Sunday, June 12, 2011

Suspension of Disbelief: Baffling Paranormal Cases

Suspension of Disbelief: Baffling Paranormal Cases
By Scott Corrales

The location: The Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The year: 1979. The protagonists: two youths involved in the paranormal. The responders: Elements of Spain’s Guardia Civil (state police). The outcome: Mind-bending.

Two fifteen-year-old boys, enthusiasts of flying saucers, contacteeism and the occult in general, had decided to contact “alien intelligences” by means of a Ouija board – the vehicle of choice in such matters, it would seem – and had sustained a prolonged relationship with entities claiming to be captain this or commander that, spouting the same shopworn rhetoric about the environment and spirituality. But things were about to take an unexpected turn in the summer of 1979 as the non-human intelligences purportedly from distant planets upped the ante: were the two young seekers of the truth ready for a close encounter?

One evening, with their fingers on the planchette, the boys were told where and when to report for their meeting: a day in August of ’79, and in one of the most remote and desolate locations on Grand Canary. Out where the buses don’t run, as they say. Armed with courage and decent footwear, the seekers walked the sun-blasted expanses encouraged by the long-awaited meeting with the alien masters.

But there was no one there, as might have been expected. Late in the afternoon, possibly showing signs of heat prostration, one of the young men – unable to move -- asked his companion to go for help, walking the hard distance back to the village of San Nicolás, fifteen kilometers away. Loath to leave his companion, the healthier of the two set off on the three-hour walk, arriving late in the evening. In the early morning hours, the would-be contactee returned to the remote location with a doctor and some of the concerned residents of the tiny island village, hoping it wasn’t too late to offer assistance.

“They found nothing of the fellow but ashes,” writes Atienza, “which Guardia Civil officers had to collect with shovels, as they disintegrated at the slightest touch. The coroner’s verdict was death by intense heatstroke. The survivor was committed to a mental institution a few months later.”

One is unsure as to which is the more monstrous of the two events – the bizarre manner of passing of the stricken contact-seeker, or the coroner’s dismissal of his ashes as “death by acute heatstroke”. Although no UFOs were reported or seen, and one of the pair never came into contact with anything, much like the Barra de Tijuca contactees in the 1950s in Brazil (readers will remember the two men found with strange lead masks), they were summoned to a place by unknown forces. Had both young men fallen sick, perhaps rescuers would’ve found two piles of ashes.

Such a case should appear in all the UFO case histories, but it doesn’t. It isn’t even mentioned in UFO chronicles of the Canary Islands. A call for help was placed to Alfonso Ferrer, author of Las Cronicas del Fin del Mundo, a resident of the Canary Islands who kindly made inquiries into the case on our behalf. He approached José Gregorio González, whose books on Canarian ufology and mutology enjoy a wide readership. Ferrer provided the researcher’s verbatim reply:

“This case is a sort of urban legend, but with a factual background. As far as I know, there were two individuals, and the succinct description given [in Atienza’s book] is correct. The problem consists in locating the survivor, given that the other party died. The survivor was apparently accused of murdering his friend and was not exactly treated with kindness. He did some jail time, but had mental issues, as one can imagine. I was able to contact him a few years ago – we exchanged letters and a few phone calls, but I had the impression that he wasn’t fully healed. I agreed to meet him in Las Palmas on two separate occasions and he never showed up. He has never replied to my calls or correspondence since then – I think that his family realized I was contacting him [about this matter] and decided to intervene. To protect him, I suppose.”

The trail goes cold at this point, and the reader is left to wonder whether it is just another “UFO tall tale” of many that abound in the 60 year history of writings on the subject. We may never find out what happened on the Canary Islands in August 1979, but it is as good a preface as any to other cases in which innocent humans involved with the paranormal have come to an unfortunate end.

On this side of the ocean, and much closer to home, we have the case of Heriberto Garza. The difference in this case is that Garza – an educated man in charge of a ceramics factory – was not actively looking for contact with non-human intelligences. One night, while in the privacy of his home, watching television, he heard an unusual noise in the living room. Fearing that a break-in was in progress, he went to investigate and was startled to find a tall man with distinguished, almost feminine facial features. Taken aback, Garza demanded to know how the figure had entered his apartment. The entity told him in perfect Spanish that it could obviate physical obstacles and go where it pleased--but the reason for its visit was to grant Heriberto Garza "an experience that many would wish to have." His involvement with creatures from an improbable world known as Auko was about to begin.

Garza claimed to have subsequently been taken aboard a spacecraft where he met other beings similar in appearance to his original contact. One alien took his left hand and drew blood from his ring finger before returning him to his apartment, a return trip that he did not remember. He suddenly found himself sitting on an easy chair back home, with the door to the outside hallway open

Strange phenomena began to occur soon after this experience. One morning, while shaving in front of the bathroom mirror, Garza saw his reflection vanish, only to reappear as he heard alien voices ringing in his ears, bearing a message that he was unable to understand. He would soon be subjected to intense telepathic communication with his non-human "friends", the consequences of which led him to seek psychiatric advice.

Mexican researcher Jorge Reichert and Spanish ufologist Salvador Freixedo were the first to involve themselves in the Garza case in 1972, but during a follow-up visit with researcher Ian Norrie, Reichert was perplexed by the change in Heriberto Garza's demeanor. The once-articulate man spoke sluggishly and did not appear to be himself. At one point, Garza said: "I want to show you what is happening to me" and proceeded to unbutton his shirt. The researchers were astounded to see a number of nipples growing randomly across Garza's abdomen, some of them small, others larger and with abundant hair. Reichert and Freixedo concluded that something had been injected into Garza that tampered with his DNA. Detailed study of the case became impossible when the experiencer "disappeared". Visitors to the humble apartment building in Puebla were angrily turned away by Garza's son, whose father appears to have become an early casualty of tampering by uncaring non-human forces.

Two cases in which, it can be argued, no UFO was ever seen and therefore should not be included in “negative effects caused by UFO phenomenon”. But researcher Javier García Blanco gives us a case with not one, but two, unidentified objects.

In the summer of 1980, Luis Gonzalez and his wife Bienvenida, residents of the Spanish village of Mediana (Zaragoza) hopped into their old station wagon at three o’clock in the morning for the long trip to Mercazaragoza, a large wholesaler from which they made regular purchases to stock their small family business. As they left the little town, something was waiting for them.

According to their daughter Ana, her parents left home along the road, and upon reaching a hilltop, found themselves suddenly flanked by two strange objects, which Bienvenida would later describe as “a pair of silver bells, with very strange colors. Inexplicable, but very beautiful.” The couple was terrified, but there was no point in turning back – they continued driving toward Zaragoza with their unwelcome, unworldly escorts. Within a few kilometers, the silvery bells blinked out of existence as if they had never been. The journey continued without further comment and the supernatural occurrence was soon forgotten. But seven years later, the couple would die from a blood disorder that would baffle physicians. Coincidence, or a result of their exposure to unknown radiation emanating from their strange escort that morning on the way to market?

The trustworthiness of sources plays a crucial role when writing about matters of high strangeness, especially when harm to humans is involved. Noted researchers like T. Peter Park and Chris Aubeck have done their level best, in this case, to find the whereabouts of John Macklin, the author whose little compilations of ghostly tales fired the imagination of many young readers in the late 1960s and early 1970s with accounts that had a distinct ring of truth, but with a signal lack of footnotes or sources. I am nonetheless including the following account – taken from Mr. Macklin's A Look Through Secret Doors (Ace Books, 1969) as an example of the mysterious situations that often involve unlucky experiencers and law enforcement.

In May 1951, a young woman named Clarita Villanueva found herself at the center of a paranormal mystery that was supposedly witnessed by hundreds of people one muggy afternoon in Manila, the capital city of The Phillipines. Aside from the dumbfounded onlookers, two trained observers would also have their names attached to this case: Dr. Mariana Lara, a medical officer attached to the Manila Police Department, two officers from the selfsame department, Arsenio Lascon, Mayor of the City of Manila, and prominent journalists of time.

According to Macklin's account, a police cruiser responded to a disturbance near the port of Manila. Upon reaching the waterfront, the officers found many dozens of onlookers clustered around the form of a woman on the ground, screaming at the top of her lungs as she wrestled with an unknown assailant: “Get it off me! Please! I can't stand the pain!”
No one dared to lend the poor soul a hand, unsure if she was insane or possessed by demons. Any forces attacking her were completely invisible to the human eye, yet the police officers were able to make out bite marks and bruises appearing on the woman's arms and neck. Resolutely making their way through the crowd, the law enforcement agents grabbed the writhing, screaming woman and managed to get her into their vehicle for the trip back to the station. But there was nothing anyone at the precinct could do for her, as they suspected Clarita Villanueva was either inebriated or drugged. Dr. Mariana Lara opined that the woman was going through some form of epileptic fit; placing her in a holding cell was the best remedy anyone could think of.

With Clarita safely behind bars, the policemen lent a deaf ear to her pleas for assistance and not being left alone with “whatever” seemed to be accosting her. She eventually passed out and the station went about its normal business – but only for a few minutes: The woman in the holding cell woke up a few minutes later, shouting that “the thing had found her again, and was coming at her through the cell's iron bars.” The terrified woman described her invisible assailant as having the general shape of a male human, but with large, bulging eyes and the sartorial detail of wearing a cape pinned to its shoulders.

The guards entering the cell could only see fresh bite-marks on her arms. At this point they decided to summon not only Dr. Lara, but also place a call to Mayor Lascón for advice. According to Macklin, the assembled authorities concluded that there was an external cause at work, as Ms. Villanueva “could not possibly inflict bite-marks on her own back.”
But even this vote of confidence didn't help Clarita's situation. She was remanded to court the following morning to face charges of disorderly behavior in public. But even in the hallowed halls of justice, the woman wailed that the creature had returned, and even as she did so, her police escort noticed how deep bites manifested on her skin during a brutal attack that lasted five minutes before she dropped to the floor in a dead faint. Another medical specialist pronounced her wounds as “genuine”, adding: “she was not the cause of the bites”.

The local press soon turned the Villanueva mystery into the talk of the town. Mayor Lascón and Dr. Lara swore under oath that they had seen the bite marks forming, especially when the mayor gallantly offered to be at Ms. Villanueva's side aboard the ambulance taking her to the general hospital. The fifteen-minute ride to the medical facility, remarked the mayor later on, “felt like twenty-four hours in hell.”
Once hospitalized, the attacks by the invisible creature drew to a close and Clarita Villanueva was on the road to recovery. Dr. Lara, skeptical of the paranormal, was quoted as saying: “What happened to Clarita Villanueva is a total mystery. She was attacked by something with sharp and invisible fangs. We'll never know what it is, but I'm not at all hesitant to admit that I was never so frightened in all my life.”

Accentuating the positive-- and downplaying the often negative aspects of the unknown – has been a trademark of communities involved with the paranormal (abductees, contactees, ouija board users, etc.) but cases such as the ones presented here suggests that such involvement is less than wholesome. The baffling cases are sent to the bottom of the drawer, waiting for their moment in the sun.