchers from the Federacion Argentina de Ovnilogía (FAO) visited the town of Gobernador Ugarte to look into claims of a “powerful light” seen over an abandoned house in the wilderness. On July 15, local residents Manuel Gonzales, Jose Benavides and Rosa Gutierrez and law enforcement officers had witnessed a potent beam of light, “so bright that it concealed its source”.
July 23, 2002 El Diario de la República newspaper made its readers aware of a UFO sighting in the south of the Province of Cordoba investigated by Jorge Almirón of another local daily, El Puntal. It was confirmed that at least twenty police officers had seen “a strange craft”. The law enforcement officers reported malfunctions to their cellphones and police car radios.
July 27, 2002. Residents of Chascomús reported a “large, sky-blue light moving over the lagoon, changing colors as it did so.” A reporter from the newsroom of the El Fuerte journal was able to see the light, which at the time was “stationary over Mt. Brown, seen from the San José Beach Facility,” describing its color as red and giving off flashes. A local subsequently phoned the newsroom to report seeing the light descend “and vanish behind the tree line.” Others saw the object along local Route 20, near the Aeroclub, as it slowly traveled westward.
August 2, 2002. Reports from the coastal city of Bahia Blanca suggested the presence of “strange floating figures and red lights” moving at high speed throughout the evening over the sand dunes leading to the Arroyo Pareja Municipal Beach.
August 4, 2002. Raul Dorado, 64, a resident of the town of Jacinto Arauz, was conducting an inspection of his property and twice heard a sound he described as “a loud whirlwind”. When he heard the sound for a third time, it came from “a green circle with three legs” hovering overhead. Dorado fell to the ground, dropping the shotgun, binoculars and cellphone he carried with him. This last object was “taken from his hand” and sucked into the object, which subsequently vanished toward the east. The rancher was unable to rise from his prone position for at least an hour, managing to get into his car and drive into town “in a state of shock”. He was unable to speak, communicating by hand signs only. He was admitted to the local clinic by Dr. Ana Maria Lazaric, who performed a preliminary examination. Having regained his speech by morning, Dorado was interviewed by Inspector Sheriff Carlos Muñoz. In a statement to the press, Dorado’s wife claimed that her husband “had tried to fire his shotgun at the intruder, but was unable to do so,” receiving a puncture mark on his ring finger, on the hand that held the now vanished cellphone.
February 28, 2003. A UFO was reported at 06:20 a.m. on Friday, 02.28.03 over Chile’s Viña del Mar. Ricardo Barraza, a local resident, claimed seeing “an enormous pulsating object” as he drove to work that morning. The object commenced moving southward, adding that it was seemingly followed by “an enormous dark mass” that was easily concealed by the pre-dawn skies.
March 7, 2003. The Investigadores del Fenómeno Ovni de Rufino (IFOR) group reported a sighting over the Argentinean town of Rufino on March 6, 2003 at 15:35 hours local time. Spectators at the Ben Hur Sports Club motorcycle racetrack became aware of a strange white light flying lower than the altitude usually seen by passenger airliners. It was described as “brighter than a star” and traveling at high speed, vanishing at some point during its trajectory.
March 22, 2003. Dozens of witnesses reported seeing several flying objects over the Chilean town of Providencia . The sighting involved “a large circular object of intense brilliance which was accompanied by other, lesser objects. Some witnesses claimed seeing up to seven such objects around it, “according to the Terra.cl website. UFO researchers were allegedly called in regard to the matter. Fernando Martínez, a student of graphic design, was among the people present at the corner of 11 de Septiembre and Marchant Pereira streets who saw the display. “I was able to see a light without any defined shape. But later, looking more closely, I was able to see over 40 smaller lights all around. They didn’t move much, at least not noticeably.”
April 22, 2003. Roberto Cáceres, 36, suffered a terrifying experience in February 2003 in Chile’s 9th Region. An electrical engineer by profession, Cáceres was driving between the cities of Temuco and Freire. At one point, he was followed by a light that caused him to lose control of his pickup truck. He was 15 minutes out of Temuco when he noticed a light “matching his speed”. In a matter of seconds, the lights crossed right in front of his truck. The driver “swerved to avoid it several times”, adding the football-shaped object did not seem to have a defined body, but rather “was made of pure light”. His vehicle suffered no mechanical or electrical effects as a result of the encounter.
August 21, 2003. A UFO over Copaquilla? Photographer Patricio Lara was startled a few days ago when he developed photos taken late last month in Paricanota province in order to have illustrations for his website. Beyond the spectacular landscape, nothing unusual attracted his attention during his transit through the zone. But a few days later, after his return to Santiago de Chile, he began to look at the images obtained and realized that a strange object in the sky had been recorded on one shot. The photo in question was taken in the vicinity of Copaquilla, looking east over the canyon, on July 31 at 13:30 hours, when the sun was halfway in the sky. [...] We were taken to a lookout called Mallku, from which Chapiquina can be seen in the distance. I found that the landscape was beautiful, so I started taking pictures, panning with a Nikon camera using an 80-200 mm lens and Fuji 100 ASA slide film." he said.The image shows the pampa, the Andean cordillera on a clear day, and toward the upper left, a rhomboidal opaque form tilted to the left. Says the photographer: "calculating the distance of the object and the proportions, it must have been 10 meters in diameter."
November, 2003. A team of reporters from a television news magazine was able to witness and videotape several UFOs near the town of Maimara (Province of Jujuy, Argentina). UFO experiencer Alfonso Bidondo, who claimed to be in telepathic contact with the objects, took reporters to his usual viewing location, describing the unknown light sources as “very big lights that passed slowly above us, remaining for 15 seconds and then disappearing.” Members of the news crew from Canal America 2’s “Informe Central” show expressed their amazement at the material they had recorded with their cameras.
[With thanks to Gloria Coluchi, Alicia Rossi, Guillermo Giménez, Luis Burgos, Christián Quintero, Mario Luis Bracamonte, Carlos Iurchuk, and Quique Mario.]