Friday, January 05, 2018

Backtracking: Early 20th Century UFO Mysteries

Backtracking: Early 20th Century UFO Mysteries
By Scott Corrales

There is one thing that UFO believer and skeptic, nuts-and-bolts advocate and psycho-social theorist, contactee and abductee can agree on (mostly): the modern age of UFOs kicked off in 1947 with Kenneth Arnold’s historic sighting over Mount Rainier.

But cracks can be found in that monolithic supposition as researchers unearth cases from earlier in that decade and previous ones, not including the airship mystery of the late 19th century. Some of these have been correctly solved as hoaxes, misidentifications or even wishful thinking brought about by the pulp novels of the time. Nonetheless, we come up with interesting events that deserve a place in the sun.

In the mid-1980s, Spanish journalist Juan José Benítez drove across his country in search for older mysteries than the ones occurring at the time of his research. Some of these cases were paranormal in nature, involving enigmatic lights and apparitions. Others fit more clearly within the framework of unidentified flying objects as we have come to understand them.

His travels led him the rural home of Mr. Mariano Melgar, who claimed to have witnessed a strange object on the ground during the years of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Melgar told the journalist that he was only six years old at the time, but was certain that the event took place only a few months before the fratricidal conflict came to an end.

Responsibility had been thrust upon the boy at an early age, and he was looking after some cows at his family’s property near the village of Muñico, not far from the city of Avila. While the cows munched away contentedly at the grass, young Mariano sheltered under the trees lining a small brook. His attention was soon distracted by a buzzing sound, so typical of UFO events.

“I soon realized,” he told Benítez, “that it came from a circular object, firing silvery flashes. It came down near the edge of the tree line and landed. I sheltered behind a tree and spied on it. The object was about 15 to 20 meters in diameter (50-65 ft.) and had a small dome on top of it. I was about thirty paces away from it and I noticed that it had three or four legs. The thing was encircled with colored lights, turning on and off. It was wonderful to see! I saw round windows around its fuselage, which shone like aluminum in the sunlight.”

As if this possible CE-2 experience wasn’t interesting enough, the witness added details that would bump his experience into the CE-3 category.

“Suddenly a door opened,” Melgar continued. “It opened like an airplane door, like the ones that slide into a pocket with a photocell. We didn’t have doors like that in Spain at the time, but I later associated it with ones I saw in airports and some banks and stores. A wedge-shaped ramp appeared and the silence was complete. I could see that the interior was full of machinery, but I couldn’t tell you what kind. A “man” emerged, followed by a second and a third. The last one, shorter than the others, remained on the doorstep.”

Cautioning the journalist that his memories were those of a six-year old country boy, Melgar explained the entities seemed rather tall to him, and that they proceeded to scoop up soil or plants, but that he couldn’t be certain. Overcome by curiosity, the boy emerged from his hiding spot and walked toward the object, an undisputed novelty in his otherwise humdrum existence. His thirst for adventure was suddenly quenched by the “man” standing in the object’s doorway. “He fired a flash at me that very nearly knocked me backwards. It frightened me and I ran back to my shelter.”

Undaunted, young Melgar made a second sortie, repelled by the “sentry” with another flash, this time right in his eyes. Ironically, once his fellows had completed their activities, the unknown entity waved at the boy. “It was the typical arm motion of someone who is going away,” he added.

The object eventually went up into the air, sailing away toward the village of Barco de Avila. In young Melgar’s mind, the strange object and its pilots “had something to do with Generalissimo Franco’s air force.”

When writing up the incident for his book La Punta del Iceberg – Los Humanoides (Vol 1), J.J. Benítez took great care to catalogue the military aircraft available in war-torn Spain at the time – a hodgepodge of Dorniers, Stukas, and Junkers on the Nationalist side and Soviet-built Polykarpovs on the Republican side. Not a single one of them remotely similar to the shining, circular object seen by a youthful Mariano Melgar in the summer of 1939.

So we’re left with another anecdotal experience, but from a country lad who had never been taken to the movies to see Flash Gordon or Buster Crabbe serials, or fortunate enough to pore through the pages of the Spanish pulps or “boys’ papers” of the time. Melgar rounded out his experience with details gleaned from technology later in his life. The footwear of the strange men was compared with “the heavy shoes worn by deep sea divers”.

The presence of unknown objects during the Spanish Civil War is not restricted to this case, either. Javier Garcia Blanco penned a very informative article on these events for INEXPLICATA a number of years ago which may of be of interest to readers [“Saucers of the Spanish Civil War” - available at]

Strange Happenings in Argentina

Luis Burgos, director of his country’s FAO and ICOU research organizations, had a fascinating conversation with Vicente Pedone, a resident of the coastal town of Orense, who remembered being part of a strange experience in the early 1940s, when he held the rank of sergeant with the Buenos Aires Provincial Police.

During the course of their nightly rounds, Pedone and another officer saw a boy running toward them, saying he had just seen a plane crash to the ground, enveloped in fire. Not wasting a second, the two officers hustled the youngster into their patrol car and sped off toward the accident site. But far from the fiery wreckage they expected to see, the policemen were amazed to see “a very strange-disk shaped luminous disk.” Even more perplexing were the figures milling around in the darkness: tall entities wearing self-luminous uniforms that seemed metallic to the onlookers.
Discretion being the better part of valor, Pedone and his comrade decided that a strategic retreat was in order. Their police car, on the other hand, was uncooperative. The engine would not turn over, despite repeated attempts, leaving them at the mercy of the situation.
The object eventually departed, flying low over the surface, and the provincial police officers were able to restart their cruiser, leaving the area post-haste.

“This brought an end to [Mr. Pedone’s] reminiscence,” wrote Burgos, “and it’s a shame that they didn’t stay long enough to witness the final phase of the phenomenon. The next morning, Don Vicente obtained confirmation from NN [the young witness who first reported the incident] that the landing site in Oriente betrayed signs of burned grass. Unfortunately, the police did not verify this on-site. Therefore, only the story told by NN remains the proof of such physical evidence.”

The Caribbean Experience

Dominican UFO researcher Miguel Fiallo had the good fortune to interview the putative witness of UFO event that took place at some point during the years of the First World War but no later than 1920. Mrs. Matos, a resident of Santo Domingo, was convinced that she had seen a UFO “shaped like a portable clay stove - an anafre” moving silently across the star-lit night skies of the Antilles from east to west. The object, described as grayish and noiseless, was also seen by her uncles and cousins. Having nothing to compare it to, the family took the object at face value, but certain that they hadn’t seen one of those “newfangled airplanes”, which had been known in the Dominican Republic since 1911, when Zoilo García built his country’s first airplane, the Poliplano (polyplane).

Another early and compelling case was recorded by Puerto Rican ufologist Sebastián Robiou.

Researchers became aware of the case in 1976, when the news director of the La Gran Cadena radio network based in San Juan (WQBS) received a letter from a woman asking that her name be withheld from publication. The full text of the letter appears in Robiou’s Manifiesto Ovni and we reproduce it here:

Dear Sir: A few weeks ago I read the article Hugo and the Extraterrestrials, appearing in the 13 August edition of the El Nuevo Dia newspaper. I have had several contact experiences with these beings, and your article has prompted me to disclose them. The first of these was a journey aboard one of these vehicles around 1926 or 1927, followed by the presence of these craft in Barrio San Antonio, Caguas, where I lived at the time. On this occasion I heard how a machine employed to send messages was used, and I could not understand them nor made any effort to do so, since I didn’t feel that I was able to do so. The message was then given to me directly while I was lying down. One being, then three others, gave me a message to give to the youth. I never did so due to a lack of confidence on my part, but now, having read Brad Steiger’s Mysteries of Time and Space, I have come to realize that the beings I have seen are exactly the ones he has described. This has prompted me to write to you. I do not wish to disclose my experiences or the message at this time, as I do not seek notoriety or to become known in any way. I therefore ask you to withhold my name. I would be willing to be interviewed by you, should this be of any interest. I believe the message to be pressing and very important. I think it is urgent. It is in the hands of a professor at the University of Puerto Rico.”

Robiou was startled by the formality and elegant handwriting of the eighty-one year old author of the letter, describing her as “one of so many people who claim to have received messages from extraterrestrial sources”.

While there is no further information as to the message or its author, she can lay claim to be among the first – possibly the first – contactee in the Spanish-speaking Americas.

No further unusual activity was reported in the Caribbean skies until four days before the Kenneth Arnold sighting. On June 20, 1947, Mrs. María Ayuso saw a “bright object flying over San Juan, Puerto Rico” at five thirty in the afternoon from the city’s Puerta de Tierra district while in the company of her husband, Dr. Romulo Ayuso. The newspaper item appearing in the July 10, 1947 issue of the El Mundo newspaper reports that “[Mrs. Ayuso] asked her husband to stop their car to have a better look at the strange flying disk. The light it reflected – said the woman – was similar to the reflection of an aluminum pie plate exposed to the sun’s rays.”