Thursday, May 11, 2017

Attack of the "Michelin Men"

Attack of the Michelin Men
By Scott Corrales © 2017

Some twenty years ago I found myself writing an article for Tim Beckley’s late, lamented UFO UNIVERSE about the curious case of the Michelin Men – bizarre, space-suited ufonauts who were reported in the 1970s in some far-flung locations: Spain, Argentina and even the mainland United States. Large and seemingly encased in ringed outfits that made onlookers identify them at once with Bibendum, the mascot for French tire manufacturer Michelin, these entities waddled their way into a number of UFO cases that remain little known to this day. They even merited an entry in Ronald Story’s The UFO Encyclopedia in the early 2000s.

To give readers a better idea, I’m taking the liberty of cribbing some of the original article for this one by way of setting the scene:

On Sunday, March 14, 1976, the last thing on the minds of Vicente Corell and his wife Carmen was an encounter with beings from another world. Their son had just been drafted in Spain's compulsory military service and tearful goodbyes had been exchanged at the Draftee Induction Center (CIR-7) located in the town of Marines. After spending the day in the local, the Corells began the long trip home to the town of Almenara, driving along small roads of Spain's Castellon region.

At around 10:00 p.m., the couple found itself facing a strange phenomenon in the night skies -- a brilliant white oval that floated lazily to the left of their own car. Believing at first that it might be the headlights of a car on a nearby hill, the Corells steered their Renault 4L toward their ultimate destination. No sooner had the vehicle gone a few hundred feet did they become aware of the fact that all was not well.

The alarmed couple thought that they were driving into a "luminous tornado" of sorts as a very curious object appeared to rise out of the ground. Bathing the object with his car's high beams, Mr. Corell was startled to see that it was a person.

"I suppose that it had two legs," he would tell distinguished Spanish investigator Juan José Benítez, who investigated the case. "because it reminded me of a human profile. However, since they [the legs] were so close together, it looked more like a column than a human being. The thing was tall, good-looking [sic] and wore a close fitting, one-piece outfit..."

The outlandish entity stood on the ground in what Vicente Corell described as a military "ten-hut" position --arms stiffly at its side and ramrod straight, looking at the oncoming vehicle.

The couple's initial fascination changed to fear as the Renault's lights suddenly went out, leaving them in pitch blackness. The smell of burning wires soon filled the passenger compartment and Corell was forced to pull over. While all this happened, the entity vanished into the darkness. Vicente and Carmen Corell, their car's electrical system ruined, were left to wonder what had happened.
According to researcher Benítez, Mrs. Corell proved to have a much better recall of the situation than her husband, adding the interesting detail that the entity's outfit was made of "narrow, slightly inflated bands" from its neck down to its waist. She went as far as to describe the entity as similar to Bibendum, the world-famous Michelin Man, "only less so."

A distinguished friend and colleague, Bruno Cardeñosa, had the following to add on the case in his recent book El Misterio OVNI: Un Alto Secreto Al Descubierto: "Ufologist Manuel Audije revisited the case. His conclusions, which I list below, seem very interesting to me and show that the "thing" (the "Michelin Man"), aside from having a notorious physical existence, issued some sort of energy charge that caused Mr. Corell's car to short-circuit. The fact that the figure grew in size as the car approached indicated that it was acquiring an electrostatic charge until it reached a saturation point, ionizing the air until it produced light. Composed by negative ions as it was, the body never touched the ground. One can suppose that upon coming up to the figure, the vehicle could have brushed against, or come into contact with, the container's electrostatic charge, which would have discharged itself against the vehicle with two specific outcomes: first, the humanoid would have lost its luminosity, as its potential would have been reduced down to a value insufficient to produce ionization; second, the car would become negatively charged, causing its lighting system to fail."

Cardeñosa adds that Julio Martí, the mechanic who repaired the Renault 4-L, remembered the case and the repairs he performed as late as 1987.

While such a simile may inspire some to smile and others to shake their heads, it was not the first time that such a creature would had been seen on the Spanish peninsula.

In the summer of 1960, Miguel Timermans, a schoolteacher from Prado del Rey (Cadiz) in southern Spain, decided to go on a weekend run on his Lambretta motorcycle to the city of Jerez. It was a clear, beautiful morning and visibility was unlimited. As he drove uphill at some point between Prado del Rey and the town of Arcos, a colossal figure appeared out of nowhere along the roadside. Timermans described it as well over two meters (6.5 ft.) and encased in a "swollen" red one-piece suit. Shocked, the teacher brought his motorcycle to a halt right in the middle of the highway as an overpowering sense of fear washed over him: the giant entity was slowly walking toward him along the edge of the highway.

Recalling the event, Timermans remarked that the creature's pressure suit or outfit was composed of "concentric rings" which also reminded him of the Michelin Man. The improbable figure lurched forward robotically and measuring its steps.

With the high-strangeness quotient overflowing at this point, Timermans was doubly startled to see another creature walking behind the giant! The second entity was barely over a meter tall and had what appeared to be a glossy black "boot" covering one of the legs of its red outfit. It, too, walked awkwardly as it brought up the rear.

The enigmatic figures crossed Timerman's path diagonally and vanished from sight after an encounter that lasted no more than 30 seconds. Kick-starting the Lambretta, the teacher headed for the place where the creatures had last been seen and was unable to find a trace of their presence. The astonishing case was reported in Stendek magazine.

But these strange "Michelin Men" apparently did not limit their roadside walks to the Iberian Peninsula: characters in inflated doughnut-suits also made visits to the United States (Goodland, Kansas, 1976) and Argentina (1972). The latter incident, better known due to the fact that its protagonist, Ventura Maceiras, a septuagenarian Argentinean night watchman, grew a new set of teeth after his encounter and found his intelligence "boosted" by a tremendous rate.

It turned out that other incidents had been recorded, but due to linguistic barriers, had remained locked away from U.S. based saucer research publications.

According to researcher J. Cresson, a man referred to only as Monsieur Droguet was returning home from the movies one night in May 1955, in the French city of Dinan. He was startled by a beam of blue-green light coming from a strange object floating above the ground, and if that wasn’t strange enough, there were two creatures standing beside the object, clad in metallic coveralls “similar to those worn by the Michelin Man”. Their heads were covered by large helmets and both figures were gloved, engaged in what appeared to be an effort to collect soil samples. One of the entities paused to look into the craft through a “porthole”, causing the terrified human to believe that more similarly clad occupants were inside. Droguet reported feeling a symptom familiar to other witnesses of close encounters of the third kind – he wanted to flee the scene desperately, but was riveted in place by an unknown force, conscious that the entities were aware of his presence. Perhaps, he thought, they may switch from collecting soil samples to harvesting a human or two.

His fears were allayed somewhat when the “Michelin Men” returned to their craft, gingerly walking up a ladder. The human was intrigued by the halting movement of these putative space visitors, reminding him of how deep-sea divers conduct themselves at the bottom of the ocean, their “shoes” making a metallic ring as they walked on the ground. The craft lit up and rose slowly into the air, spinning at high speed. Only then was Monsieur Droguet able to move, as though freed from an invisible force. He ran back to his dwelling, overcome by fear. The man remained silent about the event for fifteen years, having been asked to do so by the authorities who learned of the case. The case appeared in the June 1970 issue of Lumieres dans la Nuit, the prestigious French UFO publication.

The “Michelin Men” would reappear years later in another distant location: the island of Madagascar off the east coast of Africa. A farmer looking for fodder for his animals in an acacia forest clearing in 1968 had an amazing encounter with an oval object with a transparent windshield “like the windshield of a Peugeot 404”. Within the confines of the shiny object, the farmer reportedly saw two small figures “wearing outfits like the ones in the Michelin advertisements.” Realizing they were being spied upon, the figures decided to make a retreat: the farmer found himself engulfed in a white flash of light, accompanied by a gust of heated air. The oval shaped “craft” had vanished in place – not taken off into the skies back to a distant star, but simply vanished. The farmer –a man of impeccable reputation – did not hesitate to tell his story to the local constabulary. Officers of the law visited the site, finding traces of radiation in the soil and more alarmingly, on the farmer’s clothing.

Lumieres Dans la Nuit had another intriguing case that had transpired on Madagascar, although not involving the oddly suited characters. The December 1976 issue included a story told by a member of the French Foreign Legion whose unit was engaged in a reconnaissance operation in the island’s wilderness. On a sunny, cloudless day, the witness plus twenty-three other Legionnaires beheld a glowing object, described as having “the color of a new coin shining in the sunlight” descending from the sky in a falling leaf motion – a classic behavior of exhibited by unidentified flying objects in the early years. It made a rapid descent, hitting the ground suddenly and sending out a shockwave. The soldiers were paralyzed, much like Droguet in 1955 and the nameless farmer in the late 1960s. “All of us saw the machine land and depart, but none of us perceived the passage of time.”

The Legionnaire sharing his story with the French UFO publication went on to add: “We were freed from the paralysis upon the objects departure, and we had been in the same place throughout the event. When we checked the time, however, we realized that nearly three hours had elapsed without becoming aware of it.” This missing time, so common to the abductee era of the 1990s, had serious consequences for the military detachment, which had failed to radio back to its base despite repeated requests. The Legionnaire stressed that the object was smooth, bore no markings, and was oval in shape

Gordon Creighton of Flying Saucer Review reported a further visit by the “Michelin Men” in 1975, this time on Reunión Island, adjacent to Madagascar. The event took place sometime in February of that year, when a man found a hat-shaped machine making a buzzing sound on the property surrounding his hut. Much like Monsieur Droguet twenty years earlier, the anonymous citizen was frozen in place, unable to make a break for safety.

“A little man emerged from the machine,” he said. “He wore a strange outfit, like the one in the Michelin advertisement. He moved nimbly down the ladder, but as he touched the ground, his movements became awkward, causing him to walk with its feet close together.”

To the witness’s consternation, two more similarly outfitted creatures descended from the machine, engaging in the oft-repeated soil collection routine and then re-entering their craft, which took off with a loud, whistling sound. The witness fell to the ground, released from the unnatural paralysis. He rose and made a run for his parents’ cottage. Investigators would subsequently find strange marks on the ground forming a triangle.

Brazil - a UFO hotspot if there ever was one - has its own stories to tell about these outlandish humanoids.

In 1962, the community of Itabirito entered the annals of ufology on the August 30 that year. A group of friends had gone to a local movie theater and left the last show short of midnight. They gathered for a spot of friendly conversation on a street corner and their conversation was interrupted by a sharp whistling sound. All three looked up to see an object floating in the night sky some 100 feet in the air over a eucalyptus grove some two hundred feet distant.

According to Luiz Gonzaga, one of the three friends, a diminutive creature was walking toward them, bearing a strong resemblance to "the figure used by the Michelin tire factory". The onlookers agreed that the diminutive figure seemed obese, large-headed and with short arms, which it swung rhythmically as it walked. Its legs were similarly short and bulky. The disconcerting entity was clad in a uniform made of a material resembling leather.

What happened next was as uncanny as the sighting itself. Two of the three young men ran off, screaming in fright, leaving Luiz Gonzaga alone on the corner, unable to move as if riveted in place for an entire minute. The squat ufonaut had disappeared and the object became gradually brighter until its glow seemed to encompass the entire area. The putative UFO's light diminished and Gonzaga was able to move again. He would later find himself plagued with migraine headaches for an entire month. The paralysis in this case was similar to what was experienced by Monsieur Droguet in France seven years earlier.